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?

Protecting the American Opium Empire: opium as a tool and fuel for US imperialism

Carlton Meyer, “Protecting the American Opium Empire” (Tales of the American Empire, 9 July 2020)

For an 11-minute video, this is perhaps a little too far-ranging both in time and space, and viewers might need to watch it once or even twice again for everything to sink in. The video starts way back in the 1700s when the British are encroaching upon Imperial China and opium addiction is starting to become a major public health menace in that empire. The British find that selling opium to the Chinese is profitable business and nets them the silver they need to buy Chinese manufactures. The Qing empire attempts to outlaw the sale of opium in its territories and as a result Britain and China fight two major opium wars, both of which China loses and which weaken the empire to the extent that Chinese territories are ripe for takeover by Britain and other European powers.

France and the United States also become involved in opium production and selling in China and Southeast Asia. The Corsican underworld is heavily involved in opium production in Laos. Two American families – the Forbes and the Delanos (the latter being the ancestors of US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt) – become wealthy from producing and selling opium in China. For the first half of the 20th century while China is unstable and wracked by civil war, and then invasion by Japan, the opium business is doing well – but after the Communist victory in October 2019, China shuts down opium production and weans its people off opium. The opium production business moves south to Burma, Thailand and Laos, into an area spanning the northern parts of these countries that becomes known as the Golden Triangle.

The video links the Vietnam War, and the US involvement in it, to opium production in Southeast Asia and in particular the CIA’s reliance on opium production for profits to be used in undertaking clandestine operations around the world – operations that among other things include overthrowing governments not to the liking of US corporations and those US politicians the corporations fund during Presidential and Congressional election times. After 1975, when Communism spreads to the whole of Vietnam and Laos and Cambodia become Communist as well, the CIA focuses on Afghanistan as its major de facto opium factory. To that end, the agency helps to finance and supply the warlords (with the help of Saudi engineer Osama bin Laden) with guns, ammunition and soldiers to fight the Soviet-backed government and Soviet forces through the 1980s. After the Soviet withdrawal, instability in Afghanistan contributes to the rise of the Taliban to power in 1996. The Taliban gets rid of opium production and for its pains is overthrown by US invasion in late 2001, ostensibly because the Taliban was the culprit behind the World Trade Center Twin Towers attacks in September that year. Of course, the Taliban never was. The video brings viewers up to date in describing how continued US military occupation in Afghanistan serves not only to keep that country unstable and poor, but also protects the opium crop even though US soldiers see no point in staying in a country whose people resent the US presence.

As an introduction to the history of opium production and its usefulness to the CIA as a ready source of profits to fund its various activities around the globe, the video can be a real eye-opener, tying together different and parallel narratives in different parts of the world. The Oliver Stone interview which concludes the video, and in which the film director is asked about what he thinks of US President Barack Obama’s turnaround from promising to get US troops out of Afghanistan to keeping them there, and Stone replies that he believes Obama knows much more than the President and the White House are prepared to admit, seems rather out of place in a video that has concentrated on showing maps and pictures and delineating how opium has a McGuffin role in a network in which some players seek to dominate the world and steal its resources by forcing farmers to grow a drug that creates misery, crime and poverty, and through addiction enables governments to control people’s bodies and minds; and at the same time use the profits from producing, distributing and selling that drug to remake the world according to their own depraved vision.

When one considers that the West is in thrall to the fentanyl (synthetic heroin) pandemic, and Britain and the US in particular are badly affected by fentanyl addiction, the fact that much of that fentanyl is made in China might appear to be some sort of cosmic justice. But the reality is that poor people in the US and UK who have been denied a share in their nations’ wealth are the ones suffering from fentanyl and other addictions, and some of those who profit from the new addictions may well be the same people who in the past profited from past mass opium and heroin addictions around the world.

The American Military Retreat from Vietnam: a general history of the prolonged end of the Vietnam War

Carlton Meyer, “The American Military Retreat from Vietnam” (Tales of the American Empire, 19 June 2020)

This video serves mainly as a retelling of the significant events in the Vietnam War from 1968 to 1975: the 1968 date is chosen, not so much because most people in the West believe that was when the war began in earnest for the United States and its allies (including Australia), but because this date was actually the start of the prolonged end of the war. By this time, the US government knew it could not win the war unless the American public was willing to countenance the sacrifice of tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of Army conscripts in a war it had no appetite for. In 1968, the then US President Lyndon B Johnson, his reputation ruined by prosecuting the war, decided not to contest for the presidency which was later won by Richard Nixon. On becoming President, Nixon decided to turn the prosecution of the war to South Vietnam and to arm that country with military materiel and money – but thanks to endemic corruption in the South Vietnamese government and military, the equipment often ended up with the Viet Cong and money in politicians and military generals’ Swiss bank accounts. After throwing money and providing arms to a nation whose soldiers and people were unwilling to fight for corrupt leaders, and preferred instead a united Vietnam, the US government finally withdrew all its forces and assistance from South Vietnam by April 1975, and not long afterwards South Vietnam collapsed. The nation’s elites escaped overseas with American taxpayer money and Vietnam was united under the Communists in Hanoi.

The video presents the war as part of the US strategy to hang onto South Vietnam as a vassal state, in much the same or similar way as it currently hangs onto South Korea as a vassal state. What this video and a later video “The Mythical Threat from North Korea” in this series (Tales of the American Empire) do not actually say is why these countries serve as virtual colonies and what purpose they serve as colonies. Their geopolitical value to the US as battlegrounds between the US and the real enemies – the nations dominating the Eurasian heartland Russia and China – is not mentioned.

Interesting war film footage is shown and photographs and stills of the significant US politicians and military leaders of the war are interspersed with these to match Carlton Meyer’s voice-over narration. The video serves as a good general introduction to the history of the Vietnam War from 1968 to 1975 with a clear theme of the US pursuing an unwinnable war, unnecessarily throwing thousands of soldiers, equipment, ammunition and money, aiming at prolonging the war for imperialistic reasons. The long-term effect of the war on US politics, the economy and society generally – it might be said that the Vietnam War marks the beginning of the decline of the US as a superpower – is not covered in this brief video.

The Mythical North Korean Threat: how the US exploits North-South Korean tensions for its own benefit

Carlton Meyer, “The Mythical North Korean Threat” (Tales of the American Empire, 26 June 2020)

Amazingly in this admittedly short (eight-minute) video there’s no mention of North Korea’s nuclear defence program among the DPRK’s other defence strategies and military capabilities which for the most part are very poor. The video pivots on the US need to keep North and South Korea divided so as to maintain its iron grip on South Korea as a vassal state. To that end, the US built its largest offshore military base, Camp Humphreys, at a location some 40 miles south of Seoul to house up to 30,000 soldiers and their families. The base includes primary schools, a junior high school and a senior high school, and a number of fast food franchises are located there as well, to judge from photographs and film featured in the video.

The video pulls apart the propaganda, constantly repeated in Western mainstream news media, that North Korea poses a major danger to both South Korea and the US, and that current DPRK leader Kim Jong-un is a crazed despot. Far from it, the video tells us that Kim was educated at a private school in Switzerland, speaks English well, loves US basketball and has a physics degree. Kim also knows what his country’s armed forces are capable of, and not capable of. The DPRK’s army is made up of agricultural labourers who spend more time working in the fields than maintaining their weapons and equipment; consequently what weapons and military materiel the North Koreans have are in poor condition. Meyer might have added the reason for this state of affairs: due to economic sanctions imposed on North Korea since the 1950s, not to mention the devastation the Korean War brought to the country (some 20% of the population died during the war and every major city was ruined), North Korea has no agricultural machinery or the tools to make such machinery, and farming is highly labour-intensive.

South Korea turns out to be a far more powerful nation than North Korea, militarily and economically, and North Korea well knows the punishment the ROK could dish out if it dared to invade its neighbour. Indeed, many South Koreans realise that the Americans are not needed and demonstrations against the US presence in South Korea are common. The question is why the US continues to stay in South Korea. The video makes clear that in both the US and South Korea, political and military elites profit from the spending (running into the billions of US dollars) that US military occupation enables in South Korea. What perhaps is not clear in the video (its major failing) is the geopolitical value of South Korea as a threat to China and Russia in its far eastern region.

The real eye-opener in this video is the existence of Camp Humphreys and the huge size of the base: a family could easily live there for an entire lifetime and never set foot outside the base. Its shops and facilities however have a generic and soulless look about them: one would never know that it is located in South Korea as everything about the place – its buildings, their design, the shops there, the people who live and work there – does not acknowledge the culture of the host nation. The impression I have is that the camp exists mainly to provide employment for Americans – indeed, actual military personnel make up a minority of all Americans employed at Camp Humphreys – and for US companies to profit from by providing services and goods that resident military families need.

While this video is very informative, I did have a feeling that some information about North Korea might need updating. In recent years, North Korea has experienced some prosperity, along with some relaxation of restrictions on North Korean citizens and private enterprise being allowed. The video relied mainly on old film and not very recent photographs to portray Kim, the North Korean military and life generally in the DPRK. Perhaps at a future time the video might be updated to include more current information about this reclusive nation.

The American Occupation of Iran 1941 – 1978: how being a US colony led to the suppression of democracy in Iran

Carlton Meyer, “The American Occupation of Iran 1941 – 1978” (Tales of the American Empire, 13 March 2020)

In 2013 the CIA finally owned up to what was probably the most open secret in the global intelligence community: that the organisation had masterminded the overthrow of the popular Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953 and helped make Mohammed Reza Pahlavi absolute monarch of the country, with all the consequences of political corruption and severe repression that followed for the next 25 years. But even before 1953, as Carlton Meyer reveals in this 9-minute video, Iran had been a puppet state colony of the United States as far back as 1941. For much of the first half of the 20th century, Iran had been afflicted by British meddling in its politics through the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (which Meyer mistakenly calls the Anglo-American Oil Company) which had claimed first dibs on the country’s oil since Winston Churchill, as head of the Admiralty, decided to make oil the main fuel for British naval ships. This decision enabled to British to build larger, faster and more fuel-efficient sea-going vessels but it also meant that Iran’s oil became a precious commodity and the British were determined to keep that commodity for themselves.

When the British decided to steal Iranian oil outright in the early 1940s due to London’s inability to pay for the royalties, they enlisted the help of the Americans in taking over Iran’s oil. Thousands of Americans poured into the country as advisors to the then newly installed Shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, as his father (who had been a little too partial towards Germany) was whisked away into exile. Even after the war ended and US soldiers began leaving Iran, the country was still under neo-colonial US control. The Western advisors ignored the plight of ordinary Iranians who in the early 1950s brought to power Mohammed Mossadegh as Prime Minister. When Mossadegh nationalised the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, the British and the Americans under President Eisenhower conspired to overthrow Mossadegh in an early Color Revolution.

The video sweeps over this early history efficiently with Meyer’s even-toned narration though some pictures are not very relevant to the narration. Poor old Mossadegh is completely missing from photographs, film and narration. Meyer goes very quickly over the Shah’s legacy of repressing Iranians through his secret police (SAVAK) and his family’s corruption and lavish lifestyles while ordinary Iranians lived in poverty and were subjected to forced modernisation. Eventually all classes revolted against the Shah in 1978 and the revolution was very quickly taken over by religious leaders such as Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini who returned to Iran in triumph in early 1979. The Americans in Iran were expelled.

While some details of the video can be disputed – Khomeini and other religious leaders did not enjoy universal popularity among all classes that were against the Shah, and the country did have a secular government for a while before Khomeini installed an Islamic government – on the whole the video presents a good general survey of American domination of Iran during puppet ruler Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi’s reign. Once again this shameful example highlights US imperial hypocrisy and indifference where the resources of poor countries needed by the US (and the British before them) are stolen to the detriment and impoverishment of their rightful owners. At least the video ends on an upbeat note: the Iranians now have a democracy (where presidential candidates are vetted by government and religious authorities before they are allowed to campaign: this is no more and no less what happens in most Western countries) and the lives of most Iranians have improved since the late 1980s at least.

Football Star Murdered in Afghanistan: how the US government exploited the life and death of Pat Tillman

Carlton Meyer, “Football Star Murdered in Afghanistan” (Tales of the American Empire, 9 April 2020)

With the passage of time, former NRL football player turned soldier Pat Tillman (1976 – 2004) may well turn out to be an all-American hero – just not in the way assumed by most Americans brought up on US news media and Hollywood propaganda. After completing college on a football scholarship, Tillman began an illustrious sports career as linebacker for the Arizona Cardinals in the late 1990s. Eight months after the plane attacks on the World Trade Center towers in New York in September 2001, Tillman turned down a US$3.6 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals and enlisted in the US Army with his brother Kevin. After completing training, Tillman participated in the US invasion in Iraq in 2003 and then returned to the US to complete other military training. In October, he was sent to Afghanistan. On 22 April 2004, Tillman was killed, supposedly by Afghan enemy combatants.

Meyer’s short 9-minute video shows that, rather than being killed by enemy Afghans in the heat of battle, Tillman was killed in cold blood by someone on his own side in a scenario that suspiciously looks like a trap aimed at getting rid of him. During his deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan, Tillman became disillusioned with the US conduct of the war in those two nations. He voiced his disapproval to other soldiers. The video mentions that he exchanged correspondence with leading US dissident of the time, Noam Chomsky, and planned to meet with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor after returning to the US. It seems very likely that the Pentagon realised how embarrassing Tillman’s meeting with Chomsky and opinions might be to it, and how his actions and opinions might affect the US public’s attitude to the military. That might affect the all-important military recruitment drive among high school students and other young people to get more cannon fodder to throw at harmless people of colour in dirt-poor countries holding resources dear to wealthy elites in the US and other parts of the Western world. Therefore Tillman had to go.

The video does a good job of delineating Tillman’s career in the last few years of his life. Viewers wanting more information will need to make their investigations but the video provides enough detail to be a foundation for those enquiries. Special mention must be made of Tillman’s family members, particularly his mother, who became suspicious when Tillman’s personal belongings including his private diary were burned by the Army rather than returned to his immediate relatives. The family later discovered that Tillman had been killed by friendly fire. The video also mentions that Army doctors disagreed with the official narrative on the cause of Tillman’s death and pointed out that Tillman was shot three times in forehead at near point-blank range.

A major source of information relied on by the video is a “60 Minutes” (US version) interview with Pat Tillman’s mother Mary about her son and the despicable and cowardly way in which the US Army and the US government handled the news and information about the circumstances of Tillman’s death. As with other videos in the Tales of the American Empire series, this major source comes near the end of the video.

It seems that justice for Pat Tillman, bringing his killers and those who plotted his death into a court of law to be charged with premeditated murder, is still some way off. His brave family continues to meet with obfuscations from the authorities. The video ends quite awkwardly and abruptly. Tillman’s horrific death serves to show that even in the case of one very high-profile and popular individual, the US government and the powers behind it are prepared to exploit that person’s popularity and reputation for their own ends and to throw the individual under the proverbial bus when it suits them – let alone other lesser-known people and even entire nations. This is the way of the political culture of the US and its allies.