America’s dangerous love affair with counterinsurgency

Adam Curtis writes: At the beginning of this year one of the weirdest characters ever to become involved in the present Afghan war died. He was called Jack Idema and he was a brilliant con-man. For a moment, during the early part of the war, Idema persuaded all the major TV networks and scores of journalists that he was some kind of special forces super-hero who was using all kinds of “black ops” to track down and arrest the terrorists.

In reality, before 2001, Idema had been running a hotel for pets in North Carolina called The Ultimate Pet Resort. He had been in prison for fraud, and had tried to con journalists before about being some kind of super-spy. But September 11th gave him his chance – and he turned up in Kabul dressed like this.

And everyone believed him and his stories. In the process Idema brilliantly exposed the emptiness and fakery of much of the TV and newspaper reporting of the war on terror.

He told the journalists and the TV presenters all kinds of lies and fantasies. He even became the central, heroic figure in a book called The Hunt for Bin Laden.

Then Idema charged journalists fortunes for what he said was an “al qaeda” video of a “a training camp” – where strangely many of the terrorists spoke in english, and allegedly you could hear Idema’s voice on the soundtrack. Few of the journalists did anything to really check if any of what he was saying was true.

CBS did a special programme about the tapes fronted by Dan Rather, called “Heart of Darkness”. They did check on the tapes – the producers went to some of the new breed of “terror experts” that were spawning after 2001. CBS’s press office said that they “showed the tapes to three former British Special Forces officers, who verified the tactics being practiced in the video were consistent with those of Al Qaeda”.

The BBC did a report that showed the tapes. And they travelled to the village where they had been recorded – and found an old man who said, yes there had been Arabs there.

But much later a number of journalists did investigate Jack Idema properly – and the consensus now is that the tapes are probably fakes. [Continue reading…]

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