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Hollywood’s Sunshine Civil Libertarians
© Jack Cashill
I got about 9/10 of the way through the Oscars this past Sunday without reaching for the remote—even the chronic Bush-basher Jon Stewart was well behaved--and then Alex Gibney went and spoiled it all.
Gibney's film about the death in custody of an Afghan taxi-driver at an American Air Base in Afghanistan, "Taxi to the Dark Side" won the Oscar for best documentary.
There was not much in the way of fruitful competition: two other anti-war movies, Michael Moore’s “Sicko,” and “War/Dance,” a film about civil war in Uganda for which I was pulling, sight unseen, it being the only nominated film not explicitly anti-American.
True to form, the homunculus Gibney used his smarmy 30 seconds in the spotlight to demonstrate once again Hollywood’s almost comically deficient historical memory.
After joking that his wife had wanted him to make a romantic comedy—as if!--Gibney pontificated, “But honestly after Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and extraordinary rendition that simply wasn't possible."
The sunshine civil libertarians in the audience applauded enthusiastically just as they had last year’s winner in this category, the creator of the science fiction classic, “An Inconvenient Truth,” Al Gore.
Having spent the 1990s in denial—or in rehab--these Hollywood worthies had apparently not bothered to inform themselves as to what role Al Gore might have played in the evolution of extraordinary renditions.
There was no reason for them not to know. In his bestseller, “Against All Enemies,” written before the left decided renditions were a bad thing, the blowhard head of Clinton’s Counterterrorism Security Group (CSG), Richard Clarke, brags about renditions.
Gibney and half the audience had to have read Clarke’s subversive little memoir. Hollywood wears its Bushophobia on its sleeve.
As Stewart joked on one occasion, "Have you all had a chance to examine all the candidates, study their positions and pick the Democrat you'll vote for?”
Those who had not read Clarke’s book—much of Hollywood proudly refuses to read anything beyond a one page treatment—may well have seen story boards of the film version, scheduled to be directed by Robert Redford.
As Clarke explains in the book, “extraordinary renditions” are operations to apprehend terrorists abroad, often without the knowledge of the host government.
By the mid-1990s, Clarke boasts, “These snatches were becoming routine CSG activities.” Teams of FBI and CIA personnel would grab suspected terrorists either to stand trial in the United States or for “incarceration in other countries.”
As Clarke was writing, he was apparently unaware that his new friends on the left would soon be describing coerced travel to these rather slowly developing countries in the multicultural mosaic as “torture by proxy.”
In any case, during the early days of the Clinton administration, renditions were anything but “routine.” Clarke, in fact, cites only one previous such snatch and that was of a hijacker who had killed three Americans in the Reagan years.
The first time Clarke proposed an extraordinary rendition in 1993, then White Housel Counsel Lloyd Cutler demanded a meeting with President Clinton to explain how such renditions violated international law.
According to Clarke, Clinton seemed to be leaning towards Cutler’s view until Vice-President Al Gore arrived and belatedly entered the debate.
“That’s a no-brainer,” said Gore of the decision to snatch. “Of course it’s a violation of international law, that’s why it’s a covert action. The guy is a terrorist. Go grab his ass.”
I will bet my house against Alex Gibney’s mailbox that this line does not make the final cut of the upcoming feature film.
Truth be told, most contemporary filmmakers would not know a real civil libertarian if they ran over one on the Pacific Coast Highway. They are propagandists pure and simple, and none more so than Gibney.
In his 2005 film, Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room, Gibney airbrushed the Clinton smudge out of the story as surely as he did in Taxi.
As Gibney showed, Enron made exploitative, if ill-advised, investments in any number of underdeveloped countries, and these proved to be the source of the firm’s financial undoing.
And yet despite the fact that almost all of these transactions took place during the Clinton years and with the administration’s active support, the word “ Clinton” is not once mentioned in the film.
On a fateful April 3, 1996, a Swiss Air charter carrying Enron executives landed routinely in Dubrovnik, Croatia. They were there to cut still another dubious deal, in this case with the neo-fascists who ran Croatia, and, as always, with the blessing of the Clinton administration.
The Enron people chose not to fly with dealmaker, Ron Brown, who was about as pleased to be on this trip as a rendition subject.
Smart move. Less than an hour after the Enron jet landed, the U.S. Air Force plane carrying the Commerce Secretary slammed into a hillside just a mile or so from the Dubrovnik airport.
An incredible four hours later, after an inexplicable diversion over the Adriatic, Croatian search and rescue teams found the plane. After its investigation, the U.S. Air Force would describe the crash itself as “inexplicable.”
A further complication emerged three days after the crash when the Croat responsible for the airport’s navigation system, Nike Jerkuic, was found with a bullet hole in his chest. Croatian intelligence ruled it a suicide.
The next day, Armed Force pathologists back in Dover, Delaware found an apparent bullet hole in Ron Brown’s head. Three pathologists and a photographer sacrificed their careers to go public with their concerns.
Needless to say, none of this makes the Enron movie. It should have. It is a hell of a story and all true. I know because I wrote a book on the subject, Ron Brown’s Body.
I’m happy to option it, Hollywood. I’ll be waiting by my phone.
About Jack Cashill's DVD, Mega Fix:
In this stunning, surprisingly entertaining, 90-minute DVD video documentary, Emmy-award-winning filmmaker Jack Cashill traces the roots of Sept. 11 to the perfect storm of disinformation that surrounded the Clintons' desperate drive for the White House in the years 1995-1996.
Cashill leads the viewer from Oklahoma City to Dubrovnik, where Ron Brown's plane crashed, to the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia to the destruction of TWA Flight 800 off Long Island to the Olympic Park bombing. Jack Cashill's "Mega Fix" DVD is now available.
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