Posts Tagged ‘foreign policy’

Rachel Maddow on shutting down the state-run press in Libya

April 6, 2011

I’m still trying to get caught up from stuff that happened a week or so ago, so you’ll have to bare with me if you’ve already heard about this.

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow usually does a decent job at reporting. She definitely has a perspective, and it’s usually completely in line with the Democratic Party line. Sometimes she criticizes them for giving in too much to Republicans and for being the wimps they are, but more often than not her editorializing crosses over into the same kind of partisan propaganda you get at Fox.

So it’s pretty weird for her to have a guest on where, through her questions, Maddow appears to take a more authoritarian position. But that’s what happened when she had MSNBC military consultant Jack Jacobs on her program. Here’s what she asked him:

One of the things that people have questioned is if the U.S. has this high level of electronic capability, why is Libyan state TV still on the air? Is that not one of the things they would want to shut down?

Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting points out that this idea of taking out the state press in a country with which the US is at war is the same kind of thing Fox advocated during the beginning of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, along with several examples. The style in rhetoric is different, but the message is the same: Hey, we’re here to liberate you people, but the first thing we’ve got to do to free you from this dictator is to shut down news organizations we don’t happen to like. Once you only have the press we like, then you’ll really be “free.”

The FAIR report above is in a sense a little unfair to Maddow in comparing her to people advocating bombing journalists. The context of her discussion with Jacobs was the military’s ability to jam communications. The context of the Fox comments was bombing and killing journalists. The former’s called prior restraint; the latter’s a war crime. One means that some people can’t do their jobs, the other means that people end up getting killed. Still, it’s disappointing to see MSNBC cheerlead so enthusiastically for war in the way they have been lately.


Jeremy Scahill on Ed Schultz

April 5, 2011

Hey, let’s all watch this video from 2003 last week where  Fox News MSNBC blowhard Ed Schultz scolds Jeremy Scahill for not blindly trusting President Bush Obama over the war in Iraq Libya.

It’s really pretty amazing to see how blatantly Schultz copies the defense for war used so recently by his political adversaries while Bush was in power. But then he pretends it’s totally different because of how Obama went through the UN to get authorization for the use of force. So apparently the only problem Schultz can really say he had with the Iraq war was that no such authorization was sought, and not that it was a pointless waste of lives and money to try to force democracy on a country externally.

Misleading headline of the day

December 15, 2010

As a lefty commie pinko peacenik, I was encouraged by this headline (“Air Force Is Through With Predator Drones”) of Spencer Ackerman’s post on Wired‘s Danger Room blog. Great! Now maybe we’ll stop doing counterproductive shit like bombing funerals in Pakistan because there might be a terrorist there – which would then set off an infinite regress of “terrorist funeral” drone bombings until everyone in the region is too afraid to ever go to another funeral again.

Then I read the lede.

Wave a tear-stained handkerchief for the drone that changed the face of air war: The Air Force won’t buy any more Predators.

Oh, so they’re just going to stop buying them. Well, that just means that we’ll stop using drones after the ones which have been purchased are worn out or destroyed, right? Here’s the next sentence in Ackerman’s post:

The Reaper drone is about to be in full effect.

Oh I see what you did there. In the same way that people refer to photocopies as Xeroxes® or to tissues as Kleenex®, I had thought of Predator® drone as a generic term for all drones instead of a brand name. So now we’ve got the Reaper®, and next will be something called the Avenger®.

Apparently the Predator, despite its name, wasn’t designed to carry weapons. Those capabilities weren’t added on until afterwards. But the Reaper and presumably the Avenger too, definitely are. And now lots of other countries are all like how I am with this.

Republicans are more anti-gay than we’re anti-war

September 23, 2010

Back when opposition to the Iraq war started to gain steam, activists tried to pressure like-minded members of Congress to put an end to the whole thing by cutting off funding by voting against the annual Defense Authorization Act. Here’s how it would normally go:

Activists: Hey! Why are you voting for funding the war if you’re against it?

Politician: Well, even if we were to end the war we’d still need to fund a withdrawal. So it doesn’t make any sense to vote against defense funding if your goal is to stop the war.

Activists: *Grumble*

But now Republicans blocked the same Defense Authorization Act in order to delay the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. So when the politicians which the anti-war activists went after told us that it was political suicide to block defense spending in order to shape military policy, they were telling us a lie.

The Taliban is on the side of the anti-“Ground Zero Mosque” protesters

September 2, 2010

One of my first posts on this blog when I started it about a year ago quoted the Washington Independent on the issue of pre-emptive detention:

“We appreciate that the United States has security concerns about Yemen, but continuing to hold these men without charge is morally wrong, is in violation of court orders, and it’s handing al-Qaeda a recruiting tool,” said Letta Taylor, a researcher for Human Rights Watch…”

Later I wrote about Anwar al-Awlaki and how President Obama authorized his assassination, even if he’s found to be outside of any battlefield in which the US military is engaged. Here’s one of the problems I had with that policy:

And what’s more is that the perceived positive effects of such an assassination are pretty unlikely to actually happen. It’s not going to destabilize al Qaeda. If anything it’d give them a martyr and a recruiting mantra.

And later I wrote about a NY Times piece by Nicholas Krystoff on the cost and allocation of resources in the Afghanistan war:

Some other comparisons of costs really bring home the waste of the military occupation of Afghanistan. The money spent on deploying a single soldier there could be used to build 20 schools. A single cruise missile’s price tag is equivalent to 11 schools. And really, which is more corrosive to fundamentalist Islam: Cruise missiles that kill families and give recruiting slogans to al Qaeda, or education?

So there’s this recurring theme here. The policies which are based on this idea of a culture war between the Muslim world and the West are in the interests of the fringe elements of Islam which want to escalate this global conflict. Radical Muslim terrorist networks actually like it when US foreign policy fits with their demonization of all Americans. It gives their propaganda an element of truth which the average potential suicide bomber on the street can relate to. It bridges the gap between those with legitimate grievances regarding American foreign policy and our support for autocratic regimes in the Middle East and the committed religious fanatics who would hate the evil secular Americans no matter what. And now this same phenomenon of appeasing the terrorists by adopting short-sighted, emotionally-fueled, reactionary policies is applying to our domestic policies, specifically in the case of the Park 51 Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero. From Newsweek:

“By preventing this mosque from being built, America is doing us a big favor,” Taliban operative Zabihullah tells NEWSWEEK. (Like many Afghans, he uses a single name.) “It’s providing us with more recruits, donations, and popular support.”

Zabihullah speculates about an increase in potential future attacks, but you don’t even need to depend on those kinds of predictions to see the effect this “controversy” is having on the Afghan public. Apparently the effect is already apparent:

Zabihullah also claims that the issue is such a propaganda windfall—so tailor-made to show how “anti-Islamic” America is—that it now heads the list of talking points in Taliban meetings with fighters, villagers, and potential recruits. “We talk about how America tortures with waterboarding, about the cruel confinement of Muslims in wire cages in Guantánamo, about the killing of innocent women and children in air attacks—and now America gives us another gift with its street protests to prevent a mosque from being built in New York,” Zabihullah says. “Showing reality always makes the best propaganda.”

Zabihullah’s coldness in how he reacts with joy to such atrocities definitely fits with the popular perception of how radical Muslims don’t care about human life. So it’s difficult to see why this connection is so rarely made, especially amongst US policymakers. Our enemies won’t be deterred by idiotic protesters trying to stop the community center of death. That just encourages them. They care more about the great mosque in the sky than they do about the average NYC Muslims looking for a place to go on Fridays, whom the radical Muslims view as too liberal, assimilated, and Americanized for their tastes anyways.

It’s the “end” of the Iraq war

August 31, 2010

The President is delivering a speech later today to announce the supposed end of the Iraq war. But as far as I’ve gathered, there isn’t even a substantial change in our foreign policy inre: Iraq today. Or even yesterday, or the day before. There was an announcement made by MSNBC a week and a half ago where the last full US combat brigade left Iraq.

So if you break that down, that would mean that brigades which are only partially for combat would not necessarily have left. And then you still have the “non-combat troops” tasked with completing the training of the Iraqi police and military. And for each one of those “non-combat troops,” there are two private contractors and/or mercenaries whom are not really affected by this pseudo-deadline except to the extent that their job is dependent on the presence of “full US combat brigades.” It’s not so much the qualitative change those of us who have been against the war were hoping for as much as it’s a quantitative reduction of an ongoing military occupation.

And seriously, I don’t buy this whole idea of “non-combat troops.” There have been a lot of military officials making a big deal of how the remaining troops won’t be doing any fighting. But I haven’t yet heard a journalist ask any of them what these “non-combat troops” are to do in response to an attack by insurgents. I would think they would, well, combat the people shooting at them. Right? Either they would combat them, in which case they can’t be said to be “non-combat;” or they wouldn’t, which is just absurd.

It could be that by “not fighting,” these military officials mean that troops aren’t actively seeking out insurgents and so the chances of something like this happening are greatly reduced. That would be a fair point, but the whole nature of this war from its beginning has blurred the line between what used to be seen as illegal war actions and legitimate defense. We were told that our military involvement in the Middle East is a “preemptive defense,” a way to “fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here.” And so the supporters of the war would object to terms like “invasion” and “occupation” on the grounds that the whole thing was, at its core, a form of defense.

It’s not like any of that matters to Iraqis though. None of the families of casualties from this point on are going to be consoled by the fact that their loved ones were killed by a stray bullet fired by “non-combat troops” post August 2010 when they would have been outraged if they were killed by a specifically-designated combat troop in 2003 through the present. This kind of distinction really matters to the audience of the occupation moreso than those actually involved in it.

The same defense of the war in 2003 can now be applied on a smaller scale to the prolonged quasi-withdrawal of 2010-whenever.And at the same time the Democrats can hope to capitalize in the mid-term elections on their “end” of the war. In the end, this is more about the superficial talking points than any substantial change in the real situation.

WikiLeaks v. Pentagon

August 1, 2010

So it’s been a week since WikiLeaks published the leaked internal US military documents which detail some aspects of the occupation of Afghanistan which the administration would rather not emphasize. Like how Pakistan’s ISI is funneling our ‘aid’ back to the Taliban, which they then use to attack our troops. And civilian casualties are being massively underreported. And there’s a secret task force which captures and executes Taliban leaders. Oh yeah, and the US military is paying Afghani journalists to write favorable stories about the occupation.

Certain people can be expected to react to this leak in certain ways. Republicans will insist that we firebomb the internet and every last one of its many series of pneumatic tubes. Liz Cheney just now said something like that, as if anyone gives a shit.  Newt Gingrich is calling it treason, etc.

If you’ve paid attention to the Obama administration’s pattern of hostility towards whistleblowers, then it’s not very difficult to predict how they would react. Here’s White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs being questioned:

Q Thanks, Robert. Two questions, a few on WikiLeaks. What was the President’s reaction once he heard about the leaking —
MR. GIBBS: Well, I remember talking to the President sometime last week after discussions with news organizations that these stories were coming. Look, I think our reaction to this type of material, a breach of federal law, is always the same, and that is whenever you have the potential for names and for operations and for programs to be out there in the public domain, that it — besides being against the law — has a potential to be very harmful to those that are in our military, those that are cooperating with our military, and those that are working to keep us safe.

OK, got that? This is all VERY SERIOUS and will PUT ALL OF OUR TROOPS IN DANGER, and by the way it’s also a FEDERAL CRIME. If it’s putting our troops in danger to have this information publicly available, it must be the case that this is new information in the public sphere. Because if it were already known, then there would be no danger in releasing it. Right? Well, only a few questions later, Gibbs contradicts that line of reasoning:

MR. GIBBS:  Well, let’s understand a few things about the documents.  Based on what we’ve seen, I don’t think that what is being reported hasn’t in many ways been publicly discussed either by you all or by representatives of the U.S. government for quite some time.

So the WikiLeaks data dump is at the same time both YAWN OLD NEWS and VERY SERIOUS TREASONOUS TROOP-KILLING CRIMES. Julian Assange must be both a dangerous anti-American criminal and a harmless kid living in his parent’s basement all at the same time. That’s pretty much how it plays out inside the heads of people like Robert Gibbs and the President.

But all that’s not that surprising, especially given the aforementioned administration’s record on whistleblowers and the internet in general. What’s more surprising is that one of the three publications given access to the documents pre-publication, the NY Times, has basically been toeing the administration’s line on their own leak. And the Washington Post has been producing their copy on the subject pretty much directly from the Republicans’ playbook. The two other newspapers (Der Spiegel and The Guardian) have been a bit more responsible and independent, to their credit.

If you’ve been following the ongoing saga of WikiLeaks, you might remember the ‘Collateral Murder’ video they released a few months ago of the US military shooting at a group of people from a helicopter which turned out to be civilians and a journalist. US Army Intelligence Analyst Bradley Manning was charged with forwarding the video based on an online conversation he had with a hacker named Adrian Lamo who subsequently informed on him. Manning is now in the brig in Virginia, where he faces a sentence of up to 52 years. And now the NY Times is quoting unnamed Pentagon officials who claim that Manning is a “person of interest” in the case of these newly-released documents. Here you can find a support group for Manning.

The Pentagon’s also going after WikiLeaks founder/editor Julian Assange, who’s more or less on the run. He is wanted for questioning, presumably to verify or deny whether or not Manning was the source of the Afghan War Diary. And oh yeah, they’d also like WikiLeaks to be shut down, please. For now, Assange is staying out of the US and responding strongly to comments from the administration. As a side note, he’s also trying to turn Iceland into a journalistic refugee’s paradise.

Now two more things just happened in the past day or two. First, a WikiLeaks volunteer named Jacob Appelbaum was detained, searched, and interrogated by US Customs officials at the Newark airport. They asked him to decrypt his laptop, an offer he refused. Then they confiscated it, but his laptop had no storage device and therefore there was nothing for the officials to search. He was later approached by FBI agents at a conference where he gave a talk in place of Julian Assange, who could not attend for reasons which should by now be pretty obvious.

The second recent development was WikiLeaks posting a mysterious encrypted 1.4 GB file called ‘insurance’ on their Afghan War Logs page. There are no instructions or details on what it’s supposed to be, but the general consensus is that a password will be issued in the event that anything fishy happens to WikiLeaks, Assange, or anyone associated with them. This is turning into a very interesting conflict, much better than anti-war protesters v. cops. But don’t bother downloading the file just to see if the password is “password,” that’s already been checked.

Krystof on the cost of the war in Afghanistan

July 31, 2010

Nicholas Krystoff of the NY Times has a great article on the cost of the US’ longest war / military occupation. It plays on an angle that is, if you ask me, kind of missing the point; but it appeals to the more xenophobic of our population, and it turns out that there are a lot more of them than which most of us would be comfortable. To me, the stronger appeal of stopping the war is in that it’s causing more unnecessary harm than good. I could imagine a case being made for it if that were not the case even if the cost were great.

He starts off with a pretty simple fact:

The war in Afghanistan will consume more money this year alone than we spent on the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War and the Spanish-American War — combined.

Now you’re probably thinking that’s an obvious statement since he’s probably only talking about the cost of those wars in terms of the rate of inflation of those times. But those are all adjusted for inflation before you even combine them, according to this report (pdf) from the Congressional Research Service. And that’s just this year – we’ve already had 8 other years leading up to this one.

Some other comparisons of costs really bring home the waste of the military occupation of Afghanistan. The money spent on deploying a single soldier there could be used to build 20 schools. A single cruise missile’s price tag is equivalent to 11 schools. And really, which is more corrosive to fundamentalist Islam: Cruise missiles that kill families and give recruiting slogans to al Qaeda, or education? As long as we’re not talking about the Wahabi madrasahs that get funded by outsiders and the Taliban in the absence of secular education, the latter’s bound to work and the former is bound to fail.

And it has failed, and failed hard. Today’s the last day of July, and this month has set a new record for US casualties in Afghanistan. The old record? Well, that was June, 2010. So much for winning their hearts and minds. Obama can fire all the generals and tweak all the knobs he wants, but this war’s going to remain a complete and utter failure when it’s pursued in this way.

North Korean government is calling in our debts

June 24, 2010

The North Korean government is demanding that the United States pay $65,000,000,000,000 in damages for sixty years of hostility. To be fair, sixty years ago we fought a war there. But all those zeros above means they’re asking for 65 TRILLION. We should pay them in Monopoly money. Maybe they wouldn’t notice, and would then proudly display the payment for members of the public to see like they do with obviously fake gifts from the outside world. From ABC Australia:

[KCNA, North Korea’s official news agency] also claims 60 years of US sanctions have caused a loss of $US13.7 trillion by 2005, while property losses were estimated at $US16.7 trillion.

Doesn’t the idea of paying reparations for sanctions kind of undermine the point of a sanction? Yeah, we know it cost you money to not trade with us. Those losses – even if those figures were correct – aren’t some accidental byproduct. That’s how pressure is applied on the North Korean government.

no end in sight

June 3, 2010
  • “The Department of Defense announced yesterday the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. Pfc. Jake W. Suter, 18, of Los Angeles, Calif., died May 29 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.  He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.”
  • “The Department of Defense announced yesterday the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. Pfc. Alvaro R. Regalado Sessarego, 37, of Virginia Beach, Va., died May 30 at Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, of injuries sustained April 18 from a non-combat related incident at Dahuk, Iraq.  He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss, Texas.”
  • “The Department of Defense announced yesterday the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. Spc. Jonathan K. Peney, 22, of Marietta, Ga., died June 1 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when he was shot by enemy forces.  He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Hunter Army Airfield, Ga.”

a very long war

June 1, 2010

“The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Lance Cpl. Anthony A. Dilisio, 20, of Macomb, Mich., died May 30 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, IIMarine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.”

Anwar al-Awlaki

April 24, 2010

UPDATE: The Department of Justice is now considering filing charges against al-Awlaki.

Anwar al-Awlaki is an American citizen thought to be living in Yemen who makes videos praising al Qaeda. He’s also had an e-mail exchange with Nidal Malik Hasan at some point before his shooting spree at Fort Hood last November.

Earlier this month, the Obama administration authorized the targetted killing of al-Awlaki. From the NY Times:

The Obama administration has taken the extraordinary step of authorizing the targeted killing of an American citizen, the radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who is believed to have shifted from encouraging attacks on the United States to directly participating in them, intelligence and counterterrorism officials said Tuesday.

There are a few problems with this, and they’re really split into two categories. On the one hand you can argue that this sets bad precedent and gives too much power to the executive branch. It’s a denial of due process even more extreme than anything the Bush administration ever did. Even if you’re in agreement with Obama on this one, there’s still the danger of future presidents abusing their power by following this precedent. These are the kinds of loftier arguments based on the principle of the rule of law which has been the foundation of western civilization.

There’s some good evidence against al-Awlaki, and it’s very unlikely that he’d be found not guilty. But the whole point of having a legal system in the first place is to find out whether or not someone is guilty of a crime. If the evidence holds up, then we can honestly say that we’ve tried our best to do justice while he’s rotting away locked up in a cell somewhere. If the evidence doesn’t hold up, then we find out that we were wrong. You win either way when you use the law instead of circumventing it.

It might even be that al-Awlaki is not even guilty of the crimes he’s accused of. Although Spencer Ackerman at the Washington Independent says “Any court would find him guilty of incitement” just due to his videos, other charges relating to direct involvement in terrorist activities aren’t quite so solid. From that noted commie rag which, upon investigating after 9/11 “Why They Hate Us,” discovered that the answer was because we’re SO AWESOME; Newsweek:

To begin with, it is not even known for certain that Awlaki is a member of Al Qaeda. Certainly there are suspicions, and his published statements and interviews clearly support Al Qaeda, but the organization has never acknowledged him. His name has been mentioned exactly once in 12 issues of Sada al-Malahim (“The Echo of Battles”), the organization’s bimonthly journal. And even that citation was hardly an endorsement: it merely disputed recent claims that Awlaki had been killed in a joint U.S.-Yemeni airstrike. He has never written an article, released an audiotape, or starred in a video for the organization. Each of these is an integral part of the group’s propaganda outreach that senior AQAP leaders have done multiple times.

What’s more, there is no evidence to suggest Awlaki is on AQAP’s legal council, an internal group that both provides the religious justification for attacks and guides the future direction of the organization. Nor is there even a hint that he plays anything resembling a leading role in the group.

Even his links to the two attacks are more speculative and assumed than concrete. Awlaki is known to have exchanged e-mails with Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter (he confirmed as much to Al-Jazeera), and to being in contact with Abdulmutallab, whom he called his “student.” (Abdulmutallab is thought to have attended one of Awlaki’s sermons in London.) But he never acknowledged meeting either man.

Newsweek then goes into some of the reasons to oppose this based on the second category I referred to earlier. Even if you don’t buy into the idea that the President should not be above the law and that due process is important, there’s still no good reason to just kill this guy. If he’s guilty of some of the heavier terrorism charges, he’d be an excellent source of information. It’s tough to get intelligence from a corpse.

And what’s more is that the perceived positive effects of such an assassination are pretty unlikely to actually happen. It’s not going to destabilize al Qaeda. If anything it’d give them a martyr and a recruiting mantra. They’re all pretty much as batshit crazy as it’s possible to get, but when they say that Americans don’t care about justice we’re giving them an air of legitimacy on that matter when we do crap like this.


More collateral murder

April 6, 2010

And in similar news in the “good war,” the US military has admitted to killing three civilian women in Afghanistan after denying involvement, having claimed that they were killed by the insurgency in an “honor killing.” Two of the women were pregnant.

The initial reaction by the military was that all of the witnesses had somehow conspired to blame it all on the “innocent” members of the military. And this was accepted as the correct response even though the witnesses all seemed to be coming forth with the exact same story. If you apply Occam’s Razor, you would have to accept that they were simply telling the truth and it was the military who was lying here.

From the Times:

“And in what would be a scandalous turn to the investigation, The Times of London reported Sunday night that Afghan investigators also determined that American forces not only killed the women but had also “dug bullets out of their victims’ bodies in the bloody aftermath” and then “washed the wounds with alcohol before lying to their superiors about what happened.””

Digging bullets out of pregnant women’s bodies. Stay classy! Way to “win their hearts and minds.”

But like the earlier post, this is just another inevitable result of being in a war. And what exacerbates all this is that these wars really have no purpose behind them at all. It’s pretty much all still going on in order to perpetuate itself.

And just as a quick note here at the end, here is what might be a good reason why these senseless killings have continued for as long as they have.

Collateral murder

April 6, 2010

So there’s this wiki site called WikiLeaks. It’s a good way for people to anonymously leak documents which some people might not want you to see. A typical example would be a former Scientologist keeping some weird doctrine or incriminating document and putting it online. And like Wikipedia, it’s best not to always take everything you read there as 100% true. But it is a good starting point for people trying to find information about topics.

With Wikipedia, you’d want to find the cited source. With WikiLeaks, you’d want to see if whatever organization had their info made public has acknowledged that the document really did come from them. It’s basically a good starting point for new data to the extent that it’s peer-reviewed and fact-checked.

A couple of weeks ago, they started tweeting about being followed, intimidated, and detained by the governments of Iceland (???) and the United States. And they claimed that it was because they were scheduled to release a film on April 5.

What seemed kind of weird about this is that the whole nature of a wiki site like this where people can immediately release whatever information they happened to have obtained is to avoid this kind of intimidation when a release (like the release of this film) is pending.

If you go around telling people that you’re about to print the Pentagon Papers in the NY Times, then chances are good the Pentagon is going to try to exercise prior restraint against the Times. The WikiLeaks format of just releasing whatever and whenever is a great antidote to that problem. If you just release info in real time, the spin from corporate media necessarily has to be after the release of the information, and so the public is influenced by it in its rawest form. That”s how the truth can out. But in this case that purer method really wasn’t being used.

As it turns out, this was a case of hyping their release because they are now backing off on some of their earlier claims. And it’s difficult to be very upset about that since the video they released showed US troops killing civilians in Baghdad back in July of 2007 when they mistook a Reuters reporter’s camera for an RPG. Here is the video (people get killed and children are injured in it, so consider yourself warned).

It’s easy to be angry at the kids in this video with their weird mixture of video game playing stoner enthusiasm for shooting people from a helicopter and unnecessary military/corporatespeak. But as Glenn Greenwald pointed out, this isn’t some strange anomaly in the midst of a normally benevolent military occupation. Killings like this are the inevitable consequence of war on a day to day basis. And we’ve had 2,576 of those days since the beginning of this war. It’s really more surprising that we’re shocked by a killing like this than the fact that it happened at all.

Some more background information the killings, including interviews with the surviving widow and her two children (pictured above) were also released by WikiLeaks on their Collateral Murder website. If you didn’t watch the video, they were trying to take the wounded reporters and civilians to a hospital after they were attacked, only to be shot at themselves.

The Men Who Stare At Goats

November 12, 2009

Here is my review:

OK, the thing with making a journalistic book into a movie is that usually you need to construct some kind of narrative around it that was never in the original story. Plus, it doesn’t really work well in film to have 50 different character appearances to impart information to the journalist. All these stories that go into the larger picture in the book form need to be collapsed so that you have one actor representing things said or done or referred to by several different actual people.

But the added narrative, even if it’s invented, should have some kind of vague thematic connection with the original work. In this movie, it doesn’t. I would think that even people unfamiliar with Ronson’s book would find the whole journalist’s-wife-leaving-him-for-his-editor-so-he-tries-to-prove-himself-by-going-to-a-war-zone thing contrived.

Same goes for the ending as well, which just seemed like a last minute dog-ate-my-homework addition in order to inject some conflict and tension into the storyline, such as it existed. But really, these kinds of books which are largely just exposes, huge extensions of a feature story for a magazine, don’t translate into film very well. So maybe this was just a bad idea and doomed from the start.