Film "Official Secrets" Points to a Mammoth Iceberg

Two-time Oscar nominee Keira Knightley is known for being in "period pieces" such as "Pride and Prejudice," so her playing the lead in the new film "Official Secrets," scheduled to be release in the U.S. this Friday, may seem odd at first. That is until one considers that the time span being depicted -- the early 2003 run-up to the invasion of Iraq -- is one of the most dramatic and consequential periods of modern human history. 

It is also one of the most poorly understood, in part because the story of Katharine Gun, played by Knightley, is so little known. I should say from the outset that having followed this story from the start, I find this film to be, by Hollywood standards, a remarkably accurate account of what has happened to date. "To date" because the wider story still isn't really over.

Katharine Gun worked as an analyst for Government Communications Headquarters, the British equivalent of the secretive U.S. National Security Agency. She tried to stop the impending invasion of Iraq in early 2003 by exposing the deceit of George W. Bush and Tony Blair in their claims about Iraq. She was prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act -- a juiced up version of the U.S. Espionage Act, which has in recent years been used repeatedly by the Obama administration against whistleblowers and now by the Trump administration against Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange.  

“One America" -- To What Ends?

The report is 121 pages. I've delved into it. I could immerse myself in it and write a dissertation, but who would read it? For a short piece, it's enough to just look at the cover -- and consider how this administration uses this issue as cover.

"One America in the 21st Century" is the title. Not "Finally Overcoming Racism." Not "Towards an America of Equality." "One America" -- is that really the point? Should that be the goal of this race initiative?

National cohesion is the driving concern here. How can we make these differing ethnicities get along well enough to ensure that this stays one nation is a question elites must ask themselves. We are called to "overcome the burden of race." In some respects, the people -- their very genetic makeup and heritage -- is implicitly viewed as a threat to the great goal: "One America." Is that more important than reaffirming our humanity with regards to ethnicity? Indeed, humanity is viewed at best as a mere lever, a tactic for national unity, just as racial diversity is viewed as a means to economic success.

"Radical": Frank Lloyd Wright interviewed by Mike Wallace

I came across this wonderful pair of interviews with Frank Lloyd Wright years ago. They are on the website of the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. While their site has transcripts of the interviews, there seems to be no easy way of linking to them, so I've posted their transcript here, while making a few corrections. See my piece "Frank Lloyd Wright, Used by GOP, Since His Actual Ideas Are So Little Understood."

Video is also on youtube, but audio isn't as good:

WALLACE: Good evening, what you are about to witness is an unrehearsed, uncensored interview. My name is Mike Wallace, the cigarette is Philip Morris. (OPENING CREDITS) 

WALLACE: Tonight we go after the story of one of the most extraordinary men of our time. You see him behind me, he is eighty-eight-year-old Frank Lloyd Wright, perhaps the greatest architect of the twentieth century. And in the opinion of some, America's foremost social rebel. According to a story in Life Magazine not many years back, fellow architects have called him everything, from a great poet to an insupportable windbag. The clergy has deplored his morals, creditors have deplored his financial habits, politicians, his opinions. And we'll get Frank Lloyd Wright's views on morals, politics, religion and architecture in just a moment. My guest's opinions are not necessarily mine, the station's, or my sponsor's Philip Morris Incorporated, but whether you agree or disagree we feel sure that none will deny the right of these views to be broadcast. 

WALLACE: And, now to our story. Admirers of Frank Lloyd Wright hail him as a man one hundred years ahead of his time. Now, eighty-eight years old, he is still designing homes and buildings which are revolutionary, including plans for a mile-high skyscraper for which he's had no buyers yet. But just as radical as Frank Lloyd Wright the architect is Frank Lloyd Wright the social critic. Mr. Wright, before we go any further, I'd like to chart your attitudes specifically, by getting your capsule opinions as an architect or as a social critic of the following: First of all, organized Christianity. 

WRIGHT: Why organized it? Christianity doesn't need organizing according to the Master of it, the great master poet of all times didn't want it organized, did he?. Didn't Jesus say... that wherever a few are gathered in my name, there is my Church? 

From Mother's Day to #SexStrike: The Obscured Roots of Global Peace Solidarity

To much attention, the actress Alyssa Milano ‏on Friday tweeted: "Our reproductive rights are being erased. Until women have legal control over our own bodies we just cannot risk pregnancy. JOIN ME by not having sex until we get bodily autonomy back. I’m calling for a #SexStrike. Pass it on." Much of the reaction online focused on the alleged irony of a liberal woman advocating abstinence from sex. 

The same day, Donald and Melania Trump hosted a celebration of military mothers at the White House. Said Donal Trump: "To the active-duty moms here today: We thank you for your courage, and we applaud your noble service. You have two of the most important jobs in the world: bravely defending America from our enemies and helping to raise the next generation of American patriots."

While Trump focuses on Mother's Day, Milano hearkens back to the sex strike as depicted in the ancient Greek play Lysistrata by Aristophanes.

What's striking is that both of these are rooted in movements against war. In the case of Milano, it's obscured, while Trump actively opposes the antiwar roots of Mother's Day.
 

Debunking "Russiagate" in Real Time -- List of Accuracy.org News Releases

Here's a list of news releases on "Russiagate" and related issues that the Institute for Public Accuracy -- accuracy.org -- where I work, put out from roughly March 2017 to March 2018. These news releases are sent to thousands of producers and reporters, mostly in the US:

Iraq War Lies: My Letter to Rob Reiner on "Shock and Awe"

Here's a letter that was sent to Rob Reiner in April 2016. At the time, he was directing the film "Shock and Awe" which would be released the following year. 

Dear Rob Reiner --

I've of course enjoyed your work over the years.

I recently tweeted "Finally saw 'The Big Short'. Good. Sure they'll produce a film about folks who were right about Iraq wmds any decade now."

Immediately, a couple of McClatchy reporters I know responded, tweeting that you are working on "Shock and Awe."

At the Institute for Public Accuracy, we got a lot of critical information out scrutinizing claims regarding alleged Iraq WMDs from 2002-03 and I thought you'd be interested in learning of it.

A sample: in October, 2002, John R. MacArthur, author of Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the 1991 Gulf War, noted on one of our news releases: "Recently, Bush cited an IAEA report that Iraq was ‘six months away from developing a weapon. I don’t know what more evidence we need.’ The IAEA responded that not only was there no new report, ‘there’s never been a report’ asserting that Iraq was six months away from constructing a nuclear weapon." That's just the tip of the iceberg of what was knowable at the time. See other such news releases we put out from before the invasion: "White House Claims: A Pattern of Deceit" and "Bush’s War Case: Fiction vs. Facts at Accuracy.org/bush" and "U.S. Credibility Problems" and "Tough Questions for Bush on Iraq Tonight." 

Rep. Omar's Choice

As a virtual lynch mob moves to chastise Rep. Ilhan Omar over her recent remarks around Israel, the new congresswoman basically has three options before her: (1) Fold; (2) Continue the back and forth of the last several weeks or (3) Get more specific and expand the public critique. 

Fold: Like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rep. Omar herself can go largely silent on Israel. She can perhaps even offer a bigger apology than she did before or she can find some other way to draw closer to the establishment. This is a convenient path. 

Continue the Current Pattern: Thus far, Rep. Omar has made statements about the Israel lobby and support for Israel that at one level are obviously true: 

* "It's all about the benjamins": The pro-Israel lobby uses money to further its interests in Congress, just as virtually any other well-funded lobby does; 

* "I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is ok for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country. And I want to ask, why is it ok for me to talk about the influence of the NRA, of fossil fuel industries, or Big Pharma, and not talk about a powerful lobby." There are some in the U.S. establishment that have loyalty to Israel rivaling if not exceeding what they have for the United States. 

The issue with these statement is that in addition to being true, is that they are being read by some to play to ugly anti-Jewish refrains if limited to Jews: They use money to control, they love Israel, not the U.S. The problem with the second readings of them is that they require -- at best -- a remarkably a high level of sensitivity regarding Rep. Omar's actual words. This may well be the reason the draft text of the resolution effectively targeting Rep. Omar reportedly doesn't actually mention her -- because they're not actually referencing her words. As Abba Solomon noted to me: "AIPAC allies should stop hiding behind Jews, and Democratic politicians should stop feigning such sensitivity to Jewish feelings when Zionist lobbying is the subject." Indeed, some of the readings are akin to being offended by someone saying the word "gypped" -- it really is an offensive word to Roma, but it is widely used with hardly anyone blinking an eye. 

Questions at Doomsday Clock Event


I asked about Russiagate and Israel's nuclear arsenal at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Doomsday Clock event Thursday at the National Press Club. 

Here's transcript: 

Sam Husseini: I'd like to raise two things that I don’t believe have come up explicitly and I'd like you address them. One, explicitly, is Russiagate. Several people including fellow Nation writer Steve Cohen, a Russia expert, have warned that the focusing and the charges and demonization of Putin have reached such a level that they cause a threat, that they increase the instability and the dangers between the U.S. and Russia. If someone could make an assessment about the dangers of that. I am not talking about Trump’s tweets. I am talking about the Democratic party establishment and allied media. And the other thing that I don’t believe has come up, there's been some discussions about Iran, is Israel's nuclear weapons arsenal. Israel just targeted Iranian forces inside Syria. We have Turkey, a NATO member bound by Article 5, involved in Syria as well. It is my understanding that the U.S. government has refused to even acknowledge the existence of Israel's nuclear weapons arsenal, which was of course exposed years ago by Mordichai Vanunu . Do you recommend a change in that and can you address how that long-standing abnormal can be addressed?

Warren Works Up Economy, Not War

In her New Years Eve announcement forming an exploratory committee for the presidency, Sen. Elizabeth Warren made a great point: "Right now, Washington works great for the wealthy and the well-connected. It's just not working for anyone else."

In case you missed that, she pointedly did not say "the economy isn't working well" or such, as we've all heard numerous politicos say countless times.

She rather said the opposite of that -- repeatedly: "The way I see it right now, Washington works great for giant drug companies, but just not for people who are trying to get a prescription filled. Washington works great for for-profit colleges and student loan outfits, but not for young people who are getting crushed by student loan debt. And you could keep going through the list. The problem we have got right now in Washington is that it works great for those who've got money to buy influence."

And in case anyone at all missed the point, she said it yet again: "We want a government that works not just for the rich and the powerful. We want a government that works for everyone."

It's laudatory that Warren is using her perch and analytical skills to avoid a common rhetorical trap and is articulating the truism that the political establishment largely does the bidding of the wealthy and connected when it comes to the economy.

The problem is that she doesn't articulate that in the same manner when it comes to bloody wars. Quite the contrary. That is, she says that she goes down a list -- drug companies, for-profit colleges and student loan outfits -- but that list doesn't seem to include those who have an interest in continuing horrific wars.