Sunday, December 05, 2004

Nightmares (Part 3)

Part 3 of Adam Curtis'  'The Power of Nightmares'.

Curtis smears people, from witnesses in al Quaeda trials to the Northern Alliance, by the assertion that they have received money. They therefore tell the Americans what they want to hear. As if the Americans don't want to hear the truth. The 9/11 Commission report draws some of its evidence from detained al Qaeda operatives, like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, but it does caution against placing total credence on it.

In the caves of Tora Bora, a massive operation is launched against al Qaeda fighters, but they have all  disappeared. (Well, they escaped to Pakistan, didn't they.) The British arrive with their 'experience of Northern Ireland giving them 'a unique advantage' in hunting down terrorists in the mountains of Afghanistan. An absurd claim, of course. Except I don't remember any such claim being made at the time. He must be getting confused (or more likely, hoping his viewers will be confused) with what was said about Iraq. And the British too found 'nothing'. But they did find  arms and ammunition dumps.

Curtis pours scorn on the possibility of terrorist cells in America. I  lost count of the number of defence lawyers (as indicated only by the subtitles) saying what the prosecution case was. As is well known, lawyers always caricature the other side's case. So, it is easy enough to make out that this is an absurd fantasy. But of course a cell of islamist terrorists did exist in the US before 9/11.

Madrid is dismissed as 'nothing new'. As for the other attacks, maybe they are just too far away (though targeting British diplomats, ex-pat workers and the BBC's security correspondent. Or maybe they just fit this pattern of local groups targeting their corrupt governments : Saudi Arabia, OK ; Casablanca, maybe ; but Istanbul ?

Politicians used to be able to offer vision of a better life, now those like Blair offer only a darker vision, one of fears. (He also offered a commitment to reconstructing a liberated Afghanistan. And what about him pushing on the Israel-Palestine peace process ?  ). Curtis talks about a 'society that believes in nothing'. Well, we do believe in values like democracy. A tremendous amount has been achieved in the last 60 years. The danger, if anything is that we cease to value it, because we take it for granted.

By the way, Curtis, at the beginning of the programme, describes the islamists as wanting a society that preserves the advantages of scientific progress, but imposes its islamic values. But if  we learn anything from the totalitarianisms of the twentieth century, it is that intellectual freedom is indivisible and scientific progress is not possible without it.

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