Daily Archives: September 2, 2008

Israeli spy admits Mossad allowed Josef Mengele to escape

German Nazi doctor and war criminal Josef Mengele (1911 – 1979) standing at a train window his SS uniform  Photo: GETTY

A former Israeli spy has described how an operation to capture the ‘Angel of Death’ Josef Mengele in Argentina had to be called off to prevent the escape of Adolf Eichmann.

Telegraph | Sep 1, 2008

By Tim Butcher

Israeli agents were taken off Mengele’s trail in 1960 so that agents of the foreign intelligence service Mossad could focus their efforts on detaining Adolf Eichmann, one of the architects of the Holocaust.

With the Eichmann operation going smoothly allowing agents to smuggle the senior Nazi back to Israel where he was convicted of war crimes and executed, they planned to go back later for Mengele.

But by the time agents went back to look for for him Mengele had escaped from Argentina. He died, without ever coming to trial, in Brazil in 1979.

The failure to hold Mengele to account for many cruel wartime crimes such as performing human experiments on inmates at Auschwitz is an acutely sensitive issue for survivors of the Holocaust.

There has always been some ambiguity about how Mengele managed to escape from Argentina in 1960.

Rafi Eitan, Israel’s current pensions minister who ran the Eichmann operation for Mossad, has sought to shed new light on the affair.

“Mengele was living in Buenos Aires at the same time as Eichmann,” Mr Eitan said.

“We discovered Eichmann first and we later found Mengele.”

The Mossad agents in Argentina found Mengele’s address and took pictures that determined “beyond any doubt” the identity of the former Nazi.

Mr Eitan said he advised the top commanders of Mossad, however, that it would be a mistake to order snatch operations at the same time and that Eichmann should be the main focus.

It was then that the snatch operation for Mengele was postponed.
Mr Eitan said the publicity surrounding the Eichmann arrest alerted Mengele allowing him to escape.

But other sources have suggested Mengele left Argentina some weeks before the Eichmann arrest and the subsequent publicity, something that does not quite tally with Mr Eitan’s account.

The exact details of how he got away appear to be another mystery taken by Mengele, one of the most sinister figures of the Holocaust, to the grave.

Thinktank: US foreign policy to remain the same regardless of who is president

Co-authors Timothy Lynch (L) and Robert Singh (R) from the University of London’s Institute for the Study of the Americas

Related

Don’t Expect a Big Change in U.S. Foreign Policy
Want more George W. Bush foreign policy? Elect John McCain – or Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. Regardless of who wins in November, the current foreign policy will live on in the next White House.

Book TV After Words: Timothy Lynch, co-author of “After Bush” interviewed by Gary Schmitt

Book TV | Sep 1, 2008

Watch video here

Upcoming Schedule: Sunday, September 7, at 11:00 AM

About the Program

Timothy Lynch, Lecturer in American Foreign Policy at the University of London’s Institute for the Study of the Americas, argues in his book, “After Bush,” that the basic tenets of President Bush’s foreign policy will and should be adopted by his successor, no matter who wins the 2008 presidential election. Mr. Lynch discusses his book with Gary Schmitt, scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and former executive director of the Project for the New American Century.

Related



After Bush: The Case for Continuity in American Foreign Policy on Amazon
:
“Once elected, American presidents have far more in common with one another than is usually believed, especially by their partisan supporters.”

Institute for the Study of the Americas
The Institute was founded in August 2004 through a merger of the Institute of Latin American Studies (ILAS) with the Institute of United States Studies (IUSS), both of which had been founded in 1965 at 31 Tavistock Square. Like its predecessors, the new Institute forms part of the University of London’s School of Advanced Study.

Institute for the Study of the Americas at the University of London
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Institute for the Study of the Americas was founded in August 2004 through a merger of the Institute of Latin American Studies (ILAS) with the Institute of United States Studies (IUSS), both of which had been founded in 1965 at 31 Tavistock Square. Like its predecessors, the new Institute forms part of the University of London’s School of Advanced Study. The Institute of US Studies (IUSS) had been the first academic department to award degrees in American studies in Europe. In particular IUSS has, since its formation, benefited from close links to the US Embassy in London and has produced a number of highly successful graduates now active in politics, academia and the media.


The School of Advanced Study
The School of Advanced Study brings together the specialised scholarship and resources of ten prestigious postgraduate research institutes to offer academic opportunities across and between a wide range of subject fields in the humanities and social sciences

Cosmetics May Cause Infertility In Unborn Males

They blocked the action of androgens, which include male sex hormones such as testosterone.

Red Orbit |  Sep 1, 2008

Scientists report that the use of scented creams and perfumes could increase the risk of unborn boys developing infertility later in life.

The team of researchers at Edinburg University determined that building blocks for future reproduction were developed within a 12 week period during the pregnancy.  It is during this time they say developing infants may be more influenced by chemicals found in cosmetics.

The research team led by Professor Richard Sharpe of the Medical Research Council’s Human Reproductive Sciences Unit, based in Edinburgh admitted that these preliminary results still require more conclusive proof.

Researchers conducted tests on laboratory rats. They blocked the action of androgens, which include male sex hormones such as testosterone.

The experiments confirmed that if the hormones are blocked, the animals suffered fertility problems.

Many of these hormone-blocking chemicals can be found in such items as cosmetics, household fabrics and plastics.

Prof Sharpe said the chemicals may also increase the risk of baby boys developing other reproductive conditions in later life, including testicular cancer.

“There are lots of compounds in perfumes that we know in higher concentrations have the potential to have biological effects, so it is just being ultra safe to say that by avoiding using them your baby isn’t at risk.

“If you are planning to become pregnant you should change your lifestyle. Those lifestyle things don’t necessarily mean that you are going to cause terrible harm to your baby, but by avoiding them you are going to have a positive effect.

“We would recommend you avoid exposure to chemicals that are present in cosmetics, anything that you put on your body that might then get through your body into your developing baby.

“It is not because we have evidence that these chemicals categorically cause harm to babies, it is only based on experimental studies on animals that suggest it is a possibility.”

Prof Sharpe is due to unveil his findings next week at the Simpson Symposium in Edinburgh, a gathering of fertility experts organized by Edinburgh University.

Mysterious Clouds Forming at the Edge of Space

Related

Strange Clouds at the Edge of Space
Why are they spreading? What is ice doing in a rarefied layer of Earth’s upper atmosphere that is one hundred million times dryer than air from the Sahara desert?

Polar Mesospheric Clouds (also known as noctilucent clouds) are transient, upper atmospheric phenomena observed usually in the summer months at high latitudes (greater than 50 degrees) of both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. This image was acquired at an altitude of just over 200 miles in the pre-dawn hours of July 22, 2008 as the International Space Station was passing over western Mongolia in central Asia. Credit: NASA

Space.com |  Sep 1, 2008

By Jeremy Hsu

A weirdly wonderful sight appeared to astronauts aboard the International Space Station this summer — thin blue clouds hovering at the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and the void.

The noctilucent or “night-shining” clouds are at an altitude of 47 to 53 miles (76 to 85 km), where meteors and bright aurora lights are not uncommon and the atmosphere gives way to the blackness of space. The clouds remain a scientifically baffling phenomenon more than 120 years after their discovery.

“It’s lovely,” said Gary Thomas, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Colorado after looking at a photo taken from the space station. “And it shows just how high these clouds really are – at the very edge of space.”

The clouds form at dizzying heights where the air is one hundred million times drier than the Sahara. By contrast, the common high-altitude cirrus clouds only reach heights of 11 miles (18 km) up.

“We have a fairly good idea that the water vapor from below gets transported upwards,” Thomas told SPACE.com. “That is in essence the fuel.”

Part of that water vapor comes from rising air in the tropics, where a few parts per million of water escape into farthest reaches of the upper atmosphere. Another likely source of water vapor is methane oxidation. Methane concentrations have more than doubled over the past 100 years, which could explain part of the changes in the high-flying clouds over the past decades.

People first spotted the noctilucent clouds a few years after the 1883 eruption of the Krakatoa super-volcano in Indonesia created spectacular sunsets from ash in the atmosphere. Robert Leslie of Southampton, England saw the clouds one evening in July 1885 and published the first observations in the journal Nature.

The clouds have since spread from the northern latitude regions such as Scandinavia, Scotland and Siberia to areas farther south. Sightings have cropped up in Washington and Oregon in the United States, as well as in Turkey and Iran.

Scientists can observe widespread instances of the clouds throughout the polar summer. Some clouds even formed after the fateful launch of the doomed space shuttle Columbia, when 400 tons of water from the shuttle exhaust drifted toward the South Pole.

The mystery only thickened after the launch of a satellite dubbed Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) in 2007, when AIM spotted a type of “stealth” noctilucent cloud made of smaller ice crystals less than 30 nanometers (a red blood cell is about 10,000 nanometers). Such clouds appear to stay in the upper atmosphere all the time.

“They’re just so tiny that they don’t scatter light efficiently,” Thomas said.

AIM has also found a strong resemblance between the noctilucent clouds and tropospheric clouds that hover near Earth’s surface, which suggests that the dynamics of near-space weather may not be incredibly strange after all.

Researchers speculate that the origin and spread of the clouds is linked to patterns of climate change associated with the modern era. But they are not ruling out a host of other possible factors, including methane, carbon dioxide, the number of meteors seeding the upper atmosphere, and even the 11-year sunspot cycle.

“I think the jury’s still out on that,” Thomas said. “We’re just trying to understand now how clouds form and how they vary.”

Federal government involved in raids on protesters

After all, if you don’t want the FBI spying on you, or the Police surrounding and then invading your home with rifles and seizing your computers, there’s a very simple solution: don’t protest the Government. Just sit quietly in your house and mind your own business.

Salon.com | Aug 31, 2008

by Glenn Greenwald

Police Swarm Earth Justice Bus in St. Paul

As the police attacks on protesters in Minnesota continue — see this video of the police swarming a bus transporting members of Earth Justice, seizing the bus and leaving the group members stranded on the side of the highway — it appears increasingly clear that it is the Federal Government that is directing this intimidation campaign. Minnesota Public Radio reported yesterday that “the searches were led by the Ramsey County Sheriff’s office. Deputies coordinated searches with the Minneapolis and St. Paul police departments and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

Today’s Star Tribune added that the raids were specifically “aided by informants planted in protest groups.” Back in May, Marcy Wheeler presciently noted that the Minneapolis Joint Terrorist Task Force — an inter-agency group of federal, state and local law enforcement led by the FBI — was actively recruiting Minneapolis residents to serve as plants, to infiltrate “vegan groups” and other left-wing activist groups and report back to the Task Force about what they were doing. There seems to be little doubt that it was this domestic spying by the Federal Government that led to the excessive and truly despicable home assaults by the police yesterday.

So here we have a massive assault led by Federal Government law enforcement agencies on left-wing dissidents and protesters who have committed no acts of violence or illegality whatsoever, preceded by months-long espionage efforts to track what they do. And as extraordinary as that conduct is, more extraordinary is the fact that they have received virtually no attention from the national media and little outcry from anyone. And it’s not difficult to see why. As the recent “overhaul” of the 30-year-old FISA law illustrated — preceded by the endless expansion of surveillance state powers, justified first by the War on Drugs and then the War on Terror — we’ve essentially decided that we want our Government to spy on us without limits. There is literally no police power that the state can exercise that will cause much protest from the political and media class and, therefore, from the citizenry.

Beyond that, there is a widespread sense that the targets of these raids deserve what they get, even if nothing they’ve done is remotely illegal. We love to proclaim how much we cherish our “freedoms” in the abstract, but we despise those who actually exercise them. The Constitution, right in the very First Amendment, protects free speech and free assembly precisely because those liberties are central to a healthy republic — but we’ve decided that anyone who would actually express truly dissident views or do anything other than sit meekly and quietly in their homes are dirty trouble-makers up to no good, and it’s therefore probably for the best if our Government keeps them in check, spies on them, even gets a little rough with them.

After all, if you don’t want the FBI spying on you, or the Police surrounding and then invading your home with rifles and seizing your computers, there’s a very simple solution: don’t protest the Government. Just sit quietly in your house and mind your own business. That way, the Government will have no reason to monitor what you say and feel the need to intimidate you by invading your home. Anyone who decides to protest — especially with something as unruly and disrespectful as an unauthorized street march — gets what they deserve.

Full Article

Weapons inspector’s closest female friend explains why he COULDN’T have killed himself

‘He couldn’t cut a steak’: Mai pederson is unconvinced David Kelly took his own life

Daily Mail | Aug 31, 2008

By  Sharon Churcher

A female confidante of Dr David Kelly raised disturbing new questions last night over how the Ministry of Defence weapons inspector was able to kill himself.

After his body was discovered in woods near his Oxfordshire home in July 2003, a Government inquiry led by Lord Hutton ruled that he committed suicide by slashing his left wrist with a knife and taking an overdose of co-proxamol, a painkiller commonly used for arthritis.

He was said to be anguished about being named as the source of a BBC report, which alleged that Tony Blair ‘sexed up’ a dossier justifying the invasion of Iraq.


Mystery death: Professor David Kelly appearing at the House of Commons during the Iraq inquiry.  Kelly gave evidence during an inquiry into whether the Government had ‘sexed up’ the reasons for going to war with Iraq

But five years after his death at 59, his close friend, American military linguist Mai Pederson, has come forward to dispute this account.

The Hutton inquiry heard that he died after making several cuts to his left wrist, which severed the ulnar artery, buried deep in the tissue on the side of the hand nearest the little finger.

An earlier coroner’s inquest was halted when the Government used an obscure law to turn the investigation over to Lord Hutton. His inquiry concluded that ‘there was no involvement by a third party’ in the scientist’s death, which was said to be caused primarily by the cut artery and hastened by the painkillers.

Ms Pederson, a US Air Force officer, met Dr Kelly when she was assigned to work in 1998 as a translator for the UN weapons inspection team in Iraq.

And she revealed in an interview with The Mail on Sunday that, in the months leading to his death, the right-handed scientist was unable to use his right hand for tasks requiring strength because of a painful injury to his right elbow.

According to Ms Pederson, when she dined with Dr Kelly at a Washington restaurant in the spring of 2003, the hand’s grip was so weak that he struggled to get a knife through a steak he had ordered.

The linguist, who counselled Dr Kelly during his conversion to the Baha’i religious faith that she follows, says he had begun to favour his left hand for even relatively minor tasks, a tendency she observed on numerous other occasions.

‘David would have had to have been a contortionist to kill himself the way they claim,’ she said.

‘I don’t know whether he was born right-handed but by the time I first met him he favoured his left hand for any task that required strength, like opening a door or carrying his briefcase.

‘When he embraced friends at the beginning and end of Baha’i meetings, it was his left arm that you felt hugging you and you could tell his right arm hurt him because he rubbed the elbow a lot.

‘I didn’t want to pry but he finally told me the reason in the spring of 2003. It was the last time I saw him before he died. He was visiting America on business and we went out to dinner.

‘He ordered steak and he was holding his knife very oddly in the palm of his right hand, with his wrist crooked, trying to cut the meat.

‘He told me that some time ago he had broken his right elbow and it was never fixed properly, so he had real problems with it. It was painful and it never regained its strength.

‘I just don’t see how he could have used his right hand to cut through the nerves and tendons of his left wrist – especially as the knife he supposedly used had a dull blade.’

Ms Pederson said she believed she was familiar with the knife Dr Kelly is said to have used.

‘He always wore a Barbour jacket and he kept a knife in his pocket,’ she said. ‘It had a folding blade and I remember him telling me he couldn’t sharpen it because his right hand didn’t have the strength to hold a sharpener.

‘It would have taken him a long time to reach the artery that was severed and it would have been very painful.

‘As a scientist, David had no need to kill himself that way. I don’t understand why the British Government isn’t thoroughly investigating this. Logically, he cannot have committed suicide.’

Ms Pederson, 48, whose military duties have included intelligence assignments, has avoided the spotlight since Dr Kelly’s death. But she says she is perturbed by mounting evidence that he may have been murdered.

The Mail on Sunday revealed last week that after his disappearance, a heat-seeking search helicopter flew over the exact spot where his corpse was later discovered. Yet the thermal-imaging equipment picked up no sign of a body – which some experts say suggests he was killed elsewhere.

Moreover, a group of doctors, surgeons and anaesthetists has called for a new inquiry into his death, contending that a cut to the ulnar artery would not cause catastrophic bleeding. Little blood was found at the scene.

They also maintain that the 29 or so painkillers Dr Kelly supposedly swallowed were only one-third of the dosage normally considered as lethal.

Even more mysteriously, there were no fingerprints on the knife he allegedly wielded nor on the bottle from which he supposedly drank water to wash down the tablets.

But perhaps most key is the information that Ms Pederson provided to Thames Valley Police, who were assisting the Hutton inquiry.

When officers flew to meet her in America in August 2003, she says she told them during two days of interviews that she was baffled about how Dr Kelly could have killed himself.

‘The facts just don’t add up,’ said Ms Pederson. ‘The more I have heard about this, the more I have thought about the significance of his weak right hand. I told the police about it when they interviewed me. I said, “How could David have cut his left wrist using a dull knife with his weak right hand?”

‘They said, “It wasn’t a straight cut. It was jagged.”

‘When I heard nothing more about it, I assumed they had come to an informed decision – that it was suicide. But now, knowing all that we do, I feel it is time for a disinterested public inquiry.’

Ms Pederson has been one of the more elusive figures in the mystery of Dr Kelly’s death. There have been rumours that she might have been romantically involved with the married scientist.

However, the vivacious brunette strongly denied this in a previous interview with The Mail on Sunday, pointing out that both her religion and military rules prohibit adultery.

Ms Pederson, who is fluent in Arabic, German and French, met Dr Kelly when she was seconded to the UN team in Iraq as a translator. In the tense atmosphere, she developed a close bond with him. They had long conversations about her devout beliefs in the ecumenical teachings of the Baha’i faith, to which he converted a year later.

She recalled: ‘He was like my big brother. I was the only linguist on the team and I would work until 11 or 11.30 at night and then go for a walk to get rid of the stress and the pressure. Other team members would walk with me but eventually it was mostly David because of his British passion for his daily constitutional.

‘The only time it was safe to talk about anything important was when we were walking. At our hotel, the Iraqis monitored us. The only place to change our underwear and not be filmed by their surveillance equipment was behind the shower curtains in our rooms.

‘The desk clerk at the hotel constantly called me, saying he was enamoured by me. I later discovered he was a lieutenant in the Iraqi military and I think it was a clumsy effort to elicit information from me.

‘One night, a group of us were out walking and suddenly a red laser shone out. It went from David’s heart to his head and it pretty much stayed on the middle of his forehead.

‘The inspectors said it happened all the time. The idea was to intimidate David, showing they could pick him out as a target even in the dark.’

Enraged, Ms Pederson insisted that the Russian inspector heading the team complain to General Amer Al-Saadi, Saddam Hussein’s British-educated weapons adviser.

‘The general said it was children playing,’ she said derisively. ‘The other thing that bothered me was that key people on the team were constantly getting sick.

‘The symptoms were very similar to anthrax. We joked that they were poisoning us so we couldn’t finish our job. David pretty much lived on Vegemite and bread.’

After Ms Pederson returned to America, she was stationed at the Defence Language Institute in California. It has been described as a spy school but she says she worked as a personnel officer. The US Air Force often sent her on assignments that required a linguist, which she is not permitted to discuss.

She met Dr Kelly again after she was transferred to the Pentagon. ‘It was October 2002 and he was visiting Washington,’ she said. ‘He told me that the Iraqis had drawn up a hit list of people to be killed.

‘He said, “I am number three and you also are on it.” At the time, it didn’t really bother either of us. We understood there was a danger because of our jobs.

‘He also told me that if we invaded Iraq, he would be found dead in the woods. He loved to walk in the woods near his home. But he knew that walking alone made him vulnerable. The Iraqis wanted him dead.’

In May 2003, journalist Andrew Gilligan reported on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that a source had disclosed that the Blair administration had ‘sexed up’ the dossier, accusing Saddam of harbouring weapons of mass destruction.

Dr Kelly was subsequently named as the source and the Hutton inquiry concluded that this plunged him into depression

Ms Pederson concedes that he was ‘upset’ by the episode but says that he brushed it off, insisting he had been misquoted.

And far from being opposed to the Government’s dossier, she says he was convinced that Saddam lied when he told the UN that he was no longer developing WMDs.

She said: ‘David believed the Iraqis were not being forthcoming during our inspections about their potential for making weapons. If they weren’t up to anything, why did we have to be accompanied by minders? And why were people scared to talk to us?

‘David’s position on the invasion was that it was regrettable but necessary because UN sanctions had failed. He said he was misquoted and his words were twisted and taken out of context.

‘He wasn’t depressed. He was upset. I have taken courses on suicide prevention and he exhibited none of the signs.

‘He was planning for his retirement. He wanted to make more money to provide for his family and he’d had job offers in the States as well as Europe. Also, he was excited that one of his daughters was getting married. He said, “The controversy will blow over.” ’

Ms Pederson claims that at the time of his death, Dr Kelly was looking forward to returning to Iraq. ‘Had he been alive, he finally would have been free to look for evidence of WMDs,’ she said. ‘If anyone could have found them, it would have been David.

‘I am not saying that the Iraqis killed him. But that is one possibility that should be investigated. All the facts suggest that David did not kill himself. It is against our Baha’i faith.

‘But for David there were also personal reasons – he believed his mother’s death was suicide. Research shows that suicide runs in families and I asked him if he would ever do that. I said, “Hypothetically, if you are ever at your wit’s end, promise me that you will seek help.”

‘He said, “I don’t see the relevance. I would never take any life, let alone my own.” He finally did say that if he was ever desperate, he would get help. That’s important because he was a man of his word. He could never hurt his wife and daughters the way that he was hurt by his mother’s death.’

Ms Pederson’s Washington DC lawyer, Mark Zaid, has made available to The Mail on Sunday parts of her final statement to Thames Valley Police, given on September 1, 2003.


A red rose lies on the David Kelly’s grave. But the story behind his death is not yet ready to rest in peace

Its ten pages would appear critical, since they describe Iraqi death threats and the incident with the laser. She also stated that she was bewildered about how Dr Kelly could have taken an overdose, as he suffered from a disorder that made it difficult for him to swallow pills.

‘I was so confused when I heard he had swallowed a load of painkillers,’ she told the officers.

She also emphasised in the statement that he suffered from pain and problems ‘grabbing things with his right hand, which he attributed to breaking his elbow’.

Police have implied that she did not give them permission to give her statement to the Hutton inquiry. But in fact she stipulated: ‘If specific information [in the statement] is deemed relevant to the coroner’s inquiry into the death of David Kelly, I am willing for Thames Valley to reveal the information in a non-attributable way.’

However, her statement was never given to the inquiry. The then Assistant Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police, Michael Page, testified that it ‘contained nothing of relevance’.

After the inquiry, Ms Pederson started to get death threats. ‘Some were from nuts,’ she said. But others, she believes, may have been related to her sensitive work with Dr Kelly in Iraq. And she spoke on condition that we do not reveal her whereabouts.

‘I can’t say for sure that David was murdered,’ she said. ‘But his life had been threatened because he strived to do what was best for humanity.

‘He deserved more from his country than an investigation that overlooked the fact that his right hand was so weak that he had problems cutting a piece of steak.’

Director of Babylon A.D. pans own movie as “pure violence and stupidity…like a bad episode of 24”

Masters of Scifi – Babylon A.D. Director Mathieu Kassovitz (R) Describes a Disastrous Production


“It’s pure violence and stupidity,” he admits. “The movie is supposed to teach us that the education of our children will mean the future of our planet. All the action scenes had a goal: They were supposed to be driven by either a metaphysical point of view or experience for the characters… instead parts of the movie are like a bad episode of 24.”

AMCTV | Sep 1, 2008

Mathieu Kassovitz is pissed off. The French auteur, who first made waves in 1995 with La Haine, is supposed to be celebrating the passion project he’s been nursing for the past five years. Instead — the week before Babylon A.D. hits theaters — he is nursing a grudge. “I’m very unhappy with the film,” he says. “I never had a chance to do one scene the way it was written or the way I wanted it to be. The script wasn’t respected. Bad producers, bad partners, it was a terrible experience.”

The film, starring Vin Diesel, is an adaptation of the French novel Babylon Babies by Maurice Georges Dantec. It tells the story of a mercenary (Diesel) in the year 2019 who is hired to transport a woman and her guardian from Eastern Europe to New York. “The scope of the original book was quite amazing,” says Kassovitz. “The author was very much into geopolitics and how the world is going to evolve. He saw that as wars evolve, it won’t be just about territories any more, but money-driven politics. As a director it’s something that’s very attractive to do.”

Diesel emphasizes the movie’s theme of smuggling people across national borders. “This whole thing that’s happening in Georgia right now is so fresh that no one has even asked about it yet,” he says. “We’re coming into an age where borders are closing, and I think that our society will be numb to it because of our freedom in the virtual world, our freedom in the Internet.”

But according to Kassovitz, Babylon A.D. fails to deliver any of these messages. “It’s pure violence and stupidity,” he admits. “The movie is supposed to teach us that the education of our children will mean the future of our planet. All the action scenes had a goal: They were supposed to be driven by either a metaphysical point of view or experience for the characters… instead parts of the movie are like a bad episode of 24.”

So how did a premise steeped in real-world relevance fall so far off track?

The film’s production was reportedly riddled with problems, from vast delays to budgetary concerns to weather setbacks. Kassovitz points to the studio, “Fox was sending lawyers who were only looking at all the commas and the dots,” he says. “They made everything difficult from A to Z.” The last stroke, Kassovitz says, was when Fox interfered with the editing of the film, paring it down to a confusing 93 minutes (original reports were that 70 minutes were cut from the film; Kassovitz says the number is closer to 15).

Diesel too was astounded at the film’s length. Having just completed production of the fourth installment of The Fast and the Furious, he had not seen a cut of the film in six months. “Am I even in the movie any more, or am I on the cutting room floor?” the actor joked. Fox could not be reached for comment on this story.

To be fair, Kassovitz doesn’t entirely hate the film. “I like the energy of it and I got some scenes I’m happy with,” he says. “But I know what I had — I had something much better in my hands but I just wasn’t allowed to work.” That the movie follows on the heels of such strong summer scifi options, will also prove challenging. “Babylon will probably have a good first weekend, but the second weekend we’re going to lose 30%,” says Kassovitz. “I don’t see how people who went through all these amazing blockbusters like The Dark Knight and Iron Man this summer will take it.”

Diesel says that a director is always in the difficult position of being held accountable for a film’s success or failure. “It’s hard,” he says. “Filmmaking is such a collaborative effort you can’t look to one person.” Where does Kassovitz look? “I should have chosen a studio that has guts,” he says. “Fox was just trying to get a PG-13 movie. I’m ready to go to war against them, but I can’t because they don’t give a s–t.”