Tag Archives: sanctions

Invitation to a beheading: the day I filmed an execution

Yesterday the demented nutcases who call themselves ISIS killed Alan Henning, a taxi driver from Salford who fell into their clutches while taking aid to Syria. ‘The brutal murder… . . . shows just how barbaric these terrorists are,’ tweeted the UK prime minister. It’s hard to disagree with him. This ‘theatre of cruelty’, the use of beheading and the framing of murder as spectacle, forces an intimate emotional identification with the victim – a fact which ISIS well understand and exploit to maximum effect. Four people have now been killed in this way, symbolic sacrifices in a long-running war which has claimed few victims from amongst the civilian populations of ‘the West’.

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The Porter’s Tale

The most celebrated storyteller in the world is surely the legendary Scheherazade – a woman and a Muslim – who tamed a tyrant with her tales. Persuaded that all women are faithless the cuckolded king Shahrayar metes out collective punishment to the entire sex, wedding and bedding a different girl each night only to have her killed the following morning. Scheherazade, an educated woman who understands the power of narrative, gambles her own life to stop the slaughter. Offering herself in marriage, she beguiles Shahrayar with her yarns and stops at a cliff-hanger as the sun rises each day in order that he will delay her execution. Eventually her stories cure the king of his rage and his pain and teach him to love once more. Continue reading »

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Iraq, Newspeak and the War on the Imagination

 

 

Iraqi Artists decorates blast wall around the US ‘green zone’. Photo by John Spanner for NYT

As a film-maker and journalist who had spent time in Baghdad, I was asked to talk at a number of meetings prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Like many people I believed the machinations around ‘WMDs’ to be a pretext for war that concealed a different agenda – an agenda driven by a powerful coincidence of economic, strategic and ideological interests. I was skeptical, too, that the invasion would bring true ‘liberation’ to the Iraqi people, since I did not believe it was intended to do so. Unfortunately history has proved those who opposed the war right in both these regards. What follows is the transcript of a speech I made at a public meeting at Sussex University in March 2003, as reprinted in Eclipse Magazine.

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