Idées chrétiennes devenues folles: Nous avions un chef du Monde libre transmusulman et nous ne le savions pas ! (We had a transMuslim US president and we didn’t know it !)

21 juin, 2015
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Il n’y a plus ni Juif ni Grec, il n’y a plus ni esclave ni libre, il n’y a plus ni homme ni femme; car tous vous êtes un en Jésus Christ. Paul (Galates 3: 28)
La loi naturelle n’est pas un système de valeurs possible parmi beaucoup d’autres. C’est la seule source de tous les jugements de valeur. Si on la rejette, on rejette toute valeur. Si on conserve une seule valeur, on la conserve tout entier. (. . .) La rébellion des nouvelles idéologies contre la loi naturelle est une rébellion des branches contre l’arbre : si les rebelles réussissaient, ils découvriraient qu’ils se sont détruits eux-mêmes. L’intelligence humaine n’a pas davantage le pouvoir d’inventer une nouvelle valeur qu’il n’en a d’imaginer une nouvelle couleur primaire ou de créer un nouveau soleil avec un nouveau firmament pour qu’il s’y déplace. (…) Tout nouveau pouvoir conquis par l’homme est aussi un pouvoir sur l’homme. Tout progrès le laisse à la fois plus faible et plus fort. Dans chaque victoire, il est à la fois le général qui triomphe et le prisonnier qui suit le char triomphal . (…) Le processus qui, si on ne l’arrête pas, abolira l’homme, va aussi vite dans les pays communistes que chez les démocrates et les fascistes. Les méthodes peuvent (au premier abord) différer dans leur brutalité. Mais il y a parmi nous plus d’un savant au regard inoffensif derrière son pince-nez, plus d’un dramaturge populaire, plus d’un philosophe amateur qui poursuivent en fin de compte les mêmes buts que les dirigeants de l’Allemagne nazie. Il s’agit toujours de discréditer totalement les valeurs traditionnelles et de donner à l’humanité une forme nouvelle conformément à la volonté (qui ne peut être qu’arbitraire) de quelques membres ″chanceux″ d’une génération ″chanceuse″ qui a appris comment s’y prendre. C.S. Lewis (L’abolition de l’homme, 1943)
Le monde moderne n’est pas mauvais : à certains égards, il est bien trop bon. Il est rempli de vertus féroces et gâchées. Lorsqu’un dispositif religieux est brisé (comme le fut le christianisme pendant la Réforme), ce ne sont pas seulement les vices qui sont libérés. Les vices sont en effet libérés, et ils errent de par le monde en faisant des ravages ; mais les vertus le sont aussi, et elles errent plus férocement encore en faisant des ravages plus terribles. Le monde moderne est saturé des vieilles vertus chrétiennes virant à la folie.  G.K. Chesterton
L’organisateur doit se faire schizophrène, politiquement parlant, afin de ne pas se laisser prendre totalement au jeu. (…) Seule une personne organisée peut à la fois se diviser et rester unifiée. (…) La trame de toutes ces qualités souhaitées chez un organisateur est un ego très fort, très solide. L’ego est la certitude absolue qu’a l’organisateur de pouvoir faire ce qu’il pense devoir faire et de réussir dans la tâche qu’il a entreprise. Un organisateur doit accepter sans crainte, ni anxiété, que les chances ne soient jamais de son bord. Le moi de l’organizer est plus fort et plus monumental que le moi du leader. Le leader est poussé par un désir pour le pouvoir, tandis que l’organizer est poussé par un désir de créer. L’organizer essaie dans un sens profond d’atteindre le plus haut niveau qu’un homme puisse atteindre—créer, être ‘grand créateur,’ jouer à être Dieu. Saul Alinsky
L’Amérique est toujours le tueur numéro 1 dans le monde. . . Nous sommes profondément impliqués dans l’importation de la drogue, l’exportation d’armes et la formation de tueurs professionnels. . . Nous avons bombardé le Cambodge, l’Irak et le Nicaragua, tuant les femmes et les enfants tout en essayant de monter l’opinion publique contre Castro et Khaddafi. . . Nous avons mis Mandela en prison et soutenu la ségrégation pendant 27 ans. Nous croyons en la suprématie blanche et l’infériorité noire et y croyons davantage qu’en Dieu. … Nous avons soutenu le sionisme sans scrupule tout en ignorant les Palestiniens et stigmatisé quiconque le dénonçait comme anti-sémite. . . Nous ne nous inquiétons en rien de la vie humaine si la fin justifie les moyens. . . Nous avons lancé le virus du SIDA. . . Nous ne pouvons maintenir notre niveau de vie qu’en nous assurant que les personnes du tiers monde vivent dans la pauvreté la plus abjecte. Rev. Jeremiah Wright ( janvier 2006)
Je n’ai jamais été musulman. (…) à part mon nom et le fait d’avoir vécu dans une population musulmane pendant quatre ans étant enfant [Indonésie, 1967-1971], je n’ai que très peu de lien avec la religion islamique. Barack Hussein Obama (février 2008)
Mon père était originaire du Kenya, et beaucoup de gens dans son village étaient musulmans. Il ne pratiquait pas l’islam. La vérité est qu’il n’était pas très religieux. Il a rencontré ma mère. Ma mère était une chrétienne originaire du Kansas, et ils se marièrent puis divorcèrent. Je fus élevé par ma mère. Aussi j’ai toujours été chrétien. Le seul lien que j’ai eu avec l’islam est que mon grand-père du côté de mon père venait de ce pays. Mais je n’ai jamais pratiqué l’islam. Pendant un certain temps, j’ai vécu en Indonésie parce que ma mère enseignait là-bas. Et c’est un pays musulman. Et je suis allé à l’école. Mais je ne pratiquais pas. Mais je crois que cela m’a permis de comprendre comment pensaient ces gens, qui partagent en partie ma façon de voir, et cela revient à dire que nous pouvons instaurer de meilleurs rapports avec le Moyen-Orient ; cela contribuerait à nous rendre plus assurés si nous pouvons comprendre comment ils pensent sur certains sujets. Barack Hussein Obama (Oskaloosa, Iowa, décembre 2007)
Les Etats-Unis et le monde occidental doivent apprendre à mieux connaître l’islam. D’ailleurs, si l’on compte le nombre d’Américains musulmans, on voit que les Etats-Unis sont l’un des plus grands pays musulmans de la planète. Barack Hussein Obama (entretien pour Canal +, le 2 juin 2009)
Salamm aleïkoum (…) Comme le dit le Saint Coran, « Crains Dieu et dis toujours la vérité ». (…) Cette conviction s’enracine en partie dans mon vécu. Je suis chrétien, mais mon père était issu d’une famille kényane qui compte des générations de musulmans. Enfant, j’ai passé plusieurs années en Indonésie où j’ai entendu l’appel à la prière (azan) à l’aube et au crépuscule. Jeune homme, j’ai travaillé dans des quartiers de Chicago où j’ai côtoyé beaucoup de gens qui trouvaient la dignité et la paix dans leur foi musulmane. Féru d’histoire, je sais aussi la dette que la civilisation doit à l’islam. C’est l’islam – dans des lieux tels qu’Al-Azhar –, qui a brandi le flambeau du savoir pendant de nombreux siècles et ouvert la voie à la Renaissance et au Siècle des Lumières en Europe. C’est de l’innovation au sein des communautés musulmanes – c’est de l’innovation au sein des communautés musulmanes que nous viennent l’algèbre, le compas et les outils de navigation, notre maîtrise de l’écriture et de l’imprimerie, notre compréhension des mécanismes de propagation des maladies et des moyens de les guérir. La culture islamique nous a donné la majesté des arcs et l’élan des flèches de pierre vers le ciel, l’immortalité de la poésie et l’inspiration de la musique, l’élégance de la calligraphie et la sérénité des lieux de contemplation. Et tout au long de l’histoire, l’islam a donné la preuve, en mots et en actes, des possibilités de la tolérance religieuse et de l’égalité raciale. Je sais aussi que l’islam a de tout temps fait partie de l’histoire de l’Amérique. C’est le Maroc qui fut le premier pays à reconnaître mon pays. En signant le traité de Tripoli en 1796, notre deuxième président, John Adams, nota ceci : « Les États-Unis n’ont aucun caractère hostile aux lois, à la religion ou la tranquillité des musulmans. » Depuis notre fondation, les musulmans américains enrichissent les États-Unis. Ils ont combattu dans nos guerres, servi le gouvernement, pris la défense des droits civils, créé des entreprises, enseigné dans nos universités, brillé dans le domaine des sports, remporté des prix Nobel, construit notre plus haut immeuble et allumé le flambeau olympique. Et, récemment, le premier Américain musulman qui a été élu au Congrès a fait le serment de défendre notre Constitution sur le Coran que l’un de nos Pères fondateurs, Thomas Jefferson, conservait dans sa bibliothèque personnelle. J’ai donc connu l’islam sur trois continents avant de venir dans la région où il a été révélé pour la première fois. Cette expérience guide ma conviction que le partenariat entre l’Amérique et l’islam doit se fonder sur ce qu’est l’islam, et non sur ce qu’il n’est pas, et j’estime qu’il est de mon devoir de président des États-Unis de combattre les stéréotypes négatifs de l’islam où qu’ils se manifestent. (…) bien qu’un Américain d’origine africaine et ayant pour nom Barack Hussein Obama ait pu être élu président a fait couler beaucoup d’encre. (…) En outre, la liberté en Amérique est indissociable de celle de pratiquer sa religion. C’est pour cette raison que chaque État de notre union compte au moins une mosquée et qu’on en dénombre plus de mille deux cents sur notre territoire. C’est pour cette raison que le gouvernement des États-Unis a recours aux tribunaux pour protéger le droit des femmes et des filles à porter le hijab et pour punir ceux qui leur contesteraient ce droit.  (…) Le Saint Coran nous enseigne que quiconque tue un innocent tue l’humanité tout entière, et que quiconque sauve quelqu’un, sauve l’humanité tout entière. La foi enracinée de plus d’un milliard d’habitants de la planète est tellement plus vaste que la haine étroite de quelques-uns. Quand il s’agit de combattre l’extrémisme violent, l’islam ne fait pas partie du problème – il constitue une partie importante de la marche vers la paix. (…) La liberté de religion joue un rôle crucial pour permettre aux gens de vivre en harmonie. Nous devons toujours examiner les façons dont nous la protégeons. Aux États-Unis, par exemple, les musulmans ont plus de mal à s’acquitter de l’obligation religieuse de la zakat étant donné les règles relatives aux dons de bienfaisance. C’est pour cette raison que je suis résolu à oeuvrer avec les musulmans américains pour leur permettre de s’acquitter de la zakat. De même, il importe que les pays occidentaux évitent d’empêcher les musulmans de pratiquer leur religion comme ils le souhaitent, par exemple, en dictant ce qu’une musulmane devrait porter. En un mot, nous ne pouvons pas déguiser l’hostilité envers la religion sous couvert de libéralisme. (…) La sixième question – la sixième question dont je veux parler porte sur les droits des femmes. (Applaudissements) Je sais – je sais, et vous pouvez le voir d’après ce public – que cette question suscite un sain débat. Je rejette l’opinion de certains selon laquelle une femme qui choisit de se couvrir la tête est d’une façon ou d’une autre moins égale, mais j’ai la conviction qu’une femme que l’on prive d’éducation est privée d’égalité. Et ce n’est pas une coïncidence si les pays dans lesquels les femmes reçoivent une bonne éducation connaissent bien plus probablement la prospérité. Je tiens à préciser une chose : les questions relatives à l’égalité des femmes ne sont absolument pas un sujet qui concerne uniquement l’Islam. En Turquie, au Pakistan, au Bangladesh et en Indonésie, nous avons vu des pays à majorité musulmane élire une femme à leur tête, tandis que la lutte pour l’égalité des femmes continue dans beaucoup d’aspects de la vie américaine, et dans les pays du monde entier. Je suis convaincu que nos filles peuvent offrir une contribution à la société tout aussi importante que nos fils et que notre prospérité commune sera favorisée si nous utilisons les talents de toute l’humanité, hommes et femmes. Je ne crois pas que les femmes doivent faire les mêmes choix que les hommes pour assurer leur égalité, et je respecte celles qui choisissent de suivre un rôle traditionnel. Mais cela devrait être leur choix. Barack Hussein Obama (université du Caire, 2009)
L’avenir ne doit pas appartenir à ceux qui calomnient le prophète de l’Islam. Barack Obama (ONU, New York, 26.09.12)
Quand je pense à ce garçon, je pense à mes propres enfants. Si j’avais un fils, il ressemblerait à Trayvon. Barack Hussein Obama (2012)
Quand je regarde toutes ces jeunes filles, c’est moi que je vois. Michelle Obama
Je crois qu’il voulait faire quelque chose de spectaculaire comme Trayvon Martin, il voulait relancer la guerre raciale. Joey Meek (camarade de classe de Ryann Roof)
J’ai besoin de féminisme car j’ai l’intention d’épouser quelqu’un de riche, et ça ne pourra pas se faire si ma femme et moi ne gagnons que 75 centimes pour chaque dollar gagné par un homme. Caitlyn Cannon
Je suis transracialiste. Rachel Dolezal
Le transracialisme participe de l’ordre racial. Il consiste à revendiquer une autre identité que celle à laquelle on est racialement affiliée. Sauf qu’il y a bien une hiérarchie entre ces races. Être dans une logique transracialiste, c’est chercher à échapper à l’ensemble des discriminations insupportables qui sont associées à l’identité qui nous est imposée. Cela peut se faire de manière physique (se décolorer la peau par exemple), sociale, ou comportementale.(…) Être Noir, c’est une construction culturelle. On ne se pense Noir et ne devient Noir que lors de certaines interactions. Ce n’est pas une identité génétique ça, c’est quelque chose qui s’inscrit dans les rapports sociaux. C’est pourquoi il est souvent courant que des enfants adoptés, qui ont la peau noire, et élevés par des parents blancs, se considèrent comme Blancs. Et ils ont raison, ce qui compte c’est le lien affectif qui va déterminer leur manière de s’identifier. Sauf qu’aux Etats-Unis, ces personnes sont vites rattrapées par la réalité des rapports sociaux racialisés. Et elles sont obligées de devenir noires à un moment ou à un autre. (…) C’est un cas que l’on n’avait jamais vu auparavant. Ici, la jeune femme blanche, veut être noire. Jusqu’ici, les schémas transracialistes se posaient dans le sens d’une personne de couleur noire qui désirait devenir blanche. Rachel Dolezal a été élevée dans une famille blanche avec des frères adoptés à la peau noire. On peut donc penser qu’elle a voulu ressembler à ce schéma familial. (…) Justement, elle a fini par occuper une position de pouvoir dans une organisation importante qui défend les droits des gens de couleur aux Etats-Unis (l’Association nationale pour la promotion des gens de couleur, NAACP, Ndlr.). Et malgré son histoire familiale, elle ne peut pas annuler l’asymétrie profonde dans laquelle se joue les enjeux du transracialisme. En plus, elle donne des arguments assez flous. On ne comprend pas bien pourquoi elle a fait ça si ce n’est qu’elle est dans une identification très forte à une certaine cause politique. Mais il faut comprendre que l’on n’a pas besoin d’être noire pour défendre la cause de ces personnes qui peuvent être victimes de racisme.(…) En France, on est convaincu que la race n’existe pas. Nous sommes pourtant dans des rapports sociaux racialisés. Malgré ça, personne ne peut penser ces rapports en terme racialiste. Et aux Etats-Unis, les identités racialisées sont reconnues comme telles. On parle de “races”, de “relations raciales”, et de problèmes liés aux “identités raciales”. On en parle aussi parce que ces difficultés conduisent à des assassinats et à des bavures policières contre les noirs. Margot Rousseau
Rachel Dolezal peut-elle prétendre être Noire sans avoir fait l’expérience socio-historique en lien avec les inégalités systémiques et historiquement ancrées dans le vécu des membres de la communauté afro-américaine ? Une femme noire expérimente très jeune une double oppression de race et de genre laquelle s’inscrit dans un processus de développement psychologique, moral, intellectuel et socio-économique. (…) Force est de reconnaître que même si la volonté peut être présente, il est impossible de devenir une femme noire alors que l’on est dans la vingtaine. Aussi, Dolezal est blanche au sens de son identité biologique et par le fait qu’elle a grandi, dans une famille WASP sans être en mesure de faire, dès son plus jeune âge, les mêmes expériences que les autres femmes noires de sa génération. En ce sens, Dolezal n’a pu ressentir certains des enjeux qui concourent à vouloir aspirer à cette sororité si fondamentale dans la constitution de l’identité culturelle, politique et économique si chère aux militantes afro-américaines. Cependant, que la professeure Dolezal puisse se sentir plus noire que blanche ne saurait en soi être un problème, pas plus que son mensonge n’est un crime. La difficulté réside plutôt dans ce à que quoi il a contribué c’est-à-dire à la construction d’une carrière universitaire et militante au cœur même des bastions généralement réservés aux Noirs. En tant que Professeure d’Études africaines et membres du NAACP, Dolezal est au fait de ces débats. Elle sait que dans les mouvements de luttes pour le droit des minorités culturelles ou de genre, les postes les plus avancés sont généralement réservés aux personnes qui en sont issues. C’est pourquoi comme l’a écrit un éditorialiste du Washington Post :  » Qu’une personne blanche dirige une section de la NAACP ne pose pas de problème non plus. (…) Mais qu’une personne blanche prétende être noire et dirige une section de la NAACP, c’est très problématique ». (…) Au-delà de la question identitaire, la présidence par Rachel Dolezal d’une section locale du NAACP pose donc plus fondamentalement la question de l’usurpation d’une position d’autorité et celle d’une possible récupération de la lutte par le groupe dominant. Par son mensonge, Dolezal a-t-elle contribué, bien malgré elle, au maintien de la domination blanche dans un des bastions du militantisme noir ? Comme le soulignent ses propres parents, n’aurait-elle pas été plus utile à la cause, qu’elle prétendait défendre, si elle avait milité sous couvert de sa véritable identité biologique ? Ces interrogations seront encore longtemps débattues. Agnès Berthelot Raffard
De Conchita Wurst à Laverne Cox, 2014 semble en effet bien partie pour être l’année des transgenres. “Il y a un déplacement très net des figures trans de leur lieu traditionnel l’underground, à une culture plus mainstream, note le docteur en sociologie et spécialiste de la transidentité Arnaud Alessandrin. Que ce soit dans la fiction américaine, le rap ou la mode, avec des mannequins comme Andrej Pejic ou Lea T, on remarque que de nouvelles personnalités trans apparaissent chaque mois et replacent leurs enjeux dans l’espace public.” Pour expliquer cette émergence médiatique, la plupart des observateurs évoquent la convergence de plusieurs phénomènes, au premier rang desquels l’influence exercée par les mouvements sociaux protransgenres. “Depuis quelques années, il y a eu dans toutes les grandes villes américaines une augmentation du nombre d’actions menées en faveur des trans, avec l’apparition de nouvelles formes de militantisme, explique Reina Gossett, codirectrice de l’association new-yorkaise Sylvia Rivera Law Project, qui vient en aide aux trans victimes de violences. Les médias ne pouvaient pas rester hermétiques à cette pression sociale, ils ont fini par entendre nos revendications. » Un autre facteur pourrait justifier cette nouvelle vague de visibilité trans : internet. “Avant, les transidentités se vivaient de manière confidentielle ou alors en groupe restreint, rappelle Aren Z. Aizura. L’usage des réseaux sociaux a complètement modifié le rapport des trans à leur identité ; il a permis le partage d’expériences et ainsi la banalisation de la parole, notamment chez les plus jeunes.” Ts Madison peut en témoigner. Cette transgenre male to female, actrice porno à son propre compte, s’est fait connaître début 2014 sur le réseau social Vine en publiant des vidéos de six secondes dans lesquelles elle s’affichait nue, dansant ou courant dans son jardin la bite à l’air. Devenues virales en quelques jours, les vidéos ont été parodiées et partagées par des flots d’internautes de tous âges, contribuant selon Ts Madison à “promouvoir la tolérance envers les trans”. “Internet permet de lever tous les complexes, de se montrer sans crainte, nous confie-t-elle depuis sa villa d’Atlanta. Depuis que j’ai publié mes vidéos, des gamines m’envoient des messages pour me remercier, d’autres m’interrogent sur ma transition, sur la chirurgie. Elles parlent librement. Il y a eu bien sûr des tas d’insultes, des trucs haineux, mais la plupart des gens comprennent le message. Ils ont compris ce qu’il y a de révolutionnaire à être une femme et à agiter sa bite devant une caméra.” (…) Surtout, ils se sont échappés des débats médicaux et sexuels auxquels ils ont longtemps été réduits. “Les trans ne veulent plus entendre parler de sexualité, ils se sont complètement désolidarisés de ces sujets, assure Arnaud Alessandrin. Lorsque Conchita prend la parole à l’Eurovision, elle ne pose que la question du droit : ai-je le droit d’être intégrée à une société sans être assimilée à tous ses codes ? Ai-je le droit à une vie normale sans pour autant me conformer à toutes ses normes binaires ?” Quand on interroge Ts Madison, jamais la question du sexe ne revient vraiment dans la discussion : elle dit qu’elle est simplement une femme avec une bite (elle en a même commercialisé un T-shirt : “She’s got a dick”) et n’aspire qu’à avoir les mêmes droits fondamentaux que les autres. “Les débats se sont recentrés sur des thématiques d’ordre politique ou social, résume Maxime Foerster. C’est d’ailleurs tout le sens du sous-titre de la couverture de Time, qui dit que les transgenres sont ‘la nouvelle frontière des droits civiques américains’. Maintenant que l’homosexualité est quasiment soluble dans la société hétéronormée et bourgeoise, on commence à se poser la question du droit pour les trans.” Dans la réalité, pourtant, ces questions de droits semblent loin d’être résolues. Car si les transgenres ont accédé à la visibilité, notamment aux Etats-Unis, ils tardent encore à faire leur apparition dans les agendas politiques. (…) C’est là le paradoxe de cette récente exposition médiatique, qu’Arnaud Alessandrin résume ainsi : “Une certaine frange de la transidentité, liée à la scène et aux artistes, commence à être visible. Mais le trans reste invisible dans l’espace politique. Et rien ne dit que l’arrivée de figures transgenres populaires permettra d’aller vers plus d’acceptation.” Les Inrocks
A (…) tenet of socially constructed racism and sexism is “white privilege,” which usually translates into “white male privilege,” given that women such as Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren are rarely accused of being multimillionaire white elite females who won a leg up by virtue of their skin color. But if whiteness ipso facto earns one advantages over the non-white, why in the world do some elite whites choose to reconstruct their identities as non-white? Would Elizabeth Warren really have become a Harvard law professor had she not, during her long years of academic ascent, identified herself (at least privately, on universities’ pedigree forms) as a Native American? Ward Churchill, with his beads and Indian get-up, won a university career that otherwise might have been scuttled by his mediocrity, his pathological untruths, and his aberrant behavior. Why would the current head of the NAACP in Spokane, Wash., a white middle-class woman named Rachel Dolezal, go to the trouble of faking a genealogy, using skin cosmetics and hair styling, and constructing false racist enemies to ensure that she was accepted as a victimized black woman? The obvious inference is that Ms. Dolezal assumed that being a liberal black woman brought with it career opportunities in activist groups and academia otherwise beyond her reach as a middle-class white female of so-so talent. Critics will object that we are really arguing in class terms as well as racial terms: Privileged whites play on society’s innate prejudices against darker-skinned minorities by positioning themselves as light-skinned, elite people of color. (…) Suffice it to say that in our increasingly intermarried, assimilated, and integrated culture, it is often hard to ascertain someone’s exact race or ethnicity. That confusion allows identity to be massaged and reinvented. That said, it is also generally felt among elites that feigning minority status earns career advantages that outweigh the downside of being identified as non-white in the popular culture. That was certainly my impression as a professor for over 20 years in the California State University system watching dozens of upper-class Latin Americans — largely white male Argentinians, Chileans, and Brazilians — and Spaniards flock to American academia, add accents to their names, trill their R’s, and feign ethnic solidarity with their students who were of Oaxacan and Native American backgrounds. Poor George Zimmerman. His last name stereotyped him as some sort of Germanic gun nut. But had he just ethnicized his maternal half-Afro Peruvian identity and reemerged as Jorgé Mesa, Zimmerman would have largely escaped charges of racism. He should have taken a cue from Barack Obama, who sometime in his late teens at Occidental College discovered that the exotic nomenclature of Barack Obama radiated a minority edge, in a way that the name of his alter ego, Barry Soetoro, apparently never quite had. If, in America’s racist past, majority culture once jealously protected its white privilege by one-drop-of-blood racial distinctions, postmodern America has now come full circle and done the same in reverse — because the construction of minority identity, in all its varying degrees, is easily possible and, in ironic fashion, now brings with it particular elite career advantages. (…) The CEOs in the industries of sexism and classism are for the most part wealthy and privileged — and their targets are usually of the middle class. When Michelle Obama labors to remind her young African-American audiences of all the stares and second looks she imagines she still receives as First Lady, she is reconstructing a racial identity to balance the enormous privilege she enjoys as a jumbo-jet-setting grandee who junkets to the world’s toniest resorts with regularity. The 2016 version of Hillary Clinton is, at least for a few months, a feminist populist, and has become so merely by mouthing a few banal talking points. Apparently the downside for Hillary of being a woman is not trumped by the facts of being a multimillionaire insider and former secretary of state, wife to a multimillionaire ex-president, mother of a multimillionaire, and mother-in-law to a multimillionaire hedge-fund director. Hillary can become a perpetual constructed victim, denied the good life that is enjoyed by a white male bus driver in Bakersfield making $40,000 a year. (…) sexism and racism are abstractions of the liberal elite that rarely translate into praxis. Barack Obama could have done symbolic wonders for the public schools by taking his kids out of Sidwell Friends and putting them into the D.C. school system. Elizabeth Warren could have cemented her feminist populist fides by vowing to stop flipping houses. Feminist Bill Clinton could have renounced all affairs with female subordinates. Eric Holder could have vowed never to use government jets to take his kids to horse races. In solidarity with co-eds struggling with student loans, Hillary Clinton could have promised to limit her university speaking fees to a thousand dollars per minute rather than the ten thousand dollars for each 60 seconds of chatting that she actually gets, and she might have prefaced her public attacks on hedge funds by dressing down her son-in-law. Surely the lords of Silicon Valley might have promised to keep their kids in the public schools, and funded scholarships to allow minorities to flood Sacred Heart and the Menlo School. Victor Davis Hanson
Reading Oren’s new memoir Ally, it’s clear that Israel has been on her own since the day Obama took office (…) For the last six and a half years the president of the United States has treated the home of the Jewish people more like a rogue nation standing in the way of peace than a longtime democratic ally. Now the alliance is “in tatters.” (…) “The Obama administration was problematic because of its worldview: Unprecedented support for the Palestinians,” he told Israeli journalist David Horovitz, another centrist, this week. Obama and his lieutenants, including Hillary Clinton, have often behaved as if the Palestinians don’t exist – Palestinian actions, corruption, incitement, campaigns of de-legitimization and terrorism are overlooked, excused, accommodated. Oren tells the story of what happened when Vice President Joe Biden asked Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to “look him in the eye and promise that he could make peace with Israel.” Abbas looked away. The White House did nothing. It was Israel that had to agree to a settlement freeze before the latest doomed attempt at peace negotiations; Israel that had to apologize for possible “mistakes” against the Gaza flotilla; Israel that had to close Ben Gurion airport; Israel that faced a “reevaluation” of her diplomatic status after Bibi’s reelection. Obama addresses the bulk of his lectures on good governance and democracy and humanitarianism not to the gang that runs the West Bank, nor to the terrorists who rule Gaza, but to Israel. During last year’s Gaza war, the State Department was “appalled” by civilian casualties inflated and trumpeted by Hamas propagandists. Oren points out that in the past the president had used the word “appalling” to describe the atrocities of Moammar Qaddafi. Qaddafi and the IDF – two peas in a pod, according to this White House. (…) America, he says, provided a “Diplomatic Iron Dome” that shielded Israel from anti-Semites in Europe, at the U.N., and abroad whose goal is to delegitimize the Jewish State and undermine her economically. This rhetorical missile shield is slowly being retracted. The administration threatens not to veto anti-Israel U.N. initiatives, Europe is aligning with the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement, and anti-Israel activism festers on U.S. campuses. Obama’s unending criticism of Israel, and background quotes calling Israel’s prime minister a “chicken-shit” and a “coward,” provide an opening for radicals to go even further. (…)  Fixated on striking a deal, Obama is preparing to concede the longstanding demand that Iran disclose its past nuclear-weapons research, is ignoring the issue of Iranian missile development, and is standing idle as Iran props up Assad, arms Hezbollah with rockets, and promotes sectarianism in Iraq. Israel is hemmed in – by Iranian proxies and Sunni militants on its borders, by the threat of a third intifada on the West Bank, by global nongovernmental organizations, by a condescending, flippant, and bullying U.S. president whose default emotional state is pique. Matthew Continetti
In addition to its academic and international affairs origins, Obama’s attitudes toward Islam clearly stem from his personal interactions with Muslims. These were described in depth in his candid memoir, Dreams from My Father , published 13 years before his election as president. Obama wrote passionately of the Kenyan villages where, after many years of dislocation, he felt most at home and of his childhood experiences in Indonesia. I could imagine how a child raised by a Christian mother might see himself as a natural bridge between her two Muslim husbands. I could also speculate how that child’s abandonment by those men could lead him, many years later, to seek acceptance by their co-religionists. Yet, tragically perhaps, Obama — and his outreach to the Muslim world — would not be accepted. With the outbreak of the Arab Spring, the vision of a United States at peace with the Muslim Middle East was supplanted by a patchwork of policies — military intervention in Libya, aerial bombing in Iraq, indifference to Syria, and entanglement with Egypt. Drone strikes, many of them personally approved by the president, killed hundreds of terrorists, but also untold numbers of civilians. Indeed, the killing of a Muslim — Osama bin Laden — rather than reconciling with one, remains one of Obama’s most memorable achievements. Diplomatically, too, Obama’s outreach to Muslims was largely rebuffed. During his term in office, support for America among the peoples of the Middle East — and especially among Turks and Palestinians — reached an all-time nadir . Back in 2007, President Bush succeeded in convening Israeli and Arab leaders, together with the representatives of some 40 states, at the Annapolis peace conference. In May 2015, Obama had difficulty convincing several Arab leaders to attend a Camp David summit on the Iranian issue. The president who pledged to bring Arabs and Israelis together ultimately did so not through peace, but out of their common anxiety over his support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and his determination to reach a nuclear accord with Iran. Only Iran, in fact, still holds out the promise of sustaining Obama’s initial hopes for a fresh start with Muslims. “[I]f we were able to get Iran to operate in a responsible fashion,” he told the New Yorker, “you could see an equilibrium developing between [it and] Sunni … Gulf states.” The assumption that a nuclear deal with Iran will render it “a very successful regional power” capable of healing, rather than inflaming, historic schisms remained central to Obama’s thinking. That assumption was scarcely shared by Sunni Muslims, many of whom watched with deep concern at what they perceived as an emerging U.S.-Iranian alliance. Six years after offering to “extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist,” President Obama has seen that hand repeatedly shunned by Muslims. His speeches no longer recall his Muslim family members, and only his detractors now mention his middle name. And yet, to a remarkable extent, his policies remain unchanged. He still argues forcibly for the right of Muslim women to wear — rather than refuse to wear — the veil and insists on calling “violent extremists” those who kill in Islam’s name. “All of us have a responsibility to refute the notion that groups like ISIL somehow represent Islam,” he declared in February, using an acronym for the Islamic State. The term “Muslim world” is still part of his vocabulary. Historians will likely look back at Obama’s policy toward Islam with a combination of curiosity and incredulousness. While some may credit the president for his good intentions, others might fault him for being naïve and detached from a complex and increasingly lethal reality. For the Middle East continues to fracture and pose multiple threats to America and its allies. Even if he succeeds in concluding a nuclear deal with Iran, the expansion of the Islamic State and other jihadi movements will underscore the failure of Obama’s outreach to Muslims. The need to engage them — militarily, culturally, philanthropically, and even theologically — will meanwhile mount. The president’s successor, whether Democrat or Republican, will have to grapple with that reality from the moment she or he enters the White House. The first decision should be to recognize that those who kill in Islam’s name are not mere violent extremists but fanatics driven by a specific religion’s zeal. And their victims are anything but random. Michael Oren

Après le mariage, le genre et la race, l’orientation musulmane pour tous !

Rappel incessant de ses racines familiales et de son enfance passée dans des pays musulmans, amitiés de 20 ans entre le révérend Jeremiah Wright et l’universitaire palestino-américain Edward Saïd avec les pires dénonciateurs de l’Amérique, hommages appuyés aux apports de la culture musulmane, appels répétés à la coopération avec le Monde dit musulman, soutien fidèle aux frères musulmans égyptiens, refus farouche de prononcer même l’origine religieuse de ceux qui appellent au djihad contre son propre pays, volonté d’accord à tout prix avec les premiers commanditaires du terrorisme mondial pour leur quête de l’arme nucléaire, absences remarquées à la Marche parisienne du 11 janvier comme au 70e anniversaire de la libération d’Auschwitz, critique systématique de la politique comme des dirigeants israéliens, évocation permanente des péchés contre l’islam de son prédécesseur et de son propre pays, défense du voile islamique, dénonciation de tous ceux qui insultent l’islam, hyper-discrétion dans sa politique d’élimination ciblée des djihadistes …

En ces temps étranges …

Où, après en avoir bien attisé les flammes, le pompier-pyromane de la Maison Blanche qui, entre un 9 trous de golf et une élimination ciblée par drone et après 20 ans de sermons du révérend Jeremiah Wright, se prenait pour le père de Trayvon Martin dénonce un véritable acte de terrorisme  racial

Et où, après avoir soutenu avec le succès que l’on sait la cause des écolières nigérianes enlevées par Boko Haram, la femme du dudit premier président postracial vient elle aussi défendre, entre tasse de thé princière et shopping jet-set, la cause des jeunes filles voilées

Où,  pour lancer la nouvelle émission de télé-réalité d’un ancien champion olympique transgenre, nos médias nous présente la transidentité comme la « dernière frontière des droits civiques »  …

Où la citation « géniale » d’une lycéenne lesbienne affichant son rêve de faire un mariage riche mais bien sûr de même sexe lui vaut l’admiration des internautes …

Pendant que nos ambassades servent à la propagande de la cause homosexuelle et qu’après l’histoire (ou les noms d’oiseaux: neuf mois de prison ferme, excusez du peu, pour avoir comparé une ministre à un primate !), c’est désormais l’origine de la vie qui se décide dans les prétoires ou au vote majoritaire

Et que de l’autre côté de l’Atlantique, on peut se prendre ..

Comment ne pas voir …

Avec l’aveu forcé la semaine dernière …

De cette professeur d’études afro-américaines et présidente de la NAACP de l’état de Washington …

Qui, par hyper-identification à la cause, s’était littéralement inventée une origine noire, agressions racistes comprises, pendant 20 ans …

Une nouvelle illustration de ce « monde moderne rempli d’idées chrétiennes devenues folles » prophétisé par Chesterton dès le début du siècle dernier ?

Mais surtout comment ne pas comprendre enfin …

Avec la magistrale démonstration de l’ancien ambassadeur israélien aux Etats-Unis Michael Oren …

La jusqu’ici déroutante politique étrangère du premier président américain… transmusulman ?

How Obama Opened His Heart to the ‘Muslim World’ And got it stomped on. Israel’s former ambassador to the United States on the president’s naiveté as peacemaker, blinders to terrorism, and alienation of allies. Michael Oren Foreign policy June 19, 2015

Days after jihadi gunmen slaughtered 11 staffers of the Charlie Hebdo magazine and a policeman on January 7, hundreds of thousands of French people marched in solidarity against Islamic radicalism. Forty-four world leaders joined them, but not President Barack Obama. Neither did his attorney general at the time, Eric Holder, or Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, both of whom were in Paris that day. Other terrorists went on to murder four French Jews in a kosher market that they deliberately targeted. Yet Obama described the killers as “vicious zealots who … randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli.”

Pressed about the absence of a high-ranking American official at the Paris march, the White House responded by convening a long-delayed convention on “countering violent extremism.” And when reminded that one of the gunmen boasted that he intended to kill Jews, presidential Press Secretary Josh Earnest explained that the victims died “not because of who they were, but because of where they randomly happened to be.”

Obama’s boycotting of the memorial in Paris, like his refusal to acknowledge the identity of the perpetrators, the victims, or even the location of the market massacre, provides a broad window into his thinking on Islam and the Middle East. Simply put: The president could not participate in a protest against Muslim radicals whose motivations he sees as a distortion, rather than a radical interpretation, of Islam. And if there are no terrorists spurred by Islam, there can be no purposely selected Jewish shop or intended Jewish victims, only a deli and randomly present folks.

Understanding Obama’s worldview was crucial to my job as Israel’s ambassador to the United States. Right after entering office in June 2009, I devoted months to studying the new president, poring over his speeches, interviews, press releases, and memoirs, and meeting with many of his friends and supporters. The purpose of this self-taught course — Obama 101, I called it — was to get to the point where the president could no longer surprise me. And over the next four years I rarely was, especially on Muslim and Middle Eastern issues.

“To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward based on mutual interest and mutual respect,” Obama declared in his first inaugural address. The underlying assumption was that America’s previous relations with Muslims were characterized by dissention and contempt. More significant, though, was the president’s use of the term “Muslim world,” a rough translation of the Arabic ummah. A concept developed by classical Islam, ummah refers to a community of believers that transcends borders, cultures, and nationalities. Obama not only believed that such a community existed but that he could address and accommodate it.

The novelty of this approach was surpassed only by Obama’s claim that he, personally, represented the bridge between this Muslim world and the West. Throughout the presidential campaign, he repeatedly referred to his Muslim family members, his earlier ties to Indonesia and the Muslim villages of Kenya, and his Arabic first and middle names. Surveys taken shortly after his election indicated that nearly a quarter of Americans thought their president was a Muslim.

This did not deter him from actively pursuing his bridging role. Reconciling with the Muslim world was the theme of the president’s first television interview — with Dubai’s Al Arabiya — and his first speech abroad. “The United States is not, and will never be, at war with Islam,” he told the Turkish Parliament in April 2009. “America’s relationship with the Muslim community … cannot, and will not, just be based upon opposition to terrorism.… We seek broader engagement based on mutual interest and mutual respect. We will convey our deep appreciation for the Islamic faith.” But the fullest exposition of Obama’s attitude toward Islam, and his personal role in assuaging its adherents, came three months later in Cairo.

Billed by the White House as “President Obama Speaks to the Muslim World,” the speech was delivered to a hall of carefully selected Egyptian students. But the message was not aimed at them or even at the people of Egypt, but rather at all Muslims. “America and Islam are not exclusive,” the president determined. “[They] share … common principles — principles of justice and progress, tolerance, and the dignity of all human beings.”

With multiple quotes from the Quran — each enthusiastically applauded — the president praised Islam’s accomplishments and listed colonialism, the Cold War, and modernity among the reasons for friction between Muslims and the West.

With multiple quotes from the Quran — each enthusiastically applauded — the president praised Islam’s accomplishments and listed colonialism, the Cold War, and modernity among the reasons for friction between Muslims and the West. “Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims,” he explained, in the only reference to the religious motivation of most terrorists. And he again cited his personal ties with Islam which, he said, “I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed.”

These pronouncements presaged what was, in fact, a profound recasting of U.S. policy. While reiterating America’s support for Israel’s security, Obama stridently criticized its settlement policy in the West Bank and endorsed the Palestinian claim to statehood. He also recognized Iran’s right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes, upheld the principle of nonproliferation, and rejected former President George W. Bush’s policy of promoting American-style democracy in the Middle East. “No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons,” he said. “No system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other.” In essence, Obama offered a new deal in which the United States would respect popularly chosen Muslim leaders who were authentically rooted in their traditions and willing to engage with the West.

The Cairo speech was revolutionary. In the past, Western leaders had addressed the followers of Islam — Napoleon in invading Egypt in 1798 and Kaiser Wilhelm II while visiting Damascus a century later — but never before had an American president. Indeed, no president had ever spoken to adherents of a world faith, whether Catholics or Buddhists, and in a city they traditionally venerated. More significantly, the Cairo speech, twice as long as his inaugural address, served as the foundational document of Obama’s policy toward Muslims.

Whenever Israeli leaders were perplexed by the administration’s decision to restore diplomatic ties with Syria — severed by Bush after the assassination of Lebanese president Rafik Hariri — or its early outreach to Libya and Iran, I would always refer them to that text. When policymakers back home failed to understand why Obama stood by Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who imprisoned journalists and backed Islamic radicals, or Mohamed Morsi, a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and briefly its president, I would invariably say: “Go back to the speech.” Erdogan and Morsi were both devout Muslims, democratically elected, and accepting of Obama’s outstretched hand. So, too, was Hassan Rouhani, who became Obama’s partner in seeking a negotiated settlement of the Iranian nuclear dispute.

How did the president arrive at his unique approach to Islam? The question became central to my research for Obama 101. One answer lies in the universities in which he studied and taught — Columbia, Harvard, and the University of Chicago — and where such ideas were long popular. Many of them could be traced to Orientalism, Edward Said’s scathing critique of Middle East studies, and subsequent articles in which he insisted that all scholars of the region be “genuinely engaged and sympathetic … to the Islamic world.” Published in 1978, Orientalism became the single most influential book in American humanities. As a visiting lecturer in the United States starting in the 1980s, I saw how Said’s work influenced not only Middle East studies but became a mainstay of syllabi for courses ranging from French colonial literature to Italian-African history. The notion that Islam was a uniform, universal entity with which the West must peacefully engage became widespread on American campuses and eventually penetrated the policymaking community. One of the primary texts in my Obama 101 course was the 2008 monograph, “Strategic Leadership: Framework for a 21st Century National Security Strategy,” written by foreign-relations experts, many of whom would soon hold senior positions in the new administration. While striving to place its relations with the Middle East on a new basis, the authors advised, America must seek “improved relations with more moderate elements of political Islam” and adapt “a narrative of pride in the achievements of Islam.”

In addition to its academic and international affairs origins, Obama’s attitudes toward Islam clearly stem from his personal interactions with Muslims. These were described in depth in his candid memoir, Dreams from My Father, published 13 years before his election as president. Obama wrote passionately of the Kenyan villages where, after many years of dislocation, he felt most at home and of his childhood experiences in Indonesia. I could imagine how a child raised by a Christian mother might see himself as a natural bridge between her two Muslim husbands. I could also speculate how that child’s abandonment by those men could lead him, many years later, to seek acceptance by their co-religionists.

Yet, tragically perhaps, Obama — and his outreach to the Muslim world — would not be accepted. With the outbreak of the Arab Spring, the vision of a United States at peace with the Muslim Middle East was supplanted by a patchwork of policies — military intervention in Libya, aerial bombing in Iraq, indifference to Syria, and entanglement with Egypt. Drone strikes, many of them personally approved by the president, killed hundreds of terrorists, but also untold numbers of civilians. Indeed, the killing of a Muslim — Osama bin Laden — rather than reconciling with one, remains one of Obama’s most memorable achievements.

Diplomatically, too, Obama’s outreach to Muslims was largely rebuffed. During his term in office, support for America among the peoples of the Middle East — and especially among Turks and Palestinians — reached an all-time nadir. Back in 2007, President Bush succeeded in convening Israeli and Arab leaders, together with the representatives of some 40 states, at the Annapolis peace conference. In May 2015, Obama had difficulty convincing several Arab leaders to attend a Camp David summit on the Iranian issue. The president who pledged to bring Arabs and Israelis together ultimately did so not through peace, but out of their common anxiety over his support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and his determination to reach a nuclear accord with Iran.

Only Iran, in fact, still holds out the promise of sustaining Obama’s initial hopes for a fresh start with Muslims. “[I]f we were able to get Iran to operate in a responsible fashion,” he told the New Yorker, “you could see an equilibrium developing between [it and] Sunni … Gulf states.” The assumption that a nuclear deal with Iran will render it “a very successful regional power” capable of healing, rather than inflaming, historic schisms remained central to Obama’s thinking. That assumption was scarcely shared by Sunni Muslims, many of whom watched with deep concern at what they perceived as an emerging U.S.-Iranian alliance.

Six years after offering to “extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist,” President Obama has seen that hand repeatedly shunned by Muslims. His speeches no longer recall his Muslim family members, and only his detractors now mention his middle name. And yet, to a remarkable extent, his policies remain unchanged. He still argues forcibly for the right of Muslim women to wear — rather than refuse to wear — the veil and insists on calling “violent extremists” those who kill in Islam’s name. “All of us have a responsibility to refute the notion that groups like ISIL somehow represent Islam,” he declared in February, using an acronym for the Islamic State. The term “Muslim world” is still part of his vocabulary.

Historians will likely look back at Obama’s policy toward Islam with a combination of curiosity and incredulousness. While some may credit the president for his good intentions, others might fault him for being naïve and detached from a complex and increasingly lethal reality. For the Middle East continues to fracture and pose multiple threats to America and its allies. Even if he succeeds in concluding a nuclear deal with Iran, the expansion of the Islamic State and other jihadi movements will underscore the failure of Obama’s outreach to Muslims. The need to engage them — militarily, culturally, philanthropically, and even theologically — will meanwhile mount. The president’s successor, whether Democrat or Republican, will have to grapple with that reality from the moment she or he enters the White House. The first decision should be to recognize that those who kill in Islam’s name are not mere violent extremists but fanatics driven by a specific religion’s zeal. And their victims are anything but random.

Voir aussi:

If Race and Gender Are Social Constructs, Why Not Sexual Orientation?

Maggie Gallagher

National Review

June 19, 2015

By some mysterious providence, three things happened in the past few weeks: Rachel Dolezal was outed as a white woman. Bruce Jenner was lauded as a white woman. And in a New Jersey consumer-fraud case against JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing), the Southern Poverty Law Center has spent millions to deprive any future New Jerseyans of the basic right even to try to change their sexual orientation.

“I felt very isolated with my identity virtually my entire life, that nobody really got it and that I really didn’t have the personal agency to express it,” Dolezal told NBC. “I kind of imagined that maybe at some point [I’d have to] own it publicly and discuss this kind of complexity.”

Nick Adams, a spokesman for GLAAD, went so far as to say that Bruce Jenner never really existed: The world “can now see what Caitlyn Jenner has always known, that she is — and always has been — a woman.”

“This case is about exposing the lie that LGBT people are mentally ill and that they need to be cured,” said David Dinielli, SPLC deputy legal director. “Groups like JONAH should not be allowed to use bogus therapy, based on junk science, to scam LGBT people and their families out of thousands of dollars.”

Together they lay down the new moral rules: Apparently, you can change your racial identity, but if you do, you are lying. You can dress up as a woman on the cover of Vanity Fair, and everyone must believe that you are in fact female. But when it comes to sexual orientation, even the attempt to change your identity or behavior must be viewed as an imposition against the laws of nature, if not nature’s God.

It is ironic, of course, because of these three things, science tells us clearly: race in America is a social construct with a biological basis. Most African Americans are biracial, and it is the old Southern patriarch’s desire to enslave his own children that led to the idea that, say, President Obama is black not white (or, rather, both black and white, being his mother’s child as much as his father’s).

Gender is a real biological category found in every human culture, around which society constructs a great deal.

As for sexual orientation? Even the expert witnesses hired by the Southern Poverty Law Center concede that the origin of sexual desire is a mystery, and that being gay or lesbian (as an identity) is, in fact, a choice.

Here is Chuck LiMandri, founder of the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund, cross-examining SPLC’s expert witness Lee Beckstead a few days ago:

LiMandri: Would you agree, Doctor, that sexual-orientation identity is a socially constructed label?

Beckstead: The identity is?

LiMandri. Yes.

Beckstead: Definitely.

LiMandri: So whether you call yourself gay or straight, that is a social construct?

Beckstead: It’s how you think about your attractions and how you feel about them and which membership, which groups you feel affinity towards.

Non-heterosexuals experience a variety of identity changes, sometimes toward homosexuality and sometimes away from it. Religious people, Dr. Beckstead agrees, have a right to seek therapeutic help to live their lives according to their religious values. He has even had clients of his go to an LDS-affiliated group similar to JONAH without warning them it was harmful snake oil. He estimates that 30 to 40 percent of his clients, despite same-sex attraction, choose to live as Mormons, whether that is in marriages to the opposite sex or living a celibate life. Surely this is not impossible.

I do not know if JONAH’s success rate in helping religious believers with same-sex attraction lead lives that accord with their religious identity is as high as Beckstead’s. From the transcripts, it appears that the judge in this case forbade anyone to present evidence of efficacy rates. He seems to have mistaken the idea that homosexuality is a “mental illness” with the idea that scientific evidence shows some people can change. Sexual-orientation-change therapy need not be premised on the idea that being gay is a mental disorder at all.

As Dr. Beckstead, the SPLC’s own expert, agreed this week in the courtroom:

LiMandri: When you stated in your article, Doctor: “Findings from the current model also confirm those from Yarhouse and Tan, who investigated the experiences of highly religious individuals who either identified with or disidentified from an LGB identity. As Yarhouse and Tan concluded, the most important aspect for same-sex-attracted, religious individual may not be whether that person pursues a particular path of identity synthesis but whether that person’s identity development process is congruent with her or his valuative framework.” In other words, if I understand it, what is important is whether they can bring their sexual identity into conformity with their religious values?

Beckstead: Congruence is very important for mental health.

Each of the plaintiffs in this case was recruited by the SPLC as part of a campaign to shut down choices for people across the country.

Does truth matter anymore? Each of these plaintiffs signed a consent form acknowledging that many consider sexual-orientation-change efforts controversial and that gay-affirmative therapy is available. They initialed the part where they were told no results could be guaranteed. Dr. Arthur Goldberg, after many years of working with Orthodox Jewish men and others who wish to marry women and live according to religious values, guestimates that only one-third achieve their stated goals completely. The weekend retreats incorporate some bizarre elements, but nothing stranger than the Esalen Institute and other hippie happenings in the 1970s did. If clients were paying money for a nude drum circle to release their chakra energy, nobody would be suing them. It is the attempt to live a Torah-observant or Biblical life that is intolerable to the SPLC and must be shut down.

As Dr. Nicholas Cummings, one of the expert witnesses who is not permitted by the judge to testify, wrote in USA Today:

Gays and lesbians have the right to be affirmed in their homosexuality. That’s why, as a member of the APA Council of Representatives in 1975, I sponsored the resolution by which the APA stated that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and, in 1976, the resolution, which passed the council unanimously, that gays and lesbians should not be discriminated against in the workplace.

But contending that all same-sex attraction is immutable is a distortion of reality. Attempting to characterize all sexual reorientation therapy as “unethical” violates patient choice and gives an outside party a veto over patients’ goals for their own treatment. A political agenda shouldn’t prevent gays and lesbians who desire to change from making their own decisions.

Whatever the situation at an individual clinic, accusing professionals from across the country who provide treatment for fully informed persons seeking to change their sexual orientation of perpetrating a fraud serves only to stigmatize the professional and shame the patient.

Our strange new public morality has to have a place for more than one kind of sexual minority group. Americans who believe it is wrong to have sex outside marriage between a man and a woman have rights, too. —

Maggie Gallagher is a senior fellow at the American Principles Project and chairman of the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund. She blogs at MaggieGallagher.com.

Voir aussi:

Comment la révolution transgenre s’est mise en marche Les Inrocks

21/09/2014

A l’Eurovision, dans les médias mainstream, sur internet, et même au Vatican, les transgenres sont au cœur de l’actualité en 2014. Raisons et limites de cette récente visibilité.

Le 10 mai 2014, soir de finale. Dans le complexe industriel de la B&W Hallerne à Copenhague, où se tient la 59e édition du concours de l’Eurovision, le futur gagnant s’apprête à monter sur scène. A moins que ce ne soit une gagnante. Voix de diva, cheveux longs, boucles d’oreille, faux cils, robe pailletée et barbe de trois jours : la candidate qui s’époumone sur Rise Like a Phoenix brouille les frontières du genre et envoie un signal de modernité au cœur du télé-crochet le plus ringard du monde. Elle s’appelle Conchita Wurst et va être sacrée, cette nuit, de la plus haute distinction de l’Eurovision, après des années d’insuccès, de petites galères et de chant dans les cabarets de Vienne.

Né il y a vingt-cinq ans sous le nom de Thomas Neuwirth, ce travesti hyperglamour, homosexuel et militant du cross dressing, a été choisi pour représenter l’Autriche au prix de nombreuses polémiques alimentées par les mouvements d’extrême droite et par certains membres de la communauté LGBT où son côté show-off ne fait pas l’unanimité. Le soir de sa victoire, celle qui est devenue entretemps l’égérie de Jean Paul Gaultier, pour qui elle a défilé lors de la dernière fashion week, aura fait taire momentanément les débats en dédiant son prix “à tous ceux qui croient à un avenir qui se construira grâce à la paix et à la liberté”, ajoutant que “l’Eurovision est un projet qui célèbre la tolérance, l’acceptation et l’amour”.

Quelques jours plus tard, de l’autre côté de l’Atlantique, un événement similaire allait bouleverser une autre vieille institution médiatique. Dans son édition du 9 juin, Time offrait sa couverture pour la première fois de son histoire à une personnalité transgenre, Laverne Cox. L’actrice trentenaire, révélée par son rôle dans la série de Netflix, Orange Is the New Black, qui raconte le quotidien d’une prison pour femmes, s’affiche en robe de gala à la une de l’hebdomadaire, accompagnée d’un titre à vocation de manifeste: “The transgender tipping point” (“Le point de bascule pour les transgenres”). Sur sa page Facebook, la comédienne commente cette opération médiatique : “Je réalise que tout cela dépasse largement mon propre cas et que nous entrons dans une phase de changement dans l’histoire de notre nation, où il n’est plus acceptable pour les trans de vivre stigmatisés, ridiculisés, criminalisés et méconnus.” Là encore, la couverture de Time a provoqué son lot de polémiques, s’attirant les foudres des commentateurs de la droite dure américaine, mais qu’importe : “La révolution transgenre est en marche”, nous assure Aren Z. Aizura, l’une des figures montantes des recherches sur les théories du genre et corédacteur en chef de la revue The Transgender Studies Reader 2.

“Il y a une prise de conscience dans les médias à propos de la question trans, qui accède enfin à une nouvelle visibilité, annonce-t-il.

Un nouveau sujet mainstream

De Conchita Wurst à Laverne Cox, 2014 semble en effet bien partie pour être l’année des transgenres. “Il y a un déplacement très net des figures trans de leur lieu traditionnel l’underground, à une culture plus mainstream, note le docteur en sociologie et spécialiste de la transidentité Arnaud Alessandrin. Que ce soit dans la fiction américaine, le rap ou la mode, avec des mannequins comme Andrej Pejic ou Lea T, on remarque que de nouvelles personnalités trans apparaissent chaque mois et replacent leurs enjeux dans l’espace public.” Pour expliquer cette émergence médiatique, la plupart des observateurs évoquent la convergence de plusieurs phénomènes, au premier rang desquels l’influence exercée par les mouvements sociaux protransgenres. “Depuis quelques années, il y a eu dans toutes les grandes villes américaines une augmentation du nombre d’actions menées en faveur des trans, avec l’apparition de nouvelles formes de militantisme, explique Reina Gossett, codirectrice de l’association new-yorkaise Sylvia Rivera Law Project, qui vient en aide aux trans victimes de violences. Les médias ne pouvaient pas rester hermétiques à cette pression sociale, ils ont fini par entendre nos revendications.”

Un autre facteur pourrait justifier cette nouvelle vague de visibilité trans : internet. “Avant, les transidentités se vivaient de manière confidentielle ou alors en groupe restreint, rappelle Aren Z. Aizura. L’usage des réseaux sociaux a complètement modifié le rapport des trans à leur identité ; il a permis le partage d’expériences et ainsi la banalisation de la parole, notamment chez les plus jeunes.” Ts Madison peut en témoigner. Cette transgenre male to female, actrice porno à son propre compte, s’est fait connaître début 2014 sur le réseau social Vine en publiant des vidéos de six secondes dans lesquelles elle s’affichait nue, dansant ou courant dans son jardin la bite à l’air. Devenues virales en quelques jours, les vidéos ont été parodiées et partagées par des flots d’internautes de tous âges, contribuant selon Ts Madison à “promouvoir la tolérance envers les trans”.

“Internet permet de lever tous les complexes, de se montrer sans crainte, nous confie-t-elle depuis sa villa d’Atlanta. Depuis que j’ai publié mes vidéos, des gamines m’envoient des messages pour me remercier, d’autres m’interrogent sur ma transition, sur la chirurgie. Elles parlent librement. Il y a eu bien sûr des tas d’insultes, des trucs haineux, mais la plupart des gens comprennent le message. Ils ont compris ce qu’il y a de révolutionnaire à être une femme et à agiter sa bite devant une caméra.”

A l’Eurovision, dans les médias mainstream ou sur le net, les transgenres s’affichent partout depuis quelque temps, et parfois là où on les attend le moins. En avril 2013, un site américain spécialisé dans les news sur le téléchargement, TorrentFreak, avait analysé les fichiers informatiques du Vatican et les résultats furent assez surprenants : on y découvrait que l’Etat de la papauté téléchargeait en boucle des pornos transgenres, avec une préférence pour les films de l’actrice Tiffany Starr, un male to female habitué au X hardcore. “Au départ, j’ai été choquée d’apprendre ça. Il y a quand même une injustice dans le fait que des opposants déclarés aux trans délirent secrètement sur vous”, raconte-t-elle, qui préfère aujourd’hui voir dans cette révélation le premier signe possible d’un changement de mentalité. “Dévoiler les fantasmes est un bon point de départ pour lutter contre les discriminations”, ajoute-t-elle, avant de lancer un clin d’œil : “J’ai d’ailleurs reçu beaucoup de messages de soutien de la part de catholiques.”

L’empowerment des trans

Pour la plupart des observateurs, ce n’est pas tant cette nouvelle visibilité qui compte, mais plutôt les changements de discours sur les transgenres. Avec l’émergence de personnalités comme Laverne Cox apparaissent aussi de nouvelles manières de parler de transidentité, plus libérées et réalistes. “Le vrai point déterminant est qu’il y a un changement de storytelling dans les médias, où on a modifié nos perceptions de la question trans, confirme Vincent Paolo Villano, directeur de la communication de l’une des plus puissantes associations LGBT américaines, le National Center for Transgender Equality. Il y a encore quelques années, les seuls transgenres que vous pouviez voir dans les médias étaient des malades, des victimes de violences, des prostitués. On commence enfin à sortir de ce prisme négatif grâce à des personnes comme Laverne Cox, qui sont des femmes plus indépendantes, qui ont du pouvoir.”

Dédramatisée, la figure des transgenres serait aussi en voie de normalisation dans les médias selon Maxime Foerster, auteur d’une Histoire des transsexuels en France :

“Il y a surtout, dans les pays anglo-saxons, de nouveaux modèles de représentation qui émergent, et qui sont moins dans le domaine de l’exotisme, explique-t-il. Des transgenres femmes d’affaires apparaissent par exemple, des femmes fortunées, qui n’ont rien à voir avec les vieux clichés de chanteuses de cabaret ou de muses d’artistes. Il est encore trop tôt pour en juger, mais il semble que les trans maîtrisent de plus en plus leur image.”

Surtout, ils se sont échappés des débats médicaux et sexuels auxquels ils ont longtemps été réduits. “Les trans ne veulent plus entendre parler de sexualité, ils se sont complètement désolidarisés de ces sujets, assure Arnaud Alessandrin. Lorsque Conchita prend la parole à l’Eurovision, elle ne pose que la question du droit : ai-je le droit d’être intégrée à une société sans être assimilée à tous ses codes ? Ai-je le droit à une vie normale sans pour autant me conformer à toutes ses normes binaires ?” Quand on interroge Ts Madison, jamais la question du sexe ne revient vraiment dans la discussion : elle dit qu’elle est simplement une femme avec une bite (elle en a même commercialisé un T-shirt : “She’s got a dick”) et n’aspire qu’à avoir les mêmes droits fondamentaux que les autres. “Les débats se sont recentrés sur des thématiques d’ordre politique ou social, résume Maxime Foerster. C’est d’ailleurs tout le sens du sous-titre de la couverture de Time, qui dit que les transgenres sont ‘la nouvelle frontière des droits civiques américains’. Maintenant que l’homosexualité est quasiment soluble dans la société hétéronormée et bourgeoise, on commence à se poser la question du droit pour les trans.”

Visibles mais ignorés ?

Dans la réalité, pourtant, ces questions de droits semblent loin d’être résolues. Car si les transgenres ont accédé à la visibilité, notamment aux Etats-Unis, ils tardent encore à faire leur apparition dans les agendas politiques. Depuis son bureau de Brooklyn, Reina Gossett a du mal à s’enthousiasmer pleinement pour ce nouvel engouement des médias.

“Bien sûr que la couverture de Time est un événement important pour nous, mais elle rend encore plus insupportable l’inaction politique, dit-elle. Les transgenres continuent de souffrir de discriminations et je ne suis pas sûre qu’une couverture puisse y changer quelque chose. Par exemple, dans plusieurs Etats américains, on se bat pour faire annuler des décrets qui empêchent les transgenres d’accéder à certains soins médicaux, mais ça personne n’en parle. Personne ne parle du chômage qui affecte les trans, ni de la situation vécue par les trans de couleur, victimes de violences raciales. Les médias négligent leur réalité quotidienne.” C’est là le paradoxe de cette récente exposition médiatique, qu’Arnaud Alessandrin résume ainsi :

“Une certaine frange de la transidentité, liée à la scène et aux artistes, commence à être visible. Mais le trans reste invisible dans l’espace politique. Et rien ne dit que l’arrivée de figures transgenres populaires permettra d’aller vers plus d’acceptation.”

En transition depuis une vingtaine d’années, Ts Madison a tout connu de la réalité trans : le rejet de sa famille, les mauvaises hormones achetées au marché noir, la discrimination à l’embauche, la violence physique. Elle assure mieux vivre aujourd’hui aux Etats-Unis que dans les années 90 et sait à qui elle le doit : “Dans chaque génération de transgenres, il y a eu des pionnières, des femmes écoutées qui ont rendu la vie un peu plus acceptable aux suivantes. Tant mieux si les médias se cherchent une nouvelle femme pour occuper ce rôle.” Dans un grand rire, elle nous dira qu’elle s’y verrait bien, elle, en pionnière trans.

Voir encore:

Une lycéenne lesbienne a choisi une citation géniale qui lui vaut les honneurs du web Rédaction du HuffPost 28/05/2015

FÉMINISME – En choisissant sa citation pour le « yearbook » de son lycée, cette jeune Californienne ne s’attendait probablement pas à provoquer autant d’admiration de la part des internautes. Et pourtant, ces quelques petits mots ont déclenché une pluie de réactions positives.

Caitlyn Cannon, 17 ans, a en effet écrit dans le livre: « J’ai besoin de féminisme car j’ai l’intention d’épouser quelqu’un de riche, et ça ne pourra pas se faire si ma femme et moi ne gagnons que 75 centimes pour chaque dollar gagné par un homme ».

L’une de ses amies proches, l’utilisatrice @casualnosebleed sur Twitter, a photographié la publication dans le yearbook et a posté l’image le 26 mai. En trois jours, elle a été retweetée 5500 fois et ajoutée 8500 fois en favoris.

« C’est honnêtement la seule chose qui compte pour moi en ce moment » Récemment diplômée du lycée Oak Hills en Californie, Caitlyn affirme avoir trouvé sur Tumblr cette citation qu’elle a ensuite modifiée, car elle était écrite du point de vue d’un homme. « J’en avais assez de toujours voir les mêmes vieilles citations inspirées de livres, de films et d’auteurs populaires. Je voulais attirer l’attention sur un problème auquel les femmes doivent faire face », explique-t-elle à nos confrères du Huff Post américain.

Les internautes ont entendu son message et lui ont adressé leur soutien: « Approuvé! La meilleure citation jamais écrite dans le yearbook d’un lycée »

« Je n’ai jamais rien vu d’aussi génial de ma vie. Cette fille déchire vraiment tout » Sur son propre compte Twitter, l’étudiante montre à quel point elle est fière d’être ce qu’elle est, en se définissant comme « féministe » et « vraiment gay ».

« Peu importe le nombre de fois où on s’en plaint et où on tente de le minimiser, le féminisme continuera toujours d’exister tant que les femmes n’auront pas le droit aux mêmes opportunités que les hommes », a également déclaré Caitlyn à Cosmopolitan.

Aux Etats-Unis, le yearbook est une sorte de trombinoscope de fin d’année qui présente une photo de chacun des élèves, accompagnée d’une citation s’ils le souhaitent. Cette tradition américaine a pour but de commémorer les événements qui ont marqué l’année scolaire, et permet de se souvenir de ses camarades de classe bien des années plus tard. Ceux de Caitlyn risquent de se rappeler de l’audace de la jeune femme pour longtemps…

 Voir encore:

Rachel Dolezal, activiste, a menti pendant 20 ans sur ses origines

20 ans de supercherie. L’activiste blanche américaine Rachel Dolezal s’est faite passer pour une métisse pendant des années. Ses parents ont décidé de rendre son imposture publique et de rétablir la vérité.

Margot Rousseau

L’Internaute

16/06/15

Rachel Dolezal, qui ne s’était pas exprimée depuis l’annonce de ses parents, a été interviewée par la chaîne Today News. Lors de cette interview réalisée par Matt Lauer, elle explique qu’elle savait qu’un jour, elle aurait à s’expliquer sur la complexité de son identité. Lorsque le journaliste lui montre la photo d’elle plus jeune, lorsqu’elle avait les cheveux blonds, elle explique qu’à cette époque, elle ne se considérait pas comme une afro-américaine, mais qu’aujourd’hui et depuis longtemps, elle s’identifie comme tel. Elle explique que son identification en tant que femme afro-américaine a été solidifiée par l’arrivée de son frère adoptif Izaiah Dolezal. Pour ce qui est de sa couleur de peau plus métissée que lorsqu’elle était jeune et blonde, elle la justifie en disant qu’elle s’expose souvent en soleil. En conclusion, Rachel Dolezal s’identifie comme une afro-américaine et ne regrette pas son mensonge, qu’elle ne le considère pas comme tel. Elle admet cependant que ce n’était pas correct de se décrire comme elle l’a fait, mais que ce n’était ni faux, ni vrai, mais « complexe ».

Rachel Dolezal est professeur d’études africaines-américaines à l’Eastern Washington University et présidente de l’association nationale pour la promotion des personnes de couleur à Spokane (Etat de Washington, Etats-Unis). Depuis 20 ans, elle se faisait passer pour une métisse. La semaine dernière, ses parents ont décidé de révéler son identité. Selon eux, son implication au sein de la communauté afro-américaine n’est pas liée à ce désir de modifier et de falsifier ses origines. Rachel aurait coupé les ponts avec sa famille depuis plusieurs années. Ils attribuent cette décision au fait qu’eux soient blancs. A plusieurs reprises, leur fille leur avait demandé de ne plus se promener dans Spokane en raison de leur couleur de peau.

Rachel Dolezal s’est donc inventée une autre vie et s’est identifiée à la cause afro-américaine. Elle s’est créée un autre père d’origine africaine, tantôt présenté comme « absent », tantôt incarné par un inconnu lors de réunions professionnelles. Elle se définissait comme « noire, blanche et amérindienne » mais selon ses parents, Rachel serait « caucasienne avec des origines tchèques, suédoises et allemandes ».

Pour appuyer leur propos, ils ont montré des photos d’enfance : Rachel y apparaît blonde aux yeux bleus. Une vérité qui tranche avec l’histoire qu’elle s’était inventée : elle expliquait être née dans un tipi, sa famille chassant avec un arc et des flèches. Elle prétendait également avoir vécu en Afrique du Sud.

Rachel souhaitait intégrer la communtauté « afro-américaine » et elle mettait régulièrement en avant « sa » couleur de peau sur les réseaux sociaux. Sur Facebook, par exemple, elle expliquait son ressenti en tant que Noire sur le film « 12 Years a Slave ». Elle a également posté une photo d’elle avec une coupe afro, prétenduement naturelle.

Rachel dénonçait les violences faites aux Noirs d’une façon plutôt étrange. Elle se disait victime d’agressions racistes, neuf au total, la dernière datant de février. A l’occasion de cette « agression », elle s’est exprimée dans les médias. Finalement, lors d’une interview, elle s’était presque trahie, en refusant de répondre à la question « Etes-vous afro-américaine ? »

Rachel Dolezal : peut-on parler de “transracialisme” ? Les Inrocks

17/06/2015

« Je suis transracialiste » s’est justifiée Rachel Dolezal, cette militante américaine blanche qui a fait croire à tout le monde qu’elle était noire. Qu’entend-t-on par ce phénomène de recherche d’une autre identité raciale ? Analyse de Nacira Guérif-Souilamas, sociologue spécialiste des questions raciales et des pratiques identitaires et professeur à Paris 8.

Qu’est-ce que le transracialisme évoquée par Rachel Dolezal ?

Nacira Guérif-Souliamas – Le transracialisme participe de l’ordre racial. Il consiste à revendiquer une autre identité que celle à laquelle on est racialement affiliée. Sauf qu’il y a bien une hiérarchie entre ces races. Être dans une logique transracialiste, c’est chercher à échapper à l’ensemble des discriminations insupportables qui sont associées à l’identité qui nous est imposée. Cela peut se faire de manière physique (se décolorer la peau par exemple), sociale, ou comportementale.

Est-ce qu’il y a des profils de personnes susceptibles de se revendiquer de cette logique ?

Être Noir, c’est une construction culturelle. On ne se pense Noir et ne devient Noir que lors de certaines interactions. Ce n’est pas une identité génétique ça, c’est quelque chose qui s’inscrit dans les rapports sociaux.

C’est pourquoi il est souvent courant que des enfants adoptés, qui ont la peau noire, et élevés par des parents blancs, se considèrent comme Blancs. Et ils ont raison, ce qui compte c’est le lien affectif qui va déterminer leur manière de s’identifier. Sauf qu’aux Etats-Unis, ces personnes sont vites rattrapées par la réalité des rapports sociaux racialisés. Et elles sont obligées de devenir noires à un moment ou à un autre.

Comment expliquer alors le cas de Rachel Dolezal qui s’est déclarée transracialiste ?

C’est un cas que l’on n’avait jamais vu auparavant. Ici, la jeune femme blanche, veut être noire. Jusqu’ici, les schémas transracialistes se posaient dans le sens d’une personne de couleur noire qui désirait devenir blanche.

Rachel Dolezal a été élevée dans une famille blanche avec des frères adoptés à la peau noire. On peut donc penser qu’elle a voulu ressembler à ce schéma familial.

Pourquoi sa supercherie a-t-elle suscité autant de critiques ?

Justement, elle a fini par occuper une position de pouvoir dans une organisation importante qui défend les droits des gens de couleur aux Etats-Unis (l’Association nationale pour la promotion des gens de couleur, NAACP, Ndlr.). Et malgré son histoire familiale, elle ne peut pas annuler l’asymétrie profonde dans laquelle se joue les enjeux du transracialisme.

En plus, elle donne des arguments assez flous. On ne comprend pas bien pourquoi elle a fait ça si ce n’est qu’elle est dans une identification très forte à une certaine cause politique. Mais il faut comprendre que l’on n’a pas besoin d’être noire pour défendre la cause de ces personnes qui peuvent être victimes de racisme.

Pourquoi est-ce que la notion de transracialisme n’existe-t-elle pas en France ?

En France, on est convaincu que la race n’existe pas. Nous sommes pourtant dans des rapports sociaux racialisés. Malgré ça, personne ne peut penser ces rapports en terme racialiste. Et aux Etats-Unis, les identités racialisées sont reconnues comme telles. On parle de “races”, de “relations raciales”, et de problèmes liés aux “identités raciales”. On en parle aussi parce que ces difficultés conduisent à des assassinats et à des bavures policières contre les noirs.

Propos recueillis par Fanny Marlier

Voir également:

Rachel Dolezal, transracialisme ou imposture? Agnès Berthelot Raffard

Chercheuse en philosophie politique et citoyenne engagée

Huffington Post

17/06/2015

Présidente d’une section locale de l’Association nationale pour la promotion des gens de couleur (NAACP) et professeure d’Études africaines à l’Université de l’Eastern Washington, Rachel Dolezal a menti sur ses origines en prétendant être afro-descendante par son père. Suscitant perplexité et controverses, son histoire est, toutefois, fascinante. En effet, si nous en ignorons les motivations morales, ce mensonge confronte notre a priori sur l’identité raciale jusqu’à remettre à l’avant-plan certaines de ses implications pratiques notamment son lien avec le militantisme.

Même s’il est d’usage de considérer la race (1) et le genre, comme des constructions sociales, le mensonge de la professeure Dolezal nous rappelle que loin d’être figée ou sclérosée, l’identité raciale est, au contraire, d’une grande labilité. Jusqu’à une date récente, l’« être au monde » de Rachel Dolezal était celui d’une femme noire ayant eu recours à une forme de « transracialisme ». Si la société connaît – sans hélas toujours la reconnaître socialement – l’existence des transgenres, le «transracialisme» reste quant à lui inhabituel pour ne pas dire inexistant (2), notamment dans le cas d’un individu blanc et éduqué par des parents blancs c’est-à-dire par les membres d’un groupe disposant de privilèges socialement avérés. Il est, en effet, assez rare qu’un tel individu puisse se définir publiquement comme étant afro-descendant jusqu’à accéder à une position privilégiée dans des domaines réservés aux membres de cette communauté.

À supposer que le « transracialisme » existe, il est douteux que le cas Dolezal s’y réfère. D’abord, parce que Dolezal ne se trouvait pas dans une indifférenciation raciale ou culturelle comme le sont parfois, les enfants d’une culture différente de celle de leurs parents adoptifs. Ensuite, parce qu’en admettant que le « transracialisme » soit envisageable pour ceux qui considèrent ne pas appartenir à leur culture raciale d’origine, encore faudrait-il que le fait d’avoir eu recours à un processus de modifications physionomiques volontaires suffise pour correspondre à celle psychiquement projetée. Une telle assignation resterait, toutefois, réductrice. On le sait, comme pour le genre, l’appartenance ethnoculturelle ne se réduit pas aux enjeux du corps et de l’apparence physique. Enfin, le cas Dolezal rappelle une question plus fondamentale trop vaste et complexe pour être traitée dans ce texte : celle de la signification d’un « être Noir » et de ce que cela recoupe du point de vue social et historique.

L’appartenance raciale permet l’accès à un ensemble de privilèges ou en bloque les possibilités. Rachel Dolezal peut-elle prétendre être Noire sans avoir fait l’expérience socio-historique en lien avec les inégalités systémiques et historiquement ancrées dans le vécu des membres de la communauté afro-américaine ? Une femme noire expérimente très jeune une double oppression de race et de genre laquelle s’inscrit dans un processus de développement psychologique, moral, intellectuel et socio-économique. C’est-ce que souligne, le titre d’un des ouvrages fondateurs du Black Feminism : « Toutes les femmes sont blanches, tous les Noirs sont des hommes, mais nous sommes quelques-unes à être courageuses » (3). Dans les États-Unis d’aujourd’hui, la race et le genre affectent encore les opportunités sociales et le regard porté sur l’individu. Aussi, que l’on soit indulgent ou non à l’égard de son mensonge, Rachel Dolezal n’est pas et ne sera jamais une de ces « courageuses ». Force est de reconnaître que même si la volonté peut être présente, il est impossible de devenir une femme noire alors que l’on est dans la vingtaine. Aussi, Dolezal est blanche au sens de son identité biologique et par le fait qu’elle a grandi, dans une famille WASP sans être en mesure de faire, dès son plus jeune âge, les mêmes expériences que les autres femmes noires de sa génération. En ce sens, Dolezal n’a pu ressentir certains des enjeux qui concourent à vouloir aspirer à cette sororité si fondamentale dans la constitution de l’identité culturelle, politique et économique si chère aux militantes afro-américaines (4).

Cependant, que la professeure Dolezal puisse se sentir plus noire que blanche ne saurait en soi être un problème, pas plus que son mensonge n’est un crime. La difficulté réside plutôt dans ce à que quoi il a contribué c’est-à-dire à la construction d’une carrière universitaire et militante au cœur même des bastions généralement réservés aux Noirs. En tant que Professeure d’Études africaines et membres du NAACP, Dolezal est au fait de ces débats. Elle sait que dans les mouvements de luttes pour le droit des minorités culturelles ou de genre, les postes les plus avancés sont généralement réservés aux personnes qui en sont issues. C’est pourquoi comme l’a écrit un éditorialiste du Washington Post :  » Qu’une personne blanche dirige une section de la NAACP ne pose pas de problème non plus. (…) Mais qu’une personne blanche prétende être noire et dirige une section de la NAACP, c’est très problématique ».

Depuis la fondation du NAACP, en 1909, la représentation n’a pas toujours été descriptive. Des Afro-Américains n’ont pas toujours été à la tête des sections locales. Cependant, les mouvements de lutte pour les droits civiques se sont forgés sur le refus d’une représentation substantive. Et, s’il est évident que les Blancs ont le droit de défendre la cause noire comme les hommes peuvent défendre celle des femmes, il y a bien des raisons de réclamer le recours systématiquement à une représentation descriptive plutôt que substantive dans les organisations de luttes pour le droit de ces groupes historiquement dominés. Toutes ces réclamations ne sont pas que symboliques. Ce type de représentation reste un puissant levier contre les effets de marginalisation dans les processus décisionnels et garantit que les décisions puissent refléter l’expérience et les besoins réels des personnes principalement concernées.

Au-delà de la question identitaire, la présidence par Rachel Dolezal d’une section locale du NAACP pose donc plus fondamentalement la question de l’usurpation d’une position d’autorité et celle d’une possible récupération de la lutte par le groupe dominant. Par son mensonge, Dolezal a-t-elle contribué, bien malgré elle, au maintien de la domination blanche dans un des bastions du militantisme noir ? Comme le soulignent ses propres parents, n’aurait-elle pas été plus utile à la cause, qu’elle prétendait défendre, si elle avait milité sous couvert de sa véritable identité biologique ? Ces interrogations seront encore longtemps débattues.

(1) Bien que préférant les termes de culture ou d’origine, je choisis dans ce texte d’utiliser celui de race bien que je le juge négativement connoté. (2) Pour une analogie entre transracialisme et transgenderisme, voir les travaux de la philosophe Cressida Heyes. (3) Gloria HULL, Patricia BELL SCOTT, Barbara SMITH (1982), All the Women are White, All the Blacks are Mem but some of Us are Brave : Black Women Studies, Old Westbury, New York, Feminist Press. (4) Michèle WALLACE (1975), « Une féministe Noire en quête de sororité. » in Black Feminism, anthologie du féminisme africain américain, 1975-2000, (dir. E.Dorlin), Paris, L’harmattan, p.45-57, 2008.

Voir enfin:

Former Israeli Ambassador’s Memoir Condemns Obama’s Foreign Policy Matthew Continetti

National Review

June 20, 2015

By the summer of 2013, President Obama had convinced several key Israelis that he wasn’t bluffing about using force against the Iranian nuclear program. Then he failed to enforce his red line against Syrian dictator Bashar Assad—and the Israelis realized they’d been snookered. Michael Oren, the former Israeli ambassador to the United States, recalls the shock inside his government. “Everyone went quiet,” he said in a recent interview. “An eerie quiet. Everyone understood that that was not an option, that we’re on our own.” Reading Oren’s new memoir Ally, it’s clear that Israel has been on her own since the day Obama took office. Oren provides an inside account of relations between the administration of Barack Obama and the government of Bibi Netanyahu, and his thesis is overwhelming, authoritative, and damning: For the last six and a half years the president of the United States has treated the home of the Jewish people more like a rogue nation standing in the way of peace than a longtime democratic ally. Now the alliance is “in tatters.”

Oren is not a conservative looking to make a political issue of support for Israel. Indeed, by Washington Free Beacon standards, he’s something of a squish. The author of a classic history of U.S. involvement in the Middle East and a sometime professor at Yale, Harvard, and Georgetown, Oren served for five years as a contributor to The New Republic, has contributed toThe New York Review of Books, and supports what he calls a “two-state situation” focused on institution-building and economic aid to the West Bank. He’s a member of the Knesset, but not of Netanyahu’s Likud Party. He joined the comparatively dovish Kulanu Party last December.

Oren’s credentials and relationships make him hard to dismiss. “The Obama administration was problematic because of its worldview: Unprecedented support for the Palestinians,” he told Israeli journalist David Horovitz, another centrist, this week. Obama and his lieutenants, including Hillary Clinton, have often behaved as if the Palestinians don’t exist – Palestinian actions, corruption, incitement, campaigns of de-legitimization and terrorism are overlooked, excused, accommodated. Oren tells the story of what happened when Vice President Joe Biden asked Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to “look him in the eye and promise that he could make peace with Israel.” Abbas looked away. The White House did nothing.

It was Israel that had to agree to a settlement freeze before the latest doomed attempt at peace negotiations; Israel that had to apologize for possible “mistakes” against the Gaza flotilla; Israel that had to close Ben Gurion airport; Israel that faced a “reevaluation” of her diplomatic status after Bibi’s reelection. Obama addresses the bulk of his lectures on good governance and democracy and humanitarianism not to the gang that runs the West Bank, nor to the terrorists who rule Gaza, but to Israel. During last year’s Gaza war, the State Department was “appalled” by civilian casualties inflated and trumpeted by Hamas propagandists. Oren points out that in the past the president had used the word “appalling” to describe the atrocities of Moammar Qaddafi. Qaddafi and the IDF – two peas in a pod, according to this White House.

What Obama wanted was to create diplomatic space between America and Israel while maintaining our military alliance. Oren says military-to-military relations are strong, but the diplomatic fissure has degraded Israel’s security. America, he says, provided a “Diplomatic Iron Dome” that shielded Israel from anti-Semites in Europe, at the U.N., and abroad whose goal is to delegitimize the Jewish State and undermine her economically.

This rhetorical missile shield is slowly being retracted. The administration threatens not to veto anti-Israel U.N. initiatives, Europe is aligning with the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement, and anti-Israel activism festers on U.S. campuses. Obama’s unending criticism of Israel, and background quotes calling Israel’s prime minister a “chicken-shit” and a “coward,” provide an opening for radicals to go even further.

The diplomatic rupture endangers Israel in another way. It preceded Obama’s quest for détente with Iran, Israel’s greatest enemy and most pressing threat. Oren was outraged in 2013 when he learned that the administration had been conducting secret negotiations with the mullahs. Now, with the United States about to clear the way for Iranian nukes and flood the Iranian economy with cash, Israel is all the more at risk.

“Obama says Iran is not North Korea,” Oren said, “and Bibi says Iran’s worse than 50 North Koreas. It all comes down to that.” Fixated on striking a deal, Obama is preparing to concede the longstanding demand that Iran disclose its past nuclear-weapons research, is ignoring the issue of Iranian missile development, and is standing idle as Iran props up Assad, arms Hezbollah with rockets, and promotes sectarianism in Iraq. Israel is hemmed in – by Iranian proxies and Sunni militants on its borders, by the threat of a third intifada on the West Bank, by global nongovernmental organizations, by a condescending, flippant, and bullying U.S. president whose default emotional state is pique.

As if to make Oren’s case for him, the Obama administration responded to the publication of Ally with neither silence nor a reiteration of American policy toward Israel but with vituperation, demanding that both Kulanu Party chairman Moshe Kahlon and Prime Minister Netanyahu apologize for criticisms Oren had made. Kahlon sheepishly distanced himself from Oren, and Netanyahu won’t comment publicly, but the episode illustrates precisely the model of U.S.-Israeli relations outlined in this book: A “family” argument where the criticism runs in only one direction. On the one hand, when the supreme leader of Iran calls John Kerry a liar and details plans to destroy Israel, the Obama administration brushes it off. On the other, when a former ambassador writes a memoir based on a diary he kept while in office, the administration loses its mind.

The alliance has faltered to such a degree that Oren is morose. He wonders whether Israel is in the same precarious position it was in 1967, before the Six Day War, or in 1948, when it came close to never being born. Neither option is comforting. David Horovitz asked him, “Are people going to look back in a few years’ time and say, ‘This is what they were talking about in Israel as Iran closed in on the bomb and they were wiped out?’” Oren’s response: “It’s happened before in history, hasn’t it?”

It has. And it may happen again. But whatever happens, thanks to Michael Oren, history will know that an inexperienced and ideologically motivated president drove a lethal wedge between the United States of America and the young, tiny, besieged Jewish State.

Voir enfin:

Sexism and Racism Are Leftism In our time, sexism and racism have become the province of the rich. Victor Davis Hanson

National Review Online

June 16, 2015

Discrimination by sex and by race are ancient innate pathologies and transcend particular cultures. But the American idea of sexismand racism in the 21st century — unfailing, endemic, and institutional discrimination by a majority-white-male-privileged culture against both women and so-called non-white minorities — has largely become a leftist construct.

We can see how these two relativist -isms work in a variety of ways.

One, the frequent charge of racism and sexism is predicated not so much on one’s gender and race as on one’s gender, race, and politics. Certainly, few on the left worried much about the slurs against Sarah Palin during and after her vice-presidential run. America’s overclass in the media and leftist politics constructed a sexist portrait of a clueless white-trash mom in Wasilla, Alaska, mindlessly having lots of kids after barely graduating from the University of Idaho. Even Bill Maher’s and David Letterman’s liberal armor would not have withstood leftist thrusts had, mutatis mutandis, the former called Hillary Clinton a c–t or the latter disparaged Ms. Clinton as “slutty flight attendant” and joked that, when a teen, Chelsea Clinton had had sexual relations with a Yankee baseball player in the dugout. Ironically it was the by-her-own-bootstraps lower-middle-class Palin who braved the frontier, no-prisoners, male world to become governor of Alaska; in real terms, she is the true feminist. In contrast, according to doctrinaire feminism, Hillary Clinton does not measure up. She has largely clung, in mousy fashion, to her two-timing husband, excused his serial and manipulative philandering with young women of less clout and power, traded on his political nomenclature, and piggy-backed on his career.

Leftism assumes that racist and sexist speech by liberals constitutes good people’s lapses of judgment and tact. The Black Caucus rarely if ever comes to the defense of Justice Clarence Thomas when, periodically, liberal commentators suggest that he was and is unqualified, and is largely a token black conservative. No one suggests that the New York Times is on an anti-Latino crusade against Marco Rubio in trying to fashion a story of recklessness from the paltry evidence of his receiving one traffic ticket every four years. Had candidate Mitt Romney suggested, as did Senators Joe Biden and Harry Reid, that Senator Barack Obama was a “clean” and “light-skinned” black man without “a Negro dialect,” he would have been considered little more than a Clive Bundy buffoon and would have had to drop out of the Republican primary.

It appears that leftism assumes that racist and sexist speech by liberals constitutes good people’s lapses of judgment and tact — not, as in the case of conservatives, valuable windows into the dark hearts of bigots. In other words, the idea of sexism and racism is not absolute, but relative and mostly socially massaged and constructed by politics. Had President Bill Clinton declared during the O. J. trial that if he had had a second daughter she would have resembled Nicole Simpson, the media and popular culture would have excused such a sick Obamism as a quirky slip — in a way that it would not have if a Bob Dole had uttered the same banality and thereby supposedly revealed his poorly suppressed racist proclivities.

A second tenet of socially constructed racism and sexism is “white privilege,” which usually translates into “white male privilege,” given that women such as Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren are rarely accused of being multimillionaire white elite females who won a leg up by virtue of their skin color. But if whiteness ipso facto earns one advantages over the non-white, why in the world do some elite whites choose to reconstruct their identities as non-white? Would Elizabeth Warren really have become a Harvard law professor had she not, during her long years of academic ascent, identified herself (at least privately, on universities’ pedigree forms) as a Native American? Ward Churchill, with his beads and Indian get-up, won a university career that otherwise might have been scuttled by his mediocrity, his pathological untruths, and his aberrant behavior. Why would the current head of the NAACP in Spokane, Wash., a white middle-class woman named Rachel Dolezal, go to the trouble of faking a genealogy, using skin cosmetics and hair styling, and constructing false racist enemies to ensure that she was accepted as a victimized black woman?

Ms. Dolezal assumed that being a liberal black woman brought with it career opportunities in activist groups and academia otherwise beyond her reach. The obvious inference is that Ms. Dolezal assumed that being a liberal black woman brought with it career opportunities in activist groups and academia otherwise beyond her reach as a middle-class white female of so-so talent. Critics will object that we are really arguing in class terms as well as racial terms: Privileged whites play on society’s innate prejudices against darker-skinned minorities by positioning themselves as light-skinned, elite people of color. That is a Pandora’s box that is better left unopened — given that Harry Reid and Joe Biden have already unknowingly pried open the lid on these matters in ways that would transcend Barack Obama and equally apply, for example, to Eric Holder or Valerie Jarrett.

Suffice it to say that in our increasingly intermarried, assimilated, and integrated culture, it is often hard to ascertain someone’s exact race or ethnicity. That confusion allows identity to be massaged and reinvented. That said, it is also generally felt among elites that feigning minority status earns career advantages that outweigh the downside of being identified as non-white in the popular culture. That was certainly my impression as a professor for over 20 years in the California State University system watching dozens of upper-class Latin Americans — largely white male Argentinians, Chileans, and Brazilians — and Spaniards flock to American academia, add accents to their names, trill their R’s, and feign ethnic solidarity with their students who were of Oaxacan and Native American backgrounds.

Poor George Zimmerman. His last name stereotyped him as some sort of Germanic gun nut. But had he just ethnicized his maternal half-Afro Peruvian identity and reemerged as Jorgé Mesa, Zimmerman would have largely escaped charges of racism. He should have taken a cue from Barack Obama, who sometime in his late teens at Occidental College discovered that the exotic nomenclature of Barack Obama radiated a minority edge, in a way that the name of his alter ego, Barry Soetoro, apparently never quite had. If, in America’s racist past, majority culture once jealously protected its white privilege by one-drop-of-blood racial distinctions, postmodern America has now come full circle and done the same in reverse — because the construction of minority identity, in all its varying degrees, is easily possible and, in ironic fashion, now brings with it particular elite career advantages.

Third, when we look at questions of class, we see again that racism and sexism are largely leftist constructs and not empirical terms describing millions of Americans who are supposedly denied opportunity by the white establishment because of their gender or race. The CEOs in the industries of sexism and classism are for the most part wealthy and privileged — and their targets are usually of the middle class. When Michelle Obama labors to remind her young African-American audiences of all the stares and second looks she imagines she still receives as First Lady, she is reconstructing a racial identity to balance the enormous privilege she enjoys as a jumbo-jet-setting grandee who junkets to the world’s toniest resorts with regularity. The 2016 version of Hillary Clinton is, at least for a few months, a feminist populist, and has become so merely by mouthing a few banal talking points. Apparently the downside for Hillary of being a woman is not trumped by the facts of being a multimillionaire insider and former secretary of state, wife to a multimillionaire ex-president, mother of a multimillionaire, and mother-in-law to a multimillionaire hedge-fund director. Hillary can become a perpetual constructed victim, denied the good life that is enjoyed by a white male bus driver in Bakersfield making $40,000 a year.

Given the construction of race and gender, the children of Eric Holder and Barack Obama will be eligible for affirmative-action consideration out of reach for an 18-year-old white male in Provo, Utah. As a general rule, when advising classics majors who wished to apply to Ph.D. programs, I assumed that a white male needed a near-perfect GRE score and GPAs, to avoid being rejected out of hand as a middle-class so-so white man from Fresno State. (I reminded them that the “system” assumed their white privilege had given them advantages from preschool onward that the Ivy League and the University of California system now had to adjust for.) For my minority classics students, on the other hand, admission was rarely a problem, despite the fact that many were of a higher social class than their mostly rejected white counterparts.

Fourth, sexism and racism are abstractions of the liberal elite that rarely translate into praxis. Barack Obama could have done symbolic wonders for the public schools by taking his kids out of Sidwell Friends and putting them into the D.C. school system. Elizabeth Warren could have cemented her feminist populist fides by vowing to stop flipping houses. Feminist Bill Clinton could have renounced all affairs with female subordinates. Eric Holder could have vowed never to use government jets to take his kids to horse races. In solidarity with co-eds struggling with student loans, Hillary Clinton could have promised to limit her university speaking fees to a thousand dollars per minute rather than the ten thousand dollars for each 60 seconds of chatting that she actually gets, and she might have prefaced her public attacks on hedge funds by dressing down her son-in-law. Surely the lords of Silicon Valley might have promised to keep their kids in the public schools, and funded scholarships to allow minorities to flood Sacred Heart and the Menlo School.

Charges of racism and sexism have little to do with demonstrable racial and sexual prejudice on the part of a white-male establishment. They are relative, not absolute, phenomena, and more often constructed by political beliefs and careerist concerns than observed independently. Such concepts are often entirely divorced from class reality, and often have more to do with illiberal privilege than with actual exclusion.


Bavures policières: Attention, un racisme peut en cacher un autre ! (Police brutality: When all else fails, blame racism !)

6 juin, 2015
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Six-year-old Jake D. Robel dragged to death by carjacker Kim L. Davis (Missouri, 2000)
https://i2.wp.com/thereelnetwork.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/NATIONWIDE-BLACK-DEATHS.jpgCaesar Goddson, William G. Porter, Brian W. Rice, Edward M. Nero, Garrett E. Miller et Alicia D. White (Baltimore, May 2015)Il faut toujours dire ce que l’on voit. Surtout, il faut toujours, ce qui est plus difficile, voir ce que l’on voit. Charles Péguy
Savez-vous que les Noirs sont 10 pour cent de la population de Saint-Louis et sont responsables de 58% de ses crimes? Nous avons à faire face à cela. Et nous devons faire quelque chose au sujet de nos normes morales. Nous savons qu’il y a beaucoup de mauvaises choses dans le monde blanc, mais il y a aussi beaucoup de mauvaises choses dans le monde noir. Nous ne pouvons pas continuer à blâmer l’homme blanc. Il y a des choses que nous devons faire pour nous-mêmes. Martin Luther King (St Louis, 1961)
Je ne sais pas -n’ayant pas été là et ne connaissant pas tous les faits- quel rôle la race a pu jouer là-dedans, mais je pense qu’il est juste de dire, en premier lieu, que chacun d’entre nous serait assez en colère» (si cela lui arrivait). En second lieu, que la police de Cambridge a agi de façon stupide en arrêtant quelqu’un dès lors qu’il y avait déjà des preuves qu’il était dans sa propre maison. Barack Obama (2009)
Je ne peux qu’imaginer ce qu’endurent ses parents. Et quand je pense à ce garçon, je pense à mes propres enfants. Si j’avais un fils, il ressemblerait à Trayvon. Obama
Vous savez, quand Trayvon Martin a été tué, j’avais dit qu’il aurait pu être mon fils. Une autre manière de formuler les choses, c’est de dire que Trayvon Martin, ç’aurait pu être moi, il y a 35 ans. (…) Dans ce pays, il y a très peu d’hommes Américains d’origine africaine qui n’ont pas fait l’expérience d’être suivis quand ils faisaient des courses dans un grand magasin. Je l’ai été moi aussi. Il y a très peu d’Américains d’origine africaine qui n’ont pas fait l’expérience de prendre l’ascenseur et de voir une femme serrer son porte-monnaie nerveusement et retenir sa respiration jusqu’à ce qu’elle puisse sortir. Cela arrive souvent. Obama (2013)
When they described their own personal experiences of having been stopped for no reason, or having generated suspicion because they were in a community that supposedly they didn’t belong, my mind went back to what it was like for me when I was 17, 18, 20. And as I told them, not only do I hear the pain and frustration of being subjected to that kind of constant suspicion, but part of the reason I got into politics was to figure out how can I bridge some of those gaps in understanding so that the larger country understands this is not just a black problem or a brown problem. This is an American problem. Obama (2013)
We’re going to provide more to folks who are doing the right thing and we’re going to be investigating folks who are not doing the right thing. I think that becomes an important part of the leverage that we can exert. (…) But a combination of bad training, in some cases; a combination in some cases of departments that really are not trying to root out biases, or tolerate sloppy police work; a combination in some cases of folks just not knowing any better, and in a lot of cases, subconscious fear of folks who look different — all of this contributes to a national problem that’s going to require a national solution. Obama
There’s no doubt that there’s some folks who just really dislike me because they don’t like the idea of a black President. Now, the flip side of it is there are some black folks and maybe some white folks who really like me and give me the benefit of the doubt precisely because I’m a black President. Obama (2014)
J’espère qu’une femme hispanique avisée et forte d’une expérience riche prendrait, plus souvent que l’inverse, une meilleure décision qu’un juge blanc. Sonia Sotomayor (2001)
How do we turn pain into power? How do we go from a moment to a movement that curries favor? (…) The blood of the innocent has power.  Jesse Jackson
When you compare what people endured in the South in the 60s to try to get the right to vote for African Americans, and to compare what people were subjected to there to what happened in Philadelphia—which was inappropriate, certainly that…to describe it in those terms I think does a great disservice to people who put their lives on the line, who risked all, for my people. (…) To compare that kind of courage, that kind of action, and to say that the Black Panther incident wrong though it might be somehow is greater in magnitude or is of greater concern to us, historically, I think just flies in the face of history and the facts. Eric Holder (Attorney-General, 2008)
Nous avons également donné de l’espace à ceux qui voulaient détruire.  Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (maire de Baltimore)
But what about all the other young black murder victims? Nationally, nearly half of all murder victims are black. And the overwhelming majority of those black people are killed by other black people. Where is the march for them? Where is the march against the drug dealers who prey on young black people? Where is the march against bad schools, with their 50% dropout rate for black teenaged boys? Those failed schools are certainly guilty of creating the shameful 40% unemployment rate for black teens? How about marching against the cable television shows constantly offering minstrel-show images of black youth as rappers and comedians who don’t value education, dismiss the importance of marriage, and celebrate killing people, drug money and jailhouse fashion—the pants falling down because the jail guard has taken away the belt, the shoes untied because the warden removed the shoe laces, and accessories such as the drug dealer’s pit bull. (…) There is no fashion, no thug attitude that should be an invitation to murder. But these are the real murderous forces surrounding the Martin death—and yet they never stir protests. The race-baiters argue this case deserves special attention because it fits the mold of white-on-black violence that fills the history books. Some have drawn a comparison to the murder of Emmett Till, a black boy who was killed in 1955 by white racists for whistling at a white woman. (…) While civil rights leaders have raised their voices to speak out against this one tragedy, few if any will do the same about the larger tragedy of daily carnage that is black-on-black crime in America. (…) Almost one half of the nation’s murder victims that year were black and a majority of them were between the ages of 17 and 29. Black people accounted for 13% of the total U.S. population in 2005. Yet they were the victims of 49% of all the nation’s murders. And 93% of black murder victims were killed by other black people, according to the same report. (…) The killing of any child is a tragedy. But where are the protests regarding the larger problems facing black America? Juan Williams
The absurdity of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton is that they want to make a movement out of an anomaly. Black teenagers today are afraid of other black teenagers, not whites. … Trayvon’s sad fate clearly sent a quiver of perverse happiness all across America’s civil rights establishment, and throughout the mainstream media as well. His death was vindication of the ‘poetic truth’ that these establishments live by. Shelby Steele
Would Trayvon be alive today had he been walking home—Skittles and ice tea in hand—wearing a polo shirt with an alligator logo? Possibly. And does this make the ugly point that dark skin late at night needs to have its menace softened by some show of Waspy Americana? Possibly. (…) Before the 1960s the black American identity (though no one ever used the word) was based on our common humanity, on the idea that race was always an artificial and exploitive division between people. After the ’60s—in a society guilty for its long abuse of us—we took our historical victimization as the central theme of our group identity. We could not have made a worse mistake. It has given us a generation of ambulance-chasing leaders, and the illusion that our greatest power lies in the manipulation of white guilt. Shelby Steele
It’s often said that those who are unduly bothered by gays are latent homosexuals. Isn’t it possible that people obsessed with racism are themselves racist? Treating blacks like special-needs children, liberals bury them in ludicrously gushy praise.  (…) This isn’t a story about black people—it’s a story about the Left’s agenda to patronize blacks and lie to everyone else. Ann Coulter
For decades, the Left has been putting on a play with themselves as heroes in an ongoing civil rights move­ment—which they were mostly absent from at the time. Long after pervasive racial discrimination ended, they kept pretending America was being run by the Klan and that liberals were black America’s only protectors. It took the O. J. Simpson verdict—the race-based acquittal of a spectacularly guilty black celebrity as blacks across America erupted in cheers—to shut down the white guilt bank. But now, fewer than two decades later, our “pos­tracial” president has returned us to the pre-OJ era of nonstop racial posturing. A half-black, half-white Democrat, not descended from American slaves, has brought racial unrest back with a whoop. The Obama candidacy allowed liberals to engage in self-righteousness about race and get a hard-core Leftie in the White House at the same time. In 2008, we were told the only way for the nation to move past race was to elect him as president. And 53 percent of voters fell for it. Now, Ann Coulter fearlessly explains the real his­tory of race relations in this country, including how white liberals twist that history to spring the guilty, accuse the innocent, and engender racial hatreds, all in order to win politically. You’ll learn, for instance, how a U.S. congressman and a New York mayor con­spired to protect cop killers who ambushed four police officers in the Rev. Louis Farrakhan’s mosque, the entire Democratic elite, up to the Carter White House, coddled a black cult in San Francisco as hun­dreds of the cult members marched to their deaths in Guyana, New York City became a maelstrom of racial hatred, with black neighborhoods abandoned to crimi­nals who were ferociously defended by a press that assessed guilt on the basis of race, preposterous hoax hate crimes were always believed, never questioned. And when they turned out to be frauds the stories would simply disappear from the news, liberals quickly switched the focus of civil rights laws from the heirs of slavery and Jim Crow to white feminists, illegal immigrants, and gays, subway vigilante Bernhard Goetz was surprisingly popular in black neighborhoods, despite hysterical denunciations of him by the New York Times, liberals slander Republicans by endlessly repeating a bizarro-world history in which Democrats defended black America and Republicans appealed to segregationists. The truth has always been exactly the opposite. Going where few authors would dare, Coulter explores the racial demagoguery that has mugged America since the early seventies. She shines the light of truth on cases ranging from Tawana Brawley, Lemrick Nelson, and Howard Beach, NY, to the LA riots and the Duke lacrosse scandal. And she shows how the 2012 Obama campaign is going to inspire the greatest racial guilt mongering of all time. Présentation de « Mugged » (Ann Coulter)
« More whites are killed by the police than blacks primarily because whites outnumber blacks in the general population by more than five to one, » Forst said. The country is about 63 percent white and 12 percent black. (…) A 2002 study in the American Journal of Public Health found that the death rate due to legal intervention was more than three times higher for blacks than for whites in the period from 1988 to 1997. (…) Candace McCoy is a criminologist at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York. McCoy said blacks might be more likely to have a violent encounter with police because they are convicted of felonies at a higher rate than whites. Felonies include everything from violent crimes like murder and rape, to property crimes like burglary and embezzlement, to drug trafficking and gun offenses. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that in 2004, state courts had over 1 million felony convictions. Of those, 59 percent were committed by whites and 38 percent by blacks. But when you factor in the population of whites and blacks, the felony rates stand at 330 per 100,000 for whites and 1,178 per 100,000 for blacks. That’s more than a three-fold difference. McCoy noted that this has more to do with income than race. The felony rates for poor whites are similar to those of poor blacks. « Felony crime is highly correlated with poverty, and race continues to be highly correlated with poverty in the USA, » McCoy said. « It is the most difficult and searing problem in this whole mess. » PunditFact
It seems to me that the biggest challenge will involve changing America’s police culture. In Britain, and across Europe, police officers also spend a lot of time dealing with mental illness, drug use and the rest of it. But the number of deaths in custody per year across Britain is rarely more than handful. The annual number of people shot and killed by police has, in recent years, typically been zero. Some of this cannot be replicated: Britain is a small country with extremely tight gun-control laws and, as a result, extremely little gun crime. But some of it I think is the result of a better police culture. Since the early 1990s, when the Metropolitan Police in London was accused of being institutionally racist in an official inquiry, police services in Britain have become much more community-oriented. Problems remain, but cops increasingly do think of themselves as performing a social service. Not all of America’s 18,000 police forces suffer from the same problems, and there are certainly good examples of reform. Still, America’s police forces are largely made up of people who think of themselves as “a thin blue line (wand) ” against the bad guys. Only when that mentality changes will policing really be able to move past these scandals. The Economist
The reality of the job (…) is far less glamorous. (…) As crime has fallen across America since the 1990s, policing has shifted more towards social work than the drama seen on TV. Police culture, however, has not caught up. The gap may help to explain why American police are so embattled. (…) No one knows how many people die in contact with America’s roughly 18,000 law-enforcement agencies. The FBI publishes reports, but police forces are not required to submit data. The incomplete FBI figures show that at least 461 people died in “justifiable homicides” in 2013, an increase of 33% since 2005. Other sources suggest the true number could be as high as twice that. In Britain, by contrast, police shot and killed precisely no one in 2013. American police resort to violence more partly because they meet it more. (…) Twenty-six police officers were killed with guns in the line of duty in 2013, far more than in any other rich country. Yet fewer police officers are killed now than in the past, and the number who are shot is less than the number who die in traffic accidents. Over time, suggests Mr Bueermann, a justified alertness to danger may have warped into a belief that the swift use of force is the only thing keeping cops safe. (…) force is often used to subdue low-level offenders (…), not just dangerous people. And it is unclear that armed policing is the best way to deal with all problems. At least half of all Americans shot and killed by police each year are mentally ill, says a report from the Treatment Advocacy Centre and the National Sheriffs’ Association. Police officers also spend time dealing with drug addicts, domestic disputes and, increasingly, the enforcement of civil penalties against people who have not paid motoring fines or child support. Such people are not muggers or rapists, yet cops often treat everyone as a threat. What is the solution? Many cops are pessimistic: they feel they are scapegoated for social problems (…) But improvements are being made. Sue Rahr, the director of Washington state’s police academy, says that cops need to be taught how to talk to people again. “When you approach a situation like RoboCop, you’re going to create hostility that wasn’t there before”. Since 2012, the state’s training has emphasised that people can be persuaded to obey commands, not just forced to. Military-style drills have been ditched. (…) Sadly, as the Gainesville video shows, not every police force is catching on. And as Ms Rahr admits, if you try to recruit cops by telling them they are social workers, fewer may apply. At least part of the glamour of the job is the promise that you get the chance to use violence against bad people in a way that ordinary civilians never can, except in video games. The Economist
Six policiers de Baltimore, poursuivis pour la mort d’un jeune Noir en avril, ce qui avait provoqué des émeutes dans cette ville de l’est des Etats-Unis, ont été formellement inculpés, a annoncé jeudi la procureure du Maryland Marilyn Mosby. Le 1er mai, celle-ci avait annoncé, à la surprise générale, des poursuites pénales contre six policiers pour la mort de Freddie Gray le 19 avril, cinq jours après son arrestation musclée. Un grand jury a retenu presque tous les chefs d’accusation contre les policiers, trois Blancs et trois Noirs : Caesar Goddson, William G. Porter, Brian W. Rice, Edward M. Nero, Garrett E. Miller et Alicia D. White. Tous sont poursuivis pour meurtre, homicide involontaire, faute professionnelle, et le chef de mise en danger de la vie d’autrui a été ajouté, a précisé la procureure lors d’une conférence de presse. En revanche, les chefs de voie de fait et séquestration ont été retirés, détaille le «Baltimore Sun». Seul Caesar Goodson, un homme de 45 ans, entré dans la police de Baltimore en 1999, est poursuivi, en plus, pour meurtre résultant d’une action dangereuse pour autrui et sans se soucier de la vie humaine, ainsi que pour homicide involontaire, et défaut d’assistance. Paris Match
Après une nuit de heurts entre la population noire de Baltimore et les forces de police, la mort de Freddie Gray, jeune Noir de 25 ans, des suites de son arrestation le 12 avril dernier, continue de faire débat. En cause, sa blessure mortelle à la moelle épinière, causée par une fracture des vertèbres cervicales. Là où la police reconnaissait d’abord des négligences, l’hypothèse de violences volontaires – voire d’une pratique courante, les « rough rides » – est désormais évoquée. Une pratique particulièrement dangereuse qui consiste à placer les suspects à l’arrière des fourgons sans les attacher et à volontairement conduire de façon brutale. (…) Mais le Baltimore Sun, dans son édition du jeudi 23 avril, a mis en lumière un élément jusque-là ignoré par le reste de la presse : les « rough rides », qu’on pourrait littéralement traduire par « balades brutales ». L’article, titré « Freddie Gray n’est pas le premier à sortir d’un fourgon de la police de Baltimore avec de sérieuses blessures », décrit ce qui pourrait être une pratique plus ou moins courante des forces de police de la ville de la côte Est. Elle consiste à conduire volontairement de façon brutale le fourgon de police alors que l’interpellé est menotté et non attaché à l’arrière pour le « blesser ou le faire souffrir », comme le décrivait un ancien policier de Baltimore interrogé lors d’un procès en 2010. Le quotidien local cite plusieurs exemples, dont celui d’une libraire de 27 ans, qui poursuit aujourd’hui la ville pour des faits de ce type qu’elle aurait subis en 2012. « Ils s’arrêtaient violemment pour que je sois projetée contre le mur et ils prenaient des virages très larges, très vite. J’étais terrifiée. Vous vous sentez comme de la marchandise, vous ne vous sentez plus humain », explique Christine Abbott, qui a depuis été interrogée par CNN. Elle raconte comment elle a été jetée au sol lors d’une intervention à son domicile avant d’être « poussée dans le fourgon » menottée et avec sa robe déchirée, le tout pour une simple intervention pour tapage nocturne lors d’une soirée organisée chez elle. Et la pratique n’est ni nouvelle ni cantonnée à Baltimore. En octobre dernier, Fox News racontait l’histoire d’un Irlandais, James McKenna, de visite à Philadelphie en 2001, et victime à l’époque de ce qui s’appelle là-bas une « nickel ride ». Le nom fait référence aux montagnes russes (« ride ») qui coûtait 5 cents (soit un nickel, nom donné à la pièce de 5 cents) il y a plus de trente ans. En se heurtant très violemment la tête dans le fourgon après un « freinage brutal » des policiers, McKenna s’est notamment brisé trois vertèbres. L’Irlandais s’en est sorti sans infirmité permanente mais avec des plaques métalliques sur le front et dans le dos. Il a choisi d’attaquer la ville de Philadelphie et a obtenu le versement 490 000 dollars. Sept ans plus tôt, Gino Thompson devenait lui paralysé des membres inférieurs à vie après la même mésaventure aux mains de la police de Philadelphie en avril 1994 : un freinage brutal après de violentes accélérations à l’arrière d’un fourgon. Sa blessure ? Une lésion de la moelle épinière, tout comme Freddie Gray à Baltimore il y a deux semaines. Dans son cas, la ville avait concédé un paiement de 600 000 dollars pour mettre fin aux poursuites. Idem pour Calvin Saunders, qui a touché 1,2 million de dollars après avoir été lourdement blessé dans les mêmes circonstances en 1997, toujours à Philadelphie. Des blessures courantes à la moelle épinière donc, causées par la configuration des fourgons (des bancs particulièrement durs et étroits, sans ceinture de sécurité), la position de l’interpellé (mains menottées dans le dos) ainsi que par la conduite volontairement brutale des agents, détaillait en 2001 le Philadelphia Inquirer. Arrêt sur images
Le Parisien révélait la semaine dernière une affaire qui n’est pas sans rappeler la mort de Freddie Gray : dans la nuit du 5 au 6 mars à Paris, un Noir de 33 ans, Amadou Koumé, est mort « après son interpellation musclée ». Un décès « dans une enceinte de police [qui] n’avait jusqu’ici jamais été ébruité » et dont les circonstances ne sont encore que partiellement connues. « Selon les premiers éléments de l’enquête, Amadou a été interpellé le 6mars à 0h05 à proximité du secteur de la gare du Nord alors qu’il tenait des propos incohérents. «Quand les policiers ont voulu le menotter, il s’est débattu. Ils ont dû procéder à une manœuvre d’étranglement pour lui passer les menottes. A l’arrivée au commissariat à 0h25, ils se sont rendu compte qu’il était amorphe. Le Samu a tenté de le ranimer, en vain.» Le décès d’Amadou a été officiellement constaté à 2h30. » détaile simplement le quotidien.Une enquête a été ouverte par l’IGPN pour « homicide involontaire » et une plainte contre X déposée par la famille pour « violences volontaires ayant entraîné la mort sans intention de la donner et abstention de porter assistance à une personne en péril ».  Surtout, certains sites militants soulignent qu’Amadou Koumé a été victime d’une « manœuvre d’étranglement », au moment de l’interpellation, qui aurait entrainé sa mort. Comme pour le cas de Freddie Gray, cette mort met donc en lumière une pratique souvent méconnue : l’immobilisation par étranglement des suspects jugés dangereux ou agités. Une pratique dénoncée par La Ligue des Droits de l’Homme ou Amnesty International, qui depuis quinze ans demandent son interdiction, comme c’est déjà le cas en Suisse et en Belgique. Arrêt sur images
Recently an 18-year-old University of South Alabama student, Gil Collar, was shot and killed by a campus police officer. At the time of the shooting, the student was under the influence of LSD and exhibiting erratic behavior around the campus police station. (…) Jere Beasley, attorney for the Collar family, said about the shooting, “I can tell you without reservation nothing we saw in the videotape justified the use of deadly force in this case.” Sound familiar? The point is that while we may never know if deadly force was justified – where is Al Sharpton on this one? This was a black cop shooting an unarmed white teenager. Why aren’t predominantly white neighborhoods being set on fire right now? Why aren’t whites looting, rioting and flipping over cars? This incident, which eerily parallels in many ways that of the Mike Brown shooting, clearly and unequivocally shows that race-baiters like Sharpton, Holder and even Obama himself know exactly what they’re doing when it comes to pushing racial tensions over the edge. Conservative tribune
They’re focusing on race, this was never that. Lori Myles (Mobile County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman)

Attention: un racisme peut en cacher un autre !

Henry Louis Gates, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Baltimore

A l’heure où avec les violentes émeutes raciales de Baltimore du mois dernier, les Etats-Unis voire la France semblent pouvoir rebasculer à n’importe quel moment dans les étés longs et chauds des années 60 …

Et où, à grands coups de photos de victimes (de couleur comme il se doit), de bilans macabres et de « longues histoires de brutalités policières », nos médias comme nos responsables politiques multiplient les stigmatisations contre le « racisme »

Alors qu’après le triomphal référendum du « mariage pour tous » irlandais, nos médias se bousculent pour lancer la nouvelle émission de télé-réalité d’un ancien champion olympique transgenre …

Et que du côté d’Hollywood une comédie sur une femme frustrée de ne pas avoir les traits physiques de son « improbable héritage » multiracial se voit contrainte de s’excuser pour l’insupportable blancheur de son actrice …

Comment ne pas voir …

Avec l’exemple étrangement oublié de cet étudiant blanc abattu tout nu et donc parfaitement désarmé il y a trois ans par un policier noir de l’université d’Alabama …

Outre le fait, souvent oublié, qu’une bonne partie des policiers en question, dont la moitié des six inculpés pour la mort de Freddie Gray à Baltimore, sont noirs …

Et au-delà du problème spécifique du surarmement de la population et d’une communauté noire qui avec seulement 12% de la population concentre 27% de la pauvreté, 67% d’enfants nés de mères célibataires et est impliquée dans plus de la moitié des meurtres dont à peine 10% sont inter-raciaux …

L’évident problème d’équipement et de formation (notamment les techniques d’intimidation telles que les « rough rides » ou « transferts intentionnellement mouvementés » qui causèrent la mort de Freddie Gray), toutes ethnies confondues, comme le rappelait récemment The Economist, pour des forces de police de plus en plus vouées, loin de la violence célébrée à longueur de films et de séries télévisées, à jouer les assistantes sociales face à une délinquance de plus en réduite à des infractions du code de la route ou des affaires familiales par une part toujours plus grande de déficients mentaux ?

Mais surtout avec l’Administration d’un premier président postracial qui, après 20 ans de Jeremiah Wright, devait ramener l’harmonie raciale dans son pays mais n’a pas cessé en fait d’en attiser les flammes …

Le racisme à peine masqué de nos habituels chasseurs d’ambulances ?

Ferguson shooting, Gil Collar case radically different according to Mobile officials, race not a factor
Cassie Fambro
AL.com news
December 02, 201

MOBILE, Alabama– When the Mobile County Sheriff’s Department read the recent Washington Times’ article likening the 2012 shooting death of USA student Gilbert « Gil » Collar to the death of Mike Brown in Ferguson, they took issue with the comparison.

Collar, 18, was shot and killed on USA’s campus by officer Trevis Austin while naked and on what was later determined to be a synthetic drug.

The incident quickly divided the USA community but not anywhere to the extent that the shooting death of Brown divided the nation.

According to local officials, the two cases were handled radically differently, and the fundamentals were dissimilar.

« Communication was the key to it, » Sheriff Sam Cochran told AL.com.

Less than 12 hours after Collar was killed, USA held a press conference and issued a statement on the incident that had transpired.

« In any crisis situation, the University’s overarching communication philosophy is to be as open and transparent as possible with our University community and the public, » interim public relations director Bob Lowry said.

In addition to the press conference, then-PR-director Keith Ayers sent a mass email to students and staff about the incident.

News of the incident traveled internationally, with The Daily Mail, CNN, The Huffington Post and other major media reporting on the story.

A week later, Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran invited members of the media and even student media from the university to watch the surveillance tape of the shooting.

« In the Gil Collar case, the community was very concerned… they were asking if they should send their kids there, » said Cochran.

In response, the sheriff said he decided to take another step.

« We put out more information, we called the news media and we showed the video from the eyes of the officer, » he said.

Members of the media watched the tape twice and were able to report on what they saw. « I think the communication calmed people down, » Cochran said.

He believes that didn’t happen in Ferguson.

« For two months, police and the DA never put out information, » he said. « They didn’t say the officer was in a struggle. »

Mobile County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Lori Myles said that a strong relationship with the media is central to eliminating speculation.

« The media is going to publish information directly from the source, » said Myles.

She said that Ferguson would have benefited from at holding press conferences letting the media know what information they could from the beginning.

Myles added that one key element in the Ferguson case was absent.

« They’re focusing on race, this was never that, » she said of the USA shooting.

Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich said that overall, the Collar case was handled « more effectively » than Ferguson.

« We have an excellent relationship with law enforcement and the media in Mobile, » said Rich. « We felt that it was very important to make the media aware of what was going on and that didn’t allow for rampant speculation. »

Cochran said that by showing the video to the media, both sides of the story were told.

« Shootings are not as they appear on TV, » said Cochran. « They’re trained to shoot to stop. »

Rich also said that the Collar case has stuck with her.

« It was an extremely difficult case, » said Rich. « When I spoke with Gil’s mom and told her the results of the grand jury, it was one of the hardest days of my career as a district attorney, » she said.

The case is now used as an example when Rich speaks in Mobile County Schools to deter kids from trying drugs.

Voir aussi:

Unarmed White Teen Gunned Down by Black Cop… Where’s the Outrage?

Conservative tribune

Recently an 18-year-old University of South Alabama student, Gil Collar, was shot and killed by a campus police officer.

At the time of the shooting, the student was under the influence of LSD and exhibiting erratic behavior around the campus police station.

A two-minute video of the incident was played for the media by the Mobile County sheriff’s department.

A security camera mounted on the campus police station at the university and recorded most of the entire incident including the shooting. (H/T ReadyChimp)

Collar was seen acting “aggressively” in the short video, first walking up to the campus police station, pounding on the window and then walking away from it. He then walked back up to the station and again retreated.

At that point, black police officer Trevis Austin stepped outside from the station with his gun drawn and pointed at Collar, who reportedly had his “arms outstretched and palms open,” according to Austin.

The two then moved around the building, with Collar kneeling at one point and then standing back up and walking toward the officer. The officer had his firearm trained on the white student as he approached the officer.

They both moved into the yard and though the camera shot from that angle was partially blocked, it showed Collar dropping to the ground after having been shot once in the chest.

The entire incident played out within thirty seconds after Austin came out of the building.

Jere Beasley, attorney for the Collar family, said about the shooting, “I can tell you without reservation nothing we saw in the videotape justified the use of deadly force in this case.”

Sound familiar? The point is that while we may never know if deadly force was justified – where is Al Sharpton on this one?

This was a black cop shooting an unarmed white teenager. Why aren’t predominantly white neighborhoods being set on fire right now? Why aren’t whites looting, rioting and flipping over cars?

This incident, which eerily parallels in many ways that of the Mike Brown shooting, clearly and unequivocally shows that race-baiters like Sharpton, Holder and even Obama himself know exactly what they’re doing when it comes to pushing racial tensions over the edge.

Voir également:

Surveillance video shows naked Alabama student ‘high on LSD’ moments before he was shot dead as he chased campus police officer 
Video shows Gil Collar, 18, with his arms outstretched and palms open towards officer who shot him

Collar shot once in the chest on Saturday by security guard at University of South Alabama
Family and friends gathered at Wetumpka High School to pay respects in late night vigil yesterday

Authorities claim Collar took LSD at music festival and stripped off his clothes before assaulting two people in their vehicles
Footage shows ‘he knocked on campus police HQ and chased after officer’
Officer, named as Trevis Austin, did not have his baton or pepper spray
Sheriff: ‘Even if he did have these, he might have had to shoot him anyway’

Daily Mail Reporter

12 October 2012

Video of the fatal shooting of a naked Alabama college student shows him with his arms outstretched and his palms open seconds before a campus police officer fired.

The Mobile County Sheriff’s Department played the approximately two-minute security video for media Thursday. It was taken by a surveillance camera outside the University of South Alabama police station, where 18-year-old Gil Collar was fatally shot early Saturday morning. The video has no sound.

Police said Collar, 18, had taken the drug LSD and was acting aggressively, but an attorney for Collar’s family said the video shows his actions didn’t justify the shooting. Authorities declined to release a copy of the video.

On the tape, Collar walks slowly toward a campus police station door once and then walks away. Seconds later, he walks back to the station and pounds violently on a glass window.

He then walks away from the police station again before an officer, Trevis Austin, comes out with his gun drawn and pointed at the naked student. Collar approaches Austin with his arms outstretched and palms open toward Austin.

They move around the porch, with Collar kneeling at one point, then getting to his feet and again walking toward Austin. The officer keeps backing away from Collar, his gun pointed at the student, as Collar approaches.

The two move into the yard, where the view of the camera is partially blocked by the porch columns and lighting. Less than 30 seconds after Austin came out of the building, the video shows Collar falling after having been shot.

The former high school wrestler was struck once in the chest.

The police dispatcher can be seen opening the station’s front door in response to the sound of gunfire. A second officer arrives just as Collar is being shot. Collar gets up twice and the officers pursue him.

Sheriff Sam Cochran said two officers handcuffed Collar to subdue him after he was shot, but that could not be clearly seen on the video. A second backup officer arrived just as the two-minute video ended.

‘In my opinion it was proper to come out with the gun,’ Cochran said.

He said numerous police officers have been killed with their own weapons and that it is important for an officer to make sure a suspect isn’t able to take control of a weapon. Collar did not touch Austin, but Austin got as close as five feet to the pointed gun before Austin fired.

The 18-year-old allegedly took LSD at an outdoor music festival before assaulting two people in vehicles and trying to bite a woman’s arm.

The University of South Alabama freshman then went to the campus police headquarters, where he was allegedly shot by Austin.
Around 500 people gathered Tuesday night at Wetumpka High School, where Collar graduated from earlier this year, to hold a vigil in his memory.

The crowd included students, wrestling teammates and people of all ages from the community.

His parents also attended the memorial where speaker after speaker remembered Collar as a young man with a great sense of humor and a great love of life.Meanwhile Austin, who has been an officer for four years, is on leave while investigators look into the death.

He had come outside the police headquarters when he heard Collar banging on its door, Cochran said.

Surveillance footage showed Collar naked and covered in sweat as he chased the officer for more than 50 feet, Fox News reported.

When the student got within five feet of the officer, Austin, who was not armed with pepper spray or a baton, as is required of campus officers, shot once and struck him in the chest.

Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran said at a news conference: ‘Had the officer had a Taser or some other less lethal instrument I don’t know if that officer would have had an opportunity to shoulder his pistol and to use something else because the events were evolving so rapidly and he was approaching so close.’

He added that he had been extremely concerned when first hearing about the shooting, but understood why the officer had chosen to open fire after watching the video.

The authorities will not be releasing the footage publicly, he added.

Investigators are now looking into who gave Collar the LSD and could charged them with murder. Cochran revealed that people at the concert with the teenager had told them about his drug use.

LSD, which is also known as acid, can cause anxiety, paranoia, psychotic behavior and an inability to recognise danger, effects which typically last for around 12 hours.

The revelations come after Collar’s mother, Bonnie Smith Collar, said the surveillance video shows that her son never came into physical contact with the officer.

Acquaintances had said that Collar appeared to be intoxicated as he took his clothes off, ran through the streets, screamed obscenities and claimed he was on a ‘spiritual quest’ before he was killed.

ANXIETY, PANIC AND PSYCHOTIC BEHAVIOUR: THE DANGERS OF LSD

LSD, is a semisynthetic psychedelic drug also known as acid. It is usually added to absorbent paper, such as blotter paper, divided into small squares and taken orally.

The effects of LSD are unpredictable and depend on the amount taken, the user’s personality and mood, and the surroundings in which the drug is used.

It can cause anxiety, panic, paranoia, psychotic behavior and an inability to recognize danger. If taken in a large enough dose, the drug produces delusions and visual hallucinations.

Physical effects include dilated pupils, higher body temperature, increased heart rate and blood pressure, sweating, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, dry mouth, and tremors.

The effects of LSD last for hours, typically clearly after 12 hours.
‘Whatever caused the incident was something that made him act not in his normal personality,’ she said.

Mrs Collar said she had no idea why her son would be acting erratically as described and that the slight yet strong boy had never posed a threat before.

‘The first thing on my mind is, freshman kids do stupid things,’ she said. ‘Campus police should be equipped to handle activity like that without having to use lethal force.’

The attorney for the student’s family, Jere Beasley, said earlier Thursday that the shooting was not justified.

‘I can tell you without reservation nothing we saw in the videotape justified the use of deadly force in this case,’ he said.

Beasley said his chief investigator and one of his lawyers, a former police officer, were shown the tape Wednesday by the Mobile County Sheriff’s Department.

The video shows the five-foot-seven, 140-pound student never got closer to the officer than four feet and didn’t try to grab his weapon, Beasley contended. The lawyer said the video also shows the officer didn’t wait for backup to arrive before coming out of the station.

‘I have seen nothing to indicate to me that you ought to go out there with a raised gun against a guy who’s buck naked, unarmed and in distress,’ he said.

Beasley said the officer was not carrying a baton or pepper spray, even though university officials have said officers typically carry both in addition to a gun.

Forensic scientists have not completed a toxicology report on drug use, he added.

‘The fact that he came to the police station indicates that he was not necessarily looking for trouble. In fact, I think he was looking for help,’ Beasley said.

Collar’s parents, Reed and Bonnie Collar, accompanied Beasley to the news conference, but did not comment. They sat in chairs, holding hands, bowing their heads and nodding occasionally.

Probe: Austin, an officer for four years, has been placed on leave while an investigation continues

Beasley said they have been praying for the officer, but hold the university accountable for training its officers properly.

Beasley said his law firm will complete its investigation before the family makes a decision about whether to sue the university, but the family’s ultimate goal is to make sure policies are in place to prevent the same thing from happening to another student.

Cochran said that investigators are working to determine who supplied Collar with the LSD and that that person could be arrested in connection with his death.

Collar grew up in the rural outskirts of Wetumpka, about 20 miles north of Montgomery. Brandon Ross, a sophomore at Jacksonville State University, said Collar moved to the neighborhood as an eight-year-old.

‘I was the first person he met on the bus, and we’ve been friends ever since,’ he said. ‘He was the kid everybody liked.’

‘It’s completely opposite of the way he was,’ said South Alabama student Chandler Wescovich of Long Beach, Miss., who became friends with Collar during his short time on campus.

Others agreed the actions were out of character for the normally quiet and reserved Collar, whom friends described as a popular and good-looking high school wrestler.

Collar wasn’t known as a troublemaker and had only two minor scrapes with the law, according to court records: a speeding ticket and a citation for being a minor in possession of three cigarettes in March. He paid a $25 fine for the tobacco possession.

He was also so good-looking that his teammates didn’t like standing next to him in team photos.

‘The girls thought he was the best thing they had ever seen, and they may have been right,’ Glass said.

On the Facebook page for the Vanguard, the school’s student newspaper, Collar’s friends and classmates expressed confusion that the officer felt the need to use deadly force on the young man.
‘Gil went to my high school’ wrote Melissa Mims, who said she was a good friend of Collar’s sister Elisabeth and the rest of his family.
‘Gil was the kind of guy who could put a smile on anyone’s face, he never had any enemies and a lot of students and younger kids looked up to him. He really was a great guy and had very many friends.’

Friend Lucas Self described Collar as an easy going person, small enough deadly force should not have been required.

‘Gil made a mistake but it is still an officers duty to resolve a situation as peacefully as he can’ Self wrote. ‘I think this situation was handled wrong by the officer but they aren’t going to let any one believe that.’

Collar’s funeral is scheduled for 4pm Saturday at Mulder Memorial United Methodist Church in his hometown of Wetumpka.

Voir encore:

Mort de Freddie Gray

Les six policiers inculpés

M.D

Le six policiers poursuivis pour la mort du jeune Freddie Gray, le mois dernier à Baltimore (Maryland), ont été formellement inculpés, a annoncé la procureure Marilyn Mosby. Ils comparaîtront de nouveau le 2 juillet, date à laquelle ils choisiront de plaider coupable ou non coupable.

Six policiers de Baltimore, poursuivis pour la mort d’un jeune Noir en avril, ce qui avait provoqué des émeutes dans cette ville de l’est des Etats-Unis, ont été formellement inculpés, a annoncé jeudi la procureure du Maryland Marilyn Mosby. Le 1er mai, celle-ci avait annoncé, à la surprise générale, des poursuites pénales contre six policiers pour la mort de Freddie Gray le 19 avril, cinq jours après son arrestation musclée.

Un grand jury a retenu presque tous les chefs d’accusation contre les policiers, trois Blancs et trois Noirs : Caesar Goddson, William G. Porter, Brian W. Rice, Edward M. Nero, Garrett E. Miller et Alicia D. White. Tous sont poursuivis pour meurtre, homicide involontaire, faute professionnelle, et le chef de mise en danger de la vie d’autrui a été ajouté, a précisé la procureure lors d’une conférence de presse. En revanche, les chefs de voie de fait et séquestration ont été retirés, détaille le «Baltimore Sun». Seul Caesar Goodson, un homme de 45 ans, entré dans la police de Baltimore en 1999, est poursuivi, en plus, pour meurtre résultant d’une action dangereuse pour autrui et sans se soucier de la vie humaine, ainsi que pour homicide involontaire, et défaut d’assistance.

Prochaine comparution le 2 juillet

«Maintenant que le grand jury a aussi trouvé une cause probable d’inculper les policiers susmentionnés sur la base des éléments présentés, ces policiers, qui sont présumés innocents jusqu’à ce que leur culpabilité soit prouvée, sont assignés à comparaître le 2 juillet», a ajouté Marilyn Mosby. Ils décideront alors de plaider coupable ou non coupable.

Le jeune homme de 25 ans est décédé des suites d’une blessure aux vertèbres cervicales lors de son transport sans ceinture, pieds et mains liés à plat ventre dans un fourgon de police. Les motifs de son interpellation sont encore obscurs : d’après le récit des policiers, il se serait simplement mis à courir à la vue de policiers, qui l’ont trouvé en possession d’un couteau. Mais d’après Marilyn Mosby, la possession de couteau n’est pas illégale dans l’Etat, aussi l’arrestation était en elle-même illégale. La police de Baltimore a reconnu fin avril avoir commis des erreurs. Le suspect aurait notamment dû recevoir une assistance médicale aussitôt après son arrestation, et non trois quart d’heures après, comme cela a été le cas –à son arrivée au poste de police, inconscient. Au moment de son décès, 80% de sa colonne vertébrale était sectionnée à la hauteur des cervicales, selon les avocats de la famille.

Depuis les révoltes de Ferguson en août dernier et de New York en décembre suite à des faits comparables (la mort des jeunes Afro-Américains Michael Brown et de Eric Garner tués par les forces de l’ordre), c’est la première fois que des policiers se retrouvent sur le banc des accusés.

Voir de plus:

Young Boy Dies In Carjacking

CBS

February 23, 2000

A six-year-old child was dragged for about four miles when his mother’s car was carjacked Tuesday, reports CBS affiliate KCTV.

Motorists watched in horror as the stolen vehicle sped down a highway, dragging to death the little boy who was entangled in a seat belt outside one of the doors.

Six-year-old Jake D. Robel of Blue Springs died Tuesday before the driver of the Chevrolet Blazer could be stopped by pursuing motorists. Witnesses said the chase reached speeds of 80 mph.

« Witnesses stated that they heard the juvenile victim screaming for his mother to help him, » Detective Michael Skaggs said in a statement Wednesday.

« He came flying around us and we saw the kid hanging out the side of the car bouncing, » said Fred Byam, who chased the Blazer. « I was honking my horn and flashing my lights. »

Kim L. Davis, 34, of Kansas City, Mo., was charged Wednesday morning with second-degree murder, robbery, child abuse and kidnapping.

Police said Davis took the vehicle when Jake’s mother left it running while she went inside a sandwich shop. The man tried to shove the boy out of the car, and « probably thought he’d gotten the kid out, because then he took off, » Sgt. Gregg Wilkinson said.

Mother Christy Robel opened the back door to try to get her son out, the police statement said. At that point, the driver looked over his shoulder and in the rear of the vehicle.

« As he was fleeing the area, the victim was trapped against the vehicle by the seat belt as the rear door had closed, making it impossible for him to get away from the vehicle, » Skaggs said in the statement.

Prosecutor Robert Beaird would not comment Wednesday about whether the man knew the child was being dragged. Asked if the murder charge might be upgraded to a first-degree charge, he said the case would be reviewed for the grand jury to determine if the evidence rises to that level.

Beaird fought back tears when he told about talking to the child’s family just before his news conference. « It’s pretty hard to talk to the family, » he said, stopping to regain control.

Sharon Irwin watched as the suspect drove off in the stolen car.

« I turned my head and seen something dragging along the righthand side of the car, » she said. « People was honking and hollering at him to stop and he just kept going. »

The chase finally was stopped when motorists in two trucks and a car surrounded the 1991 Blazer at a stoplight.

The man got out of the stolen vehicle, saw the boy’s body and mumbled « something like `I didn’t do that,' » said Brad Byam, one of two brothers who pursued the Blazer in their truck.

Witnesses said the motorists wrestled the man to the ground and waited for police to arrive; they also tied the man’s legs with a rope.

« He was going to leave; he was going to run off, » said John Rodgers. « They sat on him and held him until police got there. There was a woman trying to beat hi, and they held her off until police arrived. »

Beaird said the people who stopped the vehicle are seen as heroes. « They saw something that had to be stopped and they stopped it, » he said.

An 11-year-old boy from one of the pursuing vehicles later took a blanket and placed it over the victim, whose clothes had been mostly torn off.

Wednesday, a four-foot cross with flowers and a stuffed baby lamb stood at the corner where the chase ended.

Voir de plus:

Baltimore : la presse (re) découvre les « balades » mortelles de la police

Et en France ? Etranglement policier à Paris révélé tardivement

Vincent Coquaz

Arrêt sur images

28/04/2015

Négligences policières ou violences volontaires ? Après une nuit de heurts entre la population noire de Baltimore et les forces de police, la mort de Freddie Gray, jeune Noir de 25 ans, des suites de son arrestation le 12 avril dernier, continue de faire débat. En cause, sa blessure mortelle à la moelle épinière, causée par une fracture des vertèbres cervicales. Là où la police reconnaissait d’abord des négligences, l’hypothèse de violences volontaires – voire d’une pratique courante, les « rough rides » – est désormais évoquée. Une pratique particulièrement dangereuse qui consiste à placer les suspects à l’arrière des fourgons sans les attacher et à volontairement conduire de façon brutale.

« La police a pu ne pas respecter la règle sur les ceintures de sécurité« , titrait Fox News le 23 avril dernier, à propos de la mort de Freddie Gray. Ce jeune Noir de Baltimore a été victime d’une fracture des vertèbres cervicales à la suite de son arrestation le 12 avril dernier, pour possession d’un couteau à cran d’arrêt, après une poursuite à pied. Dans le coma pendant une semaine, il est mort de ses blessures le 19 avril. Il était âgé de 25 ans.

Dès lors, la plupart des questions sur sa mort se focalisent sur le trajet dans le fourgon de police qui a suivi son arrestation, puisqu’il a été hospitalisé immédiatement après, alors qu’il ne pouvait plus « parler ni respirer » selon la police. Les différents communiqués de la police de Baltimore semblaient en effet admettre plusieurs négligences à propos du transport de Freddie Gray. Dans un premier temps, la police a indiqué avoir « enfreint » les règles sur la ceinture de sécurité à l’arrière du fourgon, puis admis qu’elle « n’avait pas d’excuse » pour n’avoir pas prodigué des soins à Gray à temps.

Mais le Baltimore Sun, dans son édition du jeudi 23 avril, a mis en lumière un élément jusque-là ignoré par le reste de la presse : les « rough rides », qu’on pourrait littéralement traduire par « balades brutales« . L’article, titré « Freddie Gray n’est pas le premier à sortir d’un fourgon de la police de Baltimore avec de sérieuses blessures« , décrit ce qui pourrait être une pratique plus ou moins courante des forces de police de la ville de la côte Est. Elle consiste à conduire volontairement de façon brutale le fourgon de police alors que l’interpellé est menotté et non attaché à l’arrière pour le « blesser ou le faire souffrir« , comme le décrivait un ancien policier de Baltimore interrogé lors d’un procès en 2010.

Le quotidien local cite plusieurs exemples, dont celui d’une libraire de 27 ans, qui poursuit aujourd’hui la ville pour des faits de ce type qu’elle aurait subis en 2012. « Ils s’arrêtaient violemment pour que je sois projetée contre le mur et ils prenaient des virages très larges, très vite. J’étais terrifiée. Vous vous sentez comme de la marchandise, vous ne vous sentez plus humain« , explique Christine Abbott, qui a depuis été interrogée par CNN. Elle raconte comment elle a été jetée au sol lors d’une intervention à son domicile avant d’être « poussée dans le fourgon » menottée et avec sa robe déchirée, le tout pour une simple intervention pour tapage nocturne lors d’une soirée organisée chez elle.

Les « nickel rides » de la police de Philadelphie

Et la pratique n’est ni nouvelle ni cantonnée à Baltimore. En octobre dernier, Fox News racontait l’histoire d’un Irlandais, James McKenna, de visite à Philadelphie en 2001, et victime à l’époque de ce qui s’appelle là-bas une « nickel ride« . Le nom fait référence aux montagnes russes (« ride ») qui coûtait 5 cents (soit un nickel, nom donné à la pièce de 5 cents) il y a plus de trente ans. En se heurtant très violemment la tête dans le fourgon après un « freinage brutal » des policiers, McKenna s’est notamment brisé trois vertèbres. L’Irlandais s’en est sorti sans infirmité permanente mais avec des plaques métalliques sur le front et dans le dos. Il a choisi d’attaquer la ville de Philadelphie et a obtenu le versement 490 000 dollars.

 

Sept ans plus tôt, Gino Thompson devenait lui paralysé des membres inférieurs à vie après la même mésaventure aux mains de la police de Philadelphie en avril 1994 : un freinage brutal après de violentes accélérations à l’arrière d’un fourgon. Sa blessure ? Une lésion de la moelle épinière, tout comme Freddie Gray à Baltimore il y a deux semaines. Dans son cas, la ville avait concédé un paiement de 600 000 dollars pour mettre fin aux poursuites. Idem pour Calvin Saunders, qui a touché 1,2 million de dollars après avoir été lourdement blessé dans les mêmes circonstances en 1997, toujours à Philadelphie.

Des blessures courantes à la moelle épinière donc, causées par la configuration des fourgons (des bancs particulièrement durs et étroits, sans ceinture de sécurité), la position de l’interpellé (mains menottées dans le dos) ainsi que par la conduite volontairement brutale des agents, détaillait en 2001 le Philadelphia Inquirer.

Face à la multiplication des exemples repris depuis quelques jours par la presse, comme sur Buzzfeed par exemple qui note que le premier procès remonte à 1985, le mot-clé #RoughRide est désormais utilisé pour dénoncer cette pratique sur Twitter :

De nombreux tweets dénoncent la pratique du « Rough Ride » et décrivent par exemple l’intérieur des fourgons de police

Freddie Gray était-il blessé avant de rentrer dans le fourgon ?

Problème : certains utilisateurs de Twitter s’inquiètent de cette nouvelle attention portée aux « rough rides« , qui cacherait selon eux les véritables raisons de la mort du jeune homme. « Tout ça détourne l’attention de ce qui est arrivé à Fred avant qu’il soit mis dans le fourgon« , estime ainsi un Twittos du nom de Michael Seif. Dans les réponses à son tweet, plusieurs soulignent en effet que les vidéos de l’arrestation suggèrent que Gray n’était déjà plus capable de marcher avant même d’entrer dans le véhicule de police, et que le trajet aurait pu « seulement » aggraver son état.

Sur les différentes vidéos de l’arrestation, on peut en effet entendre Gray hurler, vraisemblablement de douleur. Surtout, plusieurs témoins de la scène indiquent que Gray était incapable de marcher. « Ses jambes ! Regardez sa jambe, elle a l’air cassée ! Vous le traînez comme ça alors que sa jambe est cassée » crie une passante qui filme la scène. Sur une autre vidéo, un témoin lance « pas étonnant qu’il ne puisse plus utiliser ses jambes, vu comme vous avez utilisé vos Taser« .

Un autre témoin de la scène décrit par ailleurs Freddie Gray comme « plié comme un origami » lorsqu’il était maintenu au sol par les policiers. Il précise d’ailleurs qu’un des policiers « avait son genou sur la nuque » de Gray, précisément à l’endroit de sa blessure mortelle.

Et en France ?

Le Parisien révélait la semaine dernière une affaire qui n’est pas sans rappeler la mort de Freddie Gray : dans la nuit du 5 au 6 mars à Paris, un Noir de 33 ans, Amadou Koumé, est mort « après son interpellation musclée« . Un décès « dans une enceinte de police [qui] n’avait jusqu’ici jamais été ébruité » et dont les circonstances ne sont encore que partiellement connues. « Selon les premiers éléments de l’enquête, Amadou a été interpellé le 6mars à 0h05 à proximité du secteur de la gare du Nord alors qu’il tenait des propos incohérents. «Quand les policiers ont voulu le menotter, il s’est débattu. Ils ont dû procéder à une manœuvre d’étranglement pour lui passer les menottes. A l’arrivée au commissariat à 0h25, ils se sont rendu compte qu’il était amorphe. Le Samu a tenté de le ranimer, en vain.» Le décès d’Amadou a été officiellement constaté à 2h30. » détaile simplement le quotidien.
Une enquête a été ouverte par l’IGPN pour « homicide involontaire » et une plainte contre X déposée par la famille pour « violences volontaires ayant entraîné la mort sans intention de la donner et abstention de porter assistance à une personne en péril« .

Surtout, certains sites militants soulignent qu’Amadou Koumé a été victime d’une « manœuvre d’étranglement« , au moment de l’interpellation, qui aurait entrainé sa mort. Comme pour le cas de Freddie Gray, cette mort met donc en lumière une pratique souvent méconnue : l’immobilisation par étranglement des suspects jugés dangereux ou agités. Une pratique dénoncée par La Ligue des Droits de l’Homme ou Amnesty International, qui depuis quinze ans demandent son interdiction, comme c’est déjà le cas en Suisse et en Belgique.

 Voir encore:

Cécile Bourgneuf

Libération

31 mai 2015

Selon une enquête du «Washington Post», au moins 385 personnes ont été abattues depuis le début de l’année par les forces de l’ordre. Les deux tiers des victimes non armées sont noires ou hispaniques.

Rapports de police, interviews, articles des journaux locaux… Le Washington Post a publié ce week-end une vaste enquête sur les fusillades qui ont éclaté aux Etats Unis en 2015 entre la police et les citoyens. Conclusion : la police américaine a tué au moins 385 personnes depuis le mois de janvier soit, en moyenne, plus de deux personnes par jour.

Ce chiffre est bien plus élevé que celui fourni par les données fédérales officielles puisque les 18 000 agences de police d’Etats ou locales ne sont pas tenues de publier les statistiques sur ce type d’homicides. «Ces homicides sont largement sous évalués», affirme au journal Jim Bueermann, ancien chef de police aujourd’hui à la tête d’une ONG qui cherche à améliorer l’application des lois. «Nous ne réduirons pas le nombre d’homicides par la police si nous ne commençons pas par collecter correctement ces informations.»

C’est donc ce qu’a fait le Washington Post en épluchant tous les détails concernant les victimes, âgées de 16 à 83 ans, abattues par la police : étaient-elles armées ou non ? Dans quelles circonstances sont-elles décédées et quelles sont leurs origines ?

Noirs, pauvres et malades mentaux, bien plus victimes des tirs de policiers

Conclusion : selon le journal, la moitié des victimes de tirs policiers en 2015 sont des Blancs et l’autre moitié est issue des diverses minorités du pays. Parmi les victimes non armées abattues par la police, les deux tiers sont des Noirs ou des Hispaniques. La plupart des victimes sont pauvres, souvent connues des services de police pour des faits mineurs et souffrent souvent de problèmes psychologiques. Dans la moitié des cas, la police est intervenue pour répondre à un appel d’urgence : un SDF instable, un jeune qui tente de se suicider ou un ami menacé de violences. Près d’un quart des personnes tuées souffraient d’une maladie mentale.

Le Post raconte par exemple qu’une mère a un jour appelé la police en Floride parce que son fils, schizophrène, voulait rester dehors en caleçon en plein hiver. Il agitait un manche à balai quand les forces de l’ordre sont arrivées. Après avoir tenté de l’étourdir au moyen d’un taser, la police lui a tiré dessus. Ces homicides sont donc souvent le fruit d’altercations au départ mineures entre la police et des citoyens, explique le Washington Post.

Dans 16% des cas, les victimes n’étaient pas armées

Dans 16% des cas, les victimes ne sont pas armées ou portent un faux pistolet. Souvent, elles sont en train de fuir les forces de l’ordre quand elles sont abattues. Pourtant, un policier n’est autorisé à faire usage de son arme que lorsque sa vie, ou celle d’autrui, est en danger, souligne le Post. Or, sur les 385 cas mortels relevés par le journal, trois seulement ont donné lieu à des poursuites contre le policier auteur des tirs. Le Washington Post avait déjà révélé, dans une enquête réalisée en avril dernier, qu’en dix ans, seuls 54 policiers américains avaient été poursuivis pour homicide dans l’exercice de leur fonction, pour des milliers de morts.

Lorsque l’affaire passe en justice, il y a, dans la plupart des cas, un témoignage à charge, un tir dans le dos, une suspicion de maquillage d’une bavure ou une vidéo de l’incident. Comme c’est le cas de Michael Slager qui a abattu en avril dernier un homme noir en lui tirant dans le dos. Ces vidéos choc jouent de plus en plus un rôle crucial dans les affaires de violences policières. Malgré tout, Michael Slager ne sera peut-être jamais condamné puisque sur les 54 policiers poursuivis en dix ans, seuls onze agents ont été condamnés, révèle le Washington Post. Bien souvent, l’enquête de police conclut à la légitime défense.

Le Washington Post publie cette enquête au moment où le pays est secoué par un débat très vif sur le niveau des violences policières, notamment à l’encontre des communautés noire et latino. Des émeutes urbaines avaient éclaté après la mort en août 2014 de Michael Brown, un Noir de 18 ans, sous les balles de la police, à Ferguson, dans le Missouri.

Une affaire de bavure policière qui a marqué le pays. Depuis, la Maison Blanche a récemment rendu son rapport pour réformer les pratiques de la police. Elle préconise notamment de rapprocher les forces de l’ordre des minorités ou d’équiper les policiers de caméra embarquées. Et cela dans un contexte encore très tendu puisque d’autres manifestations ont éclaté dans le pays après la mort d’un jeune Noir interpellé par la police à Baltimore.

Selon le Post, le gouvernement fédéral devrait déjà systématiquement «analyser les tirs de la police». Aujourd’hui, le FBI ne recueille les données des personnes tuées par la police que sur la base du volontariat. Les départements de police ne sont pas obligés de les mettre à jour. «Nous voulons faire notre possible pour ne pas ôter la vie de quelqu’un, même dans les pires circonstances», explique le chef de la police d’Oklahoma City au Washington Post, tout en ajoutant que «certaines fusillades sont inévitables». Mais la police de cette ville a déjà tué quatre personnes depuis le début de l’année, dont un homme de 83 ans.

 Voir de plus:

Fatal police shootings in 2015 approaching 400 nationwide
Kimberly Kindy, and reported by Julie Tate, Jennifer Jenkins, Steven Rich, Keith L. Alexander and Wesley Lowery

The Washington Post

May 30 2015

A rosary is draped over a portrait of 17-year-old Jessie Hernandez. The teen, who was killed by Denver police officers in January as she and friends allegedly tried to run them down in a stolen car, is among eight people younger than 18 who have been fatally shot by police this year. (David Zalubowski/Associated Press)

In an alley in Denver, police gunned down a 17-year-old girl joyriding in a stolen car. In the backwoods of North Carolina, police opened fire on a gun-wielding moonshiner. And in a high-rise apartment in Birmingham, Ala., police shot an elderly man after his son asked them to make sure he was okay. Douglas Harris, 77, answered the door with a gun.

The three are among at least 385 people shot and killed by police nationwide during the first five months of this year, more than two a day, according to a Washington Post analysis. That is more than twice the rate of fatal police shootings tallied by the federal government over the past decade, a count that officials concede is incomplete.

“These shootings are grossly under­reported,” said Jim Bueermann, a former police chief and president of the Washington-based Police Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving law enforcement. “We are never going to reduce the number of police shootings if we don’t begin to accurately track this information.”

A national debate is raging about police use of deadly force, especially against minorities. To understand why and how often these shootings occur, The Washington Post is compiling a database of every fatal shooting by police in 2015, as well as of every officer killed by gunfire in the line of duty. The Post looked exclusively at shootings, not killings by other means, such as stun guns and deaths in police custody.

Using interviews, police reports, local news accounts and other sources, The Post tracked more than a dozen details about each killing through Friday, including the victim’s race, whether the person was armed and the circumstances that led to the fatal encounter. The result is an unprecedented examination of these shootings, many of which began as minor incidents and suddenly escalated into violence.

Among The Post’s findings:

●About half the victims were white, half minority. But the demographics shifted sharply among the unarmed victims, two-thirds of whom were black or Hispanic. Overall, blacks were killed at three times the rate of whites or other minorities when adjusting by the population of the census tracts where the shootings occurred.

●The vast majority of victims — more than 80 percent — were armed with potentially lethal objects, primarily guns, but also knives, machetes, revving vehicles and, in one case, a nail gun.

●Forty-nine people had no weapon, while the guns wielded by 13 others turned out to be toys. In all, 16 percent were either carrying a toy or were unarmed.

●The dead ranged in age from 16 to 83. Eight were children younger than 18, including Jessie Hernandez, 17, who was shot three times by Denver police officers as she and a carload of friends allegedly tried to run them down.

The Post analysis also sheds light on the situations that most commonly gave rise to fatal shootings. About half of the time, police were responding to people seeking help with domestic disturbances and other complex social situations: A homeless person behaving erratically. A boyfriend threatening violence. A son trying to kill himself.

Ninety-two victims — nearly a quarter of those killed — were identified by police or family members as mentally ill.

In Miami Gardens, Fla., Catherine Daniels called 911 when she couldn’t persuade her son, Lavall Hall, a 25-year-old black man, to come in out of the cold early one morning in February. A diagnosed schizophrenic who stood 5-foot-4 and weighed barely 120 pounds, Hall was wearing boxer shorts and an undershirt and waving a broomstick when police arrived. They tried to stun him with a Taser gun and then shot him.
Fatal police shooting in Miami Gardens, Fla.(1:38)
Dashboard camera video of a Miami Gardens Police Department officer-involved shooting on Feb. 15, 2015. Editor’s note: This video contains explicit language. (Miami Gardens Police Department via Goldberg & Rosen)

The other half of shootings involved non-domestic crimes, such as robberies, or the routine duties that occupy patrol officers, such as serving warrants.

Nicholas T. Thomas, a 23-year-old black man, was killed in March when police in Smyrna, Ga., tried to serve him with a warrant for failing to pay $170 in felony probation fees. Thomas fled the Goodyear tire shop where he worked as a mechanic, and police shot into his car.

Although race was a dividing line, those who died by police gunfire often had much in common. Most were poor and had a history of run-ins with law enforcement over mostly small-time crimes, sometimes because they were emotionally troubled.

Both things were true of Daniel Elrod, a 39-year-old white man. Elrod had been arrested at least 16 times over the past 15 years; he was taken into protective custody twice last year because Omaha police feared he might hurt himself.

On the day he died in February, Elrod robbed a Family Dollar store. Police said he ran when officers arrived, jumping on top of a BMW in the parking lot and yelling, “Shoot me, shoot me.” Elrod, who was unarmed, was shot three times as he made a “mid-air leap” to clear a barbed-wire fence, according to police records.

Dozens of other people also died while fleeing from police, The Post analysis shows, including a significant proportion — 20 percent — of those who were unarmed. Running is such a provocative act that police experts say there is a name for the injury officers inflict on suspects afterward: a “foot tax.”

Police are authorized to use deadly force only when they fear for their lives or the lives of others. So far, just three of the 385 fatal shootings have resulted in an officer being charged with a crime — less than 1 percent.

The low rate mirrors the findings of a Post investigation in April that found that of thousands of fatal police shootings over the past decade, only 54 had produced criminal ­charges. Typically, those cases involved layers of damning evidence challenging the officer’s account. Of the cases resolved, most officers were cleared or acquitted.

In all three 2015 cases in which charges were filed, videos emerged showing the officers shooting a suspect during or after a foot chase:

●In South Carolina, police officer Michael Slager was charged with murder in the death of Walter Scott, a 50-year-old black man, who ran after a traffic stop. Slager’s attorney declined to comment.

●In Oklahoma, reserve deputy Robert Bates was charged with second-degree manslaughter 10 days after he killed Eric Harris, a 44-year-old black man. Bates’s attorney, Clark Brewster, characterized the shooting as a “legitimate accident,” noting that Bates mistakenly grabbed his gun instead of his Taser.
Fatal police shooting in Tulsa(1:13)
Body camera video of a Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office reserve deputy involved in a shooting on April 2, 2015. Editor’s note: This video contains explicit language. (Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office via Tulsa World)

●And in Pennsylvania, officer Lisa Mearkle was charged with criminal homicide six weeks after she shot and killed David Kassick, a 59-year-old white man, who refused to pull over for a traffic stop. Her attorney did not return calls for comment.

In many other cases, police agencies have determined that the shootings were justified. But many law enforcement leaders are calling for greater scrutiny.

After nearly a year of protests against police brutality and with a White House task force report calling for reforms, a dozen current and former police chiefs and other criminal justice officials said police must begin to accept responsibility for the carnage. They argue that a large number of the killings examined by The Post could be blamed on poor policing.

“We have to get beyond what is legal and start focusing on what is preventable. Most are preventable,” said Ronald L. Davis, a former police chief who heads the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.

Police “need to stop chasing down suspects, hopping fences and landing on top of someone with a gun,” Davis said. “When they do that, they have no choice but to shoot.”

As a start, criminologists say the federal government should systematically analyze police shootings. Currently, the FBI struggles to gather the most basic data. Reporting is voluntary, and since 2011, less than 3 percent of the nation’s 18,000 state and local police agencies have reported fatal shootings by their officers to the FBI. As a result, FBI records over the past decade show only about 400 police shootings a year — an average of 1.1 deaths per day.

According to The Post’s analysis, the daily death toll so far for 2015 is close to 2.6. At that pace, police will have shot and killed nearly 1,000 people by the end of the year.

“We have to understand the phenomena behind these fatal encounters,” Bueermann said. “There is a compelling social need for this, but a lack of political will to make it happen.”

For the vast majority of departments, a fatal shooting is a rare event. Only 306 agencies have recorded one so far this year, and most had only one, the Post analysis shows.

However, 19 state and local departments were involved in at least three fatal shootings. Los Angeles police lead the nation with eight. The latest occurred May 5, when Brendon Glenn, a 29-year-old homeless black man, was shot after an altercation outside a Venice bar.

Oklahoma City police have killed four people, including an 83-year-old white man wielding a machete.

“We want to do the most we can to keep from taking someone’s life, even under the worst circumstances,” said Oklahoma City Police Chief William Citty. “There are just going to be some shootings that are unavoidable.”

In Bakersfield, Calif., all three of the department’s killings occurred in a span of 10 days in March. The most recent involved Adrian Hernandez, a 22-year-old Hispanic man accused of raping his roommate, dousing her with flammable liquid and setting fire to their home.

After a manhunt, police cornered Hernandez, who jumped out of his car holding a BB gun. Police opened fire, and some Bakersfield residents say they are glad the officers did.
Fatal police shooting in Bakersfield, Calif.(0:30)
Bystander video of a Bakersfield Police Department officer-involved shooting on March 27, 2015. (NEWSTALK 1180 KERN)

“I’m relieved he can’t come back here, to be honest with you,” said Brian Haver, who lives next door to the house Hernandez torched. “If he came out holding a gun, what were they supposed to do?”

Although law enforcement officials say many shootings are preventable, that is not always true. In dozens of cases, officers rushed into volatile situations and saved lives. Examples of police heroism abound.

In Tempe, Ariz., police rescued a 25-year-old woman who had been stabbed and tied up and was screaming for help. Her boyfriend, Matthew Metz, a 26-year-old white man, also stabbed an officer before he was shot and killed, according to police records.

In San Antonio, a patrol officer heard gunshots and rushed to the parking lot of Dad’s Karaoke bar to find a man shooting into the crowd. Richard Castilleja, a 29-year-old Latino, had hit two men and was still unloading his weapon when he was shot and killed, according to police records.

And in Los Angeles County, a Hawthorne police officer working overtime was credited with saving the life of a 12-year-old boy after a frantic woman in a gray Mercedes pulled alongside the officer and said three men in a white Cadillac were following her and her son.

Seconds later, the Cadillac roared up. Robert Washington, a 37-year-old black man, jumped out and began shooting into the woman’s car.

“He had two revolvers and started shooting both of them with no words spoken. He shot and killed the mom, and then he started shooting at the kid,” said Eddie Aguirre, a Los Angeles County homicide detective investigating the case.

“The deputy got out of his patrol car and started shooting,” Aguirre said. “He saved the boy’s life.”

Hummelstown, Pa., Police officer Lisa Mearkle was charged with criminal homicide. Investigators say Mearkle had incapacitated David Kassick with a stun gun. (Associated Press)
Kassick was on the ground when Mearkle shot him twice in the back. She told investigators she thought he was reaching into his jacket for a gun. (Associated Press)

In about half the shootings, police were responding to non-domestic criminal situations, with robberies and traffic infractions ranking among the most common ­offenses. Nearly half of blacks and other minorities were killed under such circumstances. So were about a third of whites.

In North Carolina, a police officer searching for clues in a hit-and-run case approached a green and white mobile home owned by Lester Brown, a 58-year-old white man. On the front porch, the officer spotted an illegal liquor still. He called for backup, and drug agents soon arrived with a search warrant.
View Graphic
People shot to death by police and how they were allegedly armed

Officers knocked on the door and asked Brown to secure his dog. Instead, Brown dashed upstairs and grabbed a Soviet SKS rifle, according to police reports.

Neighbor Joe Guffey Jr. told a local TV reporter that he was sitting at home with his dogs when the shooting started: “Pow, pow, pow, pow.” Brown was hit seven times and pronounced dead at the scene.

While Brown allegedly stood his ground, many others involved in criminal activity chose to flee when confronted by police. Kassick, for example, attracted Mearkle’s attention because he had expired vehicle inspection stickers. On the day he died, Kassick was on felony probation for drunken driving and had drugs in his system, police and autopsy reports show.

After failing to pull over, Kassick drove to his sister’s house in Hummelstown, Pa., jumped out of the car and ran. Mearkle repeatedly struck Kassick with a stun gun and then shot him twice in the back while he was face-down in the snow.

Jimmy Ray Robinson, a.k.a. the “Honey Bun Bandit,” allegedly robbed five convenience stores in Central Texas, grabbing some of the sticky pastries along the way. Robinson, a 51-year-old black man, fled when he spotted Waco police officers staking out his home.

Robinson sped off in reverse in a green Ford Explorer. It got stuck in the mud, and four Waco officers opened fire.

“They think they can outrun the officers. They don’t realize how dangerous it is,” said Samuel Lee Reid, executive director of the Atlanta Citizen Review Board, which investigates police shootings and recently launched a “Don’t Run” campaign. “The panic sets in,” and “all they can think is that they don’t want to get caught and go back to jail.”

Officers from the Alabama Bureau of Investigation take measurements and scour the scene for evidence after Shane Watkins, who had bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, was fatally shot by police in his mother’s driveway in Moulton, Ala. (Gary Cosby Jr./Decatur Daily)

The most troubling ­cases began with a cry for help.

About half the shootings occurred after family members, neighbors or strangers sought help from police because someone was suicidal, behaving erratically or threatening violence.

Take Shane Watkins, a 39-year-old white man, who died in his mother’s driveway in Moulton, Ala.

Watkins had never been violent, and family members were not afraid for their safety when they called Lawrence County sheriff’s deputies in March. But Watkins, who suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, was off his medication. Days earlier, he had declared himself the “god of the fifth element” and demanded whiskey and beer so he could “cleanse the earth with it,” said his sister, Yvonne Cote.

Then he started threatening to shoot himself and his dog, Slayer. His mother called Cote, who called 911. Cote got back on the phone with her mother, who watched Watkins walk onto the driveway holding a box cutter to his chest. A patrol car pulled up, and Cote heard her mother yell: “Don’t shoot! He doesn’t have a gun!”

“Then I heard the gunshots,” Cote said.

Lawrence County sheriff’s officials declined to comment and have refused to release documents related to the case.

“There are so many unanswered questions,” she said. “All he had was a box cutter. Wasn’t there some other way for them to handle this?”

Catherine Daniels called police for the same reason. “I wanted to get my son help,” she said. Instead, officers Peter Ehrlich and Eddo Trimino fired their stun guns after Hall hit them with the metal end of the broomstick, according to investigative documents.

“Please don’t hurt my child,” Daniels pleaded, in a scene captured by a camera mounted on the dash of one of the patrol cars.

“Get on the f—ing ground or you’re dead!” Trimino shouted. Then he fired five shots.

Police spokesman Mike Wright declined to comment on the case. Daniels said no one from the city has contacted her. “I haven’t received anything. No apology, nothing.”

But hours after her son was killed, Daniels said, officers investigating the shooting dropped off a six-pack of Coca-Cola.

“I regret calling them,” Daniels said. “They took my son’s life.”

Ted Mellnik, John Muyskens and Amy Brittain contributed to this report.

As part of an ongoing examination of police accountability, The Washington Post has attempted to track every fatal shooting by law enforcement nationwide since January, as well as the number of officers who were fatally shot in the line of duty.

The Post compiled the data using news reports, police records, open sources on the Internet and other original reporting. Several organizations, including Killed by Police and Fatal Encounters, have been collecting information about people who die during encounters with police.

The Post documented only those incidents in which a police officer, while on duty, shot and killed a civilian. Cases in which officers were shot to death were also tabulated.

To comprehensively examine the issue, a database was compiled with information about each incident, including the deceased’s age, race, gender, location and general circumstances. The Post also noted whether police reported that the person was armed and, if so, with what type of weapon.

The FBI and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention log fatal police shootings, but the data the two federal agencies gather is incomplete. The Post analyzed a decade of FBI and CDC records as part of the study.

To examine racial and economic patterns, The Post identified the location of every fatal shooting and compared it with the composition of the surrounding census tract.

The data, which will be collected through the end of the year, will be made public at a future date.

Information from The Associated Press was used to supplement this report.

Voir de même:

Emeutes à Baltimore: un an de bavures policières contre les Noirs
Maxime Bourdier

Le HuffPost avec AFP

28/04/2015

INTERNATIONAL – Un air de déjà-vu aux Etats-Unis. Les autorités du Maryland ont annoncé lundi soir, le 27 avril, le déploiement massif de la garde nationale et imposé un couvre-feu nocturne pour ramener le calme à Baltimore, théâtre de violences et de pillages qui ont éclaté après les obsèques de Freddie Gray, un jeune Noir décédé le 19 avril après son interpellation musclée par la police.

L’état d’urgence a été décrété. Les violences, circonscrites dans un quartier du nord-ouest de la ville, ont fait 15 blessés parmi les policiers, dont deux ont dû être hospitalisés, et mené à 27 arrestations. Ce contexte tendu rappelle celui qu’a connu Ferguson (Missouri) en 2014 après la mort de Michael Brown, jeune Noir sans arme abattu de plusieurs coups de feu par Darren Wilson. Ce policier blanc avait ensuite bénéficié d’un non-lieu, déclenchant de nouvelles violences.

Au-delà de Ferguson, la mort de Freddie Gray intervient après une série de bavures qui ont ravivé les tensions entre la communauté noire et les forces de l’ordre aux Etats-Unis. Le pays a été confronté à des manifestations rassemblant des milliers de personnes, après la mort de plusieurs Afro-américains non armés tués par des policiers blancs. Dans plusieurs cas, la justice a décidé de ne pas les poursuivre. Retour sur les affaires qui ont fait scandale depuis un an.

Pas d’inculpation contre Christopher Manney
Le policier de Milwaukee Christopher Manney, depuis licencié, a abattu le 30 avril 2014 Dontre Hamilton, 31 ans, après avoir été appelé par des employés d’un café gênés par cet homme qui dormait dans un parc voisin. Les deux hommes en étaient venus aux mains au moment de l’interpellation, jusqu’à ce que le policier use de son arme et tue cet homme noir de 14 balles, ce qui avait provoqué des manifestations.

Le 22 novembre, la justice a alors décidé de ne pas poursuivre Christopher Manney. Le policier a fait usage de son arme car il était en état de légitime défense par conséquent il n’y a pas lieu de l’inculper pour crime », a conclu le procureur, déclenchant de nouvelles manifestations.

Le cas Eric Garner
Eric Garner, 43 ans, est décédé lors d’une interpellation musclée le 17 juillet 2014. Ce père de six enfants soupçonné de vente illégale de cigarettes, avait été plaqué au sol par plusieurs policiers blancs, après avoir refusé d’être arrêté.

Dans la vidéo amateur montrant son interpellation, on voit un policier, Daniel Pantaleo, le prendre par le cou pour le jeter à terre, une pratique pourtant interdite au sein de la police new-yorkaise. « Je ne peux pas respirer », se plaint à plusieurs reprises Garner, obèse et asthmatique, avant de perdre connaissance. Il avait été déclaré mort peu après, et le médecin légiste avait conclu à un homicide.

Dix jours après Ferguson, un grand jury à New York a décidé le 3 décembre de ne pas inculper le policier, contribuant à relancer des manifestations qui semblaient marquer le pas. « I can’t breathe » (« Je ne peux pas respirer ») est devenu un des slogans de ces manifestants en hommage à Eric Garner.

L’affaire Michael Brown
Un grand jury a décidé le 24 novembre de ne pas inculper le policier blanc Darren Wilson, responsable de la mort début août de Michael Brown. Le policier avait tiré douze fois contre le jeune Noir de 18 ans qui n’était pas armé. Une vingtaine de minutes avant cette confrontation, Michael Brown avait été filmé dans une supérette en train de voler une boîte de cigarillos.

Le corps du jeune homme avait été laissé à la vue des passants pendant plusieurs heures, en plein soleil, ajoutant à la colère des manifestants qui y ont vu un signe de plus du mépris des forces de l’ordre pour la population noire.

Le drame de Ferguson, puis la décision du grand jury, ont provoqué plusieurs manifestations et des émeutes dans cette banlieue de St Louis (Missouri) , où la majorité des édiles, y compris la police, est blanche alors que la majorité de la population est noire. De violentes échauffourées et des pillages ont éclaté après la décision.

La mort « par accident » d’Akai Gurley
Un homme noir de 28 ans « totalement innocent » a été tué par accident par un policier blanc dans un immeuble HLM à New York, a annoncé le 21 novembre le chef de la police Bill Bratton.

C’est une « tragédie très regrettable », a-t-il ajouté lors d’une conférence de presse, précisant que l’arme du policier semblait s’être déchargée « par accident », alors qu’il patrouillait dans cet immeuble HLM du quartier de Brooklyn peu avant minuit jeudi soir, avec un collègue.

La victime, identifiée comme Akai Gurley, « est totalement innocente et n’était engagée dans aucune sorte d’activité criminelle », a reconnu le commissaire. Le jeune homme n’était pas armé. Il a été atteint d’une balle en pleine poitrine. Le policier a été inculpé début février 2015 d’homicide involontaire

Un enfant tué alors qu’il jouait avec une arme factice
A Cleveland, Tamir Rice, garçon noir de 12 ans, a été tué le 22 novembre dernier par un policier alors qu’il manipulait une arme factice dans une aire de jeux. Une vidéo accablante montre que le policier tire sur lui quelques secondes seulement après être sorti de sa voiture.

Après les coups de feu, les policiers ont réalisé que « l’arme en possession du suspect de 12 ans était une réplique de pistolet de type ‘airsoft’ (à billes) ressemblant à un pistolet semi-automatique, avec l’indicateur de sécurité orange enlevé », a dit la police.

L’Ohio avait été le théâtre d’un incident similaire en août 2014, quand des policiers répondant à un appel d’urgence avaient abattu un Noir, John Crawford, dans un supermarché alors qu’il transportait un pistolet jouet, vendu sur place.

La mort de Rumain Brisbon à Phoenix
Un policier blanc a tué un homme noir sans arme en Arizona début décembre. La police de Phoenix a indiqué jeudi 5 décembre dans un communiqué qu’un homme de 34 ans, Rumain Brisbon, avait été interpellé alors qu’il était soupçonné de vendre de la drogue.

D’après le rapport de police, il a tenté de s’échapper et a refusé d’obéir « à plusieurs ordres » du policier blanc âgé de 30 ans, dont le nom n’a pas été révélé, mais qui avait sept ans d’expérience, est-il précisé.

Le policier a « cru sentir la crosse d’un revolver » dans la poche du suspect et « a tiré deux fois dans le torse de Brisbon ». La poche de l’homme contenait en réalité une boîte de pilules.

Tony Terrell Robinson tué par balles à Madison
Le 6 mars 2015, Tony Terrell Robinson, jeune métis de 19 ans, a été tué à Madison (Wisconsin) par un policier blanc. L’affaire, à la veille de la commémoration du 50e anniversaire de la marche pour les droits civiques des Noirs à Selma (Alabama), a suscité des manifestations alors que le ministère de la Justice venait de publier un rapport accablant pour la police de Ferguson.

Trois jours plus tard, le chef de la police de Madison Michael Koval a présenté les condoléances de la police après ce décès et appelé les manifestants à attendre les résultats de l’enquête ouverte par la ville. Il a indiqué qu’apparemment le jeune homme n’avait pas utilisé d’arme et qu’il était mort après avoir reçu plusieurs balles.

Selon lui, un policier s’était rendu vendredi soir au domicile de Tony Robinson soupçonné d’avoir perturbé la circulation routière et « battu quelqu’un ». Entendant du bruit à l’intérieur de l’appartement, le policier a forcé l’entrée du domicile avant d’être agressé par Tony Robinson. « Le sujet a agressé (le) policier ….qui a dégainé son pistolet et tiré », a précisé le chef de la police.

Anthony Hill, abattu alors qu’il souffrait de troubles mentaux
Le 9 mars, Anthony Hill, un Noir de 27 ans souffrant de troubles mentaux, a été abattu de deux balles par un policier blanc près d’Atlanta. Il était nu dans la rue et se comportait de façon étrange, précise Reuters. Selon la police, il aurait couru vers un policier, n’obéissant pas à l’ordre de rester immobile qui lui avait été lancé. D’après certains témoins, il avait pourtant les mains en l’air au moment où le policier lui a tiré dessus.

Les autorités ont lancé une enquête pour comprendre pourquoi un policier avait pu abattre cet ancien soldat de l’US Air Force, qui ne portait pas d’arme. La famille d’Anthony Hill a décidé de lancé sa propre enquête. Elle affirme que cet homme « sensible » ne s’était jamais comporté de cette façon auparavant et qu’il avait sans doute été pris d’un coup de folie.

Des manifestations se sont là aussi déroulées près des lieux du drame, afin de rendre hommage à Anthony Hill et une nouvelle fois de dénoncer les violences policières aux Etats-Unis.

Walter Scott abattu de plusieurs balles dans le dos
Le 7 avril, Walter Scott, un homme noir non armé, a été abattu de huit balles dans le dos par un policier blanc à North Charleston, en Caroline du Sud, alors qu’il courait après s’être fait arrêter lors d’un banal contrôle routier. On peut le voir sur une vidéo diffusée par le New York Times et envoyée par un témoin.

Sur la vidéo, on voit ensuite le policier marcher calmement jusqu’à l’homme âgé de 50 ans, lui enjoignant de mettre les mains dans le dos avant de lui passer les menottes. L’homme est mort quelques instants après. Le policier a été arrêté et inculpé de meurtre. Il risque la peine de mort ou la prison à vie s’il était reconnu coupable.

La famille de la victime a salué à maintes reprises le « héros » et l’ange » qui a pris ces images sans lesquelles elle est persuadée qu’il n’y aurait « pas eu de justice ». Le policier avait dans un premier temps justifié son geste par le fait qu’il s’était senti menacé par la victime qui, selon lui, tentait de saisir son pistolet électrique, une version totalement démentie par les images filmées par un passant sur son téléphone portable.

Voir aussi:

Fact-checking claims about race after Ferguson shooting
Jon Greenberg, Linda Qiu, Katie Sanders, Derek Tsang

PunditFact

Aug. 27, 2014

The shooting of 18-year-old African-American Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Mo., police officer has led to a broader discussion of race in America. PunditFact has recently fact-checked several claims centering on race.

No. 1 cause of death for young black men

Fox pundit Juan Williams recently expounded upon a column he wrote for the Wall Street Journal in which he described « thuggish behavior » as creating a culture of violence in African-American communities.

« The violent behavior of young black men and the police response have become a window on racial fears, » Williams wrote. On Fox News Sunday Williams said, « On the black side of this equation, I think there’s fear of intimidation, harassment being legitimized by the fact that there is a high rate of crime, especially among young black men.

« No. 1 cause of death, young black men 15 to 34 — murder, » Williams said. « Who’s committing the murder? Not police. Other black men. »

We decided to check Williams’ claim that the leading cause of death for African-American males 15-34 is murder.

That’s True.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, homicide was indeed the No. 1 killer of black men between the ages of 15 and 34 in 2011, the most recent year with statistics available. Accidents were the second leading cause of death.

Compared to other ethnicities, the numbers really stand out. Forty percent of African-American males 15-34 who died were murdered, according to the CDC, compared to just 3.8 percent of white males who died. Overall, 14 percent of all men 15-34 who died in 2011 were murdered.

As the laws of aging go, younger men are less prone to fall victim to natural causes of death, so they are more likely to die of unnatural causes. And the racial disparity between those causes has partially to do with the likelihood of getting into car-related accidents, said James Fox, a professor of criminology at Northeastern University.

« Suburban whites drive more than urban blacks, and putting in more miles on highways —  that’s important because not a lot of people are going to get killed in fender benders in neighborhood streets, » Fox said. « There are relatively few auto-accidents in black urban areas. »

Beyond driving habits, the criminal homicide rate among young black males is significantly higher than other groups. This, experts agreed, has to do with poverty and geography.

The difference in social structures, access to jobs, educational opportunities, and many other factors between impoverished black neighborhoods and others is often a matter of life and death, according to Eli Silverman, professor emeritus at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

« The (homicide) numbers highlight the condition in minority areas, where a lot of violence occurs and the whole way of life is further intensified because police surveillance is always trying to track down people, » he said. « People have heightened survival instincts, will do anything to survive, and they’ll seek retribution for anything … because  they don’t trust law enforcement. »

Unarmed black killed ‘every 28 hours’

On CNN, conservative African-American radio host Larry Elder and liberal African-American professor and author Marc Lamont Hill debated the state of race relations in the country.

« How often does it happen that an unarmed black is shot by a cop? » Elder asked in the Aug. 20, 2014, interview.

« Every 28 hours, » Hill said. « Every 28 hours, Larry. Larry, every 28 hours. According to the MXGM study, a black person is killed by law enforcement, vigilantes or security … »

Elder cut in, but Hill revisited his point later in the interview, saying, « But if this study bears out, and it does, that every 28 hours an unarmed black person is killed, then that also is a problem. »

Hill has his figures wrong. That claim rates False.

Hill is referencing a 2013 report by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement called « Every 28 Hours, » which examined killings of African-Americans in 2012 by law enforcement, security guards and « vigilantes » who claimed self-defense.

The report is not an academic, unbiased representation of these deaths. It was put together by one volunteer researcher and details 313 deaths based on news clips and police reports. It arrives at one death « every 28 hours » by dividing the number of hours in a year, 8,760, by the number of deaths, 313.

But the report doesn’t say what Hill offered on CNN, that an « unarmed black person is killed » every 28 hours.

In fact, less than half of the people who were killed were unarmed, according to MXGM. PunditFact found 136 were labeled as unarmed after reviewing the compiled profiles.

The 28-hour calculation factored in all 313 deaths, which included people who were armed, « allegedly » armed and unarmed.

Also, not all of the « unarmed » people are analogous to Brown’s case or were killed by police.

Included in the unarmed tally, for instance, is Trayvon Martin, the Miami Gardens teen who was killed by a neighborhood watchman named George Zimmerman. In other cases, whether someone was really « unarmed » may depend on your definition. In nine cases, police said they shot at suspects because they were charging at them from behind the wheel of a vehicle.

Another case to make the list is Rudy Eugene, the Miami man who attacked a homeless man and gnawed his face before police shot him to death.

We also found several « unarmed » deaths that were due to accidents, many car crashes as officers sped to a scene. In another example, one woman was killed at her birthday party, hosted by an off-duty police officer, when she hugged the officer from behind and somehow set off his gun.

More whites are victims of police shootings

The turmoil in Ferguson has spurred many assertions that blacks are unfairly victimized by police. Conservative talk show host Michael Medved aimed to turn that argument on its head.

In a post-show summary on his website, Medved cast police as the protectors of African-Americans. Medved said that blacks are much more likely to be killed by another black person than they are by a cop.

« When it comes to keeping black youths from violent death, police aren’t the problem – in fact, they’re a crucial part of any solution, » Medved said.

As for the charge that police target blacks, Medved said the opposite is true.

« More whites than blacks are victims of deadly police shootings, » he said.

That’s technically correct, but only because there are many more whites in the United States than blacks. So Medved’s claim rates Half True.

In a country that is about 63 percent white and 12 percent black, the probability that an African-American will die in a confrontation with police is much higher than for whites.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention keeps data on fatal injuries from 1999 to 2011 and one category is homicides by legal intervention. The term « legal intervention » covers any situation when a person dies at the hands of anyone authorized to use deadly force in the line of duty.

Over the span of more than a decade, 2,151 whites died by being shot by police compared to 1,130 blacks. In that respect, Medved is correct.

However, Brian Forst, a professor in the Department of Justice, Law and Criminology at American University, said this difference is predictable.

« More whites are killed by the police than blacks primarily because whites outnumber blacks in the general population by more than five to one, » Forst said.

Rather than comparing the raw numbers, you can look at the likelihood that a person will die due to « legal intervention » in the same way you might look at the chance a person will die in a car accident or a disease like lung cancer. When you do that, the numbers flip.

A 2002 study in the American Journal of Public Health found that the death rate due to legal intervention was more than three times higher for blacks than for whites in the period from 1988 to 1997.

Ferguson’s black unemployment rate

Fox pundit Lou Dobbs  criticized President Barack Obama for not going firsthand to Ferguson to calm tensions after the killing of an unarmed 18-year-old African-American by a white police officer.

Obama, Dobbs claimed, bears responsibility for the economic issues that have contributed to the tensions in Ferguson. « Black unemployment is three times that of white unemployment, » Dobbs said on Aug. 19’s America’s Newsroom. « The community itself has a 13 percent unemployment rate, more than double that of the national average. The household net worth in that community is $10,000, a third less than the national average. »

« These are the results of policies on the part of the state government, the local community, and the president of the United States, » Dobbs said, arguing that President Obama should assure residents that « there will be honest and forthright dealing » with « no ambiguity about the conclusions. »

Obama needs to see, Dobbs said, « what happens when you don’t push job creation, you don’t push prosperity for all Americans. »

Dobbs’ claim that Obama is behind the disparity in unemployment rates is False.

First and foremost, Dobbs’ numbers are off. The most recent and best available statistics say the black unemployment rate is 1.9 times higher than the white unemployment rate in Ferguson (16 percent to 8.5 percent).

Second, that has little to do with Obama. Since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began keeping data in 1954, African-Americans have been nationwide are more likely to be unemployed than whites.

***

« More whites than blacks are victims of deadly police shootings. »
— Michael Medved on Tuesday, August 19th, 2014 in a Web post from the « Michael Medved Show »
Talk show host: Police kill more whites than blacks
Jon Greenberg

Pundit Fact

August 21st, 2014

The turmoil in Ferguson, Mo., has spurred many assertions that blacks are unfairly victimized by police. Conservative talk show host Michael Medved aimed to turn that argument on its head.

In a post-show summary on his website this week, Medved cast police as the protectors of African-Americans. Medved said that blacks are much more likely to be killed by another black person than they are by a cop.

« When it comes to keeping black youths from violent death, police aren’t the problem – in fact, they’re a crucial part of any solution, » Medved said.

As for the charge that police target blacks, Medved said the opposite is true.

« More whites than blacks are victims of deadly police shootings, » he said.

We asked Medved’s producers for the source of that claim and did not hear back before we published. Thanks to the good work by the team at fivethirtyeight.com, we know that there is no precise accounting of how many people the police kill. An unknown number of deaths go unreported because the coroner failed to note it or police departments categorize deaths in different ways, or some other data glitch got in the way.

However, even the incomplete figures gathered by the government tell us that Medved could be partially correct and still ignore a huge piece of the picture. Yes, more whites than blacks die as a result of an encounter with police, but whites also represent a much bigger chunk of the total population.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention keeps data on fatal injuries from 1999 to 2011 and one category is homicides by legal intervention. The term « legal intervention » covers any situation when a person dies at the hands of anyone authorized to use deadly force in the line of duty.

Over the span of more than a decade, 2,151 whites died by being shot by police compared to 1,130 blacks. In that respect, Medved is correct.

However, Brian Forst, a professor in the Department of Justice, Law and Criminology at American University, said this difference is predictable.

« More whites are killed by the police than blacks primarily because whites outnumber blacks in the general population by more than five to one, » Forst said. The country is about 63 percent white and 12 percent black.

Rather than comparing the raw numbers, you can look at the likelihood that a person will die due to « legal intervention » in the same way you might look at the chance a person will die in a car accident or a disease like lung cancer. When you do that, the numbers flip.

A 2002 study in the American Journal of Public Health found that the death rate due to legal intervention was more than three times higher for blacks than for whites in the period from 1988 to 1997.

That is not the final story though. There are different theories as to why the black rate is so much higher.

Candace McCoy is a criminologist at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York. McCoy said blacks might be more likely to have a violent encounter with police because they are convicted of felonies at a higher rate than whites. Felonies include everything from violent crimes like murder and rape, to property crimes like burglary and embezzlement, to drug trafficking and gun offenses.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that in 2004, state courts had over 1 million felony convictions. Of those, 59 percent were committed by whites and 38 percent by blacks. But when you factor in the population of whites and blacks, the felony rates stand at 330 per 100,000 for whites and 1,178 per 100,000 for blacks. That’s more than a three-fold difference.

McCoy noted that this has more to do with income than race. The felony rates for poor whites are similar to those of poor blacks.

« Felony crime is highly correlated with poverty, and race continues to be highly correlated with poverty in the USA, » McCoy said. « It is the most difficult and searing problem in this whole mess. »

On his website, Medved tried to link police killings with whether someone resisted arrest. « If you defer and don’t try to challenge a police officer, he may insult you but he won’t kill you, » Medved said.

But criminologist Lorie Fridell at the University of South Florida told PunditFact that the research on this point is mixed. Some studies that factor in the level of resistance show that race doesn’t matter, and some show that it does.

Our ruling

Medved said that police kill more whites than blacks. In absolute terms, that is accurate. However, the statement ignores that there are more than five times more whites than blacks in America. When comparing death rates, blacks are about three times more likely than whites to die in a confrontation with police.

Medved’s statement leaves out significant information that would change someone’s understanding of the topic. We rate his claim Half True.

Update: The number of deaths due to legal intervention were changed after we initially published this report to include only firearms deaths, which lowered the overall totals. The rating remains the same.

Voir encore:

Aux Etats-Unis, la longue histoire des brutalités policières
Charlotte Recoquillon et Marianne Boyer

Les Décodeurs

Le Monde

21.08.2014

Le 19 avril, dans la ville américaine de Baltimore (Maryland), le drame s’est répété : Freddie Gray, un homme noir de 25 ans, est mort des suites d’une fracture des vertèbres verticales une semaine après son arrestation musclée par trois policiers pour possession d’un couteau. Après plusieurs soirs de rassemblements populaires, la police de Baltimore a reconnu vendredi 24 avril que le jeune homme aurait dû recevoir une assistance médicale aussitôt après son arrestation. Une vidéo filmée par un passant le montre immobilisé au sol, hurlant de douleur après avoir été immobilisé par les trois agents. Sa moelle épinière a été sectionnée à 80 % au niveau du cou, selon l’avocat de sa famille.

Cette nouvelle affaire intervient dans un contexte particulièrement tendu, qui a vu en quelques mois se multiplier les cas d’hommes noirs tués par des policiers blancs dans des situations souvent troubles. La mort de Michael Brown, abattu par un policier à Ferguson (Missouri) avait suscité en août de violentes confrontations entre les manifestants et les forces de l’ordre, tout comme la décision du grand jury de ne pas poursuivre le policier auteur des tirs.

Trois éléments sont utiles pour comprendre l’indignation et l’émotion suscitées par ces évènements. D’une part, loin d’être isolé, ces drames s’ajoutent à une longue liste de violences policières. D’autre part, on assiste depuis une vingtaine d’années à une militarisation de plus en plus importante des policiers poussée par une puissante industrie de la défense. Enfin, tout cela a lieu dans une Amérique qui peine à éradiquer un racisme systémique et où les préjugés sont tenaces.

Une longue histoire de brutalités policières
La liste est longue. La mémoire collective se souvient évidemment de l’affaire Rodney King, cet homme noir passé à tabac en 1991 par des policiers dont l’acquittement avait déclenché de violentes émeutes. Lui n’en est pas mort. Mais, pour de nombreux autres Noirs aux Etats-Unis, innocents, non armés, l’usage excessif de la force tue.

2015
Walter Scott, Noir, 50 ans, North Charleston, Caroline du sud

Après un banal contrôle routier pour un feu cassé, il est abattu de cinq balles par un policier qui le poursuivait dans un jardin public. La légitime défense invoquée par l’agent, Michael Slager, a rapidement été remise en question par la révélation d’une vidéo filmée par un témoin : à aucun moment on ne le voit menacé par Walter Scott.
2014
Eric Garner, Noir, 43 ans, Staten Island, New York

Soupçonné de vente illégale de cigarettes, il est victime d’une arrestation musclée sur le terminal portuaire de Staten Island. Non armé, l’homme, en surpoids et asthmatique, se plaint de ne pouvoir respirer à plusieurs reprises. Etranglé par les policiers, il perd connaissance sur le bitume et meurt quelques instants après son arrivée à l’hôpital.
2014
Tamir Rice, Noir, 12 ans, Cleveland, Ohio

Le jeune garçon joue dans la rue avec un pistolet factice, qu’il s’amuse à pointer sur les passants, quand un témoin prévient la police. Peu après, deux agents descendent d’une voiture et l’un d’eux, Timothy Loehman, abat Tamir Rice alors qu’il semble vouloir prendre quelque chose à sa ceinture.
2013
Jonathan Ferrell, Noir, 24 ans, Charlotte, Caroline du Nord

Blessé dans un accident de voiture et ensanglanté, il sonne chez une dame pour demander de l’aide. Elle prend peur et appelle la police. L’agent Randall Kerrick lui tire dessus douze fois, dix balles l’atteignent. Il n’était pas armé.
2012
Ramarley Graham, Noir, 18 ans, New York

Suspecté de détenir de la marijuana, poursuivi jusqu’à l’appartement de sa grand-mère où les policiers pénètrent sans mandat et l’abattent d’une balle dans la poitrine devant son petit frère de 6 ans. Il n’était pas armé.
2008
Tarika Wilson, Noire, 26 ans, Lima, Ohio

A la recherche de son compagnon, une unité spéciale (SWAT) pénètre dans la maison de Tarika Wilson où elle est abattue. Son fils de 15 mois, qu’elle tenait dans les bras, est blessé. Elle n’était pas armée.
Aux quelques centaines d’homicides commis par des policiers chaque année, 497 rien qu’en 2009 selon les estimations de l’American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), il faut opposer le fait que, très souvent, quel que soit le degré d’excès d’usage de la force, les responsables sont acquittés. Quand ils ont été mis en examen.

2013
Andy Lopez, 13 ans, Hispanique, Santa Rosa, Californie

L’adolescent a été surpris dans une allée avec une arme en plastique. L’officier Gelhaus a tiré huit balles en l’espace de six secondes, dont sept ont atteint Andy Lopez. Aucune charge n’a été retenue.
2006
Sean Bell, Noir, 23 ans, New York

Au petit matin de son mariage, Sean Bell et deux amis sortent d’un club. Leur voiture, poursuivie par la police, est à l’arrêt lorsque les officiers déchargent cinquante balles. Quatre balles tuent Sean Bell. Ses amis survivent à dix-neuf et trois balles respectivement. Trois des cinq policiers ont été jugés pour homicide et mise en danger. Ils ont été reconnus non coupables.
1999
Amadou Diallo, Noir, 23 ans, New York

Confondu avec un violeur recherché, Amadou Diallo est abattu devant chez lui par quatre policiers en civil alors qu’il leur tendait ses papiers d’identité pour s’identifier. Il est touché par dix-neuf des quarante-et-une balles tirées. Les quatre policiers sont acquittés.
Parfois, sous la pression de l’opinion publique ou d’un contexte politique particulier, les policiers sont condamnés. La lourdeur des peines est variable.

2009
Oscar Grant, 22 ans, Noir, Oakland, Californie

Arrêté avec plusieurs autres personnes sur le quai de la station Fruitvale, Oscar Grant était menotté et à plat ventre quand l’officier Mehserle lui a tiré dessus, dans le dos, expliquant plus tard qu’il a confondu son arme et son Taser. La scène a été filmée par de nombreux témoins. Mehserle a été reconnu coupable d’homicide involontaire et condamné à deux ans de prison.
2006
Kathryn Johnston, 92 ans, Noire, Atlanta, Géorgie

Probablement sur de fausses informations, une unité spéciale de police envahit la maison de Kathryn Johnston à la recherche de drogue. Effrayée, elle tire un coup de feu avec un vieux pistolet, ne blessant personne. Les policiers répliquent en déchargeant trente-neuf balles, dont six atteignent la vieille dame. Mourante, elle est menottée à son lit. Les policiers tentent plus tard de maquiller la scène, cachent de la drogue chez elle et demandent à un informateur un faux témoignage. Trois officiers ont été condamnés à dix, six et cinq ans de prison pour différents chefs d’accusation : homicide volontaire, faux témoignage, parjure.
1997
Abner Louima, 30 ans, Noir, New York

Après une bagarre entre deux femmes, dans laquelle lui et plusieurs hommes interviennent, la police arrive. Elle arrête Abner Louima sur la fausse accusation d’un coup porté à l’officier Volpe. Dans la voiture, les policiers le frappent avec leurs poings et leurs radios. Au commissariat, les violences se poursuivent, jusqu’au viol lors duquel Abner Louima a les mains menottées dans le dos. Il est resté hospitalisé deux mois. Justin Volpe a été condamné à trente ans de prison pour avoir enfreint les droits civiques de Louima, pour obstruction à la justice et faux témoignage. Charles Schwarz a été condamné à quinze ans de prison pour avoir aidé Volpe lors du viol.

La militarisation de la police et l’usage excessif de la force
4,3 milliards de dollars transférés par le ministère de la défense à la police, en équipements militaires et paramilitaires, entre 1990 et 2012, selon le rapport de l’ACLU sur la militarisation de la police
Que plus de 500 agences de police aient reçu un véhicule blindé au cours de l’année 2011-2012 pose question sur la nécessité de tels équipements conçus pour des zones de combats militaires, mais aussi sur les intérêts commerciaux et financiers de cette politique. Ainsi Lockheed Martin, fabricant d’armes, recevrait chaque année 29 milliards de dollars du Pentagone, selon William Hartung, expert en sécurité, et emploie près de 130 000 personnes. On peut aussi citer l’entreprise ATK, principal fournisseur de munitions de petit calibre, dont le chiffre d’affaires atteint 2,9 milliards de dollars et qui est basée dans le Missouri.

Depuis les années 1980, les unités spéciales d’intervention (SWAT), équivalent du GIGN en France, se sont développées à un point tel que Peter Kraska, professeur à l’université Eastern Kentucky estime que plus de 80 % des villes de plus de 25 000 habitants en possèdent une. Il estime aussi que ces unités, créées pour gérer des situations à haut risque telles que les prises d’otages, sont désormais déployées plus de 50 000 fois par an (contre 3 000 en 1980). Lourdement armées et dotées d’un véritable arsenal militaire, ces unités sont en fait largement utilisées dans le cadre d’opérations de faible intensité, comme l’exécution de mandats de perquisition. L’effet de terreur produit lors de leurs interventions touche de façon disproportionnée les minorités, au premier rang desquelles, les Noirs.
Une équipe du SWAT inspecte des maisons à la recherche d’une bombe, après les attentats du marathon de Boston, en avril 2013. AFP Photo / Timothy A. Clary.

Pourtant, comme le montre l’exemple de Ferguson, le suréquipement accroît les violences et les risques, tant pour les policiers que pour les citoyens, en encourageant les policiers à adopter des comportements de militaires chargés de combattre un ennemi intérieur, au lieu de protéger et de servir la population. Par ailleurs, casqués et méconnaissables, les policiers sont déshumanisés et s’exposent à des réactions plus hostiles.
Un policier du département de police du comté de Saint-Louis pointe son arme en direction d’un groupe de manifestants, le 13 août 2013 à Ferguson. AP Photo/Jeff Roberson.
La question raciale en toile de fond
Les préjugés et stéréotypes raciaux permettent de comprendre comment un policier armé peut se sentir menacé par un adolescent innocent et non armé, en l’occurrence Michael Brown, au point de lui tirer dessus à six reprises, dont deux dans la tête. Un certain nombre de stigmates associés à la figure du délinquant structurent le travail des policiers. Ainsi, en 2008, les conducteurs noirs avaient trois fois plus de risques d’être fouillés lors d’un contrôle routier (12,3 %) que les Blancs (3,9 %) selon un rapport du département de la justice.

72 % des villes où la population noire représente au moins 5% de la population totale connaissent une sous-représentation des Noirs dans les effectifs de la police par rapport aux Blancs. Dans ce contexte, les contrôles au faciès effectués quotidiennement dans les quartiers où vivent les minorités – la ségrégation résidentielle reste largement dominante – entament les relations entre les policiers et les minorités, en particulier les jeunes hommes noirs et latinos.

Voir de même:

NICKEL & DIMED TO DEATH: Is a long-standing Philly cop ‘technique’ to blame for a Baltimore fatality?

Philly.com

April 29, 2015

THE PHILADELPHIA cops called it a « nickel ride. »

The name came from the prevailing price for a ride down a rickety roller coaster in an early 20th-century amusement park – which should give some idea of the ancient roots of this particularly cruel form of police torture.

For decades, cops abused criminal suspects by throwing them – handcuffed but unsecured – into the open back of a police van, then careening around sharp curves or slamming the brakes during a rough ride to central booking.

To keep with modern times, you’d think they’d change the name – call it a « $79.95 All Day Pass, » or an « E-Ticket Ride. » Or, here’s an even better, crazy idea to bring American policing practices into the 21st century: How about stopping « nickel rides » altogether?

Philadelphia has found that hard to do – just last year paying a recent victim of a rough police-van ride $490,000 in a civil suit, despite supposed action to halt « nickel rides » back in 2001.

And now, incredibly, we learn that authorities in Baltimore are probing whether Freddie Gray – the 25-year-old man whose death after a police encounter has sparked massive protests and now rioting in the streets – was given a rough ride after his arrest. It’s not clear whether that happened after Gray’s lethal injuries – or whether the ride was what caused Gray’s spine to snap.

Two weeks ago, when Gray was arrested on a Baltimore street, for reasons that remain murky, he was handcuffed and – as captured on a cellphone video – dragged and tossed into the back of the van. Inside, it was later reported, he was shackled after officers reported that Gray became « irate. » However, he was not buckled in for the ride – a serious breach of regulations.

« We know he was not buckled in the transportation wagon as he should have been, » Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said. « No excuses for that, period. »

The commissioner also noted that the officers « failed to get him medical attention in a timely manner multiple times. »

Incredibly, this has happened multiple times in Baltimore – including a « rough ride » 10 years ago that injured the spine and killed an arrestee named Dondi Johnson – as well as several multi-million-dollar civil judgments and settlements.

Ditto in Philadelphia. In 2001, the Inquirer documented 20 cases of arrestees who were injured during apparent « nickel rides » that critics said provided cops a « hands-free » method to dole out street justice – including three who suffered spinal cord injuries, two of them permanently paralyzed.

The then-Police Commissioner John Timoney pulled many of the old vans off the road and installed seat belts to make sure injuries didn’t happen, either on purpose or by accident.

But the injuries kept coming. In 2001, a man named James McKenna was arrested outside a Philadelphia bar and put unrestrained in the back of a van, then slammed into the vehicle walls again and again until he finally broke his neck. Police initially claimed that McKenna banged his own head against the bars of his jail cell, but the city settled his claim for $490,000.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Since the killing of Michael Brown, in Ferguson, last August, much of the conversation about policing in America has focused on two things: 1) whether justice is possible when officers kill unarmed black men; and 2) whether America’s high rate of killings by police is largely reflective of racial prejudice, which would make it almost impossible to solve.

But there are many things we can do, right now, that could reduce the number of deaths in police company. Other cities – such as Chicago and Los Angeles – simply switched to using cruisers to transport suspects, instead of vans, eliminating the issue of « nickel rides » altogether. Likewise, the rise of cellphone videos of in-custody deaths has raised another uncomfortable question: Why aren’t cops giving more immediate medical attention to these suspects in distress?

Tonight, as I write this, the streets of Baltimore are erupting in anger and in violence. It is a heartbreaking, infuriating thing to watch. But one of the most frustrating things is this: The idea that all of this could have been avoided with the snap of a seat belt.

Battered cargo: The costs of the police ‘nickel ride’ In city patrol wagons, suspects slam into walls and slide across the floor. Paying the price are the injured and the taxpayers – not the police.
Nancy Phillips and Rose Ciotta

The INQUIRER
June 03, 2001

Gino Thompson stepped into the police van an able-bodied man.

He emerged paralyzed from the waist down.

Thompson had been arrested outside a North Philadelphia convenience store after a drunken argument with a girlfriend over a set of keys. Police put him in the back of a patrol wagon, his hands cuffed behind his back.

The low, narrow benches had no seat belts. The bare, hard walls had no padding. As the wagon headed south on Broad Street, toward the 22d District police station, the driver accelerated – « like they were going to a fire or something, » Thompson said.
Then the wagon came to a screeching stop, Thompson and one of the officers recalled.

Thompson was launched headfirst into a partition and suffered a devastating spinal-cord injury.

« They took me right out of the store and into the wagon, and that’s the last I walked, » said Thompson, father of 11 children. « That wagon changed my whole life. »

Thompson was a victim of a secretive ritual in Philadelphia policing: the wild wagon ride, with sudden starts, stops and turns that send handcuffed suspects hurtling into the walls.

Top commanders acknowledge that rough rides are an enduring tradition in the department. The practice even has a name – « nickel ride, » a term that harks back to the days when amusement-park rides cost 5 cents.

An Inquirer investigation documented injuries to 20 people tossed around in wagons in recent years. Thompson was one of three who suffered spinal injuries, and one of two permanently paralyzed.

Most of the victims had clean records. They were arrested on minor charges after talking back to or arguing with police. Typically, the charges were later dismissed.

Those wagon injuries have cost taxpayers more than $2.3 million in legal settlements, but the Police Department has responded to the problem with a conspicuous lack of urgency.

No Philadelphia police officer has ever been disciplined for subjecting a passenger to a wild ride. A four-year-old plan to make the wagons safer has moved at a crawl – until now.

Those injured in wagons are of widely varying backgrounds and were arrested in different parts of the city. Yet they described their experiences in strikingly similar terms.

They spoke of roaring starts, jarring stops and other maneuvers that sent them rolling across the floor or slamming into walls. With their hands cuffed behind the back, they could not right themselves or cushion the falls.

The injured include:

A disabled postal worker who had argued with a police officer over access to a parking lot. She aggravated a hip injury rolling across the floor of a wagon.

A pastor who saw police subduing a suspect and complained that they were hurting him. She was arrested and loaded into a wagon, where she fell to the floor during a swerving, bumpy ride.

A fish merchant arrested after arguing with a Parking Authority worker over a ticket. He was thrown from a wagon bench and broke his tailbone.

Thompson, 40, has relied on a wheelchair since that night in April 1994. The city paid $600,000 to settle his lawsuit.

But his was not the worst injury in a Philadelphia police wagon.

Calvin Saunders, arrested in South Philadelphia in 1997 driving a stolen car, was propelled from his seat in the back of a police van and rammed his head against a wall.

He ended up a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the neck down. To this day, Saunders cannot feed, bathe or dress himself and depends on others for his most basic needs. The city paid him a $1.2 million settlement to help cover his lifetime medical care.

There is no official tally of wagon injuries, no way to know exactly how many people have been hurt.

The 20 cases documented by The Inquirer were culled from court files and records of city legal settlements. They likely represent a fraction of all wagon injuries – those in which the victims hire lawyers and win financial compensation.

Some cities – responding to injuries far less serious than those documented here – have phased out wagons or added safety restraints and padding.

Philadelphia officials have studied the latter idea for years, but not until December did new wagons with seat belts and padding hit the street.

Only 10 of the department’s 86 wagons have those safety features. The rest, which transport tens of thousands of suspects every year, are identical to those in which Thompson and Saunders suffered their paralyzing injuries.

Police Commissioner John F. Timoney said he knew of the injury to Saunders but was not aware that officers intentionally subjected prisoners to jolting wagon rides.

« Such behavior – if it does exist – certainly isn’t condoned by myself or anybody else in this department, » Timoney said.

He added: « We are making efforts, as much as humanly possible, to reduce . . . the number of incidents where prisoners get hurt in the back of these vans. »

Timoney’s top deputies say that wild wagon rides are mainly a thing of the past.

« We’ve had some where the person goes flying and hits their head, » said Deputy Police Commissioner John J. Norris, head of the Internal Affairs Bureau. « They get taken for a ride. »

Norris, a 30-year veteran of the force, said such abuses had diminished greatly and were now « minuscule » in number.

Yet many wagon injuries go undetected by Internal Affairs – even some that resulted in legal settlements.

Of the 20 cases documented by The Inquirer, 11 were never investigated by the Police Department. Norris said he was not aware of the injuries until reporters asked about them.

Of the nine cases that were scrutinized by Internal Affairs, the department took disciplinary action against the wagon officers in only one – the Thompson case – and then for infractions committed after the wagon ride, not for the injury itself.

The punishment: a three-day suspension for the driver, Officer Demetrius Beasley.

A year later, Beasley was promoted to sergeant.

Injury resembles a diving accident

Police wagons – white Ford cargo vans with two-person crews – are ubiquitous on Philadelphia streets. They patrol neighborhoods and also serve as the department’s transport arm, ferrying suspects to district police stations or Police Headquarters for booking.

Police like the wagons because suspects ride in a rear compartment, with a wall separating them from the officers in front. That is considered safer than transporting prisoners in squad cars, which typically are staffed by just one officer.

Wagons are considered especially useful in dealing with combative prisoners or with disturbances that could require numerous arrests.

The passenger compartment is a hard, spare, windowless space – a shell of fiberglass and plastic about 4 feet high, 5 1/2 feet wide and 14 feet deep. The sides are lined with low benches barely wide enough to sit on.

Police commanders say the department purposely did not install seat belts in the older models so that prisoners could not harm themselves with the straps.

Riding in the darkened back, handcuffed passengers have trouble steadying themselves or balancing on the narrow benches.

The practice of cuffing suspects’ hands behind the back creates a heightened risk of spinal injury, as Internal Affairs acknowledged in its report on the Calvin Saunders case.

A physician told investigators that Saunders’ injury resembled those caused by diving accidents. In such cases, the doctor said, the victim hits a hard surface headfirst, with the head tilted slightly forward.

« This is the natural position of the body when the arms are handcuffed behind the back, » the Internal Affairs report said.

The department says its officers are trained to drive wagons with care and that most do.

Officer Paul Costello, who drives a wagon in Center City’s Ninth Police District, said he was aware of the risks to passengers and took pains to avoid injuries.

« If somebody gets hurt in the back of that wagon, you have to deal with the consequences, » Costello said.

But an officer with a different attitude can turn a wagon ride into a frightening and dangerous experience.

John DeVivo says it happened to him.

On March 31, 1995, he was behind the counter at Ocean City Seafood, his family’s fish market on Lancaster Avenue near 41st Street, when he noticed a Parking Authority worker ticketing his wife’s car.

An argument ensued. The parking-enforcement officer called police and accused DeVivo of throwing bottles at her. He denied it.

He was arrested, handcuffed, and taken by wagon to the Southwest Detective Division.

« We went two blocks, and they slammed on the brakes, » said DeVivo, now 36.

He was thrown from the seat and landed on the floor, fracturing his tailbone, medical records show.

DeVivo, who had no criminal record, sued and collected $11,000. As in all the legal settlements, the city did not admit police wrongdoing. The assault charges against DeVivo were later dismissed.

When the ride was over, DeVivo said, he asked the wagon officers why it had been so rough. He said they told him a dog ran in front of the wagon.

« They were laughing, » he said.

Robert Schwartz Sr. broke one of the vertebrae in his neck during a wagon ride. His spinal cord was not damaged, but he said he still suffers pain and discomfort.

Schwartz was arrested April 15, 1998, at Unruh and Bustleton Avenues on a charge of drunken driving – to which he later pleaded guilty.

Officers put him in a wagon and headed south on Interstate 95, toward Police Headquarters in Center City.

« All of a sudden, the brakes were applied very sharp, » Schwartz said in a statement to Internal Affairs investigators. « Since I wasn’t strapped in or anything, I fell to the floor onto my back. »

Schwartz, 44, said he was « propelled forward very quickly » and smashed his head into a wall.

« I heard a loud snap, » he said. « I knew something happened. »

Officer Thomas A. Walker Jr., the wagon driver, said in an interview that he made no abrupt stops and had no idea how Schwartz was injured.

The city nonetheless paid Schwartz $110,000 as settlement.

« There is no dispute that the plaintiff suffered a neck injury, » a deputy city solicitor wrote in an internal memo obtained by The Inquirer. « A Philadelphia jury could return a very large negligence verdict against police officers based on their alleged driving. »

The rough ride

shocks suspects

Bernadette Moore was stunned to find herself in the darkened back of a patrol wagon, lying handcuffed on the floor.

Moore, a postal worker from Southwest Philadelphia, had quarreled with a police officer on the night of Sept. 29, 1996.

He had blocked access to the parking lot of a strip mall at 61st Street and Passyunk Avenue as part of a crackdown on drag racing.

Moore, 34, wanted to drive into the lot to bring dinner to her boyfriend, who worked nearby.

She was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. The charge was later dismissed and a city lawyer wrote that the rookie officer « overreacted. »

But that was of no help to Moore that night. She was handcuffed, and a patrol wagon was summoned.

Moore, who suffers from degenerative arthritis and had had a hip replacement, had trouble getting into the vehicle. So two officers picked her up and put her inside on the floor.

Moore described the ride to the 12th District police station as terrifying.

« They started swerving and slamming on the brakes, and I started flipping all over – and I’m handcuffed, » she said. « I was petrified. . . . I couldn’t believe it was happening. »

Moore, who injured her shoulder and back, collected a $15,000 settlement.

The Rev. Carlice Harris got acquainted with Philadelphia police wagons Feb. 21, 1999. It was a Sunday morning, and she was on her way to church.

Miss Harris, who lives in Edgewater Park, was driving through North Philadelphia, headed for Christ Temple Baptist Church at 16th Street and Girard Avenue, where her congregation was waiting for her to deliver the morning sermon.

She never made it to the pulpit.

In the 5200 block of Montour Street, Miss Harris saw four police officers struggling to subdue a suspect. She said a plainclothes officer kicked the man while the others held him down.

She jumped out of her car and demanded the officer’s badge number. Police arrested her. They said later that she was interfering with the arrest and drawing a crowd.

Wearing a mink coat and high heels, Miss Harris was handcuffed, put in a patrol wagon, and taken to the 15th District police station.

« I ended up sliding all over the place, » she said. « It was a very rough ride – bumpy, up, up and down hills. They seemed to be just rushing, and I wasn’t no murderer. »

Miss Harris, 44, injured her face, knee and wrists. She later received a $22,500 settlement from the city. The disorderly conduct charge against her was dismissed.

« I didn’t look like a derelict. I’m a pastor, » she said. « I thought, ‘I can’t believe this is happening in America.’ « 

Rookies learn the ritual

during ‘street training’

The « nickel ride » has been around for decades, winked at by generations of police commanders and commissioners.

Rookies learn about it as « part of your street training, » said Norman A. Carter Jr., a retired Philadelphia police corporal whose 25 years on the force included a six-month stint as a wagon officer.

When the arresting officers wanted to punish someone in custody, Carter said, they would tell the wagon crew to « take him for a ride. »

The practice persists, current and former officers say, because it is a nearly foolproof way to get back at someone who resists arrest or otherwise angers police.

Officers out to settle a score need not use their fists.

Because there usually are no witnesses, injuries can be attributed to busy traffic, bad roads, or a sudden stop made to avoid a cat or dog.

A nickel ride is a way for officers to assert their authority when someone challenges it, said James B. Jordan, a lawyer who reviewed numerous wagon injuries as the Police Department’s in-house corruption monitor from 1996 through 1999.

« What better way to show who’s in control than stopping at a light and slamming on the brakes, knowing that they’re going to go flying? » Jordan asked. « And maybe the prisoner was yelling, and maybe this will shut him up. »

Chief Inspector Frank M. Pryor, head of the department’s patrol operations, said rough rides were once a common method of punishing recalcitrant prisoners.

In the 1970s, he said, the police ranks included wagon officers who were eager to lash out at uncooperative suspects.

« If you pissed them off, » he said, « you were going to get the ride of your life . . . and nobody did anything about it. »

But Pryor said such behavior was no longer tolerated.

« If we see that happen, we’re on it now. »

Police hold no one

accountable for injury

Gino Thompson remembers that it was dark in the back of Emergency Patrol Wagon 2202.

Police had arrested him about 1:40 a.m. on April 10, 1994, at the A-Plus Mini Market at Broad Street and Lehigh Avenue.

Thompson has a record of petty offenses, but he was not charged with a crime that night. Police records state he was taken into custody because of « intoxication. »

The wagon headed for the 22d District police station, about a mile away.

« They rolled down Broad Street . . . and they slammed on the brakes, and I slid from the back all the way up to the front, » Thompson said in an interview. « When I hit my head, I saw a flash of bright light, and I couldn’t feel my hands anymore.

« As soon as my head hit the wall, boom, I heard them laughing. »

An Internal Affairs report and a summary of the case by city lawyers describe what happened next:

When the wagon arrived at the police station, the driver, Demetrius Beasley, told Thompson to stand up.

« I can’t walk, » Thompson replied.

Beasley and his partner, Kevin Powell, dragged Thompson out of the wagon and put him in a holding cell, facedown on the floor.

He lay there, sleeping, for more than an hour, without medical attention. Then, an attendant heard him shouting: « Officer, officer, I’m hurt! » and complaining that he had no feeling in his legs.

An ambulance was summoned.

At Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, doctors determined that Thompson had dislocated two vertebrae at the base of his neck, injuring his spinal cord.

Questioned months later by Internal Affairs, Beasley said he drove the wagon safely, never exceeding 20 mph, and made no abrupt stops.

Powell had been dismissed from the force by then. A woman had accused him of rape – a charge of which he was later acquitted. Powell declined to talk to Internal Affairs about the Thompson case.

Beasley was sanctioned for « neglect of duty » – for failing to get medical attention for Thompson as soon he complained of paralysis. Beasley was suspended for three days.

But no one was held accountable for causing Thompson’s injury. Internal Affairs investigators wrote that they « could not prove or disprove that the wagon came to a sudden stop. »

Months later, after Thompson sued, the City Solicitor’s Office did its own investigation and reached a different conclusion.

The city lawyers interviewed Powell, now a defendant in a lawsuit and depending on the city to represent him.

Powell told the lawyers that Beasley speeded down Broad Street that night and then slammed on the brakes, just as Thompson had described.

Beasley and Powell declined to be interviewed for this article.

An internal memo from a lawyer in the City Solicitor’s Office explained why the city paid $600,000 to settle Thompson’s lawsuit:

« The plaintiff is likely to be able to prove that the officers gave him a ‘nickel ride’ of exactly the kind that he described. »

The damage inflicted

can last a lifetime

Today, Thompson relies on a wheelchair to get around his tiny Northeast Philadelphia home. He spends much of the day on the living-room sofa, where the television offers a welcome distraction from lingering pain.

After nine operations, he said, he still suffers pain in his right arm and neck.

Thompson once did odd jobs. Now, the family depends on the income of his wife, Shelby, a nursing-home aide.

On good days, Thompson is able to maneuver himself into a specially equipped van and drive her to work.

« That [police] wagon changed a lot, » said Thompson, whose 11 children range in age from 5 to 19. « I can’t play football with my kids. I can’t play basketball. I was a gymnast, a singer, a dancer. I did it all. »

Thompson said he was still angry at Beasley. He was furious to learn of the officer’s punishment.

« You think a three-day suspension is justifiable for what he did? » he asked. « That isn’t even a slap on the wrists. »

Thompson said he was saddened to learn that wagon injuries had continued.

« I wish it wouldn’t happen to the next person, » he said. « I wouldn’t wish it on a rat. »

Nancy Phillips’ e-mail address is nphillips@phillynews.com. Rose Ciotta’s is rciotta@phillynews.com.

About This Series

Reporters Nancy Phillips and Rose Ciotta spent six months documenting a pattern of injuries in Philadelphia police wagons – the result of a secretive ritual known as the « nickel ride. » The reporters examined hundreds of court files, city financial records and internal memos from the City Solicitor’s Office. They interviewed dozens of victims, lawyers, city officials and police officers.

Zyed et Bouna : «Dix ans d’impunité policière !»
Libération

18 mai 2015
Au tribunal de Rennes, mardi, les objectifs braqués vers Amor Benna (au centre) et Adel Benna (à sa droite), le père et le frère de Zyed. (Photo Damien Meyer. AFP)
À CHAUDLe tribunal correctionnel de Rennes a relaxé ce lundi les deux policiers poursuivis pour non-assistance à personne en danger, après le drame qui a coûté la vie à deux jeunes dans un site EDF à Clichy-sous-Bois en 2005. Les avocats des familles veulent faire appel.

2005-2015. Il aura donc fallu près de dix ans pour rendre, enfin, un jugement dans le procès des deux policiers poursuivis pour la mort de Zyed Benna et Bouna Traoré dans un transformateur électrique à Clichy-sous-Bois. Le tribunal correctionnel de Rennes a décidé ce lundi de suivre les réquisitions du Parquet et de relaxer Sébastien Gaillemin et Stéphanie Klein. Pour le juge, les deux fonctionnaires n’ont jamais «eu conscience de l’existence d’un péril grave et imminent».

Mais à l’annonce de ce jugement définitif, quelques proches des familles ont laissé échapper leur colère : «Dix ans d’impunité policière ! Dix ans que les policiers se sentent au-dessus des lois !» «C’est choquant !» a aussitôt réagi l’avocat des familles des deux jeunes décédés, Jean-Pierre Mignard, pour qui «la reconnaissance de la non-assistance à personne en danger» ne faisait «aucun doute». Les parties civiles ne peuvent pas faire appel de la relaxe des deux policiers sur un plan pénal. Mais maître Mignard compte faire appel «sur un plan civil». «Nous irons jusqu’à la Cour de cassation s’il le faut», a-t-il lancé.

De son côté, l’avocat des deux policiers, Daniel Merchat, a estimé que cette relaxe était un «soulagement». «Depuis neuf ans, mes clients sont intimement persuadés qu’ils n’ont commis ni faute, ni erreur, ni délit». En avril 2011, la cour d’appel de Paris avait accordé un non-lieu aux policiers, annulé en octobre 2012 par la Cour de cassation.

Le 27 octobre 2005, lors d’une course poursuite entre jeunes et policiers, Sébastien Gaillemin, gardien de la paix affecté à l’époque à la police de proximité, avait vu deux «silhouettes» enjamber un grillage délimitant un cimetière, et pénétrer ainsi dans un petit bois dans lequel, cinq mètres plus loin, un mur interdisait l’accès au site EDF. «S’ils rentrent sur le site EDF, je ne donne pas cher de leur peau», avait-il lâché sur la radio de la police, à l’écoute de laquelle était sa collègue Stéphanie Klein, alors policière stagiaire, accusée elle aussi de ne pas avoir réagi.

Dans son argumentaire, le tribunal a estimé que la phrase prononcée par Sébastien Gaillemin sur les ondes de la police ne suffisait à établir avec certitude que le policier avait conscience du danger mortel couru par les adolescents, sachant qu’il ne connaissait pas «la nature exacte du site EDF» Au contraire, indique le jugement, «si Sébastien Gaillemin avait eu conscience d’un péril grave et imminent, il n’aurait pas manqué de réagir d’une manière ou d’une autre». Même conclusion pour sa collègue dont le tribunal estime qu’elle ne «ne connaissait avant les faits ni la nature, ni même l’existence du site EDF de Clichy-sous-Bois».

Mais ce 27 octobre 2005, trente minutes après le départ des policiers, Bouna Traoré, 15 ans, et Zyed Benna, 17 ans, meurent électrocutés. Seul leur camarade Muhittin Altun, 17 ans, en réchappe, brûlé sur 10% du corps.

Dans un rapport rendu en décembre 2006, l’Inspection générale des services (IGS) avait pointé la négligence des policiers, expliquant que si l’alerte avait été donnée à temps, EDF aurait pu intervenir un quart d’heure avant l’accident. La police des polices évoquait également «une légèreté et une distraction surprenante» pour qualifier le comportement des forces de l’ordre.

La mort des deux adolescents, Zyed Benna et Bouna Traoré, avait marqué le début de trois semaines d’émeutes dans les banlieues françaises. Le gouvernement avait dû décréter l’état d’urgence. L’audience au tribunal correctionnel de Rennes s’était déroulée du 16 au 20 mars, dans un climat serein et pour éviter tout débordement à Clichy-sous-Bois en cas de relaxe, certains responsables d’associations avaient préparé les jeunes à cette décision comme le raconte notre journaliste sur place.

«La relaxe des policiers, tout le monde l’attendait au Chêne pointu [quartier de Zyed ndlr] confirme Tidjiane, un trentenaire écoeuré par ce jugement. Normalement, tu casses, tu payes. Eux ils ont fait quelque chose mais ils n’ont pas payé. C’est depuis longtemps qu’on est résignés. La police n’a pas changé, c’est des pourris.»

Depuis les émeutes, certains habitants ont le sentiment que rien n’a changé.

«Dans les halls c’est toujours la même haine, la même galère», lâche, blasé, un habitant du Chêne pointu. Ce n’est pas l’avis de Mohamed, 21 ans : «La ville a changé, elle s’est adoucie. Ça s’est calmé parce qu’il y a des nouveaux immeubles, un commissariat, un gymnase, un nouveau collège.» Pour autant, ce jeune chômeur estime que ces améliorations ne profiteront qu’à la génération d’après. «J’ai une vingtaine ou une trentaine d’amis incarcérés. Ça aurait pu changer bien avant pour éviter tout ça.»

SOS Racisme regrette dans un communiqué qu’en dix ans d’enquête et de procédure, «il est des questions qui n’auront jamais pu être posées dans notre pays». «Pourquoi des jeunes de quartier populaire, à la vue de la police et alors qu’ils n’avaient manifestement rien à se reprocher, ont préféré prendre la fuite et se réfugier dans un endroit où ils risquaient leurs vies ?», s’interroge l’association antiraciste.

Pour contester ce jugement, un rassemblement a eu lieu ce lundi soir à 19 heures devant le tribunal de Bobigny, en Seine-Saint-Denis.

Voir par ailleurs:

La mobilisation « Ferguson in Paris » continue
Hana Ferroudj

Bondy blog

7 décembre 2014

Le collectif Ferguson in Paris a organisé un rassemblement hier après-midi au Trocadéro (Paris). L’objectif étant de dénoncer les récentes violences policières Outre-Atlantique. Reportage.

Les militants sont venus nombreux hier après-midi, malgré le froid. Ces derniers se sont alignés et portaient tous des pancartes. Le rassemblement est prévu à 14h30. Mais, avant le début du rassemblement, la police est venue voir le responsable du collectif pour vérifier s’ils avaient le document d’autorisation, tout est en règle. L’action peut commencer.

Parmi les militants, des américains sont présents pour soutenir leurs camarades qui continuent de manifester encore aujourd’hui aux États- Unis. Leur détermination est sans faille, leur volonté est de montrer au président Barack Obama que la mobilisation s’étend dans le monde entier. Le collectif Ferguson in Paris a collé sur une façade en bois, des photos de Mike Brown et d’autres personnes décédées dans des circonstances similaires  les quinze dernières années comme Amadou Diallo (1999), Patrick Dorismond (2000), Timothy Stansbury  (2004) et Sean Bell (2006).

Rapidement, les passants s’arrêtent pour écouter les discours des militants et prennent des photos. Certains de ces discours sont prononcés en anglais, même si la plupart n’ont pas tout compris, une grande émotion se fait sentir parmi les personnes présentes. Une des militantes qui les écoutaient en est émue, des larmes coulent sur son visage. Ignace, un des militants, prend la parole « quand on regarde les infos, on nous donne uniquement les faits froids, factuels avec des chiffres, des arguments contre et pour. On se rend compte juste des divisions, des tensions, des séparations entre les peuples. Il faut qu’on se déconnecte de la TV et de nos tablettes qui nous plongent complètement en autarcie intellectuelle. On voit qu’aujourd’hui, ce n’est pas un problème de noir, ce n’est pas un problème d’hommes, ni un problème d’adolescents, toutes ethnies, toutes couleurs et tous sexes mais c’est un problème d’injustice».

Autre intervention, celle de Daphné : « Je suis blanche et pourtant je suis là avec tous ces gens pour pouvoir les soutenir. Partout dans le monde, les gens commencent à se réveiller mais ce n’est pas assez. Mike Brown et toutes les autres victimes à Fergsuson ont souffert et là-bas rien n’a été encore résolu. Tout le monde est en danger, les noirs se font tuer, c’est notre devoir, qu’on soit blanc ou noir ou de n’importe quelles nationalités, il faut se soutenir les uns et des autres. Nous sommes ici comme à Londres ou à Berlin et partout aux États-Unis pour dénoncer cette injustice ». Après plusieurs discours, les militants ont répété en chœur différents slogans, en levant les mains par moment : « Don’t shoot, no justice, no peace !» Mais aussi, « Black lives matter» ou encore «No justice, No Peace ».

Parmi les militants, une jeune étudiante américaine vivant en France depuis 2010 explique les raisons qui l’ont poussée à manifester aujourd’hui auprès du collectif Ferguson in Paris : « Nous sommes un groupe de quatre américains et on est tous passionnés par ce que qui se passe à Ferguson. Si nous étions aux Etats-Unis, nous serions auprès des manifestants dans les rues pour montrer notre colère afin de dénoncer ces injustices. Nous habitons à Paris mais cela ne nous empêche pas de participer pour montrer notre solidarité. Par ce rassemblement d’aujourd’hui, on veut montrer au gouvernement américain que même les citoyens américains vivant à l’étranger sont tous concernés par tous les mouvements de protestations concernant l’affaire de Ferguson. L’affaire Ferguson et les autres victimes tuées par la police sont une grosse injustice et on ne peut plus nier qu’il y a un problème de racisme, qui ne vient pas uniquement de la police, mais qu’il existe dans le système de justice américain. Nous nous sentons toujours trahis par cette justice et on veut montrer notre solidarité pour que les Etats-Unis sentent qu’il y a une pression ».

Très impliquée, la jeune étudiante poursuit sa réflexion  et exprime sa détermination « Les États-Unis vont dans les autres pays pour lancer des bombes et tuer des gens innocents disant qu’ils sont une démocratie alors qu’ils sont hypocrites. Nous ne sommes pas une démocratie car une démocratie doit protéger et non tuer son peuple. La police dot être là pour nous protéger, mais aujourd’hui ce n’est plus le cas. Nous n’avons plus confiance en notre police qui est devenue comme des militaires. D’ailleurs, les policiers ont des armes appartenant aux militaires. Aux Etats-Unis, l’argent de l’Etat est beaucoup plus dépensé pour l’armée américaine qu’au niveau de l’éducation par exemple ».

Autre événement, et non des moindres, commémoré ce 6 décembre à Paris, la mort de Malik Oussekine, décédé dans une affaire de violences policières en 1986, à la marge d’une manifestation étudiante. Près d’une cinquantaine de personnes se sont rassemblées ce matin pour faire une marche silencieuse de la place Odéon jusqu’à la plaque qui porte son nom située 20 rue Monsieur le Prince (dans le 6ème arrondissement de Paris).

Amal Bentounsi fait partie du collectif Notre police assassine, elle a participé à un rassemblement hier matin pour honorer la mémoire de ce jeune homme âgé à l’époque de 22 ans. Amal Bentounsi témoigne : «  Ça fait 28 ans que Malik Oussekine a été assassiné par des policés voltigeurs. Et donc, 28 ans après rien n’a changé car les policiers tuent toujours impunément et la justice, pour la plupart du temps, les acquittent. Pour nous, il était important de commémorer la mort de Malik Oussékine puisque ça fait bientôt 30 ans que cette injustice perdure ».

Rassemblement à Bobigny : « Pas de justice, pas de paix »
Hana Ferroudj

Bondy Blog

18 mai 2015
A 19h, un rassemblement en hommage à Zyed et Bouna s’est tenu devant le tribunal de Bobigny (Seine-Saint-Denis). Plus de 300 personnes étaient présentes.

Après la relaxe des deux policiers par le tribunal de Rennes dans le procès de Zyed et Bouna, une vive émotion a touché les personnes qui se sont rassemblées ce soir devant le tribunal de Bobigny. Les visages sont minés. Les personnes présentes ce soir ont voulu témoigner leur soutien aux familles des deux adolescents défunts et montrer leur mécontentement.

Ils étaient 350 personnes à avoir fait le déplacement devant l’entrée du tribunal. Des policiers sont présents également. Beaucoup de jeunes de quartiers ont tenu être présents. Plusieurs personnes portaient un autocollant à l’effigie de Bouna et Zyed, probablement une manière de montrer que ces deux adolescents mort le 27 octobre 2005 dans un transformateur d’EDF resteront à jamais dans leurs mémoires. Une grande banderole a été accrochée près de l’entrée de Tribunal de Bobigny : « La police Assassine, la justice acquitte ». Des stéréos ont été apportées pour l’occasion, on entend l’interview de Gaye Traoré, le grand frère de Bouna, revenir sur cette tragédie du 27 octobre 2005. A l’entrée quelques tables sont disposées en lignes afin de servir de la nourriture pour les manifestants. De nombreuses associations ont fait le déplacement telle que la brigade anti-negrophobie, Fergusons in Paris, stop le contrôle au faciès, Urgence notre police assassine…

Omar, membre du Parti des indigènes de la République porte à la main une pancarte à l’effigie d’Ali Ziri et enchaîne les interviews avec différents médias. Il s’exprime : « quand nous avons appris la nouvelle de la relaxe, nous avons été pétris de douleur, d’incompréhension et de colère. Dix ans après, c’est un moment difficile, car rendre ce verdict a été très long, on s’attendait simplement à ce que les deux policiers soient inculpés pour “non-assistance à personnes en danger” et quand bien même ce n’est pas grand-chose, et bien même ça, nous n’avions pas eu le droit. Même ça, les familles ont dû repartir comme-ci d’un certain point de vue, il ne s’était rien passé sauf la mort de leur enfant, de leur frère et ça dix ans après c’est inacceptable. Aujourd’hui, il y a plein d’amertume. En France, il y a une justice très clairement qui prend le pas et qui est en phase complètement avec ce qu’on fait les policiers. Et de ce point de vue là, ça en dit long sur notre société. Amnesty international avait rendu qui l’a intitulé : « Les policiers sont-ils au-dessus des lois ». Il faut croire que les policiers sont au-dessus des lois, il faut croire qu’en effet condamner dans ce pays là des policiers, c’est de l’ordre de l’impossibilité affective. Il faut croire qu’il y a une catégorie de sous citoyens. Pour moi, il y a une justice à deux vitesses et ce qui a été démontré une fois de plus aujourd’hui et qui nous met très en colère».

Un manifestant exprime lui aussi sa tristesse par rapport à la décision rendue par la cour d’appel de Rennes :  “j’ai beaucoup de déception car dix ans d’attentes c’est beaucoup.  Et le fait que cela soit médiatisé, ça a donné beaucoup d’espoirs à l’ensemble des personnes qui se sentent concernées. Finalement les deux policiers s’en sortent avec la moindre poursuite, cela laisse un goût amer . Moi, je ne suis pas là pour attaquer frontalement les policiers. Mais, je pense qu’avec tous les éléments qui ont été apportés , ils auraient dû être sanctionnés pour montrer l’exemple“.

Différents slogans ont été criés lors de ce rassemblement, notamment celui-ci: « Pas de justice pas de paix ». La pluie est tombée soudainement. Les gens ont couru pour trouver un endroit où s’abriter notamment devant l’entrée du tribunal. Des altercations avec la police auraient eu lieu à cet endroit juste après :

Les familles de Zyed Benna et Bouna Traoré ont décidé de faire appel de la décision rendue aujourd’hui par la Cour d’appel de Rennes. Affaire à suivre.

Voir enfin:

Emma Stone: Cameron Crowe s’excuse de l’avoir engagée
Jérôme Lachasse
Le Figaro

03/06/2015

Le réalisateur de Aloha est accusé de peindre dans ce nouveau film une vision caricaturale de Hawaii. Il regrette d’avoir confié à l’actrice le rôle d’un personnage d’origine chinoise et hawaïenne.

Depuis plusieurs semaines, Aloha, la nouvelle comédie romantique de Cameron Crowe avec Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone et Rachel McAdams, suscite de violentes critiques aux États-Unis. De nombreuses associations militant pour la diversité ethnique dans les médias sont montées au créneau. Elles dénoncent notamment la décision du réalisateur de recourir essentiellement à des acteurs d’origine caucasienne pour un film se déroulant à Hawaii.

Un personnage en particulier s’est attiré les foudres de la critique: celui du capitaine Allison Ng, incarnée par Emma Stone. Ce n’est pas la qualité de son interprétation qui est en jeu, mais plutôt la décision de Crowe de confier à une actrice blanche le rôle d’un personnage présenté comme un quart chinois et un quart hawaïen. Un rôle que Crowe a pourtant conçu pour représenter «l’étonnant mélange culturel qui prévaut à Hawaii», comme il l’explique dans un billet publié sur son blog, où il s’excuse «du fond du cœur auprès de tous ceux qui ont estimé ce choix de casting bizarre ou malavisé».

Il rappelle également ses intentions, lorsqu’il a commencé à concevoir en 2007 ce personnage: «la capitaine Allison Ng a été écrite comme une femme extrêmement fière d’être un quart hawaïnne, mais frustrée de ne pas en avoir les traits physiques (…) Très fière de son improbable héritage, elle se sent obligée de le mentionner à chaque instant», Le personnage serait d’ailleurs inspirée d’une jeune femme rencontrée par Crowe lors de ses repérages à Hawaii.
Un problème récurrent à Hollywood
Malgré ces explications, la presse américaine ne semble pas convaincue: «Accepter Emma Stone comme une Américaine d’origine asiatique dans Aloha nécessite une forme de pause dans son incrédulité et une bonne dose de magie», écrit notamment Entertainment Weekly. Dans un article intitulé «L’insuportable blancheur d’Aloha», publié sur le site du Daily Beast, on peut lire: «Aloha met en scène Allison Ng, un des personnages féminins métisses, d’origine asiatique, les plus importants dans l’histoire récente des studios américains. Sauf qu’elle est jouée par Emma Stone».

La polémique que suscite aujourd’hui Aloha n’est pas récente et révèle la difficulté, à Hollywood, pour des acteurs afro-américains ou asiatiques à endosser des rôles de premier plan. En décembre 2014, Exodus de Ridley Scott, où Ramsès est interprété par l’australien Joel Edgerton et Moïse par le britannique Christian Bale, a provoqué, de la même manière, de nombreuses réactions virulentes. Pour le site Vulture, cette polémique autour d’Aloha révèle surtout une nouvelle tendance: celle «de réadapter des histoires liées aux Asiatiques, et de les remplacer par des Blancs».


Memorial Day/Irak: C’est une réussite extraordinaire qui a pris presque neuf ans (And today, we remember everything that you did to make it possible)

25 mai, 2015
Pour beaucoup d’entre nous, ce Memorial Day est particulièrement significatif; c’est le premier depuis la fin de la guerre d’Afghanistan. Aujourd’hui, c’est le premier Memorial Day depuis 14 ans où les États-Unis ne sont pas engagés dans une guerre majeure au sol. Barack Hussein Obama
If we fail to respond today, Saddam and all those who would follow in his footsteps will be emboldened tomorrow. Some day, some way, I guarantee you, he’ll use the arsenal. President Clinton (February 1998)
[La mission des forces armées américaines et britanniques est d’]attaquer les programmes d’armement nucléaires, chimiques et biologiques de l’Irak et sa capacité militaire à menacer ses voisins (…) On ne peut laisser Saddam Hussein menacer ses voisins ou le monde avec des armements nucléaires, des gaz toxiques, ou des armes biologiques. » (…) Il y a six semaines, Saddam Hussein avait annoncé qu’il ne coopérerait plus avec l’Unscom [la commission chargée du désarmement en Irak (…). D’autres pays [que l’Irak possèdent des armements de destruction massive et des missiles balistiques. Avec Saddam, il y a une différence majeure : il les a utilisés. Pas une fois, mais de manière répétée (…). Confronté au dernier acte de défiance de Saddam, fin octobre, nous avons mené une intense campagne diplomatique contre l’Irak, appuyée par une imposante force militaire dans la région (…). J’avais alors décidé d’annuler l’attaque de nos avions (…) parce que Saddam avait accepté nos exigences. J’avais conclu que la meilleure chose à faire était de donner à Saddam une dernière chance (…).  Les inspecteurs en désarmement de l’ONU ont testé la volonté de coopération irakienne (…). Hier soir, le chef de l’Unscom, Richard Butler, a rendu son rapport au secrétaire général de l’ONU [Kofi Annan. Les conclusions sont brutales, claires et profondément inquiétantes. Dans quatre domaines sur cinq, l’Irak n’a pas coopéré. En fait, il a même imposé de nouvelles restrictions au travail des inspecteurs (…). Nous devions agir et agir immédiatement (…).  J’espère que Saddam va maintenant finalement coopérer avec les inspecteurs et respecter les résolutions du Conseil de sécurité. Mais nous devons nous préparer à ce qu’il ne le fasse pas et nous devons faire face au danger très réel qu’il représente. Nous allons donc poursuivre une stratégie à long terme pour contenir l’Irak et ses armes de destruction massive et travailler jusqu’au jour où l’Irak aura un gouvernement digne de sa population (…). La dure réalité est qu’aussi longtemps que Saddam reste au pouvoir il menace le bien-être de sa population, la paix de la région et la sécurité du monde. La meilleure façon de mettre un terme définitif à cette menace est la constitution d’un nouveau gouvernement, un gouvernement prêt à vivre en paix avec ses voisins, un gouvernement qui respecte les droits de sa population. Bill Clinton (16.12.98)
Dans l’immédiat, notre attention doit se porter en priorité sur les domaines biologique et chimique. C’est là que nos présomptions vis-à-vis de l’Iraq sont les plus significatives : sur le chimique, nous avons des indices d’une capacité de production de VX et d’ypérite ; sur le biologique, nos indices portent sur la détention possible de stocks significatifs de bacille du charbon et de toxine botulique, et une éventuelle capacité de production.  Dominique De Villepin
 Iraq would serve as the base of a new Islamic caliphate to extend throughout the Middle East, and which would threaten legitimate governments in Europe, Africa and Asia. Don Rumsfeld (2005)
They will try to re-establish a caliphate throughout the entire Muslim world. Just as we had the opportunity to learn what the Nazis were going to do, from Hitler’s world in ‘Mein Kampf,’, we need to learn what these people intend to do from their own words. General Abizaid (2005)
The word getting the workout from the nation’s top guns these days is « caliphate » – the term for the seventh-century Islamic empire that spanned the Middle East, spread to Southwest Asia, North Africa and Spain, then ended with the Mongol sack of Baghdad in 1258. The term can also refer to other caliphates, including the one declared by the Ottoman Turks that ended in 1924. (…) A number of scholars and former government officials take strong issue with the administration’s warning about a new caliphate, and compare it to the fear of communism spread during the Cold War. They say that although Al Qaeda’s statements do indeed describe a caliphate as a goal, the administration is exaggerating the magnitude of the threat as it seeks to gain support for its policies in Iraq. In the view of John L. Esposito, an Islamic studies professor at Georgetown University, there is a difference between the ability of small bands of terrorists to commit attacks across the world and achieving global conquest. « It is certainly correct to say that these people have a global design, but the administration ought to frame it realistically, » said Mr. Esposito, the founding director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown. « Otherwise they can actually be playing into the hands of the Osama bin Ladens of the world because they raise this to a threat that is exponentially beyond anything that Osama bin Laden can deliver. » Shibley Telhami, the Anwar Sadat professor for peace and development at the University of Maryland, said Al Qaeda was not leading a movement that threatened to mobilize the vast majority of Muslims. A recent poll Mr. Telhami conducted with Zogby International of 3,900 people in six countries – Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Lebanon – found that only 6 percent sympathized with Al Qaeda’s goal of seeking an Islamic state. The notion that Al Qaeda could create a new caliphate, he said, is simply wrong. « There’s no chance in the world that they’ll succeed, » he said. « It’s a silly threat. » (On the other hand, more than 30 percent in Mr. Telhami’s poll said they sympathized with Al Qaeda, because the group stood up to America.) The term « caliphate » has been used internally by policy hawks in the Pentagon since the planning stages for the war in Iraq, but the administration’s public use of the word has increased this summer and fall, around the time that American forces obtained a letter from Ayman al-Zawahiri, the No. 2 leader in Al Qaeda, to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. The 6,000-word letter, dated early in July, called for the establishment of a militant Islamic caliphate across Iraq before Al Qaeda’s moving on to Syria, Lebanon and Egypt and then a battle against Israel. In recent weeks, the administration’s use of « caliphate » has only intensified, as Mr. Bush has begun a campaign of speeches to try to regain support for the war. He himself has never publicly used the term, although he has repeatedly described the caliphate, as he did in a speech last week when he said that the terrorists want to try to establish « a totalitarian Islamic empire that reaches from Indonesia to Spain. » Six days earlier, Mr. Edelman, the under secretary of defense, made it clear. « Iraq’s future will either embolden terrorists and expand their reach and ability to re-establish a caliphate, or it will deal them a crippling blow, » he said. « For us, failure in Iraq is just not an option. » NYT (2005)
They demand the elimination of Israel; the withdrawal of all Westerners from Muslim countries, irrespective of the wishes of people and government; the establishment of effectively Taleban states and Sharia law in the Arab world en route to one caliphate of all Muslim nations. Tony Blair (2005)
I remember having a conversation with one of the colonels out in the field, and although he did not believe that a rapid unilateral withdrawal would actually be helpful, there was no doubt that the US occupation in Iraq was becoming an increasing source of irritation. And that one of the things that we’re going to need to do – and to do sooner rather than later – is to transition our troops out of the day-to-day operations in Iraq and to have a much lower profile and a smaller footprint in the country over the coming year. On the other hand, I did also ask some people who were not particularly sympathetic to the initial war, but were now trying to make things work in Iraq – what they thought would be the result of a total withdrawal and I think the general view was that we were in such a delicate situation right now and that there was so little institutional capacity on the part of the Iraqi government, that a full military withdrawal at this point would probably result in significant civil war and potentially hundreds of thousands of deaths. This by the way was a message that was delivered also by the Foreign Minister of Jordan, who I’ve been meeting with while here in Amman, Jordan. The sense, I think, throughout the entire region among those who opposed the US invasion, that now that we’re there it’s important that we don’t act equally precipitously in our approach to withdrawal, but that we actually stabilize the situation and allow time for the new Iraqi government to develop some sort of capacity. Barack Obama (January 9, 2006)
Having visited Iraq, I’m also acutely aware that a precipitous withdrawal of our troops, driven by Congressional edict rather than the realities on the ground, will not undo the mistakes made by this Administration. It could compound them. It could compound them by plunging Iraq into an even deeper and, perhaps, irreparable crisis. We must exit Iraq, but not in a way that leaves behind a security vacuum filled with terrorism, chaos, ethnic cleansing and genocide that could engulf large swaths of the Middle East and endanger America. We have both moral and national security reasons to manage our exit in a responsible way. Barack Obama (June 21, 2006)
To begin withdrawing before our commanders tell us we are ready … would mean surrendering the future of Iraq to al Qaeda. It would mean that we’d be risking mass killings on a horrific scale. It would mean we’d allow the terrorists to establish a safe haven in Iraq to replace the one they lost in Afghanistan. It would mean increasing the probability that American troops would have to return at some later date to confront an enemy that is even more dangerous. George Bush (2007)
L’Irak a besoin d’une présence américaine et d’instructeurs américains, parce que nous ne sommes pas capables de défendre notre ciel et nos eaux, ainsi que d’utiliser les armes que nous avons achetées ou que nous avons obtenus auprès des Etats-Unis. Jalal Talabani (président irakien, novembre 2011)
L’Irak (…) pourrait être l’un des grands succès de cette administration. Joe Biden (10.02.10)
We think a successful, democratic Iraq can be a model for the entire region. Obama
Nous laissons derrière nous un Etat souverain, stable, autosuffisant, avec une gouvernement représentatif qui a été élu par son peuple. Nous bâtissons un nouveau partenariat entre nos pays. Et nous terminons une guerre non avec une bataille filnale, mais avec une dernière marche du retour. C’est une réussite extraordinaire, qui a pris presque neuf ans Obama Irak C’est une réussite extraordinaire, qui a pris presque neuf ans. Et aujourd’hui nous nous souvenons de tout ce que vous avez fait pour le rendre possible. (…) Dur travail et sacrifice. Ces mots décrivent à peine le prix de cette guerre, et le courage des hommes et des femmes qui l’ont menée. Nous ne connaissons que trop bien le prix élevé de cette guerre. Plus d’1,5 million d’Américains ont servi en Irak. Plus de 30.000 Américains ont été blessés, et ce sont seulement les blessés dont les blessures sont visibles. Près de 4.500 Américains ont perdu la vie, dont 202 héros tombés au champ d’honneur venus d’ici, Fort Bragg. (…) Les dirigeants et les historiens continueront à analyser les leçons stratégiques de l’Irak. Et nos commandants prendront en compte des leçons durement apprises lors de campagnes militaires à l’avenir. Mais la leçon la plus importante que vous nous apprenez n’est pas une leçon en stratégie militaire, c’est une leçon sur le caractère de notre pays, car malgré toutes les difficultés auxquelles notre pays fait face, vous nous rappelez que rien n’est impossible pour les Américains lorsqu’ils sont solidaires. Obama (14.12.11)
Ce n’est pas parce qu’une équipe de juniors porte le maillot des Lakers que cela en fait des Kobe Bryant. Je pense qu’il y a une différence entre les moyens et la portée d’un Ben Laden, d’un réseau qui planifie activement des attaques terroristes de grande envergure contre notre territoire, et ceux de jihadistes impliqués dans des luttes de pouvoir locales, souvent de nature ethnique. Barack Obama (janvier 2014)
Non, je ne pense pas que nous perdons. (…) Il y a eu un revers tactique, c’est incontestable, même si Ramadi était vulnérable depuis très longtemps (…) L’EI a été considérablement affaibli à travers le pays  et il ya eu des progrès significatifs dans le nord et dans les régions où les Peshmergas (forces kurdes) participent. Dans les zones à dominante chiite, « il n’y pas d’avancée de l’EI (…) il ne fait aucun doute que, dans les secteurs sunnites, nous allons devoir renforcer non seulement l’entraînement mais aussi la détermination, et qu’il faut mobiliser les tribus sunnites plus qu’elles ne le sont actuellement (…) L’entraînement des forces de sécurité irakiennes (…) ne va pas assez vite à Al-Anbar (…) il y a une leçon qu’il est important de tirer de ce qui est arrivé, c’est que si les Irakiens eux-mêmes ne sont pas disposés ou capables d’arriver à des compromis politiques nécessaires pour gouverner, si elles ne sont pas prêts à se battre pour la sécurité de leur pays, nous ne pouvons pas le faire pour eux. Obama (2015)
Now, Iraq is not a perfect place. It has many challenges ahead. But we’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people. We’re building a new partnership between our nations. And we are ending a war not with a final battle, but with a final march toward home. This is an extraordinary achievement, nearly nine years in the making.  And today, we remember everything that you did to make it possible. (…) Hard work and sacrifice.  Those words only begin to describe the costs of this war and the courage of the men and women who fought it. We know too well the heavy cost of this war.  More than 1.5 million Americans have served in Iraq — 1.5 million.  Over 30,000 Americans have been wounded, and those are only the wounds that show.  Nearly 4,500 Americans made the ultimate sacrifice — including 202 fallen heroes from here at Fort Bragg — 202.  (…) Policymakers and historians will continue to analyze the strategic lessons of Iraq — that’s important to do.  Our commanders will incorporate the hard-won lessons into future military campaigns — that’s important to do.  But the most important lesson that we can take from you is not about military strategy –- it’s a lesson about our national character. For all of the challenges that our nation faces, you remind us that there’s nothing we Americans can’t do when we stick together. (…) Because of you — because you sacrificed so much for a people that you had never met, Iraqis have a chance to forge their own destiny.  That’s part of what makes us special as Americans.  Unlike the old empires, we don’t make these sacrifices for territory or for resources.  We do it because it’s right.  There can be no fuller expression of America’s support for self-determination than our leaving Iraq to its people.  That says something about who we are. Because of you, in Afghanistan we’ve broken the momentum of the Taliban.  Because of you, we’ve begun a transition to the Afghans that will allow us to bring our troops home from there.  And around the globe, as we draw down in Iraq, we have gone after al Qaeda so that terrorists who threaten America will have no safe haven, and Osama bin Laden will never again walk the face of this Earth.  (…) So here’s what I want you to know, and here’s what I want all our men and women in uniform to know:  Because of you, we are ending these wars in a way that will make America stronger and the world more secure. The war in Iraq will soon belong to history.  Your service belongs to the ages.  Never forget that you are part of an unbroken line of heroes spanning two centuries –- from the colonists who overthrew an empire, to your grandparents and parents who faced down fascism and communism, to you –- men and women who fought for the same principles in Fallujah and Kandahar, and delivered justice to those who attacked us on 9/11. (…) And years from now, your legacy will endure in the names of your fallen comrades etched on headstones at Arlington, and the quiet memorials across our country; in the whispered words of admiration as you march in parades, and in the freedom of our children and our grandchildren.  And in the quiet of night, you will recall that your heart was once touched by fire.  You will know that you answered when your country called; you served a cause greater than yourselves; you helped forge a just and lasting peace with Iraq, and among all nations. I could not be prouder of you, and America could not be prouder of you. Obama
Internationally, I’m proud of the fact that we’ve responsibly ended two wars. Now, people will say, well, you’re back in Iraq, but we’re not back in Iraq with an occupying army, we’re back with a coalition of 60 countries helping to stabilize the situation. Obama
No, I don’t think we’re losing, and I just talked to our CENTCOM commanders and the folks on the ground. There’s no doubt there was a tactical setback, although Ramadi had been vulnerable for a very long time, primarily because these are not Iraqi security forces that we have trained or reinforced. They have been there essentially for a year without sufficient reinforcements, and the number of ISIL that have come into the city now are relatively small compared to what happened in [the Iraqi city of] Mosul. But it is indicative that the training of Iraqi security forces, the fortifications, the command-and-control systems are not happening fast enough in Anbar, in the Sunni parts of the country. You’ve seen actually significant progress in the north, and those areas where the Peshmerga [Kurdish forces] are participating. Baghdad is consolidated. Those predominantly Shia areas, you’re not seeing any forward momentum by ISIL, and ISIL has been significantly degraded across the country. (…) there’s no doubt that in the Sunni areas, we’re going to have to ramp up not just training, but also commitment, and we better get Sunni tribes more activated than they currently have been. So it is a source of concern. We’re eight months into what we’ve always anticipated to be a multi-year campaign, and I think [Iraqi] Prime Minister Abadi recognizes many of these problems, but they’re going to have to be addressed. (…) As you said, I’m very clear on the lessons of Iraq. I think it was a mistake for us to go in in the first place, despite the incredible efforts that were made by our men and women in uniform. Despite that error, those sacrifices allowed the Iraqis to take back their country. That opportunity was squandered by Prime Minister Maliki and the unwillingness to reach out effectively to the Sunni and Kurdish populations. (…) I know that there are some in Republican quarters who have suggested that I’ve overlearned the mistake of Iraq, and that, in fact, just because the 2003 invasion did not go well doesn’t argue that we shouldn’t go back in. And one lesson that I think is important to draw from what happened is that if the Iraqis themselves are not willing or capable to arrive at the political accommodations necessary to govern, if they are not willing to fight for the security of their country, we cannot do that for them. (…) But we can’t do it for them, and one of the central flaws I think of the decision back in 2003 was the sense that if we simply went in and deposed a dictator, or simply went in and cleared out the bad guys, that somehow peace and prosperity would automatically emerge, and that lesson we should have learned a long time ago. And so the really important question moving forward is: How do we find effective partners—not just in Iraq, but in Syria, and in Yemen, and in Libya—that we can work with, and how do we create the international coalition and atmosphere in which people across sectarian lines are willing to compromise and are willing to work together in order to provide the next generation a fighting chance for a better future? Obama (2015)
The fact that you are anti-Semitic, or racist, doesn’t preclude you from being interested in survival. It doesn’t preclude you from being rational about the need to keep your economy afloat; it doesn’t preclude you from making strategic decisions about how you stay in power; and so the fact that the supreme leader is anti-Semitic doesn’t mean that this overrides all of his other considerations. You know, if you look at the history of anti-Semitism, Jeff, there were a whole lot of European leaders—and there were deep strains of anti-Semitism in this country (…) They may make irrational decisions with respect to discrimination, with respect to trying to use anti-Semitic rhetoric as an organizing tool. At the margins, where the costs are low, they may pursue policies based on hatred as opposed to self-interest. But the costs here are not low, and what we’ve been very clear [about] to the Iranian regime over the past six years is that we will continue to ratchet up the costs, not simply for their anti-Semitism, but also for whatever expansionist ambitions they may have. That’s what the sanctions represent. That’s what the military option I’ve made clear I preserve represents. And so I think it is not at all contradictory to say that there are deep strains of anti-Semitism in the core regime, but that they also are interested in maintaining power, having some semblance of legitimacy inside their own country, which requires that they get themselves out of what is a deep economic rut that we’ve put them in, and on that basis they are then willing and prepared potentially to strike an agreement on their nuclear program. Obama (2015)
There is no question that the United States was divided going into that war. But I think the United States is united coming out of that war. We all recognize the tremendous price that has been paid in lives, in blood. And yet I think we also recognize that those lives were not lost in vain. (…) As difficult as [the Iraq war] was, and the cost in both American and Iraqi lives, I think the price has been worth it, to establish a stable government in a very important region of the world. Leon Panetta  (secrétaire américain à la Défense)
You don’t get to live life in reverse. What a leader has to do is make a decision, at the moment of decision, based on the best information he has. George Bush did that in 2002 and 2003 and he was supported by Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden and John Kerry and every western country’s intelligence agency. (…) The indictment of President Obama’s policy is much worse than the purported indictment of President Bush’s policy because everyone questions if we had known then what we know now. « It’s hard to analyze hypotheticals in history; I’m confident that the world is a better place and the world is a safer place with Saddam Hussein removed from power. (…) President Obama knew then what was going to happen, because his military commanders were advising him that they needed a small stay-behind force of 10,000 to 15,000 troops. « President Obama, for political reasons, knowing what he knew then, still made the decision to withdraw all our troops from Iraq. Tom Cotton (2015)
Even when viewed through a post-war lens, documentary evidence of messages are consistent with the Iraqi Survey Group’s conclusion that Saddam was at least keeping a WMD program primed for a quick re-start the moment the UN Security Council lifted sanctions. Iraqi Perpectives Project (March 2006)
Captured Iraqi documents have uncovered evidence that links the regime of Saddam Hussein to regional and global terrorism, including a variety of revolutionary, liberation, nationalist, and Islamic terrorist organizations. While these documents do not reveal direct coordination and assistance between the Saddam regime and the al Qaeda network, they do indicate that Saddam was willing to use, albeit cautiously, operatives affiliated with al Qaeda as long as Saddam could have these terrorist operatives monitored closely. Because Saddam’s security organizations and Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network operated with similar aims (at least in the short term), considerable overlap was inevitable when monitoring, contacting, financing, and training the same outside groups. This created both the appearance of and, in some ways, a de facto link between the organizations. At times, these organizations would work together in pursuit of shared goals but still maintain their autonomy and independence because of innate caution and mutual distrust. Though the execution of Iraqi terror plots was not always successful, evidence shows that Saddam’s use of terrorist tactics and his support for terrorist groups remained strong up until the collapse of the regime.  Iraqi Perspectives Project (Saddam and Terrorism, Nov. 2007, released Mar. 2008)
Beginning in 1994, the Fedayeen Saddam opened its own paramilitary training camps for volunteers, graduating more than 7,200 « good men racing full with courage and enthusiasm » in the first year. Beginning in 1998, these camps began hosting « Arab volunteers from Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, ‘the Gulf,’ and Syria. » It is not clear from available evidence where all of these non-Iraqi volunteers who were « sacrificing for the cause » went to ply their newfound skills. Before the summer of 2002, most volunteers went home upon the completion of training. But these camps were humming with frenzied activity in the months immediately prior to the war. As late as January 2003, the volunteers participated in a special training event called the « Heroes Attack. » This training event was designed in part to prepare regional Fedayeen Saddam commands to « obstruct the enemy from achieving his goal and to support keeping peace and stability in the province.  » Study (Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia)
The prospect of Iraq’s disintegration is already being spun by the Administration and its media friends as the fault of George W. Bush and Mr. Maliki. So it’s worth understanding how we got here. Iraq was largely at peace when Mr. Obama came to office in 2009. Reporters who had known Baghdad during the worst days of the insurgency in 2006 marveled at how peaceful the city had become thanks to the U.S. military surge and counterinsurgency. In 2012 Anthony Blinken, then Mr. Biden’s top security adviser, boasted that, « What’s beyond debate » is that « Iraq today is less violent, more democratic, and more prosperous. And the United States is more deeply engaged there than at any time in recent history. » Mr. Obama employed the same breezy confidence in a speech last year at the National Defense University, saying that « the core of al Qaeda » was on a « path to defeat, » and that the « future of terrorism » came from « less capable » terrorist groups that mainly threatened « diplomatic facilities and businesses abroad. » Mr. Obama concluded his remarks by calling on Congress to repeal its 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force against al Qaeda. If the war on terror was over, ISIS didn’t get the message. The group, known as Tawhid al-Jihad when it was led a decade ago by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was all but defeated by 2009 but revived as U.S. troops withdrew and especially after the uprising in Syria spiraled into chaos. It now controls territory from the outskirts of Aleppo in northwestern Syria to Fallujah in central Iraq. The possibility that a long civil war in Syria would become an incubator for terrorism and destabilize the region was predictable, and we predicted it. « Now the jihadists have descended by the thousands on Syria, » we noted last May. « They are also moving men and weapons to and from Iraq, which is increasingly sinking back into Sunni-Shiite civil war. . . . If Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki feels threatened by al Qaeda and a Sunni rebellion, he will increasingly look to Iran to help him stay in power. » We don’t quote ourselves to boast of prescience but to wonder why the Administration did nothing to avert the clearly looming disaster. Contrary to what Mr. Blinken claimed in 2012, the « diplomatic surge » the Administration promised for Iraq never arrived, nor did U.S. weapons. « The Americans have really deeply disappointed us by not supplying the Iraqi army with the weapons and support it needs to fight terrorism, » the Journal quoted one Iraqi general based in Kirkuk. That might strike some readers as rich coming from the commander of a collapsing army, but it’s a reminder of the price Iraqis and Americans are now paying for Mr. Obama’s failure to successfully negotiate a Status of Forces Agreement with Baghdad that would have maintained a meaningful U.S. military presence. A squadron of Apache attack helicopters, Predator drones and A-10 attack planes based in Iraq might be able to turn back ISIS’s march on Baghdad. WSJ
Mosul’s fall matters for what it reveals about a terrorism whose threat Mr. Obama claims he has minimized. For starters, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) isn’t a bunch of bug-eyed « Mad Max » guys running around firing Kalashnikovs. ISIS is now a trained and organized army. The seizures of Mosul and Tikrit this week revealed high-level operational skills. ISIS is using vehicles and equipment seized from Iraqi military bases. Normally an army on the move would slow down to establish protective garrisons in towns it takes, but ISIS is doing the opposite, by replenishing itself with fighters from liberated prisons. An astonishing read about this group is on the website of the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War. It is an analysis of a 400-page report, « al-Naba, » published by ISIS in March. This is literally a terrorist organization’s annual report for 2013. It even includes « metrics, » detailed graphs of its operations in Iraq as well as in Syria. One might ask: Didn’t U.S. intelligence know something like Mosul could happen? They did. The February 2014 « Threat Assessment » by the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency virtually predicted it: « AQI/ISIL [aka ISIS] probably will attempt to take territory in Iraq and Syria . . . as demonstrated recently in Ramadi and Fallujah. » AQI (al Qaeda in Iraq), the report says, is exploiting the weak security environment « since the departure of U.S. forces at the end of 2011. » But to have suggested any mitigating steps to this White House would have been pointless. It won’t listen. In March, Gen. James Mattis, then head of the U.S. Central Command, told Congress he recommended the U.S. keep 13,600 support troops in Afghanistan; he was known not to want an announced final withdrawal date. On May 27, President Obama said it would be 9,800 troops—for just one year. Which guarantees that the taking of Mosul will be replayed in Afghanistan. Let us repeat the most quoted passage in former Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s memoir, « Duty. » It describes the March 2011 meeting with Mr. Obama about Afghanistan in the situation room. « As I sat there, I thought: The president doesn’t trust his commander, can’t stand Karzai, doesn’t believe in his own strategy and doesn’t consider the war to be his, » Mr. Gates wrote. « For him, it’s all about getting out. » Daniel Henninger
Nothing that happened in Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003 was pre-ordained; different futures than the one unfolding today were possible. Recall that violence declined drastically during the 2007 U.S. troop surge, and that for the next couple of years both Iraq and the West felt that the country was going in the right direction. But the seeds of Iraq’s unravelling were sown in 2010, when the United States did not uphold the election results and failed to broker the formation of a new Iraqi government. As an adviser to the top U.S. general in Iraq, I was a witness. (…)The national elections took place on March 7, 2010, and went more smoothly than we had dared hope. After a month of competitive campaigning across the country and wide media coverage of the different candidates and parties, 62 percent of eligible Iraqis turned out to vote. (…) We had not expected Iraqiya—a coalition headed by the secular Shia Ayad Allawi and leaders of the Sunni community, and running on a non-sectarian platform—to do so well. The coalition had won 91 seats—two more than the incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law Coalition. (…) Even though there was no evidence of fraud to justify a recount, the Iraqi electoral commission and the international community agreed to one, fearful of a repeat of the election fiasco in 2009 in Afghanistan, which had tarnished the credibility of elections there. In the meantime, Maliki’s advisers told us he needed two extra seats, either from the recount or through arbitrary de-Ba’athification that could disqualify Iraqiya candidates. Otherwise, he would be blamed for losing Iraq for the Shia, who make up some two-thirds of the population. (…)  General O and I did not think that the Iraqiya candidate, Allawi, would be able to put a government together with himself as prime minister. But we thought he had the right as the winner of the election to have first go—and that this could lead to a political compromise among the leaders, with either Allawi and Maliki agreeing to share power between them or a third person chosen to be prime minister. But … Hill, General O strode down the embassy corridor looking visibly upset. “He told me that Iraq is not ready for democracy, that Iraq needs a Shia strongman,” the general said, “and Maliki is our man.” Odierno had objected that that was not what the Iraqis wanted. They were rid of one dictator, Hussein, and did not want to create another. (…) Sami al-Askari, a Shia politician close to Maliki who believed that an agreement between State of Law and Iraqiya was the best way forward (…) also told me that everyone except the Americans realized that the formation of the government was perceived as a battle between Iran and the United States for influence in Iraq. The Iranians were active, while the U.S. embassy did nothing. Qasim Suleimani, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s al-Quds Force, continued to summon Iraqis to Iran in order to put together a pan-Shia coalition. The Iranians, al-Askari said, intended to drag out government formation until after August 31, when all U.S. combat forces were due to leave, in order to score a “victory” over the United States. (…) In the Arabic media, there was confusion as to why the United States and Iran should both choose Maliki as prime minister, and this fuelled conspiracy theories about a secret deal between those two countries. (…) The Obama administration wanted to see an Iraqi government in place before the U.S. mid-term elections in November. Biden believed the quickest way to form a government was to keep Maliki as prime minister, and to cajole other Iraqis into accepting this. (…) I tried to explain the struggle between secularists and Islamists, and how many Iraqis wanted to move beyond sectarianism. But Biden could not fathom this. For him, Iraq was simply about Sunnis, Shia and Kurds.(…) If only President Obama had paid attention to Iraq. He, more than anyone, would understand the complexity of identities, I thought—and that people can change. But his only interest in Iraq, it appeared, was in ending the war. (…) In July 2014, I visited Erbil, Iraq, shortly after the Islamic State had taken control of a third of the country and the Iraqi Army had disintegrated. I met up with Rafi Issawi. (…) Rafi listed for me the Sunni grievances that had steadily simmered since I’d left—until they had finally boiled over. Maliki had detained thousands of Sunnis without trial, pushed leading Sunnis, including Rafi, out of the political process by accusing them of terrorism and reneged on payments and pledges to the Iraqi tribes who had bravely fought Al Qaeda in Iraq. Year-long Sunni protests demanding an end to discrimination were met by violence, with dozens of unarmed protesters killed by Iraqi security forces. Maliki had completely subverted the judiciary to his will, so that Sunnis felt unable to achieve justice. The Islamic State, Rafi explained to me, was able to take advantage of this situation, publicly claiming to be the defenders of the Sunnis against the Iranian-backed Maliki government. The downward spiral, Rafi told me not surprisingly, had begun in 2010—when Iraqiya was not given the first chance to try to form the government. “We might not have succeeded,” he admitted, “but the process itself would have been important in building trust in Iraq’s young institutions.” Emma Sky
La Maison Blanche maintient que la mission était une affaire 100% américaine, et que les généraux de l’armée pakistanaise et ses services secrets n’ont pas été mis au courant de l’assaut à l’avance. C’est faux. (…) En août 2010, un ancien officier des services secrets pakistanais a approché Jonathan Bank, alors chef du bureau de la CIA à l’ambassade américaine d’Islamabad. Il a proposé de dire à la CIA où trouver Ben Laden en échange de la récompense que Washington avait offerte en 2001. Seymour Hersh
Pour moi, l’échec de la guerre est surtout lié à la manière dont nous nous sommes précipitemment retirés d’Irak en 2011 selon un calendrier arbitraire, au lieu de sécuriser nos gains et de garder un levier d’influence. Si nous avions maintenu une force substantielle capable d’influencer le gouvernement irakien, nous aurions pu empêcher les dérives sectaires qui ont mené à l’émergence de l’Etat islamique. Général Barbero
Through the fall of 2011, the main question facing the American military in Iraq was what our role would be now that combat operations were over. When President Obama announced the end of our combat mission in August 2010, he acknowledged that we would maintain troops for a while. Now that the deadline was upon us, however, it was clear to me–and many others–that withdrawing all our forces would endanger the fragile stability then barely holding Iraq together. Privately, the various leadership factions in Iraq all confided that they wanted some U.S. forces to remain as a bulwark against sectarian violence. But none was willing to take that position publicly, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki concluded that any Status of Forces Agreement, which would give legal protection to those forces, would have to be submitted to the Iraqi parliament for approval. That made reaching agreement very difficult given the internal politics of Iraq, but representatives of the Defense and State departments, with scrutiny from the White House, tried to reach a deal. We had leverage. We could, for instance, have threatened to withdraw reconstruction aid to Iraq if al-Maliki would not support some sort of continued U.S. military presence. My fear, as I voiced to the President and others, was that if the country split apart or slid back into the violence that we’d seen in the years immediately following the U.S. invasion, it could become a new haven for terrorists to plot attacks against the U.S. Iraq’s stability was not only in Iraq’s interest but also in ours. I privately and publicly advocated for a residual force that could provide training and security for Iraq’s military. To my frustration, the White House coordinated the negotiations but never really led them. Officials there seemed content to endorse an agreement if State and Defense could reach one, but without the President’s active advocacy, al-Maliki was allowed to slip away. The deal never materialized. To this day, I believe that a small U.S. troop presence in Iraq could have effectively advised the Iraqi military on how to deal with al-Qaeda’s resurgence and the sectarian violence that has engulfed the country. Leon Panetta
As I sat there, I thought: The president doesn’t trust his commander, can’t stand Karzai, doesn’t believe in his own strategy and doesn’t consider the war to be his. For him, it’s all about getting out. Robert Gates
Toppling Saddam Hussein through military force was a subject discussed at the highest levels of the Clinton administration. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs Staff, Genral Hugh Shelton, noted in his 2010 memoir that a member of Clinton’s Cabinet, apparently Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, suggested provoking an incident with Iraq that would allow the United States to « take out Saddam ». Shelton recalled : Early on in my days as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, we had small, weekly White House breakfasts in National Security Advisor Sandy Berger’s office that included me, Sandy, Bill Cohen (Secretary of Defense), Madeleine Albright (Secretary of State), George Tenet (head of the CIA), Leon Firth (VP chief of staff for security), Bill Richardson (ambassador to the U.N.), and a few other senior administration officials. These were informal sessions where we would gather around Berger’s table and talk about concerns over coffee and breakfast served by the White House dining facility. It was a comfortable setting that encouraged brainstorming of potential options on a variety of issues of the day. During that time we had U-2 aircraft on reconnaissance sorties over Iraq. These planes were designed to fly at extremely high speeds and altitudes (over seventy thousand feet) both for pilot safety and to avoid detection. At one of my very first breakfasts, while Berger and Cohen were engaged in a sidebar discussion down at one end of the table and Tenet and Richardson were preoccupied in another, one of the Cabinet members present leaned over to me and said, “Hugh, I know I shouldn’t even be asking you this, but what we really need in order to go in and take out Saddam is a precipitous event — something that would make us look good in the eyes of the world. Could you have one of our U-2s fly low enough — and slow enough — so as to guarantee that Saddam could shoot it down?”  The hair on the back of my neck bristled, my teeth clenched, and my fists tightened. I was so mad I was about to explode. I looked across the table, thinking about the pilot in the U-2 and responded, “Of course we can …” which prompted a big smile on the official’s face. “You can?” was the excited reply. “Why, of course we can,” I countered. “Just as soon as we get your ass qualified to fly it, I will have it flown just as low and slow as you want to go.” One can only imagine the congressional and media reaction if such a proposal had been aired openly at a meeting of George W. Bush’s Cabinet, either by Vice President Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, or Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, and this had become public. Stephen F. Knott (Rush to Judgment: George W. Bush, the War on Terror, and His Critics, pp. 136-137)
The overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime became official U.S. policy in 1998, when President Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act—a bill passed 360-38 by the House of Representatives and by unanimous consent in the Senate. The law called for training and equipping Iraqi dissidents to overthrow Saddam and suggested that the United Nations establish a war-crimes tribunal for the dictator and his lieutenants. The legislation was partly the result of frustration over the undeclared and relatively unheralded « No-Fly Zone War » that had been waged since 1991. Saddam’s military repeatedly fired on U.S. and allied aircraft that were attempting to prevent his regime from destroying Iraqi opposition forces in northern and southern Iraq. According to former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Hugh Shelton, in 1997 a key member of President Bill Clinton’s cabinet (thought by most observers to have been Secretary of State Madeleine Albright) asked Gen. Shelton whether he could arrange for a U.S. aircraft to fly slowly and low enough that it would be shot down, thereby paving the way for an American effort to topple Saddam. Kenneth Pollack, a member of Mr. Clinton’s National Security Council staff, would later write in 2002 that it was a question of « not whether but when » the U.S. would invade Iraq. He wrote that the threat presented by Saddam was « no less pressing than those we faced in 1941. » Radicalized by the events of 9/11, George W. Bush gradually concluded that a regime that had used chemical weapons against its own people and poison gas against Iran, invaded Iran and Kuwait, harbored some of the world’s most notorious terrorists, made lucrative payments to the families of suicide bombers, fired on American aircraft almost daily, and defied years of U.N. resolutions regarding weapons of mass destruction was a problem. The former chief U.N. weapons inspector, an Australian named Richard Butler, testified in July 2002 that « it is essential to recognize that the claim made by Saddam’s representatives, that Iraq has no WMD, is false. » In the U.S., there was a bipartisan consensus that Saddam possessed and continued to develop WMD. Former Vice President Al Gore noted in September 2002 that Saddam had « stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country. » Then-Sen. Hillary Clinton observed that Saddam hoped to increase his supply of chemical and biological weapons and to « develop nuclear weapons. » Then-Sen. John Kerry claimed that « a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his [Saddam’s] hands is a real and grave threat to our security. » Even those opposed to using force against Iraq acknowledged that, as then-Sen. Edward Kennedy put it, « we have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing » WMD. When it came time to vote on the authorization for the use of force against Iraq, 81 Democrats in the House voted yes, joined by 29 Democrats in the Senate, including the party’s 2004 standard bearers, John Kerry and John Edwards, plus Majority Leader Tom Daschle, Sen. Joe Biden, Mrs. Clinton, and Sens. Harry Reid, Tom Harkin, Chris Dodd and Jay Rockefeller. The latter, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, claimed that Saddam would « likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years. » Support for the war extended far beyond Capitol Hill. In March 2003, a Pew Research Center poll indicated that 72% of the American public supported President Bush’s decision to use force. If Mr. Bush « lied, » as the common accusation has it, then so did many prominent Democrats—and so did the French, whose foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, claimed in February 2003 that « regarding the chemical domain, we have evidence of [Iraq’s] capacity to produce VX and yperite [mustard gas]; in the biological domain, the evidence suggests the possible possession of significant stocks of anthrax and botulism toxin. » Germany’s intelligence chief August Hanning noted in March 2002 that « it is our estimate that Iraq will have an atomic bomb in three years. » According to interrogations conducted after the invasion, Saddam’s own generals believed that he had WMD and expected him to use these weapons as the invasion force neared Baghdad. The war in Iraq was authorized by a bipartisan congressional coalition, supported by prominent media voices and backed by the public. Yet on its 10th anniversary Americans will be told of the Bush administration’s duplicity in leading us into the conflict. Many members of the bipartisan coalition that committed the U.S. to invade Iraq 10 years ago have long since washed their hands of their share of responsibility. We owe it to history—and, more important, to all those who died—to recognize that this wasn’t Bush’s war, it was America’s war. Stephen F. Knott
Iraq is a symbol. You certainly can make a persuasive argument it was a mistake. But there is a time that line going along that Bush and the other people lied about this. I spent 18 months looking at how Bush decided to invade Iraq. And lots of mistakes, but it was Bush telling George Tenet, the CIA director, don’t let anyone stretch the case on WMD. And he was the one who was skeptical. And if you try to summarize why we went into Iraq, it was momentum. The war plan kept getting better and easier, and finally at the end, people were saying, hey, look, it will only take a week or two. And early on it looked like it was going to take a year or 18 months. And so Bush pulled the trigger. A mistake certainly can be argued, and there is an abundance of evidence. But there was no lying in this that I could find. [about 2011] Well, he didn’t [want to keep any troops there]. Look, Obama does not like war. But as you look back on this, the argument from the military was, let’s keep 10,000, 15,000 troops there as an insurance policy. And we all know insurance policies make sense. We have 30,000 troops or more in South Korea still 65 years or so after the war. When you are a superpower, you have to buy these insurance policies. And he didn’t in this case. I don’t think you can say everything is because of that decision, but clearly a factor. Bob Woodward
The military recommended nearly 20,000 troops, considerably fewer than our 28,500 in Korea, 40,000 in Japan, and 54,000 in Germany. The president rejected those proposals, choosing instead a level of 3,000 to 5,000 troops. A deployment so risibly small would have to expend all its energies simply protecting itself — the fate of our tragic, missionless 1982 Lebanon deployment — with no real capability to train the Iraqis, build their U.S.-equipped air force, mediate ethnic disputes (as we have successfully done, for example, between local Arabs and Kurds), operate surveillance and special-ops bases, and establish the kind of close military-to-military relations that undergird our strongest alliances. The Obama proposal was an unmistakable signal of unseriousness. It became clear that he simply wanted out, leaving any Iraqi foolish enough to maintain a pro-American orientation exposed to Iranian influence, now unopposed and potentially lethal. (…) The excuse is Iraqi refusal to grant legal immunity to U.S. forces. But the Bush administration encountered the same problem, and overcame it. Obama had little desire to. Indeed, he portrays the evacuation as a success, the fulfillment of a campaign promise. Charles Krauthammer
The fact is that by the end of Bush’s tenure the war had been won. You can argue that the price of that victory was too high. Fine. We can debate that until the end of time. But what is not debatable is that it was a victory. Bush bequeathed to Obama a success. By whose measure? By Obama’s. As he told the troops at Fort Bragg on Dec. 14, 2011, “We are leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people.” This was, said the president, a “moment of success.” Which Obama proceeded to fully squander. With the 2012 election approaching, he chose to liquidate our military presence in Iraq. We didn’t just withdraw our forces. We abandoned, destroyed or turned over our equipment, stores, installations and bases. We surrendered our most valuable strategic assets, such as control of Iraqi airspace, soon to become the indispensable conduit for Iran to supply and sustain the Assad regime in Syria and cement its influence all the way to the Mediterranean. And, most relevant to the fall of Ramadi, we abandoned the vast intelligence network we had so painstakingly constructed in Anbar province, without which our current patchwork operations there are largely blind and correspondingly feeble. The current collapse was not predetermined in 2003 but in 2011. Isn’t that what should be asked of Hillary Clinton? We know you think the invasion of 2003 was a mistake. But what about the abandonment of 2011? Was that not a mistake? Charles Krauthammer

Attention: une erreur peut en cacher une autre !

En ce Memorial Day où nos amis américains honorent leurs morts au combat …

Et où, après les pertes (pardon: le « revers tactique ») de Mossoul et Ramadi, leur président annonce triomphalement que la guerre est finie

Pendant qu’aux Etats-Unis mêmes les candidats sont passés à la question de ce qu’ils auraient fait en Irak

A la place d’un George Bush dont même Bob Woodward confirme l’inanité des accusations de mensonges …

Comment ne pas repenser …

A cette glorieuse journée de décembre 2011 …

Où au moment d’un retrait d’Irak qui avec l’élimination elle aussi controversée de Ben Laden allait lui valoir sa brillante réélection un an plus tard …

Et tout en rappelant l’énorme coût en morts et en blessés …

Un président américain presque extatique saluait une « réussite extraordinaire » ?

Mais comment, avec Charles Krauthammer après une telle et aussi coûteuse victoire, ne pas se poser aussi la question …

Non pas tant de l’erreur de l’invasion de 2003 …

Mais de celle de l’abandon de 2011 ?

Obama salue la « réussite » en Irak mais appelle à tirer les leçons du conflit
Le Point
14/12/2011

« Nous ne connaissons que trop bien le prix élevé de cette guerre. Plus d’1,5 million d’Américains ont servi en Irak. Plus de 30.000 Américains ont été blessés, et ce sont seulement les blessés dont les blessures sont visibles », a ajouté le président des USA, en allusion aux séquelles psychologiques dont souffrent certains anciens combattants.
Le président Barack Obama a salué mercredi la « réussite extraordinaire » des Etats-Unis en Irak, en rendant hommage aux soldats quelques jours avant la fin du retrait de l’armée américaine de ce pays.

M. Obama a également évoqué le « prix élevé » de cette guerre de près de neuf ans à laquelle il s’était opposé quand il n’était pas encore à la tête des Etats-Unis, et affirmé que son pays devrait retenir les « leçons » de ce conflit, lors d’un discours devant des soldats à Fort Bragg (Caroline du Nord, sud-est).
« Nous laissons derrière nous un Etat souverain, stable, autosuffisant, avec un gouvernement représentatif qui a été élu par son peuple. Nous bâtissons un nouveau partenariat entre nos pays », a lancé le président devant plusieurs milliers de militaires en uniforme rassemblés dans un hangar de cet énorme complexe, siège des forces spéciales américaines.

« C’est une réussite extraordinaire, qui a pris neuf ans », a-t-il dit, en reconnaissant « le dur travail et le sacrifice » qui ont été nécessaires. « Ces mots décrivent à peine le prix de cette guerre, et le courage des hommes et des femmes qui l’ont menée », a-t-il souligné.

« Nous ne connaissons que trop bien le prix élevé de cette guerre. Plus d’1,5 million d’Américains ont servi en Irak. Plus de 30.000 Américains ont été blessés, et ce sont seulement les blessés dont les blessures sont visibles », a-t-il ajouté, en allusion aux séquelles psychologiques dont souffrent certains anciens combattants.

« Près de 4.500 Américains » ont perdu la vie, a rappelé le président, « dont 202 héros tombés au champ d’honneur venus d’ici, Fort Bragg », a-t-il encore dit. « Et aujourd’hui, nous nous recueillons en prière pour toutes ces familles qui ont perdu ceux qu’ils aimaient, car ils font tous partie de notre grande famille américaine ».

M. Obama, qui avait beaucoup évoqué lors de sa campagne présidentielle victorieuse de 2008 son opposition initiale à la guerre en Irak, en 2002 et 2003 lorsqu’il n’était encore qu’un élu local, a souligné que « les dirigeants et les historiens continueront à analyser les leçons stratégiques de l’Irak ».

« Et nos commandants prendront en compte des leçons durement apprises lors de campagnes militaires à l’avenir », a indiqué le dirigeant.

« Mais la leçon la plus importante que vous nous apprenez n’est pas une leçon en stratégie militaire, c’est une leçon sur le caractère de notre pays », car « malgré toutes les difficultés auxquelles notre pays fait face, vous nous rappelez que rien n’est impossible pour les Américains lorsqu’ils sont solidaires ».

Voir aussi:

L’armée américaine a marqué officiellement son retrait d’Irak
Laurent Lagneau
16-12-2011

Le drapeau des Forces armées américaines en Irak (USF-I) a officiellement été replié lors d’une cérémonie organisée à l’aéroport de Bagdad, lieu symbolique, s’il en est, de l’opération Iraqi Freedom, lancée en mars 2003, puisqu’il s’agit du premier secteur de la capitale irakienne à être occupé par la coalition emmenée par les Etats-Unis pour renverser Saddam Hussein.

« C’est un évènement historique car il y a huit ans, huit mois et 26 jours, j’ai donné l’ordre aux éléments avancés de la troisième division de traverser la frontière » a déclaré le général américain et chef d’état-major adjoint Lloyd Austin.

Conformément l’accord de sécurité conclu entre Bagdad et Washington en 2008, soit avant l’arrivée de Barack Obama à la Maison Blanche, les troupes américaines auront ainsi quitté l’Irak avant la fin de l’année 2011. Après cette date, seulement 160 militaires resteront dans le pays pour être affectés à l’ambassade des Etats-Unis, qui, avec 16.000 employés, sera la plus importante au monde. Ces soldats, aidé par 700 conctractuels, auront pour tâche de former leurs homologues irakiens.

Au cours de ce conflit, qui aurait pu connaître une autre trajectoire si l’erreur de purger l’ancienne armée irakienne de ses cadres n’avait pas été commise, les Etats-Unis ont engagé jusqu’à 170.000 hommes, déployés sur 500 bases. Et plus de 4.500 soldats américains ont perdu la vie au cours de ces 9 ans d’opération.

Prétexte à l’intervention des Etats-Unis, les armes de destruction massive dont Saddam Hussein était soupçonné détenir, n’ont pas été retrouvées. Et l’on se souvient de l’activisme des militants de groupes jihadistes, opérant sous l’étiquette d’al-Qaïda ou non, qui faillit faire basculer l’Irak dans une guerre confessionnelle. Il aura fallu la prise en main des opérations par le général David Petraeus, devenu depuis directeur de la CIA, pour rétablir une situation qui était, au moins jusqu’en 2007, très délicate, grâce à des principes de guerre contre-insurrectionnelle, inspirés par le théoricien français David Galula.

« Nous laissons derrière nous un Etat souverain, stable, autosuffisant, avec une gouvernement représentatif qui a été élu par son peuple. Nous bâtissons un nouveau partenariat entre nos pays. Et nous terminons une guerre non avec une bataille filnale, mais avec une dernière marche du retour » a déclaré le président Barack Obama, le 14 décembre, à l’occasion d’un discours prononcé à Fort Bragg pour rendre hommage aux soldats américains engagés en Irak, au moment de la fin de leur retrait d’Irak.

« C’est une réussite extraordinaire, qui a pris neuf ans », a-t-il encore lancé, en soulignant « le dur travail et le sacrifice » qui « décrivent à peine le prix de cette guerre, et le courage des hommes et des femmes qui l’ont menée ».

« Après le sang versé par les Irakiens et les Américains, la mission visant à faire de l’Irak un pays capable de gouverner et d’assurer seul sa sécurité est devenue réalité », a déclaré Leon Panetta, le patron du Pentagone, lors de la cérémonie marquant le retrait officiel des troupes américains.

« L’Irak va devoir faire face à la menace du terrorisme, à ceux qui sèmeront la division, aux problèmes économiques et sociaux », a-t-il tempéré, soulignant que des « défis continuent d’exister » mais que « les Etats-Unis resteront aux côtés du peuple irakien. » Aussi, avant de parler de réussite, encore faudrait-il attendre encore un peu pour voir comment ce pays va évoluer au cours des prochains mois.

En effet, des attentats sont commis régulièrement et les derniers en date ont surtout visé la communauté chiite à l’occasion de la fête de l’Achoura. Aussi, les tensions confessionnelles sont l’un des écueils que l’Irak aura à éviter. Les désaccords entre Bagdad et la minorité kurde, notamment au sujet de l’exploitation prétrolière, devront être réglés. Enfin, la nouvelle armée irakienne n’est pas encore prête à assurer la sécurité du territoire, en raison de ces lacunes capacitaires. Ce qui inquiète d’ailleurs, le président irakien, Jalal Talabani.

« L’Irak a besoin d’une présence américaine et d’instructeurs américains, parce que nous ne sommes pas capables de défendre notre ciel et nos eaux, ainsi que d’utiliser les armes que nous avons achetées ou que nous avons obtenus auprès des Etats-Unis » a-t-il déclaré en novembre dernier.

Ce qui pose la question de l’influence iranienne dans le pays. En effet, Téhéran ne manque pas de relais en Irak, grâce notamment au chiisme. Le régime des mollahs sera-t-il le principal bénéficiaire de l’opération conduite par les Etats-Unis? L’avenir le dira.

En attendant, Washington a adressé une mise en garde aux Iraniens, sans les nommer. « La souveraineté de l’Irak doit être respectée », a ainsi prévenu Barack Obama, le 12 décembre dernier, à l’occasion d’une rencontre avec Nouri al-Maliki, le Premier ministre irakien.

Pour terminer sur une note provocatrice, s’il devait y avoir un vainqueur de cette guerre en Irak, ce serait sans doute la Chine, qui a profité de l’engagement américain pour monter en puissance. Cette intervention aura coûté près de 800 milliards de dollars au contribuable américain (reconstruction, réparation et remplacement des matériels, pensions et soins des blessés, etc…). L’économiste Joseph Stiglitz, prix Nobel d’économie, a même estimé que ce coût pourrait dépasser finalement les 3.000 milliards de dollars à long terme. Et quand l’on sait que Pékin est l’un des principaux créanciers de Washington…

Voir également:

Obama au pied du mur face aux avancées de l’EI
Jean Michel Gradt
Les Echos
22/05 /15

Dans un entretien publié jeudi, le président américain estime que les Etats-Unis ne sont pas en train de perdre le combat contre le groupe djihadiste en Irak et qu’il se refuse à envoyer des troupes au sol en Irak comme en Syrie.

Malgré une campagne aérienne lancée depuis l’été 2014 par la coalition internationale dirigée par les Etats-Unis pour aider le pouvoir en Irak, et les rebelles en Syrie, à stopper la progression de l’EI, le groupe jihadiste a réussi deux coups de force en huit jours : la prise de Ramadi en Irak et celle de Palmyre en Syrie.

« Je ne crois pas que nous soyons en train de perdre » le combat contre les djihadistes de l’organisation Etat islamique, malgré le «  revers stratégique » subi à Ramadi, chef lieu de la province irakienne d’Anbar tombé dimanche dernier aux mains des jihadistes sunnites ultraradicaux, déclare Barack Obama dans un entretien publié jeudi par le magazine The Atlantic . « Il y a eu un revers tactique, c’est incontestable, même si Ramadi était vulnérable depuis très longtemps« , a-t-il ajouté.

« L’EI a été considérablement affaibli à travers le pays« , a encore expliqué le président américain,qui évoque « des progrès significatifs dans le nord et dans les régions où les Peshmergas (forces kurdes) participent ». Dans les zones à dominante chiite, « il n’y pas d’avancée de l’EI« , a-t-il ajouté. Mais «   il ne fait aucun doute que, dans les secteurs sunnites, nous allons devoir renforcer non seulement l’entraînement mais aussi la détermination, et qu’il faut mobiliser les tribus sunnites plus qu’elles ne le sont actuellement  »

Pas de troupes au sol en Irak

Les Etats-Unis sont-ils prêts à envoyer des troupes au sol ? «  Aujourd’hui la question n’est pas si oui ou non nous envoyons des contingents de troupes américaines au sol. Aujourd’hui, la question est de savoir comment nous trouvons des partenaires efficaces pour gouverner dans ces régions de l’Irak qui sont en ce moment ingouvernables et vaincre efficacement l’EI, pas seulement en Irak, mais en Syrie? « 

Puis, évoquant les « erreurs » commises lors de l’invasion américaine de 2003, il ajoute :  » il y a une leçon qu’il est important de tirer de ce qui est arrivé, c’est que si les Irakiens eux-mêmes ne sont pas disposés ou capables d’arriver à des compromis politiques nécessaires pour gouverner, si elles ne sont pas prêts à se battre pour la sécurité de leur pays, nous ne pouvons pas le faire pour eux », poursuit le président, dont les propos ont été recueillis mardi… c’est-à-dire avant la prise de Palmyre par l’EI en Syrie.

Interrogations après la chute de Palmyre

Or depuis jeudi, la situation a empiré. En s’emparant de Palmyre, cité antique vieille de plus de 2.000 ans et véritable carrefour routier qui ouvre sur le grand désert syrien frontalier de l’Irak , l’EI contrôle « désormais plus de 95.000 km2 en Syrie, soit 50% du territoire« , d’après l’Observatoire syrien des droits de l’Homem (OSDH). Le groupe terroriste s’est emparé de la majeure partie des provinces de Deir Ezzor et Raqa (nord), et a une forte présence à Hassaké (nord-est), Alep (nord), Homs la troisième ville du pays et Hama (centre). Il est aussi maître de la quasi-totalité des champs pétroliers et gaziers de Syrie.

Ce deuxième revers en une semaine face à l’EI sera-t-il de nature à modifier la position adoptée par le président américain dans son entretien à « The Atlantic », notamment sur l’envoi de troupes au sol  ? La réponse est : non.Tout en demandant des moyens supplémentaires au Congrès pour lutter contre l’EI, Barack Obama a réaffirmé hier (voir la vidéo ci-dessous) qu’il n’était pas question pour les Etats-Unis d’envoyer des troupes au sol « en Irak ou en Syrie ».

Dans la presse française, les éditorialistes (voir encadré) s’interrogent. « La froide vérité géopolitique est que les États-Unis s’intéressent avant tout à l’Irak, dont ils espèrent encore sauver l’intégrité, et que nul ne sait plus qui soutenir en Syrie, maintenant que les rebelles +modérés+ ont jeté le masque en s’acoquinant avec al-Qaida« , lit-on sous la plume de Philippe Gélie dans le Figaro.

 » La conquête de Palmyre témoigne de la force de Daech. Créée il y a seulement deux ans, cette organisation a effacé la frontière entre l’Irak et la Syrie, contrôlant de vastes territoires et d’importantes ressources pétrolières et gazières », écrit Jean-Christophe Ploquin dans La Croix. Selon lui, « les seuls qui pourraient développer une stratégie globale contre lui aujourd’hui sont les États-Unis. Mais Barack Obama (…) ne veut plus engager de troupes dans un long conflit moyen-oriental. Il n’a pas la capacité de peser sur ses alliés -européens ou arabes- pour les entraîner dans une coalition internationale puissante. C’est dans ce vide stratégique que s’engouffre Daech. »

Interrogations sur la stratégie des Etats-Unis après la chute de Palmyre

Dans Sud Ouest, Bruno Dive, estime que la prise de Palmyre « signe la première défaite directe de l’armée de Bachar el Assad face à Daech. Mais surtout, elle pose avec une acuité grandissante la question du bien-fondé de la stratégie adoptée par les Etats-Unis et leurs alliés (…) Daech s’enracine, et chaque jour qui passe montre qu’elle sera très difficile à déloger, du moins sans l’appui massif de troupes au sol (…) Le temps des choix clairs et fermes est donc venu. Si l’on ne veut pas que tout le Proche-Orient se transforme en champ de ruines. »

Pour Alexandra Schwartzbrod de Libération, la prise de Palmyre appelle au moins un constat et une interrogation. « Le constat, c’est que l’armée syrienne a perdu de sa toute puissance. On ne peut exclure l’hypothèse que le boucher de Damas ait poussé le machiavélisme jusqu’à demander à ses troupes de déserter les lieux, histoire de laisser les jihadistes prendre le contrôle de ce trésor de l’archéologie mondiale afin de pousser le monde à le soutenir, lui, face à eux. Mais ce jeu-là apparaît dangereux (…) La grande interrogation, ce sont les Etats-Unis (…) Que les forces américaines (…) n’aient pas réussi à bloquer la progression des jihadistes paraît incompréhensible. Tétanisé à l’idée d’enliser les boys dans ce nouveau bourbier, Barack Obama semble bien peu sûr de sa stratégie. Seul espoir, que Palmyre serve d’électrochoc. »

Voir encore:

Obama: « Non, nous ne perdons pas » face au groupe Etat islamique
Le président Barack Obama estime que les Etats-Unis ne sont pas en train de perdre le combat engagé contre le groupe Etat islamique en Irak et Syrie, rappelant avoir toujours indiqué que la campagne contre les jihadistes prendrait « plusieurs années ».

AFP
21-05-2015

« Non, je ne pense pas que nous perdons », a-t-il souligné dans un entretien publié jeudi par le magazine en ligne The Atlantic.

« Il y a eu un revers tactique, c’est incontestable, même si Ramadi était vulnérable depuis très longtemps », a-t-il ajouté, évoquant la chute dimanche dernier de la capitale de la province irakienne d’Al-Anbar aux mains des jihadistes sunnites ultraradicaux.

L’entretien réalisé mardi paraît le jour où l’Etat islamique s’est emparé de la ville de Palmyre en Syrie, autre victoire significative qui lui permet d’élargir sa zone d’influence de part et d’autre de la frontière syro-irakienne.

« L’EI a été considérablement affaibli à travers le pays », a encore expliqué le président Obama, évoquant « des progrès significatifs dans le nord et dans les régions où les Peshmergas (forces kurdes) participent ».

Dans les zones à dominante chiite, « il n’y pas d’avancée de l’EI », a-t-il ajouté.

« L’entraînement des forces de sécurité irakiennes (…) ne va pas assez vite à Al-Anbar », a toutefois concédé M. Obama, confirmant qu’il souhaitait renforcer les efforts américains sur ce point.

En s’emparant de Palmyre, cité antique vieille de plus de 2.000 ans et véritable carrefour routier qui ouvre sur le grand désert syrien frontalier de l’Irak, l’EI se rend désormais maître de la moitié du territoire de Syrie et menace Homs, la troisième ville du pays en guerre.

Malgré une campagne aérienne lancée depuis l’été 2014 par la coalition internationale dirigée par les Etats-Unis pour aider en Irak le pouvoir et en Syrie les rebelles, à stopper la progression de l’EI, le groupe jihadiste a réussi ces deux coups de force (prise de Palmyre et Ramadi) en huit jours.

Voir par ailleurs:

You want hypotheticals? Here’s one.
Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Post
May 21

Ramadi falls. The Iraqi army flees. The great 60-nation anti-Islamic State coalition so grandly proclaimed by the Obama administration is nowhere to be seen. Instead, it’s the defense minister of Iran who flies into Baghdad, an unsubtle demonstration of who’s in charge — while the U.S. air campaign proves futile and America’s alleged strategy for combating the Islamic State is in freefall.

It gets worse. The Gulf states’ top leaders, betrayed and bitter, ostentatiously boycott President Obama’s failed Camp David summit. “We were America’s best friend in the Arab world for 50 years,” laments Saudi Arabia’s former intelligence chief.

Note: “were,” not “are.”

We are scraping bottom. Following six years of President Obama’s steady and determined withdrawal from the Middle East, America’s standing in the region has collapsed. And yet the question incessantly asked of the various presidential candidates is not about that. It’s a retrospective hypothetical: Would you have invaded Iraq in 2003 if you had known then what we know now?

First, the question is not just a hypothetical but an inherently impossible hypothetical. It contradicts itself. Had we known there were no weapons of mass destruction, the very question would not have arisen. The premise of the war — the basis for going to the U.N., to the Congress and, indeed, to the nation — was Iraq’s possession of WMD in violation of the central condition for the cease-fire that ended the 1991 Gulf War. No WMD, no hypothetical to answer in the first place.

Second, the “if you knew then” question implicitly locates the origin and cause of the current disasters in 2003 . As if the fall of Ramadi was predetermined then, as if the author of the current regional collapse is George W. Bush.

This is nonsense. The fact is that by the end of Bush’s tenure the war had been won. You can argue that the price of that victory was too high. Fine. We can debate that until the end of time. But what is not debatable is that it was a victory. Bush bequeathed to Obama a success. By whose measure? By Obama’s. As he told the troops at Fort Bragg on Dec. 14, 2011, “We are leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people.” This was, said the president, a “moment of success.”

Which Obama proceeded to fully squander. With the 2012 election approaching, he chose to liquidate our military presence in Iraq. We didn’t just withdraw our forces. We abandoned, destroyed or turned over our equipment, stores, installations and bases. We surrendered our most valuable strategic assets, such as control of Iraqi airspace, soon to become the indispensable conduit for Iran to supply and sustain the Assad regime in Syria and cement its influence all the way to the Mediterranean. And, most relevant to the fall of Ramadi, we abandoned the vast intelligence network we had so painstakingly constructed in Anbar province, without which our current patchwork operations there are largely blind and correspondingly feeble.

The current collapse was not predetermined in 2003 but in 2011. Isn’t that what should be asked of Hillary Clinton? We know you think the invasion of 2003 was a mistake. But what about the abandonment of 2011? Was that not a mistake?

Voir par ailleurs:

When Everyone Agreed About Iraq
For years before the war, a bipartisan consensus thought Saddam possessed WMD.
Stephen F. Knott
The WSJ
March 15, 2013

At 5:34 a.m. on March 20, 2003, American, British and other allied forces invaded Iraq. One of the most divisive conflicts in the nation’s history would soon be labeled  » Bush’s War. »

The overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime became official U.S. policy in 1998, when President Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act—a bill passed 360-38 by the House of Representatives and by unanimous consent in the Senate. The law called for training and equipping Iraqi dissidents to overthrow Saddam and suggested that the United Nations establish a war-crimes tribunal for the dictator and his lieutenants.

The legislation was partly the result of frustration over the undeclared and relatively unheralded « No-Fly Zone War » that had been waged since 1991. Saddam’s military repeatedly fired on U.S. and allied aircraft that were attempting to prevent his regime from destroying Iraqi opposition forces in northern and southern Iraq.

According to former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Hugh Shelton, in 1997 a key member of President Bill Clinton’s cabinet (thought by most observers to have been Secretary of State Madeleine Albright) asked Gen. Shelton whether he could arrange for a U.S. aircraft to fly slowly and low enough that it would be shot down, thereby paving the way for an American effort to topple Saddam. Kenneth Pollack, a member of Mr. Clinton’s National Security Council staff, would later write in 2002 that it was a question of « not whether but when » the U.S. would invade Iraq. He wrote that the threat presented by Saddam was « no less pressing than those we faced in 1941. »

Radicalized by the events of 9/11, George W. Bush gradually concluded that a regime that had used chemical weapons against its own people and poison gas against Iran, invaded Iran and Kuwait, harbored some of the world’s most notorious terrorists, made lucrative payments to the families of suicide bombers, fired on American aircraft almost daily, and defied years of U.N. resolutions regarding weapons of mass destruction was a problem. The former chief U.N. weapons inspector, an Australian named Richard Butler, testified in July 2002 that « it is essential to recognize that the claim made by Saddam’s representatives, that Iraq has no WMD, is false. »

In the U.S., there was a bipartisan consensus that Saddam possessed and continued to develop WMD. Former Vice President Al Gore noted in September 2002 that Saddam had « stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country. » Then-Sen. Hillary Clinton observed that Saddam hoped to increase his supply of chemical and biological weapons and to « develop nuclear weapons. » Then-Sen. John Kerry claimed that « a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his [Saddam’s] hands is a real and grave threat to our security. »

Even those opposed to using force against Iraq acknowledged that, as then-Sen. Edward Kennedy put it, « we have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing » WMD. When it came time to vote on the authorization for the use of force against Iraq, 81 Democrats in the House voted yes, joined by 29 Democrats in the Senate, including the party’s 2004 standard bearers, John Kerry and John Edwards, plus Majority Leader Tom Daschle, Sen. Joe Biden, Mrs. Clinton, and Sens. Harry Reid, Tom Harkin, Chris Dodd and Jay Rockefeller. The latter, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, claimed that Saddam would « likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years. »

Support for the war extended far beyond Capitol Hill. In March 2003, a Pew Research Center poll indicated that 72% of the American public supported President Bush’s decision to use force.

If Mr. Bush « lied, » as the common accusation has it, then so did many prominent Democrats—and so did the French, whose foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, claimed in February 2003 that « regarding the chemical domain, we have evidence of [Iraq’s] capacity to produce VX and yperite [mustard gas]; in the biological domain, the evidence suggests the possible possession of significant stocks of anthrax and botulism toxin. » Germany’s intelligence chief August Hanning noted in March 2002 that « it is our estimate that Iraq will have an atomic bomb in three years. »

According to interrogations conducted after the invasion, Saddam’s own generals believed that he had WMD and expected him to use these weapons as the invasion force neared Baghdad.

The war in Iraq was authorized by a bipartisan congressional coalition, supported by prominent media voices and backed by the public. Yet on its 10th anniversary Americans will be told of the Bush administration’s duplicity in leading us into the conflict. Many members of the bipartisan coalition that committed the U.S. to invade Iraq 10 years ago have long since washed their hands of their share of responsibility.

We owe it to history—and, more important, to all those who died—to recognize that this wasn’t Bush’s war, it was America’s war.

Mr. Knott, a professor of national security affairs at the United States Naval War College, is the author of « Rush to Judgment: George W. Bush, the War on Terror, and His Critics » (University Press of Kansas, 2012).

Voir enfin:

Global
‘Look … It’s My Name on This’: Obama Defends the Iran Nuclear Deal

In an interview, the U.S. president ties his legacy to a pact with Tehran, argues ISIS is not winning, warns Saudi Arabia not to pursue a nuclear-weapons program, and anguishes about Israel.

Jeffrey Goldberg
The Atlantic
May 21, 2015

On Tuesday afternoon, as President Obama was bringing an occasionally contentious but often illuminating hour-long conversation about the Middle East to an end, I brought up a persistent worry. “A majority of American Jews want to support the Iran deal,” I said, “but a lot of people are anxiety-ridden about this, as am I.” Like many Jews—and also, by the way, many non-Jews—I believe that it is prudent to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of anti-Semitic regimes. Obama, who earlier in the discussion had explicitly labeled the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, an anti-Semite, responded with an argument I had not heard him make before.

“Look, 20 years from now, I’m still going to be around, God willing. If Iran has a nuclear weapon, it’s my name on this,” he said, referring to the apparently almost-finished nuclear agreement between Iran and a group of world powers led by the United States. “I think it’s fair to say that in addition to our profound national-security interests, I have a personal interest in locking this down.”

The president—the self-confident, self-contained, coolly rational president—appears to have his own anxieties about the nuclear talks. Which isn’t a bad thing.

Jimmy Carter’s name did not come up in our Oval Office conversation, but it didn’t have to. Carter’s tragic encounter with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the Islamic Revolution, is an object lesson in the mysterious power of Iran to undermine, even unravel, American presidencies. Ronald Reagan, of course, also knew something of the Iranian curse. As Obama moves to conclude this historic agreement, one that will—if he is correct in his assessment—keep Iran south of the nuclear threshold not only for the 10- or 15-year period of the deal, but well beyond it, he and his administration have deployed a raft of national security-related arguments to buttress their cause. But Obama’s parting comment to me suggests he knows perfectly well that his personal legacy, and not just the future of global nuclear non-proliferation efforts (among other things), is riding on the proposition that he is not being played by America’s Iranian adversaries, and that his reputation will be forever tarnished if Iran goes sideways, even after he leaves office. Obama’s critics have argued that he is “kicking the can down the road” by striking this agreement with Iran. Obama, though, seems to understand that the can will be his for a very long time.

When we spoke on Tuesday, he mentioned, as he often has, his feelings of personal responsibility to Israel. In the period leading up to the June 30 Iran-negotiation deadline, Obama has been focused on convincing Arab and Jewish leaders—people he has helped to unite over their shared fear of Iran’s hegemonic ambitions—that the nuclear deal will enhance their security. Last week, he gathered leaders of the Gulf Arab states at Camp David in an attempt to provide such reassurance. On Friday, he will be visiting Washington’s Adas Israel Congregation, a flagship synagogue of Conservative Judaism (also, coincidentally, the synagogue I attend) ostensibly in order to give a speech in honor of Jewish American Heritage Month (whatever that is), but actually to reassure American Jews, particularly in the wake of his titanic battles with Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, that he still, to quote from my 2012 interview with him, “has Israel’s back.” (There are no plans, as best as I can tell, for Obama to meet with Netanyahu in the coming weeks; this appears to be a bridge too far for the White House, at least at the moment.)

A good part of our conversation on Tuesday concerned possible flaws in the assumptions undergirding the nuclear deal, at least as the deal’s provisional parameters and potential consequences are currently understood. (A full transcript of the conversation appears below.)

Obama also spoke about ISIS’s latest surge in Iraq, and we discussed the worries of Arab states, which remain concerned not only about Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but about its regional meddling and its patronage of, among other reprehensible players, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Syria’s Assad regime. Tensions between the U.S. and the Gulf states, I came to see, have not entirely dissipated. Obama was adamant on Tuesday that America’s Arab allies must do more to defend their own interests, but he has also spent much of the past month trying to reassure Saudi Arabia, the linchpin state of the Arab Gulf and one of America’s closest Arab allies, that the U.S. will protect it from Iran. One thing he does not want Saudi Arabia to do is to build a nuclear infrastructure to match the infrastructure Iran will be allowed to keep in place as part of its agreement with the great powers. “Their covert—presumably—pursuit of a nuclear program would greatly strain the relationship they’ve got with the United States,” Obama said of the Saudis.

As in previous conversations I’ve had with Obama (you can find transcripts of these discussions here, here, and here), we spent the bulk of our time talking about a country whose future preoccupies him almost as much as it preoccupies me. In the wake of what seemed to have been a near-meltdown in the relationship between the United States and Israel, Obama talked about what he called his love for the Jewish state; his frustrations with it when it fails to live up to both Jewish and universal values; and his hope that, one day soon, its leaders, including and especially its prime minister, will come to understand Israel’s stark choices as he understands Israel’s stark choices. And, just as he did with Saudi Arabia, Obama issued a warning to Israel: If it proves unwilling to live up to its values—in this case, he made specific mention of Netanyahu’s seemingly flawed understanding of the role Israel’s Arab citizens play in its democratic order—the consequences could be profound.

Obama told me that when Netanyahu asserted, late in his recent reelection campaign, that “a Palestinian state would not happen under his watch, or [when] there [was] discussion in which it appeared that Arab-Israeli citizens were somehow portrayed as an invading force that might vote, and that this should be guarded against—this is contrary to the very language of the Israeli Declaration of Independence, which explicitly states that all people regardless of race or religion are full participants in the democracy. When something like that happens, that has foreign-policy consequences, and precisely because we’re so close to Israel, for us to simply stand there and say nothing would have meant that this office, the Oval Office, lost credibility when it came to speaking out on these issues.”

Though Obama’s goal in giving speeches like the one he is scheduled to give at Adas Israel is to reassure Jews of his love for Israel, he was adamant that he would not allow the Jewish right, and the Republican Party, to automatically define criticism of the Netanyahu government’s policies as anti-Israel or anti-Semitic. Referring to the most powerful Jewish figure in conservative America, Obama said that an “argument that I very much have been concerned about, and it has gotten stronger over the last 10 years … it’s less overt than the arguments that a Sheldon Adelson makes, but in some ways can be just as pernicious, is this argument that there should not be disagreements in public” between the U.S. and Israel. (Obama raised Adelson’s name in part because I had mentioned his view of the president—Adelson’s non-subtle criticism is that Obama is going to destroy the Jewish state—earlier in the interview.)

I started the interview by asking Obama if—despite his previous assertion that ISIS was on the defensive—the United States was, in fact, losing the fight against the Islamic State terror group. When we spoke, the Iraqi city of Ramadi, in Anbar Province, had just fallen to ISIS; Palmyra, in Syria, would fall the day after the interview.

“No, I don’t think we’re losing,” he said. He went on to explain, “There’s no doubt there was a tactical setback, although Ramadi had been vulnerable for a very long time, primarily because these are not Iraqi security forces that we have trained or reinforced. … [T]he training of Iraqi security forces, the fortifications, the command-and-control systems are not happening fast enough in Anbar, in the Sunni parts of the country.” When I asked about the continuing role Iraq plays in American politics—I was making a reference to Jeb Bush’s recent Iraq-related conniptions—Obama pivoted from the question to make the argument that Republicans still don’t grasp key lessons about the Iraq invasion ordered 12 years ago by Jeb’s brother.

“I know that there are some in Republican quarters who have suggested that I’ve overlearned the mistake of Iraq, and that, in fact, just because the 2003 invasion did not go well doesn’t argue that we shouldn’t go back in,” he said. “And one lesson that I think is important to draw from what happened is that if the Iraqis themselves are not willing or capable to arrive at the political accommodations necessary to govern, if they are not willing to fight for the security of their country, we cannot do that for them.”
“In addition to our profound national-security interests, I have a personal interest in locking [the nuclear deal] down.”

I turned the conversation to Iran by quoting to him something he said in that 2012 interview (the same interview in which he publicly ruled out, for the first time, the idea of containing a nuclear Iran, rather than stopping it from crossing the nuclear threshold).

This is what he told me three years ago: “It is almost certain that other players in the region would feel it necessary to get their own nuclear weapons” if Iran got them. I then noted various reports suggesting that, in reaction to a final deal that allows Iran to keep much of its nuclear infrastructure in place, Saudi Arabia, and possibly Turkey and Egypt as well, would consider starting their own nuclear programs. This, of course, would run completely counter to Obama’s nuclear non-proliferation goals.

I asked Obama if the Saudis had promised him not to go down the nuclear path: “What are the consequences if other countries in the region say, ‘Well you know what, they have 5,000 centrifuges? We’re going to have 5,000 centrifuges.’”

Obama responded by downplaying these media reports, and then said, “There has been no indication from the Saudis or any other [Gulf Cooperation Council] countries that they have an intention to pursue their own nuclear program. Part of the reason why they would not pursue their own nuclear program—assuming that we have been successful in preventing Iran from continuing down the path of obtaining a nuclear weapon—is that the protection that we provide as their partner is a far greater deterrent than they could ever hope to achieve by developing their own nuclear stockpile or trying to achieve breakout capacity when it comes to nuclear weapons.”

He went on to say that the Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia, appear satisfied that if the agreement works as advertised, it will serve to keep Iran from becoming a nuclear threat. “They understand that ultimately their own security and defense is much better served by working with us,” Obama said.

One of the reasons I worry about the Iran deal is that the Obama administration seems, on occasion, to be overly optimistic about the ways in which Iran will deploy the money it will receive when sanctions are relieved. This is a very common fear among Arabs and, of course, among Israelis. I quoted Jack Lew, the treasury secretary, who said in a recent speech to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy that “most of the money Iran receives from sanctions relief will not be used to support” its terrorist-aiding activities. I argued to Obama that this seemed like wishful thinking.

Obama responded at length (please read his full answer below), but he began this way: “I don’t think Jack or anybody in this administration said that no money will go to the military as a consequence of sanctions relief. The question is, if Iran has $150 billion parked outside the country, does the IRGC automatically get $150 billion? Does that $150 billion then translate by orders of magnitude into their capacity to project power throughout the region? And that is what we contest, because when you look at the math, first of all they’re going to have to deliver on their obligations under any agreement, which would take a certain period of time. Then there are the mechanics of unwinding the existing restraints they have on getting that money, which takes a certain amount of time. Then [Iranian President] Rouhani and, by extension, the supreme leader have made a series of commitments to improve the Iranian economy, and the expectations are outsized. You saw the reaction of people in the streets of Tehran after the signing of the agreement. Their expectations are that [the economy is] going to improve significantly.” Obama also argued that most of Iran’s nefarious activities—in Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon—are comparatively low-cost, and that they’ve been pursuing these policies regardless of sanctions.

“The protection that we provide as [the Gulf countries’] partner is a far greater deterrent than they could ever hope to achieve by developing their own nuclear stockpile.”

I also raised another concern—one that the president didn’t seem to fully share. It’s been my belief that it is difficult to negotiate with parties that are captive to a conspiratorial anti-Semitic worldview not because they hold offensive views, but because they hold ridiculous views. As Walter Russell Mead and others have explained, anti-Semites have difficulty understanding the world as it actually works, and don’t comprehend cause-and-effect in politics and economics. Though I would like to see a solid nuclear deal (it is preferable to the alternatives) I don’t believe that the regime with which Obama is negotiating can be counted on to be entirely rational.

Obama responded to this theory by saying the following: “Well the fact that you are anti-Semitic, or racist, doesn’t preclude you from being interested in survival. It doesn’t preclude you from being rational about the need to keep your economy afloat; it doesn’t preclude you from making strategic decisions about how you stay in power; and so the fact that the supreme leader is anti-Semitic doesn’t mean that this overrides all of his other considerations. You know, if you look at the history of anti-Semitism, Jeff, there were a whole lot of European leaders—and there were deep strains of anti-Semitism in this country—”

I interjected by suggesting that anti-Semitic European leaders made irrational decisions, to which Obama responded, “They may make irrational decisions with respect to discrimination, with respect to trying to use anti-Semitic rhetoric as an organizing tool. At the margins, where the costs are low, they may pursue policies based on hatred as opposed to self-interest. But the costs here are not low, and what we’ve been very clear [about] to the Iranian regime over the past six years is that we will continue to ratchet up the costs, not simply for their anti-Semitism, but also for whatever expansionist ambitions they may have. That’s what the sanctions represent. That’s what the military option I’ve made clear I preserve represents. And so I think it is not at all contradictory to say that there are deep strains of anti-Semitism in the core regime, but that they also are interested in maintaining power, having some semblance of legitimacy inside their own country, which requires that they get themselves out of what is a deep economic rut that we’ve put them in, and on that basis they are then willing and prepared potentially to strike an agreement on their nuclear program.”

On Israel, Obama endorsed, in moving terms, the underlying rationale for the existence of a Jewish state, making a direct connection between the battle for African American equality and the fight for Jewish national equality. “There’s a direct line between supporting the right of the Jewish people to have a homeland and to feel safe and free of discrimination and persecution, and the right of African Americans to vote and have equal protection under the law,” he said. “These things are indivisible in my mind.”

In discussing the resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe, he was quite clear in his condemnation of what has become a common trope—that anti-Zionism, the belief that the Jews should not have a state of their own in at least part of their ancestral homeland, is unrelated to anti-Jewish hostility. He gave me his own parameters for judging whether a person is simply critical of certain Israeli policies or harboring more prejudicial feelings.

“Do you think that Israel has a right to exist as a homeland for the Jewish people, and are you aware of the particular circumstances of Jewish history that might prompt that need and desire?” he said, in defining the questions that he believes should be asked. “And if your answer is no, if your notion is somehow that that history doesn’t matter, then that’s a problem, in my mind. If, on the other hand, you acknowledge the justness of the Jewish homeland, you acknowledge the active presence of anti-Semitism—that it’s not just something in the past, but it is current—if you acknowledge that there are people and nations that, if convenient, would do the Jewish people harm because of a warped ideology. If you acknowledge those things, then you should be able to align yourself with Israel where its security is at stake, you should be able to align yourself with Israel when it comes to making sure that it is not held to a double standard in international fora, you should align yourself with Israel when it comes to making sure that it is not isolated.”

Though he tried to frame his conflict with Netanyahu in impersonal terms, he made two things clear. One is that he will not stop criticizing Israel when he believes it is not living up to its own founding values. And two—and this is my interpretation of his worldview—he holds Israel to a higher standard than he does other countries because of the respect he has for Jewish values and Jewish teachings, and for the role Jewish mentors and teachers have played in his life. After equating the creation of Israel with the American civil-rights movement, he went on to say this: “What is also true, by extension, is that I have to show that same kind of regard to other peoples. And I think it is true to Israel’s traditions and its values—its founding principles—that it has to care about … Palestinian kids. And when I was in Jerusalem and I spoke, the biggest applause that I got was when I spoke about those kids I had visited in Ramallah, and I said to a Israeli audience that it is profoundly Jewish, it is profoundly consistent with Israel’s traditions to care about them. And they agreed. So if that’s not translated into policy—if we’re not willing to take risks on behalf of those values—then those principles become empty words, and in fact, in my mind, it makes it more difficult for us to continue to promote those values when it comes to protecting Israel internationally.”
Obama, when he talks about Israel, sounds like a rabbi in the progressive Zionist tradition.

As I was listening to him speak about Israel and its values (we did not discuss the recent controversy over a now-shelved Israeli Defense Ministry plan to segregate certain West Bank bus lines, but issues like this informed the conversation), I felt as if I had participated in discussions like this dozens of times, but mainly with rabbis. I have probably had 50 different conversations with 50 different rabbis over the past couple of years—including the rabbi of my synagogue, Gil Steinlauf, who is hosting Obama on Friday—about the challenges they face in talking about current Israeli reality.

Many Reform and Conservative rabbis (and some Orthodox rabbis as well) find themselves anguishing—usually before the High Holidays—about how to present Israel’s complex and sometimes unpalatable reality to their congregants. (I refer to this sermon generically as the “How to Love a Difficult Israel” sermon.) Obama, when he talks about Israel, often sounds to me like one of these rabbis:

“My hope is that over time [the] debate gets back on a path where there’s some semblance of hope and not simply fear, because it feels to me as if … all we are talking about is based from fear,” he said. “Over the short term that may seem wise—cynicism always seems a little wise—but it may lead Israel down a path in which it’s very hard to protect itself [as] a Jewish-majority democracy. And I care deeply about preserving that Jewish democracy, because when I think about how I came to know Israel, it was based on images of … kibbutzim, and Moshe Dayan, and Golda Meir, and the sense that not only are we creating a safe Jewish homeland, but also we are remaking the world. We’re repairing it. We are going to do it the right way. We are going to make sure that the lessons we’ve learned from our hardships and our persecutions are applied to how we govern and how we treat others. And it goes back to the values questions that we talked about earlier—those are the values that helped to nurture me and my political beliefs.”

I sent these comments on Wednesday to Rabbi Steinlauf to see if he disagreed with my belief that Obama, when he talks about Israel, sounds like a rabbi in the progressive Zionist tradition. Steinlauf wrote back: “President Obama shares the same yearning for a secure peace in Israel that I and so many of my rabbinic colleagues have. While he doesn’t speak as a Jew, his progressive values flow directly out of the core messages of Torah, and so he is deeply in touch with the heart and spirit of the Jewish people.”

I have to imagine that comments like Steinlauf’s may be understood by people such as Sheldon Adelson and Benjamin Netanyahu as hopelessly naive. But this is where much of the Jewish community is today: nervous about Iran, nervous about Obama’s response to Iran, nervous about Netanyahu’s response to reality, nervous about the toxic marriage between Obama and Netanyahu, and nervous that, once again, there is no margin in the world for Jewish error.

The transcript of my conversation with President Obama, including the contentious bits, is below. I’ve edited some of my baggier questions for clarity and concision. The president’s answers are reproduced in full.

Jeffrey Goldberg: You’ve argued that ISIS has been on the defensive. But Ramadi just fell. Are we actually losing this war, or would you not go that far?

President Barack Obama: No, I don’t think we’re losing, and I just talked to our CENTCOM commanders and the folks on the ground. There’s no doubt there was a tactical setback, although Ramadi had been vulnerable for a very long time, primarily because these are not Iraqi security forces that we have trained or reinforced. They have been there essentially for a year without sufficient reinforcements, and the number of ISIL that have come into the city now are relatively small compared to what happened in [the Iraqi city of] Mosul. But it is indicative that the training of Iraqi security forces, the fortifications, the command-and-control systems are not happening fast enough in Anbar, in the Sunni parts of the country. You’ve seen actually significant progress in the north, and those areas where the Peshmerga [Kurdish forces] are participating. Baghdad is consolidated. Those predominantly Shia areas, you’re not seeing any forward momentum by ISIL, and ISIL has been significantly degraded across the country. But—

Goldberg: You’ve got to worry about the Iraqi forces—

Obama: I’m getting to that, Jeff. You asked me a question, and there’s no doubt that in the Sunni areas, we’re going to have to ramp up not just training, but also commitment, and we better get Sunni tribes more activated than they currently have been. So it is a source of concern. We’re eight months into what we’ve always anticipated to be a multi-year campaign, and I think [Iraqi] Prime Minister Abadi recognizes many of these problems, but they’re going to have to be addressed.

Goldberg: Stay on Iraq. There’s this interesting conversation going on in Republican circles right now, debating a question that you answered for yourself 13 years ago, about whether it was right or wrong to go into Iraq. What is this conversation actually about? I’m also wondering if you think this is the wrong conversation to have in the following sense: You’re under virtually no pressure—correct me if I’m wrong—but you’re under virtually no pressure domestically to get more deeply involved in the Middle East. That seems to be one of the downstream consequences of the Iraq invasion 12 years ago.

Obama: As you said, I’m very clear on the lessons of Iraq. I think it was a mistake for us to go in in the first place, despite the incredible efforts that were made by our men and women in uniform. Despite that error, those sacrifices allowed the Iraqis to take back their country. That opportunity was squandered by Prime Minister Maliki and the unwillingness to reach out effectively to the Sunni and Kurdish populations.
Reuters / The Atlantic

But today the question is not whether or not we are sending in contingents of U.S. ground troops. Today the question is: How do we find effective partners to govern in those parts of Iraq that right now are ungovernable and effectively defeat ISIL, not just in Iraq but in Syria?

It is important to have a clear idea of the past because we don’t want to repeat mistakes. I know that there are some in Republican quarters who have suggested that I’ve overlearned the mistake of Iraq, and that, in fact, just because the 2003 invasion did not go well doesn’t argue that we shouldn’t go back in. And one lesson that I think is important to draw from what happened is that if the Iraqis themselves are not willing or capable to arrive at the political accommodations necessary to govern, if they are not willing to fight for the security of their country, we cannot do that for them. We can be effective allies. I think Prime Minister Abadi is sincere and committed to an inclusive Iraqi state, and I will continue to order our military to provide the Iraqi security forces all assistance that they need in order to secure their country, and I’ll provide diplomatic and economic assistance that’s necessary for them to stabilize.

But we can’t do it for them, and one of the central flaws I think of the decision back in 2003 was the sense that if we simply went in and deposed a dictator, or simply went in and cleared out the bad guys, that somehow peace and prosperity would automatically emerge, and that lesson we should have learned a long time ago. And so the really important question moving forward is: How do we find effective partners—not just in Iraq, but in Syria, and in Yemen, and in Libya—that we can work with, and how do we create the international coalition and atmosphere in which people across sectarian lines are willing to compromise and are willing to work together in order to provide the next generation a fighting chance for a better future?
Reuters / The Atlantic
The Nuclear Deal With Iran

Goldberg: Let me do two or three on Iran, and then we’ll move to Israel and Jews. All of the fun subjects. By the way, you’re coming to my synagogue to speak on Friday.

Obama: I’m very much looking forward to it.

Goldberg: This is the biggest thing that’s happened there since the last Goldberg bar mitzvah.

Obama: [Laughs]

Goldberg: So in 2012 you told me, when we were talking about Iran, “It is almost certain that other players in the region would feel it necessary to get their own nuclear weapons if Iran got them.” Now we’re in this kind of weird situation in which there’s talk that Saudi Arabia, maybe Turkey, maybe Egypt would go build nuclear infrastructures come the finalization of this deal to match the infrastructure that your deal is going to leave in place in Iran. So my question to you is: Have you asked the Saudis not to go down any kind of nuclear path? What have they told you about this? And what are the consequences if other countries in the region say, “Well you know what, they have 5,000 centrifuges? We’re going to have 5,000 centrifuges.”

Obama: There’s been talk in the media, unsourced—

Goldberg: Well, [Saudi Arabia’s] Prince Turki said it publicly—

Obama: Well, he’s not in the government. There has been no indication from the Saudis or any other [Gulf Cooperation Council] countries that they have an intention to pursue their own nuclear program. Part of the reason why they would not pursue their own nuclear program—assuming that we have been successful in preventing Iran from continuing down the path of obtaining a nuclear weapon—is that the protection that we provide as their partner is a far greater deterrent than they could ever hope to achieve by developing their own nuclear stockpile or trying to achieve breakout capacity when it comes to nuclear weapons, and they understand that.

What we saw at the GCC summit was, I think, legitimate skepticism and concern, not simply about the Iranian nuclear program itself but also the consequences of sanctions coming down. We walked through the four pathways that would be shut off in any agreement that I would be signing off on. Technically, we showed them how it would be accomplished—what the verification mechanisms will be, how the UN snapback provisions [for sanctions] might work. They were satisfied that if in fact the agreement meant the benchmarks that we’ve set forth, that it would prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and given that, they understand that ultimately their own security and defense is much better served by working with us. Their covert—presumably—pursuit of a nuclear program would greatly strain the relationship they’ve got with the United States.

Goldberg: Stay with Iran for one more moment. I just want you to help me square something. So you’ve argued, quite eloquently in fact, that the Iranian regime has at its highest levels been infected by a kind of anti-Semitic worldview. You talked about that with Tom [Friedman]. “Venomous anti-Semitism” I think is the term that you used. You have argued—not that it even needs arguing—but you’ve argued that people who subscribe to an anti-Semitic worldview, who explain the world through the prism of anti-Semitic ideology, are not rational, are not built for success, are not grounded in a reality that you and I might understand. And yet, you’ve also argued that the regime in Tehran—a regime you’ve described as anti-Semitic, among other problems that they have—is practical, and is responsive to incentive, and shows signs of rationality. So I don’t understand how these things fit together in your mind.

Obama: Well the fact that you are anti-Semitic, or racist, doesn’t preclude you from being interested in survival. It doesn’t preclude you from being rational about the need to keep your economy afloat; it doesn’t preclude you from making strategic decisions about how you stay in power; and so the fact that the supreme leader is anti-Semitic doesn’t mean that this overrides all of his other considerations. You know, if you look at the history of anti-Semitism, Jeff, there were a whole lot of European leaders—and there were deep strains of anti-Semitism in this country—

Goldberg: And they make irrational decisions—

Obama: They may make irrational decisions with respect to discrimination, with respect to trying to use anti-Semitic rhetoric as an organizing tool. At the margins, where the costs are low, they may pursue policies based on hatred as opposed to self-interest. But the costs here are not low, and what we’ve been very clear [about] to the Iranian regime over the past six years is that we will continue to ratchet up the costs, not simply for their anti-Semitism, but also for whatever expansionist ambitions they may have. That’s what the sanctions represent. That’s what the military option I’ve made clear I preserve represents. And so I think it is not at all contradictory to say that there are deep strains of anti-Semitism in the core regime, but that they also are interested in maintaining power, having some semblance of legitimacy inside their own country, which requires that they get themselves out of what is a deep economic rut that we’ve put them in, and on that basis they are then willing and prepared potentially to strike an agreement on their nuclear program.
Reuters / The Atlantic

Goldberg: One of the other issues that’s troubling about this is—and I’m quoting [Treasury Secretary] Jack Lew here, who said a couple of weeks ago at the Washington Institute when talking about Iran’s various nefarious activities, he said, “Most of the money Iran receives from sanctions relief will not be used to support those activities.” To me that sounds like a little bit of wishful thinking—that [Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps] is going to want to get paid, Hezbollah is going to see, among other groups, might see a little bit of a windfall from these billions of dollars that might pour in. I’m not assuming something completely in the other direction either, but I just don’t know where your confidence comes from.

Obama: Well I don’t think Jack or anybody in this administration said that no money will go to the military as a consequence of sanctions relief. The question is, if Iran has $150 billion parked outside the country, does the IRGC automatically get $150 billion? Does that $150 billion then translate by orders of magnitude into their capacity to project power throughout the region? And that is what we contest, because when you look at the math, first of all they’re going to have to deliver on their obligations under any agreement, which would take a certain period of time. Then there are the mechanics of unwinding the existing restraints they have on getting that money, which takes a certain amount of time. Then [Iranian President] Rouhani and, by extension, the supreme leader have made a series of commitments to improve the Iranian economy, and the expectations are outsized. You saw the reaction of people in the streets of Tehran after the signing of the agreement. Their expectations are that [the economy is] going to improve significantly. You have Iranian elites who are champing at the bit to start moving business and getting out from under the restraints that they’ve been under.

And what is also true is that the IRGC right now, precisely because of sanctions, in some ways are able to exploit existing restrictions to have a monopoly on what comes in and out of the country, and they’ve got their own revenue sources that they’ve been able to develop, some of which may actually lessen as a consequence of sanctions relief. So I don’t think this is a science, and this is an issue that came up with the GCC countries during the summit. The point we simply make to them is: It is not a mathematical formula whereby [Iranian leaders] get a certain amount of sanctions relief and automatically they’re causing more problems in the neighborhood. What makes that particularly important is, in the discussion with the GCC countries, we pointed out that the biggest vulnerabilities that they have to Iran, and the most effective destabilizing activities of the IRGC and [Iran’s] Quds Force are actually low-cost. They are not a threat to the region because of their hardware. Ballistic missiles are a concern. They have a missile program. We have to think about missile-defense systems and how those are integrated and coordinated. But the big problems we have are weapons going in to Hezbollah, or them sending agents into Yemen, or other low-tech asymmetric threats that they’re very effective at exploiting, which they’re already doing—they’ve been doing despite sanctions. They will continue to do [this] unless we are developing greater capacity to prevent them from doing those things, which is part of what our discussion was in terms of the security assurances with the GCC countries.

You know, if you look at a situation like Yemen, part of the problem is the chronic, endemic weakness in a state like that, and the instability that Iran then seeks to exploit. If you had GCC countries who were more capable of maritime interdiction, effective intelligence, cutting off financing sources, and are more effective in terms of working and training with allied forces in a place like Yemen, so that Houthis can’t just march into Sana’a, well, if all those things are being done, Iran having some additional dollars from sanctions relief is not going to override those improvements and capabilities, and that’s really where we have to focus. Likewise with respect to Hezbollah. Hezbollah has a certain number of fighters who are hardened and effective. If Iran has some additional resources, then perhaps they’re less strained in trying to make payroll when it comes to Hezbollah, but it’s not as if they can suddenly train up and successfully deploy 10 times the number of Hezbollah fighters that are currently in Syria. That’s not something that they have automatic capacity to do. The reason that Hezbollah is effective is because they’ve got a core group of hardened folks that they’ve developed over the last 20-30 years, and—

Goldberg: You could buy more rockets and put them in south Lebanon.

Obama: Well, and the issue though with respect to rockets in south Lebanon is not whether [Iran has] enough money to do so. They’ve shown a commitment to doing that even when their economy is in the tank. The issue there is: Are we able to interdict those shipments more effectively than we do right now? And that’s the kind of thing that we have to continue to partner with Israel and other countries to stop.

Goldberg: Let me go to these questions related to Israel and your relationship to the American Jewish community. So a number of years ago, I made the case that you’re America’s first Jewish president. And I made that assessment based on the depth of your encounters with Jews: the number of Jewish mentors you’ve had—Abner Mikva, Newton Minow, and so on—teachers, law professors, fellow community organizers, Jewish literature, Jewish thought, and of course your early political base in Chicago. There are obviously Jews in America who are immune to the charms of this argument, led by Sheldon Adelson but not only him.

Here’s a quote from Adelson which always struck me as central to the way your Jewish opponents understand you: “All the steps he’s taken”—“he” meaning you—“against the State of Israel are liable to bring about the destruction of the state.”

I have my own theories about why there’s this bifurcation in the American Jewish community, and we’ve discussed this in past interviews, but what is going on? Is this the byproduct of well-intentioned anxiety about Iran, about the explosive growth of anti-Semitism in Europe? Something else?

Obama: Let me depersonalize it a little bit. First of all, there’s not really a bifurcation with respect to the attitudes of the Jewish American community about me. I consistently received overwhelming majority support from the Jewish community, and even after all the publicity around the recent differences that I’ve had with Prime Minister Netanyahu, the majority of the Jewish American community still supports me, and supports me strongly.

Goldberg: It was 70 percent in the last election.

Obama: 70 percent is pretty good. I think that there are a lot of crosscurrents that are going on right now. There is no doubt that the environment worldwide is scary for a lot of Jewish families. You’ve mentioned some of those trends. You have a Middle East that is turbulent and chaotic, and where extremists seem to be full of enthusiasm and momentum. You have Europe, where, as you’ve very effectively chronicled, there is an emergence of a more overt and dangerous anti-Semitism. And so part of the concern in the Jewish community is that, only a generation removed from the Holocaust, it seems that anti-Semitic rhetoric and anti-Israeli rhetoric is on the rise. And that will make people fearful.

What I also think is that there has been a very concerted effort on the part of some political forces to equate being pro-Israel, and hence being supportive of the Jewish people, with a rubber stamp on a particular set of policies coming out of the Israeli government. So if you are questioning settlement policy, that indicates you’re anti-Israeli, or that indicates you’re anti-Jewish. If you express compassion or empathy towards Palestinian youth, who are dealing with checkpoints or restrictions on their ability to travel, then you are suspect in terms of your support of Israel. If you are willing to get into public disagreements with the Israeli government, then the notion is that you are being anti-Israel, and by extension, anti-Jewish. I completely reject that.

Goldberg: Is that a cynical ploy by somebody?

Obama: Well I won’t ascribe motives to them. I think that some of those folks may sincerely believe that the Jewish state is consistently embattled, that it is in a very bad neighborhood and either you’re with them or against them, and end of story. And they may sincerely believe it. My response to them is that, precisely because I care so deeply about the State of Israel, precisely because I care so much about the Jewish people, I feel obliged to speak honestly and truthfully about what I think will be most likely to lead to long-term security, and will best position us to continue to combat anti-Semitism, and I make no apologies for that precisely because I am secure and confident about how deeply I care about Israel and the Jewish people.

I said in a previous interview and I meant it: I think it would be a moral failing for me as president of the United States, and a moral failing for America, and a moral failing for the world, if we did not protect Israel and stand up for its right to exist, because that would negate not just the history of the 20th century, it would negate the history of the past millennium. And it would violate what we have learned, what humanity should have learned, over that past millennium, which is that when you show intolerance and when you are persecuting minorities and when you are objectifying them and making them the Other, you are destroying something in yourself, and the world goes into a tailspin.

And so, to me, being pro-Israel and pro-Jewish is part and parcel with the values that I’ve been fighting for since I was politically conscious and started getting involved in politics. There’s a direct line between supporting the right of the Jewish people to have a homeland and to feel safe and free of discrimination and persecution, and the right of African Americans to vote and have equal protection under the law. These things are indivisible in my mind. But what is also true, by extension, is that I have to show that same kind of regard to other peoples. And I think it is true to Israel’s traditions and its values—its founding principles—that it has to care about those Palestinian kids. And when I was in Jerusalem and I spoke, the biggest applause that I got was when I spoke about those kids I had visited in Ramallah, and I said to a Israeli audience that it is profoundly Jewish, it is profoundly consistent with Israel’s traditions to care about them. And they agreed. So if that’s not translated into policy—if we’re not willing to take risks on behalf of those values—then those principles become empty words, and in fact, in my mind, it makes it more difficult for us to continue to promote those values when it comes to protecting Israel internationally.

Goldberg: You’re not known as an overly emotive politician, but there was a period in which the relationship between you and the prime minister, and therefore the U.S. government and the Israeli government, seemed very fraught and very emotional. There was more public criticism coming out of this administration directed at Israel than any other ally, and maybe at some adversaries—

Obama: Yeah, and I have to say, Jeff, I completely disagree with that assessment, and I know you wrote that. And I objected to it. I mean, the fact of the matter is that there was a very particular circumstance in which we had a policy difference that shouldn’t be papered over because it goes to the nature of the friendship between the United States and Israel, and how we deal government to government, and how we sort through those issues.

Now, a couple of things that I’d say at the outset. In every public pronouncement I’ve made, I said that the bedrock security relationships between our two countries—these are sacrosanct. Military cooperation, intelligence cooperation—none of that has been affected. I have maintained, and I think I can show that no U.S. president has been more forceful in making sure that we help Israel protect itself, and even some of my critics in Israel have acknowledged as much. I said that none of this should impact the core strategic relationship that exists between the United States and Israel, or the people-to-people relations that are so deep that they transcend any particular president or prime minister and will continue until the end of time.

But what I did say is that when, going into an election, Prime Minister Netanyahu said a Palestinian state would not happen under his watch, or there [was] discussion in which it appeared that Arab-Israeli citizens were somehow portrayed as an invading force that might vote, and that this should be guarded against—this is contrary to the very language of the Israeli Declaration of Independence, which explicitly states that all people regardless of race or religion are full participants in the democracy. When something like that happens, that has foreign-policy consequences, and precisely because we’re so close to Israel, for us to simply stand there and say nothing would have meant that this office, the Oval Office, lost credibility when it came to speaking out on these issues.

And when I am then required to come to Israel’s defense internationally, when there is anti-Semitism out there, when there is anti-Israeli policy that is based not on the particulars of the Palestinian cause but [is] based simply on hostility, I have to make sure that I am entirely credible in speaking out against those things, and that requires me then to also be honest with friends about how I view these issues. Now that makes, understandably, folks both in Israel and here in the United States uncomfortable.

But the one argument that I very much have been concerned about, and it has gotten stronger over the last 10 years … it’s less overt than the arguments that a Sheldon Adelson makes, but in some ways can be just as pernicious, is this argument that there should not be disagreements in public. So a lot of times the criticism that was leveled during this period—including from you, Jeff—was not that you disagreed with me on the assessment, but rather that it’s dangerous or unseemly for us to air these disagreements—

Goldberg: I don’t think I ever—

Obama: You didn’t make that argument—

Goldberg: I didn’t make that argument. I spend half my life airing those arguments.

Obama: Fair enough. But you understand what I’m saying, Jeff. I understand why the Jewish American community, people would get uncomfortable. I would get letters from people saying, “Listen, Mr. President, I completely support you. I agree with you on this issue, but you shouldn’t say these things publicly.” Now the truth of the matter is that what we said publicly was fairly spare and mild, and then would be built up—it seemed like an article a day, partly because when you get in arguments with friends it’s a lot more newsworthy than arguments with enemies. Well, and it’s the same problem that I’m having right now with the trade deals up on Capitol Hill. The fact that I agree with Elizabeth Warren on 90 percent of issues is not news. That we disagree on one thing is news. But my point, Jeff, is that we are at enough of an inflection point in terms of the region that trying to pretend like these important, difficult policy questions are not controversial, and that they don’t have to be sorted out, I think is a problem. And one of the great things about Israel is, these are arguments that take place in Israel every day.

Goldberg: It’s a 61/59 country right now.

Obama: If you sit down in some cafe in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, you’re hearing far more contentious arguments, and that’s healthy. That’s part of why Americans love Israel, it’s part of the reason why I love Israel—because it is a genuine democracy and you can express your opinions. But the most important thing, I think, that we can do right now in strengthening Israel’s position is to describe very clearly why I have believed that a two-state solution is the best security plan for Israel over the long term; for me to take very seriously Israel’s security concerns about what a two-state solution might look like; to try to work through systematically those issues; but also, at the end of the day, to say to any Israeli prime minister that it will require some risks in order to achieve peace. And the question you have to ask yourself then is: How do you weigh those risks against the risks of doing nothing and just perpetuating the status quo? My argument is that the risks of doing nothing are far greater, and I ultimately—it is important for the Israeli people and the Israeli government to make its own decisions about what it needs to secure the people of that nation.

But my hope is that over time that debate gets back on a path where there’s some semblance of hope and not simply fear, because it feels to me as if … all we are talking about is based from fear. Over the short term that may seem wise—cynicism always seems a little wise—but it may lead Israel down a path in which it’s very hard to protect itself—

Goldberg: As a Jewish-majority democracy.

Obama: —as a Jewish-majority democracy. And I care deeply about preserving that Jewish democracy, because when I think about how I came to know Israel, it was based on images of, you know—

Goldberg: We talked about this once. Kibbutzim, and—

Obama: Kibbutzim, and Moshe Dayan, and Golda Meir, and the sense that not only are we creating a safe Jewish homeland, but also we are remaking the world. We’re repairing it. We are going to do it the right way. We are going to make sure that the lessons we’ve learned from our hardships and our persecutions are applied to how we govern and how we treat others. And it goes back to the values questions that we talked about earlier—those are the values that helped to nurture me and my political beliefs. It’s interesting, when I spoke to some leaders of Jewish organizations a few months back, I said to them, it’s true, I have high expectations for Israel, and they’re not unrealistic expectations, they’re not stupid expectations, they’re not the expectations that Israel would risk its own security blindly in pursuit of some idealistic pie-in-the-sky notions.

Goldberg: But you want Israel to embody Jewish values.

Obama: I want Israel, in the same way that I want the United States, to embody the Judeo-Christian and, ultimately then, what I believe are human or universal values that have led to progress over a millennium. The same values that led to the end of Jim Crow and slavery. The same values that led to Nelson Mandela being freed and a multiracial democracy emerging in South Africa. The same values that led to the Berlin Wall coming down. The same values that animate our discussion on human rights and our concern that people on the other side of the world who may be tortured or jailed for speaking their mind or worshipping—the same values that lead us to speak out against anti-Semitism. I want Israel to embody these values because Israel is aligned with us in that fight for what I believe to be true. And that doesn’t mean there aren’t tough choices and there aren’t compromises. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have to ask ourselves very tough questions about, in the short term, do we have to protect ourselves, which means we may have some choices that—

Goldberg: Hard decisions.

Obama: —And hard decisions that in peace we will not make. Those are decisions that I have to make every time I deploy U.S. forces. Those are choices that we make with respect to drones, and with respect to our intelligence agencies. And so when I spoke to Prime Minister Netanyahu, for example, about can we come up with a peace plan, I sent out our top military folks to go through systematically every contingency, every possible concern that Israel might have on its own terms about maintaining security in a two-state agreement, and what would it mean for the Jordan Valley, and what would it mean with respect to the West Bank, and I was the first one to acknowledge that you can’t have the risk of terrorists coming up right to the edge of Jerusalem and exposing populations. So this isn’t an issue of being naive or unrealistic, but ultimately yes, I think there are certain values that the United States, at its best, exemplifies. I think there are certain values that Israel, and the Jewish tradition, at its best exemplifies. And I am willing to fight for those values.

Goldberg: On this question, which is an American campus question, and which is a European question as well: Hollande’s government [in France]—Manuel Valls, the prime minister—David Cameron [in the U.K.] … we were talking about the line between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. And I know that you’ve talked about this with Jewish organizations, with some of your Jewish friends—how you define the differences and the similarities between these two concepts.

Obama: You know, I think a good baseline is: Do you think that Israel has a right to exist as a homeland for the Jewish people, and are you aware of the particular circumstances of Jewish history that might prompt that need and desire? And if your answer is no, if your notion is somehow that that history doesn’t matter, then that’s a problem, in my mind. If, on the other hand, you acknowledge the justness of the Jewish homeland, you acknowledge the active presence of anti-Semitism—that it’s not just something in the past, but it is current—if you acknowledge that there are people and nations that, if convenient, would do the Jewish people harm because of a warped ideology. If you acknowledge those things, then you should be able to align yourself with Israel where its security is at stake, you should be able to align yourself with Israel when it comes to making sure that it is not held to a double standard in international fora, you should align yourself with Israel when it comes to making sure that it is not isolated.

But you should be able to say to Israel, we disagree with you on this particular policy. We disagree with you on settlements. We think that checkpoints are a genuine problem. We disagree with you on a Jewish-nationalist law that would potentially undermine the rights of Arab citizens. And to me, that is entirely consistent with being supportive of the State of Israel and the Jewish people. Now for someone in Israel, including the prime minister, to disagree with those policy positions—that’s OK too. And we can have a debate, and we can have an argument. But you can’t equate people of good will who are concerned about those issues with somebody who is hostile towards Israel. And you know, I actually believe that most American Jews, most Jews around the world, and most Jews in Israel recognize as much. And that’s part of the reason why I do still have broad-based support among American Jews. It’s not because they dislike Israel, it’s not because they aren’t worried about Iran having a nuclear weapon or what Hezbollah is doing in Lebanon. It’s because I think they recognize, having looked at my history and having seen the actions of my administration, that I’ve got Israel’s back, but there are values that I share with them that may be at stake if we’re not able to find a better path forward than what feels like a potential dead-end right now.
U.S.
Barack Obama Is Such a Traditional Jew Sometimes

Jeffrey Goldberg
The Atlantic
Mar 11, 2012

Two weeks ago, after I finished interviewing President Obama on the subject of Iran and Israel, I handed him a copy of the New American Haggadah, the Passover user’s guide edited by Jonathan Safran Foer, which includes commentary by Goldblog. It is an all-around excellent Haggadah (except for my bits, he says fetchingly). Jonathan did a masterful job, first by recruiting Nathan Englander (whose new short story collection, What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, I just read on the flight over to Tel Aviv — by the way, I’m in Tel Aviv — is the equal, at least, of his first collection) to re-translate the Hebrew, in order to de-stultify it. Jonathan also recruited, in addition to yours truly, Nathaniel Deutsch, Rebecca Goldstein and Lemony Snicket to write commentaries, and found a genius named Oded Ezer to design the Haggadah.

It is not, as The New York Times points out, a Brooklyn-hipster Haggadah (as the Foer-Englander combination might suggest, particularly when you realize — just go click on that Times link — that they go shirt-shopping together), but an intelligent and beautiful Haggadah, very modern but also deeply respectful of everything that came before.

When I handed him the Haggadah, President Obama, who famously stages his own seders at the White House, (which is a very nice philo-Semitic thing to do, IMHO) spent a moment leafing through it and making approving noises. Then he said (as I told the Times): « Does this mean we can’t use the Maxwell House Haggadah anymore? »

George W. Bush was, in his own way, a philo-Semite, but he never would have made such an M.O.T. kind of joke (see the end of this post if you’re not sure what M.O.T. means). Once again, Barack Obama was riffing off the cosmic joke that he is somehow anti-Semitic, when in fact, as many people understand, he is the most Jewish president we’ve ever had (except for Rutherford B. Hayes). No president, not even Bill Clinton, has traveled so widely in Jewish circles, been taught by so many Jewish law professors, and had so many Jewish mentors, colleagues, and friends, and advisers as Barack Obama (though it is true that every so often he appoints a gentile to serve as White House chief of staff). And so no President, I’m guessing, would know that the Maxwell House Haggadah — the flimsy, wine-stained, rote, anti-intellectual Haggadah you get when you buy a can of coffee at Shoprite) — is the target, alternatively, of great derision and veneration among American Jews (at least, I’m told there are people who venerate it). I’ll grapple with the meaning of Obama’s Jewishness later, but the dispute between the Jewish right and the Jewish left over Obama is actually not about whether he is anti-Jewish or pro-Jewish, but over what sort of Jew he actually is.

After he cracked wise about Maxwell House, I told the president — this is the part the Times left out — that, as commander-in-chief, he could use whatever Haggadah he liked, though it seemed to me that our Haggadah might add some depth and meaning and aesthetic charm to his seder, as it would to any seder. I knew, of course, that he would stick with the Maxwell House Haggadah — tradition! — but it didn’t strike me until later exactly why he would stick with it. The reason he’s sticking with Maxwell House is the same reason he spoke at the AIPAC convention, and is once again not speaking at the upcoming convention of J Street, the left-leaning pro-Israel group.

Before I go on, here are all the usual Goldblog caveats: AIPAC is too unthinkingly rightist to me, J Street is too naively leftist, etc. etc., but both groups represent legitimate streams of Jewish pro-Israel thought in America, and both are worthy of the President’s attention. But the President only pays attention to one — and it’s the one where he’s not very popular. I wandered around the AIPAC convention last week, and it wasn’t too easy to hear a kind word about Obama. The 13,000 or so delegates to the AIPAC convention are drawn disproportionately from the 22 percent of Jewish voters who did not support Obama in 2008. J Street, on the other hand, is made up overwhelmingly of people who support Obama.

And how does this relate to Obama’s choice of Haggadahs? When it comes to Jews, Obama does the safe thing. The Jews in Glencoe and Syosset and Boca read the Maxwell House Haggadah, and that’s good enough for him. They like AIPAC in Glencoe and Syosset and Boca, and that’s good enough for him, as well. And by the way, just so I’m crystal-clear on the subject, the New American Haggadah is not the J Street equivalent of the haggadah. It is, like Judaism, larger than mere politics. And I’m also expressly not making the point that Obama necessarily shares J Street’s outlook on Middle East politics. He is well to the left of the AIPAC mainstream, of course, but I think he’s too hardheaded to buy much of J Street’s line. But J Street is a natural constituency for Obama, but one he avoids, because someone told him it would be politically unwise to be seen with too many J Streeters. An Obama address at J Street would do great things: It would signal to the American Jewish establishment that a left-Zionist viewpoint is a legitimate viewpoint; and it would allow the President to tell J Street just exactly where he thinks its members are right, and where he thinks they are wrong.

My prediction is that not until we have an actual Jewish president will the president address J Street (obviously, this isn’t true if the first Jewish president is Eric Cantor). Only a Jewish president — a Rahm Emanuel-type, if not Rahm himself — would feel secure enough to make the argument that AIPAC doesn’t speak for everyone. Also, the first Jewish president will undoubtedly use The New American Haggadah. Of that I’m sure.

Oh, and M.O.T = member of the tribe.

Voir encore:

Remarks by the President and First Lady on the End of the War in Iraq

Fort Bragg, North Carolina

11:52 A.M. EST

MRS. OBAMA:  Hello, everyone!  I get to start you all off.  I want to begin by thanking General Anderson for that introduction, but more importantly for his leadership here at Fort Bragg.  I can’t tell you what a pleasure and an honor it is to be back here.  I have so many wonderful memories of this place.

A couple of years ago, I came here on my very first official trip as First Lady.  And I spent some — a great time with some of the amazing military spouses, and I visited again this summer to help to put on the finishing touches on an amazing new home for a veteran and her family.  So when I heard that I had the opportunity to come back and to be a part of welcoming you all home, to say I was excited was an understatement.

And I have to tell you that when I look out at this crowd, I am simply overwhelmed.  I am overwhelmed and proud, because I know the level of strength and commitment that you all display every single day.  Whenever this country calls, you all are the ones who answer, no matter the circumstance, no matter the danger, no matter the sacrifice.

And I know that you do this not just as soldiers, not just as patriots, but as fathers and mothers, as brothers and sisters, as sons and daughters.  And I know that while your children and your spouses and your parents and siblings might not wear uniforms, they serve right alongside you.

AUDIENCE:  Hooah!  (Applause.)

MRS. OBAMA:  I know that your sacrifice is their sacrifice, too.  So when I think of all that you do and all that your families do, I am so proud and so grateful.  But more importantly, I’m inspired.  But like so many Americans, I never feel like I can fully convey just how thankful I am, because words just don’t seem to be enough.

And that’s why I have been working so hard, along with Jill Biden, on a campaign that we call Joining Forces.  It’s a campaign that we hope goes beyond words.  It’s a campaign that is about action.  It’s about rallying all Americans to give you the honor, the appreciation and the support that you have all earned.  And I don’t have to tell you that this hasn’t been a difficult campaign.  We haven’t had to do much convincing because American have been lining up to show their appreciation for you and your families in very concrete and meaningful ways.

Businesses are hiring tens of thousands of veterans and military spouses.  Schools all across the country and PTAs are reaching out to our military children.  And individuals are serving their neighbors and their communities all over this country in your honor.

So I want you to know that this nation’s support doesn’t end as this war ends.  Not by a long shot.  We’re going to keep on doing this.  We have so much more work to do.  We’re going to keep finding new ways to serve all of you as well as you have served us.  And the man leading the way is standing right here.  (Applause.)  He is fighting for you and your families every single day.  He’s helped more than half a million veterans and military family members go to college through the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill.  (Applause.)

He’s taken unprecedented steps to improve mental health care.  He’s cut taxes for businesses that hire a veteran or a wounded warrior.  And he has kept his promise to responsibly bring you home from Iraq.

So please join me in welcoming someone who’s your strongest advocate, someone who shows his support for our military not only in words, but in deeds, my husband, our President, and your Commander-in-Chief, Barack Obama.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody!  (Applause.)  Hello, Fort Bragg!  All the way!

AUDIENCE:  Airborne!

THE PRESIDENT:  Now, I’m sure you realize why I don’t like following Michelle Obama.  (Laughter.)  She’s pretty good.  And it is true, I am a little biased, but let me just say it:  Michelle, you are a remarkable First Lady.  You are a great advocate for military families.  (Applause.)  And you’re cute.  (Applause.)  I’m just saying — gentlemen, that’s your goal:  to marry up.  (Laughter.)  Punch above your weight.

Fort Bragg, we’re here to mark a historic moment in the life of our country and our military.  For nearly nine years, our nation has been at war in Iraq.  And you — the incredible men and women of Fort Bragg — have been there every step of the way, serving with honor, sacrificing greatly, from the first waves of the invasion to some of the last troops to come home.  So, as your Commander-in-Chief, and on behalf of a grateful nation, I’m proud to finally say these two words, and I know your families agree:  Welcome home!  (Applause.)  Welcome home.  Welcome home.  (Applause.)  Welcome home.

It is great to be here at Fort Bragg — home of the Airborne and Special Operations Forces.  I want to thank General Anderson and all your outstanding leaders for welcoming us here today, including General Dave Rodriguez, General John Mulholland.  And I want to give a shout-out to your outstanding senior enlisted leaders, including Command Sergeant Major Roger Howard, Darrin Bohn, Parry Baer.  And give a big round of applause to the Ground Forces Band.  (Applause.)

We’ve got a lot of folks in the house today.  We’ve got the 18th Airborne Corps — the Sky Dragons.  (Applause.)  We’ve got the legendary, All-American 82nd Airborne Division.  (Applause.)  We’ve got America’s quiet professionals — our Special Operations Forces.  (Applause.)  From Pope Field, we’ve got Air Force.  (Applause.)  And I do believe we’ve got some Navy and Marine Corps here, too.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Yes!  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  And though they’re not here with us today, we send our thoughts and prayers to General Helmick, Sergeant Major Rice and all the folks from the 18th Airborne and Bragg who are bringing our troops back from Iraq.  (Applause.)  We honor everyone from the 82nd Airborne and Bragg serving and succeeding in Afghanistan, and General Votel and those serving around the world.

And let me just say, one of the most humbling moments I’ve had as President was when I presented our nation’s highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor, to the parents of one of those patriots from Fort Bragg who gave his life in Afghanistan — Staff Sergeant Robert Miller.

I want to salute Ginny Rodriguez, Miriam Mulholland, Linda Anderson, Melissa Helmick, Michelle Votel and all the inspiring military families here today.  We honor your service as well.  (Applause.)

And finally, I want to acknowledge your neighbors and friends who help keep your — this outstanding operation going, all who help to keep you Army Strong, and that includes Representatives Mike McIntyre, and Dave Price, and Heath Shuler, and Governor Bev Perdue.  I know Bev is so proud to have done so much for our military families.  So give them a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

Today, I’ve come to speak to you about the end of the war in Iraq.  Over the last few months, the final work of leaving Iraq has been done.  Dozens of bases with American names that housed thousands of American troops have been closed down or turned over to the Iraqis.  Thousands of tons of equipment have been packed up and shipped out.  Tomorrow, the colors of United States Forces-Iraq — the colors you fought under — will be formally cased in a ceremony in Baghdad.  Then they’ll begin their journey across an ocean, back home.

Over the last three years, nearly 150,000 U.S. troops have left Iraq.  And over the next few days, a small group of American soldiers will begin the final march out of that country.  Some of them are on their way back to Fort Bragg.  As General Helmick said, “They know that the last tactical road march out of Iraq will be a symbol, and they’re going to be a part of history.”

As your Commander-in-Chief, I can tell you that it will indeed be a part of history.  Those last American troops will move south on desert sands, and then they will cross the border out of Iraq with their heads held high.  One of the most extraordinary chapters in the history of the American military will come to an end.  Iraq’s future will be in the hands of its people.  America’s war in Iraq will be over.

AUDIENCE:  Hooah!

THE PRESIDENT:  Now, we knew this day would come.  We’ve known it for some time.  But still, there is something profound about the end of a war that has lasted so long.

Now, nine years ago, American troops were preparing to deploy to the Persian Gulf and the possibility that they would be sent to war.  Many of you were in grade school.  I was a state senator.  Many of the leaders now governing Iraq — including the Prime Minister — were living in exile.  And since then, our efforts in Iraq have taken many twists and turns.  It was a source of great controversy here at home, with patriots on both sides of the debate.  But there was one constant — there was one constant:  your patriotism, your commitment to fulfill your mission, your abiding commitment to one another.  That was constant.  That did not change.  That did not waiver.

It’s harder to end a war than begin one.  Indeed, everything that American troops have done in Iraq -– all the fighting and all the dying, the bleeding and the building, and the training and the partnering -– all of it has led to this moment of success.  Now, Iraq is not a perfect place.  It has many challenges ahead.  But we’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people.  We’re building a new partnership between our nations.  And we are ending a war not with a final battle, but with a final march toward home.

This is an extraordinary achievement, nearly nine years in the making.  And today, we remember everything that you did to make it possible.

We remember the early days -– the American units that streaked across the sands and skies of Iraq; the battles from Karbala to Baghdad, American troops breaking the back of a brutal dictator in less than a month.

We remember the grind of the insurgency -– the roadside bombs, the sniper fire, the suicide attacks.  From the “triangle of death” to the fight for Ramadi; from Mosul in the north to Basra in the south -– your will proved stronger than the terror of those who tried to break it.

We remember the specter of sectarian violence -– al Qaeda’s attacks on mosques and pilgrims, militias that carried out campaigns of intimidation and campaigns of assassination.  And in the face of ancient divisions, you stood firm to help those Iraqis who put their faith in the future.

We remember the surge and we remember the Awakening -– when the abyss of chaos turned toward the promise of reconciliation.  By battling and building block by block in Baghdad, by bringing tribes into the fold and partnering with the Iraqi army and police, you helped turn the tide toward peace.

And we remember the end of our combat mission and the emergence of a new dawn -– the precision of our efforts against al Qaeda in Iraq, the professionalism of the training of Iraqi security forces, and the steady drawdown of our forces.  In handing over responsibility to the Iraqis, you preserved the gains of the last four years and made this day possible.

Just last month, some of you — members of the Falcon Brigade —

AUDIENCE:  Hooah!

THE PRESIDENT:  — turned over the Anbar Operations Center to the Iraqis in the type of ceremony that has become commonplace over these last several months.  In an area that was once the heart of the insurgency, a combination of fighting and training, politics and partnership brought the promise of peace.  And here’s what the local Iraqi deputy governor said:  “This is all because of the U.S. forces’ hard work and sacrifice.”

That’s in the words of an Iraqi.  Hard work and sacrifice.  Those words only begin to describe the costs of this war and the courage of the men and women who fought it.

We know too well the heavy cost of this war.  More than 1.5 million Americans have served in Iraq — 1.5 million.  Over 30,000 Americans have been wounded, and those are only the wounds that show.  Nearly 4,500 Americans made the ultimate sacrifice — including 202 fallen heroes from here at Fort Bragg — 202.  So today, we pause to say a prayer for all those families who have lost their loved ones, for they are part of our broader American family.  We grieve with them.

We also know that these numbers don’t tell the full story of the Iraq war -– not even close.  Our civilians have represented our country with skill and bravery.  Our troops have served tour after tour of duty, with precious little dwell time in between.  Our Guard and Reserve units stepped up with unprecedented service.  You’ve endured dangerous foot patrols and you’ve endured the pain of seeing your friends and comrades fall.  You’ve had to be more than soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen –- you’ve also had to be diplomats and development workers and trainers and peacemakers.  Through all this, you have shown why the United States military is the finest fighting force in the history of the world.

AUDIENCE:  Hooah!  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  As Michelle mentioned, we also know that the burden of war is borne by your families.  In countless base communities like Bragg, folks have come together in the absence of a loved one.  As the Mayor of Fayetteville put it, “War is not a political word here.  War is where our friends and neighbors go.”  So there have been missed birthday parties and graduations.  There are bills to pay and jobs that have to be juggled while picking up the kids.  For every soldier that goes on patrol, there are the husbands and the wives, the mothers, the fathers, the sons, the daughters praying that they come back.

So today, as we mark the end of the war, let us acknowledge, let us give a heartfelt round of applause for every military family that has carried that load over the last nine years.  You too have the thanks of a grateful nation.  (Applause.)

Part of ending a war responsibly is standing by those who fought it.  It’s not enough to honor you with words.  Words are cheap.  We must do it with deeds.  You stood up for America; America needs to stand up for you.

AUDIENCE:  Hooah!

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s why, as your Commander-in Chief, I am committed to making sure that you get the care and the benefits and the opportunities that you’ve earned. For those of you who remain in uniform, we will do whatever it takes to ensure the health of our force –- including your families.  We will keep faith with you.

We will help our wounded warriors heal, and we will stand by those who’ve suffered the unseen wounds of war.  And make no mistake — as we go forward as a nation, we are going to keep America’s armed forces the strongest fighting force the world has ever seen.  That will not stop.

AUDIENCE:  Hooah!  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  That will not stop.  But our commitment doesn’t end when you take off the uniform.  You’re the finest that our nation has to offer.  And after years of rebuilding Iraq, we want to enlist our veterans in the work of rebuilding America.  That’s why we’re committed to doing everything we can to extend more opportunities to those who have served.

That includes the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, so that you and your families can get the education that allows you to live out your dreams.  That includes a national effort to put our veterans to work.  We’ve worked with Congress to pass a tax credit so that companies have the incentive to hire vets.  And Michelle has worked with the private sector to get commitments to create 100,000 jobs for those who’ve served.

AUDIENCE:  Hooah!

THE PRESIDENT:  And by the way, we’re doing this not just because it’s the right thing to do by you –- we’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do for America.  Folks like my grandfather came back from World War II to form the backbone of this country’s middle class.  For our post-9/11 veterans -– with your skill, with your discipline, with your leadership, I am confident that the story of your service to America is just beginning.

But there’s something else that we owe you.  As Americans, we have a responsibility to learn from your service.  I’m thinking of an example — Lieutenant Alvin Shell, who was based here at Fort Bragg.  A few years ago, on a supply route outside Baghdad, he and his team were engulfed by flames from an RPG attack.  Covered with gasoline, he ran into the fire to help his fellow soldiers, and then led them two miles back to Camp Victory where he finally collapsed, covered with burns.  When they told him he was a hero, Alvin disagreed.  “I’m not a hero,” he said.  “A hero is a sandwich. “  (Laughter.)  “I’m a paratrooper.”

AUDIENCE:  Hooah!

THE PRESIDENT:  We could do well to learn from Alvin.  This country needs to learn from you.  Folks in Washington need to learn from you.

AUDIENCE:  Hooah!

THE PRESIDENT:  Policymakers and historians will continue to analyze the strategic lessons of Iraq — that’s important to do.  Our commanders will incorporate the hard-won lessons into future military campaigns — that’s important to do.  But the most important lesson that we can take from you is not about military strategy –- it’s a lesson about our national character.

For all of the challenges that our nation faces, you remind us that there’s nothing we Americans can’t do when we stick together.

AUDIENCE:  Hooah!

THE PRESIDENT:  For all the disagreements that we face, you remind us there’s something bigger than our differences, something that makes us one nation and one people regardless of color, regardless of creed, regardless of what part of the country we come from, regardless of what backgrounds we come out of.  You remind us we’re one nation.

And that’s why the United States military is the most respected institution in our land because you never forget that.  You can’t afford to forget it.  If you forget it, somebody dies.  If you forget it, a mission fails.  So you don’t forget it.  You have each other’s backs.  That’s why you, the 9/11 Generation, has earned your place in history.

Because of you — because you sacrificed so much for a people that you had never met, Iraqis have a chance to forge their own destiny.  That’s part of what makes us special as Americans.  Unlike the old empires, we don’t make these sacrifices for territory or for resources.  We do it because it’s right.  There can be no fuller expression of America’s support for self-determination than our leaving Iraq to its people.  That says something about who we are.

Because of you, in Afghanistan we’ve broken the momentum of the Taliban.  Because of you, we’ve begun a transition to the Afghans that will allow us to bring our troops home from there.  And around the globe, as we draw down in Iraq, we have gone after al Qaeda so that terrorists who threaten America will have no safe haven, and Osama bin Laden will never again walk the face of this Earth.

AUDIENCE:  Hooah!  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  So here’s what I want you to know, and here’s what I want all our men and women in uniform to know:  Because of you, we are ending these wars in a way that will make America stronger and the world more secure.  Because of you.

That success was never guaranteed.  And let us never forget the source of American leadership:  our commitment to the values that are written into our founding documents, and a unique willingness among nations to pay a great price for the progress of human freedom and dignity.  This is who we are.  That’s what we do as Americans, together.

The war in Iraq will soon belong to history.  Your service belongs to the ages.  Never forget that you are part of an unbroken line of heroes spanning two centuries –- from the colonists who overthrew an empire, to your grandparents and parents who faced down fascism and communism, to you –- men and women who fought for the same principles in Fallujah and Kandahar, and delivered justice to those who attacked us on 9/11.

Looking back on the war that saved our union, a great American, Oliver Wendell Holmes, once paid tribute to those who served.  “In our youth,” he said, “our hearts were touched with fire.  It was given to us to learn at the outset that life is a profound and passionate thing.”

All of you here today have lived through the fires of war.  You will be remembered for it.  You will be honored for it — always.  You have done something profound with your lives.  When this nation went to war, you signed up to serve.  When times were tough, you kept fighting.  When there was no end in sight, you found light in the darkness.

And years from now, your legacy will endure in the names of your fallen comrades etched on headstones at Arlington, and the quiet memorials across our country; in the whispered words of admiration as you march in parades, and in the freedom of our children and our grandchildren.  And in the quiet of night, you will recall that your heart was once touched by fire.  You will know that you answered when your country called; you served a cause greater than yourselves; you helped forge a just and lasting peace with Iraq, and among all nations.

I could not be prouder of you, and America could not be prouder of you.

God bless you all, God bless your families, and God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

Voir par ailleurs:

National Security
Robert Gates, former defense secretary, offers harsh critique of Obama’s leadership in ‘Duty’
Bob Woodward

The Washington Post

January 7, 2014

In a new memoir, former defense secretary Robert Gates unleashes harsh judgments about President Obama’s leadership and his commitment to the Afghanistan war, writing that by early 2010 he had concluded the president “doesn’t believe in his own strategy, and doesn’t consider the war to be his. For him, it’s all about getting out.”

Leveling one of the more serious charges that a defense secretary could make against a commander in chief sending forces into combat, Gates asserts that Obama had more than doubts about the course he had charted in Afghanistan. The president was “skeptical if not outright convinced it would fail,” Gates writes in “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War.”

Obama, after months of contentious discussion with Gates and other top advisers, deployed 30,000 more troops in a final push to stabilize Afghanistan before a phased withdrawal beginning in mid-2011. “I never doubted Obama’s support for the troops, only his support for their mission,” Gates writes.

As a candidate, Obama had made plain his opposition to the 2003 Iraq invasion while embracing the Afghanistan war as a necessary response to the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, requiring even more military resources to succeed. In Gates’s highly emotional account, Obama remains uncomfortable with the inherited wars and distrustful of the military that is providing him options. Their different worldviews produced a rift that, at least for Gates, became personally wounding and impossible to repair.

In a statement Tuesday evening, National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said Obama “deeply appreciates Bob Gates’ service as Secretary of Defense, and his lifetime of service to our country.”

“As has always been the case, the President welcomes differences of view among his national security team, which broaden his options and enhance our policies,” Hayden said in the statement. “The President wishes Secretary Gates well as he recovers from his recent injury, and discusses his book.” Gates fractured his first vertebra last week in a fall at his home in Washington state.

It is rare for a former Cabinet member, let alone a defense secretary occupying a central position in the chain of command, to publish such an antagonistic portrait of a sitting president.

Gates’s severe criticism is even more surprising — some might say contradictory — because toward the end of “Duty,” he says of Obama’s chief Afghanistan policies, “I believe Obama was right in each of these decisions.” That particular view is not a universal one; like much of the debate about the best path to take in Afghanistan, there is disagreement on how well the surge strategy worked, including among military officials.

The sometimes bitter tone in Gates’s 594-page account contrasts sharply with the even-tempered image that he cultivated during his many years of government service, including stints at the CIA and National Security Council. That image endured through his nearly five years in the Pentagon’s top job, beginning in President George W. Bush’s second term and continuing after Obama asked him to remain in the post. In “Duty,” Gates describes his outwardly calm demeanor as a facade. Underneath, he writes, he was frequently “seething” and “running out of patience on multiple fronts.”

The book, published by Knopf, is scheduled for release Jan. 14.

[PHOTOS: A look at Robert Gates’s career in government]

Gates, a Republican, writes about Obama with an ambivalence that he does not resolve, praising him as “a man of personal integrity” even as he faults his leadership. Though the book simmers with disappointment in Obama, it reflects outright contempt for Vice President Biden and many of Obama’s top aides.

Biden is accused of “poisoning the well” against the military leadership. Thomas Donilon, initially Obama’s deputy national security adviser, and then-Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute, the White House coordinator for the wars, are described as regularly engaged in “aggressive, suspicious, and sometimes condescending and insulting questioning of our military leaders.”

In her statement, Hayden said Obama “disagrees with Secretary Gates’ assessment” of the vice president.

“From his leadership on the Balkans in the Senate, to his efforts to end the war in Iraq, Joe Biden has been one of the leading statesmen of his time, and has helped advance America’s leadership in the world,” Hayden said. “President Obama relies on his good counsel every day.”

Gates is 70, nearly 20 years older than Obama. He has worked for every president going back to Richard Nixon, with the exception of Bill Clinton. Throughout his government career, he was known for his bipartisan detachment, the consummate team player. “Duty” is likely to provide ammunition for those who believe it is risky for a president to fill such a key Cabinet post with a holdover from the opposition party.

He writes, “I have tried to be fair in describing actions and motivations of others.” He seems well aware that Obama and his aides will not see it that way.

While serving as defense secretary, Gates gave Obama high marks, saying privately in the summer of 2010 that the president is “very thoughtful and analytical, but he is also quite decisive.” He added, “I think we have a similar approach to dealing with national security issues.”

Obama echoed Gates’s comments in a July 10, 2010, interview for my book “Obama’s Wars.” The president said: “Bob Gates has, I think, served me extraordinarily well. And part of the reason is, you know, I’m not sure if he considers this an insult or a compliment, but he and I actually think a lot alike, in broad terms.”

During that interview, Obama said he believed he “had garnered confidence and trust in Gates.” In “Duty,” Gates complains repeatedly that confidence and trust were what he felt was lacking in his dealings with Obama and his team. “Why did I feel I was constantly at war with everybody, as I have detailed in these pages?” he writes. “Why was I so often angry? Why did I so dislike being back in government and in Washington?”

His answer is that “the broad dysfunction in Washington wore me down, especially as I tried to maintain a public posture of nonpartisan calm, reason and conciliation.”

His lament about Washington was not the only factor contributing to his unhappiness. Gates also writes of the toll taken by the difficulty of overseeing wars against terrorism and insurgencies in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan. Such wars do not end with a clear surrender; Gates acknowledges having ambiguous feelings about both conflicts. For example, he writes that he does not know what he would have recommended if he had been asked his opinion on Bush’s 2003 decision to invade Iraq.

Three years later, Bush recruited Gates — who had served his father for 15 months as CIA director in the early 1990s — to take on the defense job. The first half of “Duty” covers those final two years in the Bush administration. Gates reveals some disagreements from that period, but none as fundamental or as personal as those he describes with Obama and his aides in the book’s second half.

“All too early in the [Obama] administration,” he writes, “suspicion and distrust of senior military officers by senior White House officials — including the president and vice president — became a big problem for me as I tried to manage the relationship between the commander in chief and his military leaders.”

Gates offers a catalogue of various meetings, based in part on notes that he and his aides made at the time, including an exchange between Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that he calls “remarkable.”

He writes: “Hillary told the president that her opposition to the [2007] surge in Iraq had been political because she was facing him in the Iowa primary. . . . The president conceded vaguely that opposition to the Iraq surge had been political. To hear the two of them making these admissions, and in front of me, was as surprising as it was dismaying.”

Earlier in the book, he describes Hillary Clinton in the sort of glowing terms that might be used in a political endorsement. “I found her smart, idealistic but pragmatic, tough-minded, indefatigable, funny, a very valuable colleague, and a superb representative of the United States all over the world,” he wrote.

[READ: The Fix on what Gates’s memoir could mean for a Clinton campaign]
March 3, 2011

“Duty” reflects the memoir genre, declaring that this is how the writer saw it, warts and all, including his own. That focus tends to give short shrift to the fuller, established record. For example, in recounting the difficult discussions that led to the Afghan surge strategy in 2009, Gates makes no reference to the six-page “terms sheet” that Obama drafted at the end, laying out the rationale for the surge and withdrawal timetable. Obama asked everyone involved to sign on, signaling agreement.

According to the meeting notes of another participant, Gates is quoted as telling Obama, “You sound the bugle . . . Mr. President, and Mike [Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] and I will be the first to charge the hill.”

Gates does not include such a moment in “Duty.” He picks up the story a bit later, after Gen. David H. Petraeus, then the central commander in charge of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, made remarks to the press suggesting he was not comfortable with setting a fixed date to start withdrawal.

At a March 3, 2011, National Security Council meeting, Gates writes, the president opened with a “blast.” Obama criticized the military for “popping off in the press” and said he would push back hard against any delay in beginning the withdrawal.

According to Gates, Obama concluded, “ ‘If I believe I am being gamed . . .’ and left the sentence hanging there with the clear implication the consequences would be dire.”

Gates continues: “I was pretty upset myself. I thought implicitly accusing” Petraeus, and perhaps Mullen and Gates himself, “of gaming him in front of thirty people in the Situation Room was inappropriate, not to mention highly disrespectful of Petraeus. As I sat there, I thought: the president doesn’t trust his commander, can’t stand [Afghanistan President Hamid] Karzai, doesn’t believe in his own strategy, and doesn’t consider the war to be his. For him, it’s all about getting out.”

[READ: World Views: Gates was wrong on the most important issue he ever faced]
‘Breaches of faith’

Lack of trust is a major thread in Gates’s account, along with his unsparing criticism of Obama’s aides. At times, the two threads intertwine. For example, after the devastating 2010 Haitian earthquake that had left tens of thousands dead, Gates met with Obama and Donilon, the deputy national security adviser, about disaster relief.

Donilon was “complaining about how long we were taking,” Gates writes. “Then he went too far, questioning in front of the president and a roomful of people whether General [Douglas] Fraser [head of the U.S. Southern Command] was competent to lead this effort. I’ve rarely been angrier in the Oval Office than I was at that moment. . . . My initial instinct was to storm out, telling the president on the way that he didn’t need two secretaries of defense. It took every bit of my self-discipline to stay seated on the sofa.”

Gates confirms a previously reported statement in which he told Obama’s first national security adviser, retired Marine Gen. James Jones, that he thought Donilon would be a “disaster” if he succeeded Jones (as Donilon did in late 2010). Gates writes that Obama quizzed him about this characterization; a one-on-one meeting with Donilon followed, and that “cleared the air,” according to Gates.

His second year with Obama proved as tough as the first. “For me, 2010 was a year of continued conflict and a couple of important White House breaches of faith,” he writes.

The first, he says, was Obama’s decision to seek the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy toward gays serving in the military. Though Gates says he supported the decision, there had been months and months of debate, with details still to work out. On one day’s notice, Obama informed Gates and Mullen that he would announce his request for a repeal of the law. Obama had “blindsided Admiral Mullen and me,” Gates writes.

Similarly, in a battle over defense spending, “I was extremely angry with President Obama,” Gates writes. “I felt he had breached faith with me . . . on the budget numbers.” As with “don’t ask, don’t tell,” “I felt that agreements with the Obama White House were good for only as long as they were politically convenient.”

Gates acknowledges forthrightly in “Duty” that he did not reveal his dismay. “I never confronted Obama directly over what I (as well as [Hillary] Clinton, [then-CIA Director Leon] Panetta, and others) saw as the president’s determination that the White House tightly control every aspect of national security policy and even operations. His White House was by far the most centralized and controlling in national security of any I had seen since Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger ruled the roost.”

It got so bad during internal debates over whether to intervene in Libya in 2011 that Gates says he felt compelled to deliver a “rant” because the White House staff was “talking about military options with the president without Defense being involved.”

Gates says his instructions to the Pentagon were: “Don’t give the White House staff and [national security staff] too much information on the military options. They don’t understand it, and ‘experts’ like Samantha Power will decide when we should move militarily.” Power, then on the national security staff and now U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has been a strong advocate for humanitarian intervention.

Another time, after Donilon and Biden tried to pass orders to Gates, he told the two, “The last time I checked, neither of you are in the chain of command,” and said he expected to get orders directly from Obama.

Life at the top was no picnic, Gates writes. He did little or no socializing. “Every evening I could not wait to get home, get my office homework out of the way, write condolence letters to the families of the fallen, pour a stiff drink, wolf down a frozen dinner or carry out,” since his wife, Becky, often remained at their home in Washington state.

“I got up at five every morning to run two miles around the Mall in Washington, past the World War II, Korean, and Vietnam memorials, and in front of the Lincoln Memorial. And every morning before dawn, I would ritually look up at that stunning white statue of Lincoln, say good morning, and sadly ask him, How did you do it?”

The memoir’s title comes from a quote, “God help me to do my duty,” that Gates says he kept on his desk. The quote has been attributed to Abraham Lincoln’s war secretary, Edwin Stanton.

At his confirmation hearings to be Bush’s defense secretary in late 2006, Gates told the senators that he had not “come back to Washington to be a bump on a log and not say exactly what I think, and to speak candidly and, frankly, boldly to people at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue about what I believe and what I think needs to be done.”

But Gates says he did not speak his mind when the committee chairman listed the problems he would face as secretary. “I remember sitting at the witness table listening to this litany of woe and thinking, “What the hell am I doing here? I have walked right into the middle of a category-five shitstorm. It was the first of many, many times I would sit at the witness table thinking something very different from what I was saying.”

“Duty” offers the familiar criticism of Congress and its culture, describing it as “truly ugly.” Gates’s cold feelings toward the legislative branch stand in stark contrast to his warmth for the military. He repeatedly describes his affection for the troops, especially those in combat.

Gates wanted to quit at the end of 2010 but agreed to stay at Obama’s urging, finally leaving in mid-2011. He later joined a consulting firm with two of Bush’s closest foreign policy advisers — former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and Stephen Hadley, the national security adviser during Bush’s second term. The firm is called RiceHadleyGates. In October, he became president-elect of the Boy Scouts of America.

Gates writes, “I did not enjoy being secretary of defense,” or as he e-mailed one friend while still serving, “People have no idea how much I detest this job.”

Evelyn Duffy contributed to this report.

Voir enfin:

Asia Pacific
Bipartisan Critic Turns His Gaze Toward Obama
In His New Memoir, Robert M. Gates, the Former Defense Secretary, Offers a Critique of the President
Thom Shanker

Jan. 7, 2014

WASHINGTON — After ordering a troop increase in Afghanistan, President Obama eventually lost faith in the strategy, his doubts fed by White House advisers who continually brought him negative news reports suggesting it was failing, according to his former defense secretary Robert M. Gates.

In a new memoir, Mr. Gates, a Republican holdover from the Bush administration who served for two years under Mr. Obama, praises the president as a rigorous thinker who frequently made decisions “opposed by his political advisers or that would be unpopular with his fellow Democrats.” But Mr. Gates says that by 2011, Mr. Obama began criticizing — sometimes emotionally — the way his policy in Afghanistan was playing out.

At a pivotal meeting in the situation room in March 2011, called to discuss the withdrawal timetable, Mr. Obama opened with a blast of frustration — expressing doubts about Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commander he had chosen, and questioning whether he could do business with the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai.

“As I sat there, I thought: The president doesn’t trust his commander, can’t stand Karzai, doesn’t believe in his own strategy and doesn’t consider the war to be his,” Mr. Gates wrote. “For him, it’s all about getting out.”

“Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War” is the first book describing the Obama administration’s policy deliberations written from inside the cabinet. Mr. Gates offers 600 pages of detailed history of his personal wars with Congress, the Pentagon bureaucracy and, in particular, Mr. Obama’s White House staff. He wrote that the “controlling nature” of the staff “took micromanagement and operational meddling to a new level.”

Mr. Obama’s decision to retain Mr. Gates at the Pentagon gave his national security team a respected professional and veteran of decades at the center of American foreign policy — and offered a bipartisan aura. But it was not long before Mr. Obama’s inner circle tired of the defense secretary they initially praised as “Yoda” — a reference to the wise, aged Jedi master in the “Star Wars” films — and he of them.

Mr. Gates describes his running policy battles within Mr. Obama’s inner circle, among them Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.; Tom Donilon, who served as national security adviser; and Douglas E. Lute, the Army lieutenant general who managed Afghan policy issues at the time.

Mr. Gates calls Mr. Biden “a man of integrity,” but questions his judgment. “I think he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades,” Mr. Gates writes. He has high praise for Hillary Rodham Clinton, who served as secretary of state when he was at the Pentagon and was a frequent ally on national security issues.

But Mr. Gates does say that, in defending her support for the Afghan surge, she confided that her opposition to Mr. Bush’s Iraq surge when she was in the Senate and a presidential candidate “had been political,” since she was facing Mr. Obama, then an antiwar senator, in the Iowa primary. In the same conversation, Mr. Obama “conceded vaguely that opposition to the Iraq surge had been political,” Mr. Gates recalls. “To hear the two of them making these admissions, and in front of me, was as surprising as it was dismaying.”

Mr. Gates discloses that he almost quit in September 2009 after a dispute-filled meeting to assess the way ahead in Afghanistan, including the number of troops that were needed. “I was deeply uneasy with the Obama White House’s lack of appreciation — from the top down — of the uncertainties and unpredictability of war,” he recalls. “I came closer to resigning that day than at any other time in my tenure.”

Caitlin Hayden, the National Security Council spokeswoman, released a statement late Tuesday saying that “deliberations over our policy on Afghanistan have been widely reported on over the years, and it is well known that the president has been committed to achieving the mission of disrupting, dismantling and defeating Al Qaeda, while also ensuring that we have a clear plan for winding down the war, which will end this year.”

In response to Mr. Gates’s comments on Mr. Biden, she said, “President Obama relies on his good counsel every day.”

Mr. Gates is a bipartisan critic of the two presidents he served as defense secretary. He holds the George W. Bush administration responsible for misguided policy that squandered the early victories in Afghanistan and Iraq, although he credits Mr. Bush with ordering a troop surge in Iraq that averted collapse of the mission.

And he says that only he and Mr. Bush’s second secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, pressed forcefully to close the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, with little result.

Mr. Gates does not spare himself from criticism. He describes how he came to feel “an overwhelming sense of personal responsibility” for the troops he ordered into combat, which left him misty-eyed when discussing their sacrifices — and perhaps clouded his judgment when coldhearted national security interests were at stake.

Mr. Gates acknowledges that he initially opposed sending Special Operations forces to attack a housing compound in Pakistan where Osama bin Laden was believed to be hiding. Mr. Gates writes that Mr. Obama’s approval for the Navy SEAL mission, despite strong doubts that Bin Laden was even there, was “one of the most courageous decisions I had ever witnessed in the White House.”

In his final chapter, Mr. Gates makes clear his verdict on the president’s overall Afghan strategy: “I believe Obama was right in each of these decisions.”

Mr. Gates reveals the depth of Mr. Obama’s concerns over leaks of classified information to news outlets, writing that within his first month in office, the new president said he wanted a criminal investigation into disclosures by The New York Times on covert action intended to sabotage Iran’s suspected effort to develop nuclear weapons.

Mr. Gates, too, ordered a campaign to stamp out unauthorized disclosures, but grew rankled when White House officials always blamed the Pentagon for leaks. “Only the president would acknowledge to me he had problems with leaks in his own shop,” Mr. Gates writes.

Mr. Gates, who began public service as an Air Force intelligence officer, tells of emotional meetings with troops in combat, with those who suffered horrific wounds and with their families.

He writes that he is to be buried in Arlington Cemetery’s Section 60, the final home for many killed in Afghanistan and Iraq. “The greatest honor possible would be to rest among my heroes for all eternity,” Mr. Gates writes in closing his memoir.

Voir encore:

Panetta: Obama, White House Responsible For Chaos In Iraq
Former Secretary of Defense breaks down history in upcoming memoir
Washington Free Beacon Staff
October 2, 2014

 Obama’s former Secretary of Defense and Director of the CIA, Leon Panetta, has blamed the president for the chaos unfolding in Iraq.

Time previewed Panetta’s upcoming memoir, Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace. In the book, Panetta said he and others in the Obama administration pushed for a residual force of U.S. troops to remain in Iraq but their efforts were stymied by White House.

“The White House was so eager to rid itself of Iraq that it was willing to withdraw rather than lock in arrangements that would preserve our influence and interests,” Panetta wrote.
Through the fall of 2011, the main question facing the American military in Iraq was what our role would be now that combat operations were over. When President Obama announced the end of our combat mission in August 2010, he acknowledged that we would maintain troops for a while. Now that the deadline was upon us, however, it was clear to me–and many others–that withdrawing all our forces would endanger the fragile stability then barely holding Iraq together.

Privately, the various leadership factions in Iraq all confided that they wanted some U.S. forces to remain as a bulwark against sectarian violence. But none was willing to take that position publicly, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki concluded that any Status of Forces Agreement, which would give legal protection to those forces, would have to be submitted to the Iraqi parliament for approval.

That made reaching agreement very difficult given the internal politics of Iraq, but representatives of the Defense and State departments, with scrutiny from the White House, tried to reach a deal.We had leverage. We could, for instance, have threatened to withdraw reconstruction aid to Iraq if al-Maliki would not support some sort of continued U.S. military presence. My fear, as I voiced to the President and others, was that if the country split apart or slid back into the violence that we’d seen in the years immediately following the U.S. invasion, it could become a new haven for terrorists to plot attacks against the U.S. Iraq’s stability was not only in Iraq’s interest but also in ours. I privately and publicly advocated for a residual force that could provide training and security for Iraq’s military.

To my frustration, the White House coordinated the negotiations but never really led them. Officials there seemed content to endorse an agreement if State and Defense could reach one, but without the President’s active advocacy, al-Maliki was allowed to slip away. The deal never materialized. To this day, I believe that a small U.S. troop presence in Iraq could have effectively advised the Iraqi military on how to deal with al-Qaeda’s resurgence and the sectarian violence that has engulfed the country.
Panetta is a close ally of the Clintons, and his memoir may be seen as an effort to distance Hillary Clinton from the Obama administration’s foreign policy failures. The memoir comes out on October 7.

Voir enfin:

Politics
A Closer Look at Hillary Clinton’s Emails on Benghazi
Michael S. Schmidt

May 21, 2015

Hillary Rodham Clinton last year provided the State Department with 55,000 pages of emails that she said were related to her work as secretary of state, all from the personal account she exclusively used while leading the department.

Roughly 850 pages of those emails that relate to Libya and the 2012 attacks on the United States outposts in Benghazi were handed over to a special committee appointed to investigate the attacks. In response to a request from Mrs. Clinton, the State Department plans to release those emails in the coming days. The New York Times obtained more than a third of those documents and has provided a guide to some of the key findings related to the Benghazi attacks below.

Blumenthal Memos Were Often Circulated Without Identifying Their Source

What Sidney Blumenthal’s Memos to Hillary Clinton Said, and How They Were HandledMAY 18, 2015
From 2011 to 2012, Sidney Blumenthal, a longtime friend and confidant who was a senior adviser to Mrs. Clinton during her 2008 presidential campaign, sent her at least 25 memos about Libya, including several about the Benghazi attacks. Mrs. Clinton forwarded most of them to Jake Sullivan, her trusted foreign policy adviser. Mr. Sullivan would then send the memos along to other senior State Department officials, asking for their feedback. There is no evidence those officials were told that the memos were from Mr. Blumenthal. In April 2012, J. Christopher Stevens, the ambassador who died in the Benghazi attacks, was asked by Mr. Sullivan to provide his thoughts on the latest information “from HRC friend.” (Pages 127-128) Brian Fallon, a spokesman for Mrs. Clinton, said that Mr. Blumenthal had not been working for the government in any official capacity at the time and that his emails to Mrs. Clinton had not been solicited.

In Memo, Blumenthal Initially Blames Demonstrators for Attacks
The day after the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on American outposts in Benghazi that killed Mr. Stevens and three other Americans, Mr. Blumenthal sent Mrs. Clinton a memo with his intelligence about what had occurred. The memo said the attacks were by “demonstrators” who “were inspired by what many devout Libyan viewed as a sacrilegious internet video on the prophet Mohammed originating in America.” Mrs. Clinton forwarded the memo to Mr. Sullivan, saying “More info.” (Pages 193-195)

Second Memo Provides Detailed Account of Benghazi
The next day, Mr. Blumenthal sent Mrs. Clinton a more thorough account of what had occurred. Citing “sensitive sources” in Libya, the memo provided extensive detail about the episode, saying that the siege had been set off by members of Ansar al-Shariah, the Libyan terrorist group. Those militants had ties to Al Qaeda, had planned the attacks for a month and had used a nearby protest as cover for the siege, the memo said. “We should get this around asap” Mrs. Clinton said in an email to Mr. Sullivan. “Will do,” he responded. That information contradicted the Obama administration’s narrative at the time about what had spawned the attacks. Republicans have said the administration misled the country about the attacks because it did not want to undermine the notion that President Obama, who was up for re-election, was winning the war on terrorism. (Pages 200-203)

Blumenthal Warns of Political Attacks
In early October 2012, a month before Mr. Obama was re-elected, Mr. Blumenthal forwarded Mrs. Clinton an article on a left-leaning website. The article cautioned that the Republicans could exploit the attacks in a “Jimmy Carter Strategy” and use them to paint Mr. Obama as weak on terrorism. Mrs. Clinton forwarded the email to Mr. Sullivan. “Be sure Ben knows they need to be ready for this line of attack,” Mrs. Clinton wrote. She did not say to which Ben she was referring, but one of Mr. Obama’s senior national security advisers is Benjamin J. Rhodes, who handles communications and speechwriting. Mrs. Clinton then told Mr. Blumenthal that she was “pushing to WH” the story. “According to Politico yesterday, there was an internal argument within the Romney campaign over Libya,” Mr. Blumenthal said in response. “Obviously, the neocons and the Rove oriented faction (Ed Gillespie, Rove’s surrogate is now a Romney campaign adviser) beat Stuart Stevens.” (Pages 215-225)

Clinton’s Personal Email Account Contained Sensitive Information
Mrs. Clinton’s emails show that she had a special type of government information known as “sensitive but unclassified,” or “SBU,” in her account. That information included the whereabouts and travel plans of American officials in Libya as security there deteriorated during the uprising against the leadership of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in 2011. Nearly a year and a half before the attacks in Benghazi, Mr. Stevens, then an American envoy to the rebels, considered leaving Benghazi citing deteriorating security, according to an email to Mrs. Clinton marked “SBU.”

Voir de plus:

Nouvelle polémique autour de la mort de Ben Laden
Emmanuelle.Rivière
Le Figaro

11/05/2015

L’enquête d’une figure du journalisme d’investigation américain remet en cause la thèse officielle sur la mort de Ben Laden. Des affirmations «sans fondement», a aussitôt rétorqué lundi la Maison-Blanche.

Publiée dans la London Review of Books, l’enquête de Seymour M. Hersh, emblème du journalisme d’investigation américain, tend à discréditer la thèse officielle de l’administration Obama sur la mort d’Oussama Ben Laden. Après avoir décrypté le déroulement des opérations qui ont conduit à l’élimination du chef d’al-Qaida, le journaliste ironise: «L’histoire de la Maison-Blanche aurait pu être écrite par Lewis Caroll».

Seymour M. Hersh affirme d’abord que la traque de Ben Laden en mai 2011 n’a pas seulement été menée par les États-Unis. D’après lui, l’opération était connue d’une poignée d’officiels pakistanais, qui pourraient même y avoir contribué. Citant une «source anonyme», il va même jusqu’à évoquer un chantage de l’administration américaine sur le Pakistan. «Nous étions très réticents, mais cela devait être fait parce que tous les programmes d’aides américains auraient été coupés», aurait déclaré la fameuse source d’Hersh. Cette même source ajoutant: «Ils ont dit qu’ils allaient nous affamer si nous ne l’autorisions pas [le raid] et l’accord a été donné alors que Ahmed Shuja Pasha [le directeur général des services secrets pakistanais] était à Washington».

Ben Laden était-il emprisonné par le Pakistan?
D’après le journaliste, le cerveau des attentats de 2001 ne se cachait pas à Abottabad (le lieu où il a été tué) mais y était, en réalité, emprisonné par le Pakistan. Toujours selon le journaliste, c’est une source pakistanaise, rémunérée 25 millions de dollars, qui aurait ensuite rapporté la localisation précise ainsi que des échantillons ADN du terroriste afin de prouver ses affirmations.

Mais Seymour Hersh ne s’arrête pas là. Il soutient que la mise à mort du chef terroriste n’a pu être actionnée qu’après de longues négociations avec le Pakistan: «En août 2010, un ancien officier des services secrets pakistanais a approché Jonathan Bank, alors chef du bureau de la CIA à l’ambassade américaine d’Islamabad», raconte le journaliste, et «il a proposé de dire à la CIA où trouver Ben Laden en échange de la récompense que Washington avait offerte en 2001». Les dires selon lesquels le corps de la dépouille aurait été jeté en mer seraient également erronés. Réduite en morceaux par les balles, elle aurait été éparpillée dans l’ Hindou Koush, entre le Pakistan et l’Afghanistan, avance le journaliste.

Les démentis de la Maison-Blanche
Spécialiste de la politique et des services secrets américains, Seymour Hersh n’en est pas à son premier coup d’éclat. On lui doit notamment les révélations sur le massacre de My Lai en avril 1968 (pour lequel il obtint le Pullitzer en 1970), au cours duquel 400 Vietnamiens ont été exterminés par une unité de l’armée américaine. Il est également à l’origine du rapport sur les tortures des prisonniers d’Abou Ghraib en 2004. C’est peu dire, donc, que le personnage hante les présidents américains depuis plus de 50 ans…

La Maison-Blanche a rejeté en bloc le travail de ce «vieux brisquard» du journalisme. «Il y a trop d’inexactitudes et d’affirmations sans fondement dans cet article pour y répondre point par point», a affirmé Ned Price, porte-parole du Conseil de sécurité nationale (NSC).

La thèse de Seymour Hersh pâtit de reposer en grande partie sur les déclarations d’une source unique, anonyme qui plus est. Au lendemain de l’assaut de mai 2011, Islamabad avait fortement critiqué l’opération américaine, estimant que de telles «actions unilatérales non autorisées» ne devraient pas se reproduire. Quant à la CIA, elle avait affirmé que les États-Unis n’avaient en aucun cas informé le Pakistan, de crainte que le pays n’«alerte» Oussama Ben Laden.

Voir de même:

Mort de Ben Laden : « C’est un énorme mensonge »

Thomas Liabot

le JDD

11 mai 2015

Selon le journaliste Seymour Hersh, la mort d’Oussama Ben Laden n’est pas intervenue selon le scénario révélé par Washington. Un agent pakistanais aurait renseigné la CIA, contre une forte récompense.
Et si Washington avait menti sur la version officielle de la mort d’Oussama Ben Laden? Selon le journaliste Seymour Hersh (prix Pulitzer en 1970), cela ne fait aucun doute. Dans un rapport publié dans la London Review of Books, il affirme en effet que l' »histoire de la Maison-Blanche aurait pu être écrite par Lewis Caroll », le père des Aventures d’Alice au pays des merveilles. « C’est un énorme mensonge, il n’y a pas un seul mot de vrai », poursuit l’ancien journaliste du New York Times.

« La Maison Blanche maintient que la mission était une affaire 100% américaine, et que les généraux de l’armée pakistanaise et ses services secrets n’ont pas été mis au courant de l’assaut à l’avance. C’est faux. » Selon lui, les Pakistanais avaient établi depuis 2006 que le chef d’al-Qaïda était à Abbottabad, et étaient en relation avec la CIA pour planifier son élimination.

Aidé par un agent pakistanais
Seymour Hersh s’explique : « En août 2010, un ancien officier des services secrets pakistanais a approché Jonathan Bank, alors chef du bureau de la CIA à l’ambassade américaine d’Islamabad. Il a proposé de dire à la CIA où trouver Ben Laden en échange de la récompense que Washington avait offerte en 2001″, soit 25 millions de dollars. Récompensé, l’homme serait aujourd’hui consultant à Washington pour la CIA.

Dans son article, Seymour Hersh écrit qu’il n’y pas eu d’affrontements dans la villa d’Abbotabad, mais que les forces spéciales américaines ont abattu « un homme faible et sans armes ». Le journaliste ajoute que le corps d’Oussama Ben Laden n’aurait pas été jeté en mer, mais enterré au Pakistan.

Voir enfin:

The Killing of Osama bin Laden
Seymour M. Hersh
London Review of Books
21 May 2015

Seymour M. Hersh is writing an alternative history of the war on terror.

It’s been four years since a group of US Navy Seals assassinated Osama bin Laden in a night raid on a high-walled compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The killing was the high point of Obama’s first term, and a major factor in his re-election. The White House still maintains that the mission was an all-American affair, and that the senior generals of Pakistan’s army and Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) were not told of the raid in advance. This is false, as are many other elements of the Obama administration’s account. The White House’s story might have been written by Lewis Carroll: would bin Laden, target of a massive international manhunt, really decide that a resort town forty miles from Islamabad would be the safest place to live and command al-Qaida’s operations? He was hiding in the open. So America said.

The most blatant lie was that Pakistan’s two most senior military leaders – General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, chief of the army staff, and General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, director general of the ISI – were never informed of the US mission. This remains the White House position despite an array of reports that have raised questions, including one by Carlotta Gall in the New York Times Magazine of 19 March 2014. Gall, who spent 12 years as the Times correspondent in Afghanistan, wrote that she’d been told by a ‘Pakistani official’ that Pasha had known before the raid that bin Laden was in Abbottabad. The story was denied by US and Pakistani officials, and went no further. In his book Pakistan: Before and after Osama (2012), Imtiaz Gul, executive director of the Centre for Research and Security Studies, a think tank in Islamabad, wrote that he’d spoken to four undercover intelligence officers who – reflecting a widely held local view – asserted that the Pakistani military must have had knowledge of the operation. The issue was raised again in February, when a retired general, Asad Durrani, who was head of the ISI in the early 1990s, told an al-Jazeera interviewer that it was ‘quite possible’ that the senior officers of the ISI did not know where bin Laden had been hiding, ‘but it was more probable that they did [know]. And the idea was that, at the right time, his location would be revealed. And the right time would have been when you can get the necessary quid pro quo – if you have someone like Osama bin Laden, you are not going to simply hand him over to the United States.’

This spring I contacted Durrani and told him in detail what I had learned about the bin Laden assault from American sources: that bin Laden had been a prisoner of the ISI at the Abbottabad compound since 2006; that Kayani and Pasha knew of the raid in advance and had made sure that the two helicopters delivering the Seals to Abbottabad could cross Pakistani airspace without triggering any alarms; that the CIA did not learn of bin Laden’s whereabouts by tracking his couriers, as the White House has claimed since May 2011, but from a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer who betrayed the secret in return for much of the $25 million reward offered by the US, and that, while Obama did order the raid and the Seal team did carry it out, many other aspects of the administration’s account were false.

‘When your version comes out – if you do it – people in Pakistan will be tremendously grateful,’ Durrani told me. ‘For a long time people have stopped trusting what comes out about bin Laden from the official mouths. There will be some negative political comment and some anger, but people like to be told the truth, and what you’ve told me is essentially what I have heard from former colleagues who have been on a fact-finding mission since this episode.’ As a former ISI head, he said, he had been told shortly after the raid by ‘people in the “strategic community” who would know’ that there had been an informant who had alerted the US to bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad, and that after his killing the US’s betrayed promises left Kayani and Pasha exposed.

The major US source for the account that follows is a retired senior intelligence official who was knowledgeable about the initial intelligence about bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad. He also was privy to many aspects of the Seals’ training for the raid, and to the various after-action reports. Two other US sources, who had access to corroborating information, have been longtime consultants to the Special Operations Command. I also received information from inside Pakistan about widespread dismay among the senior ISI and military leadership – echoed later by Durrani – over Obama’s decision to go public immediately with news of bin Laden’s death. The White House did not respond to requests for comment.

*

It began with a walk-in. In August 2010 a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer approached Jonathan Bank, then the CIA’s station chief at the US embassy in Islamabad. He offered to tell the CIA where to find bin Laden in return for the reward that Washington had offered in 2001. Walk-ins are assumed by the CIA to be unreliable, and the response from the agency’s headquarters was to fly in a polygraph team. The walk-in passed the test. ‘So now we’ve got a lead on bin Laden living in a compound in Abbottabad, but how do we really know who it is?’ was the CIA’s worry at the time, the retired senior US intelligence official told me.

The US initially kept what it knew from the Pakistanis. ‘The fear was that if the existence of the source was made known, the Pakistanis themselves would move bin Laden to another location. So only a very small number of people were read into the source and his story,’ the retired official said. ‘The CIA’s first goal was to check out the quality of the informant’s information.’ The compound was put under satellite surveillance. The CIA rented a house in Abbottabad to use as a forward observation base and staffed it with Pakistani employees and foreign nationals. Later on, the base would serve as a contact point with the ISI; it attracted little attention because Abbottabad is a holiday spot full of houses rented on short leases. A psychological profile of the informant was prepared. (The informant and his family were smuggled out of Pakistan and relocated in the Washington area. He is now a consultant for the CIA.)

‘By October the military and intelligence community were discussing the possible military options. Do we drop a bunker buster on the compound or take him out with a drone strike? Perhaps send someone to kill him, single assassin style? But then we’d have no proof of who he was,’ the retired official said. ‘We could see some guy is walking around at night, but we have no intercepts because there’s no commo coming from the compound.’

In October, Obama was briefed on the intelligence. His response was cautious, the retired official said. ‘It just made no sense that bin Laden was living in Abbottabad. It was just too crazy. The president’s position was emphatic: “Don’t talk to me about this any more unless you have proof that it really is bin Laden.”’ The immediate goal of the CIA leadership and the Joint Special Operations Command was to get Obama’s support. They believed they would get this if they got DNA evidence, and if they could assure him that a night assault of the compound would carry no risk. The only way to accomplish both things, the retired official said, ‘was to get the Pakistanis on board’.

During the late autumn of 2010, the US continued to keep quiet about the walk-in, and Kayani and Pasha continued to insist to their American counterparts that they had no information about bin Laden’s whereabouts. ‘The next step was to figure out how to ease Kayani and Pasha into it – to tell them that we’ve got intelligence showing that there is a high-value target in the compound, and to ask them what they know about the target,’ the retired official said. ‘The compound was not an armed enclave – no machine guns around, because it was under ISI control.’ The walk-in had told the US that bin Laden had lived undetected from 2001 to 2006 with some of his wives and children in the Hindu Kush mountains, and that ‘the ISI got to him by paying some of the local tribal people to betray him.’ (Reports after the raid placed him elsewhere in Pakistan during this period.) Bank was also told by the walk-in that bin Laden was very ill, and that early on in his confinement at Abbottabad, the ISI had ordered Amir Aziz, a doctor and a major in the Pakistani army, to move nearby to provide treatment. ‘The truth is that bin Laden was an invalid, but we cannot say that,’ the retired official said. ‘“You mean you guys shot a cripple? Who was about to grab his AK-47?”’
British Academy – Screen Translation film screening

‘It didn’t take long to get the co-operation we needed, because the Pakistanis wanted to ensure the continued release of American military aid, a good percentage of which was anti-terrorism funding that finances personal security, such as bullet-proof limousines and security guards and housing for the ISI leadership,’ the retired official said. He added that there were also under-the-table personal ‘incentives’ that were financed by off-the-books Pentagon contingency funds. ‘The intelligence community knew what the Pakistanis needed to agree – there was the carrot. And they chose the carrot. It was a win-win. We also did a little blackmail. We told them we would leak the fact that you’ve got bin Laden in your backyard. We knew their friends and enemies’ – the Taliban and jihadist groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan – ‘would not like it.’

A worrying factor at this early point, according to the retired official, was Saudi Arabia, which had been financing bin Laden’s upkeep since his seizure by the Pakistanis. ‘The Saudis didn’t want bin Laden’s presence revealed to us because he was a Saudi, and so they told the Pakistanis to keep him out of the picture. The Saudis feared if we knew we would pressure the Pakistanis to let bin Laden start talking to us about what the Saudis had been doing with al-Qaida. And they were dropping money – lots of it. The Pakistanis, in turn, were concerned that the Saudis might spill the beans about their control of bin Laden. The fear was that if the US found out about bin Laden from Riyadh, all hell would break out. The Americans learning about bin Laden’s imprisonment from a walk-in was not the worst thing.’

Despite their constant public feuding, American and Pakistani military and intelligence services have worked together closely for decades on counterterrorism in South Asia. Both services often find it useful to engage in public feuds ‘to cover their asses’, as the retired official put it, but they continually share intelligence used for drone attacks, and co-operate on covert operations. At the same time, it’s understood in Washington that elements of the ISI believe that maintaining a relationship with the Taliban leadership inside Afghanistan is essential to national security. The ISI’s strategic aim is to balance Indian influence in Kabul; the Taliban is also seen in Pakistan as a source of jihadist shock troops who would back Pakistan against India in a confrontation over Kashmir.

Adding to the tension was the Pakistani nuclear arsenal, often depicted in the Western press as an ‘Islamic bomb’ that might be transferred by Pakistan to an embattled nation in the Middle East in the event of a crisis with Israel. The US looked the other way when Pakistan began building its weapons system in the 1970s and it’s widely believed it now has more than a hundred nuclear warheads. It’s understood in Washington that US security depends on the maintenance of strong military and intelligence ties to Pakistan. The belief is mirrored in Pakistan.

‘The Pakistani army sees itself as family,’ the retired official said. ‘Officers call soldiers their sons and all officers are “brothers”. The attitude is different in the American military. The senior Pakistani officers believe they are the elite and have got to look out for all of the people, as keepers of the flame against Muslim fundamentalism. The Pakistanis also know that their trump card against aggression from India is a strong relationship with the United States. They will never cut their person-to-person ties with us.’

Like all CIA station chiefs, Bank was working undercover, but that ended in early December 2010 when he was publicly accused of murder in a criminal complaint filed in Islamabad by Karim Khan, a Pakistani journalist whose son and brother, according to local news reports, had been killed by a US drone strike. Allowing Bank to be named was a violation of diplomatic protocol on the part of the Pakistani authorities, and it brought a wave of unwanted publicity. Bank was ordered to leave Pakistan by the CIA, whose officials subsequently told the Associated Press he was transferred because of concerns for his safety. The New York Times reported that there was ‘strong suspicion’ the ISI had played a role in leaking Bank’s name to Khan. There was speculation that he was outed as payback for the publication in a New York lawsuit a month earlier of the names of ISI chiefs in connection with the Mumbai terrorist attacks of 2008. But there was a collateral reason, the retired official said, for the CIA’s willingness to send Bank back to America. The Pakistanis needed cover in case their co-operation with the Americans in getting rid of bin Laden became known. The Pakistanis could say: “You’re talking about me? We just kicked out your station chief.”’

*

The bin Laden compound was less than two miles from the Pakistan Military Academy, and a Pakistani army combat battalion headquarters was another mile or so away. Abbottabad is less than 15 minutes by helicopter from Tarbela Ghazi, an important base for ISI covert operations and the facility where those who guard Pakistan’s nuclear weapons arsenal are trained. ‘Ghazi is why the ISI put bin Laden in Abbottabad in the first place,’ the retired official said, ‘to keep him under constant supervision.’

The risks for Obama were high at this early stage, especially because there was a troubling precedent: the failed 1980 attempt to rescue the American hostages in Tehran. That failure was a factor in Jimmy Carter’s loss to Ronald Reagan. Obama’s worries were realistic, the retired official said. ‘Was bin Laden ever there? Was the whole story a product of Pakistani deception? What about political blowback in case of failure?’ After all, as the retired official said, ‘If the mission fails, Obama’s just a black Jimmy Carter and it’s all over for re-election.’

Obama was anxious for reassurance that the US was going to get the right man. The proof was to come in the form of bin Laden’s DNA. The planners turned for help to Kayani and Pasha, who asked Aziz to obtain the specimens. Soon after the raid the press found out that Aziz had been living in a house near the bin Laden compound: local reporters discovered his name in Urdu on a plate on the door. Pakistani officials denied that Aziz had any connection to bin Laden, but the retired official told me that Aziz had been rewarded with a share of the $25 million reward the US had put up because the DNA sample had showed conclusively that it was bin Laden in Abbottabad. (In his subsequent testimony to a Pakistani commission investigating the bin Laden raid, Aziz said that he had witnessed the attack on Abbottabad, but had no knowledge of who was living in the compound and had been ordered by a superior officer to stay away from the scene.)

Bargaining continued over the way the mission would be executed. ‘Kayani eventually tells us yes, but he says you can’t have a big strike force. You have to come in lean and mean. And you have to kill him, or there is no deal,’ the retired official said. The agreement was struck by the end of January 2011, and Joint Special Operations Command prepared a list of questions to be answered by the Pakistanis: ‘How can we be assured of no outside intervention? What are the defences inside the compound and its exact dimensions? Where are bin Laden’s rooms and exactly how big are they? How many steps in the stairway? Where are the doors to his rooms, and are they reinforced with steel? How thick?’ The Pakistanis agreed to permit a four-man American cell – a Navy Seal, a CIA case officer and two communications specialists – to set up a liaison office at Tarbela Ghazi for the coming assault. By then, the military had constructed a mock-up of the compound in Abbottabad at a secret former nuclear test site in Utah, and an elite Seal team had begun rehearsing for the attack.

The US had begun to cut back on aid to Pakistan – to ‘turn off the spigot’, in the retired official’s words. The provision of 18 new F-16 fighter aircraft was delayed, and under-the-table cash payments to the senior leaders were suspended. In April 2011 Pasha met the CIA director, Leon Panetta, at agency headquarters. ‘Pasha got a commitment that the United States would turn the money back on, and we got a guarantee that there would be no Pakistani opposition during the mission,’ the retired official said. ‘Pasha also insisted that Washington stop complaining about Pakistan’s lack of co-operation with the American war on terrorism.’ At one point that spring, Pasha offered the Americans a blunt explanation of the reason Pakistan kept bin Laden’s capture a secret, and why it was imperative for the ISI role to remain secret: ‘We needed a hostage to keep tabs on al-Qaida and the Taliban,’ Pasha said, according to the retired official. ‘The ISI was using bin Laden as leverage against Taliban and al-Qaida activities inside Afghanistan and Pakistan. They let the Taliban and al-Qaida leadership know that if they ran operations that clashed with the interests of the ISI, they would turn bin Laden over to us. So if it became known that the Pakistanis had worked with us to get bin Laden at Abbottabad, there would be hell to pay.’

At one of his meetings with Panetta, according to the retired official and a source within the CIA, Pasha was asked by a senior CIA official whether he saw himself as acting in essence as an agent for al-Qaida and the Taliban. ‘He answered no, but said the ISI needed to have some control.’ The message, as the CIA saw it, according to the retired official, was that Kayani and Pasha viewed bin Laden ‘as a resource, and they were more interested in their [own] survival than they were in the United States’.

A Pakistani with close ties to the senior leadership of the ISI told me that ‘there was a deal with your top guys. We were very reluctant, but it had to be done – not because of personal enrichment, but because all of the American aid programmes would be cut off. Your guys said we will starve you out if you don’t do it, and the okay was given while Pasha was in Washington. The deal was not only to keep the taps open, but Pasha was told there would be more goodies for us.’ The Pakistani said that Pasha’s visit also resulted in a commitment from the US to give Pakistan ‘a freer hand’ in Afghanistan as it began its military draw-down there. ‘And so our top dogs justified the deal by saying this is for our country.’

*

Pasha and Kayani were responsible for ensuring that Pakistan’s army and air defence command would not track or engage with the US helicopters used on the mission. The American cell at Tarbela Ghazi was charged with co-ordinating communications between the ISI, the senior US officers at their command post in Afghanistan, and the two Black Hawk helicopters; the goal was to ensure that no stray Pakistani fighter plane on border patrol spotted the intruders and took action to stop them. The initial plan said that news of the raid shouldn’t be announced straightaway. All units in the Joint Special Operations Command operate under stringent secrecy and the JSOC leadership believed, as did Kayani and Pasha, that the killing of bin Laden would not be made public for as long as seven days, maybe longer. Then a carefully constructed cover story would be issued: Obama would announce that DNA analysis confirmed that bin Laden had been killed in a drone raid in the Hindu Kush, on Afghanistan’s side of the border. The Americans who planned the mission assured Kayani and Pasha that their co-operation would never be made public. It was understood by all that if the Pakistani role became known, there would be violent protests – bin Laden was considered a hero by many Pakistanis – and Pasha and Kayani and their families would be in danger, and the Pakistani army publicly disgraced.
SCIENCE MUSEUM – CHURCHILL’S SCIENTISTS

It was clear to all by this point, the retired official said, that bin Laden would not survive: ‘Pasha told us at a meeting in April that he could not risk leaving bin Laden in the compound now that we know he’s there. Too many people in the Pakistani chain of command know about the mission. He and Kayani had to tell the whole story to the directors of the air defence command and to a few local commanders.

‘Of course the guys knew the target was bin Laden and he was there under Pakistani control,’ the retired official said. ‘Otherwise, they would not have done the mission without air cover. It was clearly and absolutely a premeditated murder.’ A former Seal commander, who has led and participated in dozens of similar missions over the past decade, assured me that ‘we were not going to keep bin Laden alive – to allow the terrorist to live. By law, we know what we’re doing inside Pakistan is a homicide. We’ve come to grips with that. Each one of us, when we do these missions, say to ourselves, “Let’s face it. We’re going to commit a murder.”’ The White House’s initial account claimed that bin Laden had been brandishing a weapon; the story was aimed at deflecting those who questioned the legality of the US administration’s targeted assassination programme. The US has consistently maintained, despite widely reported remarks by people involved with the mission, that bin Laden would have been taken alive if he had immediately surrendered.

*

At the Abbottabad compound ISI guards were posted around the clock to keep watch over bin Laden and his wives and children. They were under orders to leave as soon as they heard the rotors of the US helicopters. The town was dark: the electricity supply had been cut off on the orders of the ISI hours before the raid began. One of the Black Hawks crashed inside the walls of the compound, injuring many on board. ‘The guys knew the TOT [time on target] had to be tight because they would wake up the whole town going in,’ the retired official said. The cockpit of the crashed Black Hawk, with its communication and navigational gear, had to be destroyed by concussion grenades, and this would create a series of explosions and a fire visible for miles. Two Chinook helicopters had flown from Afghanistan to a nearby Pakistani intelligence base to provide logistical support, and one of them was immediately dispatched to Abbottabad. But because the helicopter had been equipped with a bladder loaded with extra fuel for the two Black Hawks, it first had to be reconfigured as a troop carrier. The crash of the Black Hawk and the need to fly in a replacement were nerve-wracking and time-consuming setbacks, but the Seals continued with their mission. There was no firefight as they moved into the compound; the ISI guards had gone. ‘Everyone in Pakistan has a gun and high-profile, wealthy folks like those who live in Abbottabad have armed bodyguards, and yet there were no weapons in the compound,’ the retired official pointed out. Had there been any opposition, the team would have been highly vulnerable. Instead, the retired official said, an ISI liaison officer flying with the Seals guided them into the darkened house and up a staircase to bin Laden’s quarters. The Seals had been warned by the Pakistanis that heavy steel doors blocked the stairwell on the first and second-floor landings; bin Laden’s rooms were on the third floor. The Seal squad used explosives to blow the doors open, without injuring anyone. One of bin Laden’s wives was screaming hysterically and a bullet – perhaps a stray round – struck her knee. Aside from those that hit bin Laden, no other shots were fired. (The Obama administration’s account would hold otherwise.)

‘They knew where the target was – third floor, second door on the right,’ the retired official said. ‘Go straight there. Osama was cowering and retreated into the bedroom. Two shooters followed him and opened up. Very simple, very straightforward, very professional hit.’ Some of the Seals were appalled later at the White House’s initial insistence that they had shot bin Laden in self-defence, the retired official said. ‘Six of the Seals’ finest, most experienced NCOs, faced with an unarmed elderly civilian, had to kill him in self-defence? The house was shabby and bin Laden was living in a cell with bars on the window and barbed wire on the roof. The rules of engagement were that if bin Laden put up any opposition they were authorised to take lethal action. But if they suspected he might have some means of opposition, like an explosive vest under his robe, they could also kill him. So here’s this guy in a mystery robe and they shot him. It’s not because he was reaching for a weapon. The rules gave them absolute authority to kill the guy.’ The later White House claim that only one or two bullets were fired into his head was ‘bullshit’, the retired official said. ‘The squad came through the door and obliterated him. As the Seals say, “We kicked his ass and took his gas.”’

After they killed bin Laden, ‘the Seals were just there, some with physical injuries from the crash, waiting for the relief chopper,’ the retired official said. ‘Twenty tense minutes. The Black Hawk is still burning. There are no city lights. No electricity. No police. No fire trucks. They have no prisoners.’ Bin Laden’s wives and children were left for the ISI to interrogate and relocate. ‘Despite all the talk,’ the retired official continued, there were ‘no garbage bags full of computers and storage devices. The guys just stuffed some books and papers they found in his room in their backpacks. The Seals weren’t there because they thought bin Laden was running a command centre for al-Qaida operations, as the White House would later tell the media. And they were not intelligence experts gathering information inside that house.’

On a normal assault mission, the retired official said, there would be no waiting around if a chopper went down. ‘The Seals would have finished the mission, thrown off their guns and gear, and jammed into the remaining Black Hawk and di-di-maued’ – Vietnamese slang for leaving in a rush – ‘out of there, with guys hanging out of the doors. They would not have blown the chopper – no commo gear is worth a dozen lives – unless they knew they were safe. Instead they stood around outside the compound, waiting for the bus to arrive.’ Pasha and Kayani had delivered on all their promises.

*

The backroom argument inside the White House began as soon as it was clear that the mission had succeeded. Bin Laden’s body was presumed to be on its way to Afghanistan. Should Obama stand by the agreement with Kayani and Pasha and pretend a week or so later that bin Laden had been killed in a drone attack in the mountains, or should he go public immediately? The downed helicopter made it easy for Obama’s political advisers to urge the latter plan. The explosion and fireball would be impossible to hide, and word of what had happened was bound to leak. Obama had to ‘get out in front of the story’ before someone in the Pentagon did: waiting would diminish the political impact.

Not everyone agreed. Robert Gates, the secretary of defence, was the most outspoken of those who insisted that the agreements with Pakistan had to be honoured. In his memoir, Duty, Gates did not mask his anger:

Before we broke up and the president headed upstairs to tell the American people what had just happened, I reminded everyone that the techniques, tactics and procedures the Seals had used in the bin Laden operation were used every night in Afghanistan … it was therefore essential that we agree not to release any operational details of the raid. That we killed him, I said, is all we needed to say. Everybody in that room agreed to keep mum on details. That commitment lasted about five hours. The initial leaks came from the White House and CIA. They just couldn’t wait to brag and to claim credit. The facts were often wrong … Nonetheless the information just kept pouring out. I was outraged and at one point, told [the national security adviser, Tom] Donilon, ‘Why doesn’t everybody just shut the fuck up?’ To no avail.

Obama’s speech was put together in a rush, the retired official said, and was viewed by his advisers as a political document, not a message that needed to be submitted for clearance to the national security bureaucracy. This series of self-serving and inaccurate statements would create chaos in the weeks following. Obama said that his administration had discovered that bin Laden was in Pakistan through ‘a possible lead’ the previous August; to many in the CIA the statement suggested a specific event, such as a walk-in. The remark led to a new cover story claiming that the CIA’s brilliant analysts had unmasked a courier network handling bin Laden’s continuing flow of operational orders to al-Qaida. Obama also praised ‘a small team of Americans’ for their care in avoiding civilian deaths and said: ‘After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.’ Two more details now had to be supplied for the cover story: a description of the firefight that never happened, and a story about what happened to the corpse. Obama went on to praise the Pakistanis: ‘It’s important to note that our counterterrorism co-operation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding.’ That statement risked exposing Kayani and Pasha. The White House’s solution was to ignore what Obama had said and order anyone talking to the press to insist that the Pakistanis had played no role in killing bin Laden. Obama left the clear impression that he and his advisers hadn’t known for sure that bin Laden was in Abbottabad, but only had information ‘about the possibility’. This led first to the story that the Seals had determined they’d killed the right man by having a six-foot-tall Seal lie next to the corpse for comparison (bin Laden was known to be six foot four); and then to the claim that a DNA test had been performed on the corpse and demonstrated conclusively that the Seals had killed bin Laden. But, according to the retired official, it wasn’t clear from the Seals’ early reports whether all of bin Laden’s body, or any of it, made it back to Afghanistan.

Gates wasn’t the only official who was distressed by Obama’s decision to speak without clearing his remarks in advance, the retired official said, ‘but he was the only one protesting. Obama didn’t just double-cross Gates, he double-crossed everyone. This was not the fog of war. The fact that there was an agreement with the Pakistanis and no contingency analysis of what was to be disclosed if something went wrong – that wasn’t even discussed. And once it went wrong, they had to make up a new cover story on the fly.’ There was a legitimate reason for some deception: the role of the Pakistani walk-in had to be protected.

The White House press corps was told in a briefing shortly after Obama’s announcement that the death of bin Laden was ‘the culmination of years of careful and highly advanced intelligence work’ that focused on tracking a group of couriers, including one who was known to be close to bin Laden. Reporters were told that a team of specially assembled CIA and National Security Agency analysts had traced the courier to a highly secure million-dollar compound in Abbottabad. After months of observation, the American intelligence community had ‘high confidence’ that a high-value target was living in the compound, and it was ‘assessed that there was a strong probability that [it] was Osama bin Laden’. The US assault team ran into a firefight on entering the compound and three adult males – two of them believed to be the couriers – were slain, along with bin Laden. Asked if bin Laden had defended himself, one of the briefers said yes: ‘He did resist the assault force. And he was killed in a firefight.’

The next day John Brennan, then Obama’s senior adviser for counterterrorism, had the task of talking up Obama’s valour while trying to smooth over the misstatements in his speech. He provided a more detailed but equally misleading account of the raid and its planning. Speaking on the record, which he rarely does, Brennan said that the mission was carried out by a group of Navy Seals who had been instructed to take bin Laden alive, if possible. He said the US had no information suggesting that anyone in the Pakistani government or military knew bin Laden’s whereabouts: ‘We didn’t contact the Pakistanis until after all of our people, all of our aircraft were out of Pakistani airspace.’ He emphasised the courage of Obama’s decision to order the strike, and said that the White House had no information ‘that confirmed that bin Laden was at the compound’ before the raid began. Obama, he said, ‘made what I believe was one of the gutsiest calls of any president in recent memory’. Brennan increased the number killed by the Seals inside the compound to five: bin Laden, a courier, his brother, a bin Laden son, and one of the women said to be shielding bin Laden.

Asked whether bin Laden had fired on the Seals, as some reporters had been told, Brennan repeated what would become a White House mantra: ‘He was engaged in a firefight with those that entered the area of the house he was in. And whether or not he got off any rounds, I quite frankly don’t know … Here is bin Laden, who has been calling for these attacks … living in an area that is far removed from the front, hiding behind women who were put in front of him as a shield … [It] just speaks to I think the nature of the individual he was.’

Gates also objected to the idea, pushed by Brennan and Leon Panetta, that US intelligence had learned of bin Laden’s whereabouts from information acquired by waterboarding and other forms of torture. ‘All of this is going on as the Seals are flying home from their mission. The agency guys know the whole story,’ the retired official said. ‘It was a group of annuitants who did it.’ (Annuitants are retired CIA officers who remain active on contract.) ‘They had been called in by some of the mission planners in the agency to help with the cover story. So the old-timers come in and say why not admit that we got some of the information about bin Laden from enhanced interrogation?’ At the time, there was still talk in Washington about the possible prosecution of CIA agents who had conducted torture.

‘Gates told them this was not going to work,’ the retired official said. ‘He was never on the team. He knew at the eleventh hour of his career not to be a party to this nonsense. But State, the agency and the Pentagon had bought in on the cover story. None of the Seals thought that Obama was going to get on national TV and announce the raid. The Special Forces command was apoplectic. They prided themselves on keeping operational security.’ There was fear in Special Operations, the retired official said, that ‘if the true story of the missions leaked out, the White House bureaucracy was going to blame it on the Seals.’

The White House’s solution was to silence the Seals. On 5 May, every member of the Seal hit team – they had returned to their base in southern Virginia – and some members of the Joint Special Operations Command leadership were presented with a nondisclosure form drafted by the White House’s legal office; it promised civil penalties and a lawsuit for anyone who discussed the mission, in public or private. ‘The Seals were not happy,’ the retired official said. But most of them kept quiet, as did Admiral William McRaven, who was then in charge of JSOC. ‘McRaven was apoplectic. He knew he was fucked by the White House, but he’s a dyed-in-the-wool Seal, and not then a political operator, and he knew there’s no glory in blowing the whistle on the president. When Obama went public with bin Laden’s death, everyone had to scramble around for a new story that made sense, and the planners were stuck holding the bag.’

Within days, some of the early exaggerations and distortions had become obvious and the Pentagon issued a series of clarifying statements. No, bin Laden was not armed when he was shot and killed. And no, bin Laden did not use one of his wives as a shield. The press by and large accepted the explanation that the errors were the inevitable by-product of the White House’s desire to accommodate reporters frantic for details of the mission.

One lie that has endured is that the Seals had to fight their way to their target. Only two Seals have made any public statement: No Easy Day, a first-hand account of the raid by Matt Bissonnette, was published in September 2012; and two years later Rob O’Neill was interviewed by Fox News. Both men had resigned from the navy; both had fired at bin Laden. Their accounts contradicted each other on many details, but their stories generally supported the White House version, especially when it came to the need to kill or be killed as the Seals fought their way to bin Laden. O’Neill even told Fox News that he and his fellow Seals thought ‘We were going to die.’ ‘The more we trained on it, the more we realised … this is going to be a one-way mission.’

But the retired official told me that in their initial debriefings the Seals made no mention of a firefight, or indeed of any opposition. The drama and danger portrayed by Bissonnette and O’Neill met a deep-seated need, the retired official said: ‘Seals cannot live with the fact that they killed bin Laden totally unopposed, and so there has to be an account of their courage in the face of danger. The guys are going to sit around the bar and say it was an easy day? That’s not going to happen.’

There was another reason to claim there had been a firefight inside the compound, the retired official said: to avoid the inevitable question that would arise from an uncontested assault. Where were bin Laden’s guards? Surely, the most sought-after terrorist in the world would have around-the-clock protection. ‘And one of those killed had to be the courier, because he didn’t exist and we couldn’t produce him. The Pakistanis had no choice but to play along with it.’ (Two days after the raid, Reuters published photographs of three dead men that it said it had purchased from an ISI official. Two of the men were later identified by an ISI spokesman as being the alleged courier and his brother.)

*

Five days after the raid the Pentagon press corps was provided with a series of videotapes that were said by US officials to have been taken from a large collection the Seals had removed from the compound, along with as many as 15 computers. Snippets from one of the videos showed a solitary bin Laden looking wan and wrapped in a blanket, watching what appeared to be a video of himself on television. An unnamed official told reporters that the raid produced a ‘treasure trove … the single largest collection of senior terrorist materials ever’, which would provide vital insights into al-Qaida’s plans. The official said the material showed that bin Laden ‘remained an active leader in al-Qaida, providing strategic, operational and tactical instructions to the group … He was far from a figurehead [and] continued to direct even tactical details of the group’s management and to encourage plotting’ from what was described as a command-and-control centre in Abbottabad. ‘He was an active player, making the recent operation even more essential for our nation’s security,’ the official said. The information was so vital, he added, that the administration was setting up an inter-agency task force to process it: ‘He was not simply someone who was penning al-Qaida strategy. He was throwing operational ideas out there and he was also specifically directing other al-Qaida members.’

These claims were fabrications: there wasn’t much activity for bin Laden to exercise command and control over. The retired intelligence official said that the CIA’s internal reporting shows that since bin Laden moved to Abbottabad in 2006 only a handful of terrorist attacks could be linked to the remnants of bin Laden’s al-Qaida. ‘We were told at first,’ the retired official said, ‘that the Seals produced garbage bags of stuff and that the community is generating daily intelligence reports out of this stuff. And then we were told that the community is gathering everything together and needs to translate it. But nothing has come of it. Every single thing they have created turns out not to be true. It’s a great hoax – like the Piltdown man.’ The retired official said that most of the materials from Abbottabad were turned over to the US by the Pakistanis, who later razed the building. The ISI took responsibility for the wives and children of bin Laden, none of whom was made available to the US for questioning.

‘Why create the treasure trove story?’ the retired official said. ‘The White House had to give the impression that bin Laden was still operationally important. Otherwise, why kill him? A cover story was created – that there was a network of couriers coming and going with memory sticks and instructions. All to show that bin Laden remained important.’

In July 2011, the Washington Post published what purported to be a summary of some of these materials. The story’s contradictions were glaring. It said the documents had resulted in more than four hundred intelligence reports within six weeks; it warned of unspecified al-Qaida plots; and it mentioned arrests of suspects ‘who are named or described in emails that bin Laden received’. The Post didn’t identify the suspects or reconcile that detail with the administration’s previous assertions that the Abbottabad compound had no internet connection. Despite their claims that the documents had produced hundreds of reports, the Post also quoted officials saying that their main value wasn’t the actionable intelligence they contained, but that they enabled ‘analysts to construct a more comprehensive portrait of al-Qaida’.

In May 2012, the Combating Terrrorism Centre at West Point, a private research group, released translations it had made under a federal government contract of 175 pages of bin Laden documents. Reporters found none of the drama that had been touted in the days after the raid. Patrick Cockburn wrote about the contrast between the administration’s initial claims that bin Laden was the ‘spider at the centre of a conspiratorial web’ and what the translations actually showed: that bin Laden was ‘delusional’ and had ‘limited contact with the outside world outside his compound’.

The retired official disputed the authencity of the West Point materials: ‘There is no linkage between these documents and the counterterrorism centre at the agency. No intelligence community analysis. When was the last time the CIA: 1) announced it had a significant intelligence find; 2) revealed the source; 3) described the method for processing the materials; 4) revealed the time-line for production; 5) described by whom and where the analysis was taking place, and 6) published the sensitive results before the information had been acted on? No agency professional would support this fairy tale.’

*

In June 2011, it was reported in the New York Times, the Washington Post and all over the Pakistani press that Amir Aziz had been held for questioning in Pakistan; he was, it was said, a CIA informant who had been spying on the comings and goings at the bin Laden compound. Aziz was released, but the retired official said that US intelligence was unable to learn who leaked the highly classified information about his involvement with the mission. Officials in Washington decided they ‘could not take a chance that Aziz’s role in obtaining bin Laden’s DNA also would become known’. A sacrificial lamb was needed, and the one chosen was Shakil Afridi, a 48-year-old Pakistani doctor and sometime CIA asset, who had been arrested by the Pakistanis in late May and accused of assisting the agency. ‘We went to the Pakistanis and said go after Afridi,’ the retired official said. ‘We had to cover the whole issue of how we got the DNA.’ It was soon reported that the CIA had organised a fake vaccination programme in Abbottabad with Afridi’s help in a failed attempt to obtain bin Laden’s DNA. Afridi’s legitimate medical operation was run independently of local health authorities, was well financed and offered free vaccinations against hepatitis B. Posters advertising the programme were displayed throughout the area. Afridi was later accused of treason and sentenced to 33 years in prison because of his ties to an extremist. News of the CIA-sponsored programme created widespread anger in Pakistan, and led to the cancellation of other international vaccination programmes that were now seen as cover for American spying.

The retired official said that Afridi had been recruited long before the bin Laden mission as part of a separate intelligence effort to get information about suspected terrorists in Abbottabad and the surrounding area. ‘The plan was to use vaccinations as a way to get the blood of terrorism suspects in the villages.’ Afridi made no attempt to obtain DNA from the residents of the bin Laden compound. The report that he did so was a hurriedly put together ‘CIA cover story creating “facts”’ in a clumsy attempt to protect Aziz and his real mission. ‘Now we have the consequences,’ the retired official said. ‘A great humanitarian project to do something meaningful for the peasants has been compromised as a cynical hoax.’ Afridi’s conviction was overturned, but he remains in prison on a murder charge.

*

In his address announcing the raid, Obama said that after killing bin Laden the Seals ‘took custody of his body’. The statement created a problem. In the initial plan it was to be announced a week or so after the fact that bin Laden was killed in a drone strike somewhere in the mountains on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border and that his remains had been identified by DNA testing. But with Obama’s announcement of his killing by the Seals everyone now expected a body to be produced. Instead, reporters were told that bin Laden’s body had been flown by the Seals to an American military airfield in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, and then straight to the USS Carl Vinson, a supercarrier on routine patrol in the North Arabian Sea. Bin Laden had then been buried at sea, just hours after his death. The press corps’s only sceptical moments at John Brennan’s briefing on 2 May were to do with the burial. The questions were short, to the point, and rarely answered. ‘When was the decision made that he would be buried at sea if killed?’ ‘Was this part of the plan all along?’ ‘Can you just tell us why that was a good idea?’ ‘John, did you consult a Muslim expert on that?’ ‘Is there a visual recording of this burial?’ When this last question was asked, Jay Carney, Obama’s press secretary, came to Brennan’s rescue: ‘We’ve got to give other people a chance here.’

‘We thought the best way to ensure that his body was given an appropriate Islamic burial,’ Brennan said, ‘was to take those actions that would allow us to do that burial at sea.’ He said ‘appropriate specialists and experts’ were consulted, and that the US military was fully capable of carrying out the burial ‘consistent with Islamic law’. Brennan didn’t mention that Muslim law calls for the burial service to be conducted in the presence of an imam, and there was no suggestion that one happened to be on board the Carl Vinson.

In a reconstruction of the bin Laden operation for Vanity Fair, Mark Bowden, who spoke to many senior administration officials, wrote that bin Laden’s body was cleaned and photographed at Jalalabad. Further procedures necessary for a Muslim burial were performed on the carrier, he wrote, ‘with bin Laden’s body being washed again and wrapped in a white shroud. A navy photographer recorded the burial in full sunlight, Monday morning, May 2.’ Bowden described the photos:

One frame shows the body wrapped in a weighted shroud. The next shows it lying diagonally on a chute, feet overboard. In the next frame the body is hitting the water. In the next it is visible just below the surface, ripples spreading outward. In the last frame there are only circular ripples on the surface. The mortal remains of Osama bin Laden were gone for good.

Bowden was careful not to claim that he had actually seen the photographs he described, and he recently told me he hadn’t seen them: ‘I’m always disappointed when I can’t look at something myself, but I spoke with someone I trusted who said he had seen them himself and described them in detail.’ Bowden’s statement adds to the questions about the alleged burial at sea, which has provoked a flood of Freedom of Information Act requests, most of which produced no information. One of them sought access to the photographs. The Pentagon responded that a search of all available records had found no evidence that any photographs had been taken of the burial. Requests on other issues related to the raid were equally unproductive. The reason for the lack of response became clear after the Pentagon held an inquiry into allegations that the Obama administration had provided access to classified materials to the makers of the film Zero Dark Thirty. The Pentagon report, which was put online in June 2013, noted that Admiral McRaven had ordered the files on the raid to be deleted from all military computers and moved to the CIA, where they would be shielded from FOIA requests by the agency’s ‘operational exemption’.

McRaven’s action meant that outsiders could not get access to the Carl Vinson’s unclassified logs. Logs are sacrosanct in the navy, and separate ones are kept for air operations, the deck, the engineering department, the medical office, and for command information and control. They show the sequence of events day by day aboard the ship; if there has been a burial at sea aboard the Carl Vinson, it would have been recorded.

There wasn’t any gossip about a burial among the Carl Vinson’s sailors. The carrier concluded its six-month deployment in June 2011. When the ship docked at its home base in Coronado, California, Rear Admiral Samuel Perez, commander of the Carl Vinson carrier strike group, told reporters that the crew had been ordered not to talk about the burial. Captain Bruce Lindsey, skipper of the Carl Vinson, told reporters he was unable to discuss it. Cameron Short, one of the crew of the Carl Vinson, told the Commercial-News of Danville, Illinois, that the crew had not been told anything about the burial. ‘All he knows is what he’s seen on the news,’ the newspaper reported.

The Pentagon did release a series of emails to the Associated Press. In one of them, Rear Admiral Charles Gaouette reported that the service followed ‘traditional procedures for Islamic burial’, and said none of the sailors on board had been permitted to observe the proceedings. But there was no indication of who washed and wrapped the body, or of which Arabic speaker conducted the service.

Within weeks of the raid, I had been told by two longtime consultants to Special Operations Command, who have access to current intelligence, that the funeral aboard the Carl Vinson didn’t take place. One consultant told me that bin Laden’s remains were photographed and identified after being flown back to Afghanistan. The consultant added: ‘At that point, the CIA took control of the body. The cover story was that it had been flown to the Carl Vinson.’ The second consultant agreed that there had been ‘no burial at sea’. He added that ‘the killing of bin Laden was political theatre designed to burnish Obama’s military credentials … The Seals should have expected the political grandstanding. It’s irresistible to a politician. Bin Laden became a working asset.’ Early this year, speaking again to the second consultant, I returned to the burial at sea. The consultant laughed and said: ‘You mean, he didn’t make it to the water?’

The retired official said there had been another complication: some members of the Seal team had bragged to colleagues and others that they had torn bin Laden’s body to pieces with rifle fire. The remains, including his head, which had only a few bullet holes in it, were thrown into a body bag and, during the helicopter flight back to Jalalabad, some body parts were tossed out over the Hindu Kush mountains – or so the Seals claimed. At the time, the retired official said, the Seals did not think their mission would be made public by Obama within a few hours: ‘If the president had gone ahead with the cover story, there would have been no need to have a funeral within hours of the killing. Once the cover story was blown, and the death was made public, the White House had a serious “Where’s the body?” problem. The world knew US forces had killed bin Laden in Abbottabad. Panic city. What to do? We need a “functional body” because we have to be able to say we identified bin Laden via a DNA analysis. It would be navy officers who came up with the “burial at sea” idea. Perfect. No body. Honourable burial following sharia law. Burial is made public in great detail, but Freedom of Information documents confirming the burial are denied for reasons of “national security”. It’s the classic unravelling of a poorly constructed cover story – it solves an immediate problem but, given the slighest inspection, there is no back-up support. There never was a plan, initially, to take the body to sea, and no burial of bin Laden at sea took place.’ The retired official said that if the Seals’ first accounts are to be believed, there wouldn’t have been much left of bin Laden to put into the sea in any case.

*

It was inevitable that the Obama administration’s lies, misstatements and betrayals would create a backlash. ‘We’ve had a four-year lapse in co-operation,’ the retired official said. ‘It’s taken that long for the Pakistanis to trust us again in the military-to-military counterterrorism relationship – while terrorism was rising all over the world … They felt Obama sold them down the river. They’re just now coming back because the threat from Isis, which is now showing up there, is a lot greater and the bin Laden event is far enough away to enable someone like General Durrani to come out and talk about it.’ Generals Pasha and Kayani have retired and both are reported to be under investigation for corruption during their time in office.

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s long-delayed report on CIA torture, released last December, documented repeated instances of official lying, and suggested that the CIA’s knowledge of bin Laden’s courier was sketchy at best and predated its use of waterboarding and other forms of torture. The report led to international headlines about brutality and waterboarding, along with gruesome details about rectal feeding tubes, ice baths and threats to rape or murder family members of detainees who were believed to be withholding information. Despite the bad publicity, the report was a victory for the CIA. Its major finding – that the use of torture didn’t lead to discovering the truth – had already been the subject of public debate for more than a decade. Another key finding – that the torture conducted was more brutal than Congress had been told – was risible, given the extent of public reporting and published exposés by former interrogators and retired CIA officers. The report depicted tortures that were obviously contrary to international law as violations of rules or ‘inappropriate activities’ or, in some cases, ‘management failures’. Whether the actions described constitute war crimes was not discussed, and the report did not suggest that any of the CIA interrogators or their superiors should be investigated for criminal activity. The agency faced no meaningful consequences as a result of the report.

The retired official told me that the CIA leadership had become experts in derailing serious threats from Congress: ‘They create something that is horrible but not that bad. Give them something that sounds terrible. “Oh my God, we were shoving food up a prisoner’s ass!” Meanwhile, they’re not telling the committee about murders, other war crimes, and secret prisons like we still have in Diego Garcia. The goal also was to stall it as long as possible, which they did.’

The main theme of the committee’s 499-page executive summary is that the CIA lied systematically about the effectiveness of its torture programme in gaining intelligence that would stop future terrorist attacks in the US. The lies included some vital details about the uncovering of an al-Qaida operative called Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, who was said to be the key al-Qaida courier, and the subsequent tracking of him to Abbottabad in early 2011. The agency’s alleged intelligence, patience and skill in finding al-Kuwaiti became legend after it was dramatised in Zero Dark Thirty.

The Senate report repeatedly raised questions about the quality and reliability of the CIA’s intelligence about al-Kuwaiti. In 2005 an internal CIA report on the hunt for bin Laden noted that ‘detainees provide few actionable leads, and we have to consider the possibility that they are creating fictitious characters to distract us or to absolve themselves of direct knowledge about bin Ladin [sic].’ A CIA cable a year later stated that ‘we have had no success in eliciting actionable intelligence on bin Laden’s location from any detainees.’ The report also highlighted several instances of CIA officers, including Panetta, making false statements to Congress and the public about the value of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ in the search for bin Laden’s couriers.

Obama today is not facing re-election as he was in the spring of 2011. His principled stand on behalf of the proposed nuclear agreement with Iran says much, as does his decision to operate without the support of the conservative Republicans in Congress. High-level lying nevertheless remains the modus operandi of US policy, along with secret prisons, drone attacks, Special Forces night raids, bypassing the chain of command, and cutting out those who might say no.


Good kill: Attention, un pilote de drones peut en cacher un autre (No kill lists and Terror Tuesdays, please, we’re Hollywood)

8 mai, 2015
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L’ennemi n’est pas identifiable en tant que tel dans le sens où ce sont des gens qui se mêlent à la population. Donc ils sont habillés comme n’importe qui. Il n’y a pas d’uniforme donc comment savoir si c’est l’ennemi ou juste des personnes normales ? C’est juste d’après le comportement qu’on peut le voir. Bernard Davin (pilote belge au retour d’Afghanistan, RTBF, 13.01.09)
La majorité du temps, ce n’est pas une décision qui est difficile puisque en fait, c’est l’ennemi qui nous met dans une situation difficile au sol. Didier Polomé (commandant belge)
On n’en saura pas plus. Les détails des opérations OTAN sont couvertes par le secret militaire pour éviter les représailles contre les pays impliqués et contre les familles des pilotes en mission en Afghanistan. Journaliste belge (RTBF, 13.01.09)
Le bien et le mal se mélangent un peu (…) et ça devient un peu comme un jeu vidéo. Soldat israélien
Les frères Jonas sont ici ; ils sont là quelque part. Sasha et Malia sont de grandes fans. Mais les gars, allez pas vous faire des idées. J’ai deux mots pour vous: « predator drones ». Vous les verrez même pas venir. Vous croyez que je plaisante, hein ? Barack Obama (2010)
Les drones américains ont liquidé plus de monde que le nombre total des détenus de Guantanamo. Pouvons nous être certains qu’il n’y avait parmi eux aucun cas d’erreurs sur la personne ou de morts innocentes ? Les prisonniers de Guantanamo avaient au moins une chance d’établir leur identité, d’être examinés par un Comité de surveillance et, dans la plupart des cas, d’être relâchés. Ceux qui restent à Guantanamo ont été contrôlés et, finalement, devront faire face à une forme quelconque de procédure judiciaire. Ceux qui ont été tués par des frappes de drones, quels qu’ils aient été, ont disparu. Un point c’est tout. Kurt Volker
The drone operation now operates out of two main bases in the US, dozens of smaller installations and at least six foreign countries. There are « terror Tuesday » meetings to discuss targets which Obama’s campaign manager, David Axelrod, sometimes attends, lending credence to those who see naked political calculation involved. The New York Times
Foreign Policy a consacré la une de son numéro daté de mars-avril aux “guerres secrètes d’Obama”. Qui aurait pu croire il y a quatre ans que le nom de Barack Obama allait être associé aux drones et à la guerre secrète technologique ? s’étonne le magazine, qui souligne qu’Obama “est le président américain qui a approuvé le plus de frappes ciblées de toute l’histoire des Etats-Unis”. Voilà donc à quoi ressemblait l’ennemi : quinze membres présumés d’Al-Qaida au Yémen entretenant des liens avec l’Occident. Leurs photographies et la biographie succincte qui les accompagnait les faisaient ressembler à des étudiants dans un trombinoscope universitaire. Plusieurs d’entre eux étaient américains. Deux étaient des adolescents, dont une jeune fille qui ne faisait même pas ses 17 ans. Supervisant la réunion dédiée à la lutte contre le terrorisme, qui réunit tous les mardis une vingtaine de hauts responsables à la Maison-Blanche, Barack Obama a pris un moment pour étudier leurs visages. C’était le 19 janvier 2010, au terme d’une première année de mandat émaillée de complots terroristes dont le point culminant a été la tentative d’attentat évitée de justesse dans le ciel de Detroit le soir de Noël 2009. “Quel âge ont-ils ? s’est enquis Obama ce jour-là. Si Al-Qaida se met à utiliser des enfants, c’est que l’on entre dans une toute nouvelle phase.” La question n’avait rien de théorique : le président a volontairement pris la tête d’un processus de “désignation” hautement confidentiel visant à identifier les terroristes à éliminer ou à capturer. Obama a beau avoir fait campagne en 2008 contre la guerre en Irak et contre l’usage de la torture, il a insisté pour que soit soumise à son aval la liquidation de chacun des individus figurant sur une kill list [liste de cibles à abattre] qui ne cesse de s’allonger, étudiant méticuleusement les biographies des terroristes présumés apparaissant sur ce qu’un haut fonctionnaire surnomme macabrement les “cartes de base-ball”. A chaque fois que l’occasion d’utiliser un drone pour supprimer un terroriste se présente, mais que ce dernier est en famille, le président se réserve le droit de prendre la décision finale. (…) Une série d’interviews accordées au New York Times par une trentaine de ses conseillers permettent de retracer l’évolution d’Obama depuis qu’il a été appelé à superviser personnellement cette “drôle de guerre” contre Al-Qaida et à endosser un rôle sans précédent dans l’histoire de la présidence américaine. Ils évoquent un chef paradoxal qui approuve des opérations de liquidation sans ciller, tout en étant inflexible sur la nécessité de circonscrire la lutte antiterroriste et d’améliorer les relations des Etats-Unis avec le monde arabe. (…) C’est le plus curieux des rituels bureaucratiques : chaque semaine ou presque, une bonne centaine de membres du tentaculaire appareil sécuritaire des Etats-Unis se réunissent lors d’une visioconférence sécurisée pour éplucher les biographies des terroristes présumés et suggérer au président la prochaine cible à abattre. Ce processus de “désignation” confidentiel est une création du gouvernement Obama, un macabre “club de discussion” qui étudie soigneusement des diapositives PowerPoint sur lesquelles figurent les noms, les pseudonymes et le parcours de membres présumés de la branche yéménite d’Al-Qaida ou de ses alliés de la milice somalienne Al-Chabab. The New York Times (07.06.12)
Rarement moment politique et innovation technologique auront si parfaitement correspondu : lorsque le président démocrate est élu en 2008 par des Américains las des conflits, il dispose d’un moyen tout neuf pour poursuivre, dans la plus grande discrétion, la lutte contre les « ennemis de l’Amérique » sans risquer la vie de citoyens de son pays : les drones. (…) George W. Bush, artisan d’un large déploiement sur le terrain, utilisera modérément ces nouveaux engins létaux. Barack Obama y recourra six fois plus souvent pendant son seul premier mandat que son prédécesseur pendant les deux siens. M. Obama, qui, en recevant le prix Nobel de la paix en décembre 2009, revendiquait une Amérique au « comportement exemplaire dans la conduite de la guerre », banalisera la pratique des « assassinats ciblés », parfois fondés sur de simples présomptions et décidés par lui-même dans un secret absolu. Tandis que les militaires guident les drones dans l’Afghanistan en guerre, c’est jusqu’à présent la très opaque CIA qui opère partout ailleurs (au Yémen, au Pakistan, en Somalie, en Libye). C’est au Yémen en 2002 que la campagne d' »assassinats ciblés » a débuté. Le Pakistan suit dès 2004. Barack Obama y multiplie les frappes. Certaines missions, menées à l’insu des autorités pakistanaises, soulèvent de lourdes questions de souveraineté. D’autres, les goodwill kills (« homicides de bonne volonté »), le sont avec l’accord du gouvernement local. Tandis que les frappes de drones militaires sont simplement « secrètes », celles opérées par la CIA sont « covert », ce qui signifie que les Etats-Unis n’en reconnaissent même pas l’existence. Dans ce contexte, établir des statistiques est difficile. Selon le Bureau of Investigative Journalism, une ONG britannique, les attaques au Pakistan ont fait entre 2 548 et 3 549 victimes, dont 411 à 884 sont des civils, et 168 à 197 des enfants. En termes statistiques, la campagne de drones est un succès : les Etats-Unis revendiquent l’élimination de plus d’une cinquantaine de hauts responsables d’Al-Qaida et de talibans. D’où la nette diminution du nombre de cibles potentielles et du rythme des frappes, passées de 128 en 2010 (une tous les trois jours) à 48 en 2012 au Pakistan. Car le secret total et son cortège de dénégations ne pouvaient durer éternellement. En mai 2012, le New York Times a révélé l’implication personnelle de M. Obama dans la confection des kill lists. Après une décennie de silence et de mensonges officiels, la réalité a dû être admise. En particulier au début de l’année, lorsque le débat public s’est focalisé sur l’autorisation, donnée par le ministre de la justice, Eric Holder, d’éliminer un citoyen américain responsable de la branche yéménite d’Al-Qaida. L’imam Anouar Al-Aulaqi avait été abattu le 30 septembre 2011 au Yémen par un drone de la CIA lancé depuis l’Arabie saoudite. Le droit de tuer un concitoyen a nourri une intense controverse. D’autant que la même opération avait causé des « dégâts collatéraux » : Samir Khan, responsable du magazine jihadiste Inspire, et Abdulrahman, 16 ans, fils d’Al-Aulaqui, tous deux américains et ne figurant ni l’un ni l’autre sur la kill list, ont trouvé la mort. Aux yeux des opposants, l’adolescent personnifie désormais l’arbitraire de la guerre des drones. La révélation par la presse des contorsions juridiques imaginées par les conseillers du président pour justifier a posteriori l’assassinat d’un Américain n’a fait qu’alimenter les revendications de transparence. La fronde s’est concrétisée par le blocage au Sénat, plusieurs semaines durant, de la nomination à la tête de la CIA de John Brennan, auparavant grand ordonnateur à la Maison Blanche de la politique d’assassinats ciblés. (…) Très attendu, le grand exercice de clarification a eu lieu le 23 mai devant la National Defense University de Washington. Barack Obama y a prononcé un important discours sur la « guerre juste », affichant enfin une doctrine en matière d’usage des drones. Il était temps : plusieurs organisations de défense des libertés publiques avaient réclamé en justice la communication des documents justifiant les assassinats ciblés. Une directive présidentielle, signée la veille, précise les critères de recours aux frappes à visée mortelle : une « menace continue et imminente contre la population des Etats-Unis », le fait qu' »aucun autre gouvernement ne soit en mesure d'[y] répondre ou ne la prenne en compte effectivement » et une « quasi-certitude » qu’il n’y aura pas de victimes civiles. Pour la première fois, Barack Obama a reconnu l’existence des assassinats ciblés, y compris ceux ayant visé des Américains, assurant que ces morts le « hanteraient » toute sa vie. (…) Six jours après ce discours, l’assassinat par un drone de Wali ur-Rehman, le numéro deux des talibans pakistanais, en a montré les limites. Ce leader visait plutôt le Pakistan que « la population des Etats-Unis ». Tout porte donc à croire que les critères limitatifs énoncés par Barack Obama ne s’appliquent pas au Pakistan, du moins aussi longtemps qu’il restera des troupes américaines dans l’Afghanistan voisin. Et que les « Signature strikes », ces frappes visant des groupes d’hommes armés non identifiés mais présumés extrémistes, seront poursuivies. Les drones n’ont donc pas fini de mettre en lumière les contradictions de Barack Obama : président antiguerre, champion de la transparence, de la légalité et de la main tendue à l’islam, il a multiplié dans l’ombre les assassinats ciblés, provoquant la colère de musulmans. Le Monde (18.06.13)
Aucun soldat n’avait vécu cela jusqu’ici. Avant, on se rendait dans le pays avec lequel on était en conflit. Aujourd’hui, plus besoin : la guerre est télécommandée. Avant, le pilote prenait son jet, lâchait une bombe et rentrait. Aujourd’hui, il lâche sa bombe, attend dans son fauteuil et compte le nombre de morts. Il passe douze heures à tuer des talibans avant d’aller chercher ses enfants à l’école. (…) Obama est démocrate. Et l’emploi des drones a augmenté depuis qu’il est au pouvoir. Mon film parle de l’ »American sniper » ultime. J’ai juste tenté d’être honnête vis-à-vis du sujet. De montrer les choses telles qu’elles sont sans imposer une manière de penser. Il serait naïf de dire « je suis anti-drone ». Ce serait comme dire « je suis anti-internet ». Mais avec cette technologie, la guerre peut être infinie. Le jour où l’armée américaine quittera le Moyen-Orient, les drones, eux, y resteront. (…) L’état-major américain était sur le point d’attribuer une médaille à certains pilotes de drones. Cela a soulevé un tel tollé de la part des vrais pilotes qu’ils ont abandonné l’idée. Ces médailles sont censées célébrer les valeurs et le courage. Comment les décerner à des types qui tuent sans courir le moindre danger ? (…) J’ai aussi pas mal filmé les scènes extérieures au conflit, celles de la vie quotidienne du personnage à Las Vegas, d’un point de vue culminant, pour créer une continuité et un sentiment de paranoïa. Comme si un drone le suivait en permanence. Ou le point de vue de Dieu. Andrew Niccol
Tout ce que je montre est vrai: un type près de Las Vegas peut détruire une maison pleine de talibans en Afghanistan. Encore faut-il être sûr que ceux qui y sont réunis sont vraiment des talibans. Et il est arrivé que des missiles américains soient lancés contre des enterrements. Andrew Niccol
J’étais plus intéressé par le personnage, par cette nouvelle manière de faire la guerre. On n’a jamais demandé à un soldat de faire ça. De combattre douze heures et de rentrer chez lui auprès de sa femme et de ses enfants, il n’y a plus de sas de décompression. (…) J’ai engagé d’anciens pilotes de drones comme consultants, puisque l’armée m’avait refusé sa coopération. J’en aurais bien voulu, ç’aurait été plus facile si on m’avait donné ces équipements, ces installations. J’ai dû les construire. (…) je me suis souvenu aujourd’hui d’une conférence de presse du général Schwartzkopf pendant la première guerre d’Irak, il avait montré des vidéos en noir et blanc, avec une très mauvaise définition, de frappes de précision et on voyait un motocycliste échapper de justesse à un missile. Il l’avait appelé « l’homme le plus chanceux d’Irak ». On le voit traverser un pont, passer dans la ligne de mire et sortir du champ au moment où le panache de l’explosion éclot. Aujourd’hui on sait qu’il existe une vidéo pour chaque frappe de drone, c’est la procédure. Mais on ne les montre plus comme au temps du général Schwartzkopf. Expliquez-moi pourquoi. (…) Je vais vous dire pourquoi. Les humains ont tendance à l’empathie – et même si vous êtes mon ennemi, même si vous êtes une mauvaise personne, si je vous regarde mourir, je ressentirai de l’empathie. Ce qui n’est pas bon pour les affaires militaires. (…) Je crois que ça a tendance à insensibiliser. On n’entend jamais une explosion, on ne sent jamais le sol se soulever. On est à 10 000 kilomètres. (…) L’armée l’a mise là pour des raisons de commodité: les montagnes autour de Las Vegas ressemblent à l’Afghanistan, ce qui permet aux pilotes de drones à l’entraînement de se familiariser avec le terrain. Ils s’exercent aussi à suivre des voitures. Andrew Niccol
Je voulais montrer que plus on progresse technologiquement, plus on régresse humainement. Derrière sa télécommande, le pilote n’entend rien, ne sent pas le sol trembler, ne respire pas l’odeur de brûlé… Il fait exploser des pixels sans jamais être dans le concret de la chair et du sang. Andrew Nicool
I get to play a character I’ve never seen on screen before. He’s spending the bulk of the day fighting the Taliban; leaves work, picks up some eggs and orange juice, helps his son with his homework and fights with his wife about what TV show to watch. And then the next day does the same thing again. This is a new situation we’ve never been in: Soldiers who take people’s lives whose own life isn’t in danger. A lot of these people go into the military because they have the mentality of a warrior. They want to put their life on the line for their beliefs to make people safe, but what does it mean when your life isn’t on the line? It seems like the stuff of sci-fi but it’s arrived. (…) We can’t have a serious conversation about a drone strike unless people have more information. Most people don’t know what a drone looks like, or how it’s operated. I learned a lot – I had no idea [the US] would strike a funeral or rescuers. There’s a certain logic to doing it – you could say perhaps it is proportionate. Perhaps we’re stopping more death than we’re creating, but we are killing innocent people. Am I sure I want our soldiers doing that? An interesting example is on Obama’s third day in office he ordered a drone strike – it was surgical, but they had the wrong information and they murdered a family that had nothing to do with anything. When these tools are available accidents happen. It’s ripe for dialogue. I’m not in politics, I don’t have an agenda for the audience, but I think it’s a really interesting conversation. I don’t think we should let our governments run willy-nilly and kill whoever and spy on whoever they want to without asking any questions. Ethan Hawke
Every strike Tom does in the movie there is a precedent for, but his character is fictitious. There were some things I didn’t put in the movie because I thought they were too outrageous. I was told about drone pilots who were younger than Ethan’s character – they would work with a joystick for 12 hours over Afghanistan, take out a target and go home to their apartment and play video games. The military modelled the workstation on computer games because it’s the joystick that’s the easiest to use. They want gamers to join the Air Force because they’re good and can manoeuvre a drone perfectly. But how can they possibly separate playing one joystick game one moment, and then playing real war the next? Andrew Nicool
His control bunker looks a bit like a shipping container from the outside, boxy and portable. ‘The troops are going to withdraw from Afghanistan, but the drones won’t leave’ “The reason is that they used to wheel them into a Hercules and fly them around the world,” says Niccol. “But then realized they didn’t have to go anywhere; they had satellites.” Hawke’s character kills enemies in Afghanistan from half a world away, but struggles with the moral implications of such precise, emotionless combat. The cinematography in Good Kill calls attention to the similarities in geography between the U.S. and Afghan deserts, and the walled residences that exist in both locations. “It’s not my choice; it’s the military’s choice,” says Niccol. They can train drone pilots locally over terrain similar to what they’ll see while on duty. “If you’re going on a weekend trip to Vegas in your car,” he adds, “you may not know it — in fact you won’t know it — but they’ll follow a car with a drone just as practice.” Good Kill airs both sides of the debate over unmanned drone strikes — on the one hand, it risks fewer American lives; on the other, it risks dehumanizing war — but it’s clear on which side Niccol and Hawke stand. “Say what you like about the United States,” says the New Zealand-born Niccol, “but you’re allowed to make that movie. Some people are going to hate it and think it’s unpatriotic, and some people are going to love it, but if it causes some kind of debate — great.” “That’s the point of making a movie like this,” says Hawke, “is to not let all this stuff happen in our name without us having any awareness or knowledge or interest in what’s being done.” He likes the idea of a war film “that isn’t glorifying the past; something that shows us where we are right now. The troops are going to withdraw from Afghanistan, but the drones won’t leave.” National Post
Needless to say, however, this particular world is no product of Niccol’s imagination: The apparent future of warfare is in fact, as Bruce Greenwood’s hardened commander likes to bark at awestruck new arrivals, “the fucking here and now.” Pilots are recruited in shopping malls on the strength of their gaming expertise; joysticks are the new artillery. The film opens on the Afghan desert, as caught through a drone’s viewfinder and transmitted to Egan’s monitor. A terrorist target is identified, the missile order is given and, within 10 seconds of Egan hitting the switch 7,000 miles away, a life ends in a silent explosion of dust and rubble. (The title refers to Egan’s regular, near-involuntary verbal reaction to each successful hit.) Another day’s work done, Egan hops in his sports car and heads home to his military McMansion, where his wife, Molly (January Jones), and two young children await. It’s an existence that theoretically combines the gung-ho ideals of American heroism and the domestic comforts of the American Dream. Niccol forges this connection with one elegantly ironic long shot of Egan’s car leaving the arid middle-of-nowhere surrounds of the control center (which have an aesthetic proximity to the Middle East, if nothing else) and approaching the glistening urban heights of Vegas — hardly the city to anchor this uncanny setup in any greater sense of reality. For all intents and purposes, Egan, who previously risked life and limb flying F-16 planes in Iraq, has lucked out. It doesn’t feel that way to him, however, as he finds it increasingly impossible to reconcile the immense power he wields from his planeless cockpit with the lack of any attendant peril or consequence on his end. Niccol’s script and Hawke’s stern, buttoned-down performance keep in play the question of whether it’s adrenaline or moral accountability that he misses most in his new vocation, but either way, as new, more ruthless orders come in from the CIA, it’s pushing him to the brink of emotional collapse. Egan finds a measure of solidarity in rookie co-pilot Suarez (a fine, flinty Zoe Kravitz), who challenges authority more brazenly than he does, but can’t explain his internal crisis to his increasingly alienated family. It’s the peculiar mechanics of drone warfare that enable “Good Kill” to be at once a combat film and a war-at-home film, two familiar strains of military drama given a bracing degree of tension by their parallel placement in Niccol’s tightly worked script: The pressures of Egan’s activity in the virtual field bounce off the volatile battles he fights in the bedroom and vice versa, as the film’s intellectual deliberations over the rights and wrongs of this new military policy are joined by the more emotive question of just what type of man, if any, is mentally fit for the task. (Or, indeed, woman: One thing to be said for the new technology is that it expands the demographic limits of combat.) Rife as it is with heated political questioning, this essentially human story steers clear of overt rhetorical side-taking: The Obama administration comes in for some implicit criticism here, but the film’s perspective on America’s ongoing Middle East presence isn’t one the right is likely to take to heart. Just as Niccol’s narrative structure is at once fraught and immaculate in its escalation of ideas and character friction, so his arguments remain ever-so-slightly oblique despite the tidiness of their presentation: How much viewers wish to accept the pic as a single, tragic character study or a broader cautionary tale is up to them. He overplays his hand, however, with a needlessly melodramatic subplot that finds Egan growing personally invested in the fate of a female Afghan civilian living on their regular surveillance route, while Greenwood’s character is given one pithy slogan too many (“fly and fry,” “warheads on foreheads”) to underline the detachment of empathy from the act of killing. Happily, such instances of glib overstatement are rare in a film that trusts its audience both to recognize Niccol’s interpretations of current affairs as such, and to arrive at their own without instruction. Variety
Implacable et documenté, Good kill décrit avec précision les pratiques de l’armée américaine : par exemple, le principe de la double frappe. Vous éliminez d’un missile un foyer de présumés terroristes, mais vous frappez dans les minutes qui suivent au même endroit pour éliminer ceux qui viennent les secourir, et tant pis si ce sont clairement des civils. L’un des sommets du film est le récit d’une opération visant l’enterrement d’ennemis tués plus tôt dans la journée, la barbarie à son maximum – et on est sûr que Andrew Niccol, scénariste et réalisateur, n’a rien inventé. Bien sûr, à tuer quasiment à l’aveugle, ou sur la foi de renseignements invérifiables, on crée une situation de guerre permanente, et on fabrique les adversaires que l’on éliminera plus tard. (…) Good Kill est un film important parce qu’il montre pour la première fois le vrai visage des guerres modernes, et à quel point ont disparu les notions de patriotisme et d’héroïsme – que risque ce combattant planqué à part de se détruire lui-même ? C’est aussi un réquisitoire courageux contre l’american way of life, symbolisée ici par Las Vegas, ville sans âme que les personnages traversent sur leur chemin entre base militaire et pavillon sinistre. Ce n’est pas un film d’anticipation. L’horreur que l’on fait subir aux victimes et, en un sens, à leurs bourreaux, c’est ici et maintenant. Une sale guerre, un sale monde. Aurélien Ferenczi
Ce qui pose vraiment problème n’est toutefois pas d’ordre artistique, mais politique. Paré des oripeaux de la fiction de gauche, The Good Kill s’inscrit pleinement (comme le faisait la troisième saison de « Homeland ») dans le paradigme de la guerre contre le terrorisme telle que la conduisent les Etats-Unis depuis le 11 septembre 2001. Les Afghans ne sont jamais représentés autrement que sous la forme des petites silhouettes noires mal définies, évoluant erratiquement sur l’écran des pilotes de drones qui les surveillent. La seule action véritablement lisible se déroule dans la cour d’une maison, où l’on voit, à plusieurs reprises, un barbu frapper sa [?] femme et la violer. C’est l’argument imparable, tranquillement anti-islamiste, de la cause des femmes, que les avocats de la guerre contre le terrorisme ont toujours brandi sans vergogne pour mettre un terme au débat. La critique que fait Andrew Niccol, dans ce contexte, de l’usage des drones ne pouvait qu’être cosmétique. Elle est aussi inepte, confondant les questions d’ordre psychologique (comment se débrouillent des soldats qui rentrent le soir dans leur lit douillet après avoir tué des gens – souvent innocents), et celles qui se posent sur le plan du droit de la guerre (que Grégoire Chamayou a si bien expliqué dans La Théorie du drone, La Fabrique, 2013), dès lors que ces armes autorisent à détruire des vies dans le camp adverse sans plus en mettre aucune en péril dans le sien. Si l’ancien pilote de chasse ne va pas bien, explique-t-il à sa femme, ce n’est pas parce qu’il tue des innocents, ce qu’il a toujours fait, c’est qu’il les tue sans danger. Pour remédier à son état, s’offre une des rédemptions les plus ahurissantes qu’il ait été donné à voir depuis longtemps au cinéma. S’improvisant bras armé d’une justice totalement aveugle, il dégomme en un clic le violeur honni, rendant à sa [?] femme, après un léger petit suspense, ce qu’il imagine être sa liberté. La conscience lavée, le pilote peut repartir le cœur léger, retrouver sa famille et oublier toutes celles, au loin, qu’il a assassinées pour la bonne cause. Le Monde
Semblable à l’œil de Dieu, sa caméra voit tout lorsqu’elle descend du ciel : la femme qui se fait violer par un taliban sans qu’il puisse intervenir, les marines dont il assure la sécurité durant leur sommeil, mais aussi l’enfant qui surgit à vélo là où il vient d’envoyer son missile… (…) Dans cet univers orwellien où toutes sortes d’euphémismes – « neutraliser », « incapaciter », « effacer » – sont utilisés pour éviter de prononcer le mot « tuer », le décalage entre la réalité et le virtuel prend encore plus de sens quand on apprend que les très jeunes pilotes de drone sont repérés dans les arcades de jeux vidéo. D’autres, comme l’ancien pilote de chasse interprété par Ethan Hawke, culpabilisent d’être si loin du danger. Paris Match

 Vous avez dit deux poids deux mesures ?

Au lendemain de l’annonce de l’élimination ô combien méritée, par un drone américain au Yémen, du commanditaire des attentats de Paris de janvier dernier …

Et après le courageux abandon l’Afghanistan à son triste sort, l’Europe a depuis longtemps oublié ce que ses soldats ont bien pu y faire …

Comment ne pas voir …

Alors que, pour défendre ses soldats face aux pires perfidies du Hamas, Israël se voit à nouveau soupçonné des pires crimes de guerre

L’étonnante retenue de nos journalistes comme de nos cinéastes (une seule allusion indirecte et non-nominative dans un film par ailleurs présenté absurdement comme l’anti-American sniper)  …

Qu’on avait naguère connus autrement plus virulants contre une certaine prison cubaine …

Depuis l’inauguration d’un certain prix Nobel 2009 …

Face à l’élimination, dans la plus grande discrétion, de quelque 2 500 cibles …

« Femmes et enfants » compris, comme le veut la formule …

Par quelqu’un qui peut même, cerise sur le gâteau, se permettre de plaisanter devant un parterre de journalistes …

D’une nouvelle arme pouvant abattre n’importe qui à 10 000  km de distance Américains inclus ?  …

Rencontre
Andrew Niccol : “’Good Kill’ dit une vérité inconfortable”

Aurélien Ferenczi
Télérama

22/04/2015
Œil pour œil, le débat des critiques ciné #331 : “Caprice” d’Emmanuel Mouret et “Good Kill” d’Andrew Niccol

“Good-Kill”, avec Ethan Hawke, son film-brûlot basé sur des faits réels, interroge le drone, une nouvelle arme de guerre. Andrew Niccol (“Bienvenue à Gattaca”, “Lord of war”) livre ses secrets de réalisation et revient sur sa carrière.
Il a toute prête une jolie citation de John Lennon, qu’il sort promptement au journaliste ayant tenté d’établir un lien entre son premier film, Bienvenue à Gattaca (1998) et son sixième – seulement –, Good Kill, sur les écrans cette semaine. « Plus vous mettez le doigt sur ce que vous faites, plus vous l’éloignez. Si je réfléchis trop à ce que je fais, j’ai peur de ne plus pouvoir le faire. » Andrew Niccol, 50 ans, costume chic de businessman, regard bleu, a l’air un peu fatigué (le jet lag ?) et la parole prudente. L’inquiétude, sans doute, d’avoir signé un film-brûlot, qui, en décrivant la vie d’un manipulateur de drone (Ethan Hawke), ex-pilote de l’armée de l’air cloué au sol sur une base du Nevada, raconte la guerre d’aujourd’hui : une guerre à distance, à armes inégales, un conflit sans fin où n’importe quel suspect – aux yeux de qui ? c’est tout le problème – peut être cliniquement dézingué d’un tir à la précision chirurgicale par un soldat en poste à l’autre bout du monde.

« Quand j’ai écrit le film, lâche-t-il, un de mes amis m’a tout de suite dit que je devrais réunir le budget en euros plutôt qu’en dollars. » De fait, le projet, qui n’a pas intéressé les majors d’Hollywood, est produit notamment par le Français Nicolas Chartier (qui avait financé Démineurs, de Kathryn Bigelow). Et quand la production est allée demander le soutien logistique de l’armée américaine, on lui a répondu un cinglant « Classifié »… « C’est ce qui nous différencie d’American Sniper, ajoute malicieusement Andrew Niccol, qui a reçu une aide conséquente de l’armée. »  Sur le film d’Eastwood, il refuse de porter un jugement, se contentant de signaler que le pilote de drone est « le sniper ultime, qui tue sans être vu… »

“Good Kill dit une vérité inconfortable”
Les infos, il les a trouvées alors auprès d’ex-pilotes de drone de l’US Air Force, et aussi dans les documents transmis par Bradley/Chelsea Manning à Wikileaks. « Tout ce que je montre est vrai, assure-t-il : un type près de Las Vegas peut détruire une maison pleine de talibans en Afghanistan. Encore faut-il être sûr que ceux qui y sont réunis sont vraiment des talibans. Et il est arrivé que des missiles américains soient lancés contre des enterrements. » Good kill dédouane un peu l’armée américaine, la soumettant aux ordres obscurs d’une mystérieuse agence gouvernementale – de fait, la CIA – pour qui la mort d’innocents ne semble pas un problème majeur. « Good Kill dit une vérité inconfortable. Après la première projection au Festival de Venise, j’ai entendu des échos contradictoires : certains spectateurs accusaient le film d’être anti-américain, d’autres d’être pro-américain. Moi, je ne juge pas. Et on ne peut pas être « anti-drone » : c’est l’usage qu’on en fait qui peut être répréhensible. »

En 2005, déjà, Andrew Niccol avait abordé un sujet sérieusement contemporain dans l’excellent (et souvent sous-estimé) Lord of war : les trafics d’armes internationaux et leur impact sur les guerres civiles africaines. Le personnage principal, joué par Nicholas Cage, était directement inspiré du trafiquant d’origine russe Victor Bout. Lequel, lors de son procès, se plaignit de la mauvaise image que le film donnait de lui… Après la sortie, Niccol reçut même la visite du FBI. « Parce que nous avions dû louer l’avion-cargo de Victor Bout, impossible autrement de trouver un Antonov en Afrique. Alors que nous mettions en soute des armes factices, l’équipage se fichait de nous : « Nous transportions de vraies armes il y a quelques jours, on aurait pu vous les garder »… Depuis, je sais que je suis sous surveillance ! »

Né en Nouvelle-Zélande, Andrew Niccol a débuté dans la publicité à Londres, qui fut, « comme pour Ridley Scott », son école de cinéma. Il part pour les Etats-Unis au début des années 90, écrit un premier script qu’il ne pourra réaliser, mais qui lui vaudra une nomination à l’Oscar : The Truman show. Sa version à lui, qui se situe entièrement à New York est plus noire que le film signé Peter Weir en 1998. Et à la place de Jim Carrey, Niccol aurait bien vu Jeff Bridges… Mais, dans la foulée, on le laisse réaliser son premier film, déjà avec Ethan Hawke, Bienvenue à Gattaca. « Je suppose que Sony a dit oui sur un malentendu. Une fois le film fini, ils ne savaient pas quoi en faire. Ils l’ont enterré. Cette année-là, ils croyaient beaucoup plus à un petit film d’horreur : Souviens-toi l’été dernier… »

“J’ai des idées non conventionnelles et coûteuses”
Bienvenue à Gattaca est (presque) devenu un classique, et la science-fiction a gagné ses lettres de noblesse auprès des studios. Sans que Niccol en profite réellement. « J’ai des idées non conventionnelles et coûteuses. L’un ou l’autre – des idées conventionnelles exigeant un gros budget, ou des idées non conventionnelles bon marché – ça peut passer. Les deux ensemble, c’est plus dur. » Il a refusé de mettre en scène des films de super-héros, et écrit plusieurs scénarios qui n’ont jamais vu le jour. « Peut-être que je vais enfin pouvoir réaliser The Cross, l’histoire de personnages qui veulent échapper à la société dans laquelle ils vivent… » Le thème central de son œuvre ? Le film avait déjà failli se faire en 2009, avec Vincent Cassel. « Cinéaste aux Etats-Unis, c’est épuisant : il faut savoir faire tourner au-dessus de sa tête plusieurs assiettes en même temps », explique-t-il en empruntant une métaphore circassienne. « Si tant est qu’on ne me chasse pas du pays. Dans ce cas, j’irai au Canada, le pays de ma femme… »

Voir aussi:

‘Good Kill’ Review: Ethan Hawke Stars
Andrew Niccol takes on the topical issue of drone strikes in a tense war drama notable for its tact and intelligence.
Guy Lodge
Variety

September 5, 2014

Sci-fi futures characterized by complex moral and political architecture have long been writer-director Andrew Niccol’s stock-in-trade. Yet while there’s not a hint of fantasy in “Good Kill,” a smart, quietly pulsating contempo war drama, it could hardly feel more typical of Niccol’s strongest work. To many, after all, drone strikes — the controversial subject of this tense but appropriately tactful ethics study — still feel like something that should be a practical and legal impossibility. Those who haven’t considered its far-reaching implications, meanwhile, will be drawn into consciousness by Niccol’s film, which sees Ethan Hawke’s former U.S. fighter pilot wrestling with the psychological strain of killing by remote control. At once forward-thinking and exhilaratingly of the moment, this heady conversation piece could yield substantial commercial returns with the right marketing and release strategy.

Niccol has, of course, covered this kind of topical dramatic territory before in 2005’s Amnesty Intl.-approved underperformer “Lord of War,” which starred Nicolas Cage as a faintly disguised incarnation of Soviet arms dealer Viktor Bout. “Good Kill,” however, feels closer in tone and texture to the stately speculative fiction of his 1997 debut, “Gattaca,” and not merely because of Hawke’s presence in the lead. The spartan Las Vegas airbase where Major Thomas Egan (Hawke) wages war against the Taliban from the comfort of an air-conditioned cubicle seems, in terms of its bleak function and lab-like appearance, a faintly dystopian creation — one where distant life-and-death calls are made at the touch of a button. The perils of playing God, of course, were also explored in Niccol’s prescient screenplay for “The Truman Show,” with which “Good Kill” shares profound concerns about a growing culture of extreme surveillance that itself goes unmonitored.

Needless to say, however, this particular world is no product of Niccol’s imagination: The apparent future of warfare is in fact, as Bruce Greenwood’s hardened commander likes to bark at awestruck new arrivals, “the fucking here and now.” Pilots are recruited in shopping malls on the strength of their gaming expertise; joysticks are the new artillery. The film opens on the Afghan desert, as caught through a drone’s viewfinder and transmitted to Egan’s monitor. A terrorist target is identified, the missile order is given and, within 10 seconds of Egan hitting the switch 7,000 miles away, a life ends in a silent explosion of dust and rubble. (The title refers to Egan’s regular, near-involuntary verbal reaction to each successful hit.)

Another day’s work done, Egan hops in his sports car and heads home to his military McMansion, where his wife, Molly (January Jones), and two young children await. It’s an existence that theoretically combines the gung-ho ideals of American heroism and the domestic comforts of the American Dream. Niccol forges this connection with one elegantly ironic long shot of Egan’s car leaving the arid middle-of-nowhere surrounds of the control center (which have an aesthetic proximity to the Middle East, if nothing else) and approaching the glistening urban heights of Vegas — hardly the city to anchor this uncanny setup in any greater sense of reality.

For all intents and purposes, Egan, who previously risked life and limb flying F-16 planes in Iraq, has lucked out. It doesn’t feel that way to him, however, as he finds it increasingly impossible to reconcile the immense power he wields from his planeless cockpit with the lack of any attendant peril or consequence on his end. Niccol’s script and Hawke’s stern, buttoned-down performance keep in play the question of whether it’s adrenaline or moral accountability that he misses most in his new vocation, but either way, as new, more ruthless orders come in from the CIA, it’s pushing him to the brink of emotional collapse. Egan finds a measure of solidarity in rookie co-pilot Suarez (a fine, flinty Zoe Kravitz), who challenges authority more brazenly than he does, but can’t explain his internal crisis to his increasingly alienated family.

It’s the peculiar mechanics of drone warfare that enable “Good Kill” to be at once a combat film and a war-at-home film, two familiar strains of military drama given a bracing degree of tension by their parallel placement in Niccol’s tightly worked script: The pressures of Egan’s activity in the virtual field bounce off the volatile battles he fights in the bedroom and vice versa, as the film’s intellectual deliberations over the rights and wrongs of this new military policy are joined by the more emotive question of just what type of man, if any, is mentally fit for the task. (Or, indeed, woman: One thing to be said for the new technology is that it expands the demographic limits of combat.) Rife as it is with heated political questioning, this essentially human story steers clear of overt rhetorical side-taking: The Obama administration comes in for some implicit criticism here, but the film’s perspective on America’s ongoing Middle East presence isn’t one the right is likely to take to heart.

Just as Niccol’s narrative structure is at once fraught and immaculate in its escalation of ideas and character friction, so his arguments remain ever-so-slightly oblique despite the tidiness of their presentation: How much viewers wish to accept the pic as a single, tragic character study or a broader cautionary tale is up to them. He overplays his hand, however, with a needlessly melodramatic subplot that finds Egan growing personally invested in the fate of a female Afghan civilian living on their regular surveillance route, while Greenwood’s character is given one pithy slogan too many (“fly and fry,” “warheads on foreheads”) to underline the detachment of empathy from the act of killing. Happily, such instances of glib overstatement are rare in a film that trusts its audience both to recognize Niccol’s interpretations of current affairs as such, and to arrive at their own without instruction.

It can’t be a coincidence that Hawke’s styling — aviators, snug leather bomber, Ivy League haircut — gives him the appearance of Tom Cruise’s “Top Gun” hero Maverick Mitchell gone somewhat to seed. His nuanced, hard-bitten performance, too, bristles with cracked machismo and seething self-disappointment; the actor has had a good run of form recently, though his brittle, closed manner here still surprises. Supporting ensemble work is uniformly strong, with Jones, who has form when it comes to playing the repressed wives of inscrutable men, finally landing a film role worthy of her work in “Mad Men.”

The filmmaking here is as efficient and squared-off as the storytelling, with Amir Mokri’s sturdy lensing capturing the hard, unforgiving light of the Nevada desert, and foregrounding every sharp angle of Guy Barnes’ excellent production design — which makes equally alien spaces of a pod-like military boardroom and the beige, under-loved walls of Egan’s home. Sound work throughout is aces, making a virtue of the sound effects that are eerily absent as those present: In drone warfare, at least in Vegas, no one can hear you scream.

Venice Film Review: ‘Good Kill’
Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (competing), Sept. 3, 2014. (Also in Toronto Film Festival — Special Presentations.) Running time: 102 MIN.

Voir également:

Frame of drones: Ethan Hawke is a conflicted fighter pilot in Andrew Niccol’s Good Kill
Chris Knight

National Post

September 11, 2014

Andrew Niccol can remember a time when U.S. involvement in Iraq included televised media briefings in which Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf would show video clips that demonstrated the accuracy of so-called smart bombs. Then, they were launched from piloted aircraft. Now they’re as likely to be fired from unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones.

“Now that picture is a lot better, and there is obviously video for every one of the drone strikes,” he says. “But you haven’t seen one recently, have you?”

Ethan Hawke jumps in at this point. “Nobody has,” he says darkly. “They don’t want you to see this.”

Hawke is starring in Niccol’s Good Kill, which had its North American premiere this week at the Toronto International Film Festival after screening in Venice. The actor plays Maj. Thomas Egan, a former fighter pilot who now flies unmanned drones from a military base outside Las Vegas. His control bunker looks a bit like a shipping container from the outside, boxy and portable.

‘The troops are going to withdraw from Afghanistan, but the drones won’t leave’

“The reason is that they used to wheel them into a Hercules and fly them around the world,” says Niccol. “But then realized they didn’t have to go anywhere; they had satellites.” Hawke’s character kills enemies in Afghanistan from half a world away, but struggles with the moral implications of such precise, emotionless combat.

The cinematography in Good Kill calls attention to the similarities in geography between the U.S. and Afghan deserts, and the walled residences that exist in both locations. “It’s not my choice; it’s the military’s choice,” says Niccol. They can train drone pilots locally over terrain similar to what they’ll see while on duty.

“If you’re going on a weekend trip to Vegas in your car,” he adds, “you may not know it — in fact you won’t know it — but they’ll follow a car with a drone just as practice.”

Good Kill airs both sides of the debate over unmanned drone strikes — on the one hand, it risks fewer American lives; on the other, it risks dehumanizing war — but it’s clear on which side Niccol and Hawke stand.

“Say what you like about the United States,” says the New Zealand-born Niccol, “but you’re allowed to make that movie. Some people are going to hate it and think it’s unpatriotic, and some people are going to love it, but if it causes some kind of debate — great.”

“That’s the point of making a movie like this,” says Hawke, “is to not let all this stuff happen in our name without us having any awareness or knowledge or interest in what’s being done.”

He likes the idea of a war film “that isn’t glorifying the past; something that shows us where we are right now. The troops are going to withdraw from Afghanistan, but the drones won’t leave.”

Niccol and Hawke have worked together, albeit sporadically, on Gattaca (1997) and Lord of War (2005), before this film. They share a favourite movie (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) and a shorthand that the writer/director says was invaluable given the movie’s tight budget and timeline.

That extended to Hawke’s agreement to star in the film, which took place over the phone. “I was walking my dog and I called you after reading the script,” he recalls. “I think I walked my dog for two hours as we talked. We were already making the movie that night!”

Voir également:

Entertainment & Arts
Good Kill: Tackling the ethics of drone warfare on film
Genevieve Hassan Entertainment reporter
BBC

10 April 2015

Ethan Hawke’s drone pilot begins to question his orders – and his job
Actor Ethan Hawke and director Andrew Niccol discuss their latest film, Good Kill, about an Air Force drone pilot who begins to question the ethics of his job.

The first time Hawke worked with Niccol, they made 1997 sci-fi film Gattaca. The second occasion, they made 2005’s Lord of War, about an arms dealer with a conscience. Now they’ve made it a hat-trick, reuniting once again to tackle the timely issue of using drones in modern warfare.

Set in 2010, Good Kill sees Hawke play Air Force pilot Tom Egan, who spends eight hours a day fighting the Taliban. But instead of being out on the front line, he’s in a Las Vegas bunker remotely dropping bombs in the Middle East as part of the US’s War on Terror.

Distanced from close combat from the safety of his joystick control half a world away, when the civilian casualties start mounting up, Egan begins to question his orders – and his job.

Hawke and Niccol spoke to the BBC News website about the inspiration behind the film and the moral questions it raises.

Why did you decide to make this project now?
Andrew Niccol: Now is almost a few years too late. I could have made this film a few years ago because this war has been going on in Afghanistan for 13 years. It’s stunning to me it’s America’s longest war and still counting – it beats Vietnam, the first Iraq war and World War Two.

It was all in response to 9/11 and I completely understand why we began it because that’s where Bin Laden was. But it gets to a point where it’s overkill. Are we ever going to leave that part of the planet? Are we really going to stay over the top of the Middle East forever?

Ethan Hawke: The troops are going to come out of Afghanistan, but the drones will still be there. It’s not a question of right or wrong, or how I feel about it – it’s the truth. This is the nature of warfare right now.

Do we want drones to be the international police? Is it a good idea? Is it creating more terror than stopping? They’re valuable questions.

For me as an actor and a fan of storytelling, I get to play a character I’ve never seen on screen before. He’s spending the bulk of the day fighting the Taliban; leaves work, picks up some eggs and orange juice, helps his son with his homework and fights with his wife about what TV show to watch. And then the next day does the same thing again.

This is a new situation we’ve never been in: Soldiers who take people’s lives whose own life isn’t in danger. A lot of these people go into the military because they have the mentality of a warrior. They want to put their life on the line for their beliefs to make people safe, but what does it mean when your life isn’t on the line? It seems like the stuff of sci-fi but it’s arrived.

Did you intend to push a specific political agenda with this film?
Ethan Hawke: No, I’m allergic to that. We can’t have a serious conversation about a drones strike unless people have more information. Most people don’t know what a drone looks like, or how it’s operated.

I learned a lot – I had no idea [the US] would strike a funeral or rescuers. There’s a certain logic to doing it – you could say perhaps it is proportionate. Perhaps we’re stopping more death than we’re creating, but we are killing innocent people. Am I sure I want our soldiers doing that?

An interesting example is on Obama’s third day in office he ordered a drone strike – it was surgical, but they had the wrong information and they murdered a family that had nothing to do with anything. When these tools are available accidents happen. It’s ripe for dialogue.

I’m not in politics, I don’t have an agenda for the audience, but I think it’s a really interesting conversation. I don’t think we should let our governments run willy-nilly and kill whoever and spy on whoever they want to without asking any questions.

Andrew Niccol: I’m not anti or pro, I’m just saying this is what is, and now you have that information perhaps it can provoke thought and conversation.

The US military want computer gamers to join the Air Force because they are equipped with the dexterity and speed needed to operate a drone efficiently, like Ethan Hawke’s character in Good Kill
Are all the events depicted in the film real?
Andrew Niccol: Every strike Tom does in the movie there is a precedent for, but his character is fictitious.

There were some things I didn’t put in the movie because I thought they were too outrageous. I was told about drone pilots who were younger than Ethan’s character – they would work with a joystick for 12 hours over Afghanistan, take out a target and go home to their apartment and play video games.

The military modelled the workstation on computer games because it’s the joystick that’s the easiest to use. They want gamers to join the Air Force because they’re good and can manoeuvre a drone perfectly.

But how can they possibly separate playing one joystick game one moment, and then playing real war the next?

Good Kill is released in UK cinemas on 10 April.

Voir encore:

Barack Obama, président des drones
LE MONDE GEO ET POLITIQUE

Philippe Bernard

18.06.2013

De même que George W. Bush restera dans l’histoire comme le  » président des guerres  » de l’après-11-Septembre en Afghanistan et en Irak, Barack Obama pourrait passer à la postérité comme le  » président des drones « , autrement dit le chef d’une guerre secrète, menée avec des armes que les Etats-Unis sont, parmi les grandes puissances, les seuls à posséder.

Rarement moment politique et innovation technologique auront si parfaitement correspondu : lorsque le président démocrate est élu en 2008 par des Américains las des conflits, il dispose d’un moyen tout neuf pour poursuivre, dans la plus grande discrétion, la lutte contre les « ennemis de l’Amérique » sans risquer la vie de citoyens de son pays : les drones.

L’utilisation militaire d’engins volants téléguidés par les Américains n’est pas nouvelle : pendant la guerre du Vietnam, des drones de reconnaissance avaient patrouillé. Mais l’armement de ces avions sans pilote à partir de 2001 en Afghanistan marque un changement d’époque. Au point que le tout premier Predator armé à avoir frappé des cibles après les attaques du 11-Septembre, immatriculé 3034, a aujourd’hui les honneurs du Musée de l’air et de l’espace, à Washington. Leur montée en puissance aura été fulgurante : alors que le Pentagone ne disposait que de 50 drones au début des années 2000, il en possède aujourd’hui près de 7 500. Dans l’US Air Force, un aéronef sur trois est sans pilote.

George W. Bush, artisan d’un large déploiement sur le terrain, utilisera modérément ces nouveaux engins létaux. Barack Obama y recourra six fois plus souvent pendant son seul premier mandat que son prédécesseur pendant les deux siens. M. Obama, qui, en recevant le prix Nobel de la paix en décembre 2009, revendiquait une Amérique au « comportement exemplaire dans la conduite de la guerre », banalisera la pratique des « assassinats ciblés », parfois fondés sur de simples présomptions et décidés par lui-même dans un secret absolu.

LES FRAPPES OPÉRÉES PAR LA CIA SONT « COVERT »

Tandis que les militaires guident les drones dans l’Afghanistan en guerre, c’est jusqu’à présent la très opaque CIA qui opère partout ailleurs (au Yémen, au Pakistan, en Somalie, en Libye). C’est au Yémen en 2002 que la campagne d' »assassinats ciblés » a débuté. Le Pakistan suit dès 2004. Barack Obama y multiplie les frappes. Certaines missions, menées à l’insu des autorités pakistanaises, soulèvent de lourdes questions de souveraineté. D’autres, les goodwill kills (« homicides de bonne volonté »), le sont avec l’accord du gouvernement local. Tandis que les frappes de drones militaires sont simplement « secrètes », celles opérées par la CIA sont « covert », ce qui signifie que les Etats-Unis n’en reconnaissent même pas l’existence.

Dans ce contexte, établir des statistiques est difficile. Selon le Bureau of Investigative Journalism, une ONG britannique, les attaques au Pakistan ont fait entre 2 548 et 3 549 victimes, dont 411 à 884 sont des civils, et 168 à 197 des enfants. En termes statistiques, la campagne de drones est un succès : les Etats-Unis revendiquent l’élimination de plus d’une cinquantaine de hauts responsables d’Al-Qaida et de talibans. D’où la nette diminution du nombre de cibles potentielles et du rythme des frappes, passées de 128 en 2010 (une tous les trois jours) à 48 en 2012 au Pakistan.

Car le secret total et son cortège de dénégations ne pouvaient durer éternellement. En mai 2012, le New York Times a révélé l’implication personnelle de M. Obama dans la confection des kill lists. Après une décennie de silence et de mensonges officiels, la réalité a dû être admise. En particulier au début de l’année, lorsque le débat public s’est focalisé sur l’autorisation, donnée par le ministre de la justice, Eric Holder, d’éliminer un citoyen américain responsable de la branche yéménite d’Al-Qaida. L’imam Anouar Al-Aulaqi avait été abattu le 30 septembre 2011 au Yémen par un drone de la CIA lancé depuis l’Arabie saoudite. Le droit de tuer un concitoyen a nourri une intense controverse. D’autant que la même opération avait causé des « dégâts collatéraux » : Samir Khan, responsable du magazine jihadiste Inspire, et Abdulrahman, 16 ans, fils d’Al-Aulaqui, tous deux américains et ne figurant ni l’un ni l’autre sur la kill list, ont trouvé la mort. Aux yeux des opposants, l’adolescent personnifie désormais l’arbitraire de la guerre des drones.

La révélation par la presse des contorsions juridiques imaginées par les conseillers du président pour justifier a posteriori l’assassinat d’un Américain n’a fait qu’alimenter les revendications de transparence. La fronde s’est concrétisée par le blocage au Sénat, plusieurs semaines durant, de la nomination à la tête de la CIA de John Brennan, auparavant grand ordonnateur à la Maison Blanche de la politique d’assassinats ciblés. Une orientation pourfendue, presque treize heures durant, le 6 mars, par le spectaculaire discours du sénateur libertarien Rand Paul.

UN IMPORTANT DISCOURS SUR LA « GUERRE JUSTE »

Très attendu, le grand exercice de clarification a eu lieu le 23 mai devant la National Defense University de Washington. Barack Obama y a prononcé un important discours sur la « guerre juste », affichant enfin une doctrine en matière d’usage des drones. Il était temps : plusieurs organisations de défense des libertés publiques avaient réclamé en justice la communication des documents justifiant les assassinats ciblés.

Une directive présidentielle, signée la veille, précise les critères de recours aux frappes à visée mortelle : une « menace continue et imminente contre la population des Etats-Unis », le fait qu' »aucun autre gouvernement ne soit en mesure d'[y] répondre ou ne la prenne en compte effectivement » et une « quasi-certitude » qu’il n’y aura pas de victimes civiles. Pour la première fois, Barack Obama a reconnu l’existence des assassinats ciblés, y compris ceux ayant visé des Américains, assurant que ces morts le « hanteraient » toute sa vie. Le président a annoncé que les militaires, plutôt que la CIA, auraient désormais la main. Il a aussi repris l’idée de créer une instance judiciaire ou administrative de contrôle des frappes. Mais il a renvoyé au Congrès la mission, incertaine, de créer cette institution. Le président, tout en reconnaissant que l’usage des drones pose de « profondes questions » – de « légalité », de « morale », de « responsabilité « , sans compter « le risque de créer de nouveaux ennemis » -, l’a justifié par son efficacité : « Ces frappes ont sauvé des vies. »

Six jours après ce discours, l’assassinat par un drone de Wali ur-Rehman, le numéro deux des talibans pakistanais, en a montré les limites. Ce leader visait plutôt le Pakistan que « la population des Etats-Unis ». Tout porte donc à croire que les critères limitatifs énoncés par Barack Obama ne s’appliquent pas au Pakistan, du moins aussi longtemps qu’il restera des troupes américaines dans l’Afghanistan voisin. Et que les « Signature strikes », ces frappes visant des groupes d’hommes armés non identifiés mais présumés extrémistes, seront poursuivies.

Les drones n’ont donc pas fini de mettre en lumière les contradictions de Barack Obama : président antiguerre, champion de la transparence, de la légalité et de la main tendue à l’islam, il a multiplié dans l’ombre les assassinats ciblés, provoquant la colère de musulmans.

Or les drones armés, s’ils s’avèrent terriblement efficaces pour éliminer de véritables fauteurs de terreur et, parfois, pour tuer des innocents, le sont nettement moins pour traiter les racines des violences antiaméricaines. Leur usage opaque apparaît comme un précédent encourageant pour les Etats (tels la Chine, la Russie, l’Inde, le Pakistan ou l’Iran) qui vont acquérir ces matériels dans l’avenir. En paraissant considérer les aéronefs pilotés à distance comme l’arme fatale indispensable, le « président des drones » aura enclenché l’engrenage de ce futur incertain.

Voir encore:

US national security
Obama’s secret kill list – the disposition matrix
The disposition matrix is a complex grid of suspected terrorists to be traced then targeted in drone strikes or captured and interrogated. And the British government appears to be colluding in it
US President Barack Obama
Barack Obama, chairing the ‘Terror Tuesday’ meetings, agrees the final schedule of names on the disposition matrix. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Ian Cobain

The Guardian

14 July 2013

When Bilal Berjawi spoke to his wife for the last time, he had no way of being certain that he was about to die. But he should have had his suspicions.

A short, dumpy Londoner who was not, in the words of some who knew him, one of the world’s greatest thinkers, Berjawi had been fighting for months in Somalia with al-Shabaab, the Islamist militant group. His wife was 4,400 miles away, at home in west London. In June 2011, Berjawi had almost been killed in a US drone strike on an al-Shabaab camp on the coast. After that he became wary of telephones. But in January last year, when his wife went into labour and was admitted to St Mary’s hospital in Paddington, he decided to risk a quick phone conversation.

A few hours after the call ended Berjawi was targeted in a fresh drone strike. Perhaps the telephone contact triggered alerts all the way from Camp Lemmonier, the US military’s enormous home-from-home at Djibouti, to the National Security Agency’s headquarters in Maryland. Perhaps a few screens also lit up at GCHQ in Cheltenham? This time the drone attack was successful, from the US perspective, and al-Shabaab issued a terse statement: « The martyr received what he wished for and what he went out for. »

The following month, Berjawi’s former next-door neighbour, who was also in Somalia, was similarly « martyred ». Like Berjawi, Mohamed Sakr had just turned 27 when he was killed in an air strike.

Four months later, the FBI in Manhattan announced that a third man from London, a Vietnamese-born convert to Islam, had been charged with a series of terrorism offences, and that if convicted he would face a mandatory 40-year sentence. This man was promptly arrested by Scotland Yard and is now fighting extradition to the US. And a few weeks after that, another of Berjawi’s mates from London was detained after travelling from Somalia to Djibouti, where he was interrogated for months by US intelligence officers before being hooded and put aboard an aircraft. When 23-year-old Mahdi Hashi next saw daylight, he was being led into a courtroom in Brooklyn.

That these four men had something in common is clear enough: they were all Muslims, all accused of terrorism offences, and all British (or they were British: curiously, all of them unexpectedly lost their British citizenship just as they were about to become unstuck). There is, however, a common theme that is less obvious: it appears that all of them had found their way on to the « disposition matrix ».

The euphemisms of counter-terrorism

When contemplating the euphemisms that have slipped into the lexicon since 9/11, the adjective Orwellian is difficult to avoid. But while such terms as extraordinary rendition, targeted killing and enhanced interrogation are universally known, and their true meanings – kidnap, assassination, torture – widely understood, the disposition matrix has not yet gained such traction.

Since the Obama administration largely shut down the CIA’s rendition programme, choosing instead to dispose of its enemies in drone attacks, those individuals who are being nominated for killing have been discussed at a weekly counter-terrorism meeting at the White House situation room that has become known as Terror Tuesday. Barack Obama, in the chair and wishing to be seen as a restraining influence, agrees the final schedule of names. Once details of these meetings began to emerge it was not long before the media began talking of « kill lists ». More double-speak was required, it seemed, and before long the term disposition matrix was born.

In truth, the matrix is more than a mere euphemism for a kill list, or even a capture-or-kill list. It is a sophisticated grid, mounted upon a database that is said to have been more than two years in the development, containing biographies of individuals believed to pose a threat to US interests, and their known or suspected locations, as well as a range of options for their disposal.

It is a grid, however, that both blurs and expands the boundaries that human rights law and the law of war place upon acts of abduction or targeted killing. There have been claims that people’s names have been entered into it with little or no evidence. And it appears that it will be with us for many years to come.

The background to its creation was the growing realisation in Washington that the drone programme could be creating more enemies than it was destroying. In Pakistan, for example, where the government estimates that more than 400 people have been killed in around 330 drone strikes since 9/11, the US has arguably outstripped even India as the most reviled foreign country. At one point, Admiral Mike Mullen, when chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, was repo rted to be having furious rows over the issue with his opposite number in Pakistan, General Ashfaq Kayani.
matrix mike mullen and ashfaq Kayani

The term entered the public domain following a briefing given to the Washington Post before last year’s presidential election. « We had a disposition problem, » one former counter-terrorism official involved in the development of the Matrix told the Post. Expanding on the nature of that problem, a second administration official added that while « we’re not going to end up in 10 years in a world of everybody holding hands and saying ‘we love America' », there needed to be a recognition that « we can’t possibly kill everyone who wants to harm us ».

Drawing upon legal advice that has remained largely secret, senior officials at the US Counter-Terrorism Center designed a grid that incorporated the existing kill lists of the CIA and the US military’s special forces, but which also offered some new rules and restraints.

Some individuals whose names were entered into the matrix, and who were roaming around Somalia or Yemen, would continue to face drone attack when their whereabouts become known. Others could be targeted and killed by special forces. In a speech in May, Obama suggested that a special court could be given oversight of these targeted killings.

An unknown number would end up in the so-called black sites that the US still quietly operates in east Africa, or in prisons run by US allies in the Middle East or Central Asia. But for others, who for political reasons could not be summarily dispatched or secretly imprisoned, there would be a secret grand jury investigation, followed in some cases by formal arrest and extradition, and in others by « rendition to justice »: they would be grabbed, interrogated without being read their rights, then flown to the US and put on trial with a publicly funded defence lawyer.

Orwell once wrote about political language being « designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable ». As far as the White House is concerned, however, the term disposition matrix describes a continually evolving blueprint not for murder, but for a defence against a threat that continues to change shape and seek out new havens.

As the Obama administration’s tactics became more variegated, the British authorities co-operated, of course, but also ensured that the new rules of the game helped to serve their own counter-terrorism objectives.

Paul Pillar, who served in the CIA for 28 years, including a period as the agency’s senior counter-terrorism analyst, says the British, when grappling with what he describes as a sticky case – « someone who is a violence-prone anti-western jihadi », for example – would welcome a chance to pass on that case to the US. It would be a matter, as he puts it, of allowing someone else to have their headache.

« They might think, if it’s going to be a headache for someone, let the Americans have the headache, » says Pillar. « That’s what the United States has done. The US would drop cases if they were going to be sticky, and let someone else take over. We would let the Egyptians or the Jordanians or whoever take over a very sticky one. From the United Kingdom point of view, if it is going to be a headache for anyone: let the Americans have the headache. »

The four young Londoners – Berjawi, Sakr, Hashi and the Vietnamese-born convert – were certainly considered by MI5 and MI6 to be something of a headache. But could they have been seen so problematic – so sticky – that the US would be encouraged to enter their names into the Matrix?
The home secretary’s special power

Berjawi and Sakr were members of a looseknit group of young Muslims who were on nodding terms with each other, having attended the same mosques and schools and having played in the same five-a-side football matches in west London.

A few members of this group came to be closely scrutinised by MI5 when it emerged that they had links with the men who attempted to carry out a wave of bombings on London’s underground train network on 21 July 2005. Others came to the attention of the authorities as a result of their own conduct. Mohammed Ezzouek, for example, who attended North Westminster community school with Berjawi, was abducted in Kenya and interrogated by British intelligence officers after a trip to Somalia in 2006; another schoolmate, Tariq al-Daour, has recently been released from jail after serving a sentence for inciting terrorism.

As well as sharing their faith and, according to the UK authorities, jihadist intent, these young men had something else in common: they were all dual nationals. Berjawi was born in Lebanon and moved to London with his parents as an infant. Sakr was born in London, but was deemed to be a British-Egyptian dual national because his parents were born in Egypt. Ezzouek is British-Moroccan, while al-Daour is British-Palestinian.

This left them vulnerable to a little-known weapon in the government’s counter-terrorism armoury, one that Theresa May has been deploying with increasing frequency since she became home secretary three years ago. Under the terms of a piece of the 2006 Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act, and a previous piece of legislation dating to 1981, May has the power to deprive dual nationals of their British citizenship if she is « satisfied that deprivation is conducive to the public good ».

This power can be applied only to dual nationals, and those who lose their citizenship can appeal. The government appears usually to wait until the individual has left the country before moving to deprive them of their citizenship, however, and appeals are heard at the highly secretive special immigration appeals commission (SIAC), where the government can submit evidence that cannot be seen or challenged by the appellant.

The Home Office is extraordinarily sensitive about the manner in which this power is being used. It has responded to Freedom of Information Act requests about May’s increased use of this power with delays and appeals; some information requested by the Guardian in June 2011 has still not been handed over. What is known is that at least 17 people have been deprived of their British citizenship at a stroke of May’s pen. In most cases, if not all, the home secretary has taken action on the recommendation of MI5. In each case, a warning notice was sent to the British home of the target, and the deprivation order signed a day or two later.

One person who lost their British citizenship in this way was Anna Chapman, a Russian spy, but the remainder are thought to all be Muslims. Several of them – including a British-Pakistani father and his three sons – were born in the UK, while most of the others arrived as children. And some have been deprived of their citizenship not because they were assessed to be involved in terrorism or any other criminal activity, but because of their alleged involvement in Islamist extremism.

Berjawi and Sakr both travelled to Somalia after claiming that they were being harassed by police in the UK, and were then stripped of their British citizenship. Several months later they were killed. The exact nature of any intelligence that the British government may have shared with Washington before their names were apparently entered into the disposition matrix is deeply secret: the UK has consistently refused to either confirm or deny that it shares intelligence in support of drone strikes, arguing that to do so would damage both national security and relations with the US government.

More than 12 months after Sakr’s death, his father, Gamal, a businessman who settled in London 37 years ago, still cannot talk about his loss without breaking down and weeping. He alleges that one of his two surviving sons has since been harassed by police, and suspects that this boy would also have been stripped of his citizenship had he left the country. « It’s madness, » he cries. « They’re driving these boys to Afghanistan. They’re making everything worse. »

Last year Gamal and his wife flew to Cairo, formally renounced their Egyptian citizenship, and on their return asked their lawyer to let it be known that their sons were no longer dual nationals. But while he wants his family to remain in Britain, the manner in which his son met his death has shattered his trust in the British government. « It was clearly directed from the UK, » he says. « He wasn’t just killed: he was assassinated. »
The case of Mahdi Hashi

Mahdi Hashi was five years old when his family moved to London from Somalia. He returned to the country in 2009, and took up arms for al-Shabaab in its civil war with government forces. A few months earlier he had complained to the Independent that he been under pressure to assist MI5, which he was refusing to do. Hashi was one of a few dozen young British men who have followed the same path: in one internet video clip, an al-Shabaab fighter with a cockney accent can be heard urging fellow Muslims « living in the lands of disbelief » to come and join him. It is thought that the identities of all these men are known to MI5.

After the deaths of Berjawi and Sakr, Hashi was detained by al-Shabaab, who suspected that he was a British spy, and that he was responsible for bringing the drones down on the heads of his brothers-in-arms. According to his US lawyer, Harry Batchelder, he was released in early June last year. The militants had identified three other men whom they believed were the culprits, executing them shortly afterwards.

Within a few days of Hashi’s release, May signed an order depriving him of his British citizenship. The warning notice that was sent to his family’s home read: « The reason for this decision is that the Security Service assess that you have been involved in Islamist extremism and present a risk to the national security of the United Kingdom due to your extremist activities. »

Hashi decided to leave Somalia, and travelled to Djibouti with two other fighters, both Somali-Swedish dual nationals. All three were arrested in a raid on a building, where they had been sleeping on the roof, and were taken to the local intelligence agency headquarters. Hashi says he was interrogated for several weeks by US intelligence officers who refused to identify themselves. These men then handed him over to a team of FBI interrogators, who took a lengthy statement. Hashi was then hooded, put aboard an aircraft, and flown to New York. On arrival he was charged with conspiracy to support a terrorist organisation.

Hashi has since been quoted in a news report as saying he was tortured while in custody in Djibouti. There is reason to doubt that this happened, however: a number of sources familiar with his defence case say that the journalist who wrote the report may have been misled. And the line of defence that he relied upon while being interrogated – that Somalia’s civil war is no concern of the US or the UK – evaporated overnight when al-Shabaab threatened to launch attacks in Britain.

When Hashi was led into court in Brooklyn in January, handcuffed and dressed in a grey and orange prison uniform, he was relaxed and smiling. The 23-year-old had been warned that if he failed to co-operate with the US government, he would be likely to spend the rest of his life behind bars. But he appeared unconcerned.

At no point did the UK government intervene. Indeed, it cannot: he is no longer British.

When the Home Office was asked whether it knew Hashi was facing detention and forcible removal to the US at the point at which May revoked his citizenship, a spokesperson replied: « We do not routinely comment on individual deprivation cases, nor do we comment on intelligence issues. »

The Home Office is also refusing to say whether it is aware of other individuals being killed after losing their British citizenship. On one point it is unambiguous, however. « Citizenship, » it said in a statement, « is a privilege, not a right. »

The case of ‘B2′

A glimpse of even closer UK-US counter-terrorism co-operation can be seen in the case of the Vietnamese-born convert, who cannot be named for legal reasons. Born in 1983 in the far north of Vietnam, he was a month old when his family travelled by sea to Hong Kong, six when they moved to the UK and settled in London, and 12 when he became a British citizen.

While studying web design at a college in Greenwich, he converted to Islam. He later came into contact with the banned Islamist group al-Muhajiroun, and was an associate of Richard Dart, a fellow convert who was the subject of a TV documentary entitled My Brother the Islamist, and who was jailed for six years in April after travelling to Pakistan to seek terrorism training. In December 2010, this man told his eight-months-pregnant wife that he was going to Ireland for a few weeks. Instead, he travelled to Yemen and stayed for seven months. MI5 believes he received terrorism training from al-Qaida in the Arabian peninsula and worked on the group’s online magazine, Inspire.

He denies this. Much of the evidence against him comes from a man called Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, a Somali who once lived in the English midlands, and who was « rendered to justice » in much the same way as Hashi after being captured in the Gulf of Aden two years ago. Warsame is now co-operating with the US Justice Department.

On arrival back at Heathrow airport, the Vietnamese-born man was searched by police and arrested when a live bullet was found in his rucksack. A few months later, while he was free on bail, May signed an order revoking his British citizenship. Detained by immigration officials and facing deportation to Vietnam, he appealed to SIAC, where he was given the cipher B2. He won his case after the Vietnamese ambassador to London gave evidence in which he denied that he was one of their citizens. Depriving him of British citizenship at that point would have rendered him stateless, which would have been unlawful.

Within minutes of SIAC announcing its decision and granting B2 unconditional bail, he was rearrested while sitting in the cells at the SIAC building. The warrant had been issued by magistrates five weeks earlier, at the request of the US Justice Department. Moments after that, the FBI announced that B2 had been charged with five terrorism offences and faced up to 40 years in jail. He was driven straight from SIAC to Westminster magistrates’ court, where he faced extradition proceedings.

B2 continues to resist his removal to the US, with his lawyers arguing that he could have been charged in the UK. Indeed, the allegations made by the US authorities, if true, would appear to represent multiple breaches of several UK laws: the Terrorism Act 2000, the Terrorism Act 2006 and the Firearms Act 1968. Asked why B2 was not being prosecuted in the English courts – why, in other words, the Americans were having this particular headache, and not the British – a Crown Prosecution Service spokesperson said: « As this is a live case and the issue of forum may be raised by the defence in court, it would be inappropriate for us to discuss this in advance of the extradition hearing. »

The rule of ‘imminent threat’

In the coffee shops of west London, old friends of Berjawi, Sakr, Hashi and B2 are equally reluctant to talk, especially when questioned about the calamities that have befallen the four men. When they do, it is in a slightly furtive way, almost in whispers.

Ezzouek explains that he never leaves the country any more, fearing he too will be stripped of his British citizenship. Al-Daour is watched closely and says he faces recall to prison whenever he places a foot wrong. Failing even to tell his probation officer that he has bought a car, for example, is enough to see him back behind bars. A number of their associates claim to have learned of the deaths of Berjawi and Sakr from MI5 officers who approached them with the news, and suggested they forget about travelling to Somalia.

Last February, a 16-page US justice department memo, leaked to NBC News, disclosed something of the legal basis for the drone programme. Its authors asserted that the killing of US citizens is lawful if they pose an « imminent threat » of violent attack against the US, and capture is impossible. The document adopts a broad definition of imminence, saying no evidence of a specific plot is needed, and remains silent on the fate that faces enemies who are – or were – citizens of an allied nation, such as the UK.
matrix drone in flight

But if the Obama administration is satisfied that the targeted killing of US citizens is lawful, there is little reason to doubt that young men who have been stripped of their British citizenship, and who take up arms in Somalia or Yemen or elsewhere, will continue to find their way on to the disposition matrix, and continue to be killed by missiles fired from drones hovering high overhead, or rendered to courts in the US.

And while Obama says he wants to curtail the drone programme, his officials have been briefing journalists that they believe the operations are likely to continue for another decade, at least. Given al-Qaida’s resilience and ability to spread, they say, no clear end is in sight.

Voir encore:

La dérive morale de l’armée israélienne à Gaza
Piotr Smolar (Jérusalem, correspondant)

Le Monde

04.05.2015

Eté 2014, bande de Gaza. Un vieux Palestinien gît à terre. Il marchait non loin d’un poste de reconnaissance de l’armée israélienne. Un soldat a décidé de le viser. Il est grièvement blessé à la jambe, ne bouge plus. Est-il vivant ? Les soldats se disputent. L’un d’eux décide de mettre fin à la discussion. Il abat le vieillard.

Cette histoire, narrée par plusieurs de ses acteurs, s’inscrit dans la charge la plus dévastatrice contre l’armée israélienne depuis la guerre, lancée par ses propres soldats. L’organisation non gouvernementale Breaking the Silence (« rompre le silence »), qui regroupe des anciens combattants de Tsahal, publie, lundi 4 mai, un recueil d’entretiens accordés sous couvert d’anonymat par une soixantaine de participants à l’opération « Bordure protectrice ».

Une opération conduite entre le 8 juillet et le 26 août 2014, qui a entraîné la mort de près de 2 100 Palestiniens et 66 soldats israéliens. Israël a détruit trente-deux tunnels permettant de pénétrer clandestinement sur son territoire, puis a conclu un cessez-le-feu avec le Hamas qui ne résout rien. L’offensive a provoqué des dégâts matériels et humains sans précédent. Elle jette, selon l’ONG, « de graves doutes sur l’éthique » de Tsahal.

« Si vous repérez quelqu’un, tirez ! »

Breaking the Silence n’utilise jamais l’expression « crimes de guerre ». Mais la matière que l’organisation a collectée, recoupée, puis soumise à la censure militaire comme l’exige toute publication liée à la sécurité nationale, est impressionnante. « Ce travail soulève le soupçon dérangeant de violations des lois humanitaires, explique l’avocat Michael Sfard, qui conseille l’ONG depuis dix ans. J’espère qu’il y aura un débat, mais j’ai peur qu’on parle plus du messager que du message. Les Israéliens sont de plus en plus autocentrés et nationalistes, intolérants contre les critiques. »

Environ un quart des témoins sont des officiers. Tous les corps sont représentés. Certains étaient armes à la main, d’autres dans la chaîne de commandement. Cette diversité permet, selon l’ONG, de dessiner un tableau des « politiques systémiques » décidées par l’état-major, aussi bien lors des bombardements que des incursions au sol. Ce tableau contraste avec la doxa officielle sur la loyauté de l’armée, ses procédures strictes et les avertissements adressés aux civils, pour les inviter à fuir avant l’offensive.

« Ce travail soulève le soupçon dérangeant de violations des lois humanitaires, explique l’avocat Michael Sfard, qui conseille l’ONG Breaking the Silence. J’espère qu’il y aura un débat »
Les témoignages, eux, racontent une histoire de flou. Au nom de l’obsession du risque minimum pour les soldats, les règles d’engagement – la distinction entre ennemis combattants et civils, le principe de proportionnalité – ont été brouillées. « Les soldats ont reçu pour instructions de leurs commandants de tirer sur chaque personne identifiée dans une zone de combat, dès lors que l’hypothèse de travail était que toute personne sur le terrain était un ennemi », précise l’introduction. « On nous a dit, il n’est pas censé y avoir de civils, si vous repérez quelqu’un, tirez ! », se souvient un sergent d’infanterie, posté dans le nord.

Les instructions sont claires : le doute est un risque. Une personne observe les soldats d’une fenêtre ou d’un toit ? Cible. Elle marche dans la rue à 200 mètres de l’armée ? Cible. Elle demeure dans un immeuble dont les habitants ont été avertis ? Cible. Et quand il n’y a pas de cible, on tire des obus ou au mortier, on « stérilise », selon l’expression récurrente. Ou bien on envoie le D-9, un bulldozer blindé, pour détruire les maisons et dégager la vue.

« Le bien et le mal se mélangent »
Un soldat se souvient de deux femmes, parlant au téléphone et marchant un matin à environ 800 mètres des forces israéliennes. Des guetteuses ? Un drone les survole. Pas de certitude. Elles sont abattues, classées comme « terroristes ». Un sergent raconte le « Bonjour Al-Bourej ! », adressé un matin par son unité de tanks à ce quartier situé dans la partie centrale du territoire. Les tanks sont alignés puis, sur instruction, tirent en même temps, au hasard, pour faire sentir la présence israélienne.

Beaucoup de liberté d’appréciation était laissée aux hommes sur le terrain. Au fil des jours, « le bien et le mal se mélangent un peu (…) et ça devient un peu comme un jeu vidéo », témoigne un soldat. Mais cette latitude correspondait à un mode opérationnel. Au niveau de l’état-major, il existait selon l’ONG trois « niveaux d’activation », déterminant notamment les distances de sécurité acceptées par rapport aux civils palestiniens. Au niveau 3, des dommages collatéraux élevés sont prévus. « Plus l’opération avançait, et plus les limitations ont diminué », explique l’ONG. « Nos recherches montrent que pour l’artillerie, les distances à préserver par rapport aux civils étaient très inférieures à celles par rapport à nos soldats », souligne Yehuda Shaul, cofondateur de Breaking the Silence.

Un lieutenant d’infanterie, dans le nord de la bande de Gaza, se souvient : « Même si on n’entre pas [au sol], c’est obus, obus, obus. Une structure suspecte, une zone ouverte, une possible entrée de tunnel : feu, feu, feu. » L’officier évoque le relâchement des restrictions au fil des jours. Lorsque le 3e niveau opératoire est décidé, les forces aériennes ont le droit à un « niveau raisonnable de pertes civiles, dit-il. C’est quelque chose d’indéfinissable, qui dépend du commandant de brigade, en fonction de son humeur du moment ».

Fin 2014, le vice-procureur militaire, Eli Bar-On, recevait Le Monde pour plaider le discernement des forces armées. « On a conduit plus de 5 000 frappes aériennes pendant la campagne. Le nombre de victimes est phénoménalement bas », assurait-il. A l’en croire, chaque frappe aérienne fait l’objet d’une réflexion et d’une enquête poussée. Selon lui, « la plupart des dégâts ont été causés par le Hamas ». Le magistrat mettait en cause le mouvement islamiste pour son utilisation des bâtiments civils. « On dispose d’une carte de coordination de tous les sites sensibles, mosquées, écoles, hôpitaux, réactualisée plusieurs fois par jour. Quand on la superpose avec la carte des tirs de roquettes, on s’aperçoit qu’une partie significative a été déclenchée de ces endroits. »

Treize enquêtes pénales ouvertes
L’armée peut-elle se policer ? Le parquet général militaire (MAG) a ouvert treize enquêtes pénales, dont deux pour pillages, déjà closes car les plaignants ne se sont pas présentés. Les autres cas concernent des épisodes tristement célèbres du conflit, comme la mort de quatre enfants sur la plage de Gaza, le 16 juillet 2014. Six autres dossiers ont été renvoyés au parquet en vue de l’ouverture d’une enquête criminelle, après un processus de vérification initial.

Ces procédures internes n’inspirent guère confiance. En septembre, deux ONG israéliennes, B’Tselem et Yesh Din, ont annoncé qu’elles cessaient toute coopération avec le parquet. Les résultats des investigations antérieures les ont convaincues. Après la guerre de 2008-2009 dans la bande de Gaza (près de 1 400 Palestiniens tués), 52 enquêtes avaient été ouvertes. La sentence la plus sévère – quinze mois de prison dont la moitié avec sursis – concerna un soldat coupable du vol d’une carte de crédit. Après l’opération « Pilier de défense », en novembre 2012 (167 Palestiniens tués), une commission interne a été mise en place, mais aucune enquête ouverte. Le comportement de l’armée fut jugé « professionnel ».

Voir par ailleurs:

“Good Kill”, ce film digne qu’Eastwood n’a pas signé

Aurélien Ferenczi
Cinécure

24/02/2015

L’unique statuette ramassée l’autre nuit par American Sniper, le dernier Clint Eastwood, a valeur de symbole : l’Oscar du meilleur montage son est allé comme une médaille du courage aux deux types qui ont passé de longues semaines à recueillir, puis à caler sur les images du film des bruits de fusils d’assaut, mitraillettes, fusils de chasse, lance-roquettes, grenades, etc. Des techniciens à l’ouïe fine, sans doute capables de différencier le son d’une balle amie à celui d’une balle ennemie…

Mais ce sont aussi les petits malins responsables (sous les ordres de Papy Clint) de la première faute de goût du film, impardonnable péché originel : dès la première seconde de projection, sur le logo de la Warner (pas encore passée sous contrôle qatari pourtant), une voix psalmodie « Allah Akbar ». Une prière qui ouvre clairement les hostilités, dit à qui on aura affaire, jouerait presque à faire peur. Pas très digne, vraiment…

American Sniper cartonne des deux côtés de l’Atlantique (plus d’un million de spectateurs en France au terme de sa première semaine d’exploitation) : les « eastwoodiens » de longue date s’en félicitent (à tous lessens du mot), sans s’apercevoir que c’est l’un des films les plus faibles de leur auteur-fétiche. Outre les libertés bien commodes qu’il prend avec la vraie biographie de Chris Kyle (un type assez malin pour penser que des séances de tir sont le meilleur remède au syndrome post-traumatique des soldats éclopés), le scénario alterne mécaniquement scènes de guerre banales – moins spectaculaires que celles de La Chute du Faucon noir, par exemple – et vie de famille troublée, montrée avec une finesse éléphantesque. Exemple : Intérieur jour. Chris Kyle est assis dans son fauteuil, inerte. La télévision est éteinte, mais il entend des rafales d’armes automatiques (merci les monteurs son). C’est comme s’il était encore à la guerre… Non, vraiment ? Difficile de reconnaître l’auteur de Josey Wales dans ces gros sabots bellicistes.

Eastwood parachute un héros américain dans une époque où le manichéisme n’est plus possible. Chacun sait qu’il n’y a plus de guerre propre et que le défi « à l’ancienne » que s’impose le héros eastwoodien – avoir la peau du sniper adverse, et puis rentrer chez lui – est pure fiction. L’impossibilité de l’héroïsme est au cœur d’un autre film sur les conflits d’aujourd’hui, qui sonne autrement juste. Good Kill, d’Andrew Niccol (le réalisateur de Bienvenue à Gattaca et Lord of War), qui sortira en France le 22 avril, raconte la guerre d’un type qui tue de très loin. Un ancien pilote de chasse de l’US Air force, désormais aux commandes de drones qu’il dirige à des milliers de kilomètres de distance.

Il agit depuis sa base de Las Vegas, au sein de petites cabines frappées d’extra-territorialité, des habitacles immobiles comme ceux des jeux vidéos, et il appuie sur le lance-roquettes quand les cibles se précisent. Quelles cibles ? C’est le problème, a fortiori quand la CIA s’en mêle, réquisitionnant les unités d’élite de l’armée pour éliminer des suspects : les drones survolent par exemple le Waziristan, au nord-ouest du Pakistan, et il faut obéir aux ordres, imaginer que ces villageois réunis sont bien des terroristes en puissance, et les éliminer, tant pis si des femmes ou des enfants sont dans la zone de tir.

Implacable et documenté, Good kill décrit avec précision les pratiques de l’armée américaine : par exemple, le principe de la double frappe. Vous éliminez d’un missile un foyer de présumés terroristes, mais vous frappez dans les minutes qui suivent au même endroit pour éliminer ceux qui viennent les secourir, et tant pis si ce sont clairement des civils. L’un des sommets du film est le récit d’une opération visant l’enterrement d’ennemis tués plus tôt dans la journée, la barbarie à son maximum – et on est sûr que Andrew Niccol, scénariste et réalisateur, n’a rien inventé. Bien sûr, à tuer quasiment à l’aveugle, ou sur la foi de renseignements invérifiables, on crée une situation de guerre permanente, et on fabrique les adversaires que l’on éliminera plus tard.

Le personnage joué par Ethan Hawke, avec autrement d’intensité que la bonhomie irresponsable de Bradley Cooper chez Eastwood, peut difficilement ne pas être traversé d’un trouble terrible – a fortiori en retrouvant sa femme et ses enfants le soir chez lui, juste après avoir détruit des familles dans la journée.

Good Kill est un film important parce qu’il montre pour la première fois le vrai visage des guerres modernes, et à quel point ont disparu les notions de patriotisme et d’héroïsme – que risque ce combattant plaqué à part de se détruire lui-même ? C’est aussi un réquisitoire courageux contre l’american way of life, symbolisée ici par Las Vegas, ville sans âme que les personnages traversent sur leur chemin entre base militaire et pavillon sinistre. Ce n’est pas un film d’anticipation. L’horreur que l’on fait subir aux victimes et, en un sens, à leurs bourreaux, c’est ici et maintenant. Une sale guerre, un sale monde.

Voir aussi:

Good Kill », un film édifiant sur l’utilisation des drones
Nicolas Schaller

L’Obs
26-04-2015
« Good Kill », c’est l’anti-« American Sniper ». Rencontre avec son réalisateur, Andrew Niccol

L’OBS. « Good Kill » suit un pilote de l’U.S. Air Force, interprété par Ethan Hawke, qui pilote des drones et bombarde le Moyen-Orient depuis une base de Las Vegas, à plus de 10.000 km.

Andrew Niccol. Tout ce que vous voyez dans le film est réel. L’utilisation militaire des drones a commencé après le 11-Septembre et n’a jamais cessé depuis. Les Républicains comme les Démocrates y sont favorables. Cela leur évite d’envoyer des soldats dans la zone de conflit. Les stations de contrôle des drones sont à l’intérieur de remorques. Avant, ces remorques étaient emmenées sur place par hélicoptère. Puis ils se sont rendu compte qu’ils n’avaient pas besoin d’y être. « Good Kill » se déroule en 2010, année où les frappes de drones ont atteint des proportions jamais connues.

Une manière de dire aux familles : « nous n’envoyons pas vos enfants là-bas ».

– C’est sans danger. On ne voit pas revenir de cercueils.

En revanche, les morts de l’autre côté sont hasardeuses.

– Les drones sont très précis. Si vous voulez détruire tel immeuble, vous l’aurez sans problème. Reste à savoir si c’est le bon. Trois jours après son accession au pouvoir, Obama a ordonné une frappe sur un repaire taliban. Qui s’est avéré ne pas en être un. Neuf civils sont morts. Au moment où on tournait, l’armée américaine a accidentellement bombardé une cérémonie de mariage au Yémen. On en a à peine parlé aux infos. Ce n’était pas le premier mariage pris pour cible par erreur. Là-bas, la tradition veut que l’on tire des coups de feu durant la fête et il est arrivé à plusieurs reprises que les Américains prennent ça pour des attaques.

Avez-vous bénéficié du concours de l’armée américaine ?

– Non. Le film raconte une vérité trop dérangeante. Mais j’ai pu parler à d’ex-pilotes de drones tels que Brandon Bryant…

… lequel a déclaré dans les médias américains avoir tué plus de 1600 personnes. Cela n’a choqué personne ?

– Pas vraiment. Les Etats-Unis sont le seul pays où la guerre menée par drones est plus populaire que l’inverse. WikiLeaks m’a été très précieux : c’est le seul moyen de voir des images de frappes de drones. Grâce à Chelsea Manning [ex-analyste militaire condamnée en 2013 à 35 ans de prison pour avoir divulguer des documents classés Secret Défense, ndlr].

« Good Kill » se focalise sur les missions confidentielles menées par l’armée sous le commandement de la C.I.A.

– Je n’ai rien inventé. Comme on le voit dans mon film, l’armée américaine a délibérément bombardé un enterrement. La CIA ne fait plus dans l’espionnage mais dans l’assassinat. Depuis le 11 septembre et la guerre contre le terrorisme, tout lui est permis. Mais comme elle n’a pas de pilotes, elle doit faire appel à l’armée. Bien sûr, l’assassinat est illégal aux Etats-Unis. Sauf qu’ils emploient des termes différents. Ils ont mis au point tout un lexique qui ferait bien rire George Orwell. Ils parlent d’ « auto-défense préventive ». Comme dans « Minority Report » : on tue le coupable présumé avant qu’il n’ait agi ! Il y a aussi la « frappe signature » qui consiste à tirer sur tout un groupe de gens dont vous ne connaissez pas forcément l’identité. Ils justifient cela par l’idée de « proportionalité ». Traduction : il est si important d’éliminer la personne ciblée que peu importe si on tue les types d’à côté. Et puis d’ailleurs, que font-ils là ? S’ils ne sont pas loin d’un terroriste, c’est qu’ils ne doivent pas être innocents.

On imagine les répercussions au Moyen Orient.

– Dans le film, j’ai choisi de ne montrer que le point de vue du drone, si j’ose dire, car c’est le seul à la portée du pilote qu’interprète Ethan Hawke. Une chose m’a marqué : aujourd’hui, les habitants des pays du Moyen-Orient où l’Amérique est en guerre détestent le ciel bleu. Ils sont heureux quand la météo se couvre : cela signifie que les drones ne peuvent pas voler. Cette guerre est une usine à terroristes. A chaque innocent qu’elle tue, l’armée américaine crée dix nouveaux terroristes.

Il est dit dans le film que la console de jeu X-Box a servi de modèle pour les drones. Vrai ?

– Oui, l’armée s’en est inspirée pour concevoir les joysticks de téléguidage. Elle ne veut plus de vrais pilotes, elle les embauche dans les salles d’arcades des centres commerciaux. Comme ce sont des civils, ils n’ont pas le droit d’actionner la bombe. Un officier doit être là pour appuyer sur le bouton de tir. Il y a une chose que je n’ai pas mise dans le film car cela n’aurait pas eu l’air crédible et pourtant, c’est vrai : des jeunes pilotes de drones m’ont raconté qu’après leur journée à tuer des talibans de derrière leur joystick, ils rentraient chez eux et jouaient aux jeux vidéo !

On imagine que la guerre menée avec des drones est moins onéreuse ?

– Un tir de drone coûte 68.000 $. C’est bien moins cher qu’un tir de jet. Un drone est très lent mais il peut tenir en l’air 24 heures d’affilée. On en produit davantage aujourd’hui que des jets. Et bientôt, il y aura des drones-jets. Le personnage d’Ethan Hawke souffre de ça. Il a grandi avec l’image de « Top Gun », rêvait d’être Tom Cruise dans le film et voilà à quoi il en est réduit.

Le syndrome de stress post-traumatique dont il souffre est très particulier.

– Parce qu’aucun soldat n’avait vécu cela jusqu’ici. Avant, on se rendait dans le pays avec lequel on était en conflit. Aujourd’hui, plus besoin : la guerre est télécommandée. Avant, le pilote prenait son jet, lâchait une bombe et rentrait. Aujourd’hui, il lâche sa bombe, attend dans son fauteuil et compte le nombre de morts. Il passe douze heures à tuer des talibans avant d’aller chercher ses enfants à l’école.

« J’ai tué six talibans cet après-midi et là, je rentre chez moi préparer un barbecue », dit le personnage d’Ethan Hawke à l’épicier auquel il achète sa bouteille de vodka quotidienne.

– Et le type croit qu’il blague. Le fait que les pilotes soient basés près du clinquant Las Vegas est obscène. Vous savez pourquoi ils ont choisi cette zone ?Parce que le paysage et les montagnes alentour ressemblent à ceux d’Afghanistan. Cela facilite l’entraînement.

L’héroïsme, la famille, le fantasme d’une Amérique gendarme du monde… « Good Kill » traite des mêmes sujets qu’ « American Sniper ». Jusqu’à sa fin ambiguë. Est-ce la version démocrate du film de Clint Eastwood ?

– Même pas : Obama est démocrate. Et l’emploi des drones a augmenté depuis qu’il est au pouvoir. Mon film parle de l’ »American sniper » ultime. J’ai juste tenté d’être honnête vis-à-vis du sujet. De montrer les choses telles qu’elles sont sans imposer une manière de penser. Il serait naïf de dire « je suis anti-drone ». Ce serait comme dire « je suis anti-internet ». Mais avec cette technologie, la guerre peut être infinie. Le jour où l’armée américaine quittera le Moyen-Orient, les drones, eux, y resteront.

Qu’avez-vous pensé d’ « American Sniper » ?

– J’ai pour règle de ne jamais m’exprimer sur les films des autres, mais son succès m’a un peu surpris. En fait, il est tombé pile au bon moment et a permis aux Américains de se sentir mieux vis-à-vis d’eux-mêmes. Mon « sniper » est très différent. Ce qui m’intéresse chez lui, c’est sa schizophrénie. L’état-major américain était sur le point d’attribuer une médaille à certains pilotes de drones. Cela a soulevé un tel tollé de la part des vrais pilotes qu’ils ont abandonné l’idée. Ces médailles sont censées célébrer les valeurs et le courage. Comment les décerner à des types qui tuent sans courir le moindre danger ?

Je crains que « Good Kill » ne rencontre pas le même succès qu’ « American Sniper » aux Etats-Unis.

– Je n’en doute pas.

Votre film est moins roublard que celui d’Eastwood.

– Et c’est une petite compagnie indépendante qui le sort, pas la Warner.

Avez-vous utilisé de vrais drones lors du tournage ?

– On peut effectuer des prises de vue aériennes à l’aide de drones mais, étrangement, ils sont trop petits et pas assez stables pour soutenir une caméra de cinéma. J’ai donc utilisé un hélicoptère ainsi qu’une grue de 60 mètres en balançant légèrement la caméra pour donner l’impression qu’elle vole. J’ai aussi pas mal filmé les scènes extérieures au conflit, celles de la vie quotidienne du personnage à Las Vegas, d’un point de vue culminant, pour créer une continuité et un sentiment de paranoïa. Comme si un drone le suivait en permanence. Ou le point de vue de Dieu.

Salle de contrôle (Voltage Pictures / Sobini films)

« Truman Show », « S1m0ne », « Lord of War » : dans tous vos films, les hommes sont prisonniers de la technologie…

– L’interaction entre les humains et la technologie me passionne.

… Et un individu se retrouve doté du pouvoir d’un dieu.

– Dans « Bienvenue à Gattaca » aussi : la manipulation génétique, c’est jouer à être Dieu. J’ai toujours vu le personnage de Nicolas Cage dans « Lord of War » comme quelqu’un d’invincible. Je l’imaginais traversant un champ de bataille sans baisser la tête, inatteignable. C’est sa malédiction.

Vous aimez gratter les sujets qui fâchent ?

– Je suis sur la « watch list » des autorités américaines depuis « Lord of War ».

Comment le savez-vous ?

– Le FBI m’a rendu visite pour savoir pourquoi j’avais fait jouer un vrai trafiquant d’armes dans le film. Parce que le seul moyen d’obtenir un avion-cargo russe en Afrique est de passer par un trafiquant d’armes. Celui que l’on voit dans « Lord of War » transportait de vraies armes au Congo une semaine avant qu’on le filme rempli de fausses armes. L’équipage russe se foutait de moi en me disant : « Pourquoi t’es pas venu la semaine dernière, on t’en aurait filées des vraies ». Vous vous souvenez du plan avec tous les tanks ? Les cinquante ont été vendus à Kadhafi un mois plus tard.

Propos recueillis par Nicolas Schaller

Voir de même:

« Good Kill » : au temps des drones, un nouvel art de la guerre
Thomas Sotinel
Le Monde

21.04.2015

L’American Sniper de Clint Eastwood était capable d’abattre sa cible à plusieurs centaines de mètres de distance. Le major Tom Egan peut le faire à des milliers de kilomètres. Le major est un as de l’US Air Force, le descendant des pilotes de biplan de la première guerre mondiale, qui fascinaient les Howard, Hawks et Hughes, des héros que filmait John Ford pendant la bataille de Midway en 1942. Mais la vie de guerrier de Tom Egan n’a rien à voir avec celle de ses ancêtres chevaleresques, qui ne savaient jamais le matin s’ils reverraient un jour leur patrie. Le soir, quand le service est fini, le major du XXIe siècle pousse la porte de l’espèce de container dans lequel il a passé sa journée, marche jusqu’au parking, monte dans sa voiture et regagne la périphérie de Las Vegas, sa maison entourée d’un carré de pelouse aussi verte que le désert est poussiéreux. Tom Egan ne pilote plus d’avions depuis longtemps mais dirige des drones qui survolent l’Afghanistan, le Waziristan, le Yémen, la Somalie pour surveiller et punir les ennemis des Etats-Unis.

Andrew Niccol, le réalisateur de Good Kill, est fasciné par les mutations de l’humanité : l’intervention de la génétique dans la définition des rapports sociaux (Bienvenue à Gattaca), la mondialisation – vue à travers le commerce des armes (Lord of War). Ici, il se lance dans une entreprise presque impossible : la mise en scène de la guerre contemporaine, dont l’asymétrie repose sur la disparition physique de l’une des parties en présence, remplacée par des machines. Comme cette ambition s’accompagne d’un souci très américain d’offrir un spectacle correspondant au prix du billet, Good Kill n’est pas tout à fait le film analytique, froid et fascinant que l’on entrevoit lors des premières séquences.

Elles montrent Tom Egan (Ethan Hawke) abruti d’ennui, devant un écran qui offre des images d’une netteté et d’une platitude presque insupportables. On y voit des cours orientales dans lesquelles des gens sans intérêt vaquent à des occupations triviales. Une fois que le renseignement a assigné à ces silhouettes la qualité d’ennemi, Egan peut faire tomber la foudre sur elles. Ce processus clinique, à l’opposé de la fureur guerrière que chérit le cinéma, trouve sa contrepartie civile dans le paysage synthétique de Las Vegas que traverse le soldat pour rentrer chez lui.

Une volonté d’analyse froide
Ethan Hawke est parfait pour le rôle, trouvant un nouvel emploi à cette faille constitutive qui fait qu’on sait toujours qu’il ne sera pas le héros qu’on attendait. Ici, sa frustration d’ancien combattant de terrain (on suppose qu’il a mitraillé et bombardé en Irak et en Afghanistan) honteux de son travail de bourreau à distance qu’il ressent comme une espèce d’impuissance martiale.

Cette description clinique, photographiée avec un soin maniaque du détail et un refus admirable de l’esthétique habituelle des films situés à Las Vegas, est assez vigoureuse et singulière pour empêcher Good Kill de succomber à ses nombreux défauts. Telles les figures dramatiques usées – les disputes conjugales en écho aux drames guerriers (Ethan Hawke a pour épouse January Jones, qui incarne Betty Draper dans la série « Mad Men ») –, la galerie sommaire de stéréotypes qui entourent le major Egan à la base de l’US Air Force, répartis équitablement entre militaires soucieux de leur honneur et ruffians qui voient des ennemis partout.

Malgré ces maladresses (et une fin qui menace de saper le travail intellectuel qui a précédé), Good Kill reste un film passionnant, soulevant (parfois avec beaucoup de raideur) une bonne part des questions posées par les mutations de l’art de la guerre.

On voit les contrôleurs de drones se soumettre aux ordres des services secrets, on les voit tentés par la toute-puissance que leur confère ce pouvoir de voir et de tuer sans être vus ni menacés. Dans les moments où la mise en scène s’accorde avec cette volonté d’analyse froide, Good Kill devient comme une version réaliste de ce qui reste à ce jour le meilleur film d’Andrew Niccol, le cauchemar futuriste de Bienvenue à Gattaca : le portrait d’un monde dont l’homme a exclu sa propre humanité.
Film américain d’Andrew Niccol avec Ethan Hawke, January Jones, Zoë Kravitz (1 h 42).

Toronto: le drame de drones d’Andrew Niccol

Thomas Sotinel

10 septembre 2014

« Good Kill », c’est l’interjection qu’éructent les pilotes de drones une fois leur objectif détruit. Coincés à l’intérieur d’une espèce de caravane, dans le désert du Nevada, ils contrôlent à distance de petits avions sans pilotes qui frappent sans relâches les ennemis des Etats-Unis, en Afghanistan, au Waziristan, au Yemen. Good Kill, le film, raconte le voyage dans la folie d’un ces pilotes, incarné par Ethan Hawke, qui n’arrive pas à faire le deuil de la guerre, la vraie, celle qui révèle la vérité d’un homme.

Ethan Hawke dans Good Kill, d’Andrew Niccol
Andrew Niccol a présenté son film à la Mostra, comme vous l’avez peut-être lu sur ce site. Je ne partage pas la répulsion de ma camarade vénitienne, au contraire. De Bienvenue à Gattaca en Lord of War, Niccol a toujours mis en scène avec précision l’interaction entre l’homme et les machines qu’il crée. Il est peut-être moins à l’aise lorsqu’il s’agit de filmer les relations entre humains, mais comme l’essentiel de Good Kill est consacré à ces machines invisibles dont les victimes n’apprennent la présence qu’au moment exact de leur mort, ce n’est pas très grave.

Pour l’instant, le film n’a pas trouvé de distributeur en France. En attendant, voici ce que le réalisateur a à en dire.

Qu’est ce qui vous a intéressé dans les drones?

J’étais plus intéressé par le personnage, par cette nouvelle manière de faire la guerre. On n’a jamais demandé à un soldat de faire ça. De combattre douze heures et de rentrer chez lui auprès de sa femme et de ses enfants, il n’y a plus de sas de décompression.

Vous avez imaginé la psychologie de ces pilotes?

J’ai engagé d’anciens pilotes de drones comme consultants, puisque l’armée m’avait refusé sa coopération. J’en aurais bien voulu, ç’aurait été plus facile si on m’avait donné ces équipements, ces installations. J’ai dû les construire.

Vous pensez que ce souci de discrétion, de secret même, fait partie la stratégie d’emploi des drones?

Oui, je me suis souvenu aujourd’hui d’une conférence de presse du général Schwartzkopf pendant la première guerre d’Irak, il avait montré des vidéos en noir et blanc, avec une très mauvaise définition, de frappes de précision et on voyait un motocycliste échapper de justesse à un missile. Il l’avait appelé « l’homme le plus chanceux d’Irak ». On le voit traverser un pont, passer dans la ligne de mire et sortir du champ au moment où le panache de l’explosion éclot. Aujourd’hui on sait qu’il existe une vidéo pour chaque frappe de drone, c’est la procédure. Mais on ne les montre plus comme au temps du général Schwartzkopf. Expliquez-moi pourquoi.

Je préfèrerais que vous le fassiez.

Je vais vous dire pourquoi. Les humains ont tendance à l’empathie – et même si vous êtes mon ennemi, même si vous êtes une mauvaise personne, si je vous regarde mourir, je ressentirai de l’empathie. Ce qui n’est pas bon pour les affaires militaires.

Vous pensez que l’emploi des drones permet de surmonter cet inconvénient?

Je crois que ça a tendance à insensibiliser. On n’entend jamais une explosion, on ne sent jamais le sol se soulever. On est à 10 000 kilomètres.

Il doit y avoir plusieurs bases de pilotages de drones aux Etats-Unis, pourquoi avez vous situé celle du film près de Las Vegas?

L’armée l’a mise là pour des raisons de commodité: les montagnes autour de Las Vegas ressemblent à l’Afghanistan, ce qui permet aux pilotes de drones à l’entraînement de se familiariser avec le terrain. Ils s’exercent aussi à suivre des voitures.

« Good Kill », par Andrew Niccol, en salles actuellement

« The Good Kill » à la Mostra de Venise : le film américain de trop
Isabelle Regnier (Venise, envoyée spéciale)

Le Monde

06.09.2014

(…)

LA QUESTION DES DRONES

Mais il a fallu attendre vendredi 5 septembre pour découvrir, en compétition, le plus problématique des films américains. Très attendu, The Good Kill d’Andrew Niccol (auteur du très élégant Bienvenue à Gattacca, et du plus englué Master of War) promettait d’interroger la question hautement politique et morale des drones, en suivant un ancien pilote de chasse reconverti en pilote à distance de ces machines meurtrières.

Le film est si mauvais qu’on peine à y croire. À partir d’un scénario qui lorgne du côté de la série Homeland (malaise du pilote de guerre de retour dans la vie civile, cynisme de la CIA, suprématie de la raison d’Etat dans la guerre contre le terrorisme…), Andrew Niccol met en scène des personnages sans épaisseur, sans qualité. Enveloppe vide qui tire la gueule du début à la fin du film, celui d’Ethan Hawke est défini par les rasades de vodka qu’il s’envoie en douce dans la salle de bains ; déambulant en robe cocktail et talons aiguilles dans son pavillon de la banlieue de Las Vegas comme si elle n’était pas tout à fait sortie de la série Mad Men, sa femme, interprétée par l’actrice January Jones, répète en boucle la même réplique : « tu as l’air d’être à des kilomètres… » ; quant à la jeune Zoe Kravitz, qui restera peut-être dans l’histoire comme la femme officier la plus sexy de toute l’histoire de l’armée, elle s’adonne, faute d’avoir plus intéressant à faire, à un festival de moues boudeuses qui pourrait lui valoir un prix dans un festival un peu en pointe. Le reste – monologues didactiques sur l’enjeu militaire et moral des drones, dialogues téléphonés, blagues pas drôles, musique de bourrin – est à l’avenant.

CRITIQUE COSMÉTIQUE

Ce qui pose vraiment problème n’est toutefois pas d’ordre artistique, mais politique. Paré des oripeaux de la fiction de gauche, The Good Kill s’inscrit pleinement (comme le faisait la troisième saison de « Homeland ») dans le paradigme de la guerre contre le terrorisme telle que la conduisent les Etats-Unis depuis le 11 septembre 2001. Les Afghans ne sont jamais représentés autrement que sous la forme des petites silhouettes noires mal définies, évoluant erratiquement sur l’écran des pilotes de drones qui les surveillent. La seule action véritablement lisible se déroule dans la cour d’une maison, où l’on voit, à plusieurs reprises, un barbu frapper sa femme et la violer. C’est l’argument imparable, tranquillement anti-islamiste, de la cause des femmes, que les avocats de la guerre contre le terrorisme ont toujours brandi sans vergogne pour mettre un terme au débat.

La critique que fait Andrew Niccol, dans ce contexte, de l’usage des drones ne pouvait qu’être cosmétique. Elle est aussi inepte, confondant les questions d’ordre psychologique (comment se débrouillent des soldats qui rentrent le soir dans leur lit douillet après avoir tué des gens – souvent innocents), et celles qui se posent sur le plan du droit de la guerre (que Grégoire Chamayou a si bien expliqué dans La Théorie du drone, La Fabrique, 2013), dès lors que ces armes autorisent à détruire des vies dans le camp adverse sans plus en mettre aucune en péril dans le sien. Si l’ancien pilote de chasse ne va pas bien, explique-t-il à sa femme, ce n’est pas parce qu’il tue des innocents, ce qu’il a toujours fait, c’est qu’il les tue sans danger.

RÉDEMPTION AHURISSANTE

Pour remédier à son état, s’offre une des rédemptions les plus ahurissantes qu’il ait été donné à voir depuis longtemps au cinéma. S’improvisant bras armé d’une justice totalement aveugle, il dégomme en un clic le violeur honni, rendant à sa femme, après un léger petit suspense, ce qu’il imagine être sa liberté. La conscience lavée, le pilote peut repartir le cœur léger, retrouver sa famille et oublier toutes celles, au loin, qu’il a assassinées pour la bonne cause.

Good Kill
Thriller réalisé en 2014 par Andrew Niccol
Avec Ethan Hawke , Stafford Douglas , Michael Sheets …
Date de sortie : 22 avril 2015

Good Kill – Bande Annonce VOST
SYNOPSIS
Le commandant Tom Egan est un ancien pilote de chasse de l’US Army qui, après de nombreuses missions sur le terrain, se retrouve en service dans une petite base du Nevada où il s’est reconverti en pilote de drones, des machines meurtrières guidées à distance. Derrière sa télécommande Tom opère ses missions douze heures par jour : surveillance des terrains à risque, protection des troupes et exécution des cibles terroristes. Mais de retour chez lui, ses relations avec sa famille sont exécrables. Progressivement confronté à des problèmes de conscience, Tom remet bientôt sa mission en question…

LA CRITIQUE LORS DE LA SORTIE EN SALLE DU 22/04/2015

Pour

Un héros américain déchu : pilote de chasse, le commandant Tommy Egan ne fait plus voler que des drones. Enfermé dans un conteneur banalisé, sur une base militaire près de Las Vegas, son écran de contrôle lui montre la Terre, quelque part au Moyen-Orient, filmée de si haut qu’elle en devient presque abstraite. Mais pas pour lui. On lui ­désigne des cibles à bombarder, il voit des humains qu’il doit détruire. Et ça le détruit, comme l’alcool dont il abuse… Il est beau, ce personnage, cet oiseau blessé interprété par Ethan Hawke avec un désenchantement fiévreux digne de Montgomery Clift. Pour mener la guerre d’aujourd’hui, technologique et furtive, il faudrait que le commandant Egan devienne lui-même une machine. Au lieu de quoi, il résiste, pense, souffre. Le film trouve là une dimension mentale séduisante et pleine de tension. Car les états d’âme du militaire surgissent dans une réalité qui semble simplifiée, géométrique, comme les maisons du lotissement où il vit avec sa famille.

La superbe mise en scène d’Andrew Niccol donne toute sa complexité au personnage. Filmé à plusieurs reprises avec un crucifix derrière lui, accroché au mur de la chambre à coucher, il est désigné comme un croyant possible. En tout cas, un homme honnête qui veut rester fidèle à sa femme — alors que tout le pousse vers une charmante collègue — et à son idée du bien. Les autres pilotes de drones, après avoir fait feu, s’exclament « Good kill ! » (« en plein dans le mille ! »). Pour lui, cette logique entre le « good » et le « kill » soulève des interrogations morales. Nobles, assurément, mais qui, dans ce monde explosif et martial, passent par la violence. La guerre, c’est ça. — Frédéric Strauss

Contre

La guerre moderne qui transforme les soldats en snipers de jeux vidéo : un sujet en or pour le réalisateur de Bienvenue à Gattaca et Lord of war. Hélas, Andrew Niccol accumule les archétypes : l’ancien pilote, partagé entre le devoir et la cul­pabilité, sa collègue féminine qui verse une larme en gros plan en appuyant sur le bouton de la mort, le ­supérieur galonné qui débite des discours lourdement explicatifs… Dans American Sniper, Clint Eastwood filmait un homme formé à obéir et à tuer sans chercher à définir ce qu’est un « bon » ou un « mauvais » soldat. Andrew Niccol, lui, s’arroge ce droit et plonge dans la complaisance. Pendant tout le film, il prépare le terrain, il montre plusieurs fois, sur l’écran de contrôle, un salaud, un violeur, la pire des ordures. Enfin une cible que le sniper pourra dégommer sans remords — depuis son scénario du Truman Show, il n’a qu’une obsession : l’homme qui se prend pour Dieu. Mais à aucun moment, ici, il ne condamne le geste de ce soldat qui, à force d’exercer le droit de vie et de mort à distance, se change en justicier. Le film réquisitoire contre la sale guerre devient, dès lors, un thriller qui crée le malaise et met en rage. — Guillemette Odicino

Frédéric Strauss;Guillemette Odicino

Ethan Hawke et Andrew Niccol
« Good Kill », une drone de guerre
Ethan et Andrew posent pour Paris Match. © Patrick Fouque
Le 23 avril 2015 | Mise à jour le 23 avril 2015
Christine Haas

Dans «Good Kill», tuer à distance provoque des dégâts qui n’ont rien de virtuel…

«Good Kill ! » est la phrase glaçante que prononce le pilote de drone en atteignant sa cible quelque part en Afghanistan, à 11 000 kilomètres de la base militaire de Las Vegas où il « combat » douze heures par jour, installé dans un compartiment climatisé. Semblable à l’œil de Dieu, sa caméra voit tout lorsqu’elle descend du ciel : la femme qui se fait violer par un taliban sans qu’il puisse intervenir, les marines dont il assure la sécurité durant leur sommeil, mais aussi l’enfant qui surgit à vélo là où il vient d’envoyer son missile…

Face à cette inconfortable vérité, l’armée américaine n’a pas soutenu le projet du subversif Andrew Niccol, qui avait déjà agacé avec sa leçon de géopolitique dans « Lord of War ». Pour son scénario, le cinéaste s’est nourri des conseils d’anciens pilotes de drone. « Je voulais montrer que plus on progresse technologiquement, plus on régresse humainement, explique-t-il. Derrière sa télécommande, le pilote n’entend rien, ne sent pas le sol trembler, ne respire pas l’odeur de brûlé… Il fait exploser des pixels sans jamais être dans le concret de la chair et du sang. »

Dans cet univers orwellien où toutes sortes d’euphémismes – « neutraliser », « incapaciter », « effacer » – sont utilisés pour éviter de prononcer le mot « tuer », le décalage entre la réalité et le virtuel prend encore plus de sens quand on apprend que les très jeunes pilotes de drone sont repérés dans les arcades de jeux vidéo. D’autres, comme l’ancien pilote de chasse interprété par Ethan Hawke, culpabilisent d’être si loin du danger. « Il combat les talibans tout l’après-midi, explique l’acteur, puis il rentre chez lui, passe la soirée en famille et, le lendemain matin, retourne faire la guerre. Sa psychose traumatique s’accentue lorsqu’il se demande si l’Amérique ne suscite pas plus le terrorisme qu’elle ne l’éradique. C’est la triste possibilité d’une guerre sans fin qui semble se dessiner… »

«Good Kill», en salle actuellement.

Voir encore:

« Good Kill », les drones noyés sous le pathos
Andrew Niccol fait mine de s’attaquer aux questions posées par la suprématie technologique de l’armée américaine, mais déçoit avec un film caricatural.
La Croix
21/4/15

GOOD KILL

d’Andrew Niccol Film américain, 1 h 42

Présenté lors de la dernière Mostra de Venise, au mois de septembre 2014, Good Kill avait, sur le papier, de quoi retenir l’attention. D’abord pour son thème – l’utilisation massive de drones par l’armée américaine –, encore très peu exploité par le cinéma hollywoodien.

Ensuite pour la personnalité de son réalisateur, Andrew Niccol, scénariste de The Truman Show à ses débuts, à qui l’on doit un film d’anticipation très réussi, Bienvenue à Gattaca (1998), mais aussi Simone (2002), Lord of War (2005), Les Ames Vagabondes (2013)…

Autant de longs-métrages qui, s’ils ne révèlent pas à toute force la personnalité d’un auteur, proposent de réfléchir par-delà le simple divertissement. Dans le cas présent, il faut hélas déchanter.

Voici donc l’histoire du commandant Tommy Egan (Ethan Hawke), pilote de chasse de l’armée de l’air américaine, affecté au guidage de drones en attendant de retrouver une affectation digne de son rang. Depuis sa base située dans les environs de Las Vegas, avec des horaires de fonctionnaire, il traque les Talibans afghans à l’aide de ces aéronefs sans équipage, concentrés de technologies censés permettre des « frappes chirurgicales ».

Supportant mal de délivrer la mort sans être lui-même engagé physiquement, Tommy Egan vit des heures d’autant plus difficiles que les services secrets américains s’immiscent souvent dans son travail, désignant des cibles sans donner de raisons et faisant peu de cas des éventuels dommages collatéraux.

Le questionnement moral du soldat se trouve décuplé par la toute-puissance et l’omniscience dont il semble jouir derrière ses manettes. Son malaise, son impuissance à agir, l’incitent à se transformer en justicier solitaire, en dépit de sa hiérarchie et des procédures d’encadrement existantes.

Un scénario caricatural

Good Kill ne fait pas longtemps illusion : si le sujet autorisait une réflexion intéressante sur la guerre technologique, ses risques et limites, le scénario se charge de la caricaturer et de l’étouffer sous une épaisse couche de pathos.

Le pilote de drone cache ses bouteilles de vodka et, incapable de s’extraire de ses obsessions, voit son couple et sa famille se déliter sous ses yeux. Sempiternelle rengaine. Hollywood, dont on connaît la capacité à s’emparer du réel, donne ici plutôt l’impression de faire du vieux avec du neuf. La portée critique du film s’en trouve considérablement réduite.

Voir enfin:

«Charlie Hebdo»: un chef d’al-Qaïda tué par un drone au Yémen
RFI
07-05-2015

Nasser bin Ali al-Ansi avait revendiqué l’attentat de «Charlie Hebdo» en janvier 2015. AFP PHOTO / HANDOUT / SITE Intelligence Group
Un haut responsable d’al-Qaïda dans la péninsule arabique (Aqpa) a été tué par un tir de drone américain au Yémen. L’information est donnée par l’organisation elle-même, selon le centre américain de surveillance des sites islamistes. Nasser al-Ansi est connu pour avoir revendiqué l’attaque contre Charlie Hebdo, le 7 janvier dernier en France.

Nasser al-Ansi, stratège militaire du réseau extrémiste, était apparu dans plusieurs vidéos d’Aqpa. C’est lui qui, le 14 janvier, affirmait que son groupe avait mené, par l’intermédiaire des frères Kouachi, la tuerie de Charlie Hebdo une semaine plus tôt, pour « venger » Mahomet, caricaturé par le journal satirique français. L’homme est aussi connu pour ses discours faisant l’apologie des attaques en Europe et aux Etats-Unis. Il avait rendu Barack Obama responsable de la mort de deux otages occidentaux que son groupe détenait, lors d’une tentative de libération.

La mort d’Ansi a été annoncée par un responsable d’Aqpa, Abou al-Miqdad al-Kindi dans une vidéo diffusée sur Twitter, selon SITE. Le centre américain de surveillance des sites islamistes précise que « selon des informations de presse, Ansi a été tué par un raid de drone à Moukalla, une ville du gouvernorat du Hadramout au Yémen, en avril avec son fils et six autres combattants ». Le Pentagone, comme à l’habitude, n’a pas souhaité commenter ces informations.

Selon une biographie fournie en novembre 2014 par Aqpa, Nasser ben Ali al-Ansi est né en octobre 1975 à Taëz, au Yémen. Il a participé au « jihad » en Bosnie en 1995, avant de retourner au Yémen puis de se rendre au Cachemire et en Afghanistan. Il avait rencontré Oussama ben Laden qui l’avait chargé de questions administratives, avant de participer à davantage de camps d’entraînement où il avait excellé. Il a été emprisonné six mois au Yémen puis avait rejoint Aqpa en 2011.

Sa mort, pour laquelle Washington offrait une récompense de cinq millions de dollars, est un coup réel porté à l’organisation, qui a profité de la guerre civile au Yémen pour reprendre des positions. Cela signifie aussi que le Pentagone a continué de recevoir des informations en provenance de ce pays malgré la crise, et le retrait de ses marines.


Doctrine Obama: C’est la coolitude, imbécile ! (A paradoxical fusion of submission and subversion: After six years of a celebrity president, is your life any better ?)

4 mai, 2015
 https://buzzword101celebritynews.files.wordpress.com/2008/07/barackebony.jpg?w=450https://i1.wp.com/fc03.deviantart.net/fs39/f/2008/342/5/7/Barack_Obama___Keep_It_Cool_by_TheIronLion.pnghttps://i1.wp.com/static.businessinsider.com/image/50980273eab8ea0f08000012/image.jpgBarack Obama, dans son bureau à la Maison blanche, le 4 septembre 2013.

https://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/62/Timeline_of_cool.svg/450px-Timeline_of_cool.svg.png
https://i2.wp.com/www.thebureauinvestigates.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/All-Totals-Dash54.jpg

Les frères Jonas sont ici ; ils sont là quelque part. Sasha et Malia sont de grandes fans. Mais les gars, allez pas vous faire des idées. J’ai deux mots pour vous: « predator drones ». Vous les verrez même pas venir. Vous croyez que je plaisante, hein ? Barack Obama (2010)

 Oh ! CNN, merci beaucoup pour l’excellente couverture du virus Ebola. Pendant deux longues semaines on était à un doigt d’être dans Walking Dead « . Le traducteur en colère enchaîne en hurlant « vous n’avez pas Ebola ! Barack Obama (2015)
Les drones américains ont liquidé plus de monde que le nombre total des détenus de Guantanamo. Pouvons nous être certains qu’il n’y avait parmi eux aucun cas d’erreurs sur la personne ou de morts innocentes ? Les prisonniers de Guantanamo avaient au moins une chance d’établir leur identité, d’être examinés par un Comité de surveillance et, dans la plupart des cas, d’être relâchés. Ceux qui restent à Guantanamo ont été contrôlés et, finalement, devront faire face à une forme quelconque de procédure judiciaire. Ceux qui ont été tués par des frappes de drones, quels qu’ils aient été, ont disparu. Un point c’est tout. Kurt Volker
Il y a quatre ans, l’Amérique a élu la plus grande célébrité du monde.  Et l’Amérique a effectivement un président cool. Mais après quatre années avec un président célèbre 1 diplômé sur 2 est sans emploi ou sous-employés. 85% d’entre eux sont retournés vivre chez leur parents. Les dettes des étudiants dépassent un milliard de milliards de dollars. Après quatre années avec un président célèbre, avez-vous une vie meilleure ?  Spot de campagne républicain (2012)
To be sure, Obama’s communication skills remain one of his biggest strengths. They did much, after all, to get him elected in 2008 on the basis of pretty thin résumé, and it is natural to think they will serve him well again this year. As with all valuable resources, though, they need husbanding carefully. If Obama isn’t careful, his opponent could conceivably turn his in-jokes and dazzling hipness against him. (…) The essence of being hip, after all, is that you operate on a more refined plane than most people: you are more fashionable, more discerning, and more discriminating than the average boob. For a President who is already viewed by some Americans as an out-of-touch élitist, this isn’t necessarily the sort of image you want to cultivate—especially during a prolonged economic downturn.(…) When you are pitching a former Mormon bishop who uses the diction of a nineteen-fifties preppy, you cannot really hope to compete for the votes of hipsters with a slim groover who uses the word “man” without any irony. (Obama to Newt: “There’s still time, man.”) But as a diligent campaign consultant, you can try to present the other candidate as an out-of-touch élitist who doesn’t understand the concerns of ordinary (read “white”) folks out there in middle America (…) For all his smarts, he needs to be a bit careful. Americans like having a funny, articulate, and modern President. But they don’t want somebody who is too cool for school. New Yorker (April 2012)
«Propagande», «agence TASS», «si Poutine faisait ça…» Barack Obama est habitué aux lazzis des républicains les plus conservateurs, qui lui reprochent des penchants « socialistes », version soviétique. Mais ces derniers jours, les accusations d’autoritarisme visant l’exécutif américain viennent d’un groupe d’habitude moins enclin aux coups de sang: les organisations de presse, fédérées par la centenaire Association des correspondants à la Maison Blanche (WHCA). Jeudi 21 novembre, la WHCA et des dizaines de médias, dont l’Agence France-Presse, ont envoyé une lettre d’une fermeté sans précédent à Jay Carney, le porte-parole de la Maison Blanche, pour protester contre le contrôle de l’information par l’administration démocrate. Le motif de ce courroux ? Le sentiment, nourri par de nombreux exemples depuis cinq ans, de ne pas bénéficier de la « transparence » médiatique promise par le président lors de sa campagne électorale de 2007-2008. Les reporters de presse écrite et photographes notent même une régression par rapport au précédent locataire de la résidence exécutive, George W. Bush. Le républicain a en effet laissé dans la salle de presse le souvenir d’un dirigeant prêt à se soumettre de bonne grâce aux sollicitations des médias. (…) En effet, le problème aux yeux des photographes de presse n’est pas que la Maison Blanche de Barack Obama soit avare d’images, ou les manipule comme à la grande époque des procès de Moscou, quand d’anciens responsables tombés en disgrâce disparaissaient de la tribune sur la place Rouge. La stratégie de la présidence américaine est plutôt de jouer à saute-mouton avec les médias classiques et d’investir tous les médias sociaux, de Twitter à Facebook en passant par Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube et Flickr, des sites régulièrement alimentés en images et en vidéos par une armée de communicants. Le caractère immédiat des photos de Souza, et leur qualité technique impeccable, font parfois oublier au grand public qu’elles sont partie intégrante de la communication présidentielle. Sur Twitter, où le photographe est suivi par près de 100.000 personnes, elles obtiennent des centaines de «retweets» en quelques minutes, tandis que les «like» se comptent par milliers sur la page Facebook d’Obama, «aimée» par 37 millions de personnes. Toutefois, préviennent la WHCA et l’association des photographes de presse de la Maison Blanche (WHNPA), il faut prendre ces photos pour ce qu’elles sont: ni plus ni moins que des «communiqués de presse visuels». Tangi Quemener
Tout le monde craque sur les incroyables photos de Pete Souza, fameux photographe officiel de la Maison Blanche. Il publie chaque jours plusieurs clichés du président Obama. Souvent insolites, touchants, d’une qualité et d’un cadrage irréprochables, plusieurs sont déjà rentrés dans l’histoire du photo-journalisme en dehors de leur succès populaire. Reste que selon la très sérieuse Association des correspondants à la Maison Blanche (WHCA), il s’agit plutôt d’une machine à communiquer parfaitement huilée, qui n’est pas loin de faire obstruction à la liberté de la presse. «Si Poutine faisait ça…», a même commenté l’un deux.  Tribune de Genève
L’aura de cool absolu qui entoure Barack Obama doit en effet beaucoup –voire tout– à Pete Souza. Le photographe officiel canarde le président américain partout –dans son bureau, dans ses voyages, quand il va embrasser des bébés et manger des hot-dogs– et fournit en instantané sa légende iconographique. Les photos sont mises à disposition du public et des médias par la Maison Blanche, sous une license Creative Commons, pour qu’elles soient mieux partagées. Grâce à Pete Souza, on a l’impression d’être dans la vraie vie de Barack Obama, alors que rien n’est plus construit que ses photos. Slate
The aesthetics of cool developed mainly as a behavioral attitude practiced by black men in the United States at the time of slavery. Slavery made necessary the cultivation of special defense mechanisms which employed emotional detachment and irony. A cool attitude helped slaves and former slaves to cope with exploitation or simply made it possible to walk the streets at night. During slavery, and long afterwards, overt aggression by blacks was punishable by death. Provocation had to remain relatively inoffensive, and any level of serious intent had to be disguised or suppressed. So cool represents a paradoxical fusion of submission and subversion. It’s a classic case of resistance to authority through creativity and innovation. Today the aesthetics of cool represents the most important phenomenon in youth culture. The aesthetic is spread by Hip Hop culture for example, which has become “the center of a mega music and fashion industry around the world” (…). Black aesthetics, whose stylistic, cognitive, and behavioural tropes are largely based on cool-mindedness, has arguably become “the only distinctive American artistic creation” (…). The African American philosopher Cornel West sees the “black-based Hip Hop culture of youth around the world” as a grand example of the “shattering of male, WASP cultural homogeneity” (…). While several recent studies have shown that American brand names have dramatically slipped in their cool quotients worldwide, symbols of black coolness such as Hip Hop remain exportable. However, ‘cool’ does not only refer to a respected aspect of masculine display, it’s also a symptom of anomie, confusion, anxiety, self-gratification and escapism, since being cool can push individuals towards passivity more than towards an active fulfillment of life’s potential. Often “it is more important to be ‘cool and down’ with the peer group than to demonstrate academic achievement,” write White & Cones (…). On the one hand, the message produced by a cool pose fascinates the world because of its inherent mysteriousness. The stylized way of offering resistance that insists more on appearance than on substance can turn cool people into untouchable objects of desire. On the other hand, to be cool can be seen as a decadent attitude leading to individual passivity and social decay. The ambiguity residing in this constellation lends the cool scheme its dynamics, but it also makes its evaluation very difficult. (…) A president is uncool if he clings to absolute power, but becomes cooler as soon as he voluntarily concedes power in order to maintain democratic values. Thorsten Botz-Bornstein
Cool est généralement associé au sang-froid et au contrôle de soi et il est utilisé dans ce sens comme une expression d’approbation ou d’admiration. Cette notion peut aussi être associée à une forme de nonchalance. Wikipedia
There is no single concept of cool. One of the essential characteristics of cool is its mutability—what is considered cool changes over time and varies among cultures and generations. One consistent aspect however, is that cool is wildly seen as positive and desirable. Although there is no single concept of cool, its definitions fall into a few broad categories. The sum and substance of cool is a self-conscious aplomb in overall behavior, which entails a set of specific behavioral characteristics that is firmly anchored in symbology, a set of discernible bodily movements, postures, facial expressions and voice modulations that are acquired and take on strategic social value within the peer context. Cool was once an attitude fostered by rebels and underdogs, such as slaves, prisoners, bikers and political dissidents, etc., for whom open rebellion invited punishment, so it hid defiance behind a wall of ironic detachment, distancing itself from the source of authority rather than directly confronting it. In general, coolness is a positive trait based on the inference that a cultural object (e.g., a person or brand) is autonomous in an appropriate way. That is the person or brand is not constrained by the norms, expectation of beliefs of others. (…) Cool is also an attitude widely adopted by artists and intellectuals, who thereby aided its infiltration into popular culture. Sought by product marketing firms, idealized by teenagers, a shield against racial oppression or political persecution and source of constant cultural innovation, cool has become a global phenomenon that has spread to every corner of the earth. Concepts of cool have existed for centuries in several cultures. In terms of fashion, the concept of “cool” has transformed from the 1960s to the 1990s by becoming integrated in the dominant fabric of culture. America’s mass-production of “ready-to-wear” fashion in the 1940s and ‘50s, established specific conventional outfits as markers of ones fixed social role in society. Subcultures such as the Hippies, felt repressed by the dominating conservative ideology of the 1940s and ‘50s towards conformity and rebelled. (…) Starting in the 1990s and continuing into the 21st century, the concept of dressing cool went out of the minority and into the mainstream culture, making dressing “cool” a dominant ideology. Cool entered the mainstream because those Hippie “rebels” of the late 1960s were now senior executives of business sectors and of the fashion industry. Since they grew up with “cool” and maintained the same values, they knew its rules and thus knew how to accurately market and produce such clothing. However, once “cool” became the dominant ideology in the 21st century its definition changed to not one of rebellion but of one attempting to hide their insecurities in a confident manner. The “fashion-grunge” style of the 1990s and 21st century allowed people who felt financially insecure about their lifestyle to pretend to “fit in” by wearing a unique piece of clothing, but one that was polished beautiful. For example, unlike the Hippie style that clearly diverges from the norm, through Marc Jacobs’ combined “fashion-grunge” style of “a little preppie, a little grunge and a little couture,” he produces not a bold statement one that is mysterious and awkward creating an ambiguous perception of what the wearer’s internal feelings are. While slang terms are usually short-lived coinages and figures of speech, cool is an especially ubiquitous slang word, most notably among young people. As well as being understood throughout the English-speaking world, the word has even entered the vocabulary of several languages other than English. In this sense, cool is used as a general positive epithet or interjection, which can have a range of related adjectival meanings. Wikipedia
Ronald Perry writes that many words and expressions have passed from African-American Vernacular English into Standard English slang including the contemporary meaning of the word « cool. » The definition, as something fashionable, is said to have been popularized in jazz circles by tenor saxophonist Lester Young. This predominantly black jazz scene in the U.S. and among expatriate musicians in Paris helped popularize notions of cool in the U.S. in the 1940s, giving birth to « Bohemian », or beatnik, culture. Shortly thereafter, a style of jazz called cool jazz appeared on the music scene, emphasizing a restrained, laid-back solo style. Notions of cool as an expression of centeredness in a Taoist sense, equilibrium and self-possession, of an absence of conflict are commonly understood in both African and African-American contexts well. Expressions such as, « Don’t let it blow your cool, » later, chill out, and the use of chill as a characterization of inner contentment or restful repose all have their origins in African-American Vernacular English. (…) Among black men in America, coolness, which may have its roots in slavery as an ironic submission and concealed subversion, at times is enacted in order to create a powerful appearance, a type of performance frequently maintained for the sake of a social audience. (…) « Cool pose » may be a factor in discrimination in education contributing to the achievement gaps in test scores. In a 2004 study, researchers found that teachers perceived students with African-American culture-related movement styles, referred to as the « cool pose, » as lower in achievement, higher in aggression, and more likely to need special education services than students with standard movement styles, irrespective of race or other academic indicators. The issue of stereotyping and discrimination with respect to « cool pose » raises complex questions of assimilation and accommodation of different cultural values. Jason W. Osborne identifies « cool pose » as one of the factors in black underachievement. Robin D. G. Kelley criticizes calls for assimilation and sublimation of black culture, including « cool pose. » He argues that media and academics have unfairly demonized these aspects of black culture while, at the same time, through their sustained fascination with blacks as exotic others, appropriated aspects of « cool pose » into the broader popular culture. George Elliott Clarke writes that Malcolm X, like Miles Davis, embodies essential elements of cool. As an icon, Malcolm X inspires a complex mixture of both fear and fascination in broader American culture, much like « cool pose » itself. Wikipedia
When you’re cool, people are pre-disposed to want to be your friend. At least, that’s how it works in youth culture. Romney was the Republican governor of a Democrat state. He got a lot of things done, through compromise. Obama was a Democrat senator – briefly – in a Democrat state. Obama and the Republican-majority U.S. House have been unable to agree on anything for two years. One thing we ought to think about is which candidate can build bridges. If the President can’t work with folks in the other party, it’s likely that no work for the people gets done for another four years. Romney has successfully worked with one of the most partisan Democrat majority state legislatures in the country. Although he promised to build bridges across the aisle, President Obama hasn’t worked well with anyone with an R beside their name. At least on this dimension, it seems to me the choice is clear. Cool is getting everyone on the same page to make life better in America. What do you think? Eddie Settles (septembre 2012)
Les défis auxquels nous sommes confrontés requièrent patience et persistance stratégique. (…) Dans un monde interconnecté, il n’est pas de problème global qui ne puisse être résolu sans les Etats-Unis et peu qui ne puissent être réglés par les Etats-Unis seuls. Rapport de la National Security Strategy (février 2015)
Nous manquons trop souvent d’un sens des perspectives ici à Washington. Nous ne pouvons nous permettre de sombrer dans l’alarmisme à chaque nouveau cycle médiatique. Susan Rice (conseillère nationale à la sécurité d’Obama)
Il est difficile d’établir la ligne stratégique d’Obama dont la présidence s’est largement définie en opposition aux échecs de son prédécesseur. Dès l’introduction, le document se félicite de la reprise de la croissance, la baisse du chômage et de la fin des deux guerres des années Bush : l’Irak et l’Afghanistan. Cependant, certains concepts donnent un éclairage utile sur la façon dont l’administration juge son action internationale jusqu’ici, ou à tout le moins la justifie à posteriori. Il annonce surtout la ligne qui sera celle des deux dernières années de la présidence Obama. (…) Comme l’indique le chercheur Thomas Wright dans une analyse du document, le débat stratégique à Washington sur la nature des menaces auxquelles est confrontée l’Amérique peut aujourd’hui se décliner en deux camps. Un premier camp considère que le système international bâti au lendemain de la Guerre froide est profondément remis en question. C’est notamment la thèse postulée par Henry Kissinger dans son dernier ouvrage, « World Order » mais aussi d’autres analystes comme Robert D. Kaplan (The Revenge of Geography) ou Walter Russel Mead (The Return of Geopolitics). Agression russe contre l’Ukraine, effondrement du système d’Etats-nations au Moyen-Orient, disputes territoriales en Mer de Chine, nucléaire iranien : plutôt qu’une succession de crises isolées, c’est l’ordre international lui même, fondée des normes de droit, de respect de la souveraineté et d’expansion du commerce, appuyé par le leadership américain, qui est menacé dans ses fondements par des puissances révisionnistes. Une deuxième école, dans laquelle s’inscrit le National Security Strategy, prend le contrepied de cette vision : les fondamentaux de l’économie américaine sont bons et les principaux défis sont d’ordre différents, transnationaux, liés aux risques de la globalisation. Ainsi, si « l’agression russe » est condamnée en des termes sans ambiguïtés dans le document, la Russie n’est pas mentionnée parmi les huit menaces stratégiques auxquelles est confrontée l’Amérique : les attaques « catastrophiques » contre le territoire américain, les attaques contre les citoyens américains à l’étranger ou les alliés, la crise économique, la prolifération des armes de destruction massive, les pandémies, le changement climatique, les disruption des marchés de l’énergie et les conséquences sécuritaires des Etats faillis. Fondamentalement, malgré les appels au leadership américain, le texte est emprunt de prudence face à ce que la puissance américaine peut accomplir. (…) Dès lors, le risque principal auquel s’exposerait la diplomatie américaine serait de sur-réagir, de se trouver piégée dans une dynamique de « surextension ». Quand les adversaires de la Maison Blanche dénoncent un président Obama trop réfléchi et hésitant, voire uniquement réactif devant les crises internationales, ses défenseurs plaident qu’il joue le jeu long et résiste à la pression médiatique ou partisane de court terme. (…) Le National Security Strategy ne rassurera pas les critiques dénonçant une Maison Blanche repliée sur les enjeux de politique intérieure. Si le président Obama fait preuve, depuis les élections de mi-mandat, d’une audace renouvelée sur les enjeux intérieurs (comme l’immigration), il est peu probable que ce soit le cas sur le plan international. De la patience à la passivité, il n’y a qu’un pas. Benjamin Haddad (Hudson Institute)

C’est la coolitude, imbécile !

Effondrement du système d’Etats-nations au Moyen-Orient, expansion incontrôlée de l’Etat islamique, nucléaire iranien, agression russe en Ukraine, disputes territoriales en Mer de Chine …

Chanter et rapper (à la télé) Tweeter, « viner », « instagramer » (et aimer ça)  Manger de la « junk food » (sans culpabiliser) Mettre les pieds sur le bureau (et assumer) Jouer avec des enfants (et adorer) …

Alors que les uns après les autres s’accumulent les désastres …

Qu’à l’horizon s’amoncèlent les menaces …

Pendant qu’après avoir menacé les frères Jonas d’une attaque de drones il y a quatre ans et pendant que la rue brûle à 70 km de Washington, le Predator in chief aux 2 500 « kills » au compteur nous présente cette année son traducteur de colère

Et que son homologue français s’invite à l’émission la plus branchée de Canal plus …

Comment ne pas voir …

Derrière la passivité aujourd’hui théorisée, par le « Sinatra de la politique », comme « patience stratégique »  …

Ce « mélange paradoxal de soumission et de subversion » …

Que constitue pour le dernier numéro de Philosophy now …

La si séduisante « cool attitude » qui nous a valu l’élection et la réélection …

Du véritable accident industriel que se confirme être le président Obama ?

What Does It Mean To Be Cool?
Thorsten Botz-Bornstein links Stoicism and Hip Hop.

Thorsten Botz-Bornstein

Philosophy now

April-May 2015

In principle, to be cool means to remain calm even under stress. But this doesn’t explain why there is now a global culture of cool. What is cool, and why is it so cool to be cool?

The aesthetics of cool developed mainly as a behavioral attitude practiced by black men in the United States at the time of slavery. Slavery made necessary the cultivation of special defense mechanisms which employed emotional detachment and irony. A cool attitude helped slaves and former slaves to cope with exploitation or simply made it possible to walk the streets at night. During slavery, and long afterwards, overt aggression by blacks was punishable by death. Provocation had to remain relatively inoffensive, and any level of serious intent had to be disguised or suppressed. So cool represents a paradoxical fusion of submission and subversion. It’s a classic case of resistance to authority through creativity and innovation.

Modern Cool
Today the aesthetics of cool represents the most important phenomenon in youth culture. The aesthetic is spread by Hip Hop culture for example, which has become “the center of a mega music and fashion industry around the world” (montevideo.usembassy.gov). Black aesthetics, whose stylistic, cognitive, and behavioural tropes are largely based on cool-mindedness, has arguably become “the only distinctive American artistic creation” (White & Cones, Black Man Emerging: Facing the Past and Seizing the Future, 1999, p.60). The African American philosopher Cornel West sees the “black-based Hip Hop culture of youth around the world” as a grand example of the “shattering of male, WASP cultural homogeneity” (Keeping Faith: Philosophy and Race in America, 1993, p.15). While several recent studies have shown that American brand names have dramatically slipped in their cool quotients worldwide, symbols of black coolness such as Hip Hop remain exportable.

However, ‘cool’ does not only refer to a respected aspect of masculine display, it’s also a symptom of anomie, confusion, anxiety, self-gratification and escapism, since being cool can push individuals towards passivity more than towards an active fulfillment of life’s potential. Often “it is more important to be ‘cool and down’ with the peer group than to demonstrate academic achievement,” write White & Cones (p.87). On the one hand, the message produced by a cool pose fascinates the world because of its inherent mysteriousness. The stylized way of offering resistance that insists more on appearance than on substance can turn cool people into untouchable objects of desire. On the other hand, to be cool can be seen as a decadent attitude leading to individual passivity and social decay. The ambiguity residing in this constellation lends the cool scheme its dynamics, but it also makes its evaluation very difficult.

What is Cool?
In spite of the ambiguity, it seems that we remain capable of distinguishing cool attitudes from uncool ones. So what is cool? Let me say that cool resists linear structures. Thus a straightforward, linear search for power is not cool. Constant loss of power is not cool either. Winning is cool; but being ready to do anything to win is not. Both moralists and totally immoral people are uncool, while people who maintain moral standards in straightforwardly immoral environments are most likely to be cool. A CEO is not cool, unless he is a reasonable risk-taker and refrains from pursuing success in a predictable fashion. Coolness is a nonconformist balance that manages to square circles and to personify paradoxes. This has been well known since at least the time of cool jazz. This paradoxical nature has much to do with cool’s origins being the fusion of submission and subversion.

A president is uncool if he clings to absolute power, but becomes cooler as soon as he voluntarily concedes power in order to maintain democratic values. This does not mean that the cool person needs to be an idealist. On the contrary, very few of the coolest rappers are idealists. Idealism can be extremely uncool, as shown by the self-righteous examples of both neoDarwinists and creationists. Cool is a balance created by the cool person’s style, not through straightforward rules or imposed standards. Coolness implies the power of abstraction without becoming overly abstract. Similarly, the cool person stays close to real life without getting absorbed by it. Going with the masses is as uncool as being overly eccentric. It is not cool to take everything, nor is it cool to give everything away: it seems rather that the master of cool handles the give and take of life as if it were a game. The notion of ‘play’ is important to cool, because in games power gets fractured and becomes less serious, which enables the player to develop a certain detached style while playing. For the cool, this detached style matters more than the pursuit of money, power and ideals.

Classic Greek Cool
In ancient Greece, the Stoic philosophers supported a vision of coolness in a turbulent world. The Stoic indifference to fate can be interpreted as the supreme principle of coolness, and has even been been viewed as such in the context of African American culture. The style of the jazz musician Lester Young, for example, was credible mostly because Young was neither proud nor ashamed. This is a Stoic attitude. Also, in ‘Rap as Art and Philosophy’ (in Lott & Pittman (eds), A Companion to African American Philosophy), Richard Shusterman likens Hip Hop culture to a philosophical spirit which is also implicit in Stoicism.

Epictetus the Stoic posited a strict difference between those things that depend on us and those things that do not depend on us, and advocated developing an attitude of regarding the things we can’t influence as unimportant. What depends upon us are our impulses, passions, attitudes, opinions, desires, beliefs and judgments. These things we must improve. Everything that cannot be controlled by us – death, the actions of others, or the past, for examples – should leave us indifferent. Through this insight that all the things upon which we have no influence are best neglected, a ‘cool’ attitude is nurtured.

Stoics have been criticized for being deterministic and fatalistic. As a matter of fact, we find in this materialist and rationalist philosophy the same spectrum of problems that are linked with coolness, because the Stoic, just like the Cool, has to continually decide what is up to him and what is not. In as far as his indifference extends to areas of life that are within his power because he wrongly believes them to be outside his power, the result will be fatalism, decadence and alienation. Yet should he decide to care about things he believes to be within his power although they are not he loses his coolness. Once again, coolness is a matter of balance; or more precisely, of negotiating a way to survive in a paradoxical condition. It’s about maintaining control while never looking as though you might have lost control. All this is why losing and still keeping a straight face is probably the coolest behavior one can imagine.

Living With the Paradox of Cool
Coolness is control; but the dictator who controls everything is not cool because he does not balance a paradox. The self-control of cool black behavior in and before the 1960s, on the other hand, is immediately linked to the African American inability to control political and cultural oppression. This paradox of the need for self-control in the face of a lack of control nurtured a cool attitude. Thus, instead of revelling in either total control or total detachment, the aesthetics and ethics of cool fractures and alienates in order to bring forward unusual constellations of ideas and actions. In a phrase: the cool person lives in a constant state of alienation.

Thorsten Botz-Bornstein is staying cool as assistant professor of philosophy at the Gulf University for Science and Technology, Kuwait.

Voir aussi:

Barack Obama et la « patience stratégique »
Benjamin Haddad, chercheur au Hudson Institute à Washington

Le Monde

25.02.2015

La Maison Blanche a publié la semaine dernière le deuxième et dernier « National Security Strategy » (NSS) de la présidence Obama. Le NSS, un document de 26 pages, est censé définir la vision du monde, la « grande stratégie » animant l’action du président et de son équipe. Les observateurs lisent généralement le document pour y chercher un grand principe unificateur de l’action du président, le plus souvent pour l’inscrire dans les grandes écoles de pensée dont les experts de relations internationales sont friands : réaliste, idéaliste, multilatéral, unipolaire, etc. Il peut notamment annoncer de nouvelles doctrines d’engagement militaire. Après les attentats du 11 septembre 2001, le NSS de 2002, théorisa la doctrine controversée de « guerre préventive » qui fut utilisée pour justifier l’intervention en Irak.

Il est peu probable que le document de 2015 marque son époque de la même façon. Il est le fruit d’un long exercice bureaucratique et le texte s’en ressent, chaque département devant y trouver son compte : aucune région ou thématique ne doit être oubliée, quitte à sombrer dans le catalogue. La publication a par ailleurs deux ans de retard : symbole de la difficulté de produire un document quand les crises se multiplient et rendent le texte facilement obsolète : Ukraine, Daech, etc.

Il est difficile d’établir la ligne stratégique d’Obama dont la présidence s’est largement définie en opposition aux échecs de son prédécesseur. Dès l’introduction, le document se félicite de la reprise de la croissance, la baisse du chômage et de la fin des deux guerres des années Bush : l’Irak et l’Afghanistan. Cependant, certains concepts donnent un éclairage utile sur la façon dont l’administration juge son action internationale jusqu’ici, ou à tout le moins la justifie à posteriori. Il annonce surtout la ligne qui sera celle des deux dernières années de la présidence Obama.

LES RISQUES DE L’ « OVER-REACH » (SUREXTENSION)

Le texte rappelle sans surprise la nécessité du leadership américain (le terme « lead » est répété plus de 100 fois en 26 pages) mais le tempère avec une mise en garde contre les risques de sur-réaction ou d’unilatéralisme: « Les Etats-Unis défendront toujours leurs intérêts et respecteront leurs engagements auprès de nos allies et partenaires. Mais, nous devons effectuer des choix difficiles parmi nos nombreuses priorités concurrentes, et devons en permanence résister à l « over-reach » qui est le résultat de décisions fondées sur la peur. (…) » Vient plus loin la phrase qui a provoqué le plus de débats : « Les défis auxquels nous sommes confrontés requièrent patience et persistance stratégique. »

Comme l’indique le chercheur Thomas Wright dans une analyse du document, le débat stratégique à Washington sur la nature des menaces auxquelles est confrontée l’Amérique peut aujourd’hui se décliner en deux camps. Un premier camp considère que le système international bâti au lendemain de la Guerre froide est profondément remis en question. C’est notamment la thèse postulée par Henry Kissinger dans son dernier ouvrage, « World Order » mais aussi d’autres analystes comme Robert D. Kaplan (The Revenge of Geography) ou Walter Russel Mead (The Return of Geopolitics). Agression russe contre l’Ukraine, effondrement du système d’Etats-nations au Moyen-Orient, disputes territoriales en Mer de Chine, nucléaire iranien : plutôt qu’une succession de crises isolées, c’est l’ordre international lui même, fondée des normes de droit, de respect de la souveraineté et d’expansion du commerce, appuyé par le leadership américain, qui est menacé dans ses fondements par des puissances révisionnistes.

Une deuxième école, dans laquelle s’inscrit le National Security Strategy, prend le contrepied de cette vision : les fondamentaux de l’économie américaine sont bons et les principaux défis sont d’ordre différents, transnationaux, liés aux risques de la globalisation. Ainsi, si « l’agression russe » est condamnée en des termes sans ambiguïtés dans le document, la Russie n’est pas mentionnée parmi les huit menaces stratégiques auxquelles est confrontée l’Amérique : les attaques « catastrophiques » contre le territoire américain, les attaques contre les citoyens américains à l’étranger ou les alliés, la crise économique, la prolifération des armes de destruction massive, les pandémies, le changement climatique, les disruption des marchés de l’énergie et les conséquences sécuritaires des Etats faillis.
Fondamentalement, malgré les appels au leadership américain, le texte est emprunt de prudence face à ce que la puissance américaine peut accomplir. Les Etats-Unis ne peuvent répondre seuls aux défis internationaux : « Dans un monde interconnecté, il n’est pas de problème global qui ne puisse être résolu sans les Etats-Unis et peu qui ne puissent être réglés par les Etats-Unis seuls ». Le plus grand risque serait dès lors de l’oublier.

Comme l’a souligné la conseillère nationale à la sécurité d’Obama, Susan Rice lors de la conférence de présentation du NSS : « nous manquons trop souvent d’un sens des perspectives ici à Washington. Nous ne pouvons nous permettre de sombrer dans l’alarmisme à chaque nouveau cycle médiatique ». Dès lors, le risque principal auquel s’exposerait la diplomatie américaine serait de sur-réagir, de se trouver piégée dans une dynamique de « surextension ». Quand les adversaires de la Maison Blanche dénoncent un président Obama trop réfléchi et hésitant, voire uniquement réactif devant les crises internationales, ses défenseurs plaident qu’il joue le jeu long et résiste à la pression médiatique ou partisane de court terme.

UNE MAISON BLANCHE ISOLÉE ?

Pourtant les critiques de la diplomatie du président se multiplient et sont renforcés à Washington. Le Congrès républicain tout d’abord. John McCain, adversaire de Barack Obama en 2008 et favori des néoconservateurs, est le nouveau président de la commission des forces armées où il pourra influer en faveur de ses causes favorites : la confrontation avec le Kremlin, le soutien à l’opposition syrienne et l’augmentation des budgets de défense. Le président de la commission des affaires étrangères, Corker est lui engagé dans un effort pour assurer que tout accord sur le nucléaire iranien doive être ratifié par le Congrès, même si la Maison Blanche a déjà affirmé son intention d’opposer son veto à toute initiative en ce sens.

Une partie conséquente du Parti démocrate, en particulier les proches d’Hillary Clinton, commence aussi à se positionner contre la politique étrangère du président. En précampagne pour l’investiture démocrate (pour laquelle, elle est pour l’instant largement favorite), Hillary Clinton prend soin de se démarquer de certaines positions de la Maison Blanche. Il ne faut pas voir dans cette attitude uniquement du positionnement électoral : Hillary Clinton, qui avait activement soutenu la guerre en Irak, est proche des interventionnistes libéraux du camp démocrate, beaucoup moins timides face à l’usage de la puissance américaine. Dans une interview remarquée l’été dernier, elle a pris des positions proches des faucons républicains sur des sujets comme Israël, la Syrie ou le nucléaire iranien. Et les stratèges démocrates n’hésitent plus à se démarquer du président.

Ainsi, un rapport très remarqué co-signé par des think tank influents proposait en janvier de livrer des armes au gouvernement ukrainien pour contrer l’agression. Il n’a pas échappé à de nombreux observateurs que les principaux signataires (Strobe Talbott, Michelle Flournoy) sont des proches de l’ancienne secrétaire d’Etat. Si le nouveau secrétaire à la défense Ashton Carter s’est aussi déclaré en faveur de cette option (avant le cessez-le-feu de Minsk), rien n’indique que la Maison Blanche penchait en ce sens.

La Maison Blanche est elle de plus en plus isolée ? Peut-être mais le président continuera d’avoir le dernier mot dans les débats stratégiques qui animeront les deux prochaines années : accord sur le nucléaire iranien, décision d’intervenir au Moyen-Orient, etc. Le National Security Strategy ne rassurera pas les critiques dénonçant une Maison Blanche repliée sur les enjeux de politique intérieure. Si le président Obama fait preuve, depuis les élections de mi-mandat, d’une audace renouvelée sur les enjeux intérieurs (comme l’immigration), il est peu probable que ce soit le cas sur le plan international. De la patience à la passivité, il n’y a qu’un pas.

Voir également:

Loin des catastrophes, Obama amuse la presse

RTBF

27 avril 2015

Hollande : les cinq trucs d’Obama pour devenir vraiment coolInvité du « Supplément » sur Canal +, dimanche, François Hollande continue de peaufiner son image de président branché. Mais avant d’atteindre la « cool attitude » de son homologue américain, il y a encore du chemin à parcourir.Elise Lambert

A défaut de sortir de la crise, François Hollande veut sortir de la routine. Après avoir accordé une interview sur la mort et la pluie au magazine Society, le président de la République est l’invité de Maïtena Biraben, dimanche 19 avril, dans « Le Supplément », sur Canal +, une émission d’actualité au ton décalé. Dans son entourage, certains n’apprécient pas du tout ce virage et parle même « d’hipsterisation », comme le racontent Les Echos. Si François Hollande veut se montrer cool, il n’atteint pas encore le niveau de Barack Obama.

Chanter et rapper (à la télé)

Barack Obama a des talents de crooner, et il le sait. Le président des Etats-Unis n’hésite pas à pousser la chansonnette lors de ses sorties publiques. A la Maison Blanche, sur les plateaux de télévision ou lors de discours, Barack Obama donne le la. Des standards de blues au rap en passant par le slam, il est mélomane et il l’affiche.

Il démontre ses premiers talents de chanteur en janvier 2012 à New York lors d’une réunion électorale en vue de la présidentielle de fin d’année. Il entonne un Let’s Stay Together du chanteur Al Green sans fausse note.En février 2012, après avoir pris goût à la chanson en public, il reprend quelques notes de Sweet Home Chicago, du bluesman Robert Johnson lors d’un concert organisé à la Maison Blanche pour le Black History Month, un mois où les Américains célèbrent la contribution de la communauté noire à leur culture. Volant la vedette au chanteur des Rolling Stones Mick Jagger et au guitariste BB King, Barack Obama conquiert définitivement le cœur des mélomanes, et parfait son image de président « so cool ».

Il réitère au printemps de la même année, sans doute après avoir élargi son répertoire musical : le président s’invite sur le plateau du « Tonight Show », de Jimmy Fallon, sur la chaîne NBC, et entame un slam « pédagogique » pour expliquer sa politique sur les emprunts étudiants.

Pas certain que la musique ait fait oublier le fond, mais Barack Obama gagne en quelques semaines de gros points de « branchitude », notamment dans les pays étrangers.

Du côté de l’Elysée, on envisage mal François Hollande pousser la chansonnette en public. Par désintérêt ou volonté de muscler une image trop souvent moquée ? Dans tous les cas, François Hollande reste l’un des hommes politiques qui inspire le plus de parodies.

Tweeter, « viner », « instagramer » (et aimer ça)

Premier président américain à (officiellement) coder, Barack Obama prend le web au sérieux et l’affiche même dans son programme. En 2013, il annonce le lancement d’une semaine de l’informatique à l’école et définit le code comme une « compétence importante, non pas juste pour les jeunes, mais pour l’avenir du pays ».

Au-delà, l’équipe de communication de la Maison Blanche est sur tous les fronts : Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, InstagramMySpace… Une armée de communicants raconte le quotidien du président de manière plus ou moins décalée, avec l’objectif de le rendre proche des Américains. Résultat : le monde entier a l’impression d’être dans l’intimité du président et ne loupe aucun de ses plus beaux moments.

Côté français, même si l’Elysée a ouvert dernièrement un Tumblr sur le quotidien du chef de l’Etat, les images sont uniquement prises lors de déplacements officiels et restent très formelles. En 2013, lors d’une conférence de presse à l’Elysée, un journaliste l’avait d’ailleurs interrogé sur son usage de Twitter, une question qu’il avait raillée en répondant :« Twitter n’est pas le centre du monde (…) ça n’intéresse que les journalistes ».

 Manger de la « junk food » (sans culpabiliser)

Barack Obama est fan de junk food, il a même son adresse favorite : le Five Guys, à quelques pas de la Maison Blanche. Régulièrement pris en train d’avaler burgers, glaces et autres donuts, le président américain se fiche pas mal de sa ligne, puisqu’il se montre tout autant en train de pratiquer le baseball ou le basket. Voilà qui fait de Barack un digne représentant de l’American way of life, jeune, décontracté… mais toujours svelte.

Une condition que François Hollande doit bien lui envier, puisqu’après avoir subi un régime drastique lors de la campagne présidentielle de 2012, François Hollande a repris du poids une fois élu, rappelait L’Express en 2013.

Mettre les pieds sur le bureau (et assumer)

Il n’y a qu’un seul photographe officiel à la Maison Blanche, Pete Souza. Accrédité pour se balader dans les moindres recoins du bâtiment, il a photographié à de nombreuses reprises Barack Obama dans des postures très décontractées. Pieds sur le bureau, adossé mollement à son fauteuil ou assis sur ses dossiers… Mise en scène ou réalité, Barack Obama a l’air d’être zen dans n’importe quelle situation.

Difficile d’en dire autant de François Hollande, dont l’attitude a souvent été moquée, à commencer par sa photo officielle, où il pose les bras ballants.

Jouer avec des enfants (et adorer)

S’il y a des invités qu’on voit souvent dans le bureau ovale, ce sont bien les enfants. En 2013, Barack Obama avait invité son homologue de 9 ans « the kid president » dans son bureau à la Maison Blanche. Une session vue plus de 7 millions de fois sur internet et qui montre un Barack Obama accessible et paternel. Cet épisode a même permis au « kid president » de rencontrer Beyoncé dans les coulisses de sa tournée.

Le reste de l’année, de nombreux enfants se relaient dans le potager de la Maison Blanche pour apprendre à jardiner et bien manger. Barack Obama s’affiche très régulièrement avec ses filles et distribue à la moindre de ses sorties publiques des checks, (salut avec les poings) aux plus jeunes. Une manière trop cool pour un Président de saluer.

En France, François Hollande a participé, en janvier 2015, à la rédaction des journaux pour enfants Mon Quotidien et L’Actu, à la suite des attentats du début d’année. L’événement a été perçu comme un véritable tournant. La communication de l’Elysée mise (enfin) tout sur les jeunes pour redorer l’image du président. Cool mais un peu tard, puisque la jeunesse était au cœur du programme du candidat socialiste.

Voir de même:

Fermé à la presse »
Décryptages

Tangi Quemener

WASHINGTON, 28 nov. 2013 – «Propagande», «agence TASS», «si Poutine faisait ça…» Barack Obama est habitué aux lazzis des républicains les plus conservateurs, qui lui reprochent des penchants « socialistes », version soviétique. Mais ces derniers jours, les accusations d’autoritarisme visant l’exécutif américain viennent d’un groupe d’habitude moins enclin aux coups de sang: les organisations de presse, fédérées par la centenaire Association des correspondants à la Maison Blanche (WHCA).

Jeudi 21 novembre, la WHCA et des dizaines de médias, dont l’Agence France-Presse, ont envoyé une lettre d’une fermeté sans précédent à Jay Carney, le porte-parole de la Maison Blanche, pour protester contre le contrôle de l’information par l’administration démocrate.

Le motif de ce courroux ? Le sentiment, nourri par de nombreux exemples depuis cinq ans, de ne pas bénéficier de la « transparence » médiatique promise par le président lors de sa campagne électorale de 2007-2008. Les reporters de presse écrite et photographes notent même une régression par rapport au précédent locataire de la résidence exécutive, George W. Bush. Le républicain a en effet laissé dans la salle de presse le souvenir d’un dirigeant prêt à se soumettre de bonne grâce aux sollicitations des médias.

Diffusé chaque soir pour le lendemain, le programme quotidien du président permet aux journalistes accrédités dans le Saint des Saints du pouvoir américain d’organiser leur journée. A côté de chaque activité présidentielle, l’administration précise quelle couverture de l’événement sera possible. Cela peut être soit « open press » (tous les journalistes sont autorisés à y assister), soit « pooled press » (seul le « pool », une douzaine de reporters dont celui de l’AFP, y a accès).

Les conférences de presse sont toujours « open press », les déclarations du président dans la roseraie de la Maison Blanche aussi. Le pool prend le relais quand l’activité d’Obama se produit dans un endroit trop étriqué, comme le Bureau ovale et la salle du Conseil des ministres. C’est aussi le cas lors des déplacements du président sur le terrain, aux Etats-Unis comme à l’étranger, puisque seules 13 places sont réservées aux médias dans Air Force One.

Mais trop souvent au goût des reporters, la mention qui s’affiche est « closed press », synonyme d’accès interdit. Evidemment, personne ne prétend photographier Obama dans la « Situation Room », la salle de gestion des crises du sous-sol, où se prennent des décisions engageant la sécurité nationale des Etats-Unis. Cependant, certaines des occasions « closed press », ainsi que de fréquentes restrictions à leurs mouvements lors d’événements publics, laissent aux photographes un goût de cendre.

Exemples ces dernières années dans Bureau ovale: la réception du Dalaï lama, la visite de la jeune héroïne pakistanaise Malala Yousafzaï, un tête-à-tête avec Nicolas Sarkozy et même une rencontre entre Obama et le Premier ministre Benjamin Netanyahu, ont été déclarées «fermées». En revanche, quelques heures plus tard tombaient des photos officielles, signées du photographe attitré de Barack Obama, Pete Souza.

Autre cas qui a provoqué dernièrement l’émoi des photographes de presse: à la dernière minute lors du discours d’Obama à l’occasion des 50 ans de « I have a dream » de Martin Luther King, la Maison Blanche est revenue sur sa promesse d’accès au monument Lincoln, qui aurait permis de prendre un cliché du président et de la foule en arrière-plan. Souza, dont l’accès à Obama est total et qui pour cette raison se retrouve souvent… sur les clichés du président pris par nos collègues, a bien sûr obtenu le meilleur cadrage, en exclusivité.
La WHCA tente depuis des années d’arracher à la Maison Blanche un plus grand accès aux activités présidentielles, et la publication du communiqué du 21 ressemble à une « frappe nucléaire »: mettre sur la place publique ses doléances, faute de réponses satisfaisantes en privé. Pour elle, l’administration Obama interdit aux journalistes de « photographier ou filmer le président dans l’exercice de ses fonctions officielles », bien qu’elle s’auto-congratule sur la «transparence» sans précédent dont elle ferait preuve.

Ron Fournier, longtemps reporter à la Maison Blanche, résumait la situation le 21 novembre dans les colonnes du National Journal. « La machine de communication d’Obama: un monopole de propagande, financé par vous », les contribuables. Et de citer un échange entre Carney et Doug Mills, respecté photographe, vétéran d’AP et du New York Times, qui a dit au porte-parole d’Obama: « vous êtes comme TASS ». Carney, ancien correspondant de l’hebdomadaire Time à Moscou, a dû apprécier la comparaison avec l’agence de presse officielle de l’URSS, célèbre pour ses communiqués arides de l’ère brejnévienne.

En effet, le problème aux yeux des photographes de presse n’est pas que la Maison Blanche de Barack Obama soit avare d’images, ou les manipule comme à la grande époque des procès de Moscou, quand d’anciens responsables tombés en disgrâce disparaissaient de la tribune sur la place Rouge. La stratégie de la présidence américaine est plutôt de jouer à saute-mouton avec les médias classiques et d’investir tous les médias sociaux, de Twitter à Facebook en passant par Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube et Flickr, des sites régulièrement alimentés en images et en vidéos par une armée de communicants.

Le caractère immédiat des photos de Souza, et leur qualité technique impeccable, font parfois oublier au grand public qu’elles sont partie intégrante de la communication présidentielle. Sur Twitter, où le photographe est suivi par près de 100.000 personnes, elles obtiennent des centaines de «retweets» en quelques minutes, tandis que les «like» se comptent par milliers sur la page Facebook d’Obama, «aimée» par 37 millions de personnes.

Toutefois, préviennent la WHCA et l’association des photographes de presse de la Maison Blanche (WHNPA), il faut prendre ces photos pour ce qu’elles sont: ni plus ni moins que des «communiqués de presse visuels».

Souza et les cameramen officiels sont payés par l’Etat et loyaux à l’administration. Ils ne vont évidemment pas présenter un Barack Obama énervé, fatigué ou désemparé, et chaque plan est sélectionné et édité pour montrer le président sous un jour flatteur.

A l’écrit, le communiqué de presse avance moins masqué: c’est notre rôle de le jauger, d’y ajouter une mise en perspective et de gratter le vernis parfois épais de la communication. Nous savons que bien souvent, les communiqués « enterrent » les vraies informations dans leurs derniers paragraphes, et réservent leurs premières lignes à l’«actualité heureuse».

«Comme s’ils bloquaient l’objectif de l’appareil photo d’un journaliste, des responsables de cette administration empêchent le public de bénéficier d’une perspective indépendante sur des événements importants de l’exécutif», remarquait la WHCA dans sa lettre du 21.

Le même jour, le porte-parole adjoint d’Obama, Josh Earnest, était malmené pendant le point de presse quotidien de la présidence. « Si Vladimir Poutine faisait ça, vous le tourneriez en dérision et diriez que la liberté de la presse (en Russie) n’existe pas », remarquait un de nos collègues. «Depuis ce podium, des gens ont critiqué la façon dont d’autres pays gèrent la liberté de la presse. Et quand cette Maison Blanche diffuse sa propre version des choses sans filtre de la presse, est-ce que cela ne met pas en causes certaines valeurs démocratiques fondamentales?»

Réaction d’Earnest, un peu décalée: pour lui, le recours aux photos officielles et aux nouveaux médias est destiné… à « donner davantage d’accès au président ».

« Il existe des circonstances dans lesquelles il n’est tout simplement pas possible d’avoir des journalistes indépendants dans la pièce lorsque le président prend des décisions, donc plutôt que de le cacher aux Américains, ce que nous avons fait est de profiter des nouvelles technologies pour donner aux Américains un accès encore plus important, en photo ou en film, de ce qui se passe dans les coulisses», selon lui.

« Je comprends la raison pour laquelle certaines personnes dans cette pièce en conçoivent du chagrin, mais les Américains en bénéficient clairement», estime Earnest. Il laisse ainsi entendre que les médias classiques n’ont plus la prééminence d’antan.

Concession de la Maison Blanche? Quelques heures plus tard, le « pool » des photographes était convié inopinément dans le Bureau ovale pour une séance de promulgation de loi. Mais Souza était aussi là, et sa « photo du jour » ressemblait fort à un coup de pied de l’âne, d’ailleurs perçu comme tel par nos collègues présentés sous un jour peu flatteur. Pour le blog spécialisé dans la communication visuelle BagNews, un «allez vous faire voir» visuel, «minable» et «vulgaire». En tout cas certainement pas un rameau d’olivier.

(Avec Eva Claire HAMBACH)

La « photo du jour » de la Maison-Blanche du 22 novembre 2013, signée Pete Souza, au lendemain de la lettre de protestation des journalistes mécontents des restrictions d’accès au président Obama… (AFP / The White House / Pete Souza)
Tangi Quéméner est correspondant de l’AFP à la Maison-Blanche. Il est aussi l’auteur du livre « Dans les pas d’Obama » (JC Lattès, 2012).

Si Barack Obama est si cool, c’est aussi parce que les journalistes ne peuvent pas le prendre en photo
Repéré par Cécile Dehesdin

Slate

16.02.2015

Comment photographier un homme entouré en permanence d’agents des services secrets? Avec des appareils télécommandés, explique le photojournaliste Saul Loeb dans un billet sur l’excellent blog Making Of de l’AFP.

Le photographe de l’agence de presse, accrédité à la Maison Blanche, estime que lui et ses confrères «sont confrontés à un grand nombre de restrictions ayant trait aux moments et aux endroits où ils peuvent photographier le président des Etats-Unis».

Ils contournent le problème entre autres via «des appareils télécommandés aux endroits où nous ne pourrons nous trouver physiquement»: dans un coin, sur l’estrade où le président parle, derrière la tribune présidentielle…

Saul Loeb ne se plaint pas de la situation, estimant qu’«il serait très étrange de voir un reporter perché au sommet d’une échelle derrière le président pendant une conférence de presse et le Secret Service n’apprécierait pas». En même temps, comme il le note:

«Nos mouvements sont limités, et du coup cela limite aussi nos choix pour prendre des images.»

Le manque de liberté de mouvements et donc d’images des photojournalistes de la Maison Blanche n’est-il rien d’autre que le pendant de l’accès open-bar au quotidien de l’homme le plus puissant du monde qu’il nous offre via son photographe officiel?

L’aura de cool absolu qui entoure Barack Obama doit en effet beaucoup –voire tout– à Pete Souza.

Le photographe officiel canarde le président américain partout –dans son bureau, dans ses voyages, quand il va embrasser des bébés et manger des hot-dogs– et fournit en instantané sa légende iconographique. Les photos sont mises à disposition du public et des médias par la Maison Blanche, sous une license Creative Commons, pour qu’elles soient mieux partagées.

GRAND FORMAT

Grâce à Pete Souza, on a l’impression d’être dans la vraie vie de Barack Obama, alors que rien n’est plus construit que ses photos. C’est d’ailleurs un des gros reproches que font à la Maison Blanche les journalistes accrédités, comme le racontait Tangi Quemener dans un autre billet du blog de l’AFP fin 2013.

L’Association des correspondants à la Maison Blanche avait alors publié une lettre ouverte et énervée au porte-parole Jay Carney:

«Les restrictions imposées par la Maison Blanche, suivies par la publication routinière de photographies faites par des employés gouvernementaux de ces mêmes événements, est une contrainte arbitraire et une interférence injustifiée aux activités légitimes de récolte d’informations. Dans les faits, vous remplacez du photojournalisme indépendant par des communiqués de presse visuels.»

Les photographies de Pete Souza inondent les réseaux sociaux, et leur «caractère immédiat […] et leur qualité technique impeccable, font parfois oublier au grand public qu’elles sont partie intégrante de la communication présidentielle», analysait Tangi Quemener. La Maison Blanche avait rapidement invité le pool de photojournalistes à une séance imprévue de photos de Barack Obama signant une loi. Evidemment, Pete Souza était là lui aussi, et il avait choisi de faire une photo… intéressante:

 Voir encore:

Derrière les photos «cool» d’Obama, une image sous contrôle
Presse Consignes de sécurité imposantes, événements fermés à la presse. Les photos «autorisées» de Pete Souza irritent les photographes de la Maison Blanche qui parlent de pratiques «soviétiques».

1 15
Au téléphone avec le président Tunisien Beji Caid Essebs, le 5 janvier dernier, depuis le bureau ovale. Sous l’œil de Pete Souza, ancien du Chicago Tribune et de Nature, Obama n’est jamais fatigué ou sous un mauvais angle. Le cadrage est toujours parfait.
Pete Souza (Flickr) (15 Images)

Erwan Le Bec

la Tribune de Genève

17.02.2015

Tout le monde craque sur les incroyables photos de Pete Souza, fameux photographe officiel de la Maison Blanche. Il publie chaque jours plusieurs clichés du président Obama. Souvent insolites, touchants, d’une qualité et d’un cadrage irréprochables, plusieurs sont déjà rentrés dans l’histoire du photo-journalisme en dehors de leur succès populaire. Reste que selon la très sérieuse Association des correspondants à la Maison Blanche (WHCA), il s’agit plutôt d’une machine à communiquer parfaitement huilée, qui n’est pas loin de faire obstruction à la liberté de la presse. «Si Poutine faisait ça…», a même commenté l’un deux.

Un photographe de l’AFP a expliqué lundi 16 février les incroyables difficultés qu’ont les spécialistes accrédités à immortaliser Barack Obama. Les restrictions des services de sécurité sont en effet grandes, les moments sont limités, le lieu choisi, et le point de vue pas forcément heureux. Ne reste plus qu’à tenter un angle original.

Pour l’investiture du président, le photographe Saul Loeb a été jusqu’à placer son précieux appareil au sommet du capitole, muni d’un déclencheur, 48h avant l’événement… Seulement voilà, la technique n’est pas garantie et le risque d’une panne ou de l’intervention d’un tiers est élevé.

S’il faut faire preuve d’autant de prouesse, c’est que la marge de manœuvre est faible. La Maison Blanche distingue les situations «open press», comme les conférences dans la fameuse salle aux rideaux bleus, les espaces restreints au «pooled press» d’une dizaine de reporters en raison des dimensions de certaines pièces, et enfin le «closed press». Dans ce dernier cas, personne ne passe, sauf Pete Souza. Là et ailleurs, cet ancien du Chicago Tribune bénéficie d’accès spéciaux, d’angles inédits et donc de clichés défiant toute concurrence.

Obstructions à la presse

La Maison Blanche justifie ces «closed press» par le caractère confidentiel des téléphones ou des rencontres qui intéressent la sécurité du pays. Mais trop, pour les journalistes accrédités, sont fermés et réservés au seul Pete Souza: la visite du Dalaï Lama, de la jeune Malala Yousafzaï ou même l’accès à la tribune lors du discours des 50 ans du «I have a dream» de Martin Luther King, fermé à la dernière minute.

Dans un billet de l’AFP repris par un site, il ne s’agit ni plus ni moins d’obstructions à la presse, pas si lointaine de ce que faisait l’agence soviétique TASS. Une lettre ouverte a même été envoyée au porte-parole de la Maison Blanche, attaquant frontalement la «transparence» dont se félicite l’administration Obama.

Aucune photo d’Obama grimaçant

«Le problème aux yeux des photographes de presse n’est pas que la Maison Blanche de Barack Obama soit avare d’images», expliquait Tangi Quemener pour l’AFP. «La stratégie de la présidence américaine est plutôt de jouer à saute-mouton avec les médias classiques et d’investir tous les médias sociaux, de Twitter à Facebook en passant par Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube et Flickr, des sites régulièrement alimentés en images et en vidéos par une armée de communicants.»

«Le caractère immédiat des photos de Souza fait parfois oublier au grand public qu’elles sont partie intégrante de la communication présidentielle», conclut-il. L’association de presse va plus loin. Selon elle, il faut uniquement prendre les clichés pour des «communiqués de presse visuels», dans la mesure où Pete Suza est payé par l’Etat et où une sélection impitoyable est effectuée: aucune photo d’Obama fatigué, grimaçant ou sous un mauvais angle n’est sorti.

Rien de soviétique pour la Maison Blanche, qui rappelle les impératifs de sécurité. Il s’agit au contraire de «donner davantage d’accès au président», avec les réseaux sociaux.

Quelques heures après la publication de la lettre ouverte, le «pool» était soudainement invité à photographier le président signant une loi. Pete Souza y était, et en a profité pour cadrer ses collègues sous un jour peu flatteur. Le pouvoir de l’image en somme.

Voir également:

Barack Obama, Mister (faux) Cool
Corine Lesnes

M le magazine du Monde

05.10.2012

Barack Obama est un couche-tard. Contrairement à son prédécesseur, qui bâillait après 21 h 30, le 44e président des Etats-Unis veille souvent après minuit. Il lui arrive de s’installer sur le balcon en demi-cercle que fit construire Harry Truman, au deuxième étage de la façade sud de la Maison Blanche, à une époque où les présidents se permettaient d’entreprendre des travaux d’envergure dans la « maison du peuple ». S’asseoir sur le balcon lui procure un sentiment de liberté, a-t-il expliqué.

Les filles sont couchées. Michelle aussi, qui est généralement au lit avant 22 heures. Barack, lui, veille jusqu’à 1 heure du matin. Rien à voir avec Bill Clinton, qui refaisait le monde avec ses amis noctambules. Obama profite de sa solitude. Il lit, écrit, paraît-il, son journal ; regarde la chaîne sportive ESPN, parcourt l’iPad que lui ont laissé les services secrets. Il rêve peut-être. C’est le seul moment dans la course folle de ses journées où il est libre de s’égarer dans son monde intérieur. Depuis son arrivée à la Maison Blanche, c’est ce qui lui manque le plus : les promenades au hasard, l’inattendu. « La perte d’anonymat et d’imprévu n’est pas un état naturel, a-t-il confié. On s’adapte, mais on ne s’y habitue pas. »

Le président américain se lève à 7 heures. Il fait tous les jours une heure entière de gymnastique. « Sinon, on craque », a-t-il assuré au journaliste et écrivain Michael Lewis qui l’a suivi pendant des mois pour Vanity Fair. Cardio un jour, poids le lendemain. Pour ne pas s’encombrer le cerveau avec des choix sans importance, il limite les options. Pour la sélection du costume du jour, cela signifie : le gris ou le bleu. « Il faut avoir sa routine », conseille Obama. Selon lui, des études l’ont montré : le simple fait de prendre des décisions diminue la capacité à en prendre d’autres. Mieux vaut éviter de se laisser distraire par des détails quand on a à arbitrer entre Jérusalem et Téhéran.

ETRE LE MEILLEUR… UNE OBSESSION

En quatre ans, Barack Obama a singulièrement mûri. Ceux qui s’étaient fiés à son « cool » hawaïen ont été surpris par son côté « perfectionniste et super-compétitif », dit la journaliste du New York Times Jodi Kantor, auteure d’un best-seller sur le couple présidentiel (1). Obama lit tout. Il répète la prononciation des noms des dirigeants étrangers avec le staff avant les sommets. Les assistants qui préparent ses briefings s’inquiètent parfois de le voir n’y jeter qu’un coup d’œil. « Quarante-cinq minutes plus tard, il ressort les éléments dans l’ordre exact où on les a présentés, dit un haut responsable. Il a une mémoire photographique hors du commun. »

Rançon de la facilité : il a horreur qu’on lui fasse perdre son temps. « Monsieur le président, comme vous le savez, la Réserve fédérale, de par son mandat, ne peut intervenir… », commence un assistant. « Je sais, interrompt sèchement le président. J’ai lu le mémo. » L’anecdote est racontée par un ancien conseiller, à qui il est arrivé de se faire remettre à sa place. « Dans les réunions, mieux vaut ne pas sous-entendre qu’on en sait plus que lui ou qu’on est plus intelligent. » Le New York Times s’est amusé à collecter les extraits vidéo où Barack Obama se présente comme le meilleur. Cela va du billard (« Je suis étonnamment bon joueur ») à la lecture pour enfants, comme ce lundi de Pâques, à l’occasion de la traditionnelle chasse aux oeufs qu’organise la Maison Blanche pour 3 000 enfants. « Je vais faire la meilleure lecture qui ait jamais été faite de Green Eggs and Ham », annonce-t-il en ouvrant le livre du Dr Seuss.

Etre le meilleur est une obsession. Quand il joue aux cartes dans Air Force One, l’avion présidentiel, il faut qu’il gagne. Et si c’est le cas, « il ne vous le laissera jamais oublier », dit un familier de la West Wing. « J’ai rencontré beaucoup de gens compétitifs. Mais je ne connais qu’une personne qui le soit plus que lui, affirme le journaliste Richard Wolffe, qui voit régulièrement le président. C’est sa femme. » Michelle aussi a changé, selon lui, à l’épreuve de la Maison Blanche : « Elle est de plus en plus disciplinée, de plus en plus sur ses gardes. »

Une fois par semaine, Barack joue au basket avec un groupe d’anciens pros qui ont une vingtaine d’années de moins que lui. Là non plus, le président ne plaisante pas. Il se fait apporter ses chaussures hautes marquées de son chiffre « 44 ». « Hé Doc, vous avez mon protège-mâchoires ? », l’entend réclamer, un jour, l’écrivain Michael Lewis, au médecin qui l’accompagne dans tous ses déplacements. « On est à cent jours », justifie le président. Cent jours ? Des élections, bien sûr. Barack ne voudrait pas souffrir d’une ecchymose alors qu’il a toutes ses pubs de campagne à tourner. Le président n’aime pas qu’on le ménage, mais Rey Tercera, qui lui a ouvert la lèvre d’un coup de coude en novembre 2010, n’a pas été réinvité, rigolent les autres.

Le samedi matin, à Chevy Chase, dans la banlieue de Washington, le président des Etats-Unis entraîne les « Vipères de Bethesda », l’équipe de sa fille Sasha (11 ans). Qui a gagné tous ses matches, bien sûr, la saison dernière. « Le Congrès aurait des leçons à prendre », a-t-il fait remarquer dans l’un de ces accès de condescendance qui font enrager les républicains.

« AUTHENTICITÉ ET PART D’ARTIFICE »

Obama donne des leçons à ses anciens collègues du Congrès, comme s’il était toujours le prof de droit dans sa salle de classe de Chicago : conseils d’écriture, recommandations sur la manière optimale de serrer la main de l’électeur (toujours le regarder dans les yeux). Un ton qu’il adopte aussi avec ses collègues chefs d’Etat. Quand l’un d’eux lui résiste, Obama lui parle comme le font « les pères lorsque les enfants les déçoivent », selon l’expression de Robert Gibbs, son ancien porte-parole. Nicolas Sarkozy en a fait l’expérience en septembre 2011, lors d’un entretien à l’Hôtel Waldorf Astoria, à New York. Le président français avait irrité ses partenaires en faisant une proposition de conciliation à Mahmoud Abbas, le dirigeant palestinien, au podium de l’assemblée générale de l’ONU. « Nicolas, je suis ravi de te voir, a commencé Obama. Mais je me dois de te le dire en toute franchise : nous avons été un peu surpris par ton discours. Ce n’est pas le genre de relations que nous avons tous les deux. Et ce n’est pas le genre de relations que nous entendons avoir… » C’était la deuxième incartade du Français. En 2010, il avait promis une contribution aux renforts en Afghanistan. Cinq cents soldats, qui n’arrivaient pas. L’explication a eu lieu à l’occasion d’une téléconférence, raconte un diplomate. « Nicolas, tu avais promis que tu ne me mentirais pas. Jusqu’ici, tu ne m’avais jamais menti… »

Obama se sait doué. « Il y a chez lui un sens de l’authenticité et une part d’artifice, dit le journaliste Richard Wolffe, auteur de livres sur la Maison Blanche d’Obama (2). Il sait qu’il peut se produire sur scène. » Un jour d’avril 2008 – il n’était que candidat –, l’humoriste Jon Stewart lui a fait passer un test pour son « Daily Show » : dire les phrases les plus anodines avec son ton « hope and change », la voix inspirée de ses discours. Obama fait l’essai : « Je vous appelle pous savoir si vous êtes satisfait de votre service de téléphone. » On s’y croyait. Les spectateurs ont été épatés.

Cette confiance l’a propulsé à la Maison Blanche. Elle l’a aidé à prendre (seul contre tous, avec le soutien de Michelle) la décision d’imposer la réforme de l’assurance-santé, un acquis historique. Mais elle l’a aussi desservi. Sur le conflit israélo-palestinien, Obama n’a pas écouté les réalistes. Il a surestimé sa capacité à faire bouger les lignes. Sur l’Afghanistan, il a effectué un virage à 180 degrés. Après avoir envoyé 30 000 soldats en renfort, il s’est tourné vers une guerre de drones. « Au début, il y avait une certaine arrogance dans son équipe, dit un analyste qui a passé deux ans dans l’administration. Ils marchaient sur l’eau. Ils pensaient qu’ils comprenaient mieux le Proche-Orient parce qu’ils étaient la génération Twitter. »

L’ancien prof de droit constitutionnel agace les notables. Il consulte à peine les « éléphants » de la diplomatie américaine. Son équipe, des jeunes issus de son staff au Sénat, se soucie peu des barons de l’époque pré-Internet. Comme dans les administrations précédentes, le département d’Etat et le Conseil de sécurité nationale se détestent, et la West Wing est traversée de conflits. Le président laisse faire mais dans les réunions, il prend l’avis de tout le monde. Les militaires, la CIA et « surtout ceux qui se taisent », relate Vali Nasr, ancien du département d’Etat. Il ne laisse rien paraître de son avis puis se retire, pour réfléchir. Pour l’intervention en Libye, il a sollicité jusqu’à l’avis des conseillers juniors, assis derrière les membres du cabinet, dans la Situation Room, et qui se bornent habituellement à prendre des notes. Et tant pis si cela déplaît à certains. Le président candidat n’a pas le temps de s’embarrasser des susceptibilités des uns et des autres. Les chefs d’Etat présents cette année à l’assemblée générale de l’ONU ? Il n’en a reçu aucun : ça aurait fait trop de jaloux et il était pris par la campagne. Il a froissé nombre de donateurs, dépités de ne même pas avoir reçu une invitation à un dîner d’apparat à la Maison Blanche. « Il est tellement sûr de lui qu’il ne lui vient pas à l’esprit que les autres ont besoin d’entendre : « Bon travail » », dit l’un de ses anciens collaborateurs.

TOUJOURS UN « OUTSIDER »

Parmi ceux qui travaillaient dans l’équipe originelle, peu sont restés. Certains ont été écartés après avoir déplu, comme l’avocat Greg Craig, qui s’était mis en tête de tenir la promesse de fermer Guantanamo. Ou Désirée Rogers, l’ex-chef du protocole, trop glamour pour une Maison Blanche soucieuse d’austérité. D’autres sont partis d’eux-mêmes, sans qu’Obama ne prenne la peine de les retenir. « Personne n’est indispensable, à part la famille et les vrais amis de Chicago », constate le journaliste Richard Wolffe. Lesquels sont en nombre réduit : Martin Nesbitt, fondateur d’une société de parkings d’aéroports, et Eric Whitaker, médecin et cadre dans un hôpital.

L’establishment washingtonien désapprouve bien sûr le clan de Chicago. Comment le président peut-il dîner tous les soirs en famille plutôt que tisser des liens dans les cocktails ? Ou aller jouer au golf avec Marvin Nicholson, un ancien caddy, paré du titre de « directeur des voyages », plutôt qu’avec des présidents de commissions sénatoriales ? Les caciques assurent qu’il s’agit d’une faute politique. La preuve : il aurait peut-être réussi à conclure un deal sur le relèvement du plafond de la dette l’an dernier avec John Boehner, le chef de l’opposition, s’il avait noué des réseaux. Bref, il n’a pas réussi à changer Washington parce qu’il ne s’y est pas intégré. Obama avait bien essayé, au début, d’inviter les élus à regarder le Super Bowl à la Maison Blanche. Mais les républicains n’ont pas été dupes : il n’aime pas ça. « Il ne voit même pas les démocrates, dit le journaliste John Heilemann. C’est simple : le président Obama ne parle pas à grand monde. » De son côté, John Boehner a raconté qu’il s’était senti un rien décalé pendant la négociation à la Maison Blanche : « J’étais avec mes cigarettes et mon verre de vin. Obama avec ses Nicorette et son thé glacé. »Par rapport à ses prédécesseurs, le président américain apparaît distant, cérébral. Il n’a jamais cessé d’être l’écrivain qu’il voulait être. « Si un magazine littéraire avait accepté ses nouvelles de jeunesse, il ne serait pas devenu président », assure Michael Lewis. « Il se regarde lui-même faisant de la politique et contemplant le côté surréaliste d’y participer », ajoute le journaliste David Maraniss (3), qui a mené une contre-enquête fouillée suite à l’autobiographie publiée par Obama après sa sortie d’Harvard.

Certains attribuent cette quasi-infirmité relationnelle au fait qu’il a grandi sans père (et même sans mère pendant son adolescence) et qu’il a toujours été un outsider. David Maraniss a retrouvé Genevieve Cook, la petite amie blanche d’Obama lorsqu’il était étudiant à l’université Columbia à New York. Du journal intime de cette fille de diplomate australien, il ressort des jugements d’une perspicacité étonnante sur le jeune Barack, déjà à la fois chaleureux, distant et égocentrique. « I love you », lui dit-elle un jour. La réponse fut courte : « Thank you. »

Pour corriger l’impression de froideur qu’il dégage, Obama court les émissions populaires de l’après-midi où on pose des questions plus intimes que dans les talk-shows politiques. La plus grande erreur de perception à son égard ? « Que je suis détaché, comme Spock [le personnage de « Star Trek »]. Ou très analytique, répondait-il en décembre 2011 à l’inusable animatrice Barbara Walters (83 ans). Les gens qui me connaissent savent que je suis un tendre. Et j’ai facilement les larmes aux yeux. Ce qui est difficile, c’est que les gens s’attendent à ce que vous soyez très démonstratif. Et si vous ne le faites pas d’une manière théâtrale, cela ne passe pas l’écran. »

Mais en public, il répugne à mettre en scène sa sensibilité. Quand le corps de l’ambassadeur en Libye Christopher Stevens, tué à Benghazi, a été ramené lors d’une cérémonie sur la base aérienne d’Andrews, il est resté de marbre. Voyant la mère du diplomate en pleurs, il est allé la réconforter. « Il faut une grande maîtrise pour faire un geste comme celui-là, une minute avant un discours officiel, dit un haut fonctionnaire qui était sur le tarmac. Le président ne peut pas arriver en larmes à la télévision. »

Pour compenser le gouffre culturel qui sépare Obama, intellectuel buveur de thé, des milieux populaires, les conseillers en image ont travaillé. Le président n’apparaît plus qu’avec une bière à la main. Il laboure l’Ohio, terre de cols bleus, avec une chemisette digne du catalogue de Walmart, l’équivalent américain de Carrefour. Il a des arguments de fond, bien sûr. Le chômage est tombé à 7 % dans cet Etat, et cela grâce à l’une des grandes décisions stratégiques de sa présidence : le sauvetage de l’industrie automobile. Mais la perception fait tout.

Et pour l’avoir oublié, pour avoir laissé les républicains le dépeindre comme un « socialiste », couteau de la redistribution entre les dents, il a traversé des moments pénibles. « Le plan de relance de 2009 a été un échec de communication », relève le journaliste Richard Wolffe. Personne n’a jamais su qu’il comportait un volet de réductions d’impôts : « La Maison Blanche a pensé que tout ce qu’elle faisait était si bien qu’elle n’avait pas besoin d’expliquer. » La critique est injuste, estime Daniella Gibbs-Leger, qui était la responsable de la mise en scène de la politique gouvernementale à la Maison Blanche : « Les gens oublient quelle était la situation il y a quatre ans. Une crise après l’autre : l’automobile, la grippe H1N1… »

RIEN N’EST LAISSÉ AU HASARD

En 2010, quand les démocrates se préparaient à perdre la majorité à la Chambre, les perspectives de réélection paraissaient bien éloignées. Le Tea Party était triomphant. Le président a fait un dernier compromis avec les républicains, acceptant de reconduire – y compris pour les riches – les allégements d’impôts passés sous George Bush. Dans son équipe, les divisions s’étaient accentuées. D’un côté, ceux que Richard Wolffe appelle les « survivalistes », partisans d’un recentrage, qui avaient conseillé de laisser tomber la réforme de la santé et de s’adapter aux manières de Washington. De l’autre, les « revivalistes », qui voulaient raviver la torche de l’espoir et du changement, façon 2008. Le président a fini par trancher. Rahm Emanuel, le chef de file des « survivalistes », a été poussé vers la mairie de Chicago tandis que David Plouffe, le gardien du temple, a rejoint la West Wing. Six mois plus tard, en mars 2010, la réforme de l’assurance-santé était votée.

Aujourd’hui, la Maison Blanche tient sa « narration », avec l’assassinat de Ben Laden et le sauvetage de l’industrie automobile. Et Obama a passé la vitesse supérieure. De tout l’été, il n’a pas pris une journée de vacances. Son équipe a bombardé les écrans de publicités qui dépeignent Mitt Romney comme le parangon du capitalisme aveugle. Son entourage dément toute agressivité nouvelle. Barack Obama aime avoir l’air de réussir avec facilité, avec naturel. « Il n’est pas plus compétitif, assure Jen Psaki, la porte-parole de son équipe de campagne. Il veut gagner tout comme il y a quatre ans. Il croit que si les Américains travaillent ensemble, nous pouvons apporter le changement à ce pays. » En fait, cela fait des années que rien n’est laissé au hasard. Obama « veut être le Reagan de la gauche », dit Richard Wolffe. Celui qui reconstruit une grande coalition reprenant l’électorat cols bleus aux républicains – en même temps que la production des éoliennes à la Chine. Depuis le premier jour, il s’engage pour les droits des femmes. Sa première mesure visait à favoriser l’égalité salariale. L’une des dernières est le remboursement obligatoire de la contraception par les compagnies d’assurances, ce qui a causé un sérieux débat avec les catholiques de son équipe. Résultat : il domine Mitt Romney de plus de 15 points dans l’électorat féminin.

Obama a pris des mesures en faveur des Latinos (la suspension des poursuites contre les jeunes clandestins faisant des études) et des homosexuels (l’approbation du mariage gay). Il s’est employé à corriger le désavantage traditionnel des démocrates dans le domaine de la sécurité nationale. Michelle a été mise à contribution : elle est l’envoyée spéciale de la Maison Blanche auprès des familles de militaires, afin de promouvoir l’effort de réintégration des soldats de retour du front. Trois ans plus tard, la Virginie, terre où l’électorat militaire est important, penche pour Obama.

Cible fétiche du Tea Party, le président travaille à rappeler constamment qu’il est chrétien et non musulman, comme s’obstinent à le penser 18 % des républicains, selon un sondage Gallup de juin. Et comme a semblé le croire aussi Madonna – qui s’en est défendue depuis – lors d’un concert le 24 septembre à Washington, même si c’était pour se féliciter qu’un « musulman noir » occupe la Maison Blanche.

En février 2012, au National Prayer Breakfast, un rassemblement annuel de quelque 3 000 personnes (membres du Congrès, diplomates, dignitaires étrangers), le président américain a laissé entrevoir un pan de sa vie spirituelle – dont il n’a manifestement pas parlé au journaliste qui a détaillé son compte à rebours matinal pour Vanity Fair. « Je me lève le matin et je dis une brève prière. Je passe un petit moment à lire les Ecritures et les dévotions. » Sa politique, dit-il, est directement inspirée de l’Evangile. S’il défend les pauvres et les plus vulnérables, face aux compagnies d’assurances et aux institutions financières, c’est qu’il « croit au commandement de Dieu d’aimer son prochain comme soi-même ». Il explique qu’il s’agenouille régulièrement. « J’ai demandé à Dieu de montrer la direction, non seulement dans ma vie personnelle, mais pour la vie de cette nation. Je sais qu’il nous guidera.

Il y a quatre ans, être simplement le candidat du parti était déjà en soi un accomplissement historique. Pour la première fois, un Noir était dans la course finale. « Perdre n’aurait pas été déshonorant », dit un démocrate qui soutient Barack Obama depuis 2006. Cette fois, perdre le ferait entrer dans l’histoire comme une figure importante, mais avant tout symbolique. Il a donc d’autant plus besoin de gagner, ajoute ce proche : « Il n’arrive déjà pas à accepter de perdre au basket contre ses amis. Il ne peut pas se permettre de perdre contre un candidat comme Mitt Romney. »

Corine Lesnes
Correspondante du Monde aux Etats-Unis basée à San Francisco

Notes

(1) Interrogée sur C-Span. Elle est l’auteure de The Obamas (Back Bay Books, août 2012).

(2) Richard Wolffe, Renegade : The Making of a President (Broadway, mai 2012) et Revival : The Struggle for Survival Inside the Obama White House (Broadway, novembre 2011).

(3) Lors d’un débat sur C-Span. Il est l’auteur de Barack Obama : The Story (Simon & Schuster, juin 2012).

Mr. Cool: Obama and the Hipness Factor
John Cassidy
The New Yorker

April 30, 2012

The results of Saturday’s rubber-chicken primary are in. At the annual White House Correspondents’ dinner, which C-SPAN and many Web sites showed live, the incumbent defeated his challenger hands down. “Obama outshines Kimmel and pokes fun at campaigns past and present, Secret Service, Donald Trump,” said a headline on washingtonpost.com. Regular viewers appeared to agree: “Obama is cool,” Ron Lloyd, a commenter from Walla Walla, Washington, wrote at Politico.

“The Sinatra of politics.”

To be sure, Obama’s communication skills remain one of his biggest strengths. They did much, after all, to get him elected in 2008 on the basis of pretty thin résumé, and it is natural to think they will serve him well again this year. As with all valuable resources, though, they need husbanding carefully. If Obama isn’t careful, his opponent could conceivably turn his in-jokes and dazzling hipness against him.

If you haven’t yet seen the speech at the annual White House Correspondents’ dinner, take a peek. To those favorably disposed to him, the sight of Obama in full flow, even now, four years after the beginning of the affair, can be intoxicating.

It should be noted that the Correspondents’ dinner is hardly a tough gig: two thousand media poohbahs and their celebrity guests, most of whom, by the time the President gets up, have been drinking for at least three hours. The President always get a friendly reception. In 2001, George W. Bush brought the house down with an old photograph of himself and his siblings in the bath with their father, George H. W. Bush, when they were young children. I take issue with the sentiments of the Republican operative that my colleague Jane Mayer referred to her post about the evening: I think even Mitt Romney could pull off a speech at the Correspondents’ dinner.

Still, Obama’s performance was a cut above the average. He is a natural, and he knows it. Rather than rushing his jokes, he delivers them slow and deadpan, pausing for effect, using his hands for emphasis. After he’s dropped the gag line—“I want to thank all the members [of Congress] who took a break from their exhausting schedule of not passing any laws to be here tonight: let’s give them a big round of applause”—he sometimes bares his teeth and laughs to himself, as if to say, that was good. David Letterman does the same thing.

If the President can take down Jimmy Kimmel, who gets paid millions of dollars for hosting a late-night talk show, surely he should be able to handle Romney, whose rhetorical talents are, let us be kind, less fully developed. That, in case you need reminding, was Newt Gingrich’s argument: faced with a gabber of Obama’s stature, the G.O.P. needed to nominate somebody who could compete with him in the televised debates, and Romney wasn’t up to to task.

It isn’t quite that simple. From the perspective of Obama’s campaign managers, the key issue is how to deploy Obama’s talents most effectively—and what message to send. At the moment, somebody in Chicago or the White House clearly think he needs to shore up his standing among young voters, which, according to some accounts, has been slipping. Slow-jamming the news with Jimmy Fallon and joking, at the Correspondents’ dinner, that in his second term he will beat out raps by Young Jeezy, the gangsta rapper, rather than singing Al Green tunes, certainly makes him seem youthful and hip. “Obama has repeatedly nodded to Jay-Z and Nas and some of the genre’s other elder statesmen, but to my knowledge this is the deepest dive into hip-hop that the Prez has attempted so far,” Amos Barshad, a former writer for Spin magazine, commented at Grantland, a Web site devoted to sports and pop culture, “and I gotta say, I’m impressed.”

But for Obama, accentuating his hipness carries some dangers. The essence of being hip, after all, is that you operate on a more refined plane than most people: you are more fashionable, more discerning, and more discriminating than the average boob. For a President who is already viewed by some Americans as an out-of-touch élitist, this isn’t necessarily the sort of image you want to cultivate—especially during a prolonged economic downturn.

“This election is not going to be about who’s cooler,” Peter Flaherty, a senior advisor to Romney, said a couple of days ago at a forum organized by the Washington Post. “The question is going to be, who do you trust to run the economy?” Another Romney adviser, Eric Fehrnstrom (yes, he of the Etch A Sketch gaffe) added at the same event, “You won’t see the governor slow jam the news.”

Of course, the Romney operatives are trying to make a virtue out of a necessity. When you are pitching a former Mormon bishop who uses the diction of a nineteen-fifties preppy, you cannot really hope to compete for the votes of hipsters with a slim groover who uses the word “man” without any irony. (Obama to Newt: “There’s still time, man.”) But as a diligent campaign consultant, you can try to present the other candidate as an out-of-touch élitist who doesn’t understand the concerns of ordinary (read “white”) folks out there in middle America.

That, you can be sure, is where the Republicans will be concentrating their attacks. In his remarks at the Washington Post event, Fehrnstom identified Florida, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Ohio as key battleground states. Notwithstanding the positive review provided by Mr. Lloyd of Walla Walla, it remains to be seen how Obama’s latest media appearances will go down in places like these. For all his smarts, he needs to be a bit careful. Americans like having a funny, articulate, and modern President. But they don’t want somebody who is too cool for school.

John Cassidy has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1995. He also writes a column about politics, economics, and more, for newyorker.com.

Sorry, Romney. Youre Not Black Or Cool.
Before it’s news

November 5, 2012

At least one complaint has been lodged with the Advertising Standards Association of Ireland over this morning’s newspaper ad.                                                                                                           BOOKMAKER PADDY POWER has defended an advertisement that appeared in this morning’s newspapers in which it apologised to Mitt Romney for not winning this year’s US Presidential Election – in part because he’s “not black”.

The half-page advertisement heralds the fact that the bookmaker has already begun paying out on bets that Obama would win tomorrow’s election.
“Sorry, Romney”, the ad declares. “You’re not black or cool.”
This afternoon the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland said it would be beginning an investigation into the advert after receiving a complaint from a member of the public.
“It’s not a clear-cut case that this is offensive or not,” said Frank Goodman, its chief executive, who added that a response would now be sought from Paddy Power to defend the advert against charges that the ad is in breach of the Code of Standards for Advertising, Promotional and Direct Marketing.
“Historically, the black community have been restricted in rights and access to public life,” Goodman said.
“If someone refers to this and says, ‘Obama, you’re not white’ […] that would probably be immediately offensively racist.”
Paddy Power spokesman Ken Robertson dismissed such suggestions, however, and insisted the ad was “not supposed to be racial stereotyping”.
“It certainly wasn’t our intention to set out to offend people,” Robertson asserted, saying the bookmaker merely wanted to underline that it had paid out €650,000 to punters who had bet on Obama to be re-elected.
“In keeping with all Paddy Power advertising, it’s edgy – sometimes a little bit provocative – but always funny,” he said.

Voir de plus:

To Be Cool or to Be Effective, That Is the Question
Eddie Settles

Back in river city

September 16, 2012

We’re all – or should be –  thinking about whom to vote for in November.

The young folks say Romney isn’t cool, but Obama is.

Check out the cool test for the David Letterman crowd:

Does “cool” trump the (other) attributes necessary to run the most powerful country in the world?  We could probably all agree that George W. Bush was not cool.

Neither was Jimmy Carter (except, for some, it was arguably cool to pull the lever for a peanut farmer).  Bill Clinton, that rascal, whose popularity is now at an all-time high, is definitely cool.  Or at least so they tell me. Was Lincoln cool?  Seriously doubtful.

But I digress.

When you’re cool, people are pre-disposed to want to be your friend. At least, that’s how it works in youth culture.

Romney was the Republican governor of a Democrat state. He got a lot of things done, through compromise.

Obama was a Democrat senator – briefly – in a Democrat state. Obama and the Republican-majority U.S. House have been unable to agree on anything for two years.

One thing we ought to think about is which candidate can build bridges. If the President can’t work with folks in the other party, it’s likely that no work for the people gets done for another four years.

Romney has successfully worked with one of the most partisan Democrat majority state legislatures in the country. Although he promised to build bridges across the aisle, President Obama hasn’t worked well with anyone with an R beside their name. At least on this dimension, it seems to me the choice is clear.

Cool is getting everyone on the same page to make life better in America.

What do you think?

 Voir de plus:

Cool transformations
Dale Smith reviews
Birth of the Cool: Beat, Bebop, and the American Avant-Garde by Lewis MacAdams
Simon & Schuster, 2001, 288 pp., 68 black and white photographs, USD$27.50

Jacket

December 2001

“Growing up in Texas myself, I know instinctively what he means. It was always cooler elsewhere.”

BY THE TIME I was born in the late 1960s the term “cool” already stood for the quiet defiance and restrained desire that marked it for earlier generations who frequented jazz clubs and taverns like Birdland in New York City. Growing up outside Dallas, Texas, I didn’t know about Bebop or even the Beats, but that didn’t matter. The idea of “cool” had been filtered, extending far beyond its early contexts in jazz circles of the ’40s and ’50s. Cool for me was a given, a statement and testament of oneself.

For my friends and me, cool was a way to get along, to not impose crippling histrionic gestures on each other. It was about a tight-lipped nonchalance and silent defiance in a world run by people much older and more uptight than we could ever imagine ourselves to be. Cool was a ubiquitous code of conduct for nearly everyone I knew. It shielded our confused emotional lives, providing us with a protective cultural apparatus to avert offensive demands made by Reaganomics. In the age of the yuppie, “cool” insured our self-dignity.

In Birth of the Cool, poet-journalist Lewis MacAdams goes behind our cool conceptions to chronicle the historic deliverance of “cool” from small mid-century art vanguards. Before that “‘cool’ was in use among African Americans in Florida as early as 1935,” he tells us. But it wasn’t until the era of Bebop that the term really stuck, widening in usage among black musicians during and just after the Second World War.

MacAdams understands the slippery nature of his subject, and he tells us that “anybody trying to define ‘cool’ quickly comes up against cool’s quicksilver nature. As soon as anything is cool, its cool starts to vaporize.” “Cool” also was about self-protection, “the ultimate revenge of the powerless. Cool was the one thing that the white slaveowner couldn’t own. Cool was the one thing money couldn’t buy. At its core, cool is about defiance.”

Cool hit full stride around 1945, “taking place in the shadows, among marginal characters, in cold-water flats and furnished basement rooms.” Many jazz musicians, poets, performers and artists in New York existed as outsiders in a newly victorious world power. The Cold War in coming years would intensify social pressures, forcing artists into a quiet battle between art created at society’s margins and an explosive machinery of fame, bestowed on unknown artists by the sudden attention of the press and influential critics.

Jackson Pollock and Jack Kerouac are two such men for whom experimentation, social defiance and singular willpower ultimately crashed under a market conspiracy to move their art into mass consciousness (and consumption). They were the first to become national ambassadors of cool by embodying its very essence.

Others before them such as Miles Davis, Lester Young and Charlie Parker were still guiding spirits of cool, ruling for many in the imagination behind the mediated figures of Pollock, Kerouac and other popular stars such as Marlon Brando, James Dean and Andy Warhol. But it was the media who embraced cool and presented it to a country hungry for some new expression as the Cold War destabilized a collective psyche already battered by World War II and conflicts in Korea.

Stories fuel his book, and MacAdams spins a narrative of cool by focusing on key figures of mid century art, music and literature. He finds in legend and lore the traits of “cool,” looking first at the black musicians closest to its roots, then at the quick transformation of cool from underground bohemian posture to a mainstay feature of national life. It was after all an African American phenomenon, and whites have always been drawn to the power of black art. Behind their hip facades, Dizzy Gillespie, Billy Eckstine, Thelonius Monk, Sonny Rollins and other black jazz musicians are featured as conduits of cool.

MacAdams also acknowledges heroin use among musicians, not to moralize against it in the manner of Ken Burns’ recent documentary, nor to uplift it as a kind of inspiring daemon, but to show its use and the underground culture that developed around it. Sharing the words of trumpeter Red Rodney, MacAdams tells us that “Hipsters used heroin. Squares didn’t. Heroin gave us membership in a unique club, and for this membership we gave up everything else in the world. Every ambition. Every desire. Everything.”

It was saxophonist Charlie Parker’s drug habit that influenced scores of younger musicians. “People followed Bird around everywhere, analyzing his moves,” MacAdams says. “Yet even as his reputation soared, and the music that he pioneered was coming of age, Parker’s health and music were collapsing.”

William S. Burroughs, another famous junkie and son of “genteel St. Louis upper-middle-class society” receives considerable attention as an outlaw figure, the wandering fuck-up who wants society to leave him alone to cruise for boys and take drugs. He is an uncanny image of depravity through which the idea of cool was filtered and extended.

Once Kerouac’s fame was sealed with the now legendary On the Road, Burroughs became an underground celebrity for his novels Naked Lunch, Cities of the Red Night and Place of Dead Roads. But throughout the ‘30s and ‘40s he wandered between American cities and rural areas in South Texas and Louisiana, living on the outside, a would-be gangster, unknown and desolate save for a small pension offered by his family. With Kerouac, Ginsberg, Herbert Huncke, Joan Vollmer (the wife he accidentally shot in Mexico City) and others, he lived the life that one day would be transformed into legend.

But his petty thefts, drug addiction and other brushes with the law left him scarred too. “I am so disgusted with conditions I may leave the U.S.A. altogether,” he wrote Kerouac in November 1948. The following year he crossed the border to Mexico, “inaugurating an exile that would last, with only a few brief, furtive interruptions, for the next twenty-four years.”

While Burroughs and others blasted America with drugs and sex, looking for a life free of the gripping social conditions of the Cold War, cool was extended further into the mainstream. D.T. Suzuki’s Columbia University lectures introduced a generation of young East Coast intellectuals to the ideas of Zen Buddhism. In addition to John Cage, Philip Guston and Erich Fromm, “Suzuki inspired an entire generation of ‘bodhisattvas of cool’ — new, cool heroes indifferent to privilege, dogma, and attachment in but not of the world.”

Socially, the Left embraced cool. Activist Dorothy Day, Living Theater performers Julien Beck and Judith Malina, pop artist Andy Warhol and singer Bob Dylan find space in MacAdams’ pantheon of cool. In Dylan, who abandons the leftist idealism of the folk movement to expand his music to a wider audience, MacAdams sees the ultimate upload of cool into the mainstream.

Norman Mailer’s essay, “The White Negro,” revealed an earlier popularization of “cool” as a kind of commodified personality, insisting “cool was sexual,” and that “cool was capable of being seduced.” White intellectuals and artists sexualize this passage, a white acculturation to African defiance and self-defense extending through the ’50s and ’60s. The power of “cool” is that of self-transformation, the ultimate in New World mythology, and the reinvention of ourselves into social abstractions is one result of cool attitudes, poses and social extensions.

The value of this book lies in the historic narratives we encounter throughout it. Neither a celebration, exactly, nor a critical evaluation of it, the “cool” is shown by virtue of the forms it took in the lives of musicians and artists such as Charlie Parker, Robert Rauschenberg, Gary Snyder and others.

“If cool has been trivialized, it’s also been globalized,” MacAdams writes. “As English has spread around the earth, so has cool. To use the word ‘cool’ well is to partake of a central ritual of global culture as profound and as universal as a handshake.”

While he doesn’t say so, the global sale of the “cool” is nothing to celebrate. The mass production of personality, stamped out with products from Nike to Coke, or Budweiser to VW, is less a front for individual security than a necessary stance taken for success. The individual has been usurped by the cool projection of style and attitude, copped from magazines, movies, television  —   wherever the personal can be mediated.

But MacAdams remembers for us here the African American foundation of our current condition in a cool society, showing us a collaboration of American identity between the individual and the society that reduces us to a standard cookie cutter cutout of some greater mystery or more alien form.

For MacAdams, growing up in Texas, “‘Cool’ meant not only approval, but kinship. It was a ticket out of the life I felt closing in all around me: it meant a path to a cooler world.” Growing up in Texas myself, I know instinctively what he means. It was always cooler elsewhere.

But now that cool is everywhere, a global product of consumer marketing, we’re still waiting, anxious for what new image of ourselves to appear? With few traces of sentiment, the history behind the cool is a record of the resilient and adaptable psyche of a nation. MacAdams cuts to the chase to show us his version of the “cool,” and by extension, also where we come from.

Lewis MacAdams is the author of ten books of poetry, three film documentaries (including What Happened to Jack Kerouac?) and is an award-winning writer for Rolling Stone, Los Angeles Times Magazine and many others. Born in Texas, he graduated from Princeton in 1966, and now lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two children. You can read his piece on Philip Whalen in Jacket 11, and Dale Smith’s review of Lewis MacAdams’ The River: Books One and Two in Jacket 7
Dale Smith lives in Austin, Texas, where he edits the magazine Skanky Possum with his wife, the poet Hoa Nguyen. You can read Kent Johnson’s interview with Dale Smith in this issue of Jacket.

Voir encore:

Cool Politics: Styles of Honour in Malcolm X and Miles Davis
For John Fraser
George Elliott Clarke
Duke University

1998

The following article, « Cool Politics: Styles of Honour in Malcolm X and Miles Davis, » raises two implicit issues, one theoretical, the other personal. The hidden theoretical question is, how is it possible to discuss African-American masculinities in a postcolonial context? In other words, what congruencies exist between African-American literary theory/cultural studies and postcolonial theory? The secret, personal question is, what motivates my interest in undertaking the attempted rehabilitation of two sorry, African-American misogynists? If these queries are sediments in the essay itself, the same is true, perhaps, of their potential solutions.
Certainly, I see no essential divorce between African-American Studies and postcolonial theory. Indeed, one obvious linkage between the two is that both come into being at the same historical juncture, whether one wants to date this moment as the period of full-blown modernism (1914-1939), or whether one prefers to specify the period of post-World War II decolonization. In either case, African-American socio-political theorists, from W. E. B. Du Bois to bell hooks, have been central to the articulation of theories of political liberation that have proven influential for decolonized intellectuals. Famously, for instance, Harlem Renaissance writers like Langston Hughes saw their race pride poetics recapitulated in the works of African négritude writers like Léopold Senghor. Likewise, the revolutionary analyses of African-American leaders like Malcolm X (El Hajj Malik El Shabazz) found an audience among Caribbean intellectuals, including exiles in Britain in the 1960s (See Carew). U.S. Black Panther Party rhetoric was translated and made to suit the aspirations of Canadian Québecois radicals (SeeVallières). Of course, African-American intellectuals have also been strongly influenced by their colonial and postcolonial counterparts. Obviously, Mahatma Gandhi’s indépendantiste movement in India provided a model for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, while South Africa’s Nelson Mandela has been adopted into the African-American pop culture pantheon. Moreover, the writings of the Martiniquan psychiatrist and Algerian liberation theorist Frantz Fanon are primary texts in African-American Studies and postcolonial theory. (Notably, Fanon borrowed some of his concepts from Du Bois.)
But the parallels between African-American Studies and postcolonial theory run deeper than their participation in the same intellectual economy. Indeed, African America evolved via a colonial process. For one thing, Philip Brian Harper urges that while « the situation of black Americans [cannot] be posited unproblematically as a colonial one, its historical sine qua non–the slave trade–can certainly be considered as a manifestation of the colonizing impulse » (253, n.26). Charles P. Henry, in Culture and African American Politics (1990), notes that present-day « Black nationalism, as an ideological response to white exclusion and uneven economic development, place[s] [urban issues] under the rubric of internal colonialism . . . » (106). Summing up others’ views on the subject, Henry writes, « Like the conventional colony, the black colony in the United States is characterized by political powerlessness, economic dependence, and social isolation » (103). Malcolm X, in a 1964 speech, offers this analysis: « America is a colonial power. She has colonized 22,000,000 Afro-Americans by depriving us of first-class citizenship, by depriving us of civil rights, actually by depriving us of human rights » (9). In American Poetry in the Twentieth Century (1971), American poet-critic Kenneth Rexroth concedes that « the [black] militants’ charge that Black America is an internal colony has been true as far as poetry was concerned » (149). He even sounds a postcolonial note, claiming that « Black poetry has been provincial, like Canadian, until recent years, or Australian still » (149).
Not only do some African-American scholars accept the analysis that Black America constitutes a « colony » within the United States, some also apply postcolonial theory to its cultural production. Hence, African American writer Gayl Jones, in her study of the African-American oral tradition, is sensitive to the political importance of the « Canadian English » (10) in Margaret Laurence’s novels:In Margaret Laurence’s prose . . . we see the need for asserting identity through language. This applies to a nation’s need to name its own songs, themes, and character in its own distinct language, and to a person’s need to say, this is who I am (or in collective oral traditions, as are most by implication, « this is who we are »). And by discussing [Laurence] we move closer to the motives of the African American writer and many other minority and Third World writers in their usually more manifest anddeliberate use of oral traditions and folklore to achieve and asserta distinctive aesthetic and literary voice. (7)
Like Jones, many African-American intellectuals explore the similarities between African-American culture and other postcolonial cultures. Indeed, Abdul R. JanMohamed and David Lloyd opine that « Afro-American culture . . . can function as a paradigm of minority cultures » (5).
Being a once colonized entity, African America generates familiar, postcolonial concepts. For instance, Du Bois’s articulation, in 1903, of the American Negro’s « double-consciousness, » this sense of always feeling one’s « twoness, –an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder  » (3), almost echoes the famous verdict in Lord Durham’s Report on the Affairs of British North America (1839) on the government of the British North American colonies: « I found two nations [Francophones and Anglophones] warring in the bosom of a single state [Québec] . . . » (8). But Du Bois’s comment also anticipates Canadian scholar Linda Hutcheon’s sense that Canadians possess « that doubleness able to see both sides at once » (17). To live black in the United States is, then, to develop a postcolonial consciousness. Given this reality, one can harmonize African-American Studies with postcolonial theory.
Two recent articles should help to clarify my personal motives in attempting to recuperate, for progressive political use, Malcolm X and Miles Davis and–along with them–the apparatus of chivalry. In « Hollow triumph, » a review of works reconsidering The Communist Manifesto of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, British critic John Gray observes that « Marx’s expectations of socialism have been disappointed everywhere; but his glimpses of how capitalism hollows out bourgeois societies are proving prophetic » (4). Triumphalist capitalism has even castrated conservativism:Conservative parties seek to promote free markets, while at the same time defending « traditional values. » It is hard to think of a more quixotic enterprise. Free markets are the most potent solvent of tradition at work in the world today. (4)
Yet, if traditional socialism and conservatism cannot restrain neoliberalism, then what is left? (No pun intended.) One possible answer is spelled out in John Fraser’s America and the Patterns of Chivalry (1982), where he argues for the continued salience of codes of honour in political action: « The various chivalric-martial syntheses . . . make effective, high-energy combat easier, whether on behalf of so-called traditional or so-called radical principles » (231). I feel that X and Davis illustrate, despite their flaws, the possibility for the revitalization of non-sexist and life-enhancing chivalric-martial concepts such as virtue, gallantry, and honour, all of which can be used to « fight the powers that be. » But my other major reason for wishing to reactivate these concepts is that they continue to motivate many black males, including intellectuals. See, here, African-American writer Gerald Early’s recent reflections on Muhammad Ali and his importance to Early’s youth:. . . I saved my paper route money and simply bought a bat, the best bat I could find, a genuine Louisville Slugger, the first one I ever owned. . . . I carefully carved, scratched, really, into the bat the word « Ali ». . . . I just slung it on my shoulder like the great weapon it was, my knight’s sword. And I felt like some magnificent knight, some great protector of honor and virtue, whenever I walked on the field with it. I called the bat « the Great Ali. » (14)

Early’s chivalric characterization of himself–and Ali–is an act replicated a million times over among African-American males, and with particular reference to X and Davis. I need to explore the progressive element of this cultural imperative because these men are my heroes. I confess I am drawn to them as a leftist, African-Canadian intellectual of African-American and West Indian heritage. Moreover, like them, I live with the postcolonial irony that, for all my conscious critique of European–especially Anglo-Saxon–culture, I have inherited, for better or worse, the Anglo-Saxon slavemasters’s love of codes of honour.
El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, known popularly as Malcolm X (his Nation of Islam-issued name), and Sir Miles Dewey Davis III (whose honorific derives from his induction in 1988 into The Knights of Malta[1]) share intriguingly similar biographical details. Born in the mid-western United States, in 1925 and 1926 respectively, these iconic incarnations of African-American masculinity came to maturity during the era of Euro-American-authored apartheid in the United States, yet attained cross-over and international prominence in their proper fields of theological-cum-political theorizing and jazz trumpet virtuosity and music theory innovation. They also authored celebrated, as-told-to autobiographies. In collaboration with Alex Haley, X narrated The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965). Davis drafted, with the assistance of Quincy Troupe, Miles: The Autobiography (1989). Though X was assassinated in 1965 and Davis died of a pneumonia-triggered stroke in 1991, they persist as phantasmal cultural presences through their books (including Davis’s The Art of Miles Davis,[2] a portfolio of his paintings) and their recordings (X’s speeches and Davis’s music). The Ballantine Books paperback edition of X’s Autobiography achieved, in November 1992, its 33rd printing since 1973, while Davis’s post-mortem popularity as a jazz artist seems poised to eclipse that of John Coltrane (1926-1967), the race pride emblem par excellence of the 1960s. [3] X and Davis dominate the popular cultures of their separate demesnes. Transfigured into demi-deities, they are omnipresent in mass media, in film (Spike Lee’s X [1992]), opera (Anthony and Thulani Davis’s X, The Life and Times of Malcolm X [1986]), documentaries, books, recordings, and clothing and associated tchotchkes. Even as X and Davis are reified into protean, Warhol-like pop idols, their representations also dramatize and reproduce a patriarchal black masculinity, an anarchic machismo. Worse, this rugged phallocentrism, which bell hooks blames for « much black-on-black violence, » among other ills (Black 111), is furthered, perhaps, by the seductiveness of these figures for urban, African-American, male youth, from whose ranks they came and to whose concerns and styles they paid scrupulous fealty. [4] In fact, the steady appeal of these figures likely owes something to their efforts, during their careers, to address this alienated constituency. [5] Positioning themselves as archetypal black men, they became exemplary champions of the black male-delineated worlds of black religion and black music, spheres in which the masterful and the triumphant exude confidence, poise, purpose, style–in short, ‘cool.’ Their investments in codes of honour, in ‘coolness,’ offer a context for their cultural success, but also, arguably, useable notions for the construction of a re-energized and progressive African-American socio-political movement. [6] Paradoxically, too, their styles of honour yield means for subverting their sexism, while yet permitting their inscription into avant-garde politics and aesthetics. [7]

The issuance of salvific versions of X and Davis is hampered, however, by their patriarchal proclivities, their forthright pimping, and their verbal and physical assaults on women. Patricia Hill Collins, a perceptive reader of X’s views on gender, declares that he classified women into « two opposing categories »–as « Eves–deceptive temptresses who challenged male authority » (74) or as « Madonnas–archetypal wives and mothers who sacrifice everything for their husbands and children » (76). [8] Too, X’s Autobiography abounds in such stereotypes. Remembering his days as a zoot-suited dandy, X worries that he seduced Laura, an incipient lover, into a sensual and self-destructive life in Roxbury. If he had had the perceptiveness of a former Harlem friend, « Sammy The Pimp, » though, he « might have spotted in Laura then some of the subsurface potential [for prostitution, drug addiction, and lesbianism], destined to become real, that would have shocked her grandma » (Autobiography 64). He espouses, here, an unreconstructed, street-level Calvinism. Later, X suggests that, because he chose the white Sophia, a « fine » blonde over Laura (Autobiography 66), she suffered a vertiginous dégringolade:Laura never again came to the drugstore as long as I continued to work there. The next time I saw her, she was a wreck of a woman, notorious around black Roxbury, in and out of jail. . . . Defying her grandmother, she had started going out late and drinking liquor. This led to dope, and that to selling herself to men. Learning to hate the men who bought her, she also became a Lesbian. One of the shames I have carried for years is that I blame myself for all of this. (Autobiography 68)

If Laura signifies the decline of a black woman, especially in the absence of the ‘correct,’ heterosexual bonding, other black women appear bestialized. X tells of dancing with Mamie Bevels, « a big, rough, strong gal, [who] lindied like a bucking horse » (Autobiography 64). Recalling his Detroit Red, pimp-hustler lifestyle, X sketches a New York City dominatrix as « a big, coal-black girl, strong as an ox, with muscles like a dockworker’s » who would grease « her big Amazon body all over to look shinier and blacker » (Autobiography 119), using terms that foresee those of writer Eldridge Cleaver, a chief, late-1960s proponent of black patriarchal chic. [9] X also treated Sophia parasitically, confessing that « even when I had hundreds of dollars in my pocket, when [Sophia] came to Harlem I would take everything she had short of her train fare back to Boston » (Autobiography 135). He justifies this behaviour by blaming the victim: « It seems that some women love to be exploited » (Autobiography 135). X would also « slap [Sophia] around, » for « every once in a while a woman seems to need, in fact wants this » (Autobiography 135, his italics). [10] Joining the Nation of Islam did not alter X’s gendered vision. As Harlem-based Minister Malcolm X, he was notorious for his anti-woman oratory, the catalyst for which he cited as « personal reasons »: « I’d had too much experience that women were only tricky, deceitful, untrustworthy flesh » (Autobiography 226). For most of the Autobiography, X is a figure whose inchoate, revolutionary, political consciousness is bounded and circumscribed by retrograde notions regarding half of the African-American community.

Davis’s Miles: The Autobiography articulates damningly the speaker’s own violence-prone exploitation of women. While a heroin addict in the early 1950s, for instance, Davis « met a nice young girl »: « But I was fucking her over like I was fucking over all the women I knew at that time. If they didn’t have no money I didn’t want to see them. . . .  » (172). After marrying dancer Frances Taylor in 1958, Davis recalls that he became abusive: « Every time I hit her, I felt bad because a lot of it really wasn’t her fault but had to do with me being temperamental and jealous » (228). During his self-described Silent Period, between 1975 and 1980, when he was neither performing nor recording, Davis « just took a lot of cocaine . . . and fucked all the women I could get into my house » (335). « I had so many different women during this period, » he confesses, « that I lost track of most of them and don’t even remember their names » (336). These women were anonymous, interchangeable commodities, « there one night and gone the next day » (336). Valorizing « Brazilian, Ethiopian, and Japanese women, » Davis devalues African-American women:Most of them are in competition with you, no matter what you do for them. . . . Most white women tend to treat a man better than a black woman does, because most white women don’t have those [psychological] hangups that black women have. I know this is going to make a lot of black women mad but that’s just the way I see it.

See, a lot of black women see themselves as teachers or mothers when it comes to a man. They’ve got to be in control. (401) [11]
Davis’s vision of African-American women differs little from that of Cleaver’s Accused. White women fare better. Recalling his affaire de coeur with French chanteuse Juliette Gréco, Davis eyes her as a fetishized object: Gréco « was just so fine … long black hair, beautiful face, small, stylish » (126), « probably the first woman that I loved as an equal human being » (127). But when, as an addict, he met Gréco in New York City in 1954, Davis went « into my black pimp role, » asks her for money, and, as he was leaving, yelled, « ‘Aw, bitch, shut up; I told you I would call you later!' » (185-186). Though Davis claims, « I didn’t hate women; I loved them, probably too much » (336), his attitudes echo X’s phallocentric reasoning.

Expressions of, as Michele Wallace terms it, « black macho, » [12] pervade the script of late-1960s writers like Cleaver and pervert the rhetoric of Black Aesthetic, Black Power, and Black Panther Party leaders and disciples. As Houston A. Baker urges, « a lot of people committed all kinds of transgressions and just plain old nonsense under the sign ‘black men' » during this period (133), and these influences, violations and stances persist, festering in the constricted psychic spaces left to young, urban, African-American males. [13] Nor has jazz been immune from phrasing claustral ideas, for, from its inception in the streets of New Orleans, it has displayed, posits critic Richard Williams, « a strong component of competitive machismo. . .  » (37). Certainly, an imperious, black machismo polices contemporary popular culture. « Public figures such as Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Chuck D., Spike Lee, and a host of other black males, » notes hooks, « blindly exploit the commodification of blackness and the concomitant exotification of phallocentric black masculinity » (Black 102). Paul Gilroy believes that « An amplified and exaggerated masculinity has become the boastful centrepiece of a culture of compensation [i.e. Rap music] that self-consciously salves the misery of the disempowered and subordinated » (85). The en vogue glamour of X and Davis as role models is signaled in part by their flagrantly recuperable machoism, sexism, and misogyny. Their ‘value’ depends, in part, on their status as good currency in the counterfeit-ridden marketplace of black phallocentrism.
But there is, perhaps, another reason for the apparent popularity of their works, namely, the codes of honour, or of ideal behaviour, they enshrine. If visions of justice determine masculine ideals, the exalted elements of the discourses of and around X and Davis are, for young black male audiences, likely those which codify masculinity in a manner that might assist survival. That manner, or style, is represented by the sign ‘cool.’

‘Cool’, though an amorphous quality–more mystique than material–is a pervasive element in urban black male culture. As sociologists Richard Majors and Janet Mancini Billson evince in Cool Pose: The Dilemmas of Black Manhood in America (1992), African-American men employ « cool » as « a tool for hammering masculinity out of the bronze of their daily lives » (2). It is a « strategic style » that « allows the black male to tip society’s imbalanced scales in his favor » (2). Importantly, too, « coolness means poise under pressure and the ability to maintain detachment, even during tense encounters » (2). To further define the indefinable, Majors and Billson produce a pantheon of cool: « Black athletes, with their stylish dunking of the basketball, spontaneous dancing in the end zone, and high-fives handshakes, are cool. The twenty-two-year-old pimp, with his Cadillac and « stable of lace » (prostitutes), is cool. Celebrities such as Miles Davis, Eddie Murphy, and the late Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. are cool » (4). (Though X is absent here, Imani Perry believes that his style suited « the cool aesthetic in [African-American] folklore [which] respects composure and asserts the importance of personal control over a situation » [179].) Crucially, in Majors and Billson, coolness involves a willingness to engage in violence (33), to risk death (34), to suppress emotion (in interactions with friends, family members, lovers, spouses, and children), to value spontaneity, expressiveness, and stylishness (71), and to prize verbal dexterity (99). These qualities of cool render it an essential survival mechanism in a society in which « except for people over age eighty-five, black males are dying at a higher rate than any other group at any age » (19). Given this vicious context, any moral code that signals meaning, community, and purposefulness, that is to say, that combats anomie, is potentially irresistible. Coolness is one such code.

If coolness is an antidote to (or a palliative of) crisis, X and Davis are eminently marketable conveyors of this ‘medicine.’ Their ‘packaging,’ then, communicates charismatic aspects of cool, such as resourcefulness, quick thinking, skill, courage, fierceness, seeming insouciance, and fashion smarts. In his Autobiography, for instance, X remembers purchasing a zoot suit, in his Boston dandy phase, and taking three « sepia-toned, while-you-wait pictures of myself, posed the way ‘hipsters’ wearing their zoots would ‘cool it’–hat dangled, knees drawn close together, feet wide apart, both index fingers jabbed toward the floor. Of course, « the long coat and swinging chain and the Punjab pants were much more dramatic if you stood that way » (Autobiography 52). Following this « ‘hip code,' » X learns to repress his emotions (Autobiography 52). As Detroit Red, X alters his style again: « all of my suits were conservative. A banker might have worn my shoes » (Autobiography 136). X also exhibits cool in his preparedness to die for a matter of principle. Caught in a « classic hustler-code impasse » with West Indian Archie, X contemplates resolving their affaire d’honneur by way of a shoot-out, given the importance of « face » and « honor » in « our sidewalk jungle world » (Autobiography 127). Later, as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, X courts martyrdom, acknowledging that « societies often have killed the people who have helped to change those societies » (Autobiography 381-382). His ‘cool’ oratorical and performative skills were also showcased in his deft handling of hostile media. Murray Kempton insists that X’s « special genius was for preserving his message intact in the prison of the sound bite » and « the coldness of his voice to summon . . . ferocity » (43). With his telegenic looks and his scorched-earth discourse, he was a McLuhanesque personification of televisual vivacity: « Malcolm was like JFK or Elvis. He was made for the TV age, the information age and the hip-hop age » (Tate, « Can » 184). [14] In sum, X embodied a catalogue of cool values: « rebellion, intellect, style, grace, strength, the power of personal transformation and disarming honesty » (Imani Perry 185).

For his part, Davis is cool incarnate. The originator of so-called cool jazz, his The Complete Birth of the Cool (1949) recording is a classic. [15] According to Williams, Davis established his artistic « superiority » via the « development of a style, both personal and musical, so cool as to render its owner beyond competition–untouchable, unknowable, invulnerable » (37). His Autobiography anatomizes cool. Like X, Davis is fearless: « I ain’t never been the scaredy type, never was » (18). He knows « what I want, always have known what I wanted. . .  » (19, his italic). He fashions himself in desirable guise: « Me and a couple of my friends–who were also into clothes–started comparing notes on what was hip and what wasn’t » (32). He represses his emotions: « I was just cold to mostly everyone » (186). He insists on his own values: « I’m black and I don’t compromise, and white people–especially white men–don’t like this in a black person, especially a black man » (383). Like X, Davis carried himself with an impressive, antinomian suavity. Krin Gabbard underscores the essential maleness and independence that Davis’s playing and personality communicated:Many phallic elements persisted in Davis’s playing, including spikes into the upper register, fast runs throughout the range of the instrument, and an often exaggerated feel for climaxes. He was also conspicuous in refusing to develop an ingratiating performance persona, often turning his back on audiences, ignoring their applause, and leaving the stage when other musicians were soloing. (110-111)
In addition, his public postures comprised « carefully crafted performances » (Major and Billson 4)–the essence of cool.

Though their emblematic coolness underlies the inviting stances of X and Davis, their commodification on this basis does not erase the truth that « coolness may be a survival strategy that has cost the black male–and society–an enormous price » (Major and Billson xi). As hooks observes, « asserting their ability to be ‘tough,’ to be ‘cool,’ black men take grave risks with their lives and the lives of others » (Black 111). Too, the cool images of X and Davis that circulate within African-American popular culture are mere reifications–all beaucoup style and denatured substance. Both figures have suffered ironic iconizations into a kind of cool that reproduces them as true ‘souls on ice,’ as cultural heroes whose politics and social relevance are frozen in two-dimensional friezes or freeze-frames. [16] To maintain the accessibility, the currency, of these figures for progressive causes, however, one must recontextualize and reconfigure their « cool poses. » One must relocate the seductive, sirenic appeal that X and Davis have for young black men, within a new values matrix. Ironically, though, these ideas refer to a powerful, older system of mores, codes of honour, that exists, almost subterraneanly, in Western–and African-American–pop and ‘high’ culture.
I refer here to chivalric codes that, far from vanishing after the successful revolt of the Thirteen Colonies against imperial rule and the establishment of the American republic, seem to have become vital constituents of latent notions of nobility. In his convincing, polymathic study, America and the Patterns of Chivalry (1982), John Fraser shows that, despite the American Revolution, « certain chivalric patterns were not only recreated in America but created more fully and purely at times than they had been in Europe » (49). His thesis illuminates the insight that no idea ever perishes completely; history is a poetry that we speak and write against our wills, resurrecting aèd terms and philosophies in the guise of the new. Hence, chivalric codes survive, even if literal knights, lords, ladies, and serfs are as dead as the aristocratic forebears of Hardy’s Tess. Indeed, X and Davis have been framed consciously in such terms. Introducing X’s Autobiography, M. S. Handler asserts that X « had the physical bearing and the inner self-confidence of a born aristocrat » (ix). As recorded by Haley, actor Ossie Davis’s eulogy for X constructs the martyred leader as a « bold young captain, » « our own black shining Prince!–who didn’t hesitate to die, because he loved us so » (454). John Edgard Wideman even stages a Zapata-esque, Hollywood image of X: « Silhouetted against the sky the stallion rears up on its hind legs, then gallops off, bearing its invisible rider to the sanctity of the mountains, free, strong, always there when we need him, when we’re ready to seek him out. El-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz » (116). Nikki Giovanni, in an essay rewriting Lee’s film bio of X, drafts a scene in which « Malcolm, like a knight of old, pledges his life and honor to Elijah Muhammad » (212, my italics). Likewise, Tate implies a chivalric idealization of Davis when he decides that Davis enacted « vulnerability with attitude » (« Preface » 246). Too, Davis’s demise signals, for Tate, « the end of a certain heroic master narrative of Black male artistry » (« Preface » 244). Herman Gray views Davis (and other jazz artists) as depicting « an assertive heterosexual masculinity » (176). The representations of X and Davis as neo-chevaliers, defenders of truth, black manhood, and the African-American Way, though superficially medieval, romantic, and essentialist, answer to deeply felt psychological and cultural needs and cultural patterns within African-American (and American) history.

In their autobiographies, for one thing, X and Davis–as protagonists– participate in what Fraser deems « the family of chivalric heroes » whose members, « in whole or in part, have entered into everyone’s consciousness, » and allude to such hardy, pop culture archetypes as « knightly Westerners, » crusading reporters, hardboiled detectives, martial arts samurai, incorruptible lawmen, and dashing military types, all of whom epitomize « native American gallantry and grace » (12). Fraser emphasizes that these chivalric figures–« knightly errants and cavaliers, and cowboys, and men about town, and all the other heroes were lively, and graceful, and free spirited » (16). Moreover, they had admirably « strong and healthy bodies and were masters of enviable physical skills » (Fraser 16). Vigorous, charming, urbane, and adventurous, X and Davis were stellar signifiers of the chivalric attributes of heroism and manliness. Their histories seem to validate that irrepressible, Yankee cliché–the « lonely hero triumphant in a hostile world, » as Louis Heren conceives it (qtd. in French 123).

A chivalric reading necessitates that these cavalier figures, X and Davis, obey « rules of honor » binding them « to persist in a chosen course even when it [is] doomed to fail » (Fraser 42). Thus, X exhibits fatalism from the outset of his Autobiography: « It has always been my belief that I . . . will die by violence. I have done all that I can to be prepared » (2). Chivalry is also evoked in the commitment of oneself to a course of action by swearing one’s word, for « the desire to comport oneself with maximum honor can subject a man to excessive strains, particularly given the elusiveness at times of the idea of honor and the related problem of determining what the honorable course of action really is » (Fraser 69-70). This existential crisis besets X when he confronts the scarring truths that Elijah Muhammad is an adulterer and, worse, that members of the Nation of Islam, to which he had devoted himself for twelve years, are plotting his assassination. X reveals the extent of his disillusionment in his comment that, with his exit/ouster from the Nation of Islam and the resultant threats against his life, « I felt as though something in nature had failed, like the sun, or the stars » (Autobiography 304, his italics). He decides to live each day « as if I am already dead » (Autobiography 381). Here X fashions himself as a cool, isolated hero. Less fatalistically, Davis, too, embraced isolation–once during his work on the soundtrack of Louis Malle’s film, Ascenseur pour l’échafaud (1958), when he « discovered the true characteristics–tragic, solitary, impenitent–of his artistic make-up » (Williams 73), and, later, more severely, when he entered his Silent Period.

Even the outlaw activities of X and Davis possess chivalric elements. Fraser notes that « the criminal [or outlaw] was almost certain to come from a chivalric-martial group » (178) whose members « were not only governed by coherent codes of their own but were sometimes governed by better ones than technically law-abiding citizens » (187). For instance, X « became a Bad Nigga, » Imani Perry alleges, « due to his adherence to an alternate social code rather than his absolute non-adherence to a social contract » (175). Such an alternate code informs X’s abortive showdown with West Indian Archie (Autobiography 126-130), but also Davis’s account of the agonistic bebop milieu in New York City, circa 1944: « Minton’s [a jazz club] kicked a lot of motherfuckers’ asses, did them in, and they just disappeared–not to be heard from again. But it also taught a whole lot of musicians, made them what they eventually became » (54). In both instances, alternate standards of excellence arise from « power-charged individuals or groups meeting in certain essential respects as equals and acting according to jointly agreed-upon rules » (Fraser 186). (In specific reference to Davis, Gilroy’s thesis that within black expressive culture « it is musicians who are presented as living symbols of the value of self-activity » [79] is pertinent.) X achieves oratorical distinction by jousting with police, reporters, scholars, and religious and political foes, while Davis earns respect by duelling with jazz musicians and critics. Both men construct attractive cerebral, physical, and sexual personas.
X and Davis participate in chivalric styles that resonate throughout Western civilization–and African-American culture. According to Robert Stone, historian Fox Butterfield advances the thesis that « the black population of the antebellum South, while violently subject to the Scotch-Irish slave owners, nevertheless absorbed and internalized their values, particularly on the subject of manliness and ‘honor' » (21). African-American writer Eddy L. Harris, chronicling his solo motorcycle ride across the American South in his South of Haunted Dreams (1993), bears witness to this spirit by celebrating the chivalric behaviour of the Confederate troops:Of all the men who emerged heroic from battlefields in the Civil War to capture my imagination, only one wore a Yankee uniform. All the rest were Confederates. . . . They were Jeb Stuart and Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee.Forget for a moment the cause for which they fought. They were romantic figures to me. They were outmanned and outgunned and still they managed to avoid defeat during four long years of war. At times they seemed on the edge of victory. They were bold and flamboyant, they were brave and they were lucky. They were passionate about a cause, albeit an unworthy cause, and they had a valor about them that the inept Northern soldiers seemed to lack. (153)

Michael Eric Dyson provides a more orthodox African-American conception of chivalry, observing that, during slavery, « heroes were seen as figures who resisted racial dominance through slave insurrections, plantation rebellions, work slowdowns, or running away » (147). One such figure, escaped slave Frederick Bailey, derived his new, now-famous surname, « Douglass, » from the Scottish chieftain-hero of Sir Walter Scott’s medievally-situated, metrical romance, The Lady of the Lake (1810). [17] Not surprisingly, then, given his chivalric predilections, Douglass, in his slave narrative, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, accents his fistic triumph over Covey, a slavebreaker, for it teaches him that « a man without force is without the essential dignity of humanity » (142-143). In addition, his only published short story, significantly titled « The Heroic Slave » (1853), is the fictionalized account of the historical 1841 mutiny aboard the slave ship Creole. Countenancing the use of violence to eliminate oppression, the story elaborates a theme that was sounded, according to Ronald T. Takaki, throughout Douglass’s texts: « In order to protect himself and redeem his humanity and in order to bring an end to a world of might and slavery and usher in a world of softness and freedom, [one] was compelled to act masculinely, to use violence against his male oppressors » (32-33). Gilroy finds that, for Douglass, « the slave actively prefers the possibility of death to the continuing condition of inhumanity on which plantation slavery depends » (63). Yet, this salve of violence–the currency of liberty–« involved not only the possible destruction of white kinfolk and friends trapped in a masculin[ist] system . . . , » Takaki relates, « but also the abandonment of the virtues of gentleness and love Douglass admired in women . . . and needed to be human » (33, his italics). Takaki highlights a suggestive paradox in Douglass’s endorsement of violence: If black masculinity must be redeemed by massacreing the white patriarchs who ordain slavery, must civilizing ‘feminine’–or simply human–values of tenderness and softness perish in that sanguine catastrophe?

This dichotomy between a desirable pastoral and pacific femininity and an agonistic and militaristic masculinity is re-enacted in the stances of some black males vis-à-vis women. It is difficult, indeed, to square the potentially ennobling (and enabling), martial appeal of X and Davis with the repugnant misogyny they also amply demonstrate. Yet, the attempt must be made if they are to be rehabilitated, at least in part, as quasi-progressive figures meriting emulation. Certainly, one must avoid, as Tricia Rose avers, the popular « hypervalorization of the hard, invincible, young black male who has no chinks in his armor, who is always ready for battle, grandly refusing most forms of emotional vulnerability, » whose « intense imperviousness has grave liabilities… » (155). Even so, there is a progressive side of cool–or chivalric–codes, particularly its communication of a charismatic style of honour, and this mode or fashion of being is worthy of notice and recuperation.
Significantly, chivalric/cool codes can be utilized to hammer, chisel, and saw away at the Bastilles of the status quo. Fraser witnesses that chivalric codes empowered such groups as the International Workers of the World « to act with full commitment, sometimes at great personal cost, without any nagging feeling of being inferior to their adversaries morally or intellectually » (149). U.S. Civil Rights Movement participants also made effective use of such codes, mobilizing a democratic mass of men, women, and children to act against oppression with dignity, courage, and an attractive degree of style, including the dusting off of folk ballads, union songs, and spirituals and their rewriting–even electrification (thus altering the domain of popular song)–into tools of contemporary protest. Arguably, then, there is no reason why codes of honour cannot be wielded against rapacious capitalism, sexism, frivolous violence, and racism. Davis suggests as much when he insists, « we’ve just got to let them [white people] know that we know what they are doing and that we’re not going to lighten up until they stop » (408, his italics). X argues that one « has the right to do whatever is necessary to get his freedom that other human beings have done to get their freedom » (Malcolm 113). Both men’s positions bespeak investments in the chivalric–and cool–codes of dignified self-assertion and self-defence.

Though chivalric codes can serve « to intensify aspirations and make for heroic action »–behaviour that can spark violence, « they also [help], » Fraser affirms, « to control violence and render it less wanton, brutal, and destructive » (67). This assertion suggests a resolution of the issues raised by Douglass’s contradictory attitudes towards male-enacted violence. If violence is justified, especially as a means of opposing oppression, its use must yet be disciplined. As Elizabeth Gurley Flynn finds, assessing the 1913 Patterson strike, « I contend that there was no use for violence. . . . that only where violence is necessary should violence be used. This is not a moral or legal objection but a utilitarian one. I don’t say that violence should not be used, but where there is no call for it, there is no reason why we should resort to it » (217). This point calls eerily to mind X’s own formula demanding African-American liberation « by any means necessary » and providing moral grounds for appropriate self-defence. In reference to his art, Davis declares, « great musicians are like great fighters who know self-defense » (400). Militancy and assertiveness are efficacious instruments to be wielded in every arena of African-American struggle, including art.
But adherence to cool/chivalric codes can also produce tenderness. Most accounts of X take pains to adumbrate his humour, his concern for his family, and his selflessness. As for Davis, his softer side was evinced in performance: « In spite of Davis’s desire to create an almost exaggerated masculine identity, as early as the 1940s he was using his trumpet to reveal emotional depth and introspection, even vulnerability. When Davis made a ‘mistake’–when his tone faltered or he seemed to miss a note–the cause was soulfulness and sensitivity rather than some shortcoming of technical prowess » (Gabbard 111). In their utilization and expression of cool/chivalric codes, Davis and X reconfigure the black male body as a site of both strength and gentleness, force and grace, power and tenderness, as a site where resistance to white supremacist ideologies can be made flesh, and not necessarily through violence.

Perhaps the most important chivalric/cool code enacted by X and Davis is integrity-that is, the ability to act with firm commitment to just principles as well as the flexibility to adjust them when necessary. X’s career affirms this precept: « My whole life had been a chronology of–changes » (Autobiography 339, his italics). When he returned from Mecca in 1964, preaching a rapprochement with white Muslims and progressive/radical whites, he acknowledged that this stark shift in his beliefs would disturb many of his followers, but he defended himself as « a man who tries to face facts, and to accept the reality of life as new experiences and knowledge unfold it » (Malcolm 60). Likewise, Davis acknowledges that « if anybody wants to keep creating they have to be about change » (394). Both men are able, in good cool style, « to mainstream or evolve other forms of consciousness » (Majors & Billson 42). X depicts this improvisational quality with an analogy that Davis could laud: « The white musician can jam if he’s got some sheet music in front of him. He can jam on something he’s heard jammed before. But that black musician, he picks up his horn and starts blowing some sounds that he never thought of before » (By 63). Robert Walser emphasises Davis’s propensity for just such performative danger:Despite his dislike of failure, Davis constantly and consistently put himself at risk in his trumpet playing, by using a loose, flexible embouchure that helped him to produce a great variety of tone colors and articulations, by striving for dramatic gestures rather than consistent demonstration of mastery, and by experimenting with unconventional techniques. Ideally, he would always play on the edge and never miss; in practice, he played closer to the edge than anyone else and simply accepted the inevitable missteps, never retreating to a safer, more consistent performing style. (176)
Just as the black jazz musician can create radically new sounds, so can black people devise new political and social theories. [18] There may be a productive alliance between cool/chivalric codes and a jazz aesthetic promoting adaptability, syntheses, and innovation.

Another engaging chivalric/cool element in X and Davis is their interest in the culturopoesis of young black males and black folk in general. In his Autobiography, X lauds the lindy dancers and their audiences at Roxbury’s Roseland as « connoisseurs of styles » (66). As well, he is literate in « the ghetto’s language » (Autobiography 310). Whether « he was standing tall beside a streetlamp chatting with winos, or whether he was firing his radio and television broadsides to unseen millions of people.., » writes Haley, « [X] had charisma and he had power » (Autobiography 403, his italics). X revelled in the attention of the African-American masses, Haley witnesses, « and they loved him » (402). Imani Perry notes « the charm [X] exuded during speeches, a combination of good looks, intellect, street sensibilities and passion, » and their « significant impact on today’s youth » (181). Davis, too, reaches out to young African-American men, attempting to incorporate in his music the styles of popular black singers and musicians to ensure that a new generation would continue to find their voices and concerns noised in jazz:Black kids were listening to Sly Stone, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, and all them other great black groups at Motown. After playing a lot of these white rock halls I was starting to wonder why I shouldn’t be trying to get to young black kids with my music. They were into funk, music they could dance to. It took me a while to really get into the concept all the way, but with this new band I started to think about it. (320)

One result of this rethinking was On the Corner (1972), an album which inaugurated the jazz-fusion movement, [19] and which represented Davis’s bid for popularity with a younger audience. « ‘I don’t care who buys the records,' » Davis confided to Melody Maker, « ‘as long as they get to the black people so I will be remembered when I die' » (qtd. in Milkowski 5). Williams also hypes Davis’s « re-engagement with black street styles, either musical (funk-based) or sartorial . . . » (11). Both men invested themselves in communicating with–and learning from–their key audience, a leadership technique in dire need of resurrection.
Critical study of the lives of X, Davis, and other (especially folk) black heroes and heroines can recover styles of honour, grounded in the African-American chivalric (or cool) tradition, which can serve to remobilize folks, especially men, to work cooperatively, to suffer when need be, to apply moral, intellectual, spiritual, and physical force against oppression, to realize that some behaviour is dishonourable or self-destructive or both, to pursue ‘truth’, to act with integrity, to oppose sexism, to recoup progressive and honourable notions of heroism, self-sacrifice, and nobility. [20] The commitments of X and Davis to many of these ideals of honour explains their continued vigour in African-American culture. They symbolize notions that, even now, can be used to uplift African-American males and to re-energize resistive and progressive political movements. [21] Hence, one can glean progressive, modern notions of chivalry, or cool, from the texts of X and Davis (as well as those of other black pop culture idols) and traditionally heroic narratives (slave autobiographies, Civil Rights Movement freedom songs, spirituals, certain blues, soul, and hip-hop/rap lyrics), thus mining all black cultural productivity to liberate every potentially inspirational discourse therein. [22]

Notes

The full title of the order is The Knights of the Grand Cross in and for the Sovereign Military Hospitaler Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta. See Miles Davis with Quincy Troupe, Miles: The Autobiography (388). Back
Miles Davis and Scott Gutterman, The Art of Miles Davis (1991). Back
More tributes to Davis than to Coltrane are likely to be produced in the future as black neo-nationalists and ‘Generation X’ artists find in Davis the symbol that the ‘Baby Boom’ generation’s nationalists and artists found in Coltrane. Jazz critic Richard Williams praises Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, and Coltrane, for their several achievements, « but, » he continues on to opine hagiographically, « Miles Davis was somehow more than this » (10). « Like Ali and Picasso, he was much larger than his chosen medium » (10). Back
Adolph Reed Jr. argues that X « appealed to the urban male sensibility that associated failure to fight back with cowardliness » (230) and that he remains popular with contemporary youth « in part because he was attractive to young people when he was alive » (208). Williams locates the attractiveness of Davis in his image as « the elegant outsider, » as « the symbol of jazz as the hipster’s music » (10). Significantly, too, both men represent the city, « the locale of cool, » the site « where black popular styles are born » (Jeffries 159). Back
The favour has been returned, for male, African-American youth have perpetuated the popularity of both men. Black youth, Theresa Perry states, are those « who canonized The Autobiography of Malcolm X as the quintessential post-colonial text and the contemporary urban slave narrative » (1). African-American youth have also canonized Davis’s On the Corner. « Universally dismissed by critics and colleagues alike when it was released in 1972, » says jazz critic Bill Milkowski, it has been embraced by, circa 1992, « a generation of angry, alienated musical renegades who took to those proto-punk-funk grooves like yuppies to happy jazz » (3). Back
Such a movement should respond to the critique suggested by my friend, Jacqueline Barclay, that, in the 1960s, « the Left chose justice, the Right chose morality, » as their respective motivations. Any new progressive movement must reject this false division. Back
In stating this intention, I am not unaware that, as Michael Friedly judges, « political groups from all across the spectrum have been able to seize portions of Malcolm X’s beliefs and claim them as their own . . .  » (213). Indeed, Michael Eric Dyson has « identified at least four Malcolms who emerge in the intellectual investigations of his life and career: Malcolm as hero and saint, Malcolm as a public moralist, Malcolm as victim and vehicle of psychohistorical forces, and Malcolm as revolutionary figure judged by his career trajectory from nationalist to alleged socialist » (24). His name has become an exponent–X to the tenth power–of multiplying agendas. In reading X–and Davis–in the pragmatic terms I propose, I also demand a critical interrogation of their contradictions, lacunae, and outright nastiness. Back
My critique of X’s representation of women is indebted to Collins’s invaluable essay, « Learning to Think for Ourselves: Malcolm X’s Black Nationalism Reconsidered » (59-85). Back
X’s imagery shadows the stock « ‘strong self-reliant Amazon' » black woman who « ‘secretly hates black men' » and « ‘love[s] white men' » (151, 148), limned by The Accused, a character in Cleaver’s « The Allegory of the Black Eunuchs, » in his Soul on Ice (1968). Back
Though one should like to dismiss these observations as the pinched thought of the pre-freelance, public intellectual X, one must note that they are given in the present-tense, suggesting that X held these antediluvian views at least as late as early 1963, when his collaboration with Haley commenced. Back
According to The Accused in Cleaver’s « The Allegory of the Black Eunuchs, » « ‘there is a war going on between the black man and the black woman, which makes her the silent ally, indirectly but effectively, of the white man' » (151). Back
See her classic exposé of black male chauvinism, Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman (1979). Back
To verify this assertion, insert any taxonomy of rap videos and recordings here, and virtually any selection of recent, urban-oriented African-American films, including John Singleton’s Boyz in the Hood (1991) and, of course, Lee’s X (1992), with its gangsta Kitsch, racial epiphanies, and ludic, Othello-esque replication of sad, race-gender stereotypes. Back
X was one of the last political orators of the say-what-you-mean, mean-what-you-say school, prior to the onset of what Canadian writer B.W. Powe pronounces the « Age of Angelism, » an era in which « issues dissolve; attention is on a politician’s pose; orgasmic drives determine victories; media attention turns into cinema; reportage into gossip and opinion; people into stereotypes; debate and analysis into received opinion and spectacle » (108). In our Common Era, politics seem to evaporate in the glare of television lights, leaving only ephemeral slogans and fake poses. Back
Jazz critic Pete Welding underscores the revolutionary nature of the twelve tracks recorded by the Miles Davis Nonet in 1949 and partially released by Capitol that same year (a full release did not occur until 1957):
There can be little doubt that the [group], through the example of its disciplined, lucid, quietly audacious music, introduced to jazz a refreshing new musical sensibility which helped set it on a new course of development. The implications of the approach signaled in its recordings have carried jazz through several decades of sustained growth and creative discovery, influenced countless groups, musicians and arrangers, and altered the very fabric of the music itself (6). Back

X and Davis are even more valuable as heroes in an age when black males are social metaphors for crime and, in accordance with that favourite, historical stereotype, sexual deviance. X and Davis transcend such reductive limits. Back
See Douglass’s My Bondage and My Freedom (343). Back
See Frank Kofsky, Black Nationalism and the Revolution in Music (1970), 65-66. Kofsky also reports, intriguingly, that he attended a 1963 rally in Los Angeles at which X’s appearance « was preceded by 45 minutes of jazz from the organ trio of Groove Holmes. » In his opening remarks, X then made « explicit reference to the music . . , saying that he had been in the back of the auditorium patting his foot while Holmes was on stage » (256). Back
Milkowski writes that « On the Corner offended and angered more people than any other album in Miles Davis’ lengthy discography » (3). In his Autobiography, Davis admits that « old-time jazz people » rejected the album, but it had not been « made for them » anyway: « The music was meant to be heard by young black people . . . » (328). Its avant-garde nature also reflects the band’s « settl[ing] down into a deep African thing, a deep African-American groove, with a lot of emphasis on drums and rhythm, and not on individual solos » (329). Finally, the last track on the recording, « Mr. Freedom X, » might allude to Malcolm X. Back
Such values need generate no sexism. Philosopher Mark Kingwell posits that « [male] self-control, the ability to withstand pain, and athletic prowess are things to be proud of; they have no necessary connection to oppressing women » (136-137, his italics). Back
Progressive use of these two men has begun. Sue Coe’s X (1986), her collection of neo-expressionist paintings envisioning a fascistic USA, reads X, somewhat ahistorically, as anti-racist, anti-capitalist, and anti-sexist. Cornel West imagines a powerful X whose flexible, improvisational politics render him a model « jazz freedom fighter, » one who stresses « the interplay of individuality and unity » (57), a description which can apply equally to Davis. Imani Perry asks, « should we not support Malcolm, the folk Malcolm, the legendary Malcolm, to ease our pain and foster our activism? » (185) Twenty years after the release of Davis’s On the Corner, Milkowski sees, « a whole new generation of punk-funksters hungry for these subversive sounds » (7). Back
Incidentally, it is time to extend rap/hip hop music such a consideration. In defence of this music, Marvin J. Gladney argues that it has remained true to « many of the convictions and aesthetic criteria that evolved out of the Black Arts Movement of the ’60s, including calls for social relevance, originality, and a focused dedication to produce art that challenges American mainstream artistic expression » (291). This new, youth- and urban-oriented music has brought « much needed dialogue to issues affecting America’s Black community in a manner that no popular art form has . . . » (291). Rap groups which attempt to raise social consciousness as well as noise levels include De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, and Public Enemy. Back

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Voir encore:

The Coolhunt
Who decides what’s cool? Certain kids in certain places–and only the coolhunters know who they are.

Malcolm Gladwell

The New Yorker

2005

1.

Baysie Wightman met DeeDee Gordon, appropriately enough, on a coolhunt. It was 1992. Baysie was a big shot for Converse, and DeeDee, who was barely twenty-one, was running a very cool boutique called Placid Planet, on Newbury Street in Boston. Baysie came in with a camera crew-one she often used when she was coolhunting-and said, “I’ve been watching your store, I’ve seen you, I’ve heard you know what’s up,” because it was Baysie’s job at Converse to find people who knew what was up and she thought DeeDee was one of those people. DeeDee says that she responded with reserve-that “I was like, ‘Whatever’ “-but Baysie said that if DeeDee ever wanted to come and work at Converse she should just call, and nine months later DeeDee called. This was about the time the cool kids had decided they didn’t want the hundred-and-twenty- five-dollar basketball sneaker with seventeen different kinds of high-technology materials and colors and air-cushioned heels anymore. They wanted simplicity and authenticity, and Baysie picked up on that. She brought back the Converse One Star, which was a vulcanized, suède, low-top classic old-school sneaker from the nineteen-seventies, and, sure enough, the One Star quickly became the signature shoe of the retro era. Remember what Kurt Cobain was wearing in the famous picture of him lying dead on the ground after committing suicide? Black Converse One Stars. DeeDee’s big score was calling the sandal craze. She had been out in Los Angeles and had kept seeing the white teen-age girls dressing up like cholos, Mexican gangsters, in tight white tank tops known as “wife beaters,” with a bra strap hanging out, and long shorts and tube socks and shower sandals. DeeDee recalls, “I’m like, ‘I’m telling you, Baysie, this is going to hit. There are just too many people wearing it. We have to make a shower sandal.’ ” So Baysie, DeeDee, and a designer came up with the idea of making a retro sneaker-sandal, cutting the back off the One Star and putting a thick outsole on it. It was huge, and, amazingly, it’s still huge.

Today, Baysie works for Reebok as general-merchandise manager-part of the team trying to return Reebok to the position it enjoyed in the mid-nineteen-eighties as the country’s hottest sneaker company. DeeDee works for an advertising agency in Del Mar called Lambesis, where she puts out a quarterly tip sheet called the L Report on what the cool kids in major American cities are thinking and doing and buying. Baysie and DeeDee are best friends. They talk on the phone all the time. They get together whenever Baysie is in L.A. (DeeDee: “It’s, like, how many times can you drive past O. J. Simpson’s house?”), and between them they can talk for hours about the art of the coolhunt. They’re the Lewis and Clark of cool.

What they have is what everybody seems to want these days, which is a window on the world of the street. Once, when fashion trends were set by the big couture houses-when cool was trickle- down-that wasn’t important. But sometime in the past few decades things got turned over, and fashion became trickle-up. It’s now about chase and flight-designers and retailers and the mass consumer giving chase to the elusive prey of street cool-and the rise of coolhunting as a profession shows how serious the chase has become. The sneakers of Nike and Reebok used to come out yearly. Now a new style comes out every season. Apparel designers used to have an eighteen-month lead time between concept and sale. Now they’re reducing that to a year, or even six months, in order to react faster to new ideas from the street. The paradox, of course, is that the better coolhunters become at bringing the mainstream close to the cutting edge, the more elusive the cutting edge becomes. This is the first rule of the cool: The quicker the chase, the quicker the flight. The act of discovering what’s cool is what causes cool to move on, which explains the triumphant circularity of coolhunting: because we have coolhunters like DeeDee and Baysie, cool changes more quickly, and because cool changes more quickly, we need coolhunters like DeeDee and Baysie.

DeeDee is tall and glamorous, with short hair she has dyed so often that she claims to have forgotten her real color. She drives a yellow 1977 Trans Am with a burgundy stripe down the center and a 1973 Mercedes 450 SL, and lives in a spare, Japanese-style cabin in Laurel Canyon. She uses words like “rad” and “totally,” and offers non-stop, deadpan pronouncements on pop culture, as in “It’s all about Pee-wee Herman.” She sounds at first like a teen, like the same teens who, at Lambesis, it is her job to follow. But teen speech-particularly girl-teen speech, with its fixation on reported speech (“so she goes,” “and I’m like,” “and he goes”) and its stock vocabulary of accompanying grimaces and gestures-is about using language less to communicate than to fit in. DeeDee uses teen speech to set herself apart, and the result is, for lack of a better word, really cool. She doesn’t do the teen thing of climbing half an octave at the end of every sentence. Instead, she drags out her vowels for emphasis, so that if she mildly disagreed with something I’d said she would say “Maalcolm” and if she strongly disagreed with what I’d said she would say “Maaalcolm.”

Baysie is older, just past forty (although you would never guess that), and went to Exeter and Middlebury and had two grandfathers who went to Harvard (although you wouldn’t guess that, either). She has curly brown hair and big green eyes and long legs and so much energy that it is hard to imagine her asleep, or resting, or even standing still for longer than thirty seconds. The hunt for cool is an obsession with her, and DeeDee is the same way. DeeDee used to sit on the corner of West Broadway and Prince in SoHo-back when SoHo was cool-and take pictures of everyone who walked by for an entire hour. Baysie can tell you precisely where she goes on her Reebok coolhunts to find the really cool alternative white kids (“I’d maybe go to Portland and hang out where the skateboarders hang out near that bridge”) or which snowboarding mountain has cooler kids-Stratton, in Vermont, or Summit County, in Colorado. (Summit, definitely.) DeeDee can tell you on the basis of the L Report’s research exactly how far Dallas is behind New York in coolness (from six to eight months). Baysie is convinced that Los Angeles is not happening right now: “In the early nineteen-nineties a lot more was coming from L.A. They had a big trend with the whole Melrose Avenue look-the stupid goatees, the shorter hair. It was cleaned-up aftergrunge. There were a lot of places you could go to buy vinyl records. It was a strong place to go for looks. Then it went back to being horrible.” DeeDee is convinced that Japan is happening: “I linked onto this future-technology thing two years ago. Now look at it, it’s huge. It’s the whole resurgence of Nike-Nike being larger than life. I went to Japan and saw the kids just bailing the most technologically advanced Nikes with their little dresses and little outfits and I’m like, ‘Whoa, this is trippy!’ It’s performance mixed with fashion. It’s really superheavy.” Baysie has a theory that Liverpool is cool right now because it’s the birthplace of the whole “lad” look, which involves soccer blokes in the pubs going superdressy and wearing Dolce & Gabbana and Polo Sport and Reebok Classics on their feet. But when I asked DeeDee about that, she just rolled her eyes: “Sometimes Baysie goes off on these tangents. Man, I love that woman!”

I used to think that if I talked to Baysie and DeeDee long enough I could write a coolhunting manual, an encyclopedia of cool. But then I realized that the manual would have so many footnotes and caveats that it would be unreadable. Coolhunting is not about the articulation of a coherent philosophy of cool. It’s just a collection of spontaneous observations and predictions that differ from one moment to the next and from one coolhunter to the next. Ask a coolhunter where the baggy-jeans look came from, for example, and you might get any number of answers: urban black kids mimicking the jailhouse look, skateboarders looking for room to move, snowboarders trying not to look like skiers, or, alternatively, all three at once, in some grand concordance.

Or take the question of exactly how Tommy Hilfiger-a forty- five-year-old white guy from Greenwich, Connecticut, doing all- American preppy clothes-came to be the designer of choice for urban black America. Some say it was all about the early and visible endorsement given Hilfiger by the hip-hop auteur Grand Puba, who wore a dark-green-and-blue Tommy jacket over a white Tommy T-shirt as he leaned on his black Lamborghini on the cover of the hugely influential “Grand Puba 2000″ CD, and whose love for Hilfiger soon spread to other rappers. (Who could forget the rhymes of Mobb Deep? “Tommy was my nigga /And couldn’t figure /How me and Hilfiger / used to move through with vigor.”) Then I had lunch with one of Hilfiger’s designers, a twenty-six-year-old named Ulrich (Ubi) Simpson, who has a Puerto Rican mother and a Dutch-Venezuelan father, plays lacrosse, snowboards, surfs the long board, goes to hip-hop concerts, listens to Jungle, Edith Piaf, opera, rap, and Metallica, and has working with him on his design team a twenty-seven-year-old black guy from Montclair with dreadlocks, a twenty-two-year-old Asian-American who lives on the Lower East Side, a twenty-five-year-old South Asian guy from Fiji, and a twenty-one-year-old white graffiti artist from Queens. That’s when it occurred to me that maybe the reason Tommy Hilfiger can make white culture cool to black culture is that he has people working for him who are cool in both cultures simultaneously. Then again, maybe it was all Grand Puba. Who knows?

One day last month, Baysie took me on a coolhunt to the Bronx and Harlem, lugging a big black canvas bag with twenty-four different shoes that Reebok is about to bring out, and as we drove down Fordham Road, she had her head out the window like a little kid, checking out what everyone on the street was wearing. We went to Dr. Jay’s, which is the cool place to buy sneakers in the Bronx, and Baysie crouched down on the floor and started pulling the shoes out of her bag one by one, soliciting opinions from customers who gathered around and asking one question after another, in rapid sequence. One guy she listened closely to was maybe eighteen or nineteen, with a diamond stud in his ear and a thin beard. He was wearing a Polo baseball cap, a brown leather jacket, and the big, oversized leather boots that are everywhere uptown right now. Baysie would hand him a shoe and he would hold it, look at the top, and move it up and down and flip it over. The first one he didn’t like: “Oh-kay.” The second one he hated: he made a growling sound in his throat even before Baysie could give it to him, as if to say, “Put it back in the bag-now!” But when she handed him a new DMX RXT-a low-cut run/walk shoe in white and blue and mesh with a translucent “ice” sole, which retails for a hundred and ten dollars-he looked at it long and hard and shook his head in pure admiration and just said two words, dragging each of them out: “No doubt.”

Baysie was interested in what he was saying, because the DMX RXT she had was a girls’ shoe that actually hadn’t been doing all that well. Later, she explained to me that the fact that the boys loved the shoe was critical news, because it suggested that Reebok had a potential hit if it just switched the shoe to the men’s section. How she managed to distill this piece of information from the crowd of teenagers around her, how she made any sense of the two dozen shoes in her bag, most of which (to my eyes, anyway) looked pretty much the same, and how she knew which of the teens to really focus on was a mystery. Baysie is a Wasp from New England, and she crouched on the floor in Dr. Jay’s for almost an hour, talking and joking with the homeboys without a trace of condescension or self-consciousness.

Near the end of her visit, a young boy walked up and sat down on the bench next to her. He was wearing a black woollen cap with white stripes pulled low, a