Esteban Uyarra, a brave man - NOT EMBEDDED
The Trial of Saddam Hussein
It was see by millions on the french-german TV channel ARTE.TV on 13. November 2008 and 14.August 2009 (plus repeats!)
The film follows the Iraqi prosecution and Saddam’s defence team. The main goal for both parties is to secure a fair trial but for different reasons. The Iraqi prosecution want to bring their former regime to justice and look upon the case as a symbolic start to the new Iraq whilst the defence is challenging the legality of the trial.
The film make very good points about the kangaroo court "trial", Saddam's guilt and the situation the US-american/UK invasion had created. In a nutshell
On the instance of the Americans, Saddam Hussein was not tried in an international but rather in an Iraqi one. The leaders of the US and the new Iraq both hope that the trials will serve as an act of closure for the Iraqi people and be a symbol that means much more than just a judgement of guilt on one man. October 2005 sees the trial begin as it would continue – with Saddam refusing to recognise the court and commanding attention from all in the televised proceedings. Of course he would eventually be sentenced to hang but this documentary follows the trial up to (and including) that point.
It was 12th April 2007 when I watched this film. On that same day we had seen the bodies of 4 freshly killed soldiers arriving back in the UK, the destruction by insurgents of a significant bridge crossing the River Tigris connecting two parts of Baghdad and a suicide bomb attack from inside the canteen area of the Iraqi Parliament. At lunchtime. And yes, that's the same Iraqi Parliament that is inside the heavily fortified "Green Zone" that the US are so proud of. It has been just over four years since Saddam was "toppled" and we had the absurd "mission accomplished" banner flown. In May it will be four years since Bush officially declared that the US had prevailed in Iraq and it has been over four months since Saddam died.
So given that little appears to have changed and that we (UK/US) are just hanging in there until we can "cut and run" and leave the country to divide up quietly away from western media, I thought it a good time to watch this! The reason for this was because regime change is now apparently the reason we went to war in the first place. I seem to remember stuff about imminent threats, WMD, uranium, intelligence dossiers etc but perhaps this is my bad memory because it was bringing freedom to Iraq that it was all about. In this context the trial of Saddam should have been a formality that could easily have been delivered in a legally sound way and have marked a triumph in the Iraqi invasion. However the opposite was true. The trial was a (highly engaging) mess of walkouts, murdered defence staff and Saddam showing himself a dominant figure that would not go quietly.
The film captures this perfectly by using lots of court footage, news footage and good use of contributions and candid footage with those involved. A lot of praise should go to editor Tagg for bringing it all together. Considering how much material he had to deliver from, it is impressive how it does it in such a clear and accessible way. The film does not make easy watching and it reminded me of the complexity of the situation.
On one hand I have no doubt that Saddam was guilty of atrocities but then on the other hand I saw little in the trial that suggested it was fair – surely a judge should not mock the accused in the way we see here? Anyway, a depressing film that stands as an accessible and engaging potted history of the Saddam Hussein trial. I guess my politics are clear from my review but regardless of this the film makes for great viewing, providing recent history while also creating food for thought.
Esteban Uyarra and Michael Christoffersen
The Battle for Saddam
Critically acclaimed director Esteban Uyarra has been in Baghdad since September 2005 following the trial of Saddam Hussein behind-the-scenes. As the only ones Team Productions daily follows the trial against the former Iraqi ex-dictator in the courtroom and behind-the-scenes. It is history as it unfolds and the film gives an unique insight to the Judges, prosecutors and defenders extensive work; their thoughts, strategies, victories and defeats during the trial.
Jacques Chirac and former CIA hitman and asset Saddam Hussein.
The world premier was short after the execution of Saddam Hussein but a new future length version is on it's way and is expected to come out during the autumn.
| WAR FEELS LIKE WAR |
Esteban Uyarra, UK, 2003
Wednesday 17 March 2004 9pm-10pm; rpt 12.20am-1.20am; Sunday 21 March 11pm-midnight
The inside story of covering the second Gulf War, as Esteban Uyarra travels across Kuwait and Iraq in the tracks of independent journalists from around the world
War Feels Like War is the work of Esteban Uyarra, a brave man who abandoned his London job, carrying little more than a DV camera, many bars of chocolate and packages of dates.
He wasn't an authorised (ie embedded) correspondent so he didn't hang out with the allied forces. Instead, he hooked up with various equally intrepid 'unilateral' hacks, drove across the desert and arrived in Baghdad.
Uyarra's film shows what the war appeared like if you were not seeing it from behind the barrel of a tank. Wartime Iraq is a scary place, and the only way you can know what's going on is by listening to BBC World Service.It is possible to understand what has happened since the war by looking at the images in War Feels Like War - it was never likely to work out very well.
Monday 16 February 2004
BBC Four: Why did you want to make the film in the first place?
Esteban Uyarra: The first influence was a book called Comanche Territory by a Spanish reporter called Arturo Perez Reverte, who is now a very famous novelist. It's about his experiences as a war reporter in Kosovo. There is a lot of stuff in the book about the hotels that journalists stayed in and I thought I could make something like Fort Apache - you're safe inside the hotel, but outside there's a hostile environment. Then I read A Mad World by John Simpson, which also talks about similar hotels.
My plan was to go anywhere in the world where there was this sort of hotel and make a film. Afghanistan was impossible because I couldn't afford to get there. I considered Palestine but that seemed too routine. Then, as the build up to war in Iraq started hotting up I thought it might be the opportunity I was waiting for, I just decided to go to Kuwait City. There was no understanding of how things were going to work for the journalists. We just hung around the American press office and were given cards that said "unilateral journalists". But we quickly felt like bystanders who could be easily brushed off.
BBC Four: As PJ O'Rourke says in the film, you were "seen as pests"...
EU: Absolutely. At that point I wasn't that desperate because I thought I would just go to Iraq with others, on a bus trip, and come back. You felt that the press officers were withholding information just before the war. It quickly became apparent that there were two levels of journalist covering the war - the embedded journalists - the majority of whom were British and American - and everybody else who was independent. Most people don't realise that there were far more independent journalists in Iraq than embedded ones.
BBC Four: Did you get the impression while you were there that this was a war that the media was covering very differently from previous conflicts?
EU: Absolutely. The embedded journalist idea is a great trick. I think it works like a CCTV camera - it supposedly records the facts but you can't understand anything - you can't talk to the people, you just see someone. The embedded journalists were like having 800 CCTV cameras trying to understand the whole picture but not being able to understand anything. The trick worked because it seemed that the access was amazing, but it was worse than in many other wars. You could see the bullets flying, you could hear reporters in tanks - but there's nothing you could learn from that. They were literally in bed with the army. People I spoke to afterwards claimed they knew that if something bad had happened or a marine had done something immoral then they wouldn't have reported it. They knew by then that these were same people they were having breakfast with each morning in a tent. The emphasis was on keeping the morale high. How many dead people did you see on television with all these embedded journalists? Very few.
BBC Four: Were there many restrictions on what you could and couldn't film?
EU: The militarised area of Northern Kuwait was completely out of bounds. Even if you got out your camera they would immediately send you back home. The same is true of the border crossings - that's why you never see us actually cross the border in the film. That was such a huge risk - it would have meant the end of the film.
BBC Four: How was that trip into Iraq?
EU: The trip was a bit of a nightmare because you have three checkpoints in Kuwait. We passed through the first one without any problems. At the second one, one of the people I was with, supposedly one of the most experienced reporters in the world, behaved like a child. First he tried to cross the border and was stopped by the marines. Then he showed them his United Nations card from Kosovo. The marine said, "Have you taken a wrong turn? We're not in Kosovo." Then the marine started scratching the photo and it wasn't even him. I just thought "I am either dead or going to be sent back to Spain". The marine told us never to come back to that checkpoint.
We then did what most people do: we went back and travelled through all the dunes - got off the roads completely and navigated through the landmines. We were eventually stopped by the Kuwaiti military who gave us some tea and kept telling us to go back. By this stage we were right next to the border and could see Iraq. Finally, one guy said, "If you want to go to Iraq, that's the place to go" and pointed to a spot two miles away on the map. So we went there and saw all the tanks moving in and just got in between the tanks. About five metres before the border a marine started shouting and knocking on the car so we just accelerated and that was that. Once you're in Iraq there's nothing they can do.
BBC Four: How weird is that - to go into a country as part of an army convoy?
EU: I know. By then everything was weird but that was the weirdest thing. Plus, the change from Kuwait to Iraq is huge. Kuwait City is very hazy, very sunny, very hot, but is still clean to some extent and the roads are okay. Iraq is arid and broken down - you immediately know you are in a place with character and history.
EU: The first time I was asked that I said no. I'd just finished editing and once you start watching the same thing over and over you feel slightly more guilty about going to a place to film rather than to help. So my answer was no, but not out of fear. I wasn't afraid when I was there - I was too focussed on doing the job. It was a sense of disgust, not of the journalists, but of the whole idea of war. What you have to go through mentally and how stupid you feel that there is nothing you can do. But saying that, I've just come from Haiti which was been really dangerous, with people shooting every where and machetes flying around and that felt more chaotic than Iraq.
In Iraq you still felt that you knew where the bombs may come from. You can't say that of a random machete. I also enjoyed being in Haiti so I might be getting addicted to all this adrenaline. I don't feel like I want to do it all the time - it's like the once in a while cigarette - I'm a social smoker when it comes to war zones! I don't think I'll be chasing channels to send me to conflicts but if they ask me I know I will do it. I don't have the imagination to create things out of nothing. If you give me an empty room, an actor and a tripod then I am lost. But if you give me people running from bombs I can dance with the camera and almost choreograph shots in my mind - I see people moving almost before they move
This Steve Bell (Guardian) Cartoon says it all.
"[David] Kay admitted that he made what he called a "Faustian bargain" with the intelligence community"
"Hans Blix and David Kay", wanniski.com
As I suggested in a previous piece ("Bush spells it out"), the Iraq Survey Group’s interim report infers that Saddam pulled a ‘fast one’ on the USUK by ‘conning’ them into thinking Iraq had WMDs whereas in fact they didn’t and that this led to Iraq being invaded.
In an article headed "Hussein's Weapons May Have Been Bluff" (01/10/03), the lie has been given substance by the Washingtom Post (amongst others) where we read,
"With no chemical or biological weapons yet found in Iraq, the U.S. official in charge of the search for Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction is pursuing the possibility that the Iraqi leader was bluffing, pretending he had distributed them to his most loyal commanders to deter the United States from invading."
The article goes on to say,
"David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security and a former United Nations weapons inspector who has been in contact with Iraqi scientists since the war, said: "The idea of deployment and the authority to launch was very solid. But it's now being looked at as possibly misinformation or that they were playing with us."
This in spite of all the protestations to the contrary made in public statements as well as in statements made to the UN Security Council prior to the invasion. And what is this fantastic assertion based on?
"In particular, [David] Kay has examined prewar Iraqi communications collected by U.S. intelligence agencies indicating that Iraqi commanders -- including Ali Hassan Majeed, also known as "Chemical Ali" -- were given the authority to launch weapons of mass destruction against U.S. troops as they advanced north from Kuwait."
But in spite of Albright’s assertion, Kay’s report to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Defense and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence contains not one mention of any kind of substantiated evidence to ‘fool the UN’ or anyone else into thinking that they possessed WMDs.
But of course, failing any actual proof of WMDs, what better excuse to conjure up than the fantasy that the USUK were 'duped' into invading!
Indeed, the report, if that’s what it can be called, is chock full of suppositions, suggestions, suspicions and maybes, but nothing that supports any of the headlines we have read since the release of the report last week, aside from the assertion that Saddam had "intentions" (Kay Report), which of course, nobody is able to substantiate. Every key allegation in Kay's report to Congress has a caveat that either, it remains to be proved or, the 'evidence' has been destroyed, or that there is the 'suspicion' that Saddam intended to do such and such.
Who is David Kay?
Even the most cursory investigation of David Kay’s past reveals that the mass media is not reporting his political involvement with intelligence agencies and his financial connection to corporations involved in 'administering' occupied Iraq. The investigation calls into question anything Kay has to say on the subject of Iraq’s alleged WMDs and his suitability for the position of heading the so-called Iraq Survey Group.
In fact, Kay’s connections to the Pentagon, the CIA, ultra right-wing Israeli ‘think-tanks’, a major military contractor called SAIC and the Iraqi Reconstruction and Redevelopment Council, all the members of whom are actually employees of SAIC, reveals a relationship extending back to the middle of 1990s and even before, to Ronald Reagan’s government. A relationship that the corporate press is not mentioning, and with good reason, for in doing so it would reveal the suspect nature of anything Kay has to say about Iraq’s alleged WMD ‘programme’ prior to the invasion.
"Under Reagan, he was a chief scientist for the Pentagon as well as serving as a section chief for the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Administration of the UN) from 1983 until 1991. During this time, Hans Blix - Kay's boss - who was a man of integrity, was continually pressured…first [by] Reagan, then Bush [senior] to come up with 'evidence' that oil-rich Iraq posed a sufficient nuclear threat for the US to invade (and thus to capture the oil)."
- Let the buyer beware
Kay also has connections to the man who supplied much of the totally discredited information on Iraq’s alleged nuclear weapons programme, Khidir Hamza who, surprise-surprise is also now an employee of SAIC as a member of the Iraqi Reconstruction and Redevelopment Council! Hamza has much to answer for and it’s more than likely that the fabled ‘other documents’ (if they exist at all) that Blah has referred to in connection with the faked Niger yellowcake documents, are the ones supplied to the IAEA in July 1995 by Hamza.
In article by Soloman Hughes written for GlobalResearch, quoting documents leaked from the IAEA,
"Dated July 1995, the IAEA letter describes "two single-page documents, which were represented as official Iraqi correspondence generated in April/May 1994, suggesting the reconstitution of a nuclear weapons programme".
"There is also reference to " an additional set of three documents".
"According to the IAEA, "a detailed analysis of the form and content of the documents "found a large number of errors and inconsistencies"
"The UN weapons inspectors declared that as a result of this investigation, they had "reached the conclusion that, on the basis of all evidence available, these documents are not authentic".
"Nuclear weapons inspector Maurizio Ferrero described one of the letters rather more bluntly as "a fake"
The documents, first published in the Sunday Times earned Hamza a central role in the US propaganda machine and propelled him right into the heart of the 'neo-con' clique that surrounds Bush the smaller. Later, Hamza was to not only disown the faked documents he'd peddled to the Sunday Times, he even claimed that it was a "fake Hamza" who had done the peddling! And no wonder, as it would have ruined his chances for his entré into the inner sanctum of the right-wing had it come to the attention of the public that he was not only peddling fake documents but also inflating his role in Iraq's arms programme. Hamza, who is also a member of the Iraqi National Congress, was one of a stream of of Iraqi defectors, anxious to sell information to the US, who in turn, were anxious to get hold of any information that backed up their claims ofSaddam's WMD programme.
It was during this time (1995-97) that Kay was 'doing the rounds', peddling the lie that Iraq had advanced nuclear weapons, chemical and biological weapons programmes.
In September 2002, "Hamza is brought in by the Bush administration to testify before Congress to whom he makes a long list of allegations, including Saddam's closeness to weapons production, his ties to Al Queda, etc. Despite Hamza's earlier exposure as a liar, his testimony was still taken seriously by Congress and the media, and trumpeted as some of the most compelling cause for war."
David Kay and the SAIC
Until October 2002 David Kay was Senior Vice President for the San Diego-based Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) when Kay leaves SAIC and becomes a 'senior fellow' at the Potomac Institute for Policy Research, and then is appointed to head up the Iraq Survey Group by the CIA, although it's rumoured that he still holds considerable stock in SAIC, which if true, means he stands to benefit considerably from the US occupation of Iraq and the vast contracts awarded to SAIC. According to a report in the AsiaTimes by Katrin Dauenhauer and Jim Lobe,
"[The] SAIC, heavily involved with homeland security projects, has already acquired several reconstruction contracts in Iraq, and Kay and a number of other former company employees are firmly planted in [the] country. The company "has been running the Iraqi Reconstruction and Development Council (IRDC) since the body was established by the Pentagon in February," Dauenhauer and Lobe reported. "SAIC is also a subcontractor under Vinnell Corporation, another big defense contractor that has long been in charge of training for the Saudi National Guard, hired to reconstitute and train a new Iraqi army." And SAIC is also running the recently established Iraqi Media Network (IMN) project, whose charge was to "was to put together a new information ministry, complete with television, radio and a newspaper, and the content that would make all three attractive to average Iraqis."
Bizarrely, it was in February 2003 that the Pentagon established the Iraqi Reconstruction and Development Council under the "Future of Iraq Project", two months before the invasion, with offices near the Pentagon. The IRDC subsequently moved to Vienna, Austria prior to be being relocated to Baghdad in May under Kay's sidekick Paul Bremer's jurisdiction.
"[SAIC] was commissioned by G. W. Bush in 2002 to construct a replica of a mobile WMD laboratory of the sort used by Saddam. This mock up, supposedly destined to be used to train teams searching for WMDs in Iraq, was designed by Stephen Hatfill, the WMD expert now being harangued into isolation and thus silence by Bush's FBI. Last spring, the Bush administration handed SAIC some of the biggest defense contract plums to be had -a billion-dollar chunk of the NexGen business and an unbelievably porky 10-year contract worth over $600 million."
But it's the blatant conflict of interest that's the most important aspect of Kay's role in peddling the lie of Saddam's WMDs, through his relationship to SAIC ('conveniently' terminated last October) and of SAIC's relationship to the Iraqi Reconstruction and Development Council, which is wholy owned by this US defense corporation! A corporation which also has contracts to supply services to the Department of Homeland Security. This is the reality of the 21st century mercenary, where the administration of an occupied country has been handed over, lock, stock and barrel to a company and also through a sub-contract from Vinnell Corp, another mercenary outfit hired by the US government to 'police' Iraq.
What the investigation of David Kay reveals is the incestuous and utterly corrupt, interlocking relationship that exists between defense corporations, the Pentagon, right-wing ideologues and the USUK governments at the highest level, that makes any assertions made by Kay, Bush or Blah not worth the paper they're written on. With billions of dollars of contracts being handed out to corporations that are also involved via people such as Kay and who try and justify the policies that make such contracts possible, is crime of monstrous proportions. A crime that the media ignores completely. This is the real story, and the media need to be called to task for failing to report it.
The Hallabja Massacre
Saddam Could Call CIA in His Defence
by Sanjay Suri
Evidence offered by a top CIA man could confirm the testimony given by Saddam Hussein at the opening of his trial in Baghdad Thursday that he knew of the Halabja massacre only from the newspapers.
LONDON, Jul 2 (IPS) - Thousands were reported killed in the gassing of Iraqi Kurds in Halabja in the north of Iraq in March 1988 towards the end of Iraq's eight-year war with Iran. The gassing of the Kurds has long been held to be the work of Ali Hassan al-Majid, named in the West because of that association as 'Chemical Ali'. Saddam Hussein is widely alleged to have ordered Ali to carry out the chemical attack.
The Halabja massacre is now prominent among the charges read out against Saddam in the Baghdad court. When that charge was read out, Saddam replied that he had read about the massacre in a newspaper. Saddam has denied these allegations ever since they were made. But now with a trial on, he could summon a witness in his defence with the potential to blow apart the charge and create one of the greatest diplomatic disasters the United States has ever known A report prepared by the top CIA official handling the matter says Saddam Hussein was not responsible for the massacre, and indicates that it was the work of Iranians. Further, the Scott inquiry on the role of the British government has gathered evidence that following the massacre the United States in fact armed Saddam Hussein to counter the Iranians chemicals for chemicals Few believe that a CIA man would attend a court hearing in Baghdad in defence of Saddam. But in this case the CIA boss has gone public with his evidence, and this evidence has been in the public domain for more than a year The CIA officer Stephen C. Pelletiere was the agency's senior political analyst on Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war. As professor at the Army War College from 1988 to 2000, he says he was privy to much of the classified material that flowed through Washington having to do with the Persian Gulf. In addition, he says he headed a 1991 Army investigation into how the Iraqis would fight a war against the United States, and the classified version of the report went into great detail on the Halabja affair.
Pelletiere went public with his information on no less a platform than The New York Times in an article on January 31 last year titled 'A War Crime or an Act of War?' The article which challenged the case for war quoted U.S. President George W. Bush as saying: ”The dictator who is assembling the world's most dangerous weapons has already used them on whole villages, leaving thousands of his own citizens dead, blind or disfigured. Pelletiere says the United States Defence Intelligence Agency investigated and produced a classified report following the Halabja gassing, which it circulated within the intelligence community on a need- to-know basis. ”That study asserted that it was Iranian gas that killed the Kurds, not Iraqi gas,” he wrote in The New York Times The agency did find that each side used gas against the other in the battle around Halabja, he said. ”The condition of the dead Kurds' bodies, however, indicated they had been killed with a blood agent -- that is, a cyanide-based gas -- which Iran was known to use. ”The Iraqis, who are thought to have used mustard gas in the battle, are not known to have possessed blood agents at the time. Pelletiere writes that these facts have ”long been in the public domain but, extraordinarily, as often as the Halabja affair is cited, they are rarely mentioned.”
Pelletiere wrote that Saddam Hussein has much to answer for in the area of human rights abuses. ”But accusing him of gassing his own people at Halabja as an act of genocide is not correct, because as far as the information we have goes, all of the cases where gas was used involved battles. These were tragedies of war. There may be justifications for invading Iraq, but Halabja is not one of them. Pelletiere has maintained his position. All Saddam would have to do in court now is to cite The New York Times article even if the court would not summon Pelletiere. The issues raised in the article would themselves be sufficient to raise serious questions about the charges filed against Saddam - and in turn the justifications offered last year for invading Iraq The Halabja killings were cited not just by Bush but by British Prime Minister Tony Blair to justify his case for going along with a U.S. invasion of Iraq. A British government dossier released to justify the war on Iraq says that ”Saddam has used chemical weapons, not only against an enemy state, but against his own people.” An inquiry report in 1996 by Lord Justice Scott in what came to be known as the arms-to-Iraq affair gave dramatic pointers to what followed after Halabja. After the use of poison gas in 1988 both the United States and Britain began to supply Saddam Hussein with even more chemical weapons The Scott inquiry had been set up in 1992 following the collapse of the trial in the case of Matrix Churchill, a British firm exporting equipment to Iraq that could be put to military use Three senior executives of Matrix Churchill said the government knew what Matrix Churchill was doing, and that its managing director Paul Henderson had been supplying information about Iraq to the British intelligence agencies on a regular basis. The inquiry revealed details of the British government's secret decision to supply Saddam with even more weapons-related equipment after the Halabja killings. Former British foreign secretary Geoffrey Howe was found to have written that the end of the Iraq-Iran war could mean ”major opportunities for British industry” in military exports, but he wanted to keep that proposal quiet. ”It could look very cynical if so soon after expressing outrage about the treatment of the Kurds, we adopt a more flexible approach to arms sales,” one of his officials told the Scott inquiry. Lord Scott condemned the government's decision to change its policy, while keeping MPs and the public in the dark. Soon after the attack, the United States approved the export to Iraq of virus cultures and a billion-dollar contract to design and build a petrochemical plant the Iraqis planned to use to produce mustard gas. Saddam Hussein has appeared so far without a lawyer to defend him. A Jordanian firm is reported to be speaking up for him. But the real defence for him could be waiting for him in Washington and London.