Admit awareness of the fact that torture does not work in real life. Sign the petition.
Why is this important?
The popularity and acceptability of torture have soared in the United States and around the world. This is not simply because the United States has tortured. The U.S. government, many of its policies, its wars, and key torture supporters have not seen similar boosts in popularity.
A major contributor to torture’s improved image has been Hollywood, led by two productions that have popularized the false belief that torture can produce life-saving information. The U.S. Senate report’s summary makes clear that torture has not worked in the real world. In fact, torture has generally not been used to stop an imminent attack, and has been used in some cases to compel agreement with lies about Iraqi links to al Qaeda — lies aimed at starting a war.
The fantasy situation in which a torturer knows his victim has life-saving information that cannot be obtained elsewhere, and that his victim won’t lie, and that torture will work better than legal interrogation exists only in fiction. But belief in it creates acceptance of torture.
Experts agree on this, but people need to hear it from the fictional experts they’ve heard of for it to seem real to them. People need to hear Keifer Sutherland, star of “24,” and Kathryn Bigelow, director of “Zero Dark Thirty,” admit that torture does not work in real life.
Sutherland and Bigelow don’t need to criticize or apologize for their art. They don’t need to begin self-censoring. They just need to admit that they are aware of the facts, that torture did not help find Osama bin Laden, that torture has not prevented deaths or destruction — quite the contrary.
U.S. torture has been a recruiting bonanza for anti-U.S. terrorist groups. This fact is trumpted most loudly by defenders of torture and opponents of releasing reports, photos, or videos of what was done. The open secret that we need key public figures to acknowledge is that there’s no up-side to weigh against the harm done.
On March 1, 2015, the Independent claimed to change everything with this headline: “Revealed: How torture was used to foil al-Qaeda 2010 plot to bomb two airliners 17 minutes before explosion.” The claims in the article are not well documented and quite possibly entirely false. There is no evidence that questioning without torture wouldn’t have worked as well or better than torturing. The bomb in the story may have been planted in the first place as retaliation for torture. And the serious argument against torture is not “It’s just wrong” but that allowing it creates its widespread use and contributes to other brutal policies including war that kill and injure countless people driving forward vicious cycles of violence.
Torture creates enemies, causes horrific suffering, and dehumanizes the torturers including those who passively allow it. A torturer cannot know that someone has lifesaving information and is most likely to reveal it under torture. And once we pretend that a torturer might know that, we cannot stop the torturers from torturing large numbers of people.
Why do we do this? I can only speak for me, but I do it not only to foment revolution–a worldwide peaceful one of justice in the service of love brought about by direct and indirect action–but also for the camaraderie. NancyWH reminded me of that in a comment she made last Sunday night in a chain under annieli’s latest diary for this group (an amazing educational piece, read by very few at the time, I am sad to say):
Every journey starts with one step (4+ / 0-)
I hear. Now I have two! I will end up having so many tabs open, I’ll get confused. So I have a word document where I stash links, so I can find them again later.
And I am apt to come back early tomorrow, and find people came along and added other suggestions after I went to sleep. It was that comradery that drew me here in the first place.
And that comment got me thinking about “camaraderie.” I volunteered to do this diary a day later because we needed a writer for this week, thinking that I could come up with something, but as usual not knowing what it would be. I do love this unpredictable journey of socialist sharing with comrades, some of whom are now living across one big pond or another from the U.S., and none, to my knowledge, within hundreds of miles of me, a lonely watermelon in a highly un-”red” part of the Deep Red South. To me, it does not really matter what specific anti-capitalist theme I write about or one of my comrades writes about, but it does matter that we are together, sharing our bad ass love for humanity, including for each other.
Of course, Daily Kos writ large has an agenda which should bring some solidarity, and any group blog at Daily Kos has some camaraderie around a profile, and some profiles are more or less expressly aimed at camaraderie. Because of responsibilities, I don’t often get to participate in Saturday night’s WYFP?, but when I do, I am always uplifted by the fact that people bring their problems to each other there and receive encouragement from others. It is quite beautifully real and sometimes brings me to tears.
Stuck in my atrophying mental space, based on NancyWH’s comment, was this subject of camaraderie. I have never spent much time thinking about socialist camaraderie per se, but I have known some camaraderie in my day, most of it decidedly un-socialist and un-progressive–a “wide gamut,” everything from little league competition and bench-warming of the “worst” “teammates”; to high school locker room glory days, where one fits in by not only performing on the field or court but also by committing or ignoring bullying of the smallest “teammates”; to goldfish-swallowing beer-guzzling fraternity “good times,” where one fits in by committing or receiving bullying given the more grandiose name of hazing; to beer-guzzling adult softball team after-game carousing and what not–then again, it dawns, maybe I don’t know shit about camaraderie, sure haven’t had much of it that wasn’t involved with competition, cruelty, or both.
After all, as we all know down heuh, when it comes to “heaven and hell,” it is everyone for “himself,” standing condemned from the instant of birth by the sinful act of copulation, so loved by the great tortoise in the sky that he would send us into a burning eternal barbecue pit for daring to enter this perfect world. I was raised in, and in the acceptable capitalist ways rebelled from, the most conservative of fundie religious subcultures in the Cold War U.S., where “comrade” was used as a term of hostile disparagement of “the enemy.” Come to think of it, the closest I received in comradery growing up was probably involved with sharing bong hits and playing hearts while ditching some class in minimester I can’t remember now.
I do remember distinctly when I first read the word “comrade” in reference to real people that I know–the members of this group, which I’d just joined, a little over a year ago. Ironically, it was used by one of my now heroes, NY brit expat, in asking for writers! I am sorry to say that I at first assumed it was humorously used. “Comrade” died with the Soviet Union, right? I replied back somewhat tongue in cheek but even then felt scared to acknowledge the request because, as in joining this group to begin with, it means to voluntarily wear a badge that could invite repression, and where I live, repression can get ugly.
I have learned in this group that camaraderie involves honest and sometimes difficult exchanges, solidarity with not only each other but all of the workers and less fortunate of the world, gentle expressions of friendship, and tons of edjurecation, and even a little re-edjurecation.
which leads to reading,
While we have many scholars who write for this group, I am not one of them. Each week, when I read the diary and the comments, I add to my reading list. My special top secret personal revolutionary bookcase is full of pink, red, and green things to do that involve me learning, which is good, but time-consuming. Perhaps you too carry around on your smart phone links to works of Luxemburg, Gramsci, and Bookchin, things you need to read or re-read and can feel guilty over.
When I started thinking about “comradery,” I decided to start with the French “liberty, equality, fraternity,” which led to the limited spare time of three days being spent with some dead dude named Pierre Leroux, whom I have really come to like. I was going to riff this diary on him, when serendity happened …
which leads me back to a dear friend from long ago, “a queer socialist poet.”
At 2:14 pm Central Time this past Thursday, when I was at work, my real-me personal in-box received a visit from my independent socialist comrades at Monthly Review. And, maybe my life will never be the same, I am serious. Into my life came a new book by some literary lefty at Penn State named John Marsh, In Walt We Trust: How a Queer Socialist Poet Can Save America from Itself (Monthly Review Press, 2015).
By Friday night I had read the UTNE Reader excerpt from the book and was completely stoked. I took the full plunge, and it now mysteriously “sits” in my dinosaur first generation pawn shop iPad half-read but already well-loved. I would be reading the rest of it now, except that I have to write this darn diary and go chop down some wild stuff before spring gets here.
I will, tortoise willing, come back to you one day with a full review of the book. It is friggin’ terrific. Like my other new buddy Leroux, it implies that the liberal and the socialist have much to learn from each other. For instance, while the liberal conception of “justice” as defined by capitalist laws is woefully inadequate, the artistic and intellectual freedom of humanity should not be pinned down by what came to be known as “socialist realism” or convenient to a hierarchy, respectively.
We will fight for a just world for all and not accept no for an answer. But our blades will primarily be leaves of grass. Our practice must account for time and place, and we all need true friends:
Nor did I always believe that Whitman would save America from what ailed it. More often than not I thought he was—or represented—exactly what it suffered from. His naive optimism, his boosterish patriotism, his fuzzy spiritualism, his celebration of the body and sex—though these may have once seemed, in the nineteenth century perhaps, like the solution to a problem, they now seemed like the problem itself. Americans did not need to be told to look on the bright side, to love America, to trust God, or, my Lord, to worship sex. They needed to be told not to.
But I know now that I was wrong. At some point, and for me it came in my early thirties, you realize that socialism will be a long time coming in the United States, especially when one of our two political parties fervently believes that the United States is already on the road to socialist serfdom. When you wake up to this reality, you care a lot less about whether a poet was socialist enough or not, and a lot more about how he can help you live in the world you have.
[W]hitman had nothing to do with building up the empire of illusions that currently enfold and enthrall Americans, not just because few people actually read him, then or now, and therefore you cannot lay much blame at his door. But also because—read carefully—he says no such things. Indeed, I am now convinced that reading Whitman would go far toward striking back against that empire of illusion.
When I read Leaves of Grass the first time, I was beginning a new life, becoming must closer to who I am today than who I was raised to be. Something told me to take Walt Whitman with me on that long back-packing trip. I sat and read him on rainy days in the tent and on a clear day by a roaring ice-filled river read him too. He, long dead as Leroux, planted wonderful seeds in me, like not only a love of compost but also the assumption that composting can be a political act.
He was fearless. What kind of bravery it would have taken in 1855 to self-publish such thoughts: “Welcome is every organ and attribute of me, and of any man hearty and clean. / Not an inch nor a particle of an inch is vile, and none shall be less familiar than the rest.”
Well I am off to chop those vines, which will go in This Compost, where I will hopefully one day join them:
Behold this compost! behold it well!
Perhaps every mite has once form’d part of a sick person—Yet behold!
The grass of spring covers the prairies,
The bean bursts noislessly through the mould in the garden,
The delicate spear of the onion pierces upward,
The apple-buds cluster together on the apple-branches,
The resurrection of the wheat appears with pale visage out of its graves,
The tinge awakes over the willow-tree and the mulberry-tree,
The he-birds carol mornings and evenings, while the she-birds sit on their nests,
The young of poultry break through the hatch’d eggs,
The new-born of animals appear—the calf is dropt from the cow, the colt from the mare,
Out of its little hill faithfully rise the potato’s dark green leaves,
Out of its hill rises the yellow maize-stalk—the lilacs bloom in the door-yards;
The summer growth is innocent and disdainful above all those strata of sour dead.
That the winds are really not infectious,
That this is no cheat, this transparent green-wash of the sea, which is so amorous after me,
That it is safe to allow it to lick my naked body all over with its tongues,
That it will not endanger me with the fevers that have deposited themselves in it,
That all is clean forever and forever.
That the cool drink from the well tastes so good,
That blackberries are so flavorous and juicy,
That the fruits of the apple-orchard, and of the orange-orchard—that melons, grapes, peaches, plums, will none of them poison me,
That when I recline on the grass I do not catch any disease,
Though probably every spear of grass rises out of what was once a catching disease.
Now I am terrified at the Earth! it is that calm and patient,
It grows such sweet things out of such corruptions,
It turns harmless and stainless on its axis, with such endless successions of diseas’d corpses,
It distils such exquisite winds out of such infused fetor,
It renews with such unwitting looks, its prodigal, annual, sumptuous crops,
It gives such divine materials to men, and accepts such leavings from them at last.
See you next week, same lefty batting channel. Meanwhile, let’s go hit the books comrades–when, that is, we are not working, dancing, frolicking naked across the prairie, etc.
Next Wednesday, March 4, the hot phase of the Tsarnaev trial is scheduled to start, and after the defense’s last-minute efforts to achieve a change of venue due to massive prejudice of the coming jury were rebuffed by the appeals court there is little doubt that the opening statements of both parties will be held in front of the jury on this day.
After twenty months of mostly technical and procedural discussions on several pretrial hearings, this will be the first time since the indictment in June 2013 that actual evidence for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s alleged perpretation will be presented to the public. Because of a gigantic media campaign especially around the first anniversary most people have come to believe that this evidence is already solid and abundant: a slam-dunk case. But those who have followed independent Internet sources (like this one) know that despite the mainstream media hype there is no such thing like solid evidence. In other words: the prosecution didn’t make their case.
The indictment consists of 30 points. 15 point are related to the actual Marathon bombing, 3 to the murder of Sean Collier, and 12 to the car hijacking/Watertown shooting complex. The high number results from a broad overlapping of the single points; so essentially, we have only three accusations.
With regard to the Collier complex and the Watertown complex, other websites have persuasively outlined the poor evidence and many inherent contradictions of the official story. I will therefore restrain myself to the Marathon bombing which has been in my focus for nearly two years now. For newbies, take a look at my blog since April 23, 2013.
With regard to the evidence that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev planted the second pressure cooker bomb, the indictment falls back behind the criminal complaint from April 22, 2013. And the criminal complaint bases its accusation almost exclusively on the so-called Forum video. Apart from two stills, we only have verbal descriptions of the video so far which fall short of explicitly stating that it shows Dzhokhar’s bag exploding; instead the complaint says that he dropped his bag at the location where the bomb exploded later. This blurry description leaves room for the possibility that the bag was not the pressure cooker bomb, but only being in the vicinity.
The prosecution will, in all likelihood, cite the Forum video as primary evidence. It will be interesting to see if they will announce eyewitnesses for Dzohkhar’s bag being the bomb. Some people’s claims that the explosion occurred exactly where the bag was have turned out to be unreliable and contradictory. I expect the prosecution’s list of eyewitnesses for the epicenter of the bomb to be very slim. The prosecution has already hinted that some survivors/eyewitnesses are reluctant to testify in order to avoid a painful revival of the traumatic event – which might be true, but could also be an excuse for not being able to present a witness. We’ll see.
The prosecution will certainly also announce to present details of the bombs and how they were made, remnants of the pressure cooker, shrapnel and other physical proof for their deadly nature. And they might cite the autopsy photos of the deceased three victims of the bombings. All of this evidence will however only prove that there were pressure cooker bombs, not who actually placed it.
It will also be interesting to see how the prosecution will handle the discrepancy between the claim in the indictment that the pressure cookers were hidden inside black backpacks whereas Dzhokhar, according to the well-known video footage from Boylston Street, was carrying a light-colored knapsack. I expect them to ignore this embarassing point until the defense brings up the subject.
The defense is well-advised to be flexible and reactive to the prosecution’s pleading. If the prosecution, for example, avoids to clarify where exactly the second bomb exploded, it might be favorable to them to not lay down all their cards (i.e. eyewitnesses pro Tsarnaev) on the table and confine themselves to something indeterminate like “we will throw doubts on the hypothesis that Tsarnaev’s bag was at the location where the bomb exploded”. If the prosecution explicitly states that the bomb exploded at the mailbox (where Dzhokhar left his bag behind), it might be favorable to explicitly state that the bomb exploded on the patio, 15 feet away.
It is my firm conviction that the many eyewitnesses of the second explosion, and especially the injured survivors, will be a big trump for the defense, probably the biggest. Whether they will play it on Wednesday already remains to be seen. Another trump is the already mentioned black nylon backpack/light-colored knapsack discrepancy. It might well be that Dzhokhar told his lawyers the brand and type of his knapsack and where he bought it. This would have enabled them to buy one and check out if it’s even possible to stow a pressure cooker in this particular bag, and if so, if the resulting bulge matches the video footage.
Finally, the defense will probably thematize the nature of the bombs itselves. Did the firework powder that the Tsarnaevs purchased have enough power to cause the destruction and injuries of the Boston bombs? Probably not – and they will announce to summon experts for this question. Did the Tsarnaevs build the bombs by themselves or with professional help? The defense will highlight the conflicting stories in the media. And how exactly were the bombs detonated? The indictment claims that Dzhokhar himself detonated the second bomb – but without elaborating how he did it. The defense will possibly cite experts for this technical problem, too.
This is my preview for Wednesday. Look at it as kind of a check list – and apologies if some forecasts are wrong, which will certainly be the case. But certainly some of the forecasts will be confirmed.
Some ten years ago or so, I accidentally became aware of the possibility that single images contained information that, to the eye, in a single image, was not particularly visible, and that is what’s happening at the edges of a photo. Second to that is what incomplete shapes take on meaning by mirroring the shape. The combination of the two set me on an intensive exploration that involved identifying single frames as candidates, digital manipulation in Photoshop,and exploration in color. A visual locution, with the possibility of metaphor. I went looking.
An essential problem: The photograph is a frame, with boundaries From the human perspective, the world has no boundaries, at least of the Euclidean kind, which the frame presents. So, it is as important to understand what you leave out as what you include, and that means define your edges.
The eye naturally looks to some sort of organization within the frame. It matters not whether one paints, draws or photographs. The way photographing differs from painting and drawing, from a production point of view, is the photographer organizes from the edges inward. Which means pay attention to the edges. We do that by concluding “I want to leave that out” and crop to that. The use of zoom lenses it particularly good for that. The zoom allows perfect composition as well as isolation.
However, there is “stuff” at the edges. Particularly in nature photography One never has complete elimination. The tree branch cutting at an angle is left over when eliminating the tree. Eroded rocks have pockmarks, hills and mountains have scree spread over the surface. Etc. Now, when one takes such an image, makes a copy, flips that copy then join the tow exactly at the edge something shows up now at the center of the image, a line if fine detail, and sometimes not so fine, freeing up all sorts of designs, principally faces! All kinds of faces. Animal and human. Many time grim, some Buddha-like, bears, cats, dogs. One thing they all posses is symmetry, a symmetric perfection which rarely, if ever, exists naturally.
The first time I saw this, nature had already done it for me. It was a reflection of a rock wall in a still pool of water. I marveled at the composition . It was only marginally perfect. It balanced top and bottom, so I had the bright idea of making the scan and aligning the original and the flipped versions.
I had my construction. And I had my project!
I spent many a day searching my files for candidates for such imagery. At that point, I was not using a digital camera so I had to scan each candidate, import it into an editor, make the copy then connect the edges, lining them up perfectly. The appearance of all sorts of images was amazing. My problem became one of selection. They all said “Pick me” but no, I had to choose.
During that choosing I noticed that some of the rejects were pretty interesting yet missing something others had, so I decided to copy, flip and match those pairs, and the mandala was born. Now I had a powerful process, with endless possibilities. I made hundreds of experiments.
As I was working this concept, I was also re-reading some of Castaneda’s books on Don Juan Matus. Don Juan kept urging his student, Castaneda, to look carefully, out of the corner of the eye so to speak, and see the forms that defied seeing by conventional means. I wondered if Don Juan was doing this with the pair of images the optical system produces. The eye presents the image to the retina upside down and flipped left to right. The brain flips it back and combines these images to produce the 3D effect by which we all see. Could the Yaqui “Man of Knowledge” be actually doing this as an alternative process? Combining the images so he “saw” the faces? Figuratively speaking, of course as Don Juan Matus was a fictional character. Or was he?
Anyway, I mostly worked with b&w negs, bur soon I started looking at color. There was less opportunity there,primarily because I did far more work in b&w than color. So I proceeded to the next step, colorization of the b&W. It was wildly more successful than I could have ever have anticipated!
I’m barely scratching the surface here. I stopped doing these maybe 8 years ago. I developed a working method which I will have to go back to certain files where I saved all the steps, to be able to again, re-crate this process. Algorithms for messing with color. Skewing methods to add complexity. Things like that.
The template for writing here at FDL makes it difficult to generate a process to show images and write about the process as one would in a book, so in lieu of this, I have a link to a small set on my website. I intend to follow up with a bit more detail, and I will be expanding the collection as well on my site.
On ABC’s This Week today, American Secretary of State John Kerry said that the recent destruction of priceless Assyrian works of art by the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq(ISIS) was a “rampage reminiscent of Tamerlane and Genghis Khan.”
Tamerlane? Genghis Khan? Wow. These ISIS guys must be really bad ass. But are they? Really? Let’s take a quick look-see here.
Just about everyone’s at least heard of Genghis Khan, which translates directly from the Mongol for “Great King.” Born Temujin, Genghis Khan united the Mongol tribes in 1206 CE and led them on incredible campaigns of conquest, establishing a Mongol Empire that stretched from northern China through Mongolia, Persia, and Central Asia all the way through Russia to the borders of Europe. His immediate successors completed the Mongol conquests of China, Russia, Ukraine, and even Hungary.
Ol’ Genghis was indeed ruthless. Acutely aware that there were only so many Mongol horsemen available to die in battle, he adopted a very direct strategy in persuading a targeted city to surrender. If it surrendered on the first day his army showed up and agreed to be a good, taxpaying part of his empire, no one was hurt. On the second day, the city’s surrender would be accepted only if its inhabitants gave up its leaders to the Mongols for execution. If it hadn’t surrendered by the third day, everyone in it would be killed by the Mongols once the city fell.
Talk about shock-and-awe. Genghis Khan very consistently used this tactic, and it was very persuasive. It helped him conquer a huge chunk of the Earth’s land mass. George W. Bush had nothing on Genghis.
Or Tamerlane, for that matter.
Tamerlane, or more accurately Timur the Lame, was a man of Turkic and Mongol descent who took over the Mongol khanate of Samarkand, now a city in Uzbekistan, in the late 14th Century CE. Using Genghis Khan’s tactics, he conquered Central Asia, Persia, Afghanistan, northern India, most of European Russia, Iraq, Syria, and most of modern Turkey. Timur was in the habit of chopping off the heads of a conquered city’s population and building a pyramid of skulls out of them. Shock-and-awe again, wouldn’t you say?
Even his tomb was bad-ass, for it had a curse that actually came true. An inscription read, “Whosoever disturbs my tomb will unleash an invader more terrible than I.” Soviet archaeologists excavated his tomb on June 22, 1941, the very day that Hitler’s Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Now that’s shock-and-awe from beyond the grave!
So how does ISIS really compare to these guys? Personally, I think both Genghis Khan and Timur the Lame would be quite rightly offended by John Kerry’s remark. No doubt many works of art were destroyed in their conquests, but they never destroyed anything out of any sense of religious fanaticism, as ISIS does. In fact, both were remarkably tolerant of different religious faiths. Islam, Christianity, Confucianism, and Buddhism all flourished under Mongol rule. So Genghis and Timur both waged war in a tremendous and terrible shock-and awe-fashion, but neither did it out of any sense of religious persecution.
ISIS may have dreams of a grand Islamic Caliphate, but in fact they control maybe a third of Syria and Iraq, and the regions they control are not even contiguous. They’ve chopped off some heads, but I have yet to see a pyramid of skulls built by them. In fact, the most recent pyramid of skulls I’ve heard about was a small one of Taliban heads erected by German forces in Afghanistan a few years ago. The strategy worked, too, as the Taliban left the Germans alone until their own government recalled them a few years later. No doubt the Taliban are familiar with Genghis and Timur.
John Kerry? Apparently not so much. ISIS, no matter how fanatical they are, has done nothing on any scale remotely reminiscent of Tamerlane and Genghis Khan. They’re just not powerful enough, and are never likely to become so. Their version of Islam is rejected by most Muslims around the world, and all their religious intolerance will do is piss other people off and generate sympathy for their opponents, like the Iranians, Syrian and Iraqi Shiite Muslims, Assyrian and Coptic Christians, and others.
Comparing ISIS to Tamerlane and Genghis Khan is like comparing Al Capone to Hitler’s Gestapo or Stalin’s NKVD. It may be effective propaganda to the ignorant and incurious, but a click or two on the Google can quickly convince anyone with an ounce of intelligence of the colossal inaccuracy of Kerry’s comparison.
Speaking of intelligence, later in the same interview the corporate media reporter asked Kerry if “we,” as in the American government, had any intelligence related to yesterday’s murder of one of Vladimir Putin’s political opponents just outside the Kremlin.
Kerry replied, “We have no intelligence.”
On that, Mr. Secretary, I am in complete agreement with you.
Have you ever noticed your own inclination, or that of other people, to believe what you/they are told by someone seen to be in authority?
For example, did you know that there is overwhelming scientific evidence that the 911 destruction of the World Trade Center buildings 1, 2 and 7 was a false flag operation? That is, 911 was organised by the US and/or Israeli elite(s) and their agents in order to enable them to manipulate public opinion to support their subsequently initiated perpetual war in the Middle East and elsewhere.
‘Preposterous’, you say? Well, if you want to consider the scientific evidence (including in relation to World Trade Center Building 7, the third building destroyed on 911) which systematically explains why the official version of what happened cannot be true, you can do your own research or, if you want a lead to get started on the extensive evidence, read this document by Professor David Ray Griffin who has researched and written seven books on the subject – ‘The Destruction of the World Trade Center: Why the Official Account of 911 Cannot Be True’ – and watch these videos, featuring Prof Dr Niels Harrit and architect Richard Gage. For evidence indicating an Israeli role, see the book Solving 9-11: The Deception That Changed the World reviewed here.
Apart from 911, however, there are many other well-known historical incidents in which a thorough analysis of the evidence points to a different explanation to the official one that is now widely believed. See, for example, the explanation of James Douglass for the assassination of US President Kennedy in JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters.
Moreover, irrespective of your beliefs in relation to historically notable events, there is an endless sequence of other points, from the trivial to the profound, about which you are being systematically misled. ‘There is no cure for cancer’, we are told. And yet Gerson Therapy has been curing cancer patients for nearly 100 years!
But my intention in this article is not to send you off researching a multitude of historical incidents or even to point out where and why we are all being misled. Instead, I want to ask you three questions: Are you scared to make your own judgment (irrespective of the number of others, including experts, who make a similar judgment)? Are you scared to be labelled a ‘conspiracy theorist’ if you believe something contrary to the official (that is, the elite) narrative? And why?
When we are young, we are all exposed to a wide range of people, each of whom has a limited amount of knowledge, as well as beliefs and an opinion, about a wide range of issues. Whether these adults are our parents, teachers, religious figures or simply other people with whom we interact, most of them are unconsciously engaged in trying to persuade us to see things from their perspective. This happens because they are scared when people do not agree with them and so they tend to spend time with people whose perspective they share.
If some of the people with whom we interact are particularly scared when people disagree with them, then they will tend to be more forthright in seeking our ‘agreement’ (especially, perhaps, in particular contexts). And they will do this in a variety of ways, subtle and otherwise. In many contexts, for example, people will attempt to impose ‘agreement’ as a way of avoiding feeling their own fear (such as the fear of being wrong). For instance, if a parent wants their child to attend school, they are unlikely to listen well to a child explain why they do not want to do so, either today or permanently.
So, if the parent is scared to listen to a child, and the child becomes scared by the parental failure to listen, the child might simply learn to do what they are told because this is less frightening than standing up to their parent. This will certainly be the case if early experiences of being assertive are met with violence (euphemistically called ‘punishment’).
Similarly, if a teacher is scared to listen to a child, and the child is frightened by the teacher’s failure to listen, the child might simply learn to do what they are told because this is less frightening than confronting the teacher.
Before long, as you can see, the child will become afraid to challenge any authority figure under any circumstance and the belief, opinion or command of the parent, teacher or other authority figure will become ‘the (unchallengable) truth’, even if there are some (vague unconscious) misgivings (which are easily suppressed). For a full explanation of the ‘invisible’ violence which causes this, see ‘Why Violence?’ and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice’.
So here are the key questions. Did your parents and teachers encourage you to question and seek answers for yourself (rather than simply believe what was presented by them)? Did they encourage you to challenge their authority (when you felt you had legitimate cause)? Or did they punish you for questioning/disobeying them? What do you do with your children?
And how much time do you spend investigating, for yourself, the major issues of our day – in relation to wars, the environment and a variety of social justice and health issues, for example – and then courageously standing up for the viewpoint that you develop based on the evidence that you have considered and evaluated personally?
In essence, a key factor in the elite strategy to maintain social control is to endlessly disparage, and try to frighten people out of considering for themselves, the evidence on any given issue. So next time you are reading, watching or listening to a presentation of the ‘official’ view, ask yourself ‘What is the truth here?’ and, when you judge it really matters, check out the evidence for yourself.
Biodata: Robert has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of ‘Why Violence?’ His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and his website is here.
Here’s Time Magazine‘s David von Drehle: “The greatest threat that ISIS poses — even to the poor souls living under ISIS rule — is the unintended damage that might follow from the effort to eradicate the group. . . . As dangerous as it is to have a terrorist kingdom in the middle of the world’s geopolitical tinderbox, ousting ISIS will be every bit as dangerous.”
Drehle goes from there immediately into the debate over whether U.S. troops or local troops should do the job. His article is followed by Max Boot arguing for U.S. ground troops and Karl Vick arguing for U.S. bombing with local ground troops. All three writers seem to be aware that ISIS wanted U.S. bombing and wants U.S. ground troops even more, that ISIS recruitment climbs in response to U.S. military action. All three can’t help but be aware that terrorist kingdoms like Saudi Arabia already exist in the region with the blessing of the U.S. government (and of magazine writers who seek to please the U.S. government). All three are fairly condescending toward local troops, eager to (somehow) get Sunnis to attack Sunnis, and wary of allowing Iranian “death squads” to get involved in the, you know, mass killing they are proposing.
None of the three have one word to say about the great many innocents already killed in the latest U.S. bombings, but all three seem to grasp that the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 was necessary for the creation of ISIS, all three seem to understand that fighting ISIS is counterproductive, and yet all three strive to place the need to attack ISIS beyond the range of any debate. The question is not whether to make the disaster worse, but exactly how to do it.
What, after all, makes the region a global tinderbox? Israel’s nukes? Certainly not, those are not supposed to be mentioned or even thought about. Well then, all the other weapons? But over 80% of those are supplied by the United States, so that can’t be it. Perhaps the violent overthrows and devastation of so many governments and countries? But it was the U.S. and friends who destroyed Iraq and made Libya what it is and who have done what they’re still doing to Afghanistan. It is the U.S. that has ruined Yemen. It is the U.S. that arms and supports Israel’s wars. It is the U.S. that props up the terrorist states in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and Egypt. Surely what makes the region a tinderbox (rather than a region rich in oil about which greedy earth-destroying interests might be concerned) is something unthinkable or nonsensical or inscrutable, something ethnic or religious or unworthy of consideration.
Because otherwise we might have to consider cease fires and arms embargoes and diplomacy and humanitarian aid as possible alternatives to the usual choices of (1) do nothing, or (2) make it all worse with more of what caused much of the problem in the first place. We might have to consider that it isn’t ISIS that’s posing the greatest threat in the form of “the effort to eradicate the group.”
Every time there’s a terrorist attack that makes national headlines, the same talking heads seem to pop up like an obscene game of “whack-a-mole”. Often they appear one after the other across the media circuit, bobbing from celebrity television pundit to erudite newspaper outlet.
A few years ago, BBC Newsnight proudly hosted a “debate” between Maajid Nawaz, director of counter-extremism think-tank, the Quilliam Foundation, and Anjem Choudary, head of the banned Islamist group formerly known as al-Muhajiroun, which has, since its proscription, repeatedly reincarnated itself. One of its more well-known recent incarnations was “Islam4UK”.
Both Nawaz and Choudary have received huge mainstream media attention, generating press headlines, and contributing to major TV news and current affairs shows. But unbeknown to most, they have one thing in common: Britain’s security services. And believe it or not, that bizarre fact explains why the Islamic State’s (IS) celebrity beheader, former west Londoner Mohammed Emwazi – aka “Jihadi John” – got to where he is now.
A tale of two extremists
After renouncing his affiliation with the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT), Maajid Nawaz co-founded the Quilliam Foundation with his fellow ex-Hizb member, Ed Husain.
The Quilliam Foundation was set-up by Husain and Nawaz in 2008 with significant British government financial support. Its establishment received a massive PR boost from the release of Ed Husain’s memoirs, The Islamist, which rapidly became an international bestseller, generating hundreds of reviews, interviews and articles.
In Ed Husain’s book – much like Maajid Nawaz’s tome Radical released more recently to similar fanfare – Husain recounts his journey from aggrieved young Muslim into Islamist activist, and eventually his total rejection of Islamist ideology.
Both accounts of their journeys of transformation offer provocative and genuine insights. But the British government has played a much more direct role in crafting those accounts than either they, or the government, officially admit.
The official told me that in 2006, he was informed by a government colleague “with close ties” to Jack Straw and Gordon Brown that “the draft was written by Ed but then ‘peppered’ by government input”. The civil servant told him “he had seen ‘at least five drafts of the book, and the last one was dramatically different from the first.’”
The draft had, the source said, been manipulated in an explicitly political, pro-government manner. The committee that had input into Ed Husain’s manuscript prior to its official publication included senior government officials from No. 10 Downing Street, the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, the intelligence services, Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the Home Office.
When I put the question, repeatedly, to Ed Husain as to the veracity of these allegations, he did not respond. I also asked Nawaz whether he was aware of the government’s role in “ghostwriting” Husain’s prose, and whether he underwent a similar experience in the production of Radical. He did not respond either.
While Husain was liaising with British government and intelligence officials over The Islamist from 2006 until the book’s publication in May 2007, his friend Nawaz was at first in prison in Egypt. Nawaz was eventually released in March 2006, declaring his departure from HT just a month before the publication of Husain’s book. Husain took credit for being the prime influence on Nawaz’s decision, and by November 2007, had joined with him becoming Quilliam’s director with Husain as his deputy.
Yet according to Husain, Nawaz played a role in determining parts of the text of The Islamist in the same year it was being edited by government officials. “Before publication, I discussed with my friend and brother-in-faith Maajid the passages in the book,” wrote Husain about the need to verify details of their time in HT.
This is where the chronology of Husain’s and Nawaz’s accounts begin to break down. In Radical, and repeatedly in interviews about his own deradicalisation process, Nawaz says that he firmly and decisively rejected HT’s Islamist ideology while in prison in Egypt. Yet upon his release and return to Britain, Nawaz showed no sign of having reached that decision. Instead, he did the opposite. In April 2006, Nawaz told Sarah Montague on BBC Hardtalk that his detention in Egypt had “convinced [him] even more… that there is a need to establish this Caliphate as soon as possible.” From then on, Nawaz, who was now on HT’s executive committee, participated in dozens of talks and interviews in which he vehemently promoted the Hizb.
I first met Nawaz at a conference on 2 December 2006 organised by the Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC) on the theme of “reclaiming our rights”. I had spoken on a panel about the findings of my book, The London Bombings: An Independent Inquiry, on how British state collusion with Islamist extremists had facilitated the 7/7 attacks. Nawaz had attended the event as an audience member with two other senior HT activists, and in our brief conversation, he spoke of his ongoing work with HT in glowing terms.
By January 2007, Nawaz was at the front of a HT protest at the US embassy in London, condemning US military operations in Iraq and Somalia. He delivered a rousing speech at the protest, demanding an end to “colonial intervention in the Muslim world,” and calling for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate to stand up to such imperialism and end Western support for dictators.
Yet by his own account, throughout this very public agitation on behalf of HT from mid-2006 onwards, Nawaz had in fact rejected the very ideology he was preaching so adamantly. Indeed, in the same period, he was liaising with his friend, Ed Husain – who at that time was still in Jeddah – and helping him with the text of his anti-HT manifesto, The Islamist, which was also being vetted at the highest levels of government.
The British government’s intimate, and secret, relationship with Husain in the year before the publication of his book in 2007 shows that, contrary to his official biography, the Quilliam Foundation founder was embedded in Whitehall long before he was on the public radar. How did he establish connections at this level?
According to Dr Noman Hanif, a lecturer in international terrorism and political Islam at Birkbeck College, University of London, and an expert on Hizb ut-Tahrir, the group’s presence in Britain likely provided many opportunities for Western intelligence to “penetrate or influence” the movement.
Dr Hanif, whose doctoral thesis was about the group, points out that Husain’s tenure inside HT by his own account occurred “under the leadership of Omar Bakri Mohammed,” the controversial cleric who left the group in 1996 to found al-Muhajiroun, a militant network which to this day has been linked to every major terrorist plot in Britain.
Bakri’s leadership of HT, said Dr Hanif, formed “the most conceptually deviant period of HT’s existence in the UK, diverting quite sharply away from its core ideas,” due to Bakri’s advocacy of violence and his focus on establishing an Islamic state in the UK, goals contrary to HT doctrines.
When Bakri left HT and set-up al-Muhajiroun in 1996, according to John Loftus, a former US Army intelligence officer and Justice Department prosecutor, Bakri was immediately recruited by MI6 to facilitate Islamist activities in the Balkans. And not just Bakri, but also Abu Hamza al-Masri, who was recently convicted in the US on terrorism charges.
When Bakri founded al-Muhajiroun in 1996 with the blessings of Britain’s security services, his co-founder was Anjem Choudary. Choudary was intimately involved in the programme to train and send Britons to fight abroad, and three years later, would boast to the Sunday Telegraph that “some of the training does involve guns and live ammunition”.
Historian Mark Curtis, in his seminal work, Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam, documents how under this arrangement, Bakri trained hundreds of Britons at camps in the UK and the US, and dispatched them to join al-Qaeda affiliated fighters in Bosnia, Kosovo and Chechnya.
Shortly before the 2005 London bombings, Ron Suskind, a Wall Street Journal Pulitizer Prize winning investigative reporter, was told by a senior MI5 official that Bakri was a longtime informant for the secret service who “had helped MI5 on several of its investigations”. Bakri, Suskind adds in his book, The Way of the World, reluctantly conceded the relationship in an interview in Beirut – but Suskind gives no indication that the relationship ever ended.
A senior terrorism lawyer in London who has represented clients in several high-profile terrorism cases told me that both Bakri and Choudary had regular meetings with MI5 officers in the 1990s. The lawyer, who works for a leading firm of solicitors and has regularly liaised with MI5 in the administration of closed court hearings involving secret evidence, said: “Omar Bakri had well over 20 meetings with MI5 from around 1993 to the late 1990s. Anjem Choudary apparently participated in such meetings toward the latter part of the decade. This was actually well-known amongst several senior Islamist leaders in Britain at the time.”
According to Dr Hanif of Birkbeck College, Bakri’s relationship with the intelligence services likely began during his “six-year reign as HT leader in Britain,” which would have “provided British intelligence ample opportunity” to “widely infiltrate the group”. HT had already been a subject of MI6 surveillance abroad “because of its core level of support in Jordan and the consistent level of activity in other areas of the Middle East for over five decades.”
At least some HT members appear to have been aware of Bakri’s intelligence connections, including, it seems, Ed Husain himself. In one passage in The Islamist (p. 116), Husain recounts: “We were also concerned about Omar’s application for political asylum… I raised this with Bernie [another HT member] too. ‘Oh no’, he said, ‘On the contrary. The British are like snakes; they manoeuvre carefully. They need Omar in Britain. More likely, Omar will be the ambassador for the khilafah here or leave to reside in the Islamic state. The kuffar know that – allowing Omar to stay in Britain will give them a good start, a diplomatic advantage, when they have to deal with the Islamic state. Having Omar serves them well for the future. MI5 knows exactly what we’re doing, what we’re about, and yet they have in effect, given us the green light to operate in Britain.”
Husain left HT after Bakri in August 2007. According to Faisal Haque, a British government civil servant and former HT member who knew Ed Husain during his time in the group, Husain had a strong “personal relationship” with Bakri. He did not leave HT for “ideological reasons,” said Haque. “It was more to do with his close personal relationship with Omar Bakri (he left when Bakri was kicked out), pressure from his father and other personal reasons which I don’t want to mention.”
Husain later went on to work for the British Council in the Middle East. From 2003 to 2005, he was in Damascus. During that period, by his own admission, he informed on other British members of HT for agitating against Bashar al-Assad’s regime, resulting in them being deported by Syrian authorities back to Britain. At this time, the CIA and MI6 routinely cooperated with Assad on extraordinary rendition programmes.
Husain then worked for the British Council in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, from late 2005 to the end of 2006.
Throughout that year, according to the former Home Office official I spoke to, Husain was in direct contact with senior Whitehall officials who were vetting his manuscript for The Islamist. By November, Husain posted on DeenPort, an online discussion forum, a now deleted comment referring off-hand to the work of “the secret services” inside HT: “Even within HT in Britain today, there is a huge division between modernisers and more radical elements. The secret services are hopeful that the modernisers can tame the radicals… I foresee another split. And God knows best. I have said more than I should on this subject! Henceforth, my lips are sealed!”
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