July 31, 2006
by Ruzl ‘Naselus’ Odoni
First published October 2004
There is, in this world, nothing quite so horrible as the vile actions one man will have done to another, except for possibly the things one man will have done to hundreds of people who work for him. Hence, we have the horrible Gulf War Syndrome, where vaccines given to the unfortunate troops fighting in the first Gulf War have caused veterans’ immune systems to break down and attack themselves. Vaccines administered without being thoroughly tested. Even on rats. Or chimps. Or by anyone on anything for more than about five months. However, this is nothing compared to a far worse, more specific disease that is passed down congenitally in a terrible patriarchal birth defect, known as Bush War Syndrome.
The early effects are quickly spotted. You become apathetic, lazy and absurdly rich. You are given military placement in that hot-spot of open warfare, Texas, which hasn’t been invaded since the US launched an unprovoked attack in 1845, but find that you just can’t bring yourself ever to actually show up. You quickly fall in with a bad crowd of similarly ill men, snorting cocaine and drinking. Finally, you can’t concentrate, so even after the danger of you actually having to fly a plane has passed, you begin driving Oil Company after Oil Company into the ground.
However, it is later on that the worst effects come into play. You become utterly incompetent with money, going beyond merely wiping out investor’s funds to totally destroying economies. You develop a terrible hatred of middle-eastern men with moustaches. Finally, as the disease reaches the endgame of it’s terrible cycle and seeks to propagate, you spawn a child and continue the curse into a new generation. And it’s clearly getting much worse.
To be a little more serious, let’s move away from the obvious brain defects in the Bush line and head into some economic detail. Bushes are shite with money. They just can’t quite grasp how it works. Let’s see some hard figures, shall we?
Bush senior managed, in just four short years, to bring the Dow Jones average up from 2.4% to a staggering 3.1%. Now I must say I’m impressed with this. Since he put absolutely no thought into it, didn’t try in the slightest, and probably wasn’t aware of it. Oh, and his son kept doing horrendous damage to oil companies by selling his shares. In a similar four-year period, while facing a hostile senate, Clinton only managed to increase it from that 3.1% to 8%. And in the two years after that, up to 12%. That’s no good at all, I hear you cry. And you’d be right. Bush Junior was able to stop this unprecedented growth (unprecedented in the entire world, you understand. Even the Japanese were impressed) within months, then through carefully going on holiday was able remove the World Trade Centre, that thorn in the USA’s economic side. But people pulled together. And the armament industry was able to keep the market going reasonably strongly. Discontented with this unfair economic boon, Bush showed us exactly why he’d never flown a plane and took the economy into an impressive nose-dive, swooping down to 7.9% and managing to undo what Clinton had achieved in almost exactly the amount of time it took to achieve it. He has, mainly by giving out lucrative oil contracts in countries he doesn’t own, managed to stabilise the situation at roughly 10.6%. Doubtless he’s cursing those pesky kids and even now intends some form of legislation banning poor people from owning shares.
Meanwhile, in an effort to create a nice new American aristocracy, he’s abolished estate tax. Estate tax means that incredibly rich dead people have to give away some of their money. This means incredibly rich dead people’s sons might have to do an honest day’s work rather than become governor of Texas. To be fair, Bush Senior isn’t actually dead yet, unless they’ve got some sort of puppet-on-a-string style charade going on until 2012 when they won’t be taxed on his oil billions.
Now, I’d just like to take you aside on a little game I like to play, called “Is There A Financial Conflict of Interest?”. To play the game, you look at a piece of legislation, look at who supports it, and see if they stand to gain from abusing their position. So, just for example, if we look at this estate tax, let’s look at young GW Bush and see if he stands to gain. Daddy is a very rich Texan oil billionaire. Daddy was also paid 800,000 dollars a year for four years (plus expenses. I mean why? Why doesn’t the president pay for his own damn lunches?) by the tax payer so he could double the budget deficit, double unemployment, and attack moustachioed middle-eastern dictators and re-install bearded middle-eastern dictators. That’s 3.2 million dollars (Plus expenses. I don’t get expenses. I earn 200 quid a week. I could do with, say, a private plane and motorcade paid for by the people. I don’t have one. I am, in all fairness, rather unlikely to be able to leave my job having cost the taxpayer 300 billion dollars. This is why my expenses aren’t paid.). Now, is anyone standing to gain from Bush senior not paying 50 cents of every dollar when he dies? Anyone at all? Think about it for a bit.
Wasn’t that easy? Shall we play again? Who stands to gain from legislation removing federal environmental controls? Is it those devilish Carolina fishermen, who are bound by some rather fine fishing limit laws and a thorough permit system? Perhaps Arizona’s casino masters, who pay more tax than anyone else of a similar income bracket and don’t actually effect the environment in any way other than light and sound pollution (And really, if you’re in Vegas, who are you trying to kid if you claim to be there for the beautiful star-lit sky?)? Or could it be a certain Mr George W Bush, oil magnate, son of oil magnates, and once governor of the state with the worst environmental laws, employment laws, general laws, and governors in the whole USA?
Do you know what the most dangerous job on Earth is? It, somewhat suprisingly, isn’t crash dummy in the people’s Republic of China. It’s not Uranium miner in North Korea. It, in fact, has nothing to do with all those appalling, human rights violating commies at all. It’s Texas Oil-rigger. It’s so dangerous that the average life span is only eight months. After that, you either retire with two limbs left, die, or go to Vegas because you’re clearly the luckiest man on the planet and shouldn’t be wasting time working for the Bush family. Texan oil barons have to pay their riggers between two and three thousand dollars a week. What the don’t have to do is give them any sort of protection at all. Most riggers wear a vest and jeans. Most Texan oilrigs have at least one major fire-spurt a week. A fire-spurt is a fifty-foot high geyser of burning oil that effectively rains napalm all around it, including onto you and Ted. This is why the average life span of an oil rigger is eight months.
In these dodgy commie hellholes, the oilrigs aren’t so stupidly dangerous. True, the pay is far, far, far less, but not being dead before you have a year’s experience is generally considered to be a major benefit in most jobs. In fact the only jobs I can think of with similarly lethal potential are suicide bomber, and being a Nurse in a hospital in Iraq.
But I digress, so let’s change the subject completely. Let’s move on to Israel. I would like to make it well known right now that I feel Israel should be given back to the Arabs who’d been living there for a thousand years rather than given to the Jews by a bunch of Christians who lived in Europe and decided they had a right to hand bits of it out. Unlike Mr. Bush, Bush Junior has decided Israel should be allowed to defend itself, which is fair enough considering his standpoint on the issues. Unfortunately, while he says they should be able to defend themselves, he hasn’t really followed it up by giving them the loans he promised them. Possibly the Israel thing isn’t his top priority after all. Possibly he spent the first twenty years of his career digging big dry holes in Texas with money from Saudi Arabia, spent the last four years of his career digging big dry holes in an economy they own 7% of, and feels that he shouldn’t really do anything that might piss them off. Giving Israel a load of money the Saudis own 7% of may very well piss them off. They don’t like Israel for many of the same reasons I don’t. Notice that Bush’s standpoint is right behind Israel on the moral side of things, and completely opposed to it for the 7% issue. So, money not really affecting his judgement there, then, is it?
Bush hasn’t created a single net job since he came to power. In fact, he’s lost about two million of them. Even his daddy did better than that. And Daddy was an exceptionally stupid man. I hope he tries to sue me for that. It would be nice to have a court judgement saying GHW Bush is an exceptionally stupid man and there to be a legal precedent set. I could prove it, too. I have footage of his reason for becoming President. His son did it because he clearly has deep-founded personality issues, wants to be his dad and might also, deep down, really, really love his mother. But GHW Bush did it because he didn’t want to eat broccoli any more. He really hated that stuff, and who could blame him? Of course, he really liked giving troops depleted uranium slugs in the first Gulf War, which might be another cause for GW syndrome, but hey, at least he didn’t give them broccoli!
Here are a few facts about Broccoli:-
1: Broccoli is an excellent source of Vitamin C and folacin, and a useful source of fibre, Vitamin A, calcium and potassium.
2: Broccoli was grown mainly in Italy until the 16th century when a royal marriage brought the vegetable to France. We have the union of Catherine de Medici to Henry II of France to thank for introducing broccoli to French gardeners and cooks. Well done, Cathy.
3: Broccoli will keep for up to five days in a perforated bag in the refrigerator crisper.
4: Broccoli prevents colon cancer, helps to minimise risk for cataracts, protects against stroke, blocks the growth of melanoma skin cancer cells, and contains cancer-fighting ingredients.
5: GHW Bush really hated Broccoli.
It also helps prevent the onset of Bush War Syndrome. GHW Bush banned broccoli from the White House when he was president. So perhaps the Bushes are all dying of colon cancer, and that’s why they’re such a tremendous pain in the arse.
But let’s go into Bush Junior’s personality issues, shall we? I want it to be firmly established right now that most of this is conjecture based on Bush’s personality and actions with a bit of amateur psychology thrown in. I therefore will not have anyone say that I believe
G W BUSH WANTS TO SHAG HIS MOTHER
And anyone who claims I think that, or encourages others to do so, is wrong. However, if you yourself believe
IT’S COMPLETELY TRUE
then I can’t stop that. These are just the facts cast in a certain light.
Fact 1: Bush wants to be his daddy. Bush has been trying to be his Daddy for years. He uses the monkey-see, monkey-do mimic strategy, and so aims to do what his daddy did at roughly similar points in his career. One of the major points about George Bush’s Daddy is that he gets to sleep with George Bush’s Mummy.
Fact 2: Bush continuously strives to out-do daddy. While he failed miserably to do this in the oil business, he has done most of the same stuff as president, only he’s always gone just that little step further. Daddy wrecks the economy, Georgey-porgy truly beats the shit out of it with a spade. Daddy invades Iraq, Little George hunts down Saddam while somehow forgetting the actually issues of national security. So young George isn’t just trying to be like Daddy. He’s trying to out-do Daddy.
Fact 3: Daddy wasn’t home that much. Daddy was a very busy man. He didn’t hang out at the ranch much when young GW was growing up. It was mainly little George, Little Jeb and Momma. Now, Freud tells us that every child, at the age of about three, develops what you call an Oedipus complex, where the fall madly in love with their appropriate parent. The child subconsciously realises that it’s father is much bigger and harder and if it lays a hand on Momma in that fashion then he’ll rip it’s little Texan bollocks off. Except that doesn’t always happen when Daddy’s not around much. Think Norman Bates. Now think if Norman was President.
So I generally like to think that’s what makes little George tick. I don’t particularly think it’s true, I just find it’s great fun explaining it to people, and it’s very hard to disprove.
Oh, and do you know Daddy Bush thought attacking Iraq was a bad idea? He didn’t go after Saddam himself just in case it destabilised the entire middle-east region, dragged thousands of US troops into a pointless attempt to hold Iraq together after they’d crushed the only unifying force, and besides, we all knew Iraq had no really hope of building a Weapon of Mass Destruction. In fact, we knew Iraq would have some difficulty creating a line of eighteen-gear bicycles. And everyone knew this, and proclaimed it in speeches, until sometime around September the fifteenth, 2001. When we changed our minds. I may or may not be talking to Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, ALL the various nefarious Bush clan, oh screw it those are exactly who I’m talking to. Bush went after Iraq because he thought it would make Momma like him more.
Let’s just briefly recap. GW Bush, starve of broccoli’s healing influence as a child, turns to drink and drugs in order to improve his performance as an airman over Texas, desperate to win the hand of the mother he loves so dearly. When she snubs his advances, he realises it’s because Daddy’s president of the most powerful country of the world, and she’s a power-mad bitch (not so different from most first ladies, to be fair), so he decides merely emulating daddy’s not enough. He must surpass him. So he goes out and becomes the worst president pretty much ever. I mean Nixon was a monster, but hey, at least he was good at it.
July 31, 2006
by Ruzl ‘Naselus’ Odoni
First published August 2004
1: Policy. We would like to make it quite clear right now that we in the BNP are not in favour of policies coming into this country and taking up spaces in our workforce. As far as we’re concerned, policies are no better than spiks, wops, coons, wogs, pakis, frogs, krauts, jocks or even poofters.
2: We would also like it to be made clear we are in no way racist or discriminate against anyone, regardless of what kind of white male Englishman they are. Unless he’s a poof.
3: Immigration. We are all in favour of immigration here at the BNP. We’d love all the aforementioned spiks, wops, coons, wogs, pakis, frogs, krauts, jocks and poofters to immigrate the hell out of here whenever they feel ready, or by the end of the week, whichever is sooner.
4: We still aren’t racist. We just aren’t hiding behind nonsensical political correctness, politeness, or consideration.
5: And we don’t like clever people, neither. Bastards. They can fuck off too.
6: Or people who like clever people, spiks, wops, coons, wogs, pakis, frogs, krauts, jocks and poofters. They’re probably spies, and it’s a matter of national defence.
7: Policing. We should like a new police force set up, in addition to the current one, to deal with tourist related crime caused by spiks, wops, coons, wogs, pakis, frogs, krauts, jocks and poofters. We in the BNP currently refer to it as the Guest Apprehension Police Operation, or the GuestAPO. When all tourism is finally banned next month, they shall be keeping a stern eye on everyone to make sure they aren’t secretly coons.
8: Segregation. We shall be keeping all Jewish people separate from now on. Not only have we discovered that they are too clever by half, some of them are poofters and undercover coons. The British public must be protected from this kind of thing. We shall be setting up special camps, or ‘Kampfs’ as we are calling them, in order to use Jewish labour to renew out coal mining industry. We in the BNP are all united behind the Mine Kampf ideal.
9: We aren’t Nazis. Nazis are bloody krauts, and we hate them. Fucking foreign bastards.
10: But we still aren’t racist. We don’t like spiks, wops, coons, wogs, pakis, frogs, krauts, jocks and poofters, but that has nothing to do with race.
11: Oh, and we don’t like Nips, Slopes or Irish people. We shall be bombing them in a strictly non-racist way.
12: Err…. We’re not racist. We’ve been painted in a bad light because of all the racially aggravated assaults we’ve caused, but that doesn’t mean we’re racist. It just means all our supporters are, and that is purely coincidental and probably the fault of undercover spiks, wops, coons, wogs, pakis, frogs, krauts, jocks and poofters.
13: That’s about it really. We’re not racist.
July 31, 2006
by Ruzl ‘Naselus’ Odoni
Originally published February 2005
The main reason I think religion is incorrect is because it was originally designed as a tool of the state, as opposed to a crutch for the people. The initial religions, dating from around 40,000 years ago, were essentially designed around the idea of semi-divine God-Emperors, rulers who reaper the rewards of their people’s work, and in order to protect them from the wrath of their followers their priestly classes developed the idea that these kings were actually Gods. Hence, religion was originally designed around the concept of social order.
Later, it became impractical to hold to this. The God-Emperors could not control the fate of their people, and they could not ensure the success of the harvest. It became more useful to have a devine figure who could never be held to account for ‘his’ actions. Here, religion moved away from being the tool of the ‘God’, and thus the king loses a great deal of power to the priesthood. It’s never been properly taken back.
At this point, suddenly there are lots of Gods. Polythiesiem becomes commonplace, and anything that cannot be explained is given its own God. Volcanoes? They’re angry Gods. Earthquake? You have angered the Gods beneath the ground.
Now, why this moved on to monothesiastical religion is not completely clear. It was probably due to the internal power struggles between the priests of various Gods, and so a single, all-powerful being had to be designed. He was responsible for everything that was not understood, he must have made the world because, well, who else did? Humans make things. Therefore, they assume that anything that exists has been deliberately designed and made. Who did it? God!
The priesthood consolidates. With monotheseim, divine bickering was impossible, and so the church forms a single voice (It might be worth noting here that what non-biblical evidence we have of Jesus suggests he was very firmly anti-religion, as does some of the Bible itself, so possibly he was standing against this, and would probably be disgusted by the Church Peter spawned in his name). This is the common ancestor of Islam, Christianity and Judaism.
Freed from its restrictions as a tool, religion quickly begins to act as a state in its own right. It acts independently, collects its own tithes, and is no longer restricted to remaining with a single ‘host’ nation. It is, therefore, vital to indoctrinate as early as possible. The religions go to it with gusto.
Now, we can find out what causes things, so religion switches it’s defence. As opposed to claiming God is proof for events, God himself is the event that must be proven. The Church turns and demands proof of his non-existence, which is naturally impossible (by definition, you cannot conclusively prove that anything doesn’t exist. Not existing doesn’t leave proof. It’s just a silly argument.). Hence, religion defends itself against a rising tide of disbelief. The population can, for the most part, afford to live comfortable lives, and no longer really need the ‘carrot on a stick’ of heaven to prevent the uprising. The ranks of acts previously laid at God’s door shrink away as Science provides new answers.
Blind Faith is all God has left.
Disclaimer: I’ve not been alive for 40,000 years, so this is, admittedly, mainly theory and deduction, with archaeological remains providing the early part of the story. However, I have studied Theology, Sociology and Philosophy extensively, and these are my conclusions.
July 28, 2006
In mild contrast to talking about the over-hyped Michael Moore, I’ve decided to recommend far more strongly the movies of another leftist American. Step forward, Stephen Gaghan, writer/director without peer.
Back in March, Naselus and I went to the cinema to watch what I think is one of the most sophisticated and telling political thrillers to come out of the USA for about three decades – perhaps ever. Syriana is a fictitious story about the oil industry, which is based on the genuine experiences of a CIA agent over the course of a twenty-plus year career. Its criticisms manage to hit with stunning accuracy all its targets in the fields of oil, commerce, Middle Eastern governments, Intelligence services, the illegal arms trade, state bureaucracy, the spread of terrorism, man-in-the-street ignorance, and Western exploitation of the Third World.
It’s a very complex tale, with four or five distinct but interwoven plot threads running through it; it is one of the great achievements of the film that the plot threads almost always run completely parallel to one another, rarely crossing over, and that most of the main protagonists never meet each other – probably are never even aware of each other – and yet it still makes clear throughout just how deeply all the factions affect everyone else involved.
The disgusting amorality of the CIA and America’s largest oil conglomerates is laid bare – their deliberate efforts to maintain, even to increase, the instability and political turmoil in the Middle East – as is the unawareness of the average American of his own goverment’s abuse of weaker nations.
Not only is the storyline of Syriana unusually complex, but the characters are refreshingly 3D for an American movie as well, and this brings out some very fine performances from the cast; –
George Clooney, who also does a great job as exec producer, is on unusually splendid form as Bob Barnes, a disillusioned CIA man who tries hard to remain loyal to the Agency against his own better judgement. His disillusionment stems less from a bruised conscience – he still retains the foolish notion that his work is for the betterment of Mankind – than from a growing despair at the CIA’s willful negligence and incompetence; Barnes remains a ruthless and brutal anti-hero to the end. Clooney really gets his teeth into this role, proving that he truly can act on those rare occasions when he’s given a script worth the bother of reading.
Alexander Siddig (Dr. Bashir from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) makes for an outstandingly sympathetic Prince Nasir, an Arab aristocrat wishing to modernise and democratise his homeland. Throughout the story he is caught in two desperate struggles. One is a power struggle with his spiteful and feckless younger brother for the right to become the next Emir. The other is with his own conscience; his personal loyalty to his ailing father is forever at loggerheads with his wider loyalty to his country, which is angered and offended time and again by his father always kowtowing to American pressure. (US corporate interference in and exploitation of these kinds of relationships happens with great frequency, and is demonstrated here with scathing precision.)
Matt Damon hits heights he has never reached before – though admittedly he’s still less-than-brilliant – as Bryan Woodman, a professional media analyst on the US energy industry, based in Geneva. An upwardly-mobile man from middle America, his happy family life is destroyed by tragedy indirectly linked to the Arab Emir, which draws him into Nasir’s close confidence in the struggle to rebuild the Prince’s homeland. Wrongly convinced at first that the Arab Kingdom’s failing economy and backward infrastructure are exclusively the fault of its Royal Family, Woodman shows both exceptional technical intelligence as an oilman, and breathtaking political vacuousness, until Nasir opens his eyes to the realities of American interference in the running of Middle Eastern states. Damon does well to convey a willful ignorance, symbolic of so many Americans and right-wing Europeans, and the light that switches on in Woodman’s eyes as the disturbing truth dawns on him will be all-too-familiar to many of us who have had to explain these things to uninformed people in the past.
A special mention must also go to Jeffrey Wright, who plays a mild-mannered lawyer called Bennett Holliday. Holliday is investigating possible corruption in a merger between two of America’s biggest oil firms. Most of the time, Holliday appears to be a gentle, awkward, even mousy fellow, way out his depth when confronting a pool full of the oil industry’s biggest sharks, both in Texas and in Washington. Wright does brilliantly to disguise the lion hidden in sheep’s clothing (to paraphrase dialogue in the film); the ruthless, opportunistic self-interest in Holliday comes as a real surprise when it reveals itself.
Without wanting to give anything away, the end of the film is poignant and demonstrates with much accuracy the sort of ironic consequences that Western bullying of the Middle East will have. The hollowness and hypocrisy of The War Against Terror is made plain, as is the manipulative nature of the teachings of many radical Imams in the Middle East (and how easy the West makes it for them to be so manipulative in the first place). Most of all though, the motivations many a desperate young man in the Middle East feels for becoming a terrorist become, though still not forgivable, at least very understandable.
The only problem with Syriana is that, being so rich with plot, at only two hours in length it can be a bit difficult keeping track of certain threads; it’s certainly awkward remembering which particular oilman Holliday is investigating at certain moments, and which particular ones he’s dealing with or against. It can be exhausting trying to sort through the confused rush of details.
But this is perhaps intentional, as it serves to underline one of the many, very shrewd, messages the film is trying to put forward; the situation in the oil industry, and especially in the Gulf of Arabia, is so complex and so confused (partly because the US oil industry wishes it to be so), that no one can know all the important details, even though so many officials in the CIA and the US government think that they do. No one can see the big picture, and yet the more that picture becomes blurred, the more belligerently and carelessly Western governments choose to behave.
Naselus was perhaps less impressed with Syriana than I was, but he still agrees that it’s a fine film that puts forward an important message that too many people in the West refuse to understand. Beyond doubt, it’s a very brave film to release in the present climate of enforced-patriotism in the US media. Whatever else we may think of Warner Bros as a company, we must give them enormous credit for the courage they displayed in choosing to press ahead with the project. Such an honest, eloquent, and intelligent indictment of Western behaviour in the Middle East has never before come out of the US media – certainly not in the overexposed, tabloid-mannered and distortion-riddled rantings of Michael Moore – and probably not from anywhere in the UK either. The overwhelming weight of the content – including a truly blood-curdling torture scene involving a prominent Hezbollah agent – and the many disturbing themes addressed, make Syriana a difficult film actually to love, but even so, it commands untold respect, and I cannot recommend loudly or strongly enough that people watch it.
(Go to www.syrianamovie.com to download the trailer, the full screenplay, and a recording of a press conference given by the makers of the movie the day after it premiered in the US; well worth listening to in its own right.)
July 28, 2006
“It wasn’t what I expected.”
Sergeant Erik Saar, speaking to a superior officer shortly before the end of his tour of duty, said the above of his experience of interrogation Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
It might also be what many of us would say of the book he wrote about it. This is not to say that it isn’t a remarkable and telling insight, nor that it doesn’t stand as a searing indictment of the facility and the way it is run. It’s more the targets the writer chooses to criticise, and the commendable care and restraint with which he does so.
There’s no doubt, from Saar’s experience, that prisoners at ‘Gitmo’ are badly mistreated and have been for years. But he is careful not to blow it out of proportion. He saw no torture there (although he wouldn’t be surprised at all if it was going on in cellblocks away from his assignments), and he makes no attempt to pretend otherwise. But he still found that the other methods used were needlessly humiliating, dirty, and ultimately de-humanising. Even without bringing torture into the equation, surely this is bad enough.
His disillusionment stems less from the techniques than from the nonexistent reasons the prisoners were there in the first place – he reckons that of the 600-odd prisoners held there, less than 100 have any useful information to impart at all, and only a few-dozen are Radicalist terrorists – and the treatment of the personnel garrisoned there.
This second point is one of the problems frequently missed, and it is probably the most eye-opening part of Inside The Wire. When he arrives at ‘Gitmo’, Saar discovers that morale is horribly low among the personnel, partly because of a lack of worthwhile results to all the months and months of interrogations, and worse yet, a terrible factionalism that has developed. Not so much between the personnel and the detainees – although there’s no doubt that there’s a lot of that as well – as between different groups of personnel.
Saar is a Military Intelligence officer, assigned to the base as a linguist to help with interrogation. The army has plenty of out-and-out soldiers on the base, for obvious reasons, as well as field interrogators. A number of intelligence agencies, including the CIA, the DIA, and the FBI, have interrogators of their own there. The army interrogators hate the linguists, leaping to the joint irrational conclusion that being able to speak Arabic must make them ‘al-Qaeda’ sympathisers, and hate the Intelligence agents, because the techniques they use are slower and much gentler with the prisoners than those used by the military. (A disgusting air of anti-Arab prejudice surrounds the soldiers as they bully the prisoners, all of whom are just assumed to be terrorists without ever getting a hearing.)
Some of the interrogators are themselves Muslims, which is why they get assigned to the base. They are treated as traitors by the detainees, and as terrorist sympathisers by the soldiers. Great tension even sets in between the Muslim group and the other interrogators.
The organisation of the base is shown to be a bureaucratic joke that would fit very neatly into an episode of Yes, Prime Minister, especially the high-handed mistreatment of staff who have completed their tours of duty; frequently they are barred from leaving, as suitable replacements prove to be unavailable (despite months of advance arrangements for a handover). Not only is it unfair, it is also handled with appalling irresponsibility; the leaver has to report back to his home base, and failure to do so has to be justified by a written report from the staff officers at Guantanamo. The staff officers seldom bother to send these reports, and it is the outgoing officer who gets punished for it.
All the incompetent organisation and mismanagement is cynically covered up by the people in charge. Saar describes bitterly how every time someone in authority from outside the army surveys the base, a fake interrogation is always performed to make it look like progress is always being made.
The overall policy of the US Government gets many moments of condemnation. That many of the detainees had been held without trial for over twelve months by the time Saar had arrived, and had only been interrogated the once, shortly after their arrival, highlights that the USA was well aware at a very early stage that it had arrested many innocent people. (An indictment of the truly brainless policy in Afghanistan of paying the Northern Alliance a reward for every al-Qaeda/Taliban suspect they handed over, without ‘checking the goods’ in advance.) Not only was it morally inexcusable that the detainees still had to wait for several years for their release (indeed the overwhelming majority of them are still waiting), it also causes many practical problems. For one, it complicated the job of sorting the very few prisoners who did have Salafist links from the ones who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. For another, it increases still further the (largely valid) US image of an aggressive Empire that must be resisted at all costs; a number of the former prisoners have become involved in terror activities since being released.
As a whole, the book is not one that will make your blood race in outrage very often, so much as shake your head in depression at the Western tendency to encourage lunatics to run the asylum. This is a reflection on Saar’s tone of writing, which edges on exasperated without ever degenerating into whining or ranting. In fact it’s a very smooth read – Saar’s authorship style is refreshingly eloquent and insightful for an ex-military man – and the conclusions it offers in the epilogue are most intelligent (although hardly anything that people on this forum aren’t already well aware of).
It’s perhaps a book noteworthy for the nature of who wrote it and what he was prepared to make public, as much as for the standard of its writing. As I said before, it’s not qute as scathing or outraged, or remotely as graphic, as I’d been expecting, but in fact this is in the book’s favour as it makes it clear that it’s not trying to sensationalise, but is trying to be honest and authentic. As George Orwell once said when reviewing a book by Winston Churchill, “it reads like the work of a human being,” which is higher praise than you might think. (Certainly not the sort of praise you could give the likes of Ann Coulter or Michael Moore.)
July 28, 2006
Well folks, at the risk of sounding like I’m straining my arm with the effort of patting myself on the back, the first couple of days of rebuilding the site in blog form have been quick and effective. A large number of articles from the old archive have already been uploaded and stored here, the categories are taking shape, and we’ve even got the first part of what looks set to be a new regular feature, in the form of Downs Under.
Regular users from TheCritique forum, please get in touch and let us know how you feel it’s shaping up, what you think of the present look, and any thoughts on what else you’d like to see included. If anyone wants to help out as well, please get in touch via the forum.
It’s a good start so far, but it’s still only a start.