Tag Archives: war

The Darkest Hour

Robert Henderson

Main Cast[

Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill

Kristin Scott Thomas as Clementine Churchill

Ben Mendelsohn as George VI

Lily James as Elizabeth Layton

Ronald Pickup as Neville Chamberlain

Stephen Dillane as Edward Wood, 3rd Viscount Halifax

Nicholas Jones as John Simon, 1st Viscount Simon

Samuel West as Anthony Eden

David Schofield as Clement Attlee

Director: Joe Wright.

This is a deeply  unsatisfactory film. It is very watchable but also infuriatingly blemished with ahistorical nonsenses .  In addition   although it gives a more positive picture overall  of Churchill’s personality  than does the other recent film portrayal of the man,  there is still much which does not fit readily  with what we know of Churchill  from contemporary newsreel, his writings and  the decisions he made. It also intrudes into the film a piece of political correctness so crude and clumsy that it takes one’s breath away.

The film covers the period  from  immediately before Churchill’s appointment as Prime Minister in 1940   and  the  weeks immediately following   his promotion  to that office.   Hitler is sweeping through  Europe. Most of the British Army is trapped in Dunkirk and  in danger of capture.   Although better equipped  militarily than in 1938 Britain is still short of planes and warships.    For appeasing politicians  like Halifax and the most senior military officers faced with this dire situation there are plenty of all too persuasive reasons to seek  terms with Hitler, not least because it looks as though most of the British Army will  be lost at Dunkirk.   Churchill  believes that   a large scale  evacuation  of the army can be achieved and insists on  overriding the doubters by  mobilising not only the Royal Navy but any private ship including  (some very small craft) to assist in the evacuation. He also orders a small  British garrison  under  Brigadier  Claude Nicholson in Calais to engage in what is effectively a suicide mission aimed at distracting the Germans from the evacuation from Dunkirk.

Amongst those who have their hands on the levers of power Churchill is alone in unequivocally wanting to fight on and is the only one who is resolutely opposed to having any truck with Hitler.  It is true that the film depicts Churchill at one point  wavering over the idea of seeking terms with Hitler and Mussolini  (there is no solid historical evidence for this)i, but whether  this  wavering was genuine or not, in the film  Churchill, boosted by the success of the Dunkirk evacuation, soon changes his mind and returns to his belief that Britain must fight on because  Hitler cannot be trusted.

Whatever the  emotional drivers  were which led Churchill to be implacably opposed to making peace with Hitler,   on purely rational grounds there were cast-iron reasons for taking such a  stand. Hitler had already shown by 1940 that treaties and promises made in speeches meant nothing to him. He had begun by moving into the Rhineland in 1934 despite this being forbidden by the Treaty of Versailes in 1919.  The Anschluss  which joined  Germany and Austria  occurred in 1938 despite this being forbidden by   the 1919 Treaty of Saint-Germain;  the Munich Agreement of 1938  which restricted Germany to the Sudetenland  was a dead letter after Hitler took possession of  all of Czechoslovakia  in 1939 and also in in 1939 Germany  overturned the 10-year non-aggression pact  between Germany and Poland signed in 1934 by invading Poland, an act which sounded  the starting gun for WW2. All of that happened before Churchill became PM.  In addition 1941  saw Germany break  the Molotov-Ribbentrop  Pact  ( signed in 1939)   by invading Russia.  The revisionist case that  Britain should have stood aside and allowed Hitler free rein  to attack Russia and thus retained both the Empire and global significance goes against all we know of Hitler’s mentality and actual behaviour . The best the UK could have hoped for was to be a vassal state of Nazi Germany and the worst would have been to be militarily occupied as Hitler broke whatever  Vichy-style  agreement he had made with the UK.

The jaw-droppingly clumsy piece of political correctness is a piece of pure fiction. It  involves Churchill suddenly deciding to travel on the underground, something he had only done once before during the 1926 general strike.  He enters a crowded carriage  where he is recognised and he  begins  canvassing opinion  from his fellow passengers  who  are all  white workingclass  people  (many verge dangerously close to being stage cockneys)  bar one, the   sole exception being  a black West Indian. Everyone is  gung-ho for fighting on.

After Churchill has finished canvassing opinion  he  begins to quote   Macaulay’s poem Horatius  (“Alone stood bold Horatius/ But constant still in mind/ Thrice thirty thousand foes before”). The West Indian  takes up quoting  the poem. Which he does flawlessly  Not impossible  but  improbable that a black West Indian  would  have been on an underground train  in 1940 and  lottery win  improbable that one would have been  in a random carriage supposedly chosen by Churchill and straightforwardly absurd that he would have been e able to faultlessly quote  MaCaulay .

This example of the obsession with the falsification of reality that is political correctness  comes from the same stable  which routinely  has blacks routinely playing  authority figures such as police chiefs, generals and judges in  American . ( Ironically  this discriminates against other non-Caucasian groups who are rarely given the same privileged status).

Does it matter that an historical drama plays fast and loose with the facts? I think it does because  in any society  human beings need to have a narrative about the place they  live in, how it got to be what it is.. This is especially so in a country  such as the UK whose elite have adopted a creed (political correctness) which runs contrary to reality.  Cicero had it correctly when he wrote that to  be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child and the thing about children is that they are very easily manipulated.

Following the fictitious underground scene Churchill goes to the House of Commons and makes his “We shall fight them on the beaches” speech, a speech which is represented as growing from his  putative experiences in the Underground carriage.  It is all rather cartoonish.

On top of this nonsense there is the unsatisfactory portrayal of Churchill’s general personality and habits.  Oldman,  with the aid of  considerable  make up has  a half-way decent   physical resemblance to Churchill  and impersonates the voice  well enough. Yet something is missing.  Oldman’s Churchill is portrayed, as he is the film Churchill,  as someone who  is  perpetually at war with other senior politicians and military men who frequently treat him as a ridiculous and dangerous adventurer at best and as contemptible at worst.  Admittedly this is early in the war when Churchill  had still to grow the reputation he had by 1945 and it is also true that many in his own party (the Tories) did not trust him , but  it is difficult to believe that he would have been treated so cavalierly when he was not only PM but also leading the country at a most difficult time.

The other problem with this Churchill characterisation is that he is portrayed as being weak at various points and in various ways.  Apart from the  supposed wavering over seeking terms with Hitler and Mussolini, the film has him engaging in a transatlantic  phone call with Roosevelt and is almost in tears whilst  begging unsuccessfully  for help. His wife reprimands him like a naughty boy.  Yet if one looks at Churchill in newsreel and still photos of the period  he comes across as a much tougher personality than that which is portrayed  and certainly not one given to panic.  Moreover, his behaviour both as soldier and war correspondent show him to  have been physically brave and his opposition to appeasing Hitler from an early stage, which alienated many in his party, showed he had moral courage.

On a more trivial level of misrepresentation  the film also depicts Churchill  as more or less perpetually lubricating himself with alcohol and satisfying  a monstrous cigar habit . Churchill did undoubtedly drink and smoke a great deal but it should be remembered that he lived to be 90  and carried the most colossal  responsibility during five years as prime minister despite the fact that he was  65 when he was appointed Prime Minister May 1940  and 70 when the war ended in May 1945. Consequently it is more than a little difficult to imagine him being so dependent on alcohol if not tobacco.

Oldman’s s role is so dominant  that the rest of the cast  are somewhat cast adrift. Kristin Scott Thomas as Clementine Churchill  has the most substantial role after Oldman and  being the fine actress she is makes the most of what little there  is.   Stephen Dillane  passes muster as Halifax, being waspishly aggressive, Ronald Pickup is a plausible Neville Chamberlain and  Samuel West as Anthony Eden  is through accident or design  appropriately s lightweight as a personality.   Lily James as Churchill’s personal  typist cum secretary  Elizabeth Layton has a fair amount of screen time  and was decorative but rather featureless. But in truth all these parts are too trivial to make much impression overall.

The surprise in terms of the substance of his role was   Ben Mendelsohn as George VI. He  has more screen time than one might imagine for a constitutional monarch, lending support and encouragement to Churchill .

Curiously,  Attlee is scarcely mentioned after the beginning of the film in which he makes a shrieking condemnation of  Chamberlain  utterly at odds  with  his known quiet ironical style .

There is one good thing to take from the film; the power of Churchill’s oratory came through.    Churchill had one of the most memorable  and distinctive of voices which was very compelling.  Add in his literary talent  and it still makes  for a heady brew.

I cannot in all conscience recommend the film but if you do go to see it bear in mind that it is predominantly  fiction not fact.

American Sniper misses  the target – film review

Robert Henderson

Main cast

Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle

Sienna Miller as Taya Renae Kyle

Max Charles as Colton Kyle

Luke Grimes as Marc Lee

Kyle Gallner as Goat-Winston

Sam Jaeger as Captain Martens

Jake McDorman as Ryan “Biggles” Job

Sammy Sheik as Mustafa

Mido Hamada as The Butcher

Director Clint Eastwood

This is a frustrating film.  Eastwood as the director  guarantees that it is technically well made. It moves at a good pace, taken individually the action scenes in Iraq are dramatic  and  the subject  (the role of the sniper) is interesting in itself  and has novelty because  it is  not often extensively examined in film. And yet, and yet ….American Sniper has an emptiness, the sum of its parts being decidedly less than the parts.  The film ends up teetering on the edge of boring.

The large  majority  of the film is devoted to Kyle’s four tours of Iraq, with much of that screen time devoted to sniping and house-to-house searches.   Therein lies the first problem with the film as drama. The action  scenes become  repetitive because there is not that much difference from watching Kyle shoot one person from the top of a building and him doing the same thing to quite a few people.  Similarly, the house to house searching has a sameness about it when the streets look the same and the outcome is always  either dead bodies after an exchange of gunfire or the taking of prisoners.

There are attempts to vary the emotional content of  the sniping , for example the first people Kyle  shoots are a young boy and  his mother who are attempting to use a grenade against US soldiers. There are  also subplots involving an Iraqi sniper known as Mustapha  who is portrayed  as having a  duel with Kyle  (which Kyle wins)  and a search to find the  al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi which involves track of   al-Zarqawi’s second in command who known as the Butcher for his delightful habit of torturing people with an electric drill.

But all this generates a  most curious lack of tension because the events are rarely develop into  more than snapshots. Nor is there any sense that anything Kyle or his  comrades has any real purpose beyond the immediate end of preventing American troops from being harmed.  Ironically, what the film unintentionally does  is to provide  a depressing essay on  exactly how futile not only the Iraq war but any war fought by Western Armies in Third or Second world countries is fated to be.

The sniping action scenes are rather strange. Often Kyle is shown shooting from the same position on more than one occasion. This is a no no for a sniper unless he really cannot help it. Understandably snipers are both hated and feared by the other side for the constant threat they offer not only in reality but in their enemy’s mind.  Consequently, the enemy will  make great efforts to locate and kill snipers and the most likely way of doing that is if a sniper stays in the same position and shoots more than once. Modern sniper rifles come with equipment to dull and distort the direction of  sound  and suppress the flash of a round being fired but it is not a complete solution to the problem of giving away your position. To remain in the same position and fire other shots after the first round has been fired is just asking to be located and killed.  There is also an absurd episode towards the end of the film when Kyle shoots the sniper Mustapha at well over 1,000 yards range and in doing so alerts Iraqi insurgents to Kyle and his fellow soldiers’ whereabouts who immediately attack the building in which Kyle and his comrades are hiding.

Another baffling part of Kyle’s behaviour in the film was when he left his sniping position on his own initiative to join in the house to house searching and suffered no disciplinary action. I would have thought that going from his sniper’s position without orders and leaving the soldiers without sniper protection would have been a court martial offence.  (The idea of sniper protection in this situation is that a sniper is put on a high building overlooking the area  being searched by troops and shoots anyone who appears to be ready to attack the soldiers).

Because the film is trying to pack so many  action scenes in there is little opportunity for character development  even of Kyle who is rushed from one action scene to another  with breaks every now and then for a return to the States for leave with his wife. Apart from Cooper the only other character with an extensive part is Sienna Miller as Kyle’s wife Taya.  She is adequate in the part but it really does not demand much of her beyond  her agonising over how Kyle “isn’t here”  even when he is home.  The rest of the cast does what it has to do well enough  in the very  limited and unvaried scenes  in which they appear.

There is also a frustrating   lack of  context  for Kyle being in Iraq. Kyle’s motivation is ostensibly a simple unquestioning God-fearing  patriotism built upon the Bush Administration’s  line that the USA was in Iraq to protect Americans in America. That is reasonable enough  for Kyle’s character but there is nothing to balance that mentality, no character to challenge his imple faith.

Finally, then there is the problem of Cooper as Kyle.  Cooper  strikes me as one of those actors who can only play himself. That is not necessarily a problem as many film stars have shown, but the person must have a quality which makes them interesting such as  charm, menace, sexual  attraction.   For me Cooper lacks any exciting or engaging quality.  In American  Sniper he is seriously wrongly cast for this requires not only a convincing tough guy but a character with some emotional hinterland.  Cooper is unconvincing as a hard man  and displays  as much psychological subtlety as a brick wall. His limitations are  particularly exposed   in those parts  of the film where Lyle is home on leave. These   are designed to variously show Kyle’s detachment from ordinary life and addiction to living in a warzone, but these are very cursory and unconvincing.   Ryan Gosling in the role would have made the film much more interesting because he has both psychological depth and is a convincing hard man.

The ending of the film is deeply unsatisfactory from a dramatic point of view.  Originally the ending  was going to be centred around Kyle’s shooting to death by a disturbed ex-marine Eddie Ray Routh who has just been found guilty of murder and sentenced  to life in prison without parole. But Kyle’s wife asked them to drop the scene  and the director substituted a tepid ending showing Kyle leaving with Routh  to travel to the shooting range where the killing took place with a very  anxious Sienna Miller looking on as if she had a premonition of what was to happen, something which must  surely have been a post hoc addition to the real-life  story.  One can understand the wife’s reluctance to have the murder scene  removed but presumably she must have originally given it the thumbs up.

Judged by  the box office takings American sniper has been immensely  in the USA and criticism  of the film’s subject matter  has generated violent responses in the mainstream and social media . In particular, there has been ill-judged criticism from the likes of Michael Moore that snipers are cowards because they kill without putting themselves in dange. This is double-dyed nonsense. To begin with snipers are always having to guard against being spotted and shot themselves.  In a war such as that in Iraq the risk and fear of being seen and killed is  enhanced  because it is a war fought in towns and cities where there is no readily recognised enemy who may be anywhere and come in any human form from  a young child to trained soldier.

To that rebuttal of the charge of coward can be placed a  more general  exculpation of snipers.  War has never been anything but ugly and unchivalrous.  When the crossbow was introduced in mediaeval times it was condemned  as illegitimate by the nobility because the armoured knight was vulnerable to its bolts. The weapon  also had a range   much greater than that of a conventional bow which introduced death meted out from a serious distance. Later the same sorts  of complaint were levelled at firearms.  Long before modern breech loading artillery was devised muzzle loading guns could send their shot miles.  By the late 19th century the machine gun had arrived with the capacity to mow down dozens of men quickly.  By the middle of the twentieth century  bombers were delivering  huge payload from a great height onto  civilian populations. Sniping is no more or less cowardly, no more or less brutal than war is generally.

More pertinent perhaps  are the criticisms that the Kyle of the film is a sanitised version of  what Kyle was, that Kyle was far from being the simple God-fearing patriot of the film. Indeed there are strong reasons that he was both a braggart and a fantasist who made up stories such as claiming to have gone down to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and killed many of the  “bad guys” who were looting.  Yet in the film he is shown as being intensely  embarrassed when an veteran of Iraq who has post a leg stops him in a store and praises him effusively for what has  done in Iraq.

Overall the film has a nasty whiff of being a propaganda film, not intentionally but in effect.   If you go to see it bear that in mind and treat it a primer for an understanding  of the ordinary American’s mind these days.


Film Review – Fury

Main cast

Brad Pitt as US Army Staff  Sergeant. Don “Wardaddy” Collier

Shia LaBeouf as Technician Fifth Grade Boyd “Bible” Swan

Logan Lerman as Private  Norman “Machine” Ellison

Michael Peña as Corporal  Trini “Gordo” Garcia

Jon Bernthal as Private First Class . Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis

Jason Isaacs as Capt. “Old Man” Waggoner[

Director:  David Ayer


Robert Henderson

“I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War is hell. “General William Tecumseh Sherman

A director making a film about war should reflect Sherman’s simple truth that it is hell.   Anything short of that  is no more than  cruel propaganda. Fury does fall short in the end, although it contains much that rings  true.

It is Germany in April 1945. Staff Sergeant  Don Wardaddy Collier (Brad Pitt)  is captain of a Sherman tank nicknamed Fury.   Collier  and his crew of  four  of Swann, Garcia, Travis and Elllison  (respectively played by  LaBeouf,  Peña, Berthnal and Lerman ) are taking part  in the snuffing out of the last desperate throw  of  Nazi Germany.  All but Ellison have been with Collier fighting their  way from North Africa to Germany.

Whatever pity there  may have been in them has been leeched away by the brutality they have seen  and the primal desire to stay alive, the latter  fact made unusually pressing because  Sherman tanks were no match for the German Tiger tanks and had a nasty reputation for going up in flames with little provocation. (The Allied troops satirically named them Ronsons after   a popular lighter of the time which sold itself under the slogan “Lights up first time, every time”).

For an hour the film is just what a war film should be: full of the harsh dark humour of soldiers who live with  fear as their constant companion,  cruelly violent, horribly destructive of  men  and  a sentimentality  free zone.

Collier  displays a Patton-like harshness to  the new recruit  Norman Ellison.    He  is a very young soldier who is  replacing Fury’s  newly killed  assistant driver. He has zero experience of tanks, his  previous role in the army being  that of a clerk/typist . Why is he assigned to a tank? Because casualties make him Hobson’s choice.

Unsurprisingly Ellison’s is unfitted for the work not merely through inexperience but  psychologically.    His  first task is to clean up the mess in the tank left by the dead man’s wounds.  He vomits as he scrapes some flesh off his place in the tank.  In his first taste of real  warfare  he fails to fire on Germans which results in another  tank being destroyed.  The commander  of the tank falls out of the tank in a ball of flame and shoots himself in the head  with his pistol to stop the agony.

Collier slaps Ellison  around and tells him he has to learn to kill Germans or he is worse than useless . Soon  forces Ellison to shoot a defenceless  SS officer who has been captured, which Ellison does with the greatest reluctance  and only with Collier holding Ellison’s finger over the trigger and forcing him to fire the gun.   After a few more engagements  Ellison gets the message: kill or be killed and even admits that he enjoys slaughtering  Germans and becomes an accepted part of the tank crew, although he never quite seems to be at home in the tank as the other four crew members are unselfconsciously at home.

So far so good, but around  the hour mark sentimentality crashes into the action.    Collier and Ellison enter a German  home and find a woman in her thirties and her niece.  At first their meeting  is all tension. Then  Ellison sits down at a piano and starts playing music  from some German sheet music.  Unasked the niece comes across and sings the song  which belongs to the music. Before you  can say knife  the niece and Ellison disappear into a bedroom from which they  emerge  later as instant  sweethearts, having, it is implied, had sex.    This implausible nonsense is thankfully cut short by further fighting in the town which results in the niece being killed.  But the sentimental marker has been put down and stays with the film.

The final half hour or so is the plot of the Alamo adapted for  World War 2.   Fury hits  a mine, sheds one of its tracks and is immobilised.  Unable to move with the tank,  the crew find themselves  in the path of  a group of  SS  soldiers several hundred in number.  They are  seen  coming from a fair way off so tank crew have plenty of time to decide what to do. The sensible thing would be to retreat on foot.  Collier orders his crew to get going  whilst making it clear that he is staying to attack the column using the immobilised Sherman tank’s guns.  In true Boy’s Own fashion the other four men agree to stay.

The tank then  takes on the role of the fort in the Alamo.  The SS soldiers arrive and the tank crew are able to spring a surprise attack.  So far so realistic. We are then treated to some of the most preposterous  battle  scenes ever filmed.  SS men keep popping up obligingly to be machined gunned, shot with small arms or obliterated by the  tank’s cannon. For most of this action Collier is standing exposed on the top of the tank using its heavy machine gun.  But this being Hollywood he does not get hit until all but the one of his tank crew (Ellison) have been killed . Then, incongruously , in view of his long exposure to the enemy without a sniper taking a pot shot at him, he is shot twice by guess who, a sniper.

With Collier wounded  and now inside the tank , Ellison slips through  an escape hatch in the bottom of the tank and hides underneath it.  Collier is finally killed in the time honoured way infantry deal with tanks, namely, by climbing onto them, opening the command hatch, tossing a grenade in , closing the hatch and jumping off the tank before the grenade explodes.  Ellison hides  under the tank until the SS column has moved on, although not before a very young SS soldier sees him there but does not raise the alarm.  Ellison is found in the morning by  American troops and his survival is complete.

If the film ends  disappointingly by relapsing into Hollywood vacuity, there is sufficient in it to make it watchable. The main actors all give strong  performances.  Pitt is convincing as a tough as teak  tank commander ; the   LaBeouf character is one of those quietly  competent people any group in a tight corner is glad to have with them,  Peña  is louder but just as reliable  while  Berthnal  has something of the savage about him but nonetheless he is someone  would be glad to have by your side when there is danger about.    Lerman  is  the least likeable main character, not least because even when he has got over his reluctance to kill,  he always appears to be on the edge of  losing his nerve and in the context of the lives the tank crew are living his fear in some curious way seems to be a kind of disloyalty to the rest of the group.

The battle scenes are convincingly  done apart from the final “Alamo” stand. The most intriguing sequence is of the Sherman  Tank and a German Tiger  tank performing a two dimensional dog fight, with the more manoeuvrable  but inadequately armoured  Sherman desperately trying to get behind the less agile but much superior in armour and gunpower  Tiger to attack  the Tiger’s one weak spot ,  the rear of the tank. Shades of the old fighter pilot’s tactic of getting above and behind an enemy before attacking.

You will not be bored by this film, but a much superior tank centred story  is the Israeli film Lebanon (2009). This is set in the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 2002. The entire action is filmed from within the tank with any outside action being shot through the bombsight.  The film gives you much more of the claustrophobic  reality of being part of a tank crew.  All the good things about Fury are there  without the distraction of implausible battle scenes and unwonted  sentimentality .

How elites feed conspiracy theories

There are conspiracy theories and then there are conspiracy theories.  There are those who believe that Aliens were found in a crashed spacecraft at Roswell in 1947 and the truth  was hidden by US government or that humans are the result of a breeding program engineered by a group giant reptiles called Anunnaki from the Draco constellation as proposed by David Icke.  Then there are conspiracy theories  which arise out of hard facts and a reasonable interpretation of human behaviour and experience.  Two of the latter have been  in the news in he recent weeks:  the furore over Barack Obama’s missing birth certificate and the alleged murder of Osama bin Laden.

In the case of Obama he refused to perform the simple and reasonable act of producing a full birth certificate to prove he was born in the USA for more than three years.  Had he done so when it first became an issue during the 2008 Democratic Primaries it would in all probability have killed the issue.  (http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0411/53563.html).  Instead he chose to issue only an abbreviated version which was a computer generated document produced  in 2008. The consequence of this tardiness  is that  Obama still has a poblem, namely, doubters are asking why has it taken so long for him to produce the certificate if it is genuine.   It makes no political sense for him to have let the matter rumble on for three years.

The idea,  frenetically pressed by both Obama and his political and media supporters, that asking a candidate for the Presidency to prove they are qualified to stand is wrong or absurd is peculiar to say the least.  Indeed, if the US constitution is taken seriously, all candidates should as a matter of  course prove their qualification because the Constitution states  that  “No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President” (Article  II section 1).  In the case of Obama, the fact that one parent was a foreign national gives such a request  greater force because of the increased possibility that he might have been born abroad. bearing in mind that presidential candidates make their medical history available to the public – a much more intimate set of data – it is difficult to see why any candidate should object to producing a birth certificate which if it shows the candidate is a” natural born citizen” at worst might reveal that they are illegitimate, something which is scarcely a  scandal to most Americans  these days.   However, in Obama’s case it is part of a pattern because he has been obsessive in keeping secret documentation of his life such as his educational records and his records as state senator in Illinois. (http://www.projectworldawareness.com/2009/07/obama-is-shielding/).   The record he did have to produce – details of his medical history – was minimal running to a single page.  This secrecy suggests that Obama is paranoid about reality clashing with his own version of his life and person in his books “Dreams from my father”  and “The Audacity of Hope”.  He probably has good grounds for his fear because much of his depiction of himself has been shown to be fantasy, for example, his inflation of the importance of  his first job after graduating and his practice of presenting vast tracks of dialogue as reality when they are clearly invention because, as far as is known, he has not kept a journal at any point of his life. (Those wanting a detailed examination of Obama’s tendencies to fantasy can find my The character of Barack Obama in his own words on the American Renaissance website  (http://www.amren.com/mtnews) .  The article is in three parts.  Just  put my name or the title of the article into the search facility).   The argument has been put forward that Obama did not release the full birth certificate for a long time because he was worried that it would provide a lever for demands that he release the rest of his unreleased records. This is nonsense. There is no constitutional requirement for a candidate to do anything other than prove they are a “natural born citizen”.  Hence, the only document which by implication is constitutionally required is a birth certificate.

It has been claimed that there is no  explicit provision for such a check  in the Constitution and consequently no authority or procedure to make such a check. . The answer to that is  simple, the Supreme Court adjudicates on whether the provisions of the Constitution have been breached. They are by implication the body to make the adjudication on presidential  constitutional qualification. That both the Supreme Court  has not intervened on their own initiative or accepted any challenge as having no standing and every  lower court which has  been faced with a request to  force Obama to prove his eligibility has also rejected it on the grounds of lack of standing is distinctly disturbing for how can any US citizen fail to have standing in the matter of whether the President is legitimately qualified? (Having standing in  US courts means having a direct interest in and/or being directly affected by the substance of the suit) .

Apologists for Obama have  suggested that the delay in releasing the full birth certificate was an act of Machiavellian genius to allow the birthers to become ever more demanding before deflating them by producing the document . I do not buy  this, not least because Machiavellian plots rarely succeed. I cannot see what  Obama would gain from delaying the document’s release. Those who think the birther claims are nonsense will not change their minds: the rest of the population will at best continue to wonder why he did not put the  latter to  bed before now and at worst suspect  the document is a forgery.  Not only that, but the birther claims started while he was running for president, a time when they could have  done him real damage.   If Obama did not have a cast iron reason for releasing the full certificate after his election he certainly had one during the primaries and election campaign.

The full certificate Obama has produced   will not convince many of the birthers  simply because of the delay.  It is also worth asking why he has not produced the  original birth certificate issued to his parents.  However,  there is a more general problem. With digital technology it  would be very easy to forge such a document.  The certificate would need  to be subjected to forensic analysis of inks, paper, the handwriting  (to see it is compatible with the person who supposedly filled in and  signed the  form) and so on.  (See  http://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/2011/02/27/obama-us-citizenship-and-the-presidency/).  Even a forensic test would not be absolutely conclusive because it is reasonable to presume that it would be possible to replicate ink types or use a blank certificate which has survived since the right period or to “wash” another person’s certificate of their details and impose Obama’s details on the cleansed certificate. An example of the sort of manipulation which can be done is at http://rightnetwork.com/posts/obama-birth-certificate-a-fakeHowever, a forensic test would probably catch any forgery because forgers tend to forget some details which give them away.

That brings us to the alleged murder of  Bin Laden. I say alleged not because there is any doubt about the crime of murder if the reports from the US government are true, but because there has to be a question mark over whether  Bin Laden has in fact been killed. More on the question of whether Osama was killed later.  First let us look at the oddities in the US government’s story.

It is very strange indeed that the body would supposedly have been disposed of so soon and  deliberately placed where it could not be recovered.  If the Pakistanis knew nothing about the raid, then the only people to have seen the body would have been American.  If they did know about the raid, the Pakistani government and security service would have a very good
political reason not to admit they knew anything because they cannot afford for both domestic and political reasons . As for releasing a photograph of the alleged body that would prove nothing because these can easily be forged . An example is at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/02/osama-bin-laden-photo-fake.  It is also dubious whether a photograph of  someone suffering a massive would to the face is likely to be convincing. Nor is there an undisputed photograph or video of Obama since 2001. The appearance of a man, especially a sick ageing one, can change dramatically in ten years.  No one has a clue  of how he looked  in 2011. What the US could do but almost certainly will not do is release the video of the attack including the killing of the claimed Bin Laden.  The claimed DNA evidence would prove nothing because there would be no means of verifying it. Media reports say that the near match was with one of Bin Laden’s sisters.  It would be interesting to know if  she was a full or half sister of Bin Laden (Bin Laden senior had over 50 children by various wives).  If the latter, a match would be less conclusive.

The American government has  described the assault on the compound as resulting in “a fierce firefight”.  Yet they also claim that no American involved in the attack was wounded in the slightest  let alone killed.  Those two statements sit uneasily together. How exactly does a “fierce firefight” occur with one side not suffering any injuries? Nor are there reports of large numbers of casualties on the other side, most of which occurred it seems when the Navy  Seals shot unarmed people.

The initial description of Bin Laden’s death from  Obama’s Deputy National Security Adviser for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan painted bin Laden as a  coward using women as a human shield :  “From a visual perspective, here is bin Laden … living in this million dollar-plus compound … hiding behind women who were put in front of him as a shield. I think it really just speaks to just how false his narrative has been over the years.”  (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/pakistan/8489236/John-Brennan-In-Quotes.html). The US government has since admitted that no women were used as a human shield.  As there was a live feed to the CIA and the White House of the raid itself plus debriefing of those who took part in the raid, it is difficult to see how the mistake could have been made.  Why did the story change? Perhaps it was because there is  a filmed record of the raid which shows the original claim was false and the propensity for computer files to be leaked these days persuaded the White House that they could not afford to continue the lie for fear of this file going AWOL.

Brennan also claimed  that “If we had the opportunity to take him [Bin Laden] alive, we would have done that.”  The US government has since admitted that Obama  was not armed,  yet they claimed that he had to killed because he was “resisting”.    Let’s examine that claim. We are told on the one hand that the Navy Seals who undertook the  raid are the cream of the cream of elite special forces. Are we to believe that such men found it necessary to shoot dead an unarmed Bin Laden, a man in his fifties  who is seriously ill and frail?   There is  also, as in the case of the claim of the use of a woman as a human shield, no plausible  reason why  it should have been claimed initially  that Bin Laden was armed.

Brennan also speculated that “It’s inconceivable that bin Laden did not have a support system in the country that allowed him to remain there for an extended period of time. I am not going to speculate about what type of support he might have had on an official basis inside of Pakistan.“ This is a fair point, but an equally telling one, perhaps more telling, is why  the US military would not have identified the compound as being  worthy of suspicion simply on the grounds of its size and nature.  They have ample satellite surveillance and even if they did not have reason to suspect that Bin Laden was there, they should have been curious enough about it to make enquiries.

The other things which remain unclarified are three: (1)  how did the Navy Seals leave the compound; (2) why did  the local Pakistani military not respond to the attack and (3)  what has happened to the surviving members of then Bin Laden family who were allegedly living with Bin Laden.  The Seals arrived in two helicopters and left in one because of the claimed malfunction of one helicopter which rendered it useless and led to its destruction by the Seals. It would be interesting to know how many Seals were employed in total and what the lifting and carrying capacity  of a single helicopter was .  If a single helicopter could not evacuate all of the Seals then we need to know how they got away.  The failure of the local Pakistani military to respond to the attack despite the town crawling with army personnel and having forty minutes to respond is peculiar at best and indicative of collusion between the US and Pakistani  authorities at worst. Interestingly,  there are reports which say the local residents close to the compound were asked to turn off their lights an hour before the attack. As for the alleged surviving members of Bin Laden’s family, it will be interesting to see what happens to them.

Those are the oddities. How about the question of whether  it was Bin Laden who was killed?  Reports of his death date back ten years, for example,  Fox news carried a report in December 2001 claiming Bin Laden was dead. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,41576,00.html).  The last undisputed Bin Laden video dates from 2001. Since then  there have only been two videos in which purport to show Bin Laden talking.  The last was in 2007.  The authenticity of both these videos is  disputed.  The other  tapes have provided audio only.  (A good account of these and  the Bin Laden story since 911 can be found in the  2010 BBC programme  Osama Bin Laden: Dead or Alive . This is posted on YouTube in six parts and parts 2 and 3 are the most useful for the videos in which Bin Laden is purportedly seen speaking.  Go to  the url below  and you will find all six parts on the page  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLmG9mOxLn4&feature=related. )

It is also striking that there has been no  claimed definite sighting of Bin Laden since 2001 until now  despite the fact that his is a face which has been plastered all over the mainstream media and Internet in still photographs and videos  and the  $25 million reward for information leading to his capture or death offered by the USA.   The fact that it is now claimed that Bin Laden was living for a substantial period in a garrison town only 60 miles from the Pakistani capital makes  the failure to inform to claim the reward even more extraordinary if  the story is true.  It also stretches credulity that the Pakistani authorities at some level would not have known he was there .

If  Bin Laden  was not killed why the raid? Here’s a scenario for you. The US carried out the raid, thought they had Bin Laden, took the body away and then found to their dismay it was not him. They then got rid of the evidence. That would leave them open to Bin Laden putting out another  video but it would be impossible for the man  to absolutely prove he was still alive without exposing himself to capture or killing. There is also a decent probability that he died some time ago.

Here’s a second scenario. The whole thing was a charade. Bin laden was already dead, perhaps a long time ago, and the US knew it. They staged the  attack to provide a distraction from
the failure in Afghanistan, the disaster of Iraq and the new involvement in Libya and potentially the rest of North Africa and the Middle East.  In addition, the  claimed death of Bin aden brought down the psychological curtain on the USA’s original prime reason for attacking Afghanistan and provided a possible springboard to extract the USA from Afghanistan on the basis that it was “mission accomplished”.

As to the immediate political  value of the raid, Brennan rather gave the show away with  “It was probably one of the most anxiety-filled periods of time in the lives of the people asembled here. The minutes passed like days….The president had to evaluate the strength of that information, and then made what I believe was one of the most gutsiest calls of any president in recent memory….I think the accomplishment that very brave personnel from the United States government were able to realise yesterday is a defining moment in the war against al-Qaeda, the war on terrorism, by decapitating the head of the snake known as al-Qaida.”  That is propaganda not a rational analysis of what the raid had achieved.

Whatever the truth of  Obama’s delay in producing his full birth certificate and the alleged killing of Bin Laden , there is a fact about them which cannot be denied: in both instances the powers-that-be in US politics have given  ample grounds for rational scepticism.  Examining official versions of events for contradictions and unanswered questions does not mean you are away  with the fairies. Blindly accepting the official version is the real bending of reality; accepting the official version while knowing it is questionable is worse than naïve, it is sinister.

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