Khashoggi and the Myth of the ‘Liberal’ Middle East Crown Princes

Mohammed bin Salman (center), Clockwise from top left: Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Bashar Assad, King Abdullah, Prince Hussein, King of Morocco Mohammed VI, and Saad Hariri.REUTERS, AP Photo/Umit Bektas, Mikhail Klimentyev/AP, KHALIL MAZRAAWI / AFP, AP, ussein Malla/AP

Khashoggi and the Myth of the ‘Liberal’ Middle East Crown Princes

The next generation of Middle Eastern leaders are Western-educated and reform-minded. Or are they?

Anshel Pfeffer

12:43 2 comments

It’s an irresistible narrative. The young and liberal-minded scion of a despotic regime comes to the throne with exciting ideas for opening up the kingdom he is about to inherit. Only it almost never quite works out that way. Power is almost never given up voluntarily and the deceptive ease of conducting state affairs without the need for consultation or due process almost always entraps the heir.

Since this piece is being published while details of Jamal Khashoggi’s apparent killing and dismemberment (not necessarily in that order) in the Saudi Kingdom’s Istanbul consulate are still emerging, the above description could apply to Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, whose men were allegedly involved in the inconvenient journalist’s demise. But it is equally apt for describing the acclamation for another thirty-something who came to power in the Middle East, holding on to his father’s coattails and the very slow awakening to his true nature.

The Dauphin of the House of Assad was just as eagerly awaited when he came to power in Damascus at the age of 34, just one year older than MBS is now. He was the Western-educated doctor who had studied ophthalmology in London, who apparently chose to be an eye doctor because he hated the sight of blood. He also – get this – used the internet. Bashar Assad wasn’t just young and hip, he had a beautiful wife, lionized in a gushing interview (since expunged from the web) by Vogue as a “Rose in the Desert.”

In this July 13, 2008 file photo, Syrian President Bashar Assad and his wife Asma arrive for a formal dinner after a Mediterranean Summit meeting at the Petit Palais in Paris. AP

>> Khashoggi’s dismembered body lands at Trump’s White House | Analysis ■ Why the Khashoggi murder is a disaster for Israel | Opinion

No matter that there were no tangible signs of any meaningful easing of repression in Syria under Assad Junior, he continued to be described in Western media as “reform-minded” and hosted by world leaders, together with the glamorous Asma, for nearly eleven years, until the blood-soaked suppression of the Syrian revolution became impossible to ignore.

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Even then, when over a quarter of a million corpses had piled up in Syria, some Westerners tried to make excuses for him. As late as December 2015, in an interview with the New Yorker Magazine, U.S. State Secretary John Kerry still surmised that poor Bashar had been forced by his mother and brother to crack down on the protestors.

The forlorn hope of Western politicians and journalists that incoming hereditary absolute dictators will be more enlightened rulers than their fathers was based on no more evidence than the fact that they’re younger, better-educated and can make small-talk in English. This narrative isn’t just a product of Orientalism. There were ostensibly good reasons to hope for an improvement under kings and presidents who had a better idea of the advantages of an open, freer society.

Image from Saad Hariri’s twitter feed showing the Lebanese president with the Saudi crown prince and King of Morocco, April 10, 2018 Screen shot

Explained: Will the Khashoggi ‘murder’ bring down Saudi’s Crown Prince? | Explained: Behind the Saudi Crown Prince’s carefully managed image lurks a dark side

It wasn’t a foregone conclusion that under MBS’ suzerainty, repression of dissidents would swiftly intensify. Or that in just seven years of civil war in Syria, Assad Junior’s forces would butcher far more of his country’s citizens than his fearsome father Hafez had murdered in three decades. But there was no reason to believe it was impossible either. Genocidal tyrants are humans too. Stalin’s love of Hollywood movies and Hitler’s vegetarianism didn’t curb their bloodlust any more than Kim Jong-Un’s NBA obsession has led to him to improve the lives of his subjugated people.

But as with Kim, there was an expectation that the new generation of despots – crown-princes who had spent time living in the West – would somehow blend what they had learned at their father’s knee with more moderate practices. In conjunction with the elevation of MBS to rank of Crown Prince, not yet the ultimate ruler but in charge in all but title, a generation of crown princes has come to the fore in the Middle East. By and large, they haven’t ushered in a new era of even relative democracy.

Most of the region is now ruled by university educated crown princes with a Western orientation, but this hasn’t changed their style of rule. Only the PR has improved.

MBS didn’t invent anything with his, now squandered, charm-offensive. He had his recently elevated neighboring Persian Gulf role-models: the similarly acronymized MBZ – Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of Abu Dhabi, since the de-facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates, and his rival Tamim bin Hamad, the 38-year-old Emir of Qatar. Both have been engaged in their own PR campaigns in the West, using their nations’ oil wealth to build up a facade of cultural and academic enterprises in partnership with the most prestigious institutes in the West. These academic institutions are all happy to accept the Gulf money and disregard the total lack of democracy and the consistent human-rights violations. And then of course there’s the Emirati and Qatari investment in top European soccer clubs.

Occasionally, the bleak reality is seen through the cracks. A case in point is the reports on the hundreds of deaths of Asian laborers toiling under inhumane conditions to build the stadiums and hotels for Qatar’s grandiose FIFA 2022 tournament. And while it’s the Saudis who have attracted most of the criticism for the conduct of the bloody war in Yemen, it is infrequently mentioned that the UAE is their partner there. This week, Buzzfeed published an investigation into the hiring of American mercenaries by the UAE to fight in Yemen. But these are exceptions to the rule. In general, MBZ and the Emir know how to keep a lid on the more unpleasant aspects of their regimes. MBS still has to learn from them how not to overstep.

Elsewhere, the crown princes of Jordan have also managed to stay in the good books of the West, without making meaningful reform. King Abdullah of Jordan has shown he is no less of a survival artist than his father King Hussein. For all the talk of a “democratization” process and “constitutional evolution” in Jordan, Abdullah has relinquished none of the power in his kingdom, the elected parliament is largely a sham and while the security forces have not suppressed demonstrations with violence, it is partly due to the protestors knowing their limits. They protest against the “government”, not the king, and go home quietly after a couple of hours. Meanwhile, Abdullah’s 24 year-old son, the next Crown Prince Hussein, is being groomed and constantly presented to his subjects by his father’s side. Recently, an action-packed video was released, with Abdullah and Hussein, in slick combat fatigues, bursting out of a car, blazing away with assault rifles.

Another young(ish) king putting on a good show of “democratizing” is Mohammed VI of Morocco. In the first years after the Arab Spring of 2011, he announced “constitutional reforms” followed by elections in which the Islamists won. He even spoke of power-sharing, but didn’t actually relinquish much of that power. If the continuing violent protests on the streets of Casablanca and the thousands leaving by sea in the hope of reaching Europe is anything to go by, not much has changed in Morocco either. But he still gets points for being a reformist.

Even non-monarchical countries in the region have their dysfunctional political dynasties. Lebanon’s Saad Hariri, son of the martyred Rafic, may have avoided assassination, and unlike Khashoggi, emerged in one piece after being incarcerated in Riyadh last year on MBS’ orders, but he is prime minister of Lebanon only in name. He has had no functioning coalition since the parliamentary election five months ago, and his country is effectively ruled by the Lebanese army and Hezbollah. That didn’t stop him from being described for years in the media as “Lebanon’s future.”

It’s tempting to blame Donald Trump, a ruler with his own Crown Princess Ivanka and Crown Prince Jared, of having acted as MBS’ “enabler.” The administration’s foreign policy, such as it is, has certainly been based on the Saudis’ to an unprecedented degree. But none of his predecessors, or any other Western leaders for that matter, have remained any different. They all bought in to the myth of the reforming heir and that myth will persist. No one can resist the glowing testimonials of these Western-minded young men (of course, they’re always men). You can bet that pretty soon a great fuss will be made over the suave Berat Albayrak, Turkey’s 40 year-old Finance Minister and more importantly, the son-in-law and by all signs heir apparent of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Did you hear he got an MBA at an American college?

Assad went too far. He will be shunned for his war-crimes for the foreseeable future, though thanks to Iran and Russia, he is secure in his palace. And MBS will have to take a time-out, while the West goes through a thorough ritual condemnation of Khashoggi’s murder. But no one is about to seriously mess with a kingdom that can tomorrow drive the price of oil up to 400 dollars a barrel. In a couple of years, perhaps sooner, the Crown Prince will be back and we’ll be reading serious columnists on how he’s “grown up” and learned his limitations. All he has to do is wait a bit and learn from his colleagues that to maintain the reformer’s myth, you just need to repress your subjects with a bit more subtlety.

The martyrdom of Jamal Khashoggi

The martyrdom of Jamal Khashoggi

Tuesday, October 16, 2018 – 10:56

Amman, Jordan

Daoud Kuttab was Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University and the head of the press freedom committee within the board of the International Press Institute.

By Daoud Kuttab

The London-based daily Al-Araby Al-Jadeed recently published a cartoon, by the Jordanian artist Emad Hajjaj, depicting a faceless man wearing a red and white keffiyeh and sweeping his brown thawb in such a way that it looks almost like he is performing a magic trick. Whipped up by his movement, papers float around him. At the bottom of the frame, the hand of another man, wearing what appears to be a white button-down shirt, reaches up, apparently having let go of his pen in order to try to grab onto something, to save himself. The caption reads, “The disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.”

The cartoon names the victim, but not the perpetrator. True, any Arab – indeed, virtually everyone – knows exactly who is responsible for Khashoggi’s disappearance: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia. But the fact that a well-known cartoonist had to disguise the culprit’s image speaks volumes about the fear felt by independent journalists in the Arab world. Khashoggi’s disappearance has only deepened their anxiety.

Arab countries have a long history of rewarding journalists who toe the official line, while punishing those, like Khashoggi, who dare to speak truth to power. Since the failed Arab Spring revolutions – of which Tunisia is the only success story – citizens across the region have found themselves with a stark choice between radical Islamist regimes and military rule. Efforts presenting democratic alternatives have been systematically repressed.

Discrediting, constraining, or otherwise silencing independent journalists is a key tool of this repression. Autocratic governments create laws and regulations to protect themselves and their cronies from criticism or exposure by independent media. They claim that only the journalists on their payroll – who praise their rulers and the regime’s opponents – are legitimate; all others are enemies of the state.

Such behavior is not limited to dictatorships. Even in the United States – long admired for its robust free press, protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution, and powerful investigative journalism, which once brought down a president – President Donald Trump’s administration routinely attacks independent journalists, labeling them traitors, paid agents, and purveyors of “fake news.”

Trump may simply be trying to appease his right-wing base and avoid accountability for his innumerable mistakes and misdeeds. But his attacks on the US press, together with his silence on attacks occurring elsewhere, have gone a long way to embolden violators of press freedom around the world.

It does not help that many of those press-freedom violators – including Saudi Arabia – are among America’s closest allies. Trump has been true to America’s all-too-frequent willingness to place lucrative military contracts ahead of human rights, saying that he would be “very upset and angry” if Saudi Arabia were found to be responsible for Khashoggi ’s death, while ruling out a halt to big military contracts.

America’s fellow NATO member Turkey is the world leader in imprisoning journalists, yet the Trump administration has complained only about the detention of one (recently released) American pastor, and that was just to placate America’s “religious right” (beginning with Vice President Mike Pence). The US authorities have said nothing about Al Jazeera journalist Mahmoud Hussein’s nearly two-year detention in Egypt.

Nor has the Trump administration commented on the fact that, in March 2017, the United Arab Emirates sentenced the Jordanian journalist Tayseer al-Najjar to three years imprisonment and a fine of 500,000 UAE dirhams (approximately $136,000) over a Facebook post. Even countries that are not particularly close US allies – such as Myanmar, where two Reuters journalists have been sentenced to seven years imprisonment – do not face pushback from the US.

Independent journalists have one goal: to find the truth and share it widely. When governments can repress those journalists with impunity, and when others compromise their supposed commitment to basic human rights for political or partisan goals, the truth remains hidden, with serious consequences.

I have known Khashoggi for years, both in a professional and a personal capacity. He is a Saudi patriot, who is not opposed to his country’s system of rule. Yes, he has critiqued policies, such as the inhumane war in Yemen and how Saudi rulers deal with dissent. But his arguments were always based on facts. He is not a dissident or a rebel, but a monarchist who wants to see his country do better than it is. And now he may have paid the ultimate price for that.

For Arab freedom fighters, the road ahead is long and treacherous. Building on the sacrifices of true heroes and genuine democrats, journalists and cartoonists like Hajjaj will continue to speak truth to power, as they fight for basic human rights like freedom of the press. It is truly unconscionable, however, that they must go into battle without the support of those who claim to have their backs.

What the media aren’t telling you about Jamal Khashoggi

What the media aren’t telling you about Jamal Khashoggi

The dissident’s fate says a lot about Saudi Arabia and the rise of the mobster state

John R. Bradley

As someone who spent three decades working closely with intelligence services in the Arab world and the West, the Saudi dissident and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi knew he was taking a huge risk in entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week to try to obtain a document certifying he had divorced his ex-wife.

A one-time regime insider turned critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — the de facto head of the Saudi kingdom which tolerates no criticism whatsoever — Khashoggi had been living in Washington for the previous year in self-imposed exile amid a crackdown on independent voices in his homeland.

He had become the darling of western commentators on the Middle East. With almost two million Twitter followers, he was the most famous political pundit in the Arab world and a regular guest on the major TV news networks in Britain and the United States. Would the Saudis dare to cause him harm? It turns out that the answer to that question was ‘You betcha.’

Following uneventful visits to the consulate and, earlier, the Saudi embassy in Washington, Khashoggi was lured into a murderous plan so brazen, so barbaric, that it would seem far-fetched as a subplot in a John le Carré novel. He went inside the Istanbul consulate, but failed to emerge. Turkish police and intelligence officials claimed that a team of 15 hitmen carrying Saudi diplomatic passports arrived the same morning on two private jets. Their convoy of limousines arrived at the consulate building shortly before Khashoggi did.

Their not-so-secret mission? To torture, then execute, Khashoggi, and videotape the ghastly act for whoever had given the order for his merciless dispatch. Khashoggi’s body, Turkish officials say, was dismembered and packed into boxes before being whisked away in a black van with darkened windows. The assassins fled the country.

Saudi denials were swift. The ambassador to Washington said reports that Saudi authorities had killed Khashoggi were ‘absolutely false’. But under the circumstances — with his fiancée waiting for him, and no security cameras finding any trace of his leaving the embassy — the world is left wondering if bin Salman directed this murder. When another Saudi official chimed in that ‘with no body, there is no crime’, it was unclear whether he was being ironic. Is this great reforming prince, with aims the West applauds, using brutal methods to dispose of his enemies? What we have learned so far is far from encouraging. A Turkish newspaper close to the government this week published the photographs and names of the alleged Saudi hitmen, and claims to have identified three of them as members of bin Salman’s personal protection team.

There are also reports in the American media that all surveillance footage was removed from the consulate building, and that all local Turkish employees there were suddenly given the day off. According to the New York Times, among the assassination team was the kingdom’s top forensic expert, who brought a bone saw to dismember Khashoggi’s body. None of this has yet been independently verified, but a very dark narrative is emerging.

In many respects, bin Salman’s regime has been revolutionary: he has let women drive, sided with Israel against Iran and curtailed the religious police. When Boris Johnson was foreign secretary, he said that bin Salman was the best thing to happen to the region in at least a decade, that the style of government of this 33-year-old prince was utterly different. But the cruelty and the bloodletting have not stopped. Saudi Arabia still carries out many public beheadings and other draconian corporal punishments. It continues to wage a war in Yemen which has killed at least 10,000 civilians.

Princes and businessmen caught up in a corruption crackdown are reported to have been tortured; Shia demonstrators have been mowed down in the streets and had their villages reduced to rubble; social media activists have been sentenced to thousands of lashes; families of overseas-based activists have been arbitrarily arrested. In an attempt to justify this, bin Salman said this week he was ‘trying to get rid of extremism and terrorism without civil war, without stopping the country from growing, with continuous progress in all elements,’ adding: ‘So if there is a small price in that area, it’s better than paying a big debt to do that move.’

The fate of Khashoggi has at least provoked global outrage, but it’s for all the wrong reasons. We are told he was a liberal, Saudi progressive voice fighting for freedom and democracy, and a martyr who paid the ultimate price for telling the truth to power. This is not just wrong, but distracts us from understanding what the incident tells us about the internal power dynamics of a kingdom going through an unprecedented period of upheaval. It is also the story of how one man got entangled in a Saudi ruling family that operates like the Mafia. Once you join, it’s for life, and if you try to leave, you become disposable.

In truth, Khashoggi never had much time for western-style pluralistic democracy. In the 1970s he joined the Muslim Brotherhood, which exists to rid the Islamic world of western influence. He was a political Islamist until the end, recently praising the Muslim Brotherhood in the Washington Post. He championed the ‘moderate’ Islamist opposition in Syria, whose crimes against humanity are a matter of record. Khashoggi frequently sugarcoated his Islamist beliefs with constant references to freedom and democracy. But he never hid that he was in favour of a Muslim Brotherhood arc throughout the Middle East. His recurring plea to bin Salman in his columns was to embrace not western-style democracy, but the rise of political Islam which the Arab Spring had inadvertently given rise to. For Khashoggi, secularism was the enemy.

He had been a journalist in the 1980s and 1990s, but then became more of a player than a spectator. Before working with a succession of Saudi princes, he edited Saudi newspapers. The exclusive remit a Saudi government–appointed newspaper editor has is to ensure nothing remotely resembling honest journalism makes it into the pages. Khashoggi put the money in the bank — making a handsome living was always his top priority. Actions, anyway, speak louder than words.

It was Yasin Aktay — a former MP for Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development party (AKP) — whom Khashoggi told his fiancée to call if he did not emerge from the consulate. The AKP is, in effect, the Turkish branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. His most trusted friend, then, was an adviser to President Erdogan, who is fast becoming known as the most vicious persecutor of journalists on earth. Khashoggi never meaningfully criticised Erdogan. So we ought not to see this as the assassination of a liberal reformer.

Khashoggi had this undeserved status in the West because of the publicity surrounding his sacking as editor of the Saudi daily Al Watan back in 2003. (I broke the news of his removal for Reuters. I’d worked alongside Khashoggi at the Saudi daily Arab News during the preceding years.) He was dismissed because he allowed a columnist to criticise an Islamist thinker considered to be the founding father of Wahhabism. Thus, overnight, Khashoggi became known as a liberal progressive.

The Muslim Brotherhood, though, has always been at odds with the Wahhabi movement. Khashoggi and his fellow travellers believe in imposing Islamic rule by engaging in the democratic process. The Wahhabis loathe democracy as a western invention. Instead, they choose to live life as it supposedly existed during the time of the Muslim prophet. In the final analysis, though, they are different means to achieving the same goal: Islamist theocracy. This matters because, although bin Salman has rejected Wahhabism — to the delight of the West — he continues to view the Muslim Brotherhood as the main threat most likely to derail his vision for a new Saudi Arabia. Most of the Islamic clerics in Saudi Arabia who have been imprisoned over the past two years — Khashoggi’s friends — have historic ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. Khashoggi had therefore emerged as a de facto leader of the Saudi branch. Due to his profile and influence, he was the biggest political threat to bin Salman’s rule outside of the royal family.

Worse, from the royals’ point of view, was that Khashoggi had dirt on Saudi links to al Qaeda before the 9/11 attacks. He had befriended Osama bin Laden in the 1980s and 1990s in Afghanistan and Sudan while championing his jihad against the Soviets in dispatches. At that same time, he was employed by the Saudi intelligence services to try to persuade bin Laden to make peace with the Saudi royal family. The result? Khashoggi was the only non-royal Saudi who had the beef on the royals’ intimate dealing with al Qaeda in the lead-up to the 9/11 attacks. That would have been crucial if he had escalated his campaign to undermine the crown prince.

Like the Saudi royals, Khashoggi dissociated himself from bin Laden after 9/11 (which Khashoggi and I watched unfold together in the Arab News office in Jeddah). But he then teamed up as an adviser to the Saudi ambassador to London and then Washington, Prince Turki Al Faisal. The latter had been Saudi intelligence chief from 1977 until just ten days before the 9/11 attacks, when he inexplicably resigned. Once again, by working alongside Prince Turki during the latter’s ambassadorial stints, as he had while reporting on bin Laden, Khashoggi mixed with British, US and Saudi intelligence officials. In short, he was uniquely able to acquire invaluable inside information.

The Saudis, too, may have worried that Khashoggi had become a US asset. In Washington in 2005, a senior Pentagon official told me of a ridiculous plan they had to take ‘the Saudi out of Arabia’ (as was the rage post-9/11). It involved establishing a council of selected Saudi figures in Mecca to govern the country under US auspices after the US took control of the oil. He named three Saudis the Pentagon team were in regular contact with regarding the project. One of them was Khashoggi. A fantasy, certainly, but it shows how highly he was regarded by those imagining a different Saudi Arabia.

Perhaps it was for this and other reasons — and working according to the dictum of keeping your enemies closer — that a few weeks ago, according to a friend of Khashoggi, bin Salman had made a traditional tribal offer of reconciliation — offering him a place as an adviser if he returned to the kingdom. Khashoggi had declined because of ‘moral and religious’ principles. And that may have been the fatal snub, not least because Khashoggi had earlier this year established a new political party in the US called Democracy for the Arab World Now, which would support Islamist gains in democratic elections throughout the region. Bin Salman’s nightmare of a Khashoggi-led Islamist political opposition was about to become a reality.

The West has been fawning over bin Salman. But how now to overlook what seems to be a brazen Mafia-style murder? ‘I don’t like hearing about it,’ Donald Trump said. ‘Nobody knows anything about it, but there’s some pretty bad stories going around. I do not like it.’ Well, there are plenty more stories where that came from, stories about a ruthless prince whose opponents have a habit of disappearing. The fate of Khashoggi is the latest sign of what’s really happening inside Saudi Arabia. For how much longer will our leaders look the other way?

This article was originally published in The Spectator magazine.

David Duke: Donald Trump Is Too Zionist for Me

Back in 2015 Dr. David Duke said that Trump was too much of Zionist for him.

Why the change of heart Duke?

NO ENDORSEMENT

David Duke: Donald Trump Is Too Zionist for Me

Gideon Resnick

08.26.15 7:55 PM ET

David Duke is biding his time before he announces his all-important endorsement in the 2016 election.

Contrary to previous reports, the former Ku Klux Klan leader was adamant in a conversation with The Daily Beast that he has yet to throw his support behind Donald Trump for president, despite calling the billionaire “the best of the lot” on his radio program.

Duke, who first asked whether I was Jewish to assess my level of objectivity before answering my questions, said he thinks Trump’s vow to address the cause of illegal immigration is vital to the country’s survival but wonders whether he is trustworthy, especially given his support of Israel.

“I’m not endorsing Donald Trump,” Duke said. “I believe that the discussion on the immigration issue is a legitimate discussion. It’s a good thing.”

The white supremacist also questioned the legitimacy of Jorge Ramos after Trump threw the Univision anchor out of a press conference Tuesday in Iowa.

“I have not endorsed [Trump] either informally or formally, but I do endorse the conversation,” Duke added. “And I appreciate the fact that these issues are being raised.”

“Those issues” include a plan to deport all undocumented immigrants when Trump reaches the White House.

It’s difficult to keep Duke, who prefers to be called Dr. Duke on his website, on topic as he veers in and out of connecting the dots in a convoluted web that all leads back to the overpowering Zionist Jewish influence in media and government. It is ridiculous, he said, that he is referred to as a former Ku Klux Klan member while Nelson Mandela isn’t labeled a former member of the Communist Party. But mostly Duke takes issue with everyone who is not a European American infringing on the lives of European Americans.

“There is a replacement of the American elite from the people who have founded America and now it’s a Jewish elite,” Duke said. “And it’s pretty ironic that you think about this Jewish elite and they’re only 2 percent of the United States of America. There’s something wrong with this picture. That’s not diversity.”

And Duke is not certain that a President Trump would do anything to alleviate the situation.

“Trump has made it very clear that he’s 1,000 percent dedicated to Israel, so how much is left over for America?” Duke asked.

The candidate’s daughter Ivanka Trump has publicly discussed her conversion to Judaism before her marriage, and her father has been billed as the most Israel-friendly GOP candidate in this election. All this makes Trump a little too untrustworthy for Duke to come out swinging on his behalf.

“This is the reason why I have not endorsed Donald Trump, because I really have to evaluate these things,” Duke said. “But I really think the Democratic Party and the Republican Party are completely under the sway of the Zionists who are ultimately damaging America and damaging the world.”

The one thing that gives Duke any sort of hope about Trump is his firm stance on deporting all undocumented immigrants, whose presence in the United States Duke calls an “invasion.”

“He’s enduring obviously a lot of criticism,” Duke said. “It’s nothing like the criticism I got when I ran for office, but I think he’s enduring criticism because he’s—kind of, with this rhetoric—talking about America and the traditions of America and the heritage of America. You can see the composition of so many of his rallies and who they are. They are really the European American people, the non-Jewish European American people that are waking up. And I think that the Jewish elite in America fear this.

“They’re worried about Trump because there’s this big sleeping tiger which is the mass majority of European Americans. They’re afraid that they’re going to start realizing that they have a common interest, just like Jews have a common interest.”

Duke didn’t say whether he thinks the planned “Trump Wall” is practical, but he’s waiting to see if the real estate magnate will practice what he preaches.

“I don’t know if he will do any of these things,” Duke said. “I don’t know if he’s trustworthy. He’s definitely a good businessman. The American people want control over our borders. They also know that immigration is a fundamental threat to the traditional values of the United States of America and the economic interests of the American people.”

Trump said in an interview with Bloomberg on Tuesday evening that he “wouldn’t want” Duke’s endorsement and that he would repudiate it “if that would make you feel better.”

“I don’t need anyone’s endorsement,” he said.

Doug Liman Takes a Second Crack at ‘Fair Game’; New Cut to Be Released on Netflix

(If your one of my readers and/or listeners this article is interesting)

Doug Liman Takes a Second Crack at ‘Fair Game’; New Cut to Be Released on Netflix

      OCTOBER 9, 2018

fair-game

In 2010, Summit Entertainment released Doug Liman’s Fair Game. The film pretty much disappeared the moment it was released. The movie was based on the Plame affair, where the Bush Administration outed the identity of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame as retaliation for her husband, Joe Wilson, penning an op-ed casting doubt on the administration’s claim that Saddam Hussein had sought quantities of uranium from Africa. The affair led to a criminal investigation where Scooter Libby, an adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, was convicted of lying to investigators, but his sentence was commuted by Bush and he was recently pardoned by Donald Trump.

Liman tells Indiewire he was never fully satisfied with his original cut of Fair Game, and talked about butting head with Sean Penn, who played Wilson, in the editing room:

“Sean had things going on in his personal life when we were making the film, impacting his performance,” Liman said. “What he considered a genius performance and what I considered a genius performance were not necessarily the same. You can’t necessarily corral genius on set, but you can do it in the editing room.”

fair-game-sean-penn

Liman said that Fair Gamehas been a “thorn in my side” because it’s not “the best version of the movie.” But now he’s gone back and made some changes, and he believes the film is not only more powerful, but also more timely:

“The film is gut-wrenching and more emotionally satisfying,” he said. “Like Professor Ford standing up in front of the Brett Kavanaugh freight train, it’s a story about citizens standing up to the president and coming forward, confronting overwhelming power. At its heart, it’s about the consequences involved in trying to speak truth to power.”

I definitely think that Fair Game, released during the relative tranquil of the Obama Administration (or at least during a time when the country had moved past the Plame affair) diminished its impact. However, I’m more curious to see how a new edit will help the movie, and we’ll get that chance when Fair Game is re-released onto Netflix. The film will hit digital platforms on October 23rd and Netflix on November 1st. I don’t know if it will drastically improve the movie (I was lukewarm on it when it came out), but I’m curious to find out.

Here’s a statement from Liman on the new cut of Fair Game:

DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT – FAIR GAME Friday, September 14, 2018

 

I was never truly satisfied with the version of Fair Game that was theatrically released in 2010.  I knew that Naomi Watts and Sean Penn had given more compelling performances, and that the proximity of making the movie to the events it portrayed had not given me the perspective of time.  I owed it to myself, to Naomi, to Sean, to Valerie Plame, and to my audience, to go back in and do better.

 

I recognized that re-cutting and rereleasing a film is a little like an artist showing up with a brush and paint to the home of someone who bought his painting to make a few changes.  I mean are you really allowed to do that?  And then I thought.  Why not.

 

And then Trump pardoned Scooter Libby – and releasing the director’s cut of Fair Game took on new urgency for me.   Remember that in 2003 the White House leaked the identity of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame to deflect attention from her husband Joe Wilson who publicly challenged the Bush administration’s rationale for going to war in Iraq.   And Scooter Libby was convicted of four counts, including obstruction of justice and lying to the FBI, and sentenced to jail.  By a jury of 12 citizens.

Academy Award-winning editor Stephen Mirrione, who cut my first films, did this recut with me.

 

Now that Trump has pardoned Scooter Libby, the story is done (as pardons are forever).  I went back into the film one last time to reflect that pardon.  I can now say with confidence that the film finally is finished.

My hope is that audiences are reminded to hold their government accountable and remember that the actions of just one or two individuals can make a difference. —      Doug Liman

Silk Way fights back against claims of ‘secret illegal flights carrying weapons’

Silk Way fights back against claims of ‘secret illegal flights carrying weapons’

Alex Lennane08/10/2018

Silk Way, the Azeri freighter operator, has fought back against claims made online that it operated more than 350 secret flights carrying weapons, effectively being subsidised with US government money in the form of ExImbank financing.

About a year ago, a detailed study of Silk Way flights was published, with implications that it was moving shipments of arms and weaponry between Azerbaijan, Bulgaria and the Middle East.

While Silk Way labelled the claims fake, they have been compounded by reports on Silk Way’s use of ExImbank and $419m in funding – a perfectly legitimate away to fund Boeing aircraft purchases.

Now Silk Way has published a robust rebuttal of the claims, saying they are “a result of an organised campaign of misinformation penned by geopolitically motivated authors perpetrated to be in direct collaboration with Armenian connections”.

Not only did the carrier “follow all applicable protocols”, it said, and added: “So-called ‘secret flights’ … besides their fictitious quantity, were operated in full compliance with all established procedures and were ordered by the United States Department of Defense (DoD), while all consignors and consignees were designated by the mentioned authority.

“Thereby, the statements questioning the nature of these flights and their consignors and consignees lack all legal or substantive elements.”

Silk Way also points to a “character assault” on its president – and reportedly 100% owner – Zaur Akhundov.

The carrier said: “Having failed to substantiate its claims of illegal flights, the misinformation campaign then engaged in a libelous character assault on Silk Way Group president Zaur Akhundov and questioned the financing of Silk Way’s fleet expansion.

“The articles fabricated information about Mr Akhundov’s professional credentials and experience, attempting to portray him as an unknown ‘mystery man’ who took control of the Silk Way brand.

“In truth, however, Mr Akhundov was critical of the founding of Silk Way, has been a leader of the Silk Way team from the beginning, and brings decades of valuable experience in developing the aviation industry in Azerbaijan. Mr Akhundov has no ties to any government or political party.”

Sources have told The Loadstar that Mr Akhundov has now left the company to pursue opportunities in the US, but this has not been confirmed.

Matt Trueman: Theatre is an optical illusion, but it can’t control how audiences will see the work

Matt Trueman: Theatre is an optical illusion, but it can’t control how audiences will see the work

Georgia Landers, Ralph Fiennes, Sophie Okonedo and Gloria Obianyo in Antony and Cleopatra. Photo: Johan Persson

Opinion

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by Matt Trueman – Oct 8, 2018

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Sometimes I think blinking is the most important thing in theatre. Maybe more than anything else, artists need the ability to shut their eyes for a second and see what’s really happening on stage.

As an art form, theatre often requires us to look through reality. It asks us to envisage a fiction out of a real event – to see not the actor, but the character – not a set on a stage, but a space somewhere else. It is, as the Chorus in Henry V declares, an act of “imaginary puissance” – “Think when we talk of horses, that you see them,” they command. “T’is your thoughts that do deck our kings.”

It may be an obvious thing to point out, but theatre is an optical illusion – one that, like a magic eye picture, involves us refocusing our vision to see something beyond what’s in front of us. Watching a play is a form of self-hypnosis or deception. We let our eyes be fooled.

It is all too easy then, for artists to assume that audiences will watch in exactly the way they ask us to watch. It’s a line of thought that stops at communicating its intent. This object stands for something else, okay? It’s a fatal mistake. Audiences aren’t as obedient as all that. We’re an unruly, uncontrollable bunch who – to borrow another line from Shakespeare – “see as we wast wont to see” when we sit in the stalls. We clock your wobbly sets and your wavering accents. Don’t think we don’t.

The National Theatre’s new Antony and Cleopatra is full of such see-through moments. It’s why, I think, it ranked so highly on what one reviewer called “the giggle factor”. Shakespeare’s play culminates in a string of suicides. One character after another turns their blunted stage blade on themselves before Cleopatra, finally, clasps that asp to her chest. It should be awful. Instead, it’s silly.

On press night, as Antony tried to take his own life, Ralph Fiennes’ blood bag stubbornly refused to burst. He lay on the ground, writhing in faux agony, twisting and turning a knife into his guts, desperately trying to draw blood. It took bloody ages, and felt far longer. When he finally finished, the moment felt ludicrous. And don’t get me started on the snake bite itself…

As it happens, the next night I was in Amsterdam watching Ivo van Hove’s adaptation of A Little Life, taken from Hanya Yanagihara’s Man Booker prize shortlisted novel.

As Jude St Francis, the work’s compulsive self-harmer, Ramsey Nasr repeatedly slumped down beneath a white sink with his cutting kit. Rolling his sleeve up, a blood pack was clearly wrapped round his forearm and yet, each time he drew a razor blade across it, drawing a red slug of stage blood like a prospector hitting oil, I winced in my seat. The one time he cut lengthways, elbow to wrist, I could hardly bear to look.

The difference is clear: one show asks us to see past its pretence, the other acknowledges that we’ll see what we see. In theatre, whoever blinks first usually wins.