Thought they were gone and increasingly irrelevant after the disastrous Iraq war? Think again. The neocons are back, and they're directing American foreign policy with as much psychopathic zeal as ever. PNAC may be gone, but it has simply been rebranded as the 'bipartisan' Foreign Policy Initiative, and its agenda is one and the same: to ensure U.S. hegemony and global domination, no matter how many people they have to kill.
All this and more is covered extensively in filmmaker Robbie Martin's new documentary, A Very Heavy Agenda. Robbie has crafted a stunning tapestry of the neocons' deceptions, pushes for war, and blatant media manipulations. Using their own words, he essentially lets the neocons condemn themselves, as they attempt to normalize imperial aggression, the violation of other nations' sovereignty, and the information war against their biggest target: Russia.
Tune in to the Truth Perspective to hear Robbie discuss the latest instalment of his film, Maintaining the World Order. You can read Robbie's writing on Media Matters, tune in to his podcast (co-hosted with his sister Abby), and check out A Very Heavy Agenda on Vimeo.
After the interview, Brent's Police State Round-up covered the latest police atrocities, and the recent events in Dallas and protests all over the country.
Running Time: 02:10:35
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Here's the transcript of the show:
Recorded Intro:Harrison: Welcome back everyone to The Truth Perspective. This is the July 10, 2016 edition. In the studio today we have our regular, Elan Martin.
Bob Kagan: Well I think Americans generally view America as essentially isolationist, certainly at its birth, generally throughout its early history but even beyond, minding its own business unless someone comes in and attacks it or poses some threat and then we go out and deal with it. And it is mostly myth. If you think about going back, even to the time of the Puritans, America has been an expansionist nation really for 400 years. I think that's a reality that Americans sometimes forget. John Quincy Adams, he said that America was destined by the finger of god to belong to the American people, that North America, the whole continent, was destined to belong to Americans, that we should be willing to use our military to advance our ideals. These days that's conceived of as a radical idea and only a very small fringe of Americans could possibly believe that, but that is a mainstream, traditional American view.There was a lot more continuity than people want to remember I think, between the Clinton administration's approach to Iraq and the Bush administration's approach to Iraq.
Bill Clinton: So long as Saddam remains in power, he threatens the well-being of his people, the peace of this region, the security of the world. ... Working for the elimination of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capability...if they really believe that there are no circumstances under which we would act alone, they are sadly mistaken.
Interviewer: You write in the New Republic that from '89 to 2003, 1989 to 2003, a 14 year period spanning three very different presidencies, the US deployed large numbers of troops, were engaged in extended campaigns of aerial bombings and missile attacks on nine different occasions. That's an average of one significant military intervention every 19 months. That's the greatest frequency of any time in our history.
Interviewee: Yeah. We think of ourselves as a peace-loving people but at the same time we have a strong martial tradition and for a nation that does love peace, that frequency of intervention after the end of the Cold War is a pretty dramatic sign that throughout our history, whether from the Revolution and the Civil War, First World War, Second World War, Americans have always believed that military power, though to be used as a last resort we always say, is nevertheless an essential element of foreign policy.
And I think we're still like that today. We're not an unselfish nation. We also take actions that are in our self-interest and sometimes we blend the two, we blend our idealistic motives and our self-interested motives that we're a nation of human beings and human beings are selfish people.
Machiavelli understood in a good way rather than the sort of terrible way that he's usually described, which is that it may be necessary for powerful nations sometimes to violate even its own rules in order to further the order. This is the most upsetting thing that American can possibly hear and yet we've done it routinely.
I would say to characterize this administration's foreign policy coming in, it was not Bush. I dare say we will find more continuity - and I know this is a horrific thing to say - between George W. Bush's foreign policies and also in terms of dealing with terror, and some of Barak Obama's policies. Continuity in American foreign policy, is generally greater than discontinuity. Presidents are not as different from one another as they think they're going to be and sometimes certainly not the way they sound in campaigns and in the hope of upsetting all of you in one way or another, is not dramatically different.
Elan: Hello everyone.
Harrison: And I'll be your host for today, Harrison Koehli. And joining us today is Robbie Martin who has just released part 3 of his documentary film A Very Heavy Agenda. Robbie is a journalist for Media Roots and he co-hosts Media Roots Radio with his sister, Abby Martin. He also composes music under the name Fluorescent Grey which you can hear featured in A Very Heavy Agenda as well as on Abby's show The Empire Files on TeleSUR.
The film we'll be discussing today, A Very Heavy Agenda is available in three parts, running a total of something like 7½ hours and if I could sum it up in just a few words, I'd call it a history, analysis and condemnation of the neoconservatives. It's mostly told in their own words, culled from TV appearances and talks given by some of their most prominent members and also from news coverage of events that they have shaped or influenced over the past 20 years or so. That's debatable. We could go back further when we talk about these guys' influence.
Robbie has done an amazing job putting all this material together and we highly recommend that you check out the film. It's available on Vimeo and you can also order DVD copies on his website. I believe all three parts will be available in a set, I think on July 20th, but we'll talk about that a bit later. That's available on his website and links are in the show description. So Robbie welcome to the show. We're really excited to talk to you about your film.
Robbie: Well thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.
Elan: Robbie, before I start with my first question here, I just want to add to what Harrison was saying about this series. It is as well made and compelling and horrifying as any documentary I think I've seen in the past 10 or 15 years on the subject of politics or social movements or anything of that sort. It's artistic, it's compelling and I just want to recommend to everybody who's listening to this show who has any kind of interest in the political reality of the USA today, go out and watch these films.
Having said that, I was wondering Robbie if you could just tell us a little bit about how it was you decided to sit down and make a film about these neocons and really get to the heart of what's going on?
Robbie: Well I guess it all started back when my sister Abby, who some of your listeners might be familiar with, had her show Breaking the Set on Russia Today and her show was already I think a year-and-a-half running already when I went and visited her for a week. I got a chance to hang out around the RT studios and help her write some episodes. That was a really fun experience for me and I guess in a way I took it for granted because I didn't realize at the time because I wasn't following it closely enough that the Ukrainian government was on the edge of stepping down because of the Euro Maidan protests and what was happening over there.
This was sort of happening in the background while I was there at her studios and we were talking about it privately like, "Goddamn! This is crazy that this is happening while you're here at RT. Eventually this is going to get to a point where you're going to have to talk about it on your show and what's going to be your take on it because it's so confusing?" We were having trouble figuring out what was going on in real time and trying to figure out exactly how to analyze it and then broadcast that to her audience. And then when I left, that's really when the Ukrainian situation boiled over and then we were talking on the phone about it while she was in DC and then she finally decided that she was going to use the last monologue on her show to detach herself from what she felt was Russian aggression but also American meddling in Ukraine. She was trying to say the media overall right now is being a little bit dishonest. You're not getting the full story.
She wasn't throwing the network RT under the bus. Some people accused her of that. But it was more like she saw some things that RT was putting out at that time that were questionable to her, but the larger point was that the entire western media narrative was starting to amp up anti-Russian coverage and that was something that she was also criticizing. Then of course that in and of itself, her coming out and doing this monologue on RT, became a news story here in the western press. What happened was the western press almost started hailing her as this anti-Russian hero who came out on her show and spoke out against Russia but I think that they jumped the gun on doing that because they didn't realize what her actual politics were. They hadn't seen her show before that, when in fact her show is extremely anti-US imperialism, anti-US militarism, one of the most aggressive shows ever on American television presenting that perspective, arguably.
So the press ran with this story and then very quickly it started to become "Oh, she's actually a truther. These statements are now questionable because she has these controversial views about Israel and about the US's role in foreign policy."
So to make a long story short - I know I've gone a little bit long with this explanation - but it's important to tell the back story because what happened right after that was very interesting. A fellow from this neoconservative think tank named the Foreign Policy Initiative took all these negative things that were starting to be churned about Abby and the press and presented them all in this package on a TV spot on MSNBC and he went on MSNBC two nights after Abby made this statement about Crimea and Ukraine and basically just tried to destroy Abby's reputation. "She's a kook. She's a conspiracy theorist. Don't listen to her," all that kind of stuff. And then he ended it by saying that her stance on RT was actually a Russian false flag and that it was all stage-managed and that somehow her boss was in on this with her and it was done to make it seem like RT reporters weren't controlled by the Kremlin.
So he developed this neocon conspiracy theory about my sister being like some kind of actor, like she wasn't really making a stand and that it was all fake. And then a day after he did this one of Abby's colleagues on RT named Liz Wahl actually resigned lived on air claiming that she could no longer be a puppet of Putin and no longer be part of a network that "whitewashes Putin".
Abby and I were blown away by this. Abby knew Liz Wahl well enough to know that she didn't have any of those feelings towards the network, that it sounded totally phoney when it happened. She had other issues with the network. She wasn't getting paid enough. That was something that she had talked about with Abby, but nothing along the lines of "This is a propaganda network. I don't want to work here anymore." So it was a huge shock to us when that happened. And then just what we thought was a coincidence, but a very strange coincidence but also too weird to be a coincidence was that this same fellow from the Foreign Policy Initiative who had smeared Abby on MSNBC a day earlier, was the one to get the exclusive first interview with Liz Wahl who had just resigned on RT...
Harrison: Two hours ago.
Robbie: Yeah. And he was buddying up with her and helping her get all these media spots. It was almost like he was almost like her representative in this weird 24 hour window when Liz Wahl was getting asked to go on CNN and all these other media outlets. But what we found out weeks later - we didn't realize how coordinated this actually was - we just had a feeling that it was, we couldn't prove it. But in this article by Max Blumenthal and Rodney Callick that came out weeks later, it actually shows that the Foreign Policy Initiative itself, the think tank's Twitter account was tweeting on their Twitter account telling people to tune in to Russia Today because something big was about to happen and they kept tweeting this leading up to the actual moment when Liz Wahl resigned live on air.
So we just thought that was incredibly bizarre and it was made even more bizarre when we realized what the Foreign Policy Initiative was. The Foreign Policy Initiative is of course, as you'll learn from the movie A Very Heavy Agenda, is a rebranded reopened version of the infamous think tank the Project for a New American Century which was something that I had always known about. I just assumed it was gone. All the people from it had gone into the shadows and disappeared. But what I learned from this experience was no, it's very much alive. It just has a new name similar how to when Blackwater closed they reopened as Z. They closed that name down and then rebranded as Academi. It's the same thing. This organization, the Project for the New American Century's reputation was so tarnished that they had to close it down and rebrand it, essentially.
That's what got me started on making this movie. It was almost like the narrative about what the Foreign Policy Initiative was, was something I learned after this experience and what it was doing, but just the awareness of it and that it's still around and very much alive and it actually was almost waging an information war against Russia Today was so fascinating to me that I had to keep digging into it. The movie came out of that research project which I did not know at first was going to turn into a movie. It was just a long-term research project.
Harrison: I've got to thank you for doing the work to actually make this movie because like I said, it's seven-and-a-half hours, mostly previously existing footage from TV and conferences like C-Span. I just can't imagine how many hours of these guys you must have had to watch to put this thing together! It's not a job I think many of us would want to do, listening to Bill Kristol and Bob Kagan talk for hours and hours and hours, so thanks for doing that for us.
Robbie: Oh you're welcome.
Harrison: You made a couple of good points that I think apply to a lot of people, myself included. I was totally aware of PNAC and the neocons but for at least since Obama came to power I might have had some vague idea that some of them were still connected in certain ways. I knew that Victoria Nuland was married to a neocon but I didn't know a lot about Bob Kagan. It was just this vague kind of idea floating under the surface that I never took the time to look into. But then when you actually look at it, you find that it's the exact same people who were involved in and started PNAC and who are now at this FPI, the Foreign Policy Initiative and they are just as enmeshed in American foreign policy as they were back then.
When you start looking at the course of American foreign policy especially the last four or five years in Syria and Ukraine and against Russia, it kind of puts a whole lot of the puzzle pieces together because in the documentary you say something like you realize that the purpose of this neoconservative movement hasn't been against any individual Middle Eastern country. It hasn't even been primarily and exclusively for the benefit of Israel but it looks like everything is directed against Russia. Am I taking home the right message from your documentary with that?
Robbie: Yeah. I think to a certain extent that that's true, that geopolitically speaking and from the very beginning of PNAC they always saw the collapse of the Soviet Union not as a chance to step back and re-think their role in the world now. They always saw that event as an opportunity to actually ramp up our military and use that void to reassert our dominance over the entire planet.
So I think what you were saying that it's not about any particular Middle Eastern country, it may be that its strategic opportunities, they've taken out certain countries to further a larger goal which may be to box in Russia, that's the perspective I was coming from when I first started making this. I thought of course they would see Russia as this potentially looming threat and it's not necessarily about the war on terror for them, it's more just a geopolitical chessboard. But now I almost see it more as a symbolic thing, that it really might not even be about seeing through some kind of war with Russia.
I do think they're insane and I do think that they're sociopaths some of them. They don't operate on the same emotional wavelength that many normal human being do, clearly, but I don't think that they actually want nuclear war and a nuclear winter. They're not that insane. I think that their insanity is more in their egotism where they actually think that if they assert themselves constantly at all these opportunities and they assert themselves in a dominance posture against Russia, that that's the most important thing. It's not necessarily about what we eventually end up doing with Russia if we end up waging a hot war with them or not, to them it's almost like they're very short-sighted. They care more about the posturing and the symbolism behind that because if America loses that symbolic posture then that's when the neocons see their whole goal moving away or becoming less clear.
Someone asked me this last night. I screened the movie for a small group of people last night and someone asked what is the goal? Is it just to sell weapons? They were going through all of the possible different goals and I was almost trying to say "Well it's not really a goal in that sense. It's more like they want to maintain a certain kind of status quo and for these neocons the status quo is American dominance." I think symbolically that's the most important. If practical things we're doing around the world create a symbolic American dominance, that's good for them. But even if America's economy's in shambles or people hate us all around the world, for the neocons some catalyzing event like the new Pearl Harbour that they describe, will make everything flip 180 in the public consciousness and allow that symbolic representation of this American dominance to come forth very easily.
I think that's a really key component to the neocons also. They wait for these opportunities to come around and a lot of people, because they're so good at tapping into these opportunities, a lot of people have rightfully suspected that maybe even they have created some of these opportunities. To give your Russian question a simple answer, I think it's mostly about the symbolism of keeping dominance over Russia. And I think Putin as well is gaining in his own country from the same mindset, not that he believes Russia should spread its democracy over the world. In a lot of ways Putin is actually to my mind, less authoritarian than some of these neocons because he just wants this sort of authoritarian mindset inside Russia on a domestic level. The neocons want it globally. But I think Putin also benefits from taking a more aggressive posture towards American. That gains him points in his country. It creates more of a strong nationalistic identity over there.
And I think it does a similar thing here and that's part of why Trump, I think is doing so well. But then he's also angering the neocons because he's only using the nationalistic identity and not the quasi-humanitarian "we need to wage war in the Middle East" kind of thing.
Elan: You just mentioned a little bit about the new Pearl Harbour idea which Donald Kagan, one of the family members of this incredibly concentrated evil group of Kagans that he's a part of, mentioned in Building America's Defences - if I have that correct - that having a new Pearl Harbour would facilitate what the US needs to do in order to reassert its primacy, I guess you would say. You just mentioned, Robbie, a little bit about how the neocons are waiting around for the right type of event to occur to push this agenda forward of American primacy. Lo and behold, not a few years after he comes out with this statement we have the events of 9/11 occurring. We know from a lot of material that these events were quite probably manufactured by elements of the US government intelligence agencies, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and given the fact that this Kagan cabal and other neocons are so closely aligned with these think tanks that you mention in your film, that are supported by the military industrial complex and the fact that they're extensions of the military industrial complex, is it just coincidence? Is it a confluence of really nasty events and propaganda that these people are putting out? I guess my question is to what extent do you think they are actually responsible for helping to bring about the events of 9/11?
Robbie: Well that's a really good question and it's really difficult to give you an accurate answer especially with 9/11. I've dabbled in all sorts of areas with 9/11. I've looked at a lot of the 9/11 conspiracy stuff. I've done a lot of my own research on different facets of 9/11 and it wasn't until I made this that I realized how many neocons seems to have had almost prescience about the 9/11 attacks. It wasn't just fears that terrorists could attack us eventually. It was very detailed and within a very small time window relatively speaking, a couple of years, they were acting like "If we don't do something now, something's going to happen."
And there were variations of this. Don Kagan was taking more of an alarmist approach, like "We need to do something! There could be some kind of catastrophic event that could happen." Other people like Philip Zelkow who actually was one of the main people responsible for the 9/11 Commission Report, were writing terrorism reports in the '90s saying that "There's going to be some kind of transformative event like Pearl Harbour where there will be a before period of history and an after period of history." And then a couple of years later 9/11 happened.
So there are a few different examples of this that I couldn't even put in my film just because it would have added more characters to the story. It would have made it a little more confusing and perhaps a little more creepy with less opportunity to answer some of those more I guess creepy questions.
But I guess what I tried to do with my film more is move peoples' attention towards another attack, which occurred right after 9/11 which only killed five people, but I think is a much more direct, simple example of that bizarre grey area where it gets blurry, where you really can't tell at a certain point if this was just them taking advantage of an amazing opportunity or if some of these neocons who are connected to different power factions in the US government actually brought forth that event. And the only reason I say 'move peoples' attention towards that' is because there's more I think, direct dots you can connect to show that the people who had the opportunity, who had the means, were also some of the same people who were going on the press and saying that Iraq did 9/11, putting out some of the earliest Iraq War propaganda and then also putting out some of the earliest hints that the next attack was going to be a biological attack. It's almost as if Don Kagan is greedy already on 9/12, realizing that there needs to be more, almost like people won't go along with this. If it's a one-shot, people will just go about their daily lives after this but what would have happened if the terrorists had anthrax on that plane.
And he's sort of implying the future mindset that terrorist attacks would keep happening. We're sort of locked into this mindset after 9/11, not just that "Oh my god these terrorists did this horrible attack in New York!" but America was in a state of panic where we believed that terrorist attacks were going to be a regular occurrence after the anthrax attacks.
I think it's really important for people to remember how much that locked us into that mindset because I really believed and I would agree with Don Kagan in this instance, one of the rare instances that I would, is that he's right, that 9/11 would have just been a one-shot and people probably would have been able to go about their lives a little more. The war on terror would not have become such a concrete narrative. The world would not have flipped upside down quite like it did if it wasn't for that second attack.
In my film, and I don't want to give too much away about the ways that I try to connect these dots, but there's evidence that the CIA might have had a hand in actually sending out that anthrax and there's also evidence that I couldn't put in my movie again because it's just too much story to insert, but it's actually going to be on a bonus DVD in the box set. There's going to be 30 minutes of additional material and in that 30 minute bonus DVD I've attempted to tell a part of the anthrax story that involved James Woolsey, one of the side characters that I throw in at the end who was a former CIA director under Bill Clinton who was hired by Bush and Paul Wolfowitz to do this behind the scenes "intelligence gathering to prove that Saddam did the anthrax mailings". But what you find out is in June of 2001 he was doing a privatized, not officially government-funded, it was all privatized, bioterror drill called Operation Dark Winter that Tom Clancy actually ended up making a video game about much later on. I think it came out for Xbox 360 a few years ago.
The reason this terror drill is so fascinating is because it happened in June of 2001 so this was before 9/11 and the anthrax attacks and it involves a script, like a movie script, about what would happen if Islamic terrorists launched a smallpox biological weapons attack in the United States. When you first read the synopsis for it, it maybe doesn't seem that similar to anthrax but when you actually keep reading this script and all the game/fantasy/roll playing stuff around the simulation - and it's all written down, you can find it all online still in archives - it actually has fake newscasts that were filmed for this drill where the news reporters are talking about how there's going to be martial law, how we can't stop these terrorists from killing hundreds of thousands more people, the hospitals are overloaded, the smallpox vaccines have expended, we don't have any more left. And then they end the broadcast by saying that "We believe that the smallpox came from a terrorist who delivered it from Afghanistan based on smallpox made in Iraq's biological weapons program.
But that's not the craziest part. To me, the craziest part is actually in the script. A terrorist sends letters to a bunch of media organizations saying that next we will have anthrax and one of those actors in this simulation was Judith Miller, playing a reporter in the simulation, basically playing herself and on October 3rd, two days before the first anthrax letter hit and Robert Stephens was infected with anthrax, she releases a book called Germs with a co-author whose name I don't remember. Judith Miller's book hits the shelf, called Germs, all about the potential for a biological terrorist attack and that Anthrax would come from a place like Iraq, like if it was anthrax, that's where it would come from.
Now keep in mind two days later, that's when the first biological terrorist attack happened in this country, which was the first anthrax going to through the mail and then that's when we started to see little bits and pieces of propaganda inserted all over the news that it was Saddam Hussein's biological weapons program that sent this out.
So to me that is the perfect psychological thing to implant into peoples' minds, that this is the pivot to Iraq. "This is why we need to pivot from Afghanistan and Bin Laden to Iraq" because without anthrax I don't think they would have been able to do that as successfully as they did. They needed that. Even though they tried to say that Saddam had nuclear weapons, that he had chemical weapons, none of those things had happened here. A nuke didn't go off here. A chemical weapons attack didn't happen here. It was an anthrax attack that happened here. That's what we remembered. That's what hit us on a visceral level while we were in this heightened emotional state after 9/11. I think just that the neocons were so predictive of it and taking advantage of it so hard, that it really does raise the question of how many of them knew that it was coming, had foreknowledge of it. If it came from within the US government bio-weapons lab then that doesn't make sense from an intelligence point of view. That almost requires something beyond just foreknowledge.
And I can't answer exactly what that means. I can only speculate on that. I try to go as far as possible with it in A Very Heavy Agenda and in this bonus DVD I'll go a little harder on that and people can make up their minds on what they think.
Harrison: Yeah, that whole anthrax story just reeks. We had Graeme MacQueen on the show a few months ago to talk about his book The Anthrax Deception or something like that.
Elan: It's a really good book.
Harrison: Yeah, it's great. One of the things that he makes so clear in that book is just how interlocking all of those elements were. Before 9/11 you had the PNAC guys writing all these papers where they're linking Iraq to Al-Qaeda and then they're talking about anthrax before there's even any anthrax attacks or the public threat. No one knows that this is going on, but it's getting seeded in the media and you have these media memes like "Will the unthinkable happen?" Everyone's talking about this and then the people in the White House are on Cipro. Then these attacks happen and everything falls together. You have all of the pieces of the story that are coming together like Iraq and the anthrax. You had the alleged meeting between Mohammed Atta and the Iraqi intelligence guy in Germany.
Harrison: Which, if you read the news reports, happened to come from the Israeli intel that provided this information to the western media. All these pieces together and then a few years later we find out, oh no, it wasn't radical Muslims at all. It was this Bruce Ivins, American scientist which is another totally false story. It just falls apart when you look at it. It's so frustrating and ironic at the same time that the whole narrative was essential to getting America into this state of perpetual endless war and yet the entire narrative has fallen apart in retrospect. It's like "Well what the hell happened?!?" It's like something really messed up just happened in that entire period.
Robbie: To me it's one of the most crucial things to understand where we're at now and I think Graeme does a wonderful job of laying out how it was a multi-stage psychological attack. If you just want to look at it on a psychological level, it needed to be 9/11 and then the anthrax attacks to get the Patriot Act passed and to get the pivot to Iraq. You get this idea that "we need to start taking out other state actors".
I keep bringing it to this idea that it hit us on such a deep emotional level that I think it is really hard for people to even just remember the anthrax attacks because 9/11 totally overshadowed it. So many more people died but when you really go back and see those two events happening and you chronologically try to re-remember what that was like to experience that, it's almost like a flashback kind of experience. Some of those emotions from that time period you remember them, and you remember how intense they were and how they allowed the human brain to not remember and think about things in a critical and clear way. It was a confusing time.
I remember at the time being confused about why we were going after Saddam Hussein but all the evidence showing that trail of how we got there, is there in retrospect. You can go back and see it but it was hard to see the breadcrumbs that they were putting out for us. We just felt ourselves being moved there but when you see those breadcrumbs and you're able to reverse engineer it you realize that it wasn't just the Bush administration being cowboy style and running roughshod and acting really authoritarian. It was that they must have had a coordinated network of reporters and neocons outside the administration coordinating with people on the inside putting out this propaganda because it was too sophisticated. It wasn't just Judith Miller and Valerie Plame and that whole story about the yellow cake in Nigeria. It was so many other things.
I think that it's going to be something that I hope more people pay attention to in the future because the way I see it now, it's a very ignored topic, even within the truth movement and that's why I really appreciate what Graeme has done because more people need to look at it and more people need to be writing about it.
Elan: As I was watching your film Robbie, something I think it brings across in a very strong way is that these neocons, whether they work for think tanks or extensions of the government, to a large degree because they're so educated and well-spoken, they're spellbinders and people listen to them. They put out these well-reasoned arguments. They sound very reasonable if you have no idea about what they're talking about. If you don't know what the facts are then I could see someone buying into their whole set of ideas.
It reminded me of a book that we often cite here on the show called Political Ponerology by a psychologist named Andrew Lobaczewski. The point of his book, which gets back to another point you were making a little earlier, many of these people are sociopaths and like you were saying, they don't have the same kind of emotional inner life that many normal, healthy, well-adjusted people would have. This idea that they are very successful at convincing people of their points of view who have no idea that psychopaths can be so well dressed and so soft-spoken and articulate, is largely one of the reasons why they're so successful in propagating their foreign policy messages in Washington and putting them out in newspapers and having people believe the big lie in such a big way. So I wonder if you can elaborate a little bit on how you feel about the idea that they're psychopaths.
Robbie: Yeah, that book sounds really interesting by the way. I need to check that out. I definitely said some of them have sociopathic and psychopathic traits earlier on in this discussion and I hesitate a little bit to diagnose them just because I don't really know exactly what mental illness you would pin on some of these people, based on their pathology. I think with some of them you could pretty easily say that they have narcissistic personality disorder, some of them. Michael Ledeen would be a good example because of the way that he is gleefully uttering some of those statements about American exceptionalism makes me think that he really buys into all of it.
I don't know if you used the word charisma, but I definitely think some of them are very charismatic people and that's sort of required to be able to get their message across, especially when you see people like Robert Kagan, not as much Bill Kristol. He's more of a mockery these days. But I think Robert Kagan is very charismatic and very successful at making himself seem nonpartisan, like he actually has liberal beliefs. I don't know if that's something that he's strategized over time and he's honed this ability to be likeable by both sides.
And then on a whole other level you have to wonder if some of these people are completely detached from empathy and if some of them would have to be sociopaths to be able to so callously send American troops into harm's way and look at it with these cold math equations and strategic games we could make rather than human beings being sent into war. And it's fascinating to me because then you have someone like Kim and Fred Kagan who are actually in a war zone for a long time doing some of this think tank work, consulting for generals. So it really makes me wonder, being over in a war zone for that long, at a certain point you're going to smell rotting human bodies. You're probably going to see dead people at some point, so what was their take on that? I don't know.
It just makes me wonder if there's something that they have in them that emergency room doctors have, to be able to not be emotionally invested or too affected by watching a gunshot victim and trying to operate on them. That would maybe be a positive way to describe it, that they could be so analytical and cold but I definitely think it's something a lot more disturbing than that with a lot of these people.
Harrison: Yeah, and I think it's a pretty good example, the emergency room one, from one perspective, just to get the heart of the mindset. But I think the thing that pushes them over the edge and from the doctor analogy to the actual psychopath one, is that if you take a doctor for example, they have to overcome a certain revulsion to gore in essence, in order to save someone. There's a value or a higher purpose at play that one could argue is just good in general, to help people. It doesn't seem like there's any of that going on with these politicians and think tankers in the neocon movement where it seems like any kind of liberal values that they profess in public are just a cover because they have that total detachment from any kind of human connection and emotion and at the same time it is geared towards military domination, killing thousands and hundreds of thousands of people and getting filthy rich off of it. And when you put all those pieces together I really think it just screams psychopath. But check out the book Political Ponerology, because he gets into it in a lot of detail.
I wanted to comment on Elan's original question on that topic and just give some of my thoughts and feelings while watching the film because you have extensive footage from the past 30 years of a lot of these people, so from Donald Kagan and Rob Kagan in the '80s and in the '90s and then all the other ones like Michael Ledeen and Richard Perle, the Jamie Kirchick and Eli Lake and of course Bill Kristol. I had a few different reactions while watching these guys and I found that if I didn't pay attention to what Bill Kristol was saying I was like "Well this guy just seems really happy all the time! He seems like a fun guy." And then when you actually listen to what he's saying, there's this cognitive dissonance going on where he's saying these just insane things. I just found it to be a really disturbing experience to be watching this guy. Because like I said, on the one hand he just seems like this jolly guy who's always happy but there's just something underneath the surface there and like I said, with what he's explicitly saying and the things that he's explicitly endorsing it is just super disturbing.
And then you have a guy like Bob Kagan and even Richard Perle to an extent, where they've got this quiet, soothing, soft voice and they sound so reasonable when they're speaking, like the clips that we played at the beginning of the show are from Bob Kagan where he's talking about the American tradition of expansionism and militarism and you think it's just this great thing until you realize what he's actually talking about in this soft, academic, soothing voice. He's actually talking about going to other countries, raping and pillaging, stealing their resources and killing them! And that's that great American tradition that Bob Kagan is just totally getting behind in order to further American interests.
I think that's one of the great things about your film Robbie, is that you show these words but because it's video, because it's a visual format, you're able to splice in, intersperse, the actual reality behind what they're saying. So you'll have a clip of what they're saying and then you'll show the reality. You'll show the bombs and the bodies and what's really going on. So just right there I wanted to commend you on that because it's a really different experience when you're seeing all this in context and you're seeing the juxtaposition.
Robbie: Thank you.
Harrison: Good job on that one.
Robbie: If you watch most of part one, especially the first half, it's almost all ivory tower, inside the C-Span studio, completely detached from the reality, the smells, the sights, the sounds of war, the horrors of war. I almost wanted to emphasize this surreal feeling of that, of them being all comfortable in these air conditioned studios talking about this stuff and being all jolly and making jokes and laughing with callers. Then I guess as the movie goes on you start seeing more glimpses of the outside world.
Then of course when part two starts, it's like "These are the actual effects on a geopolitical scale that are happening almost right now - only from 2014 to right now - that the neocons are doing". So then it goes out of the studio and you start seeing the damaging, almost like the scorched earth trail that they're creating in their wake, what their rhetoric is doing.
Elan: And their rhetoric is incredible. You hear them in these talks espousing the moral interests of the United States as well as the core national security interests and they frame this wanton geopolitical aggression and destruction around the world in these sanitized "this is not only in the interests of the safety of the United States but we're also helping these people around the world in planning and executing these interventions." It's this really well thought out and constructed façade of language that they use to convince people that what they're doing has some merit. And you hear it again and again and again. It's fascinating, but again also really horrifying to see them use this language to lie to people on such a scale.
Robbie: Yeah. Some of them are definitely better at it than others and I think what's also scary is that they're all relatively good at debating, even if they have an opponent, they're arguing the other side, most of the time I feel like neocons are able to win the debate. They stay more calm, collected. They are able to keep their cool and I think that most of the time that is because their opponents are not necessarily attacking their world view and their framework in which they're operating in. I was just talking about this on another podcast with Daniel Wright from Shadowproof about how the neocons are incredibly good at boxing in their opponents.
For example the Obama administration announced that their red line for Syria was if Assad used chemical weapons. That was the red line. If he did that we were going to attack, but we weren't going to attack him unless he did that. So then Assad allegedly used chemical weapons against his own people. There are still a lot of questions about that narrative but I don't want to go into that. I just mention this story because what happened after that is Obama was boxed in. The neocons all across DC started to get a bunch of liberal interventionists all around DC to start to concern troll Obama and be like "Well, he crossed the red line so now you're going to invade, right?" That's the direction it took.
Then the neocons are also really good at concern trolling people and I'd say one of the most prominent examples of them doing this is, as you say, the Iraq war was a huge mistake and then a neocon will say "Well we got rid of Saddam. Would you rather see him still in power?" And your response would almost have to be, because you've already been boxed in, "Well of course I'm glad Saddam's gone." So at that point you almost are letting them win by letting them frame the debate.
To win against a neocon you have to fundamentally go after their actual world view, that overthrowing dictators in the Middle East is not a good thing. And that's a question designed to box you in and trap you. But the right answer to that is almost "Well yeah. Saddam being in power would have been better compared to what's happening now because we wouldn't have ISIS. We wouldn't have complete chaos in Iraq and Syria." It's something you don't want to say but it's almost like the neocons are hoping you'll err on the side of letting them steamroll over you with their framing. I think that's incredibly important too because liberal interventionists outnumber neocons by a huge margin in Washington, DC. Most democrats I would consider liberal interventionists.
So I think neocons rely on that large group of people in Washington, DC to go along with their message and they have to do that by concern trolling, boxing them in, by using that humanitarian angle and that's why the red line, Assad gassing his own people narrative was the one that they tried to push the hardest on because that was their opportunity to try to get liberal interventionists to make the push that "No Mr. President! You said you were going to do this. We have to save these people now!" And Obama still didn't go along with it. So in that rare instance I think Obama was actually resisting to some extent, neocon pressure. But what at that point had actually built up to be liberal interventionist pressure within his own party, Hillary Clinton said in her own memoirs after she left the secretary of state position, that Obama was the last decision-maker of deciding whether we were going to go into Syria or not after that red line violation and he decided not to and apparently the entire joint chiefs of staff and Hillary Clinton were trying to pressure him to go and she was very angry and upset that Obama decided not to go.
So I think that's a good example of how the neocons like Robert Kagan and these people generate enough pressure out there by using liberal rhetoric to get liberals to create a lot of the pressure for them because if it was just the neocons by themselves and they didn't have support from liberal interventionists they wouldn't really be able to get their message out I don't think.
Harrison: Robbie, I want to move on to the new neocons for a little bit. I guess you could call them the next generation. You already mentioned right at the top of the show when you were talking about what inspired you to make the documentary in the first place, this guy Jamie Kirchick. You feature a few of them in the documentary. There's Jamie Kirchick of course and Eli Lake. You also get into Vice News and their connections to this whole thing. First, something comes to mind about Jamie Kirchick. There's this one quote from him that sticks out in my mind that you include in A Very Heavy Agenda and that's the one where he's on a show sitting there with two other guys and he's talking about "Well does no one remember what Reagan did? The Reagan doctrine? We should be arming the Mujahideen. What the hell's wrong with that?" Just comment on that for a second and Jamie Kirchick in general.
Robbie: I don't want to give Jamie Kirchick too much credit because I think it was really coincidental that he shed light on this think tank for me. But I do think he is an interesting example of one of these more like concern trolls. He almost takes on the persona of an internet troll rather than like an intelligent concern troll.
Harrison: And he kind of looks like one too.
Robbie: So when he said that on that show, part of me almost thinks he was doing it almost as a joke, throwing that out there because it's just so ridiculous, until I heard John McCain say pretty much the same thing on TV. So somehow some neocon came up with this talking point. I don't understand it. It's a crazy talking point but it just really illustrates how far we've gone already. You would think right after 9/11 we were bloodthirsty. We were torturing people. There were crazy things happening but I honestly can't imagine a neocon going on TV suggesting that we fund some radical Islamic force like we did the Mujahideen to do something. That seems like a bridge too far almost for that era so it is really surprising that right now this far away from 9/11 they're talking like that.
So that quote blew my mind. I don't know. I'm kind of being sarcastic when I say he's joking. I don't think he was joking.
Harrison: Just not totally sincere.
Harrison: It's just a line that he's giving.
Robbie: Yeah, it's strange. It's another one of those things where it blows my mind. It's hard for me to even really explain it. It reminds me in a way of some of the Michael Ledeen quotes I put in the movie where I wondered "Is this just a candid slip up or is this something that they really think?" It's hard to tell.
Elan: I have to agree. There were a number of times I was watching the film and I thought "Wow! They are just doubling down on everything. They are so brazen." There's one scene where I think her name is Katrina vanden Heuvel is talking to Bill Kristol. She's one of the very few pundits who can hold her own in the presence of this guy.
Robbie: Yeah, I love her. She's great.
Elan: She's great. But they are so brazen and insistent that their point of view is correct, even in the face of all evidence to the contrary. It's like you said a moment ago Robbie, where are they coming from? Do they have no shame? Do they not have the capacity to recognize that they've actually made some horrible, horrible mistakes in their suggestions for foreign policy? There's this attitude of "Well that was in the past. Let's just keep going" attitude that propels the whole machinery of war ever forward. That was just one of the takeaways from watching these guys for seven-and-a-half hours.
Harrison: I think there's something to that comment you made Robbie, about Kirchick being a troll. I think there is a kind of troll mentality to a lot of these people and I think that comes down to psychopathy again because if you look at the psychology of trolls, there's this delight in duping people. This is actually something they talk about in the psychological field, this thing called duping delight. Psychopaths love it. They enjoy messing with people and they enjoy putting one over on people. So if they tell a lie, you can often see them give a little micro-expression of a smile because they enjoy it.
I saw what I think is a great example of this from just a few days ago. It was this guy Michael Gove in the UK. He was originally supporting Boris Johnson to be the next UK leader or something. I don't follow British politics too closely but he stabbed Johnson in the back and then he said he's going to run for the leadership. On that day, after the Brexit vote he gave an interview. Of course he's super eloquent and he knows how to speak and the question is "Well when did you decide to do this?" He's adamant. He says, "Well you know, it was just last night that I was sitting and I decided that this just was what was in my heart to do" or something. But as he's saying "It was just last night that I thought of this", he gives this tiny smile on his face and then he turns it into this strange grimace, like he'd caught himself smiling. It's so obvious that he's lying and everyone that knows him says that he's wanted this forever, that this has been a long-term plan of his and he just can't help this little smile coming out of his face when he says he just thought of it the other night when he sat down and thought really hard about it and what he really wanted.
I think that's probably a big part of guys, especially like Kirchick and maybe even Eli Lake. When you watch the videos that you've got in the documentary of them encountering other people and engaging in these kind of semi-debates, it's a game that they're playing and the things that they say are chosen strategically and specifically just in order to win the debate and they get some kind of pleasure out of just poking whatever button that they think they can. They push these emotional triggers and then they're happy when they get people in a corner, they win that argument, even if they've gotten there by totally duplicitous and deceptive means.
Robbie: Absolutely. You mentioned Eli Lake. A good example is right after the exposé was written on the fact that the Foreign Policy Initiative was writing predictive tweets about Liz Wahl's resignation before it happened, and they traced it back to Jamie Kirchick and also made some connections to his very good friend Eli Lake. Eli Lake, Jamie Kirchick and Liz Wahl and Eli Lake's girlfriend who writes for Buzzfeed, Rosie Gray, posted a picture of them all sitting on the couch together drinking wine while Eli Lake was wearing a Begin shirt. That's an Israeli prime minister who's actually considered a terrorist who bombed a hotel with a bunch of British soldiers in it to do a false flag attack to make it seem like it was Palestinian terrorists who were blowing up this hotel. It's a well known event. A lot of extremely hard line Israeli right people still support Begin but even in Israel he's actually considered a controversial figure because he did this. And Eli Lake's wearing his shirt like a trolling joke in this picture. I don't even know where he got the shirt from. Even the way Eli Lake looks, almost like a DC Comics villain. He wants to look like he's Lex Luther.
Harrison: With his e-cigarette.
Robbie: Yeah. Maybe at a certain point for these younger conservatives they thought it was cool and funny to be contrarian neocons because those were the people that everybody hated. They almost got some kind of kick out of being in that role. So I think that it makes total sense why some of them would be trolls. And they are younger and a lot more younger people on the internet in politics are more aggressive, a little more confrontational so it makes sense. But they're not trolls like the alt-right are trolls. They're like neocon trolls. They're a totally different kind.
Harrison: Just on that same topic, with these guys, especially Lake and Kirchick, this goes back to the trolling argument comment that I was making earlier. It happened to your sister Abby but also there were other examples in the film where of course they bring out the conspiracy theorist label in arguments and say "Oh that's just crazy. It's ludicrous. You're a conspiracy theorist." While watching them do it they sound totally sincere like they really think that conspiracy theorists are these bad things and they're morally wrong to some extent. But then you listen to what they say and they are conspiracy theorists themselves.
At the beginning of the show you talked about them saying that Abby's statement on Breaking the Set was this Russian false flag, right? They have no problems talking about Russian false flags and putting together these scenarios that are exactly the same as the so-called conspiracy theories that people say about them but they think "It's fine when I do it but it's wrong when you do it". You even give an example of Richard Perle and David Frum in their book An End to Evil.
Harrison: They're talking about the Moscow apartment bombings and how this was a Putin false flag. These guys are conspiracy theorists and they see conspiracies everywhere. Again, it's this bind that they put you in where you can't argue with them because they're totally right. I don't even know how to think about it because it's just so twisted.
Robbie: It's brilliant. What they've done almost is they've redefined being a conspiracy theorist as someone who has conspiracies about the US government because having conspiracies about the Russian government, the Chinese government, even the North Korean government, all the neocons said they were completely behind the hacking of Sony and it was like a gesture of war and all this stuff. All those conspiracy theories are fine, but as soon as you start making conspiracy theories about America, that's when it becomes "Oh you're a tinfoil hat-wearing conspiracy theorist."
I think they've done a really brilliant job of shutting down that debate and it's not by truth and honesty or skepticism, it's by pure rhetorical - I don't want to call it magic but it's just rhetorical trickery really. And all you have to do is call them on it. That's the thing. A lot of journalists in the scene who spar with these neocons have all rejected most conspiracy theory culture across the board. Even some of the most adversarial liberal lefty journalists don't even touch 9/11 truth. So when they go after these neocons they don't veer into those areas. But I almost feel like if you do have some more knowledge about conspiracy theory culture in the United States, especially like 9/11, you can see more easily how the neocons are actually conspiracy theorists. And they do it for their own agenda, not based on any evidence most of the time.
I think just coming from that background a bit, I can see when the neocons are using those tactics whereas maybe some of the people who write about them and analyze neocons more don't come from that world as much so they don't realize that the neocons do sound exactly like some of these truthers that are just making up stories based on nothing. There's a lot of 9/11 truth stuff out there that is fantastic and very well researched and there is some of it that's not and just purely speculative and designed to make it seem like one foreign country was behind all the attacks. There's a whole group of people online who say Israel was behind the attacks 100% and everything they do self-rationalizes that paradigm that they're laying out.
And the neocons have done an amazing job of doing that with Russia right now. It's even gotten to the point where there are articles coming out in the Guardian written by quasi-neocons saying that the soccer hooligans during the Russian soccer match were Putin agents, that they were plants by Putin to try to cause a riot in the UK. So that's the level of conspiracy theorizing that they have brought to an acceptable level which, if you really think about it, it's scary how similar it is to 1950s/'60s Cold War propaganda, that your neighbour could be a communist spy. It's not at that level really, but it is kind of similar where you'll see serious articles being written saying that all these trolls defending Russia on message boards are all Putin-paid Russian Kremlin agents. There are serious articles being written monthly about that.
So that's not good, that journalism has gotten that uncritical. There are some critical elements to conspiracy theory culture, I would argue. It's not all free association, crazy soap boxing. A lot of it is very well researched stuff that just doesn't become acceptable to the mainstream. But what they're doing is the former. It's the crap kind and they're putting it out there to generate an emotional response. They're not putting it out there to make people look harder at the evidence or anything like that.
Elan: Well in the third part of your documentary Robbie, you get a little bit into the presidential race and some interesting things came of that that you point out in your film. One of them is the idea that the reality creation is so successful by these neocons that when Rand Paul, who was arguably the only republican candidate who sounded half sane was voicing criticisms of the war in Iraq and the idea of intervention altogether, he got absolutely pounded by the media, so much so that at the end of the day he ended up having to backtrack a little bit and support Ted Cruz, I think it was. Then you have guys like Marco Rubio who are these neocon robots who are in the race who are just repeating these same talking points so mechanically, so automatically. It really gave me some idea as to how powerful this neocon group think is in Washington. I wonder if you have any comments about that or thoughts.
Robbie: This election has been crazy, weird, unpredictable, scary but this one in particular I thought was really interesting because you see the neocon hand doing all these different things whereas with the last presidential election it was Obama and Romney and in that election too, two of Romney's main advisors were Robert Kagan and Dan Senor and foreign policy didn't come up very much during that debate.
So in a way you weren't able to see very much of that neocon hand coming into the last election. But now you see clearly that there are all these specific talking points being injected into the debate. One of them is that we need to send ground troops into Syria and in Iraq. We need to basically start a new war in Syria and restart the war in Iraq and that was something that you saw many of the candidates saying. Then Dan Senor, Eric Edelman from the Foreign Policy Initiative, Elliot Abrams and Paul Wolfowitz from the Project for the New American Century all, not together but those core PNAC members, were advising Jeb Bush, Rubio and some of them were also advising Ted Cruz.
So of the three main candidates you really had a full neocon spread going on. Ted Cruz was sort of a hybrid between neocon and Tea Party so that was a reason why the neocons were not happy that he was second for a while. If he had gotten the nomination I think they might have reluctantly supported him but they definitely preferred Rubio and Jeb. No question about that, especially Rubio. He was a total robot, completely mouldable to whatever their whims were. Donald Trump completely ruined their plans and I think that they're still very upset about that. One of the things I tried to show in my movie is that they also are using Trump as an opportunity to once again rebrand themselves and shift their allegiances.
The neocons never really cared about party allegiance so what they're doing this time is they're shifting over more to the democrat side and a lot of them are actually endorsing Hillary Clinton openly against Trump. As I say at the beginning of chapter 10, I think it's Dan Senor talking to Charlie Rose, is that behind the scenes, not just the republicans but the neocon hawkish wing of the republican party decided behind the scenes that it was safer for their whole party and their agenda to lose the election. I think that they already decided to do that. They're not supporting Trump. They're not going to be able to stop him from getting the nomination.
But to them Hillary Clinton helps them maintain the status quo more easily and for the neocons specifically, Hillary Clinton is a neocon by any angle. Her foreign policy positions are far more hawkish than even Obama's and you can make the argument that Obama had very neocon policies, especially in the first half of his presidency. I would argue that he's not a neocon but that he was more just pushed a lot by a lot of different neocons to do certain things and he was too inexperienced and naïve to know any better. And he was never really that liberal to begin with. He's kind of a perfect combination. But with Hillary Clinton I think it's the first time we've had a democrat running against a republican in the general election where the democrat is clearly, without question, more hawkish and more of a neoconservative.
Harrison: Robbie you mentioned Rubio being a robot. I just wanted to point out for our listeners that the documentary isn't totally depressing. You do a good job of getting some jokes in there and finding the humour in certain situations, a lot of it visually or even with the music. There are some where you put a piece behind what's going on that changes the way you're looking at it. So it might be some kind of jolly music or this American patriotic drum, a martial anthem going behind there and it's really well done. I think it's funny too as well as depressing.
But on that subject of the robot comment you made and the jokes, there's something I wanted to ask you about that really freaked me out in the movie and made me go "What is going on there?!" and that has to do with a few different incidents. I'd seen the videos on YouTube of these things happening and these are the examples of people inexplicably fainting or having almost what seems like some kind of seizure in public when they're talking. A few come to mind of, I think the four or five that you've got in there.
There's the guard that's standing outside the Ukrainian parliament I think while Poroshenko is walking by and he's collapsing. Then I think there's one of I think, General Petraeus sitting at a table with a bunch of people and he's kind of keeling over.
Harrison: Then there's this other general. Who was he the spokesman for?
Robbie: I don't know. But I know the one you're talking about where he completely faints at the podium.
Harrison: Yeah, and his aid kind of laughs at first and then they get people to carry him out and he looks catatonic. There are a few examples of these and it reminded me of another kind of similar phenomenon that was going on for a while a couple of years ago of news anchors that would all of a sudden start speaking in jibberish. I don't know what went wrong with them. I think there's a psychological explanation or term for it, but where they lose the capacity of speech and you can see them all of a sudden talking nonsense.
Harrison: On the one hand it's funny but on the other hand it's just really weird and disturbing to see it happening. I'm wondering what inspired you to just put all of that in there. Was it just for fun?
Robbie: No, I think you hit on it. It's funny but then I think I've only been around one or two people who have passed out in front of me and it's an extremely disturbing experience, if someone faints in front of you. But based on what's happening in the world and in the situations in those various clips, I thought it was really appropriate because there is this building anxiety in the world and especially in America and what America is turning into, I felt that it was a way to make it funny but also emphasize just how scary things are getting and how it's sort of this collective building anxiety where I can't say why these people are passing out but I wouldn't be surprised if a Pentagon general was passing out based on what the Pentagon is doing. It's doing crazy things, going into some crazy areas they cannot turn back from, posturing towards Russia again, the only other nuclear superpower in the world. It's quite a scary thing to be doing.
I think it's more just done for artistic effect but I think that was the symbolic intention of putting some of those clips in there.
Harrison: Yeah, I think that's probably right and accurate and that's really what's going on, just in my opinion, because shortly before you show the scene of Petraeus fainting at the table there, you have him accepting an award I think from Kim Kagan and he gives this funny speech but behind the speech it's almost like there's this hidden meaning going on there where he's saying "The Kagans grade my performance on the field daily". He's being really polite and funny about it but it's almost like he's saying on some level "I am being totally controlled by these people and they pretty much tell me what to do and I do what they tell me to do. I'm going to joke about it but I'm telling the truth at the same time." To think about the kind of pressures that are being applied behind the scenes, the stuff that we don't see in public, the stuff behind the smiling faces and the total reasonable delivery that these guys give, I'm sure that there is a tonne of pressure applied behind the scenes in private.
Harrison: It can be explicit. It can be in the form of blackmail and things like that, but it can also just be the pressure of knowing that this is what you have to do because there may be consequences, the unsaid threat. It's a very heavy agenda, it's a very heavy topic and I think that just captures the mood of the whole situation.
Robbie: Yeah. Just really quickly about that clip that you mentioned, it's literally the only clip while I was making this documentary series that disappeared off the internet while I was making the series so I had to rely on a Washington Post story that used parts of that speech, that conference with General Petraeus. I think based on what he's saying in that speech, it was so embarrassing for everybody involved that they removed it offline because I didn't have any trouble finding most of these clips. Some of them I didn't even download initially. I would go back a year later and they'd still be online.
And I'm not saying my documentary had anything to do with it being removed. I think the Washington Post running a story on it, they were so embarrassed that it had gone through and taken some of the most incriminating clips out. It was a two hour long speech dinner presentation. The Washington Post had gone through and taken out some of the most incriminating clips. They were mortified and they took it offline but luckily that Washington Post edit of those clips remains. I'm really thankful. And the Washington Post is not known for being the most adversarial anti-neocon institution. So I was really happy that even mainstream media organizations like that are still hitting on some of these, in my opinion, extremely crucial little insights into how the military industrial complex really works in this country.
Harrison: Yeah, because while Kim and Fred Kagan are in Afghanistan telling Petraeus what to do, their institute, the one that Kim founded is the Institute for the Study of War I believe it's called, and their big donors are all major arms manufacturers, right?
Harrison: So you've got this non-profit think tank that's funded by the war industry telling the generals what to do.
Robbie: It doesn't even make sense. Yeah, when you describe it that way it literally sounds like a cartoonish movie villain thing to do. It's just such an obvious front for defence companies. It's illegal I think for these defence companies to go over there and consult so they just use a proxy to do it in the form of this academic, neutral institution when it's everything but.
Elan: Right. And they're not accountable for anything.
Elan: Because they don't have any official titles or designations.
Robbie: None, yeah.
Elan: Harrison mentioned the bits of humour and the interesting choice of music in your film Robbie and your choice of music is also very interesting at times for imparting a kind of visceral disgust and intensity and horror at the types of things that we're seeing as well. It reminded me of compositions by the composer Steve Reich who requires a certain taste for dissonant music and modern music. It thought that as an artistic choice it was very successful because as entertaining as the film is, it is heavy and unlike a lot of media articles and other things that we read and watch, it's informed by an emotional reaction to this type of information as well.
So I guess what I'm wondering is for you personally, I guess in some ways the film helped you to process what you were seeing and learning to understand. Have you experienced any kind of transformative experiences? How would you describe your experience of looking at all this material on a personal level?
Robbie: To be totally honest, it was a very depressing and exhausting experience. There were times when I was making it where I was entertained, especially when I was editing together a lot of my research and finding bits of humour and stuff like that, and writing the music was very cathartic. It was definitely an entertaining part of the process and it helped me get more emotionally glued to the material. But it was really, really challenging for me to not get really depressed while I was immersing myself in a lot of these think tank videos and neocon speeches. Once you start watching enough of them you learn a few things very quickly, even if you think you know a lot about the Bush area and how bad the neocons were, when you started seeing a lot of these newer neocons and just what they've turned into now you realize that you almost have to concede the fact that we're up against a mountain of what really seems like an unstoppable force.
I think Kurt Vonnegut in the foreword for Slaughter House 5 is talking about a conversation he has with a colleague about writing an anti-war book and his colleague says "Well why would want to you write an anti-war book? That's like writing an anti-glacier book". At the time when he said that glaciers were not in danger of melting around the world. It was the idea that a glacier was just an unstoppable force. What's the point of writing something about that? I had to reassess and face in myself this idea that I had built up, at least in my mind, a more hopeful attitude about stopping wars and fighting the war machine, working with Abby on her show, doing the podcasts, doing some activism with Abby. It invigorates the spirit. It gave me purpose in a sense.
Then when I started making this movie I literally felt like someone had hit the reset button on my level of the hope that I had built up and it was just like "Oh my god! This is just overwhelming." That's really the best way to describe it as absolutely overwhelming and I guess going through all the footage and piecing it together in some small way was a cathartic way to feel like I wasn't as overwhelmed, but at the end of the day it's still incredibly overwhelming. I'm hopeful in some ways but it was like two years of really sacrificing my own emotional well-being to construct this together.
Harrison: Okay, I think we're going to end it there. Before we go Robbie, can you give our listeners the links where they can find your documentary?
Robbie: Yes. If you go to averyheavyagenda.com you can purchase all three parts of the DVD of A Very Heavy Agenda, either in a boxed set form or individually and you can also watch it online by following the Vimeo links from that same url. You can stream it or download it. And if you stream and download all three parts together you get a significant price break. So check it out.
Harrison: I wasn't aware of that at first so I bought them all individually.
Robbie: Well thank you.
Harrison: Thanks again Robbie. We had a great time having you on.
Harrison: Again, it's a great documentary so I think everyone should watch it. There's just so much new material. If you think you know everything about the neocons and you've seen it all, you're wrong because there's so much archival stuff that I didn't even know existed before watching this. So it's just a great resource and it's well done and I think all our listeners will get something out of it. So thank you again Robbie.
Robbie: Well thank you so much for having me on.
Harrison: Okay. Take care.
Elan: Take care Robbie. Thank you.
Excerpt: America is an enormously destructive country. People around the world love us and many of them dread us because we undo them every day. We undo them in every area of life, whether it's business or economics or whether it's entertainment or sports, just across the board. Creative destruction is our middle name and we threaten everybody's stability. The sum of our professional diplomats is that they always stress the endless desirability of stability when stability is not what we want and stability is not what the United States is about. We are the one great revolutionary society in the world and we want revolution. We don't want stability. We want to bring these people down.Police State Roundup
Harrison: We're going to go right into the police state roundup because we're nearing the end of the show. So we have Brent on the line. Brent, are you there?
Brent: Yeah. Can you hear me?
Harrison: Yeah. Just fine.
Elan: Hi Brent.
Brent: Hey. How's it going?
Harrison: There's been a lot going on since the last roundup that we had. So why don't you just take us right into it Brent?
Brent: Well let's see. The major stories were the Alton Sterling shooting that happened in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. This was a black man who was selling CDs outside of a convenience store and someone called 911 and said that he had pulled a gun on them or was waving a gun around. So the police went to confront him and there was video that was recorded from people that were in the parking lot of this convenience store. In the video you can watch as they take him down to the ground. He bounces off a car. They have him on the ground. An officer pulls a gun and fires a couple shots right into him at point-blank range. This sparked a wave of protests in the area. The video was very compelling. It was really just unbelievable.
Immediately following that there was the shooting in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. Basically a routine traffic stop turned deadly when a police officer pulled over this car for what was supposedly a broken taillight, or a taillight being out and this guy, Philando Castile was a 32-year-old school cook. He had a concealed weapons permit. He had a weapon on him and he tells this to the officers and they ask for his identification. When he goes to get his identification or the registration from the vehicle, I'm not sure which it was, they immediately fired four rounds into him.
Now also in the car at the time is his girlfriend and in the back seat there's her 4-year-old daughter. She starts live streaming immediately after he gets shot and she's clearly in shock. In the video you can see him slumped over in the passenger seat bleeding. The video goes on for a bit and eventually she finds out that he passed away and her reaction is really, really gripping.
These two events gripped the headlines and all across the nation there were protests this week against police violence. One of those protests was in Dallas, Texas which turned incredibly violent when a sniper or snipers opened fire on the police during the peaceful protest. And the protest itself was very peaceful. It was well organized. There were lots of people. As the march approached the area of Dealey Plaza, right around the corner from Dealey Plaza - which in and of itself is kind of interesting - the sniper opens fire and hits 10 officers and five of them ended up dead. The rest of them were severely injured.
This led to that area of Dallas being placed on lock-down. The sniper fires back and forth with the police. That goes on for hours and then eventually they used a drone to drop a bomb on him and that's what eventually killed him.
So it's been crazy. Those are the big ones. I also have some other headlines here that really didn't get much play.
Elan: Well before we go to those Brent...
Brent: Yeah, you want to talk about - sure.
Elan: Yeah, just because you have this one-two punch with Philando Castile and Alton Sterling which were just stunning; Sterling getting killed execution style and this was captured on peoples' cell phones and you can hear them just absolutely in disbelief and grief and shock at seeing how quickly this interaction between the cops and Sterling turned into them basically executing him on the spot. And of course with the girlfriend of Philando Castile...
Brent: In shock.
Elan: In shock, but having the presence of mind to live stream as you mentioned, her reaction just after the shooting and describing what was going on and the fact that this cop tells him to pull out his ID and then as he does it, he mentions that he is authorized to conceal/carry a pistol and so just the mentioning of that sets this cop off and he kills him! And she is able to, in that moment, again through the shock, say "Okay, this is what just happened." And then I think the following day she was released from police custody. Why they held her in custody until the wee hours of the morning after the event as though she had done something wrong, is beyond me. But she came out very strong, as well as the mom of Philando Castile. They both came out very strongly with statements regarding how they feel the blacks in the US are essentially being hunted.
So you have this one-two punch. Were you going to add to that?
Brent: I thought what was most interesting about all this was that it all happened on the heels of this big scandal with Hillary being interviewed by the FBI. The headlines on all the major media outlets like CNN were covering this. The FBI director, this guy Comey, even in his little speech where he said "We're not prosecuting" basically gives a very damning assessment of what she did. And that was all the news for 24 to 48 hours after that. Then Alton Sterling happens in Baton Rouge and the video from that was just so visceral that you watched this man executed on the street. And granted, he had a gun, but it's not like he was reaching for it. He wasn't using it. He was on the ground pinned and they shot right into him, point-blank range. And you can hear the woman who's recording the cell phone video scream when it happens.
Then the other video from Minnesota is just really emotional. When you watch you can't help but feel what she's feeling as she's going through this and you see Philando Castile bleeding out in the seat next to her. Say what you want about these people, but Philando Castile was a school cook who was very well liked by everyone. I read a separate article that said he had been stopped something like 52 times in the last 10 years, amassing over $7,000 worth of fines. And this is for minor stuff like traffic light, stop sign, speeding ticket, whatever. For myself and anyone else that I know that's white that drives a car, to get stopped that much is just unheard of!
Brent: Nobody gets stopped like that.
Brent: It's ridiculous. So it's clear that African Americans especially in America are hunted by police. So it's not really that surprising when you see communities around the country having these peaceful protests saying "This needs to stop. We need to do something about this. We can't continue to passively plod along and blame the victim or say this is the way it is." It can't be the way it is anymore.
And then this whole situation in Dallas is capitalized upon capitalized. Everyone who's been tooting the horn of this war on police jumps on it and uses it to reiterate that talking point. An article I read in the New York Times about the incident said it's been the most deadly event for police since 9/11. Well I can tell you for sure it's not the most deadly event for citizens being killed by police since 9/11! Just watching the headlines, this stuff happens every other day almost. The police are so quick to play victim, to scream "We're doing such a hard job and this is what we do". They whine and cry about it. If this is how they feel, maybe they should be in another line of work or maybe we should talk about getting rid of police forces or somehow finding alternatives to having a police force altogether.
One of the other stories I was going to bring up was these cops in Florida who were relieved of duty after they had ties exposed connecting them to the KKK. This is not a new revelation that "Oh my god! There are police and military personnel that are involved in racists groups!" This is something that's been known and discussed for decades. When you see black men being executed nearly on a daily basis by police, you can't help but wonder. When you have these ties, if you have somebody who's in the KKK and they get into a department, they get into a position of power, I'm sure they can very easily bring in their buddies. It brings me back to that Lobaczewski quote where he talks about how in a pathocracy every position of power throughout the hierarchy gets occupied by somebody with some sort of psychological or pathological deviance.
I feel like this is exactly what we're seeing. We're seeing police who abuse their power, who have these racist or pathological ideas about how they're supposed to patrol people or get in there and mess with people. And we're reaping the consequences. It's very tragic what happened in Dallas. Nobody in any of the peaceful protest movements or any protestors that I've talked about has ever advocated violence against the police so I think that's a point that I think we should emphasize.
The other thing about Dallas that I thought was interesting was that originally there were four suspects. Now it's becoming clear that there was just one shooter. He's the lone crazy, yet the police have three other people in custody. They're not saying who they are or why they're being held.
Harrison: There was a New York Times article that quoted I believe the police chief, saying that there were multiple snipers who were triangulating their shots on the police and some of the police had been shot in the back, implying that this was a triangulated, coordinated attack. Then that New York Times article was edited to no longer include that quote, but the quote was re-quoted and posted on dozens of other websites so it's still available when you search for it. But it's really interesting how the story is changing like that and yet there's no information on these other suspects. What might they have to hide about these other suspects?
Brent: Yeah. I'll put my tinfoil hat on for a moment and I'm just thinking somebody thought this would be a good opportunity to capitalize on. Dallas historically - this is where JFK was killed and anybody who looks into that realizes that the whole official story stinks. That tacit connection, however untenable it is, it really struck me. It really got me thinking, especially with the way that the news cycle changed. Hillary is probably thrilled that this went down because nobody's talking about her criminality anymore, at least not on CNN or in the Times.
Harrison: We were just talking about this. After those two videos came out and before Dallas, we were sitting around the kitchen table and talking about it and it just came up where we were saying "At what point is it going to start happening where there's a concerted attack on the police, where more and more cops start dying?" Because statistically anywhere from 500 to 2,000 civilians are killed every year by the police. When you look at the number of police who are killed - I checked out the statistics a few days ago and it was something like in 2015 there were something like 60 police officers I think who were killed in the line of duty and about 20-30 of those were killed by gunshots. All the other ones were in car accidents or stabbings or other things like that. When you look at the number of police officers who were shot, it's a very relatively low number compared to the number of civilians who are shot and killed.
So we were just thinking "When is it going to start?" and then I can't remember if it was that evening...
Elan: It was.
Harrison: Yeah. It happens...
Harrison: And it was one of the things we were talking about and wondering about is that obviously it doesn't benefit the anti-police movement or Black Lives Matter or anyone like that. This kind of violence doesn't benefit anyone like that. If you look at the history of these types of protest movements, every movement like this is monitored and co-opted and infiltrated. We don't have the details at this point but I'm thinking that if this continues to happen and if we learn more details about several of the shootings that have happened over the past few days, I wouldn't be surprised to have a similar scenario to the one that we find with the FBI's terrorism victories, where every terrorist they seem to find has been either an FBI informant or groomed by an FBI informant. That's just my conspiracy-minded stuff going on there.
Brent: If you look into the sniper that they killed in Dallas, he was trained in our military. He'd served in Afghanistan, I think 2013-2014. He had a small arsenal in his home. It just makes you wonder. I find it very hard to believe that he was acting alone. Even I think the first couple of stories that I read said there were four people involved. That number popped up. It's kind of funny how now the story is changing and it makes you wonder, why the change. Are they trying to hide these other people that were involved that probably have connections to intelligence organizations in the US? Who really planned this event? It was very well thought out, very well executed. They picked their spot very well. It's been used to tar the peace movement as you said. It makes anybody who criticizes the police immediately look like some sort of criminal. These type of events don't benefit people who are critical of the police. It's just unbelievable.
Harrison: It looks like we've got a call. I think we've got Thomas on the line. Thomas, did you have something to say about the situation we're talking about?
Thomas: Yeah, just a couple of short things. It was funny you were talking about how you guys had discussed when are the police going to start getting the bad end of the stick. I thought that myself the night before in relation to an article or video that I'd seen where an EMS, of a paramedic unit that was rushing someone to the hospital in the states got pulled over and the driver was black and also I think the guy who was in charge was black and the police arrested him and put him in a choke hold for not pulling over while they were chasing him. There was a crowd of people gathered around and at one point I sort of thought "This could get nasty" and I actually posted it on my Facebook page and I nearly wrote something along the lines of "Sooner or later something's going to happen and these guys are going to get what they deserve" or something like that. Then I thought "No, that's not a very clever idea." And then lo and behold, I woke up the next morning and this whole thing had come down.
So the comment you were making about multiple snipers, it's amazing how the articles that went up in the morning, when you now click on them they've been completely rewritten. The Dallas police chief, David Brown, the quote that you were talking about, the actual quote was "We believe that these suspects were positioning themselves in a way to triangulate on these officers from two different perches in garages", blah, blah, blah. And then the Washington Post have actually gone ahead and published an article with the "Lone gunman kills five police" in the actual title. But again, that was the first time I'd seen the article, but if you look at the url, the url actually uses the words "snipers".
Thomas: It's as if they'd published the article in the morning and then gone back and rewritten it but obviously the url's the same. It just stinks. I think Brent was referencing how the narrative changed in JFK's assassination. If you watch Evidence of Revision, the documentary, it helps you to understand, to pay attention to the first stories that come out and then just keep paying attention to see how they subtly start slipping things in. There was an article went up on SOTT on the morning and it was still when there were only four officer confirmed dead and again, same thing. You click on the article headline in SOTT, it takes you to the original and within 24 hours the original article has been completely rewritten and even though they still kind of use the word "snipers" in the first paragraph then the whole of the rest of the article is then overkill on the suspect that was, by the sounds of it, blown up by a device delivered by a robot or something.
Thomas: So I just wanted to throw those things in. As you said, it's interesting who these other people are that they've arrested, whether they'll just disappear into the rest of the story or what. I don't know.
Harrison: Yeah, we'll see. Well thanks for sharing that.
Brent: Yeah, there's a tweet I found from Fox News of all places which says that the police are reportedly negotiating with a second suspect in the shooting of police officers in Dallas and the headline is "Police negotiating with second shooter".
Elan: Negotiating what? You have to wonder. But there was another dimension to this that you mentioned Brent, that a lot of observers think has marked a big escalation or sea change in the way that policing and the militarization of the police in the US has ramped up. So you mentioned that they actually sent in a robot with a bomb.
Elan: To kill the sniper. The statement made about that, which was also made by Dallas police chief David Brown, that "the police had no other option but to use our bomb robot and place a device on its extension for it to detonate" adding that "he was deceased as a result of detonating the bomb". That was because negotiations broke down. So they couldn't use tear gas on him? I would imagine there are any number of different ways that they could have captured him. He didn't have an automatic weapon. He was acting alone and yet they send in this robot which you referred to as a drone, quite appropriately in a way. So there are a lot of observers stating that this is a turning point and that if you mess with the police, they're going to blow you up. Bullets no longer do it.
So it's almost as though the war on terror in the form of this little land-based drone has hit home, in a way.
Thomas: Yeah, it sets a wonderful precedent for the people who make those things, doesn't it, the militarization of cops.
Brent: Yeah, as far as I know it's the first time the police have used a drone in order to execute someone. That in and of itself is kind of a big deal. Now there's this precedent there, the police using robots in order to kill people. You look around the country, you follow news that has to do with drones being authorized for use in the US and the controversy that surrounds that, this is one of the things that people have been fearing for a long time, that eventually the police are going to start putting weapons on these things and using them to kill citizens. Here we have an example of that happening.
You can argue whether or not it was justified until the cows come home but the point is, it's here. It's happening. It may be the first time but I highly doubt it will be the last.
Harrison: I just want to share a not-so-funny tweet that I just saw. I'll just read it out. "Racist American regime is killing its own people. The international community must act and launch an intervention said no human rights activists ever". It's like if the United States got what it gives in the international media, that's the headline that you'd be hearing. "Racist American regime killing its own people."
Brent: Oh yeah! Saddam killing his own people. And Libya with Gaddafi was killing his own people. And Syria, Assad is killing his own people. Here in the United States what are we doing? Our police officers are going around killing their own people.
Elan: That's pretty brilliant actually.
Brent: This is America! We're exempt from any sort of rational analysis of our behaviour. It's just another example of American exceptionalism.
Harrison: That reminds me of something that actually comes back to Robbie's film. There's a clip in it of John McCain in Kiev during the Euro Maidan protests and of course he's standing on the stage there giving a speech to the Ukrainians and just seeing that image again was mind-blowing for me because if you think about that and think about, for example, a high profile Russian politician coming to the United States and giving a speech at a Black Lives Matter rally or even a Green Party rally or something like that, just think about that actually happening. It wouldn't happen! It would be totally absurd and people would just be shocked, and yet there's John McCain in 2014 in a foreign country rallying the opposition movement against the existing government. Just fathom that! It's insane.
Elan: And doing the same thing in Syria.
Brent: Yeah, it points to the way that these psychos behave. When anybody else does it, it's a travesty, it's an outrage, it's a crime, but if they do it, it's totally fine "because it's us. We can do whatever we want!" Just unbelievable!
Harrison: Well Brent, did you have any other stories you wanted to cover before we call it quits?
Brent: Oh yeah, real quick, I thought this was interesting. The Bahamas actually has issued an official warning to young males traveling to the US. "Exercise extreme caution near police". So this is the first foreign government that has actually advised its citizens to be very careful around American police and the exact quote is "Exercise extreme caution" because they might kill you.
There was an NYPD officer who shot an unarmed black man in a road rage incident. This was in my city, in New York, in Brooklyn. NYPD officer Wayne Isaacs at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Broadway shot 37-year old Delrawn Small. I guess there was some sort of road rage interaction between these two cars. Delrawn followed the off-duty cop. He was in an unmarked car so he didn't know it was a cop. When he pulled over he got out and went over to give him some words and as soon as he gets right up to the window this cop puts two bullets in him and he staggers away and dies.
Originally the cop had made up some story about how he ripped open the door and started pummelling him and that he was in fear for his life and that's why he shot. Well video evidence shows that as soon as he got up to the window is when this guy gets shot. So that whole story about him getting punched is absolute bullshit.
I already covered the Florida cops that got kicked out because they were in the KKK. And then getting back to cops and their habit of being involved in sex crimes, there was a 23-year-old Todd Tripp who was arrested after reportedly having pornographic images of a 15-year-old boy and he was apparently interacting with him over the internet or maybe it was on one of these apps. I'm not sure. They got a tip from the kid's family's lawyer and they went to his house, got on his computer, took his phone and they found a bunch of kiddie porn. So another example.
Then this is kind of minor in comparison to everything else we've talked about, but there's a beach here in New York which is very popular. It's called Riis Beach. It's in Brooklyn and it's a popular nude bathing area. On the 4th of July it had a very heavy police presence. It's kind of unofficial and you're not legally supposed to be nude there, but this guy was taking a picture. He changed out of his bathing suit because he'd gotten all sandy, had a towel wrapped around his waist and he was taking a picture and the towel dropped for half a second and six cops tackled him and dragged him off the beach.
Brent: So it's getting real! Be careful out there.
Harrison: Jeez. Well we're past time for today. I think we'll call an end to it there. We definitely will be coming back to this whole topic and there will probably be news for some of these specific stories we were talking about over the next week or so. So everyone keep your eyes open on the news and we'll be talking about it again. We'll have Brent back for another police state roundup. So thank you Brent for sharing those stories with us.
Harrison: And your analysis and thanks to Thomas for calling in.
Thomas: Thanks guys.
Harrison: Take care. And thanks to Robbie for sharing information about his film. Again, it's available on Vimeo. The links are in the show description. And we'll be back next week, so everyone take care.
Elan: Be safe everyone.