Inside Afghanistan’s Opium Trade

Afghan Overdose: Inside the Opium Trade

RT (2015)

Film Review

Afghan Overdose is an RT documentary that seems more geared for Russian than foreign consumption. Although the narrator is dubbed in English, actual dialogue is Russian or Farsi with subtitles.

As its northern neighbor, Russia is one of the primary destinations of Afghan heroin smugglers – roughly 30,000 Russians die of heroin overdose annually. The Russian government is so concerned about their heroin epidemic that they routinely provide the Afghan government with satellite imagery of the country’s heroin labs.

Segments from so-called opium “raids” leave no doubt the government’s heroin eradication efforts are purely cosmetic. Because the 15 1/2 year war with the US has totally destroyed the nation’s infrastructure, opium production is the only source of livelihood open to tens of thousands of residents

The arrival of ISIS in Afghanistan – who oppose the Taliban – only contributes to the overall chaos and instability.

The film’s only weakness is its lack of historical or political perspective. According to RT, opium production is the primary source of revenue for the Taliban (who control most of the country outside of Kabul). However it’s not clear how the Taliban switched over from being adamantly anti-opium prior to the US invasion to relying on it as their primary source of revenue.

It’s intriguing to hear to anti-Taliban locals talking about the US/CIA creating the Taliban as a cover for their heroin trafficking, about NATO soldiers fighting alongside the Taliban against anti-Taliban warlords and about US troops that directly engage in various aspects of opium production. I think this would have been a better documentary were some of these lines of inquiry pursued.

 

The June 6 US Airstrike Against Syria

Torture 101

Taxi to the Dark Side

Directed by Alex Gibney (2007)

Film Review

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

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

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

 

Trump to Withdraw Support for Moderate Syrian Terrorists

isis

According to the Independent, president-elect Donald Trump has confirmed campaign promises to withdraw US support for “moderate” terrorist groups in Syria.

He maintains that his administration will focus on defeating the Islamic State, and find common ground with the Syrians and their Russian backers.

Acknowledging strong dislike for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Trump asserts that shoring up his regime is the best way to stem the extremism that has flourished in the chaos of the civil war and threatens the US.

“I’ve had an opposite view of many people regarding Syria,” he said in interview with the Wall Street Journal. “My attitude was you’re fighting Syria, Syria is fighting ISIS, and you have to get rid of ISIS. Russia is now totally aligned with Syria, and now you have Iran, which is becoming powerful, because of us, is aligned with Syria.”

How strangely logical.

Read more here

American Soldiers Hoist U.S. flag in Syria, Set Up New Military Base

us-flag

A new batch of U.S. special forces have entered Syria through Turkey and set up camp at the Al-Monbath hill in the countryside of Tell Abyad, a Kurdish-held region north of Raqqa.

In total, 50 American troops – 10 of which are classified as combat advisors – are stationed at the base. The crew is armed to the teeth with heavy weaponry and accompanied by 17 armored vehicles. Communication equipment has been set up while U.S. flags have somewhat controversially been hoisted at the base.

Source: AMN

The Private Spook Behind Iraq’s Death Squads

James Steele: America’s Mystery Man in Iraq

BBC (2013)

Film Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The 14 Year War the US Lost

Two days ago, Obama announced he was redeploying  several hundred more troops to Afghanistan as “advisers” to the Afghan army, while grossly minimizing the reality that the Taliban controls most of the country outside of Kabul. 

This is Taliban Country

Al Jazeera (2014)

Film Review

In This is Taliban Country a Danish journalist visits Afghanistan to examine the ongoing campaign by the Taliban to win the “hearts and minds” of the civilian population in the regions under their control.

It’s an open secret that the US lost their 14 year war on the Taliban, even before Obama’s partial draw down of US troops in 2014-2015.* The Taliban, which controls large swathes of territory outside of Kabul, generally enjoys the support of civilians under their rule. They provide the security and stability most Afghans crave after decades of civil war. Moreover they do so far more benevolently than either the corrupt Afghan government with their network of warlords or US occupiers.

For civil complaints (land disputes, unpaid bills, etc), most residents prefer the Taliban courts to the corrupt government courts (the verdict always depends on who you know). The interpretation of Shariah law varies depending on locale, but most inflict “cruel and unusual” punishments (stoning, chopping off hands and occasionally heads) for serious “crimes” such as adultery.

The Taliban is currently engaged in an ambitious PR campaign to improve their public image as they consolidate their power in Afghanistan. They have allowed some state schools to reopen, including a few primary schools for girls. There is little support for girls’ secondary education, as most Afghan girls marry when they reach puberty.

Taliban leaders claim to have learned from past mistakes. It’s no longer a crime for men to shave their beards or women to appear in public without a burqa. Unlike fifteen years ago, when they first took power, they now allow smoking cigarettes and marijuana and watching TV. Music is still banned.


*Obama halted the withdrawal of US troops in October 2015, when he announced five to ten thousand troops would remain in Afghanistan through 2017.