In honor of International Women’s Day, here is a short documentary on women in Afghanistan, focusing on three women who have achieved something in recent years, after Taliban rule was overthrown. The Taliban state was perhaps the most misogynistic in world history, which is fancy way of saying that they absolute hate women.0 Retweet 23 Share 9 Google +1 3 StumbleUpon 1 Printer Friendly Send via email
Posted on 03/09/2013 by Juan Cole
Posted on 02/14/2013 by Juan Cole
The USG Open Source Center reported on the reaction to President Obama’s State of the Union speech on two major Arabic-language satellite news channels, Aljazeera Arabic and Alarabiya. Aljazeera’s commentators seemed disappointed that Obama does not plan a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan. Alarabiya’s respondent concluded that Obama does not intend to do anything dramatic with regard to Iran, and that therefore the Arab Gulf countries should develop their own independent policy toward Iran. In general, the Arab intellectuals interviewed were convinced that Obama would focus on domestic issues in his second term, and seems to have put the Middle East on the back burner:
Between its 0500 GMT and 1600 GMT newscasts on 13 February, Doha Al-Jazirah Satellite Channel Television in Arabic continued to dedicate prominent coverage to President Obama’s State of the Union speech, carrying interviews with one of its six US-based reporters, a US analyst, and two Afghan guests.
In addition, the channel carried factual reports citing the Afghan Government and the Taliban Movement as commenting on the President’s announcement of plans to drawdown the US troops in Afghanistan by 34,000 next year. Reports on the address appeared almost half the way through the major newscasts of the channel, which adopted a mostly factual tone, although one correspondent was slightly critical for lack of signs that a shift in the US foreign policy will occur during the President’s second term.
Dubai Al-Arabiyah Satellite Channel Television in Arabic devoted limited coverage to the speech, carrying a video report by its correspondent in Washington and interviewing a Saudi analyst to comment on the President’s remarks on Iran. It was not observed to interview US guests. Unlike Al-Jazirah, Al-Arabiyah led most of its major newscasts with relevant reports. Its correspondent in Washington commented factually on the speech, but noted perceived US public dissatisfaction with what the US mission in Afghanistan has accomplished.
At 0501 GMT, Al-Jazirah’s Washington-based reporter Nasir al-Husayni said in an interview that President Barack Obama’s address included “a number of thoughts and proposals to the Americans and his political Republican rivals, who usually disagree with him.”
Asked about the US stance on Syria, Al-Husayni said: “It was noticed, and observers who watched this address said, that the US foreign policy will not see any radical change. Regarding the Iranian issue, the speech included a warning through loose language — diplomatically speaking — against Iran that there is still a chance for dialogue and that the United States will never allow Iran to possess nuclear weapons. If these remarks are considered a warning in the United States, they do not have anything new. Regarding the Syrian issue, one or two sentences were said in this regard. The US President wanted to disassociate himself from the Syrian crisis. He said that the United States supports Arab peoples in their quest for democracy and freedom. He also said that he will continue to put pressure on Syria but did not elaborate on the form of the pressure in his speech. Thus, many believe that foreign policy is not a priority for the President in his second term.”
At 0601 GMT, Al-Jazirah interviewed Osama Abu Irshaid, chief editor of the US-based Al-Mizan daily, who said: “The first point that comes to mind is that the speech focused primarily on US domestic issues. It focused on the economy, the creation of job opportunities, and the need to amend immigration laws.” He added that Obama briefly highlighted some foreign issues such as Iran, the Middle East, and the Arab springs, but did not talk “in detail about them, contrary to his previous speeches.” He concluded: “President Obama did not clearly focus on foreign policy, which means that he will focus more on domestic issues that are of interest to American voters at this stage.”
Within its 0700 GMT newscast, the channel cited Taliban as saying that President Barack Obama’s plan to pull out from Afghanistan “does not live up to the expectations of the Afghan people, adding that the only solution to the Afghanistan crisis is the full withdrawal of foreign forces from the country.”
In a subsequent interview, Afghan political analyst Misbahullah Abdul Baqi said: “When Barack Obama came to power four years ago, he said that he would end the war. He repeats this statement one time after another. However, the United States does not intend to pull out all its troops. This plan, which Obama keeps repeating, is a plan for redeployment. In other words, he will withdraw some troops and keep a large number of them to ostensibly train the Afghan forces, police, and security forces.” He added that the remainder of the US forces in Afghanistan “will prompt the armed opposition to continue its war, as it objects to the US military presence in Afghanistan for any purpose.”
Within the 1100 GMT newscast, Washington-based reporter Nasir al-Husayni said in a two-minute video, which was repeated in the subsequent newscasts, that President Obama “seemed optimistic” about the economic performance of his country, and described the speech as “purely domestic in nature,” citing observers as depicting the President’s threats to Iran and North, Syria, and North Korea as “genuine but clawless.”
At 1228, Al-Jazirah carried a 20-second factual report citing the spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry as welcoming the President’s announcement of US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.
In a three-minute live interview that followed soon afterward, Abdul Hakim Mujahid, former Taliban representative at the United Nations, hailed the President’s decision as “wise,” but stressed that the United States “should also play a central role in promoting national reconciliation and peace in Afghanistan.” He justified continued Taliban armed activity as “normal” given the fact that “no peaceful settlement has been reached between Taliban on the one hand, and the international forces and the Afghan Government on the other hand.”
At 0701 GMT, the channel carried a video report by its correspondent in Washington Muna al-Shiqaqi, in which she viewed the main issues that President Obama discussed in his State of the Union address, including Iran’s nuclear program, the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Syrian crisis, and his upcoming visit to the Middle East. Though largely factual, the report concluded by noting that “most of the Americans believe that the bulk of the US effort in Afghanistan was futile.” The channel aired the same video report within its subsequent major newscasts.
At 1313 GMT, Abdallah al-Shimmari, a Saudi expert in international relations, has described President Obama’s policy on Iran as “firm,” but stressed that since “dialogue is crucial for the top priorities of both countries,” the GCC member states should “delineate their own policy on Iran away from the United States,” which “is obviously heading for a peaceful settlement with Tehran.”0 Retweet 39 Share 9 Google +1 1 StumbleUpon 1 Printer Friendly Send via email
Posted on 02/13/2013 by Juan Cole
President Obama announced Tuesday that he would pull some 34,000 US troops out of Afghanistan over the next year, about half of the force that is in the country now. US forces are going into a support role this spring, but one suspects they will be doing more than that till they leave, given the sad shape of the Afghanistan National Army.
This withdrawal is steeper than some observers had predicted or than the Pentagon was pushing for. The announcement marks the beginning of the end of the Afghanistan war and occupation, the longest such military enterprise in American history. By January 1, 2015 the United States could be largely at peace, with no major combat operations anywhere, for the first time since 2001. Skirmishes and drone strikes, however, threaten to continue. And the dark cloud of Washington’s Iran obsession remains on the horizon.
The first convoy of of US military materiel is taking 50 truckloads of stuff from US bases in Afghanistan to Pakistan, the beginning of a massive troop draw-down.
The Pentagon is still advocating that some US 8,000 troops be left in Afghanistan for three years after the end of 2014. But they may not get this wish of theirs for budgetary reasons.
If the Obama administration and congress cannot both agree on next year’s budget, sequestration will kick in, with steep cuts to the military. These cuts could hasten the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
The US disentanglement from that country will leave behind some major challenges.
2014 is also the year that long-serving Afghan president Hamid Karzai says he will step down. A major change of leadership makes subsequent developments harder to predict. The silver lining is that Karzai is erratic and a successor might have a steadier hand.
there are major security and human rights problems, though the US military can’t fix those even if it stayed, and sometimes has contributed to them. Half of Afghan prisoners say they had been tortured while in government custody.0 Retweet 21 Share 5 Google +1 3 StumbleUpon 1 Printer Friendly Send via email
Posted on 02/08/2013 by Juan Cole
The Drones Team at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism writes:
The Bureau is launching an ambitious new investigation, which will seek to identify as many as possible of those killed in US covert drone strikes in Pakistan, whether civilian or militant.
The Bureau is raising some of the money for this project through a crowd-funding appeal.
As part of our ongoing monitoring and reporting of CIA and Pentagon drone strikes, the Bureau has already recorded the names of hundreds of people killed in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
At the end of January 2013, the Bureau was able to identify by name 213 people killed by drones in Pakistan who were reported to be middle- or senior-ranking militants.
A further 331 civilians have also now been named, 87 of them children.
But this is a small proportion of the minimum 2,629 people who appear to have so far died in CIA drone strikes in Pakistan. The Bureau’s work suggests 475 of them were likely to have been civilians.
‘At the moment we know the names of fewer than 20% of those killed in Pakistan’s tribal areas. At least 2,000 deaths still remain publicly anonymous,’ said Chris Woods, who leads the Bureau’s covert drone war team.
‘Our aim will be to identify by name many hundreds more of those killed. A significant number of those identities will be known by local communities, by US and Pakistani officials, and by militant groups. We hope to convince them to share that information.’
The project has already secured substantial funding from a UK foundation – but it still needs more funds.
Today the US-based Freedom of the Press Foundation, a crowd-funding organisation aimed at raising money for public interest journalism, announced it is backing the Bureau’s Naming the Dead project. The Bureau’s new investigation will be one of four recipients of Freedom of the Press Foundation’s latest campaign.
Crowd-funding is an established way of supporting journalism in the US and it is increasingly being used in the UK as a way of funding projects, which established organisations ignore or will not fund.
Using the reach of the web, many people (the crowd) are able to give small amounts of money to back a cause or project in which they believe.
‘In the face of official secrecy, having the full facts about who is killed is essential for an informed debate about the effectiveness and ethics of the drone campaign,’ said Christopher Hird, managing editor of the Bureau. ‘And it is exciting to be able to give all of our supporters worldwide the chance to be part of our first venture in this democratic form of funding.’
To make a donation to the project click here.
Government officials, media organisations and even militant groups are often quick to identify senior militants such as Yahya al-Libi and Ilyas Kashmiri when they are killed.
Yet little is said of the hundreds more alleged militants and civilians among at least 2,629 deaths in Pakistan drone strikes.
Both the US and Pakistani governments are likely to keep detailed records. A recent case at the Peshawar High Court heard that officials in the tribal agencies had prepared a confidential report which ‘included details of each and every drone attack and the number, names and ages of the people killed’.
Anonymous US intelligence officials have also revealed details of CIA video surveillance on particular strikes. And the ‘Terror Tuesday’ process – in which hundreds of named alleged militants have been selected by US agencies for targeted killing – has been widely reported.
Photographs and other documents also occasionally surface. When a civilian family was killed in the first drone strike of Barack Obama’s presidency, local officials issued formal paperwork (see right) that was later obtained by the campaign group Center for Civilians in Conflict.
ID cards, family photographs and eyewitness testimony of attacks can all provide useful corroborating evidence. The graves of militants killed in drone strikes can also name them as ‘martyrs’ and give details of the strikes in which they died.
Drawing on information from a wide array of sources, the Bureau’s team will seek to build a detailed understanding of those killed.
Focus on Pakistan
While the Bureau will seek to extend the project to Yemen and Somalia in the near future, the initial focus will be on the nation where most US covert drone strikes have taken place.
Researchers based in Pakistan and the UK will seek to build up biographical information for all of those killed, whether civilian or militant – their name, age, gender, tribe, and village, for example. Where possible, photographs, witness statements and official documentation will also be published.
The team will seek assistance from the Pakistan and US governments in identifying those killed. And researchers will also call on Taliban factions and other militant groups to release information on the many hundreds of fighters killed in more than 360 US drone strikes since 2004.0 Retweet 57 Share 46 Google +1 6 StumbleUpon 1 Printer Friendly Send via email
Posted on 01/28/2013 by Juan Cole
Ann Jones writes at Tomdispatch.com:
Kabul, Afghanistan — Compromise, conflict, or collapse: ask an Afghan what to expect in 2014 and you’re likely to get a scenario that falls under one of those three headings. 2014, of course, is the year of the double whammy in Afghanistan: the next presidential election coupled with the departure of most American and other foreign forces. Many Afghans fear a turn for the worse, while others are no less afraid that everything will stay the same. Some even think things will get better when the occupying forces leave. Most predict a more conservative climate, but everyone is quick to say that it’s anybody’s guess.
Only one thing is certain in 2014: it will be a year of American military defeat. For more than a decade, U.S. forces have fought many types of wars in Afghanistan, from a low-footprint invasion, to multiple surges, to a flirtation with Vietnam-style counterinsurgency, to a ramped-up, gloves-off air war. And yet, despite all the experiments in styles of war-making, the American military and its coalition partners have ended up in the same place: stalemate, which in a battle with guerrillas means defeat. For years, a modest-sized, generally unpopular, ragtag set of insurgents has fought the planet’s most heavily armed, technologically advanced military to a standstill, leaving the country shaken and its citizens anxiously imagining the outcome of unpalatable scenarios.
The first, compromise, suggests the possibility of reaching some sort of almost inconceivable power-sharing agreement with multiple insurgent militias. While Washington presses for negotiations with its designated enemy, “the Taliban,” representatives of President Hamid Karzai’s High Peace Council, which includes 12 members of the former Taliban government and many sympathizers, are making the rounds to talk disarmament and reconciliation with all the armed insurgent groups that the Afghan intelligence service has identified across the country. There are 1,500 of them.
One member of the Council told me, “It will take a long time before we get to Mullah Omar [the Taliban’s titular leader]. Some of these militias can’t even remember what they’ve been fighting about.”
The second scenario, open conflict, would mean another dreaded round of civil war like the one in the 1990s, after the Soviet Union withdrew in defeat — the one that destroyed the Afghan capital, Kabul, devastated parts of the country, and gave rise to the Taliban.
The third scenario, collapse, sounds so apocalyptic that it’s seldom brought up by Afghans, but it’s implied in the exodus already underway of those citizens who can afford to leave the country. The departures aren’t dramatic. There are no helicopters lifting off the roof of the U.S. Embassy with desperate Afghans clamoring to get on board; just a record number of asylum applications in 2011, a year in which, according to official figures, almost 36,000 Afghans were openly looking for a safe place to land, preferably in Europe. That figure is likely to be at least matched, if not exceeded, when the U.N. releases the complete data for 2012.
In January, I went to Kabul to learn what old friends and current officials are thinking about the critical months ahead. At the same time, Afghan President Karzai flew to Washington to confer with President Obama. Their talks seem to have differed radically from the conversations I had with ordinary Afghans. In Kabul, where strange rumors fly, an official reassured me that the future looked bright for the country because Karzai was expected to return from Washington with the promise of American radar systems, presumably for the Afghan Air Force, which is not yet “operational.” (He actually returned with the promise of helicopters, cargo planes, fighter jets, and drones.) Who knew that the fate of the nation and its suffering citizens hinged on that? In my conversations with ordinary Afghans, one thing that never came up was radar.
Another term that never seems to enter ordinary Afghan conversation, much as it obsesses Americans, is “al-Qaeda.” President Obama, for instance, announced at a joint press conference with President Karzai: “Our core objective — the reason we went to war in the first place — is now within reach: ensuring that al-Qaeda can never again use Afghanistan to launch attacks against America.” An Afghan journalist asked me, “Why does he worry so much about al-Qaeda in Afghanistan? Doesn’t he know they are everywhere else?”
At the same Washington press conference, Obama said, “The nation we need to rebuild is our own.” Afghans long ago gave up waiting for the U.S. to make good on its promises to rebuild theirs. What’s now striking, however, is the vast gulf between the pronouncements of American officialdom and the hopes of ordinary Afghans. It’s a gap so wide you would hardly think — as Afghans once did — that we are fighting for them.
To take just one example: the official American view of events in Afghanistan is wonderfully black and white. The president, for instance, speaks of the way U.S. forces heroically “pushed the Taliban out of their strongholds.” Like other top U.S. officials over the years, he forgets whom we pushed into the Afghan government, our “stronghold” in the years after the 2001 invasion: ex-Taliban and Taliban-like fundamentalists, the most brutal civil warriors, and serial human rights violators.
Afghans, however, haven’t forgotten just whom the U.S. put in place to govern them — exactly the men they feared and hated most in exactly the place where few Afghans wanted them to be. Early on, between 2002 and 2004, 90% of Afghans surveyed nationwide told the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission that such men should not be allowed to hold public office; 76% wanted them tried as war criminals.
In my recent conversations, many Afghans still cited the first loya jirga, an assembly convened in 2003 to ratify the newly drafted constitution, or the first presidential election in 2004, or the parliamentary election of 2005, all held under international auspices, as the moments when the aspirations of Afghans and the “international community” parted company. In that first parliament, as in the earlier gatherings, most of the men were affiliated with armed militias; every other member was a former jihadi, and nearly half were affiliated with fundamentalist Islamist parties, including the Taliban.
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Posted on 01/16/2013 by Juan Cole
Posted on 01/15/2013 by Juan Cole
An important problem with the narrative line of “Zero Dark Thirty,” Kathryn Bigelow’s film about the Central Intelligence Agency’s quest for Usama Bin Laden, is not just that it comes across as pro-torture but that it ignores the elephant in the room: Bad intelligence elicited by torture almost derailed that quest to put down al-Qaeda by diverting most resources to Iraq.
“Zero Dark Thirty” stands in a long line of Hollywood-Washington collaborations that essentially do the work of propaganda. The lineage includes Michael Curtiz’s 1942 “Casablanca” with Humphrey Bogart, which was produced under the Office of War Information’s guidelines; the director assigned it the government-prescribed theme of “III B (United Nations — Conquered Nations) Drama,” as Tanfer Emin Tunc argues.
The film is misleading precisely because it does what the Bush administration did not do. It stays with Afghanistan, Pakistan and al-Qaeda. At one point a CIA official complains that there are no other working groups concentrating on al-Qaeda, that it is just the handful of field officers around the table. But he does not say that the Bush administration ran off to Iraq and closed down the Bin Laden desk at the CIA. Nor do any of the characters admit that bad intelligence, including that gathered by torture, helped send the United States off on the Great Iraq Wild Goose Chase.
I care about this issue in part for reasons of my own biography. As a Baby Boomer who was against the Vietnam War, I had never had much to do with the US government until the September 11 attacks. Had I not been on the doorstep of 50 when they took place, I might well have enlisted. I felt 9/11 profoundly, to my very soul, and was depressed about it for years. I wanted to do what I could to understand al-Qaeda and help destroy it. When RAND and other providers of speakers in Washington asked me to come out and talk to analysts from various government agencies, I was pleased to do it. At the time, Arabists and Islam experts in the US were not so numerous, and pernicious self-proclaimed experts had proliferated. There was a lot of Islamophobia around, and most Americans who did not know the Middle East first hand did not realize that al-Qaeda was a tiny fringe, not representative of Islam.
I don’t know if all those talks I gave in DC to inter-agency audiences were ever useful in fighting al-Qaeda, but I certainly hope so, and I was proud to do my bit in presenting an informed and analytical approach to fighting the phenomenon. I was trying to model for them social analysis as academics understand it. I was also honored to address people who were doing their best to confront a major security challenge.
But because I saw the Iraq War as a distraction from the fight against al-Qaeda, and was vocal about critiquing its prosecution, the Bush White House decided that it did not want me consulting in DC and tried to have me blackballed. The Bushies were fine with a phalanx of quacks and phony experts descending on the capital to charge millions for their crazed schemes. But having someone come to town who knew whereof he spoke was intolerable. In the end, the White House asked the Director of National Intelligence and the CIA to find dirt on me and try to destroy my reputation.
Bush and Cheney exploited al-Qaeda and the threat of terrorism to erode civil liberties at home and to reshape Iraq and its oil riches abroad. But they weren’t that interested in actually finding Bin Laden or rolling up al-Qaeda. Someone like myself, who could see that Iraq was a massive train wreck and that it actually prolonged al-Qaeda’s significance, was most inconvenient in 2005 and 2006.
So, I mind the the narrative of “Zero Dark Thirty” for personal reasons. It leaves out a key obstacle to the quest it recounts. Some of what is wrong with the film may derive from its beginnings, as a story about how the quest for Bin Laden failed. That premise had to be changed after May 2, 2011, of course. But a film that began with an exploration of failure should have highlighted the Iraq distraction and the bad intel from torture all the more.
I made this point when al-Qaeda operative Ibn Shaykh al-Libi died in a Qaddafi prison in 2009:
The best refutation of Dick Cheney’s insistence that torture was necessary and useful in dealing with threats from al-Qaeda just died in a Libyan prison. See also Andy Worthington.
Al-Qaeda operative Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi was captured trying to escape from Afghanistan in late 2001. He was sent to Egypt to be tortured, and under duress alleged that Saddam Hussein was training al-Qaeda agents in chemical weapons techniques. It was a total crock, and alleged solely to escape further pain. Al-Libi disavowed the allegation when he was returned to CIA custody. But Cheney and Condi Rice ran with the single-source, torture-induced assertion and it was inserted by Scooter Libby in Colin Powell’s infamous speech to the United Nations.
If torture can mislead you into launching a war that results in hundreds of thousands of deaths, then it should be avoided, quite apart from the fact that it is illegal and that the United States is signatory to binding treaties specifying its illegality. (It is coming out that Bush-Cheney’s own CIA Inspector-General expressed the view that the Bush-era torture was medically unsound, did not produce the desired results, and contravened the UN Convention against torture.
Here is what Condi Rice told the Lehrer News Hour in 2002, based on the torture-induced statements of the late al-Libi:
‘ “We clearly know that there were in the past and have been contacts between senior Iraqi officials and members of Al Qaeda going back for actually quite a long time,” Rice said. “We know too that several of the [Al Qaeda] detainees, in particular some high-ranking detainees, have said that Iraq provided some training to Al Qaeda in chemical weapons development.” ‘
In my book, Napoleon’s Egypt: Invading the Middle East, I note that Gen. Bonaparte forbade the use of torture by French military interrogators in Cairo, on the grounds that it produced too much misinformation. Napoleon was not exactly squeamish. And even he would have been ashamed of the crew we had in Washington before last January.
End/ (Not Continued)
Critics such as Glenn Greenwald argued that the film assumes that torture yielded key intelligence, especially the identity of Bin Laden’s courier, Abu Ahmad al-Kuwaiti. Most intelligence officials say that the al-Kuwaiti lead did not come from waterboarding or other torture techniques,
In the end, I’m not entirely sure that the film shows torture succeeding for the CIA. In fact, al-Kuwaiti’s identity is confirmed by other techniques in the film. In one instance a man (“Ammar”) who was tortured to no effect is tricked into believing that he had already given up operational information. This kind of technique is called in intelligence work ‘false flag tradecraft,’ i.e. fooling an informant by feeding him or her a set of false premises. In part, this success comes from a rapport the man made with “Maya,” the relentless woman field officer. Again, in real life interrogations, such rapport and such false flag techniques are always more successful than torture.
In another scene, a Pakistani man who is interrogated begins by saying that he had been tortured in the past by the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence, and is willing to cooperate to avoid further mistreatment at American hands. I suppose that exchange serves as a suggestion that torture works in the long run, but what he gives the Americans is this case freely given.
The screenplay does, nevertheless, have a fascination with torture, and implies at several points its utility, as Karen Greenberg showed in these pages last week. Thus, when al-Kuwaiti’s true identity is established, a field officer complains that it can no longer be double-checked with detainees because President Obama had closed down the torture program. This odd complaint assumes that detainees who had protected his identity despite years of abuse and brutalization would have fingered al-Kuwaiti if only waterboarded a few times more.
That torture was ineffective in tracing Bin Laden was confirmed by Senator John McCain.
McCain wrote in 2011,
“I asked CIA Director Leon Panetta for the facts, and he told me the following: The trail to bin Laden did not begin with a disclosure from Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times. The first mention of Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti — the nickname of the al-Qaeda courier who ultimately led us to bin Laden — as well as a description of him as an important member of al-Qaeda, came from a detainee held in another country, who we believe was not tortured. None of the three detainees who were waterboarded provided Abu Ahmed’s real name, his whereabouts or an accurate description of his role in al-Qaeda. In fact, the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” on Khalid Sheik Mohammed produced false and misleading information. He specifically told his interrogators that Abu Ahmed had moved to Peshawar, got married and ceased his role as an al-Qaeda facilitator — none of which was true. According to the staff of the Senate intelligence committee, the best intelligence gained from a CIA detainee — information describing Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti’s real role in al-Qaeda and his true relationship to bin Laden — was obtained through standard, noncoercive means.”
McCain was tortured while a POW in Vietnam and is among the few prominent American politicians to stand forthrightly against what George W. Bush and Dick Cheney did in committing the US to war crimes. He is a critic of the film, and I think his view of this matter should be taken extremely seriously.
I did not like “Zero Dark Thirty” as a film. I found it emotionally thin, grim and relentless. It failed to establish an emotional connection to any of the characters, or to flesh them out as characters. The violence is deployed for the purposes of surprise rather than suspense, so that its dramatic effect is limited. It is episodic (we know that the Islamabad Marriott was blown up; shouldn’t the film present a theory as to why?) Any suspense is further blunted by our lack of connection to the protagonist. Whereas in “Argo,” my heart was in my mouth when the embassy employees were in danger, I just couldn’t summon that kind of interest in Jessica Chastain’s “Maya.” The characters remain undeveloped because this film is plot driven, but also because it is primarily didactic, intended to send a message. Unfortunately, instead of glorifying the genuine heroes who have mostly rolled up al-Qaeda (an evil organization that wants to kill your children), it covers many of them with the shame of war crimes.7 Retweet 159 Share 208 Google +1 13 StumbleUpon 1 Printer Friendly Send via email