Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Nightmares

...continuing on the programmes focusing on the US at the time of the election.

Finally, Adam Curtis' 'The Power of Nightmares' on BBC. This has been widely praised, for example by Nick Fraser of Storyville, if with qualifications - his 'over-ingenious parallels' (FT magazine, 20 Nov).

In part 1, some points are dwelt on at some length, like the precedent, in the cold war, of what Fred Halliday called the threat inflators. Some in the Reagan administration put about the idea that all the terrorist groups, from the IRA to the Islamists were linked together, when the CIA knew this to be untrue since it was their own black propaganda.

Others are passed over just a little too quickly : such as the statement that before 1980 Christian fundamentalist preachers urged their congregations not to vote. Really ?

When I previously described something as 'Straussian', I was referring to Leo Strauss. He was a shadowy figure who, conveniently enough, didn't leave much in the way of published work.

'That Muslim Brothers figure' who was so disgusted by US ‘decadence’ (see) was of course Sayyid Qutb.  The day he was executed in 1966, Ayman al-Zawahiri started an Islamist group (*). Qutb initially supported the nationalist coup in 1952 in Egypt, but was later arrested. He suffered torture, his torturers trained by the CIA, the programme alleges (as if the Egyptians would never have thought of it on their own). Fast-forward to 1979, the country apparently prospering as a result of western investment, but corrupt. Omit that Egypt had a 'socialist' orientation, certainly under Nasser, and you would think Egypt was in the orbit of the US all along (**).

Remember too that the 1952 uprising was against British dominance. But Britain now is supposed to be a US lapdog. This transformation is never quite explained. As always, the US is seen as the unique cause of all antagonism and the legacy of British and French colonialism (think of Vietnam and Algeria) is forgotten.

(*)  From the New Yorker Magazine: THE MAN BEHIND BIN LADEN How an Egyptian doctor became a master of terror (via life_in_central_america ).

(**) Another omission: from the New Yorker again, Qutb was arrested after a member of the Brothers attempted to assassinate Nasser in Alexandria on October 26, 1954.

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