a documentary film
From within a Homeland without Security
An experimental documentary with animation, in progress.
Indelible is an account of the lives of kids who were born into poverty and became targets for mercenary training as young teens. Their lives became a writing––a trace left behind––yet because of their relentless desire to survive their histories proved to be indelible, no matter how much effort was made to try to erase them.
Often trained as mercenaries by the age of fifteen by those who served in the military, they had little choice but to participate. Some were used to fight and run guns in Vietnam and Guatemala, before they had a social security number. This shows that their service was not part of the legitimate U.S. armed forces––it was not overseen by congress. Yet it was directed and controlled by the U.S. government. One described being in a group with thirty-two other teens.
Receiving this kind of mercenary training at such an early age directly impacts psychological development as the human brain is not fully formed.
Carl L. Harp, (one of the kids), returned to the states after his mercenary work at the age of 18. He was confused and lost. He was then sent to the Seattle area, (after spending time in Virginia), where he became a scapegoat for one of the first public shootings: a random sniper shooting in 1973 on a busy Seattle freeway. One person was killed. Another injured. Harp was not the shooter. But he was an easy target to be used as the public face of the “shooter” while the real shooter was never pursued by law enforcement. He was still in poverty, vulnerable and conditioned through his training for this role and there was no one capable of understanding his experience or effectively defending him against the false charges. So they stuck. He was sent to prison for ninety-five years. He was twenty-three at the time.
Most of these kids were used and then abandoned by those who trained them. They were seen as throw-aways: just another disposable life born into poverty in a culture that only values prosperity.
Law enforcement in various branches and their mainstream media created false narratives about their histories. And for decades, (even today), there was a constant effort to monitor and control the public details of their lives. Prison records from archives disappeared. Any one who knew them in the U.S seemed afraid to say anything. Harp’s own relatives turned his letters over to the FBI as soon as they received them, long after his conviction. The thousands of pages of letters and diaries that did survive were found in other countries and saved by individuals who archived them.
But these were exceptional kids. And like most human beings they were unpredictable, strong and courageous. They had their own unique idea of who they were and who they desired to be in life. And even though law enforcement and state offices attempted to control their histories and their lives, small slivers of evidence escaped.
Harp’s alleged suicide, (eight years after his conviction), at the age of thirty-two could no longer be believed after seeing images of his bloody cell and listening to the bragging of a police psychologist about how his death occurred by rape with a metal pipe, by those in authority. Photographs from the coroner seem to corroborate his account.
A false death certificate and a hidden file of documents showed how his body was then held for six months after his death. His wife had asked that he be buried in Seattle and thought he was, soon after his death. But instead his body was shipped illegally and cremated in a military town, across the state. His death certificate was altered to align his date of death with the date of his cremation. But it was done so badly, you could see it had been tampered with. And decades later, the state of Washington tried to hide documents that would show who made these changes.
Another kid was trained as a mercenary at 15, but something went wrong. He too was abandoned by his trainer after landing in prison where he spent the next four decades. He was about to be released in late 2016, having served his time. But when he walked into his last parole commission meeting he was met with members from the Department of Homeland Security through video conferencing. This had never happened before. They used their presence to illegally deny his release.
Many of the kids were living in the same area of California, when they were approached by different ex-members of Special Forces to become mercenaries. It was an agricultural area in the San Joaquin Valley. One was doing time in a California Youth Authority facility for stealing a car and joy riding. Another was merely hanging out in a park. A man who knew the person who helped to recruit Harp, said by 1981, there was a general clean-up of the kids who participated, and none of the thirty-three who served with Harp survived. They were not killed in carrying out their mercenary duties. This was the year of Harp’s death in prison.
Harp had tried to help others in prison and had become a well known activist and writer about prison rights and political systems in the United States. He had a book published in 1981, a few months before his murder, and had completed a second manuscript. Noam Chomsky received a copy. His book had been well-received and provided the monies needed to hire an attorney for a new trial.
The media and law enforcement attempted to portray both Harp and the others as born criminals and pathologized their early home lives and every subsequent life event. But their mercenary training and service was conveniently omitted or re-written. And any reporter or individual who discovered facts which would describe their experience met fierce opposition.
These were just kids: beautiful, bright, athletic, spirited kids. They were dragged into a well-designed machine to be used as fodder for illegal acts. Some were hidden acts of wars—some wars were legitimate while others were illegal, occurring outside of Congressional oversight. Subsequent events like the sniper shooting, were used to generate fear at home. Similar mass shootings have occurred over the following decades. A closer look shows alleged shooters in later sniper incidents have associations with mercenary activities and/or special forces in the US military.
What is the purpose of generating fear through these random shootings? Through violence that appears to be a random act? It seems to create chaos. But what use is the creation of chaos and fear in a population?
The story describing the events in these lives allows a viewer to decide for herself, what happened. And to consider what still might be happening. Telling their stories using an experimental form of animation allows the story to be told even amidst pressure as it questions what is real and what is created. It also allows information that is time-based and voice to be an essential part of the telling.
Indelible is to be completed in 2018. It is based on my research, (artist, writer and former professor), and that of my late father, journalist Richard Lyall. It will take a unique form, in both image, time-base and sound. I base the form of a work on the information I encounter.
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