Hillary (Episode 1: The Golden Girl): early years of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s life receive glowing treatment

Nannette Burstein, “Hillary (Episode 1: The Golden Girl)” (2020)

Ostensibly a four-part series on the life and career of Hillary Rodham Clinton, this work is never more than a worshipful hagiography of the woman who, after nearly a complete Presidential four-year cycle, has still never accepted that she was and will always be the least favoured of two unlikeable candidates for the US Presidency in late 2016. The series takes the form of interviews conducted by Burstein (never seen, though her voice can be heard) of HRC and various aides who have worked for her over the decades, including those aides who worked for her 2016 Presidential campaign.

Episode 1 “The Golden Girl” follows HRC’s life from her childhood growing up in a staunch Republican family in a comfortable middle class neighbourhood through her college years in the 1960s, during which she worked as a volunteer for Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater’s campaign in 1964, to postgraduate studies at Yale University Law School where she met Bill Clinton, whom she married and followed to Arkansas where she taught in the law faculty at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. The episode then runs through Bill Clinton’s early political career, starting with his tenure as Attorney General for Arkansas and then his time as Governor of Arkansa, the latter during which HRC not only continued as a partner in Rose Law Firm (which she joined in the late 1970s) but also tackled education reform and was successful in establishing teacher testing and state standards for curricula and classroom sizes.

Inserted into the narrative of HRC’s early years are snapshots of her Presidential campaign in 2016 and the various controversies relating to her time as Secretary of State during President Barack Obama’s first term (2009 – 2012) that resurfaced during her campaign, in particular her role in the infamous 2012 incident in which US ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed during a terrorist attack on the US consulate in Benghazi; and her use of a private server over which she conducted government business in violation of Federal laws forbidding the use of privately owned and run digital technologies to receive, send, work on and store emails containing government information. Disturbingly HRC and another interviewee breezily wave away the private server issue by saying that a previous Secretary of State, Colin Powell, also had a private server while holding the position. (Did he ever use this server to transact government business in the way HRC did?)

The constant theme throughout this episode, which HRC and other interviewees consistently bash into the TV audience’s ears and faces, is that HRC’s story parallels the rise of second-wave feminism and the fight for women’s rights from the 1960s onwards. In very many occasions HRC claims she was battling misogynistic prejudice against her for her education and achievements, and for wanting to retain her maiden name after marrying Bill. Viewers are misled into thinking HRC a significant leader in the fight for women’s rights and equality with men before the law. At the same time though, very little attention is given by Burstein or her interviewees on what the ordinary John and Jane Doe know of the Women’s Liberation Movement during the 1960s / 70s and what HRC’s role might have been in that movement, if she had ever participated in it at all.

Despite covering the life of the woman who would become a significant figure in US politics and culture in her own right, for better and for worse, the program makes its subject an uninteresting and dull figure. One would have thought that Burstein, an experienced film director, would try to encourage HRC to relax and try to project a warm personality. Instead HRC comes across as a self-absorbed woman, around whom the world supposedly rotates and does obeisance. Everything dragged into the film, whether it be the history of civil rights and rights for women, ends up revolving around HRC.

Of course, nowhere in the film will we see much about the scandals that were to follow the Clintons like a bad smell: scandals like the Whitewater real estate investment controversy or HRC’s dabbling in the trading of cattle futures contracts while serving as First Lady of Arkansas. As a result, viewers will only get a slanted view of HRC as a dedicated feminist and a tough political fighter. The real HRC, with all her sociopathic qualities, is carefully polished to Teflon-like sheen.

The Strange Tale of the SS Mayaguez: an unenviable example of US military arrogance and bungling resulting in needless tragedy

Carlton Meyer, “The Strange Tale of the SS Mayaguez” (Tales of the American Empire, 4 September 2020)

As an example of US military arrogance and incompetence resulting in unnecessary tragedy that could have had more serious long-term consequences for the world, the May 1975 SS Mayaguez incident would have been hard to beat in the pre-9/11 world. Since the World Trade Center attacks in September 2001, this incident is increasingly becoming a minor footnote in the long and continuing history of US military, political, economic and social decline and decay.

In May 1975, the US cargo ship SS Mayaguez, travelling from Hong Kong to Thailand and having picked up classified US materials from Saigon on the way – the US having just recently evacuated all its diplomatic staff from that city in early 1975 after the Communists claimed victory in the Vietnam War – passed very close to Poulo Wai island in Cambodian territorial waters and was captured by Khmer Rouge forces. The then US President Gerald Ford was notified of the ship’s capture and the US National Security Council met to discuss the incident. The US government determined to free the SS Mayaguez by force and sent an aircraft carrier and two destroyers to Koh Tang Island where the SS Mayaguez crew were supposedly being held hostage. So began a series of actions in which US Marines invaded Koh Tang Island only to be met by tremendous Khmer Rouge gunfire. In the ensuing battle, many Americans were killed, three were captured and over 100 Cambodians were killed. The three US Marines who were captured were later executed by the Khmer Rouge.

As Carlton Meyer’s matter-of-fact voice-over narration informs viewers, the SS Mayaguez crew were actually being held away from Koh Tang Island and were released unharmed by the Khmer Rouge to one of the US destroyers sent to Cambodia. The release of the SS Mayaguez crew and the recovery of the ship were hailed by the Ford administration as a successful rescue in spite of the actual bungled rescue attempt, the senseless killing and the fact that the Khmer Rouge had been planning all along to release the crew back to the Americans after checking the cargo on the SS Mayaguez.

The mini-documentary is very detailed in its retelling of the incident though it barely has much time investigating why the US government decided to invade Koh Tang Island and blast its way through to the captured ship and crew rather than use diplomacy to negotiate the release of the SS Mayaguez. The film points to the general political and military context of the time: the US had just suffered a major military defeat and humiliation by a minnow nation, and Gerald Ford had been in power as US President for a few months and needed a victory that would enhance his reputation and tenure. The film also asks what might have been in the cargo that had been picked up in Saigon: did the cargo include sensitive military recordings indicating US surveillance of Khmer Rouge and other Cambodian communications? Another issue is why the SS Mayaguez sailed so close to Poulo Wai and why it was not flying the US flag at the time. Was the captain merely incompetent or was he under orders at the time?

I’d have liked to know whether the brilliant minds who thought up the reckless rescue plan and decided to send the Marines to Koh Tang Island were reprimanded in any way and promoted horizontally rather than vertically upwards but the film does not say. The long-term impacts and consequences of the SS Mayaguez incident are not covered in the film either. One significant result was that the US was later forced by Thailand to remove all its combat troops from Thai soil in 1976 after the Thai government learned that in spite of its refusal to allow US forces to use a military base in Thailand to launch the invasion of Koh Tang Island, the US went ahead anyway. Relations between Cambodia and the US soured to the extent that any Westerners found in Cambodia were presumed to be US spies and ended up being tortured, forced to make false confessions and then executed.

The film provides a good general survey of the Mayaguez incident. Viewers wanting a more specific understanding are directed to the Wikipedia article about the incident.

The 2014 American Coup in Ukraine: textbook example of how the US invades and makes over other nations

Carlton Meyer, “The 2014 American Coup in Ukraine” (Tales of the American Empire, 21 August 2020)

A very timely release in Carlton Meyer’s Tales of the American Empire series of short videos on US imperialism around the globe, this film reminds viewers of the history of Ukraine in the 20th century and how after independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 Ukraine became a new battleground between the West and Russia in a new Cold War as the US and NATO sought to absorb Eastern Europe and former Soviet republics into their spheres of neoliberal political and economic influence, and extend their military power right up to (and beyond) Russian borders. A very brief account of how Ukraine acquired its territory and borders in the 20th century, with Crimea being added in 1954 by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, supposedly to demonstrate Soviet solidarity, and a short ethno-demographic survey of Ukraine are given to set the historical context. In the 1990s, the US established various non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Eastern European nations and Ukraine, many of them funded by US billionaire George Soros’ Open Society Foundation or by the National Endowment for Democracy among other donors. In Ukraine, these NGOs became instrumental during the Maidan Revolution that took place in late 2013 / early 2014, culminating in the overthrow of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

A US government official, Victoria Nuland, the Under-Secretary of State for Europe under Secretary of State John Kerry, is singled out in the video for her role in fomenting unrest, rebellion and even the violence of the Maidan Revolution. The core of the video is given over to a speech she gave at a press conference in Washington DC in December 2013 in which she happily admits that US$5 billion was spent backing the Maidan Revolution. A phone call she made to US ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt in which she expresses her preference for Arseny Yatsenyuk to be Prime Minister in a post-Yanukovych government (“Yatso is our guy”) and pours scorn on the European Union (“Fuck the EU”) later became public.

The February 2014 overthrow of Yanukovych’s government led to political and economic difficulties for Ukraine. Russian-speaking Ukrainians in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Lugansk fought for the right to use the Russian language in public forums, leading to the Ukrainian government invading their regions and starting a civil war that resulted in Kiev’s military humiliation some months later (and the shootdown of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in July 2014). Crimea voted to become independent of Ukraine and to apply to rejoin Russia. Narrator Meyer mentions that the 23,000 Russian troops present in Crimea at the time of its referendum were there as part of a treaty signed by Russia and Ukraine in 1997 allowing up to 25,000 Russian troops to be stationed in Sevastopol and other parts of Crimea as the Crimean Parliament saw fit. Since civil war broke out in eastern Ukraine in 2014, Russia has steadily decreased the amount of natural gas transiting Ukraine to Western Europe and built alternate pipeline networks elsewhere (such as Nordstream I and II in the Baltic Sea) to supply gas to Germany; at the same time, Ukraine is being forced to pay market prices for natural gas from Russia, prices the country can ill afford to pay. Meyer could have said that under President Petro Poroshenko (2014 – 2019), political and economic corruption has increased in Ukraine at the same time that living standards have fallen to the extent that Ukraine has now become the second poorest nation in Europe.

The general information given is accurate and blame can be laid fairly and squarely on Victoria Nuland, John Kerry and others within the US government under President Barack Obama (2008 – 2016) for the instability and continuing crisis and plundering of Ukraine’s wealth by US and Ukrainian elites alike. Special mention is made of former US Senator John McCain and his role in talking up war against Russia. (Fortunate it is indeed that brain cancer finished off McCain in August 2018 before he could live to see his dream come true, even though he escaped justice for all the harm he has done to the world.)

As an introduction to the troubled history of post-1991 Ukraine, this video is good though already it is turning out quite dated: it makes no mention of Poroshenko’s presidency or of his replacement by Volodymyr Zelensky, a former actor and comedian. Curiously nothing is said about US Senator and 2020 Presidential candidate Joe Biden and his ties to Ukraine through his son Hunter who used to be a Board Director of Burisma Holdings, an energy company with a licence to drill for oil and natural gas in parts of eastern Ukraine. That perhaps is a story to be told another time. What is clear though is that, not for the first time or the last, the US has intervened in another country’s affairs to the extent of throwing out a legitimately elected (if incompetent) government and replacing it with one of its own choosing opposed by the victim country’s citizens, with the result of political instability and chaos, and economic ruin.

Los Angeles 1991: a common humanity emphasised in an almighty shootout

Miguel de Olaso, Macgregor, Bruno Zacarias, “Los Angeles 1991” (2015)

The tale seems contrived and some suspension of disbelief may be required but essentially this taut story illustrates the futility of racial hatred and emphasises our common humanity. Set in the aftermath of the riots that broke out in Los Angeles in 1991 after a video of police beating Rodney King while arresting him on drink driving charges, the film follows the individual trajectories of four men of very different ethnic backgrounds and social classes. According to the voice-over narration, delivered by Gordon Capps, Korean-American store-owner Jun Seo (Victor J Ho) is determined at all costs to defend his general store, which he has run for 15 years and built up with his own efforts, from robbers. Eladio (Zach Tellez) nurses a powerful grudge against Jun Seo for killing his brother during a robbery, swearing vengeance against the shop-owner. JD (Jah Shams) sees Eladio encroaching on his gang’s turf and decides to teach this Chicano punk that blacks won’t be pushed around. White police officer Mike (Chris Conrad) needs to buy his daughter some candy for her birthday and decides to duck into Jun Seo’s store.

The scene is set for all hell breaking loose when these four men with very different agendas converge in the one store. When the dust settles, there are no winners and all are losers. Perhaps one or two of them finally realise they all share the same humanity as they see all their lives ebbing into the same drain in the floor. The metaphor is very heavy-handed and not for the faint-hearted to watch but it is very effective in the way sledgehammers can be painful. Probably what is missing in the film is the underlying socio-economic context in which all four men are really nothing more than underlings representing communities all competing to get their shares of a fast-shrinking economic pie, the bulk of which is being stolen by a power elite that exploits people by dividing them according to arbitrary categories such as race, ethnicity and religion. Of course none of the men realise they are all being used and manipulated.

The hard-boiled pulp fiction style of narration works well in the film, creating and raising tension as the men draw closer to one another. The silent acting is good and all actors, as well as the directors and technical crew, pay close attention to detail. Viewers are not likely to have much pity for any of the characters: they clearly act in their own self-interest and don’t have time for anyone else outside their own little worlds.

La Carnada: one boy’s road to Hell paved with love and concern in a spider web of exploitation

Josh Soskin, “La Carnada” (2014)

In a poverty-stricken town in Mexico not far from the border with the United States, 13-year-old Manny (Angel Soto Jr) is saddled with the burden of caring for his severely diabetic bedridden mother after his older sister Daniela makes off with the money needed to pay the pharmacist for Mum’s insulin. Desperate, Manny meets Beto (Carlos Valencia) who offers the boy an easy way to make money. “I’m not a mule”, Manny says but Beto reassures him he’s not going to force him to carry large loads of drugs in his stomach or make him do anything the teenager doesn’t want to do – he understands the boy wants to help his mother. Next day, Beto takes Manny to a ghost town near the border, gives him supplies and a small amount of cocaine, and tells him to go to a far mountain where he will meet with some others who will pay him. Then Manmy’s work will be done and he’ll have enough money to get his mother the insulin she needs.

So begins Manny’s journey into adulthood, impelled by the love he has for his mother and his desire to help her after everyone else they know and care for has abandoned them. While Soto essentially plays Manny as one-dimensional and rather blank, the character’s mix of maturity beyond his years, intelligence, resourcefulness – and alas, naivety – comes out very strongly. Unfortunately Manny’s qualities are not enough to save him from Beto’s manipulation and devious plot of using the boy as a decoy (hence the film’s title) to draw US border patrol police away from the real drug mules working at night. Unbeknownst to Manny, Beto is prepared to use him and sacrifice him – and perhaps many other children like Manny who are driven by poverty into becoming foot-soldiers for drug cartels – to make money and to please his overlords in the gangs.

In the space of a few moments, a family’s desperate situation of poverty, unemployment and abandonment drives one of its members – and an innocent, trusting one at that – into a spider’s web of deceit and exploitation through his love and concern for his mother. This is surely one of life’s great ironies that one person’s particular road to Hell is paved with care and concern for a loved one. Few people would want to be in the same situation as Manny – and yet for Manny, the decision he makes to try to save his mother seems the most logical and straightforward.

The acting is quite good for a short film on a limited budget. Soto does adequately for his role while Valencia is slick enough as the devious Beto and Peter Reinert plays border patrol officer Davey efficiently and smoothly. Viewers also see something of the life and vitality of a small Mexican town, poor though it is, and how it contrasts with the soulless life of the American town on the other side of the border through the convenience store where Davey buys lunch. The harsh desert environment echoes the harshness of life in Manny’s home town and the isolation in which Americans on the other side of the border live.

Fortunately for Manny, when Davey finds him in the desert, the officer knows straight away that the boy is one of many youngsters being used by the drug cartels. But in real life, how many officers would show the same level of concern and compassion for illegal aliens like Manny?

Fill Your Heart with French Fries: dark comedy about grief, social media celebrity and exploitation

Tamar Glezerman, “Fill Your Heart with French Fries” (2016)

Based on an actual incident in China, in which a woman jilted by her boyfriend ended up staying a week at her local KFC outlet, this comedy short is at once sad, sometimes bitter, a little bit too cute and biting in its social commentary. It seems at once profound in its examination of the nature of grief, particularly in exploring how dealing with grief needs time, a sympathetic ear and even rational examination to come to acceptance and only then can the grieving person face life and move on. At the same time the film appears a little shallow in how it addresses the way society itself deals (or not) with grief and other significant and complicated emotions, and its playing time of 20 minutes ends up wearing quite thin.

Emma (Lindsay Burdge) is rejected by her girlfriend Amy at a FryBaby’s outlet; too depressed to do anything and in obvious shock, the young woman lingers at the table for several days and nights. An employee, Samantha (Auri Jackson), takes pity on Emma and offers her free food while fellow employee Craig (Scott Friend) takes photos of Emma and uploads them to social media platforms where her plight captures the attention of hundreds, if not thousands, of viewers. Before long, Emma becomes the cynosure of all eyes at the FryBaby’s outlet and on social media. Two women surreptitiously film her. An evangelist takes advantage of Emma’s downbeat state to try to preach the gospel. An acquaintance tells Emma to go home, look after herself and “move on”. A salesman makes a proposition to sponsor her if she will promote an eccentric anti-romance product. In the end, a police officer (Tom O’Keefe) shows some sympathy and compassion for Emma’s feelings and a little boy (Finn Douglas) unwittingly shows her how to get out of her depressed fug.

Burdge does good work in conveying Emma’s grief without overacting and the general tone of the film is respectful in its handling of the grieving process. It is not quite so good in dealing with the parade of people who impinge on Emma’s grief and mourning, and the social issues that arise with each and every intruder are toyed with briefly and in a shallow way. Evangelical religion and the way in which it preys on vulnerable people get short shrift, as do commercial exploitation and social media voyeurism. Only the police officer breaks a stereotype about the nature of law enforcement by refusing to arrest Emma for loitering or trespass. The film reaches a surreal level once the small boy starts addressing Emma. While Emma is eventually able to come to a resolution and resolve her problem, the way in which this process is initiated seems unreal and too tidy.

The world in which Emma’s dilemma plays out seems rather bleak, which adds to the bitter atmosphere of the film, and when she finally leaves the fast food outlet, she steps into an environment that seems even more sterile and uncaring, with dog poo left on the pavement and snow that the local authorities should have removed still on the street.

Little character development occurs and viewers are not privy to Emma’s feelings and emotions beyond what is conveyed on her face, leaving the protagonist blank and flat at the end of the film. Nevertheless there is potential for a full-length movie out of this film: a definite character study could be done and each new encounter the protagonist has while in the fast food outlet could be the basis of a sub-plot or an examination of an aspect of modern life.

Last Requests: quiet naturalistic character study gives insight into US prison culture and the people it exploits

Courtenay Johnson, “Last Requests” (2017)

A sombre character study of a prison worker on her last day in a program that supplies last-request meals to death row inmates just before their executions, “Last Requests” explores and questions the inner lives and motives of people who in their own small ways maintain the prison system in Texas, sometimes with humanity and sometimes not. Widowed Maggie (Dale Dickey) prepares a roast chicken with all the trimmings for a death row prisoner who is to be executed for the mass murder of young children. She lovingly washes, marinates and cooks the bird, and arranges the food neatly on the tray while her co-workers (Lindsay Pulsipher and Michael Abbott Jr) ridicule what she is doing and tell her the inmate does not deserve any kindness or sympathy for what he has done. She persists anyway, telling the co-workers of how her husband was denied a proper last meal in the hospital where he died of an incurable condition. The roast chicken dinner is eventually taken to the prisoner who rejects it.

Through their conversations about the prisoner and his crime, the ending of the last meals request program, and how long Maggie herself has worked in the program (30 years), viewers come to see how Maggie needs the program to justify her own worth in a society that is otherwise indifferent to her existence as well as to the existence of those it spurns. It becomes apparent that she cooks as much for herself as she does for the prisoners she defends to her co-workers. When one co-worker reminds her that young children killed by the inmate deserve consideration, Maggie is at a loss for words. Does she regret never having had any herself? Are the prisoners a substitute for the children she never had? When the roast chicken dinner is returned to the kitchen, Maggie is devastated: could this mean that she finally realises that the system she has served faithfully for 30 years has always taken her for granted and has always treated her as something less than human?

The actors’ performances are naturalistic and the general tone of the film is minimal and subdued. Interspersed with kitchen scenes are scenes of the death row inmate being prepared for his execution by prison guards and taken to the execution room where he will be injected with poisons. In its own way the film is a quiet observer and commentator of US prison culture and its disregard for the people who work in the prison industry and the prisoners the industry processes.

The Incident at Benghazi: a good summary of an ambitious diplomat’s career bites off more than it can chew

Carlton Meyer, “The Incident at Benghazi” (31 July 2020)

As short reports go, this one on the lynching death of US ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens by terrorists in Benghazi, eastern Libya, in September 2012 is a real eye-opener which all but leaves viewers hanging off a cliff (figuratively of course but it sure feels real) as it concludes with Hillary Clinton as US State Secretary before a Congressional hearing in 2015 denying her involvement in the trafficking of weapons and jihadists to Libya from the Middle East (and beyond) to overthrow the Gadhafi government in late 2011 and then from Libya to Syria once Colonel Gadhafi was dead and gone. From the get-go, this film gets stuck into business: Chris Stevens is revealed as having volunteered to participate in overthrowing the Libyan government in 2011; he travels to Libya secretly on a Greek cargo ship with CIA help and starts directing operations in Benghazi to bring illegal supplies of weapons into Libya and to coordinate jihadist attacks on the Libyan army. After the Libyan government’s downfall, Stevens becomes US ambassador to Libya and moves to Tripoli to oversee the shipment of weapons to Syria to bring down that nation’s legitimate government. In September 2012, Stevens goes to the Benghazi consulate – revealed as not an actual consulate but more like two sets of buildings put together into one compound – where he and other Americans are surprised by terrorists who bomb the compound, capture Stevens and take him away. He is later found in a dreadful state by local Libyan people who take him to a hospital where he dies.

Contrary to the MSM view of Stevens as a hero, Stevens is revealed to be as much a criminal as others including Hillary Clinton in organising the overthrow of the Libyan government and then targeting the Syrian government for overthrow. When details of this elaborate plan, known as Operation Timber Sycamore and operated under CIA auspices, become known, arms contractor Marc Turi who had been selling arms to Qatar (which then supplied these arms to jihadis in Libya) is blamed and charged with illegally supplying weapons to Libya. The charges against him are later dropped in the dying days of US President Barack Obama’s second administration in 2016 when the case against points towards Hillary Clinton’s involvement and her use of an unsecured mail server to conduct government business.

The video does a good job of covering Chris Stevens’ criminal participation in the US government and CIA plot to overthrow Colonel Gadhafi and bring down Africa’s most prosperous country. Where it goes awry in trying to bite off more than it can chew in just under 11 minutes is when it gets bogged down in Clinton’s Congressional hearing where she is questioned by US Senator Rand Paul. After this little episode the video ends very abruptly leaving viewers wondering what actually came out of these hearings, other than that Clinton somehow escaped jail-time and was able to start campaigning for the US Presidency in 2016.

A much longer documentary is needed to cover Chris Stevens’ career as “US ambassador to Libya”, in particular how he used his post as a diplomat as a cover for helping to destroy Libya and then Syria, and how ultimately the US government in its own way abandoned him and others at the Benghazi compound by not properly securing it and thus enabling a terrorist attack to take place there. For the time being, this installment in Carlton Meyer’s Tales of the American Empire series will have to do, informative though it is as an introduction to the subject of US-coordinated regime change in Libya. If there is a moral to the story of Chris Stevens and his death, the moral is that people who agree to work for the US government and the CIA in dangerous work for money and career advancement, as Stevens did, are walking into a Faustian trap from which they will be lucky to escape with their lives. Stevens was not one of the lucky ones.

The American Annexation of Okinawa: an overview of the post-1945 history of the Ryukyu Islands under the US military

Carlton Meyer, “The American Annexation of Okinawa” (Tales of the American Empire, 24 July 2020)

In a little over ten minutes, this documentary presents a good overview of the history of Okinawa under US domination since the 1940s. Essentially the US saw the Ryukyu Islands, lying in an arc from the southwestern islands of the Japanese archipelago all the way to Taiwan, and with Okinawa the largest island smack-bang in the middle of these islands, as an ideal spot to park a massive military base so as to contain China and the Soviet Union, should those countries ever contemplated moving their militaries into Western Pacific maritime territories. To this end, the US not only occupied Okinawa and the Ryukyu islands, to the dismay of local Okinawans hoping for independence from Japan, but also in building its military base on Okinawa and some years later returning Okinawa and other Ryukyu Islands territory to Japan so as to maintain control over the base since Japan’s Constitution forbade that country to build up its armed forces beyond what is necessary for self-defence. The continuing occupation of Okinawa by US forces has had serious consequences for the island chain’s security: as the film notes, stalking, raping and murdering young local women and girls seem to be a common pastime of US soldiers stationed in Okinawa and other parts of eastern Asia where there are US military bases.

Using historical film archives, detailed maps, videos and photographic stills, this film lays out a case for withdrawing all US troops from Okinawa and returning them all to the United States where they might be of better use. The money required to keep military bases in far-flung parts of the planet surely must be a drain on US taxpayers’ money. As in other parts of the world, notably in Afghanistan and Iraq, the presence of US troops seems to increase the possibility of outright violence and lessen the likelihood that real freedom and democracy might one day thrive in Okinawa and the Ryukyu islands. The use of visual aids to illustrate narrator Meyer’s points is done well.

The local people’s reactions to US military occupation look quite feisty on film, no matter what the age of the video is. It is probably a pity that Meyer did not include any interviews with Okinawan local people who could have offered their opinion of the impact that US troops have on the Ryukyu Islands, and what should be done. Some of them surely would have proffered their opinions on the movements of jet fighters and other military equipment around the largest of the Ryukyu Islands, and the behaviour of US soldiers. At any rate, Meyer is firmly of the opinion that the Ryukyu Islands and Okinawa particularly belong to the local Ryukyu Island people, and not to the US or to Japan, implying that the islands should be independent. Given the value of the islands to the US as a launch-pad for future invasions of the eastern Asian mainland, the Ryukyuan people need all the support they can get to achieve independence or at the very least self-autonomy.

The False Tale of Killing Osama bin Laden: duping the public with fake news for political gain

Carlton Meyer, “The False Tale of Killing Osama bin Laden” (Tales of the American Empire, 13 February 2020)

This short documentary makes a succinct case for the assassination of Saudi militant / founder and leader of global terrorist organisation Al Qa’eda Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in April 2011 as a staged stunt designed and timed to boost US President Barack Obama’s re-election prospects in the 2012 US Presidential election year. It notes that the official US government account of how a bunch of helicopters ferrying US Navy Seals members to the secret compound where bin Laden and his wives supposedly lived is full of holes. The video points out that two of the helicopters used in the raid would have been vulnerable to being shot down by people using MANPADs while the prospective assassins were rappelling down their ropes into the compound. The video notes that the compound would have been guarded by dogs that the American raiders would have had to kill to get inside. Neighbours waking up at the noise would have called police and the Pakistani police would have brought in the military. Indeed, since Pakistan was also after bin Laden, why was Pakistan completely left in the dark about the raid, and why was a joint US-Pakistani operation to arrest bin Laden and bring him to justice never organised?

The video also notes that bin Laden was most likely already dead some years before the 2011 Abbottabad raid. Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto told a BBC interviewer of bin Laden’s death back in 2007; sometime after that interview, Bhutto herself died in a bomb attack on her car. (There is the possibility that after blurting out news of bin Laden’s demise publicly, Bhutto made herself a target for assassination.) Even as early as 2002, the then US President George W Bush appeared unconcerned about bin Laden still at large, so it is likely that the Saudi fugitive was already dead, given his frail health and need for regular renal dialysis in a country (Afghanistan) where such treatment may be expensive and inaccessible for the majority of people, let alone a Saudi foreigner.

The video concludes by noting that US foreign policy is based on lies, propaganda and where appropriate (to its interests) denial and projecting denial onto others. A clip of former CIA director / current US State Secretary Mike Pompeo admitting publicly that the CIA regularly lies is shown. When so many US government institutions and agencies are deeply corrupt to the extent of fabricating stories, twisting facts and trusting in the ignorance of their general public audiences to advance their agendas in the dissemination of false news and disinformation, is it any wonder that people have reason to distrust this particular tale about the death of Osama bin Laden, especially when the official government account can easily be taken apart and shown for the fairy story it is?