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`Jeremy Scahill’s Film, `Dirty Wars’ and `The CELL’ – Counter-Terrorism Museum in the heart of Denver.

July 28, 2013
A more detailed analysis than the video - but worth reading and buying...

A more detailed analysis than the video – but worth reading and buying…

Remarks of Rob Prince – First Unitarian Society of Denver.- July 28, 2013 to the church’s peace and justice committee.


Good to be back amongst you…

Let me begin with my conclusion: I’d like to think that the same kind of movement that grew in Colorado to shut down the Rocky Flats Nuclear Bomb Plant can be organized to close the doors of the CELL, Denver’s very own Orwellian nightmare – peaceful, non-violent activism that proved more powerful than the war machine.

Arnie C. told me that some of  you were upset to see a full page ad in the Denver Post  – what do they cost these days?- advertising an event at the University of Denver, co-sponsored by the CELL and the Korbel School of International Studies where I teach.

It was on July 16. Did any of you attend?

OK – There was some talk about possibly picketing the event, but in the end that was going to boil down to Arnie and me..

We decided that – while picketing the CELL is a most honorable gesture – indeed I am committed to working with people – one and all – in a campaign to close down that operation as a stain on the peaceful traditions of the city of Denver and to work on this as long as it takes – we realized that there is so little knowledge about the place and the operation it might be better to start with one – or a series of – educationals on the project.

What is it?

Why is the Korbel School co-sponsoring events with the CELL? (and has been for the past several years).

Let me begin with my conclusion: I’d like to think that the same kind of movement that grew in Colorado to shut down the Rocky Flats Nuclear Bomb Plant can be organized to close the doors of the CELL, Denver’s very own Orwellian nightmare – peaceful, non-violent activism that proved more powerful than the war machine.


This discussion goes very well with the movie you are about to see – Jeremy Scahill’s `Dirty Wars’. In fact the film and the CELL go together hand in glove, like a horse and carriage, etc, etc. – they were meant for each other.

The film is one of the better exposés on how the United States is conducting war more and more these days – covertly, without congressional approval, through Special Forces, drone attacks, secret operations approved at the highest level – be it Bush or Obama – and these operations are carried out by a military unit known as the Joint Special Operations Corps, or JSOC, a major, perhaps the major U.S. counter-terrorism military strike force.

Although JSOC would have us believe they are giving out candy and medical supplies, building schools, etc. – they are little more than the president’s private hit team – carrying out assassinations, kidnappings, engaged in torture – essentially the U.S. version of the El Salvadorean death squads of the 1980s grafted onto Washington. Using the thin cover of `national security’, they function virtually outside of the law, accountable only to the sitting president.

According to Scahill – and as many of you know he is a very careful and dedicated researcher – today JSOC is operating in more than 70 countries outside of international – or any legal structure. JSOC is not new; it has been around for several decades, but over the past decades its activities and its secret budgets have increased dramatically – you’ll see all this in the film.

Scahill becomes aware of JSOC operations investigating a US special forces operation in Afghanistan that, like many of them, resulted in the death of innocent civilians. He finds out there is no formal mention of it in terms of US military operations and it is only after a good deal of probing that he discovers it was a secret operation, one that is initially denied by official US military and diplomatic circles.

He goes on to discover – as someone who covered the Iraqi war in some detail – that JSOC has pretty much of a free hand in Iraq as well.

As it becomes less and less possible to hide JSOC’s operations – stories about the unit begin to appear in the US and foreign press – the Obama Administration needed to find a way to justify what are, by international law, illegal operations and by ethical standards, nothing short of war crimes – extra-legal killings, kidnappings and torture fit into that category.

The justification of JSOC operations was achieved through the public relations campaign surrounding the assassination of Osama Bin Laden and his family in Pakistan, the message being that JSOC is legitimized because it took this kind of operation to get Bin Laden, etc. etc. and we see the president, the cabinet, some military leaders watching as Bin Laden is killed – live – and cheering on the event as if it were the Super Bowl.

OK – there is much more we can say about JSOC, its history – how it relates to the Red Hand (Le Main Rouge – French paramilitary unit), the Argentinian death squads that the new pope cooperated with, others in El Salvador, Indonesia, Algeria just to mention a few – but for that – we’ll need another educational…just know that JSOC is part of a long line of rightwing, fascist like hit squads that take their cues from the Nazi SS, – secretive paramilitary units, highly politicized in which the means justify the ends, and `the means’ are pretty awful and inhumane.

Their extensive use has become a way for American presidents to side step the messy processes of democracy. JSOC and like operations – like Watergate before them – represent nothing short of the seed of fascism within the American body politic. Nothing less.


So what does that have to do with The CELL?

The CELL – or to cite its formal name – the Counterterrorism Education and Learning Lab – is located in downtown Denver. It is the brainchild of Larry Mizel, local Colorado developer, major Republican Party Donor, current C.E.O of the Simon Wiesenthal Foundation in Los Angeles. Mizel is a longtime political player in Colorado –and although there are others up there in the political stratosphere – his is a very influential voice in state politics.

Whatever else it claims to be, it is little more than a p.r. machine – to support the U.S. global war on terrorism. To legitimize the current U.S. military budget – the world’s largest – , Special Forces operations, JSOC, it is necessary to `magnify the threat’. The CELL, through its exhibits, its videos, its events – does exactly that – it justifies the kind of things that JSOC is doing by suggesting, asserting that the terrorist threat is imminent world wide, including in Colorado.

Although a privately owned and operated institution – formally and legally a wing of the Mizel Museum of Judaica – the CELL’s  location suggests that it is something that it is not: a publicly funded, civic institution akin to the library, the art museum, the Colorado History Museum all located in the same vicinity.

This appearance of public legitimacy is enhanced by the fact that the CELL has, over the 5-6 years of its existence been able – through the good graces and political connections of Larry Mizel – to `partner’ with some important local institutions (Denver Post, Red Cross, the Civic Center Conservancy) – which lends to its legitimacy.

Along the same lines – although I am not a zealous `CELL’ watcher – I have followed its development to a certain degree (and written about it) – it is interesting – no, impressive – the degree of bipartisan political support the CELL enjoys. It has literally hosted and has the support of political figures from both major parties, Democrats and Republicans alike. It would be a mistake to think this is only some kind of wacko right-wing Republican operation…It would be more accurate to call it some kind of wacko right-wing Republican operation supported by liberal democrats. It has attracted the participation of the last two governors – both considered liberal Democrats, as well as most of Colorado’s Congressional delegations.

It would be a mistake to think this is only some kind of wacko right-wing Republican operation…It would be more accurate to call it some kind of wacko right-wing Republican operation supported by liberal democrats

The July 16 event with Korbel was not the first that the Korbel School has participated in. Korbel either formally or through the participation of its dean, Chris Hill, former U.S. ambassador or its tenured faculty – has participated in CELL events now for several years (although to my knowledge, the July 16 event was the first one held at the University of Denver proper).

This is a part of the University’s efforts to `reach out to touch’ potential donors – especially, it appears, if they are on the far right of the political spectrum. It is probably part and parcel of the same effort to honor George W. Bush with a global service award at the upcoming annual Korbel Dinner in early September.

In the same light, the CELL has targeted Colorado schools – middle schools and high schools, and has done so successfully. They have an on-line course in two segments on fighting terrorism and it appears that they have been successful in gaining entry into many Colorado public schools in one way or another.

It has made a video which has aired, among other places, on public television – Recognizing 8 Signs of Terrorism narrated by John Elway

All this is a part of the CELL’s successfully and very carefully crafted effort to achieve legitimacy in Colorado, an effort at which it has largely succeeded.

–         The money and political influence behind it comes from Mizel…and where Mizel treads, his two long-term legal crutches – I refer to them as Mizel’s brain trust – Brownstein and Farber are never far behind

–         The organizational implementation of all this – or much of the credit for this – goes to CELL director Melanie Pearlman, herself a former regional director of AIPAC before coming on to do the organizational work of the CELL. Pearlman must be one heck of a fine organizer. Tragic in my view,  that she would waste her skills this way..

Ok…enough of this depressing stuff.

Let me say at the outset – what my personal goal is….it is to shut the place down, nothing less.

It is little more than an institution which glorifies war, magnifies the terrorist threat all out of proportion and is a rationalization for all that is wrong with U.S. foreign policy today and all that needs changing.

As a public relations operation, it is already a great success, well organized, well-funded and with considerable bipartisan support among the state’s movers, shakers, political power brokers and other low-life types. As an institution that promotes ethical, humane values – it is a failure and can be no other. It is just plain old fashioned war propaganda – old wine in a new, high tech bottle – like war itself.

Of course, shutting down the CELL will not happen overnight. I would guess that most Coloradoans have – despite its full page ads in the Denver Post – never heard of it and I presume that many of you know little about it. Or if they do know about it, it is only in the fuzziest of ways.

Sooo…let’s begin by educating ourselves about this place.

I urge you to go to the CELL – visit the place, see for yourself what is going on there, study the website, the videos – they are all professionally done. See for yourself how low John Elway has stooped since the Broncos won the Super Bowl. Think about whether or not you support having the materials from the CELL in Colorado public schools.

I’d like to think that the same kind of movement that grew in Colorado to shut down the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant can be organized to close the doors of the CELL, Denver’s very own Orwellian nightmare – peaceful, non-violent activism that proved more powerful than the war machine.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Barbara Millman permalink
    July 28, 2013 4:03 pm

    Dirty Wars was very disturbing to me…as is this, oy vey! What a shill that CELL is!! Did not know about it.

    I fully support efforts to educate the public about this..thanks for sharing. Barbara

  2. July 28, 2013 7:27 pm

    this from a local friend in Denver (rjp)

    “Yes, I’ve been aware of the place, been there, complained to them and would love to picket or whatever you come up with. Good article about it”

  3. Marilyn Barden permalink
    July 31, 2013 6:26 am

    Thank you so much for your information about this horrible attempt to ´pull “wool over our eyes”. I am sure this is happening in many places and we must be ready to stand up like you do and stop it. My friends and I try to disclose what the Swedish” powers that be” are doing now when they sell out portions of our country for testing of new weapons systems to NATO countries. They are involving the country and its people in a war machine and at the same time declaring that we are neutral. We want no part of it and must disclose it just as you are doing to be able to win.
    Good luck to us all.

  4. Joseph Maizlish permalink
    August 8, 2013 7:24 pm

    From here in L.A. hadn’t heard of CELL, fortunately nothing like that here (that I know of).

    It would be nice if CELL actually worked against terrorism in the most efficient way, and not in the counterproductive way the government does. The efficient and morally acceptable way would be to work for an end the U.S. Mideast policies of 70 years and counting, the policies and arms sales and sponsorship of dictatorships and repression aimed at controlling politics and government and resources in those lands, cost what it may in terms of lives and liberties in those lands — and in the U.S. too, despite claims that the interventions are all about “keeping Americans safe.”

  5. August 9, 2013 12:45 pm

    The VIDEO:
    We Are Change Colorado exposes the Cell:|

    The Article:

  6. August 9, 2013 12:46 pm

    We did a piece on this museum a few years back and documented all the people involved behind the scenes.

  7. August 9, 2013 12:47 pm

    We would love to work with you on any future projects hit me up at


  1. Close the CELL – Denver’s Center of Militarism and Unending Middle East War |

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