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Finding the missing “Nightmares”….

When I was in Belfast a few years ago (January 2005 to be more precise), the BBC broadcast a fascinating and very controversial 3-part documentary titled “The Power of Nightmares.” The basic theme framed neo-conservatism and the radical Jihad movements as parallel developments, each promoting visions that are at the heart of the current “war on terror.” Despite my inclination to take such strong interpretative presentations lightly, this was a coherent and impressive piece of work, and I wondered how it might play in the US.

Well, I never got the opportunity to find out, because it never did make it to the US. (I wrote on this in a May 2005 post, and mentioned it again in a July 2005 post.) In what can only be regarded as a case of censorship, it was not really possible to find the documentary anywhere — the BBC maintained its site pages on the show (but did not include access to clips) and only snippets showed up on youTube and the other usual places. Having seen the three “chapters”, it was certainly not because of any graphic depictions or gross libel. Rather, this was purely a case of outright blockage, either out of fear by US broadcasters that the presentation was just too controversial or simply outright censorship.

And so I was pleasantly surprised to stumble on the documentary in downloadable formats at ( I don’t know how they managed to pull this off since, as some of the comments note, they do not seem to have any permissions posted with the film. But just in case, I’ve downloaded the three segments to store for future use and reference. (I have since revisited a site noted in my earlier posts where the show can still be streamed (, and the same stream is accessible via Google.) video. These essentially claim noncommerical “fair use” rights.)

The comments at the site, by the way, attest to just how controversial the show is. Those with the strongest negative opinions focus on the portrayal of the neo-cons, and accuse the producer of gross distortions of the movement and its history. But while they make special note of the editing and overall presentation of the narrative, the quality of the interviews with notable figures in (and students of) the neo-con movement is impressive. I am certain some of those interviewed had no idea how their responses would be used, and perhaps it is their influence that has kept the film off US screens for several years. I do believe, however, that this will prove to be an interesting (and cited) source of historical research on the post-9/11 era.

September 12th, 2009 Posted by | accountabilitybloke | no comments

A Green Affair in the UK….

While we in the US preoccupy ourselves with the utter stupidity of our politicos, the Brits have been increasingly transfixed by the Damian Green affair and what is emerging as a possible full blown constitutional crisis. To compare the rhetoric used in each, while our “good guys” refer to Lincoln spinning in his grave, I am seeing reference at UK news sites to the crisis that led to parliament’s assertion of authority in the mid 1600s — and the beheading of Charles I. Interesting comparison.

Most interesting was the exchange on BBC’s This Week, and especially the comments of historian David Starkey. (Thanks to Mick Fealty for pointing to that discussion.) At the heart of the “row” was the arrest of Tory MP Damian Green by the counter-terrorism unit of the Metropolitan Police for participation in Home Office “leaks” that the Brown government considered threatening to national security.  The charge was “suspicion of conspiring to commit misconduct in public office and on suspicion of aiding and abetting misconduct in public office.”

As part of the arrest, Green’s offices (including his “shadow cabinet” office in Parliament; his portfolio was immigration policy) were raided and searched — and his computer seized. The action by police seems to have been based on complaints about leaks from the Home Office — not that any particular leak os information posed a threat to national security, but that the engagement of any leakage form the Home Office itself was deemed a threat.

The Speaker of the House of Commons got embroiled in the controversy when it was learned that there was no warrant to search Green’s office, but that the House “serjeant at arms” had consented to the search on request without any consultation with the House clerk or Speaker. (As it happens, the Speaker is standing for reappointment and it looks like he will have a hard time of it….)

As the issue has developed, it has moved from concern that the action was well out of proportion to the substance of what was at stake. As the BBC analysis summarizes, there would be little pushback if Green was being charged or investigated for a serious crime, or if the information leak actually endangered national security. But for the Government to use its coercive power to deal with information that might be merely an “embarrassment” to the Home Office seemed a bit much.

And so the episode has the potential for blossoming into a full blown constitutional crisis, in which the relationships between the Government and Parliament are being questioned.

That is where the “Starkey Manifesto” (go to 9:45 of the segment) enters into the picture. Starkey — a well respected historian — is calling for a constitutional revision that would move British parliamentary government closer to the separation of powers model represented by the US. Interesting prospect, although if it happens I hope the Brits will do a better job at creating and sustaining the logic of the checks and balances system…..

December 11th, 2008 Posted by | accountabilitybloke | no comments