How the Pentagon Leaned on Hollywood to Sell the War in Afghanistan

September 28th, 2021

By Alan Macleod


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In hundreds of films and TV shows, every single word and image has been closely scrutinized and signed off on by senior military figures, all in an effort to convince viewers into supporting deadly and grossly immoral campaigns around the world.

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA — The (official) 20-year U.S. occupation of Afghanistan has come to a close, with the military beating a hasty and ignominious retreat. The puppet Afghan government NATO installed lasted fewer than two weeks on its own, with President Ashraf Ghani fleeing for the UAE, allegedly with around $169 million in cash.

If the occupation was so unpopular and weak, how was it able to last so long? The Afghanistan Papers  — a trove of military documents leaked to The Washington Post — showed that high-ranking government officials knew that the war was unwinnable but were openly lying to the public about how it was going, all while NGOs and military contractors made billions

But documents obtained by journalist Tom Secker under the Freedom of Information Act and shared with MintPress also show that Hollywood also played a significant role, knowingly collaborating with the Pentagon to produce pro-war propaganda about Afghanistan, ultimately helping to artificially buoy public opinion on the unwinnable campaign. This typically included giving the Pentagon direct editorial control over scripts and even removing any anti-war content or scenes that would show the military in a negative light. In exchange, the military offered its human resources, its bases as locations for filming, and its wide range of hi-tech vehicles to be used in movies. This quid pro quo effectively turned much of Hollywood, and the entertainment industry more generally, into cheerleaders for imperialism. 

The military-industrial-media complex

Reading through the documents, what becomes clear is the sheer scale of the military’s involvement in the silver screen, and in pop culture more generally. For instance, between 2015 and 2017, the U.S. Army’s Office of the Chief of Public Affairs West (OCPA-W) — based just outside of Hollywood, CA — was generally working on between 40 and 70 entertainment media projects at one time. The OCPA-W is one of three Army regional offices, the others being in Chicago and New York City. The Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, CIA and other government organizations all have similar agencies and programs aimed at manipulating their image in mass media. 

The OCPA-W’s weekly summary of its affairs for the week of December 22, 2016, for example, notes that it is involved in 63 working projects; 15 in pre-production, 26 in production and 22 in post-production. According to research by Secker  and Matthew Alford for their 2017 book “National Security Cinema,” the Department of Defense has supported at least 814 movies and 1,133 separate TV shows, the majority of those in recent years.

Afghanistan is generally far from American minds. This is by design: few at the top of American society want the public to be scrutinizing U.S. actions there. When the country is portrayed on American screens, the military works extremely hard to present the war in a way most conducive to its interests. Hollywood has been a willing collaborator in this. Below is a selection of case studies of movies about or featuring the war in Afghanistan and a discussion about how the U.S. military has had those movies sanitized before they ever met the public eye. 

12 Strong (2018)

“12 Strong” is a jingoistic action film based on a true story about a small unit of 12 U.S. Special Forces who invaded Afghanistan immediately after the September 11 attacks, thus being the first American boots on the ground of a two-decade campaign that cost the lives of an estimated 176,000 Afghans, displacing almost 6 million more. 

The film entails the elite group attempting to capture the city of Mazar-i-Sharif before NATO forces arrive. The team, so they say, is outnumbered by “50,000 Taliban and Al-Qaeda forces,” as if the two were close allies. This is despite the fact that the Taliban immediately condemned the 9/11 attacks and that Western estimates put al-Qaeda’s global forces at the time at below 100 members. “If we don’t take that city, the World Trade Center is just the beginning,” says one of the heroes of the film, whose tagline is “twelve soldiers gave us a reason to hope.”

Documents show that the military was eager to help with such a nationalistic film, and matched what they called the production company’s “breathtaking” list of asks, including access to a number of military bases in New Mexico for shooting; army uniforms for actors; “target” vehicles they could blow up; the hire of a number of aircraft, including Chinook and Seahawk helicopters; and appropriate Soviet tanks for the enemy to use. They also aided the company in finding military extras to appear in minor roles.

Despite the movie’s strongly pro-war message, the OCPA-W, Air Force, and other military organizations still insisted on going through the script with a fine-toothed comb, removing even minor details it did not like. This included demanding that writers changed their plans to present the 12 soldiers as rugged men with full beards and tattoos. An email from OCPA read: 

My other concern is that during the loadout sequences at Fort Campbell that occurred shortly after 9/11 our soldiers did not have full length beards and neck tattoos. That came later. I hope [REDACTED] guys are going to Shave for those sequences.

A few weeks later, the seemingly minor point had not been resolved. In a show of just how much control over creative direction the military had, the OCPA threatened to pull out of the movie, reminding the production company of the agreement they had signed up for: 

The production company agrees to cast actors, extras, doubles, and stunt personnel portraying military men and women who conform to individual Military Service regulations governing age, height / weight, uniform, grooming, appearance, and conduct standards. DoD reserves the right to suspend support in the event that disagreement regarding the military aspects of their portrayals cannot be resolved in negotiation between the production company and DoD within the seventy-two hour cure-period. The DoD Project Officer will provide written guidance specific to each Military Service being portrayed.

  1. U.S. Army.

(1) The depiction of Soldiers in the Continental United States prior to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks should be in accordance with U.S. Army Regulation 670-1, West and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia. Soldiers would meet height/weight standards, be clean shaven, with a well-groomed haircut and be wearing the Battle Dress Uniform (BDU). Load bearing equipment would be olive drab or the BDU pattern.

(2) The depiction of deployed Soldiers following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks would be in accordance with the tactical situation. Soldiers would still meet height/weight requirements (appear physically fit) with relaxed grooming standards for extended operations. The deployed Soldiers would be wearing the Desert Combat Dress Uniform (DCU) with olive drab or BDU pattern load bearing equipment.

The Department of Defense is well aware that the sort of assistance they offer (free equipment, filming locations, etc.) would be enormously expensive, if not impossible, to otherwise obtain. Therefore, they leverage their considerable influence into what amounts to control over every aspect of a movie or TV show they work on. This often even means jettisoning reality in favor of a relentlessly pro-war message.

Emails show that OCPA instructed the production company to change the minor criminal backstory of one of the 12 soldiers, despite the fact it was perfectly real. As one OCPA official wrote: 

I told him our two biggest issues were the background story of Cpt [REDACTED]

being any FNG [“Fucking New Guy,” a derogatory military term for recruits] when he was actually a Team Leader for two years and the comment about Sergeant [REDACTED] having a choice between Jail and the Army.

According to the book the bar fight incident did happen, [REDACTED] attorney

was able to plea deal it down to a misdemeanor with a probation period. He

did lose his job as a school teacher and he started to work construction. I [sic]

period of time later, he decided to join the US Army.

Production quickly agreed to the changes, a few weeks later sending a new script for the OCPA and Air Force’s approval. “Here is a revised draft of Horse Soldiers,” they replied. “We changed [REDACTED]’s backstory per your suggestion. Please let me know if this works for you. [PERSON’s NAME REDACTED], would you send this draft to the appropriate Air Force personnel and let me know whom to follow up with?” (Cross referencing the documents with the book it is based on makes it clear that the sergeant in question is Sam Diller, one of the main characters in both book and movie). 

None of the military’s demands appear to have caused much resistance from the company. Indeed, towards the end of filming, a senior member of the team even emailed the OCPA and the Office of the Secretary of Defense to offer his profound gratitude for their services: 

[The] Army and the entire team have been absolutely fantastic and helped us achieve an amazing air-to-air shoot this evening. They are the utmost professional highly trained crew. We know if it wasn’t for your great efforts to make this movie badass we would have never gotten such a team. We promise to make the Army proud, so THANK YOU!!!!!

Lone Survivor (2013)

“Lone Survivor” is the largely true story of a Navy SEAL team that was discovered and attacked by the Taliban while carrying out a special operation to assassinate the organization’s commander, Ahmad Shah. The SEALs suffered devastating losses, leaving only one man — Marcus Luttrell — to tell the story. 

The plot of the film revolves around the squad being discovered by local goat herders and their supposedly heart-wrenching decision on whether to kill the shepherds to cover their tracks, or let them go, the assumption being that the old man and two children in question would immediately alert the Taliban to their whereabouts. The group decided to let their captives go, which almost immediately turned out to be a deadly mistake. 

The story is based upon the book by Luttrell, who is now a Trump-loving media anchor on Glenn Beck’s conservative TV network “TheBlaze.” At times, Luttrell’s book reads like the manifesto of a white-nationalist mass-shooter, and is peppered throughout with his seething hatred of liberals. Luttrell is extremely regretful that he went along with the decision to let the Afghans go and did not stick to his gut feeling and insist they murder an old man and two children (all unarmed). “It was the stupidest, most southern-fried, lamebrained decision I ever made in my life,” he wrote. “I’d turned into a fucking liberal, a half-assed, no-logic nitwit, all heart, no brain.” By way of explanation, he said that it was his certainty that the liberal media would betray the troops and side with the Taliban that made him release them, telling his fellow SEALs at the time: 

Just so you all understand, their bodies will be found, the Taliban will use it to the max. They’ll get it in the papers, and the U.S. liberal media will attack us without mercy. We will almost certainly be charged with murder.

Apologizing for not carrying out what amounts to a war crime, he writes: 

That situation might look simple in Washington, where the human rights of terrorists are often given high priority. And I am certain liberal politicians would defend their position to the death. Because everyone knows liberals have never been wrong about anything. You can ask them. Anytime.

The book is a glorification of supposedly righteous violence against a subhuman opponent. As he explains: 

“In the global war on terror, we have rules, and our opponents use them against us. We try to be reasonable; they will stop at nothing. They will stoop to any form of base warfare: torture, beheading, mutilation. Attacks on innocent civilians, women and children, car bombs, suicide bombers, anything the hell they can think of. They’re right up there with the monsters of history.

The original script stayed close to Luttrell’s interpretation of events. Needless to say, however, the military demanded major rewrites. In the finished version, the Navy SEAL commander simply decides to let the goat herders go, with no arguments about whether to kill them and hide their bodies and certainly no long soliloquies about the treachery of the liberal media, as happens in the book.

The military often claims that they aid the film industry merely to ensure depictions of themselves are more accurate. Yet reading through 131 pages of declassified emails between them and production company, Film 44, it is clear that this is not the case. Indeed, Philip Strub, the Department of Defense’s chief Hollywood liaison, made this explicit, writing in a now-declassified email:

While maximizing historical authenticity is our mandate, we share responsibility for the reputations of the four SEALs and to their families’ memories of them.

What also becomes apparent after reading the documents is the level of intimacy between the movie industry and the military, and the latter’s fastidious attention to detail, poring over every single word of dialogue to ensure each frame is as pro-war as the film can get. Strub and his associates even insisted minor touches, like visible tattoos on the SEALs, be written out of the script. They also demanded the deletion of a scene in which Luttrell and another SEAL have a conversation about Power Bars, taunting each other, with Luttrell shouting “blow me, fag,” then loudly farting. This was presumably in an effort to ensure members of the Navy SEALs did not come across as uncouth as Lutrell does in his own book. 

“I just learned from Film 44 (Sarah and Braden) that they are ready to submit Pete’s latest rewrite to us. They say that they have used our notes as a kind of check-list, and addressed all of our concerns. You’ll be receiving the watermarked script via email very shortly,” Strub wrote in an email that suggests that every draft script needed to meet the military’s exacting standards. Strub is one of the most powerful men in the entertainment industry. The list of movies and TV shows for which he is (publicly) credited is staggering, surely more impressive than virtually any other director or producer in Hollywood. Yet his name is all but unknown to the public.

According to the documents, the military categorized their role in the movie into four parts: “script review and vetting,” “production department consulting,” talent training” and “on-set coaching.” In exchange for what amounts to total content control, the military provided “Lone Survivor’s” producers with the use of Kirtland Air Force Base in a rocky and sandy part of New Mexico that could easily pass for Afghanistan; the use of a multitude of expensive aircraft, including Black Hawk and Apache helicopters; and parachute jumpers and other general military personnel.

One reason for this continued involvement is obvious, and made explicit in the emails. “One of the criteria for DoD to support the movie is recruiting,” wrote an officer from U.S. Special Operations Command. 

What is particularly noteworthy about this movie is that its entire premise — that if the SEALs chose not to kill the goat herders they would be found out — is demonstrably incorrect. Interviews with locals (including the man who hid and protected Luttrell, ensuring he was the lone survivor) establish that everybody in the area knew the SEALs were there, thanks to the elite unit’s own incompetence when it came to stealth. An enormous American helicopter landing in a remote part of rural Afghanistan was enough to raise suspicions among locals. If that was not enough, the SEAL team failed to dispose of evidence of their landing. 

Unsurprisingly, Strub and his colleagues insisted this scene, which threatened to introduce a potential alternative reading of the movie — in which bungling Americans get caught, outmaneuvered, then slaughtered — was changed. This helped ensure the movie was as relentlessly pro-military as possible, despite the fact that it was telling the story of one of the deadliest U.S. military blunders of the entire war.

Charlie Wilson’s War (2007)

“Charlie Wilson’s War” tells the story of the eponymous Texas politician most famous for being the driving force behind Operation Cyclone — the CIA’s funding and training of the Afghan Mujahideen (an action that also turned the country into the world’s largest heroin producer).

The original script did not portray Wilson or his endeavors especially sympathetically, explicitly noting how he was supporting extremists like Osama Bin Laden’s al-Qaeda. One of these ultra-radicals was Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a brutal warlord widely accused of starting the trend of throwing acid in women’s faces. Throughout the original script, 9/11 is presented as a foreseeable consequence of the U.S.’s decision to empower these violent fanatics. Indeed, the original end scene took place at the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, with Wilson hearing the deafening screech of an airliner hitting the building.

However, all this — al-Qaeda, Hekmatyar, and the 9/11 scene — was cut from the script after the CIA reviewed it. Instead, the finished film ends with Wilson receiving a medal for his services to freedom in Afghanistan. Also removed was a scene discussing the Sabra and Shatilla Massacres, where Israeli-backed forces slaughtered hundreds, if not thousands, of Palestinian refugees.

Earlier versions of the script also portrayed the Soviets somewhat sympathetically, with one character noting that Soviet atrocities in Afghanistan included “forc[ing] them [Afghans] to learn to read and write.” This was also cut in favor of portraying Soviet soldiers as brutal and unthinking monsters slaughtering the local population. 

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (2016) 

The comedy-drama — which stars Tina Fey, Margot Robbie and Martin Freeman as Western journalists covering the Afghan War — was something of a flop at the box office. Still, it managed to reduce losses significantly by filming at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico (just as “Lone Survivor” did) and using real U.S. Marines as extras. In exchange, producers handed over significant editorial control of the story to the military, which insisted on changing a scene where a U.S. military truck crashed into a crowd of civilians. In the final movie, there are no images of this, and the incident is referred to only in a 20-second news segment that describes it merely as “a fatal traffic accident involving a coalition truck.” 

The crash was a real incident. In 2006, the truck plowed through Kabul during rush hour, killing at least three civilians and injuring many others. “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” is based on American journalist Kim Barker’s memoir “The Taliban Shuffle.” The incident plays a major role in her book as the point where she finally understood how pointless and unwinnable the war was, how there was no accountability for the rich and powerful and no justice for the “have nots.” She described it and the following anti-U.S. riots as “a major breaking point in Afghanistan, the time when we first saw just how angry some Afghans were, just how ripe the country was for a Taliban comeback, just how leaderless Afghanistan really was.” Yet in the movie, the crash is mentioned only in passing, making the rioting Afghans appear irrationally angry and violent, a typical stereotype of Afghan War films. 

Iron Man (2008)

The original “Iron Man” script was decidedly pacifist, with protagonist Tony Stark attempting to use his enormous manufacturing empire to battle against war profiteers and the military industrial complex. However, after the Pentagon got involved, with Philip Strub again acting as the military liaison, the tone of the movie was radically altered. Much of the fighting in the movie takes place in modern-day Afghanistan, with the U.S. military serving the role of the good guys. In this sense, the film’s stance on war was reversed.

In exchange, the production agreement notes that the military would allow the movie to be shot at Edwards Air Force Base, just north of Los Angeles; provide “approximately 150 extras at Edwards AFB to play military members from various services and Afghan nationals;” help produce around 100 uniforms; and provide the opportunity to use a range of expensive aircraft.

Tom Secker, when asked by MintPress to assess the U.S. film industry’s role in prolonging the Afghan war, responded: 

Hollywood’s coverage of NATO’s war in Afghanistan has been notable by its absence, its silence, and its use of contextless microcosms which represent the war, rather than explore or explain it. “Iron Man” and “Lone Survivor” — two Pentagon-supported blockbusters — are both set during the U.S. occupation, but the scale of that occupation and the mess it was making of the country are ignored by both narratives, in favor of tightly-focused cinematic synecdoches which conveniently avoid the suffering of everyone involved.

Secker concluded:

In that sense, of course Hollywood has played a crucial role in perpetuating the war. They either failed to remind people that the war was still going on, or painted it in heroic, decontextualized colors that make it seem like a benevolent adventure halfway round the world, rather than the crushing, destructive geopolitical ratfuck it truly is.  

A mediated war 

It is not just big-budget Hollywood movies that the Pentagon works on, however. Practically every medium is used to spread a pro-war message. Declassified documents show that the Army flew Arnold Schwarzenegger to Afghanistan for the global-warming documentary TV series “Years of Living Dangerously.” This was, laughably, an effort to present the U.S. military — the single largest polluter in the world — as a force for good with regard to climate change, showing the former bodybuilder their supposed efforts to set up renewable energy systems across the Middle East. 

Likewise, pop culture is full of strategically inserted pro-war messages. For instance, declassified documents show that the OCPA-W carefully placed uniformed service members in opportune spots in the audience of the game show “The Price is Right.” The military pays the National Football League millions of dollars to put troops on the field or fly aircraft over the stadium before big football games, turning the entire event into a recruitment drive. It also has a video-games team called “U.S. Army Esports,” helping to associate the military with fun in the minds of the children watching. They have also been accused of using the same grooming techniques pedophiles use, only to recruit children into joining the war machine. 

Meanwhile, the music video for pop star Katy Perry’s song “Part of Me” was shot at Camp Pendleton Military Base in California, and shows Perry getting over a bad breakup by joining the Marines. The training process shows her finding herself again and growing as an individual. When Fox News asked Perry’s team if they had been paid by the military for the video, they refused to answer. The video currently has 887 million views on YouTube.

“The whole videography … is straight out of [Nazi film maker] Leni Riefenstahl: the same angled, heroizing upward shots, the same fetishization of physical power, of gleaming armaments, and of the rigor and mechanism of human beings cohering into living militarized units,” wrote feminist critic Naomi Wolf, who labeled the song “war propaganda.”

TV news is also filled with former high-ranking military officials who play the role of neutral expert while sticking, laser-like, to pro-war talking points, helping to give cable news coverage of the conflict a decidedly jingoistic bent. 

What these documents ultimately underline is the deep interlocking connections between Hollywood and the national security state. Few Americans experience the war from close up. Even fewer realize that depictions of the conflict come heavily mediated through the military. In hundreds of films and TV shows, every single word and image has been closely scrutinized and signed off by senior military figures, all in the effort to convince viewers into supporting deadly and grossly immoral campaigns around the world. Long ago, the military realized the power of Hollywood. It is high time that Americans realized that, when watching movies and TV shows about war, all too often they are not seeing neutral works of art, but carefully constructed pieces of national security propaganda.

Campaign against MBS, the Murderer of Khashoggi, in Los Angeles

September 21, 2021

By Staff

American “Freedom First” rights organization launched a campaign against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman to condemn his behavior in oppressing his opponents atop of which is the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey.

During the “Emmys 2021” festival in Los Angeles, the group staged a huge campaign against MBS in an effort to confront the attempts to polish his image in Hollywood.

The campaign included posters on walls and anti-MBS slogans placed on billboards and commercial vehicles.

Riyadh attempts to polish the image of its rulers in every possible way, and invests billions of dollars in different occasion for this purpose, whether in sports or arts, however, all such efforts are futile given its criminal behavior starting with the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi and not ending with the arrest of former Lebanese PM Saad Hariri, the US-Saudi-led war on Yemen, and the daily arrests of whoever voices rejection to its policies or even expresses his/her opinion.


The Oslo process was a trap from which the Palestinians never escaped: ex-UN Special Rapporteur for Palestine


By M.A. Saki

TEHRAN- Richard Anderson Falk, professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University and former UN Special Rapporteur for Palestine, says “the Oslo process was a trap from which the Palestinians never escaped”.
“Indeed, the dynamics of this Oslo period from 1993 until the start of the Trump presidency in 2017 was to raise Israeli expectations with respect to its maximal territorial ambitions,” Falk tells the Tehran Times in an exclusive interview.
Here is the full text of the exclusive interview:
Q: As a UN Special Rapporteur for Palestine your reports revealed many facts about the Israeli settlement policies, its apartheid approach, and so on. Your efforts in this regard are commendable. To what extent did these reports have a practical impact on Israeli policies?
A: My period as UN Special Rapporteur to Palestine was between 2008 and 2014. During that time Israel carried out massive attacks on Gaza in 2008-09, 2012, and 2014, while expanding the archipelago of its unlawful settlements on the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and blocking any realistic process of a political compromise in the context of the Oslo Peace Process. I mention these negative developments as background for responding to your question about whether my reports had any ‘practical impact on Israeli policies.’ I would have to acknowledge that I could not identify any positive impact on Israeli practices and policies, especially in relation to its efforts to pursue its expansionist ambitions with regard to the control of Palestinian territory and its non-Jewish inhabitants or its unabashed defiance of international law and UN authority.
A more promising Palestinian strategy, additional to continuing acts and displays of resistance, is to encourage pressures mounted by the global solidarity movement including at the UN. Such campaigns can gain inspiration from the South African worldwide anti-apartheid movement, which overcame seemingly insurmountable odds to achieve an unexpected, mostly bloodless, victory over racism in the form of a nonviolent transition to multi-racial constitutional democracy.It seems that the heightening of criticism of Israel’s behavior by myself and others did encourage Israel’s new approach, which abandoned defending itself against allegations of unlawfulness and criminality, and instead mobilizing energy and devoting resources to defaming critics, and doing its best to discredit, and even criminalize support for the BDS Campaign and other global solidarity initiatives as the Free Gaza Campaign. This Israeli pushback culminated in the widespread adoption of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism that deliberately conflated hatred of Jews as a people with criticism of Israel as the State of the Jewish people. It is ironic that this regressive move has been most influential in countries such as the U.S., UK, and Germany that pride themselves on being the most respected constitutional democracies the world has known since ancient Athens, and yet when it comes to Israel the right of free expression and nonviolent protest are violated with official approval.
I believe my reports did have some beneficial impact on the discourse within the UN itself (including civil society NGOs), and on the understanding of the diplomatic community, with respect to four distinct aspects of Israeli behavior: 1) Understanding the settler colonial character of Israel’s domination and dispossession of the Palestinian people; 2) The de facto annexationist aspects of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem carried out in violation of international humanitarian law; 3) The unsupportable character of prolonged belligerent occupation, the abusive nature of which is not addressed by international humanitarian law, including the Geneva Conventions and Protocols; 4) The apartheid character of Israel’s Jewish State, not only in relation to the occupation of the territory acquired in the 1967 War but in relation to the Palestinian people as a whole, including refugees and involuntary exiles, the minority living in pre-1967 Israel, and those in Gaza after Israel’s ‘disengagement’ of 2005.
I gave particular attention in my reports to the daily injustices associated with prolonged occupation of Palestinian territories, which had not attracted much prior attention, although my successor as SR, Michael Lynk, has carried my arguments further and to their logical conclusion that the occupation must be ended by judicial and political action at the international level. The legally, morally, and politically problematic character of ‘prolonged occupation,’ especially as combined in this with a denial of all civil and political rights to the residents of the occupied Palestinian territories and subversive of underlying Palestinian sovereignty as evidenced by UN recognition of Palestine in 2012 as a non-voting member State in the UN.
I believe that my reports helped in small ways to change the discourse and perceptions of civil society activists as well as of many members of the diplomatic community who privately conveyed to me their agreement with my analysis. The reports also brought up to date the lawlessness of Israel’s behavior with respect to the settlements, the separation wall, and reliance on excessive force, most pronouncedly in Gaza, which figured in the way the media and public opinion understood the competing arguments being put forward by Israel and Palestine, and seemed of some use to governments in formulating their approach to the underlying conflict.
Q: One of your reports on Israel was removed from the UN website under pressure from the United States and Israel. What was the content of the report, and why was there so much sensitivity about it?
A: My report was temporarily removed from the UN website in either 2009 or 2010, but interestingly, not at the initiative of either Israel or the United States, but by the Palestinian Authority, which represents Palestine at the UN. Their sole objection to my text was its acknowledgment of Hamas as the administering authority of Gaza, ineffective control of the governing process, reflecting both through its electoral victory in the 2006 elections in Gaza and as a result of the expulsion of Fatah forces associated with the Palestinian Authority during the following year.
What is worse (during the Oslo process), the Palestinians went along with their own entrapment, somehow thinking that they would be rewarded by their cooperative attitudes.It was the mere mention of Hamas that disturbed and agitated the PA to the point of seeking my resignation as SR, especially after I criticized aspects of the PA administration of the West Bank and their surprising controversial support of Israeli and U.S demands that the UN disregard the recommendations of the Goldstone Report that had been critical of Israel’s violation of the Laws of War during Operation Cast Lead, its devastating military attack on Gaza that started at the end of 2008 and lasted for several weeks in January 2009. After failing to oust me from my position, the PA shifted its tone and posture, and for the remaining years of my mandate was cooperative, and did not subsequently object to my reports even when the role of Hamas was discussed.
Q: You have repeatedly criticized Israel’s policies and considered the peace process as a hoax. Why do you think this process is a hoax?
A: Maybe the word ‘hoax’ overstates my view, which was that the peace process as structured and implemented greatly favored Israel, discriminated against Palestine to such an extent that it was naïve to expect a sustainable and just peace to emerge from such one-sided diplomacy. This basic imbalance was evident in a number of respects. Above all, the framework for negotiations was seriously flawed by giving the United States, an overt and unconditional supporter of Israel, the inappropriate role of intermediary or ‘honest broker.’ This flaw exhibited itself by diplomats and staff representing the United States in the course of the Oslo process often being closely identified with the Zionist Movement, including being drawn from former employees of the pro-Israeli extremist lobbying group AIPAC. Such partisanship also explained the U.S. pressure on the Palestinian negotiating team not to object to settlement expansion or press other legal grievances as such objections would disrupt the peace process, insisting that such issues be left unresolved until ‘final status’ negotiations occurred at the last stage of the process, which was never reached. This pressure to mute international law objections to Israeli expansionism was perversely coupled with Washington’s acceptance of ‘facts on the ground’ as taking precedence over legal objections to the settlements, in effect, punishing Palestinians for following the advice to defer objections. This play of arguments reveals the entrapment of the Palestinians by the Oslo process—instead of insisting to Israel to freeze settlement activity to safeguard the diplomatic prospects, it exerted pressure on the Palestinians to suppress their objections to Israeli unlawful behavior, which by its nature, threatened reaching a two-state compromise. What is worse, the Palestinians went along with their own entrapment, somehow thinking that they would be rewarded by their cooperative attitudes.
The framework for negotiations was seriously flawed by giving the United States, an overt and unconditional supporter of Israel, the inappropriate role of intermediary or ‘honest broker.’The Oslo process was a trap from which the Palestinians never escaped, and ended up worsening Palestinian prospects as well as inflicting additional torments, including the frequency and viciousness of settler violence directed at Palestinian residents of the West Bank. Indeed, the dynamics of this Oslo period from 1993 until the start of the Trump presidency in 2017 was to raise Israeli expectations with respect to its maximal territorial ambitions, and to depress Palestinian hopes of reaching a political compromise in the form of the co-existence of separate sovereign states enjoying equal standing in international society. It became evident, as well, that Israeli internal politics drifted steadily to the right, partly reflecting the increasingly leverage of the settler movement. These developments made it increasingly clear that a two-state political compromise was no longer seen by the Israeli leadership as an expedient goal. In effect, it was no longer necessary to hide the Israeli belief that the West Bank, known in Israel by its biblical names of Judea and Samaria, was an integral element of the entitlement of the Jewish people to the land of Palestine as interpreted by mainstream Zionism as ‘the promised land.’ Some Zionists, attached to the ‘democratic’ claim attached to Israel’s political identity, worried that annexing the West Bank would explode a demographic bomb that would make it impossible to hide the apartheid nature of the Israeli state.
Q: U.S. President Donald Trump has now proposed a so-called Deal of the Century, and Israel is seeking to annex the West Bank. How do you evaluate this process?
A: As the occupation continued, and Israel’s annexationist moves met with only token international resistance, there was a noticeable shift in the outlook of Netanyahu, the dominant Israeli political figure of the period, from an international posture favoring political compromise to an outcome reached unilaterally in the form of an imposed Israeli one-state solution. When Trump arrived in the White House in early 2017 this shift for the first time enjoyed the explicit geopolitical support of the U.S. government, and need no longer be hidden from view. In this atmosphere Israel moved to affirm its claims to most of the promised land, and relinquished any attachment to ‘peace’ through negotiations, even negotiations biased in their favor.
The Trump Plan, whether known as ‘the deal of the century’ by its official name of ‘From Peace to Prosperity’ gives its seal of approval to the Israel vision of a one-state solution, slightly disguised by designating areas set aside for Palestinian administration as ‘a State,’ what was correctly associated with the Bantustans established by the apartheid regime in South Africa to hide the ugliest features of racist domination and exploitation.
The Trump Plan, whether known as ‘the deal of the century’ by its official name of ‘From Peace to Prosperity’ gives its seal of approval to the Israel vision of a one-state solution, slightly disguised by designating areas set aside for Palestinian administration as ‘a State,’ what was correctly associated with the Bantustans established by the apartheid regime in South Africa to hide the ugliest features of racist domination and exploitation. As is now known to the world, even the PA was unable to treat the Trump Plan as a serious negotiating proposal, correctly dismissing it as a blueprint for the Israeli one-state victory scenario. Israeli plans to annex a large portion of the West Bank by de jure enactment, on the basis of a green light from Washington, seems likely to be implemented in coming months, although opposed by some prominent security officials in Israel and even by maximalist Zionists on the grounds either of imperiling the Jewish demographic majority or provoking a surge of renewed Arab and international support for Palestinian grievances, and perhaps a trigger for a third intifada.
It should be internationally understood that the Trump Plan lacks any respectable international backing, and as such is in no way deserving of respect at the UN or elsewhere. It is an extremely partisan and arrogant set of proposals that are inconsistent with international law, the UN consensus, and elementary morality. Rather than being seriously considered, it should be summarily dismissed as an irrelevant geopolitical attempt to deny the Palestinian people of their inalienable right of self-determination.
Q: May 15 marked the 72nd anniversary of the establishment of Israel, and all through these years Israel has been supported by countries such as the United States and Britain. It is also noticeable that countries are consenting to Israel’s occupation. Please explain?
A: The core rationale of support for Israel over the years has changed. Back when Israel was established in 1948 the public mood was shaped by the experience of World War II, including an acute sense of guilt on the part of liberal democracies in the West as having done so little to oppose Nazi racism toward Jews. From the start of the Zionist Project in the late 19th century anti-Semitic governments in Europe oddly shared the goal of Zionists of inducing Jews to leave their countries, and were eager to encourage emigration to Palestine. These attitudes underlay the 1917 colonialist initiative of the UK, known to the world as the Balfour Declaration, by which Britain pledged to look with favor on the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine although the Jewish minority was less than 8% and the Arab majority was never consulted. The more politically active personalities in Palestine opposed the idea of a Jewish homeland in their midst from the beginning. In that sense, Western support rested on these rather weak moral foundations that were not even consistent with regional strategic interests such as access to (Persian) Gulf oil reserves, trade routes, and leverage in the post-Ottoman Arab world. Zionism in Palestine turned against its British backer when Arab unrest in the 1930s led to some limits being imposed on Jewish immigration to Palestine, and the more militant Zionist militias started an ‘anti-colonial’ war in Palestine despite themselves being colonists. Of course, this was not so unusual in the British experience, having their earlier memories of the American Revolutionary War waged by their own colonists to gain political independence.
This hostile propaganda (against Palestinians), popularized by Hollywood movies demonizing Arabs and glorifying Israelis, bestowed on Israel the political space to impose an apartheid structure of control over the Palestinian people as a whole, and to avoid any international accountability relating to its defiance of international law beyond token expressions of disapproval from European capitals and Washington whenever Israel’s provocations could not be entirely ignored.
In Palestine, as elsewhere, British divide and rule tactics during its administration of Palestine between the two world wars suggested to the UN that partition, again without consulting the smaller, yet still Arab majority, was the solution, which in turn sparked a series of regional wars, culminating in the 1967 War. In that war Israel demonstrated its military prowess, and was no longer regarded by American policymakers as a troublesome burden of conscience for the United States, but was seen as a reliable strategic ally in a turbulent region, and Israel has remained reliable over the course of the last fifty years. All in all, Israel made this unusual transition from being a burden of conscience to becoming a geopolitical junior, often not so junior, partner of the United States. In the process of a string of military defeats of the Arab countries by Israel, especially the 1973 War, there was a gradual weakening of regional support for the liberation of Palestine, and more of an Arab elite disposition to normalize the presence of Israel, and more recently join in an implicit coalition confronting Iran with the lead role being assumed by the U.S., a result of Trump’s tightening regional alignments with Israel and Saudi Arabia during the last four years. The Jewish diaspora also provided a major source of Zionist pro-Israeli leverage around the world, first, in the post-Holocaust context, and after 1967, in the course of celebrating Israel’s military successes and modernizing record of achievement.
Throughout the process, the native Palestinian population was Orientalized, denigrated as ‘backward’ and inclined toward ‘terrorism.’ This hostile propaganda, popularized by Hollywood movies demonizing Arabs and glorifying Israelis, bestowed on Israel the political space to impose an apartheid structure of control over the Palestinian people as a whole, and to avoid any international accountability relating to its defiance of international law beyond token expressions of disapproval from European capitals and Washington whenever Israel’s provocations could not be entirely ignored. Although Israel has benefitted over the decades from American aid and support and European less blatant support, Israeli leadership has always had a Plan B. Israel, sought by every means to be self-reliant with respect to its security, highlighted by its covert acquisition and development of a nuclear weapons arsenal. In this sense, unless there are important shifts in the outlook of Arab governments (although not among the captive populations), even the withdrawal of U.S. support, which seems highly unlikely, would not make Israel much more vulnerable to external pressures.
Q: Based on the realities on the ground, it seems that the only way for the Palestinian people to get their rights is to resist the Israeli occupation. What is your opinion?
A: In view of the considerations discussed above, the most opportune Palestinian strategy would be to give up hopes under present conditions for reaching a satisfactory solution through diplomacy or at the UN. A more promising Palestinian strategy, additional to continuing acts and displays of resistance, is to encourage pressures mounted by the global solidarity movement including at the UN. Such campaigns can gain inspiration from the South African worldwide anti-apartheid movement, which overcame seemingly insurmountable odds to achieve an unexpected, mostly bloodless, victory over racism in the form of a nonviolent transition to multi-racial constitutional democracy.
The UN should not be forgotten. It remains a crucial site of struggle in waging what I have in the past referred to as ‘the legitimacy war’ fought to gain control of world public opinion, as well the high ground of public morality and international law. It should be appreciated that since 1945 the side that prevailed in the legitimacy war, rather than the side that controlled the battlefield, usually achieved political victory in the end. Gandhi appreciated the role of international public opinion in changing the balance of forces in India against the British Empire as did Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam in leading the defeat of overwhelmingly superior American military capabilities. Each conflict has unique characteristics, but the Palestinian struggle, despite present difficulties, can draw hope from the historical record of liberation and self-determination struggles of the past 75 years, and it is winning the legitimacy war, despite the Zionist defamatory pushback.

Hollywood Celebrities Are Psyops Wrapped In Human Skin

By Caitlin Johnstone


Sean Penn 82411

CNN recently trotted out Hollywood actor Sean Penn to give the nation expert advice on how to deal with a novel virus pandemic.

Did they do this because we live in a meaningless, godless universe where madness reigns and everything is chaos? Close, but no. They wanted Penn to explain to the public that it would be wonderful if the US military were deployed inside US borders to deal with the pandemic, because the US military is the greatest humanitarian force on planet Earth.

“There is no greater humanitarian force on the planet than the United States military,” Penn said. “The logistical skills, commitment to service, their care for the people. It’s really time to give the military the full breadth command and control of this operation. I wouldn’t blink, I would have put command and control in their hands a month ago, certainly today.”

Anderson Cooper 360°


“There is no greater humanitarian force on the planet than the United States military… it’s really time to give the military the full breadth and control of this operation.”

– Actor and activist Sean Penn on battling coronavirus 

The US military is in fact one of the least humanitarian forces on this planet, second only to malaria-laden mosquitos (and even that’s debatable). No other force is circling the globe murdering people in countless undeclared military entanglements and bullying the world into complying with the interests of a nationless alliance of plutocrats and opaque government agencies at the expense of ordinary humans everywhere. They are the exact opposite of a humanitarian force on this planet.

Medical staff are a force for humanitarianism on this planet right now. Grocery store clerks are a force for humanitarianism on this planet. The US military are the armed thugs of a metastatic globe-sprawling empire run by sociopaths.

Don’t say “Thank you for your service” to veterans whose only contribution to humanity has been helping to murder people for imperialist fossil fuel control agendas and Raytheon profit margins. Say “Thank you for your service” to your local cashier. To do the former is to participate in a cruel collective propaganda operation which only encourages more young people to hurl their bodies into the gears of the US war machine in search of the respect and honor you’re displaying, while to do the latter is to thank someone for actually providing a crucial service to human beings.

The malfunction in Penn’s mind is the result of many malignant factors, but among them is the fact that people who rise to fame and fortune naturally experience a gravitational pull toward elitist echo chambers which cultivate narratives that favor the status quo which gave rise to their fame and fortune. You have a hard time hanging out with normal people because most of them don’t treat you normally anymore, so you find yourself spending time with other rich and famous people, and with people who have a vested interest in the rich and famous.

This dynamic naturally fosters an environment where celebrities are eager to believe positive stories about the system which favors them, and where narrative managers are eager to circulate those stories among influential voices. This is why, with very few exceptions, the closest you’ll ever get to seeing a Hollywood celebrity express an anti-establishment opinion is one of them saying “Fuck Trump” at the Tony Awards. It’s also why every few weeks you’ll see some celebrity tweet something disgusting and then go into a meltdown when thousands of ordinary people react with revulsion; they don’t have ordinary people in their lives giving them feedback on what’s normal anymore, all they have is the elitist echo chamber.

This echo chamber is what led a group of self-quarantining celebrities to believe it would be an awesome idea to share a video compilation where they all badly sing lines from John Lennon’s “Imagine” from inside their mansions with a world full of people who’ve been laid off from their jobs and are terrified for their futures. The figuratively and literally tone-deaf video was universally panned and people have been mocking it on social media ever since its release, which probably would have come as a surprise to the celebrities themselves since nothing in their insulated day-to-day lives would have told them they could all be collectively rejected with such disgust.

The celebrity “Imagine” project was spearheaded by Israeli actress Gal Gadot, who as an IDF veteran would not have required any Hollywood echo chambering to have undergone deep psychological programming in favor of the empire. Gadot, who famously came under fire for publicly cheerleading the 2014 Gaza massacre, first shared the video on Instagram with the caption “We are in this together, we will get through it together. Let’s imagine together. Sing with us.”

Memesters have of course been having fun with this.

Then you’ve got celebrities like Rob Reiner, who just tweeted“No more fucking around. We’re standing on a precipice. Time to consider a Federal lockdown.”

Reiner is one of the more ham-fisted of the right-wing Democrats who we first saw promoting Russia hysteria, then working against the Sanders campaign, and are now promoting drastic totalitarian measures from their high-profile platforms. If you still hadn’t seen these people for what they are yet, you should definitely be seeing them now.

It is an absolute guarantee that powerful people will use this pandemic to advance authoritarian measures which they have no intention of rolling back once the pandemic is over. They are working to do this currently. This is not a possibility, this is an absolute certainty.

Rob Reiner


While it does appear necessary to collectively use self-quarantining and social distancing to avoid crashing our healthcare systems and needlessly killing millions of people, we need to make sure we slam on the brakes long before we yield any more ground to the authoritarians than they’ve already shored up over the years. And we need to loudly shout down any celebrities who try to tell us otherwise.

Hollywood is a giant propaganda mill which when it isn’t cranking out movies which are literally funded and controlled by the US war machine is putting on spectacular ninety-minute “The imperialist world order is perfectly sane and capitalism is totally working” infomercial presentations. It is an arm of cultural control which is unrivaled by anything else in this world, so of course it has powerful forces at work within it ensuring status quo loyalism.

Whoever controls the narrative controls the world, and Hollywood celebrities are psyops wrapped in human skin. May our collective disgust with them continue to grow.

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