Gaza and Guantanamo – Surprising Documentaries 207


I watched Ross Kemp’s documentary on Paleastine yesterday and it was much better than I had expected. I have never watched any of his travel documentaries before – their advertising portrays them as “Our hard nut goes to see if other hard nuts are really as vicious as London East End gangsters”.

It is impossible, unless you are obscenely ill-motivated, to do a documentary in Gaza that does not leave you appalled at the plight of the Palestinian people there. But Kemp gave the Palestinians a much fairer and fuller hearing than I had expected, and while there was a great deal of editorial horror at the attitudes of Islamic terrorists and their supporters, it came over very strongly – and Kemp himself plainly “got”, that those attitudes were caused by the atrocities and indignities to which the Palestinians are subjected.

Which made Kemp’s documentary much more intelligent than Michael Portillo’s effort on Guantanamo. Portillo never for one moment questioned whether Islamic hatred of the West was in any sense caused or triggered. He seemed to accept that Guantanamo holds a core of “some 50” diehard terrorists who are intrinsically evil, and he agreed explicitly that they should be kept locked up forever even though there was no evidence against them that could stand up in court.

His glib “I am a politician and I know about tough decisions like abandoning legality” line was helped by two intellectual dishonesties. He never considered the causality of terrorism, and he did not mention the possibility that some of that “core” of fifty might be innocent. He described the moral dilemma as whether people you knew were guilty but could not prove it, should be locked up. Who says you know. they are guilty? I can tell you from first hand experience that a great deal of the War on Terror intelligence on individuals is woefully inaccurate and deliberatelly exagerrated.

Which Michael Portillo once seemed to understand:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/article495277.ece

Portillo reserved his compassion for the Uighurs, because they were anti-communist, and for the British ex-detainees who had been tortured. There was one particularly unsavoury piece of editing when showing a UK conference, at which an ex-detainee was making a very emotional and harrowing point; the director then cut away to a shot of Moazzam Begg grinning merrily and apparently completely inappropriately at the point.

The impression was given that cut-away was contemporaneous, and it made Moazzam look very bad. I don’t believe the cut-away was contemporaneous and think this was a deliberate bit of BBC demonisation. I don’t think it was genuine because of sound discontinuity, because BBC documentary crews nowadays almost never have two cameras, and because I know Moazzam.

Shoddy work.


207 thoughts on “Gaza and Guantanamo – Surprising Documentaries

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  • MJ

    Thanks Larry for the link but we’ve already been there.

    Speaking of fictional TV and movies, have you seen “Let’s Roll”? Good, innit?

  • Larry from St. Louis

    Angrysoba,

    You know this idiot believes that the phone calls were faked, the Men from U.N.C.L.E. having employed super-secret technology.

    MJ, I believe that the Mark Bingham phone call was real. Go.

  • MJ

    “they heard the hijackers speaking”

    Yup. They certainly heard menacing voices at any rate.

    “They also switched the transponders off”

    A fascinating detail, of which much has been made.

    “fighters were scrambled”

    If only they hadn’t waited until it was too late. The testimony outlining Cheney’s apparently deliberate procrastination on this matter – and then scrambling fighters from a base over a hundred miles away – is genuinely shocking.

    “silly theories about remote controlled planes”

    Given that all eyewitnesses described it as a small plane, and the ‘Fireman’s Video’ seems to show a small plane without engines on its wings, those theories may be incorrect but they’re not exactly silly in my view.

    “there is no reason for believing they were never made”

    No, but there are nevertheless certain “issues” pertaining to the precise circumstances under which they became committed to tape, shall we say. In its evidence submitted to the Moussaoui trial even the FBI seems to have tacitly acknowledged some of the more obvious points made by the ‘truthers’.

  • MJ

    “Never heard of it”.

    It was the film about Flight 93. I think that’s what it’s called.

  • Larry from St. Louis

    MJ, are you still convinced that funerals were not held for Bernard Brown Jr. and Betty Ong?

  • angrysoba

    “If only they hadn’t waited until it was too late. The testimony outlining Cheney’s apparently deliberate procrastination on this matter – and then scrambling fighters from a base over a hundred miles away – is genuinely shocking.”

    You know what happened with the fighters because you’ve read the 9/11 Commission Report. Planes were scrambled to intercept the first two only after the first one had hit and very shortly before the second.

    The lack of transponder signal made it difficult to know for sure where any of the planes were. When later planes were scrambled there was confusion about where they were supposed to go and which planes to intercept. There were also regulations about how fast they could fly (regulations which the pilots broke nontheless).

    This is obviously stuff that you are throwing up to make things seem more suspicious than they are but have pretty reasonable if at times infuriating explanations.

    But there is no way you would accept a US fighter jet shooting down a civilian airline so there’s not much point playing the “Why didn’t they shoot them down?!?” card.

    And what do you mean “airbase over 100 miles away”?

    Oh, and turned up any information on the funerals yet?

  • MJ

    “You know what happened with the fighters because you’ve read the 9/11 Commission Report. Planes were scrambled to intercept the first two only after the first one had hit and very shortly before the second”.

    I’m talking here about the response to AA77. Although the transponder signal was lost, the plane was picked up on radar heading towards Washington over 30 mins before the attack. Cheney held back from scrambling jets until it was 10 mins away – and then from Langley AFB in Virginia rather than the nearby Andrews AFB in Washington.

    “But there is no way you would accept a US fighter jet shooting down a civilian airline”

    True. Nevertheless fighters are routinely scrambled whenever a civilian airliner loses its transponder signal. One practical reason is to report on the plane’s altitude. Another is to try to make contact with the pilot.

    “turned up any information on the funerals yet?”

    No but Larry may have found a couple. Larry: I think you’ll find Betty Ong was a stewardess on AA11 and, now I think of it, I seem vaguely to recall a report of remains being found. Not sure about the other one, but remember there is a difference between a funeral and a memorial service.

  • Larry from St. Louis

    MJ, please tell me the difference between a funeral and a memorial service. Are you still telling me that the relatives were not granted funerals? Why didn’t they bring this up before?

  • MJ

    Larry, a funeral is where the actual body (or parts thereof) are consigned to the ground or cremated. A memorial service is where a death is formally mourned, but there is no physical burial or cremation, either because this has already been done or if there is no body for some reason.

    If a family knows someone is dead, but does not have a body to bury, they just hold a memorial service. There is nothing for them to ‘bring up’. If there’s no body, there’s no body.

  • Larry from St. Louis

    MJ, so just to reiterate – not based on any evidence, but solely Internet rumor, your contention is that there were no funerals for the victims of Flight 77. Is that true?

  • MJ

    I’m saying that, apart from Barbara Olson, I have not seen evidence, or even rumours, of funerals (as opposed to memorial services) for the passengers of AA77, despite the Pentagon’s claim to have recovered body parts of every single one. This does not of course mean there were none. It may just mean that I’ve missed them.

  • angrysoba

    “It was held on September 15th, but it appears the Pentagon did not complete its DNA analysis of body parts until November 16th.”

    Doesn’t that undercut your insinuation that there were no body parts?

    MJ, this is a little too grim to dwell on for a long time, but looking into it it seems you are taking a fairly typical Truther approach to this by trying to cast doubt without examining the story more closely. The identification process was apparently inordinately long and exhausted all possibilities in trying to discover the remains of five people killed at the Pentagon. They finally formally ended the investigation into these remains on 16th November meaning that they were working for two solid months for the sake of the family relatives to retrieve even the smallest identifiable body part of those victims.

    Read the story here:

    http://old.911digitalarchive.org/crr/documents/1276.pdf

  • angrysoba

    Oh, and just to pre-empt any “Aha! An inconsistency!” silliness, the five people whose body parts could not be found were those of Pentagon employees. You are correct in saying that the funerals were only held for those for whom body parts were found as one of those in the military couldn’t have a funeral at Arlington as his body was never recovered. However, as pointed out all aboard AA77 were identified through DNA samples provided by families except the DNA of the hijackers which corroborates other evidence that they were the responsible parties.

    MJ, surely you can see what is meant by a convergence of evidence upon a single point. The more these lines of evidence cross the same point the more you can see how the identification of the hijackers themselves wasn’t as bizarre as you seem to think.

  • MJ

    “Doesn’t that undercut your insinuation that there were no body parts?”

    No. I do not doubt that many Pentagon employees died in the attack and that their body parts would have to be identified using DNA analysis. It’s only the claim that they found body parts of passengers that I question.

    “this is a little too grim to dwell on for a long time”

    Agreed. You’ll recall I only made a one-line observation that there have been no funerals for the passengers of AA77. This has yet to be refuted. I only keep talking about it because you and Larry won’t let it go!

    “The identification process was apparently inordinately long”

    Indeed. DNA analysis is a lengthy process at the best of times. Impossible for Barbara Olson to be identified, bagged up and returned to Ted within four days. Totally out the question. No way.

    The Pentagon staff who died were buried at Arlington, details here: http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/pentagon-attack.htm. At the bottom of the page it says that the unidentifiable remains of five victims (inluding one from the plane) were buried on 12/9/02 and that the remains of the hijackers had been separated.

    “as pointed out all aboard AA77 were identified through DNA samples provided by families”

    The Arlington page is silent on the fate of the remains of the passenger. Standard practice would be to return the body parts to the families for burial. We might therefore reasonably expect a spate of funerals around December 2001 (including Barbara Olson’s). It’s these to which I can find no reference. I assume the hijackers were not identified by samples provided by their families. Not quite sure then how it was possible with certainty to distinguish and separate these from the other five, but perhaps I’m being pedantic.

    “except the DNA of the hijackers which corroborates other evidence that they were the responsible parties”.

    Teleological reasoning – again!

    “trying to cast doubt without examining the story more closely”

    It was you who claimed Barbara Olson’s funeral was held on 15th September, not me. Closer examination of the story shows that to be impossible. Closer examination of the story in fact only exposes more inconsistencies. The main issue is: if body parts of the passengers were indeed found, what the hell happened to them??

  • angrysoba

    MJ, you seem to be using these sources selectively. Taking out what you want and then questioning that which doesn’t fit your “theory”.

    The memorial service for those whose remains weren’t found included Dana Falkenberg, a two-year old. It is probably unsurprising that her body parts may have been more difficult to find than the others but there is no mention that those of the others weren’t. Why do you persist in this strange idea that because you can’t find a “spate of funerals” around Dec 2001 (why DEC 2001?) that there were none. How many people do you think die in New York and the Washington area on a daily basis? Do you want Larry and I to go looking for the dates of each funeral of everyone who died in the Twin Towers? Do you accept that planes hit the Twin Towers? Do you accept that when you read my comments that an actual human being has typed them on another computer? Or that anyone or anything exists except you?

    “It was you who claimed Barbara Olson’s funeral was held on 15th September, not me. Closer examination of the story shows that to be impossible. ”

    How do you know? How do you know how much was left of her or how they identified her? Like, I’ve said before, there are some things that seem a little too ghoulish to go into and which may not have made the papers but some kinds of skepticism simply end in solipsism which is a pretty useless position to determine the truth of anything.

  • MJ

    “Why do you persist in this strange idea that because you can’t find a “spate of funerals” around Dec 2001 (why DEC 2001?) that there were none.”

    It’s just an observation. I may be wrong. I just think there’d be some record of them, but perhaps they happened and there’s no record. I thought December 2001 because the body parts would most likely have been released some time after November 16 and the families would have arranged funerals shortly after receipt.

    “How many people do you think die in New York and the Washington area on a daily basis?”

    Plenty, but 911 was still a hot topic in the media in December 2001 or thereabouts and a spate of related funerals might be expected to make the news (local news at the very least).

    “Do you want Larry and I to go looking for the dates of each funeral of everyone who died in the Twin Towers?”

    I don’t want you or Larry to go looking for any funerals, but if you come across any relating to the passengers of AA77 on your travels perhaps you could let me know. (Those relating to victims in the Towers have already been noted and are not a point of contention).

    “Do you accept that planes hit the Twin Towers?”

    Something we can agree on!

    “Do you accept that when you read my comments that an actual human being has typed them on another computer?”

    I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.

    “Or that anyone or anything exists except you?”

    That’s just a moronic conspiracy theory!

    “How do you know? How do you know how much was left of her or how they identified her?”

    Oh come on. First of all Ted and everyone else had to provide samples. Then they had to sort out all the scattered body parts and do DNA tests on each bit. Just analysing one sample takes several days. Then all the bits had to be collated, one bag of bits per family, with no mingling. No wonder they didn’t finish before November 16. They wouldn’t know how much was left of her until they’d finished the whole painstaking process and they wouldn’t release any bodies until then either. Of course it couldn’t all be done in four days. I’m sure you know that really.

  • angrysoba

    I don’t know why I even do this but I have dug up a Washington Post article that reports on the first spate of funerals that took place.

    Barbara Olson’s funeral is mentioned. But so too are those of AA77 passengers James Debeuneure and Todd Reuben. (The article is not explicit about whether the latter too are actually funerals but it certainly suggests they are).

    It also mentions a memorial service for Kenneth and Jennifer Lewis, a married couple who were flight attendants on AA77.

    Please read it:

    http://old.911digitalarchive.org/crr/documents/1032.pdf

    Now, I understand you still have trouble with this, but I maintain that the manifests are the same as those shown by the FBI in the Moussaiou trial and that it was quite possible to zero in on who the hijackers were partly through the fact that the relatives of the victims contacted the authorities to enquire where their loved ones were and the fact that on each plane there appeared to be a number of names that were unclaimed, some of whom began to coincide with those that the FBI and the CIA had been following.

    Now it is true that the FBI initially released one or two different names as they may well have been under the impression that some of their other targets were travelling under assumed names. It turned out later that this wasn’t the case and the hijackers used their own names.

    I think this does at least lay to rest the “no funerals” claim does it not?

  • MJ

    “I have dug up a Washington Post article that reports on the first spate of funerals that took place”

    You really shouldn’t have…but thanks. The problem is the date, September 15th, so same comments apply as with Barbara Olson. I suspect the only funerals were of Pentagon staff who were identifiable. The others must have been memorials. Judging by the pictures of the interior of the Pentagon the chances of identifiable bodies being found are remote and, more to the point, there were no reports of that.

    “I maintain that the manifests are the same as those shown by the FBI in the Moussaiou trial”

    I maintain that they may be, but that there’s only one way to find out. What gets me is that the 911 Commission didn’t request them from the airlines as a simple matter of routine. Another thing that gets me is that those “victim lists”, without the hijackers’ names, were first released on the 11/12th, yet the FBI didn’t release the list of 19 names until the 14th. The Washington Post’s list for AA77 is still online: http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A18970-2001Sep12 (the web page is dated Sept 13 but the page address suggests it was published in the print copy of the 12th and therefore acquired on the 11th).

    I really wish they’d just publish the official manifests and have done with it. It would immediately put to bed all the wilder ‘alternative’ theories. Provided those names are on them of course.

  • Clark

    MJ,

    I just want to say that you’ve done an excellent job of keeping your cool, with all the insults that have been directed at you. Good research, too.

  • MJ

    Apologies for absence, had a computer problem for a couple of days, now sorted.

    “Just one more time, do you deny this is a flight manifest from AA77?”

    Its source is unaccredited so I don’t know if it’s genuine or not. It may be. It was provided by an author who wrote a book. It is unclear where he got it from.

  • MJ

    Clark: thank you. To be fair to angrysoba he got much less vituperative as time went on and argued a good case.

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