In the beginning, the film says that most people in the USA have to work harder and longer for less and less money. So, in their less and less spare time, they don’t have much time to analyze politics.
That may be a reason why the film, though it deals with very serious subjects like millions of people killed in wars, has many comedy style elements, making it easier to digest.
Halfway in the film there is a ‘distancing effect‘, similar to Bertolt Brecht’s plays. The Republican party lost a presidential election. Cheney is out of the federal government. The cinema screen shows credits of which actors play Cheney, his wife and other roles. Then, the movie resumes.
Cheney and his wife told their eldest daughter Liz Cheney to throw her lesbian younger sister Mary under the bus to win votes of homophobes. Liz did that in a Fox News interview. When Mary reacted in tears to that betrayal, Liz called her ‘hysterical’.
Sacha Baron Cohen is a British comedian best known for his television series “Da Ali G Show” (2000-2004), and the films Borat (2006), and Brüno (2009). His latest show, “Who Is America?” premiered on Showtime in July, after having been announced only a few weeks earlier. In a style similar to “Da Ali G Show”, Cohen plays a number of bizarre and flamboyant characters, who he uses to lure subjects into mock interviews intended to ridicule and humiliate them.
In our review of Borat, we noted, “Cohen’s specialty … is to inhabit a supposedly transgressive personality obsessively—in some ways quite brilliantly—then place himself in the path of ordinary people or ‘celebrities’, come out with the most outrageous statements or questions, and see what emerges. In short stretches, in the presence of the pompous, self-promoting or politically reactionary, the results can be entertaining and even enlightening. At other times, Cohen is simply crude and embarrassing.”
“Who Is America?” contains entertaining and embarrassing elements in roughly equal measure. The satire here is limited, yet within these limitations Cohen is at times able to land satirical punches at those who sorely deserve it.
At its best, the show mocks some of the most repugnant and reactionary figures in the political landscape. In perhaps the series’ most infamous segment thus far, Cohen plays Erran Morad, an imbecilic, fascistic Israeli “commando” type promoting a program called “Kinder Guardians” that would put live firearms into the hands of children as young as three years old, supposedly in order to stop school shootings. Cohen-Morad is able to get a number of right-wing politicians to agree to support the program, including former Senate minority whip Trent Lott as well as various current and former congressmen and “gun rights” lobbyists.
At one point Cohen-Morad even gets Cheney to sign his “waterboarding kit”, which Cheney does with amusement. The segment is revealing in a number of ways. Cheney, a monstrous criminal who in any genuine democratic society would be in prison for war crimes, gloats of his atrocities without the slightest hesitation, even stating openly at one point that the Iraq War was launched because of that country’s “important strategic interest.” Cheney is clearly not on guard for any sort of criticism, and why would he be? The spineless talk show hosts and media propagandists who have interviewed him in the past have only ever treated him with bootlicking reverence.
In two other segments, law-and-order fanatics former Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke are interviewed by Cohen as childish YouTube personality OMGWhizzBoyOMG! who conducts the interviews while unboxing tiny plastic toys.
A number of the interview subjects have expressed outrage at having been “duped” by Cohen into making ridiculous statements on camera. At least one politician, Georgia state representative Jason Spencer, was forced to resign after he was filmed shouting racial epithets and performing a shockingly racist impression of an Asian tourist.
One does not feel an ounce of sympathy for the various right-wing politicians involved, who were merely encouraged to express their reactionary views more openly. However, some of Cohen’s targets are less deserving than others. In one segment, Cohen plays ex-convict-turned-artist Rick Sherman who presents his “art”—consisting of paintings made with various bodily fluids and excretions—to an obviously uncomfortable yet accommodating fine art consultant. The segment ends with Cohen-Sherman attempting to sexually humiliate the woman in a particularly crude and mean-spirited way.
In another segment, a group of working class residents of Kingman, Arizona are told that their town has been selected to be the site of a massive new mosque. The attendees, who were obviously selected for this very purpose, react with bigotry and racial animus, the implication being that such views are the norm in “red state” America. (In fact, according to reports, some members of the crowd opposed these views and attempted to get others to stop playing into the “set-up.” Such exchanges were not a part of the segment.)
There are some missed opportunities and segments that go nowhere. The first episode of the series opens with an exchange between Cohen, as right-wing conspiracy theorist Billy Wayne Ruddick, and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. … The segment proceeds into a pointless and unfunny debate over whether it would be possible to “bring the 99 percent into the 1 percent.”
Far too often Cohen goes for the comedic low-hanging fruit. Scatological humor involving various bodily functions becomes a convenient fallback and quickly becomes tedious.
One of Cohen’s characters, Democratic Party activist Nira Cain-N’Degeocello, is an amusing satire of upper-middle-class complacency and self-righteousness. He is introduced by saying, “I’m a cisgender, white, heterosexual male, for which I apologize.” He asserts that, “the world’s most dangerous chemical weapon is testosterone”, and claims that he forces his daughter to urinate standing up in order to “challenge gender stereotypes.” …
To be sure, much of the political and media establishment has reacted to the show with either silence or hostility, which is to Cohen’s credit. An upcoming segment featuring former Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin has already provoked her strong rebuke, indicating that it may be one of the more interesting segments. Elements of “Who Is America?” are amusing, even incisive. They are worth watching, if one can stomach the sophomoric and crude strands interwoven with them.
On Thursday’s “Washington Unplugged”, CBS News chief political consultant Marc Ambinder was joined by Doug Liman, director of “Fair Game”, the real life tale of exposed CIA operative Valerie Plame.
USA: TRUMP REPORTEDLY PLANS TO PARDON SCOOTER LIBBY The former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice after a leak that disclosed a CIA agent’s name. [HuffPost]
UPDATE: meanwhile, Trump has pardoned Libby. Joe Wilson Reacts To Scooter Libby Pardon: ‘Trump Is A Vile And Despicable Individual’. The former ambassador and his wife, former CIA agent Valerie Plame, were at the center of the Libby case. She says Trump’s basis for the pardon is “simply false”: here.
On one of the latest episodes of Jeremy Scahill’s podcast “Intercepted”, he interviews Democratic Congress member Jan Schakowsky about Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, who is now under investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. For more, we speak with Jeremy Scahill, co-founder of The Intercept.
Monaco’s government said in a statement on its website that it acted after receiving an urgent request for international judicial assistance in criminal matters from Britain’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO). Unaoil directors were questioned by Monaco police on Tuesday and Wednesday, the government said.
Joint reports by Australia’s Fairfax Media and the Huffington Post said that the U.S. Department of Justice and anti-corruption police in Britain and Australia had launched a joint investigation into the activities of Unaoil.”
Halliburton denied involvement in the offences dating back to 1995-2005, but a top company official and other staff were summoned by Nigeria’s anti-graft agency following raids last week on company offices in Lagos.
Prosecutor Godwin Obla said joint charges would be filed by Tuesday at a high court in the capital Abuja against Cheney, the former and current leadership of Halliburton, and the consortium they partnered with.
“As the CEO of Halliburton, he has the responsibility for acts that occurred during that period,” Obla told AFP, adding that Cheney would face conspiracy charges and an arrest warrent from Interpol would be sought.
A spokesman from the anti-graft agency, Femi Babafemi, confirmed the imminent charges, which follow an investigation into the construction of the LNG plant in southern Nigeria.
Companies in the TSKJ consortium involved in the plant included France’s Technip, Snamprogetti (formerly a subsidiary of a company owned by Italy’s Eni), Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR), and Japan’s JGC.
KBR is a former subsidiary of Halliburton, where Cheney served as CEO before becoming vice president under George W. Bush following elections in 2000.
US authorities said last year that Halliburton and KBR had agreed to pay 177 million dollars to settle charges from the Securities and Exchange Commission in the United States.
KBR agreed to pay a further 402 million dollars to settle criminal charges brought by the US Justice Department.
In October, a Nigerian court charged a personal aide to ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo in a related probe, and earlier this week, Nigeria’s anti-corruption authorities summoned a top local official from Halliburton.
Authorities also raided Halliburton’s office in Lagos last week and detained 10 people — eight Nigerians and two expatriates — who have since been released, as investigations continue.
Contrary to popular belief, the best place to start looking for corrupt crony capitalism is not the developing world but London, says Solomon Hughes
Ten years ago I broke a story in Britain about how Halliburton — the firm formerly run by US vice-president Dick Cheney — was funnelling millions in bribe money for African politicians through an office on West Green Road, a shabby street in Tottenham, north London.
Halliburton led a consortium of companies that wanted to win contracts building a liquid natural gas plant on Bonny Island in Nigeria.
Halliburton and co were willing to spend millions bribing Nigerian politicians to win the work.
Its agent for the bribes was a lawyer called Jeffrey Tesler who worked from a dusty storefront office next to a north London newsagent.
The Halliburton consortium used Tesler to pay $182 million of bribes to win the deal up to 2003.
It was an interesting story because it showed Cheney had run a major corporation involved in corruption.
When the case broke, Nigeria actually indicted Cheney over the bribes, but dropped its attempt to prosecute him when Halliburton paid a multimillion-dollar settlement.
I found out about it because a French judge, Renaud van Ruymbeke, was investigating the case — one of the firms in the consortium was French.
Halliburton used its British subsidiary to run the scheme and the bribes went through a British lawyer.
The British government actually subsidised Halliburton on the Bonny Island scheme by offering “export credit” insurance as an “export promotion.”
But British authorities did little to break the corruption.
Peter Mandelson, who was minister in charge of export promotion, had opposed rules which said firms backed by government “export credits” must reveal the names of their agents as an anti-bribery measure.
It was blindingly obvious that “agents” were used by British firms to bribe developing world politicians, but Mandelson did not want to cause companies any inconvenience.
Tesler was finally extradited from Britain to the US, where he was tried and imprisoned in 2012. Even when the scandal was exposed, Britain left it up to another country to prosecute.
The reason I am returning to the story is because the recently leaked HSBC files reveal the bent bank’s Swiss branch held Tesler’s accounts.
The bribe money was shifted through HSBC Switzerland. The same bank also held the accounts for the companies that were used to transfer the bribes and the Nigerian politicians who took the bribes.
Not only that, but HSBC kept holding accounts for Tesler and his family years later.
The propaganda that emanates from the political establishment, uncritically reflected in the media, is sickening in its cynicism and hypocrisy. While divided over tactics in the pursuit of global power, the different factions of the state and military apparatus are united on at least one issue: they bear no responsibility for anything.
According to Kerry’s interpretation of history, the American military “shed blood and worked hard for years for the Iraqis to have their own governance.” While the United States selflessly promoted democracy, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria “crossed the line from Syria.”
ISIS, Kerry continued, “have attacked communities and they are the ones marching through to disrupt the ability of Iraq to have the governance it wants.”
As always, American government officials speak as if no one knows anything and they can peddle blatant lies without consequence. But Kerry’s narrative is contradicted by facts that have found their way into even the media’s coverage of events.
First, while the US may have been caught off guard by the rapidity with which the Iraqi state has disintegrated over the past several weeks, it is by no means unfamiliar with ISIS. The Islamic fundamentalist group has received funding from the US and its autocratic Gulf allies as part of the imperialist-backed insurgency against President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Once again, the United States is reaping what it has sowed.
Moreover, ISIS’s advance in Iraq is certainly seen by sections of the American (and Israeli) ruling class as a positive development to the extent that it undermines the influence Iran exerts over the government of Iraq and its current prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki.
The complete absence of any accountability for the crimes of American imperialism has been on graphic display over the past week in the political reemergence of former Vice President Dick Cheney, the criminal mastermind behind the Bush administration’s foreign policy.
Cheney appeared Sunday on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” to agitate for the reinvasion of Iraq. Criticizing the Obama administration for not moving quickly enough, Cheney declared, “When we’re arguing over 300 advisers when the request had been for 20,000 in order to do the job right, I’m not sure we’ve really addressed the problem.”
Cheney added that a “broad strategy” was needed, including “helping the resistance up in Syria, in [the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s] back yard, with training and weapons and so forth,” and intensifying the military campaign in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Seeking to deflect suggestions that he had anything to do with the present crisis, Cheney said, “If we spend our time debating what happened 11 or 12 years ago, we’re going to miss the threat that is growing.”
Nothing testifies so clearly to the dysfunctional state of American democracy than the fact that Cheney is still paraded before the public as a distinguished authority on foreign policy. He exemplifies the absence of any real legal or political accountability for the crimes committed by the ruling oligarchy. Even in the midst of a major foreign policy disaster, there has been no call for even the formality of congressional hearings into the history of the US intervention in Iraq and the so-called “war on terror.”
It should be recalled that in the midst of the Vietnam War, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a series of hearings between 1966 and 1971, referred to collectively as the Fulbright hearings. These hearings took testimony from a wide range of expert witnesses, including prominent opponents of the war. Kerry himself took part, as a veteran advocating an end to the war. At that point in American history, there still existed a certain conception that the public had some right to know how foreign policy was made.
Nothing of that remains today. Foreign policy is carried out exclusively behind the backs of the people. It is decided by a criminal cabal that operates with full knowledge that there will be—at least from within the political establishment—no consequences for its actions. These are the features of a political system thoroughly corrupted by unrestrained militarism and extreme social inequality.
There is an urgent need for the creation of a new mass movement against imperialism and war. Such a movement can develop only on the basis of the political mobilization of the working class. …
A renewed antiwar movement can succeed only to the extent that it is rooted in the independent interests of the international working class, armed with a socialist program, with the aim at wrenching power out of the hands of the financial oligarchy and its cast of political conspirators.
The United States’ Tragic Role in Iraq, by Stephen Zunes: here.
Now we see how Tony Blair’s doctrine turns enemies into ‘allies’. Assad’s enemies, whom Blair’s bombing of Damascus would have helped, now threaten Iraq: here.
How George Orwell’s dystopian novel ‘1984’ illuminates the U.S.’s endless war on terror: here.
First, a quote from the dystopian novel 1984 by George Orwell. The book is set in a fictional year 1984 (still in the future in 1948 when Orwell wrote the novel), in the dictatorial superstate Oceania (roughly, the USA plus Britain). Oceania is perpetually at war against another superstate; either Eurasia or Eastasia.
On the sixth day of Hate Week, after the processions, the speeches, the shouting, the singing, the banners, the posters, the films, the waxworks, the rolling of drums and squealing of trumpets, the tramp of marching feet, the grinding of the caterpillars of tanks, the roar of massed planes, the booming of guns — after six days of this, when the great orgasm was quivering to its climax and the general hatred of Eurasia had boiled up into such delirium that if the crowd could have got their hands on the 2,000 Eurasian war-criminals who were to be publicly hanged on the last day of the proceedings, they would unquestionably have torn them to pieces — at just this moment it had been announced that Oceania was not after all at war with Eurasia. Oceania was at war with Eastasia. Eurasia was an ally.
There was, of course, no admission that any change had taken place. Merely it became known, with extreme suddenness and everywhere at once, that Eastasia and not Eurasia was the enemy. …
Oceania was at war with Eastasia: Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia. A large part of the political literature of five years was now completely obsolete. Reports and records of all kinds, newspapers, books, pamphlets, films, sound-tracks, photographs — all had to be rectified at lightning speed. Although no directive was ever issued, it was known that the chiefs of the Department intended that within one week no reference to the war with Eurasia, or the alliance with Eastasia, should remain in existence anywhere.
Today, in 2014, Oceania does not exist. NATO and its member states come closest to it.
Let us have a few looks at the history of Iran and Western countries.
This video from the USA is called 1953 Iran Coup – CIA Finally Admits Role.
In 1953, there was a democratically elected government in Iran. According to British and US oil tycoons, and the CIA, that democratically elected government ‘threatened the flow of oil to the free world‘. So, the CIA deposed the democratically elected government; replacing it with the dictatorial rule of a shah (emperor). Sixty years later, in 2013, the CIA at last admitted their role in that coup.
Who was that dictatorial emperor, helped to his throne by the CIA, Shah Reza Pahlavi?
Interview with the late Shah of Iran (circa 1975-76) regarding the need for Iran to acquire Nuclear Weapons.
Finally, the Iranian people were sick of the shah’s dictatorship. In 1979, they overthrew it. Of the various oppositional factions, Shiite Islamic religious leaders came out on top.
Oil tycoons and the CIA hated the overthrow of their old ally the shah. They helped to start a war against the new regime in Iran. Not a war with US soldiers: a war with the soldiers of the dictator of neighbouring Iraq, Saddam Hussein.
Saddam Hussein was an ally. He had ‘always been an ally’ of ‘Oceania’.
In this video, Donald Rumsfeld, later George W Bush’s Secretary of War ‘Defense’ during the Iraq war, greets Saddam Hussein.
They included viruses such as anthrax and bubonic plague, according to the Washington Post.
The extraordinary details have come to light because thousands of State Department documents dealing with the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war have just been declassified and released under the Freedom of Information Act.
He bitterly condemns Saddam as a ruthless and brutal monster and frequently backs up his words by citing the use of the very weapons which it now appears he helped to supply.
The question is: Why has he never said anything about his role in the negotiations?
‘Donald Rumsfeld has some explaining to do,’ a senior Pentagon official said last night, while Congressional sources said that a Senate Committee was considering opening hearings to investigate exactly what happened.
The documents could hardly have been released at a worse time for Mr Rumsfeld, who is building up troops in the Gulf in preparation for a war with Iraq that is generally expected to start in about a month.
They will also embarrass Tony Blair as he attempts to build international support for military action.
And they will cause a headache for the Foreign Office, because the news will be seen by Islamic countries as a prime example of American hypocrisy over the issue.
For years Middle Eastern countries have accused the US of double-talk over Iraq. They are bitterly critical that the American government helped arm Saddam during the 1980s in a war against Iran, which at that time Washington regarded as its biggest enemy in the region.
America’s critics are now disgusted by the way the administration has performed a somersault, and now expects them to agree that Saddam’s regime should be treated as a pariah.
This will make it even harder to persuade neighbouring states to offer Western troops bases and landing strips vital for such an onslaught.
But one thing was clear last night – President Bush will not let the embarrassment prevent him from forging ahead with his plans to attack Baghdad, and if that does happen Mr Blair will have no choice but to join him in the attack.
It was in late 1983 that Ronald Reagan made Mr Rumsfeld his envoy as the Iranians gained the upper hand in their war with Iraq.
Terrified that the Iranian Islamic revolution would spread through the Gulf and into Saudi Arabia – threatening US oil supplies – Mr Reagan sent Mr Rumsfeld to prop up Saddam and keep the Iranian militants within their own borders.
The State Department documents show that Mr Rumsfeld flew to Baghdad where he had a 90-minute meeting with Saddam followed by a much longer session with foreign minister Tariq Aziz.
‘It was a horrible mistake,’ former CIA military analyst Kenneth Pollack said last night.
‘We were warning at the time that Hussein was a very nasty character. We were constantly fighting the State Department.’
On November 1, 1983, a full month before Mr Rumsfeld’s visit to Baghdad, Secretary of State George Shultz was officially informed that the CIA had discovered Iraqi troops were resorting to ‘almost daily use of chemical weapons’ against the Iranians.
Nevertheless, Mr Rumsfeld arranged for the Iraqis to receive billions of pounds in loans to buy weapons and CIA Director William Casey used a Chilean front company to supply Iraq with cluster bombs.
According to the Washington Post, a Senate committee investigating the relationship between the US and Iraq discovered that in the mid-1980s – following the Rumsfeld visit – dozens of biological agents were shipped to Iraq under licence from the Commerce Department.
They included anthrax, subsequently identified by the Pentagon as a key component of the Iraqi biological warfare programme.
The newspaper says: ‘The Commerce Department also approved the export of insecticides to Iraq, despite widespread suspicions that they were being used for chemical warfare.’
At the time of his meeting with Saddam, Mr Rumsfeld was working for Searle – a company which dealt only in medicinal pharmaceuticals.
Both he and Searle made all their money from the distribution of a cardiovascular drug.
And no one in the US has ever suggested that Mr Rumsfeld had any personal interest at stake in the Iraq meetings.
The Defence Secretary was making no comment last night.
There was not just the Rumsfeld-Saddam scandal during the US Reagan administration. There was also the Iran/Contra scandal; in which the Reagan administration sold weapons to the regime in Iran (illegal under United States law), using the money to arm mercenaries of the overthrown Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua (also illegal under United States law).
And now, to a colleague of Rumsfeld in the Reagan administration and later in the George W Bush administration: Dick Cheney.
This video from the USA is called Cheney ’94: Invading Baghdad Would Create Quagmire.
Like Rumsfeld’s selling of chemical weapons to Saddam Hussein later did not hinder Rumsfeld at starting a bloody war in Iraq, where meanwhile there were no chemical weapons any more; Cheney’s selling of nuclear components to Iran later did not hinder Cheney in advocating war on Iran, recently and while he was Bush’s Vice President. Iran, which was supposedly close to getting nuclear weapons (which Cheney’s own intelligence services denied.)
Ayaan Hirsi Ali (not her real name, but that is another long story), neoconservative Islamophobic pro-war ideologist, said, when interviewed on Dutch TV in 2008, that George W Bush had invaded Iraq. OK. He had invaded Afghanistan. OK. But Ms Hirsi Ali said she was not really ready to call George W Bush a good president of the USA as long as he had not invaded Iran yet.
What will Ms Hirsi Ali say now: ‘Iran is an ally. Iran has always been an ally’? I would not be that surprised.
James Stravidis, former Supreme Commander of NATO, says it is time to cooperate with Iran to achieve US interests in the Middle East: here.
“Nearly 300 armed American forces are being positioned in and around Iraq to help secure U.S. assets as President Barack Obama nears a decision on an array of options for combating fast-moving Islamic insurgents, including airstrikes or a contingent of special forces.” John Kerry has said the U.S. is open to discussions with Iran and considering drone strikes.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that Washington was willing to talk to Iran about collaborating to beat back a Sunni insurgency led by the Al Qaeda offshoot Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. ISIS has already gained control of most of Iraq’s Sunni regions in northern and central Iraq and is threatening Baghdad: here.
KERRY: IRAN FIGHTING ISIS ‘POSITIVE’ “The U.S. would be happy to have Iran’s help in fighting the Islamic State, Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday in response to the news, first broken by The Huffington Post Monday night, that the U.S. has been aware of Iranian airstrikes in Iraq since at least last week. ‘I think it’s self-evident that if Iran is taking on ISIL in some particular place and it’s confined to taking on ISIL and it has an impact, it’s going to be –- the net effect is positive,’ Kerry … said. He emphasized that the U.S. was not cooperating with Iran, which is a top regional rival for most U.S. Middle Eastern allies and has not had diplomatic relations with Washington since 1979.” [HuffPost]
They may deny it but behind the scenes the West and Iran are co-operating: here.
Amid US talks with Iran, France debates rapprochement with Syria’s Assad: here.
The threat to Iraq’s unity from a rapid Islamist advance is another disastrous consequence of the 2003 invasion, writes ANDREW MURRAY: here.
How US policy on Iran came to be based on fabricated documents: here.
DEPUTY Oil Minister for International and Trade Affairs Ali Majedi has voiced Iran’s readiness to speedily replace Iraq oil in the world market if Baghdad was forced to stop its exports due to its security crisis. Making this attempt to curry favour with the USA he told IRNA on Saturday that Iran could replace Iraq oil in the world market in a short time: here.
US President Barack Obama has indicated that he favors extending the six-month interim nuclear agreement the US, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China entered into with Iran at the beginning of the year: here.