Posts Tagged ‘torture’

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

On Wednesday morning November 9, 2016, the American Civil Liberties (ACLU) published a personal message to president-elect on their website. It urges him “reconsider and change course” on certain campaign promises, going on to list some of the most troubling promises Trump has made:

  • Promising to force 11 million undocumented immigrants from the country.
  • Promising to ban Muslims from entering the country and heavily surveilling the ones who reside here.
  • Promising to punish women who have abortions.
  • Promising to reauthorize waterboarding and other forms of torture.
  • Promising to revise the nation’s libel laws, restricting freedom of expression.

It goes on to warn Trump he will have to face the ACLU if he presses forward and tries to make good on promises they view as unconstitutional:

If you do not reverse course and instead endeavor to make these campaign promises a reality, you will have to contend with the full firepower of the ACLU at every step. Our staff of litigators and activists in every state, thousands of volunteers and millions of card-carrying members and supporters are ready to fight against any encroachment on our cherished freedoms and rights.

Read more: ACLU Announces Massive Legal Action Against Donald Trump

photo credit: AndrewDallos Donald Trump arriving at NBC tonight for Jimmy Fallon via photopin (license)

The Colombia Connection
Directed by Pablo Naverette (2012)

Film Review

The Colombia Connection is a Press TV documentary about the complex military alliance between the US and Colombia, which one local trade unionist describes as “the Israel” of Latin America.

The US has played a substantive role in funding and training Colombia’s military and intelligence service since the late forties. US advisers are strongly implicated in the assassination of reformist presidential candidate Jorge Gaitan in 1948 and the 1948-53 reign of terror (La Violencia) responsible for the murders of tens of thousands of civilians.

After World War II, Columbia joined other Latin American countries whose corrupted leaders colluded with the US government to drive peasants off their land for the benefit of US corporations. Liberal opposition leaders, trade unionists, human rights groups, judges, journalists and elected officials who opposed this process were violently suppressed via targeted assassination, forced disappearance and torture.

The US assisted in this process through the US Army School of the Americas, which operated in Panama between 1946 and 1984, when it was relocated to Fort Benning Georgia. The specific role of the School of the Americas is to train the paramilitary death squads of right wing Latin American governments in torture and other terror techniques. Convinced they had no legal or peaceful option for reclaiming their stolen land, poor Colombians began joining guerilla groups in large groups, with the FARC and the ELN (both formed in 1964) being the largest.

In 1998, starting with the election of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, numerous Latin American countries (Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay and Ecuador), began electing left of center governments. In response, in 2000 Bill Clinton launched Plan Colombia, which substantially increased direct US military involvement with the construction of seven military bases.

At present, US military aid to Columbia is the third largest ($7.5 billion between 2000 and 2010), after Israel and Egypt. The pretext is that US forces are helping the Colombian government eradicate cocaine production. However leaked Wikileaks cables indicate their real purpose is to attack rebel strongholds.

One example involves a Colombian paramilitary force the US secretly dispatched to Venezuela to try to assassinate Hugo Chavez.

Part 3 touches on candidate Obama’s promises to reign in Columbia’s human rights abuses by cutting military aid – as well as his 180 degree reversal the moment he took office.

Part 10 of Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States covers the Bush II and Obama presidency.

The Bush II Presidency

Stone begins this section by reminding viewers that Al Gore won the 2000 election by 540,000 votes. He asserts Gore would also have won the electoral college if the Supreme Court hadn’t intervened and stopped the recount in Florida.

Under the heavy influence of Vice President Dick Cheney and other Project for a New American Century (PNAC) members, Bush immediately withdrew from the International Criminal Court treaty (which Clinton supported), the Nuclear Test Ban Treat, the Kyoto Accord and the Anti-ballistic Missile Treaty. He also suspended US-led talks for Korean unification and for peace in Israel-Palestine.

Following 9-11 (which Stone refers to as the new Pearl Harbor PNAC called for), Bush launched illegal wars of aggression against Afghanistan and Iraq. In addition to authorizing the illegal indefinite detention of “enemy combatants” at Guantanamo, he also authorized the use torture and significantly expanded the US of “extraordinary rendition”* by the CIA, a program started by Clinton.

During his two terms as president, Bush doubled the defense budget, forcing massive cuts in domestic spending – which Stone maintains destroyed the US economy.

Meanwhile he pushed the Patriot Act through Congress to suppress domestic dissent against these policies.

The Obama Presidency

Stone begins this segment by reminding us that Obama rejected public campaign financing in 2008. His opponent John McCain, in contrast, accept public financing. As a result, Obama received all the major donations from Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street banks. This enabled him to significantly outspend McCain.

Stone blasts Obama for campaigning as the anti-war, change candidate. Who immediately on receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, massively increased troop numbers in Afghanistan, as well as expanding the war on terror to Libya, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Somalia and the Philippines.

In addition to continuing NATO expansion to increase the likelihood of war with Russia, Obama significantly expanded the southern military command (SouthCom) to target democratic populism in South America (eg Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil and Argentina). In 2008 he created AfriCom a sixth military command aimed at countering Chinese investment in Africa.

Obama has also significantly increased the likelihood of war with China by encircling them with new troop deployment and sophisticated nuclear weapons systems.


*Extraordinary rendition is the term used when the CIA kidnaps criminal or terrorist suspects in a foreign country and secretly (and illegal) transports them to a country known to engage in torture.

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.

 

In the following video author David Swanson discusses his book War is a Lie. As a long time anti-war campaigner, Swanson’s purpose is to demolish the widespread belief that some wars (eg the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War and World War II) are “good wars. He carefully dispels the lies ruling elites have told us about each of these wars, simultaneously clarifying that each had the true purpose of expanding American empire.

With numerous historical examples, he demonstrates that war was totally unnecessary to win American independence (eg the US launched the War of 1812 as an excuse to invade Canada.). And not only was the Civil War unnecessary to end slavery, but slavery didn’t end in the US until World War II. (See 1941: The Year Slavery Finally Ended)

Swanson is extremely critical of environmentalists who are too timid to condemn war as the major destroyer of the environment and civil libertarians who condemn torture and assassination without condemning war as the root cause of these atrocities. He’s also highly critical of activists who bemoan that the corporate elite is too powerfully entrenched to be crushed by a mass movement.

Unlike most presentations, the Q&A’s – which start at 31:00 – are the best part of this video.

 

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

Directed by Michael Winterbottom (2009)

Film Review

Based on Naomi Klein’s best-selling book by the same name, this documentary explores predatory capitalism’s use of psychological trauma to crush human rights and forcibly transfer vast sums of money  from the poor to the rich.

Like the book, the documentary begins with Dr Ewan Cameron’s CIA-funded research at McGill University into the long term  effects of shock therapy, sleep deprivation and other deliberately inflicted trauma. The Agency would incorporate Cameron’s findings in their Kubark counterintelligence interrogation (ie torture) manual. They went on to use Kubark to train fascist South American military officers at the School of the Americas and to interrogate random prisoners (the vast majority were never charged) at Guantanamo and Iraqi prisons.

The film also explores the “economic shock therapy” developed by the late University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman. Friedman was a master at exploiting natural and contrived disasters to impose the kind of extreme free market reforms that crush unions and wages, shut down or privatize public services and create massive unemployment – while simultaneously transferring obscene amounts of wealth from the working and middle classes to the rich.

Friedman and his cronies seized the opportunity to put their predatory theories into practice when the CIA helped overthrow democratically elected governments in Chile, Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina; during the neoconservative regimes of Thatcher and Reagan; in Russia after the Berlin Wall collapsed; in New Orleans after Katrina; in Sri Lanka after the 2004 tsunami; and in Iraq after 9/11.