28 January 2011

Sundance Film Festival ||
The Devil’s Double: The Outrageous, Over the Top Iraqi Scarface You’ve Been Waiting For

Tired of those run-of-the-mill biopics and staid Iraq war dramas that avoid sensationalism out of respect for their subjects? Want a peek into the orgiastic, debauched, ultra-violent underbelly of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq? Director Lee Tamahori brought all that and more to an unsuspecting audience — and conjured his own comparisons to David Fincher’s The Social Network, naturally — with The Devil’s Double, the guiltiest thrill of Sundance 2011.

Based very, very loosely on the life of Latif Yahia, an Iraqi lieutenant enlisted to double for Saddam’s out-of-control elder son Uday, The Devil’s Double stars Dominic Cooper (Mamma Mia!) in a bravura dual performance as both the monster and his innocent stand-in. Forced into indentured servitude under pain of torture and threats to his family, and transformed into a perfect doppelganger through plastic surgery and mimicry lessons, Cooper’s stoic Latif watches disapprovingly as Uday rapes and murders his way through life in a coke-fueled psychopathic haze, a pistol-waving, sex-obsessed, wild-eyed, magnetic thug with a penchant for schoolgirls and no interest in becoming the responsible heir apparent to his stern, menacing father. Whenever Uday is incapacitated or lazy, he sends Latif to make speeches to the troops; eventually, when Latif has had enough, he takes Uday’s favorite mistress (Ludivine Sagnier) as his own. The two men are brothers in Uday’s perverse way of thinking, and the only way Latif will ever escape his enslavement is in death.

Though he plays fast and loose with the facts, Tamahori claims to get the most important details right: The well-documented horrors of life inside the palace walls, where even honored guests and confidantes of Saddam were in danger of Uday’s explosive, violent rage; Uday’s proclivity for abusing his power to kidnap, rape, and murder young girls. (A brief scene in which Latif comes across the sight of two Saddams playing tennis is a comically bizarre break from the brutality.) The Devil’s Double is a portrait of a monster, no doubt, and yet the movie indicates he’s nothing in comparison to his father.

That sense for the corruption and danger that hung in the air during the Hussein family regime is what lingers most, even after Tamahori’s tale flies off the rails and enters almost legendary WTF? status. First comes the melodramatic love triangle, brought to the edge of campiness by Ludivine Sagnier’s anti-subtle turn as the sultry minx Sarrab (perhaps the film’s most egregiously ridiculous bit of non-ethnic casting, but hey). Then there’s the bombastic lovers’ escape, in which Sarrab and Latif literally ride off triumphantly on horseback. But nothing compares to how Tamahori ends it all by channeling his own James Bond past, transforming the epic-scale gangster pic into an all-out spy actioner, slo-mo shoot-outs and sexy hero shots and all. (Or, as an astute writer pal put it, “It’s a real life version of Medellin.”)

Tamahori took the stage after his Sundance premiere to answer a lot of questions. Portraying Latif Yahia’s story in its factual details was never the plan, for starters. “I’m not a great fan of truth in film,” he explained, lauding Michael Thomas’s “odd and twisted” screenplay.

Though many of the scenes of torture, rape, and killing in the film came from actual documented events, the real Uday’s crimes “are all worse than we possibly could have portrayed.” (Tamahori sent a ripple through the crowd when he suggested, unflinchingly, that the unruly, power-hungry children of despots across the world should be lined up against a wall and shot.)

And finally, the first person to compare Lee Tamahori’s The Devil’s Double to The Social Network was, of course, Lee Tamahori. While Fincher pulled a digital facelift to allow his two Winklevii to share the screen, Tamahori and star Cooper (whose impressive turns as Uday and Latif are like night and day) used a variation on the technique to shoot the film’s many Latif-Uday scenes, filming a master shot in one character first, then editing for sound and throwing Cooper back in to play the second part in the same day.

Will Tamahori’s The Devil’s Double earn Social Network-level plaudits when it’s eventually released? (A deal with Lionsgate is reportedly close.) Probably not. The material’s just too insane. But let’s be real: That’s exactly why it will appeal to many. Because as much as The Devil’s Double is about the innocent man who lived to tell the tale, it’s the most revealing, rape-y, torture-filled, excessively gaudy inside look at Iraq’s unstable family of thugs that we’re likely to ever get. The film itself falls prone to the sensory indulgences of its maker, but at a certain point it no longer matters whether that’s by design or not.

27 January 2011

Lionsgate takes North America on Sundance hit Devil's Double

The studio has closed a deal for North American rights on Lee Tamahori’s widely admired thriller, ending several days of conversations between the film’s representatives and multiple suitors.

Lionsgate is understood to have agreed to a substantial seven-figure MG and p&a commitment and is planning a significant theatrical release and awards campaign centred on British talent Dominic Cooper’s breakout role as Uday Hussein and his body double Latif Yahia. Ludivine Sagnier also stars.

Paradigm Motion Picture Group and CAA jointly handled North American rights and Corsan international sales head Pascal Borno closed a deal with Icon for Australia and New Zealand at the festival.

Lionsgate beat several rival bids and entered exclusive negotiations with the representatives in the small hours of Wednesday [26]. As first reported on Screendaily, Relativity and Summit both circled the project but did not pursue it aggressively. Several other buyers are believed to have come in with bids.

Corsan head Paul Breuls produced The Devil’s Double with Catherine Vandeleene, Michael John Fedun and Emjay Rechsteiner.

26 January 2011

Sundance 2011: Exclusive Interview With 'The Devil's Double' Star Dominic Cooper

Matt Patches , Special to
Tuesday, January 25, 2011

In 2010, Dominic Cooper made a big splash opposite Carey Mulligan in the Oscar-nominated An Education. The role showed off his suave, dapper side, but in his latest film, the Sundance debut The Devil's Double, Cooper really sinks his teeth into a role (or in this case, roles) and pushes himself to the extreme.

The Devil's Double tells the story of Latif Yahia, an Iraqi military officer recruited to become the fiday, or body double, of Saddam Hussein’s tyrannical son Uday. Cooper plays two distinct roles in the film: the conflicted Latif, who struggles to take on his new job, and the murderous party animal Uday. The film is insane, to put it lightly, and the crazed tone is in part to Cooper's disappearance into the two men's stranger-than-fiction world.

The Devil's Double is a wild ride and a real departure from previous work? How did you get involved with the film?

I read it, with the understanding that someone else had the part that it might fall through. I read it knowing that it had been around for many, many years, many directors had been attached, It was a script that stuck in my head. I was fascinated by how little I knew of something that affected so much of my life and the world, and ultimately, it was this mad gangster movie and the opportunity for an actor to play both those roles.

I was unsure about the person I heard doing the part at the time, it didn’t make sense to me. I managed to get into a room with Lee [Tamahori, director] and I auditioned for hours with him. I brought into the room something I thought this person was and who the other person was, and next thing I knew...I was doing it. It was the most exciting moment in the work I’ve done so far.

Were there resources to help you better understand how this world operated? To give insight into living out both Latif and Uday's lives?

No, there was nothing to like that. The difficulty for me was to understand and have compassion for this person, which I think you have to do when you’re playing someone. When you’re inhabiting someone, looking through their eyes and understanding their complexities.

With this guy, I couldn’t. I couldn’t understand him - he was a madman, a berserk man that needed help. Everything he did was disgusting and atrocious. It wasn’t necessarily about him, they became more fictional characters. I think that was important for me and Lee both to kind and reach a point and use this as an incredible story but we don’t know what they said we don’t know the relationship they had. We’re making a film. And this is not meant to be stooped in the real truth. Lee said the only truth in this film is that the US got him. That's the one fact that we know of this story.

That's evident in the film. You're constantly wondering what's real because the tone jumps from gritty realism to over-the-top, often comedic levels. Uday is executing these insane operations and one minute you're laughing, the next, you're horrified. How did you balance the tones of the film?

That’s why you need to be in the hands of a genius like Lee, with this kind of material. An actor doesn’t know that. That’s why I have to rely on him for the tone and sensibility of the piece. I don’t know what he’s going for. I can kind of get a vague understanding. I didn’t know he was making a outrageous, horrific gangster film. What I knew is that he made the most stunning debut film with Once Were Warriors, and I knew that, if any one can handle that kind of material and those people, and can understand how those gangsters type tribal people. then he is the person to do it. And my job is to come up with something that fitted with that environment. And although sometimes humorous because you're so baffled and amazed that this human exists.

Were there moments where you wanted to pull back but Lee pushed you to go further?

I think it was a matter of bringing it down. He kept me very still, that was very helpful. It was his actual energy on set that was so inspiring. It was a short shoot, relatively cheap, and we had a lot to do. Technically it was difficult because of the doubling up of the scenes.

What was the process of shooting two roles in one scene? Were you constantly repeating the setups and blocking?

Yes, and that was why you only really got three takes on anything. Some people like to go on and do take after take, I couldn’t do that. There wasn’t time. It wasn’t stressful, I loved it. And you watched him and he had to create a new environment. It would be like...Lee wasn’t allowed to use this position or camera angle. And he was completely reconfiguring his ideas and I always think that creates the most creative inspired work and its constantly moving. Watching him with the amount of decisions he had to make, [laughs] I kind of felt my job is kind of easy.

What challenges did you face embodying two separate roles, bouncing between characters on a whim?

I needed to make one who is watching it believe it is two different people no matter how much reconstructive surgery one of them had had and how much they needed to look the same which they did, it was difficult to decide who was who. I needed them to be clearly two different people, I got help from my wonderful dialect coach, I got help with the make-up lady. It was about making a vocal difference and physical difference and the way in which the two characters thought differently.

Into the film, you slowly realize there's a third character you're playing. Was that intentional?

Oh, definitely. The one that Latif had to transform into. I wanted here to be an intricate difference in the way he went to perform as Uday. I wanted him to be slightly different still. Not quite succeeding whole heartily in becoming him - there was still something holding him back. That’s why when you see him practicing in the mirror there’s still this tentativeness about him. He was not a showman, not an actor. There was no reason he should have been able to manipulate who he is. He did it to the best of his ability and I needed that to be clear.

What's next for you? Anything in the can?

My Week With Marilyn with Kenneth Branagh. And Captain America.

That must have been a bit bigger than what you were accustom to.

It was massive - and intriguing.

You play Howard Stark in the film, a character with a wealth of comic mythology. What does your role in the actual film entail?

He moves the story along. He transforms him into Captain America. He’s Iron Man’s dad! He was a playboy, it was fun. How much he winds up in the film, who knows. But I hope he has an affect on it.

25 January 2011

Sundance Review: "The Devil's Double" Delivers the Horror of Uday Hussein

By Sharon Waxman

How much do we want to know about the world that ended with the hated war in Iraq?

Uday Saddam Hussein, older son of the Iraqi dictator, was so grotesque a character that when fictionalized in “The Devil’s Double,” the viewer is tempted to imagine that liberties were taken.

But, no. Uday really was that man: the schoolgirls snatched off the street and raped; the brides taken in their gowns for a night of his pleasure; the torture of athletes when they lost – or when they won if they stole too much of the national spotlight. The drugs. The sex. The hanging upside down of innocent people for peceived slights.

He is a villain of epic, operatic proportions, and Dominic Cooper – in his first leading role of consequence - makes Uday a strangely compelling, sometimes mesmerizing and consistently entertaining monster.

The story of Uday is told through the eyes of a man forced to bear witness to this regime-sanctioned psychotic, Latif Ahmed, who became Uday’s body double.

Cooper ably plays both roles – the former, who charges through each scene on the verge of hysteria and/or violence. And the other, a quiet observer who seethes through the depravities he must silently accept, lending every scene an underpinning of morality. (Resistance would have meant death to his family, torture for him.)

Before the screening began I ran into an agent who described it a “Three Kings meets Scarface meets Goodfellas.”

That about hits it. Back in 2003, on the day that Uday and his younger brother Qusay were murdered, I wrote an essay about the stories that swept through Baghdad about them, having recently returned from a reporting stint in Iraq. (It’s still posted here.)

At the time I wrote: “Doesn’t anyone see a television movie in this?”

Director Lee Tamahori did see a movie in it; and some critics and buyers who saw the film felt that it played too much like television – melodramatic and unidimensional.

But on second glance, the story gives us a moral center in Latif and a context for thinking about the consequences of our foreign policy – not just the 2003 invasion, but the choice not to topple Saddam back in 1990, and our support of that regime through the Iran-Iraq conflict.

Those decisions helped create this monster. Uday and his brother were finally hunted down and shot. But it took until 2003, and the terror they wrought on their own people was no small price for the residents of this ancient land.

As Tamahori said in the q&a after the premiere screening this weekend, “There’s not much of a message here other than: Despots have children that run out of control and we should put them up against the wall and shoot them.”

Count on this one getting bought, and appearing in theaters some time this year.

24 January 2011

SUNDANCE REVIEW: 'The Devil's Double' Is a Vivid Look at the Body Double for Saddam Hussein's Satanic Son

The Bottom Line

Excellent lead performance tops a vivid but one-dimensional look at the double for Saddam's satanic son.

PARK CITY -- An urgent desire to take a long shower is an appropriate response to watching "The Devil’s Double," so unsavory is the experience of being immersed in the world of Saddam Hussein’s Caligula-like son Uday and his double, Latif Yahia.

Undeniably fascinating as a visit to a world you’d never have wanted to have come near in real life -- that of the Hussein family’s inner sanctum -- the film falls crucially short by not providing a window into the mind of the man who was coerced into acting as his double. Dominic Cooper’s riveting double performance and the lurid, beyond-"Scarface" sensationalism are the main selling points for a film to which it will still be difficult to lure a wide public.

A drunken, drug-fueled, gun-toting, short-tempered party boy, torturer, rapist and murderer, Uday, with unlimited funds at his disposal and never properly reined in by his disapproving father, would routinely cruise schools in his Porsche or Ferrari, pick up 14-year-old girls, have his way with them and then have their bodies dumped by a roadside. On a whim, he'd drop by a wedding ceremony and demand to defile the bride on the spot. Intensely psychotic, he threw endless bacchanalian parties, reveled in torture videos and avoided anything resembling official responsibilities.

He was widely despised, of course, and, as with his father, it was thought advisable that he have a double to cover for him, throw off potential attackers and so on. In the late 1980s, toward the end of Iraq’s long war with Iran, it was the misfortune of army lieutenant Latif Yahia to be handpicked to fill the job, the full dimensions of which would have been hard to foresee.

With the fate of his family held over him if he declines, Latif undergoes plastic surgery and dental work to enhance the resemblance, learns to match Uday’s higher-pitched voice and vocal patterns, acquires a double of his wardrobe and is installed in a life of luxury, including a selection of women, while always being on call if needed. Mostly, he's just another member of Uday's sinister entourage, passed off humorously as Saddam's "third son" (curiously little is seen of the dictator's actual other son, Qusay).

Guided through his paces by a wise old mentor, Munem (Raad Rawi), Latif clearly disapproves of Uday and his sleazy lifestyle, but there’s nothing he can do except sullenly go along. Unfortunately, director Lee Tamahori and screenwriter Michael Thomas ("The Hunger," "Scandal") aren't able to make Latif the viewer’s confidant, to effect a viewer's personal connection to his strange odyssey; instead, one is simply left a spectator at a Roman circus.

One way to supply this would have been a Latif voice-over, perhaps in the style of Ray Liotta's in "GoodFellas." Another would have been a deeper, more revealing liaison between Latif and Sarrab (Ludivine Sagnier), Uday's main squeeze, who dares to launch a relationship with his double. Given that there can be no secrets in this world, how this affair is allowed to continue is never explained, but a more intimate connection between the two might have provided the lacking human dimension.

When the U.S. steps in to aid Kuwait, Uday rails against the enemy but sends Latif to the front to rally the troops instead of going himself. Outrage follows outrage until, finally, Latif manages an escape, leading to a dramatic climax that ends the film well before Uday's death during the American invasion years later.

Tamahori makes sure there's never a dull moment, although the succession of mindless disco parties, coke snorting, assaults on helpless women, psychotic rants and unmotivated violence has a cumulative deadening and depressing effect that is never leavened by an artistic vision or historical take on the grim spectacle. Although energetic and visually and aurally dynamic, this feels like a job of work rather than something more ambitious and felt from the inside.

With shooting in Iraq impossible, the filmmakers found an unexpectedly effective substitute in Malta. Having just worked on Green Zone, production designer Paul Kirby has done a terrific job creating both the grand exteriors and ornately vulgar interiors of the Hussein regime, an effect elaborated by Anna Sheppard's costume designs and Sam McCurdy's cinematography. Christian Henson's score and various source music choices are effective at generating a dark, turbulent mood.

In utter command of both roles, Cooper differentiates between the two beautifully, suggesting Latif's necessarily restrained natural cockiness and seething resentment at his lot in life while letting out all the stops as the mercurial Uday. He's really the whole show, although it's too bad the script restrained him from further illuminating Latif's inner self.

The film doesn't mention that, in real life, Uday and Latif had been schoolmates and that their close resemblance had been noted since youth. Furthermore, the third act particulars of Latif's escape and subsequent events seem to have been fabricated out of whole cloth. Latif's autobiography was published in 1997 but only became an international best seller after 9/11.

VENUE: Sundance Film Festival, Premieres
PRODUCTION: Corsan, Corrino, Statccato production
CAST: Dominic Cooper, Ludivine Sagnier, Mimoun Oaissa, Raad Rawi, Philip Quast, Khalid Laith
DIRECTOR: Lee Tamahori
SCREENWRITER: Michael Thomas, based on the life story of Latif Yahia
PRODUCERS: Paul Breuls, Michael John Fedun, Emjay Rechsteiner, Catherine Vandeleene
EXECUTIVE PRFODUCERS, Harris Tulchin, Arjen Terpstra
MUSIC: Christian Henson
EDITOR: Luis Carballar
SALES: Corsan World Sales
No rating, 108 minutes

23 January 2011

Brian Cowan re-elected in 2011?
By: Latif Yahia

Since Fianna Fail and the PDs with the help of the Green party have done such a fantastic job of screwing the country and the people, we thought we should help their campaign for re-election on March 11th 2011. Because let's face it corruption is rife in Ireland and nothing is mightier than the brown envelope! From Justice, planning, the health system, education, the roads, nothing gets done without the right amount being placed in the wrong hands! Let's take back control of Ireland, what did our forefathers fight for? For Ireland to be free and independent for less than a century? I don't think so!
The argument stands, that no party is better than the other and as far as I can tell it is mostly true, what to do? Wipe the slate clean of all of the parties, interview them as if they were being interviewed for a job, because let's face it, they are employed by the people for the people are they not?
Let's make their campaign promises legally binding, whatever they promise they have to deliver or they're out! Let's make this lot pay back some of the debt that they caused by the banking scandal from all these fat pensions and payoffs, make their pay performance related, do a shit job and walk away with nothing not 2.3 million!
Come on people, Ireland was famous around the world for kicking the British out and being freedom fighters, what happened to us? DId the celtic Tiger make us forget? Was money the new panacea of the people?
Vote, vote for people you know and trust, not because your family is loyal to one party, this parish pump politics has to stop. Vote because you have seen that TD on the streets helping people when there were no cameras about, Vote because every time you went to your TD he actually did something for you, Vote because you love your country and want a good future for your GRANDCHILDREN because let's face it, it's too late for our children's generation. ONE THOUSAND people are leaving Ireland every week, things are worse now than they were in the late '70's and early 80's. Do something!. Show your children that you love them and your country and you don't want them to have to 'find a better future elsewhere'

Sundance ’11: Saddam’s Crazy Kid, and Crazy Love

If you want to win an Oscar, play a crazy ol’ depot. Forest Whitaker did it with “The Last King of Scotland.” Christoph Waltz did it with “Inglourious Basterds.”

Now Dominic Cooper, the up and coming young British actor, knocked the Sundance crowd out last night playing Uday Hussein, the now dead (thank god) son of Saddam in “The Devil’s Double.”

The Lee Tamahori film is like “Scarface” in the desert. Cooper plays not only Uday, but Latif Yahia, the man who was forced to be Uday’s double during the wild days of the Saddam reign of terror leading up to the Gulf War.

This is no “Patty Duke” show. Cooper is mesmerizing in both roles, often on screen together. Latif–at least in this film–is thoughtful, has a conscious, even realizes early on that Uday is, as he says, “a psychotic.”

Uday is a delicious character. He rapes, pillages, and tortures. He is amoral sort of beyond the pale. Cooper never turns him into a cartoon, although by the time we see Uday and his mother watching TV in bed together, we’ve almost jumped the shark. Luckily, the Americans arrive in 1991. Uday is maimed–great scene –and eventually dies in 2003 when Saddam is finally deposed.

Whoever gets “Devil’s Double” will have an Oscar nominee in Cooper. And a wild ride. Let the bidding begin!

While distributors fight over “Devil’s Double,” one of them has nabbed Drake Doremus’s “Like Crazy.” A few wanted this sort of British “Blue Valentine”–what seems to be an auobiographical account of the American director’s ill fated romance and marriage to a beautiful youg Brit. Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones are the stars; I found the film ultimately a little tedious. It’s all improvised, too. So surprise! Paramount paid $4 million for worldwide rights. That’s like, crazy. You do learn a lot about immigration laws, however, concerning well-heeled Brits and Americans. Not the usual INS story.

The Devil's Double
By: Peter Debruge
Posted: Sun., Jan. 23, 2011, 3:55am PT

A Corsan presentation of a Corsan, Corrino, Staccato production in association with FIP Malta, Tulchin Entertainment, Foreign Media, Film Finance VI. (International sales: Corsan World Sales, Antwerp.) Produced by Paul Breuls, Michael John Fedun, Emjay Rechsteiner, Catherine Vandeleene. Executive producers, Harris Tulchin, Arjen Terpstra. Co-executive producers, Harm Mulder, Sjef Scholte. Directed by Lee Tamahori. Screenplay, Michael Thomas, based on the life story of Latif Yahia.
Uday Hussein/Latif Yahia - Dominic Cooper Sarrab - Ludivine Sagnier Ali - Mimoun Oaissa Munem - Raad Rawi Saddam Hussein/Faoaz - Philip Quast Yassem - Khalid Laith

The life story of Latif Yahia, body double to Saddam Hussein's diabolically unhinged son Uday, makes for slick action-movie fodder in "The Devil's Double," a rocket-powered thriller rife with scenery chewing and fast-and-loose revisionism that could, by dint of sheer sensationalism, break the Iraq movie curse and rack up some serious B.O. around the world. More "Scarface" than "House of Saddam," director Lee Tamahori's gangster-style treatment veritably blisters with tension as reluctant decoy Latif comes to fill the void of Uday's nonexistent conscience, playing front-row witness to the tyrant's insatiable cruelty. Biggest setback Stateside could be the ratings board.

A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for character actor Dominic Cooper (usually relegated to dreamy supporting parts), "Double" allows the Brit thesp to tackle two juicy, red-meat roles, playing opposite ends of the moral spectrum as both Latif and Uday -- often in the same shot. In fact, "Double's" seamless split-screen work makes "The Social Network's" high-tech twinning effects look as old-fashioned as Friendster.

Within its opening minutes, Michael Thomas' script lays everything out, cutting from a montage of real-world atrocity (front-line footage depicting corpses and other casualties of war) to an attack in which Iraq Army Lt. Latif narrowly escapes with his life. Called to Baghdad by former classmate Uday, the decorated officer comes face-to-face with Uday's favorite mistresses, Sarrab (alluring French actress Ludivine Sagnier), and judging by the look she throws Latif, we know exactly where "Double" is headed before Uday even enters the room.

Uday's proposal is simple: He needs a "fiday" (a lookalike who can stand in for him in public), and Latif can either accept the job or see his family executed for his insubordination. Even when faced with this impossible choice, Latif resists. Did he really have such reservations? Though the film was inspired by Yahia's true experiences, Thomas and Tamahori treat "Double" as a dramatic retelling untethered to reality. For the sake of a good yarn, they prefer to think of Latif as a righteous soul, forced to "extinguish" himself (as he puts it) and mirror this monster feared by the Iraqi people.

"Double" panders to the basest tendencies in the makeover sequence that follows, depicting Latif's transformation with the same sordid approach seen in many an episode of "Nip/Tuck." Uday watches with mad-scientist zeal as Latif is stripped down, sized up and reshaped through plastic surgery to reflect his new boss.

The film shows a crass, party-boy interest in Uday's attitude and lifestyle, ranging from an unnecessarily explicit series of torture videos (including a power drill to the ear sure to inflame the MPAA) to uncomfortable scenes of kidnap, rape and murder. "It's all worse than we could possibly portray," Tamahori said by way of defense at pic's Sundance premiere, though one wonders whether auds really needed to have their faces rubbed in such vile behavior. "Double" further emasculates Uday by injecting suggestions of homosexuality and incest.

Looking on with disapproval, Latif remains upstanding through it all, and though it's easy to feel manipulated by the polar differences between Cooper's two characters, that dichotomy makes for great drama. Watching the swift, svelte energy with which Tamahori hurls us forward, it's easy to see the qualities that earned him the gig directing "Die Another Day," especially in the music choices, which favor electronic and rock over the typical regional sounds used to situate Middle Eastern fare.

Tamahori clearly wants the experience to feel extreme, intercutting blocks of vintage news footage from Saddam's invasion of Kuwait and the eventual American reaction to situate the Malta-based shoot and ground Uday's increasingly demented behavior. Whether brandishing a gold-plated assault rifle or snorting cocaine off the end of his knife, Uday easily could have lapsed into caricature, and one suspects that an entirely different, more satirical film might have resulted from the same script -- one closer in tone to "Dr. Strangelove" than "Dr. No."

That potential tongue-in-cheek quality might explain pic's preposterous ending, which indulges in a radical historical rewrite, or the implication that Uday's staff (including Raad Rawi as his security chief) might not have his best interests in mind. At any rate, someone else can come back and do a proper documentary later. Tamahori aims to entertain auds, and he does so with expert attention to all the crafts, especially the hair and makeup team that helps us distinguish between these evil twins.

Camera (widescreen, 35mm/video), Sam McCurdy; editor, Luis Carballar; music, Christian Henson; music supervisor, Mark Lo; production designer, Paul Kirby; art director, Charlo Dalli; set decorator, Caroline Smith; costume designer, Anna Sheppard; sound (Dolby Digital), Tim Fraser; sound designer, Stefan Henrix; supervising sound editor, Henrix; re-recording mixer, Martin Jensen; special effects supervisor, Michael Dawson; visual effects supervisor, Paul Round; visual effects, Peerless Camera Co.; stunt coordinator, Lubomir Misak; hair/makeup/prosthetics designer, Jan Sewell; line producer, Guy Tannahill; assistant director, Matthew Penry-Davey; casting, Amy Hubbard, John Hubbard. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Premieres), Jan. 22, 2011. (Also in Berlin Film Festival -- Panorama.) Running time: 109 MIN.

(English dialogue)

Sundance 2011, "The Devil's Double"

4:01 PM, January 23, 2011
By: Kyle Smith

Lee Tamahori's preposterous House of Saddam thriller "The Devil's Double" is a gimmick movie whose sole reason for existence appears to be the opportunity to let Dominic Cooper ("An Education") play both Uday Hussein (the whoring, disco-loving, degenerate psychotic son of the fascist dictator) and a soldier plucked out of the ranks to serve as one of Uday's body doubles. This family of evil cowards, of course, was said to have frequently sent doubles into dangerous situations and to strike heroic poses among the people.

Absolutely nothing about the film is credible except for the perverted sadism of Uday, but this vile monster's flaws are illustrated at nauseating length in scene after scene after scene of Uday disembowelling enemies, raping a bride on her wedding day and snorting cocaine. So what?

The movie is supposedly based on the memoirs of Latif Yahia, but anyone who's ever read anything about terror states knows how they work. Here's how they don't work: when Latif is plucked out of the 1980s Iran-Iraq war to be the devil's double, he at first refuses, then throws lots of tough-guy John McClane dialogue at Uday, confesses his hatred of Uday to his minders, steals Uday's car (twice) and his girlfriend (Ludivine Sagnier). After having seen a set of torture videos that vividly demonstrate what happens to those who displease Uday and his daddy. Talk about an anti-aphrodisiac: Latif sees images of a guy being treated to an electric drill inserted in his ear.

Maybe Latif is trying to portray himself as a heroic freedom fighter who conducted a one-man Resistance from inside the palace, but he wouldn't have lived 30 seconds if he had tried any of these things. And why would Uday drive around Baghdad with his clandestine double seated next to him for all to see? That rather defeats the purpose of having a double in the first place. Latif is there for cinematic reasons, to provide an audience surrogate to bear witness to the regime's depradations, not because it makes any sense for him to be present for Uday's parties and binges and picking up girls.

Ridiculous as all this is, the movie pumps it up into the realm of sheer fantasy during an absurd finale when Latif turns into a sort of Jason Bourne action man who easily steals a pistol and goes after Uday. Tamahori, who is best known for Hollywood hackwork like "Die Another Day," "Next" and "xXx: State of the Union," treats the horrors of the Saddam Hussein apparatus in exactly the same way. Such recent and horrific history is not to be handled in such a shallow, trifling fashion.

The Devil's Double

23 January, 2011
By Anthony Kaufman

Dir: Lee Tamahori. Belgium. 2011.

A crazy lurid vision of Iraq in its oil-rich heyday before and after the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, The Devil’s Double imagines Uday Hussein, the elder son of Sadaam Hussein, as a later day Arab Scarface. A Ferrari-driving, cigar-smoking, cocaine-snorting madman, Uday (Dominic Cooper) resembles a long line of compelling screen gangsters who crack up and maim people indiscriminately at the slightest irritation.

The film’s more fascinating relationship is between Uday and Latif, with Dominic Cooper pulling off the dual roles admirably.
When Uday decides he must have a body double, like those that protect his father, he recruits Latif Yahia (also Cooper), an army lieutenant with a striking resemblance, and makes him an offer he can’t refuse. “Think it over,” he says with a shit-eating grin. “You have 10 minutes.”

While the preposterous nature of the story could limit theatrical appeal, particularly in the US, where all things Iraq are a tough sell, The Devil’s Double should get its due internationally, with its salacious trappings and foreign stars driving considerable sales.

Based on a book by the real-life Latif Yahia, the film charts the man’s experiences within Uday’s ranks. Treated to videos of torture and threats to his family, Latif has no choice but to take Uday’s orders and sit quietly on the sidelines as the lunatic son commits a succession of outrageous acts, from slashing open the gut of his father’s confidante at a party to snatching schoolgirls off the street to rape and kill them. While Uday is pure evil, with no conscience or morality, Latif is his opposite: a trapped man who keeps his dignity.

Complicating matters is the presence of Sarrab, Uday’s sultry sexpot lover (Ludivine Sagnier), who appears to take a liking to Latif. It’s only a matter of time before Latif and Sarrab become romantically involved, though it may come as a surprise to know that their steamy sexual encounter occurs as US bombs are falling on Baghdad.

One can surmise that director Lee Tamahori (Once We Were Warriors, Die Another Day) and screenwriter Michael Thomas (Scandal) have taken some liberties with the facts of history. But such decisions only enhance the diabolical fun of The Devil’s Double. When Latif and Sarrab become involved in a shoot-out, steal a Mercedes, and then, after running out of gas, flee Baghdad on horseback, the movie tilts a little too far into campy terrain. It’s hard to keep a straight face when Sarrab says, “That night, we rode like the wind!” Sagnier mugs sexily enough throughout the film, but no amount of writhing can make the movie’s love story credible.

The film’s more fascinating relationship is between Uday and Latif, with Dominic Cooper pulling off the dual roles admirably. As Uday, his teeth slightly protruding, he’s a frenetic, giggling, high-pitched monster with a short fuse, who feels compelled to keep his newfound “brother” by his side. As Latif, he’s the honorable, stone-faced hero, cool as ice, waiting for the right moment to strike back. The special effects are first-rate, successfully sustaining the illusion of two distinct people on screen.

Production values, overall, are also top-notch, showing off the Hussein family’s gaudy playgrounds, palaces and pools in glossy Hollywood fashion.

Production companies: Corsan, Corrino, Staaccato, Tulchin Entertinment

International sales: Corsan World Sales,

Producers: Paul Breuls, Michel John Fedun, Emjay Rechsteiner, Catherine Vandeleene

Executive producers: Harris Tulchin, Arjen Terpstra

Screenplay: Michael Thomas

Cinematography: Sam McCurdy

Production designer: Paul Kirby

Editor: Luis Carballar

Music: Christian Henson


Main cast: Dominic Cooper, Ludivine Sagnier, Raad Ravi, Philip Quast

21 January 2011

Hussein Wanted Soviets to Head Off U.S. in 1991

By: Michael R. Gordon
Published: January 19,2011

WASHINGTON — As the American-led ground offensive in the first war with Iraq got under way on Feb. 24, 1991, Saddam Hussein directed his frustration at an unlikely target: the Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev. Mr. Hussein had dispatched his foreign minister to Moscow in an 11th-hour bid to head off a ground war.

After prodding by Mr. Gorbachev, Mr. Hussein had offered to withdraw Iraqi troops from Kuwait in 21 days. But the United States appeared to be moving ahead with its land campaign.

“The situation is now is getting worse,” Mr. Hussein had written the previous night in an emotional letter to the Soviet leader. “Our nation and army are confused. We are asking ourselves which one is more significant: the Soviet Union’s proposal or the Americans’ threats?”

Speaking to trusted aides, Mr. Hussein was less diplomatic, denouncing Mr. Gorbachev as a “scoundrel” who lacked the will or influence to stay the first President George Bush’s hand. “He tricked us,” Mr. Hussein said. “I knew he would betray us!”

The disclosures about Mr. Hussein’s closed-door deliberations that first day of the Persian Gulf land war are documented in an extraordinary Iraqi archive, which includes 2,300 hours of recorded meetings and millions of pages of documents, that was captured by United States forces after the 2003 invasion.

On the 20th anniversary of Operation Desert Storm (the air campaign began on Jan. 17, 1991), three transcripts of Mr. Hussein’s fateful decisions are being released to coincide with a symposium in Texas on Thursday with Mr. Bush and members of his war cabinet. Only a small portion of the archive, stored in digital form at the National Defense University, has been declassified and opened to outside researchers. (A 2008 government report drew on the three Feb. 24 transcripts, but until now they have not been available in their entirety.)

The war’s history has been well documented, but the three transcripts provide gripping new details of what went on inside the Iraqi command, including Mr. Hussein’s anger at Mr. Gorbachev and his misinterpretation of the United States’ military actions.

With only fragments of information coming from the battlefield and a room full of subordinates eager to applaud the faintest glimmer of success, Mr. Hussein was convinced that the United States lacked the resolve to wage a grinding ground war, the transcripts show.

Even if the Americans suffered just one casualty for every four Iraqi casualties, he boldly predicted, the United States would falter. He lectured his aides that igniting Kuwait’s oil fields to hinder the allied warplanes was a valid military tactic that would not enrage the world. And he and his aides kept misreading the signals about whether the ground assault had even begun.

Studied along with a parallel archive of declassified transcripts at the George Bush Presidential Library at Texas A & M University, the captured Iraqi records depict Mr. Gorbachev as eager to engineer a solution that would protect the Soviet Union’s former Iraqi client and make the Soviets an equal partner with the United States in international diplomacy, but unwilling to jeopardize his relations with the Bush administration.

Mr. Bush emerges as a leader who sought to mollify Mr. Gorbachev even as the United States stuck to its demand for the unconditional withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

“It is your neighborhood, and some of them are your friends,” Mr. Bush told Mr. Gorbachev in a phone call on Feb. 22, 1991. “We recognize Soviet interests in the area. I want to get our forces out of there as soon as possible. I know how the Iranians and others feel.”

Jeffrey A. Engel, a professor at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A & M, noted that the exchanges showed that “despite heated discussions at the height of war with Iraq, Bush and Gorbachev were fundamentally concerned with safeguarding the future of Soviet-American relations.”

Iraq’s invasion and occupation of Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990, were followed by months of demands that Iraqi forces leave the Persian Gulf nation, resolutions in the United Nations Security Council and a buildup of military might by the Americans and their allies in the region.

After the air campaign began in January, preparations for a possible ground attack in Iraq were stepped up. With the ground war just days away, Mr. Gorbachev mounted a peacemaking effort. Tariq Aziz, the Iraqi foreign minister, arrived in Moscow on Feb. 21. Later that day, Mr. Gorbachev told Mr. Bush in a phone call that he sensed a “serious shift” in Iraq’s position, according to a transcript in the Bush Library.

Iraq, Mr. Gorbachev said, was no longer demanding that resolution of the gulf crisis be linked to other issues in the Middle East. And although the Iraqis had initially demanded that they be given six weeks to leave Kuwait, the Soviets had insisted that the schedule be shortened to 21 days. That timetable still fell short of Mr. Bush’s demands that Mr. Hussein unconditionally remove his troops and pay reparations to Kuwait and that a plan be worked out to deal with Iraq’s poison gas, biological weapons and nuclear arms programs.

Mr. Gorbachev’s diplomatic efforts were undermined on Feb. 22 when the Kuwaiti oil well fires that Mr. Hussein had ordered set — and which he saw as a defensive measure — were described by Mr. Bush in his conversation with the Soviet leader as a “scorched-earth policy” and a reason to not delay military action. Mr. Bush said it should take the Iraqis no more than seven days to pull out of Kuwait, and he issued them an ultimatum to take action before noon the following day.

On Feb. 23, just minutes before the noon deadline, Mr. Bush and the Soviet leader spoke by telephone. Mr. Gorbachev argued that joint American-Soviet action through the United Nations would establish a model for dealing with other crises.

“George, let’s keep cool,” Mr. Gorbachev said. “Saddam wants to stall, but we are not simpletons.”

But Mr. Bush’s patience had been exhausted. “Mikhail,” he said, “I appreciate that spirit, but I don’t want to leave a false impression there is any more time.” If the Iraqis intended to comply with the withdrawal demand, he said, it would need to happen “in the next few minutes.”

In Baghdad the next morning, Mr. Hussein waited anxiously for word from his foreign minister, who had left Moscow. “When will Comrade Tariq arrive?” the Iraqi leader asked. Told that Mr. Aziz had yet to return to Baghdad, Mr. Hussein demanded: “What do you mean he has not arrived?” He read aloud a headline: “Tariq Aziz Arrives in Baghdad.”

As he waited for the minister to show up, Mr. Hussein instructed his subordinates to read a letter he had sent to Mr. Gorbachev the night before, asking the Soviet president why he was not doing more to oppose Mr. Bush’s decision to start the ground war. “We trusted you,” Mr. Hussein wrote.

The conspiracy-minded Iraqi leader seemed both baffled and angry.

“In typical fashion, he suspected that Iraq had been stabbed in the back, this time by disingenuous Soviet mediation efforts,” said David Palkki, the deputy director of the research center that houses the declassified Hussein archives.

Mr. Gorbachev’s reply was not reassuring. He wrote that Mr. Bush did not agree with the Soviet proposal, and that if Mr. Hussein wanted to avoid a ground war, he should immediately issue a statement saying that Iraq would withdraw its forces within 9 to 10 days, which was close to Mr. Bush’s seven-day timeline.

When Mr. Aziz finally arrived to see Mr. Hussein, the Iraqi leader greeted him with a laugh: “Are you up to surprises like Bush?”

To elude American warplanes, Mr. Aziz had returned via Jordan and traveled by road to Baghdad. Like two teenagers discussing the latest muscle car, Mr. Hussein and his foreign minister talked about how fast it was possible to drive on Iraq’s roads.

“We were going 220 on the highway,” Mr. Aziz said, referring to kilometers. That translates to more than 130 miles per hour.

Neither official put much hope in getting help from Iraq’s neighbors. One aide asked about Iran, whose eight-year war with Iraq had ended in 1988. “We are done dealing with the Iranians this time,” Mr. Aziz said. Added Mr. Hussein: “Like all new revolutions, they talk too much.”

With little accurate intelligence, Mr. Hussein and his command failed to grasp their adversary’s strategy. The Iraqis believed an American amphibious landing — a giant feint intended to distract Iraqi troops — was likely.

And Mr. Hussein initially mistook some probing actions by the American military as signs that a major attack had been mounted and contained. “If this is the initial shock,” Mr. Hussein said, “then the attack has failed.”

But as the day wore on, the seriousness of the predicament became more apparent. Frustrated at their inability to negotiate a compromise on their terms, the Iraqi officials speculated that casualties that the United States would suffer in a ground attack would lead Mr. Bush to soften his demands.

“Let us pray to God to grant us success to slaughter any number of them,” Mr. Aziz said. “That is what is going to help us get results.”

“Let them come to Karbala city,” Mr. Hussein said confidently. “It will become their cemetery.”

18 January 2011

CIA Red Cell special memorandum on ”What If Foreigners See the United States as an ’Exporter of Terrorism’”

keywords: WikiLeaks, U.S. Intelligence, U.S. Army, National Ground Intelligence Center, NGIC, classified, SE- CRET, NOFORN, Red Cell.
restraint: Classified SECRET//NOFORN (US)
date: February 2, 2010
group: author: CIA Red Cell
author: CIA Red Cell

This CIA ”Red United States is an exporter of terrorism; ’Contrary to common belief, the American export of terrorism or terrorists is not a recent phenomenon, nor has it been associated only with Islamic radicals or people of Middle Eastern, African or South Asian ethnic origin. This dynamic belies the American belief that our free, open and integrated multicultural society lessens the allure of radicalism and terrorism for US citizens.’ The report looks at a number cases of US exported terrorism, including attacks by US based or financed Jewish, Muslim and Irish-nationalism terrorists. It concludes that foreign perceptions of the US as an ”Exporter of Terrorism” together with US double standards in international law, may lead to noncooperation in renditions (including the arrest of CIA officers) and the decision to not share terrorism related intelligence with the United States.


A Red Cell Special Memorandum 5 February 2010

What If Foreigners See the United States as an “Exporter of Terrorism”? (S//NF)

Much attention has been paid recently to the increasing occurrence of American-grown Islamic terrorists conducting attacks against US targets, primarily in the homeland. Less attention has been paid to homegrown terrorism, not exclusively Muslim terrorists, exported overseas to target non- US persons. This report examines the implications of what it would mean for the US to be seen increasingly as an incubator and “exporter of terrorism.” (S//NF)

Contrary to common belief, the American export of terrorism or terrorists is not a recent phenomenon, nor has it been associated only with Islamic radicals or people of Middle Eastern, African or South Asian ethnic origin. This dynamic belies the American belief that our free, open and integrated multicultural society lessens the allure of radicalism and terrorism for US citizens.
Late last year five young Muslim American men traveled from northern Virginia to Pakistan allegedly to join the Pakistani Taliban and to engage in jihad. Their relatives contacted the FBI after they disappeared without telling anyone, and then Pakistani authorities arrested them as they allegedly attempted to gain access to al-Qa’ida training facilities.
In November 2008, Pakistani-American David Headley conducted surveillance in support of the Lashkar-i-Tayyiba (LT) attack in Mumbai, India that killed more than 160 people. LT induced him to change his name from Daood Gilani to David Headley to facilitate his movement between the US, Pakistan, and India.
Some American Jews have supported and even engaged in violent acts against perceived enemies of Israel. In 1994, Baruch Goldstein, an American Jewish doctor from New York, emigrated to Israel, joined the extremist group Kach, and killed 29 Palestinians during their prayers in the mosque at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron which helped to trigger a wave of bus bombings by HAMAS in early 1995.
Some Irish-Americans have long provided financial and material support for violent efforts to compel the United Kingdom to relinquish control of Northern Ireland. In the 1880s, Irish-American members of Clan na Gael dynamited Britain’s Scotland Yard, Parliament, and the Tower of London, and detonated bombs at several stations in the London underground.In the twentieth century, Irish-Americans provided most of the financial support sent to the Irish Republican Army (IRA). The US-based Irish Northern Aid Committee (NORAID), founded in the late 1960s, provided the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) with money that was frequently used for arms purchases. Only after repeated high-level British requests and then London’s support for our bombing of Libya in the 1980s did the US Government crack down on Irish-American support for the IRA. (S//NF)


American Freedoms Facilitate Terrorist Recruitment and Operations (S//NF)
Primarily we have been concerned about Al-Qa’ida infiltrating operatives into the United States to conduct terrorist attacks, but AQ may be increasingly looking for Americans to operate overseas. Undoubtedly Al-Qa’ida and other terrorist groups recognize that Americans can be great assets in terrorist operations overseas because they carry US passports, don’t fit the typical Arab-Muslim profile, and can easily communicate with radical leaders through their unfettered access to the internet and other modes of communication.
Terrorist groups such as Al-Qa’ida have surely noticed the ease with which Headley was able to travel multiple times on a US visa between the US, Pakistan, and India without arousing suspicion from officials.
Al-Qa’ida and other extremist groups have also probably noticed that the US Government has been more concerned with preventing attacks on the US by homegrown terrorists or foreigners than with Americans going overseas to carry out attacks in other countries. Most foreign governments do not suspect that American citizens would plot or perpetrate attacks against their citizens within their borders. Foreign terrorists have recruited homegrown US extremists for attacks abroad and are likely to increase the use of this method because so far it has slipped below the radar of the governments of the US and other countries.
The ubiquity of internet services around the world and the widespread use of English on popular websites such as Youtube, Facebook, Myspace, Twitter and various blogs enable radical clerics and terrorist recruiters to bypass America’s physical borders and influence US citizens. For example, a self-proclaimed recruiter for the Pakistani Taliban reportedly contacted the five men in northern Virginian via YouTube and then exchanged coded emails with the group. Terrorists apparently know that detection is especially difficult in cases where the potential US recruit is not affiliated with any known terrorist group. (S//NF)
Impact on Foreign Relations if US Seen as “Exporter of Terrorism” (S//NF)
If the US were seen as an exporter of terrorism, foreign partners may be less willing to cooperate with the United States on extrajudicial activities, including detention, transfer, and interrogation of suspects in third party countries. As a recent victim of high-profile terrorism originating from abroad, the US Government has had significant leverage to press foreign regimes to acquiesce to requests for extraditing terrorist suspects from their soil. However, if the US were seen as an “exporter of terrorism,” foreign governments could request a reciprocal arrangement that would impact US sovereignty.
Foreign regimes could request information on US citizens they deem to be terrorists or terrorist supporters, or even request the rendition of US citizens. US failure to cooperate could result in those governments refusing to allow the US to extract terrorist suspects from their soil, straining alliances and bilateral relations.
In extreme cases, US refusal to cooperate with foreign government requests for extradition might lead some governments to consider secretly extracting US citizens suspected of foreign terrorism from US soil. Foreign intelligence operations on US soil to neutralize or even assassinate individuals in the US deemed to be a threat are not without precedent. Before the US entered World War II, British intelligence carried out information operations against prominent US citizens deemed to be isolationists or sympathetic to the Nazis. Some historians who have examined relevant archives even suspect that British intelligence officers assassinated Nazi agents on US soil. (S//NF)


Foreign perception of the US as an “exporter of terrorism” also raises difficult legal issues for the US, its foreign allies, and international institutions. To date, the US is not a signatory to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and instead, has pursued Bilateral Immunity Agreements (BIAs) with other countries to ensure immunity for US nationals from ICC prosecution. The US has threatened to terminate economic aid and withdraw military assistance with countries that do not accede to BIAs.
If foreign regimes believe the US position on rendition is too one-sided, favoring the US, but not them, they could obstruct US efforts to detain terrorism suspects. For example, in 2005 Italy issued criminal arrest warrants for US agents involved in the abduction of an Egyptian cleric and his rendition to Egypt. The proliferation of such cases would not only challenge US bilateral relations with other countries but also damage global counterterrorism efforts.
If foreign leaders see the US refusing to provide intelligence on American terrorism suspects or to allow witnesses to testify in their courts, they might respond by denying the same to the US. In 2005 9/11 suspect Abdelghani Mzoudi was acquitted by a German court because the US refused to allow Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a suspected ringleader of the 9/11 plot who was in US custody, to testify. More such instances could impede actions to lock up terrorists, whether in the US or abroad, or result in the release of suspects. (S//NF)

This memo was prepared by the CIA Red Cell, which has been charged by the Director of Intelligence with taking a pronounced "out-of-the-box" approach that will provoke thought and offer an alternative viewpoint on the full range of analytic issues. Comments and queries are welcome and may be directed to the CIA Red Cell at (703) 482-6918 / 482-0169 or 44462/50127, secure. (C)

CL BY: 0711195
CL REASON: 1.4 (d)
DECL ON: 20350204

17 January 2011

Should I stay or should I go?
By: Latif Yahia

Brian Cowen
There are times when the lyrics of certain songs ring true and at this very moment the words of the enduring Clash song ‘Should I stay or should I go’ have never been meant so earnestly as they are for Brian Cowen. At a time when Ireland is facing into the hardest times since most of this generation don’t want to remember, An Taoiseach, is having this very debate with his party members.
Don’t just believe that the title of the song is true in Brian’s case, no, indeed the lines ‘If I go there will be trouble, and if stay there will be double!’ are just as sharp. Either way, with a new Taoiseach at the helm Ireland is in for harsh times, the question I suppose is why Mr Cowen won’t stand down, is it out of a strong sense that he can undo his wrongdoing while he was Minister for Finance? Or is it that he doesn’t want the full scale of his bed-sharing with the likes of Anglo exposed and the only way of making sure that he isn’t exposed at least until after the demise of the present government is to hold his chair.

Brian Cowen And Brian Lenihan

Many things about the last few years in Ireland have addled my brain, Ireland or should I say ‘The Irish’ were famous worldwide and I should probably mention Respected also, for being fighters, what has happened?? Has money made ye all soft?? Not since the farmers marched on Dublin in the 1970’s has Ireland seen any meaningful resistance or opposition to it’s government although I have heard plenty bemoan the situation on the street, but when it comes to the crunch no-one is willing to get out there and make their voices heard, I know that the Irish invented guerilla warfare as such, but unfortunately those tactics don’t work too well on democracy, not that Ireland really has one. The apathy in the Irish Nation to their political parties astounds me, the whole ‘one lot is as bad as the other’ sentiment is really heartbreaking for me to hear, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT THEN!
Very shortly the Fianna Fail/PD coallition will have to call a general election, I would hope that with Brian Cowen at the helm the Irish people would give a resounding NO, and with any luck Mary Harney will not only lose her seat but leave the country for good, how she has kept her chair for so long having done such a disasterous job over the past 12 years is beyond comprehension, but then again maybe we can put it down to the reason we keep seeing the same faces just in different jobs, it’s all about the dirt she has on the rest of them.
They say that ‘you get the Government you deserve’ if that’s the case, well then Ireland is rightly screwed. Ireland needs another revolution, why not? The government it has isn’t working for the people, the opposition are just that, opposition, they have been out of power for so long they wouldn’t know what to do with it if they got it and with as much repect as I have for socialist ideals, I do not believe that a Labour/Sinn Fein government would go down very well with our European partners, especially since they have all the buckets.
So, what to do then, well first things first, get rid of Cowen, at least then you have hopefully stopped the rot, I have faith in Lenihan, I think that the man truly believes in what he is doing and has the country’s best interest at heart, it is just a tragedy that he had to be brought in to clean up Cowen’s mess and he is taking the brunt of it. While I am on the subject, if I were able to give out medals or commendations I would give one to Brian Lenihan, to battle cancer, try to keep a sinking country afloat while your party is in turmoil and have a life with your family all at once, well done Mr Lenihan! I think that the jibes that he has received from Europe were underhanded at best.
If Tunisians can march in enough force to drive their President Bin Ali of 24 years out of the country never mind his office, why is it that the Irish can’t if you compare the reasons for the Tunisian’s revolt to the Irish situation, I think the Irish have more to complain about really, let Europe take the reigns for a while, it’s not like they’re not already here! Pick yourselves up, dust yourselves off, and hold your heads high!

12 January 2011

Secret US Embassy Cables

Wikileaks began on Sunday November 28th publishing 251,287 leaked United States embassy cables, the largest set of confidential documents ever to be released into the public domain. The documents will give people around the world an unprecedented insight into US Government foreign activities.

The cables, which date from 1966 up until the end of February this year, contain confidential communications between 274 embassies in countries throughout the world and the State Department in Washington DC. 15,652 of the cables are classified Secret.

The embassy cables will be released in stages over the next few months. The subject matter of these cables is of such importance, and the geographical spread so broad, that to do otherwise would not do this material justice.

The cables show the extent of US spying on its allies and the UN; turning a blind eye to corruption and human rights abuse in "client states"; backroom deals with supposedly neutral countries; lobbying for US corporations; and the measures US diplomats take to advance those who have access to them.

This document release reveals the contradictions between the US’s public persona and what it says behind closed doors – and shows that if citizens in a democracy want their governments to reflect their wishes, they should ask to see what’s going on behind the scenes.

Every American schoolchild is taught that George Washington – the country’s first President – could not tell a lie. If the administrations of his successors lived up to the same principle, today’s document flood would be a mere embarrassment. Instead, the US Government has been warning governments -- even the most corrupt -- around the world about the coming leaks and is bracing itself for the exposures.

The full set consists of 251,287 documents, comprising 261,276,536 words (seven times the size of "The Iraq War Logs", the world's previously largest classified information release).

The cables cover from 28th December 1966 to 28th February 2010 and originate from 274 embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions.

How to explore the data

Search for events that you remember that happened for example in your country. You can browse by date or search for an origin near you.

Pick out interesting events and tell others about them. Use twitter, reddit, mail whatever suits your audience best.

For twitter or other social networking services please use the #cablegate or unique reference ID (e.g. #66BUENOSAIRES2481) as hash tags.

Key figures:

  • 15, 652 secret
  • 101,748 confidential
  • 133,887 unclassified

  • Iraq most discussed country – 15,365 (Cables coming from Iraq – 6,677)
  • Ankara, Turkey had most cables coming from it – 7,918
  • From Secretary of State office - 8,017

According to the US State Departments labeling system, the most frequent subjects discussed are:

  • External political relations – 145,451
  • Internal government affairs – 122,896
  • Human rights – 55,211
  • Economic Conditions – 49,044
  • Terrorists and terrorism – 28,801
  • UN security council – 6,532

Graphics of the cablegate dataset

10 January 2011

Buddy Vs Ted Williams "Golden Voice"

On one of my trips to the UK I came across Buddy busking in Manchester. As usual I had my camera with me and I was very impressed with Buddy the One Man Band, I was having a bad day and Buddy brought a smile to my face, especially when he played the pan-pipes (a favourite of mine).I have to hand it to him, he's a fit guy keeping everything going, guitar, drums, harmonica, pan-pipes, cymbals. Having seen how Ted Williams "Golden Voice" has hit it big recently, I think that Buddy is a really talented guy, unlike some of the more manufactured acts that we are being bombarded with on our TV screens.
So give Buddy Your thumbs up! A great entertainer, a nice guy and a fine musician, all my respect to you Buddy!