Review (DVD): Unthinkable

6 Star Top 10%, America (Founders, Current Situation), Asymmetric, Cyber, Hacking, Odd War, Atrocities & Genocide, Complexity & Catastrophe, Congress (Failure, Reform), Consciousness & Social IQ, Crime (Government), Democracy, Diplomacy, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Impeachment & Treason, Insurgency & Revolution, Intelligence (Government/Secret), Intelligence (Public), Justice (Failure, Reform), Military & Pentagon Power, Misinformation & Propaganda, Politics, Power (Pathologies & Utilization), Reviews (DVD Only), Secession & Nullification, Secrecy & Politics of Secrecy, Security (Including Immigration), Survival & Sustainment, Terrorism & Jihad, Threats (Emerging & Perennial), Truth & Reconciliation, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution, Voices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized), War & Face of Battle
Amazon Page

Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Sheen Director: Gregor Jordan

And Carrie-Anne Moss (Amazon stinks at listing all authors and actors)

5.0 out of 5 stars

Astonishing–Riveting–Thought Provoking–Beyond Five Stars

May 28, 2010

EDIT of 27 August 2010: The Intelligence Science Board, the top advisory board to the Director of National Intelligence, has just come out with firm documented conclusions against coercive interviewing and absolutely demanding non-coercive interviewing. People like Col stuart Harrington and I have known this for decades, but it is nice to have the following (full links at Phi Beta Iota):

The ISB study notably dissected the “ticking time bomb” scenario that is often portrayed in television thrillers (and which has “captured the public imagination”). The authors patiently explained why that hypothetical scenario is not a sensible guide to interrogation policy or a justification for torture. Moral considerations aside, the ISB report said, coercive interrogation may produce unreliable results, foster increased resistance, and preclude the discovery of unsuspected intelligence information of value (pp. 40-42).

Bottom line: all of you that hate this review (shoot the messenger) have the best of intentions but you have absolutely no clue about real-life. Intelligence, not ideology, should be restoring America the Beautiful. That will not happen until We the People wake up and recognize that there is a two-party tryanny owned and operated by Wall Street, and we are being treated as expendable pigs.

Edit of 28 June 2010: the voting on this review appears to mirror the divide in America between left of center and right of center, with no dialog. I encourage a dialog in the comments section and will respond on a daily basis. The world is NOT “win-lose,” it is only “lose-lose” or “win-win” or what one author calls “Non-Zero.” We can either die as a species, or live as a species, there is no “eugenics” possible as much as Henry Kissinger (who can never return to France) might like the term. There is only one “we.” What we lack right now is educated leaders with open minds who have integrity. This topic–torture–and this review–against torture of Americans by Americans–and these votes–American against American–are a window into our soul and what I am seeing is no basis for happiness.

– – – – – – –

I am 57 years old, been a spy, did Viet-Nam (63-67) as the son of an oil man going through ten coups d’etat, did El Salvador where I was personally threatened with assassination by the guys running the country who did not like me talking to leftists, and so on. I am also one of the handful of Americans who signed the letter to Senator John “POWS in VN? What POWs” McCain against torture. The thousand five hundred non-fiction reviews I have done all serve as a foundation for saying that this movie is a MUST SEE for every American.

For some time now I have felt that the US Government is out of touch with the American public, out of touch with reality, and out of touch with ethics. Ethics is a really important word that has been central to my life these past twenty years as I along with a number of others have realized that most of what the US Government does in the way of both secret intelligence and global military operations is unethical, unprofessional, unrealistic, predatory, and generally a waste of the taxpayers’ money.

This movie is not like Sum of All Fears or Live Free or Die Hard (Unrated Edition) or any of the other good guys win in the end movies. This movie focuses on our soul as seen in torture, and it very ably calls into question the idiocy of US foreign policy these past fifty years.

Continue reading “Review (DVD): Unthinkable”

Review (Guest): Dishonest Broker–The Role of the United States in Palestine and Israel

5 Star, Atrocities & Genocide, Complexity & Catastrophe, Consciousness & Social IQ, Country/Regional, Crime (Government), Culture, Research, Democracy, Diplomacy, Economics, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Justice (Failure, Reform), Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Security (Including Immigration), Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution, Voices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized), Water, Energy, Oil, Scarcity
Amazon Page

Book by Nasser Aruri

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars Important book on the US role in the the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
March 5, 2007
By  Edgar Hopida (San Diego, CA United States) – See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   

It seems like its the same negative reviews coming from the same people who have a seemingly blind support for Israel. Professor Naseer Aruri uses mainstream US, Israeli, and Palestinian sources to analyze whether in fact the United States government has been an honest broker in the Israel-Palestine conflict. According to the mounting evidence, US has in fact NOT been an honest broker, tilting more toward the side of Israel and placing any failure to the peace process on the Palestinians and their representatives. Also according to the documented history, Israel has enjoyed an immunity that is unprecedented in the international arena. For 40 years now, Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza has been uncontested due to the fact that every meaningful international solution to the conflict has been vetoed by the US. US also continues to give over 3 billion dollars in military aid to the Israeli government to continue a very illegal occupation. According to the preambular paragraph of UN Security Council Resolution 242, “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war.” Therefore, Israel’s occupation of West Bank and Gaza are illegal by international law. One also should look at Israeli scholars like Tanya Reinhart, Ilan Pape, Simha Flapan, Yosef Gorny, and others to corroborate such information. For human rights abuses that Israeli government commits on Palestinians go to the Israeli human rights organzation B’Tselem and other mainstream human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. Once you compare the data to what the book presents and see that its dead on accurate, all the negative reviews on this site will seem ridiculous and show a blind following for Israel right or wrong rather than standing up for the truth regardless of who has it.

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See Also:

Review: Palestine–Peace Not Apartheid

Review: The Road to 9/11–Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America

Review: Painful Questions–An Analysis of the September 11th Attack

Review: Web of Deceit: The History of Western Complicity in Iraq, from Churchill to Kennedy to George W. Bush

Review: A Power Governments Cannot Suppress

Review: The Power of Israel in the United States

Review: They Dare to Speak Out–People and Institutions Confront Israel’s Lobby

Review: Palestine Inside Out–An Everyday Occupation

Review: The Attack on the Liberty–The Untold Story of Israel’s Deadly 1967 Assault on a U.S. Spy Ship

Review: The Health of Nations–Society and Law beyond the State

Review: Threshold–The Crisis of Western Culture

Review: Democracy Matters–Winning the Fight Against Imperialism (Hardcover)

Review: 101 Myths of the Bible–How Ancient Scribes Invented Biblical History

Review: Freedom Next Time: Resisting the Empire

Review: In the Name of Democracy–American War Crimes in Iraq and Beyond

Review: Devil’s Game–How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam (American Empire Project)

Review: When the Rivers Run Dry–Water–The Defining Crisis of the Twenty-First Century (Hardcover)

Review: War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern Times

5 Star, Crime (Corporate), Crime (Government), Crime (Organized, Transnational), Diplomacy, Disaster Relief, Economics, Humanitarian Assistance
Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars Short Article from the Author, April 28, 2010

Linda Polman

It’s a real shame this book is not being represented properly on Amazon, in part because the UK publisher is just not geared up for the US audience. This is an important book. Below is the author’s summary as appeared in TimesOnline 25 April 2010.

See also:
Policing the New World Disorder: Peace Operations and Public Security
Deliver Us from Evil: Peacekeepers, Warlords and a World of Endless Conflict

Easy money: the great aid scam
Foreign aid is big business and much of it simply vanishes. In a devastating new book, we reveal how millions are lost to waste, corrupt local officials and warlords who realise more blood means more money

In the swimming pool beside the neatly laid tables at the Mamba Point restaurant in Freetown, white women were doing aerobics and the conference hall was hosting a seminar called “The Traumatised Child”. Mantovani’s strings played, ice cubes tinkled in our wine glasses and waiters slunk about with steaming platters.

It was summer 2002, a year after the signing of the peace accord that ended Sierra Leone’s vicious civil war. We had steak — on the menu at 47,000 leones, or 15. That was over half a month’s salary for the waiters serving us, the Unicef representative to my left told me.

For three full years Sierra Leone had been the darling of international donors and humanitarian organisations. Where all that money was going puzzled me, since the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had recently declared Sierra Leone, yet again, to be the world’s poorest country.

“How do people actually survive here?” I asked my dining companions. They all burst into ebullient laughter. “Juju!” they cried in unison — sorcery. “Come on, let’s pop another bottle of wine, guys,” the European commission representative shouted above the jovial hubbub.

Related Links
Haiti hell continues months after quake
Charity insiders know the score. “There’s a market for good works, and it’s big business. Call it the `moral economy’ if you like,” says Nicholas Stockton, a former emergencies director of Oxfam.

We see what looks like one big happy family moving in concert into crisis zones to ease human suffering, but the most powerful link between humanitarian aid agencies is that of commercial competition. It’s certainly a long time since the relief of suffering was carried out by people wearing sandals; now they dress in sharp business suits. Organisations that want to remain competitive need to know all about integrated marketing strategies, cost-benefit analyses and competitive incentives.

Those that fail to put in an appearance at each new humanitarian disaster miss out on contracts for the implementation of aid projects financed by donor governments and institutions, and are bypassed by competing organisations that do show up. Whether it’s the construction and supply of refugee camps and orphanages, the repair of bombed roads and buildings, the re-education of child soldiers, or the inoculation of entire populations against polio, the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that send official donors the most competitive bids for the huge amount of work involved will come out on top.

Start-up costs in distant, crisis-hit countries are sky-high. Aid organisations have to recruit and hire staff, rent and furnish housing and office space, and bring in Land Cruisers, aid supplies, satellite dishes, computers, air-conditioners, office equipment and generators. Once at work in a “humanitarian territory”, NGOs have to ensure they can remain active there for at least as long as it takes to earn back their investments.

The big handsome hero of a Nigerian soap shown on television all over west Africa isn’t a pilot or a fireman but a project leader for Unicef. In every scene, the broad-shouldered hunk parades about in a dazzling outfit while beautiful women squirm at his feet. After all, a civil servant or local chief attached to an NGO project as an adviser or supervisor can earn a salary dozens of times higher than normal — and local administrators can easily “supervise” many competing projects simultaneously.

The relevance, quality and results of aid projects are not a priority. A co-ordinator for the European commission in west Africa explained to me: “The things local officials weigh up are: will they get access to imported aid supplies, training, study trips, per diems and people needing to rent houses and vehicles? Will an aid project put them in a position to hand out jobs to brothers and cousins? If the answer is no, it may take a very long time to get the necessary permits.”

A story I’d just told him about a wheelchair project in Liberia had made him feel even more dispirited. Medical NGOs had arranged for a batch of wheelchairs to be flown in, to ease the sufferings of war invalids. The chairs turned up in the streets of Monrovia modified into ice-cream carts and mobile shops. Vendors who had nothing wrong with their legs were using the chairs, while amputees went on dragging themselves on their hands and knees through the filthy streets. Local government workers had distributed the wheelchairs among their own kith and kin, who in turn had rented them out to small-time entrepreneurs.

The growing number of aid organisations and the rising value of the aid supplies and services they deliver to warring countries make humanitarian aid an increasingly important supplement to war chests: countries with no other sources of income turn the aid industry, supposedly neutral and unbiased, into a potentially lethal force that the belligerents need to enlist.

Take the $825m aid operation in Darfur, which in 2008 was reckoned by the UN to be the most expensive in the world. In March 2009, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for the Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir for playing an “essential role” in the murder, rape, torture, pillaging and displacement of a large number of civilians in Darfur. He faces the charge of crimes against humanity — yet the NGOs in Sudan are still the milch cows of Bashir’s state apparatus.

An employee of an American NGO explained to me how it works. “It’s an open secret among UN organisations and NGOs that the government earns several million dollars a quarter on visas, travel permits, work permits for humanitarians and permit extensions. Entering Sudan costs. Leaving Sudan: ditto.

“To set up an NGO you need approval from the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, whose minister was also indicted by the ICC for crimes against humanity. At every stage of the application process, you pay again. It drives me wild that the `humanitarian community’ is so spineless in its dealings with the regime. If there was some collective spirit, we might be able to avoid becoming, in effect, sub-branches of the Sudan state.” But there isn’t.

Only 30 minutes after the ICC ordered the arrest of President Bashir, the regime retaliated with an order for 13 NGOs to leave immediately. Oxfam GB lost £5m, £2m of it in possessions and accounts. Médecins sans Frontières admitted to having lost 2m (£1.7m). But none of the NGOs or the donor governments protested — they all hoped to be allowed to return to Sudan.

Meanwhile, between 2001, when the war on terror began, and 2008, more than 60 donor governments allocated a total of more than $15 billion to aid for Afghanistan — but exactly where the money ended up is unclear. Neither the donors nor their NGOs dare to visit the projects they finance. The result is an unfathomable channelling of aid billions that is highly susceptible to fraud.

Clinics never actually built, girls’ schools where only boys are taught — everyone in Afghanistan can give examples of aid projects that have been financed but not realised. The majority of western NGOs never venture outside Kabul. Instead, they subcontract local and other NGOs to implement their projects, which in turn engage further subcontractors. A total of four intermediate organisations, each creaming off a portion, is common. Steadily seeping away, project finance passes from hand to hand until finally someone gets down to bricklaying, carpentry or ploughing. In the intervening stages, effective supervision of budgets is impossible.

CorpWatch, an independent research institute that investigates and exposes corporate fraud and corruption around the world, eventually managed to trace what had happened to the $15m USAID had earmarked for the building of a road from Kabul to Kandahar in the south. The money turned out to have been transferred from USAID, via the UN, to an American company that hired a Turkish roadbuilder. Each intermediate layer absorbed between 6% and 20% of the project funding, so that in the end only cheap, inferior materials could be purchased. According to CorpWatch, the stretch of tarmac that resulted was barely any improvement on the unsealed road it replaced.

At any given moment, several thousand aid projects are under way in Afghanistan. Jean Mazurelle, former director of the World Bank in Kabul, estimated that 35%-40% of all international aid to Afghanistan is “wrongly spent”. “In Afghanistan, the wastage of aid is sky-high: there is real looting going on. In the 30 years of my career, I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said.

When asked, aid workers and donors naturally say they control what happens to the money. But an Afghan accountant who carries out spot checks on control methods for USAID thinks this is highly unlikely. “I can tell one Afghan’s handwriting from another’s, but foreigners only see squiggles and dots. Sometimes I’m shown 150 receipts with the same signature,” she said. And photographs of USAID projects? “I sometimes see pictures of exactly the same project with different donors. Aid groups are happy to be financed three times over. After all, the donors don’t come and look.”

This systematic lack of control of aid funding has been nicknamed “Afghaniscam”. Not only do Afghan racketeers rake off aid money unhindered, but in some areas Taliban fighters are able to use unsupervised aid funding to strengthen and expand their popular support.

The 21st-century aid business is booming as never before. And it’s increasingly lucrative — which is why the 2001 announcement that Sierra Leone had once again been named the world’s poorest country was the occasion for a festive gathering in Freetown. The poorest countries, you see, are eligible for enormous, special international aid programmes.

The cream of Freetown society had gathered to toast this dubious first prize in a conference room at a recently opened luxury hotel, the property of a Chinese investor. The vice-president handed a copy of the UNDP report to his president, “Pa” Kabbah, who waved it triumphantly. “Nice hotel, this,” the vice-president said. “But it gives foreigners the wrong idea. They’ll start thinking we’re a country of comfort and luxury.” The guests nodded in agreement.

Further along the same Freetown road is the Mammy Yoko hotel, currently serving as the HQ of the UN mission in Sierra Leone. That day, negotiations about a ceasefire were taking place there between the rebel movement, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), and donor governments.

The RUF delegation seemed to consist of wiry teenagers. A month ago, they had still been prowling the bush; now they strolled in oversized western suits to the UN dining room. Now and then, they slapped each other on the back and laughed loudly, the way they’d seen important international functionaries do. The coastal strip, a quarter of the country, was under the control of UN blue helmets. The remaining three-quarters of Sierra Leone, a region of jungle and diamonds, would be left in the hands of at least four warring parties until an accord was signed. No matter: the international peace negotiators were more than prepared to meet RUF demands, since donor governments want to see results.

Many experts dismissed the warriors in Sierra Leone’s bush as drug-fuelled maniacs, but some suspected that a rational, calculated strategy lay behind their destructive frenzy, which left 200,000 dead. They suggested it was a deliberate attempt to drive up the price of peace.

From the viewpoint of the warriors, the logic of the humanitarian era is simple. Without violence and devastation, no aid. And the more ghastly the violence and the more complete the devastation, the more comprehensive the aid.

© Linda Polman 2010 Extracted from War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern Times by Linda Polman, published by Viking at £12.99. Copies can be ordered for £11.69, including postage from The Sunday Times Bookshop on 0845 271 2135.

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Review: China into Africa–Trade, Aid, and Influence

4 Star, Country/Regional, Diplomacy, Economics, Water, Energy, Oil, Scarcity
Amazon Page

4.0 out of 5 stars One of Two “Best” on China in Africa

February 22, 2010

Robert I. Rotberg, contributing editor

Of the modest number of books focused on China in Africa, this is one of the two best, and both are unique–if you buy only one, at least read my summary of the other, China Safari: On the Trail of Beijing’s Expansion in Africa. Whereas t his book is a best in class collection of academic essays, China Safari is direct journalism with wonderful color photos and direct ground-truth stories.

While this book good easily be five stars in terms of staid academic documentation and reasonable insights, is just does not give me–nor does the other book–a 360 degree view aided by a few maps and charts. This is all print, and while there is a great deal of detail, the over-all synthesis and analysis is not there–each piece stands on its own. Here are my distilled notes.

01 Rotberg China’s Quest for Resources, Opportunities, and Influence in Africa
+ Third era in Chinese-African relations, first was in the 600-700 AD period
+ Since 2006 China has displaced Europe and is set to displace the USA within the decade
+ India and Japan are pushing back in Africa, but weakly
+ China is building infrastructure as a means of capturing below-market price direct access to natural resources
+ China’s neutral non-interventionist policies have opened doors closed by Western human rights badgering
– Downside is the substandard goods that China is dumping, and sub-price, displacing local economy suppliers
– Downside is Chinese labor brought in, thousands as a time, not hiring or training local labor
– US Government generally “ill-prepared” to monitor or understand China’s broad presence in Africa
– Neither the African Union nor any of its regional economic commissions have a China strategy or policy
Continue reading “Review: China into Africa–Trade, Aid, and Influence”

Review: The Idea that is America–Keeping Faith With Our Values in a Dangerous World

4 Star, America (Founders, Current Situation), Consciousness & Social IQ, Culture, Research, Democracy, Diplomacy, History, Justice (Failure, Reform), Philosophy, Politics, Public Administration, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution, Voices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized)
Amazon Page

4.0 out of 5 stars Best of Intentions, Good Individual Effort,

February 20, 2010

Anne-Marie Slaughter

Now that my own book INTELLIGENCE for EARTH: Clarity, Diversity, Integrity, & Sustainaabilty is at the printer am back into reading and really looking forward to catching up with the 25 books on my “to do” shelf. This one jumped to the top of the list at the recommendation of James Fallows, recently back from China and author of Blind Into Baghdad: America’s War in Iraq among many other extraordinary books.

See my five-star review of the same author’s A New World Order, which is the better book for professionals. This book I recommend to those who are, like the author of the book, emerging counter-culture spirits, restless in harness, acutely aware of the hypocrisy of “Empire as Usual” under this nominally liberal Administration as under the last. My book Election 2008: Lipstick on the Pig (Substance of Governance; Legitimate Grievances; Candidates on the Issues; Balanced Budget 101; Call to Arms: Fund We Not Them; Annotated Bibliography) covers the same ground from a more pragmatic focus on the need for reality-based governance.

I have two competing views of this book. The first, beyond five stars, is earned by this quote from page 13:

QUOTE: In our history, the greatest patriots have been those leaders and ordinary citizens who have dared to hold America to our own highest standards–even at the cost of ostracism, punishment, imprisonment and, at times–e3ven death.” I would add unemployment to the list–Washington today does NOT want to hear truth about anything at all.

Continue reading “Review: The Idea that is America–Keeping Faith With Our Values in a Dangerous World”