Another teaser for the liberal terminators (Dave and Nick)

Apparently if you want to understand what has actually happenned to Iraq since March 2003, the book to read is "Fiasco. The Story of the American Adventure in Iraq."

One for the Muscular Types. (D.Aaronovitch, N. Cohen etc.)

What on Earth has become of Tony Blair?


This is a good article.

Shame of a nation

Hollywood is finally getting to grips with Iraq - but can the flood of movies save the industry's reputation? By John Patterson Friday August 24, 2007The Guardian Diluted political content... Jamie Foxx in The Kingdom.

The Hollywood studios have taken their own sweet time facing up to the Iraq war. The conflict has dragged on for four and a half years, longer than America's involvement in the second world war, yet only now is Hollywood beginning to address it head on. And even though documentarists have been tearing into the subject almost from the beginning - to say nothing of novelists, musicians, artists and even videogame designers - Iraq seems to have utterly paralysed Hollywood's ability to address war with its usual vigour and bloodthirsty enthusiasm.

In each month between now and March, however, American cinemas will release two movies dealing in different ways with Iraq, the Middle East, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, the war on terror, "extraordinary rendition" and returning war veterans, among other topics - which include grief, desertion, battlefield murder, rape, post-traumatic stress disorder and so-called "blowback", repercussions from botched, covert interference abroad - until recently considered too raw to be recreated on film for a nation at war.

Yet most of these big-budget movies seem weirdly apolitical in this deeply political time, never addressing the heart of the matter. The hard work of criticism and political analysis is actually being left to the small-budget, indie realm, or is done instead, like much other labour that Americans should be doing for themselves, by foreigners.

The long peace that America experienced between the fall of Saigon and 9/11 never dimmed its studios' enthusiasm for the war movie; indeed by the eve of the invasion in 2003, Hollywood was in the last throes of a five-year-long wave, initiated by Saving Private Ryan, of simultaneously revisionist and nostalgic Second World War movies. Essentially these were 1950s, Go-USA! flag-wavers with added Peckinpah blood and horror-movie mutilation, salted with the usual bogus war-is-hell bromides. The boomlet culminated with the D-Day episode of Band of Brothers, which premiered two nights before the invasion of Iraq began. And since then, almost nothing.

So what has made the difference over the past year? What has been dislodged to permit this sudden flood of movies that deal with the world we live in? Obviously the Congressional elections of 2006 were a sure sign that the triumphalist mission-accomplished mood had irrevocably dissipated and Bush was now a lame-duck president. A movie greenlighted the day after those elections would naturally now be reaching its release date, which maybe too glibly explains why the studio efforts are all arriving simultaneously: because there was nothing left to be afraid of.

But down below decks, where movies are dreamed up, clusters of writers, artists and directors have impatiently waited for Hollywood to get a clue about Iraq and the post-9/11 environment. Paul Greengrass, an indie sensibility with access to serious studio money, put it to me like this: "We have a requirement to speak of these things on film, because they are being explored endlessly on TV, in magazines, in books, the internet, everywhere. Somewhere, film, the principal way that we tell stories to each other, has got to engage with this cataclysmic event that drives our lives and our politics and has filled them both with so much fear."

That energy has been in the air since 9/12, but the avenues for its expression have only opened recently in Hollywood. With his post-Bourne stock on the rise, Greengrass now moves on to Imperial Life in the Emerald City, a docudrama account of the calamitously managed Iraq occupation. Many film-makers must envy him.

Someone who has already grappled with some of the issues of Iraq is writer-director James C Strouse, who had a hit at Sundance this spring with Grace Is Gone. He had the film's screenplay in the works for nearly two years before it was read by John Cusack in early 2006, meaning that his difficult theme - a man must work out how to tell his children their mother has died in Iraq, and for a cause he still believes in - had been on Strouse's mind since the first year of the war. "It's difficult to tell a story as it's developing," he says, "and I wasn't aiming to offer any definitive view of this war, because I don't think that's possible at this point. We are going to need time and distance for the story to be adequately told." But he felt that the war could still be approached from an oblique angle, on an intimate scale. Tellingly, in this time of political and social division, he sought to transcend politics.

"I thought there was a way of emotionally connecting with people on an issue that, at the time I started writing it, seemed really to have divided the country. I thought there was a common ground where everybody could come to the story and agree that this is a tragedy, and more complicated than my own political beliefs."

Cusack has previously said he was drawn to the piece because of the Pentagon's policy regarding soldiers' coffins. "When they banned photos of the dead coming home, I thought, 'My God, they think they can control death.' I've always thought you want to be in and of your time as an artist, so it seemed clear we've got to do stories about coffins coming home."

Grace's financing came from a consortium of politically progressive investors, but once the project was up and running - which happened very fast once Cusack signed on - help came from interesting quarters in Hollywood. "After Sundance we got the film to Clint Eastwood and - it was really kind of mind-blowing that he did this - he came on to score the movie for us," says Strouse. Eastwood's offer was too good to refuse, and his work replaced an earlier score by Max Richter.

One can understand why Eastwood got involved. Within the studio orbit, he has of late been making movies that mark a major break from the prevailing attitudes of the Republican party he supports. His Iwo Jima pictures went out of their way to depict war as a big lie, or to look at ourselves through our enemy's eyes - two unpardonable offences on the American right. This may be dissidence-lite on Eastwood's part, but it's still dissidence, hence his magnanimous commitment to a little movie that matters to him.

Eastwood's protégé, writer-director Paul Haggis, who co-wrote Letters from Iwo Jima, is about to release In the Valley of Elah, in which Tommy Lee Jones and Susan Sarandon (still the flame-haired bane of the right) are searching for their awol son after he gets back from Iraq. One senses here a visible section of a much larger community in Hollywood straining to express itself on the subject.

The Iwo Jima diptych also illustrates tendencies long embraced by Hollywood: displace the now into the past, the actual into the metaphorical, the centre to the edge. Although Hollywood didn't get around to dealing directly with Vietnam until 1978, with Go Tell the Spartans and The Boys in Company C, the war was nonetheless spectrally omnipresent in Hollywood movies from 1965 until the mid-1980s. Bonnie and Clyde, The Wild Bunch, The Last Detail, and Soldier Blue were all Vietnam movies. Catch-22 and M*A*S*H may have been set in the second world war and Korea, but no one doubted which war they were really addressing.

Since the onset of war in Iraq, many movies have fallen into a similar category. The Eastwood movies, Jarhead, the HBO prelude-to-Vietnam movie Path to War, Mel Gibson's Vietnam battlefield movie We Were Soldiers: these all wanted to be Iraq movies, but they didn't quite dare. Elsewhere, the 2003 remake of the rancid imperialist pot boiler The Four Feathers was surely the studios' ditziest response yet to 9/11, while Ridley Scott's confused, revisionist Crusades movie Kingdom of Heaven sought, however obscurely, to read the new conflict through an ancient one. Troy and 300 both looked at Iraq through the corner of one eye. Likewise those Ugly-American horror movies, such as Hostel and Paradise Lost, ponder that perennial post-9/11 American lament: "Why do they hate us so?"

The studios - the only people with enough money to do real cinematic justice to the enormity of war - are continuing in this vein today. Charlie Wilson's War takes the 25-year-old story of how a lowly Texas congressman with a taste for Playboy centrefolds and belly-dancers armed the Afghan mujahideen with the weapons that are now being pointed at American troops in that country. It's an epic of corruption and malfeasance, but with Tom Hanks in the role, rascality rather than villainy will no doubt be the order of the day.

The Kingdom, staring Jamie Foxx, is a big-budget thriller about American police officers investigating the bombing of an American installation in Saudi Arabia, and becoming targets themselves. It has the whiff of The Siege and Syriana, but with diluted political content. Lions for Lambs, Robert Redford's new movie about two idealistic soldiers in Afghanistan and their professor back in the States, has the same writer, Matthew Michael Carnahan, as The Kingdom, and the kind of stars (Meryl Streep, Tom Cruise) who, like Redford, never take very serious risks with political material. The only studio offering with any bite seems to be Kimberly Peirce's Stop Loss, which culminates with a soldier being murdered by his own platoon.

None of this impresses Andrew Eaton, who has produced dissident, non-studio, non-American movies about the post-9/11 environment under the old dispensation and the new: The Road to Guantánamo and A Mighty Heart. The American reception last year to the former was slanderous, contemptible and quite nakedly political, while the latter, despite its scenes of American officials present at torture sessions, has encountered no such opposition.
"Iraq's turning out to be a lot like last time," says Eaton. "Like with Vietnam, people are suddenly waking up four years later and saying, 'I ought to make a movie about this.' Maybe they're running out of exciting story material and the war offers good new stuff for them, but I'm not sure there's a massive curiosity about the politics themselves in America. Having made two movies like this, we're now getting every Iraq script under the sun sent to us, and most of them are dreadful: things like I Was Saddam's Body-Double.

We got a pitch the other day from our agents in America: 'What if Prince Harry had gone to Iraq with the SAS?' Well first off, he wasn't in the SAS. And second, who cares? Yet clearly they think that's a brilliant idea, and I'm sure someone's working hard on a script right this minute. The pitch they gave us was incredible: 'It's The Queen meets Black Hawk Down!'"

In European-UK financing, dissent is almost a virtue, he says. "In Hollywood, no matter how many intelligent people you meet, the bottom line is: you have to make money. With Guantánamo and A Mighty Heart, bizarrely, it's easier to get money here [in the UK]. It has its own topicality, and we're close to the TV world, where there's always more money than in film. And working on a small scale is easier - you get more freedom, in a way. Anything over five million, though, will struggle for finance without American money, which puts a limit on things."

Eaton acknowledges that raw political stories always get a frosty reception in Hollywood, even among the studio hierarchy. "Someone I thought of up to that point as a very well-read, well-educated executive at Fox actually said to me about Road to Guantánamo: 'I simply don't believe that American troops ever behaved in that way.' And it's slightly scary when you meet someone who's not even prepared to consider that those things might have occurred." And even scarier when their hand controls the green light.

· The Kingdom is released on October 5. Grace Is Gone is screened as part of the London film festival on October 25. In the Valley of Elah is released on January 18


Told you so.

"Any Iranian involvement would risk not just a Sunni/Shia civil war in Iraq, but potentially a regional religious war. Saudi Arabia has virulently anti Shia militants in abundance, part of the Salafi creed of the extreme Wahhabis is to kill Shia as apostates. As regards Pakistan, Ramzi Yousseff (1993 WTC bomber) and Khaled (supposed Al Qaeda operations head) both come from Baluchistan in Pakistan, and honed their fanaticism on Pakistani Shia and attacks on Shia over the border in Iran. There are therefore many potential recruits for a jihad against the Shia. The Blair bush needs to tread very carefully here in my view." Me 2004.

"Mr Khalilzad suggested the situation was so dangerous that without a substantial US presence, a civil war could suck in other Arab countries on the side of the Sunnis and Iran on the side of the Shias, creating conditions for a regional conflict and disrupting global oil supplies. "That would make Taliban Afghanistan look like child's play," he said." US Ambassador to Iraq 2006


Where does it go from here?

The New Orleans disaster could and certainly should finish conservative political parties for good. "Big Government is a bad thing. Lower taxes are a good thing." I can't see anyone buying that now.


"Any Iranian involvement would risk not just a Sunni/Shia civil war in Iraq, but potentially a regional religious war. Saudi Arabia has virulently anti Shia militants in abundance, part of the Salafi creed of the extreme Wahhabis is to kill Shia as apostates. As regards Pakistan, Ramzi Yousseff (1993 WTC bomber) and Khaled (supposed Al Qaeda operations head) both come from Baluchistan in Pakistan, and honed their fanaticism on Pakistani Shia and attacks on Shia over the border in Iran. There are therefore many potential recruits for a jihad against the Shia. The Blair Bush axis needs to tread very carefully here in my view.

Well chaps?


Anne Clwyd.

I heard Anne Clwyd being interviewed. She now claims that she wasn't pro-war as suchl, she was just anti-Saddam. As war seemed,in her view, the only way to get rid of him, she went along with it but......now she thinks maybe it wasn't such a good idea.

"Wednesday, May 05, 2004
Anne Clwyd. what a dupe. - posted by Stephen @ 6:55 PM "


Aaronovitch archive.

This is a complete list of my Aaro related musings to date.

Something that's puzzled me is the support for the Iraq war from people normally considered to be "of the left". David Aaronovitch who writes for "The Guardian" and "The Observer" is a good example. He claims that this position is based on his meetings with Iraqi students whilst at University, and the stories they told him about repression in Iraq. Grow up David.

I just came across an article from December 2003 where David Aaronovitch (one of the Iraq war supporters from the left of the political spectrum - see Saturday April 10th post)says, "If Iraq becomes a democracy, the consequences for the rest of the Middle East would be profound. If it becomes a basket case, then people like me will owe the world an apology. David"I wonder what his timescale is?

Killing two birds with one stone, I've decided to post the content of the e-mails I send out to the press etc. That means I don't have to do the same rant twice. Here is one to "The Guardian".

"Dear Sir,I was wondering what David Aaronovitch thinks of the 50 British ex-diplomats' (all served in the Middle East) letter to Tony Blair, a letter, which expressed robustly, their views on the current situations in Iraq and Israel? I'm sure he's read about it.
Yours sincerely,

I thought to keep the blog complete I would post my previous letters to the press.

Here is a letter I sent to David Aaronovitch. No reply as yet."Dear David,I have written a few letters to "The Guardian" about your reporting of the Iraq issue. None have been published, so you probably haven't seen them. I would really like to understand your position on the situation, so wonder whether a direct approach might achieve more. I was very much against the invasion of Iraq and was surprised at your strong support for it. Up until the invasion, your worldview (liberal, Internationalist, secular - civilized) coincided with mine completely. The stance you adopt in your piece in "The Observer" today is very much at odds, not only with Charles Kennedy and Henry Porter, but also it seems to me, with much informed opinion worldwide. You are not alone in this; Christopher Hitchens and Anne MacElvoy, both of whom I would normally feel close to politically, also beat the drum for Bush's policies. I am quite prepared to accept that my understanding of the Middle East is ill informed; I just need to understand what it is that you know or perceive that I don't.I hope you can find the time to reply, if you can't, no problem yours sincerely,

Dear Sir,I was wondering when could we expect David Aaronovitch's analysis of Richard Clarke's testimony?
Yours sincerely,

"Dear Sir,David Aaronovitch's article in today's "Observer" (not entitled "was I right on Iraq?" as were his previous two articles) had me scratching my head. I had to re-read it twice to establish exactly what he was trying to say. He castigates Malcolm Rifkind (he's on your side Dave) for his, admittedly, opportunistic and disingenuous attack on Blair. He ridicules those who would have liked Blair to use his "influence" to change Dubya's stance on Iraq and Palestine, and he scoffs at the idea of Blair building a relationship with John Kerry (who he describes as "not even formally the Democratic Presidential nominee" - rearrange these words Dave "hostage" and "fortune"). Then we are told about how Blair is using his "influence" to steer Dubya towards involving the UN. Dave, if the USA has to keep on paying for this "nation building" in Iraq, it will bankrupt them. If they can find a way to get someone else to pay to clean up the unholy mess they've created, they aren't going to need much persuasion. Dave then addresses the June "handover of sovereignty". What does "sovereignty" mean? According to Sun Yu and Niccolo Machiavelli the defining element of a "state" is the ability to defend the integrity of that state. Which army and police force will the nascent New Iraq be relying on? Will it be their own security apparatus? No, of course it won’t such a thing doesn't exist. The ultimate authority (the threat of violence) will still be the US military. Dave then goes on to say that of course Bush and Sharon are wrong about Yassim (no-one thought he was Santa Claus Dave, don't mistake pragmatism for naivety) and the West Bank, and finishes back with Rifkind again for not doing anything about Srebrenica. Dave, what is your point exactly?Yours faithfully,

"Dear Sir, I found the article about British Muslims in Today's "Observer" very interesting, and somewhat disturbing. Osama Saeed of the Muslim Association of Britain is quoted as saying that some British Muslims "carry the burden of struggles elsewhere - Palestine, Iraq and Kashmir". As we all know, Kashmir and Palestine have been at the heart of immense suffering (including 9/11) for 50 years now. So the effect of the Iraq fiasco is to that Muslims have another reason to resent Europe and America. What does David Aaronovitch think? Yours sincerely,4/4/04"Dear Sir,Have the apologists for Aznar's frankly bizarre and politically cynical attempts to deny the obvious, and blame ETA for Thursday's outrage (Melanie Phillips, Tony Blair, David Aaronovitch - sorry Dave but I find your feeble attempts at justifying your ludicrous position on the "war" increasingly comical) considered that the time wasted trying pathetically to implicate the Basques, may have hindered not only the investigation into that atrocity, but also any attempt to use information on the real suspects in preventing further carnage - possibly in London.
Yours sincerely,

16/3/04"Dear Sir,The prompt dispatch of the Aznar government (Aznar's father was apparently a close friend of Franco - some pedigree!) is a refreshing sign of where ultimate political power lies. This should give Mr Blair pause for thought. However he should be more concerned that his only European ally in the absurd Iraq venture is Silvio Berlusconni. What does David Aaronovitch think?
Yours sincerely,

"Dear Sir,I see that a number of Oil Companies have pulled out of a conference on reconstructing the Iraqi oil industry, which is supposed to happen later this month in Basra. Understandably they will not to expose their employees to potential events like the Fallujah atrocity of last week. What does David Aaronovitch think?
Yours sincerely,

Monday, May 03, 2004
Following Dave's ridiculous article in today's Observer, I felt I had to write."Dear Sir,The article in today's Observer "The horrors we don't see" by David Aaronovitch continues his increasingly petulant defence of his stance on the Iraq war. Apparently we should balance our feelings of revulsion about the possible mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners by US and British forces by remembering that some Arab governments routinely torture suspects. He further enlightens us by asserting that had we not invaded Iraq, worse things would be being done at Abu Ghraib by Saddam. This may or may not be the case. However, even if it is, the outrages would not be being committed by my government, ostensibly in my name. That is my problem David.Kind regards,”

Wednesday, May 05, 2004
The Aaronovitch/Clwyd/etc. axis is arguing that the abuses happening at Abu Ghraib are better than things were there under Saddam. Difference is, Saddam was an Iraqi so it was an internal problem. now it has become very external.

Monday, May 10, 2004
David Aaronovitch's weekly column in "The Observer" yesterday was all about "Friends", the TV show. You'd have thought that David would have more pressing matters to write about.

"Dear Sir,How refreshing to see a column (David Aaronovitch "The Observer" Sunday May 9th) where the writer is able to avoid the situation in Iraq, and cheer us all up with a witty and highly relevant article about the last episode of "Friends" the feelgood American TV sitcom. There is too much bad news these days! Well done David.Yours faithfully,

David Aaronovitch has coined an expression for supporters of the war from the left of the political spectrum such as him and presumably Anne Clwyd and Tony Blair (left?), "liberal interventionists". OK but what did "liberals" think they would gain from an alliance with the "most right wing US administrations for generations", run by the religious right and by neo-con ideologues?

Tuesday, May 11, 2004
Today’s letter to "The Guardian"
Dear Sir,Can David Aaronovitch explain what exactly the "liberal interventionists" as he describes himself, (and presumably Anne Clwyd and Anne McElvoy) expected from an alliance with a US administration widely held to be the most right wing of recent years, which administration seems to be run by the religious right and neo-con ideologues? Did he not foresee problems from such an alliance? More to the point, should not Tony Blair have had the political nous to realise that his blind support for Bush would result in a situation where we become tarred with the same brush as the US by world, and more importantly, Middle Eastern opinion?Yours faithfully,

Wednesday, May 12, 2004
I wonder about Aaronovitch and the other "liberal interventionists". Did they succumb to that American style "if we say it is so, then it will be so"? Nothing else can explain their inability to foresee the mess they have helped to create.

Thursday, May 27, 2004
Another of my letters to The Guardian. David Aaronovitch actually sent me a reply to this. Which was nice."Dear Sir,I notice that life in Iraq appears to be worsening daily. Is it fair then, that David Aaronovitch only has one column per week in which to enlighten us as to the reality of the situation? Do we have to wait until next week to get the real story behind Chalabi? After his masterful dissection of Susan Sontag's article, I'm not sure that I can wait that long.Yours faithfully,

David's reply was:"I don't, Vinnie, you can read me in the Observer as well. There, I betthat made your day.Best wishes,David A"I then wrote back saying this."Thanks for replying David. I do read you every week in "The Observer" butthought the point was better made by reference to your Guardian column only. What would make my day would be to understand how a highly educated, liberal, European journalist ends up siding with George W. Bush against Susan Sontag.Once again, thanks for taking the trouble to reply.Kind regards,

Tuesday, September 21, 2004
"One of the best-selling CDs in Baghdad's market shows an Egyptian accused of working for the Americans having his head sawn off in a scruffy backyard.The CD is professionally produced, using the latest technology. " The Guardian 21st September 2004."If Iraq becomes a democracy, the consequences for the rest of the Middle East would be profound. If it becomes a basket case, then people like me will owe the world an apology. " David Aaronovitch" December 20th 2003.Is it a basket case yet? "The BEST Selling CD". There is real hatred there.

ot seems likely that Shia extremists, who were aided by the police, killed the American journalist who was murdered last week. He was found with his hands tied with police issue plastic handcuffs, some believe his killers were the police themselves. His crime was to speak out about the growing power of hardline Shia Islamists in government. (note to Dubya: these aren't the same as the salafi jihadists we are fighting in the "war on terror". I know it's complicated George but keep with it.) I am reminded of David "Dave" Aaronovitch words of December 2003."If Iraq becomes a democracy, the consequences for the rest of the Middle East would be profound. If it becomes a basket case, then people like me will owe the world an apology. David"I would say that a US journalist being killed by the Shia (those were the "good guys" we went to liberate) whilst our war with the Sunnis becomes increasingly vicious could be seen as a basket case.