Adam Curtis: The Living Dead

June 6, 2015 § Leave a comment

The Living Dead is a series of three films focussing on the power of the past. It was the second major documentary series made by Adam Curtis. In it he investigated the way that history and memory (both national and individual) have been used by politicians and others. It was braodcast in 1995. The series features Paul Fussell whose book The Great War and Modern Memory is in the Listmuse 100 Best History Books of All Time list.

On the Desperate Edge of Now

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The “Islamic State” and the Strategists of Terror

June 1, 2015 § Leave a comment

Christoph Reuter is one of the world’s most important investigative journalists. His dispatches for Der Spiegel have illuminated many of the otherwise murky details of conflicts around the Middle East and South-Central Asia. Recently he may have written his most important story yet when he came into possession of the initial planning documents for the organisation that we now know as the “Islamic State”. Here is joins Petra Stienen in conversation at the Heinrich Böll Foundation to discuss the groups origins, which he writes about in detail in his recent book Die Schwarz Macht. (The interview in English starts at 24:10).

Panorama: Britain’s Secret Terror Deals

May 29, 2015 § Leave a comment

British security forces have been accused of involvement in dozens of murders during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Reporter Darragh MacIntyre investigates.

Syria: Beyond the Red Line

May 28, 2015 § Leave a comment

An important discussion on Syria, hosted by the Frontline Club, featuring Jonathan Littell, Orwa Nyrabia, Laila Alodaat, and Nerma Jelacic.

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Robin on Syria for the BBC World Service

May 22, 2015 § Leave a comment

Pulse editor Robin Yassin-Kassab speaking to the BBC on a program titled Islamic State controls over half of Syria.

Islamic State controls over half of Syria (50 mins) | mp3

The Architecture of Public Truth—from Chechnya to Syria

May 19, 2015 § Leave a comment

Jonathan Littell in conversation with Eyal Weizman.

An Account Syncopated by Death: Littell’s Syrian Notebooks

May 14, 2015 § Leave a comment

syrian notebooksThis review was published at the National.

“The Kindly Ones”, one of the 21st Century’s great novels, is an epic inquiry into the intersection of state power and human evil. Its narrator is supremely civilised but also – and somehow without contradiction – an SS officer engaged in industrial-scale murder. The novel is set in the battlefields and death camps of World War Two.

The author, Jonathan Littell, previously worked for humanitarian agency Action Contre La Faim in various war zones including Chechnya, in whose fate he sees Syrian parallels. In 1996 Chechnya won de facto independence. Then collusion between Russian security services and Islamist extremists weakened Chechen nationalists, made the country too dangerous for journalists, and drained international support. This facilitated Russia’s 1999 reinvasion and the total destruction of the capital, Grozny. The Russian strategy is echoed today in what French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius describes as the “objective complicity” between Assad and ISIS.

There are World War Two parallels too. Aleppo is the most bombed city since that conflict. Syria’s refugee crisis is the greatest since 1945. And the Assad regime, like Hitler’s, produces “thousands of naked bodies tortured and meticulously recorded by an obscenely precise administration.”

Perhaps these commonalities explain why Littell chose to bring his clear sight to bear on Syria’s war. He went in, for 17 days in January 2012, with renowned French photographer Mani. The experience led to a series of reports in Le Monde in February, and now to a book: “Syrian Notebooks: Inside the Homs Uprising.”

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