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Posted by on Apr 26, 2013 in Blog, Politics, What's Left | 5 comments

It’s Time to Charge the Bush Administration with War Crimes

 

the-atlantic

War Criminals

 

I used to believe the campaign to prosecute top Bush Administration officials as “war criminals” was a farce.

Now, I’m convinced they have a point.

Consider the revelation earlier this week which reveals (former) President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld each knew full well that many — in fact a majority — of the detainees at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp were (and are) completely innocent.

Not a few of the detainees.  A MAJORITY.

If Bush Administration officials were aware that even a single person was innocent of involvement in acts related to terrorism, but despite knowing so still demanded the individual be held for years without due process, that disclosure alone would be scandalous.  But the allegations these top officials knew that most detainees languishing behind bars inside a military prison, some being subjected to aggressive interrogation tactics, were in fact innocent isn’t just an appalling desecration of authority, but a miscarriage of justice which demands full prosecution.

A good starting point here is to expose the facts which are now known.  An article in this month’s The Atlantic magazine written by Conor Friedersdorf makes it abundantly clear that top Bush Administration officials knowingly violated the rights of hundreds of innocent people.  Accordingly to sworn testimony in federal court now coming to light, most of the more than 700 people imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay “had never seen a U.S. soldier in the process of their initial detention and their captivity had not been subjected to any meaningful review.”

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Posted by on Apr 23, 2013 in Blog, Personal, Politics | 0 comments

The African Interviews (Part 2)

 

end-apartheid-now

 

Writer’s Note: This is the second of a two-part series.  Part 1 can be read here:  THE AFRICAN INTERVIEWS (PART 1)

 

Each of us has our own secrets.  Things we’ve done we later regret.  Moments in our lives we’re not proud of.

I’m about to tell you one of mine.

……………

There are two kinds of jobs.  Some which you apply for.  Others that come to you, seemingly out of nowhere.  They just happen.

This one just happened.  It came to me unexpectedly — and to this day — I have no idea exactly how or why.

My home telephone rang.  The voice on the line identified himself as someone who worked for the South African Government.  It was a friendly voice.  Cordial even.  He knew I was unemployed and looking for a job.

Being out of work sucks.  I’d sent out several resumes.  However, I don’t ever recall applying with the South African Government.  It’s pure speculation now, but perhaps a generic advertisement was placed in the “Help Wanted” section of The Washington Post and then someone plucked my resume out from among those that responded.  Who knows?

South Africa was undergoing changes that were truly revolutionary.  The repressive state policy of Apartheid was taking its final deep desperate breaths, but was by no means expunged.  If anything, those who benefited most from the old order were still in power.  Although the government did transform itself by official decree in 1990, most of those who still worked in South Africa’s foreign service (and related intelligence agencies) were holdovers from the bad old days.  No doubt, these were some real ball busters.  A government doesn’t simply change all of its personnel overnight and it took many years to ultimately make South Africa and its diplomatic corps far more reflective of the actual racial and cultural makeup of the nation.

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Posted by on Apr 22, 2013 in Blog, Essays, Personal, Politics, Travel | 0 comments

The African Interviews (Part 1)

 

africa-map

 

Writer’s Note:  Today and tomorrow, I’ll be sharing three stories.  Each shares a connection to Africa.  They’re all deeply personal.  And until now, I’ve never written about or told any of these stories before.

 

Out of Africa

Question:  What’s the world’s second most-populous continent?

If you saw today’s headline, you probably guessed it.  The answer is Africa.

More than one-billion people live in Africa, which is more than the entire population of Europe.  There are two-and-a-half times as many Africans as North Americans.  Imagine 25 Californias.  That’s Africa.

Africa also happens to be the second-largest continent in the world.  It has one-fifth of all the land mass on earth.

There are 54 African nations and I’ll bet most people can’t pinpoint more than a small fraction of them on a map.  I had this deficiency once too (and still do), as you’re about to learn.

Indeed, of all the places on Earth, Africa is the least understood, the most misunderstood, and the littlest-known in every sense — politically, geographically, socially, culturally, and historically.

Practically no one amongst us knows anything about Africa or its people, and this includes many otherwise intelligent people who know considerably more about every other region of the world.

It seems that even among intellectuals, Africa is forgotten.

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Posted by on Apr 20, 2013 in Blog, Movie Reviews, Politics | 0 comments

Movie Review: “No”

 

no-movie

 

“No” suffers from trying to be, and succeeding at, being far too realistic.

As preposterous as this criticism sounds, a promising political drama based on true events surrounding a 1988 election campaign in Chile abandons all the fundamentals of modern movie making.  There’s no soundtrack.  There’s no witty dialog.  There are no special effects.  The performances aren’t particularly memorable.  As a result, a potentially riveting political thriller drags badly in this poorly-scripted, abysmally-shot re-enactment which debuted last year in Chile.  It’s now finally making rounds in American movie theaters, its longevity based on being nominated earlier this year for an Oscar in the Best Foreign-Language film category.

“No” has the sophomoric look and feel of a film school project shot with a couple of Beta cams.  That’s because director Pablo Larrain curiously decided to shoot his entire movie with the same outdated videotape stock used by actual television news crews during the 1980’s, when this film takes place.  He presumably did this to add the look of realism.  Borrowing a visual device that worked masterfully when Steven Spielberg employed World War II-era Bell and Howell movie cameras to film the famous Normandy Beach scenes in Saving Private Ryan (1998), the same technique might have proven a powerful cinematic accompaniment had it been used selectively.  Instead, the entire movie is shot in a grainy film texture which not only becomes annoying, but quite distracting after the first few scenes when we realize this is the way the entire will be.  It becomes like trying to watch a movie through a dirty window pane.

This is unfortunate because “No” had great potential.  The movie is all about the 1988 political referendum on the brutal dictatorship of Chilean strongman Augusto Pinochet.  One of the most despised political leaders in Latin American history, Pinochet ruled the South American nation of Chile with an iron fist between 1973 and 1988.  However, his dictatorship faced growing international pressure to hold free elections, and so a national referendum was called in 1988 to vote on the question if Pinochet should be allowed to stay in power.

The premise sounds rather simple.  But after the military junta’s 15 years of disappearances, torture, intimidation, and media control, those Chileans brave enough to work on the “No” campaign took enormous risks, both professionally and personally.  What if they worked against Pinochet and then lost the election?  What would then be their fate?  Would they ever work again?  Would they eventually be arrested?  Could they end up as political prisoners?  “No,” which gets its name from the actual anti-Pinochet campaign, recounts the atmosphere of fear those brave enough to oppose the dictator had to endure during the 27-day campaign.  Given the overwhelming odds stacked against them, no one — not even the movement’s most committed followers — gave the “No” campaign a chance.

But if that was the case, we wouldn’t be watching a movie about these events some 25 years later.

That’s where the star of “No” comes in.  Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal plays a young hotshot advertising wizard hired by the anti-Pinochet (“No”) movement to orchestrate its media campaign.  The very real issue of how to run a national campaign amidst this culture of fear gets compounded by a deep divide within the camp between those who want to use this rare opportunity to showcase Pinochet’s horrific human rights abuses versus the younger pragmatists who view the selling of a candidate about the same as marketing soft drinks and toothpaste.

Given the extraordinary circumstances of this unique moment in history and all the subplots of running an underdog campaign fraught with danger, one can immediately see similarities to some of movie history’s best political thrillers — including Z (1969), The Candidate (1972), All the President’s Men (1976), Primary Colors (1998), and most recently — Argo (2012).  Had “No” employed a top-notch screenwriter and shot the movie in a more conventional manor (on standard film, for starters), it might have taken its place among the pantheon of great political dramas.  Instead, a fascinating story gets lost in the abyss of a poorly contrived and under-budgeted mess.

One final note:  Without revealing any spoilers, “No” is probably a must see for political junkies if for no other reason than to watch this unlikely campaign unfold, and at times completely unravel before ultimately becoming a serious challenge to one of the most notorious political and military regimes in Latin American history.  This is a fabulous story with some truly mesmerizing moments of triumph.  However, the film fails to convey these remarkable real-life events in a manner worthy of those brave heroes who actually set out to achieve the impossible.

In Spanish with English subtitles.

ONE STAR OUT OF FIVE

 

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Posted by on Apr 19, 2013 in Blog, Politics | 1 comment

Names to Remember, Faces Not to Forget

 

boston-marathon-bombing

 

If there’s a downside to the capture of the Boston Marathon bomber, it’s that the world will be forced to endure hearing his name and seeing his face over and over again.

Each time his name gets mentioned or his image is shown, we’re forced to relive the horrors.  We become captives of a twisted biography.  We’re given no other option but to surrender the most precious commodity we have, which is our time, and bestow it upon someone so utterly undeserving — someone who caused so much senseless pain, misery, and death.

We all become his victims, by the millions.  By making us bear witness to his unfathomable acts which are certain garner news headlines over the next several months, we’re robbed again and again.  He steals away moments when instead we should be living and enjoying life.  He’ll distract us from very real problems and issues that demand our attention.  Perhaps worse of all, his lasting presence in media coverage forces the victims who suffered the most to relive the most horrible moments of their lives.

There are other victims, too.  While a motive still remains unclear, if indeed these bombings were motivated by political or religious ideology, his actions most certainly damage whatever cause he believed in.  Yes, some causes are worth fighting for.  Some might even justify the use of violence.  But it’s difficult to think of any cause, no matter how noble, worthy of the murder of an eight-year-old boy.  Someone please justify that.

We’ve also came to learn something about the bombers’ family.  Based on comments widely reported throughout the day on Friday, the father and mother appear to be far beyond simple bereavement.  In fact, they are disgraceful people, worthy of our universal repudiation.  Any potential for a public outpouring of sympathy for the parents of the two bombers was shattered when the mother launched into a baffling verbal attack on the F.B.I. while authorities were in the midst of a manhunt for her son.  She even alleged her two sons were “set up.”  It turns out the father was a real prince too, calling his boys “angels.”

Listening to the two parents speak and try to explain themselves was nauseating.  They don’t deserve any sympathy.  They don’t even deserve our pity.  Based on their comments, they’re way beyond any capacity to feel shame.  So let’s just call them both out for what they are — worthless pieces of shit who bred and raised two turds.

The bombers names will not be listed.  The parents names will not be listed.  They do not deserve any recognition.  Instead of posting their names, or the surname of that disgusting family, instead let’s use this space more constructively to remember some other names.

Ladies and gentlemen, those who follow are names worth remembering.  By all accounts, these are the names of four wonderful people, each with bright futures and full lives ahead of them, cut short in a senseless and selfish act of horror.  These are the names deserving of remembrance and celebration, along with more than 180 innocent victims who were seriously injured — some who lost arms and legs all because of two dysfunctional losers whose names deserve to be forgotten forever.

Here are four people with names worth remembering, and faces we should not forget:

 

krystle-campbell

 Krystle Campbell

 

martin-richard

 Martin Richard

 

lingzi-lu

Lingzi Lu

 

sean-collier

Sean Collier

 

 

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