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In reality Arbenz was a democratic socialist with no links to Moscow. Bernays set out to turn him into a communist threat to America. He organised a trip to Guatemala for influential American journalists. Few of them knew anything about the country or its politics … He also created a fake independent news agency in America – the Middle-American Information Bureau. It bombarded the American media with press releases saying that Moscow was planning to use Guatemala as a beach-head to attack America. All of this had the desired effect. But what Bernays was doing was not just trying to blacken the Arbenz regime, he was part of a secret plot. President Eisenhower had agreed that America should topple the Arbenz government. But secretly. The CIA were instructed to organise a coup. Adam Curtis, The Century of the Self II: The Engineering of Consent, BBC 2002
The Neo-Conservatives believed that they had the chance to implement their vision of America’s revolutionary destiny … in an epic battle to defeat the Soviet Union. Adam Curtis: The Power of Nightmares I: Baby It’s Cold Outside, BBC 2004
The Neo-Conservatives set out to prove that the Soviet threat was … the majority of terrorist and revolutionary movements around the world were actually part of a secret network coordinated by Moscow to take ever the world. ibid.
Reagan agreed to give the Neo-Conservatives what they wanted … The country would now fight covert wars to push back the hidden Soviet threat around the world. ibid.
They began to believe their own fiction … who were going to use force to change the world. ibid.
For the Neo-Conservatives religion was a myth … Strauss had taught that these myths were necessary to give ordinary people meaning and purpose and to ensure a stable society. ibid.
The Neo-Conservatives were idealists: their aim was to try to stop the social disintegration they believed liberal freedoms had unleashed. They wanted to find a way to unite the people by giving them a shared purpose, and one of their great influences in doing this would be the theories of Leo Strauss. ibid.
By 1998 all their attempts to transform America by creating a moral revolution had failed. Faced with the indifference of the people, the Neo-Conservatives had become marginalized in both domestic and foreign policy. But with the attacks that were about to hit America the Neo-Conservatives would at last find the evil enemy they had been searching for ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union. And in their reaction to the attacks the Neo-Conservatives would transform the failing Islamist movement into what would appear to be the grand revolutionist cause that Zawahiri had always dreamed of. But much of it would exist only in people’s imaginations. It would be the next phantom enemy. ibid.
The American Neo-Conservatives and radical Islamism … The two groups come together to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan … Both failed in their revolutions. Adam Curtis, The Power of Nightmares II: The Phantom Victory
The strange world of fantasy, deception, violence and fear in which we now live. ibid.
The Americans were setting out to defeat a mythological enemy. ibid.
American money and weapons now began to pour across the Pakistan border into Afghanistan. ibid.
Zawahiri and his small group settled in Peshawar … a military rejection of all American influence over the jihad, because America was the source of this corruption. ibid.
Then in 1987 the New Soviet leader Michael Gorbachev decided he was going to withdraw Russian troops from Afghanistan. Gorbachev was convinced that the whole Soviet system was facing collapse. He was determined to try and save it through political reform and this meant reversing the policies of his predecessors including the occupation of Afghanistan. ibid.
For the Neo-Conservatives the collapse of the Soviet Union was a triumph. And out of that triumph was going to come a central myth that still inspires them today. That through the aggressive use of American power they could transform the world and spread democracy. But in reality their victory was an illusion. ibid.
Instead of delivering dreams, politicians now promise to protect us from nightmares. They say that they will rescue us from terrible dangers that we cannot see and do not understand. And the greatest danger of all is international terrorism ... But much of this threat is a fantasy which has been exaggerated and distorted by politicians. It’s a dark illusion that has spread unquestioned through governments around the world, the security services and the international media. This is a series of films about how and why that fantasy was created and who it benefits. Adam Curtis, The Power of Nightmares III: The Shadows in the Cave
But then the Neo-Conservatives began to reconstruct the Islamists. They created a phantom enemy. And as this nightmare fantasy began to spread, politicians realised the new power it gave them in a deeply disillusioned age. ibid.
Bin Laden had no formal organisation until the Americans invented one for him. ibid.
Bin Laden had given this network a name: Al Qaeda … The focus of a loose association of dissident Muslim militants who were attracted by the new strategy. But there was no organisation … He was not their commander. ibid.
He realised this was the term the Americans gave him. ibid.
Now the Neo-Conservatives were all powerful … At its heart were Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, along with the vice-president Dick Cheney, and Richard Perle was a senior adviser to the Pentagon. ibid.
The Neo-Conservatives distorted and exaggerated the Soviet threat. They created the image of a hidden international web of evil run from Moscow that planned to dominate the world. When in reality the Soviet Union was on its last legs, collapsing from within. ibid.
All they [Northern Alliance] found were a few small caves which were either empty or had been used to store ammunition. There was no underground bunker system, no secret tunnels, the fortress didn’t exist. ibid.
Many of the arrests that were dramatically announced as being part of a hidden Al Qaeda network were in reality as absurd as the cases in America. ibid.
A simplistic fantasy of an organised web of uniquely powerful terrorists that might strike anywhere at any moment. But no-one questioned this fantasy. ibid.
The threat of a dirty bomb is yet another illusion. ibid.
The ultimate political goal at the heart of our age is the idea of individual freedom … It is a very strange kind of freedom. The attempt to liberate people from the dead hand of bureaucracy has led to the rise of a new and increasingly controlling system of management driven by targets and numbers. While governments committed to creating freedom of choice in all areas have actually presided over a rise in inequalities and a dramatic collapse in social mobility. The consequence has been a return of the power of class and privilege. And abroad the attempt to create democracy has led not just to bloody mayhem but a rejection of the American-led campaign to bring freedom. ibid.
In November 1989 the Berlin Wall collapsed and the Cold War was finally over. A new era of freedom had begun. The shape that freedom was going to take would be defined by the victors – the West, and as this programme has shown, the idea of freedom that had now become dominant in the West was deeply rooted in the suspicion and paranoia of the Cold War. ibid.
Abroad in Iraq and Afghanistan Britain and America had set out to liberate individuals from tyranny. Adam Curtis, The Trap II: The Lonely Robot
A scientific model of ourselves as simplified robots, rational calculated beings whose behaviour and even feelings could be analysed and managed by numbers. But what resulted was the very opposite of freedom: the numbers took on a power of their own which began to create new forms of control, greater inequalities and a return to a rigid class structure based on the power of money. ibid.
The chaos caused by these revolutions also began to destabilise the balance of power in the world. And this would inexorably bring them face to face with America and its global battle against communism. But what this clash was going to lead to was the rise in America of a new militant idea of freedom, and the belief that it was the United States’ duty to spread this freedom around the world by force if necessary. Adam Curtis: The Trap III: We Will Force You to be Free
And then in 1979 the Iranian revolution showed dramatically America’s policy of backing dictators did not work. The Iranian people rose up and toppled the Shah of Iran. The Shah had one of the largest military forces in the world given to him by the Americans. But it proved helpless in the face of the new Islamist ideology of Ayatollah Khomeini. Many in the West saw Khomeini as the resurgence of a dark almost medieval force. But this was wrong. The Iranian revolution was yet again driven by Western ideas of political freedom. ibid.
The other part of Project Democracy was to use military force in secret operations to overthrow foreign regimes that stood in the way of freedom. The main target was the government of Nicaragua, the Sandinistas. The Sandinistas were Marxist revolutionaries who had seized power in 1979; but since then they had held elections and had been democratically elected. The Reagan administration dismissed this though as a sham. And an operation was set up to enforce the right kind of democracy by overthrowing the Sandinistas if necessary. The man in charge was a leading Neo-Conservative Elliott Abrams. ibid.
After the bloodiest battle of the entire Afghan war, 8,000 Taliban soldiers surrendered to the Northern Alliance and US special forces under guarantee that their lives would be spared. Today up to 3,000 of those men lie in an unmarked desert grave, and American soldiers stand accused by numerous eye witnesses of being involved in their disappearance. Afghan Massacre: The Convoy of Death, 2002
George, had a private chat with the editor of the Guardian, C P Scott. If people really knew the truth, said the Prime Minister, the war would be stopped tomorrow. But of course they don’t know and they can’t know. John Pilger, The War You Don’t See, 2010
The soundbites never stop, and the wars never stop. ibid.
What is the role of the media in rapacious wars like Iraq and Afghanistan? Why do many journalists beat the drums of war regardless of the lies of governments? And how are the crimes of war reported and justified when they are our crimes? ibid.
The resulting TV pictures gave no sense of the bloody conquest of Iraq. ibid.
As a result of the invasion of Iraq: 740 women are widows, 4.5 million people forced from their homes. ibid.
The respectable media has played a critical part in promoting war. ibid.