Corporate media and fake news

This video from the USA says about itself:

Denying You Supported The Iraq War Is Harder When The Internet Exists

21 September 2015

Bill Maher had an “interesting” program on the other night. They were arguing about how the media covered the Iraq war. Jorge Ramos argued that the media was too compliant, but Chris Matthews insisted he was not guilty of this. He thinks he can get away with claiming he was against the war, despite the fact that the internet is a thing that exists and we can all watch clips of him cheerleading the Bush Administration. Cenk Uygur, host of the The Young Turks, breaks it down. Tell us what you think in the comment section below.

“Chris Matthews’ steely opposition to the Iraq War is a subject that comes up periodically, and is shot down periodically, as well. Matthews’ critics concede that he opposed the invasion and the war in print, but that in his much more influential television forum, it was a different story. That’s not exactly true, there are plenty of examples of Matthews expressing opposition to Iraq policy on TV, but they are greatly outweighed by his consistent bashing of the war’s critics, and tingly amazement at the Iraq War’s huge “successes.”

For example, he called then-President George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech an “amazing display of leadership,” declaring that Bush had “won the war,” and “was an effective commander,” before going on this turgid riff about Bush’s flight costume with guest Pat Caddell:..”*

Read more here.

By Solomon Hughes in Britain:

Who are the original purveyors of fake news?

Friday 2nd December 2016

While the established media frets about the rise of “fake news” on Facebook, it was their own lies which wore down people’s trust and opened the gates to even faker and more hateful news, writes SOLOMON HUGHES

NEWSPAPERS are currently pointing at the danger of “fake news.” And by “fake news,” they mean the dubious fringe websites that pumped out false, usually pro-Trump, propaganda during the US election.

Thanks to the web generally and Facebook in particular, this “fake news” has had a big audience.

It’s a real problem. But the mainstream solution is completely wrong.

The main news outlets want some kind of stamp of approval, so their news is treated as sensible and “fringe” outlets are treated with disdain.

They miss the big problem: “Fringe” media has grown precisely because the established media has repeatedly printed “fake news” itself. This has worn away trust in the mainstream and sometimes opened the door to even faker news.

The most obvious example is Iraq. Here, the most “respectable” media printed fake news over weapons of mass destruction (WMD) which paved the way for Tony Blair and George Bush to wage bloody war on Iraq, the effects of which we are still living with today.

In fact, the newspapers’ fake news went well beyond any of the government’s dubious claims.

I will give just one example of a repeated fraud.

In 1995, the [Rupert Murdoch owned] Sunday Times ran a story for three consecutive issues about a “defecting Iraqi nuclear scientist” who “vanished” — possibly kidnapped or murdered “while trying to reveal details of the secret nuclear weapons programme that president Saddam Hussein has been hiding from United Nations inspectors.”

The story was completely false. The “scientist” Khidir Hamza had not been kidnapped. The “documents” — supposedly showing an active nuclear weapons programme — were fake.

The International Atomic Energy Authority — the official nuclear weapons inspectors — looked at the papers and concluded: “On the basis of all the evidence available, these documents are not authentic.”

Hamza’s claims were part of a campaign to keep sanctions on Saddam Hussein’s regime — sanctions that did much more damage to the people of Iraq than their dictator.

The Sunday Times never reported that international inspectors ruled their story was based on fake documents.

Nor did any other Western newspaper, despite the Atomic Energy Authority making its ruling publicly.

Saddam’s son-in-law, general Hussein Kamal, who himself defected in 1995, told the CIA that Hamza was “useless” and “a professional liar.” But the fake news from 1995 remained unexposed.

So a fresh wave of fake news could be churned out after the September 11 2001 attacks which led to a campaign for a new war on Iraq.

Most people remember this as governments issuing dossiers full of fake stories about Iraqi WMD that turned out not to exist.

But actually, the newspapers added a whole other layer of fake news. Stories so false that the government wouldn’t put them in its dossiers.

Hamza was the source of many false stories.

On October 29 2001, the Times ran a story under the headline “Saddam Must Go” in which Daniel Finkelstein told the tale of Hamza building a nuclear bomb for Saddam. Finkelstein wrote: “Hamza had helped Saddam to build a crude device. Only the fact that it was too big to attach to a missile prevented Saddam from being able to fire it at Israel.”

This was fake. Saddam wanted nuclear weapons in the 1980s and ’90s. But was unable to build them.

In June 2002, historian Christopher Andrew reported in The Times: “By the outbreak of the Gulf War, [Saddam’s] Atomic Energy Department had nearly completed the manufacture of a nuclear weapon.

“But, according to his chief nuclear scientist, Khidir Hamza, it was ‘about the size of a refrigerator — far too big to fit into a missile warhead’.” This never happened.

In August 2002, Hamza gave evidence before a Senate committee. The Financial Times, the Evening Standard, the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph, The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times all reported the hearings without any scepticism.

They described Hamza without any qualification about his expertise, calling him “the former director of Iraq’s nuclear weapons programme” and how he “told senators that Iraq has enough uranium to produce three nuclear weapons by 2005.”

Only one newspaper, the Morning Star, pointed out this was fake news. Felicity Arbuthnot reported that Hamza had indeed made his false claims to the Senate committee. She accurately described him as “a controversial wild-card […] who has variously been accused of having minimal knowledge of the nuclear industry and being paid handsomely by the CIA.”

News got even faker in September 2002. The Times had a 1,400 word piece based on an interview with Hamza, saying he “was at the heart of the Iraqi nuclear programme from its inception and is regarded as the ‘father’ of the Baghdad bomb.”

In the piece, Hamza claimed: “Saddam could be in a position to make three nuclear weapons within the next few months, if he has not already done so.”

Hamza claimed these inspectors could not “detect the nuclear assembly line” because it was “concealed underground or in basements or buildings that outwardly seem normal.”

This completely fake story was repeated in days by the Express, the Independent, the Evening Standard and the Daily Mail without any scepticism or qualification.

The Sunday Mirror went further with a piece by Hamza himself. It claimed: “Saddam’s top nuclear weapons scientist exclusively reveals to the Sunday Mirror today that the dictator has enough nuclear material for three nuclear devices.

“Dr Khidir Hamza, who was Iraq’s nuclear bombmaker for 24 years before defecting to the West, claims Saddam has 10 tonnes of natural uranium. And he reveals an Iraq’s nuclear bombmaker for 24 years before defecting to the West, claims Saddam has 10 tonnes of natural uranium. And he reveals an Iraqi intelligence team has taken delivery in Africa of spent fuel rods from a Russian nuclear reactor.” All of this was exclusive because it was imaginary.

Again, the Morning Star stood almost entirely alone up against the spurt of fake news triggered by the Hamza articles.

Former weapons inspector Scott Ritter correctly pointed out in a September 17 2002 Morning Star article that Hamza wasn’t the “father” of anything atomic. He “was an obscure member of the Iraqi nuclear team” who had been “fired, sent back into obscurity” before he left Iraq.

Ritter said the problem was that British newspapers had no guard against fake news, writing “[Hamza] doesn’t have the access to information that he claims to have and to cite him on the front page of a prominent British newspaper and to give credence to what he’s saying is part and parcel of the problem we are facing here.”

Ritter was right. Hamza had been publicly linked to forgeries since 1995. But almost every major British newspaper used him to publish more fake news. And when his promised WMD failed to surface from the bloody wreckage of Iraq, they didn’t have any inquiry into why they got it so wrong. Their own fake news led to huge bloodshed and a loss of authority.

If the media wants to stop the growth of fake news, it needs to stop publishing it.

This 2014 video says about itself:

‘Enemy of the Internet’ – UK accused of mass surveillance & censorship

Reporters Without Borders have branded the UK an ‘Enemy of the Internet’ for their mass surveillance and censorship programmes, the first time they have appeared on the list. Appearing alongside countries such as China, Iran and North Korea, the UK was criticised for mass surveillance of nearly a quarter of the world’s communications. And the report also said they confused journalists with terrorists.

By Kevin Reed in the USA:

The “fake news” furor and the threat of Internet censorship

1 December 2016

In the weeks since the November 8 election, US media reports on the spread of so-called “fake news” during the presidential campaign have increasingly repeated unsubstantiated pre-election claims that the Russian government hacked into Democratic Party email servers to undermine the campaign of Hillary Clinton. There is more than a whiff of McCarthyism in this crusade against “fake news” on social media and the Internet, with online publications critical of US wars of aggression and other criminal activities being branded as Russian propaganda outlets.

A case in point is an article published in the November 24 edition of the Washington Post headlined “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say.” The article includes assertions that Russian “botnets, teams of paid human ‘trolls,’ and networks of web sites and social media accounts” were used to promote sites across the Internet “as they portrayed Clinton as a criminal hiding potentially fatal health problems and preparing to hand control of the nation to a shadowy cabal of global financiers.”

According to the Post, the exposure of Russian involvement in the spread of fake election news is based on the work of a team of “independent researchers” and another anonymous group calling itself PropOrNot, which has expertise in “computer science, national security and public policy.” Although no one from the PropOrNot organization is mentioned by name, the Post quotes the executive director of this group anonymously. The organization has gone so far as to publish a list of 200 web sites—including WikiLeaks, the ultra-right Drudge Report and the left-liberal Truthout—that are deemed “routine peddlers of Russian propaganda.”

It should be obvious that the Post report is itself an example of the state-sponsored pseudo-news that is increasingly dispensed by the corporate-controlled media to promote the geopolitical and military aims of American imperialism. The New York Times has published similar articles, including one authored by David E. Sanger and posted on the Times web site on November 25 under the headline “US Officials Defend Integrity of Vote, Despite Hacking Fears.”

Sanger, the chief Washington correspondent of the Times, is a regular sounding board for the military/intelligence establishment, to which he is closely “plugged in.” He writes that “intelligence officials are still investigating the impact of a broader Russian ‘information warfare’ campaign, in which fake news about Mrs. Clinton, and about United States-Russia relations, appeared intended to influence voters.” He adds, “Many of those false reports originated from RT News and Sputnik, two state-funded Russian sites.”

The readers of this and virtually all other articles on the topic of Russia’s role in “fake news” will search in vain for a single piece of evidence to substantiate the claims made. Instead, the views and opinions of “experts,” usually unnamed, are cited and treated as indisputable fact—much in the manner of Joe McCarthy and similar witch-hunters.

The editors and writers who produce these articles seem not even to notice that their publications have been caught in one colossal lie after another—from the claims of Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction” used to justify the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 to the more recent flood of government propaganda in support of neo-colonial wars in Libya and Syria and drone killings in a growing number of countries—all justified in the name of “human rights” and the “war on terror.”

There are no institutions anywhere in the world more adept at producing “fake news” than the American corporate-controlled media.

These same media outlets further discredited themselves by overtly slanting their “news” coverage of the election campaign in favor of their preferred candidate, Hillary Clinton, and predicting that she would secure a decisive victory. Blindsided by the support for Trump among disaffected and angry lower-income people and taken unawares by the electoral collapse of the Democrats, the corporate media are responding to the growth of popular distrust by seeking to discredit alternative news sources.

This is not to deny the spread of false information and propaganda masquerading as news on the Internet. Fabricated news stories and hoaxes have been circulating online since the World Wide Web began in the 1990s, but there was a significant increase in “fake” political sites and content during the US elections. Stories that stretched the truth or were entirely made up typically started on mock news web sites and were then amplified by social media sharing. Other false reports originated on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter and spread rapidly with the “like,” “share” and “comment” features of social media.

An analysis published by Buzzfeed on November 16 showed that false political news stories in the final three months of the election campaign, such as a report that the Pope had endorsed Trump for president, generated more engagement on Facebook than the combined top stories of nineteen major US news organizations. The Buzzfeed study noted the “hyperpartisan right-wing” nature of the top fabricated news items, as well as the spike in the number of visitors to these sites during the final election months.

Another key aspect of online “fake news” has been the growth of its scope internationally. The Guardian reported in August, for example, that a group of teenagers and college students from Veles, Macedonia set up dozens of political web site façades to both influence and cash in on the Trump candidacy. The Guardian report also pointed out that, although the pro-Trump sham news sites were more popular, both offshore and domestic web sites became very popular and generated income for their publishers whether they were peddling phony “conservative” or “liberal” misinformation.

That being said, the campaign in the corporate media against “fake news” on the Internet, including calls for social media outlets such as Google and Facebook to vet the material that appears on their sites, is a reactionary attack on freedom of the press. It has already elicited positive responses from major Internet sites. Both Google and Facebook have published statements acknowledging that they are working on systems that will use third-party “fact-checking” of news content published on their services. In the case of Facebook, this initiative—reminiscent of Orwell’s Thought Police—will be reinforced by barring accounts identified as “fake news” sources from using online advertising tools.

Pressure to shut down or muzzle “fake news” sites and social media accounts are emanating from the offices of corporate media organizations concerned about the loss of their influence over the public. Any moves to censor Internet content must be opposed as an attack on democratic rights. The measures being prepared today against “fake news” web sites and social media publishers will be perfected and used tomorrow against the working class and the socialist media—the World Socialist Web Site—that articulates and fights for its independent interests.

United States war in Iraq, continued

This video from the USA says about itself:

Professor Noam Chomsky discusses why the U.S. went to war with Iraq. Recorded on November 4, 2002.

By Representative Alan Grayson in the USA today:

Rep. Grayson: Stay out of Mosul

Haven’t we learned anything?

In 1899, Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem called The White Man’s Burden, urging America to bring “civilization” to the Philippines. The results were 250,000 deaths, war crimes, and denial of Philippine independence for half a century.

Haven’t we learned anything?

U.S. forces occupied Iraq for nine years, until the Iraqis insisted that we leave. The results were more than 600,000 deaths, a cost of $4 trillion (8% of our national net worth), and a Sunni vacuum that the Islamic State [ISIS] terror group has filled.

Haven’t we learned anything?

I’ve been to every country in the world recognized by the United Nations. There are a few universals. Everywhere, people want to fall in love; they love children and pets; they’re acquisitive. And everywhere, people don’t want to see foreigners with guns. They’d prefer a local dictatorship to a foreign military occupation. So please don’t tell me that sending U.S. troops back to Iraq would be “for their own good.”

Some argue that we must send U.S. troops to Mosul for our sake, regardless of what the Iraqis want or need. That’s called “colonialism.” It pits us against one of the great narratives of our times, world decolonization. It invites the hatred not only of more than 1 billion Muslims but the entire world. They will see us not as liberators but as the enemy.

It is a bizarre misconception to think that sending U.S. troops 8,000 miles from home somehow makes us safer. It doesn’t. And it is a great disservice to our troops to fight in a place where they don’t understand the language, the religion or the customs.

As a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I asked 10 nearby Sunni Muslim countries whether they would send ground forces to fight ISIL [ISIS]. Four said yes. Then I asked Secretary of State John Kerry whether he had asked the same question. He said no.

If Iraq actually is a thing, then it should be capable of defending itself. If it can’t or won’t, then fighters who look and sound like locals should do the job.

It isn’t the white man’s burden. It never was.

Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., is a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Bush’s Iraq Lies, Uncontested, Will Haunt Us Under Trump: here.

Jellyfish in Iraq for first time

Catostylus perezi

From BirdLife:

Jellyfish species sighted for first time in Iraq

By Laith Ali Al-Obeidi and Majd Abu Zaghlan, 15 Nov 2016

Life continues to return to Iraq’s historic marshlands – and in some cases, species that have never been recorded before in the country. In July, a species of jellyfish Catostylus perezi was discovered at the Main Outfall Drain (MOD) channel and in southern part of Hammar Marshes of southern Iraq. This is the first Iraqi record for this species.

The discovery came to the attention of Nature Iraq (BirdLife in Iraq) when they were informed by a fisherman that he saw a jellyfish in the MOD channel. Nature Iraq then began a field survey, monitoring the MOD and Southern side of East Hammar and West Hammar Marshes searching for the jellyfish and in August recovered a specimen for relevant scientific studies.

After few months’ collaboration with a jellyfish expert from Brazil to develop this finding, it seems that the jellyfish species is a Scyphomedusae and identified as Catostylus perezi, which belongs to the Family Catostylidae and to Order Rhizostomeae. This would be the first record of Catostylus perezi for Iraq.

Of note, both the East Hammar Marshes and West Hammar Marshes are connected to the MOD canal from the south side and then to the port of Khor Al-Zubair and then to the Arabian Gulf. These parts of marshes are influenced by the tidal effect of the sea through the connection and this leads to the upward movement of such species to the marshes. The occurrence of this species is an evidence of the change in the water salinity of the area.

The distribution of this species indicates that it occurs in the southern coast of the Peninsula and the Gulf as it was recorded in the Iranian coast in 1956 near Kharj and in Pakistan.

The Iraqi Marshlands, also known as the Al-Ahwar Marshlands is a group of water surfaces, which cover the low lands situated in the south of the Iraqi plain. As part of Iraq’s efforts since 2003 to put Al-Ahwar on the World Heritage List, UNESCO has approved the inscription of the marshes and to add it to the list on July 2016.

With UNESCO’s “world heritage site” title, the marshlands are now secured from further damage and it will help the government in establishing plans to protect and enhance the site.

“The Iraqi marshlands – are unique, as one of the world’s largest inland delta systems, in an extremely hot and arid environment,” UNESCO said. They describes the site as a “refuge of biodiversity and the relict landscape of the Mesopotamian Cities.”

The marshlands are home to many bird species and are a spawning ground for fish of the Gulf.

Iraq war, new Ang Lee film

This video from the USA is called Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk Official Trailer #1 (2016).

By David Walsh in the USA:

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk: Ang Lee on the Iraq war and American hoopla

15 November 2016

Directed by Ang Lee; written by Jean-Christophe Castelli; based on the novel by Ben Fountain

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is the latest work from veteran Taiwanese-born filmmaker Ang Lee, probably best known for Sense and Sensibility (1995), The Ice Storm (1997), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) and Brokeback Mountain (2005). The new film is based on the novel of the same title by American author Ben Fountain, published in 2012.

The drama takes place in 2004. A unit of American soldiers, who have survived a brief but fierce battle with Iraqi insurgents, are being celebrated as “heroes” on a nationwide tour. Thanksgiving Day finds them in Dallas, where they are to take part in halftime festivities at a Dallas Cowboys football game. Despite the media hoopla and public attention, the group of soldiers is on the eve of being shipped back to Iraq.

Billy Lynn (Joe Alwyn), the central figure in the novel and film, is a 19-year-old US serviceman whose effort to save his beloved sergeant (Vin Diesel) in Iraq was captured on film and has earned him a Silver Star. We follow him as he navigates the goings-on at the football stadium, and we also see what he remembers about the battle in Iraq and other recent episodes in his life, including his first visit home since his deployment. His sister, Kathryn (Kristen Stewart), to whom he has been very close, is working on Billy to find a means (medical, psychological) to avoid returning to the war zone. The young man also encounters and becomes infatuated with a Cowboys cheerleader, Faison (Makenzie Leigh).

Accompanying the “Bravos,” as the media has dubbed the group of young soldiers, is a Hollywood wheeler-dealer, Albert (Chris Tucker), who is trying to put together a film deal. The “heroes” are the guests of Dallas Cowboys’ owner, Norm Oglesby (Steve Martin), who talks cheaply and indiscriminately about God and country. He pompously tells Lynn, “Your story, Billy, no longer belongs to you. It’s America’s story now.” Ultimately, which should surprise no one, Oglesby proves to be a first-class chiseler along with everything else.

Before discussing the substance of Ang Lee’s film, it is necessary briefly to consider its “groundbreaking…technical breakthroughs.” Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk was shot in 3D, in high resolution (4K, or twice the number of pixels, both horizontally and vertically, as an ordinary film) and in “a history-making frame rate” (120 frames per second, as opposed to the normal 24).

According to Billy Lynn’s production notes: “The movie even set up its own lab in Atlanta in order to process a vast quantity of data, as Lee and [cinematographer John] Toll invariably relied on two cameras running at five times the normal speed with twice the amount of data running on each of those cameras. That translated into twenty times the data storage of a normal high-quality Hollywood film on a daily basis.”

The technology is impressive and certainly deserves to be explored. However, the claim that technical means by themselves will advance cinema is simply unwarranted. Lee comments, “To me, when we see movies, it’s as if we’re watching someone’s story from a distance. My hope with this new technology is that it could allow for greater intimacy, to really convey the personal feelings of a conflicted young soldier.”

It is difficult to know precisely what this means. We are always watching someone’s story from a distance in a film. Greater physical proximity does not necessarily bring us any closer to the truth of someone’s life. For that, social and psychological knowledge are required. Compared to present-day filmmakers, Murnau, Renoir, Eisenstein, Kurosawa, Ford and Chaplin worked with primitive equipment, but they were able to present far richer pictures of life.

Co-producer Stephen Cornwell: “In some ways the language of cinema hasn’t really evolved for a hundred years. The frame rate’s been the same. The way things are performed, spoken and constructed and the way narrative unfolds is something that we’ve all come to accept as norms. And what Ang has done is ask how do we evolve cinematic language to stay relevant, distinct and unique in the post-digital age, in an age where cinema is plateauing, where story telling has become very familiar? To do that, we have to change the way people experience cinema, and that’s what Ang’s reaching for, what we’re all reaching for in this film.”

The problem with contemporary filmmaking is not primarily mechanical or organizational, but artistic and social. Cornwell seems to imply that the present stagnation can be overcome by astonishing technical knowhow. This is obviously not true. What’s needed, above all, is not greater “technologically induced realism,” but greater historical and psychological realism.

Human beings and objects have always appeared to me to be three-dimensional on screen, at least physically. The 3D technology is often a distraction, and it certainly proves so in Lee’s new film. So-called 3D films sometimes appear to be composed of cardboard cutouts standing in front of one another.

Filming Billy Lynn apparently had its peculiarities. Fewer takes were possible, for example, because of the expense. Also, according to the British-born Alwyn, “The cameras were absolutely huge. … Because of how intimate Ang wanted the shots––so close to the faces––you would be performing to the black-matte box around the camera, rather than being able to see the other actors. Oftentimes, you’d just be following bits and pieces of tape, moving around a black space, and delivering your lines to that.” These circumstances may help explain why there is much stiffness and awkwardness in a number of the performances, especially in those of Steve Martin, Vin Diesel and Chris Tucker.

In any event, the filmmakers have done a reasonable job of adapting Fountain’s book, which––as I noted previously––”is not so much a novel about Iraq…as it is a sharp look at phony patriotism, hypocritical religiosity and corporate greed in [George W.] Bush’s Texas.

Fountain notes that the idea for the novel originally came to him at home while actually watching the Dallas Cowboys’ Thanksgiving Day football game in 2004.

“This was three weeks after the general election when George W. Bush had beaten [Democrat John] Kerry. I felt like I didn’t understand my country.” Fountain explains that he remained seated during halftime and “started watching the halftime show—I mean really looking at it. And it’s very much the way I write it in the book: a surreal, pretty psychotic mash-up of American patriotism, exceptionalism, popular music, soft-core porn and militarism: lots of soldiers standing on the field with American flags and fireworks. I thought, this is the craziest thing I’ve ever seen.”

Presumably, writing the novel was a means by which Fountain attempted to “understand” his country. He succeeded, however, only in fits and starts. The book has amusing and useful features. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk pours a good deal of satirical cold water on the professional sports-military complex, with its unsavory mix of patriotism, meaningless spectacle and violence.

The novel’s generally hostile tone is legitimate, but the targets, including Bush and his administration, are fairly easy ones at this time. In the end, despite its decent intentions, the book is a little too light-hearted and “soft.”

Ang Lee has never appeared to possess a satirical touch. His films have tended toward the earnest and literal. He is a competent, dogged filmmaker, who is capable at his best of shedding light on human relationships and of generating emotion.

The new film alternately and regularly advances toward certain harsh truths and retreats from them.

There are good, serious elements here.

–In one scene, Billy and one of his fellow soldiers, “Mango” Montoya (Arturo Castro), sit and talk with a stadium bartender. The latter is thinking of enlisting, because there is nothing for him in civilian life. They agree that the economic situation is poor and the rich live in another realm from them.

–During a dinnertime conversation at home, Kathryn quizzes Billy about the war, and its purpose. Is it for oil, she asks? Where are those WMDs [weapons of mass destruction] we’ve been hearing about? (In the novel, she says: “Then let me ask you this, do you guys believe in the war? Like is it good, legit, are we doing the right thing? Or is it all really just about the oil?” Billy replies, “You know I don’t know that,” and, later, “I don’t think anybody knows what we’re doing over there.”) Kathryn is the most intelligent, sensitive individual in the film and her antagonism toward official society and propaganda is contagious.

–While the Bravos are sitting around at the stadium at one point, an oilman (Tim Blake Nelson) approaches and commends them on their “service.” Sgt. David Dime (Garrett Hedlund), the leader of the squad, responds with excessive, implicitly bitter and sarcastic zeal to this odious individual, “You keep on drilling, we’ll keep on killing!”

–In the only scene that gives some sense of the reality of the Iraq war and occupation, the squad bursts into a house at night and generally terrorizes the residents. They eventually place a hood on the head of the man of the family and take him away.

–In the incident for which he received his decoration, Billy ends up wrestling with one of the insurgents and cutting his throat. We watch as a pool of blood forms around the dead man’s head. Lee shows this image twice. It is the most disturbing in the film.

–The football halftime show itself is a scathing comment on the cultural-political state of things in America. Destiny’s Child (with a Beyoncé stand-in) and groups of dancers perform, marching bands march, fireworks explode, the Bravos stand at attention or move around in a daze. All the while, Billy recalls the mayhem and death in Iraq. Lee effectively brings to the screen Fountain’s “surreal, pretty psychotic mash-up.” It is impossible not to feel the absurdity and monstrosity of the situation, the horrible reality that America’s rulers are sending young men and women to die to ensure business as usual.

At the same time, unhappily, there are numerous moments and elements that undermine or offset much of what is strong in the work. Lee’s approach is too non-committal in many of the sequences, too “even-handed.” The early portions of Billy Lynn are especially flat. One can also feel where Lee gives in to political pressures, to pro-military, “support the troops” rubbish. The assault in Fountain’s book on the businessman at the center of the whole reactionary business, Oglesby (Martin), is considerably downplayed and weakened. One hardly knows what to make of him in the end. Moreover, the evasive note on which the film concludes, a variation on the “band of brothers” theme, is another accommodation to bourgeois public opinion.

The production notes for Billy Lynn include a comment from Alwyn, whose thrust one suspects reflects Ang Lee’s thinking: “The film doesn’t go into the politics of war or why they guys are fighting over there…but it brings the war home and explores people’s projections on the soldiers rather than getting into the morality and the politics of it so much.”

Yes, and this is the movie’s most damaging failing and what prevents it from being a more consistently powerful and artistically satisfying experience. We will make the point one more time––it is not possible to make a coherent and convincing film about the criminal invasion and occupation of Iraq, with all its devastating and ongoing consequences, without treating in some fashion the driving forces of the war and its broader significance. Every deliberate act of avoidance eats away at the sincerity and depth of a work of art.

Iraq war veterans on Donald Trump

This video from the USA says about itself:

Iraq War Veterans Respond to Trump’s Victory

11 November 2016

The Real News is joined in a Facebook Live conversation by war veterans Ramon Mejia and Mike Prysner, discussing the implications of Trump’s victory.

This video from the USA says about itself:

11 November 2016

The Real News speaks to protesters that marched in Baltimore against Donald Trump‘s stunning victory. Video by Cameron Granadino.

Picasso’s Guernica, Iraq war and jazz music

This video says about itself:

Guernica Iraq

22 December 2006

Guernica” was painted by Picasso in 1937. It depicts the senseless massacre by the Nazi Luftwaffe in the Basque city of Guernica, Spain. The attack was ordered at the behest of fascist Spanish General, Francisco Franco, during the Spanish Civil War. Guernica was a non-military target, the innocent people of the town were attacked in an attempt to psychologically break the will of those who opposed Franco‘s fascistic nationalist pursuit.

Picasso captured an intense scene reflecting the deeply unjust suffering, agony and despair experienced by the people of Guernica. And in doing so he produced one of the most iconic, powerful and affecting pieces of anti-war artwork ever put to canvas. It is little surprise then that a reproduction of the painting, which hangs outside the entrance to the UN Security Council, was covered while Colin Powell was attempting to sell the Iraq War to the world.

The people of Iraq are suffering what amounts to the similar unjust brutality inflicted on the people of Guernica, except it’s practically on a daily basis. A more accurate comparison would be to imagine having the London Tube and Bus bombings everyday. And have them happen so often that they become a predictable daily occurrence and part of life.

By Chris Searle in Britain:

An assault on the eyes of false consciousness

Tuesday 1st November 2016

Barry Guy
The Blue Shroud
(Intakt CD266)

IN 2003 George Bush’s US media officials in New York hung a blue drape over the tapestry copy of Picasso’s mural Guernica in the UN building, immediately before the US secretary of state Colin Powell announced his government’s intentions of invading Iraq.

This shameful act of the fear of revolutionary culture and the proclaiming of a brutal attack, in which Blair’s government was fully complicit and participatory, is now remembered in the album The Blue Shroud by the London-born bassist Barry Guy’s Blue Shroud Band.

Guy, born in 1947, was classically trained, but became one of jazz’s prime free-form bassists, being an integral part of John Stevens’s and Trevor Watts’ spontaneous Music Ensemble (1967-70), a member of other pioneering free bands like Amalgam and Paul Rutherford’s Iskra 1903 and a founder of the much larger London Jazz Composers’ Orchestra.

I first saw Guernica at the Museum of Modern Art, again in New York, in June 1968 after months of protests against the US war in Vietnam and in support of some of the civil rights movement, including the Poor People’s campaign in Washington DC earlier in June. No other work of public art had ever had such an effect on me.

I stared at its figures — the bull, the agonised horse, the woman with her child, the screaming man with upraised arms below the sky on fire — and wondered about what each of them emblematised.

But it was the whole wall-sized work and its unfettered pain that crushed any illusory defence in my mind and I eventually walked away with a completely new view of art and culture.

That same assault on the eyes of false consciousness is expressed through Guy’s sonic masterpiece, as the shroud of epochal Bush-Blair untruth is ripped from the listener’s ears by some of Europe’s most powerful free music stalwarts.

These include the Spanish drummer Ramon Lopez (whose own remarkable album Songs of the Spanish Civil War celebrated his compatriots’ courage and love of freedom), the Majorca-born and Barcelona-trained pianist Augusti Fernandez, the French tuba virtuoso Michel Godard and the Swiss drummer Lucas Niggli.

Percy Pursglove’s mournful, shuddering trumpet introduces the Prelude, the viola and violin resonate, and Ben Dwyer’s guitar remembers the nightscape of Spain’s horror of fascism and war.

Savina Yannatou sings the words of Symbols of Guernica, written by the Irish poet Kerry Hardie, inside the rumbling drums and Fernandez’s defiant journeys up and down his keys.

In the track called Bull/Mother and Child/Warrior, Godard’s tuba growls below the pain of the saxophones and the crashing percussion.

Julius Gabriel’s baritone horn gurgles, as if it were making its last sounds.

Guy uses extracts of Biber’s Rosary Sonatas to create a sudden sequence of pure viola melodic beauty before Yannatou sings of the futile journey of The Blinded Bird of Hope, underscored by the sawing strings of Guy’s bass.

Picasso’s bulb at the highest point of his mural is written down by Hardie in this way: “The single bulb of torture keeps the faith, wild theories drive the gun’s demented roar. In cities now laid open to the sky, unblinking, the relentless eye of war.”

It is of now-times and now-wars of which she writes and Guy and his bandmates play.

This music video says about itself:

BARRY GUY: The Bird (2016)

From the album “The Blue Shroud” (Intakt 2016)

Percy Pursglove: trumpet
Torben Snekkestad: soprano saxophone, trumpet
Michael Niesemann: alto saxophone, oboe
Per Texas Johansson: tenor saxophone, clarinet
Julius Gabriel: baritone saxophone
Michel Godard: tuba, serpent
Maya Homburger: violin
Fanny Paccoud: viola
Ben Dwyer: guitar
Agustí Fernández: piano
Barry Guy: double bass
Lucas Niggli: drums, percussion
Ramón López: drums, percussion
Savina Yannatou: voice

The Chris Searle article continues:

In Bird and the Biber aria that follows, Godard’s delving tuba sounds like a fanfare of hope before Maya Homburger’s scintillating violin chorus sings throughout the crushed city where “death-smoke hangs in oily black-ended palls.”

Stare at and imbibe Picasso’s images before you listen to Guy’s astonishing soundscape. You will hear Aleppo, Fallujah and their people’s horror, and in the final track, a fusion of Guy and Bach’s Agnus Dei, you will perhaps perceive a distant glimpse of human peace and unity.

Iraq, Libya, disastrous ‘humanitarian’ war after war

This video says about itself:

19 March 2016

Afshin Rattansi goes underground on the rise of the caliphate in the Middle East. Patrick Cockburn, award winning journalist and author of new book Chaos & Caliphate: Jihadis and the West in the Struggle for the Middle East tells us how ISIS rose from the ashes of UK/US wars in the Middle East.

By Bethany Rielly in Britain:

A catalogue of disasters

Monday 17th October 2016

The Age of Jihad is a damning indictment of Western ignorance, incompetence and downright blundering that has marked the so-called war on terror, says Bethany Rielly

The Age of Jihad
by Patrick Cockburn
(Verso, £16)

AFTER Saddam Hussein’s regime was defeated in 2003, US occupation officials set up their headquarters in one of his palaces in Baghdad.

They were not aware that the sewage pipes were ill-equipped to cope with large quantities of toilet paper, resulting in blocked pipes and a building flooded with human excrement.

It’s a neat metaphor employed by Patrick Cockburn in his book The Age of Jihad to demonstrate the ignorance of occupation forces, who based their decisions on inadequate local knowledge.

But it could be extended even further as a perfect, albeit crude, analogy of Western intervention in the Middle East — a history of blindly blundering into countries and leaving them in the shit.

Taking the reader from one devastating conflict to another, this diary-like account by the award-winning war correspondent takes in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria.

Juxtaposing each country, Cockburn underlines just how disastrously foreign invasions, repeating the same mistakes again and again, have failed to create peaceful states in the Middle East.

His book is a searing indictment of US and British foreign policy, the consequences of which have deepened sectarian divisions, triggered further conflicts and shaped the so-called war on terror.

Much of Cockburn’s focus is on Iraq, where he reported the invasion and subsequent conflicts up until US tanks finally rolled out of the country. He explains in great detail the aftermath of the war there, in which two further conflicts were instigated by the first — one waged against the US occupation by Sunni militias and the other the more brutal and bloody sectarian war between Sunnis and Shias.

Although most of the narrative focuses on the experiences of others, Cockburn occasionally gives an insight into how the situation affected his own life. He explains how difficult it became to be a journalist in Baghdad during the height of the sectarian civil war because getting around the city became a deadly obstacle course where one wrong move could result in being kidnapped, wounded or killed.

He also touches on the dangers of biased and selective reporting. During the Libyan war many media outlets were so determined to portray the opposition forces against Muammar Gadaffi in a positive light that they were effectively blind to the atrocities that the rebels were carrying out on a daily basis. Libya was hailed in Britain and the US as an example of successful foreign intervention at the same time that the Western-backed opposition were torturing and massacring anyone linked or supposedly linked to Gadaffi’s regime.

Cockburn exposes how these conflicts were often misrepresented to serve the agenda of a foreign invader and that’s why his writings are so valuable.

Untainted by a political agenda, he has created one of the few authentic accounts of the region’s recent history.

The sheer scope of his reporting across the conflicts in Middle Eastern states has put him in a unique position to draw parallels between them and expose the mistakes which have snowballed into the endless wars, humanitarian crises and irreconcilable sectarian divides gripping the region today.

Colin Maclachlan, a former British Sergeant in the Special Air Service (SAS) is being investigated by the Special Investigation Branch of the Royal Military Police. This is over so-called “mercy killings” he claimed to have committed in 2003 whilst serving behind Iraqi lines. In a soon-to-be-published book, Maclachlan wrote that he had killed “two or three” mortally wounded Iraqi soldiers near the Syrian border in 2003. Killing wounded soldiers is against British military law and the Geneva Convention: here.

With the US-led offensive to retake Mosul from the Islamic State (ISIS), there are increasing reports of death and suffering on the part of Iraqi civilians caught up in the fighting and facing retribution from both ISIS and troops and militias loyal to Baghdad: here.

IRAQI FORCES ACCUSED OF TORTURE IN FIGHT OUTSIDE OF MOSUL “Iraqi government forces killed and tortured civilians south of Mosul, rights groups said on Thursday, the first such reports of alleged abuse in a U.S.-backed campaign to retake the city from Islamic State.” [Reuters]

The latest book by Robert D. Kaplan, one of Washington’s foremost geo-strategists and war apologists, makes a blatant case for transforming Romania into a military stooge for US imperialism and preparing for all-out war against Russia: here.