Video of the Week: Bitter Lake

Ever wondered why what the hell we are doing in Afghanistan? How did we end up there in the first place? What is so special about Afghanistan, besides its opium production? (Incidentally, opium production has soared since the U.S. occupation of the country.)

Along comes Adam Curtis, BBC documentary filmmaker and one of the few mainstream media journalists worthy of respect in this age of deception to put together the story for us. He takes us all the way back to the days of FDR when he made a pact with Saudi Arabian King Abdulaziz on Bitter Lake. The world has never been the same since that deal.

U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East since then has led to a feedback loop as the U.S. supplies it with its wealth, empowering it to spread its violent interpretation of Islam known as Wahhabism. The West also fails to understand how repeated failures of Russian and Western powers to “transform” the region into a modern democracy are the result of a fundamental failure to understand the country’s cultural roots, political history, and societal structure. In short, the nation is culturally nothing like the gynocentric, materialistic West, and many of its beliefs are 1,400 years old.

Here’s a description of Bitter Lake from the producers:

Politicians used to have the confidence to tell us stories that made sense of the chaos of world events. But now there are no big stories and politicians react randomly to every new crisis – leaving us bewildered and disorientated. Bitter Lake is a new, adventurous and epic film by Adam Curtis that explains why the big stories that politicians tell us have become so simplified that we can’t really see the world any longer.

The narrative goes all over the world, America, Britain, Russia and Saudi Arabia – but the country at the heart of it is Afghanistan. Because Afghanistan is the place that has confronted our politicians with the terrible truth – that they cannot understand what is going on any longer. The film reveals the forces that over the past thirty years rose up and undermined the confidence of politics to understand the world.

And it shows the strange, dark role that Saudi Arabia has played in this. But Bitter Lake is also experimental. Curtis has taken the unedited rushes of everything that the BBC has ever shot in Afghanistan – and used them in new and radical ways. He has tried to build a different and more emotional way of depicting what really happened in Afghanistan. A counterpoint to the thin, narrow and increasingly destructive stories told by those in power today.

Indeed, the film can be a tad jarring sometimes in that it has such long, unedited pieces of film illustrating what life on the ground is really like in Afghanistan.

Make no mistake Curtis often has a left bias, but he’s much more balanced and insightful than virtually anyone else on a mainstream channel. If anything, we learn Western governments are every bit as corrupt as the governments we criticize for being corrupt in the Middle East.

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