The fourth episode of “The Honorable Woman,” a serialized thriller that makes its Sundance TV debut on Thursday, opens on a world-weary MI6 officer, sitting at a dinner party where two other guests are discussing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As the camera zooms in on the officer, the conversation can be heard degenerating into a vulgar, name-calling argument and then a silverware-rattling wrestling match. An on-screen caption identifies this scene as having occurred eight years ago, but it could just as easily be taking place today: a time when war in Gaza has recently reignited, and civil dialogues about its causes and solutions are hard to come by. It is in this atmosphere that “The Honorable Woman” is being broadcast: Amid a recent vogue for television dramas with a Middle Eastern milieu, it is the rare narrative in which the bloody clash of Palestinians and Israelis is not only a backdrop but also a central theme and a leading concern of its protagonist, a British industrialist (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal) who believes she can help untangle the situation. (via Making Dramas About Mideast Can Be Complicated - NYTimes.com)

WASHINGTON (CNN) — President Bush and his top aides publicly made 935 false statements about the security risk posed by Iraq in the two years following September 11, 2001, according to a study released Tuesday by two nonprofit journalism groups.


President Bush addresses the nation as the Iraq war begins in March 2003.

"In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003," reads an overview of the examination, conducted by the Center for Public Integrity and its affiliated group, the Fund for Independence in Journalism.

Continuing his refusal to take any responsibility for the consequences of his decisions, Bush suggests that al Qaeda came to Iraq by chance, that it simply “turn[ed] out to have been” the place where they “were going to take their stand.” But al Qaeda’s existence in Iraq is 100 percent attributable to Bush’s decision to go to war in Iraq: al Qaeda never existed there before, and in fact, Saddam Hussein viewed Osama bin Laden as a threat and refused to support him.
More broadly, Rogers warned of a danger in inflating national security threats to justify the expansion of government security powers. “There are groups and individuals out there who if they had their way, we would no longer exist as a nation,” Rogers said. “Now, I’m not one who’s going to sit here and overhype the threat [or say] that in the name of this threat we have to make dramatic changes and curtail our rights, because if we go down that road, in the end, they’ve won. If we change who we are and what we believe and what we represent in the name of security, they have won. I have always believed that.” (via NSA chief Michael Rogers: Edward Snowden ‘probably not’ a foreign spy | World news | theguardian.com)

More broadly, Rogers warned of a danger in inflating national security threats to justify the expansion of government security powers. “There are groups and individuals out there who if they had their way, we would no longer exist as a nation,” Rogers said. “Now, I’m not one who’s going to sit here and overhype the threat [or say] that in the name of this threat we have to make dramatic changes and curtail our rights, because if we go down that road, in the end, they’ve won. If we change who we are and what we believe and what we represent in the name of security, they have won. I have always believed that.” (via NSA chief Michael Rogers: Edward Snowden ‘probably not’ a foreign spy | World news | theguardian.com)

Days of Future Past is not the only recent Hollywood production to express discomfort with President Barack Obama’s drone program. Last month, Marvel Studios released Captain America: The Winter Soldier—and almost immediately the directors, Joe and Anthony Russo, revealed that their movie was all about “civil liberties… drone strikes, the president’s kill list, [and] preemptive technology.” When a RoboCop reboot came out in February, director Jose Padilha described it thusly: “The movie’s about drones.” Back in 2012, the fourth installment in the Bourne franchise, The Bourne Legacy, featured a sequence in which an American UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) attempted to blow up Jeremy Renner, a CIA superagent hiding out in Alaska. And then there’s Homeland. On Showtime’s hit spy drama, the original sin—the trauma that transformed Marine Sgt. Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) into an al Qaeda sleeper agent—was a drone strike that accidentally killed an 8-year-old boy he’d befriended in captivity. (via Hollywood’s War on Drones - The Daily Beast)

Oblivion is a disappointing slice of mainstream science fiction cinema that meanders aimlessly for little over two hours. I haven’t much noteworthy to comment about this underwhelming studio project. Nonetheless, mainstream escapist genres such as science fiction have this innate propensity for allegorical pluralistic reinterpretation that can thankfully on some occasions salvage the cinematic dignity of those involved. Robin Wood was one of those critics that had this capacity to read between the lines of mainstream cinema and although I am weary of applying such a noble approach to a film like Oblivion since it is such a tiresome affair, I could not help but read into the film in terms of a latent socio-political subtext concerning drones, insurgents and Pakistan. What I am saying may at first seem a little far fetched but it was the ending to Oblivion, the one in which two suicide bombers defeat the master controller in the skies, that got me intellectualising the following hypothesis; what if Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) and the Scavs (code word for troublesome insurgents) are in fact an allegory for a real and potential insurgency that has appeared in Iraq and which may in fact emerge on the Afghan-Pak border which has claimed the lives of so many innocent civilians in drone attacks orchestrated by Obama and company. If I was to take this allegorical interpretation to its fruition then a source of validation may lie in the film’s anti-drone ideology. (via E L L I P S I S - The Accents of Cinema: OBLIVION (Dir. Joseph Kosinksi, 2013, US) - Hollywood’s first anti drone film? [Spoilers Ahead!])

"The Obama years are a benchmark for a new level of secrecy and control," Jill Abramson told John Hockenberry, host of The Takeaway. "It’s created quite a challenging atmosphere for The New York Times, and for some of the best reporters in my newsroom who cover national security issues in Washington."
(via NY Times editor hits Obama ‘secrecy’)

Torture is rampant across the world and has become almost normalised by the ‘war on terror’ and its glamorous portrayal in shows such as 24 and Homeland, Amnesty International says. The London-based human rights group is launching a new campaign aimed at ending torture, which it says remains widespread even 30 years after a blanket prohibition was agreed by the United Nations. In the past five years, Amnesty says it has recorded incidents in 141 countries, including 79 of the 155 signatories to the 1984 UN Convention against Torture. (via Torture spreading, ‘glorified’ by TV)

Western nations are among those scrutinized in Amnesty International’s report on Global Torture set to be released on Tuesday. The human rights group’s report comes on the heels of a vote by the Senate Intelligence Committee to declassify a 480-page report summarizing the CIA’s interrogation programs, which were chronicled in a 5-year internal investigation into the treatment of detainees. The Senate report has sparked a feud between the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee that has led to a judicial review of whether some of the documents the Senate obtained were not cleared for release. (via The war on terrorism led to a worldwide increase of torture | Al Jazeera America)

Western nations are among those scrutinized in Amnesty International’s report on Global Torture set to be released on Tuesday. The human rights group’s report comes on the heels of a vote by the Senate Intelligence Committee to declassify a 480-page report summarizing the CIA’s interrogation programs, which were chronicled in a 5-year internal investigation into the treatment of detainees. The Senate report has sparked a feud between the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee that has led to a judicial review of whether some of the documents the Senate obtained were not cleared for release. (via The war on terrorism led to a worldwide increase of torture | Al Jazeera America)

Perhaps the most disturbing part of the statement to me is not the brazenness of it, or even the apparent lack of self-awareness or personal filter. It’s that she’s actually speaking on behalf of a significant – albeit shrinking – subset of Christian culture in the United States. It’s the strain that believes that the Prayer of Jabez (a prayer about expanding one’s spiritual territory) is a Manifest Destiny of sorts from Jesus to his followers. We’re to reach to all corners of the earth, emboldened with a “be assimilated or be eliminated” mentality at our backs.