Archive for the ‘Kieran Kelly’ Category

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Repost of Kieran Kelly’s Review of Transfixion:


 

Fast-paced, thought-provoking and at times moving.

by K.R. Kelly


COVER-FINAL-texture - -3 copy.jpgTransfixion
is in the speculative fiction genre that has really come to dominate in the young adult market, and it is a good example of why the genre is popular.

Author J. Giambrone hits the ground running. The reader is not left with much time to draw breath as action piles on action. The pace never flags throughout the book which transitions from a place of surrealism and suspense through watershed moments of growing clarity. In time it reaches a climax in which concrete reality has been recovered – though only through the brave efforts of a protagonist who refuses to let go of her humanity when the entire world has turned dangerously insane.

Transfixion mines some of the same veins of disquiet that have fueled the success of the Hunger Games trilogy, but where Suzanne Collins aims for emotional effect and pathos Giambrone aims for something more elusive – a moral understanding of violent conflict. The result is a bit like what might have happened if Frantz Fanon had got hold of the script of 28 Days Later and insisted that denying the humanity of the zombies would only cause the normal people to become zombies: “There had to be a solution to win without becoming just like them.”

But the “dupes” in this book aren’t zombies – they are anti-zombies. Zombies have stood for many things in political allegory, but they almost always embody the epitome of the enemy “other”. They are implacably violent; they are usually mindless or, if not, they are utterly deranged; they are always incurable. In short, they are unquestionably legitimate targets for violence who are to be killed without compunction. In films zombies are killed for self-defence, but there is also a common tendency, first established in Dawn of the Dead, for protagonists to prolifically splatter zombie brains just in order to perform banal tasks like going from place to place.There is no reason too trivial to be worth taking the “life” of a zombie.

In short zombies are the human-shaped essence of life undeserving of life. Transfixion‘s “dupes” turn this notion on its head. These are every bit as implacably violent as any crazed zombie, but even more deadly for their ruthless and calculating rationality. For those embattled few survivors of the shock and awe of the initial onslaught of violence, the dupes are zombies. You kill them and you don’t think about it, or at least pretend not to. The dupes could literally be their brothers and sisters, but the shared humanity is forgotten by both and lost in both. One side is driven mad by a brain-altering signal, and the other side simply follows suit in many respects.

Young Kaylee Colton resists this amnesia and the disjuncture which creates a rift in humanity. In a brutal world she struggles to recreate a sense that she herself is a real person: “She was not herself, and she wasn’t sure which version of herself she wasn’t.” But, she never quite loses sight of the personhood of the other – even the knife-wielding maniac who will kill her without compunction. And she is right.

The reader is taken inside the mind of a dupe and find not the haze of hatred, but a different sense of reality. Now we are in the territory of Philip K. Dick – the science fiction author for whom reality was fragile and fungible not just in epistemological terms but in political, psychological and social terms. Under the guise of “out there” explorations of drugs and virtual reality, Dick made many astute political and social observations. He explored the significance of what academics would now refer to as a “subject position” decades before the term was coined. To put it another way, Dick’s writing and Transfixion have more in common with Battlestar Galactica than with The Matrix.

And that is the problem of the dupes. They are not different in nature. They are not inhuman. It is the mental landscape they inhabit that is different. That is not to say that their reality is somehow valid. The world they inhabit is not only ultimately senseless, it is extremely limited. The filters through which they see everything turn these human beings into remorseless killers who act like mindless zombies without the mindlessness. For this, Giambrone gleefully indicts the medium of television – the carrier signal of their derangement: “The sign on the door said “Editing,” and a sickly blue glow throbbed out from inside the dark chamber.”

Any young adult who has read this review this far should probably read Transfixion. The novel is a lot more accessible than my review and I really haven’t given any major spoilers. Despite all that I have written, it is still basically action driven and all of the political and philosophical considerations are delivered as subtext.

For adults the above also applies, but if you are thinking of acquiring it for a young person to read I have just one caution. Transfixion is very much in the soft science-fiction/speculative fiction allegorical idiom. The sense of suspense and mystery may lead more literally minded youngsters to think that the resolution will involve the standard denouement where the villain is unmasked and vanquished. This does not happen. Some will definitely find that unsatisfying, but then maybe it might cause them to reflect on the nature of such conventions.


TRANSFIXION e-book is available for 99¢ through Amazon, but this offer expires midnight on Friday 3/25.

Fast-paced, thought-provoking and at times moving.

by K.R. Kelly


COVER-FINAL-texture - -3 copy.jpgTransfixion
is in the speculative fiction genre that has really come to dominate in the young adult market, and it is a good example of why the genre is popular.

Author J. Giambrone hits the ground running. The reader is not left with much time to draw breath as action piles on action. The pace never flags throughout the book which transitions from a place of surrealism and suspense through watershed moments of growing clarity. In time it reaches a climax in which concrete reality has been recovered – though only through the brave efforts of a protagonist who refuses to let go of her humanity when the entire world has turned dangerously insane.

Transfixion mines some of the same veins of disquiet that have fueled the success of the Hunger Games trilogy, but where Suzanne Collins aims for emotional effect and pathos Giambrone aims for something more elusive – a moral understanding of violent conflict. The result is a bit like what might have happened if Frantz Fanon had got hold of the script of 28 Days Later and insisted that denying the humanity of the zombies would only cause the normal people to become zombies: “There had to be a solution to win without becoming just like them.”

But the “dupes” in this book aren’t zombies – they are anti-zombies. Zombies have stood for many things in political allegory, but they almost always embody the epitome of the enemy “other”. They are implacably violent; they are usually mindless or, if not, they are utterly deranged; they are always incurable. In short, they are unquestionably legitimate targets for violence who are to be killed without compunction. In films zombies are killed for self-defence, but there is also a common tendency, first established in Dawn of the Dead, for protagonists to prolifically splatter zombie brains just in order to perform banal tasks like going from place to place.There is no reason too trivial to be worth taking the “life” of a zombie.

In short zombies are the human-shaped essence of life undeserving of life. Transfixion‘s “dupes” turn this notion on its head. These are every bit as implacably violent as any crazed zombie, but even more deadly for their ruthless and calculating rationality. For those embattled few survivors of the shock and awe of the initial onslaught of violence, the dupes are zombies. You kill them and you don’t think about it, or at least pretend not to. The dupes could literally be their brothers and sisters, but the shared humanity is forgotten by both and lost in both. One side is driven mad by a brain-altering signal, and the other side simply follows suit in many respects.

Young Kaylee Colton resists this amnesia and the disjuncture which creates a rift in humanity. In a brutal world she struggles to recreate a sense that she herself is a real person: “She was not herself, and she wasn’t sure which version of herself she wasn’t.” But, she never quite loses sight of the personhood of the other – even the knife-wielding maniac who will kill her without compunction. And she is right.

The reader is taken inside the mind of a dupe and find not the haze of hatred, but a different sense of reality. Now we are in the territory of Philip K. Dick – the science fiction author for whom reality was fragile and fungible not just in epistemological terms but in political, psychological and social terms. Under the guise of “out there” explorations of drugs and virtual reality, Dick made many astute political and social observations. He explored the significance of what academics would now refer to as a “subject position” decades before the term was coined. To put it another way, Dick’s writing and Transfixion have more in common with Battlestar Galactica than with The Matrix.

And that is the problem of the dupes. They are not different in nature. They are not inhuman. It is the mental landscape they inhabit that is different. That is not to say that their reality is somehow valid. The world they inhabit is not only ultimately senseless, it is extremely limited. The filters through which they see everything turn these human beings into remorseless killers who act like mindless zombies without the mindlessness. For this, Giambrone gleefully indicts the medium of television – the carrier signal of their derangement: “The sign on the door said “Editing,” and a sickly blue glow throbbed out from inside the dark chamber.”

Any young adult who has read this review this far should probably read Transfixion. The novel is a lot more accessible than my review and I really haven’t given any major spoilers. Despite all that I have written, it is still basically action driven and all of the political and philosophical considerations are delivered as subtext.

For adults the above also applies, but if you are thinking of acquiring it for a young person to read I have just one caution. Transfixion is very much in the soft science-fiction/speculative fiction allegorical idiom. The sense of suspense and mystery may lead more literally minded youngsters to think that the resolution will involve the standard denouement where the villain is unmasked and vanquished. This does not happen. Some will definitely find that unsatisfying, but then maybe it might cause them to reflect on the nature of such conventions.


TRANSFIXION is now available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Createspace (paperback).

reagan_ghostbusters-620x412

Kieran Kelly recommended this Salon article — which is actually a revisionary look at the films of Harold Ramis.*

Baby boomer humor’s big lie: “Ghostbusters” and “Caddyshack” really liberated Reagan and Wall Street
Harold Ramis was a master of subversive comedy. But the politics of “Caddyshack” and rude gestures have backfired

* I am not in complete agreement with anyone concerned.  While the films could be criticized for their targets and execution, I don’t think the writer makes his case.  The terminology used displays some dissonance, and he rejects a nuanced, complex reading of the films.

“And that makes for a pretty liberal film, right? I mean, who else makes fun of country club grandees except for us lefty authority-questioners?

Well, free-market conservatives do.”

Here the writer steeps his clumsy criticism in the pop left/right knee jerkism we’ve come to expect out there in the mainstream.  Presenting his false argument about “authority-questioners”, it’s almost condescending.  Authority isn’t a virtue.

The reason these movies stand out and endure is because they have complexity.  They aren’t meant to tell you want to think, but to give you the opportunity to do so.  Without that complexity and challenge, there’s no classic.

Perhaps the article’s best dig is:

“The kind of liberation the rude gesture brings has turned out to be not that liberating after all, but along the way it has crowded out previous ideas of what liberation meant—ideas that had to with equality, with work, with ownership.”

Here, the author, Thomas Frank, almost makes his point.  But the dissonance, in light of what he argued previously, sinks his argument.  How he can lay all of this on Ramis and Company, in the context of a farcical comedy, is unclear.   But work and ownership, Frank says, are intrinsic to his idea of liberation.

Like the Ghostbusters?

Frank just decried the idea of the small business startup, but now he’s in favor of work and ownership.  Well make your mind up, Frank.

“Here the martinet is none other than a troublemaking EPA bureaucrat; the righteous, rule-breaking slobs are small businessmen—ghost-hunting businessmen, that is, who have launched themselves deliriously into the world of entrepreneurship.”

Yes, work and ownership.  In fact bureaucracy and the EPA itself can have problems, misdirected activities, harm.  That’s the nature of power and authority, and in this case unaccountable power: the EPA man is not the one facing jail.  Reading too much into this EPA angle may be biasing any fair interpretation of the film.

The EPA bureaucrat made a unilateral decision that was disastrous while choosing ignorance over the consequences of said decision.  It is that kind of reasoning that is the true target, not the Environmental Protection Agency or the concept of reasonable regulations.  That’s the distinct difference that received no mention.

In some ways I agree with Frank that these films chose some easy targets and largely symbolic middle fingers.  That would make them less effective, in the political context, not more.  Trying to pin the Reagan era on Bill Murray, Harold Ramis and friends is too much of a stretch to be taken seriously.  The photo (above) that Salon chose to go with seems a tad dishonest in its complete dissing of Ramis and his widely beloved works.

Unthinking lefties are as unpalatable to me as unthinking right wingers, and perhaps were to Ramis too.  We must confront these challenges and the myriad opposing ideas, even in comedy, if we’re to stand the test of time.

CollateralMurder.ogv

Collateral Murder”: Evidence of Genocide

by Kieran Kelly

In Iraq, you can’t put pink gloves on Apache helicopter pilots and send them into the Ultimate Fighting ring and ask them to take a knee. These are attack pilots wearing gloves of steel, and they go into the ring throwing powerful punches of explosive steel. They are there to win, and they will win.” Lt. Col. Chris Wallach

The video known as “Collateral Murder” is strong evidence of genocide being carried out by the US against the people of Iraq. Hidden in the horrors of its brutality is a rich historical record revealing an armed force which systematically targets and kills non-combatants. The events shown are war crimes violating the principle of non-combatant immunity in numerous clearly illegal ways including attacking those rendering aid to the wounded. They are also evidence of genocide because there are clear indications that these war crimes are representative of enshrined procedures. They indicate that the ambiguities of the US Rules of Engagement mandate the systematic mass murder of civilians when applied by US personnel. They indicate something of a tactical, strategic and doctrinal approach that radically violates the fundamental obligations to distinguish between civilians and enemy personnel and the combatant status of enemies. Finally they indicate something about the way in which the US indoctrinates its personnel in a way guaranteed to create murderers.

Lt. Col. Wallach was the commander of the aircrew. He recently said: “Ultimately, my combat pilots at the scene did the best they could under extreme and surreal conditions.” However, we now know that the only incident to occur before we are able to see what is occurring was a report of small arms fire being heard. If there is a surreal aspect to any of this it comes from the minds of the aircrew and those who command both air and ground forces. I am going to go through exactly what it is that the gun camera footage shows. It shows a massacre of non-combatants, followed by the murder of rescuers, and finally a more obscure sequence which definitely involves another murder of rescuers.

Former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said of this footage: “You’re looking at a situation through a soda straw, and you have no context or perspective.” Therefore, after describing exactly what is shown, taking into account exactly what is known and exactly what is not known from the footage, I will provide that context that Gates calls for. But the context does not, or should not, counter what our eyes and ears reveal to us. On the contrary, the very evidence that apologists like Gates and Wallach produce to show that the aircrew were legitimate in their actions is in fact evidence that their behaviours are not isolated. This is very strong evidence that by the manner in which, in practice, the US defines “hostile intent”; the manner in which it practices its doctrine of “force protection”; and the manner in which it indoctrinates and situates its forces, the US was systematically murdering non-combatants. In this case killing non-combatants inextricably means killing civilians. Placed in the context of more than two decades of direct and indirect destruction of Iraq in social, political, biological, economic, cultural, ecological, and physical terms, this systematic killing is clear and compelling evidence of genocide. Those who insist that this is merely warfare join the vast ranks of genocide perpetrators, deniers and apologists who insist that other genocides were warfare with inevitable, if regrettable, instances of civilian death.

As I have written elsewhere, all of the common claims of genocide deniers are regularly applied to US “military” actions, but they tend to be overlooked as they are so pervasive that they are seldom examined or challenged. Ultimately denial of US genocide relies on people having a vague notion that genocide involves actions like the mass gassings at Nazi death camps. But the word genocide was coined by someone who did not know at that time about the mass gassings and who applied the word to far more that the Nazi project to exterminate Europe’s Jews.

Genocide??

So, what exactly is genocide? The man who coined the term, Raph>äel Lemkin, was a Polish Jew and a legal scholar. Impelled by knowledge of the Armenian Holocaust as well as the history of state sanctioned or controlled pogroms against Jews, Lemkin devoted much of his life to understanding mass violence against ethnic populations. In 1933 he proposed that there be an international law which, among other acts, prohibited acts of “barbarity” and “vandalism”. “Barbarity” was conceived as violence against members of a “collectivity” on the basis that they were of that “collectivity” and “with the goal of its extermination”. “Vandalism” was the destruction of the “cultural or artistic heritage” of a “collectivity … with the goal of its extermination”.

The German occupation of most of Europe was the horrific crucible in which Lemkin synthesised “vandalism” and “barbarity”. He recognised a greater process of which they were both part – the process he called “genocide”. Genocide was “a war not merely against states and their armies but against peoples.” Extermination, or the intent to exterminate, was no longer a requisite. The occupant could impose a “national pattern” onto the land, once it was cleansed by killing or forced migration, or onto the people themselves. And despite knowing that Europe’s Jews were slated for complete annihilation, Lemkin’s examples of genocide included such things as forcing the people of Luxembourg to take German names. His most common exemplar of genocide was the treatment of Poland – a comprehensive and systematic genocide in which killing people was only one of many forms of genocidal destruction.

I think it is important that we realise that the fluidity of identity does not allow for actual extermination to be undertaken as a project. Genocide is a schizophrenic undertaking full of bizarre contradictions such that it cannot truly be said that the Germans attempted to exterminate the Jews, or even Europe’s Jews. The Germans had immense difficulties in even defining who was Jewish for a start. They said Jews were a “race” but ultimately they relied on confessional identification to define them. As Yehuda Bauer wrote: “One can see how confused Nazi racism was when Jewish grandparents were defined by religion rather than so-called racial criteria.”(1) As well as the fact that many with Jewish heritage would inevitably successfully evade detection, in the Nuremburg Laws (and later when deciding who to kill at Wannsee), exemptions were made on various criteria, such as being a decorated war hero. However defined, there were Jews in the German military(2) and there were Jewish civilians living unincarcerated in Berlin when Soviet troops arrived.(3)

So, as the Genocide Convention outlines, genocide is an attack on people, rather than states, with the “intent to destroy in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such….” Lemkin referred to these collectivities as having a “biological structure”. There is a genetic interconnection involved here, but that does not mean that Lemkin believed in Nazi racial theories or any racist or racialist notions. The most evident proof of this is the inclusion in both his own work and in the Genocide Convention the practice of “transferring the children of the group to another group”. If genocides were truly about racial hygiene and racial hatred that would hardly be a recognised component, would it?

If it is not about race, then what is it about? Though he never articulated it, the answer stared Lemkin right in the face and he obviously grasped it at an unconscious or intuitive level. If we refer to one of these collectivities as a genos, what ties the genos together is not “biological interrelation” but rather personal interconnection and, most particularly, familial interrelation.

Genocide is about Power not Hatred

I want to outline a simplified cartoon narrative, just to illustrate a point: In feudal Europe mass violence was used in acts of war or banditry which were only distinguishable from each other by scale and the rank of participants. A Baron might conquer the demesne of another Baron just as one King might conquer the realm of another King. In relative terms the peasants of the demesne or the realm might have had very little concern over who exactly ruled. The change in rulers would not be akin to a foreign occupation as we would currently understand it. By the time of Napoleon, however, it was beginning to be a little different. People had started to develop a national consciousness. The national genos associated itself with a territory of land and aspired to a nation-state polity based on that (often rather generous) sense of territorial entitlement. By 1871, the inhabitants of Alsace-Lorraine were quite unhappy at being made German. Nationalism would become the dominant political ideology for the entire twentieth century. The multinational and largely interchangeable feudal ruling class was gone. This was not an unprecedented situation, but it was something that Europe had not faced for since the times of Charlemagne (well, in reality it had, but I’m still in cartoon generalisation mode here, so bear with me).

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I Think that World War Z is a Work of Subversive Genius (No, Really).

The Book

I was very excited by the World War Z concept – an oral history of the Zombie Apocalypse written by Max Brooks. I loved Studs Terkel’s oral history The Good War and it is the model for the WWZ book (there is also a brilliant book in that vein on the Vietnam War by Christian Appy). Then I heard about the audiobook version of World War Z with John Turturro, Martin Scorcese, Jürgen Prochnow, Paul Sorvino, Carl Reiner, and Simon Pegg, to name but a few. I was very excited indeed. Admittedly, one review praised the book for its biting critique of US “isolationism”, which made me wonder which planet the reviewer inhabits (clearly not the one on which the US has 1000 military bases and is still at war in Afghanistan whilst also conducting drone strikes in at least 6 countries). But stupid critics can’t be blamed on the book, can they?

I was undeterred by those nagging doubts over the politics of the book, but when I actually listened to the audiobook I found it to be a dull pastiche of stupid zombie clichés. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. As a whole the genre is, umm, sort of lifeless anyway, but (rather appropriately) it refuses to lie down and die even when it’s bits are all smelly and dropping off everywhere. The Zombie genre entered the baroque stage (where everything is exaggerated repetition of previous innovations) some time ago. George Romero did bravely fight the tide with Land of the Dead (which suggests that brain eating zombies – possibly symbolizing Al Qaeda – are far, far preferable to rich people and George W. Bush), but style had triumphed over substance in the Zombie genre. The only sign of vigor in this port-mortem period came from 28 Days Later which managed to build substance from style.

Now the zombie genre landscape is littered with dead-eyed, soulless, inhuman characters who spend a lot of time killing zombies. World War Z is no exception. The Zombie killers are the worst of hipster 21st century ciphers. Cardboard cut-out renderings of Generation Kill soldiers or Mark Zuckerberg types. Sociopaths without charm or humor. (Mind you, I would say that about most TV and film characters nowadays, so I guess I’m just an old fart). Where the novel World War Z distinguishes itself, though, is in its disgusting xenophobic racism, US exceptionalism and utterly schizophrenic delusional Zionism.

In the book of the film (or at least the book that shared the title with the film) foreigners are very, very brutal. Thus, unsurprisingly, it turns out that the fiendishly oriental Chinese are reckless and absolutely callous about human suffering and death. The South Africans deliberately use a huge percentage of their population as condemned bait just to occupy the Zombies while they carry out a suspiciously familiar sounding Strangelovian stratagem. The Russians force their own soldiers to kill their comrades in a decimation. This was a special motivational technique apparently needed because when Russians are faced with a force that wants to exterminate them and all their loved ones they tend to just drink vodka and sing badly. This last sequence, like all of the book, is unabashedly derivative. In this case it draws on Anthony Beevor’s Stalingrad (evidently Brooks boned up on military history). Beevor has a less-than-credible passage in which a Soviet General paces along a line of his troops slowly counting from one to ten. Each time he reaches ten he shoots the soldier he has reached in the face. (For some reason I did not think this was very likely to have actually happened, and when I searched for a source in Beevor’s book I found none. I guess if you sell enough books, you get some sort of “historian’s license”).

I don’t want to be unfair to Brooks here. All of his pastiche is tongue-in-cheek. He isn’t necessarily trying to fool anyone, but the problem is that the book is completely devoid of satire, humour or commentary so the only people who can enjoy the book are those who mistakenly believe that Brooks made up lots of cool stuff which he actually lifted from elsewhere.

That is not to say that the book doesn’t have any point at all. It is a really good promotion for the wonderfulness of the state of Israel. We hear, for example, that Israeli’s are innate Zombie fighters and naturally prepared for the Zombie apocalypse because they are always threatened by the omnipresent anti-Semites who plot each day the exterminate all Jews. Perhaps the most twisted part is that when the Zombie threat arises for real Israel throws open its borders to all Palestinians as long as they aren’t infected. Brooks doesn’t explain why they won’t let Palestinian refugees return without a Zombie Apocalypse, but to anyone who understands the situation faced by Palestinians, the portrayal of Israel welcoming with them open arms has to cause a sense of queasiness. Clearly Brooks, like so many others, is getting somewhat deranged in his attempt to reconcile the support of Zionism with his normal moral compass (however limited and parochial it might be).

So, now to the movie. Forewarned by the audiobook, I was forearmed for the film – I had a notebook and serious intent to use it. I was going to write a stunning review that would tear that hateful Zioganda hasbara blockbuster to pieces. However, I soon realized that I didn’t have to bother. Whether by intent, or not, the film actually subverts the messages of the book.

The Film

I can’t tell you how many things are wrong with the first third of the film. It is disjointed and alienating. Much of this is absolutely deliberate. We are made unable to empathize with the main characters not merely because they are made to look sickly and maggot-like, but because those intimate moments of drama which, by convention, are conveyed by intimate focus and reflective incidental music, are consciously trashed with extraneous noise and action. Equally, all of the action sequences are confused, disjointed, obscure and incomplete. They never give you the payoff of the climax and aftermath that are normal in action sequences, at least not with any clarity. The first 40 minutes of the film actually make you squirm in your seat with something far beyond mere tedium. This seems to be in order to elevate the fairly average Zombie action film that follows. It certainly does come as a sense of relief when they start with the more conventional, less confused, less disjointed, more brightly lit set pieces – no matter how risible they normally would be.

If that is the way they managed to salvage a potentially comically bad film, then I guess it is clever. They sacrificed the first third of the film to make the second two-thirds look good and, hopefully, the audience will more-or-less have forgotten the first part by the time they leave the theater. But for anyone wanting to subvert Brooks’s Zionism, the change simply could not have been better timed. The movie starts to pick up when the hero goes to Israel. But where the book gushes about Israel, the film merely brushes over such stuff with what amounts to an observance of the necessary pieties. The film goes through the motions of putting the white hats on the Israelis (how else could it be in Hollywood?), but the moment that signals, almost like the flipping of a switch, the move into actual excitement and genuine (if mild) entertainment, comes with the destruction of Israel. That is the “wow” moment of the film, such as it is. After what feels like an eternity of obscurity, darkness and frustration we finally get to see something exciting. Not only that, but the mass Zombie assault is the only part of the film that is original. In fact it is an iconic moment in a film which, true to the spirit of Brooks’s work, is incredibly derivative and familiar pap. This one moment, the striking feature in all of the trailers too, is the destruction of Israel – and that is when all of that excruciating discomfiture of the first 40 minutes is relaxed for good.

Looking at the film from the perspective of propaganda and predictive programming, a whole bunch of kids who know nothing about Palestine are being fed the suggestion that life is going to be grey, confusing and anxiety ridden until Israel gets some serious and profound regime change. I like to think that anyway.

Even if that isn’t true though, I doubt many $200 million films could be so uninspiring for potential readers of the book. Even with it’s commercial success, it is not a film likely to create devoted fans eager to buy the book and the audiobook and the graphic novel and the sequel and loads of the merchandise. And the way I see it, every human soul that doesn’t read World War Z is like a pure shining star of hope in the firmament of our future, while every dumb geek who thinks its cool because they are an ignorant parochial racist jerk can go and fuck themselves.

 

pakistanflag

 

“Make no mistake – this has implications beyond chemical warfare. If we won’t enforce accountability in the face of this heinous act, what does it say about our resolve to stand up to others who flout fundamental international rules? To governments who would choose to build nuclear arms? To terrorist who would spread biological weapons? To armies who carry out genocide?

We cannot raise our children in a world where we will not follow through on the things we say, the accords we sign, the values that define us.”

-Barack Hussein Obama 2013.

“If, when the chips are down, the world’s most powerful nation, the United States of America, acts like a pitiful, helpless giant, the forces of totalitarianism and anarchy will threaten free nations and free institutions throughout the world.”

– Richard Milhous Nixon 1970.

When the US claims that its reasons for using military mass violence are to maintain credibility it is really scraping the bottom of the rhetorical barrel. But is this desperation, or is it simply that they no longer even care enough to lie convincingly? Or is it that the price of being seen as a liar is less than the price of revealing the true motives and reasons for US government actions?

Our Soviet Moment

Even lies can only do half of the work of engineering the consent or assent (or mere apathy) required to launch a war. Lies provide a pretext which gives moral legitimacy and emotive force to the case for war. Lies are also used to adopt a mantle of formal legitimacy under international law. But there is a third component, necessary but so de-emphasised that it may pass entirely unnoticed. It is the component of reason or rational justification. You can establish your moral and legal right to act, but you still have to give some sort of case, however cursory and pathetic, to explain why the use of mass violence and mass killing actually makes some sort of sense. To give an example, lies were told to the about Kuwaiti newborns being dumped to die of exposure by Iraqis to give moral impetus to US intervention, but the rationalisation given for bombing and killing so many Iraqis was encapsulated in the Munich analogy highlighting the dangers of “appeasement”. This was more important and more emphasised than justifying the use of force as a means of liberating Kuwait.

(The essence of the Munich analogy is that if you do not use military force to oppose acts of international aggression you are simply emboldening the perpetrator and ensuring greater aggression – and hence war and suffering – in the future. The analogy doesn’t actually stand up because the Munich Agreement was actually collaboration not appeasement, but most people don’t know that. In 1990 the fundamental reason given that military action, as opposed to other forms of action, was a rational response to the aggression and atrocities of Iraqis was the threat of further aggression. We were told that Iraq was poised to attack Saudi Arabia. Naturally it was a lie, but it was a necessary lie.)

9-11 was crucial not just for the fact that it caused emotions to over-ride sapience, but because it provided that implicit rationale of using force to kill those who would do harm to you. It is true that this does not bear much thoughtful reflection, but those given to thoughtful reflection tend to oppose wars anyway. This and the Munich analogy are veneer rationalisations designed mainly for those who have faith in the judgements and goodwill of authorities – authorities who have successfully persuaded them to distrust their own perception and mental capacities. The danger for the US government is that these latter people – those whom they count on to support wars – start to think that their leaders are habitual liars. This is called a “credibility gap” a key component of the “Vietnam Syndrome” which prevented overt US aggression for over a few years. The “Vietnam Syndrome” meant that people would not accept further major acts of war.

But the way people seem to feel right now isn’t quite the way they felt when the “Vietnam Syndrome” held sway. It is both a cause for alarm and a great source of hope that the situation faced by the West now resembles the jaded scepticism of the peoples of the Soviet Bloc in 1980 more than it does the uncertain distrust of 1980 Western Bloc peoples. In 1980 radical and dissident voices were, as always, excluded from the public discourse of the mass media, but in the West at least the scepticism of the majority was acknowledged and represented. Now, like the mass media of the Soviet Union, our mass media have become totally detached from public opinion. There is a sense of piety which would view honesty as heresy – even those journalists who harbour the heresy themselves would not dare utter such dangerous notions, while the truly faithful act with such spittle-flecked fervour as would warm the heart of Torquemada. The heresy in question, the unspeakable notion of this moment, is that it makes no sense whatsoever for the Syrian government to have used chemical weapons at this time and therefore Obama and Kerry are probably just bald-faced liars.

It is no coincidence that our decaying Soviet moment is coming at a time when ordinary people can no longer sustain the illusion that there is a fundamental fairness in our system of governance. As with the Soviet Union, the links between political power and material wealth throw a spotlight on the fundamental corruption of a system of power referred to by the meaningless term of “capitalism”. People have long accepted the concept that those who acquire greater wealth wield greater political power, but now that we can no longer deny that it is in fact those who wield greater political power who acquire greater wealth. It was always so, but used to be arranged on a class basis in order that it would seem that some neutral economic mechanics of market functions made certain people wealthier than others. Now we can see quite plainly that the wealthy write laws to make themselves more wealthy at the expense of the poor. People are pissed off, but more to the point they are literally dis-illusioned. It is also no coincidence that this occurs at a time when the fist of the police state is ever more evident in both the use of physical force and in the unprecedented level of surveillance. Our society resembles the late era of the Soviet Union right down to the denial of the metastasised systemic malignancies of a régime that eats its own rotten flesh and sweeps the victims of its dysfunction under a rug bearing a bread-and-circus motif.

Another Reluctant Warmonger

Those who are familiar with the history of the US decision to launch all-out war in Vietnam may get déja vu. Those who already experienced déja vu over the Iraq occupation maybe feeling déja vu encore. (We may not have been impressed with what occurred in Iraq, but clearly someone gave it a standing ovation). Once again the US is proposing that a failure to act will make it appear weak and proposing instead to act in a way which its own analysis suggests will reveal it to be impotent. With regard to Viet Nam concern for “credibility” is still widely accepted as a motive for US aggression. After all, even if it seems a stupid rationale, US policy makers might really have believed it, surely? But, there is a difference between stupid and nonsensical. I don’t personally believe that the US policy makers were individually or collectively stupid, but even if they were that would not be sufficient to give weight to these claims. To claim that the US acted to maintain its “credibility” would be to suggest that they believed their credibility would be heightened by what Kissinger described as, “victory by a third class Communist peasant state.” That, after all, is what their most comprehensive analyses kept suggesting would be the outcome if they continued their escalating commitment, and so, logically, they chose this outcome (being “defeated” by a small nation of peasant farmers) over any other options such as neutralisation or simple unilateral withdrawal and the disowning of the GVN. To reitierate: the idea we are supposed to believe is that being militarily defeated by the poorly armed peasants a small underdeveloped state is supposed to be better for US credibility than doing nothing or bullying said state into massive concessions at the negotiating table.

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Shock-and-awe-picture

James Steele: America’s Man
of Mystery in Iraq
:

The Guardian‘s Death Squad Documentary May
Shock and Disturb, But the Truth is Far Worse

by Kieran Kelly

The Guardian’s Death Squad Documentary May Shock and Disturb, But the Truth is Far Worse

In what to many must seem a shocking exposé, the Guardian and BBC, after a 15 month investigation have produced a dramatic full-length documentary about US involvement in the formation and running of death squads in Iraq. One journalist describes the result as a “staggering… blockbuster”. But, by creating a false context, by omission, by deceptive emphasis and by specious analysis the Guardian and BBC have create a false and toothless critique. Indeed, though the authors would probably deny it vehemently, the impression given in this documentary is not inconsistent with the villain of the piece, James Steele, being a rogue Kurtz-like figure, with Col. James Coffman cast in the role of faithful sidekick. Other links to the established death squad practices, such as John Negroponte’s appointment as Ambassador to Iraq and Steven Casteel’s role in forming the Police Commando units which functioned as death squads (not to mention ordering the Oregon National Guard to return rescued prisoners to their torturers). Even at the most basic level, the fundamental context was obscured, including one fact that the widespread use of death squads confirmed – the US-led “counterinsurgency” was not war, it was genocide.

Perhaps the most striking thing of all is that, after 15 months of investigation and nearly ten years after US officials set in motion the “Salvador option” in Iraq, this documentary reveals much less of substance than was being reported in 2005. In fact, it is a triumph of style over substance which packs an emotive punch, but disarms watchers by its lack of informational revelation. In January of 2005 it became public knowledge that the US was pursuing a death squad programme. In May 2005 the New York Times published the story showing Steele’s involvement in torture. In the intervening years people like Dahr Jamail continued to report on the US orchestration of death squad activity. And Max Fuller spent years and numerous articles (not to mention a website and the book Crying Wolf: Selling Counterinsurgency as Sectarian Civil War) documenting the death squad programme as well as revealing a deliberate ploy to misrepresent US-run death squads as sectarian murder.

Here is what I found wrong with James Steele: America’s mystery man in Iraq:

1) Mortality Data

One of the key distortions here is something very basic, the use of “more than 120,000” as a mortality figure. Some may argue that given the controversy over the mortality, it is only sensible to be conservative. But these figures are more than simply abstract numbers. When some people, most notoriously David Irving, put the case that only one million European Jews died during World War II, the media didn’t suddenly adopt the more conservative figure. In fact, Irving was thrown in prison. Irving’s casualty figure was crucial to his genocide denial, and the same is true of the lower figure used in “James Steele: America’s mystery man in Iraq”. A mortality of 120,000 immediately colours the way in which we perceive US actions in Iraq.

While many simply accept such figures on the basis of faith, the origins of the lowee estimates lie entirely in the work of scoundrels and fools. The figures produced by the two Lancet (“L1 and “L2)surveys indicate a far higher level of mortality and have been reinforced by sources such as the ORB poll. The nail in the coffin of these lower estimates (based on adding the Iraq Body Count figure to those in the Iraq War Logs) came when Les Roberts and students at Columbia subjected the two data sets to analysis, by pains-taking cross-referencing, showed that the two sets of data should be extrapolated to indicate a figure of a similar order, though slightly lower, than the ORB survey suggested. IBC claim that they have a different analysis of the correspondence between IWL and IBC wherein the vast majority of the IWL fatalities are in the IBC count (81%). They also claim, completely speciously, that they can distinguish combatant and non-combatant casualties. However, IWL is thought to cover only about 50% of US military reports (omitting special forces actions, for example, not to mention the incident shown in the footage released as Collateral Murder). Also remember that, as with the “mere gook rule” in Vietnam,1 US forces regularly report civilian deaths at their own hands, such as those in Collateral Murder, as being combatant deaths as a matter of policy.2 You can either conclude that IBC made an honest mistake, trust them on their analysis, and simply add another 15,000 deaths whilst also conveniently ignoring the undisputed fact that the US systematically mischaracterised non-combatant deaths as combatant deaths, or you might think that maybe IBC are not to be trusted. After all, they swore blind in defence of their figure before IWL came out, and barely skipped a beat when the figure jumped over 10% overnight.

We can also use our own brains on this topic. In 2006, the Baghdad morgue received 16,000 bodies of whom 80-85% were victims of violence. In 2005 Robert Fisk wrote: “…in July 2003 – three months after the invasion – 700 corpses were brought to the mortuary in Baghdad. In July of 2004, this rose to around 800. The mortuary records the violent death toll for June of this year as 879 – 764 of them male, 115 female. Of the men, 480 had been killed by firearms, along with 25 of the women. By comparison, equivalent figures for July 1997, 1998 and 1999 were all below 200.” We are really talking about an average of (if you will excuse some arguable rounding up) 1000 per month violent deaths until at least the end of 2007 (with the “surge” being the most violent time of the entire occupation). That gives a figure of 59,000 violent deaths. Let’s be conservative and say that right through to the withdrawal of US troops 50,000 people killed by violence ended up in the Baghdad morgue. What percentage of Iraq’s fatalities does it seem likely to you will have passed through the morgue of Baghdad? Just over 20% of Iraq’s population live in Baghdad, and many who died in Baghdad would not have been taken to the morgue. I think that estimating the Baghdad morgue data as representing any more than 10-15% of Iraqi mortality would be an offence against basic rationality and numeracy, so that too indicates that the figure of 120,000 is a massive underestimate, possibly of entirely the wrong order of magnitude. Another simple and universal yardstick is the number of orphans. The Iraqi Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs estimates that there are 4.5 million orphans (presumably those who have lost at least on parent) of whom 70% have lost parents since 2003. Is it possible that the 120,000 (which includes children) could have an average of 26.25 offspring? What about the number of widows in Iraq. One estimate is that 2.5 million Iraqi women have been widowed by the war. That seems inexplicably high, and in fact estimates range from 1 million to 3 million total Iraqi widows, but it is another indication that 120,000 is simply untenable and far below an actual conservative figure.

2) US War Aims

One of the central lies of the Iraq occupation, one of the greatest frauds ever perpetrated perhaps, is not just that the US sought some sort of peaceful independent democratic Iraq, but that it sought to impose any sort of stable unified regime at all. No doubt many US personnel were genuinely engaged in attempting to create stability, but from the beginning decisions made at cabinet level and later those emanating from the CPA, very effectively and systematically continued the work that began in 1990, and continued through years of bombing and sanctions and military action. That work was to inflict maximum damage on the fabric of Iraq’s society through attacks on social, political, intellectual, religious and economic health, and through the direct killing and immiseration of the Iraqi people. That process is called genocide.

The only evidence that the US ever sought stability is their own say so, and this is hardly surprising if you consider how unlikely it would be for them to admit instead to a desire to destabilise, weaken and fracture Iraq even further than they already had. The reader may recall that famously Gen. Eric Shinseki was over-ruled on the required number of troops for an effective occupation, and only one third of that number was committed. Some readers may be aware that State Department planning for a successful post-invasion occupation (the “Future of Iraq” project) was systematically sabotaged and subverted. Then the original occupying authority, ORHA (Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance) was fatally undermined by understaffing, lack of resources, and lack of standing within a chain of command. It was a joke, the only real resources and agency in the country were US military, which ORHA could not exert authority over, or the extant Iraqi institutions, which the US repudiated. After 61 days ORHA was replaced with the next seemingly Joseph Heller inspired spoof of governance – Bremer’s “Coalition Provisional Authority” (CPA).

With the CPA nominally in charge, actual power devolved to a confusing patchwork of military authorities whose only focus was security. Those who have read Imperial Life in the Emerald City know that there was systematic waste, fraud and mismanagement which ensured that reconstruction money belonging to the peoples of Iraq and the US was never successfully used for reconstruction. Everything was undermined. Even James Steele: America’s mystery man in Iraq showed that a mere 6 senior civilian police were supposed to train 30,000 police in 18 months. This sort of thing happened in every imaginable area of governance. So strong is the pattern that explanations of coincidence or incompetence cannot be borne, nor can explanations of systemic failure due to virulent partisan ideology (such as Rajiv Chandrasekaran puts forward).

In the meantime, abetted by the CPA, the US military was actually generating the very insurgency that this documentary would have us believe that the US sought desperately to avoid. As David Keen, author of Endless War, discusses here a function of the “war on terror” is to generate the very enemies which the US can use to justify its “war”. I myself have written about a prior instance of this pattern of US behaviour, the Second Indochina War, wherein the US acted to create recruit, arm and finance its insurgent opposition in order to effectuate genocide against the peoples of Indochina.

In Iraq too, the US actually became the midwives and nurturers of the very insurgency they claimed to be combating. The most obvious example is that by attacking or mistreating civilians, the US acted to recruit survivors and the bereaved as their enemies. In addition, though, accounts from early on in the occupation, in amongst the chaos, US forces left massive amounts of ordnance unguarded in the middle of the desert.3 A wild goose chase for WMD that the administration knew did not exist kept US personnel from securing actual conventional ordnance.4 And in one instance the US Marines more or less simply handed 800 assault rifles, 27 pick-up trucks and 50 radios over to a newly formed Fallujan brigade which promptly and predictably continued in its established role of armed resistance to Coalition occupation in spite of this generosity.5

The US regime also subverted its own personnel’s attempts to secure Iraq’s borders from the arrival of money, arms and fighters. Luis Montalvan gives an extraordinary testimony of obfuscation over the installation of a system for tracking migration, concluding: “From 2007—from 2003 to 2007, no computer systems for tracking immigration or emigration installed—were installed along the Syrian-Iraqi border. This surely contributed to the instability of Iraq. Foreign fighters and criminals were free to move transnationally with little fear of apprehension. It is probable that significant numbers of Americans and Iraqis were wounded and killed as a result of this.”

And then there was the infamous CPA Executive Order Number 2. At a stroke it made 500,000 often armed Iraqi military personnel unemployed. Where there had been none, there was now an insurgency. It should also be noted that the first executive order droves tens of thousands of government employees out of work and inevitably the two together were a massive jump start to insurgency where no serious organised armed resistance had existed to that point.

Also, as will be discussed below, the documentary distinctly gives the impression that US backed death squad activities inadvertently helped fuel sectarian civil war. This relies on the fallacy that death squads are a “dirty war” technique of genuine counterinsurgency (which I will counter below) and ignores the evidence that the US deliberately acted to sow ethnic and sectarian division in Iraq.

3) The “Dirty War” Fallacy

The phrase “dirty war” is used in this documentary to connote that the death squads are a form of counterinsurgency, if perhaps a morally questionable one. But the phrase “dirty war” was first applied to the killings and disappearances in Argentina, not by the Junta’s critics, but by the Junta itself. It is an excuse and a rationalisation of political terror. The Argentine politicide was part of a plan of drastic, if not revolutionary, societal transformation, referred to as el Proceso. The Junta who seized power in 1976 sought a “sanitized, purified culture”.6 Under cover of fighting “terrorism” and insurgency, the Junta implemented a totalitarian anticommunist “free-market” regime by destroying any possible ideological opposition or potentially rival power structures. Feierstein writes: “All those targeted had in common not their political identity, but rather the fact that they participated in the social movements of that time.”7 Those targeted were unionists, leaders of agrarian leagues, and community workers working with the urban poor. This was done over a period of years under the guise of fighting the “dirty war” against “terrorist” guerrillas, despite the fact that Argentina’s Montonero guerrillas were a spent force within 6 months of the coup.8 Some social structures (principally the Church) were cleansed rather than disintegrated, becoming instruments of furthering authoritarian obedience.9 To further ensure unquestioning obedience, books were burned and banned, then a blanket law criminalised writing, publishing, printing, distributing or selling anything found to be “subversive” after the fact. This created a sense of uncertainty and fear. As Galeano puts it: “In this program for a society of deaf mutes, each citizen has to become his own Torquemada.”10

What stands out most in el Proceso is the disappearances. Argentina has the sad distinction of being the first place to nominalise “disappear” into “the disappeared”, just as Guatemala had earlier made its unhappy linguistic contribution with the transitive verb “to disappear [someone]”.11 To disappear someone, rather than to simply gun them down in the streets, is to bring about awful uncertainties about their fate – for the loved ones of the disappeared uncertainty prevents the grieving process and even hope becomes a torment, for everyone the imaginings of protracted torture, usually all too real, become a source of great terror. According to Antonius Robben: “Argentine society became terror-stricken. The terror was intended to debilitate people politically and emotionally without them ever fathoming the magnitude of the force that hit them.”12

I would argue that what distinguishes Argentina from “dirty wars” in Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, or Afghanistan and Iraq is that the Argentine Junta, perhaps unwisely in the circumstances, defeated the actual guerillas rather than ensuring their continuance to provide better cover for their ongoing autogenocide. But the pretence of war is often rather thin, surviving only because it is never challenged. Moreover, certain tactics and certain weapons systems are not even suited for military conflict at all. Look, for example, at the armed unmanned aerial vehicles which are currently used by the US government for a “targeted killing” programme. A Predator drone may carry a very lethal payload and the Reaper (formerly “Predator-B”) may carry 4 Hellfire missiles and 2 500-lb bombs. They are not suited for “fighting” opponents with an opportunity to fight back. In fact, while Obama is set on expanding drone usage even further, the US military is set to cut back on drone production because drones are not suited to “contested airspace” and require “permissive” conditions. Reading between those lines you can see that “combat” drones are in fact nothing of the sort because they do not engage in actual combat. The “hunter-killer” appellation is more honest. Reapers and Predators are for use against those who cannot fight back – like aerial death squads.

Death squads, by nature, are not a military tactic whatever their “counterinsurgency” or “counterterror” pretensions. Indeed, to the best of my knowledge, it is a universal trait for death squad programmes to seek to conflate combatant targets with non-combatant. This is not restricted to death squad activity itself, but it part of the belligerent political discourse of the putative counterinsurgent regime. During the Cold War, the enemies were the “communists” and deliberate efforts were made to create the impression that the ideological identification was equivalent to combatant status, at least in as much as legitimising killing. The same applies to the uses of the terms “Islamist” and “militant”. Part of this process is to divide the world up into two camps – as Bush Jr said “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists”.

But Bush wasn’t stating anything new. Early in the Cold War, in Guatemala the motto was “’For liberation or against it.’ From this Manichean vision sprung the paranoid anti-communist taxonomy that added to the list of enemies not only communists, but ‘philocommunists,’ ‘crypto-communists,’ ‘castro-communists,’ ‘archi-communists,’ ‘pro-communists,’ and finally the ‘useful fools.’”13 In 1962, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff defined “insurgency” as any illegal form of opposition to regime rule, thus including passive resistance, joining banned unions or strikes, or anything else deemed illegal by a given regime. At this time they openly embraced terror tactics, such as those conducted by death squads, as “counterterror”.14 In South Vietnam, before there was any armed insurgency, the Diem regime conducted an horrific terror (seemingly forgotten to history) thought to have cost 75,000 lives.15 Mobile guillotines travelled the countryside to execute those denounced as communists and the campaign came to a head in 1959 with the notorious Decree 10/59 under which all forms of political opposition were made treason and any act of sabotage was punishable by death. Local officials could label anyone they wished “communist” and thus secure summary sentences of death or life imprisonment.16 Then, the US deliberately created the term Viet Cong, to conflate political dissent with combatant status, and then, when their own personnel began to reinterpret VC as referring solely to combatants, the US military then came up with another term – ‘Viet Cong infrastructure’. Prados defines them as “a shadowy network of Viet Cong village authorities, informers, tax collectors, propaganda teams, officials of community groups, and the like, who collectively came to be called the Viet Cong Infrastructure (VCI).” “Sympathizers” were also counted.17 It was the “VCI” that were the main supposed targets of the “Phoenix Programme” – the US run dedicated death squad programme. Those targeted were usually tortured and/or killed,18 so the programme was a war crime in any respect, but when it was expanded throughout South Viet Nam, it was run in such a way that the vast majority of victims were not in any manner involved with the NLF. Instead of using specific intelligence to target people with at least some known connection to the NLF, lists of names were coerced from detainees physically. Cash incentives were also offered for informers, while President Thieu used the programme to kill political rivals.19 “Neutralizations” resulting from the programme were about 20,000 each year. In 1969, out of a US figure of 19,534 “neutralizations” less than 150 were believed to be senior NLF cadres and only 1 (one) had been specifically targeted.20

In Argentina most victims were not guerillas but union leaders, young students, journalists, pacifists, nuns, priests and friends of such people. 21% of victims were students; 10.7% were professionals and 5.7% were teachers or professors. 10% were Jews who were tortured in specific anti-Semitic ways. CIA noted at the time the use of “torture, battlefield ‘justice,’ a fuzzing of the distinction between active guerilla and civilian supporter…arbitrary arrest… death ‘squads’….” Generals increasingly come to understand the threats as being Peronism and unionism. “One Argentine general is quoted as having said that ‘in order to save 20 million Argentines from socialism, it may be necessary to sacrifice 50,000 lives.’”21 General Jorge Rafael Videla defined his “enemy” in the following terms: “a terrorist is not only someone with a weapon or a bomb, but anyone who spreads ideas which are contrary to our western and Christian civilization.”22

As you can see there is a crossover between main force military “counterinsurgency” activities and death squad activities. In El Salvador, by 1992 there were 6800 guerilla’s and they were faced with over 60,000 regular military and over 50,000 ORDEN paramilitaries (many acting as death squads). The UN found the government side responsible for 95% of deaths, concluding that the violence was not guerilla war, but rather repression. This was also true of the 35 year “guerilla war” in Guatemala. UN estimates over 200,000 were killed. 93% of torture, disappearance and execution committed by government forces; 3% by guerillas and 4% described as “private”. The army was involved in 90.52% of massacres, alone in 55% of cases, in collaboration for the others. “In a majority of the massacres committed by the state, especially by the army, the counterinsurgency strategy led to multiple acts of savagery such as the killing of defenceless children, often by beating them against walls…; impaling the victims; amputating their limbs; burning them alive; extracting their viscera while still alive and in the presence of others… and opening the wombs of pregnant women.” A favoured way of torturing to death was to stab someone then throw them into a pit where they would be burnt to death. Specific deliberate raping torturing killing of women and children was a “counterinsurgency” tactic. “The murder of children was adopted by the army as terrorism – as a counterinsurgency tactic, part of a scorched earth operation.” It was a way of further attacking social cohesion – destroy the graves and the children and there are no ancestors or descendants. Rape was used as weapon to destroy social cohesion.23

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