How Obama’s Iran deal screwed up Homeland’s third season


How Obama’s Iran deal screwed up Homeland’s third season

 

Thanks a lot, Obama.Thanks a lot, Obama. (Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images, Kent Smith/SHOWTIME)

I am an avid Homeland fan, as is the POTUS.  I doubt that Homeland will be screwed behind the tentative Iran developments…

The Week

Saul Berenson’s grand scheme to assassinate an Iranian official as part of a CIA-orchestrated coup has been bettered by a simpler real-life option: Diplomacy

In a press conference less than 24 hours before Homeland aired the ninth episode of its uneven, Iran-focused third season, President Obama took the podium to offer a brief statement about a breakthrough deal on Iran’s nuclear program. The president described a diplomacy that had “opened up a new path toward a world that is more secure — a future in which we can verify that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful and that it cannot build a nuclear weapon. For the first time in nearly a decade, we have halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program, and key parts of the program will be rolled back.”

That announcement comes at a strange time for Homeland, which has built a big following by depicting a harrowing post-9/11 political landscape that feels eerily plausible. And the show’s third season has been all about Iran. Homeland‘s vision of the U.S.-Iran relationship shares at least one compelling similarity to real life: The Western world is obsessed with whatever nuclear enrichment might be afoot. But otherwise, the events of this past weekend showcased a sharp contrast between Homeland‘s fiction and the facts of real-life U.S. diplomacy.

The Iran of Homeland‘s third season has fueled nuclear paranoia, and acting CIA director Saul Berenson’s agency has done everything possible to infiltrate this foreign power. As Sunday night’s “One Last Time” revealed, Saul wants to send Nick Brody, a Marine turned terrorist turned fugitive, to kill a high-ranking Iranian intelligence official. This assassination will allow another Iranian official (who the CIA has implausibly blackmailed into working with them) to assume a top position. Saul calls Brody’s target — the head of Iran’s revolutionary guard — “the single greatest impediment to peace” without explaining why. His plan to end a vicious cycle of violence is deploying an assassin. That plotline, brewing all of Homeland’s third season, paints a Manichean picture of U.S.-Iran relations: An unending cycle of terrorist violence, hatred, and confusion.

How strange to have all that murky plotting offset, in the real world, by the first inklings of real dialogue, and an agreement cobbled together in Geneva to buy time and cooperation for something more permanent. In exchange for a reduction in sanctions, Iran will place limits on its much-feared nuclear program. Such news would be unthinkable in Homeland‘s world, and these real-life details mark a sharp contrast to the unsettled post-9/11 world that Homeland revels in.

The drama of Homeland is the drama of the bomber. The show can’t exist without that paranoia, not to mention that often ambiguous line between calm and violence, sanity and bipolar madness. Diplomacy is a distant dream in the world of Homeland. Enemy officials never call each other. Everything is built on backroom deals, blackmail, spying, trickery, and assassination. A deep moral guilt accompanies this battered landscape, as CIA agents like Peter Quinn question the stray causalities they leave behind. The lump-in-the-throat heartstopper of the early seasons revolved around Nick Brody’s rebellion against U.S. drone use and the innocent deaths drones cause.Homeland says the world is already damned, and everyone’s to blame for it.

But there’s a startling disconnect between news of Obama’s outreach, the tentative agreement, and the utter violence of the Iran of Homeland. Because what is Homeland’s Iran if not violent? The series has reached deep into this well of history (often true and troubling, of course), and its convenient thriller narrative in the show’s last several episodes. It assigned blame to Iran for a brutal bombing at Langley, killing more than 200 U.S. citizens. The show marketed this 12/12 attack as a second 9/11, the ghost of which always defines the dynamics at play in Homeland. The villainous Javadi isn’t just the mastermind of killings from afar, but the murderer of his own kin on American soil. Iran, as depicted on Homeland, is incapable of negotiation.

In a recent episode, Sen. Andrew Lockhart scoffs at the idea of blackmailing an Iranian official with knowledge of the official’s corruption. “Which in Iran just means it’s Tuesday,” the Senate Intelligence Committee chairman remarks, writing off the entire country as one of the U.S.’s “sworn enemies.”

“We fry Javadi’s ass publicly,” Lockhart demands, as he seeks to take down the Langley bombing mastermind who serves as an Iranian intelligence chief. This sort of trial strikes Saul as “short-sighted.” Saul would prefer having an asset within Iran, someone the U.S. can “control” to force regime change — the only acceptable option in his mind. (Note to Homeland: The U.S. did something kind of similar 60 years ago. Didn’t work out so well!) To Saul, if the U.S. seizes Javadi and tries him, Iran will inevitably replace Javadi with someone just like him. “And the attack that happened here happens again and again and again,” Saul tells the senator. All of this is fine for drama – but it also showcases the power of Iran in Western imagination, and the divergence between real Iran and TV Iran.

Really, that’s why it’s so bizarre to see this chilling, sinister vision of Iran contrasted with news of a deal crafted between Iran’s government and the U.S., Great Britain, China, Russia, France, and Germany. What would Saul say? Who did the CIA control within Iran to make this possible, Saul? Consider Saul’s explanation for killing an Iranian official and installing his blackmailed bomber in power:

Javadi won’t be just an intelligence source. He’ll be in control of the entire security apparatus. He can do something, something to break the logjam, something besides another war, something that’ll change the facts on the ground just enough, so two countries that haven’t been able to communicate for over 30 years except through terrorist actions and threats can sit down and talk. That’s the play, Carrie. Tell me it’s not worth your time.

Two countries that haven’t been able to communicate. What timing.

This is, of course, the popular conception of Iran, and a testament to how startling the weekend’s agreement really was. The deal blows past the action-movie fantasyland that CIA agents are about to plow into on Homeland. Don’t blame Showtime or Homeland‘s show runners for entrenching that vision of Iran, of course — the frames are certainly common enough. And for a show about U.S. intelligence officials, what better drama than conspiracies and assassinations? But for all the dense plotting of Homeland‘s third season, the real-life events of this weekend punctured Saul’s theories in a big way. It was a welcome dissonance.

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Six really stupid 9/11 conspiracies debunked in about six seconds


Six really stupid 9/11 conspiracies debunked in about six  seconds

by: ANTHONY SHARWOOD

Nah, that's just a missile. And Santa Claus is the pilot. (AP Photo/Carmen Taylor, File)

Nah, that’s just a missile. And  Santa Claus is the pilot. (AP Photo/Carmen Taylor, File)   Source: AP

PSYCHOLOGISTS will tell you that even perfectly sane people have the ability  to accept wild conspiracy theories. The more powerless or alone we feel, the  more likely we are to develop such theories.  

It’s all linked to self-esteem. If you’re the sort of person who feels  isolated or disenfranchised, you’re much more likely to develop wild theories as  a way of making you seem more knowledgeable, more powerful, more special.

That might help explain why many Americans are into conspiracies. The irony  of our technologically over-connected age is that there are scores of socially  disconnected people sitting in dark rooms extrapolating all sorts of crap from  factoids they find online. Here are six of the worst:

STUPID THEORY 1: The US government did it

SIMPLE REBUTTAL: People who say it was an inside job are split into  two camps. There are those who say the US government cooked up and enacted the  whole crazy plot, and those who say they let it happen without intervention. In  both cases, conspiracists generally claim that the aim was to give the Bush  government an excuse to wage war on the Islamic world.

So here’s your simple rebuttal. US governments have shown for decades that  they will intervene when and where it suits them. The last thing they need to do  to justify any foreign policy is kill 3000 of their own citizens.

STUPID THEORY 2: The twin towers did not collapse. They were  demolished.

SIMPLE REBUTTAL: 9/11 “truthers”, who would perhaps be more accurately  described as 9/11 “liars”, like to rope in an expert to tell you that no office  fire ever made a building topple. Well, that’d be because no office fire was  ever as big as these two, with as much jet fuel to help it along.

But the real reason the twin towers collapsed was structural. Most buildings  have their core structural supports at the centre. The towers had some major  central steel columns, but that elegant exterior steel shell was also crucial in  providing perimeter support. Also, the perimeter columns supported massive steel  trusses which supported each floor.

So basically, when the exterior of the building was penetrated so  devastatingly by the planes, the structure’s ability to hold itself up was  threatened. So when one floor went, the combined weight meant they all went.

highjacked airliners

Pretend the towers were a  conspiracy theory. Then pretend they were subjected to the force of logic.  Here’s your result. 11/09/2001. Source: AFP

STUPID THEORY 3: World Trade Center 7 did not collapse. It was  demolished.

SIMPLE REBUTTAL: Riiiight, so the world’s tallest tower collapses on  its neighbour less than 200m across the road. You’ve got 110 storeys of rubble  pummelling a 47-storey building, setting it on fire, covering it in untold extra  weight and inflicted untold stresses. And later that day, when the smaller  building collapses, it’s obvious the CIA did it with explosives. And Elvis left  the building right before it happened.

Oh, and if you want a secondary explanation of why the building really wasn’t  toppled by mysterious people with explosives, try googling any of the so-called  architects or engineers in the wacky YouTube vids. Almost none of them appear to  be either a) currently employed or b) affiliated with any group other than 9/11  conspiracy groups.

STUPID THEORY 4: FLIGHT 93 was shot down in Pennsylvania and the  people who were supposedly on it were murdered or relocated.

SIMPLE REBUTTAL: The small jet flying low in the area, which some  believe shot down Flight 93, was in fact a business jet which had been  instructed to fly low to inspect the wreckage. Also, the log of calls made from  Flight 93 is pretty compelling evidence that those were real people aboard a  hijacked jet. If these people are actors who are actually still alive somewhere,  the real mystery is why they haven’t made squillions in Hollywood. Because they  were seriously convincing.

Shanksville

And they’re fake trees and that’s  a fake wall and Gilligan is still stuck on Gilligan’s Island. Picture: Jeff  Swensen/Getty Images/AFP Source: AFP

STUPID THEORY 5: There was no “stand down” order, which proves the US  government dunnit.

SIMPLE REBUTTAL: A stand down order is an order from the North  American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) to scramble fighter jets. This didn’t  happen until too late on September 11, prompting conspiracists to say the  government deliberately held off to let the carnage unfold.

But NORAD didn’t actually track flights within America prior to 9/11. Also,  the hijackers turned off the transponders on their planes, which meant Air  Traffic Control couldn’t track them. And NORAD needed an alert from Air Traffic  Control to act. So basically, you had a system which ensured bureaucratic  bungles, but that’s a far cry from complicit officials.

STUPID THEORY 6: They weren’t planes, they were missiles.

SIMPLE REBUTTAL: Some of the worst nutters claim that the original  planes which struck the twin towers weren’t planes but missiles. This was  fuelled by an early eyewitness account broadcast on live TV from a journalist  who said he thought the first plane had no windows. But the journalist saw the  plane in a blink of his eye – a fact ignored by conspiracists who have seized on  this statement.

The obvious plane-sized holes in the buildings are a bit of a giveaway too.  But you know, maybe they were just caused by Batman or something.

CIA Kept Area 51 Secret Because Rumors Cooler Than Reality


CIA Kept Area 51 Secret Because Rumors Cooler Than Reality

Kelsey D. Atherton
[Australian Popular Science gives credence to what we’ve repeatedly inferred, that conspiracy theories are frequently employed as a style of propaganda. In this case, fabricated UFO and Alien conspiracies employed as a cover for real, but secret military experiments. As noted on this site previously, conspiracy theorists were the most prominent dupes and disseminators of crackpot, anti-American propaganda entirely fabricated by the Kremlin, for instance manufactured anti- American AIDS conspiracies as well anti-US, Kremlin invented JFK conspiracies.]
<strong>A Pair Of U-2 Spyplanes</strong> One the left is an original U-2, with an 80 feet wingspan, and on the right is a U-2R with a wingspan of 103 feet.
A Pair Of U-2 Spyplanes One the left is an original U-2, with an 80 feet wingspan, and on the right is a U-2R with a wingspan of 103 feet.
IMAGE BY Wikimedia Commons

Yesterday the CIA declassified a 400-page document about Area 51, the secret facility in the Nevada desert that has fascinated armchair historians and tormented conspiracy theorists for decades.

The site, about 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas, has been associated with a number of legends and rumors: about strange aircraft, experimental weapons, weather control, and especially aliens. So many alien conspiracy theories.

Area 51, it turns out, was just test site that housed spy planes, most notably the U-2. Introduced in 1957, the U-2 could travel as far as 7,000 miles, at an altitude of 70,000 feet, and stay airborne for up to 12 hours. U-2s are still in service with the U.S. Air Force today, and the old film cameras have been replaced U-2s used to carry have been replaced by digital cameras. In fact, some public land has weird, barcode-like patterns on it, built for U-2 camera tests.

Why is the CIA involved? Before spy satellites, U-2s flew over the Soviet Union to collect information about the USSR’s nuclear program. This was intelligence by airplane, conducted secretly and with huge consequences on the international stage. In 1960, a U-2 was shot down by Russia, spoiling a diplomatic meeting and escalating Cold War tensions. Later, in 1962, a U-2 took photos of what looked like preparations for nuclear weapons in Cuba, sparking the Cuban Missile Crisis. This is all old history by now, but when the CIA first classified the U-2 program and chose to keep Area 51 a secret, it was state-of-the-art technology, and an incredibly important test site for collecting secrets.

The declassification of the CIA’s documents won’t deter any conspiracy theorists; the kind of person who thinks the government creates weather machines for mind control will have no qualms believing the government also falsifies documents to cover up evidence of the same.

Oscar Prints the Legend of Argo


Oscar Prints the Legend: Argo’s Upcoming Academy Award and the Failure of Truth

  One year ago, after his breathtakingly beautiful Iranian drama, “A Separation,” won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, writer/director Asghar Farhadi delivered the best acceptance speech of the night.

“[A]t the time when talk of war, intimidation, and aggression is exchanged between politicians,” he said, Iran was finally being honored for “her glorious culture, a rich and ancient culture that has been hidden under the heavy dust of politics.” Farhadi dedicated the Oscar “to the people of my country, a people who respect all cultures and civilizations and despise hostility and resentment.”

Such grace and eloquence will surely not be on display this Sunday, when Ben Affleck, flanked by his co-producers George Clooney and Grant Heslov, takes home the evening’s top prize, the Best Picture Oscar, for his critically-acclaimed and heavily decorated paean to the CIA and American innocence, “Argo.”
Over the past 12 months, rarely a week – let alone month – went by without new predictions of an ever-imminent Iranian nuclear weapon and ever-looming threats of an American or Israeli military attack. Come October 2012, into the fray marched “Argo,” a decontextualized, ahistorical “true story” of Orientalist proportion, subjecting audiences to two hours of American victimization and bearded barbarians, culminating in popped champagne corks and rippling stars-and-stripes celebrating our heroism and triumph and their frustration and defeat.  Salon‘s Andrew O’Hehir aptly described the film as “a propaganda fable,” explaining as others have that essentially none of its edge-of-your-seat thrills or most memorable moments ever happened.  O’Hehir sums up:

The Americans never resisted the idea of playing a film crew, which is the source of much agitation in the movie. (In fact, the “house guests” chose that cover story themselves, from a group of three options the CIA had prepared.) They were not almost lynched by a mob of crazy Iranians in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar, because they never went there. There was no last-minute cancellation, and then un-cancellation, of the group’s tickets by the Carter administration. (The wife of Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor had personally gone to the airport and purchased tickets ahead of time, for three different outbound flights.) The group underwent no interrogation at the airport about their imaginary movie, nor were they detained at the gate while a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard telephoned their phony office back in Burbank. There was no last-second chase on the runway of Mehrabad Airport, with wild-eyed, bearded militants with Kalashnikovs trying to shoot out the tires of a Swissair jet.

One of the actual diplomats, Mark Lijek, noted that the CIA’s fake movie “cover story was never tested and in some ways proved irrelevant to the escape.” The departure of the six Americans from Tehran was actually mundane and uneventful.  “If asked, we were going to say we were leaving Iran to return when it was safer,” Lijek recalled, “But no one ever asked!…The truth is the immigration officers barely looked at us and we were processed out in the regular way. We got on the flight to Zurich and then we were taken to the US ambassador’s residence in Berne. It was that straightforward.”

Furthermore, Jimmy Carter has even acknowledged  that “90% of the contributions to the ideas and the consummation of the  plan was Canadian [while] the movie gives almost full credit to the  American CIA…Ben Affleck’s character in the film was only in Tehran a  day and a half and the real hero in my opinion was Ken Taylor, who was  the Canadian ambassador who orchestrated the entire process.”

Taylor himself recently remarked that “Argo” provides a myopic representation of both Iranians and their revolution, ignoring their “more hospitable side and an intent that they were looking for some degree of justice and hope and that it all wasn’t just a violent demonstration for nothing.”
“The amusing side, Taylor said, “is the script writer in Hollywood had no idea what he’s talking about.”

O’Hehir perfectly articulates the film’s true crime, its deliberate exploitation of “its basis in history and its mode of detailed realism to create something that is entirely mythological.” Not only is it “a trite cavalcade of action-movie clichés and expository dialogue,” but “[i]t’s also a propaganda movie in the truest sense, one that claims to be innocent of all ideology.”

Such an assessment is confirmed by Ben Affleck’s own comments about the film.  In describing “Argo” to Bill O’Reilly, Affleck boasted, “You know, it was such a great story. For one thing, it’s a thriller. It’s actually comedy with the Hollywood satire. It’s a complicated CIA movie, it’s a political movie. And it’s all true.”  He told Rolling Stone that, when conceiving his directorial approach, he knew he “absolutely had to preserve the central integrity and truth of the story.”

“It’s OK to embellish, it’s OK to compress, as long as you don’t  fundamentally change the nature of the story and of what happened,” Affleck has remarked, even going so far as to tell reporters at Argo’s BFI London Film Festival premier, “This movie is about this story that took place, and it’s true, and I go to pains to contextualize it and to try to be even-handed in a way that just means we’re taking a cold, hard look at the facts.”

In an interview with The Huffington Post, Affleck went so far as to say, “I tried to make a movie that is absolutely just factual. And that’s another reason why I tried to be as true to the story as possible — because I didn’t want it to be used by either side. I didn’t want it to be politicized internationally or domestically in a partisan way. I just wanted to tell a story that was about the facts as I understood them.”
For Affleck, these facts apparently don’t include understanding why the American Embassy in Tehran was overrun and occupied on November 4, 1979.  “There was no rhyme or reason to this action,” Affleck has insisted, claiming that the takeover “wasn’t about us,” that is, the American government (despite the fact that his own film is introduced by a fleeting – though frequently inaccurate1 – review of American complicity in the Shah’s dictatorship).

Wrong, Ben.  One reason was the fear of another CIA-engineered coup d’etat like the one perpetrated in 1953 from the very same Embassy. Another reason was the admission of the deposed Shah into the United States for medical treatment and asylum rather than extradition to Iran to face charge and trial for his quarter century of crimes against the Iranian people, bankrolled and supported by the U.S. government.  One doesn’t have to agree with the reasons, of course, but they certainly existed.

Just as George H.W. Bush once bellowed after a U.S. Navy warship blew an Iranian passenger airliner out of the sky over the Persian Gulf, killing 290 Iranian civilians, “I’ll never apologize for the United States of America. Ever. I don’t care what the facts are.”  Affleck appears inclined to agree.

If nothing else, “Argo” is an exercise in American exceptionalism – perhaps the most dangerous fiction that permeates our entire society and sense of identity.  It reinvents history in order to mine a tale of triumph from an unmitigated defeat.  The hostage crisis, which lasted 444 days and destroyed an American presidency, was a failure and an embarrassment for Americans.  The United States government and media has spent the last three decades tirelessly exacting revenge on Iran for what happened.

“Argo” recasts revolutionary Iranians as the hapless victims of American cunning and deception.  White Americans are hunted, harried and, ultimately courageous and free.  Iranians are maniacal, menacing and, in the end, infantile and foolish.  The fanatical fundamentalists fail while America wins. USA -1, Iran – 0.  Yet, “Argo” obscures the unfortunate truth that, as those six diplomats were boarding a plane bound for Switzerland on January 28, 1980, their 52 compatriots would have to wait an entire year before making it home, not as the result of a daring rescue attempt, but after a diplomatic agreement was reached.
Reflecting on the most troubled episodes in American history is a time-honored cinematic tradition. There’s a reason why the best Vietnam movies are full of pain, anger, anguish and war crimes.  By contrast,

“Argo” is American catharsis porn; pure Hollywood hubris.  It is pro-American propaganda devoid of introspection, pathos or humility and meant to assuage our hurt feelings.  In “Argo,” no lessons are learned by revisiting the consequences of America’s support for the Pahlavi monarchy or its creation and training of SAVAK, the Shah’s vicious secret police.

On June 11, 1979, months before the hostage crisis began, the New York Times published an article by writer and historian A.J. Langguth which recounted revelations relayed by a former American intelligence official regarding the CIA’s close relationship with SAVAK.  The agency had “sent an operative to teach  interrogation methods to SAVAK” including “instructions in torture, and the techniques were  copied from the Nazis.”  Langguth wrestled with the news, trying to figure out why this had not been widely reported in the media.  He came to the following conclusion:

We – and I  mean we as Americans – don’t believe it. We can read the accusations,  even examine the evidence and find it irrefutable. But, in our hearts,  we cannot believe that Americans have gone abroad to spread the use of  torture.
We can believe that public officials with  reputations for brilliance can be arrogant, blind or stupid. Anything  but evil. And when the cumulative proof becomes overwhelming that our  representatives in the C.I.A. or the Agency for International  Development police program did in fact teach torture, we excuse  ourselves by vilifying the individual men.

Similarly, at a time when the CIA is waging an illegal, immoral, unregulated and always expanding drone execution program, the previous administration’s CIA kidnappers and torturers are protected from prosecution by the current administration, and leaked State Department cables reveal orders for U.S. diplomats to spy on United Nations officials, it is surreal that such homage is being paid to that very same organization by the so-called liberals of the Tinsel Town elite.

Upon winning his Best Director Golden Globe last month, Ben Affleck obsequiously praised the “clandestine service as well as the foreign service that is making sacrifices on behalf of the American people everyday [and] our troops serving over seas, I want to thank them very much,” a statement echoed almost identically by co-producer Grant Heslov when “Argo” later won Best Drama.

This comes as no surprise, considering Affleck had previously described “Argo” as “a tribute” to the “extraordinary, honorable people at the CIA” during an interview on Fox News.
The relationship between Hollywood and the military and intelligence arms of the U.S. government have long been cozy.  “When the CIA or the Pentagon says, ‘We’ll help you, if you play ball  with us,’ that’s favoring one form of speech over another. It becomes  propaganda,” David Robb, author of “Operation Hollywood: How the Pentagon Shapes and Censors the Movies” told The Los Angeles Times. “The danger for filmmakers is that their product —  entertainment and information — ends up being government spin.”

Awarding “Argo” the Best Picture Oscar is like Barack Obama winning a Nobel Peace Prize: an undeserved accolade fawningly bestowed upon a dubious recipient based on a transparent fiction; an award for what never was and never would be and a decision so willfully naïve and grotesque it discredits whatever relevance and prestige the proceedings might still have had.*
So this Sunday night, when “Argo” has won that coveted golden statuette, it will be clear that we have yet again been blinded by the heavy dust of politics and our American mantra of hostility and resentment will continue to inform our decisions, dragging us closer and closer to the abyss.
***** ***** *****
* Yes, in this analogy, the equivalent of Henry Kissinger is obviously 2004’s dismal “Crash.”
*****
1 The introduction of “Argo” is a dazzingly sloppy few minutes of caricatured history of Iran, full of Orientalist images of violent ancient Persians (harems and all), which gets many basic facts wrong.  In fact, it is shocking this intro made it to release as written and recorded.

Here are some of the problems:
1. The voiceover narration says, “In 1950, the people of Iran elected Mohammad Mossadegh, the secular democrat, Prime Minister.  He nationalized British and U.S. petroleum holdings, returning Iran’s oil to its people.”

Mossadegh was elected to the Majlis (Iranian Parliament) in 1944. He did not become Prime Minister until April 1951 and was not “elected by the people of Iran.” Rather, he was appointed to the position by the representatives of the Majlis.

Also, the United States did not have petroleum interests in Iran at the time.

2. After briefly describing the 1953 coup, the narrator says Britain and the United States “installed Reza Pahlavi as Shah.”

Wow. First, the Shah’s name was not Reza Pahlavi. That is his father’s (and son’s) name. Furthermore, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was not installed as Shah since had already been Shah of Iran since September 1941, after Britain and the Soviet Union invaded and occupied Iran and forced the abdication of his father, Reza Shah Pahlavi.
During the coup in 1953, the Shah fled to Baghdad, then Rome. After Mossadegh had been forced out, the Shah returned to the Peacock Throne.

This is not difficult information to come by, and yet the screenwriter and director of “Argo” didn’t bother looking it up. And guess what? Ben Affleck actually majored in Middle East Studies in college. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t graduate.

The rest of the brief intro, while mentioning the torture of SAVAK, glosses over the causes of the revolution, but lingers on the violence that followed.  As it ends, the words “Based on a True Story” appear on the screen. The first live action moment we see in “Argo” is of an American flag being burned.

So much for Affleck’s insistence that “Argo” is “not a political movie.”

Still, as Kevin B. Lee wrote in Slate last month, “This opening may very well be the reason why critics have given the film credit for being insightful and progressive—because nothing that follows comes close, and the rest of the movie actually undoes what this opening achieves.”

He continues,

Instead of keeping its eye on the big picture of revolutionary Iran, the film settles into a retrograde “white Americans in peril” storyline. It recasts those oppressed Iranians as a raging, zombie-like horde, the same dark-faced demons from countless other movies— still a surefire dramatic device for instilling fear in an American audience. After the opening makes a big fuss about how Iranians were victimized for decades, the film marginalizes them from their own story, shunting them into the role of villains. Yet this irony is overshadowed by a larger one: The heroes of the film, the CIA, helped create this mess in the first place. And their triumph is executed through one more ruse at the expense of the ever-dupable Iranians to cap off three decades of deception and manipulation.

And brilliantly concludes,

Looking at the runaway success of this film, it seems as if critics and audiences alike lack the historical knowledge to recognize a self-serving perversion of an unflattering past, or the cultural acumen to see the utterly ersatz nature of the enterprise: A cast of stock characters and situations, and a series of increasingly contrived narrow escapes from third world mobs who, predictably, are never quite smart enough to catch up with the Americans. We can delight all we like in this cinematic recycling act, but the fact remains that we are no longer living in a world where we can get away with films like this—not if we want to be in a position to deal with a world that is rising to meet us. The movies we endorse need to rise to the occasion of reflecting a new global reality, using a newer set of storytelling tools than this reheated excuse for a historical geopolitical thriller.

*****
UPDATE: February 25, 2013 – On the heels of Oscar Night’s unsurprising coda (made all the more bizarre by the inclusion of Michelle Obama, surrounded by awkward-looking military personnel, presenting the Best Picture to “Argo” from the White House, providing a deeply disturbing governmental imprimatur to the entire proceedings), The Los Angeles Times published a report Monday morning about how “Argo” is being perceived in Iran by Iranians themselves.
The conclusion is clear from the headline: ‘Argo’s’ Oscar gets a thumbs-down in Iran. Journalists Ramin Mostaghim and Patrick J. McDonnell quote several Iranians who have seen the movie, bootlegs of which are widely available, all of whom clearly have a better grasp on, not only the politics, but also the art (or lack thereof) of cinema itself.  “The perception that the film portrayed Iranians uniformly as bearded, violent fanatics rankled many who recall that Iran’s 1979 revolution had both secular and religious roots — and ousted a dictatorial monarch, the shah of Iran, reviled as a corrupt and brutal puppet of Washington,” Mostaghim and McDonnel explain.  Here’s what we hear from Iranians themselves:

“I am secular, atheist and not pro-regime but I think the film ‘Argo’ has distorted history and insulted Iranians,” said Hossain, a cafe owner worried about business because of customers’ lack of cash in a sanctions-battered economy. “For me, it wasn’t even a good thriller.”

“I did not enjoy seeing my fellow countrymen and women insulted,” said Farzaneh Haji, an educated homemaker and fan of romantic movies who was 18 at the time of the revolution. “The men then were not all bearded and fanatical. To be anti-American was a fashionable idea among young people across the board. Even non-bearded and U.S.-educated men and women were against American imperialism.”

“As an action film or thriller, the film was good, but it was not believable, especially the way the six Americans escaped from the airport,” said Farshid Farivar, 49, a Hollywood devotee, as he stretched his legs in an office where he does promotional work. “At any rate, it was an average film and did not deserve an Oscar.”

The piece ends with the reporters speaking with Abbas Abdi, one of the revolutionary students who planned the seizure of the American Embassy in 1979 and who spent some time in prison a decade ago for criticisms of the Iranian government:

In a brief telephone interview on Monday, Abdi said the Oscars had plummeted to the feeble level of Iran’s own Fajr Film Festival, not exactly one of the luminaries on the international movie awards circuit.
“The Oscars are now vulgar and have standards as low as our own film festival,” he said. “The Oscars deserve ‘Argo’ and ‘Argo’ deserves the Oscars.”

USA Today also has an Oscar follow-up entitled, “Tourists see a different Iran reality than ‘Argo’ image,” which details the warmth, generosity and hospitality of Iranians experienced by travelers when visiting Iran.

Unfortunate Sons: CIA and DoD Betrayal of Their Own


Unfortunate sons: CIA and DoD betrayal of their own
Central Intelligence Agency Director David Petraeus at the New York Stock Exchange, where the CIA commemorated its 65th anniversary in September.
Central Intelligence Agency Director David Petraeus at the New York Stock Exchange, where the CIA commemorated its 65th anniversary in September.
Credits: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Projects included involuntary human research subjects, failure to obtain informed consent and conducting surveillance. Symptoms experienced by research subjects included perceptions animals came through walls, amnesia and post traumatic stress disorder. While UFO buffs and self-described investigators might be quick to tell a person describing such an ordeal that they were likely abducted by aliens, it was actually the Central Intelligence Agency, Department of Defense and associates that designed, conducted and concealed such research projects.

Covert operations consisting of abusing and monitoring involuntary human research subjects escalated to what could be described as unconscionable proportion during the mid 20th century. Victims included but were not limited to U.S. citizens and members of the armed forces. Such circumstances led select UFO researchers to strongly suspect the intelligence community was much more responsible for what came to be known as the modern UFO phenomenon and alien abduction than some would prefer we consider.

This writer’s plunge into the implications resulted in assessing that further research is indeed justified. My work with Leah Haley, a former self-described alien abductee who now believes herself to be a victim of covert research projects, revealed a number of relevant yet unanswered questions. The same could be said for circumstances surrounding such cases as the extremely intriguing Gulf Breeze Six and my interactions with certain additional members of the UFO community.

Similarly, my work related to members of the intelligence community who jockeyed to become staples of UFO conventions revealed numerous potentially important yet often unaddressed issues. Such individuals and their circumstances included the incredible claims and career path of Commander C.B. Scott Jones. I also considered the manner Military Intelligence Hall of Fame member Major General Albert N. Stubblebine III publicly claimed knowledge of covert mind control operations continuing after Congress ordered them ceased, yet the general failed to respond to multiple requests for clarification. I additionally had the opportunity to observe a man who is chronically interviewed yet rarely asked relevant questions, Colonel John B. Alexander, refuse to participate in a previously agreed upon interview with this writer. I continue to welcome their statements should the general or colonel ever decide to address issues I presented for their consideration in such posts on ‘The UFO Trail’ as ‘John Alexander, Contradictions and Unanswered Questions’ and ‘Ufology and Alleged Post-MKULTRA Mind Control’.

So, you might ask, why would some researchers immerse themselves in such circumstances while running down stories of black budget operations that go back some 60 years? One reason would be because the stories remain current.

Vietnam Veterans of America, et al. v. Central Intelligence Agency, et al.

The San Francisco law offices of Morrison and Foerster are collectively representing Vietnam Veterans of America, Swords to Plowshares (a veterans advocacy organization) and a few specific veterans in a suit currently pending. The case is being handled pro bono against the Central Intelligence Agency, Department of Defense, U.S. Army and Department of Veterans Affairs. The suit states:

Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief only – no monetary damages – and Plaintiffs seek redress for several decades of diabolical experiments followed by over 30 years of neglect, including:

  • the use of troops to test nerve gas, psychochemicals, and thousands of other toxic chemical or biological substances and perhaps most gruesomely, the insertion of septal implants in the brains of subjects in a ghastly series of mind control experiments that went awry;
  • the failures to secure informed consent and other widespread failures to follow the precepts of U.S. and international law regarding the use of human subjects, including the 1953 Wilson Directive and the Nuremberg Code;
  • an almost fanatical refusal to satisfy their legal and moral obligations to locate the victims of their gruesome experiments or to provide health care or compensation to them;
  • the deliberate destruction of evidence and files documenting their illegal actions, actions which were punctuated by fraud, deception, and a callous disregard for the value of human life.

The Complaint asks the Court to determine that Defendants’ actions were illegal and that Defendants have a duty to notify all victims and to provide them with health care going forward.

Readers familiar with the Project MKULTRA saga and related authenticated documents will be aware such circumstances as cited by Morrison and Foerster have long been acknowledged and conceded by the CIA. Basically, the agencies being sued do not deny what took place, they just want no current responsibilities in the matters.

U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled in October that the suit could continue forward, setting the stage for a 2013 summer showdown. Judge Wilken denied repeated government attempts to derail the suit, ruling that federal regulations require notifying participants of increases in knowledge of potential health hazards. She additionally ruled the suit could include involuntary research subjects and their heirs dating as far back as 1922.

Sources such as the San Francisco Chronicle and Military.com reported an estimated 7,600 service members were abused in experiments conducted at Edgewood Arsenal from 1955 to 1975. As many as 100,000 people are suspected of being subjected to hundreds of drugs, chemicals and biological agents without their informed consent and spanning over 50 years.

Plaintiff Frank D. Rochelle served in the Army in the late 1960’s and volunteered to be stationed at Edgewood for what he was apparently led to believe were harmless tests. During one incident, Rochelle stated, “I stayed high for two days.”

Rochelle experienced hallucinations of animals coming out of the walls and at one point he used a razor blade to try to remove what he thought were bugs from beneath his skin. Upon leaving Edgewood, Rochelle says he was instructed to never tell anyone about his experiences there. He was later assigned to Vietnam.

Congressional hearings into MKULTRA were conducted during the 1970’s. Testimony from individuals such as former CIA director Admiral Stansfield Turner included assurances a list would be produced of exploited veterans. Turner further stated that the participants would be notified of their involvement and provided proper medical care. The commitments were never fulfilled.

“Over 30 years ago,” Vietnam Veterans of America President John Rowan stated, “the government promised to locate the victims of the MKULTRA experiments and to take care of their needs. It now is painfully obvious that what it really wants is for the victims to just quietly die off while the government takes baby steps. VVA cannot leave these veterans behind.”

Potential significance to UFO Land

Researchers with whom I discussed the lawsuit were confident the CIA will never produce a complete list of involuntary human research subjects or notify all of them of the circumstances, regardless of what courts may rule. Reasons included possibilities that some victims might be prominent figures.

Many members of the UFO community avert from the implications for any number of reasons. I nonetheless invite consideration of just a few of the many potentially significant possibilities.

What if we were to find that a famous political figure had been an MKULTRA research subject? Would you find that interesting?

How about an infamous criminal? Would it interest you if you found out such a person had been an involuntary research subject?

More specific to ufology, imagine if we were to discover a high profile, self-described alien abductee was a former mind control subject; or an iconic researcher of alien abduction. Might you find those kinds of things worthy of further research?

What if you found out a family member was among the unfortunate sons? What would you think about that?

How about if you were notified that you were a former uninformed research subject? Then would the topic interest you?

Vietnam veteran Frank D. Rochelle and his fellow plaintiffs find themselves at the center of what became a decades-long saga. Them, and about 100,000 or so redacted others.

Propaganda and UFOs in Movies and Television


Propaganda and UFOs in Movies and Television with Comments from Robbie Graham

Big bucks are spent manipulating belief systems via the big screen.

In the novel ‘1984’, author George Orwell described life under a totalitarian regime in which a disingenuous Ministry of Truth regularly rewrote history to effectively promote the state. It might therefore be considered darkly ironic that the Central Intelligence Agency changed the ending to the movie version of the story. The change portrayed a less morally defeated main character than contained in the book and against the specific instructions of Orwell. The CIA apparently did not want movie goers to think Big Brother was all that bad.

That was the case according to Frances Stonor Saunders, author of the 2000 book, ‘The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters’. Stonor Saunders further reported the CIA purchased the film rights to Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ following his death in 1950. Agents were dispatched to visit Orwell’s widow and secure the rights so the Agency could present a more overtly anti-Communist message than the author saw fit to do in his original classic novel. Orwell used a tale of political unrest among animals on a farm to metaphorically suggest the fundamental difference between greedy, power hungry capitalists and greedy, power hungry Communists was impossible to discern, a point that seemed to have sat no better with the actual CIA than it might have sat with the fictional Ministry of Truth.
It is clear the media is used for propaganda purposes. The sources of such propaganda may represent a wide range of individuals and organizations, and the range of motives may be just as broad.

UFO censorship and propaganda
A review of such events in ufology might quickly turn our attention to insights provided by researcher Robbie Graham. A self-described independent scholar, Graham reports on such topics as processes by which Hollywood’s UFO movie content is shaped and the resulting impact on popular perception. According to his Blogger profile, Graham holds a Masters degree with Distinction in Cinema Studies from the University of Bristol and a First Class Honours degree in Film, Television and Radio Studies from Staffordshire University. He maintains the blog ‘Silver Screen Saucers’, has contributed content and interviews to numerous venues, and has collaborated on research projects with Matthew Alford. Their work includes a 2011 paper titled, ‘A History of Government Management of UFO Perceptions through Film and Television’, which presents many items of potential interest.

One such item involved a 1958 CBS broadcast in which the network subsequently admitted it was subjected to official censorship. During a televised discussion about UFOs in which military officers participated, the microphone of U.S. Navy Major Donald Keyhoe was cut. The major was muted when he made apparently unapproved statements, including suggesting UFOs were real machines under intelligent control. Nine days later, CBS director of editing, Herbert A. Carlborg, acknowledged that “pre-determined security standards were in place” and that deviations thereof were not authorized for release, resulting in the censorship.

Graham and Alford inform us that during the 1980’s the Department of Defense assisted in the production of a UFO fantasy film for children, ‘Invaders from Mars’. The DoD granted full cooperation, including providing Major Fred Peck and Chief Warrant Officer Chas Henry of the Los Angeles Public Affairs Office to assist the director. What’s more, a retired public affairs officer, Captain Dale Dye, prepared extras for the film.

There are many such examples. Government agencies clearly have certain levels of interest in productions involving UFO-related subject matter and controlling public perception of alleged alien space travelers. The history is long and well documented.

Some of the more recent events on the time-line include the splash Chase Brandon made in 2012 when he cannonballed into the deep end of the pool of ufology. Described by Graham and Alford as a 35-year veteran of the CIA, Brandon was apparently employed for some 25 years in undercover covert operations prior to his assignment in 1996 as an Entertainment Liaisons Officer. He was then involved for ten years in shaping film scripts, characters and concepts.

Brandon also claimed he knew about an official cover-up of alien bodies retrieved from Roswell or some such stuff. Such circumstances arguably give added meaning to the now classic line from ‘The Wizard of Oz’, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”

Just how influential are intelligence agencies in manipulating UFO-related film scripts, info presented in documentaries and so on? “Very influential,” Graham informed me via email, but that is by no means to suggest Hollywood is entirely controlled by the powers that be, because of course it is not.

“Whatever effect UFO movies have on our perceptions of the phenomenon,” Graham continued, “it is largely the result of a natural cultural process whereby Hollywood creatives feed off of existing UFO literature and debate, and incorporate these ideas into their narratives. Just because a film contains specialized UFOlogical detail does not mean it has been produced at the behest of the US government for acclimation or disinformation purposes. More often than not, it means the screenwriter has read one or more books on UFOs or watched some documentaries on the subject and thought it would be cool to incorporate some of these ideas into a fictional story.

“That said, and as Matthew Alford and I showed in our peer reviewed article, the US government and military have demonstrated a very keen interest in Hollywood’s UFO output since the early years of the phenomenon and have, on occasion, monitored and successfully interfered in the production process of UFO-themed movies and documentaries. So, is there a Hollywood UFO conspiracy? Yes and no.”

Motives
Identifying motives for the vast majority of investors in film and other forms of media is simple enough. Some want to increase public awareness of topics in which they have personal interests. Some are artists and support the arts. Many, of course, desire to profit from their financial investments.

In the case of government manipulation of media and resulting perceptions about UFOs, motives become more difficult to conclusively identify. The fact such manipulation occurs is clear enough, but precisely why it happens is the subject of debate.

Some would argue a gradual disclosure of an alien presence is taking place. Others would disagree, suggesting such a gradual disclosure is highly unlikely for reasons including it has seemingly been crawling along at a snail’s pace for over 60 years.

Others still would suggest government interference in the Hollywood-portrayed UFO phenomenon might be indicative of efforts to cover up an alien presence – not disclose it. Arguments to this effect commonly include citing circumstances of official censorship of potentially relevant events. Those who support such theories and the extraterrestrial hypothesis also tend to suggest the topic is intentionally made to appear silly in an official attempt to devalue its likelihood and oppress serious public consideration.

Yet others argue government manipulation of public perceptions about UFOs might be due to it being a scam – that select members of the powers that be actually want us to believe in a nonexistent alien presence. Supporters of this school of thought suggest the intelligence community finds it advantageous to conduct some of its covert operations, such as certain projects involving advanced aircraft or psychological experiments, within the confusion and resulting cover provided by an alien meme. Some suspect the intelligence community has essentially perpetrated an alien hoax for numerous advantageous reasons.

Perhaps the truth is found somewhere among and between such possibilities, not entirely within or without any of them. Perhaps certain events indeed involve circumstances that confound many of us, but in reality have nothing whatsoever to do with interplanetary spaceships or their alleged occupants, interesting and fascinating as correct explanations might actually be. And perhaps sometimes the intelligence community indeed manipulates perception of such circumstances for many reasons.

Robbie Graham on UFOs in the movies
“Feature films and documentaries influence our opinions about pretty much everything, including UFOs,” Graham explained, “to a very great extent indeed. Outside of the UFO community – which is relatively very small – almost no one reads factual UFO literature (and most UFO literature isn’t very ‘factual’ anyway). For most people, ideas about UFOs and potential ET life come via TV and cinema – either in the form of ‘factual’ documentary series (such as ‘Ancient Aliens’, for example), or, more traditionally, through the fantastical imaginings of Hollywood creatives. TV and cinema are, without question, the two biggest ‘spoons’ feeding us ideas about UFOs and ET life.”

Graham suggested cinema is more powerful than television, lingering much longer in the memory. He gives television its due in cultural influence, but described cinema as having a mystical ability to completely detach us from our physical environments while creating a vivid realm of perception.

“But regardless of the medium through which they are screened, movies can pack a punch that we feel for weeks, months, or even years afterward. The power of the story – of storytelling – is primal, and essential. Movies, in their slick, neatly packaged, self-contained way, serve to narrativize the frustratingly non-narrative, and therefore unpredictable and confusing events, processes, and ideas that constitute our world. Life rarely makes sense, but movies usually do, and in that we take comfort – rightly or wrongly.”

How does Graham assess the overall accuracy of UFO documentaries, films based on true stories and similar such productions?
“Most TV documentary series about UFOs are sensationalized pap,” he replied. “This is a shame, because even the worst of them do include demonstrably factual and important information about the phenomenon; sadly, this information is usually presented in the tackiest and most hyperbolic manner, which has the effect of discrediting the actual material.”

Graham thinks there are a handful of very good documentaries dealing with the UFO issue, including ‘Out of the Blue’ and ‘I Know What I Saw’ by James Fox. This would be the case, Graham added, even though Fox himself criticized what Graham termed “the impossibly ridiculous” National Geographic TV series, ‘Chasing UFOs’, in which Fox appeared last year.

As for films, Graham gives thumbs ups to the 1994 TV movie ‘Roswell’ by Paul Davids, ‘Fire in the Sky’ about the Travis Walton saga and ‘Communion’, in which the Whitley Strieber story is presented. The films do not always represent details in entirely accurate manners, Graham observed, but the films are nonetheless memorable and reasonable portrayals of the stories.

“So, while some UFO movies are arguably quite accurate in their depiction of certain aspects of the phenomenon, I think it’s impossible for any UFO movie to give an entirely accurate depiction of the phenomenon as a whole because, quite simply, no one in the world can claim to have a complete understanding of what we’re dealing with. Still, it’s fair to say that the vast majority of UFO/alien-themed movies take a considerable amount of artistic license with the UFO phenomenon as experienced by millions of people. And that’s absolutely fine, of course – Hollywood is interested in entertaining, not educating. But we do need to constantly remind ourselves of this fact, especially when watching films dealing with the UFO/ET issue: movies, no matter how realistic they are in the events they depict (and regardless of the nature of the events they are depicting), are not real life. They are, at best, reflections of our reality, snapshots of it, simulations of it, skewed and distorted through the ideological framework of those who have made them.

“Movies masquerade as the final word on a given topic. No matter what the subject, and regardless of how much that subject has already been written about and debated, once it is committed to film – once it has received the full Hollywood treatment – it is embedded in its glossy cinematic form firmly and forever into the popular consciousness.”

Commenting further on the extent such films result in largely inaccurate beliefs held by the public, Graham continued, “Cinema and TV are meme generators, or at least meme magnifiers. Think, for example, of the idea of ‘Little Green Men’. Actually, although little green beings were reported in the Hopkinsville, Kentucky ‘farm siege’ of 1955 and the ‘little green men’ term itself was coined by the press in their reporting of that event, it was Hollywood that took this meme and ran with it in the 1957 movie ‘Invasion of the Saucer Men’, in which little green men terrorize a small town in rural America. One of the characters describes the alien she encounters as ‘a little green man.’ Hollywood has thrown the ‘little green men’ meme at us ever since in movies too numerous to list (though the ‘Toy Story’ movies immediately spring to mind, as do ‘Planet 51’ and ‘Aliens in the Attic’). But actually, as anyone who has studied this subject knows, green beings – little or otherwise – are almost never reported by UFO witnesses.”

What does Graham think is most important for us to understand about the relationship between the film industry and UFO subject matter?
“Quite simply, when it comes to our understanding of UFO phenomena and our expectations regarding potential extraterrestrial life – make no mistake about it – movies matter… perhaps more even than anything else.  As audiences, we should therefore seek to actively engage with Hollywood’s depictions of UFOs and extraterrestrials – to look up from our popcorn once in a while and acknowledge that such phenomena spring first and foremost not from the minds of Hollywood creatives, but from the fabric of our lived historical reality. By more actively engaging with Hollywood’s UFO movies, we enhance our ability to distinguish UFO fact from fantasy, and to more easily identify and understand the political thinking behind instances of government manipulation of UFO-themed entertainment products.”

Looking ahead
Taking a look forward on the time-line of television and UFOs, we might turn our attention to an item that stated, “We’re seeking subjects for the first season of a new TV show for a leading US cable network.” The item specified interest in people who “have had an extraterrestrial encounter, seen a UFO, been abducted” or similar, and was posted on several UFO-related discussion forums and blogs. The post stated experts were available to help, yet provided no details other than a relatively generic hotmail address. However, one website which published the post identified a Lauren James as a contact.
Your writer sent emails to the hotmail address provided and requested permission to ask some questions about the upcoming production in order to include responses in a blog post. No replies were received from Lauren James, helpful experts or anyone else, for whatever reasons.

While there may of course be many reasons the involved parties might prefer to not field questions about their project, they might nonetheless choose to take the nature of the genre into ample consideration in the future and plan accordingly. Distrust understandably tends to figure rather prominently within the UFO community, and providing reasonable amounts of information tends to be much more of the solution than the problem.

Items on the film and UFOs horizon include The John Mack Project, which includes a forthcoming movie from Denise David Williams of MakeMagic Productions. David Williams reports that she secured the life rights to the late researcher of alleged alien abduction, Dr. Mack, apparently giving her exclusive access to and portrayal of the information contained in his books, personal archives, journals, manuscripts and similar such property.

Further research suggests the subject of life rights has become increasingly relevant when producing documentaries and films based on what are promoted as true stories. Obtaining such rights stands to become important when telling a story or retelling it if the story has previously been presented in another media or context. Life rights may also become relevant to ensure due consideration and/or compensation is provided to researchers who invest significant amounts of time and resources in a story.

Beliefs
A wide variety of individuals, corporations and agencies are clearly competing to influence your beliefs about alleged extraterrestrial visitors, for whatever ultimate reasons. Successfully accomplishing the task has apparently been identified as worthy of substantial amounts of money and sustained effort.

Ultimately, we are each responsible for that which we choose to believe, as well as how we arrive at such choices. Please recognize and be mindful of how you make your decisions.
Sanctity of free thought should be cherished and encouraged to thrive. Consciously develop your process of making intellectual choices, honor and respect your process, and do not allow it to be overtly or covertly hijacked.

 

Operation INFEKTION: Soviet Bloc Intelligence and Its AIDS Disinformation Campaign


Operation INFEKTION: Soviet Bloc Intelligence and Its AIDS Disinformation Campaign

“Our friends in Moscow call it ‘dezinformatsiya.’ Our enemies in America call it ‘active measures,’ and I, dear friends, call it ‘my favorite pastime.’”—Col. Rolf Wagenbreth, director of Department X(disinformation) of East German foreign intelligence The CIA’s Center for the Study of Intelligence has just published Volume 53, Number 4 (December 2009) of Studies in Intelligence. The issue includes an unclassified extract from a classified study of the Soviet Union’s propaganda “campaign to implicate the United States in the emergence of the AIDS pandemic that appeared in the early 1980s.” According to a note at the beginning of the extract, “This article was the recipient of an Annual Studies in Intelligence Award in 2009.”The author writes:

The opening salvo of the AIDS disinformation campaign was fired on 17 July 1983, when an obscure newspaper in India, the Patriot, printed an anonymous letter headlined “AIDS may invade India: Mystery disease caused by US experiments.” The letter, allegedly written by a “well-known American scientist and anthropologist” in New York, claimed that “AIDS…is believed to be the result of the Pentagon’s experiments to develop new and dangerous biological weapons.” (4)

The 17 July letter’s extensive quoting of US sources—e.g., U.S. News & World Report, Associated Press, and Army Research, Development & Acquisition magazine—suggests that US-based KGB officers initiated the AIDS campaign, or at least collected the material that triggered the idea. The KGB had large residencies in New York City and Washington, DC, both of which were assigned officers who worked solely on active measures. (5)

Read the CIA’s introduction here and the actual study by Thomas Boghardt here.

 

Conspiracy Theories Used as Propaganda | Operation INFEKTION | The KGB and Anti-American AIDS Conspiracies


Government use of conspiracy theory: Operation INFEKTION
Art: Burning heart by Leslie Ann O’Dell. Listening: Black Star by Lustmord.

A future common theme on this blog will be that governments don’t just partake in conspiracies, but they also create and amplify conspiracy theories. Note the difference here. The former is legal term about individuals colluding in secret; while the latter pertains to a narrative about these collusions. One is ontological to do with the world; while the other is epistemic to do with beliefs about the world.
There are various reasons why governments would need to create a belief in conspiracy. Sometimes it is to cover up black projects or intelligence failures, i.e. covering up real conspiracies. Other times the conspiracies are created as offensive weapons against some international actor, i.e. creating fake conspiracies. For the moment, I’d like to discuss the aforementioned reason from a case that is in actual scholarly literature: Operation INFEKTION, which was the Soviet disinformation campaign to pin the origin of AIDS on the USA.

A good source on this disinformation operation is an essay entitled “AIDS Made in the USA”: Moscow’s Contagious Campaign, which is from the book The New Image Makers: Soviet Propaganda & Disinformation Today. The author is the noted historian of counterintelligence Roy Godson. You won’t find this essay published on the Internet, which is unfortunate given it is a well-reasoned argument giving us a clear example of governments creating conspiracy theories (I may get around to scanning it, and putting it up on this blog). The reason why this clear example is so important is because it allows us to draw some broader themes of how governments go about spreading disinformation. True believers in high weirdness and conspiracy circles often accuse each other of spreading disinformation, and it sometimes becomes hard to sort the wheat from the chaff. A clear non-bullshit example can be quite illuminating.
Godson argues in the essay that the “AIDS was made in the USA” disinformation campaign was created by the KGB in 1985. They continued this disinformation campaign for around two years. Godson identifies five reasons why they did this:

  1. To discredit the United states by falsely claiming that AIDS originated in CIA-Pentagon experiments.
  2. To discourage undesirable political contact with Westerners by portraying them as potential carriers of the disease.
  3. To create pressure for removal of US military bases overseas on the grounds the US service personnel spread AIDS.
  4. To undermine US credibility in the Third World by maintaining that hypotheses about the African origin of AIDS are an example of Western, and especially American, racism, and;
  5. To divert attention from Soviet research on biological warfare and genetic engineering and to neutralize accusations that the Soviet Union has used biochemical agents in Asia.

Notice the two wider themes here of using conspiracy theory. (1) to (4) are all examples of undermining the ethos or moral stature of some actor or groups. (5) is an example of diverting attention away from an actual conspiracy. These twin themes of undermining ethos and diverting attention from actual conspiracies will arise again in future posts about government use of disinformation. Also, when I say ethos, I mean in the rhetorical sense. To undermine someone’s ethos in rhetoric is to undermine their character. This is important in rhetoric, as building rapport with the audience by appealing to one’s character and moral stature is one of the foundations for a rhetorical speech.

I won’t recount the timeline of how this disinformation campaign came about. You can read the Wikipedia article above on the operation to recount this. But some other tidbits worth noting here are the following:
The disinformation campaign started in newspapers in Russia and India. They then spread to radio, and then other sources from around the world picked up on the disinformation. This disinformation campaign was also backed by pamphlets, which were spread in Africa. One of these pamphlets was written by biologist named Jacob Segal, and was backed by (what appeared to be) scientific reasoning. Segal was then cited in a news article in England, which then spread the disinformation about the planet like wildfire. Once major papers from around the planet picked up on it, the KGB no longer used their primary sources. Instead they started spreading the disinformation by stating other major papers from around the planet had confirmed the theory about AIDS. What we can learn from these is that:

  • disinformation can be sophisticated. It can use individuals that people trust (like scientists), and can dress itself up with reasonable arguments.
  • disinformation campaigns can use multiple sources (radio, newspapers, pamphlets).
  • disinformation campaigns will try to hide the original sources. Once the campaign is in the open, they may switch to sources that their targets may trust (in this case, domestic newspapers). In rhetoric this is a combination of using kairos (the opportune moment to switch sources), combined with exploiting ethos (sources people trust).

Godson also has a lengthy paragraph on how the AIDS campaign was, “a diversionary tactic against claims that the Soviet Union has used biochemical weapons in Cambodia, Laos, and Afghanistan and is engaged in genetic-weapon research.” The first claim about chemical weapons pertains to Yellow Rain. Those interested in disinformation should also read that Wikipedia article on Yellow Rain for a possible similar campaign conducted by the USA. The second claim about genetic-weapons pertains to US attempts to undermine Soviet bioweapons research via UN arms control treaties (Godson quotes a State Department report here). Godson states that one of the aims was to “muddle the debate” between bio-chemical weapons and AIDS.
So finishing up, we have the two aims of government use of conspiracy theory:

  1. To undermine ethos, and;
  2. To divert attention away from actual conspiracies.

We also have some general properties of these disinformation campaigns:

  • They can be epistemologically sophisticated.
  • The sources will change themselves according to the opportune moment for spreading the disinformation.
  • They will take into consideration the targets of the campaign, and will use sources that the target trusts.

Now, true-believing conspiracy theorists might state something along the lines of, “Yeah, but how do we know this Operation happened? It could be a conspiracy theory about a conspiracy theory.” The answer to this, is that it actually happened. You can look up old news archives and find the disinformation spread in actual newspapers. There are also multiple corroborating sources that this event occurred, including sources from the Russian parliament and members of the East German Stasi admitting to the campaign. Godson has 26 footnotes to his essay, most of which are primary sources. I will endeavour to upload a scan of this essay in the future.

Our Aliens Are Better Than Your Aliens


Our Aliens Are Better Than Your Aliens

News reports indicate renewed global efforts are underway to prosecute Nazi war criminals remaining at large. Some US-based organizations support the efforts.

Those not afflicted with conspiracy-phobia will be reminded of Operation Paperclip, a confirmed post-World War II US intelligence project in which Third Reich key personnel were targeted for recruitment. Select Nazi scientists were provided asylum in the States in exchange for their contributions to American intelligence interests. “Our Germans are better than your Germans,” went the Cold War era running joke between the CIA and KGB.

The New York Times published further details of such recruitment efforts and related issues in a 2010 article titled, Nazis Were Given ‘Safe Haven’ in U.S., Report Says. The article, written by Eric Lichtblau, provides key details of a 2006 US Justice Department 600-page report, The Office of Special Investigations: Striving for Accountability in the Aftermath of the Holocaust. The report, heavily redacted by the Justice Department prior to its release, was obtained and subsequently published in its entirety by the Times.

Further concerns might be raised by the fact US-based funding entities, including the Rockefeller Foundation, financially aided eugenic research conducted in pre-World War II Germany and elsewhere. This has long been accepted as fact among historians and as reported on George Mason University’s History News Network, among any number of sources defined as credible by the professional research community.

Now, any self-respecting realist will find nothing surprising about world powers demonstrating double standards. Most of us are all too aware politics courts hypocrisy, so let us move along to further considerations of how such circumstances might be relevant to ufology.

Progeria and Genetic Testing

A couple years ago, a valued associate and good friend, Iza, known on line as stiver, brought Progeria and its implications to my attention. She contributed substantially to my understandings of the following information.

Progeria is a rare childhood genetic disorder, typically including an enlarged head and absence of hair, in which accelerated aging occurs. According to the Progeria Research Foundation, the disorder is due to genetic mutation.

 

Dolly’s taxidermied remains.

Iza studied other evolving genetic research, including cloning. She noted the curious similarities between symptoms of Progeria and certain clones, such as Dolly the sheep, the first mammal cloned from an adult cell. Dolly developed arthritis and other disorders common to much older sheep, resulting in her premature death at the age of six years, only about half the life expectancy of the average sheep. Essentially, Dolly died of old age while still young, Iza noted, just like those stricken with Progeria.

If any doubts remain that intelligence officials would take serious interest in genetic research, consider a BBC report about cloned cattle. Scientists observed in six cloned cows what was literally termed reversed aging! The cows simply aged at a significantly slower than normal pace.

A small number of UFO and alien abduction researchers have considered the implications of Progeria and genetic research. Some of their resulting work is reasonably well conceived while some leaves more than a bit to be desired.

Nick Redfern tried to raise awareness of relevant possibilities. He wrote about Progeria and related circumstances in some of his books, as well as posted about it on UFO Updates List. Redfern wrote the List, “And I still find it interesting that I found files – forwarded to the Nuclear Energy for Propulsion of Aircraft people at Oak Ridge and the Biology Division at Oak Ridge, no less – in 1947 on radiation experiments undertaken that summer on people with Progeria.”

I find it interesting, too. I also find it interesting that those diagnosed with Progeria so closely resemble descriptions of supposed human-alien hybrid beings as described by alleged alien abductees. Let us explore such things and the potential ties to Oak Ridge, also known as Atomic City and as cited by Redfern, a bit further.

Covert Research

A 1977 article titled, Private Institutions Used in CIA Effort to Control Behavior and published by The New York Times, delved into mind control experiments perpetrated by the American intelligence community during Project MKULTRA. Among other noteworthy items, the article cited some 25 years of covert experiments conducted at colleges, medical institutions and research facilities, funded by nonprofit organizations acting as conduits for the Central Intelligence Agency.

During the 1990’s the Clinton administration established the Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments. The committee was created to investigate allegations involuntary human research subjects were deceived and abused during radiation experiments, some of which were alleged to have been perpetrated by MKULTRA personnel. The committee ultimately concluded an estimated 11,000 people were treated negligently by the US government in the course of radiation experiments, some of which were fatal.

The advisory committee heard testimony, sometimes absolutely horrific in nature, from individuals claiming to be victims. One such self-described victim was Suzanne Starr, a woman who, among other nightmarish allegations, stated she was subjected to an induced pregnancy resulting in her baby boy being taken from her, presumably for further experimentation. One reasonable interpretation would be that a primary difference between testimonies narrated by Starr and those narrated by some possible alien abductees is that Starr blamed CIA operatives for her abuse rather than aliens, whatever that may or may not ultimately indicate.

It should be noted that certain MKULTRA victims, some of which were indeed conclusively verified to have been among those abused during the notorious operations conducted at Allan Memorial Institute in Montreal, claimed to have observed pathetically mutated individuals at the facility. The details and existence of such alleged mutated individuals cannot be confirmed and may of course indicate circumstances other than actuality in at least some instances. My point being there are demographics in addition to alien abductees that describe experiences similar to that of abductees, including allegations of extensive testing, including genetic, the circumstances of which have historical precedence and substantially more likelihood.

All things considered, if a claim of a stolen fetus or ominous encounter with a child having wispy hair, large eyes and an enlarged head were to ever be substantiated, could we sincerely look one another in the eye, with full knowledge of factual information such as cited in this post, and say space invaders were really the most likely explanation? Really?

Related articles

Justice Department Paper on Drones Leaked


Justice Department Paper on Drones Leaked

An Air Force RQ-170 Sentinel unmanned aerial vehicle as reported by ABC News.
NBC News reportedly obtained and subsequently published a previously confidential Justice Department white paper concerning the use of deadly drone strikes on American citizens. The paper addresses guidelines and circumstances for executing such strikes.
Human rights advocates are concerned the guidelines are poorly defined and leave far too much room for interpretation. This creates a situation, they claim, conducive to ill advised and otherwise unlawful assassinations and executions. Concern is also being voiced that officials are publicly averting from discussion of such loosely defined procedures while implementing their use behind closed doors.
Contrastingly, those who support the policies outlined in the paper argue that such measures are required in order to enable the Justice Department to act in timely and effective manners. Severe circumstances call for severe measures, they suggest.
Meanwhile, John Brennan, nominated by President Obama to direct the Central Intelligence Agency, will soon appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee to discuss his nomination. Brennan has acted as Obama’s chief counterterrorism consultant while serving as Deputy National Security Advisor and Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. He is credited with designing what have come to be known as US drone assassination programs. The drone projects are reported to be controversial and complex, largely consisting of circumstances unknown to the American public.

The Truth Behind UFO Sightings and the U.S. Air Force


The Truth Behind UFO Sightings and the U.S. Air Force
‘Mirage Men’ author Mark Pilkington discusses how the military used UFO stories to keep aircraft projects secret

By   Alex Kingsbury

Are UFOs a mirage, conjured up by the Air Force to obscure classified flight projects? In part, argues Mark Pilkington, a British journalist and filmmaker who writes about society’s oddities. In Mirage Men: An Adventure into Paranoia, Espionage, Psychological Warfare, and UFOs, he makes a persuasive case that much UFO-logy canon was started or encouraged by the government trying to conceal Cold War military projects. He recently chatted with U.S. News about the origins and effects of UFO mythology around the world. Excerpts:

How has the UFO story been shaped by the government?

These ideas do generate themselves to some extent, but there is evidence that they were specifically shaped in some instances. I don’t think this is some long-running grand conspiracy, I just think that the UFO story has been deployed and used at times when it was convenient. Just about everything that is popularly believed about UFOs has been exploited, shaped, and, at times, generated by people working for the U.S. Air Force and the intelligence community. The idea that UFOs crashed on U.S. soil, that the U.S. government was harboring and hiding UFO technology, that it was denying its citizens the right to know that aliens have come here and visited—all these things have been deliberately seeded into the culture.

[See who the defense aerospace industry gives the most in campaign contributions to.]

Why would the government “seed” these ideas?

UFO stories are used as a cover story for the flight-testing of experimental and clandestine aircraft. If you look at the places where UFO sightings are frequent, they are also the places where the military tests its experimental aircraft. For the first few years that UFOs circulated in popular culture after World War II, the public didn’t talk about UFOs as being alien. Rather, they were talked about as advanced U.S. or Russian aircraft.

How long has this been going on?

Much of it dates to the first flights of the U2 spy plane back in the 1950s. The CIA’s in-house journal had a story about 10 years ago that said that one of the functions of Project Blue Book [the official Air Force investigation into UFOs] was to monitor how visible the U2 was to people on the ground. Someone would see what they thought was a UFO and then the Air Force would send someone around to talk with them. Of course, the Air Force would have a schedule of the U2 flights and be able to tell if what the person saw was indeed a U2. By talking to all these supposed UFO witnesses, the CIA could assess how visible the U2 was.

Were the Soviets a target for this?

There are other, more subtle motivations from the U.S. side. One is the idea of a super weapon. If unfriendly nations believe that you harbor alien technology that you have integrated into your own weapons systems and aircraft, then they have good reason to be afraid.

[See photos of space missions.]

What happened in 1952 over Washington, D.C.?

The first incident took place early one morning in July. It was reported extensively in the newspapers that a number of unknown objects appeared on radar screens around Washington. Now, it looks very plausible to me that the Washington incident was a demonstration of a technology from the Defense Department, known as Project Palladium, which allowed the operator to project radar blips onto other radar screens. Later on, the technology became very sophisticated to the point where you could change the shape of the blip and its speed and so forth. We go on in the book at length about the evidence that suggests that the Washington radar incident was a planned operation.

Do UFO fanatics know it may be they’re duped?

Certainly. I’m not the first person to tell them this. UFO lore has transcended to what has become a religious matter for many of those involved. We talk to a man called Bill Moore, who in the 1980s was one of the most respected people in the UFO community. He was co-opted by Air Force intelligence to act as a mole passing information to the Air Force about what people were researching and to pass disinformation back into the UFO community. When he came clean about all this at a UFO convention in 1989, people ran out crying into the hallways. But what happened to the larger UFO lore? Nothing.

Is this a worldwide phenomenon?

The UFO story is a global one, but I think it has its origins in American culture. Not long ago there was a major UFO wave in Iran. Not surprisingly, all the UFO incidents happened near the country’s known nuclear sites. Initially it was odd lights in the sky, then over a few days, the stories started getting more dramatic. They were describing small robots hovering in the skies. I read an interesting article recently that described the impact of the drone use over Pakistan and Afghanistan. The villagers describe the drones as being spiritual beings with a life of their own that live in bedrooms in space and come to feed on women and children. It is fascinating to watch, because I feel like I’ve seen it all before. It will be different for every nation, as they develop. Perhaps every nation will get the aliens it deserves.

Who We Are In The Dark: Zero Dark Thirty & Torture…


Who We Are In The Dark: Zero Dark Thirty & Torture…
Posted by Darren

That Zero Dark Thirty should come under fire for its use and portrayal of torture is not surprising. The film deserves to spark debate about how we respond to these sorts of threats, and critically examine our claim to the moral high ground. However, the debate seems overly simplistic. It has been suggested that the controversy over torture cost director Kathryn Bigelow a Best Director nomination, and that’s a shame. The fact she’s felt to the need to respond to these relatively shallow commentaries is less than heartening.

Zero Dark Thirty has a lot to say about torture. It’s a lot of thoughtful and insightful and nuanced stuff, and Zero Dark Thirty actually gets to the nub of the issue, very clearly condemning the culture of “enhanced interrogation”, in a way that is much more effective than any of the commentators seem to realise.

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I’m fascinated by the role of morality in cinema, and our reaction towards the various ways that it can be presented. Sometimes, earnest condemnation of a particular philosophy or movement or practise is necessary. Most would agree, for example, that Schindler’s List is a tremendously powerful piece of cinema that is not diminished by the direct approach it takes to its subject matter. There is not ambiguity in its depiction of a historical atrocity, because there is not ambiguity about that historical atrocity. Sometimes we need to be confronted with these powerful and shocking images so that we might move closer to comprehending the horror of what occurred.

However, sometimes that earnestness can be too much – particularly for recent events. There is a reason that The Washington Times referred to The Dark Knight as “the first great post-Sept. 11 film.” One of the most powerful explorations of murky War on Terror morality came from a blockbuster about a man dressed as a bat chasing a clown around Chicago. More earnest films like Lions for Lambs or Rendition had tackled the issues too bluntly, trying to reduce an entire moral quagmire into a selection of glib moral cliff notes far too simplistic to really delve into the issues.

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Let’s talk about torture. It’s an issue that has dwelt on the public consciousness for quite some time. Even before those iconic images of the prisoners in Abu Gharib were released, the question of how we respond to the threat of global terrorism plays a significant role in defining the morality of the twenty-first century. It’s worth noting that Zero Dark Thirty is not set at the same level as those abuses occurred. The torture depicted in the film is not conducted by a bunch of soldiers recording their actions for their own perverse pleasure.

The “enhanced interrogation” in the film is mostly conducted by Dan, the CIA operative played by Jason Clarke. Clarke is not a low-level army officer. He’s a veteran CIA officer. He keeps (and feeds) monkeys. He has a PhD and is characterised as quite intelligent. He uses words like “tautology”, and it’s clear that he has some idea what he is doing. While he manipulates those people in his custody, he is consistently portrayed as level-headed and rational. He’s not an angry sadist lashing out some pent up frustration or aggression at a hapless victim.

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Reading that description, it’s easy to see how the film could be argued to be “pro-torture”, as many of its detractors have claimed. Certainly, it avoids making easy choices that could be read as condemnation. After all, quite a few of the conventional criticisms of torture are not really handled here. There’s a stock supply of arguments that people who object to the application of torture will present to support their position. There’s the question of what happens if we torture the wrong person, for example. Or the question of whether we can trust the information we receive under torture.

Neither of these arguments against torture gets a lot of space in Zero Dark Thirty. If anybody in the film is wrongly accused, we never hear about it. There’s never a moment of realisation where our investigators pick on a character we know to be innocent, or who later turns out to be innocent. Of course, we have only the word of the characters that these suspects are guilty. A few give up information that would point to their guilt, but there are a couple who we don’t see offering anything insightful or meaningful. So, in its portrayal of torture, the film never really delves into the question of guilt of the victim.

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Similarly, we never question the information we receive under torture. Early in the film, the operatives fail to stop a high-profile terrorist attack. Quite simply, they do not “break” the suspect in time. The attack goes ahead, and people die as a result. This might seem to acknowledge the fact that torture doesn’t work, but it’s hardly a black-and-white condemnation. After all, no other method of information-gathering proves more effective, and the torture of the same suspect proves to ultimately pay off.

The CIA agents rather shrewdly trick their suspect into thinking that he broke and then get him to reveal all his information over a nice meal together in the sunshine. Some might argue that this is not a depiction of torture procuring vital information, but that is a bit over-simplistic. After all, the trick is only possible due to the short-term memory loss that develops as a result of the sleep deprivation, which is a method of torture employed by the CIA.

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So Zero Dark Thirty avoids these two easy arguments against torture. However, I wouldn’t consider that as evidence of a pro-torture bias. Those arguments aren’t the root of the reason that we condemn torture. There’s a reason that they are used so frequently, but they aren’t the core of the issue. We use the “wrong victim” argument and “incorrect information” argument to attack the practicality of torture. They’re easy to relate to, and to understand. They are possibilities, of course, and they grab us because they directly affect us.

Somebody we know could be wrongly tortured. We could be wrongly tortured. It’s easy enough to see how such an argument makes a compelling case against torture. Would you really trust the state not to make a mistake? Would you really give the government that much power? It’s a raw, visceral, powerful argument – but it’s not the heart of the issue. Similarly, the argument about incorrect information is easy enough to understand. Would you really do that to a person if nothing of use would come from it? I mean, even if you knew you had the right person? And, based on that other argument, that’s a big “if.”

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These arguments are appealing. They are easy to understand. They are useful in the argument against torture. However, they dance around the central point. They are practical arguments that skirt around the real moral issue. After all, surely if you are against torture, you should be against torture even in situations where you have the right person and it will give you the information that you need? Because if you accept that there is one case where torture would be justified by meeting a set of hypothetical circumstances, then it becomes a numbers game.

If it’s right to torture that one guy to save thousands of lives, then can we balance the possible mistake against that metric? Fighters may be dispatched to shoot down a hijacked passenger airplane; innocents will die, but more lives will be saved. If your objections to torture are purely practical, then it becomes a simple question of scaling the numbers. How many lives does “enhanced interrogation” have to save before you’re willing to write off one mistake, one miscalculation, one error?

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These arguments are susceptable to the “ticking clock” scenario, one very common in the early years of 24. The notion that torture is only objectionable because of the chance of harming an innocent party, or because it is potentially ineffective, suggests that there are situations where one might somehow be able to mitigate those risks, or counter them entirely. These objections to torture are easy to understand, and are quite appealing, but they also belie the root philosophical problem with torture.

Any sincere objection to torture must be grounded in the notion that any application of torture – no matter what surrounding circumstances or outside concerns – is inherently immoral. Torture is wrong, even if you are torturing a guilty party. Torture is wrong, even if it will get you the information you want. The fact that the party might be innocent and the information may be incorrect are concerns, and are very serious possibilities, but they don’t form a fundamental objection to the philosophical idea torture. And it is shallow to suggest that just because a movie doesn’t play to either of these arguments, it must be “pro-torture.”

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A strong argument against torture must be rooted in the concession that it might be possible to torture a guilty person, and it might be possible to garner useful information from it. In Zero Dark Thirty, the nugget that leads to Bin Ladin doesn’t originate under torture, but the revelation of this pre-existing piece of information during torture solidifies its importance to our lead character, Maya. In the opening scenes of Zero Dark Thirty, a terrorist is tortured and he gives information that prompts our protagonist to find Osama Bin Ladin, years later.

And – here’s the thing – it’s possible for Zero Dark Thirty to show an effective use of torture and still condemn it. In fact, its condemnation is stronger because it concedes the appeal of torture. The CIA did not have a systemic policy of “enhanced interrogation” because the technique was entirely useless. It trained interrogators and operated secret facilities because those methods produced information that was of use. From a purely financial and resource-driven point of view, there wold be no reason to use “enhanced interrogation” if it didn’t work. And it is very important to concede that just because it could be useful doesn’t mean that it’s right.

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A fundamental objection to torture doesn’t care if torture is completely entirely effective. It doesn’t care that the person being tortured might be guilty. The fundamental objection to torture doesn’t believe that torture can be mitigated or tempered by success. Torture taints. It doesn’t just taint when it fails, it also taints when it succeeds. Every time it is used, it says something about our society. Not every time it is used against an innocent, or every time it fails to stop an attack. Every single time torture is used, it diminishes us and says something about our way of life that we should be ashamed of.

And that is what Zero Dark Thirty argues. Those torture scenes are damn uncomfortable to watch, and they should be.The CIA might use the term “enhanced interrogation”, but what we see is cold-blooded torture. We see waterboarding up close. We see suspects kept awake and delirious. We see them walked around on leads like dogs. We see them locked in boxes. We see them beaten. We see them tied up so long that they soil themselves.

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This isn’t meant to be heroic. This is mean to be unnerving, disturbing and sickening. It is tough to watch. It is repulsive. There is no ambiguity there. Dan suggests that there’s “no shame” if Maya wants to stand outside. We might suggest that there’s no shame if Kathryn Bigelow had opted to whitewash all this out and pretend it never happened. Certainly the temptation must have been there. After all, if she had left these scenes out, the film would have probably generated less controversy. Personally, I bet she’d have an Oscar nomination.

However, to leave those scenes out would have been dishonest. It would have been cheap, and it would have avoided a vital issue. It is very easy to rationalise and justify torture if we ignore the fundamental unpleasantness of the act, the way that it cheapens us and undermines our authority and morality. This conduct isn’t fiction, and neither is the idea that it might provide workable intelligence. To ignore either reality is to do a disservice to an anti-torture argument. To pretend it’s not there, or to pretend it is always ineffective, cheapens any stance against this.

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These scenes taint our view of the characters, and they should. Maya doesn’t directly participate in the first torture scene, but she is compromised by association. She enables. She passes Dan the water to waterboard a suspect. She uses the information garnered. Maya never directly tortures. Later on, she even uses a surrogate pair of hands. However, the film is absolutely unequivocal. She is torturing. And that torturing taints her.

We see that with Dan as well. He might be smart, and he might be educated, but it’s clear that he has been tainted by what he is doing. Mid-way through the film, he opts to get out of the torture unit. And he complains about the death of his monkeys. It’s a moment that exists to make his priorities clear. This is a man who routinely tortures and causes suffering to human beings. At the end of it all, however, the only sympathy he has is for a bunch of monkeys. If you want to talk about the dehumanising effect of torture, it doesn’t get more effective than that.

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Zero Dark Thirty doesn’t opt for a feel-good simplistic condemnation of torture. Instead, it dares to suggest that torture is inherently abhorrent even if you torture the right people and get the right information. It’s a brave and thoughtful argument, and one well constructed. It’s a shame that so many missed the point.

Insane Islamophobe Pamela Geller | Petraeus Resignation Is an Obama Plot to Put a Muslim in Charge of the CIA


Loony Pamela Geller: Petraeus Resignation Is an Obama Plot to Put a Muslim in Charge of the CIA
Just another stealth shariah plot by BHO
Thanks to:-  Charles Johnson
The right wing universe is now in full-bore conspiracy theory mode over the resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus, just as I predicted. It’s a case study in the conservative movement’s decline into bad craziness; they’re all muttering darkly about cover-ups and hidden connections and “questioning the timing.”

One of the most brain-dead of the wingnuts, loony hateblogger Pamela Geller, has a typical post on the subject; for her it’s all part of the Islamic supremacist stealth shariah takeover of America, of course:

GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS RESIGNS – Atlas Shrugs.

I do not believe it was the real reason was [sic] an extramarital affair. I believe it was Benghazi. He refused to be the fall guy. When did an affair ever stop a Democrat. If anything….

Perhaps one of Obama’s many Muslim Brotherhood advisors are on the shortlist to replace him.

The CIA’s Inquisition: How Terrorism And Conspiracy Theory Became The New Blasphemy And Heresy


The CIA’s Inquisition: How Terrorism And Conspiracy Theory Became The New Blasphemy And Heresy

“The world is mental in some way that we do not yet understand, but that which we’re edging toward understanding. And the world is made of language. I can’t say that enough. Whenever we get into these discussions about reality, or effects in space and time, we are operating outside this assumption that the world is made of language.” – Terence McKenna, from a talk he gave on September 11, 1993.The Excavator

“As always: combatting Terrorism is not the end of the War on Terror; the War on Terror is the end in itself, and Terrorism is merely its pretext.” – Glenn Greenwald, “Since bin Laden’s death,” May 1, 2012.

Jose Rodriguez, one of the CIA’s inquisitors, defended torture and the Agency’s destruction of evidence on CBS’s 60 minutes on Sunday, April 29.

As the former Deputy Director for Operations, Rodriguez committed many war crimes, torture being among them. He is a 21st century version of a Spanish inquisitor. His job is to protect National Security orthodoxies, smear victims with false charges, and sell the lie to the American people that the War on Terrorism is a noble struggle which the CIA must fight with an iron will.

According to CIA inquisitors and their defenders in the press, no questions about CIA policies should be raised because the CIA is holy and pure, while its detractors are just a bunch of conspiracy theorists, left-wing radicals, and Islamofascists.

As we can see, there are many similarities between the modern charges of terrorism and conspiracy theory made by intelligence agencies and the medieval charges of blasphemy and heresy made by religious authorities. The Catholic Church promised its flock salvation; the National Security State promises its flock security. Neither salvation or security can be delivered by political and religious authorities, but that fact hasn’t stopped religion and government from going out of business yet.

The most important element of the CIA’s 21st century inquisition is staining the victim with guilt. In CIA torture sessions, the “terrorists” who confess their guilt are treated more mildly and kindly than the “terrorists” who insist on their innocence.

American playwright Arthur Miller said that staining the victim with sin and guilt has been used by political and religious authorities throughout history, most famously in Salem, Massachusetts in the late seventeenth century and during McCarthyism in the 1950s. “This is not a phenomenon from 1692 or 1952 or anything like it. It is right now,” said Miller.

The assumption of guilt is stronger than the weight of facts. Whether the innocent victim is a “heretic,” or a “terrorist,” the wolves of terror and torture always justify their actions by spreading mass hysteria, indoctrinating the population, placing propaganda above truth, and smearing critics.

Deanna Proach wrote in her article, “The Spanish Inquisition: The Use of Torture in the Inquisition,” that during the early period of the Inquisition, “Only those who refused to confess their sins were tortured severely.” Think about that. Once you’re called evil, it’s game over. No trial can save your ass. You are condemned to die. Osama Bin Laden could’ve hired the smartest Jewish lawyer in Israel, bribed the judge of history with CIA money, terrorized the Jury into accepting Allah as the master of the Earth, and he still would have lost the case because he was declared Evil by the U.S. government.

The power of evoking evil in the enemy is a religious power, and modern totalitarian governments have embraced this power with zeal, especially the governments of America, England, and Israel. False flag events such as 9/11 and 7/7 show that the CIA, Mossad, and MI6 are fine with exploiting the god-like faith that has been invested in them by their flocks. They have been corrupted because it is hard to resist the power and glory that one receives from having the public believe in the justness of your institutional authority.

Criminal abuse of the public trust is natural whenever political and religious authorities are given total obedience. The corruption of the Catholic Church, political Islam, and institutions like the CIA, MI6, and Mossad all stem from the same root: mindless public faith.

Placing your faith in torturers, whether Islamic or Western, religious or political, is a mark of ignorance and shame. Torturers of all eras, dogmas, and authoritarian systems share the same basic human flaw: they believe they are good, and those being tortured are bad.

In Iran, the Islamic torturers believe that individuals who have been tortured deserved it because they Western spies or unfaithful to the Supreme Leader. They justify their acts of evil by asserting their purity and accusing their victims of transgressions.

Most torturers believe in the righteousness of their cause, but there are always sick and sadistic freaks like Rodriguez who enjoy torturing others and do it for the hell of it. Rodriguez told CBS that, “We are the dark side,” with great self-satisfaction and pleasure.

All systems of torture, terror, and tyranny are religious in nature. Even so-called Western democracies have not escaped the poisons of propaganda, totalitarian power, and unthinking religious faith in government authorities.

Also, the errors of orthodox thinking and blind worship of authority still plague us. Terrorism and conspiracy theory have replaced blasphemy and heresy as words that are used to kill thought and make people obedient to absolute power. The innocent victims of the West’s war on terror are demonized as “terrorists,” and the vocal skeptics of the myths and narratives that underlie the war are marginalized as “conspiracy theorists.” Both terms are very convenient. They silence debate and excuse the U.S., British, and Israeli governments of their crimes against humanity.

When used with authority, language works like magic. Terence McKenna said that, “the world is made of language.” So the world is magic. And magic is more powerful than reality. Under the spell of government magic, people can be led to believe almost anything, no matter how absurd.

The World War on Democracy


World War on Democracy

by: John Pilger, Truthout  | News Analysis

B-1B Lancer Bombers on a runway at Diego Garcia, November, 2001, during the bombing campaign in Afghanistan. (Photo: Senior Airman Rebeca M. Luquin, U.S. Air Force)

Lisette Talate died the other day. I remember a wiry, fiercely intelligent woman who masked her grief with a determination that was a presence. She was the embodiment of people’s resistance to the war on democracy. I first glimpsed her in a 1950s Colonial Office film about the Chagos islanders, a tiny creole nation located midway between Africa and Asia in the Indian Ocean.

The camera panned across thriving villages, a church, a school, a hospital, set in a phenomenon of natural beauty and peace. Lisette remembers the producer saying to her and her teenage friends, “Keep smiling girls!”

Sitting in her kitchen in Mauritius many years later, she said, “I didn’t have to be told to smile. I was a happy child, because my roots were deep in the islands, my paradise. My great-grandmother was born there; I made six children there. That’s why they couldn’t legally throw us out of our own homes; they had to terrify us into leaving or force us out. At first, they tried to starve us. The food ships stopped arriving [then] they spread rumours we would be bombed, then they turned on our dogs.”

In the early 1960s, the Labour government of Harold Wilson secretly agreed to a demand from Washington that the Chagos archipelago, a British colony, be “swept” and “sanitised” of its 2,500 inhabitants so that a military base could be built on the principal island, Diego Garcia. “They knew we were inseparable from our pets,” said Lisette, “When the American soldiers arrived to build the base, they backed their big trucks against the brick shed where we prepared the coconuts; hundreds of our dogs had been rounded up and imprisoned there. Then they gassed them through tubes from the trucks’ exhausts. You could hear them crying.”

Lisette and her family and hundreds of islanders were forced onto a rusting steamer bound for Mauritius, a distance of 2,500 miles. They were made to sleep in the hold on a cargo of fertilizer: bird shit. The weather was rough; everyone was ill; two women miscarried. Dumped on the docks at Port Louis, Lisette’s youngest children, Jollice and Regis, died within a week of each other. “They died of sadness,” she said. “They had heard all the talk and seen the horror of what had happened to the dogs. They knew they were leaving their home forever. The doctor in Mauritius said he could not treat sadness.”

This act of mass kidnapping was carried out in high secrecy. In one official file, under the heading, “Maintaining the fiction,” the Foreign Office legal adviser exhorts his colleagues to cover their actions by “re-classifying” the population as “floating” and to “make up the rules as we go along.” Article 7 of the statute of the International Criminal Court says the “deportation or forcible transfer of population” is a crime against humanity. That Britain had committed such a crime – in exchange for a $14 million discount off an American Polaris nuclear submarine – was not on the agenda of a group of British “defence” correspondents flown to the Chagos by the Ministry of Defence when the US base was completed. “There is nothing in our files,” said a ministry official, “about inhabitants or an evacuation.”

Today, Diego Garcia is crucial to America’s and Britain’s war on democracy. The heaviest bombing of Iraq and Afghanistan was launched from its vast airstrips, beyond which the islanders’ abandoned cemetery and church stand like archaeological ruins. The terraced garden where Lisette laughed for the camera is now a fortress housing the “bunker-busting” bombs carried by bat-shaped B-2 aircraft to targets in two continents; an attack on Iran will start here. As if to complete the emblem of rampant, criminal power, the CIA added a Guantanamo-style prison for its “rendition” victims and called it Camp Justice.

What was done to Lisette’s paradise has an urgent and universal meaning, for it represents the violent, ruthless nature of a whole system behind its democratic façade, and the scale of our own indoctrination to its messianic assumptions, described by Harold Pinter as a “brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.” Longer and bloodier than any war since 1945, waged with demonic weapons, a gangsterism dressed as economic policy and sometimes known as globalization, the war on democracy is unmentionable in Western elite circles. As Pinter wrote, “it never happened even while it was happening.” Last July, American historian William Blum published his “updated summary of the record of US foreign policy.” Since the Second World War, the US has:

  1. Attempted to overthrow more than 50 governments, most of them democratically elected.
  2. Attempted to suppress a populist or national movement in 20 countries.
  3. Grossly interfered in democratic elections in at least 30 countries.
  4. Dropped bombs on the people of more than 30 countries.
  5. Attempted to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders.

In total, the United States has carried out one or more of these actions in 69 countries. In almost all cases, Britain has been a collaborator. The “enemy” changes in name – from communism to Islamism – but mostly it is the rise of democracy independent of Western power or a society occupying strategically useful territory, deemed expendable, like the Chagos Islands.

The sheer scale of suffering, let alone criminality, is little known in the West, despite the presence of the world’s most advanced communications, nominally freest journalism and most admired academy. That the most numerous victims of terrorism – Western terrorism – are Muslims is unsayable, if it is known. That half a million Iraqi infants died in the 1990s as a result of the embargo imposed by Britain and America is of no interest. That extreme jihadism, which led to 9/11, was nurtured as a weapon of Western policy (“Operation Cyclone”) is known to specialists, but otherwise suppressed.

While popular culture in Britain and America immerses the Second World War in an ethical bath for the victors, the holocausts arising from Anglo-American dominance of resource-rich regions are consigned to oblivion. Under the Indonesian tyrant Suharto, anointed “our man” by Thatcher, more than a million people were slaughtered. Described by the CIA as “the worst mass murder of the second half of the 20th century,” the estimate does not include a third of the population of East Timor, who were starved or murdered with Western connivance, British fighter bombers and machine guns.

These true stories are told in declassified files in the Public Record Office, yet represent an entire dimension of politics and the exercise of power excluded from public consideration. This has been achieved by a regime of noncoercive information control, from the evangelical mantra of consumer advertising to sound bites on BBC news and, now, the ephemera of social media.

It is as if writers as watchdogs are extinct, or in thrall to a sociopathic zeitgeist, convinced they are too clever to be duped. Witness the stampede of sycophants eager to deify Christopher Hitchens, a war lover who longed to be allowed to justify the crimes of rapacious power. “For almost the first time in two centuries,” wrote Terry Eagleton, “there is no eminent British poet, playwright or novelist prepared to question the foundations of the Western way of life.” No Orwell warns that we do not need to live in a totalitarian society to be corrupted by totalitarianism. No Shelley speaks for the poor; no Blake proffers a vision; no Wilde reminds us that “disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is man’s original virtue.” And, grievously, no Pinter rages at the war machine, as in “American Football”:

Hallelujah. Praise the Lord for all good things … We blew their balls into shards of dust, Into shards of fucking dust …

Into shards of fucking dust go all the lives blown there by Barack Obama, the Hopey Changey of Western violence. Whenever one of Obama’s drones wipes out an entire family in a faraway tribal region of Pakistan, or Somalia, or Yemen, the American controllers in front of their computer-game screens type in “Bugsplat.” Obama likes drones and has joked about them with journalists. One of his first actions as president was to order a wave of Predator drone attacks on Pakistan that killed 74 people. He has since killed thousands, mostly civilians; drones fire Hellfire missiles that suck the air out of the lungs of children and leave body parts festooned across scrubland.

Remember the tear-stained headlines when Brand Obama was elected: “momentous, spine-tingling”: The Guardian UK. “The American future,” wrote Simon Schama, “is all vision, numinous, unformed, light-headed …” The San Francisco Chronicle’s columnist saw a spiritual “lightworker [who can] usher in a new way of being on the planet.” Beyond the drivel, as the great whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg had predicted, a military coup was taking place in Washington, and Obama was their man. Having seduced the anti-war movement into virtual silence, he has given America’s corrupt military officer class unprecedented powers of state and engagement. These include the prospect of wars in Africa and opportunities for provocations against China, America’s largest creditor and new “enemy” in Asia. Under Obama, the old source of official paranoia Russia, has been encircled with ballistic missiles and the Russian opposition infiltrated. Military and CIA assassination teams have been assigned to 120 countries; long-planned attacks on Syria and Iran beckon a world war. Israel, the exemplar of US violence and lawlessness by proxy, has just received its annual pocket money of $3 billion together with Obama’s permission to steal more Palestinian land.

Obama’s most “historic” achievement is to bring the war on democracy home to America. On New Year’s Eve, he signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a law that grants the Pentagon the legal right to kidnap both foreigners and US citizens and indefinitely detain, interrogate and torture, or even kill them. They need only “associate” with those “belligerent” to the United States. There will be no protection of law, no trial, no legal representation. This is the first explicit legislation to abolish habeas corpus (the right to due process of law) and effectively repeal the Bill of Rights of 1789.

On 5 January, in an extraordinary speech at the Pentagon, Obama said the military would not only be ready to “secure territory and populations” overseas, but to fight in the “homeland” and provide “support to the civil authorities.” In other words, US troops will be deployed on the streets of American cities when the inevitable civil unrest takes hold.

America is now a land of epidemic poverty and barbaric prisons: the consequence of a “market” extremism which, under Obama, has prompted the transfer of $14 trillion in public money to criminal enterprises in Wall Street. The victims are mostly young jobless, homeless, incarcerated African-Americans, betrayed by the first black president. The historic corollary of a perpetual war state, this is not fascism, not yet, but neither is it democracy in any recognizable form, regardless of the placebo politics that will consume the news until November. The presidential campaign, says The Washington Post, will “feature a clash of philosophies rooted in distinctly different views of the economy.” This is patently false. The circumscribed task of journalism on both sides of the Atlantic is to create the pretence of political choice where there is none.

The same shadow is across Britain and much of Europe, where social democracy, an article of faith two generations ago, has fallen to the central bank dictators. In David Cameron’s “big society,” the theft of 84 billion pounds in jobs and services even exceeds the amount of tax “legally” avoid by piratical corporations. Blame rests not with the far right, but a cowardly, liberal political culture that has allowed this to happen, which, wrote Hywel Williams in the wake of the attacks on 9/11, “can itself be a form of self righteous fanaticism.” Tony Blair is one such fanatic. In its managerial indifference to the freedoms that it claims to hold dear, bourgeois Blairite Britain has created a surveillance state with 3,000 new criminal offenses and laws: more than for the whole of the previous century. The police clearly believe they have an impunity to kill. At the demand of the CIA, cases like that of Binyam Mohamed, an innocent British resident tortured and then held for five years in Guantanamo Bay, will be dealt with in secret courts in Britain “in order to protect the intelligence agencies” – the torturers.

This invisible state allowed the Blair government to fight the Chagos islanders as they rose from their despair in exile and demanded justice in the streets of Port Louis and London. “Only when you take direct action, face to face, even break laws, are you ever noticed,” said Lisette. “And the smaller you are, the greater your example to others.” Such an eloquent answer to those who still ask, “What can I do?”

I last saw Lisette’s tiny figure standing in driving rain alongside her comrades outside the Houses of Parliament. What struck me was the enduring courage of their resistance. It is this refusal to give up that rotten power fears, above all, knowing it is the seed beneath the snow.


 John PilgerJohn Pilger, Australian-born, London-based journalist, film-maker and author. For his foreign and war reporting, ranging from Vietnam and Cambodia to the Middle East, he has twice won Britain’s highest award for journalism. For his documentary films, he won a British Academy Award and an American Emmy. In 2009, he was awarded Australia’s human rights prize, the Sydney Peace Prize. His latest film is “The War on Democracy.”

 

Scary! Robots Will Control Us All!


Perhaps the scariest article you’ll read all year (robots will soon control us all)

Robots, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, AI, Rise of the Machines, Rise of the Robots:-

If this is the fu­ture of war­fare and in­tel­li­gence gath­er­ing, rest as­sured it won’t only be Wash­ing­ton doing it.

Last month philoso­pher Patrick Lin de­liv­ered this brief­ing about the ethics of drones at an event hosted by In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s ven­ture-cap­i­tal arm (via the At­lantic):

Let’s look at some cur­rent and fu­ture sce­nar­ios. These go be­yond ob­vi­ous in­tel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance, and re­con­nais­sance (ISR), strike, and sen­try ap­pli­ca­tions, as most ro­bots are being used for today. I’ll limit these sce­nar­ios to a time hori­zon of about 10-15 years from now.

Mil­i­tary sur­veil­lance ap­pli­ca­tions are well known, but there are also im­por­tant civil­ian ap­pli­ca­tions, such as ro­bots that pa­trol play­grounds for pe­dophiles (for in­stance, in South Korea) and major sport­ing events for sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­ity (such as the 2006 World Cup in Seoul and 2008 Bei­jing Olympics). Cur­rent and fu­ture bio­met­ric ca­pa­bil­i­ties may en­able ro­bots to de­tect faces, drugs, and weapons at a dis­tance and un­der­neath cloth­ing. In the fu­ture, robot swarms and “smart dust” (some­times called nanosen­sors) may be used in this role.

Ro­bots can be used for alert­ing pur­poses, such as a hu­manoid po­lice robot in China that gives out in­for­ma­tion, and a Russ­ian po­lice robot that re­cites laws and is­sues warn­ings. So there’s po­ten­tial for ed­u­ca­tional or com­mu­ni­ca­tion roles and on-the-spot com­mu­nity re­port­ing, as re­lated to in­tel­li­gence gath­er­ing.

In de­liv­ery ap­pli­ca­tions, SWAT po­lice teams al­ready use ro­bots to in­ter­act with hostage-tak­ers and in other dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions. So ro­bots could be used to de­liver other items or plant sur­veil­lance de­vices in in­ac­ces­si­ble places. Like­wise, they can be used for ex­trac­tions too. As men­tioned ear­lier, the BEAR robot can re­trieve wounded sol­diers from the bat­tle­field, as well as han­dle haz­ardous or heavy ma­te­ri­als. In the fu­ture, an au­tonomous car or he­li­copter might be de­ployed to ex­tract or trans­port sus­pects and as­sets, to limit US per­son­nel in­side hos­tile or for­eign bor­ders.

In de­ten­tion ap­pli­ca­tions, ro­bots could also be used to not just guard build­ings but also peo­ple. Some ad­van­tages here would be the elim­i­na­tion of prison abuses like we saw at Guan­tanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba and Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. This speaks to the dis­pas­sion­ate way ro­bots can op­er­ate. Re­lat­edly–and I’m not ad­vo­cat­ing any of these sce­nar­ios, just spec­u­lat­ing on pos­si­ble uses–ro­bots can solve the dilemma of using physi­cians in in­ter­ro­ga­tions and tor­ture. These ac­tiv­i­ties con­flict with their duty to care and the Hip­po­cratic oath to do no harm. Ro­bots can mon­i­tor vital signs of in­ter­ro­gated sus­pects, as well as a human doc­tor can. They could also ad­min­is­ter in­jec­tions and even in­flict pain in a more con­trolled way, free from mal­ice and prej­u­dices that might take things too far (or much fur­ther than al­ready).