Ghostwatch: very funny hoax documentary that blurs reality and fiction, and raises issues about authenticity

Lesley Manning, “Ghostwatch” (1992)

Subject of a post on Adam Curtis’s BBC blog, this BBC hoax drama is quite a laugh to watch. Hard to believe that many adults were convinced this show was for real when it first broadcast in the UK in 1992; it’s understandable that children and teenagers would be taken in as the film looks fairly realistic overall and young people would not pick up the stagey quality of the production, evident in early small-crowd scenes around a house which have the look of something deliberately set up.

The show is in the form of a reality TV show of the same name as the hoax itself and features real-life TV presenters Michael Parkinson and Sarah Greene as respectively host of and reporter for the TV show. Greene leads a team of BBC reporters investigating suspect poltergeist activity at a London house – the investigation is shown live. Through the team’s investigations and interviews with the woman and her two daughters living in the house and with neighbours, viewers discover that the spirit menacing the family belongs to a disturbed man who himself is spooked by another spirit of a woman who once took in babies for wet-nursing and killed them.

The presentation and narrative are cleverly done in spite of the limited budget – the show includes a team of people receiving phone calls from viewers reporting sightings of the poltergeist in film clips of the children’s bedroom. Parkinson maintains a sceptical stand with regard to the paranormal occurrences while paranormal expert Dr Lin Pascoe (Gillian Bevan) plays the credulous paranormal researcher in the manner of The X-Files characters Dana Scully and Fox Mulder. Filming techniques using jerky hand-held cameras give the film an immediate newsreel feel. Current technology of the period including a thermographic camera and secret cameras, and motion and temperature sensors are emphasised throughout the film, making it look even morre realistic and impressive. (Which in itself says something about people’s faith in cutting-edge technology.) The sets look real if camp with Halloween slapstick decorations like a tarantula on one wall and ghost magnets on the kitchen cabinets. An American psychologist is consulted for his opinion on the ghost activity. At a critical point in the film, one of the children is exposed as generating some of the poltergeist activity which adds an interesting slant and a new tension to the film. The poltergeist decides to bring proceedings to a predictably hokey end by advancing all the way to the BBC studio where the reality TV show is being filmed and broadcast live.

The film touches on interesting issues such as puberty and neuroses affecting young teenage girls, children as innocent (or maybe not-so-innocent) channels for the supernatural, the struggle between belief and scepticism and the consequences of both, the effect of publicity and obsessive national attention on the girls who start playing up to the BBC cameras, and the deliberate blurring of reality and fantasy as the cheeky spirit finds a conduit through the BBC’s technology and travels to the very studio where Parkinson and the doctor are sitting; too late the good doctor realises that the entire show itself has been hijacked by the poltergeist who proceeds to trash the studio. This in itself brings up questions about the role of technology as a portal between the real world and the fantasy world which in earlier times was played by shamans, religious rituals or ouija boards played by Victorian-era party-goers high on mild ether: now folks can sit back passively and allow modern electronics gadgets to bring the spirit world to them. (The only problem is the gadgets and the spirits connive to hassle the owners in their own sweet time, not that of the humans!)

I thought the film lost its nerve by descending into conventional horror-film theatrics: lights blow out overhead in the “Ghostwatch” studio, a piece of filming equipment turns Dalek-feral and Parkinson doesn’t know what to do even after most of the cast has fled the studio. His dazed and mumbling presence which becomes pathetically infantile holds the final scenes together. On another level though I can see the conclusion is appropriate: believers in poltergeists and the worldview they represented are “raptured” into the spirit world (where they don’t find any comfort) – it’s interesting that Dr Pascoe is nowhere to be seen in the studio after the poltergeist whirlwind hits it – and sceptics like Parkinson are left on the material plane trying to make sense of the sudden chaos that’s hit them and just as quickly left them in a material void. The spirit invasion leaves believers in the rational teetering on the edge of insanity.

Acting was quite credible although the girls might have overplayed their parts (inevitable, since they would have had a lot of fun and encouragement from the BBC crew). Some scenes in the film look like tongue-in-cheek references to famous movies like The Exoricist (one girl lying catatonic on her bed with scratch marks over her body) and possibly Fatal Attraction (scene where Greene fishes out a drowned toy bunny from the kitchen sink). Parkinson and Bevan are credible as the voices of scepticism and incredulous belief generally and the growing tension between them and their attitudes and belief systems. Sarah Greene and Chris Charles as the on-site reporters hold up their end fairly well though Charles mugs a lot for the camera, perhaps because if he didn’t he’d be laughing the whole way through and that would have blown “Ghostwatch” for the fiction it is. The camera crew, reminiscent of the film-makers following the serial killer in the hilarious Belgian mockumentary “Man Bites Dog”, stoically follow Greene all the way to their (presumably grisly) demise. Hope the guys haven’t left behind any pregnant girlfriends called Marie-Paule to grieve over their loss.

Overall this BBC production is a gentle and funny satirical mockumentary on the modern narrative construct of the paranormal (haunted suburban house / children and prepubescent girls in particular as conduits for supernatural activity / the conflict between belief and non-belief) and perhaps this in itself gives the program considerable power, more than its makers had anticipated or the program itself deserves. The overwhelming response that “Ghostwatch” received, reminiscent of the panic that followed Orson Welles’s infamous 1938 radio broadcast of “War of the Worlds”, delivered as a series of news bulletins and itself a throwback to Ronald Knox’s BBC radio news hoax “Broadcasting from the Barricades” in 1926 which also generated panic, suggests as much. Seems that people and the BBC especially have short memories about causing mass hysteria by presenting programs that have the look, feel and structures of “genuine” news, and this in itself raises questions about how much people might rely on the format of news rather than the news itself to judge if a particular news report is authentic.

 

 

Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land: excellent and well-presented documentary on the role of news media in abetting oppression

Sut Jhally and Bathsheba Ratzkoff, “Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land” (2003)

This is a highly informative documentary on the role that the US media plays in encouraging support for the Israeli government and its oppression of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories (West Bank and Gaza) and how this support influences US foreign policy in the Middle East. Through interviews with various academics, critics, journalists, religious leaders, peace activists and others, the program examines the methods that the Israeli government and its allies use to hide the truth about the harassment of Palestinians by the Israeli Defense Forces and to portray Israel’s occupation and colonisation of Palestinian land as necessary and urgent self-defence. In particular, the role of American journalists and the American media organisations that employ them in disguising the truth is examined.

The film’s style is simple and straightforward, built as it is around a wealth of newsreel reports punctuated by excerpts of interviews with guest commentators who include academics Noam Chomsky and Robert Jensen, British journalist Robert Fisk, peace activist Hanan Ashrawi and Tikkun Magazine founder Rabbi Michael Lerner among others. There’s a certain polish to the film’s presentation, especially in its use of animation and tables, though it is not at all sickly slick and the narration is very sparing, limited to relaying important information to viewers, and serves to introduce interviewees who expound at further length on the topics covered. The film reveals, among other things, that the US-Israeli relationship is of mutual benefit at the Palestinians’ expense: the US relies on Israel to use most of the aid it receives from the US into buying American weaponry and other military technology and to test these on unwilling Palestinian guinea pigs, and to play the local sheriff in the Middle East to protect US political and economic interests in that region.

The film’s structure centres around a list of strategies that the governments of Israel and the United States, their agencies and the US news media use to deceive the American public into supporting Israel. Particularly pernicious as a strategy is the US media’s deliberate ignorance of individuals, groups and organisations, often Israeli and/or Jewish as well as Palestinian and/or Muslim, working to relieve the Palestinian people’s suffering or calling attention to the abuses inflicted on them. This ignorance would suggest that the media in the United States (and also in many other countries including Australia) either willingly co-operates in constructing a pro-Israeli narrative about the intransigence and barbaric behaviour of Palestinian people especially if they are Muslim; or has been browbeaten, even threatened, into such co-operation by pro-Israeli lobby groups and institutions. In the US, the main lobby organisation is AIPAC (American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee) and in Australia its equivalent is AIJAC (Australia Israel Jewish Affaris Council) which is known to have intimidated the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and the Special Broadcasting Service into reporting news about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in ways favourable to Israeli interests.

The other strategies discussed include the reporting of Palestinian violence in a context-less vacuum (so it appears to happen spontaneously without cause and gives the impression that Palestinians by nature are savage and Israel must always be on the alert); defining what is newsworthy (so Israeli victims of violence get more attention; this drives home the notion of Jews as eternal victims of persecution); Israel’s colonisation of Palestinian territory being made invisible; the idea of the United States as an impartial and neutral referee; and the idea that any offers of peace to the Palestinians are always rejected by them (because the context in which such offers are made and the fine print within are never revealed in reports). Other ways in which Western audiences are co-opted into supporting Israel go unmentioned but deserve attention: in particular, Israel’s use of the Shoah (Nazi-Jewish Holocaust) to beat European governments into coughing up money, none of which actually goes towards Shoah survivors who might be living in penury in Israel.

“Peace, Propaganda …” is a well-presented documentary, quite detailed in parts, and easy to follow. I recommend the film as a primer for those not familiar with the methods and strategies the Israeli government and its supporters uses to intimidate and silence politicians and media organisations around the world who have misgivings about the way Israel treats Palestinians and about the fascist, racist path that country is following in order to pursue such a policy. Media students would do well to watch the film which calls into question the nature of the relationships between the news media and governments, and which also highlights the need for the news media to tell the truth over the pressure to appear “unbiased” or “balanced” in its reporting. Ah, “fair and balanced” reporting: that doubtless is another strategy the apologists for the Israel government like to use …

 

It Felt like a Kiss: coming across as a self-indulgent and unremarkable trip into 1960s US pop culture nostalgia

Adam Curtis, “It Felt Like A Kiss” (2009)

A quirky visual montage of old newsreels and Hollywood films that documents a culturally transitional age in American history – the 1960s – during which the United States reigned supreme as the most economically, culturally and militarily dominant power in the world yet also a time when the roots of the country’s decline and perhaps eventual undoing and destruction were being planted: this is Adam Curtis’s “It Felt like a Kiss”. Instead of his usual soothing if slightly shocked narration, the music and captions have taken over: the captions hint at significant events yet to happen and the music, which in the main is 1960s girl-group bubblegum pop and related muzak, is sometimes an ironic commentary on the images and subject matter that suggests itself in the passages of selected montaged images and their neighbours before and after them. The film was originally part of a multi-media presentation with original music provided by Damon Albarn and the Kronos Quartet at its inception as part of the Manchester International Festival in 2009.

I have to admit that although some of the songs were familiar – I was born in the 1960s so some music should be familiar! – I felt they were more a turn-off than a soundtrack to draw me in. There were personalities and excerpts of TV shows and films that I vaguely knew or remembered and of course I recognised Doris Day and Rock Hudson, if not the film they appeared together in. How people born after 1970 can relate to some if not most of the material and the songs in the film is beyond me, unless their parents obsessively reminded them of what they lived through before the offspring were born. If I recognise people like Patrice Lumumba and Nikita Khrushchev or images like the Vietnamese Buddhist monk who dumped petrol on himself and then self-ignited in protest at the civil war in his country, it’s because I was curious enough to try looking up some of these incidents and personalities in print or online media, or they have become iconic in contemporary pop culture.

The film does ground viewers into its preferred time-range by showing captions of significant events about to unfold or to be realised off-screen at a later date: thus the film mentions that construction of the World Trade Center buildings began in the mid-1960s and that Osama bin Laden’s father Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden died in 1967, having built up a successful construction business that spanned nearly 40 years and which included clients such as the Saudi royal family and the Carlyle Group, the global private equity investment firm whose directors and senior management have included George H W Bush, former British Prime Minister John Major, Olivier Sarkozy (the half-brother of the French President) and Thaksin Shinawatra, the former Prime Minister of Thailand whose sister Yingluck is the current incumbent. Other events covered include the assassinations of the two Kennedy brothers, JFK and Robert, the history of HIV and how it jumped the species barrier from apes to humans, and Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s rise to power which was aided by the CIA. The way these tidbits of information are scattered throughout the documentary is meant to be intriguing and titillating but after a while they get a little irritating because they come without much context: the emergence of HIV as a major threat to humankind means little without reference to Mobutu Sese Seko’s corrupt rule as President of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) and the civil war fought in Katanga / Shaba province which tried to secede from the country: both the corruption and the war among other things kept most Zairois stuck in poverty and many people must have hunted apes as a free source of food – this may be one explanation for how HIV came to infect humans. (Another possible if very un-PC explanation is that apes were used as sacrificial victims in religious rituals and their blood included in local medicines or religious worship.) Similarly, mention of the TV show “Bonanza” being Osama bin Laden’s favourite viewing as a child means nothing unless we know for sure if bin Laden sympathised with the Indians and not the cowboys.

The episode overall looks like a rather self-indulgent, even timid excursion in nostalgia for the fads, pop culture and celebrities of mainstream US culture in the 1960s. There’s nothing about experimental or cutting-edge artistic, scientific and technological trends that emerged during the period (we get a brief glimpsed of a young Andy Warhol but that’s about it) which were to become significant in later decades; I would have thought at least the musician and composer Raymond Scott, whose music was adapted by Carl Stalling for classic Bugs Bunny cartoons and who was a significant pioneer in electronic music composition and inventor of various electronic music devices and instruments, might have rated a mention or a music credit as might also the BBC Radiophonic Workshop at the time. The message that the episode is meant to convey – that the dominance of US pop culture throughout the world in the 1960s was overwhelming to the extent that other cultural alternatives were either forgotten or went underground where they festered and warped into something abnormal and diseased – is lost on viewers.

The song “He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss)”, based on US singer Little Eva’s relationship with her abusive boyfriend, is an allusion to the episode’s theme; it was covered by girl-group the Crystals who were famous for songs like “Da Doo Ron Ron”. Little Eva herself became famous for the original version of “The Loco-Motion”, later made famous around the world by Australian singer Kylie Minogue as her debut single.

 

The Age of Transitions: film makes a plea for greater awareness of insidious forces threatening freedom and democracy

Aaron Franz, “The Age of Transitions” (2008)

Interesting documentaries about power and control of human societies seem to be falling into my lap like there are no tomorrows to watch them all and Aaron Franz’s “The Age of Transitions”, which looks at past trends in the ideology of science, how they will shape future scientific, cultural and technological developments and what these mean for human freedom, is a very intriguing one. The film’s title is borrowed from a coinage made by US politician Newt Gingrich at a conference for futuristic developments aimed at enhancing human capabilities, mental and physical. Franz predicts that these innovations will serve a political agenda aimed at reducing the bulk of humanity (the so-called 99%) into a slave-state hive society to serve an elite (the so-called 1%): the innovations include transhumanism (the creation of post-humans), virtual escape, socio-tech and forms of mind control.

The film starts by explaining the goals of transhumanism (prolonging life, enhancing the brain and intelligence with technology) and reveals the origins of transhumanism in eugenics as conceived by British scientist Francis Galton in the 19th century; the ideology was adopted by British political and cultural elites since it jibed with Britain’s imperial colonialist project and the remaking and packaging of the British monarchy as a semi-divine institution. Eugenicist belief travelled to the United States in the late 1800s where it found ready fertile soil recovering from the trauma of the American Civil War and the Reconstruction that followed. Sterilising prisoners and other “degenerates” was one consequence of eugenics; unusually perhaps, birth control and family planning were milder results (the proponent of birth control in the US, Margaret Sanger, was a eugenicist). Social Darwinism, the bastard child of eugenics and Darwinist evolution itself, eventually acquired a dirty name thanks to Nazi Germany’s enthusiastic adoption of racial hygiene theories which were put into practice during the Second World War. Renamed transhumanism, the ideology now has as its aim the improvement of humanity done in a way that eliminates “undesirable” characteristics and retains and refines “ideal” characteristics with modern Chinese society, based on a large bureaucracy, a network of Communist party loyalists and a huge, mostly compliant worker-bee proletariat, seen as a model for a future society.

The film’s second half-hour flows into virtual reality, socio-tech (the capability to predict the behaviours of individuals and groups to interdict undesirable thinking and behaviours and eliminate them before they occur) and forms of mind control such as television. Socio-tech and the use of television to mould thinking, deflate people’s self-esteem and encourage cut-throat competition so as to divide and rule the populace and enable the elites to remain top dogs receive particular attention. The film concludes by challenging viewers to be aware of the hidden trends in scientific and technological advances and to resist them; in the end credits, a list of references Franz consulted in the film’s making is provided to encourage and enable viewers to do their own research.

Presentation is straightforward with a mix of newsreels, stills, various forms of animation, diagrams and models, recordings of lectures and talks, and title cards to emphasise key points: the subject matter can be quite dense and involved and viewers are presumed to be curious and intelligent but not to have very much knowledge or experience of the concepts and ideas discussed. The narration is delivered in a slightly sardonic style and viewers may be thrown off by the narrator and wonder whether or not he actually supports the technologies discussed. If there is a criticism to be made about the program, it is that personalities like Nick Bostrom and Michio Kaku among others featured on the program are quoted in such a way that they appear to support the transhumanism project when in fact they themselves may be ambivalent about its aims or aspects of it.

The really interesting and sinister aspect of “The Age …” is the use of reality TV shows, game shows and similar shows – competitive cooking shows like “Masterchef Australia” and “My Kitchen Rules” come to mind – to encourage personal insecurity, low self-esteem and a competitive frame of mind that posits outdoing and beating everyone else as a worthy goal and condones manipulation, conniving behaviour and cheating. This has the ultimate goal of dividing people and setting them against one another in a classic “divide-and-rule” strategy that entrenches support for a hierarchy based on competition and enables the true elites to remain top dog. German-American philosopher Leo Strauss surely would approve of such a societal structure based on such outrageous and manipulative lies were he still alive. Still, even here the documentary doesn’t go far enough: we could talk for days on end on how Hollywood encourages hyper-individualism and competition and acts as a recruiter for the US armed forces, for favouring the military option over diplomacy and other alternatives, and for casting problems of living and getting on with people in ways that celebrate conflict and violence. Nothing about the pernicious influence of Hollywood on people’s thinking and private fantasies appears in the documentary.

Franz makes no apologies about being biased against the transhumanism project, seeing in it the ultimate attempt to make over humanity in ways that reduce people to the level of insects to serve a small elite. In its own way, the film is a passionate plea for greater awareness of the insidious agenda current in the world today to reduce democracy and freedom.

 

The Trap … (Episode 3: We will Force You to be Free): picking apart arguments over nature of freedom

Adam Curtis, “The Trap – What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom? (Episode 3: We will Force You to be Free)” (2007)

Part of Adam Curtis’s “The Trap – What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom?” trilogy exploring how the concept of freedom came to be narrowly defined by politicians in order to deal with a particular historical emergency (the Cold War) and how this definition helped to turn people in Western societies into self-seeking, soulless automatons lacking in purpose, this episode targets concepts of negative freedom and positive freedom as proposed and developed by the British philosopher Isaiah Berlin in the 1950s, and how these concepts formed the basis of policies followed by Western powers to stifle revolutions in Third World countries and / or to bring Western-style notions of democracy and liberty to these countries, often by force and violence. Using archival newsreel footage and excerpts of movies and documentaries such as Gillo Pontecorvo’s famous 1966 “Battle of Algiers” film, Curtis weaves a seductive argument about how the over-emphasis on negative freedom and the West’s fear of and desire to suppress positive freedom have ironically led to the current global situation that the West most feared positive freedom would birth: an unstable and violent world where democracy and freedom are retreating even in its traditional strongholds and where people have become so fearful and insular that they come to lack initiative and direction.

In Berlin’s view, developed in his paper “Two Concepts of Liberty”, negative freedom (freedom from externally imposed constraints) is to be preferred over positive freedom (the improvement of human beings to make them more “rational” thinkers so that among other things they can choose what sort of society they wish to live in). Berlin believed that the Soviet Union and societies with similar political cultures were the greatest threat to freedom in the world because they insisted on imposing positive freedom on their people and this imposition not only curtailed the people’s negative freedoms but was accompanied by fanaticism, violence and mass deaths. Systems must therefore restrain the “do-gooders” who want to improve humanity in case they get ideas about resorting to “tyranny”, whatever that is, to force-feed such improvements. Of course, “coincidentally” Berlin’s ideas dovetailed with other ideas derived from capitalist economics, American cultural values that emphasised individualism and competition, industrial relations (in particular, the scientific management ideas of Frederick Taylor) and were adopted by Western governments as part of an integrated package.

The documentary follows with various examples the paths taken by the proponents of negative freedom and positive freedom with their associated cultural packages in different countries and how these paths clashed. We boing from the American neoconservatives in the 1980s who believed that the US should use its power to actively spread “demcracy” and “freedom” by force to other countries which didn’t necessarily want them (in their American versions) to the 1979 Iranian revolution which according to Curtis was inspired by Iranian sociologist Ali Shariati’s fusion of ideas from Jean-Paul Sartre and Frantz Fanon on decision and freedom in day-to-day life and on colonialism respectively with Islamic principles; to the deregulation / privatisation “shock treatment” meted out to Russia under President Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s by Jeffrey Sachs and his team of economists which resulted in widespread poverty among the public and in asset-stripping by well-placed members of the nomenklatura (the former Communist Party network of government and government agency insiders and their families) and favoured individuals who became known as the “oligarchs”. (And I imagine Sachs and some of his team got their share of riches as well.) The social and economic upheavals caused by the Sachs team’s recommendations resulted in greater political repression by the Yeltsin government which then pursued confrontations with groups in Chechnya wanting independence as a way of diverting the public attention away from the economic problems; this paved the way for Vladimir Putin to assume power. Somehow we end up in Iraq after 2003 where Paul Bremer, as head of the Coalition Provisional Authority overseeing Iraq’s transition to US-imposed “democracy”, tried to remake the country’s economic and political structures: the result was huge unemployment, hundreds of thousands of people thrown into poverty and greater terrorist activity after the Iraqi army was disbanded (bad move, that) and public servants belonging to Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath party were banned from government employment. The country’s entire pool of secondary and primary school teachers – many of them women, I imagine – must have been thrown into an employment black hole overnight.

Curtis’s argument sounds quite convincing, at least for those who haven’t read Naomi Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine: the Rise of Disaster Capitalism” which covers much the same territory as Curtis’s documentary does (Russia, Iraq) but from a different viewpoint in which the economic theories of Milton Friedman and Frederick Hayek take pride of place over the gift of negative freedom and its benefits to supposedly benighted peoples. Like Curtis, Klein is guilty of cherry-picking examples to bolster her arguments especially in her comparison of economic shock treatment to the MK-ULTRA and related psychology experiments carried out by Ewen Donald Cameron and others from the 1950s to 1970s. In both the book and the documentary, the influence of German-American philosopher Leo Strauss’s views, or at least his followers’ interpretations of them, on American political and economic neoliberalism becomes the proverbial elephant in the room; it’s debatable as to whether Isaiah Berlin’s notions about the nature of freedom should be given any preference over Strauss’s views on liberalism (belief in liberty and equal rights) as a precursor to two forms of nihilism (brutality and terror being one, the result of positive freedom; and materialistic, purposeless hedonism the other, the child of negative freedom)  and the role of elites in society as an influence on the American neocons. Indeed Curtis’s documentary in parts looks more like a criticism of Straussian philosophy than of Berlin’s philosophy.

Curtis concludes by saying Berlin that was mistaken in his ideas and that governments and societies following his views on positive and negative freedoms have created a “trap” in which humans live lives lacking in purpose and devoted to materialistic self-interest and hedonism supplied not from within their own imaginations and resources but by external others with hidden agendas. The only way to escape the trap is to create outlets and opportunities for positive freedom. Curtis does not suggest any alternatives as to how to do this; neither does he actually look at whether Berlin’s definition of positive freedom is flawed or ambiguous. If the ideal of positive freedom is to create a better, more “rational” kind of human who can determine what society s/he wants to live in, we had better ask ourselves what we mean by “rational” so that we don’t end up creating a society of so-called “positive” freedoms of the sort that both Berlin and Strauss feared so much and which forced them and their families to leave Russia in 1920 and Germany in the 1930s respectively to avoid persecution as Jews and as members of the middle class. I note that in the documentary, Curtis refers to “rational” people as being motivated by self-interest without reference to emotion: that’s one definition of a sociopath.

We must redefine positive freedom in a way that avoids ambiguity in its definition and takes it beyond a mirror opposite of negative freedom. I prefer to see positive freedom as the freedom that expands one’s horizons as a result of having made a choice between or among mutually exclusive options, such that if you had the opportunity to make the same choice again between or among these options, you’d still go with your original choice. An example would be choosing between an easy, secure life in which you never leave your comfort zone and operate according to your desires and insecurities; and a life that might be hard, lonely, uncertain at times and inviting scorn from others but also a life that makes you a better person morally and spiritually. This enables a person to be in control of his/her life and to achieve self-actualisation.

 

The Living Dead (Episode 3: The Attic): how a romantic fantasy of a glorious past disguised a thirst for power at any cost

Adam Curtis, “The Living Dead (Episode 3: The Attic)” (1995)

Having seen the mishmash that was “The Iron Lady”, I figured it was high time I saw something a bit more factual about the period when Margaret Thatcher reigned over Britain as quasi-monarch from 1979 to 1990. Happily that maker of whimsical documentaries Adam Curtis comes to the rescue with this installment in his “The Living Dead” trilogy which posits an interesting parallel between Thatcher’s dream of restoring British imperial glory to a demoralised country on the one hand, and past Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s attempts to shore up the crumbling empire during World War II. The essay that Curtis weaves holds strong throughout the episode’s 1-hour running-time; if anything, Curtis could have made his case stronger still by emphasising the destructive effects of both Churchill and Thatcher’s dreams and the ways in which they and their governments used their vision to keep the public under control.

Less eccentric than other AC documentaries I have seen, “The Attic” follows a conventional chronological narrative detailing MT’s rise to the Conservative Party leadership in the mid-1970s in the wake of the oil crisis and election as Prime Minister in 1979 with her vision of returning Britain to the imperial glory the country had once enjoyed (supposedly). This vision included attacking and dismantling where possible the bogeys afflicting British society and economy, namely, trade unions seen to be overrun by left-wing, possibly Communist, radicals and other socialistic influences eating away at the nation’s moral fibre. Thatcher embraced the economic theories of Milton Friedman and Frederick Hayek which emphasise less government control and regulation of the economy and that economic freedom underpins political freedom. In her vision for a New Britain, MT invoked the memory of a previous British Prime Minister Winston Churchill who had led the country during World War II, a major event still fresh in the minds of many people in the 1970s.

As Prime Minister, MT got off to a bad start: the economy failed to respond to her nostrums, trade unions became even more restless and strike activity was frequent, unemployment rates continued to climb, and resistance to British rule in Northern Ireland became more violent. Just when it looked as though MT’s reign as Prime Minister was to be short-lived, an unexpected life-line was thrown: Argentina, at the time under military rule and its leaders wishing to deflect public attention away from the country’s ongoing economic crisis and human rights violations, invaded the Falkland Islands in early 1982. Britain’s successful defence of the islands gave MT the space she needed to implement her economic policy and allowed her to win the 1983 general election in a landslide. From then on, the Conservative Party more or less dominated the political landscape in Britain until 1997 but the influence of so-called “Thatcherism” in the country’s political and economic life has never really gone away.

I think “The Attic” should have focussed much more on the insidious and destructive aspects of Thatcher’s vision and the Churchillian vision that inspired her and her considerable fanbase throughout the world. I presume that Thatcher’s vision of Churchill as a great leader conveniently leaves out the fact that in the late 1930s when the British government considered investing in radar technology for defence purposes, Churchill opposed the proposal: needless to say, radar technology played a major defence role during the Battle of Britain in 1941. Churchill’s idea of wartime leadership consisted of beating Germany into a pulp and throwing that country back into a pre-industrial age; hence his enthusiasm for the firebombing of Dresden in February 1945, resisted by the US military high command (in particular by Dwight D Eisenhower, then Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe) and now recognised as a major war crime by historians. It can be argued that Germany’s determination to fight to the death at the cost of millions of lives during World War II was as much due to Churchill’s refusal to negotiate or have anything to do with anti-Hitler groups in that country, as to the German leader’s paranoia and mania. Churchill would later approve the Morgenthau Plan which called for turning Germany into an agricultural backwater, stripped entirely of its industrial base, and which led to the deaths of 1 – 2 million Germans (some sources say as many as 10 million) from starvation in 1945 – 1950. And there is also that episode in which Churchill agreed to hand over 90,000 Cossack men and their families living in Yugoslavia to the Soviet Union; most of these people, who had left Russia in 1918 and were technically not Soviet citizens, perished in the gulags. It is difficult to believe that Churchill had no idea what would happen to them after the “hand-back”.

Even in the domestic sphere Churchill’s “vision” amounted to very little: it seems to have had as its goal power at all costs and to that end, Churchill happily wandered the entire economic spectrum from free market economic liberalism to virtual democratic socialism. During the war, he allowed Britain to become a social welfare state by approving plans for a national insurance scheme and for housing and health services. As Prime Minister in the early 1950s, he presided over the Mau-Mau uprising in Kenya in 1951, an ongoing revolt in Malaya and the 1953 overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh by the CIA. Once again, it could be argued that British handling of or participation in these crises was poor (the military option was preferred) and in the case of Iran, the coup which Britain backed stymied any democratic and progressive tendencies in that country for decades. Interestingly, as Prime Minister, Churchill and his Labour Minister Walter Monckton adopted a policy of appeasement towards trade unions and this perhaps encouraged the union movement to assume an attitude of entitlement that decades later Thatcher tried to fight.

A brief look at Thatcher’s friends and networks should give us some pause for thought: during the Falklands War the Chilean government under Pinochet, itself notorious for human rights abuses and imposing its own version of Friedman / Hayek economic change on its people, supplied information about Argentine military forces and their movements to the British. (This at the same time that both Chile and Argentina were sharing information about torture methods and helping to arrest one another’s “dissidents” under Operation Condor!) Pinochet himself later became a friend of MT to the extent that she opposed any move by the British government under Tony Blair to extradite him to Spain on war crimes charges when he visited Britain for medical treatment in the late 1990s. Hayek himself visited Chile a few times in the 1970s – 1980s and accepted honorary chairmanship of a free-market economic think-tank in that country. The fact that in Chile and Britain, and several other countries, economic freedom as perceived by Friedman and his followers at the University of Chicago had to be imposed on people and political freedom sacrificed in the process – not to mention that the “reformers’ benefitted financially from claiming privatised government assets for themselves – suggests that this form of “capitalism” is more gravity-defying flooding-up rather than “natural” trickle-down as I was taught at school and university.

Yes, when we look at Churchill and Thatcher’s visions and compare them, what do they really amount to? – they amount to retaining power at any cost without principle. The cynicism and selective thinking involved are breath-taking to say the least. The result in both cases is an impoverishment of British culture and society in some way: the Churchillian “social welfare” society was taken for granted with people and institutions alike not learning how to negotiate for rights and privileges, and that such rights and privileges need to be defended and expanded upon skilfully with diplomacy and negotiation; now that this society is being dismantled by Thatcher’s successors, people erupt with violence, become passive or try to beat one another over an ever-shrinking pie. Pity that Curtis’s otherwise fine documentary with its narrow focus on the spin-doctoring during Thatcher’s reign missed that point.

Sources used: Ralph Raico, “Rethinking Churchill” http://mises.org/daily/2973 and various Wikipedia articles

 

Blood Coltan: fact-finding documentary on coltan mining in DRC tells the horror like it is

Patrick Forestier, “Blood Coltan” (2007)

Saw mention of this documentary in Arena magazine (December 2011 / January 2012 issue) so I was curious as to what it has to say about the coltan industry and trade in the Democratic Republic of Congo. As if I couldn’t already guess at what it might say: the insatiable global demand for coltan and other “rare earth” minerals for consumer electronics gadgets fuels an ongoing war which according to the film resulted in the deaths of 4 million people at the time of its making. There are other consequences of the war, some of which the film covers, even if superficially: the mass rapes, the recruitment of children as miners, the corruption in everyday life and the breakdown of traditional life and degradation of modern life in the eastern DRC where the coltan mining industry is based.

The film is structured around a fact-finding visit some French journalists make to the eastern DRC on behalf of an activist to track and describe the process of mining, transport and air-freighting of the mineral: the purpose of the exercise is to highlight the connection between the political instability of the DRC and consumer desire for electronics toys. Along the way the reporters meet a church priest dedicated to fighting the exploitation of his flock and community by outsiders; they also come across a ropey character in the form of General N Kunda who is both a military leader and a spiritual leader peddling a very dodgy form of Christianity to both Christians and Muslims. The film reveals that N Kunda is supported by Paul Kagame, the current Rwandan President at this time of writing. The documentary then follows the path unrefined coltan material takes to factories in China which are contracted to Western corporations to refine the coltan and insert the material into consumer electronics goodies.

The film may look very bare-bones and sometimes is barely there but the narration and visit (probably heavily edited to fit a narrative stereotype) provide a definite direction for the images. “Blood Coltan” ends up looking as if it was made for a TV current affairs show and that might have been the original intention. As hidden cameras had to be used to film several scenes, the documentary sometimes is quite jumpy and the visuals are very distracting. There is considerable detail in the descriptions of the coltan trade combined with some very good visual images and often colourful scenery.

Little background history as to why the eastern DRC and the whole country generally are so unstable and dangerous, and the role that Rwanda plays in the country’s ongoing disorder are absent. Viewers can easily get the impression that the DRC has always lurched from one crisis to another with no breaks in-between when in fact throughout its history since independence in 1961, certain deliberate choices were made, politicians were assassinated and Western governments and their intelligence agencies supported a ruler (Mobutu Sese Seko) who violated human rights, suppressed all opposition and generally was a poster-boy for corrupt dealings and hiding vast amounts of money that belonged to his people in overseas bank accounts.

The connection between coltan mined in war zone areas and consumers, the levels of grey middle-men types in-between and the cynical exploitation of children and teenagers either in the mines or in Chinese-owned factories under contract to larger Western corporatons like Nokia are made very clear. There are probably some other issues the film failed to cover which it should have done – for one thing, the film says nothing about the impact that mining for coltan has on animals, vegetation and water supplies and disposal – and likewise there is nothing about the dangers of mining for adults and children alike or of the possibility that deforestation to make way for mines harms landscapes and increases the likelihood of stress on the land resulting in avalanches that could bury mines and the people inside them. There are even indirect effects of coltan mining on the health of the people in the area: in addition to obvious examples of workplace injury leading to permanent disability or even death, the encroachment of coltan mining on places where apes and monkeys live gives people opportunities to hunt these primates for bushmeat, and there is the possibility that exotic diseases may pass from apes and monkeys to humans with devastating results.

Overall this is a good exposition of the coltan industry and trade and of our role as consumers of consumer electronics products in the network that includes shady parties out for a quick buck and no consideration as to whether their activities will harm communities and the natural environment.

 

Blood of the Beasts: horror, death, poetry and beauty co-exist in slaughterhouse

Georges Franju, “Le sang des bêtes” / “Blood of the Beasts” (1949)

An amazing if very graphic realist film documentary of the work done in abbatoirs on the outskirts of Paris in the late 1940s, Franju’s “Le sang des bêtes” helped to establish the director as a distinctive voice in French cinema who combined both matter-of-fact realism and dream-like surrealism in his work. And this documentary is both very uncompromising in its portrayal of casual butchery of animals whose meat humans rely on, and poetic, even lyrical, in its deliberate depictions of city and suburban scenes of Paris.

The film slyly immerses viewers into its world with a montage of static shots of the Paris landscape, its bridges and historic buildings, edging us to the city outskirts where there are tableaux of children at play, an old man sitting in the sun and young lovers kissing. It’s a short casual trot over to the abbatoir where, after viewers get a quick look at the workers’ tools of the trade, we and they get down to business: killing the animal, draining its blood, skinning it and cutting out the meat, viscera and other parts either for human consumption or other uses. The scenes are very graphic but filming in black-and-white reduces the gore factor of what we see and replaces that loss with a clinical, dispassionate look at the workers as they go about their necessary tasks. Seeing the hot blood draining away in channels on the ground beneath the slatted frames where the sheep and calves have their throats cut, the light and dark tones of the liquid swirling in a psychedelic monochrome pattern, strikes me as a lyrical, almost meditative scene: blood as the fluid of life ebbing away into a larger, perhaps cosmic river that might power the universe.

The men working in the abbatoir are shown as ordinary humans, neither degraded untouchables nor heroic beings, performing hard but necessary work using skills that are as specific and specialised as the skills needed to be an electrician, a blacksmith, a carpenter or a plumber. The way the men work looks casual but then they’ve had years of experience to hone their skills; even so, the voice-over narration informs viewers that there are health risks (for example, a cyst on the wrist that that suggest repetitive strain injury) involved in carrying out often repetitive and heavy work.

Two narrators, Georges Hubert and Nicole Ladmiral, were employed for this documentary: Ladmiral describes the environs of Paris and Hubert in a neutral tone observes the abattoir workers’ activities. The narration intrudes only when necessary to explain some aspect of the work that’s not obvious on the screen to viewers and very long sections of the film are completely without speech. There’s very little music apart from one worker singing “La Mer” (the tune is familiar to Australians as it has been used in TV commercials promoting tourism in South Australia) who might have been thinking of his former job as a sailor while washing away streams of blood into the abattoir ground channels with water from a pressure hose.

It becomes apparent to viewers that violent death and its horror are much closer to us than we realise and that every time we eat meat and wear or use leather and other animal-derived products, we condone the deaths of innocent creatures that have been conceived, born and raised simply to die for our material benefit and comfort. The horrors also of the crematoria of Auschwitz-Birkenau and other death camps in Poland which occurred several years before the film was made also spring to mind.

 

Human Resources: documentary on mind control is mind-exploding

Scott Noble, “Human Resources” (2010)

What can I say? This two-hour documentary on the history of government and elite attempts to control human behaviour and direct human culture and society is sheer mindfuck: it covers a whole gamut of approaches, methods and techniques to control people’s thoughts, moods and actions from the late nineteenth century to the present day. No stone is apparently left unturned and unexamined by director Scott Noble as he trawls through psychology, eugenics, race relations, corporate philanthropy, scientific worker management, the structure of education and schooling, Nazi medical experiments and CIA mind control experiments that produced a torture manual. Interviews with various political, social and cultural commentators including Harvard academic Rebecca Lemov, activists Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn and former schoolteacher turned education critic John Taylor Gatto mix with hard-edged female voice-over narration, a slew of archived newsreel material and excerpts from Hollywood and other movies going as far back as 1917 to give an overwhelming and often disturbing presentation on the nature of political-economic-cultural power.

The Adam Curtis school of documentary film-making sure has much to answer for: the music soundtrack is eclectic, boasting artists like Phillip Glass, Do Make Say Think, Sigur Ros, Aphex Twin, Mira Calix, Amon Tobin and Bob Dylan, and unfortunately can be too intrusive and distracting, especially during John Taylor Gatto’s interview; but apart from the whimsical music choices, the film overall has a lo-fi appraoch with very few fancy special effects. It could have been better structured: the film weaves from one topic to another and by the time the relevant “chapter heading” in the guise of a quotation appears on a red background, the film is already quite deep into the issue under scrutiny. Possibly “Human Resources” could have been divided into a three-part mini-series in the style of Curtis’s tetralogy “The Century of the Self” which deals with a similar if more restricted theme; Noble could have included more jettisoned material (he had 10 hours’ worth) into a trilogy.

The film starts off with an investigation of behaviourism and its development in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: even then, psychologists were seizing its concepts and philosophies to justify their agendas and political views and those of their sponsors in business, government and academia. From behaviourism the film goes into an exploration of eugenics and the social and political conditions prevailing in the United States that enabled the eugenics movement to flourish (though there is no mention of early links between birth control and family planning advocates on the one hand and the eugenics movement on the other) and then into how corporations tried to combat labour movements and unions with philanthropy and the adoption of scientific management or Taylorism (after Frederick Taylor, its founder). The attention given to Taylorism and how it dovetailed with Fordism, the organisation of work in factories and offices and the psychological effects of task fragmentation and deskilled work is considerable and chilling; needless to say, both Communists and fascists and other folks in-between found Taylorism attractive and tried to co-opt it into their workplaces. From the workplace to the school – ya gotta start oppressing ’em young! – and interviewee John Taylor Gatto (descended from Frederick Taylor) waxes strongly on the aim of Western education and its structures to control and mould children into passive, unquestioning and indifferent sheep, and the effect of grades, the use of testing and exams, and competition on children’s mental and emotional development.

The film emphasises that competition is far from natural – it takes care to mention that Charles Darwin never used the term “survival of the fittest” but only discussed natural selection – and there is mention of cross-cultural studies showing that co-operation rather than competition encourages creativity and originality whereas competition has the opposite effect. Frustration / aggression theory is invoked to explain why bullying, scapegoating and violence against outsiders or out-groups occurs and the idea of mental illness as being culture-specific is mentioned. Significantly governments and politicians are fingered as the most important mass murderers and serial killers in recent history and the film goes out of its way to examine the US government’s eagerness to employ Nazi German scientists, many if not most of whom were engaged in heinous medical experiments during the Second World War, in many post-war science and medical programmes. A depressing list of secret US government experiments in which unwitting civilians, sometimes whole cities, were exposed to uranium, radiation, bacteria, various chemicals and even yellow fever follows. (There is no mention of the government’s obtaining of documentation of Japanese medical / science experiments, equally and sometimes more horrific than those of the Germans, done in Manchuria and other parts of China, and apparently in Singapore and the Philippines as well during the same period. The documents are stored in a secret facility in Utah state.)

The rest of the documentary focusses on various mind control experiments sponsored by the CIA from the 1950s under Projects Artichoke, Bluebird, MKUltra, MKSearch and other related projects: adults and children alike were forcibly put on LSD, mescaline and other drugs, forced into prolonged sleep or subjected to electro-shock treatments. All these mind control experiments ultimately failed but helped to produce the CIA’s infamous torture manuals that were used in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq among other places. The film concludes with the ultimate mind control instrument: the television set and how the attrributes of moving images can ensnare viewers into passivity and suggestibility.

Inevitably with such an ambitious scope there will be weak spots and some of the film’s assumptions about frustration / aggression theory and behaviourism may be open to challenge. The film does not cover all it could and does not offer alternatives like W Edwards Deming’s Total Quality Management concept to Taylorist ways of organising work and the workplace, or forms of education other than the conventional Western kind with its emphasis on kids studying subjects in a fragmented way that emphasises testing and beating the other kids. No attention is given to public relations, marketing and advertising as forms of social control and the film also ignores Hollywood and other popular films and TV shows as potential propaganda tools: the narratives of most movies and TV shoes which emphasise conflict, winners and losers, and one hero individual against a mass enemy should have taken a beating. Pop music and other youth-oriented cultures and sub-cultures which stress individualism and peddle notions of freedom in the sense of being free from restraint and social conventions and doing whatever you like regardless of consequences also escape the hatchet job. The film does not cover gaming and whether gaming could encourage a passive mentality amenable to control and suggestion even though for some years now people at videogame-like consoles in the US send drone aircraft into faraway places around the world to kill selected target humans: there is a statistic doing the rounds on the Internet that for every two terrorists killed by drone aircraft, 98 innocent civilians are taken down as well. That’s some accurate kill rate.

The two things that really smacked me over the head were the revelation that the theory of evolution as Darwin had originally conceived it says nothing about competition being part of the process of natural selection – the idea originated with Darwin’s contemporary, the biologist / philosopher Herbert Spencer – and the news that economist Adam Smith had predicted that the organisation of work into a fragmented series of repetitive and boring tasks would destroy people psychologically and turn them into soulless beings.

Although an investigation of Western economies is outside the scope of the film, I consider that the kind of economic system we have and its assumptions connect too well with the social and psychological forms of control “Human Resources” discusses. Debt-based financial systems have the pernicious effect of encouraging competition among businesses and consumers which then spreads to other areas of society, irrespective of whether it’s needed or useful; scrambling for money to pay debts may force individuals to stay in unwanted jobs in which fragmented work tasks destroy their initiative and make them passive, and businesses to engage in intense forms of competition such as perpetual redesigning and marketing of products, aggressive and unethical marketing, pursuing cheapness, mediocrity and quantity at the expense of durability and quality, and stifling innovation and creativity. The result is that a short-term point of view is preferred over a long-term viewpoint and the economy lurches from one crisis to another. Competition biases economies towards a growth orientation which results in wastage of resources, pollution, environmental rape, economic colonialism which has to be justified somehow (hence, the need for propaganda about the racial, religious or other inferiorities of people like Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims generally and First Nations people of various countries to demean them as true owners of land and other resources so that foreigners can strip them of their wealth) and the accompanying military adventurism which generates even more environmental destruction, pollution and resource wastage, to say nothing of the lives and cultures destroyed.

When all modes of social, psychological and economic control are taken together, the conclusion that “Human Resources” comes to is that they reveal the nature of power as wielded by generations of elites as something psychopathic and wilful and that those who work for it willingly, even eagerly, will end up as much victims as the rest of us already under its jackboot. The film may require several viewings for its message to be absorbed.

Fallujah, the Hidden Massacre: documentary makes case for war crime but provides no context for attack

Sigfrido Ranucci and Maurizio Torrealta, “Fallujah, the Hidden Massacre” (2005)

This 27-minute film plays like an extended news or current affairs report: it originally aired on Italy’s Radiotelevisione Italiana state government TV network on 8 November, 2005. It asserts that the weapons used during Operation Phantom Fury on the city of Fallujah in central Iraq in November 2004 were chemical weapons such as white phosphorus and other substances similar in nature to napalm which had been used during the Vietnam War in the late 1960s and early 1970s.With a mix of newsreels, interviews with various parties including former US soldiers now turned activists, Iraqi civilians and Italian journalists, the film builds a case for war crimes against the people of Fallujah by US military forces.

The presentation is bare-bones straightforward with a shrill Arab music soundtrack that sometimes threatens to overwhelm the voice-over narration. Various issues that viewers will pick up include the murder of children by US forces (because children as young as 10 years of age were fighting the soldiers), the targetting and killing of journalists not embedded with US and Coalition forces, US marines shooting and killing wounded people and the deliberate neglect in reporting civilian casualties as a result of the pounding of the city. The film gradually homes in on reports of people suffering unusual injuries and of bodies of people and animals who suffer no outward injuries but have horrific internal wounds. Film footage of corpses with faces simply scorched and blackened or melted away appears and it seems that weapons that produce intense heat and burning have been used against them.

A major part of the film includes interviews with Jeff Engleheart and Garret Reppenhagen who say that the use of white phosphorus, which penetrates through layers of clothing and other protection to burn skin and which, if inhaled, will burn lungs and other internal organs, on Fallujah residents was intentional. However these activists and others who appear in the film did not participate in the Fallujah attacks. Other interviewees include two Italian women journalists who claim that US forces tried to prevent them from revealing what happened in Fallujah and British ex-Labour Party member Alice Mahon who criticised the UK government under Prime Minister Tony Blair for supporting the Iraq war.

Where the film suffers is in providing a historical context as to why the United States should have pounded Fallujah in the ferocious way it did. It’s not as if there weren’t plenty of information available at the time: the unhappy relationship between Fallujah and the US that led to the attacks in August and November 2004 on two separate occasions can be traced back to an incident in April 2003 in which city residents protested outside a school that had been taken over by US forces, demanding that the school be handed back to them so children could attend lessons. Soldiers opened fire on the crowd, killing several and wounding many others. After a second protest during which US troops again fired on civilians, the city’s mood was sour and hostile. Into this situation in March 2004, a convoy guarded by four private military soldiers from Blackwater USA (later Xe Services, now Academi) arrived and was ambushed by Iraqis who lynched the four soldiers and mutilated their bodies. According to Jeremy Scahill in his book “Blackwater: the Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army”, there is evidence that the four soldiers were set up by Blackwater USA as one of them had criticised his supervisor; normally a convoy such as theirs travelling into a hostile city must have eight soldiers guarding it, four in front and four at the back. The lynchings made worldwide headlines and prompted the US armed forces to launch an attack on Fallujah in August 2004 and the second attack in November 2004 (source: Wikipedia, various articles).

Since the attacks in 2004, doctors in Fallujah have reported that rates of cancer, leukaemia and birth defects in newborn babies have risen greatly and city officials have apparently advised female Fallujah residents not to have children. The sex ratios of newborn babies since 2004 have also become very skewed: normally in most places each year the number of boy babies born slightly exceeds the number of girls babies born (usually about 103 – 106 boys for every 100 girls) but in Fallujah, the post-2004 ratios had fallen to about 85 – 86 boys for every 100 girls. There are reports that the birth defects observed are consistent with exposure to depleted uranium (DU) radiation. As far as I know, only one scientific study on this subject has been carried out and back-up studies are needed to verify the results but it’s likely that any future studies will be affected by harassment from US-led forces.

If it can be proved that white phosphorus and/or other dangerous chemicals have been used on Fallujah and that the ongoing sufferings of the Fallujah residents can be attributed to the use of these weapons and DU ordnance, the US government and military at the time must be held responsible for war crimes and crimes against peace. In November 2011, a war crimes tribunal in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, found former US and UK leaders George W Bush and Tony Blair respectively guilty of crimes against peace against the Iraqi people; the tribunal judges intend to add Bush and Blair’s names to a war crimes register and pass on their findings to the signatory nations of the Rome Statute which established the International Court of Crimes (source: Wake Up World, www.wakeup-world.com).