Torture 101

Taxi to the Dark Side

Directed by Alex Gibney (2007)

Film Review

Taxi to the Dark Side is a detailed expose of Bush administration torture polices at three overseas US prisons: Bagram in Afghanistan, Abu Ghraib in Iraq and Guantanamo in Cuba. It traces extensive documentary evidence that high level Bush administration officials (including Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney) personally approved illegal torture techniques and covered them up by court martially low level officers – who they dismissed as “a few bad apples.”

The film takes its title from an Afghan taxi driver named Dilawar who was accidentally swept up by occupying forces in 2002. Dilawar died of torture-induced injuries within five days of detention, a death an Army pathologist classified as homicide. A total of 105 detainees had died in US torture facilities as of 2007 when this film was made. Of these, 37 were classified as homicide.

During the campaign, Donald Trump promised to “bring back torture.” His reversal earlier this week makes this documentary especially pertinent, as he’s likely to face some backlash from his neocon supporters.

 

The Private Spook Behind Iraq’s Death Squads

James Steele: America’s Mystery Man in Iraq

BBC (2013)

Film Review

The main purpose of this documentary is to expose the paramilitary death squads Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld created in Iraq. Their ultimate was to suppress the Sunni insurgency which formed in early 2003 to oppose the US occupation.

The film goes a long way towards debunking the propaganda Bush and the corporate media dispensed to the American public that the US enemy in Iraq was an international terrorist organization called al Qaeda. The military force responsible for suicide bombings and roadside IEDs (improvised explosive devices) was actually a spontaneous uprising in response to the US invasion and occupation. It was largely organized by Sunni troops and public servants who served in Saddam Hussein’s government and were stripped of their occupations and careers by Bush’s disastrous de-Baathification program.

Cheney and Rumsfeld knew the guerrillas fighting the occupation represented a genuine insurrection. Determined to preserve their puppet Baghdad government at all costs, they called in James Steele, their foremost counterinsurgency expert. Steele, a retired military officer, had extensive experience creating and managing local paramilitary death squads in Vietnam and El Salvador.

In Iraq, Steele organized death squads out of Shia militias who had been brutally oppressed by Saddam Hussein and were eager for revenge. What resulted was a bloody civil war between Shia and Sunni-led fighters. The civil war was responsible for 3,000 deaths a day prior to the withdrawal of US troops in 2011.

The film starts by interviewing embassy and DEA officials who worked directly with Colonel Steele when he was running El Salvador’s paramilitary death squads out of the US embassy in San Salvador.  The preponderance of evidence suggests it was Steele who oversaw the massacre of 25,000 Salvadoran civilians and most likely the assassination of human rights advocate Archbishop Oscar Romero (in 1980 while he was saying mass) and the 1980 rape and murder of four American nuns (Jean Donovan, Dorothy Kazel, Maura Clark and Ita Ford).

Reportedly it was Cheney who recruited Steele to implement the “Salvadoran option” in Iraq. As an ex-military civilian, Steele’s official cover was “energy consultant.” Nevertheless the Iraq commanders who worked with him leave no doubt he was in charge of the specially trained 5,000-strong police commando group formed from Shia militias.

The filmmakers also interview a number of Iraqis who worked in Iraqi prisons and interrogation centers and directly witnessed the torture overseen by Steele. Several members of the Oregon National Guard (deployed to an Iraqi prison detail) were so horrified by one torture session they tried to intervene to stop it. When their military superiors ordered them to stand down and forget what they had seen, they went straight to a local Oregon newspaper. The resulting scandal would lead to the withdrawal of Steele, Coffman and Petraeus from Iraq and the sacking of Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense.

 

His Weirdness Donald Rumsfeld

The Unknown Known

Errol Morris (2013)

Film Review

The Unknown Known is the weirdest documentary I’ve ever seen. The subject is former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his reflections on the disastrous War in Iraq. A third of the footage is archival and the other two-thirds consists of face-to-face interviews via a device director Errol Morris refers to as the Interrotron.

The film appears to have two goals: 1) to capture the essence of the major architect of America’s illegal wars of aggression in Afghanistan and Iraq and 2) to allow him to reflect, in hindsight, exactly where things went wrong. As he expresses in the post-film discussion below, he fails on both scores. Morris totally fails to penetrate what Forbes describes as Rumsfeld’s “linguistic obfuscation.”

Unlike Robert McNamara (Secretary of Defense under Kennedy and Johnson), who expressed genuine regret over Vietnam in Morris’s 2003 documentary The Fog of War, Rumsfeld maintains his management of the US war in Iraq was flawless.

The documentary is framed around the tens of thousands of memos Rumsfeld issued over the course of his career. There were so many of them that his subordinates referred to them as “snowflakes.” This approach works well because all Rumsfeld’s decisions around the War on Terror are reflected in specific memos.

The most consistent criticisms around Rumsfeld’s role in the Iraqi occupation were his failure to involve other members of the Bush administration in decision making and his failure to make specific plans for a post-invasion government. When Morris asks about these critiques of his job performance, Rumsfeld bats them away, as he did in many press briefings, with clever word play or by quibbling over definitions.

For example when asked about the non-existent weapons of mass destruction the Bush administration used as a pretext for invading Iraq, he repeats the infamous line he gave reporters: “Absence of evidence doesn’t prove something doesn’t exist.”

Morris uses early memos to reconstruct Rumsfeld’s term in Congress (1962-1970) and his service in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administration. My favorite part of the film is an excerpt from the infamous Nixon White House tapes in which Nixon, Haldeman and Kissinger agree to fire Rumsfeld for being manipulative and untrustworthy.

As Ford’s Secretary of Defense, he strongly opposed détente, a policy started under Nixon to improve understand and ease tensions with the Soviet Union. As he expresses in one of his memos, the prospect of peace with the Soviets was making Congress and the American public reluctant to invest in defense infrastructure.

As the quagmire in Iraq caused George W Bush’s popularity to plummet, the President would sack Rumsfeld in December 2006 and replace him with Robert Gates, an official from Bush senior’s administration.

The title of the documentary is taken from an infamous example of Rumsfeld verbal gymnastics during a press briefing:

Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.”

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1uhheq_the-unknown-known_shortfilms

 

In the clip below, Morris frankly discusses his own feelings about the documentary

Blackwater: the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army

blackwater

 

Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army

by Jeremy Scahill

2008 (with 2013 epilogue)

Book Review

Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army by Jeremy Scahill (2008 with 2013 epilogue) is an in-depth examination of the systematic privatization of the US military. In 1988, as Secretary of Defense to Bush senior, Dick Cheney initiated the process of outsourcing to private companies of military training and security and intelligence roles. Thanks to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the Rumsfeld Doctrine, this outsourcing would extend to combat roles during the 2003-2008 occupation of Iraq.

Scahill’s book places special emphasis on the US failure to hold mercenary soldiers accountable for human rights violations. It also highlights the total absence of financial oversight, allowing Blackwater, Halliburton and other private military contractors to bilk taxpayers out of hundreds of billions of dollars. Finally it raises the troubling specter of corporations or even wealthy individuals hiring a standing mercenary army, such as Blackwater, to declare war against sovereign states.

Cheney Downsizes the US Military

Scahill begins by discussing the major downsizing of the US military that began in 1988, even before the fall of the Berlin Wall and break-up of the former Soviet Union. In his first year as Secretary of Defense, Cheney reduced military spending by $10 billion, by canceling expensive weapons systems and decreasing US troop strength from 2.2 to 1.6 million. As the cuts continued, there was a growing tendency to outsource various non-combat functions to private contractors. Clinton continued the trend, when he hired Military Professionals Resources Inc (staffed by retired military officers) to “train” the Croatian military* in their secessionist war against Serb-dominated Yugoslavia.

The Rumsfeld Doctrine

Following George W Bush’s election in 2000, Rumsfeld pursued even more aggressive privatization of the Pentagon bureaucracy. The primary neoconservative rationale for shifting both combat and non-combat duties to private mercenaries was to allow the President to engage in potentially unpopular overseas military interventions.

Other advantages included the ability of private mercenaries to engage in unlawful activities (such as extraordinary rendition**), for which regular forces would be subject to court martial under the Uniform Code of Military Justice – and a massive gravy train of unmonitored, no-bid contracts for wealthy Republican donors. In June 2004, after only fifteen months of US occupation, $9 billion of Iraqi reconstruction funds were unaccounted for.

The Blackwater Lodge and Training Center

Blackwater itself was first formed in 1996. It felled a big hole in training capacity, particularly in the Navy, resulting from Cheney’s extensive DOD cuts. Former Navy SEALS Erik Prince and Al Clark initially established the Blackwater Lodge and Training Center in North Carolina to offer private tactical training to Special Forces and local law enforcement personnel. A long time SEAL trainer, Clark supplied the concept. Prince, who came from a wealthy conservative Christian family, bankrolled it.

In 2002, Blackwater branched out into providing personnel as well as training. Their first contract would be to provide twenty security guards for Kabul’s CIA station in Afghanistan. In 2003, the State Department would award their largest documented (non-classified) contract providing security for US officials in Iraq. This included a $27.7 million no-bid contract to protect Paul Bremer. Bremer, who Bush appointed to run Iraq during the US occupation, quickly became the most hated man in Iraq.

Iraqi Resistance to Occupation

The book provides an interesting historical perspective on the rise of the Iraqi resistance movement in reaction to the virtual takeover of Iraq by US corporate interests. Contrary to the US media portrayal of the Iraqi opposition as al Qaeda terrorists, it was a genuine home grown movement which formed in reaction to Bremer’s refusal to allow free elections and his de-Baathification program. The latter instantly plunged the vast majority of Iraqis into abject misery. In addition to decommissioning 350,000 former Iraqi troops, it also threw hundreds of thousands of doctors, nurses, teachers, government workers out of work (who were required to join the Baath party as a condition of employment). The loss of these front line personnel would result in the total collapse of Iraqi society.

As Scahill carefully documents, the original Iraqi resistance was peaceful and nonviolent until the US military and Blackwater contractors deliberately fired on peaceful civilian protestors.

Blackwater and other mercenaries are typically paid $600-800 a day for mercenaries. This contrasts with an average of $270 a day for active duty GIs.

The Ambush in Fallujah

Blackwater devotes five chapters to the horrific ambush in Fallujah on March 30, 2004, in which a local mob killed, burned and dismembered four Blackwater contractors before hanging them from a bridge. It was this event that would bring Blackwater to world attention, while setting off a chain of events that would compel (due to an overstretched enlisted force) the Pentagon to hire Blackwater and other private security contractors* as mercenary soldiers in Iraq.

At a pay rate of $600-800 a day (in contrast to an average of $270 for active duty GIs), private security companies had no difficulty recruiting mercenaries. In fact, the worse the violence got, the more profits rolled in for Blackwater.

By June 2004, there were 20,000 private mercenaries in Iraq. By the time Rumsfeld resigned in 2006, there was a one to one ratio between troops and mercenary soldiers maintaining the US occupation in Iraq (100,000 mercenaries vs 100,000 troops).

In 2004-2005, the Blackwater role expanded to guarding the US oil industries pipeline in Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, to “protecting” FEMA reconstruction contracts in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina and to providing immigration security at the Mexican border. By 2007, Blackwater had 2300 private soldiers fighting in nine countries, as well as a database of 22,000 former troops, special forces operatives and retired law enforcement officers who could be deployed at short notice.

Immunity from Prosecution

As of 2013, when Scahill published the revised edition, no Blackwater contractors had ever been prosecuted for criminal human rights abuses. Under an edict Bremer enacted in 2004, US mercenaries were immune from prosecution under Iraqi law. Prosecuting them in American courts is extremely difficult owing to the difficulty of transporting foreign witnesses to the US. However in October 2014, a Washington DC federal district court found four of them guilty of murder and manslaughter for the 2007 shooting of seventeen civilians in Baghdad.

Erick Prince sold Blackwater in 2010 and it has since merged with its main rival Triple Canopy to form Academi. Although Blackwater was banned from Iraq in 2009,  Academi still provides security for State Department personnel across many countries.They also continue to receive contracts from the Defense Department and US intelligence agencies.

Links to free epub and kindle versions of Blackwater are available at Blackwater the Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army


*In the mid-1990s, the Croatian military was dominated by right-wing Nazi sympathizers similar to those in the present Ukrainian government.
** Extraordinary or irregular rendition is the US sponsored abduction and extrajudicial transfer of a person to countries known to practice torture. It’s also known as torture by proxy.
***Other companies that entered the lucrative mercenary market in 2004 include Control Risks Group, DynCorp, Erinys, Algis, Armor Group, Hart, Kroll and Steele Foundation. British security contractors were also extremely pro-active in Iraq. By October 2006, there were 21,000 British mercenaries in Iraq, in contrast with 7.200 conventional duty troops.

Also published at Veterans Today

The Neocon Myths Behind Afghanistan and Iraq

The Power of Nightmares

Directed by Adam Curtis

BBC (2003)

Part 3 Shadows in the Cave

Film Review

Part 3 concerns the mythology the neoconservatives created around international terrorism to justify the US wars against Afghanistan and Iraq.

The US Invents al Qaeda

The final video starts with the car bombing of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998. These were the first attacks Bin Laden and Zawahiri organized against US interests as part of their new international jihad (see How the CIA Funds Jihad). They recruited four bombers from training camps Abdullah Azzam started during the Soviet occupation.

Contrary to the myth promoted by the neocons, these camps were exclusively dedicated to training Muslims to conduct jihad in their own countries (e.g. Uzbekistan and Chechnya). Their leaders wanted absolutely nothing to do with international terrorism or Bin Laden’s jihad against the US. They allowed Zawahiri and Bin Laden to recruit from these camps because he was financing them. Nevertheless, even members of Islamic Jihad opposed what they were doing.

In Jan 2001 the US government brought the embassy bombers to trial in the US. They also tried Bin Laden in absentia. To charge him under existing US law, federal prosecutors had to prove an organized group he commanded carried out the bombings. Because no such group existed, they invented one. The name al Qaeda came from a paid FBI informant.

9-11

Immediately following his election George W Bush, like his father, totally rejected the neoconservative’s insistence that the US should invade other nations and “dictate how to run their countries.”

9-11 would change all this, propelling Richard Perle, Wolfowitz, Cheney and Rumsfeld to international power with four terrifying myths:

  1. That Bin Laden was responsible for the 9-11 attacks (according to official FBI accounts, Khalid Sheik Mohammed was responsible for the “plane operations).”*
  2. That “al Qaeda,” a phantom organization the neocons latched onto for propaganda purposes, was a genuine international entity running sleeper cells in 50-60 countries.
  3. That “al Qaeda’s” ultimate goal was to force the US to live under Islamic fundamentalism.
  4. That the invasion of Afghanistan was essential to destroy the heart of “al Qaeda.”

During the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, the US and NATO allied themselves with the Afghan Northern Alliance. The latter hated the foreign Muslims who came to came to Afghanistan for training and received a generous bounty for handing them over to US troops. Nearly all of them ended up in Guantanomo, despite having no connection with bin Laden or international terrorism.

The Role of Hollywood

Following the US invasion, the neocons invested two new myths. The first was that bin Laden was hiding out in a sophisticated bunker built into the Torah Borah caves on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The second was that the US was harboring a vast network of terrorist sleeper cells preparing a new attack on US soil. Although both were totally discredited by mid-2003, these myths would be solidified in the public mind by dozens of TV dramas about hidden terrorist sleeper cells in major US cities.

A popular theme of these dramas was the dirty bomb*, which according to actual DD tests was unlikely to kill anyone because the radiation produced by a dirty bomb was so dispersed.

So-called “dirty bombs** featured prominently in most of these productions, despite numerous Pentagon tests demonstrating dirty bomb radiation is too widely dispersed to kill anyone.

World Leaders Rush to Sign On

Inspired by the immense power this ideology of fear gave political leaders, other western leaders quickly signed on to the terror agenda. When the neocons began circulating the new mythology in mid-2002 that Saddam Hussein was linked to al Qaeda and 9-11, British Prime Minister Tony Blair became one of its most vocal proponents. Despite knowing from the outside that the war on Iraq was based on fabricated evidence.


*This video was produced in 2003, when it was still widely believed that 19 Muslim hijackers were responsible for the attack on the Twin Towers. This version of events is now totally discredited.
**A dirty bomb is an explosive device made from nuclear waste combined with conventional explosives – with the intent of spreading radioactive material over a widely populated area
***This revelation is all the more remarkable given that Curtis made this documentary prior to Dr David Kelly’s so-called “suicide” in 2003. Kelly worked for the British Ministry of Defense and was a former UN weapons inspector in Iraq. He came to public attention in July 2003, when a BBC journalist published an-off-the record discussion about the British role in fabricating evidence about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. He died under extremely suspicious circumstances in later that month. A group of British doctors is demanding a fresh investigation into Kelly’s death: Doctors Claim Cover Upl

http://vimeo.com/84421510

Marketing Terror

The Power of Nightmares

Directed by Adam Curtis

BBC (2003)

Part 1 Baby It’s Cold Outside

Film Review

This final series of Adam Curtis documentaries is the oldest and, in my view, the best. It has special relevance given the current western crusade against evil incarnate (and CIA creation) ISIS.*

The Power of Nightmares traces the parallel movements of radical Islam and neoconservativism – how both rose to power by inventing terrifying fantasies which they promise to protect us from them.

Curtis begins by tracing the roots of radical Islam, which dates back to 1949 when Egyptian scholar Sayed Qutb attended college briefly in Greely Colorado. Qutb was instantly repelled by the pervasive decay, crassness and vulgarity stemming from America’s fanatical devotion to individualism (an ideology perpetuated by saturation pro-consumption messaging by Edward Bernays’ public relations industry – see The Science of Thought Control).*

The Americans Qutb met were unbelievably selfish and materialistic and lived lonely, sterile lives surrounded by perfectly manicured lawns.

Returning to Egypt in 1950, he was horrified to see that that western individualism, materialism and moral degradation had corrupted his own country, thanks to the invasion of American pop culture.

Believing Islam provided a moral framework to protect Egypt from this selfish individualism, in 1952 he joined the Muslim Brotherhood and supported Gamal Nasser in overthrowing British rule in Egypt.

The CIA Teaches Egypt How to Torture

As Nasser’s vice president, Anwar Sadat (who would become president in 1970) invited the CIA to set up Egypt’s security services and train them how to torture members of the growing Muslim Brotherhood.

As often happens, torture radicalized Qutb. He came to believe that individualism unleashes a barbarous violence and that Muslims infected by materialism cease to be true Muslim. This, in turn, makes them legitimate targets for assassination.

Following Qutb’s execution for treason in 1966, Dr Ayman Zawahari assumed leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood. After Sadat signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, Zawahiri founded the Islamic Jihad (IJ). The treaty was taken as evidence that Sadat was no longer a true Muslim and thus a legitimate assassination target. In 1981, IJ members of his military guard would assassinate him.

Leo Strauss: Father of Neoconservatism

Leo Strauss, German-American political philosopher and Zionist, is considered the father of neoconservatism. Refusing to give interviews or publish articles, Strauss spread his ideas by surrounding himself with a dedicated band of students at the University of Chicago.

Like Qutb, Strauss was horrified by the moral degeneration and social decay he witnessed in the fifties and sixties. He blamed it on liberalism, with its claims hat morality his relative ( i.e. that each individual is entitled to set their own standards of morality). He taught that political leaders had an obligation to set strong moral standards by creating powerful myths for the masses to live by.

In the early seventies, his students, Irving and William Kristol, Paul Wolfowitz and Francis Fukyama, would formally launch the neoconservative movement to disseminate the myth that the US is the only force for good in a world full of evil.

According to this world view, any country or individual that opposes US policies is satanic. The neoconservatives were perfectly aware they were deliberately creating a fear-inducing myth. Yet according to their Straussian belief system, this was a necessary myth and a necessary fear for the overall good of society.

The Neocons Target Henry Kissinger

Their initial target in their crusade against evil was Nixon’s National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger. In 1972, Kissinger was trying to reduce fear and instability through world cooperation, détente with the Soviets and propping up fascist dictators (he called this Realpolitik).

Recruiting Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney (Secretary of Defense and Chief of Staff under Gerald Ford) to the neoconservative cause, they blanketed the media with claims that the Russians were cheating on the nuclear test ban treaty. This directly contradicted CIA evidence that Soviet air defenses were on the verge of collapse, owing to the sorry state of the Soviet economy. So the neocons claimed the Soviets had devised methods of cheating the CIA was incapable of detecting.

When Carter assumed the presidency in 1976, they would revive the Committee on the Present Danger to promote their mythology that the Soviet Union posed a growing threat to the US. Ronald Reagan would be their most prominent recruit.

Politicizing Christianity

Simultaneously, like the Muslim Brotherhood, the neocons embraced fundamentalist Christianity as a vehicle for enforcing socially redeeming moral values. Fundamentalist pastors had always discouraged their congregations from participating in the political process. Guided by the neocons, they reversed themselves, transforming millions of fundamentalists into popular force to lobby for the neoconservative world view.

In 1980, millions of them voted for the first time for Ronald Reagan.


*See excellent article by British historian Nafeez Ahmed tracing the history of ISIS: How the West Created ISIS

** As I am. What emotionally balanced rational being wouldn’t be repulsed by the empty sterile lives Americans lead?

 

http://vimeo.com/84414208

The Propaganda Function of Torture

language of empire

The Language of Empire: Abu Ghraib and the American Media

by Lila Rajiva (2005 Monthly Review Press

Book Review

The Language of Empire is an examination of the Abu Ghraib scandal, from the perspective that the US military’s use of torture was primarily an instrument of terror (i.e. a military tactic intended to cause intimidation). In addition to outlining what actually happened at Abu Ghraib, Rajiva also chronicles the Senate Armed Services Committee investigation triggered when the scandal first broke in April 2004. However the book mainly focuses on the media coverage of Abu Ghraib and what it tells us about the highly sophisticated psychological strategies employed by Pentagon and Wall Street propagandists.

The Language of Empire begins with a detailed catalog of the different forms of torture employed against prisoners (who were for the most part civilian non-combatants) at Abu Ghraib, with particular emphasis on the rape of female prisoners (only reported by the Christian Science Monitor) and the sodomizing of Iraqi teenagers, both largely ignored by the mainstream media.

The third chapter is devoted to the Senate investigation. The investigation, in Rajiva’s view, was a whitewash allowing the Republican majority to scapegoat a few “bad apples.”  There should have been a thorough investigation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who had clearly mandated the use of torture in interrogations. Rajiva is also critical of Senate Democrats, who focused entirely on the legal paper trail and the Pentagon’s failure to keep Congress informed, rather than a diseased Pentagon culture that enabled the US to adopt torture as official policy.

Rumsfeld’s Corporatization of the Pentagon

Rajiva is extremely critical of Rumsfeld’s wholesale “corporatization” of defense and his consolidation of all Middle East intelligence and propaganda functions under the Pentagon. Of most significance, obviously, was contracting with private companies to provide military and intelligence functions. In addition to introducing the secrecy (and deniability) of the corporate boardroom into military operations, it simultaneously transferred major policy decisions from military professionals to civilians.

Torture as Psyops*

Although she deals briefly with the cultural use of forced nakedness, sexuality and homosexual role play, compounded by the global distribution of photos of Muslim men humiliated in this way, most of the book deals with the intended psyops function of Abu Ghraib coverage on the American public.

Rajiva explores two broad themes here. The first relates to deliberately orchestrating fear and confusion in the American public to increase their susceptibility to ideological propaganda. The second relates to the deliberate use of fragmented, highly emotive images and scenarios in the absence of historical or logical context.

According to Rajiva, in most Americans normal social interaction has been replaced with incoherent economic and biological drives reinforced by continual advertising messages to consume. Layered on top of this (in white males) are Invented “culture wars,” consisting of imagined threats from liberals, women, minorities and Islam.

All this is very effective in distracting the public from the real conflict, which is between corporate interests and the real needs of people and their communities. In addition to making them exquisitely vulnerable to manipulation by the Pentagon and corporate media, it deliberately encourages Americans to project their inner anxieties on frightening outsiders (i.e. Muslims).

Rajiva gives numerous examples in which the US media deliberately misrepresents Arab society as inherently violent, tribal and uncivilized. At the same time Islamic insurgents are made to appear as monstrous as possible by 1) exaggerating their alleged religious fundamentalism and negating their rational motivation (poverty and US occupation and atrocities) for their terrorist activities and 2) defining them as evil by nature, with subhuman descriptors (animals, insects, slime, etc).

She also describes a trick of logic played by government/media propagandists, whereby the US killing of thousands of civilians is “rational” because it’s (supposedly) accidental. In contrast acts of violence by militants are portrayed as “irrational” because they occur in response to genuine grievances.

*Psyops are tactics intended to manipulate one’s opponents or enemies, such as the dissemination of propaganda or the use of psychological warfare.

Lila Rajiva is a journalist and author residing in Baltimore. She has degrees in economics and English from India, as well as a Master’s degree from JohnsHopkinsUniversity, where she did doctoral work in international relations and political philosophy. She has taught at the University of Maryland, BaltimoreCounty. She blogs at http://mindbodypolitic.com/