Tag: America

NETFLIX PREVIEW: Lead Me Home (Documentary) – 500,000 homeless in US every night

Photo- Netflix

By SAT News Desk

MELBOURNE, 22 November: Netflix will start streaming the documentary ‘Let Me Home’ likely to touch your conscience. The world’s sole ‘super power’, the United States has 500,000 who experience homelessness every night.

Lead Me Home is a documentary short by Jon Shenk and Pedro Kos that captures this experience from multiple perspectives. This immersive, cinematic film personalizes the overwhelming issue by telling the real-life stories of those going through it as a first step toward challenging uninformed attitudes and outmoded policies and gives the audience a rare, in-depth look at the scale, scope, and diversity of unsheltered America today.

In Lead Me Home, tents become bedrooms; trucks become washrooms; parks become kitchens. Love occurs, as does strife and violence. People make homes for themselves wherever they end up. When directors Pedro Kos and Jon Shenk set out to tackle the subject of homelessness, they had one goal: to humanize the experience, in whatever form that might take.


The pair set out to depict the stories of people living on the street who, were it not for a vast set of unfortunate circumstances—addiction, mental illness, sexual abuse, homophobia, healthcare costs, disability—would be living no differently from those sleeping comfortably mere blocks or even just floors away.

In the shadow of boundless real estate development proliferating in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle, Kos and Shenk filmed the daily lives of more than two dozen subjects over three years to provide a slice-of-life portrayal of what it’s like to experience homelessness in America today.

Photo- Netflix

Conceived as a two-part visual symphony shot in distinct production periods, the film opens a window into a parallel world hiding in plain sight and challenges the audience to feel the scale, scope, and diversity of unsheltered America.

Lead Me Home marks the first time Emmy winners Kos and Shenk have co-directed together and is a co-production of Netflix and Actual Films, produced by Bonni Cohen, Serin Marshall, and Richard Berge.

Producer (Executive Producer), Director: Jon Shenk
Producer (Co-Executive Producer), Director, Editor: Pedro Cos
Run time: 39 minutes
Genre: Documentary
Country: United States
Streaming service- Netflix
Releasing: November 30, 2021 (India)

What Oil Politics, Taliban, Islamophobia Mean to India


The media must reveal the truth and help weak states rise above a crisis, not play up divisive forces.

By Ram Puniyani

The withdrawal of the United States Army from Afghanistan has brought the Taliban to power. The scenario in Afghanistan is alarming as minorities, and others, desperately attempt to leave the country. The record of the previous Taliban rule is flashing before the world, particularly the oppression of women and imposition of their version of Sharia law. It is their demolition of the Bamiyan Buddha that tells the world what the Taliban stands for. Some hope the exit of foreign powers will change Taliban rule, but events so far make this expectation ring hollow.

Regardless of how Afghans plot their future, it is most surprising that a section of the Indian media—which many disparagingly identify as godi media—has taken to non-stop coverage of the Taliban takeover. They are toeing the ruling party’s line, spending a significant share of airtime on perceived threats to India from the Taliban rule in Afghanistan.

These anchors on TV never spare a chance to criticise those who “felt the arrival of the Taliban in Afghanistan will not affect India”. The Special Cell of the Delhi Police recently arrested six suspected terrorists and alleged that they were trained in Pakistan to conduct terrorist strikes in India. Their alleged motive was to thwart the democratic process in Uttar Pradesh, where elections are due next year. The TV channels immediately caught on to this episode, claiming it connects with events in Afghanistan.

Other than attacking those critical of the ruling government, TV channels were busy for a month presenting viewers with the horrors Taliban rule entails. Their concerns may be valid, but the cheek-by-jowl coverage the Taliban is getting is out of proportion. They make it seem like the only problem Indians face is the Taliban coming to power in Afghanistan. For a large section of Indians, growing unemployment, the farmer movement, the rising atrocities against Dalits and women, and price rise are primary concerns. This narrative is absent from the media. Nor do they provide coverage to the intimidation of religious minorities in India, and even if they do, there is no attempt to be objective. Instead, this section of the media presents the religious minorities themselves as the culprits. The ‘hate Muslims’ sentiment has strengthened ever since the Taliban came to power.

The language in the media portrays the Taliban as representatives of all Muslims anywhere, as though it embodies some universally accepted Islamic values. The aim is to cast a deep shadow on Indian Muslims, increasing their alienation and marginalisation. The 2016 report, What Muslims Want, the most extensive research of British Muslims ever conducted, found that nine of ten British Muslims reject terrorism outright.” However, this powerful section of the media is unconcerned with the politics behind the Taliban’s coming to power. It does not bother to introspect why countries with large Muslim populations, such as Indonesia, do not have similar politics.

If the mainstream media correlates fundamentalist Islam represented by the Taliban or Al-Qaeda, and the politics of the last five decades in the oil-rich parts of the world, it would give away the truth. However, that would not suit the sectarian politics in India, and it would challenge the economic and political interests of corporates who control this media.

Fact is, western imperialism is out to control and plunder the resources of the world. In the last few decades after the colonial era ended, the United States and its cohort sought to control oil resources and markets worldwide. In a way, the people of West and Central Asia, rich in oil and other natural resources, suffer due to their wealth. America funded youth training in the retrograde version of Islam in Af-Pak, leading to the mujahideen and the Taliban. During the Cold War, it perpetrated imperialist designs in the name of a ‘free world’, which meant opposing communism. The Soviet Union supported several national liberation struggles, which the United States did not want. The war in Vietnam is the best example of how America pursued its anti-communist agenda through waging wars far from its borders.

After the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the United States intensified its support to local fundamentalist groups. The Saudi regime helped train the youth, though mostly America supported the Mujaheddin, the Taliban, and even Al-Qaeda. The syllabus was prepared in Washington, America funded it, and youngsters got lured into fundamentalist schools where it was taught. It was a close collaboration between the CIA and the ISI of Pakistan, which indoctrinated the youth and gave them sophisticated weapons.

Their goal was to ally with the Afghan forces to defeat the USSR. Recall the 1985 visit of hardcore Islamists to the White House, where Ronald Regan hosted them. He brought them to the Oval Office and said, “These gentlemen are the moral equivalent of America’s founding fathers.” Let us be blunt: The CIA’s machinations created the world’s deadliest terrorists. To cut a long story short, Hillary Clinton, when she was US Secretary of State, accepted in an interview that America “funded Taliban and Al Qaida”.

West Asia is a victim of the oil and wealth lust of American imperialism. The majority of the victims of Islamist terrorists were Muslims. Pakistan lost close to 70,000 people due to terror strikes, including a former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, to such an attack. Still, the American media coined the phrase ‘Islamic terrorism’ after the 9/11 attack, as if events unfolding in Afghanistan or Iraq or Egypt were unconnected with recent American history. The global media picked up the phrase uncritically. In India, the Muslim community saw a further dip in its social and economic capital. An outcome of American policies was that they added to the discrimination of this community around the world.

It is the responsibility of the media to unravel the truth, no matter how complex. Of course, there are excellent books on the topic, only if members of the godi media care to read them! Their task is to help a weak state rise above its crisis, not to play into the hands of divisive forces.

The author is a social activist and commentator. The views are personal.

Source- newsclick.in, 24 September 2021

‘Fortress USA’: How 9/11 produced a military industrial juggernaut

Photo- US Army site (https://www.army.mil/)

By Clare Corbould*

Since the September 11 terror attacks, there has been no hiding from the increased militarisation of the United States. Everyday life is suffused with policing and surveillance. This ranges from the inconvenient, such as removing shoes at the airport, to the dystopian, such as local police departments equipped with decommissioned tanks too big to use on regular roads.

This process of militarisation did not begin with 9/11. The American state has always relied on force combined with the de-personalisation of its victims.

The army, after all, dispossessed First Nations peoples of their land as settlers pushed westward. Expanding the American empire to places such as Cuba, the Philippines, and Haiti also relied on force, based on racist justifications.

The military also ensured American supremacy in the wake of the second world war. As historian Nikhil Pal Singh writes, about 8 million people were killed in US-led or -sponsored wars from 1945–2019 — and this is a conservative estimate.

When Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican and former military general, left the presidency in 1961, he famously warned against the growing “military-industrial complex” in the US. His warning went unheeded and the protracted conflict in Vietnam was the result.

The 9/11 attacks then intensified US militarisation, both at home and abroad. George W. Bush was elected in late 2000 after campaigning to reduce US foreign interventions. The new president discovered, however, that by adopting the persona of a tough, pro-military leader, he could sweep away lingering doubts about the legitimacy of his election.

Waging war on Afghanistan within a month of the twin towers falling, Bush’s popularity soared to 90%. War in Iraq, based on the dubious assertion of Saddam Hussein’s “weapons of mass destruction”, soon followed.

The military industrial juggernaut

Investment in the military state is immense. 9/11 ushered in the federal, cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security, with an initial budget in 2001-02 of US$16 billion. Annual budgets for the agency peaked at US$74 billion in 2009-10 and is now around US$50 billion.

This super-department vacuumed up bureaucracies previously managed by a range of other agencies, including justice, transportation, energy, agriculture, and health and human services.

Centralising services under the banner of security has enabled gross miscarriages of justice. These include the separation of tens of thousands of children from parents at the nation’s southern border, done in the guise of protecting the country from so-called illegal immigrants. More than 300 of the some 1,000 children taken from parents during the Trump administration have still not been reunited with family.

The post-9/11 Patriot Act also gave spying agencies paramilitary powers. The act reduced barriers between the CIA, FBI, and the National Security Agency (NSA) to permit the acquiring and sharing of Americans’ private communications. These ranged from telephone records to web searches. All of this was justified in an atmosphere of near-hysterical and enduring anti-Muslim fervour.

Only in 2013 did most Americans realise the extent of this surveillance network. Edward Snowden, a contractor working at the NSA, leaked documents that revealed a secret US$52 billion budget for 16 spying agencies and over 100,000 employees.

Photo- US Army Site (https://www.army.mil/)

Normalisation of the security state

Despite the long objections of civil liberties groups and disquiet among many private citizens, especially after Snowden’s leaks, it has proven difficult to wind back the industrialised security state.

This is for two reasons: the extent of the investment, and because its targets, both domestically and internationally, are usually not white and not powerful.

Domestically, the 2015 Freedom Act renewed almost all of the Patriot Act’s provisions. Legislation in 2020 that might have stemmed some of these powers stalled in Congress.

And recent reports suggest President Joe Biden’s election has done little to alter the detention of children at the border.

Militarisation is now so commonplace that local police departments and sheriff’s offices have received some US$7 billion worth of military gear (including grenade launchers and armoured vehicles) since 1997, underwritten by federal government programs.

Militarised police kill civilians at a high rate — and the targets for all aspects of policing and incarceration are disproportionately people of colour. And yet, while the sight of excessively armed police forces during last year’s Black Lives Matter protests shocked many Americans, it will take a phenomenal effort to reverse this trend.

The heavy cost of the war on terror

The juggernaut of the militarised state keeps the United States at war abroad, no matter if Republicans or Democrats are in power.

Since 9/11, the US “war on terror” has cost more than US$8 trillion and led to the loss of up to 929,000 lives.

The effects on countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Syria, and Pakistan have been devastating, and with the US involvement in Somalia, Libya, the Philippines, Mali, and Kenya included, these conflicts have resulted in the displacement of some 38 million people.

These wars have become self-perpetuating, spawning new terror threats such as the Islamic State and now perhaps ISIS-K.

Photo- US Army site (https://www.army.mil/)

Those who serve in the US forces have suffered greatly. Roughly 2.9 million living veterans served in post-9/11 conflicts abroad. Of the some 2 million deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, perhaps 36% are experiencing PTSD.

Training can be utterly brutal. The military may still offer opportunities, but the lives of those who serve remain expendable.

Life must be precious

Towards the end of his life, Robert McNamara, the hard-nosed Ford Motor Company president and architect of the United States’ disastrous military efforts in Vietnam, came to regret deeply his part in the military-industrial juggernaut.

In his 1995 memoir, he judged his own conduct to be morally repugnant. He wrote,

We of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations who participated in the decisions on Vietnam acted according to what we thought were the principles and traditions of this nation. We made our decisions in light of those values. Yet we were wrong, terribly wrong.

In interviews with the filmmaker Errol Morris, McNamara admitted, obliquely, to losing sight of the simple fact the victims of the militarised American state were, in fact, human beings.

As McNamara realised far too late, the solution to reversing American militarisation is straightforward. We must recognise, in the words of activist and scholar Ruth Wilson Gilmore, that “life is precious”. That simple philosophy also underlies the call to acknowledge Black Lives Matter.

The best chance to reverse the militarisation of the US state is policy guided by the radical proposal that life — regardless of race, gender, status, sexuality, nationality, location or age — is indeed precious.

As we reflect on how the United States has changed since 9/11, it is clear the country has moved further away from this basic premise, not closer to it.

* Associate Professor, Contemporary Histories Research Group, Deakin University

Source- The Conversation, Global Perspectives Edition, September 7, 2021 (Under the Creative Commons Licence)
The views in the article are the author’s own.