Posts Tagged ‘Arkansas’

Lobster: Maggie Thatcher Regretted Cutting Taxes

January 19, 2017

I found this extremely interesting snippet in Robin Ramsay’s ‘News from the Bridge’ section in the latest issue of the parapolitics magazine, Lobster, for Summer 2017. According to Frank Field, shortly after she retired, someone asked her what she most regretted. The Iron Lady answered that it was cutting taxes. She said she believed that it would result in a more giving society. This had not materialised.

He writes

I watch our politicians and, even though I know that as politicians they’re interested in power first and the truth second (or fifth, or not at all15), and have been conditioned to listen to polls and focus groups for their professed views, I find myself unable to suppress the thought: I wonder what they are really thinking? Take Margaret Thatcher: what did she really think she was doing when she fronted the creation of the grossly unequal society we now have? Frank Field MP gave us a striking insight into her thinking recently. Just after
she retired she was asked, ‘“What was your greatest disappointment in
government?” Back shot Mrs T: “I cut taxes because I thought we would get a giving society. And we haven’t.”

If we take this seriously, she apparently thought charitable giving would replace some of the state’s functions. This is consistent with the anti-state prejudices of the group with which she was allied in the 1970s – Keith Joseph, Alfred Sherman, the Institute for Economic Affairs et al. Another interpretation would be that, having decided to cut taxes to win elections, she rationalised the reduction in state spending with the thought. ‘Oh, well, people will give more to charity.’ Either way, it shows that Mrs T had no understanding of the
society in which she lived and the great tide of possessive individualism17 she was encouraging. But we knew that already, I guess.

See the section ‘Oh, Really?’ at http://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster73/lob73-view-from-the-bridge.pdf

Assuming that this is genuine, and not Thatcher trying to make herself look genuinely caring and self-aware when the opposite was the case, this undermines somewhat the central myth of Thatcherism. The Tories have consistently attacked the welfare state on the grounds that it discourages private charity. I remember Thatcher and the Tory press prating on about how the retreat of welfare provision would strengthen private charity, as private individuals and charities stepped in to fill the vacuum left by the state. Reagan and the Republicans spouted the same nonsense over the other side of the Pond, followed by Bill Clinton. There’s footage of the former governor of Arkansas telling one Conservative group that ‘we know that there isn’t a government programme for every need or social problem’ or words to that effect, before going on to praise the effectiveness of private charity in tackling poverty and deprivation. And it’s true that American religious Conservatives are personally more generous than secular liberals. But the left has pointed out that private charity is inadequate for tackling poverty, unemployment, and issues like disability and poor health. You need state provision.

Now it seems, despite all the rubbish talked about Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ or May’s ‘shared society’, all this Thatcherite talk about private charity was rubbish, and known to be so by the woman who uttered it, after she tried it and it didn’t work. This has to be an embarrassment to a party for whom Maggie can do no wrong, and which is still preaching her discredited bilge nearly forty years after she came to power.

Get May and the Tories out now! Before they can wreck the NHS still further.

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Reichwing Watch on Hillary Clinton as the Republican Democrat

November 15, 2016

The world was shocked last week by the election of Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton as the next president of the United States. The news showed footage of Clinton and her supporters weeping at the result. Yet as this documentary from Reichwing Watch shows, Clinton herself was no liberal. They describe her as a Republican Democrat. The description is accurate. As this documentary shows and concludes, she is like her Republican opponents a corporatist militarist, backing powerful companies, the military and the armaments industry against ordinary Americans, the environment, and the smaller nations of Latin America and Iraq, which have had the misfortune to feel the boot of American imperialism. And far from a supporter of women and ethnic minorities, the documentary also shows how she cynically sponsored the punitive legislation that has seen the mass incarceration and denial of federal welfare support to Blacks, defend truly horrific rapists and cover up Bill’s affairs and sexual assaults. All while claiming to be a feminist. The documentary also shows how Hillary was also extremely cynical about gay marriage, opposing it until the very last minute when it was politically expedient.

The documentary is divided into several chapters, dealing respectively with imperialism, Black rights, the gun lobby, the war on women, LGBT rights and corruption. It begins with a quote from Christopher Hitchens urging people not to vote for Hillary, as it is a mistake to support candidates, who are seeking election for therapeutic reasons. He then cites her husband, Bill, as an example.

Chapter 1: Building an Empire

This chapter begins with Killary’s support for the Iraq invasion, despite admissions from other members of the US Congress that the full scale industrial equipment needed to produce weapons of mass destruction was not found, and opposition to her and the invasion from Congressmen Kucinich, Bernie Sanders, Gravett, and the liberal news host, Jon Stewart. It also shows clips of Obama and Christopher Hitchens stating that she had the support of the Republicans for her stance on the Iraq invasion, including Henry Kissinger. Kissinger is rightly described by one of the speakers in this documentary as ‘the greatest unindicted war criminal in the world today’. It discusses how the US supported coup in Ecuador recalls the Kissinger sponsored coup in Chile that overthrew Salvador Allende in favour of the Fascist dictator, General Pinochet. It also mentions Killary’s sponsorship of the military coup in Honduras and the assassination of the indigenous rights leader, Berta Carceres. After the coup, Killary ensured that the regime received American aid, including military, in return for which American corporations also received lucrative contracts, especially in the construction of the dams. This section of the documentary also shows how Killary is absolutely ruthless and single-minded when it comes to pursuing her own projects, even at the possible expense of her husband’s interests. When Bill Clinton was finally considering intervening in Bosnia in the 1990s, Killary refused to support him until the very last minute as she was also afraid that this would affect her own healthcare reforms. She was also a firm supporter of No Fly Zones in Syria, despite the view of many others that these would lead directly to war with Russia.

Chapter II: Black Lives Matter

The title of this section of the documentary is highly ironic, considering that for much of her career, Shrillary hasn’t been remotely interested in Black rights, and indeed began her political involvement actively opposing them. She herself freely admits that when she was in college, she was a Goldwater Girl, supporting the segregationist Republican candidate Barry Goldwater. When Bill Clinton was governor of Arkansas, he and Hillary continued to celebrate Confederate Flag Day along with the rest of the reactionaries. There’s also a clip of her describing the threat of urban ‘super predators’ connected to the drug gangs. This was a term that at the time was used almost exclusively to describe Black men. There’s a clip of Michelle Alexander, the author of The New Jim Crow, about contemporary legislation designed to marginalise and impoverish Black America, denouncing the extremely punitive legislation Killary and Bill introduced as part of the war on drugs. These deny federal welfare aid to those convicted of drug offences for going to college, access to public housing and even food stamps. This was part of the Clinton’s strategy to win back swing voters, who had voted for Reagan and the Republicans. Clinton herself continued her strategy of appealing to White voters at the expense of Blacks. In 2008 she credited White voters for supporting her against Barack Obama. She also at one point discussed the assassination of Bobby Kennedy when answering a question about how long she planned to continue her campaign against Obama. She was viciously attacked for this by Stewart, who was outraged that she should mention this at a time when Obama was receiving death threats because of he was a Black man aiming at the presidency. Hillary was also herself extremely cynical in mentioning Obama’s Muslim background and upbringing. Without ever quite saying that he was a Muslim, and therefore shouldn’t be president, she nevertheless reminded people that he had been, thus reinforcing their prejudices.

Chapter III: The Gun Lobby

This begins with Hillary denouncing the armaments industry. However, once in power, she approved $122 million in sales for the gun firms, many of which produced the weapons used by Adam Lanza to shoot his mother and the other children at Sandy Hook school. She also managed to raise American armament sales abroad by 80 per cent over her predecessor, Condoleeza Rice, approving $165 billion of armaments sales in four years. These companies then invested part of their profits in the NRA, which sent lobbyists to Washington, several of whom, including representatives of Goldman Sachs, then went and attended a fundraising dinner for the Clintons.

Chapter IV: The War on Women

This concludes with a clip of Madeleine Albright urging women to vote for Clinton as ‘there is a special place in Hell for women, who do not help other women’. Yet Clinton’s own feminism and support for women is extremely patchy. This part of the documentary begins with her making a speech about how women’s rights are human rights, and vice versa. Which is clearly true. However, it then goes on to play a recording of her talking in 1975 about how she successfully defended a monstrous rapist, who had attacked a 12 year old girl. The girl was left in a coma for several months, needed considerable therapy to help her back on her feet afterwards. She has been on drugs, never married or had children. Her life has been ruined because of this monstrous assault, by a man Clinton knew was guilty, but successfully defended. Due to plea bargaining, he only served a derisory two months in prison.

This part of the documentary also shows how Hillary covered up for Bill’s affairs, and his sexual assault of Juanita Broderick. Broderick, then married, was a nurse at a nursing home, who had done some campaigning for the Clintons. They visited the home, during which Clinton sexually assaulted her in one of the bedrooms. Afterwards Killary approached her, caught her by the hand, and said that they appreciated how much she meant to her husband. Broderick clearly, and not unreasonably, considers this to be a veiled threat, and states that Killary frightened her. The section concludes with a piece about her support for another Democrat, Cuomo, and how this candidate was really another Republican in the guise of a Democrat, who believed in trickle-down Reaganite economics.

Chapter V: LGBT Rights

This begins with a clip from an interview with a gay serviceman, stating how it was very difficult initially in the navy when his sexuality was first known about. This section of the documentary shows how she actively opposed gay marriage until she thought there was votes in supporting it. She is seen supporting her husband’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy towards gays in the military as a progressive position, despite the fact that Bill himself said it was only a compromise. It then shows her making speeches declaring that she believed marriage should only be between a man and a woman, and that New York State should not recognise gay marriage.

Chapter VI: Corruption

This part begins by discussing how the Clinton’s took money from Tyson’s, one of the major poultry producers in Arkansas, and one of the agri-businesses credited with polluting 3,700 miles of the states’ waterways. Clinton passed laws setting up a task force to looking into the problem, while ensuring that about a third of the seats on this quango went to Tyson’s. Tyson’s were an important contributor to the Clintons’ campaign funds, in return for which Bill passed laws favouring the firm, and allowing them to grow into the state’s biggest poultry firm.

And the corruption didn’t stop there. It goes on to show how Killary did absolutely nothing to challenge Walmart’s ban on trade unions when she was on their board, and the company still lags behind others in promoting women to important positions. She was also hypocritical in her ‘Buy American’ campaign to persuade Americans to buy domestically produced goods. While she was at Walmart, the company continued to sale imported goods, some of which were even misleadingly labelled as ‘made in America’. This included clothing made in factories in Bangladesh which employed 12 year old girls.

Elsewhere, Killary also campaigned against a bankruptcy bill promoted by the credit card companies in their favour, in a reversal of her previous policy. The also made $675,000 from three speeches to Goldman Sachs, speeches which she refused to release.

She has also been duplicitous in her support of the NAFTA and TPP free trade agreements. She accused Obama during his election campaign of supporting NAFTA, while secretly reassuring the Canadians that she really backed it herself. There is also a clip of Elizabeth Warren, another Democrat politician, attacking the TPP. Warren states that this free trade deal isn’t about developing commerce, but in giving more power to multinational companies at the expense of national governments and hard-working ordinary Americans. America already had free trade deals with very many of the countries included in the treaty. And about half of the TPP’s 30 chapters are devoted to giving more power to the companies.

This section of the documentary also includes a clip of Mika Brzezinski, the daughter of Carter’s foreign policy advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, talking about how Killary has no personal convictions of her own, and will say anything to get herself elected. This is followed by the veteran radical, Noam Chomsky, stating that Clinton’s Democrat party is really that of moderate Republicans. President Truman, who warned about the threat of the military-industrial complex, is by their standards now far to the Left. It also has a clip from an interview with one of the multibillionaire Koch brothers describing how they liked Bill Clinton over many Republicans. This one is, admittedly, rather more hesitant when it comes to whether he’d support Killary. There’s then footage from a speech by Bill Clinton promoting small government and how there isn’t a programme for every problem. This is followed by footage of Hillary herself stating that she isn’t dogmatically Republican or Democrat. The documentary ends with the description of her as the worst of the two defects of the American political system. She is both a militarist, and a promoter of corporate power.

Donald Trump is a monster, and his election has brought fear to many millions of ordinary Americans, particularly those from ethnic minorities. The Beeb yesterday reported that 300 racially motivated incidents had been recorded since he was elected last week. Non-white children have been bullied at school, racist slogans sprayed on Black and ethnic minority people’s property and vehicles, and the Nazis from Alt-Right have crawled out from their pits to spew hatred against the Jews. Trump’s even appointed Steven Bannon, a racist and anti-Semite executive from the right-wing news organisation, Breitbart, his ‘chief strategist’. America and the world are facing the prospect of a Nazi in the White House.

But Hillary herself is no angel. She’s a corporate, militarist monster, who supports the very big businesses that are bringing poverty to working people in America by lowering wages, denying union rights, polluting America’s great natural environment, and shipping jobs overseas.

And abroad, her pursuit of American imperial power, as expressed in the American military complex’s own jargon of ‘full spectrum dominance’ – in other words, absolute military power over the rest of us – has threatened to plunge the world once again into a Cold War and the prospect of nuclear annihilation. And her embrace of Henry Kissinger should be a mark of shame to any decent human being. This is the man, whose firm support of dictators in Latin America and Asia, and whose conduct of the Vietnam War, brought death and torture to tens, if not hundreds of millions of innocents.

And Killary herself has blood on her hands through her support of the Iraq invasion, and the coups in Ecuador and Honduras.

Quite frankly, considering the millions she’s threatened with torture, assassination, disappearance and the Fascist jackboot, I really honestly don’t have any sympathy with her weeping over her election defeat. She’s lucky. She didn’t get to be president, but no-one will be rounding her or her husband up to be raped or tortured by the secret police, before being murdered in a concentration camp. She doesn’t have to worry about Chelsea being murdered by a death squad. She gets to live, and enjoy her very privileged life as a major politico and businesswoman. The people she and the rest of the administrations she served and supported, who’ve had their lands invaded and governments overthrown, haven’t been so lucky.

Vintage Curtis: The Power of Nightmares

January 23, 2015

This is an attempt to provide a fuller answer to the question Mike over at Vox Political posed in his post Terrorism, Islam, and the need to keep the Western world in fear. Mike suggested that politicians were exaggerating the scale of the threat from Islamist terrorists, and, for that matter, Russia, in order to keep us down. Ten years ago the Beeb’s Adam Curtis produced the documentary, The Power of Nightmares, arguing that this was precisely the case.

The Power of Nightmares: Politicians and the Use of the External Threat

The Power of Nightmares is a superb documentary. I found it stored at the Internet Archive. Broadcast eleven years ago, it was a series of 3 films titled Baby, It’s Cold Outside, The Phantom Victory and The Shadows in the Cave. The series examined the rise of the Neo-Cons in America, the origins of radical Islamism in the ideas of Sayyid Qutb and the War on Terror. Curtis took the view that the scale of the terrorist threat had been exaggerated out of all proportion to reality in order to serve the Neo-Cons’ right wing agenda. Politicians, according to Curtis, had used external threats to restore their own power and authority. Whereas once they power and prestige through offering the possibility of transforming the world for the better, people had now become disillusioned. In this post-ideological vacuum, politicians became mere managers. Now, by exploiting the fears of terrorism, and of terrible, unimaginable enemies that only they could correctly identify, they hoped to win back their status by presenting themselves as being the only people, who could protect us.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

In the first episode, Baby, It’s Cold Outside, Curtis described the origins both of the Neo-Cons, and radical Islamism. The Neo-Cons were the followers of the philosopher Leo Strauss. Strauss believed that modern, liberal society had made Americans socially atomised, nihilistic and materialistic. He wished to counter this by stressing religion as a socially cohesive force, which could be used to unite America. His ideas were then taken over by Irving Kristol, a former liberal, who crossed over to the Dark Side following the race riots of the ’60s and ’70s. He believed that Liberalism itself was responsible for the breakdown and moral decline of American society. The Neo-Cons attempted to reverse this process, not only by using religion, but also by stressing the existence of an external threat. This would be used to unite Americans behind traditional, Conservative values, as well as restore American particularism – the view that America had a unique identity and duty to tackle evil in the world.

This external threat was the Soviet Union.

The Neo-Cons and the Demonisation of the USSR

Here, their ideas of the military power of the USSR was entirely illusory. The Neo-Cons were originally entirely cynical in their use of religion and the existence of an external threat. These were, to them, nothing more than Plato’s ‘Noble Lie’, a useful mythology to move the populace to a desired end. It did not matter whether the myth was factually true or not. As they became obsessed with finding evidence of Soviet military supremacy, they became convinced by their own propaganda.

This part of the film is blackly funny. The Neo-Cons hated Kissinger, because Kissinger was ruthless pragmatic. Kissinger did not believe in moral absolutes. He was merely interested in creating a stable world. He therefore signed the arms limitation agreements with the Brezhnev regime which formed the basis of the détente between America and the USSR. The Neo-Cons thus created ‘Team B’, to examine the military reports the government was using, but use them to show that in reality the Russians really were ahead of America. There was absolutely no evidence of this. And so the Neo-Cons decided that ‘absence of evidence is not evidence of absence’. The absence of any evidence that the Soviet were superior, meant that they were so far ahead their weapon systems had evaded detection. The Americans had been unable to find any evidence that the Russians had acoustic detection equipment on their submarines. Instead of concluding, however, that this meant that they didn’t have any detection equipment, the Neo-Cons instead decided that the Soviets had something better, and so sophisticated, it was undetectable. Similarly, line of radar installations in the Soviet Far East were interpreted, not as anything as mundane as radar installations, but as a super-sophisticated laser weapon array. The Neo-Cons thought they finally had found the positive proof they needed when they discovered a document written by the CIA presenting the case that the Soviets were indeed militarily superior. Except that the CIA informed them that it was rubbish. They knew, because they’d written it, and it was nothing but black propaganda. They even brought out the document’s author, to tell the Neo-Cons that it was nonsense. But the Neo-Cons still wouldn’t believe it. The Neo-Cons had also managed to convince themselves that the USSR was responsible for the proliferation of Marxist terrorist organisations around the world, such as Germany’s notorious Baader-Meinhof Gang. Again, there was no evidence for this, and it was entirely illusory. Nevertheless, to the Neo-Cons it was a fact.

The Rise of Reagan

The Neo-Cons finally gained the power they craved when Reagan took office. Reagan had partly succeeded through an alliance with the American religious right. Believing that America was fundamentally corrupt, these had traditionally stood aloof from politics, as they did not wish to become entwined with such a corrupt system by voting. The Neo-Cons allied the religious Conservatives to oust more traditional Conservatives, who stressed personal freedom and choice. The film here includes footage of a Republican candidate stating his support for a woman’s right to choose on abortion being booed off the platform at a Republican convention. The result was the renewed Cold War in the 1980s, and the funding of the Mujahideen in Afghanistan as part of Reagan’s confrontation with the Evil Empire.

Sayyid Qutb and Radical Islam

At the opposite political extreme were the radical Islamists, who took their ideas from Sayyid Qutb. Qutb was an Egyptian schoolteacher, who had gone to America in the 1950s to study the American way of life, and bring the lessons learned back to Egypt. He did, but they were lessons that the US definitely didn’t want to give. Like the Neo-Cons, he believed that American society was fundamentally rotten and materialistic. Americans pursued material goods, fussing over their lawns and consumer accessories. He was particularly shocked by a dance held in a church hall, which he described as being full of ‘love and lust’. While most Westerners would simply regard the dance as being entirely innocent, rather than any kind of orgy, to Qutb it was an example of the way Liberalism allowed people to give way entirely to their animal desires. And he definitely didn’t want this coming back to his homeland.

When he returned to Egypt, Qutb joined the Muslim Brotherhood. He wanted a morally regenerate, Islamic society, that would enjoy all the technological and scientific benefits of Western society, but would have none of the materialism or permissiveness of Western Liberalism. The Egyptian president, Gamal Nasser, was adamant that Egypt would be a secular society, and Qutb was imprisoned and tortured. His experiences in prison convinced Qutb that Western liberalism and democracy were fundamentally brutal. He formulated an ideology which advocated the formation of an elite, who would act as a revolutionary vanguard to create the new Islamic society. The Islamist revolutionaries believed that by adopting Western values of democracy, the country’s political leaders had betrayed Islam. And as Islam’s enemies, they deserved to be killed.

The Assassination of Sadat and Ayman Zawahiri

This doctrine resulted in the assassination of Nasser’s successor, Anwar Sadat. Qutb had been executed, and was succeeded as the leader of the Islamist revolutionaries by Ayman Zawahiri. Sadat was marked for assassination both because of the domestic corruption of his regime and because he signed the peace accords with Israel at Camp David. Sadat publicly denied any corruption, but in fact his administration was marked by the corrupt influence of six bankers. Rather than returning to the kind of arch-traditionalist Islam Zawahiri and the others wanted, he pursued an open-doors policy towards the West. His signing of the peace agreement with Israel was also seen, not as a heroic act of a genuine peacemaker, but as that of someone who had fundamentally betrayed Islam. As a result, the Islamists rose up and assassinated him.

They were profoundly disappointed with the result. The Muslim Brotherhood had believed that the assassination of the liberal, secular leaders would provoke the masses to rise up against the Westernised, secular society that had been imposed on them. But the Egyptian masses didn’t rise up, and the Islamists were rounded up, and put on trial. As a result, the Islamists pushed their doctrine further. They decided that the Jaihiliyya, the non-Islamic state of ignorance created by Westernisation had corrupted even the people themselves. Hitherto they had confined their violence to politicians. Now they argued that even members of the public should be killed as traitors to Islam.

The Phantom Victory: Afghanistan and the Fall of Communism

Episode 2: The Phantom Victory discussed the War in Afghanistan, and the Neo-Cons fall from power with the accession of George Bush snr and then Bill Clinton to the presidency. The Americans saw the War in Afghanistan as part of their crusade to destroy the Soviet Union. They therefore began to arm the Mujahideen. These were initially organised around Abdullah Azzam in Peshawar. Azzam, however, did not believe in killing non-combatants, and made his followers take an oath to that effect. In competition with Azzam, however, was a smaller group of Islamist rebels, the followers of Zawahiri, who were quite prepared to kill and murder innocents. These were the group Islamic Jihad. One of those idealistic Muslims, who went to Afghanistan to join the struggle against the Soviet, was Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden was originally a follower of Azzam, but was seduced away from him to Zawahiri’s group. Complementing the fighters were many political dissidents, who had been released from prisons all over the Arab world in the hope that they would go to Afghanistan, and not come back.

Mikhail Gorbachev

Gorbachev, the new Soviet leader, was acutely aware of the immense problems facing the Soviet Union. He believed that the USSR was in danger of imminent collapse, and so wished to push forward a comprehensive campaign of reform. In order to do so, he wished to withdraw from Afghanistan in order to concentrate on the USSR’s domestic problems. He therefore sought a negotiated peace with Reagan and the Mujahideen. But the Reagan administration would not make a deal, and Gorby was shocked by their intransigence. In the period following the Soviet withdrawal, the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet bloc collapsed completely. Both the American Neo-Cons and the radical Islamists believed they had been responsible for the USSR’s collapse. But this was untrue. The USSR fell, not because of military defeat, but because the regime and society was fundamentally rotten.

George Bush Snr

Convinced of America’s special destiny to promote democracy and correct moral values in the world, the Neo-Cons wanted Bush’s regime to export it at gunpoint to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq during Gulf War I. But Bush was, like Kissinger, another pragmatist, and so was content merely with freeing Kuwait, and containing Saddam. He did not want to change the Iraqi regime, and his supporters believed that, had he adopted this aim, America would still be in Iraq 14 years or so later.

Bill Clinton

The Neo-Cons were further disappointed when Clinton became president. Slick Willy had succeeded partly by winning over Republican supporters alienated by the religious influence on their party. The Neo-Cons saw him in the same Manichaean terms they applied to the Soviet Union – as the embodiment of evil itself. They therefore sought to blacken him anyway they could. Clinton was accused of multiple adultery, of fraudulent land deals in the Whitewater scandal, assassinating one of his aides, and smuggling drugs through an airport in Arkansas. These accusations all came from a minute American Conservative magazine, the American Spectator. With the exception of Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, none of this was true. And in the case of the Whitewater deal, the Clinton’s actually lost money. One of those speaking in the documentary about this was a former journalist on the magazine, who had initially believed these stories, but then came to repudiate them utterly.

The Brutal Collapse of Islamism in Algeria

The Islamists in the Middle East were also suffering their own setbacks. In Algeria, the Islamic party, the FLN, had won the first round of elections. They presented a challenge to democracy, as the Islamists wished to replace secular authority with that of the Qu’ran. This would effectively make political parties obsolete, as the Qu’ran could not be challenged as the source of law. The armed forces stepped in and seized power, rather than the secular society destroyed. The Islamist forces in their turn rose up against them. The result was a bloody civil war, in which the Islamists took to attacking and killing the civilians they felt had betrayed Islam by not supporting the revolution. The various Islamist militias were infiltrated by the Algerian armed forces, who turned them into committing increasingly extreme and horrific acts of terrorism. The intention was to turn ordinary Algerians away from these groups through disgust at the atrocities they were committing. The tactic succeeded, and the Islamists terrorists became ever more extreme. Finally they turned on each other. Each group believed that they, and only they, were the true Muslims. The end finally came with one Islamist group, led by a former chicken farmer, declaring that it and only it represented true Islam, and advocating the death of everybody else.

The Shadows in the Cave: Dubya and 9/11

Shadows in the Cave, the third and final film, took the story from the election of George ‘Dubya’ Bush
to the time the show was screened in 2004. As is now notorious, Dubya was another Neo-Con, and believed that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden really were at the centre of a vast, global terrorist network. This network was another illusion. There was just a number of different, radical Islamic groups, who used bin Laden as a source of funding. But bin Laden himself was in no way their leader. Rather, they were using him. The idea of a single terror network, al-Qaeda, really only appeared after 9/11, and was a result of the American legal system. In the aftermath, the Americans rounded up other Islamists, who had been complicit in the atrocity, with the aim also of convicting bin Laden himself. But the legislation under which the terrorists were tried had been put in place in order to deal with organised crime. In order to convict bin Laden, the authorities needed to prove that he was head of a distinct terrorist organisation with its own identity. And hence they produced al-Qaeda, which was largely a legal fiction. Bin Laden himself only started using the term after it was used by the Americans.

The 9/11 attack, rather than being a sign of the movement’s international strength, was even then the result of a small minority. Most of the Islamists in Afghanistan were radical nationalists, who wished to export the Islamic revolution to their own countries. However, rather than taking that step, bin Laden had gone for ‘the further enemy’ America.

The Northern Alliance: Dodgy Information and the Selling of Prisoners

In hunting down al-Qaeda, Americans also allied themselves with the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, a group of warlords fighting the Taliban. They were given arms and money in return for intelligence and al-Qaeda prisoners. A total of a million dollars may have been given to them. But some of the information they supplied, and the prisoners they handed over, were much less than what they seemed.

Remember Tora Bora? Those were the caves in which bin Laden supposedly had his lair. The documentary includes footage of American news programmes, in which the caves were presented as a highly sophisticated complex, complete with separate living units, offices and replete with high-powered surveillance devices. The Americans duly bombed the caves, only to find to find that it was a simple series of caves. Some had been used to store equipment, but it was definitely not the underground Bond-villain style fortress it had been built up as.

As for the prisoners, many of whom may not have been directly involved in the attacks, but were shipped off to Gitmo anyway. It’s even doubtful how many of them were actually al-Qaeda terrorists. Some may just have been Arabs unlucky enough to have been picked off the street by the Northern Alliance to sell to the Americans.

The Hunt for Domestic Terrorists

The authorities were naturally keen to round up possible domestic terrorists. There developed a theory that there were a number of terrorist ‘sleeper cells’ in America, ready to rise up and commit further atrocities. Several of the Muslims arrested on suspicion of terrorism seem to have been innocent. There was a group of three men, who had gone away to a terrorist training camp, before returning to America. They were watched by the FBI for a year as suspected terrorists, but none of them did anything terrorist-related. In fact, one of them had been so desperate to get back to America, that he had actually feigned illness. Then one of them left for Bahrain, and sent his friends a letter, stating that he was getting married and would not see them for some time. The authorities swooped, believing that this was a code for a possible suicide attack on the American Gulf fleet. No, the message was as innocuous as it appeared. Rather than going to blow himself up, the man really had gone to get married, and so didn’t expect to see his friends for some time.

Another group were arrested after they filmed themselves going to Disneyworld. This was seen by the authorities, following their experience with criminals, as a kind of casing video, in which the suspected terrorists were looking for points of attack. They had disguised their actions, however, simply as a group of tourists making an ordinary video of their day. Other evidence was a doodle from the house they occupied, which was interpreted as a secret map of the defences of an American base in Turkey by its head of security. It wasn’t. Subsequent investigation showed it had been drawn by a madman a year previously. The man had occupied the same house, and was convinced he was head of the Yemeni security forces. He had drawn the doodle, which then got lost down the back of the furniture, until it was discovered by the FBI.

Other suspects included a group of young Muslims, who’d been out paintballing. This was again interpreted as terrorist training, but was in fact exactly what it appeared: a group of young guys out paintballing.

And some of the people making the accusations were themselves very dodgy. One was a Mr Mimzy. Mimzy was a multiply fraudster, wanted on 13 counts. In return for a lighter sentence, Mimzy made a deal with the Federal authorities in which he accused one of the supposed ‘terrorist’ groups above. They were arrested, but his evidence was thrown out after he was heard telling one of his fellow prisoners that he’d made it all up.

The Mirage of a Dirty Bomb

And then there was the furore about the terrible possibility Islamic terrorists could produce a ‘dirty bomb’. This was a conventional bomb that was designed to hurl amounts of radioactive material out with the explosion, to contaminate the surroundings. People were naturally afraid that such a device would be used, and they, their friends and families were suffer a long, lingering death from radiation sickness.

The federal authorities had prepared for that, and experts from the various atomic organisation simulated the result of such a bomb. They found that rather than cause mass death, it would be extremely surprising if a single person died. They found that it was possible people would suffer a massive, but non-fatal exposure to radiation, but only if they remained where they were for a long time.

A very long time.

About a year.

In reality, the bomb’s explosion would result in the material being so widely scattered and rarefied, that there simply would not be enough of it to cause serious harm, especially if the detonation zone was carefully clean up afterwards.

British Failures

And just in case we in Britain think that it’s only the Americans who got carried away with this, Curtis provided some domestic examples from Blair’s Britain. When Britain joined the hunt for bin Laden, it was with much fanfare. We were going to do better than the Americans, because of our long experience fighting terrorism in Northern Ireland. This didn’t fare much better either. Curtis shows footage of a British officer looking embarrassed as he admits that they haven’t found bin Laden, or captured any terrorists either. Of the 664 people arrested after 9/11 in London, all but a handful were guilty of no more than watching terrorist videos or reading their literature. Many of them were not actually terrorists at all. One of the Jihadis was the owner of a gym, which specialised in self-defence training. It was called ‘Ultimate Jihad Training’, but in reality its only client was a security guard, who wanted to learn how to defend himself at his job. The vast amount of terrorism in Britain was committed, not by Muslims, but by the Protestant and Roman Catholic paramilitaries in Ulster.

Curtis’ film argues that rather than really existing, Blair and the others had taken over the precautionary principle from the Green movement. This urged that even if there was no evidence of a threat, one should nevertheless be prepared for the very worst, and take precautions. The result was politicians imagining a series of terrible threats and events, for which there was no evidence. He contrasted the panic sweeping Britain with the relative calm in Spain. Despite the horrors of 7/7, the Spanish had not panicked and become afraid their entire society was under threat. He concluded that, while there clearly was a threat of Islamist terrorism, and there had been legitimate reasons for suspecting some of those arrested as terrorists, Bush, Blair and the other politicos had massive overstated the extent of the threat. A threat existed, but we were actually quite safe.

The series can be found at:

https://archive.org/details/ThePowerOfNightmares-Episode1BabyItsColdOutside

It’s very well worth watching.