Tag Archives: Samantha Power

Storm (und Drang)

26 Nov





Through the advent of streaming platforms offering almost limitless access to the world’s film/video caches, my own dedication to reading has been somewhat curtailed. Or made me a bit more selective. On the plus sides, it must be said that the new technologies have made the limited amount of theatrical screens for filmmakers less of a hurdle to reach audiences.

War criminality has slipped out of any public conversation with the mayhem daily introduced by the present US regime. Not that North Americans are inclined to examine their country’s conduct of its foreign policy. Nor is there much interest in the International Criminal Court or the UN human rights inquiries in Africa. And yet sooner or later this country will have to reconcile its power politics with its professed human rights principles

One does wonder how the creators of Storm*, a dramatic film about the workings of International Criminal Court, specifically in the case of an accused Serbian war criminal went about raising the necessary cash to make this film. It certainly had to be pitched on the strength of a stellar (as in acting ability, not celebrity)cast. Kerry Fox’s Hannah Maynard as an unyielding prosecutor leads an outstanding cast(including one of my favorites Stephen Dillane)** in this riveting narrative which portrays the ethical dilemmas imposed by prosecuting events ten or 20 years past on present-day geopolitics.




Before she traded her niche in academia for a seat at the table of government apparatchiks (US Ambassador to the UN,) Samantha Power wrote a useful  (Pulitzer Prize-winning )book on the 20th-century origin of the concept of genocide, A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide.*** I spoke with Ms. Power contemporaneously with the publication of that book



RB: What drew you to the war in Bosnia?

SP: It was nothing about the war—nothing about war as such. It was just that war, at that time. When I was in Washington, the person I worked for, Morton Abramowitz, was very concerned about what was going on there. As his assistant I had to learn the facts of the matter. The easy thing—which I have done for most of my life—is to block the facts out. Once you are in a position where you have to process the facts, you are stuck. It was so incredibly unjust, what was going on. And absurd, in my view—at the time, a very young view—that we were doing so little to stop the atrocities. The only skill I had was that of being able to write—just to go and be a reporter.

RB: At that time were you privy to any information that was not easily available to other people?

SP: In Washington? No.

RB: What I am trying to get at was that the information about Bosnia was available to anyone.

SP: Oh yes, yes, yes. It helped that I was tasked to process it. Before I went to work for Abramowitz the information was available to me and I ignored it. Knowledge is something you can possess on a continuum. I had in the abstract at one point and then it became very deeply personal to me, by virtue of working for him. But yes, it was all over the papers, the concentration camps, the murdering of civilians and so on.



Happy Holidays

* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0768239/

** Dillane appears in the 2 seasons of the BC’s The Tunnel and in the well-wrought thriller Spy Game.





War Crimes 101/Tortured Reports

20 Feb

Before she became an apparatchik of the Obama administration Samantha Power wrote a useful book A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide. which among other things discussed the relatively recent origin of the concept. Raphael Lemkin, coined the term “genocide” in his 1944 book Axis Rule in Occupied Europe

Generally speaking, genocide does not necessarily mean the immediate destruction of a nation, except when accomplished by mass killings of all members of a nation. It is intended rather to signify a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves. The objectives of such a plan would be the disintegration of the political and social institutions, of culture, language, national feelings, religion, and the economic existence of national groups, and the destruction of the personal security, liberty, health, dignity, and even the lives of the individuals belonging to such groups.

Totally Unofficial: The Autobiography of Raphael Lemkin

Totally Unofficial: The Autobiography of Raphael Lemkin

The Nuremberg Trials relied on that definition and in 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted it— defining the crime of genocide for the first time.

The question of war criminality and genocide has arisen in recent times with the horrible slaughters in Chile, Rwanda and the Balkans (how the murderous ghouls in EL Salvador, Guatemala and Argentina have not been called to account is inexplicable). And based on what what is now known and continues to be revealed here in the USA, there is gathering momentum if not a movement, to hold the Bushist regime accountable as war criminals. Now, as for example the Henry Kissinger has avoided prosecution ( though subpoenaed in British and Spanish courts), the likelihood that George Bush,Dick Cheney Donald Rumsfield and Condaleeza Rice will be brought to justice is,well, nil. However, it is, in a small way, hopeful (“the voice of reason is small but persistent”)that the conversation is being joined.

The Troika Of Evil

The Troika Of Evil



I would have been skeptical that there was much interest in the unholy practices of the US security apparatus but when the The Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture: Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program was published by Melville House, its 50,000 initial press run was reportedly sold out in short order. Heres the publisher’s description

This is the complete official summary report of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation of Central Intelligence Agency interrogation and detention programs launched in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Based on over six million internal CIA documents, the report details secret prisons, prisoner deaths, interrogation practices, and cooperation with other foreign and domestic agencies. It also examines charges that the CIA deceived elected officials and governmental overseers about the extent and legality of its operations.Over five years in the making, and withheld from public view since its declassification in April, 2014, this is the full summary report—fully searchable in digital format—as finally released by the United States government on December 9th, 2014.

The Torture Report: What the Documents say about America's Post 9/11 Torture Program-by Larry Siems

The Torture Report: What the Documents say about America’s Post 9/11 Torture Program-by Larry Siems

Larry Siems (co-wrote the America’s Watch Report  Brutally Unchecked: Human Rights Abuses Along the U.S.-Mexico Border) who is Director of Freedom to Write Programs for both PEN USA in Los Angeles, and PEN American Center in New York authored The Torture Report: What the Documents say about America’s Post 9/11 Torture Program The Torture Report(OR Books) which is his explication of the official report

‘The Torture Report is a definitive and often stirring rebuke to those who are still publishing books and touring the country claiming their ‘enhanced interrogations’ worked and were not torture. Reconstructing, directly from the documentary record, scenes from Guantanamo, secret CIA prisons, and foreign dungeons, Siems manages both to prove the torture apologists wrong and to give voice to the two groups of people they don’t want us to hear: those who were tortured, and those in the military and intelligence services who said no to torture from the start…

GUANTÁNAMO DIARY  by Mohamedou Slahi

Mohamedou Slahi and edited Larry Siems

Since 2002,

Mohamedou Slahi

Mohamedou Slahi

Mohamedou Slahi who has been imprisoned at Guantánamo since 2002 has written the first and only diary written by a still-imprisoned detainee. Three years into his captivity Slahi began a diary, recounting his life before he disappeared into U.S. custody, “his endless world tour” of imprisonment and interrogation, and his daily life as a Guantánamo prisoner. Its an amazing document and a memoir of falling down an endless rabbit hole. The United States has never charged him with a crime and a federal judge ordered his release in March 2010, but the U.S. government appealed that decision, and there is no sign that the United States plans to let him go.Why is Slahi still in Guantánamo? Five years on, there are no signs the US plans to release him. Slahi speculates the government realized that it had gathered a load of non-combatants and “is [now]stuck with the problem, but it is not willing to… disclose the truth about the whole operation”.

Larry Siems has sensitively edited this diary using litigation and reports to fill in redactions whenever possible. He has never met or communicated with Slahi. When he requested a meeting to ensure Slahi approved of his edits, a Pentagon response quoted the Geneva conventions: “Prisoners must at all times be protected… against public curiosity” (the same article forbids inhumane treatment, violence and intimidation).Astounding.

Murder at Camp Delta by Joe Hickman

Murder at Camp Delta by Joe Hickman

Staff Sergeant Joe Hickman who spent twenty years in the military—after 9/11 he served as a team leader and Sergeant of the Guard in Guantánamo Naval Base. Murder at Camp Delta: A Staff Sergeant’s Pursuit of the Truth About Guantanamo Bay(Simon & Schuster) is his eyewitness account about Guantánamo Bay—detainees murdered, a secret CIA facility for torture, and the US government cover

I recall receiving a book catalogue in the spring of 2002 with the photo below as its cover. Now, as then, I found this image very distressing

Prisoners at Guantanamo

Prisoners at Guantanamo

What is Hip?

31 Mar

My ex wife informs me that my 2002 Identitytheory conversation with Samantha Powers is being quoted here and there by various newspapers (sic) around the country. She was not too subtly suggesting that some advantage from this attention should accrue to me (or my estate).

I suppose.