Oct 06 2015


We have  been covering the detention of Steve Kaczynski in Turkey since he was arrested on April 1st. We have been part of the campaign to get his release (republicancommunist.org/blog/2015/08/07/free-steve-kaczynski/). Steve was freed  on September 18th. This article has been written by Steve and describes his experience and the current political situation in Turkey.



Steve Kaczynski (second from left) arriving back at Heathrow Airport

Steve Kaczynski (second from left) arriving back at Heathrow Airport

I was in Istanbul, Turkey to help prepare an international symposium against imperialism due to take place in the middle of April. At the end of February I had travelled to Beirut, Lebanon where a similar symposium had been held.
Continue reading “MY IMPRISONMENT IN TURKEY – Steve Kaczynski”

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Oct 15 2008

Turkey: A Country At War With Itself

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 16RCN @ 7:58 pm

Steve Kaczynski explains the link in Turkey between head scarves and the Turkish army’s invasion of Iraqi Kurdistan

Recently, two issues involving Turkey have received wide coverage in the international media. The first is Islamic head scarves, the second is the Turkish army incursion into northern Iraq. I will look at these matters in turn.

In February 2008, the moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP), the ruling party in parliament, put forward a constitutional amendment allowing Islamic headscarves to be worn in universities. This was passed – the AKP has a clear majority and in any case the amendment was supported by the deputies of the far right MHP (Nationalist Movement Party), an opposition party in parliament.

Before, during and after the vote, there were protests by people and parties who think the secular order of Turkey is being overturned gradually. Another opposition party, the CHP (Republican People’s Party), has been heavily involved in these protests, claiming, as is common in mainstream Turkish politics, to be defending the principles of the Republic founded by Kemal Ataturk in 1923.

Turkey is not the only country in the world where Islamic head scarves and clothing have been controversial, subject to bans now or in the past. To look at the issue specifically in that country, it is necessary to delve into its past.


The Republic and its predecessor the Ottoman Empire are predominantly inhabited by Muslims, the majority Sunni. The Ottoman Empire was heavily influenced by Islam in every area of life, with this permeating everyday life, including how people dressed. On the other hand, the Empire’s decline caused its rulers to attempt to Westernise, notably with the Tanzimat reform in the 19th century. This included changes in clothing – the fez worn by Ottoman men in the latter stages of the Empire was actually an attempt to adopt clothing more Western than what went before (men wore a turban earlier).

When the Republic was founded by Ataturk, a major attempt was made to continue to Westernise. The fez was banned, and even today, especially in the countryside, men can be seen wearing the kind of flat caps popular in Western Europe in the 1930s. These were meant to replace the fez.

Ataturk also encouraged women to wear Western-style clothes, and bans on wearing Islamic headgear in public buildings such as universities were introduced, though not always strictly enforced. However, these kinds of reforms never really penetrated the countryside – many Turkish women continued to wear headscarves in everyday life.

Powerful servant, dangerous master

While Turkey is often described as a secular state, this picture needs some qualification. The socialist weekly magazine Yuruyus (‘March’) noted (February 10, 2008 edition, page 9) that the state in Turkey has always been a religious one. Its religion is Sunni Islam. The government’s Office Of Religious Affairs is a powerful department and the state carefully supervises Islam, often using it for its own purposes. After the 1980 military coup, Islam was encouraged by the allegedly secular generals, partly to turn people away from more suspect ideologies like socialism. The attitude of the generals and secular politicians seems to have been that Islam was a powerful servant but a dangerous master, and they acted accordingly.

The worldwide surge in political Islam in the later 20th century also affected Turkey (Iran, which had an Islamic Revolution, is a neighbour). The controversies over headgear and related issues really boil down to Islam ceasing to be the servant of the state, and becoming its master instead. It is against this background that moves to rescind the ban on head scarves should be seen, as well as resistance to lifting the ban.

The controversy was graphically illustrated in the Turkish satirical magazine Le Man in October 2007. A cartoon strip was published describing a young Turkish woman going to a fancy dress ball at a university wearing her headscarf and an eye mask. She gets into an argument with a man dressed as Jesus Christ, and others at the party notice that she is wearing Islamic clothing. People dressed up as clowns or as Dracula berate her, saying they are children of the Republic and demanding that she leave the premises. She flees down the stairs past a bust of Kemal Ataturk, looks at it and reflects, I am very alone, my father (referring to Ataturk).

How does the left react? Some oppose the lifting of the ban, worried about creeping Islamism. Others see no side to choose between the secularists and the Islamists, noting that the AKP does not defend freedoms that have no tinge of Islam about them, such as the right to be a socialist or the right to strike. It is good that women who feel so inclined can wear the headscarf in university. But it is bad if it is a step towards making women wear one in public, as happens in Iran.

So far, the army generals seem to accept the lifting of the head scarves ban. This may be because they have been given a free hand by the AKP with the other major matter on the agenda, the Kurdish question.

The guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) have long had bases in northern Iraq, where Kurds live on both sides of the Turkish-Iraqi state frontier. After their leader Abdullah Ocalan was captured in 1999, the PKK insurgency, which has gone on since 1984, entered a relative lull (the PKK has repeatedly declared cease-fires but the Turkish state has never accepted them). However, recently the PKK has stepped up its armed activity. It is not clear why. Using Islamism, the AKP has made some inroads into the PKK’s support base (many Turkish Kurds are devout Sunni Muslims and thus a key AKP target constituency) and it may be that the PKK is trying to arrest this process. Few real concessions have been gained from the government, whose resistance is futile mentality and general’s epaulettes prevent it from coming up with a Turkish equivalent of the Good Friday Agreement, and frustration might also be a factor in the PKK attacks. And last but not least, the autonomous region in northern Iraq has given a major boost to Kurdish nationalism.

Threatening noises

The Turkish state has made increasingly threatening noises about the PKK guerrillas in Iraq. In fact, many PKK guerrillas are based well inside Turkey and have not crossed from Iraq, but this was overlooked. After the PKK sprang a particularly successful ambush near the Iraq border in October 2007, killing and capturing a number of Turkish soldiers, the Turkish authorities began beating the war drums. A huge wave of chauvinism was encouraged in Turkey (I was there at the time), with Kurdish and left-wing institutions and individuals being attacked by patriots amid a lynch-mob atmosphere. (The far-right lynch mob is a recurring feature of late Ottoman and Republican Turkish history.) A certain amount of anti-American feeling was generated by the apparent refusal of the Americans to let Turkish forces pour into northern Iraq. However, behind the scenes terms and conditions were being negotiated. Also, the AKP government passed a resolution permitting the Turkish armed forces to cross into Iraq if they felt the need to do so.

In December, the Turkish air force carried out air raids on northern Iraq which were apparently aided by intelligence from American sources. It was claimed in the Turkish media that hundreds of PKK guerrillas were killed. This was apparently not enough, even if it is assumed that the figure was anything other than propaganda. It was generally thought that the Turkish army would carry out land operations after the spring thaw, since the region is like an icebox in the winter and movement is difficult. However, presumably with the aim of taking the PKK by surprise, the Turkish army suddenly attacked on February 21, 2008.

Claims and counter claims

There was heavy fighting for about a week inside northern Iraq, then the Turkish army announced its withdrawal, claiming to have achieved its goals. It claimed to have killed over 200 PKK guerrillas, saying it had lost 24 soldiers and three village guards (a kind of militia recruited by the Turkish state from villagers, often under duress). The PKK claimed to have killed over 100 soldiers, admitting to losing nine guerrillas at the time of writing. The Turkish attacks seem to have been massive and aided by American intelligence information. There has been controversy in Turkey about the operation ending the day after US Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, called on the Turkish armed forces to pull back. However, the Turkish state has too many links to the Americans to seriously contradict US wishes.

Many Kurds in Iraq suspect their autonomous region was as much a target of the attack as the PKK, and was perhaps the real target. The operation was a kind of warning to them. Iraq President, Jalal Talabani, has been invited to Turkey. It was claimed in the Turkish media that he approved of the Turkish attack in private while condemning it in public. This is possible, though the Turkish media capacity for engaging in psychological warfare should never be underestimated.

The Turkish state has said it will invade the north of Iraq again if it feels it is necessary. Certainly the pro-system opposition parties think not enough has been done. The leader of the CHP, Deniz Baykal, complained in parliament on March 4 that the operation’s work had not been completed and MHP leader, Devlet Bahceli, said the way had been paved for deep disappointment. More fighting is almost certain, and possibly also another large cross-border incursion into Iraq by Turkey when the snows melt.

Internal repression is on the increase in Turkey, with the quest for enemies within (and without) being renewed. “Terrorists”, a very flexible term in Turkey, are a favourite target and have long been so, but there have also been murders and serious assaults on Christians in recent years, and while there is no sign the AKP government actually approves of them, it must be said that these things are as much a part of Turkey’s political Islam as the AKP’s election results. Turkey is a country at war with itself, and on more than one front.


Mar 16 2006

International Platform Against Isolation

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 12RCN @ 5:07 pm

Steve Kaczynski reports on the IPAI symposium held in Paris in December 2005

In December 2005, I attended a symposium in a cinema in north-eastern Paris, organised by the International Platform Against Isolation. The event sprang from solitary confinement and other forms of state repression – a major fact of our time.

Since 2002, these symposia have been held in various European cities.

The starting point for them is the December 19-22, 2000 prison massacre in Turkey. Turkish soldiers and police attacked 20 of the country’s prisons to force their inmates, mainly political prisoners, into new F-Type prisons involving the use of solitary confinement and isolation cells. Twenty-eight prisoners were killed, and the repression triggered hunger strikes in which more prisoners have died and which are still continuing even now.

Though repression in Turkey was the catalyst for the symposium, repression elsewhere was fully described at the Paris event, for state repression is international and the resistance to it must be international as well. Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib were just two of the more publicised forms of prison oppression covered. A keynote international speaker was the veteran African-American militant, Angela Davis, who described repression in the United States and the state’s use of the prison system there.

Indeed, a key moment in the symposium was when Angela Davis and Ahmet Kulaksiz took centre stage amid applause from symposium participants. Ahmet Kulaksiz is famous in Turkey. His two daughters both died on hunger strike in 2001 in solidarity with political prisoners resisting solitary confinement in the F-Type prisons.

It was noted at the symposium that isolation is not simply matter of prison practices. Prisoners might be isolated in cells, but organisations can be isolated by being placed on terrorist lists, countries can be isolated by being described as part of an axis of evil and political beliefs can be criminalised, as we have seen since the symposium in Council of Europe attempts to ban communism and its symbols.

But it is a law of politics as true as any law of physics: repression will be resisted and attacks on our traditions will be resisted. This is why symposium participants visited the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris, the scene of the last stand of the Paris Commune, with its wall in the corner with the commemorative plaque:

To the dead of the Commune – May 21-28, 1871.

The Commune was not just French but international, just as the symposium was not just about Turkey, or France, but an occasion of international significance.

Socialists and communists face repression, never more so than when they are genuinely internationalists. A sign of this was the participation of Sandra Bakutz in the symposium, where she chaired at least one session. Sandra was imprisoned in Turkey for six weeks last year, ultimately because international solidarity is more than just a word but a matter of personal practice.

The symposium will continue. Its activities are clearly needed in today’s world.

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Sep 13 2005

Iraqi Kurds – Tools of Imperialism

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 11RCN @ 2:00 pm

Steve Kaczynski looks at how imperialism has used the Iraqi Kurds

The Iraqi Kurds are the only ethnic group that is considered 100% loyal to the USUK imperialist occupation of Iraq. So much so that when the US-backed Governing Council tried to introduce a new flag for Iraq, it included a yellow line across the flag that was meant to represent the Kurds. No other ethnic group in Iraq was represented in symbolic form in the flag, though outrage at the flag’s similarity to the Israeli one caused it to be rejected by most Iraqis.

The Kurds have a special position in Iraq under the occupation. This is expressed by a letter that KDP leader Massoud Barzani and PUK leader Jalal Talabani wrote jointly to President Bush on June 1, 2004:

America has no better friend than the people of Iraqi Kurdistan, it began, stressing how safe US occupation troops are in the Kurdish north, as opposed to the abodes of those nasty Arabs.

How has it come about that Iraqi Kurds are the only truly reliable collaborators in Iraq?

Kurds are found straddling the international borders of Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria. Kurdish tribesmen were bombed from the air by the RAF in the 1920s following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire. However, Kurds have more recently been locked in conflict with Iraq’s Arab-dominated central government. They also have a history of colluding with foreign rivals of Arab governments in Baghdad. The KDP was founded by Barzani’s father and rebelled against Iraqi leader Abdul Karim Kassem in 1961. Kassem had led the overthrow of the Western-backed Iraqi king in 1958, and it is almost certain that Iraqi Kurdish rebelliousness was encouraged by the West. However, after Kassem’s death in 1963 at the hands of the Ba’athists, the KDP continued its conflict with Iraqi central government, with support from Iran. The withdrawal of support by the Shah’s Iran in the 1970s forced the KDP to surrender to the Iraqi authorities.

When the Shah was overthrown in Iran, war with Iraq broke out in 1980 and Khomeini’s Iran began supporting Kurdish rebels in Iraq. By this time the KDP had spawned a large splinter group, the PUK. Its differences with the KDP seem to be more tribal than ideological.

Saddam Hussein’s government cracked down viciously on the Kurdish insurgents, amongst other things using chemical weapons against the Kurdish town of Halabja. Large numbers of Kurds fled as refugees to Turkey, especially during the upheaval following the first Gulf War in 1991.

Kurdish autonomy under a Western air umbrella developed in the 1990s, but the KDPPUK conflict turned violent in 1994. There is a saying in Turkey, Use a Kurd to kill a Kurd, and Iraqi Kurds have been encouraged by foreign powers to rebel against Arab rule but also to turn on each other. The tribal nature of Kurdish society helps bring this about.

A truce between Barzani and Talabani was brokered by the British government and they prepared for a bright future of collaboration with the USA and Britain as they prepared to invade Iraq. Kurdish pesh merga militias took quite a few casualties as they attacked Saddam’s forces in support of the Americans near Mosul and Kirkuk. The pesh mergas collaborate with the Americans to this day in northern Iraq.

What this brief account shows is that Iraqi Kurds have long worked in unison with foreign powers against the Arabs in Baghdad. Sometimes this has come in handy for them, but sometimes it has left them exposed when their sponsors’ policy changed. Numbering only 20% of Iraq’s population, they could yet come to regret their close alliance with Washington.

A parallel with another minority springs to mind. In East Pakistan before 1971, a minority called the Biharis tended to support the West Pakistan army when it cracked down viciously on Bengali nationalists. When the latter triumphed with Indian support and founded Bangladesh, the Biharis were treated as traitors. This could be the eventual fate of Iraqi Kurds.


Sep 13 2005

Death Squad Britain – the Case of Jean Charles de Menezes

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 11RCN @ 1:23 pm

In the aftermath of Jean Charles’ murder, Steve Kaczynski looks at Britain’s shoot-to-kill policy

On July 7 and July 21, bombs exploded in London. On July 22, a 27-year-old Brazilian electrician named Jean Charles de Menezes left his flat. He was followed by anti-terrorist police and in Stockwell underground station , he was shot a number of times – eight in all, according to what was stated later, and three more bullets missed him.

Jean Charles de Menezes: executed by the state

Jean Charles de Menezes: executed by the state

Initially, de Menezes was assumed to be involved in the July 21 explosions. However, before long the police admitted that he had nothing to do with the bombings.

The events are fairly well-known, if controversial in many places, but it is worth recapping briefly.
De Menezes was observed leaving a block of flats in Tulse Hill, South London. The flats were under surveillance because one or more of the suspects in the failed July 21 bombings were thought to be connected to them. According to what was claimed later, de Menezes was thought to match the description of Omar Hassain, a July 21 suspect.

De Menezes climbed on a bus and the surveillance continued. Officers of SO19, Scotland Yard’s specialist firearms branch, headed for Stockwell underground station.

Three SO19 officers, codenamed hospitably Hotel 1, Hotel 3 and Hotel 9, approached de Menezes and shot him a number of times, apparently while his body was in a standing position. The Brazilian had seven gunshot wounds to the head, and one to the shoulder.

According to witnesses, the shots – eleven in all – were fired at more or less regular intervals. Which does not suggest the police or whoever shot de Menezes were panicking and in fear of their lives, as might be expected of those in the vicinity of an alleged suicide bomber. A rather calm and clinical killing.

Attempts were made to explain police fears of a suicide bomber by saying de Menezes was wearing unseasonably bulky clothing which might have concealed an explosive vest. But footage of his dead body revealed that he was wearing a denim jacket – not an unusually heavy garment for the time of year.

Stockwell Tube Station

Stockwell Tube Station

That the killing of de Menezes was unhurried and casual, and not a split-second reaction by people in fear of their lives is the view of a number of people in a position to know. One, a security service source, told the Sunday Herald (August 21) that the shooting was not the way the police usually do things, not even firearms-trained police, and posited an involvement by special forces.

Professor of Defence Studies Michael Clarke of King’s College, London expressed a similar view, and The Guardian stated on August 4 that the newly-formed Special Reconnaissance Regiment was involved in the operation. This unit is special forces by any definition.

However, the official version is that SO19 officers shot de Menezes. It may be that special forces killed the Brazilian, but it is also possible that their shoot to kill ethos has permeated police with firearms training, especially in the heightened circumstances following the July 7 bombing in London.Confirmation of this is provided by remarks made by Roy Ramm. Ramm, a former commander of special operations for the Metropolitan Police, said rules had been changed to permit shoot to kill of a potential suicide bomber.

The death of de Menezes has caused a good deal of shock, and it may well be the first time somebody has been mown down like that on the streets of London for allegedly being a terrorist.

However, a little research suffices to show that gunning down the defenceless is not quite terra incognita for the British police.

As far back as 1983, Stephen Waldorf was shot and wounded in error by the Metropolitan Police. Fortunately for him, he lived to tell the tale.

In 1999, Harry Stanley was not so lucky. He was shot and killed while carrying a table leg, which apparently was mistaken for a firearm.

Nor is this kind of thing confined to London. In 1998, James Ashley was shot dead by Sussex Police on a drugs raid. Ashley was naked and unarmed.

And, of course, there are shootings connected with the north of Ireland. In 1988, it was decided that 11 RUC officers were not to be prosecuted over numerous shoot to kill episodes in the province. This legal decision led to international criticism.

That same year, the Gibraltar shootings took place. A court decision found that the three Irish Republicans shot dead could have been arrested and not simply gunned down in the way they were.

All in all, Republicans, communists and socialists ought to show the least surprise of all that the British state carries out such summary executions.

In the aftermath of the de Menezes killing, criticism from his home country was parried by justified comments that death squads are not unknown in Brazil.

Indeed, such killings by police and state paramilitary forces are widespread in Latin America and many other parts of the world.

Turkey’s police, for example, think nothing of walking into cafes where there are terrorist suspects and slaughtering everyone in a hail of bullets, on the kill everyone and let God sort it out principle of law enforcement.

The killing of de Menezes – actually, the murder of de Menezes – is thus not such a new departure for the forces of bourgeois “law and order”. What it does show is that, when the chips are down and the time is out of joint, Britain’s authorities let their masks fall. They rest on naked violence and state terrorism as surely as the police patrolling the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, as certainly as special police teams prowling the shantytowns of Istanbul.

Our enemy is educating us as to his true nature. We should take full note of the lesson.

See Wikipedia for a valuable source of information on this subject.


Jul 25 2002

Hooray for Hollywood

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 02RCN @ 9:42 pm

Steve Kaczynski looks at September 11, Hollywood and the portrayal of war and terrorism

The cinema, like other forms of entertainment and the media, is a powerful means of reflecting what goes on in society. It, like other forms of entertainment and the media, is also used by the powers that be to shape public perceptions in ways congenial to the ruling class. Hollywood and politics, at this point, is essentially the same system; it’s the monolithic corporate state. (Oliver Stone, quoted in the Spring 2002 issue of the US film magazine Cineaste, p.64.) And the system exerts its influence not just economically and politically, but culturally as well.

This article will examine how this has been done in America, with specific reference to events since September 11. But to start with, it cannot yet be said that September 11 has seen a dramatic change in American cinema and the way its movies portray foreign politics, especially with regard to the Middle East. This is, in part, because the destruction of the World Trade Center and the damage to the Pentagon happened only seven months ago. Films often take as much as two years to go through all the steps from conception in the mind of a screenwriter to their ultimate appearance on the screen at a multiplex near you. So in the Spring 2002, it is simply too early to say whether S11 will trigger a dramatic change in US films. Before I return to this subject, I want to devote some time to examine how cinema has been used to shape public perceptions, especially but not exclusively in the USA.

While this aspect of the cinema being used to influence the public never goes away in peacetime, it is particularly relevant in times of war or special stress. The USA entered World War I in 1917, a relatively late date, but the US path to the Western Front was smoothed by various films portraying the barbarity of the Hun.

Cinema used for propaganda

The Second World War saw cinema used for propaganda by all the belligerent countries. Nazi cinema showed The Eternal Jew, which compared Jews literally to rats, and contributed to dehumanising them so that their extermination would spark as few protests as possible. Meanwhile in Hollywood, especially after America entered the war, movies played their part in keeping the home fires burning. Josef Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda minister, is reported to have admired the 1942 American film Casablanca as an expert piece of enemy propaganda.

After the war the American film industry could hardly escape the consequences of the cold war. The HUAC imprisoned some communists or excommunists who had been active in Hollywood, and drove many more out of the industry or into foreign exile. Studios made anticommunist films, generally of poor quality, and partly as a guarantee that the HUAC and similar bodies would leave them alone. When the Korean War broke out, it was reflected in Hollywood’s output.

John Ford’s 1951 film, This is Korea! , has appalling footage of napalm, no less horrifying for having been staged in part. Over one scene with a flame-thrower the commentary (read by John Wayne) simply says: ‘Burn ‘em out, cook ‘em, fry ‘em.’
Korea: The Unknown War, Jon Halliday and Bruce Cumings, Viking, 1988, p.166.

The favourite villain of Hollywood tended to be reds of one kind or another, up until the latter half of the 1980s. However, a recurrent problem of using entertainment as propaganda is that it has to remain entertainment. This to some extent limits the capacity to use them as propaganda tools to make people see the world the way the government and ruling class want. People go to see films in large part for escapism, not necessarily to be told what to think. For example, it is noticeable that Hollywood tended to avoid overtly portraying the Vietnam War while it was actually going on. The main Vietnam film during that period was John Wayne’s The Green Berets, made in the late 1960s, and it did poorly at the box office and was savaged by just about every critic who was to the left of J. Edgar Hoover. The film MASH, which came out in 1970, cast a cynical eye on the Korean War, though it was often seen as a coded reference to Vietnam. This lack of a clear propaganda message (despite attempts by the government to influence the industry in that direction) reflects the real confusion and revulsion engendered by the Vietnam conflict in
US society.

Still, despite setbacks the US government and establishment has continued its efforts in various channels to influence Hollywood. For example, the US military extends facilities, often free of charge, to the making of films which portray the US armed forces in a positive light. It withholds such facilities from films that are critical. For example, the 1992 film A Few Good Men, starring Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise, was hardly a radical clarion call, but because it suggested that Marines at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba use illegal forms of discipline, the US Marine Corps refused to cooperate with the film.

Demonising Muslims

The Reagan years saw a drift back to a more propagandist America’s back style, with radical and fundamentalist Islam beginning to take over as the bogeyman. With the collapse of the
USSR in 1991, this trend was reinforced.

A good example is the 1994 film True Lies, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis. This features a set of mainly Middle Eastern baddies, whose leader is played by Art Malik, a British actor of Pakistani origin. They belong to something called Crimson Jihad (perhaps to mix the red threat with the Muslim peril). They are evil and fanatical but also inept and ridiculous: in one scene their attempt to make a threatening video message fails because they are too incompetent to operate the camera properly. When I watched this film, I wondered whether members of other religions or ethnic groups could be lampooned so freely in Hollywood as Muslims could be. There is a Muslim lobby in the USA, but clearly it is not as powerful as others out there. There have been surprisingly few films about the Gulf War, perhaps because it was relatively short, and the 1990s, on the whole were relatively peaceful for Americans. But where a cinematic villain on the international stage was needed, Muslims and Arabs have tended to be chosen.

The film from the year 2000, Rules of Engagement, starring Samuel Jackson, tended to demonise Arabs, while even more recently Black Hawk Down did the same with regard to Somalia, referring to a real-life American military fiasco in 1993, in which a number of US soldiers were killed. Black Hawk Down was released after S11, though made before it, and since Somalia is a possible target for the USA as part of the war on terrorism, the film has some political and propaganda significance. However, in style and treatment it is not very different from trends that have long been established in US cinema and are hardly unique to that country’s films. US troops are in Somalia for good, altruistic reasons but evil warlords are there to foil and frustrate them, etc. So, in summary, trends that appear at first glance to have S11 written all over them were in fact established well back in the last century.

Impact of September 11

Coming back to S11’s potential or future impact on US cinema: after it, British TV’s Panorama examined whether Hollywood could have averted what had happened, since many of the more extravagant scripts and completed films are not unlike the events of that day. It is very probable that many Hollywood screenwriters do indeed have more imagination than CIA or Pentagon planners and analysts, but for me that was not the most interesting part of the programme. What was interesting was some of the interviews. In particular, one screenwriter or producer said that there had been some criticism of the way Muslims had been portrayed in American films, but that American cinema’s earlier use of Muslims and Arabs as villains and bogeymen had now been vindicated by S11.

Because of the long lead times for making films, as explained at the start of this article, post-S11 trends have yet to reach full fruition, but what we are likely to see is an intensification of terrorism, especially Muslim and/or Arab, as a threat woven into the plots of US films. The Panorama remarks I have mentioned strongly point in that direction. That would please US policymakers and the Zionist lobby, and might do well at a box office, which has for a long time tended to have villains of a carefully selected kind dangled before it.

Considering how many films shown in Britain are of US origin, such trends are likely to have an impact in Britain. The left will need to respond in some way. It will need to picket cinemas, which show particularly revolting films of the kind I have described. But this will be a real test of the British left’s anti-imperialism and internationalism.

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Mar 23 2002

War against terrorism and the threat to freedom of expression

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 01RCN @ 7:40 pm

Steve Kaczynski highlights the Blair government’s further attacks on our civil liberties

Since September 11, 2001, the bourgeois democratic mask of respecting rights has been slipping. In December, a car bringing the left-wing Turkish language weekly magazine Yasadigimiz Vatan (The homeland we live in) was stopped by British police at Dover, and two issues of the magazine impounded under the Terrorism Act.

The magazine has been transported into Britain regularly in this way for some time. The British, and sometimes the French police or customs, frequently stopped the car bringing the magazines in, holding it up for varying lengths of time and questioning the driver before allowing him and the vehicle to proceed.

Continue reading “War against terrorism and the threat to freedom of expression”

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