Five British citizens were transferred from Guantanamo–where they were held for around two years without charge or judicial review for being “the hardest of the hard core,” in Donald Rumsfeld’s words–to the custody of the British government–who promptly released them without charge. They tell their stories at length in the UK Observer:

After about a week the prisoners were allowed to speak to detainees in adjacent cells, and a few weeks later still were given copies of the Koran, a prayer mat, blankets and towels. Yet all witnessed or experienced brutality, especially from Guantanamo’s own riot squad, the Extreme Reaction Force. Its acronym has led to a new verb peculiar to Guantanamo detainees: ‘ERF-ing.’ To be ERFed, says Rasul, means to be slammed on the floor by a soldier wielding a riot shield, pinned to the ground and assaulted.

[via TMN, cross-posted to]

What fortuitous timing. Last week’s announcement of an Iraq-based, Iraqi-run tribunal to prosecute crimes against humanity, including “trying Saddam Hussein in absentia,” if necessary, was a convenient pre-emptive strike against too much international meddling. Nice to have those death penalty-friendly ducks in a row just in case, you know, your trail is heating up thanks to intensive intelligence operations and dollar bill serial number-tracking.
Also, it sure is convenient that a former Secretary of State is just leaving on a heavy diplomatic mission when you announce that your current Secretary of State is being operated on for prostate cancer. Bush apparently was informed of the surgery two weeks ago.

Hajji doin?

An update on Hajji, the Arabic term for “pilgrim” which has become the GWII term for “enemy”: it looks like it’s not just for GWII anymore. I found a Jan. 2002 usage in a short piece by Lisette Garcia, who writes,

Tampons, alarm clocks and Kodak film were easy enough for me to negotiate at the local Hajji shop. But giving a regulation haircut was simply too foreign a concept in the middle of the desert.

Garcia’s talking about the original Gulf War, I think, which gives the term a bit of breathing room, at least as far as its original coiners are concerned.
There are certainly some benign usages of Hajji around, and I can easily see how soldiers, hearing Arabs, Kuwaitis, or Iraqis address each other–or their elders–as “hajji,” could adopt it with clean intent. Try justifying the phrase “mowing down some hajjis,” though. I dare you.
For the record, this has nothing to do with Gus Van Sant.

From Jay Price’s article in the Raleigh NandO: US Coalition US troops in Iraq have come up with this war’s equivalent of “kraut,” “slope,” or “gook.” They call everyone–everyone else, that is– “hajji.” It’s pronounced the way one soldier scrawled it on his footlocker, “Hodgie Killer.”
The ever-present, locally run on-base souvenir shops are called hajji shops; when there are several businesses together, they call it Hajji Town. Iraqis out the window of a Humvee, hajji. Kuwaitis and foreign contractors, hajji.
“This is more of a commonsense thing,” said [a CentCom spokesman in Baghdad]. “It’s like using any other derogatory word for a racial or ethnic group. Some may use it in a joking way, but it’s derogatory, and I’m sure people have tried to stop it.”
The original Hadji, except for the billion-plus Muslims in history who've made the hajj, of coursePretty spin-free, for now. Killing Goliath, who pointed me to the story, got an imaginary spokesman’s spin that we can only wish was true: it’s like the brotherly love of Jonny Quest and his best friend. “but not in a pederasty sort of way,” “said” the soldier.
The real problem is that, to Muslims, hajji is not derogatory at all; it’s Arabic for “pilgrim.” It’s a title of respect and faithfulness, signifying someone who’s completed the hajj.
Like gook and kraut, hajji is used to distance oneself and dehumanize the enemy. But unlike past slurs, including GWI favorites like “towel-head” and “sand n***er,” hajji also religionizes them. So while Lt Gen. William Boykin preaches with impunity at home about this war against Satan, our unwittingly valiant Christian soldiers are faithfully “mowing down some hajjis” on the front. And intensifying Muslim distrust and hatred of the US.
More later. I’m off to church to pray for forgiveness.
[post-church update: Price’s article ran on Oct. 2, and I can’t find a single other media source who reports on hajji. Please prove me wrong. An earlier web citation is from August 17, when a Lt Rob Douglas uses it in his letters home, which get published in his local paper.]
Further reading: War Slang: American Fighting Words and Phrases from the Civil War to the Gulf War by Paul Dickson and Paul McCarthy.]

about making films, really.

I’ve been very quiet about my actual filmmaking activities of late, mostly because they’ve been pretty sparse. My efforts to re-edit Souvenir November 2001 have been stymied by Final Cut Pro for a while, and I’m coming to grips with the idea of re-building it from scratch. Well, from a late-stage EDL (Edit Directions List), actually, which is the cut-by-cut source code of the film. That’d mean dumping all 80Gb of my media, so it’s an irrevocable decision, which I’ve been avoiding making.
But this week, I’ve been invited to show and talk about my work in November (More details to come.), so it’s about time to pull the trigger. Of course, movement on that will also impel movement on the re-scoring effort, too. Sometimes a deadline can be a very helpful thing.
Beyond this non-working on film, I’ve been researching and began negotiating for the film rights of a novel. It took a while to trace the rightsholder (the book had been out of print in English for many years and was recently reissued.) and to fill in the backstory of the book’s creation. The writer’s estate is represented by a small but very sharp agency in Europe, so my very early mornings have been full of iterations on the contract points, a lot of phone calls, etc. Makes me feel productive, but exhausted. It’s very interesting and exciting, but not something I can really post about in realtime detail, you understand. As soon as it closes, you’ll be among the first to know.
But enough about me. (Heh. As if.) POV points to a new (to me) filmmaker weblog, Nyurotic, which is quite engaging. Ang Mito is a documentarian, whose film screened in the Work In Progress section of this year’s IFP Market to very positive reaction. Mito posts her rollercoaster experiences at the Market. Definitely check it out.

If karma were an Islamic teaching, the blackout map would’ve included Washington, DC and the Pentagon. And there’d be a teeny, gerrymandered congressional district-style finger reaching down to Crawford, Texas.
As it is, though, the blackout hit New York and war-opposing Canada. NPR’s Anne Garrels sardonically shares thoughtful Iraqis’ tips for surviving a blackout in a heat wave.
Besides, as the occupation governor of Iraq, Paul Bremer explained rather presciently on Tuesday, “Freedom matters. I think it’s important to … look beyond the shootouts and blackouts” and just soak in the freedom.

Not the Heaps of BS they called apple pie when they wanted to go to war, and not the coverup for which Condoleeza Rice pushed George Tenet onto his sword. Go to Josh Marshall’s Talking Points Memo unimpeachable reporting on that impeachable offense. I’m talking about HBS, where Bush got his MBA. If he learned anything there, he’s apparently keepin’ it to himself.
On NPR’s Fresh Air yesterday, Terry Gross had a fascinating conversation with Edmund Andrews, economics reporter for the New York Times, who came back from Iraq with mundane, incredible stories of apparently unforeseen economic crises and chaos that are turning Iraqis’ lives upside down.
My favorites: the emergency $20 stipend paid to Iraqi civil servants causing wild swings in the dinar-dollar exchange rate. And near-riots when a shortage of small-denomination dinar bills leaves banks unable to make change. There’s plenty more where these came from.

First, the BBC uncovers the truth behind the too-good-to-be-factchecked Saving Private Lynch story, calling it “one of the most stunning pieces of news management ever conceived.”
Now, according to the Guardian, a BBC news program shows the Wholesale Looting of The Baghdad Museum story to be just as made up.
Question for media: When it’s a Ba’ath party official playing you, do you still call it “news management” or is it just lying? Bigger question for media: Now that you’ve been demonstrably managed lied to by nearly everyone in this war, are you going to start demonstrating a scintilla of journalistic skepticism?

One man decides to up-and-go to Iraq and see it for himself. Check out his writings and photographs (via Kottke:

i decided to go, probably, during the second week of the war, when my frustration with the western media had hit a boiling point. it was during the second week that al-jazeera was banned from the NYSE and told by the british to censor its imagery. meanwhile their ratings were skyrocketing and they laughed through a 10-fold increase in viewers while being surreptitiously bombed in baghdad (by american shells). but mistakes happen, people dont get along and wasn’t it a war, anyway?

Jeff “Many Irons in the Fire” Jarvis posts an interesting proposal: weblog up Iraq in the name of free expression and democracy.
An earlier post of Salam Pax’s about discovering free internet access got him started thinking, you see, now he wants to create “a hundred Salam Paxes.”
I’m sure the New Yorker won’t complain. Get a subscription to Salam Pax’s favorite magazine here. Hint: it makes a great, humanitarian gift.
Now some more folks are picking up on it, including Slate writer Paul Boutin and MSNBC weblogger Glenn Reynolds.
THIS sounds like a job for the Gates Foundation