Friday, June 14, 2013

Soledad O'Brien takes her lack of appeal to HBO









 Alex Gibney's We Steal Secrets is the new documentary telling the story about WikiLeaks.  As a result, it's been trashed -- largely by trash.  Loved the comments (that's sarcasm) by the trash that wears a wire to a court-martial -- we all know who I mean, right? -- where no recording devices are allowed.  That is how you end up with audio of Bradly Manning speaking that you release to the world.

WikiLeaks was an organization that pledged to release secrets.  It was a cute stunt and that's what the documentary exposes that probably cuts to the core of too many people who are too invested in Julian Assange and really need to take a step back and get a little perspective.

In its brief history, WikiLeaks accomplished a great deal.  It was to be the people's intelligence agency.  You don't hear that anymore because that motive doesn't come with First Amendment protections in the US, but that's what it was presented as (and the documentary captures that).  It allowed for minor embarrassments in a series of minor -- on the world stage -- exposures.

Then came its biggest leak.   Monday April 5, 2010, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh.  None of its subsequent leaks would ever be as massive or impressive.  That's because we are largely a visual people and this one had video.  It had video that the US government had refused to release.  Reuters had pressed forever to know how their two journalists were killed.  They were stonewalled.

The video contained the comments of those doing the killing.  To the shock of many, there was a cold hearted and a they-got-what-they-deserve attitude on the recording.  As though you could do that without hardening and removing yourself from questioning?  I don't know.  A lot of the shock over the video was about drawing lines between yourself and the ones doing the killing and, honestly, there's no great line there.  Anyone could have been the pawn that the killers were.  That is what the training and the socialization is about.

You got drama queens denouncing the killers.  But the killers killed on orders and acted as they were trained to do.  Meaning the problem went above them.  That was too much to explore, that was too much to acknowledge for the simplistic who need everything in black and white -- strangely, this is a group that bashed Bully Boy Bush for his either/or stances.

We didn't glom on the sugaring coating.  Check the archives, we were talking about the larger issues.  Also, you can go into archives before April 5, 2010 and you'll see we supported WikiLeaks.  You can go after, and you'll see the same thing.  When the cables came out, unlike all of the Julian Assange groupies (Greg Mitchell, etc.), we actually covered those in real time.  Democracy Now! couldn't be bothered.  We spent weeks on them here.  And we charted what was happening -- the silence -- at Third.  October 30, 2010, Ava and I wrote "TV: Media of the absurd:"

As two who've experienced not only multiple revivals of Albee's Tiny Alice but the canonization of the Twenty-First Century's two leading dim bulbs Bush and Barack, we thought we had a handle on the theatre of the absurd but, in fact, nothing prepares you.
That point became very clear in last week's coverage of the release of government documents. Friday October 22nd, WikiLeaks released 391,832 US military documents on the Iraq War. The documents -- US military field reports -- reveal torture and abuse and the ignoring of both. They reveal ongoing policies passed from the Bush administration onto the Obama one. They reveal that both administrations ignored and ignore international laws and conventions on torture. They reveal a much higher civilian death toll than was ever admitted to.
How would Panhandle Media handle this? The beggar media, for those who've forgotten, came to new levels of name-recognition (if not fame) and access to the pockets and, more importantly, pocket books of a huge number of Americans as a result of the illegal Iraq War. It was a cash cow, a rainmaker, for Panhandle Media. For the first time in it's 145 year history, The Nation magazine found itself raking in the dough and turning an actual profit, Pacifica Radio found itself flush with so much cash, local stations skimming off the top wasn't really a liability. Those with faces for radio, found a home on TV. It truly was a heady time during which many recast themselves as independent voices of the left when, in fact, they were nothing more than megaphones for the Democratic Party.
Bully Boy Bush's eight-year occupation of the White House was bad for the world but it put a shiny veneer and polish on a number of whores and that was never more clear than last week if you were waiting for WikiLeaks coverage from Panhandle Media.
The Nation magazine offered nothing on WikiLeaks last week. There was a video of Jeremy Schahill appearing on MSNBC talking about WikiLeaks -- that would be MSNBC's content that The Nation magazine reposted. They also reposted Laura Flanders GritTV 'commentary' that managed to buzzword WikiLeak without ever actually discussing it or explaining it. In fact, Laura's 'commentary' was like a trashy website listing porn terms in a desperate attempt to drive up traffic. Which, if you think about it, really does summarize The Nation today.
Yes, the same Laura who once declared it impossible to ignore WikiLeaks (look for her April 2010 column making that claim) ignored it. Despite having a half-hour TV show which airs Monday through Friday. She ignored it over and over. But that's what a whore does and that's all Laura Flanders has become, a cheap, tacky and, yes, ugly media whore.
She's far from alone. In These Times boasts no public access TV 'celebrity' but they couldn't be bothered writing one damn word last week about the documents WikiLeaks released. The Progressive?

Last week, the magazine published 15 online text pieces and not one was about WikiLeaks. That's appalling. In a ridiculous radio commentary last week, Matthew Rothschild opened with, "WikiLeaks has performed a service that our mainstream corporate media has failed to do."
Wow. They've failed! You know, Matt, it's too bad you don't run a magazine. If you did, you could get everyone to cover the WikiLeaks release . . . Oh, wait.
Matthew, you must have forgotten, you are the editor and the CEO of The Progressive magazine. You know what's "really ugly"? Your failure to publish even one article at the website. And you can trash US Senator John Ensign all you want (we have no need to defend Ensign) but if you don't want to look like a hypocrite, you shouldn't attack Ensign for not wanting a hearing on the revelations when you and your magazine can't even write about it. 'Not at all." [For more on Rothschild, refer to Elaine's "The Whoring of America" from last week.]
All last week, Beggar Media had time for every subject except the WikiLeaks release. An actress phoned us Friday to say of KPFK, "It's offered more 'news' of Obama on The Daily Show than on WikiLeaks." No, she wasn't joking. To listen to KPFK programming last week was to have no idea that WikiLeaks released any documents. During the Bush reign, KPFK had a number of hosts insisting no one cared more about the Iraq War than they did. Today? All quiet on the Democratic Party front.

We had no problem supporting WikiLeaks because we had no problem supporting the truth.  But Panhandle Media?  They couldn't take the truth in the releases.  They avoided one of the most serious revelations and you had to look to overseas media to find about that -- start with  Angus Stickler's "Obama administration handed over detainees despite reports of torture" (The Bureau of Investigative Journalism).  The notion that Panhandle Media supported WikiLeaks?  It's a myth, it's a revisionary myth.  They offered generic lip service 'support.' They refused to utilize the cables, to broadcast what was in them, to write about what was in them.  They sure as hell weren't going to go after their hero Barack.  But in their black and white world, they would use them to vilify Bully Boy Bush --  who Barack was never going to prosecute so we should all just take the 'win' and ignore now that he was finally evicted from the White House.

But it was all about yesteryear because focusing on that allowed these children posing as adults to pretend all was well in the world.  That's the lie WikiLeaks was fighting so don't even pretend that a Michael Ratner or an Amy Goodman or The Nation magazine was supporting WikiLeaks at that time.

This is important due to the reaction Alex Gibney's documentary has received from some.  I like the documentary, I applaud it.  But I understand film and I'm also not a cheap whore.  A friend at Universal (which has released the film) asked if I would give it a plug in a snapshot and couldn't understand why the film was so reviled by some.  I explained, "You understand film, you understand a documentary.  But these people don't understand anything but blind faith in their comic book heroes."

As they've demonstrated repeatedly, they're children who will not face truth.  They will lie that all US troops are out of Iraq -- a war they once decried and how they attacked lies about Iraq then -- because their hero is Barack Obama.  They're children who couldn't deal with the information that WikiLeaks released.  You had to be an adult especially to go through those cables because there were a ton of them and lazy children don't do that.  They instead offer generic statements about WikiLeaks and pretend that's covering the release of the cables.  Lazy children have to believe that Julian Assange is god and Superman and Buddah and ET rolled into one.  Because in their simplistic world, in their eternal childhood, that's how they see things.

The documentary's far from perfect.  I don't approve of the term "sex crimes."  Rape is rape but "rape" is only used in the documentary when we see text reports on camera.  The film doesn't pretend to know that Julian Assange raped the two women.  It does allow one woman to tell her side and offers frequent clips of Julian telling his side on that issue -- telling his side means attacking the women -- the thing that did more to destroy the myth of Julian than anything else as his howler monkeys echoed those attacks and the world recoiled.

What Michael Ratner -- who is part of Julian's defense and misuses the public airwaves every week on WBAI to promote his clients or his family (in the case most recently of Lizzy Ratner's appearance) -- wants is a film that says Julian Assange is a victim of others.  What the film argues is Assange is a victim of his own making.  Looking at British newspaper coverage of him, Julian declares, "Wow.  I'm untouchable now in this country."  How quickly that would change. 

Documentaries have a point of view.  Sorry this a surprise to some, sorry that so many never bothered to educate themselves.  If you think I'm a defender of the First Amendment (and I am), I'm an even bigger defender or art and do not suffer fools on that topic.

The documentary also tells Bradley Manning's story and that especially offends the children because Bradley's only of interest to them in terms of Julian Assange.  They've done damn little for Bradley the entire time he's been imprisoned.

Monday June 7, 2010, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the Collateral Damage video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August 2010 that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." In March, 2011, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. The Article 32 hearing took place in December. At the start of this year, there was an Article 32 hearing and, February 3rd, it was announced that the government would be moving forward with a court-martial. Bradley has yet to enter a plea. The court-martial was supposed to begin before the November 2012 election but it was postponed until after the election so that Barack wouldn't have to run on a record of his actual actions.   February 28th, Bradley admitted he leaked to WikiLeaks.  And why.

Bradley Manning:   In attempting to conduct counter-terrorism or CT and counter-insurgency COIN operations we became obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists and not being suspicious of and avoiding cooperation with our Host Nation partners, and ignoring the second and third order effects of accomplishing short-term goals and missions. I believe that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information contained within the CIDNE-I and CIDNE-A tables this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as [missed word] as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan.
I also believed the detailed analysis of the data over a long period of time by different sectors of society might cause society to reevaluate the need or even the desire to even to engage in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations that ignore the complex dynamics of the people living in the effected environment everyday.

No surprise, The Nation and so many of the we-love-Bradley! scribes ignored that -- just as they have refused to call out counterinsurgency throughout the last decade.  (And a reminder, the left always called out counter-insurgency in this country.  That's why The Battle of Algiers is such a well known film to this day and not just an obscure classic.)

We Steal Secrets takes you back to when the Collateral Murder video was released by WikiLeaks.

Alex Gibney: The team posted the unedited video on the WikiLeaks website.  They also posted a shorter version, edited for maximum impact.  Julian titled it "Collateral Murder."

TV anchor:  No surprise it's getting reaction in Washington.

White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs:  Our military will take every precaution necessary to ensure the safety and security of civilians.

Julian Assange: The behavior of the pilots is like they are playing a computer game.  Their desire was simply to kill.

TV anchor:  The Pentagon says that it sees no reason to investigate this any further.

TV reporter:  It's only inquiry found that the journalists' cameras were mistaken for weapons.

If Howard Zinn had been alive then, would it have gone down the same?  Maybe not.  If Zinn were alive, someone who had dropped bombs and regretted it, he might have been able to steer the spotlight above the ones who did the killing, to those who ordered, to those who created the culture for it.  But maturity was in short supply for the left then.  So, except for some hisses at Hillary Clinton, the administration would be ignored -- even though it was Barack deciding not to open a new investigation, even though it was Robert Gibbs lying to the American people. 

From We Steal Secrets:

Michael Hayden:  Frankly I'm not.  But I can understand someone who is troubled by that and someone who wants the American people to know that because the American people need to know what it is their government is doing for them.  I actually share that view.  When I was Director of the CIA, there was some stuff we were doing I wanted all 300 million of Americans to know.  But I never figured out a way without informing a whole bunch of other people who didn't have a right to that information, who may actually use that image, or that fact, or that data, or that image, or that message to harm my country men.

US Government Classification Czar J. William Leonard:  From a national security point of view, there was absolutely no justification for that videotape. Number one, gunship video is like trading cards among soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, it's freely exchanged back and forth.  What is even more disturbing is it was one in a series of efforts to withhold images of facts that were known.

Alex Gibney: Reuters knew its reporters had been killed.  The news agency requested the video but the Army refused claiming the video was classified.

J. William Leonard:  The fact that innocent people were killed in that helicopter attack, that was a known fact that was not classified.

Alex Gibney: A record of the incident and a word-for-word transcript of the pilot's conversation had had already been published in a book called The Good Soldiers by a writer embedded with the army [David Finkel]. The Army later confirmed that the information was not classified yet the Army would prosecute the man [Bradley Manning] who leaked the video to WikiLeaks.  What kind of games was the Army playing?  Why was a transcript less secret than a moving image?

That could be a defense argument if Bradley had real legal representation.  He clearly doesn't, his attorney is an idiot and so are a few of the 'talkers' pretending to support Brad.  Jodie Evans is guilty of taking her stupidity all over the airwaves.  The elderly woman with the Valley Girl speak who married for money is -- and always was -- a supreme idiot.  As she demonstrated on KPFK's Connect the Dots with Lila Garrett Monday.  Jodie marveled over how the prosecution presented their case (opening arguments) with precision.  She said that they had it all lined up and it left her cold.  Showing the xenophobia that's always been there (I've known Jodie since she was a gofer for Jerry Brown), she went on about how it sounded like a foreign language.  And then Daniel E. Coombs got up (Bradley's civilian attorney) and started talking about it in terms that touched her heart. 

Jodie was praising that.  It's a losing strategy and we explained that in the June 3rd snapshot:

Ian Simpson (Reuters) notes Bradley's civilian attorney David Coombs declared that Bradley was "young, naive, but good intentioned."  Is ignorance of the law going to be Coombs defense?  He is aware that's not an excuse, right?  And if he thinks he's laying the groundwork for ineptitude, he's doing it very poorly.  (Ineptitude is a recognized military defense.  If you were inept -- it has to be specific -- then you can be found not guilty.  Ineptitude is not ignorance.)  Also, it's "well intentioned," not "good intentioned."  What a moron.  Who is the idiot who paired Bradley with this attorney?ITV (link is text and video)  quotes Coombs more fully, "He was 22-years old.  He was young.  A little naive, but good intentioned in that he was selecting information that he thought would make a difference.  He is not the typical soldier.  He was a humanist."
That argument?  It's meaningless.  It became meaningless when the decision was made by the defense not to seek a trial by his peers and instead allow the military official overseeing the court-martial to decide on guilt or innocence.  Denise Lind will be swayed only by the law.  Coombs is such an idiot he's making jury arguments when there's no jury present.  What an idiot.

[. . .]
So while the prosecution is being systematic in their presentation, Coombs is all over the board with idiotic statements which don't even rally public support outside the courtroom.  All weekend long we heard or read or saw one interview after another of Daniel Ellsberg and others maintaining, "I am Bradley Manning."  The point of that p.r. blitz is to normalize Bradley, to make him appear like someone you know, someone you can understand.  But Coombs is presenting Bradley as an "oddball."  While the p.r. campaign is saying we're all like Bradley, Coombs is arguing Bradley is nothing like others.
It's stupid.  It's stupid in that this part of the hearing is open and his statements could be used to rally the public but Coombs is too stupid to grasp that.  It's stupid because he already looks like an idiot before the judge while the prosecution looks methodical and informed.  It really says something when you think about the brain trust that devoted their time and energy to Julian Assange (including but not limited to American attorney Michael Ratner) but there's a brain drought when it comes to Bradley's defense.
What should Coombs be doing?  Having failed to get a plea deal that would allow Bradley to serve less than five years (that was possible), having failed to get a jury trial, having failed to stipulate so that the trial would not last (as many outlets insist it will) 12 weeks, what is Coombs left with?
He's left with the law.  You argue the law.  And it's not hard to argue the law.  The law is in conflict all the time.  You raise those conflicts before the judge, you make the judge explore those conflicts on her own, in her own mind.  You're not going to sway a military judge with kittens and sob stories. 
[. . .]

You make the legal argument.  You engage the judge's critical thinking and you do so grasping that judicial activism -- which happens across the political spectrum -- happens because judges think they know so much and think if writing the law was left up to them all the problems in the world would be solved.  You invite the judge into a legal maze and let the judge sort it out.  The vanity usually works to the defense's interest.

Jodie doesn't have a damn clue and as she marvels over the court-martial with Lila, you're left with the realization that this alleged 'activist,' this alleged 'anti-war' 'activist,' never got her ass into a court-martial before and never followed the coverage of one.  Despite the fact that court-martials have been held against war resisters Camilo Mejia, Robin Long, James Burmeister, Mark Wilkerson, Ehren Watada, Kimberly Rivera . . .   In fact, Kim Rivera's very telling.

Supposedly, Jodie Evans and Medea Benjamin created a group for women opposed to the war.  Kim Rivera is a war resister.  She and her family went to Canada because she refused to go back to the Iraq War which she found to be criminal.  In September of 2012, she was informed she would be deported back to the US.  We covered that repeatedly here, check the archives.  CODESTINK?  They had time to issue, among other nonsense, "Two Women Wrongfully Arrested for Standing on Sidewalk Holding Pink Bras in front of Bank of America."  They never issued one damn press release on Kim.  April 29th, Kim faced a court-martial.  They were too busy with the Bush library and with their idiotic hunger strike (are they dead yet?) to cover Kim. 

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