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Monthly Archives: November 2011

Torture as Entertainment

Robert Fisk in the Guardian asks why torturers film their handiwork.

When prisoners were brought to Saddam Hussein’s intelligence service for interrogation, their torturers often videotaped the torment …. The videos were originally shot to shame the prisoners, but also, I suspect, for the sense of domination it gave the torturers.

The Abu Ghraib pictures – US torturers taking over the role of the Iraqi thugs in the very same prison in which many of the earlier Saddam videos were shot – had perhaps the same purpose. Lynndie England saw nothing particularly wrong with them. That was what Iraq was like, wasn’t it? And we must forget, of course, that other American pictures from Abu Ghraib, which Obama the Good has decided we must not see, show the rape of Iraqi women and boys.

Janina Struk’s new book on soldiers’ private pictures of war, which I wrote about last week, contains some paragraphs about the new military art of filming, editing and producing war by video, the soldiers’ very own version of Hollywood, in which real soldiers play themselves in real life and real Iraqis are cut down and killed in front of the camera. If the Vietnam-era US army could take photos of its own atrocities, American soldiers in Iraq have gone a step further.

Fisk suggests that filming torture and killing may serve to desensitise soldiers .. presumably to make them indifferent to the suffering of others; but maybe what it does is increase sensitivity to the suffering of others as pleasure. American Gen. Mattis is famous for his remark that ‘shooting some people is fun’ and his justification of that.

 

 

If shooting people is fun and torture is justified then why not treat it as fun to be filmed? Torture is a counter productive tool in a fight against terrorism.

 

 

Torture and the filming of it as a kind of sadistic pornography brings to mind the vampire meme in popular culture where vampires are sustained and entertained by the blood and fear of their victims. This meme possibly mythologises the kind of inherent savagery that Camille Paglia talks about in her essay ‘It’s a Jungle Out There‘:

Aggression and eroticism are deeply intertwined. Hunt, pursuit, and capture are biologically programmed into male sexuality. Generation after generation, men must be educated, refined, and ethically persuaded away from their tendency toward anarchy and brutishness. Society is not the enemy, as feminism ignorantly claims. Society is woman’s protection against rape. Feminism, with its solemn Carry Nation repressiveness, does not see what is for men the eroticism or fun element in rape, especially the wild, infectious delirium of gang rape. Women who do not understand rape cannot defend themselves against it.

The savagery behind torture and rape and killing for fun is pretty obvious. I don’t know that I would go all the way with Paglia in seeing this as genetically inherent with society/culture being a ‘protector’. I think society can and does modify instinct but sometimes society gives its members the moral sanction or ‘green light’ to be cruel. Gen. Mattis gives and is given moral sanction for his attitude.

This is from Wired:

How did you react when Graner told you how the detainees were being treated?

Of course it was wrong. I know that now. But when you show the people from the CIA, the FBI and the MI the pictures and they say, “Hey, this is a great job. Keep it up”, you think it must be right. They were all there and they didn’t say a word. They didn’t wear uniforms, and if they did they had their nametags covered.

Which photos did Graner present to them?

All of them. He showed them on his laptop. He’d say, “Hey, let me show you this, this is what we’re supposed to be doing.” And they said, “Yeah, we got great results, keep it up, you’re doing a good job.” He actually got a letter of commendation for the stuff he did.

Grunts like Lynndie England might come to enjoy the torture because it’s fun but their enjoyment, the release of instinct, whatever, is sanctioned by those higher up like Gen Mattis and, at some level, by society.

The American Awakening

We keep being told that Occupy has no coherent agenda but the reaction of the Establishment suggests differently.

Naomi Wolf writes:

US citizens of all political persuasions are still reeling from images of unparallelled police brutality in a coordinated crackdown against peaceful OWS protesters in cities across the nation this past week….

This was clearly not simply a case of a freaked-out mayors’, city-by-city municipal overreaction against mess in the parks and cranky campers. As the puzzle pieces fit together, they began to show coordination against OWS at the highest national levels.

Full Article.

The 99 Percent Declaration that comes out of OWS looks like a very coherent agenda, in fact it looks like a revolutionary manifesto.

 

 

I recommend going to the 99 Percent Declaration site to read the declaration with all its links and background. It is essential reading and suggests that there really is an American Awakening happening.

Failed States

Dr Mahathir Mohamad writing in his blog Chedet gives as clear and as simple an explanation for the financial crisis as any I have ever heard.

1. At the beginning of America’s war on terror, President Bush categorised several developing countries as failed countries.
2. I wonder whether Bush thinks a country like Greece, which is totally incapable of paying its debts after irresponsible financial management, is a successful country.

3. The debt of Greece has not only destroyed the country but it has dragged down all the European countries as well. Such is the disaster brought on by Greece’s impecunious ways that Europe is threatened with the possibility of financial collapse. So far the great economic and financial minds of Europe have not found any real solution. Instead there is the possibility that the failure would spread to Italy, Spain and Portugal.

4. Why has this happened to Europe? To find the answer one has to look into the European economic history, to look at how the European countries became so rich.
5. In the days of European imperialism, only Europe could make use of their engineering and technological skills to export manufactured goods to the rest of the world.

6. Feeling secure that they would be able to sustain this superiority in industry and trade and often benefitting from cheap raw material from their colonies and captive imperial markets, they allowed wages and profits to spiral up. Accordingly their GDP and per capita appeared to be high and they enjoyed ever higher standards of living. They classify their countries as developed.

7. Democracy and socialism forced the introduction of all kinds of social benefits. They acceded to demands for less work and more pay. They introduced pension schemes, paid leaves and holidays, double and quadruple pay for overtime, costly medical benefits and unemployment benefits. Very early workers were given the right to form unions and to strike. These were to prevent exploitation. But the rights were abused so that the remunerations and perks demanded had nothing to do with being exploited.

8. Soon the demand for higher remunerations and perks spread to the higher grades of workers and then to the executives. Bonuses for all were no longer related to profits made. They became actually delayed salaries, paid half-yearly or yearly.

9. The top executives were given stock options, bonuses exceeding their yearly pay, cars, houses and numerous allowances including golden handshakes even when they failed.

10. Naturally all these cause all their products and services to become very costly. With this comes an increasingly higher cost of living. Wages and perks were revised every now and again. With each round of wages and perks increase, there would be increased cost of living which in turn lead to demands for more increase in wages and perks.

11. All these would have gone on indefinitely but for the emergence of new industrial countries in the East. Japan, followed by Korea and then China industrialised and their low-cost high quality products pushed practically all the manufactured goods of the West off the shelf.

12. Threatened with the possibility of lower standard of living they created a financial market. Non-tangible products were invented for them to speculate and gamble. And they or at least the moneyed people and the game-theory experts made considerable amounts of money. With this no more capital was invested in the real business of producing goods and supplying services.

13. Then, they became very greedy. They started creating money to finance their gambling. To cut a long story short, the bubble burst. They lost all their money. Unable to go back to doing real business, to producing goods and supplying services, they began to fiddle with the monetary and banking systems.

14. They succeeded with Iceland and Ireland. But Greece proves intractable. This country enjoyed high life on borrowed money. Less work, more pay and more social benefits ate into Government revenue. Unwilling to face the wrath of the people the Government borrowed to finance the national budget. Unable to pay or service debts the lenders refused to give any more loans.

15. Actually the country became bankrupt. There is no way for the country to become solvent again. Its bankruptcy would in turn bankrupt European banks. This would be disastrous for Europe.

16. Basically the countries of Europe have failed. Their claim to be the showpiece of capitalism and democracy becomes hollow after they are forced to look at socialist undemocratic China for help.

17. But all efforts will fail unless they admit that they, like the developing countries, are poor. Poor people must live like poor people. Their bonuses, share options, perks, high pay and less work creed etc must be given up. The gambling in the financial market must also be stopped.

18. They have to go back to working, to producing goods and supplying service with lowered wages. They must sell off most of their assets (Greece is trying to do this now). But industrial discipline would be needed for foreign investors to buy the assets and run them.

19. Printing money and writing cheques will not help. They must cease to be in denial. They must admit they have failed, their creed and their systems have failed.

20. Many developing countries have failed. But many European countries including the United States of America have also failed.

This clear and simple explanation sound true but is it the whole truth? Dr M asserts that we are all poor in the developed and the underdeveloped world and that we must face the facts. And yet we see evidence of real wealth and creativity all around us, as well as evidence of destitution. Excessive wealth and excessive poverty suggest that wealth is not being sufficiently shared and or sufficiently created.

Anyway Dr M’s article provides an excellent introduction to a discussion about wealth. The discussion on his site looks interesting too.

Intentions and Outcomes

The FUKUS (France, UK, US) intervention was not humanitarian in intent, conduct or outcome. The motivation was clear. When the intervention started and instantly exceeded the remit set by the UN I asked why there was no attempt at negotiation. No proposals not even ultimatums just bombs. Cameron was criminal, the Labour opposition collaborated as did the media. Some like John Pilger saw through this clearly; if others were blind it was wilful blindness or criminal negligence. I’m not against intervention but if there have to be wars they should be humanitarian and just in intent, conduct and consequence; the Libya intervention fails on all counts.

Patrick Cockburn in the Independent writes:

The winning anti-Gaddafi militia are not proving merciful. Often they have had relatives killed in the fighting or imprisoned by the old regime who they want to avenge. Sometimes they come from tribes and towns traditionally hostile to neighbouring tribes and towns. Gaddafi supporters are being hunted down. According to one person in Gaddafi’s home town of Sirte, they are facing a “continuing reign of terror”.

Full Article.

The Rebels came to power on the back of NATO terror, to maintain power they need to maintain terror. NATO, the FUKUS (France, UK, US) countries, intervened in a civil war and turned a crisis into a catastrophy; they unleashed chaos and now wait, like a wake of vultures, to pick the bones of Libya clean.

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