Some films still give me a chill when remembered: Caligula, of course, and others such as Salo, Patton, Alien. Closet Land is like that, but it’s much simpler, confined, restricted. There are two actors and two rooms.
Like a stage play, this is one of the few stage plays that works well as a film. The actors, script and set design are critical. It is a stylized representation of a torturer and his victim. The case is not so atypical, and yet not particularly real in its particulars. Closet Land occupies a space between fantasy and the real, a hyper real universe where the world is so constricted, the relationship so inflexible, it gets inside your head.
by STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
(Reposted With Permission)
The movie “12 Years a Slave” is described in a Wikipedia entry presumably written by its makers as an “historical drama film.” It is a British-American production based on the book by the same name published in 1853 by the African-American man, Solomon Northrup, who endured this agony.
“There have been a number of movies about slavery as it really was. I have hardly seen them all, but this one is the most powerful one that I have seen…”
It received a limited release in the United States last month, and will be released in Great Britain in January, 2014.
It will be very interesting to see how wide a release it eventually gets in the U.S. It is hardly likely to be shown in very many, if any, theatres in the South, except possibly in those catering almost exclusively to African-American audiences. It would certainly not be well-received by those Southerners (and others) who refer to the First American Civil War as, for example, the “War of Northern Aggression” (a term used by the new President of the National Rifle Association, a man who refers to President Obama as a “fake President” and to Attorney General Holder as “rabidly un-American”), nor to those who refer to it as the “War for Southern Independence.”
It is fascinating that the first reference cited in the latter document is: “How Should 12st [emphasis added, and yes, that is exactly how it appears in that document] Century Americans Think about the War for Southern Independence?” In that particular article, the author, a Professor of History appropriately enough at the University of the First Secessionist state, South Carolina, entitles the First Civil War “Lincoln’s War to Prevent Southern Independence.” Of course, regardless of what it is called, at the War’s center was the struggle by the Slave Power to preserve slavery in the states in which it already existed and to expand the “peculiar institution” to all of the then-remaining Western Territories. This is a movie that shows the full horror of slavery. Horror, that is, to those who view what was done to one group of human beings by another as a horror. Presumably those who characterize the war as one for “Southern Independence” or whatever, don’t see it that way.
There have been a number of movies about slavery as it really was. I have hardly seen them all, but this one is the most powerful one that I have seen, and other viewers have described it in the same way. In a way, in fact, it is more like a retro-documentary about slavery than it is simply a drama about the subject. Why do I say that? Because first, most viewers are likely to see the film with some foreknowledge of its origin, a true story with a true beginning (Mr. Northrup’s kidnapping), middle (Mr. Northrup’s 12 years in captivity), and conclusion (Mr. Northrup’s return to freedom). And second, because of the way the film is constructed it can easily be seen as a documentary showing slavery in all of its major horrors, consecutively.
Perhaps the most important point of the film is that it clearly illustrates the Southern justification for slavery, that “blacks” were inferior people, not really human you know. (This has always struck me as quite odd. By the 19th century, after end of slave-importation in 1807, there were very few pure African blacks in the United States. Virtually all slaves were thus of “mixed blood.” Did that mean, therefore, that there was something inherently inferior about the white men who fathered all of those mixed African/North American children too?)
The Southern justification for slavery was well-summarized by Alexander Stephens, the Vice-President of the Confederate States of America, who, after the death of John C. Calhoun in 1850 had become the principal theoretician of slavery:
“Many governments have been founded upon the principle of the subordination and serfdom of certain classes of the same race. Such were, and are in violation of the laws of nature. Our system commits no such violation of nature’s law. With us, all of the white race, however high or low, rich or poor, are equal in the eye of the law. Not so with the Negro. Subordination is his place. He, by nature, or by the curse against Cain, is fitted for that condition which he occupies in our system. Our new government is founded on the opposite idea of the equality of the races. Its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the Negro is not equal to the White man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural condition [emphasis added].”
And so, serially, the movie illustrates the major features of, to quote Stephens, the “system [that] commits no such violation of nature’s law (sic).” Among them are: the kidnapping of free African-Americans in the North to be sold into slavery; the selling of such people, as property; the separation, by sale, of family members; the constant threat and use of violence against slaves, on any pretext, real or imagined; the practice of lynching, that is extra-judicial execution (even though it meant loss of “property”) of recaptured escaped slaves, primarily to set an example for anyone who thought of trying to escape (lynching of blacks, even in the absence of legalized slavery of course being practiced on a regular basis throughout the South into the 1960s); the use of torture short of lynching; the dreadful working and living conditions; the constant humiliation practiced by the slave-masters; the repetitive rape of female slaves by the slave-masters; the creation of a sub-class of especially docile African-Americans who served on some plantations as intermediaries between the owners and the rest of the slaves; and, until in Mr. Northrup’s case what happens to regain him his freedom, the total lack of any system of justice for any slave. One wonderful irony of the film is that Paul Giamatti, who plays the slave-seller in “12 Years a Slave”, in Tim Burton’s 2001 version of “Planet of the Apes,” itself in part a movie about slavery and the struggle for freedom, played the role of an ape slave-seller in a society in which intelligent apes were the owners, and humans, of any color, were considered an “inferior race” and were the slaves.
As the Confederate Navy Jack, (not the “Confederate Battle Flag,” as we are told by those who are in the know) is waved in front of the White House in an anti-”Obama Care” demonstration; as the former governor of Virginia declares a holiday to celebrate the Civil War but the first time around forgets to mention slavery; as a white woman sends her son out on Halloween in a Ku Klux Klan outfit, saying “it’s supposed to be white with white, black with black, man with woman and all of that; that’s what the KKK stands for;” as Republican candidates and office-holders claim that President Obama was born in Kenya; as Tea Party propaganda is full of racist attacks on the President; as a Republican Congressman in their leadership allegedly tells the President, to his face, “I can’t stand to even look at you:” but most importantly, as the modern Republican Party, all around the nation, is instituting laws designed to take away the vote from African-Americans (and certain of its leadership is saying this more-and-more openly), which happened to be the first self-announced task of the Ku Klux Klan when it was formed in late 1865; it is very important for all of us to understand what slavery, the central focus of secession, the Confederate States of America, and the First Civil War, was all about. In that regard, do see “12 Years a Slave” if it is available where you live.
Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 30 books. In addition to being a columnist for BuzzFlash@Truthout he is the Editorial Director of and a Contributing Author to The Political Junkies for Progressive Democracy. Dr. Jonas’ latest book is The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022: A futuristic Novel, Brewster, NY, Trepper & Katz Impact Books, Punto Press Publishing, 2013, and available on Amazon.
Now exercising the First Amendment in Amerika can get you killed or maimed by an expanding variety of “less than lethal” (sic) techno abuses. More than 500 people so far have been Tazed to death.
I was suckered into sitting through this thing at the $2 theater. We had to waste some time and sober up for a while.
Everything you’ve heard about it is true. Abysmally bad, an insult to humanity, really. It tasted like a soup with ice cream and marmalade and pork and garlic, hot sauce, chocolate syrup, chipotle, beer, ginger, confectioners sugar – blended all up while John Phillip Sousa music blares at 11. In other words, something like this:
I felt like a giant Mickey Rat tortured me for six hours. In other words a fun time for all, and some others in the theater called it a “great movie,” to their impressionable children no less.
In the words of the prophet, Bill Hicks, “Boy, is my thumb not on the pulse of America.”
They appeared to try. So it was difficult to figure why it is so unwatchable. It doesn’t know if it’s a slapstick comedy or a chilling drama about genocide, and the corporate scum at the top of the chain don’t really give a fuck. Perhaps it was re-imagined by a computer program and directed by some experimental DARPA funded director-bot. At least if it was a robot in beta testing we could cut the guy some slack, but I have a feeling this hack is still consuming our precious oxygen.
“In no case shall information be classified… in order to: conceal violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error; prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency… or prevent or delay the release of information that does not require protection in the interest of the national security.”
—Executive Order 13526, Sec. 1.7. Classification Prohibitions and Limitations
“Is this embarrassing? Yes. Is this awkward? Yes. Consequences for U.S. foreign policy? I think fairly modest.”
—Robert Gates, United States Secretary of Defense
PFC Bradley Manning is a US Army intelligence specialist who released classified information to WikiLeaks, an organization that he understood would release portions of the information to news organizations and ultimately to the public.
Was the information that PFC Manning leaked classified for our protection and national security, as government officials contend? Or do the revelations provide the American public with information that we should have had access to in the first place? Just what are these revelations? Below are some key facts that PFC Manning have helped reveal to the public.
There is an official policy to ignore torture in Iraq.
The “Iraq War Logs” published by WikiLeaks revealed that thousands of reports of prisoner abuse and torture had been filed against the Iraqi Security Forces. Medical evidence detailed how prisoners had been whipped with heavy cables across the feet, hung from ceiling hooks, suffered holes being bored into their legs with electric drills, urinated upon, and sexually assaulted. These logs also revealed the existence of “Frago 242,” an order implemented in 2004 not to investigate allegations of abuse against the Iraqi government. This order is a direct violation of the UN Convention Against Torture, which was ratified by the United States in 1994. The Convention prohibits the Armed Forces from transferring a detainee to other countries “where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.” According to the State Department’s own reports, the U.S. government was already aware that the Iraqi Security Forces engaged in torture (1).
U.S. defense contractors were brought under much tighter supervision after leaked diplomatic cables revealed that they had been complicit in child trafficking activities. DynCorp — a powerful defense contracting firm that claims almost $2 billion per year in revenue from U.S. tax dollars — threw a party for Afghan security recruits featuring boys purchased from child traffickers for entertainment. DynCorp had already faced human trafficking charges before this incident took place. According to the cables, Afghan Interior minister Hanif Atmar urged the assistant US ambassador to “quash” the story. These revelations have been a driving factor behind recent calls for the removal of all U.S. defense contractors from Afghanistan (2).
Guantanamo prison has held mostly innocent people and low-level operatives.
The Guantanamo Files describe how detainees were arrested based on what the New York Times referred to as highly subjective evidence. For example, some poor farmers were captured after they were found wearing a common watch or a jacket that was the same as those also worn by Al Queda operatives. How quickly innocent prisoners were released was heavily dependent on their country of origin. Because the evidence collected against Guantanamo prisoners is not permissible in U.S. courts, the U.S. State Department has offered millions of dollars to other countries to take and try our prisoners. According to a U.S. diplomatic cable written on April 17, 2009, the Association for the Dignity of Spanish Prisoners requested that the National Court indict six former U.S. officials for creating a legal framework that allegedly permitted torture against five Spanish prisoners at Guantanamo. However, “Senator Mel Martinez… met Acting FM [Foreign Minister] Angel Lossada… on April 15. Martinez… underscored that the prosecutions would not be understood or accepted in the U.S. and would have an enormous impact on the bilateral relationship” (3).
There is an official tally of civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Even though the Bush and Obama Administrations maintained publicly that there was no official count of civilian casualties, the Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs showed that this claim was false. Between 2004 and 2009, the U.S. government counted a total of 109,000 deaths in Iraq, with 66,081 classified as non-combatants. This means that for every Iraqi death that is classified as a combatant, two innocent men, women or children are also killed (4).
U.S. Military officials withheld information about the indiscriminate killing of Reuters journalists and innocent Iraqi civilians.
The “Collateral Murder” video released by Wikileaks depicted the indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad, including two journalists working for Reuters. The Reuters news organization has repeatedly been denied in its attempts to obtain the video through the Freedom of Information Act. The video, shot from an Apache helicopter gun-sight, clearly shows the unprovoked slaying of a wounded Reuters photographer and his rescuers. Two young children who were present in the attempted rescue were also seriously wounded. Ethan McCord, a U.S. army soldier who can be seen in the video carrying wounded children to safety, has said that whoever revealed this video is a “hero.” An internal U.S. military investigation concluded that the incident was consistent with the military’s “Rules of Engagement.” (5)
The State Department backed corporate opposition to a Haitian minimum wage law.
Leaked diplomatic cables show that in 2009, the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince pushed then-Haitian President Rene Preval to come out in support of powerful textile manufacturers who sought to block a popular minimum wage increase. These factory owners, who produce apparel for large brands like Nike and Nautica, had benefitted from recent free trade agreements that had severely lowered wages and working conditions in Haiti. A series of cables show that the US Embassy closely monitored the movements and activities of student protestors supporting the $5/day minimum wage bill. The bill’s supporters had argued that the increase was justified in light of rising inflation and food costs that had led to widespread starvation. According to the leaked cables, the U.S. delegation dismissed the proposed minimum wage increase as nothing more than a populist measure aimed at appeasing “the unemployed and underpaid masses.” Ultimately, the U.S. delegation succeeded in their efforts when President Preval agreed to block the increase (6).
The U.S. Government had long been faking its public support for Tunisian President Ben Ali.
The Tunisian people were already well aware of the corruption plaguing the autocratic ruling family, which for decades had abused their rights. However, the United States government had long presented a public image of strong support for the Ben Ali regime. The U.S. campaign of unwavering public support for President Ali led to a widespread belief among the Tunisian people that it would be very difficult to dislodge the autocratic regime from power. This view was shattered when leaked cables exposed the U.S. government’s private assessment: that the U.S. would not support the regime in the event of a popular uprising. While extreme economic hardship and popular discontent with rights abuses had already set the stage for an uprising, this new information played a critical role in transforming the landscape of political possibilities in Tunisia. The Tunisian people finally realized that, contrary to the U.S. government’s public relations efforts, they weren’t really up against the full force of the world’s superpower. Within one month, Ben Ali became the first Arab leader to be swept from power in the ongoing democratic movements in the region (7).
Known Egyptian torturers received training from the FBI in Quantico, Virginia.
According to a leaked diplomatic cable from Cairo, the head of Egypt’s notorious State Security Investigative Service (SSIS) thanked FBI Deputy Director John Pistole for the “excellent and strong” cooperation between the two agencies. In particular, the FBI’s training sessions in Quantico, Virginia were of “great benefit” to his interrogators. Another cable documented what the US embassy considered “credible” allegations of human rights violations by the SSIS, including torturing prisoners with “electric shocks and sleep deprivation to reduce them to a ‘zombie state’” (8). After the autocratic Mubarak regime was driven from power in the recent Egyptian Revolution, protestors stormed the “Amn Dawla” headquarters of the SSIS to uncover further evidence of torture and abuse. They posted these documents on their own site, known as “Amn Dawla Leaks.”
The State Department authorized the theft of the UN Secretary General’s DNA.
According to the “National Humint Collection Directive,” a secret document that was signed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and published by WikiLeaks, US diplomats were authorized to collect “biometric” and other sensitive information from top UN officials as well as UN representatives from other nations. The leaked documents show that “biometric data” specifically included samples of the officials’ DNA, among other forms of personally identifying information. They also ordered diplomats to collect credit card information and secure passwords. These activities contravene the 1946 UN Convention (9).
The Japanese and U.S. Governments had been warned about the seismic threat at Fukushima.
A cable from December 2008 showed that officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency had warned the government about the danger posed by potential seismic activity in the area. The official stated that Japan’s “safety guides for seismic safety have only been revised three times in the last 35 years.” He also noted that the government had fought against a court order to close down another nuclear facility that was not adequately prepared for an earthquake. After being ignored by the Japanese government, the IAEA official also warned the U.S. ambassador to Japan about the looming threat from possible earthquake damage. These warnings went unheeded. The International Atomic Energy Agency has now ranked the Fukushima disaster as severe as Chernobyl (10).
The Obama Administration allowed Yemen’s President to cover up a secret U.S. drone bombing campaign.
Since December 2009, President Obama has authorized a secret drone bombing campaign in Yemen. A year later, WikiLeaks revealed that Yemen’s President Saleh had agreed that his regime would “continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours.” These drone strikes have killed large numbers of civilians. One of the strikes that occurred shortly before the cable in question was written had killed 55 people, 41 of whom were classified as civilians (21 of these were children) according to a report by Amnesty International (11). This US military operation in Yemen, which persists to this day, has not been officially acknowledged by our government.
“The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.” – United States founding father Patrick Henry (1775)
Compiled by the Bradley Manning Support Network.
(1) Alex Spillius, “Wikileaks: Iraq War Logs show US ignored torture allegations,” Telegraph, October 22, 2010. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iraq/8082223/Wikileaks-Iraq-War-Logs-show-US-ignored-torture-allegations.html
(2) Foreign contractors hired Afghan ‘dancing boys’, WikiLeaks cable reveals,” guardian.co.uk, December 2, 2010, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/02/foreign-contractors-hired-dancing-boys
(3) Scott Shane and Benjamin Weiser, “The Guatanamo Files: Judging Detainees’ Risk, Often With Flawed Evidence,” New York Times, April 24, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/25/world/guantanamo-files-flawed-evidence-for-assessing-risk.html; “US embassy cables: Don’t pursue Guantánamo criminal case, says Spanish attorney general,” guardian.co.uk, December 1, 2010, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/202776 (4) Iraq War Logs Reveal 15,000 Previously Unlisted Civilian Deaths,” guardian.co.uk, October 22, 2010, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/oct/22/true-civilian-body-count-iraq (5) Steven Clarke and Joseph Bamat, “Leaked video shows US military killing of civilians, Reuters staff,” France 24, July 27, 2010, http://www.france24.com/en/20100406-leaked-video-shows-us-military-killing-civilians-reuters-staff (6) Robert Johnson, “WIKILEAKS: U.S. Fought to Lower Minimum Wage in Haiti So Hanes and Levis Would Stay Cheap,” Business Insider, June 3, 2011, http://www.businessinsider.com/wikileaks-haiti-minimum-wage-the-nation-2011-6 (7) Gregory White, “This is the Wikileak That Sparked The Tunisian Crisis, Business Insider, January 14, 2011, http://www.businessinsider.com/tunisia-wikileaks-2011-1 (8) Daniel Tencer, “Cables: FBI trained Egypt’s state security ‘torturers,” The Raw Story, February 9, 2011, http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/02/09/cables-fbi-trained-egypt-torturers/ (9) Gerri Peev, “Hillary Clinton ordered U.S. diplomats to spy on UN leaders,” The Daily Mail, November 29, 2010, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1333920/WikiLeaks-Hillary-Clinton-ordered-U-S-diplomats-spy-UN-leaders.html (10) “Japan Earthquake 2011: WikiLeaks Reveals Government Warned About Nuclear Plant Safety in 2008,” Huffington Post, March 16, 2011, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/16/japan-earthquake-nuclear-warning-wikileaks_n_836529.html (11) “Cable reveals US behind airstrike that killed 21 children in Yemen,” The Raw Story, December 2, 2010, http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2010/12/02/cable-reveals-airstrike-killed-21-children-yemen
“The last few years have been a learning experience.”
-Pvt. Bradley Manning
“Before they exposed their victims to public trial, they deliberately set themselves to destroy their dignity. They wore them down by torture and solitude until they were despicable, cringing wretches, confessing whatever was put into their mouths, covering themselves with abuse, accusing and sheltering behind one another, whimpering for mercy. And yet after only a few years the same thing had happened over again.”
The American terror state scores a hollow poltiical PR victory, negating Bradley Manning’s heroic achievements to report WAR CRIMES BY US PERSONNEL, which have gone unpunished to this day. Subject to harsh abuse including being kept naked in a cell for extented periods, abused, and held without trial many times beyond what is legal and Constitutional according to our own laws, the Manning show trial has culminated in this “confession.” This political nonsense seems to be in exchange for sparing the soldier from execution. Welcome to the new Amerika.
Manning tells court he’s ‘sorry’ for U.S. secrets breach to WikiLeaks
“I’m sorry” for giving war logs and diplomatic secrets to the WikiLeaks website three years ago, the biggest breach of classified data in the nation’s history.
Kangaroo court proceedings would not let Manning defend himself by citing International Law violations and the Nuremberg principles, enshrined in the UN Charter, which the US is a signatory to. This clear double standard where American war criminals, including high officials, are held unaccountable while lower level soldiers are prosecuted for political theater is a stain on this nation that should disgust and outrage every single American, as it does much of the rest of the world.
Collateral Murder: US Helicopter Pilots Murdered Iraqi Civilians – Relaeassed by U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning while the US Government lied about the incident and covered it up:
“The great purges involving thousands of people, with public trials of traitors and thought-criminals who made abject confession of their crimes and were afterwards executed, were special show-pieces not occurring oftener than once in a couple of years. More commonly, people who had incurred the displeasure of the Party simply disappeared and were never heard of again. One never had the smallest clue as to what had happened to them.
… Very occasionally some person whom you had believed dead long since would make a ghostly reappearance at some public trial where he would implicate hundreds of others by his testimony before vanishing, this time for ever.
… He would talk with a disagreeable gloating satisfaction of helicopter raids on enemy villages, and trials and confessions of thought-criminals, the executions in the cellars of the Ministry of Love.”
From Press Play:
I don’t go in for “torture porn,” and I don’t know if I agree with this series. I’m still catching up with part 2 right now. You can watch and decide for yourselves.
If you don’t know — it’s been known for 20 years — it’s military SONAR.
“Beaked whales, the most common casualty of the strandings, were shown to be highly sensitive to sonar. But the research also revealed unexpectedly that blue whales, the largest animals on Earth and whose population has plummeted by 95% in the last century, also abandoned feeding and swam rapidly away from sonar noise.”
Even the X-Files show did an episode on the phenomenon, with heads exploding.
“Rumsfeld worked to make sure that the unit was “unrestrained and unaccountable to anyone except him, Cheney, and the president” while Cheney began going to JSOC headquarters at Fort Bragg in North Carolina to give direct action orders.”