Sunday, July 18, 2010

When the Truth is Inconvenient:
A Preview of 'Countdown To Zero'

[NOTE: I have not seen this film yet. It is a "preview," not a "review." I reserve the right and welcome the opportunity to retract or revise the advance conclusions I have made. Believe me, I want to be wrong about this stuff.

But I'm not holding my breath.


A new documentary, directed by Lucy Walker and produced by Lawrence Bender, entitled Countdown To Zero, is set for wide release on July 23, 2010. The film has been heavily publicized and promoted for many months now and is surely already a heavily-favored Oscar contender.

Though the stated goals of the film, exposing the horrifying danger of nuclear weapons and reducing the planet's nuclear stockpile to zero, are noble and necessary indeed, some ideas promoted within the film - which can be gleaned solely from the film's trailer and recent interviews with film contributor Valerie Plame and producer Lawrence Bender - appear to ominously echo the same sensational claims made about Iraq's non-existent WMD, this time about the United States' favorite scapegoat, Iran.

Countdown To Zero acknowledges that there are currently an estimated 23,000 nuclear weapons in the world, spread among nine nations. Though I have not yet seen this film, I am confident that it omits some vital information when mentioning these nuclear-armed countries and their stockpiles, namely that the list consists of all five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (The United States, Russia, France, China, the United Kingdom), the only three states on earth to refuse to become signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (Israel, Pakistan, India), and the only country to have ever withdrawn its membership from the Treaty (North Korea).

Additionally, the film states that Israel only has about 80 nuclear bombs, in stark contrast with many estimates that put its nuclear arsenal somewhere between 200 and 400 warheads.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

'Hope' Floats:
Hey Hollywood, Time to Put Your Money Where Your Morality Is

A coalition of nearly twenty U.S.-based human rights and peace groups has joined the global justice community and numerous foreign governments in vowing to send more humanitarian aid ships to break the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza this coming Fall. The coalition, united under the mantle US To Gaza, includes activist organizations such as CodePink, Jews Say No, Veterans For Peace, Voices for Creative Non-Violence, and Jewish Voice For Peace.

In the wake of the deadly Israeli raid on an international flotilla carrying over 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid and hundreds of civilian passengers, during which nine activists were murdered (if not outright executed) by Israeli commandos in international waters, the global call to end the US-backed Israeli siege has grown even more forceful.

Later this year, boats from Europe, Canada, South Africa, India, and the Middle East are expected to set sail for Gaza once again. US To Gaza, which states on its website that "America pays for the blockade with our tax dollars; Americans must join together to end this collective punishment of 1.5 million Palestinians," aims to add a vital American element to this new Freedom Flotilla.

The U.S. boat, which will be named The Audacity of Hope (irony intended), is expected to carry an American peace delegation of forty to sixty passengers and will join its international flotilla partners en route. But purchasing a suitable ship, securing a sailing crew, obtaining the needed licenses and registration, gathering tons of humanitarian aid, and sailing for Gaza is a costly endeavor. It is estimated that at least $370,000 needs to be raised from private donors in the next month for the U.S. ship to become, not merely hopeful audacity, but a necessary reality.