All flash and style but little substance in “Occupation: Rainfall”

Luke Sparke, “Occupation: Rainfall” (2020)

Here’s a brisk and flashy science fiction action film done on a small budget with plenty of Australian bravado and no little ambition to prove that the Australian film industry can compete with the big guns in Hollywood. The film is the sequel to the even lower-budgeted “Occupation” in which Kali aliens first landed in Australia and humans began forming resistance cells to fight them off. The action in “… Rainfall” takes place a number of years later after intense war between the Kali and the humans has left Sydney a smouldering wreck, the aliens having done their best to obliterate decades of bad urban planning and the humans living in the sewers like rats. Refugees, human and Kali alike (some Kali having decided to become allies of the humans), have come into the sewers but the extent to which they can live in peace varies, with some humans being more accommodating than others. The Australian military command discover from some aliens that the Kali enemy in the skies is planning a final offensive and is also seeking a mystery object hidden somewhere near the former US military base known as Pine Gap, in central Australia. The humans decide to evacuate everyone out to refuge in the Blue Mountains region west of Sydney and to send a team out to Pine Gap to find the object before the Kali enemy does.

The film then splits into two parallel plots, one in which the Sydneysiders just manage to reach their Blue Mountains haven, having narrowly escaped being blown up along with what remains of Sydney … amazing that the substandard buildings in Sydney managed to resist years of bombardment by aliens wielding far superior technology and firepower than what can be mustered by humans … and the other being a good cop / bad cop plot in which human Matt Simmons (Dan Ewing) and the Kali alien nicknamed “Gary” (Lawrence Makoare) must put aside their mutual suspicions and prejudices in order to work together and succeed in their mission to reach Pine Gap and discover what it is that the enemy wants. With stowaway Marcus (Trystan Go) in tow, Matt and Gary fight the Kali in an improbable aerial battle and take on a huge alien spider before finding refuge with a group of humans living in a country settlement. They meet the Bartletts (Temuera Morrison and Izzy Stevens) who decide to accompany the trio on their mission to Pine Gap.

In the meantime the Sydney refugees must contend with their own internal quarrels between Wing Commander Hayes (Daniel Gillies), who rules the Blue Mountains haven like a fascist leader and who has sent all the aliens into underground cells where they are starved, tortured and experimented on by people loyal to Hayes, and the more compassionate humans led by Amelia (Jet Tranter), the older sister of Marcus, and Abraham (David Roberts).

The plots run at a brisk pace and are very straightforward in execution with no twists, save for one where Matt, Gary and their followers reach Pine Gap and discover two loopy American misfits (Ken Jeong and Jason Isaacs) running the place. There are continuity issues – how are Matt, Gary and their team able to reach Pine Gap in a matter of two or three days through rugged countryside even with the help of Kali alien horse substitutes? – and both plots are heavy on delivering moral messages about tolerance, how adversaries become brothers in arms through mutual suffering, being humane to all and layering on the identity politics but light on character development and battle strategy. The misfits provide comic relief to the intensity of the film’s actions and main characters although the jive stuff sometimes holds up the action. Fighting sequences have all the reality of video-game battles and Hollywood fights in which the good guys are always vastly outnumbered 10 to 1 by the bad guys yet when the dust settles the good guys are the one standing tall among a heap of fallen baddies. At least the actors put in solid and straight-faced performances with little histrionics in roles that are little more than stereotypes.

While visually impressive, and at times breath-taking in the scale of its sets and the use of Australian landscapes to give the film a distinct style, “… Rainfall” turns out to be an ordinary flick in its story-telling with an ensemble cast not given very much to do. At least the film has plenty of breezy energy and gusto, and barely bogs down for very long.

The Colonization of Haiti in 1915: Haiti as prototype for US occupation and treatment of other nations in the post-9/11 period

Carlton Meyer, “The Colonization of Haiti in 1915” (Tales of the American Empire, 11 December 2020)

In this short video, running just under 12 minutes, TotAE narrator / director Carlton Meyer excels in giving yet another history lesson of the violence and chaos the US has been leaving around the world over the past 150 or so years in its pursuit of material profit, power and influence. In this episode Meyer outlines the history of US invasion, occupation and devastation of Haiti, beginning with US naval harassment of the small, impoverished nation in 1857 which escalated to US Marines arriving in Port-au-Prince in 1914 and taking US$500,000 worth of gold from the country’s sole commercial bank the Banque Nationale d’Haiti and transferring it to the National City Bank of New York’s vaults – in effect, assuming control of the country’s finances. The following year, US President Woodrow Wilson sent 330 Marines to occupy Port-au-Prince, ostensibly to protect American and foreign business interests. (The reality was that the US saw the German business community in Haiti as a threat to American business interests: the Germans had intermarried with the Haitian elites and as a result were entitled to own land in Haiti which other foreigners could not do.) The US promptly began controlling Haiti’s administrative and financial institutions, took over the country’s customs houses, installed a new Haitian President and compelled him to accept and impose a new Haitian constitution that allowed foreigners to own land in the country. Haitian citizens were conscripted into virtual slave labour forces to work on public projects such as building roads and other infrastructure for the benefit of American businesses.

For a good part of the video Meyer focuses on Haitian Cacos (rebel) resistance to US rule and the US Marines’ slaughter of rebels armed with knives, machetes and not many rifles, and the severe punishment and killing the Marines inflicted on villages where rebellions broke out. One major Cacos leader, Charlemagne Péralte, was assassinated in 1919 by US Sergeant Herman Hanneken and his corporal after both had secretly been led to Péralte’s camp. Péralte’s body was taken by the Americans, tied to a door and the corpse was photographed; the photograph was later publicised throughout Haiti to discourage rebellion (in fact, it had the opposite effect and galvanised even more opposition). For his action against Péralte and other exploits in Haiti, Hanneken was decorated and promoted to Second Lieutenant.

After Péralte’s death and Hanneken’s promotion, the video glosses over much of the rest of Haiti’s occupation by US forces and how Haitians resisted the US presence in other ways. Meyer is not so good at detailing the non-military avenues by which Haitians fought back against the American occupation, including reaching out to people in the US, and black American people in particular, for help and support. As time passed and Woodrow Wilson was replaced by subsequent Presidents, the US government attitude towards its occupation of Haiti changed to the extent that eventually the Americans left the country in 1934 – though not before changing Haiti’s education system drastically to emphasise vocational training (in effect, treating Haitians as nothing more than robots or a pool of slave labour) and breaking the economic and political power of the German-Haitian community. The Americans continued to control Haiti’s finances however and this control surely was significant in prolonging Haiti’s poverty and suppressing its development economically and politically.

The video works best as an introduction to Haiti’s history from 1900 on, and as an example of the way in which the US invades and occupies other nations whose resources are much coveted by American corporations and elites, and the brutal American treatment of those nations’ peoples who resist occupation. Had the video drilled down even deeper into how the occupying Marines behaved in Haiti while serving there, it would have shown very clearly parallels between their unbecoming behaviour and the behaviour of US soldiers in other parts of the world (in Japan, South Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan for example) where they have been stationed. Viewers come away with the depressing realisation that the US never learns anything from previous experiences of occupying nations, bringing destruction, violence and chaos, treating the people as racial inferiors born to serve others, and leaving a mess in the form of environmental destruction and institutions such as Americanised school systems that ignore the people’s real needs but prepare them only for manual slave labour. In the case of Haiti, viewers will wonder whether the country serves as a dumping ground for American desires to reinstate the culture and economy of Confederate America, and also as a target to thump to show black Americans and other minority groups in the US that they should know their place in society … as an inferior servant class.

The Covert War on Syria: how the West cynically wages war indirectly against nations targeted for regime change

Carlton Meyer, “The Covert War on Syria” (Tales of the American Empire, 27 November 2020)

Sequel to an earlier installment “The Plot to Destroy Syria” on Carlton Meyer’s Tales of the American Empire Youtube channel, this episode may not be an exhaustive account of the seven-year war that the US and its allies waged indirectly against Syria but it is a good introduction into the type of secret war of regime change that the West currently conducts against nations it disapproves of and the role that Western news media propaganda play to capture and maintain the support of the Western general public behind such wars.

After the successful overthrow of Colonel Muammar Gaddhafi’s government in Libya in 2011 (actually, even while NATO was attacking Libya, the US government was already moving terrorists and weapons from Benghazi in eastern Libya to Syria), the US turned its attention to Syria to incite violence in parts of Syria that could be escalated into all-out war. Getting public support for an invasion of Syria however was going to be difficult; Western publics were shocked at NATO’s use of a no-fly zone over Libya to start bombing the country and the Russians and Chinese on the UN Security Council were not to be fooled twice into supporting a no-fly zone over Syria. Under the then Obama administration, the US began encouraging foreigners through social media platforms and propaganda demonising the Syrian government as a repressive dictatorship to travel to Syria and support various disaffected groups (unemployed farmers made so by privatisation of land and utilities, Iraqi war refugees) in fighting Damascus. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Middle Eastern nations in Syria’s immediate neighbourhood began arming and funding such mercenaries, and introduced them to extremist Wahhabi and Salafi ideologies, with the result that groups preaching extreme forms of Islam and glorying in the executions of even other Muslims in addition to non-Muslims grew up in the region.

The episode is rather selective in what it emphasises during the West’s cynical conduct of the war from 2011 to 2018. Very little is said about Israel’s involvement in the war, in providing medical aid and patching up wounded terrorists in hospital, even though that country had an interest in retaining and annexing the Golan Heights. On the other hand, Meyer draws a fairly detailed link from Turkey’s support for oil tankers illegally taking Syrian oil and transporting it to Turkey to the shoot-down of a Russian jet fighter by jihadists in late 2015 (not long after Russia began assisting the Syrian Arab Army at Damascus’ request), the subsequent Russian wreckage of the Turkish economy, Turkey’s refusal to accept any more refugees fleeing the conflict and the aborted July 2016 coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The episode takes a detour to explain the rise of the White Helmets as a fake humanitarian aid organisation and supports its explanation with an excerpt of a Q&A session in which Canadian journalist Eva Bartlett sets a questioner right by detailing Western news media’s failure to adequately cover the Middle East by putting correspondents on the ground to get first-hand evidence.

Maps, photographs and excerpts of interviews are used to illustrate Meyer’s narration and the result is a detailed work that should be viewed as both an introduction into the current way Western nations try to overthrow governments of sovereign nations, preferring stealth and the cynical use of these nations’ citizens and foreign mercenaries to do the fighting; and the role propaganda has to play in convincing even educated people capable of knowing better to believe in false narratives about Syrian President Bashar al Assad being a dictator and about the Syrian public wanting to get rid of him. At the end of the episode, using economist / academic / analyst Jeffrey Sachs as a sort of mouthpiece (though what Sachs says is very much his own opinion), Meyer makes a case for the US to get all its troops out of Syria, give up trying to overthrow Assad and leave Syria and Syrians alone to deal with their problems and start reconstructing the country.

Viewers need to do their own research if they want to learn more. A 14-minute film, good and detailed as it is, can only be the start of the journey into understanding Syria and recent Syrian history.

China Will Not Invade Taiwan: why does the West insist otherwise?

Carlton Meyer, “China Will Not Invade Taiwan” (Tales of the American Empire, 18 September 2020)

In this video essay, narrator / director Carlton Meyer examines how a supposed Chinese invasion of Taiwan would not benefit China at all and would ruin that nation, by comparing the logistics that would be involved in such an invasion with the D-Day landings in Normandy, France, in 1944. Meyer quotes some impressive statistics in those landings and adds that Taiwan itself is impressively armed and able to defend itself. He looks at current Chinese naval and other military capabilities and finds, among other things, that China would need at least 6 million fighting personnel to mount a successful invasion of Taiwan, with 2 million fighters in the latter’s armed forces. On the historical military front, Meyer waxes in great detail – he is clearly at home as a military historian as he pulls in facts and figures from battles fought during World War II and afterwards to demonstrate how difficult a Chinese invasion of Taiwan would be for both nations.

In fact as Meyer observes, China depends on Taiwan to supply semiconductors and other raw materials for its own high-tech industries, and tourists and business people from both countries visit one another’s territories. Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Strait want peace and have no desire for conflict. While Beijing regards Taiwan as part of China, it seems happy to allow Taiwan to run its political, business and social affairs, and not to intervene in Taiwanese affairs.

The real issue, which Meyer deals with rather quickly and not in much depth, is why the US and the West continue to insist through MSM propaganda that China is keen on invading Taiwan and that Taiwan’s very existence is threatened by Chinese military build-up, despite the fact that for over 70 years at least Beijing has never lifted a finger to send fighter jets or warships to its small island neighbour. Given that the US surrounds China with military bases in countries as far-flung as Japan and South Korea on one side, and Afghanistan and some parts of Central Asia on the other, talking up the possibility of conflict in East Asia justifies continued US military presence in its client states – and continued US military presence in client states enables US intel agencies stationed in those bases to spy on China and Taiwan, and embed paid agents in organisations in those countries to act as regime-change agents (as has been done in Hong Kong over the past several years) to try to get rid of politicians and governments perceived to be hostile to US attempts to throw its weight around and treat them as its inferiors.

Meyer concludes that if on the other hand China and the US ended up fighting each other, the Taiwanese most likely would back China to defeat the US. On that note, the film ends as viewers face the uncomfortable truth that it is the US that wants war with China – and cynically might try to use Taiwan and its clients Japan and South Korea as the battleground.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.