Tuesday, December 15, 2009

James Bond talks to Taxi Driver

In most American Action movies involving foreign countries you have these well-dressed military men and politicians pondering life and death decisions. Meanwhile a surveillance plane is tracking a terrorist 10000 miles away. Sometimes this plane even picks up the terrorist's conversations. The all-upright military men place the decisions on their civilian leaders. And then the drama goes on.
There have been so many movies showing the dramatic reach and power of American (and British) intelligence organizations and military in very subtle ways. In the movie "The Bourne Supremacy", CIA tracks (from their headquarters in the USA), the movements of Jason Bourne in a train station in London. At one point, they ROTATE the camera in the London train station FROM VIRGINIA.
There is an immense sophistication projected by these movies that, to an extent, you are subconciously awed by Western power. You forget that these movies have a propaganda element.
Bob Woodward, in his book on the Iraq war and the Bush administration describes a scene: Donald Rumsfeld, Defense Secretary at that time, is meeting the Saudi Prince along with Dick Cheney. The Prince is concerned about the fallout of the proposed invasion. Rumsfeld shows a map of Iraq with army positions and sweeps his arm across. "All of these will be gone" says Rumsfeld.
Seven years later these guys are still fighting an insurgency in Iraq.
The propaganda of American movies is not just directed at foreigners - it also misleads the American people; it makes them believe that their army is full of upright men who do not torture (see Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, Rendition) and who do not engage in criminal acts (see the Haditha rape).
Which brings us to the Taxi Driver of Baghdad.

James Bond and the Taxi Driver
One of the key elements of the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) canard perpetrated by Bush and Blair was the "45 minute to deploy" story. Sometime during 2002-2003, during the run up to the invasion of Iraq, Tony Blair released a dossier to public which claimed that Saddam Huseein could release WMD within 45 minutes.
Remember that Saddam Hussein had no WMD, but where did this 45 minute claim come from?
A British investigation shows that the claim came from a Taxi driver in Baghdad.
Here is what happened (you can find details here):
MI6 was asked to find some dirt on Saddam and WMD. They put some pressure on an Iraqi official. That guy said that a Taxi driver had overheard a conversation between two Saddam officials in which they discussed the 45-minute-to-deploy nugget.
That is, the claim that Blair showed in his public dossier came from a third hand hearsay through a taxi driver!
The Iraq war has killed at least a hundred thousand people - the war was based on a claim of WMD that could be operationalised in 45 minutes. Yet Blair got into this war FULLY KNOWING that his sources were taxi drivers.
Isn't this criminal?

What does this illustrate for democracy? It means that people in power in the USA and UK could get away with murder. All that a democracy has to do is provide good local services - as long as that is done, the leaders of those countries can "Manufacture Consent" for any of their pet wars.
But, more importantly, none of this has shaken the American or British public from their absolute belief in their politicians or their military or their intelligence services. The people who voted Bush out now have Obama escalating the war in Afghanistan. There are a few powerful people clamouring for a new war with Iran.

Smart Bombs
Just as many American people believe in the noble intentions of their leaders in dropping bombs on foreigners, they also believe in specific concepts that helps them deal with this.
For example, the idea that you can target bombs so effectively with their missiles that they will kill only the evil guy and not the innocents in the surrounding street or city.
This idea of smart bombs is not new - American media was talking about smart bombs in World War II! Whenever a new war comes up, their media starts talking about how accurate their bombs are - they did it during the Vietnam war, during the first Gulf war and the Iraq invasion.
During the Iraq invasion, some of these smart bombs actually missed the entire country of Iraq and fell on Jordan.
But, you see, you do not need real smart bombs - you just need to bring that up as an abstract concept. That is enough for civilians to approve of any aerial war. This time, this current debate is going on about the drone strikes in Pakistan. And people are talking about smart bombs again.
America uses her bombs so freely that all that you have to say, to be known as Serious Foreign Policy Expert is "Targeted Military Srikes". If you just say military strikes, then you come across as a warmonger. Instead, just say "targeted military strikes". It makes the experts sound intelligent and eases the fears in American minds about getting civilians killed.

So, the next time you see, in an American movie, a bunch of honorable men in military unfiorms discussing Very Important War Decisions, remember that there is probably a taxi driver who is helping them out.


Pradeep T R said...

The movie "Body of Lies" was on the other side. It clearly shows how US intelligence is outwitted by terrorists in the Middle East.

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