Shadow World

Johan Grimonprez (2016)

USA 2016, 1h 34min.

The Shadow World is a grim film, and a fantastic and beautiful film, featuring poems by Eduardo Galeanos and General Smedley Butler’s piece on the 21,000 new dollar-millionaires who evolved from the Great War.  Billion after billion disappeared into the pockets of a select few.

In the 1980s, when President Ronald Reagen wanted to sell weapons for several billion dollars to Saudi Arabia, Israel put a stop to it. So, he handed the trade over to the British Prime minister Margaret Thatcher. Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia had forged close ties to both the British and the US. The British sold 43 million pound worth of weapons to the Saudis, including six billion pound in commission – in other words, more than 60 million kroner of pure corruption, and also, of course, prostitutes.

Shadow World is based on the eponymous book and features an interview with weapons dealer Riccardo Privitera. He explains that in big business only two things matter: money and sex.

Politicians and prostitutes. A Norwegian acquaintance of mine corroborates: During weapons systems purchase negotiations, the American company ushered in prostitutes – perhaps to make the customer happy, perhaps to record it and use as extortion tool. Of course, my acquaintance declined.

Another friend has explained how British BAE Systems, who set up the deal between SAAB-Gripen and South Africa, was forced to pay a little extra to the USA (due to patents and other things) to the tune of 260 million dollar. They paid this without batting an eyelid – it was small change. BAE Systems managed to get South Africa to pay 2.5 times the amount their national air force had envisaged: ten billion dollar. This a huge amount for a poor country – or in the words of South African journalist Andrew Feinstein, «for weapons we did not need».

In total, BAE Systems handed Prince Bandar the equivalent of ten billion kroner for the Saudi deal, including a private jumbojet. A total of 60 billion kroner in bribes to some Saudi princes is much more than we can imagine. «We did not invent corruption, » stated Prince Bandar. Privitera argues that politicians are like prostitutes, only more expensive.  «And at the end of the day, they do as you say.»

In big business, only two things matter: money and sex

Missing money. Israeli forces attack Gaza with regularity, and this is immediately followed by weapons fairs, explains Israeli researcher Shir Hever. The weapons manufacturers are able to refer to the new weapons’ efficiency and that they have been used in genuine warfare against people. Weapons producers have become a major part of the Israeli economy. Israeli weapons manufacturers depend on these wars, and as Israel to a large degree also use US weapons, this war constitutes marketing for the Americans. Immediately prior to the war on Iraq in 2003, former US Secretay of State Colin Powell provided a detailed account to the The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on the presence of chemical and biological weapons in Iraq – but this information was false – he was misled by people internally at the CIA who wanted this war.

Chief of Staff, Larry Wilkerson, who penned most of Powell’s speeches to the UNSC, says that the USA have been exposed to a «slow motion» coup. He calls the USA a «plutocracy». The USA is no longer a democracy. He continues: «Not only does the national security state hanker for the eternal war, it takes action to induce eternal warfare» – first and foremost due to the huge amounts of money involved. September 10th, 2001, Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld stated that his department was missing statements worth «2,3 trillion dollars», that is 2300 billion dollar – or the equivalent of ten Norwegian National Budgets – which the department, for some reason, was unable to account for that year. The day after however, it had suddenly far more pressing matters to consider. The terror attacks shortened the memory. The accounts vanished. When a Congressional representative asked Rumsfeld questions, he was unable to answer. He had forgotten what to say. The money – the big money – disappeared into someone’s pockets.

Machiavellian logic. In Shadow Land, philospher Michael Hardt reads excerpts from Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince: «It is better to be feared than to be loved.» According to Machiavelli, the Prince should value people’s fear more – because this can be controlled. A people’s love for him, however, he is unable to regulate. Several of the princes of our time follow the same logic. They conclude that the permanent «war against terror» is preferable to the welfare state, which can lead to the love of the people.  Maintaining a fear of terror is a far more efficient way of governing a people rather than through the capricious welfare state, which is vulnerable to crises and economic fluctuations.

«It is better to be feared than to be loved»

Such is the reasoning of these political leaders. When we are worried about dying, other needs become less important. The terror attacks keep the journalists active and silences the people, all the while the war rearmaments yield enormous profits, as per Smedley Butler’s introduction to the film. The permanent war has turned into the raison d’être  of the state. When the financial households are uncertain, at least the State is able to protect us against violence. Terrorism has become the Hydra of Lerna which modern princes are drawn to in a bid to manage their people.

Modern Times Review