Hot ticket inflames guy
Wednesday 13 December @ 21:33:24
I read Pulse [11-29] with a mixture of anger and amusement when I came across Lydia Howell’s “Hot Ticket” pick for the sneak preview of Mel Gibson’s new film “Apocalypto.” Since when did Mel Gibson become a darling of leftist publications like Pulse? I thought Mel Gibson and his right-wing views were generally reviled by the Left, but something recently seems to have changed. I’m trying to rack my brain and think of what might have happened in the last few years that was newsworthy about Mel Gibson that might have swung over support to him from the likes of Ms. Howell.
Well, there was that stuff about his father denying the Holocaust and Mel not really admitting that the Holocaust happened either. Surely that couldn’t be the reason for the change of attitude towards Mel, could it? After all, true leftists would never embrace a bigot, right? Then there was “The Passion of the Christ,” which laid the blame for Jesus’ crucifixion directly on the Jews. Certainly that didn’t increase Mad Mel’s hipness quotient in liberal circles, right? Perhaps it was Mel’s arrest this year on drunk driving charges, where he spewed hatred at Jews, claiming they were responsible for all of the world’s wars, and then spilled over into blatant misogyny when he addressed a female police officer with the demeaning, derogatory words “What are you looking at, sugar tits?” Obviously, no self-respecting liberal could embrace the work of a man who held these kinds of views, correct? Or maybe I’m wrong, and maybe it was these very factors— Gibson’s open anti-Semitism, primarily— that have inspired newfound respect for Mad Mel among so-called “progressives.” It’s a trend I’ve detected far too often lately. Most interestingly, Ms. Howell makes absolutely no mention of Mel’s history of Jew-hatred, though I highly doubt Pulse would gloss over the bigoted statements of a director who had, for example, spouted racist tirades at a different ethnic or religious group.
All too clearly, the attitude at publications like Pulse often seems to be that bigotry is bad—unless it’s directed at Jews. To me, nothing else can explain Mel Gibson’s transformation from zero to hero among the “forward-thinkers” at Pulse. Sad but true.
Lydia Howell responds: Mr. Berg missed the obvious: I called “The Passion” Gibson’s worst film and said that people could avoid giving Mel Gibson a nickel by previewing “Apocalypto” for free. Given the invisibility of indigenous peoples (in contrast to Jews’ access to media for often spurious allegations of anti-Semitism, such as Mr. Berg’s screed), any film about colonial conquest is newsworthy. I’d remind Mr. Berg of another Hollywood director of “political controversy”: Elia Kazan (who testified during the 1950s anti-communist HUAC hearings) was still lauded for the artistry of some of his films.
Sorry, it’s not in the budget
Because I don’t believe “alternative” means alternatives to the truth, I wanted to correct a couple of items in this article (11-29 Pulse) about the School of the Americas and the institute that replaced it.
The Army began operating soldier schools in Panama (for its own soldiers there) in 1946. By 1948, regional students were coming, even though the courses were taught in English at the time. In 1963, under President Kennedy, the schools were collected under the name US Army School of the Americas. While it may be eye-catching to say the school was “expelled,” the truth is that as a result of the Panama Canal Treaties, all U.S. organizations there had to go somewhere else. The school came to Fort Benning and operated here until December 2000, when it was closed by law.
Another provision of that law (signed by President Clinton, by the way) created the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, which has operated since January 2001. Similar, not the same.
Despite all the hyperbole in the article, not even one person has been shown to have used what he learned at SOA to commit a crime. The very few (not “thousands”) who have committed crimes at some point after attendance have never applied the legal, moral, ethical instruction they received. (Using the term “SOA graduate” is disingenuous and dishonest—every student who came there came for a specific professional course lasting from two to 49 weeks, and then returned to his job; he may have graduated from a course, but not from the institution. The students and their courses are listed on the SOAW website—check it out.) And it really should be said that no torture or anything illegal was taught to students; alleging such without evidence is libel of the people who worked there.
Finally, if it is in your budget, come down and see who we are and what we do. Instead of crawling under a fence and trespassing, drive up to a Fort Benning welcome center, show a photo ID and get a day pass to come in. I’ll send driving directions to our door. While here, you can sit in on any classes going on, talk with any students and faculty present, and review our instructional materials.
Mr. Lee A. Rials, Public Affairs Officer, Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, Ft. Benning, GA
Don Irish responds: To fellow citizen, Mr. Lee A. Rials, WHINSEC Public Affairs Officer
Accepting Mr. Rials’ invitation to visit WHINSEC “on the inside,” would be of interest. However, “in house” orientation likely would not provide many significant facts. Only limited information can be found at the “Institute”:
The SOA Watch has a long roster of verified instances in which SOA-trained Latin American military personnel have been involved in massacres, assassinations and torture.
A United Nations Human Rights Commission revealed in 1993 that a Lt. Francisco del Cid Diaz in 1983 ordered the assassination of 16 civilians. The Lieutenant was invited as a speaker at the SOA in 2003! Of course, "only a few" of the many soldiers (theirs, or ours in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.) commit such acts; but it takes only a few tragedies to intimidate an entire citizenry. Train persons to be insensitive to human life, and some (or many) will so behave.
Much information about SOA, now WHINSEC, has not been public and open. The SOA Watch has sought data for the names of its students, faculty and nations of origin. Its officials declined to provide them. In 2005, via the Pentagon and the Freedom of Information Act, the first response was denial. Then, later a big sheaf of papers was received, with all the lines blacked out!
During the1970s and the collaboration of six South American nations in Operation Condor (Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil), the SOA switchboard was used to coordinate the “hit lists” of persons wanted by each government who were, thought to be in one of the others’. That enabled those governments to capture, often torture, assassinate or release the victims back to the one making the request. SOA-trained persons assassinated Orlando Letelier, Chilean ambassador, and a staff member in D.C.
The Pentagon, under building public pressures, released the SOA “Interrogation Manual” in 1996. Included therein were materials about extortion, torture and executions. Presumably, since then, the Institute no longer uses such material.
However, apart from the many tragic details, the SOA/WHINSEC is part of a very large and wider system of control by the USA over other countries’ economies, governments and militaries. The rhetoric about “spreading freedom and democracy” should be disregarded. The USA is an imperial power, advancing its own interests, and those of its corporations, by leveraging the conditions in these countries of “lesser power.” By training some of their military personnel as surrogates, we contribute to the suppression of their severely disadvantaged people, peasants, unionists, human rights advocates and liberation theology religionists, while we access their resources for our benefit. Would we tolerate another super power training our military to aid its elites and multinational corporations? We are an empire, doing what empires do! Meanwhile, we are losing our democracy bit-by-bit-by-bit. The backlash is occurring.