I have always been a sucker for wide-screen epics. Ever since my
Dad took me to see Quo Vadis — which ends with centurion Robert
Taylor heading off to his execution with his bride on his arm —
I’ve been on the movie roller-coaster. My dad didn’t make a
great distinction between the big pictures and B-movies; he managed
to squeeze Hercules Unchained in between Ben Hur and Spartacus. But
the extraordinary suspension of disbelief provided by the cinema
carried me right through to Titanic, Pearl Harbor and Gladiator.
Awful they may be. Spectacular they are.
But the important thing, as my dad used to tell me, was to
remember that the cinema did not really imitate reality. Newly
converted Christian centurions did not go so blithely to their
deaths nor did love reign supreme on the Titanic. The fighter pilots
of Pearl Harbor did not perform so heroically, nor did wicked Roman
emperors die so young. From John Wayne’s The Green Berets, war
films have lied to us about life and death.
After the crimes against humanity in New York and Washington last
September, I suppose it was inevitable that the Pentagon and the CIA
would call on Hollywood for ideas — yes, the movie boys actually
did go to Washington to do a little synergy with the local Princes
of Darkness. But when Vice-President Cheney and Secretary of Defense
Rumsfeld turned up together for the premier of Black Hawk Dawn, I
began to get worried.
After all, if the Bush administration is so keen on war, it
better work out the difference between Hollywood and the real thing.
Yet what we’ve been getting is a movie version of reality, a work
of fiction to justify the prospect of "war without end".
It started, of course, with all the drivel about
"crusades" and "war against terror" and
"war against evil", the now famous "they hate us
because we are a democracy", the "axis of evil" and
most recently — it would be outlandishly funny if this trash
hadn’t come from the Rand Corporation — the "kernel of
evil". The latter, by the way, is supposed to be Saudi Arabia,
but it might just as well have been Iran, Iraq, Syria or anywhere
west of the Pecos. Along with this tosh, history is being falsified.
Even a crime movie supplies a motive for the crime but after Sept.
11, Bush Productions would allow no motives to be discussed. The
identity and religion of the perpetrators was permissible
information: They were Arabs, Muslims. But the moment any of us
suggested glancing toward the area from which these Arabs came we
were, as I’ve described before in this column, subjected to a
campaign of calumny.
As Bush’s regional enemies grew in number to include not just
Al-Qaeda but Iraq and Iran and their allies, a fabric of stories
began to be woven.
Last June, for example, we had Donald Rumsfeld spinning tales
At a press conference in Qatar — these lies can be spun, please
note, just as well in the Arab world as in the West — Rumsfeld
told us that Iranians "are engaging in terrorist activities and
transporting people down through Damascus and into the Bekaa Valley.
They have harbored Al-Qaeda and served as a facilitator for the
movement of Al-Qaeda out of Afghanistan down through Iran."
Now the implication of all this is that Al-Qaeda men were being
funneled into Lebanon with the help of Iran and Syria. Yet we know
that Iran, far from "transporting" Al-Qaeda men to Syria,
has been expelling them. We know that the Syrians have locked up an
important Al-Qaeda official. The Americans have since acknowledged
all this. And, save for 10 Lebanese men hiding in a Palestinian camp
— who may have no contact with Al-Qaeda — there isn’t a single
Osama Bin Laden follower in Lebanon.
So Hezbollah had to be lined up for attack. The Washington Post
did the trick with the following last month: "The Lebanon-based
Hezbollah organization, one of the world’s most formidable
terrorist groups, is increasingly teaming up with Al-Qaeda on
logistics and training for terrorist operations, according to US and
European intelligence officials and terrorism experts." This
tomfoolery was abetted by Steven Simon, who once worked for the US
National Security Council and who announced that "there’s a
convergence of objectives. There’s something in the
‘zeitgeist’ that is pretty well established now." Except,
of course — zeitgeist notwithstanding — it is simply untrue.
The Washington Post had already lined up the Palestinians as
America’s enemies — again "terrorism experts" were the
source of this story — by telling its readers in May that
"the sheer number of belt-bombers attacking Israel this spring
has increased fear among terrorism experts that the tactic will be
exported to the United States".
A similar theme was originally used to set up Saddam Hussein as
an Al-Qaeda ally. Back in March, George Tenet, the CIA director,
stated that Baghdad "has also had contacts with Al-Qaeda",
although he somewhat diluted this bald statement by adding that
"the two sides’ mutual antipathy toward the United States and
many suggest that tactical cooperation between them is
possible". Note the discrepancy here between "has also had
contacts" and "is possible".
On the West Bank, Rumsfeld has already talked about the
"so-called occupied" territories, a step down from William
Safire’s outrageous column in The New York Times last March in
which he admonished us not to call the occupied territories
occupied. "To call them ‘occupied’ reveals a prejudice
against Israel’s right to what were supposed to be ‘secure and
defensible’ borders," he wrote. Now we have Condoleezza Rice,
President Bush’s National Security Adviser, telling us that
"Arafat is somebody who failed to lead when he had a chance.
Ehud Barak gave him a terrific opportunity to lead.
And what did they get in return? Arafat started the second
Intifada instead and rejected that offered hand of friendship".
Now it’s true that Rice’s knowledge of the Middle East gets
dimmer by the week, but this palpable falsification is now the
No mention, you’ll note, that Arafat was supposed to
"lead" by accepting Israeli sovereignty over all of
Jerusalem, no mention of a "right of return" for a single
refugee, of the settlements built illegally outside east Jerusalem
in Israeli hands, of the 10-mile-wide Israeli buffer zone round
"Palestine", of scarcely 46 percent of the 22 percent of
Palestine under negotiation to be given to Palestinians.
It’s not difficult to see what’s going on. It’s not just
Al-Qaeda who are the "enemy". It’s Iraq, Syria, Lebanon,
Palestine, Saudi Arabia.
Bush Productions are setting up the Arab world. We are being
prepared for a wide-screen epic, a spectacle supported by Hollywood
fiction and a plot of lies. Alas, my dad is no longer with us to
remind them all that cinema does not imitate reality, that war films
lie about life and death, (The Independent)