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Monday, August 27, 2007

East Timor: Fretilin Leader Calls For Australian Troops’ Withdrawal by Tony Iltis

Former East Timorese prime minister Mari Alkatiri has called for the withdrawal of Australian troops from his country. Speaking to Agence France-Presse on August 20, he said: “It would be better for Australian troops to just return home if they cannot be neutral. They came here to help us solve our problems, but they came to give their backing to one side and fight against the other.”

Alkatiri’s comments came after parliamentary and presidential elections in which the Australian-led International Stabilisation Force (ISF) was accused of harassing the campaign of Alkatiri’s party Fretilin and the Australian government made no secret of its preference for anti-Fretilin candidates Jose Ramos Horta and Xanana Gusmao. Ramos Horta won the presidential elections in May. Fretilin came out of the June 30 parliamentary elections with the largest vote, but with their vote reduced to 29% from 57% in the 2001 elections. On August 6 Ramos Horta invited Gusmao to form a coalition government between his National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT), which won 24% of the vote, and two smaller parties, the Democratic Party and the Social Democratic Party-Timorese Social Democratic Association. Fretilin disputed the constitutional legitimacy of this and called for protests.

There has been widespread civil unrest since Gusmao’s appointment, which has been met with a heavy-handed response from the ISF. Two people have died in the disorder. The immediate catalyst for Alkatiri calling for the Australians’ withdrawal was two incidents on August 18 in which Australian soldiers stole and desecrated Fretilin flags. In an August 20 media release, Fretilin MP and party vice-president Arsenio Bano said, “The trashing of Fretilin flags is yet another demonstration of the partisan nature of the Howard government’s military intervention in Timor Leste. At Walili two Australian military vehicles full of soldiers tore up a Fretilin flag which had been raised at the roadside, wiped their backsides with it and drove off with the flag. The stolen flag was returned by an Australian army captain later that day.

In Alala village Australian troops tried to sever a Fretilin flag from its rope and then drove over it.” He added: “We condemn these extremely provocative actions which have inflamed an already volatile situation. The Fretilin flag has enormous symbolic and emotional value to the people of Timor-Leste which extends beyond Fretilin’s members and supporters. Tens of thousands of people died fighting under this flag during the struggle for independence, including family members of the people who witnessed its trashing on Saturday.”

The Australian Defence Force has not denied the incident. The August 21 Sydney Morning Herald reported an ADF spokesperson in Canberra offered an apology for what she described as “culturally insensitive” actions. However, she echoed the claims of Australian commander in Dili, Brigadier John Hutcheson, that this was an isolated incident. “I’m disappointed in the actions of these few soldiers. However I’m confident that the larger part of the force, particularly the remaining soldiers and so forth, are actually doing a very good job”, Hutcheson told the ABC on August 20.

Bano disputed this, saying that “The Australian soldiers have insulted our martyrs and the entire East Timorese people. Their cultural insensitivity and arrogance typifies Australian military operations in the Pacific region. The soldiers take their cue from their officers who understand the true objectives of the Howard government’s partisan intervention in Timor-Leste, which has had one overriding aim — the removal of the democratically elected Fretilin government and its replacement with the illegitimate government of Jose Alexandre [Xanana] Gusmao.”

When Australian troops were deployed to East Timor, as part of an international force, in 1999 they received widespread support. This was because they had to replace the Indonesian forces that had occupied the country since 1975 (and killed more than 200,000 people — a third of the population), and oversaw the implementation of the outcome of a referendum in which the Timorese people had voted overwhelmingly for independence.

East Timor officially became independent in 2002 and the international force, now under UN command, was progressively decreased and scheduled to be withdrawn by mid-2006. However, in May 2006, civil conflict broke out following a military mutiny led by officers opposed to Alkatiri’s government. This was a pretext for a new Australian intervention in the guise of the ISF, which is predominantly Australian but also includes New Zealand and Malaysian contingents. The mandate for the UN police was also extended to 2008. Initially Alkatiri joined with then-president Gusmao and then-foreign minister Ramos Horta in requesting the Australian-led ISF.

However, subsequent events suggest that both the intervention, and the mutiny and civil unrest that were its pretext, were part of an orchestrated manoeuvre by Ramos Horta, Gusmao and the Australian government to remove him. Australian media, in particular the ABC and the Murdoch press, pumped out misinformation linking Alkatiri with the military and police mutinies. The officers actually responsible for the mutinies, Alfredo Reinado and Vicente Rai Los da Conceicao, often featured in this media coverage not as coup leaders but, along with Ramos Horta and Gusmao, as credible sources making allegations against Alkatiri. Australian PM John Howard called for Alkatiri’s removal and the ISF forces prevented peaceful pro-government demonstrations while turning a blind eye to arson and violence directed against communities where Fretilin had strong support. This created 150,000 “internally displaced persons” (IDPs) most of whom remain in squalid camps.

On June 26, 2006, Alkatiri resigned and was replaced by Ramos Horta. One of Canberra’s motives for overthrowing the Alkatiri government was the same motive that saw successive Australian governments support the Indonesian genocidal occupation: the vast oil and gas reserves of the Timor Sea. The Timor Gap treaty, which Australia signed with Indonesia in 1991, gave Australia a disproportionate share of this resource. The Alkatiri government pushed for a more equitable division of royalties and for onshore LPG refining facilities to be built in East Timor rather than Darwin.

Furthermore, the Fretilin government was willing to diversify foreign investment in the energy sector, seeking investment from Portugal, Italy, India and China. Other Fretilin policies that met with Australian disapproval were the expansion of domestic rice production, which Canberra views as a threat to Australian export-oriented agribusiness, and obtaining Cuban assistance in building its health and education infrastructure. While the Australian media and political establishment makes much of Canberra’s “generosity” towards East Timor, which was supposedly shown by the deployment of troops, the number of scholarships for East Timorese students in Australia has never exceeded 20 — pitiful in comparison to the 700 East Timorese given scholarships to study medicine in Cuba. Since the deployment of the ISF, the Australians have been increasingly seen as occupiers.

On February 23, two IDPs were killed and several more injured when Australian troops attempted to enforce a decision by the Gusmao-Ramos Horta government to close down the IDP camp at Dili’s international airport. In a statement that appeared on the website of the US East Timor Action Network on February 28, camp residents demanded the withdrawal of all Australian troops and the bringing of those responsible for killing and injuring Timorese before an international tribunal.

From: International News, Green Left Weekly issue #722 29 August 2007.

The Iraqis Don’t Deserve Us. So We Betray Them…by Robert Fisk

Always, we have betrayed them. We backed “Flossy” in Yemen. The French backed their local “harkis” in Algeria; then the FLN victory forced them to swallow their own French military medals before dispatching them into mass graves. In Vietnam, the Americans demanded democracy and, one by one - after praising the Vietnamese for voting under fire in so many cities, towns and villages - they destroyed the elected prime ministers because they were not abiding by American orders.

Now we are at work in Iraq. Those pesky Iraqis don’t deserve our sacrifice, it seems, because their elected leaders are not doing what we want them to do.

Does that remind you of a Palestinian organisation called Hamas? First, the Americans loved Ahmed Chalabi, the man who fabricated for Washington the”‘weapons of mass destruction” (with a hefty bank fraud charge on his back). Then, they loved Ayad Allawi, a Vietnam-style spook who admitted working for 26 intelligence organisations, including the CIA and MI6. Then came Ibrahim al-Jaafari, symbol of electoral law, whom the Americans loved, supported, loved again and destroyed. Couldn’t get his act together. It was up to the Iraqis, of course, but the Americans wanted him out. And the seat of the Iraqi government - a never-never land in the humidity of Baghdad’s green zone - lay next to the largest US embassy in the world. So goodbye, Ibrahim.

Then there was Nouri al-Maliki, a man with whom Bush could “do business”; loved, supported and loved again until Carl Levin and the rest of the US Senate Armed Forces Committee - and, be sure, George W Bush - decided he couldn’t fulfil America’s wishes. He couldn’t get the army together, couldn’t pull the police into shape, an odd demand when US military forces were funding and arming some of the most brutal Sunni militias in Baghdad, and was too close to Tehran.

There you have it. We overthrew Saddam’s Sunni minority and the Iraqis elected the Shias into power, and all those old Iranian acolytes who had grown up under the Islamic Revolution in exile from the Iraq-Iran war - Jaafari was a senior member of the Islamic Dawaa party which was enthusiastically seizing Western hostages in Beirut in the 1980s and trying to blow up our friend the Emir of Kuwait - were voted into power. So blame the Iranians for their “interference” in Iraq when Iran’s own creatures had been voted into power.

And now, get rid of Maliki. Chap doesn’t know how to unify his own people, for God’s sake. No interference, of course. It’s up to the Iraqis, or at least, it’s up to the Iraqis who live under American protection in the green zone. The word in the Middle East - where the “plot” (al-moammarer) has the power of reality - is that Maliki’s cosy trips to Tehran and Damascus these past two weeks have been the final straw for the fantasists in Washington. Because Iran and Syria are part of the axis of evil or the cradle of evil or whatever nonsense Bush and his cohorts and the Israelis dream up, take a look at the $30bn in arms heading to Israel in the next decade in the cause of “peace”.

Maliki’s state visits to the crazed Ahmedinejad and the much more serious Bashar al-Assad appear to be, in Henry VIII’s words, “treachery, treachery, treachery”. But Maliki is showing loyalty to his former Iranian masters and their Syrian Alawite allies (the Alawites being an interesting satellite of the Shias).

These creatures - let us use the right word - belong to us and thus we can step on them when we wish. We will not learn - we will never learn, it seems - the key to Iraq. The majority of the people are Muslim Shias. The majority of their leaders, including the “fiery” Muqtada al-Sadr were trained, nurtured, weaned, loved, taught in Iran. And now, suddenly, we hate them. The Iraqis do not deserve us. This is to be the grit on the sand that will give our tanks traction to leave Iraq. Bring on the clowns! Maybe they can help us too.

Robert Fisk is Middle East correspondent for The Independent.

Published on Thursday, August 23, 2007 by The Independent/UK

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Big Brother Democracy: The Security State As Infotainment by Naomi Klein

Naomi Klein

Recently, as protesters gathered outside the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) summit in Montebello, Quebec, to confront US President George W. Bush, Mexican President Felipe Calderón and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the Associated Press reported this surreal detail: “Leaders were not able to see the protesters in person, but they could watch the protesters on TV monitors inside the hotel…. Cameramen hired to ensure that demonstrators would be able to pass along their messages to the three leaders sat idly in a tent full of audio and video equipment…. A sign on the outside of the tent said, ‘Our cameras are here today providing your right to be seen and heard. Please let us help you get your message out. Thank You.’”

Yes, it’s true: Like contestants on a reality TV show, protesters at the SPP were invited to vent into video cameras, their rants to be beamed to protest-trons inside the summit enclave. It was security state as infotainment–Big Brother meets, well, Big Brother.

The spokesperson for Prime Minister Harper explained that although protesters were herded into empty fields, the video-link meant that their right to political speech was protected. “Under the law, they need to be seen and heard, and they will be.”

It is an argument with sweeping implications. If videotaping activists meets the legal requirement that dissenting citizens have the right to be seen and heard, what else might fit the bill? How about all the other security cameras that patrolled the summit–the ones filming demonstrators as they got on and off buses and peacefully walked down the street? What about the cellphone calls that were intercepted, the meetings that were infiltrated, the e-mails that were read? According to the new rules set out in Montebello, all of these actions may soon be recast not as infringements on civil liberties but the opposite: proof of our leaders’ commitment to direct, unmediated consultation.

Elections are a crude tool for taking the public temperature–these methods allow constant, exact monitoring of our beliefs. Think of surveillance as the new participatory democracy; of wiretapping as the political equivalent of Total Request Live.

Protesters in Montebello complained that while they were locked out, CEOs from about thirty of the largest corporations in North America–from Wal-Mart to Chevron–were part of the official summit. But perhaps they had it backward: The CEOs had only an hour and fifteen minutes of face time with the leaders. The activists were being “seen and heard” around the clock. So perhaps instead of shouting about police state tactics, they should have said, “Thank you for listening.” (And reading, and watching, and photographing, and data-mining.)

The Montebello “seen and heard” rule also casts the target of the protests in a new light. The SPP is described in the leaders’ final statement as an “ambitious” plan to “keep our borders closed to terrorism yet open to trade.” In other words, a merger of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the homeland security complex–NAFTA with spy planes.

The model dates back to September 11, when the US Ambassador to Canada, Paul Cellucci, pronounced that in the new era, “security will trump trade.” But there was an out clause: The trade on which Canada’s and Mexico’s economies depend could continue uninterrupted, as long as those governments were willing to welcome the tentacles of the US “war on terror.” Canadian and Mexican business leaders leapt to surrender, aggressively pushing their governments to give in to US demands for “integrated” security in order to keep the goods and tourists flowing.
Almost six years later, the business leaders at Montebello–under the banner of the North American Competitiveness Council, an official wing of the SPP–were still holding up “thickening borders” as the bogeyman. The fix? According to the SPP website, “technological solutions, improved information-sharing, and, potentially, the use of biometric identifiers.” From experience we know what this means: continent-wide no-fly lists, searchable and integrated databases, as well as the $2.5 billion contract to Boeing to build a “virtual fence” on the northern and southern borders of the United States, equipped with unmanned drones.

In short, under the SPP vision of the continent, “thick” borders will soon be replaced with a nearly invisible web of continental surveillance–almost all of it run for profit. Two members of the SPP advisory group–Lockheed Martin and General Electric–have already received multibillion-dollar contracts from the US government to build this web. In the Bush era, security doesn’t trump big business; it may be the biggest business of all.

In the run-up to the SPP summit, a spate of surveillance scandals helped paint a fuller picture. First, Congress not only failed to curtail the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping but opened the door to snooping into bank records, phone call patterns and even physical searches–all without any onus to prove the subject is a threat. Next, the Boston Globe reported on plans to link thousands of CCTV cameras on streets, subways, apartment buildings and businesses into networks capable of tracking suspects in real time. And on August 15, confirmation came that the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency–the arm of the US military that runs spy planes and satellites over enemy territory–would be fully integrated into the infrastructure of domestic intelligence gathering and local policing, becoming what the agency calls the “eyes” to the NSA’s “ears.”

Add a few more high-tech tools–biometric IDs, facial-recognition software, networked databases of “suspects,” GPS bundled into ever more electronic devices–and you have something like the world of total surveillance most recently portrayed in The Bourne Ultimatum.

Which brings us back to the Security and Prosperity Partnership. Who needs clumsy old border checks when the authorities are making sure we are seen and heard at all times–in high definition, online and off-, on land and from the sky? Security is the new prosperity. Surveillance is the new democracy.

Published on Friday, August 24, 2007 by The Nation

Naomi Klein’s new book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, is published next month.

Spare Me The ‘Ravers’, But Even I Question The ‘Truth’ About 9/11 by Robert Fisk

Each time I lecture abroad on the Middle East, there is always someone in the audience - just one - whom I call the “raver”. Apologies here to all the men and women who come to my talks with bright and pertinent questions - often quite humbling ones for me as a journalist - and which show that they understand the Middle East tragedy a lot better than the journalists who report it. But the “raver” is real. He has turned up in corporeal form in Stockholm and in Oxford, in Sao Paulo and in Yerevan, in Cairo, in Los Angeles and, in female form, in Barcelona. No matter the country, there will always be a “raver”.

His - or her - question goes like this. Why, if you believe you’re a free journalist, don’t you report what you really know about 9/11? Why don’t you tell the truth - that the Bush administration (or the CIA or Mossad, you name it) blew up the twin towers? Why don’t you reveal the secrets behind 9/11? The assumption in each case is that Fisk knows - that Fisk has an absolute concrete, copper-bottomed fact-filled desk containing final proof of what “all the world knows” (that usually is the phrase) - who destroyed the twin towers. Sometimes the “raver” is clearly distressed. One man in Cork screamed his question at me, and then - the moment I suggested that his version of the plot was a bit odd - left the hall, shouting abuse and kicking over chairs.

Usually, I have tried to tell the “truth”; that while there are unanswered questions about 9/11, I am the Middle East correspondent of The Independent, not the conspiracy correspondent; that I have quite enough real plots on my hands in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Iran, the Gulf, etc, to worry about imaginary ones in Manhattan. My final argument - a clincher, in my view - is that the Bush administration has screwed up everything - militarily, politically diplomatically - it has tried to do in the Middle East; so how on earth could it successfully bring off the international crimes against humanity in the United States on 11 September 2001?

Well, I still hold to that view. Any military which can claim - as the Americans did two days ago - that al-Qa’ida is on the run is not capable of carrying out anything on the scale of 9/11. “We disrupted al-Qa’ida, causing them to run,” Colonel David Sutherland said of the preposterously code-named “Operation Lightning Hammer” in Iraq’s Diyala province. “Their fear of facing our forces proves the terrorists know there is no safe haven for them.” And more of the same, all of it untrue.

Within hours, al-Qa’ida attacked Baquba in battalion strength and slaughtered all the local sheikhs who had thrown in their hand with the Americans. It reminds me of Vietnam, the war which George Bush watched from the skies over Texas - which may account for why he this week mixed up the end of the Vietnam war with the genocide in a different country called Cambodia, whose population was eventually rescued by the same Vietnamese whom Mr Bush’s more courageous colleagues had been fighting all along.

But - here we go. I am increasingly troubled at the inconsistencies in the official narrative of 9/11. It’s not just the obvious non sequiturs: where are the aircraft parts (engines, etc) from the attack on the Pentagon? Why have the officials involved in the United 93 flight (which crashed in Pennsylvania) been muzzled? Why did flight 93’s debris spread over miles when it was supposed to have crashed in one piece in a field? Again, I’m not talking about the crazed “research” of David Icke’s Alice in Wonderland and the World Trade Center Disaster - which should send any sane man back to reading the telephone directory.

I am talking about scientific issues. If it is true, for example, that kerosene burns at 820C under optimum conditions, how come the steel beams of the twin towers - whose melting point is supposed to be about 1,480C - would snap through at the same time? (They collapsed in 8.1 and 10 seconds.) What about the third tower - the so-called World Trade Centre Building 7 (or the Salmon Brothers Building) - which collapsed in 6.6 seconds in its own footprint at 5.20pm on 11 September? Why did it so neatly fall to the ground when no aircraft had hit it? The American National Institute of Standards and Technology was instructed to analyse the cause of the destruction of all three buildings. They have not yet reported on WTC 7. Two prominent American professors of mechanical engineering - very definitely not in the “raver” bracket - are now legally challenging the terms of reference of this final report on the grounds that it could be “fraudulent or deceptive”.

Journalistically, there were many odd things about 9/11. Initial reports of reporters that they heard “explosions” in the towers - which could well have been the beams cracking - are easy to dismiss. Less so the report that the body of a female air crew member was found in a Manhattan street with her hands bound. OK, so let’s claim that was just hearsay reporting at the time, just as the CIA’s list of Arab suicide-hijackers, which included three men who were - and still are - very much alive and living in the Middle East, was an initial intelligence error.

But what about the weird letter allegedly written by Mohamed Atta, the Egyptian hijacker-murderer with the spooky face, whose “Islamic” advice to his gruesome comrades - released by the CIA - mystified every Muslim friend I know in the Middle East? Atta mentioned his family - which no Muslim, however ill-taught, would be likely to include in such a prayer. He reminds his comrades-in-murder to say the first Muslim prayer of the day and then goes on to quote from it. But no Muslim would need such a reminder - let alone expect the text of the “Fajr” prayer to be included in Atta’s letter.

Let me repeat. I am not a conspiracy theorist. Spare me the ravers. Spare me the plots. But like everyone else, I would like to know the full story of 9/11, not least because it was the trigger for the whole lunatic, meretricious “war on terror” which has led us to disaster in Iraq and Afghanistan and in much of the Middle East. Bush’s happily departed adviser Karl Rove once said that “we’re an empire now - we create our own reality”. True? At least tell us. It would stop people kicking over chairs.

Published on Saturday, August 25, 2007 by The Independent/UK
Robert Fisk is the Middle East correspondent for The Independent.

Melbourne workers to take to the streets again by Sue Bolton

Melbourne workers have decided to take to the streets again. A meeting of around 500 shop stewards and job delegates from the building, construction, manufacturing and related industries on August 22 endorsed a proposal to hold a pre-federal election mass rally and march at 10am on September 26. The rally and march will begin from the Victorian Trades Hall building.

Support for the protest was unanimous. The meeting agreed that the protest would highlight the negative impact of Work Choices and other federal government policies on thousands of families. There has been a considerable debate in the union movement this year about whether or not to hold another protest. A motion for a national day of protest was put to the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) executive earlier this year but was overwhelmingly voted down. One of the arguments put forward for not holding a protest is that it would damage the Labor Party’s chances of getting elected because it would project the wrong “image”. Other unions say that a mass protest against Work Choices would take resources from the ACTU’s marginal seats campaign. A similar debate occurred among Victorian unions.

However, some unions are convinced that a mass protest of workers is needed before the federal election. The delegates’ meeting and the proposal for a mass protest was an initiative of the Victorian Trades Hall Council’s (VTHC) building industry group of unions. Independent movement In his speech in favour of the motion, VTHC secretary and VTHC building industry group convener Brian Boyd told the delegates that the union movement needed to mobilise again in another rally. If it didn’t mobilise and relied purely on the parliamentary parties and the elections, then the movement would be giving up its independence.

He reminded delegates that the fight would need to continue after the elections. Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union assistant state secretary Tommy Watson told Green Left Weekly that every anti-Work Choices rally that had been called by the ACTU had been initiated in Victoria before the ACTU agreed to come on board. “Workers need a public forum where they can publicly protest against Howard’s Work Choices, AWAs [individual contracts] and 457 visas. Unions can do press conferences and press releases, but the media doesn’t print half the things that we say or do so I think it’s important that we see members walking around the streets of Melbourne voicing their protest”, he said. Delegates from Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo and the Latrobe Valley also attended the meeting.

Geelong Trades Hall secretary Tim Gooden told GLW that Geelong workers were very committed to holding another mass protest, and had in fact spent months campaigning for one to be organised. Gippsland Trades and Labour Council secretary John Parker told GLW that there will be a meeting of Gippsland building industry stewards on August 29 where they will vote on a recommendation to endorse the September 26 rally and march in Melbourne. He said that the mass protest is a way of forcing “both the Liberal and Labor parties to understand that these laws allow workers to be intimidated and [they] disempower our young people”.

Parker said it is the role of unions and activists in society to politicise our work force and set the benchmark for people’s rights. “We need to engage ordinary working men and women to get more active and start to take up the leadership role and make sure that the next generation is going to be just as well off as we are. I’m one of the baby boomers' generation and I never envisaged that we would be leaving a world in so bad a condition as we’re leaving [it] today.”

While the rally has been initiated by the building industry unions, other unions are starting to come on board and encourage their members to join the protest. So far, the Maritime Union of Australia; the United Firefighters Union; the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union; and the Australian Services Union have agreed to support the protest. The rally has been scheduled in the school holidays so that workers can bring their families. Australian Manufacturing Workers Union secretary Steve Dargavel pointed out that it is the partners and children of building industry workers who are suffering under AWAs and Work Choices.

Next generation One delegate argued strongly in support of the rally, saying that it needed to be as big as possible, not for the current generation but for the next generation. He said that people’s current working conditions don’t belong to the current generation of workers, because they had been bequeathed to us by a previous generation. Electrical Trades Union secretary Dean Mighell agreed, telling GLW: “We felt strongly that this rally is about building workers caring about the working conditions for their kids. We care about what we’re handing over to the next generation … We don’t want to hand over to them less than what we have now. This is a rally about our kids.” The intention is that the rally involve community groups outside the union movement. Union Solidarity convener Dave Kerin told GLW that the community groups that are networked into Union Solidarity will support the protest. “It’s quite clear that in a time when people are feeling under-confident industrially, that by coming together with others of like minds, that confidence will increase. As confidence increases, people will be better positioned in their workplace to go the next step beyond protest to take industrial action.” A second resolution passed unanimously called on Labor-affiliated unions to pressure Labor to negotiate a preference deal with the Greens for the Senate. Dargavel supported the motion, saying that conservative elements within the Labor Party would use a hostile Senate as an excuse to water down its commitments on industrial relations. Labor has rejected a national preference swap with the Greens. Mighell told GLW that he was “absolutely delighted” with the level of support for that motion. He said that “what workers don’t want to see is Family First in the Senate eroding their conditions, and Labor put them there in the last election. Workers are saying they don’t want any more shifty preference deals. They’re saying, if you’re going to prefer anyone, prefer the Greens because their industrial relations policy is fantastic.”

From: Australian News, Green Left Weekly issue #722 29 August 2007.

APEC protesters: 'We will not be silenced' by Alex Bainbridge

Thousands of people will gather at Sydney Town Hall on September 8 in what is expected to be the largest protest demonstration during the coming Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

We will be gathering to protest the ongoing, inhumane slaughter in Iraq and Afghanistan. We know that there are people dying every day — people whose lives could be saved if the Bush and Howard governments made a simple policy change. We know that these lives are lost not in a noble struggle for “democracy”, but in a shameful war of conquest, a war to plunder the resources of the Middle East in favour of the corporate interests for whom US President George Bush and PM John Howard rule.

We will be taking a stand in favour of genuine action to stem the global warming threat. We know that humanity is staring down the barrel of an environmental disaster and we cannot sit back while the shyster in Kirribilli House peddles nuclear power and so-called “clean coal” as if that were an earnest response. And we will be protesting against every manifestation of labour exploitation in the Asia Pacific region and throughout the world. “Economic cooperation” is the title of the summit, but we know they mean economic cooperation for the rich. They may use words like “trade liberalisation”, but we know that this is the kind of “economic cooperation” that results in Work Choices in Australia, Nike sweatshops in Indonesia and trade union activists jailed and beaten in capitalist South Korea.

After we have gathered in large numbers, then we will march. Just like the people who marched against the Vietnam War, we will be taking to the streets in defence of people’s lives and in defence of our own humanity. In circumstances like this, it is not an option for us to sit on the sidelines. We’re fully aware of what is at stake in this protest. We know that every time they display their new water cannon or show off their Taser guns, there is a veiled threat against us. Some of the threats are not-so-veiled. Shock jock Alan Jones is urging police violence to sweep the protesters off the streets and the Liberals want to ban all protests except in the Domain!

Not in my 17 years of activism can I think of any time where it has been so clear that the political establishment does not want a protest to take place. The fact that they are so scared of what people power can achieve on this occasion is itself a demonstration of how important it is to come out and join this protest, despite the intimidation and despite the veiled threats. Some people are sceptical about what protesting can achieve.

They’ve fallen for the bluff of the Kirribilli shyster who claimed that he would not listen to the million-strong anti-war protest in February 2003. When he said he wouldn’t listen, Howard lied. He lied then just as surely as he lied about “children overboard” and the “never, ever” GST. Howard did listen, but he also made a cynical calculation. When he went to war without the authorisation of parliament and against the majority opinion in Australia, he calculated that his decision would demoralise important sections of the anti-war movement that could have stopped him in his tracks if it continued to mobilise on the same scale.

He counted on the confusion that his “support the troops” line would bring once the shooting war started and he knew the Labor “opposition” would be treacherous. However, every struggle leaves a legacy. And even that massive, worldwide anti-war protest, which superficially seems to have been ignored, made a difference. It meant that the “shock and awe” invasion was less shocking and less awful than it otherwise would have been — the warmongers said so at the time. It also gave the Iraqi people more confidence to fight back. In short, it helped create the conditions that mean that the US is losing the war! Protesting does make a difference.

We will be marching during APEC because we have not forgotten the successful protest movements of the past. We have not forgotten the campaign against the Vietnam War and the campaign to save the Franklin River. We have not forgotten that David Hicks was languishing for years in Guantanamo Bay until the pressure of a public protest campaign forced the Howard government to act. We followed the story of our French sisters and brothers who early last year forced their government to withdraw an unfair labour law.

We remember that Margaret Thatcher’s government in Britain was forced to repeal the hated poll tax even after it had passed through parliament because of the protest movement that refused to give up. Looking back further, we’re aware that just about all the reforms that we’ve achieved in the past — including universal suffrage, the abolition of slavery and the eight hour day — have all been won as a result of committed protest movements. So we will be marching during APEC and we will not be relegated to the back streets. Our lives are too important to be sacrificed for their profits. We will march and we will not be silenced!

[Alex Bainbridge is a spokesperson for the Stop Bush Coalition. Visit for more information.]
From: Comment & Analysis, Green Left Weekly issue #722 29 August 2007.

Bush, Vietnam and Iraq, Eyes Closed to History By WILLIAM SCHRODER

In his speech at the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the President said the American pullout from Vietnam caused the deaths of millions in Cambodia and Vietnam. Thus spoken, Mr. Bush would have us believe invasion and bloody occupation of sovereign nations is not problematic. Instead, stopping the fighting and leaving the indigenous citizens to their own affairs is the greater evil.

The facts, however, are at variance with Mr. Bush's statements concerning the suffering of Southeast Asians. Millions of Cambodians died on the "killing fields" because secret American carpet bombing destroyed their nation and created an environment in which armed thugs led by Pol Pot took over unchallenged. In 1969, President Nixon ordered every available American plane into Cambodia to "crack the hell out of them." He wanted them to "hit everything." Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, subsequently transmitted the order to his top aide, Alexander Haig, this way: "Anything that flies on anything that moves." When Cambodia collapsed under the weight of the American Air Force, Prince Sihanouk fled to China, and the bad guys took over. Cambodian life under the bloody rule of the Khmer Rouge is well documented.

But what of the Vietnamese people and their other neighbors? In his speech, Mr. Bush spoke of "boat people" and "re-education camps," certainly a chaotic, frightful time for millions of innocent peasants, but Mr. Bush failed to mention that was not the extent of their suffering. The tragic aftermath of the American invasion of Southeast Asia kills and cripples to this day. More than thirty years after the Vietnam War, the misery index rises even though the shooting has long stopped. Historians, scholars, political scientists and high-level government officials have written volumes about America's experience in Vietnam, and careful examination of a representative sample of this material reveals a wealth of understanding. Estimates range as high as 3,000,000 Vietnamese men, women and children and an additional 1,000,000 Cambodian/Lao were killed or wounded during the fighting, but that's only the beginning.
Today, vast expanses of once productive Southeast Asian land threaten the native population. Death, disease and disfigurement are embedded in the very soil under their feet. Records show between 1961 and 1971, the U.S. sprayed approximately 76,000,000 liters of herbicide (Agents Orange, Green, Pink, Purple and White), 8,800 tons over an area of 6,000,000 square acres, 14% of Vietnam's land mass. Dioxins, the active family of chemicals in Agent Orange, are known health risks to humans. Sampling studies undertaken in the 1990's revealed dangerously high levels of contaminant in Vietnamese forests, soil, fishpond sediment, fish and fowl tissue and human blood. Agent Orange Dioxin in human blood samples taken from Vietnamese men and women ranging from twelve to twenty-five years old clearly show the contaminant chemicals have moved up through the food chain into humans.

Science has only begun to catalogue the long-term effects of Agent Orange on the Vietnamese, but the statistics are frightening. As early as 1970, Saigon's leading maternity hospital reported a monthly average of 140 miscarriages and 150 premature births in 2800 pregnancies. As compared to others in the region, children living in areas sprayed with Agent Orange were found to suffer three times as many cleft palates, three times as much mental retardation, were three times as likely to have extra fingers or toes and eight times as likely to experience massive abdominal and inguinal hernias. In addition, Vietnamese children living in sprayed areas suffered dwarfism, impaired vision, Down syndrome, heart disorders, enlarged heads and other deformities. Studies show severely affected children rarely lived beyond age twenty.

More is known about the effects of Agent Orange from treating American servicemen, perhaps exposed while flying aircraft that disseminated the contaminant or ground troops caught in the fallout. Doctors treating veterans years ­ even decades ­ after exposure have recorded a procession of life-threatening and life-diminishing symptoms. American Vietnam veterans are far more likely to suffer immune system disorders, soft tissue sarcomas, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, respiratory cancers, liver disorders and even lower sperm counts. Children born to Vietnam veterans are more prone to birth defects relating to the nervous system, kidneys and oral clefts. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is 400% more likely to occur in infants born to the men and women who served in Vietnam. Anecdotally, friends and family of Vietnam veterans tell stories of their loved one aging decades, seemingly overnight. The veteran's hair falls out in clumps and what remains turns white. Families report their veteran fathers, mothers, sons and brothers suffer from undiagnosed nerve disorders, irritability, weight loss, palsies and sometimes, sudden, unexplained death.

The Vietnam War misery index can be further expanded to include the estimated 100,000 Southeast Asian men, women and children subsequently killed, maimed or mutilated by unexploded landmines, artillery, bombs, grenades and a variety of other ordnance that lay concealed but still lethal in the forests and rice paddies throughout Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. After the cessation of hostilities, 3,500,000 landmines remained armed and buried in Vietnam. Short on funds and organizational support, in 2004, the Vietnamese government claimed to have cleared 100,000 mines in recent years, but United Nations estimates are closer to 59,000. According to UN officials, landmines in Vietnam are a primary obstacle to its social and economic development. In addition to killing or mutilating thousands of people each year, many of whom are children, their very presence in the countryside impedes the healthy development of millions of others.

In March 1964, five months before the first American bombing raid on North Vietnam, the United States organized a secret bombing campaign in Laos. Using unmarked planes, pilots initially attacked the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the increasingly important Communist supply route from North to South Vietnam. However, as the months passed, the air war intensified, and targets included Laotian villages, which drove a million peasants from their homes. For nine years, Laos was the most bombed country in the world. In 2004, Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D ­ Minnesota's 4th District) testified on the floor of the United States House of Representatives, "From 1964 to 1973, the U.S. flew 580,000 bombing runs over Laos ­ one every nine minutes for ten years. More than two million tons of ordnance was dropped on Laos, double the amount dropped in the European theater during the entirety of World War II. As many as 30% of the bombs dropped on Laos did not explode, leaving up to 20 million unexploded submunitions, also known as 'bombies' littered throughout the country.

"These American 'bombies' may be thirty years old, but they continue to kill and maim children as well as farmers clearing land for planting. In the first five months of 2004, 39 people died and 74 have been maimed by unexploded ordnance. In the thirty years since the end of the Vietnam War, an estimated 10,000 Lao people, including thousands of children, have died. And while Lao families struggle for food and survival, tens of thousands of acres of land cannot be put into agricultural production because the earth has been contaminated with this deadly cluster ordnance."

The negative effects of the American invasion of Southeast Asia ripple across the generations, and similar damage may already be done in Iraq. Researchers have yet to calculate the long term effects of depleted uranium (DU) munitions. Consider this testimony from Dr. Jawad Al-Ali, director of the Oncology Center at the largest hospital in Basra, Iraq at a 2003 conference in Japan: "Two strange phenomena have come about in Basra, which I have never seen before. The first is double and triple cancers in one patient. For example, leukemia and cancer of the stomach. We had one patient with two cancers - one in his stomach and kidney. Months later, primary cancer developed in his other kidney. He had three different cancer types. The second is the clustering of cancer in families. We have 58 families here with more than one person affected by cancer. Dr Yasin, a general Surgeon here, has two uncles, a sister and cousin affected with cancer. Dr Mazen, another specialist, has six family members suffering from cancer. My wife has nine members of her family with cancer.

"Children in particular are susceptible to DU poisoning. They have a much higher absorption rate as their blood is being used to build and nourish their bones, and they have a lot of soft tissues. Bone cancer and leukemia used to be diseases affecting them the most, however, cancer of the lymph system which can develop anywhere on the body, and has rarely been seen before the age of 12, is now also common."

Sadly, thirty years from now, another generation of researchers will examine the aftermath of America's misadventure in Iraq. We can only hope the politicians of that era will not ignore the facts when making policy.

William Schroder is a Vietnam veteran and with Dr. Ron Dawe, co-author of Soldier's Heart: Close-up Today with PTSD in Vietnam Veterans.

from CounterPunch August 24, 2007

Israel: an important marker has been passed by John Pilger

In a column for the New Statesman, John Pilger describes his first encounter with a Palestinian refugee camp and what Neldon Mandela has called "the greatest moral issue of our age" - justice for the Palestinians. 'Something has changed', he writes, referring to the world view of sanctions and a boycott against Israel.

From a limestone hill rising above Qalandia refugee camp you can see Jerusalem. I watched a lone figure standing there in the rain, his son holding the tail of his long tattered coat. He extended his hand and did not let go. “I am Ahmed Hamzeh, street entertainer,” he said in measured English. “Over there, I played many musical instruments; I sang in Arabic, English and Hebrew, and because I was rather poor, my very small son would chew gum while the monkey did its tricks. When we lost our country, we lost respect. One day a rich Kuwaiti stopped his car in front of us. He shouted at my son, “Show me how a Palestinian picks up his food rations!”

So I made the monkey appear to scavenge on the ground, in the gutter. And my son scavenged with him. The Kuwaiti threw coins and my son crawled on his knees to pick them up. This was not right; I was an artist, not a beggar . . . I am not even a peasant now.”“How do you feel about all that?” I asked him.“Do you expect me to feel hatred? What is that to a Palestinian? I never hated the Jews and their Israel . . . yes, I suppose I hate them now, or maybe I pity them for their stupidity. They can’t win. Because we Palestinians are the Jews now and, like the Jews, we will never allow them or the Arabs or you to forget.

The youth will guarantee us that, and the youth after them . . .”.That was 40 years ago. On my last trip back to the West Bank, I recognised little of Qalandia, now announced by a vast Israeli checkpoint, a zigzag of sandbags, oil drums and breeze blocks, with conga lines of people, waiting, swatting flies with precious papers. Inside the camp, the tents had been replaced by sturdy hovels, although the queues at single taps were as long, I was assured, and the dust still ran to caramel in the rain.

At the United Nations office I asked about Ahmed Hamzeh, the street entertainer. Records were consulted, heads shaken. Someone thought he had been “taken away . . . very ill”. No one knew about his son, whose trachoma was surely blindness now. Outside, another generation kicked a punctured football in the dust.And yet, what Nelson Mandela has called “the greatest moral issue of the age” refuses to be buried in the dust. For every BBC voice that strains to equate occupier with occupied, thief with victim, for every swarm of emails from the fanatics of Zion to those who invert the lies and describe the Israeli state’s commitment to the destruction of Palestine, the truth is more powerful now than ever.

Documentation of the violent expulsion of Palestinians in 1948 is voluminous. Re-examination of the historical record has put paid to the fable of heroic David in the Six Day War, when Ahmed Hamzeh and his family were driven from their home. The alleged threat of Arab leaders to “throw the Jews into the sea”, used to justify the 1967 Israeli onslaught and since repeated relentlessly, is highly questionable.

In 2005, the spectacle of wailing Old Testament zealots leaving Gaza was a fraud. The building of their “settlements” has accelerated on the West Bank, along with the illegal Berlin-style wall dividing farmers from their crops, children from their schools, families from each other. We now know that Israel’s destruction of much of Lebanon last year was pre-planned. As the former CIA analyst Kathleen Christison has written, the recent “civil war” in Gaza was actually a coup against the elected Hamas-led government, engineered by Elliott Abrams, the Zionist who runs US policy on Israel and a convicted felon from the Iran-Contra era.

The ethnic cleansing of Palestine is as much America’s crusade as Israel’s. On 16 August, the Bush administration announced an unprecedented $30bn military “aid package” for Israel, the world’s fourth biggest military power, an air power greater than Britain, a nuclear power greater than France. No other country on earth enjoys such immunity, allowing it to act without sanction, as Israel. No other country has such a record of lawlessness: not one of the world’s tyrannies comes close.

International treaties, such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, ratified by Iran, are ignored by Israel. There is nothing like it in UN history.But something is changing. Perhaps last summer’s panoramic horror beamed from Lebanon on to the world’s TV screens provided the catalyst. Or perhaps cynicism of Bush and Blair and the incessant use of the inanity, “terror”, together with the day-by-day dissemination of a fabricated insecurity in all our lives, has finally brought the attention of the international community outside the rogue states, Britain and the US, back to one of its principal sources, Israel.

I got a sense of this recently in the United States. A full-page advertisement in the New York Times had the distinct odour of panic. There have been many “friends of Israel” advertisements in the Times, demanding the usual favours, rationalising the usual outrages. This one was different. “Boycott a cure for cancer?” was its main headline, followed by “Stop drip irrigation in Africa? Prevent scientific co-operation between nations?” Who would want to do such things? “Some British academics want to boycott Israelis,” was the self-serving answer.

It referred to the University and College Union’s (UCU) inaugural conference motion in May, calling for discussion within its branches for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. As John Chalcraft of the London School of Economics pointed out, “the Israeli academy has long provided intellectual, linguistic, logistical, technical, scientific and human support for an occupation in direct violation of international law [against which] no Israeli academic institution has ever taken a public stand”.

The swell of a boycott is growing inexorably, as if an important marker has been passed, reminiscent of the boycotts that led to sanctions against apartheid South Africa. Both Mandela and Desmond Tutu have drawn this parallel; so has South African cabinet minister Ronnie Kasrils and other illustrious Jewish members of the liberation struggle. In Britain, an often Jewish-led academic campaign against Israel’s “methodical destruction of [the Palestinian] education system” can be translated by those of us who have reported from the occupied territories into the arbitrary closure of Palestinian universities, the harassment and humiliation of students at checkpoints and the shooting and killing of Palestinian children on their way to school.

These initiatives have been backed by a British group, Independent Jewish Voices, whose 528 signatories include Stephen Fry, Harold Pinter, Mike Leigh and Eric Hobsbawm. The country’s biggest union, Unison, has called for an “economic, cultural, academic and sporting boycott” and the right of return for Palestinian families expelled in 1948. Remarkably, the Commons’ international development committee has made a similar stand. In April, the membership of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) voted for a boycott only to see it hastily overturned by the national executive council. In the Republic of Ireland, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions has called for divestment from Israeli companies: a campaign aimed at the European Union, which accounts for two-thirds of Israel’s exports under an EU-Israel Association Agreement.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Jean Ziegler, has said that human rights conditions in the agreement should be invoked and Israel’s trading preferences suspended.This is unusual, for these were once distant voices. And that such grave discussion of a boycott has “gone global” was unforeseen in official Israel, long comforted by its seemingly untouchable myths and great power sponsorship, and confident that the mere threat of anti-Semitism would ensure silence. When the British lecturers’ decision was announced, the US Congress passed an absurd resolution describing the UCU as “anti-Semitic”. (Eighty congressmen have gone on junkets to Israel this summer.)

This intimidation has worked in the past. The smearing of American academics has denied them promotion, even tenure. The late Edward Said kept an emergency button in his New York apartment connected to the local police station; his offices at Columbia University were once burned down. Following my 2002 film, Palestine is Still the Issue, I received death threats and slanderous abuse, most of it coming from the US where the film was never shown. When the BBC’s Independent Panel recently examined the corporation’s coverage of the Middle East, it was inundated with emails, “many from abroad, mostly from North America”, said its report. Some individuals “sent multiple missives, some were duplicates and there was clear evidence of pressure group mobilisation”.

The panel’s conclusion was that BBC reporting of the Palestinian struggle was not “full and fair” and “in important respects, presents an incomplete and in that sense misleading picture”. This was neutralised in BBC press releases.The courageous Israeli historian, Ilan Pappé, believes a single democratic state, to which the Palestinian refugees are given the right of return, is the only feasible and just solution, and that a sanctions and boycott campaign is critical in achieving this. Would the Israeli population be moved by a worldwide boycott? Although they would rarely admit it, South Africa’s whites were moved enough to support an historic change.

A boycott of Israeli institutions, goods and services, says Pappé, “will not change the [Israeli] position in a day, but it will send a clear message that [the premises of Zionism] are racist and unacceptable in the 21st century . . . They would have to choose.”And so would the rest of us.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

World's #1 terrorist not welcome here! by Pip Hinman

Amid an unprecedented security hype in the lead-up to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, organisers of the “Stop Bush/Make Howard History” protest on September 8 are expecting thousands of anti-war, environment and workers’ rights activists to take to Sydney’s streets to give US President George Bush the kind of welcome he deserves. Green Left Weekly’s Pip Hinman spoke to Stop Bush Coalition spokesperson and Stop the War Coalition activist Alex Bainbridge.

Why should people join the protests and reject attempts to silence dissent?

This in an opportunity to tell Bush — the world’s number one terrorist and war criminal — what the majority of Australians think about the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Bush is responsible for the most significant war crime this century — more than 1 million Iraqis have died and a nation has been all but destroyed, its assets plundered and its people divided. Vast resources are being wasted on this ongoing destruction. In northern Iraq, up to 500 Kurds were killed in a roadside bombing on August 16. While it may be convenient for some to blame al Qaeda, others, such as Matt Howard, a former US marine on tour in Australia, says the increase in sectarian violence in Iraq is the direct result of the occupation forces stirring up trouble. War and occupation are wreaking havoc on Afghanistan. Senior SAS officers have revealed publicly on their return to Australia that they are having to fight and kill poor farmers suspected of being with the Taliban. All the polls show that Australians overwhelmingly oppose John Howard’s handling of the Iraq war, and more than half want the troops to come home. We all know what [defence minister] Brendan Nelson let slip the other day — that the war in Iraq is a war for oil. The APEC protests will demand the troops come home from Iraq and Afghanistan now.

Is there any evidence behind the claim that the APEC meeting will be a watershed on global strategies for dealing with the greenhouse problem?

Energy “security” is a big discussion at APEC, given that the world’s two worst climate change rogue states — the US and Australia — will be present. Their recent “recanting” of their notorious greenhouse scepticism is a tactical ploy. They are still working for big oil and the nuclear industry, and they are determined to keep those dirty and dangerous industries going despite climate scientists’ warnings about the impact of runaway climate change, caused largely by the burning of fossil fuels. The APEC energy ministers’ meeting in Darwin a few months back made it clear that the US and Australia are keen to secure fossil fuel supplies into the future. While there’s a profit to be made, and coal remains one of Australia’s biggest exports, the Howard government refuses to seriously tackle climate change. The other social and environmental disaster that will be discussed at APEC is nuclear energy. This will be presented as the alternative “clean fuel”, which most know is utter nonsense. Howard has already proven his willingness to sell Australian uranium, including to countries that are not signatories to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, such as India. Howard is likely to announce that Australia will join the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership — another dangerous White House project — which will only make it easier for Australian uranium to be sold overseas and will add to the pressure on Australia to “go nuclear” and take back the nuclear waste. The unavoidable consequences of nuclear energy are radioactive waste dumps foisted onto Indigenous custodians, a massive waste of water and a waste of financial resources that could be more usefully ploughed into the renewable energy sector.

Question: What has been the response to the new police powers? Has the security hype worked and will it keep people away from the protests?

Undoubtedly some people will be dissuaded from coming, but the NSW government and police may have gone too far with their security and terrorist hype. There is no need for special laws preventing protests; the police already have too much power. These new laws treat protesters like terrorists. Protests against injustices of all kinds have been a central part of Australia’s history and the right to protest is one of our most fundamental and basic democratic rights. Why is the state Labor government trying so hard to terrorise people into not exercising their conscience? Even Sydney high schools students are being threatened for trying to organise a walkout when Bush arrives in Sydney. The authorities’ fear of public opinion shows just how isolated our so-called leaders really are. We reject the notion that protesting against violence — wars and occupations and attacks on workers’ rights — means support for violence. The Maritime Union of Australia should be applauded for taking a stand in support of the right to organise peaceful protests and for pointing out that the real violence is coming from the likes of Bush and Howard.

Foreign minister Alexander Downer says that APEC will promote liberal economic policies that will be of benefit to both the Asia-Pacific rim countries and Australia and the US. Is he right?

APEC will be pushing the same neoliberal, deregulatory agenda that global capital aims for everywhere, because it helps the rich countries’ efforts to grab markets and resources from the poorer nations. Bush and Howard will certainly be pushing their neoliberal policies, while Third World countries are forced to manouevre to protect their economies. This bullying will send millions of poor farmers and workers into even greater misery and poverty. Workers in both the rich and the less-developed countries will face greater exploitation as labour laws and rights are slashed to allow for this greater exploitation by capital. In Australia, the Work Choices legislation is about shifting power in the workplace to the bosses, and severely limiting workers’ rights to organise for their own safety, decent wages and basic rights at work. In many other APEC countries, including China, the same approach is being taken. We want to show our solidarity with those workers overseas who are fighting the same battles as we are here. All those who support peace and democracy should make an effort to join us on the streets on September 8 for a peaceful protest against Bush and Howard. Millions worldwide have done the same when Bush visited their countries. Bush is on the skids at home, and we can help that slide. We also want to make Howard history, and warn any future ALP government that we will not stop until it too commits to immediately pulling all the troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan.

From: Comment & Analysis, Green Left Weekly issue #721 22 August 2007.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Pervez Musharraf's inability to break from a brutal, shabby legacy Tariq Ali

Tariq Ali

Every Pakistani leader, civilian or military, sits on a throne that is placed on a volcano periodically shaken by convulsions. As a crisis-ridden country prepares to commemorate the 60th anniversary of its foundation next week, the government is seriously divided, and its uniformed president was reported to be considering the imposition of a state of emergency, usually the last act of a government about to fall.

In most countries the very existence of a military leader symbolises a state of emergency, but not in Pakistan. The military has ruled the country for more than 30 years, survived the hot lava of numerous uprisings and assassinations, and always returned to power, largely unscathed. This political cycle is now well established: military rule - angry protests - civilian government - corruption, rigged elections and worse - military rule. The country's 200 million people deserve better.
Bar talk of a neocolonial variety among western diplomats and their media adjuncts in Islamabad, to the effect that the chaos in Pakistan is an indication of a people incapable of self-government, was recently given global prominence by the thoughtless rhetoric of US presidential hopeful Barrack Obama, trying to act tough in the face of strong domestic competition. By now, even a fool should understand that imposing a Baghdad-style green zone in northern Pakistan and importing the chaos of occupied Afghanistan could only make matters worse.

The two crises that recently engulfed the country were polar opposites in nature. The first, a constitutional struggle triggered by the crude suspension of the supreme court chief justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, was dominated by civil society, with judges, lawyers, law students and activists from opposition parties and broadcasters demanding a separation of powers and an independent judiciary. This ended in a victory of sorts, with the regime accepting the reinstatement of Chaudhry by the court.

Simultaneously a group of preachers in a mosque in the heart of Islamabad began to take violent direct action by kidnapping "prostitutes", attacking libraries and demanding religious laws to further increase the social control of women and a special religious police to ensure their implementation. In the face of this provocation, the government dithered. Its religious affairs minister, Ijaz ul-Haq, was confident that he could broker a deal. And not without reason. The valuable urban land given by the state to build the mosque and madrasas over two blocks was a legacy of Ijaz's father, Zia ul-Haq, the country's previous military dictator (1977-89). The people are still paying the price for what was the darkest, coldest, most brutal and shabby period in Pakistan's history. The father of the two preachers who directed the violence from the mosque had worked for military intelligence. Musharraf proved too weak to break from this legacy. A scratch turned to gangrene. The military doctors resorted to amputation.

There were no mass mobilisations to support the judges or the jihadis. Even the alliance of moderate religious parties that has power in the North-West Frontier Province has not defended the Red Mosque jihadis group, apart from requesting that women and children are protected. The pro-jihadi demonstration in Peshawar attracted a thousand people, which is why the talk about imposing a state of emergency and suspending fundamental rights is largely an internal manoeuvre by power brokers, led by the venal politicians from Gujrat at present backing Musharraf but fearful he might dump them to do a deal with Benazir Bhutto in order to appease Washington.
The multitudes remain silent and passive, seeing neither struggle as being fought in their interests. The average citizen is caught between the violence - arbitrary, deliberate and undiscriminating - of both sides, jihadi extremists and the state. The dominating desire is for an end to the nightmare.
The whole issue raises an old question: what is the degree of Islamist penetration of the military? Is it fear of exacerbating divisions in the military and its agencies that resulted in the extraordinary caution displayed by the regime. I don't think so.
Two considerations unite the senior officers inside the army. First, military unity must be preserved. No breach in the command structure will be tolerated. Second, they will not accept domination or interference in matters military by politicians. One reason is the fear that they might lose the comforts and privileges they have acquired after decades of rule; but there is also a deep aversion to democracy that is the hallmark of most armies. Unused to accountability within their own ranks, it's difficult for them to accept it in society at large.

In Pakistan the military gave up being a lobby that tries to influence an elected government a long time ago, and became a permanent conspiracy to replace any government that did not do its bidding. The three popular figures within the military academies in Pakistan are Napoleon, De Gaulle and Kemal Ataturk. The first provided a legal code still in force. The second pulled France out of Nato and denounced US imperialism. The third separated religion from the state. Pakistan's uniformed despots have so far failed on every count.

August 10, 2007The Guardian

Partition, directed by Ken McMullen with a screenplay by Tariq Ali, is being screened at the Renoir cinema, London, on Sunday at 12 noon.

Only the Kurds Now Back US Occuaption, Deepening Divisions in Iraq By PATRICK COCKBURN

Iraq's three main communities each responded differently to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the occupation of 2003. Their responses deepened the divisions between them.
The Sunni, about 20 per cent of Iraq's 27 million population and the dominant community for hundreds of years, supported armed resistance to the US from the beginning. The Shia, 60 per cent of Iraqis, did not resist the occupation so long as they could take power through elections as they believe they deserved to do as a majority. This attitude to the US may now be changing. Only the Kurds, also 20 per cent of Iraqis, fully back the US presence.

Ethnic and sectarian animosities in Iraq were always deeper than most Iraqis admitted but divisions have turned into chasms. There are fewer and fewer mixed neighborhoods in Baghdad. The Shia, probably three-quarters of the capital's population, are pushing back the Sunni into the south-west corner. Some 4.2 million Iraqis have fled their homes, becoming refugees either inside or outside the country according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR.

The Sunni have never really accepted the Shia predominance, claiming that they are Iranian puppets. Adnan al-Dulaimi, the head of the largest bloc, the Iraqi Accordance Front, warned this week that Baghdad was in danger of falling into the hands of the "Persians" and "Safawis", the Iranian dynasty that adopted Shi'ism.

The smaller minorities in Iraq have been among the worst affected communities because they do not have militias. Christians are deemed to be both vulnerable and rich and are therefore preyed on by kidnappers. Many have fled the country and are probably better able to leave than Muslims because of their connections abroad.

Some of the oldest communities in the world are disappearing. Christians who remain are often asked to pay a special tax to insurgents or convert to Islam. The Mandean community in Baghdad was once famous for its soothsayers, goldsmiths and jewellers but their presumed wealth again made them a favourite target of criminals.

The size of minorities is often not known because most exaggerate their numbers. The Turkoman are mostly concentrated in or around Kirkuk but are also dominant in the city of Tal Afar west of Mosul. Turkey has made their cause its own but a bomb in a Shia Turkoman village south of Kirkuk killed 210 people and wounded 400 on July 7.

They may have been targeted by al-Qa'ida because they were Shia rather than because they were Turkoman. Nineveh province, the capital of which is Mosul, is a mosaic of communities. There are 350,000 Yazidis with a religion which draws on Zoroastrianism, Manicheanism, Judaism, early Christianity and Islam. There are also Shabaks who speak a variant of Kurdish and live mostly to the east of Mosul city. The Kurdish authorities would like to see both these groups voting as Kurds to join the Kurdistan Regional Government in a referendum to be held by the end of the year.

from CounterPunchAugust 17, 2007

Patrick Cockburn is the author of 'The Occupation: War, resistance and daily life in Iraq', a finalist for the National Book Critics' Circle Award for best non-fiction book of 2006.

The ghost of Pinochet haunts the campaign against Chavez by John Pilger

In an article for the Guardian, John Pilger describes how he sought the help of Chile's former political prisoners, tortured by Pinochet, in the making of his film, The War on Democracy, and how they bear witness to the historical meaning of the current campaign of propaganda and lies aimed at Venezuela and Hugo Chavez.

I walked with Roberto Navarrete into the national stadium in Santiago, Chile. With the southern winter’s wind skating down from the Andes, it was empty and ghostly. Little had changed, he said: the chicken wire, the broken seats, the tunnel to the changing rooms from which the screams echoed. We stopped at a large number 28. “This is where I was, facing the scoreboard. This is where I was called to be tortured.”Thousands of “the detained and the disappeared” were imprisoned in the stadium following the Washington-backed coup by General Pinochet against the democracy of Salvador Allende on September 11, 1973.

For the majority people of Latin America, the abandonados, the infamy and historical lesson of the first “9/11” have never been forgotten. “In the Allende years, we had a hope the human spirit would triumph,” said Roberto.“But in Latin America those believing they are born to rule behave with such brutality to defend their rights, their property, their hold over society that they approach true fascism. People who are well dressed, whose houses are full of food, bang pots in the streets in protest as though they don’t have anything. This is what we had in Chile 36 years ago. This is what we see in Venezuela today. It is as if Chavez is Allende.

It is so evocative for me.”In making my film, The War on Democracy, I sought the help of Chileans like Roberto and his family, and Sara de Witt who courageously returned with me to the torture chambers at Villa Grimaldi, which she somehow survived. Together with other Latin Americans who knew the tyrannies, they bear witness to the pattern and meaning of the propaganda and lies now aimed at undermining another epic bid to renew both democracy and freedom on the continent. Ironically, in Chile, said to be Washington's "model democracy", freedom waits. The constitution, the system of electoral control and the designer inequality are all Pinocher's gifts from the grave.

The disinformation that helped destroy Allende and give rise to Pinochet’s horrors worked the same in Nicaragua, where the Sandinistas had the temerity to implement modest, popular reforms based largely on the English co-operative movement. In both countries, the CIA funded the leading opposition media, although they need not have bothered. In Nicaragua, the fake martyrdom of the "opposition" newspaper La Prensa became a cause for North America’s leading liberal journalists, who seriously debated whether a poverty-stricken country of three million peasants posed a “threat” to the United States.

Ronald Reagan agreed and declared a state of emergency to combat the monster at the gates. In Britain, whose Thatcher government “absolutely endorsed” US policy, the standard censorship by omission applied. In examining 500 articles that dealt with Nicaragua in the early 1980s, the historian Mark Curtis found an almost universal suppression of the achievements of the Sandinista government -- “remarkable by any standards” – in favour of the falsehood of “the threat of a communist takeover”.

The similarities in the campaign against the phenomenal rise of popular democratic movements today are striking. Aimed principally at Venezuela, especially Hugo Chavez, the virulence of the attacks suggests that something exciting is taking place; and it is. Thousands of poor Venezuelans are seeing a doctor for the first time in their lives, their children immunised and drinking clean water.On July 26 Chavez announced the construction of fifteen new hospitals; more than 60 public hospitals are currently being modernised and re-equipped.

New universities have opened their doors to the poor, breaking the privilege of competitive institutions effectively controlled by a “middle class” in a country where there is no middle. In Barrio La Linea, Beatrice Balazo told me her children were the first generation of the poor to attend a full day’s school and to be given a hot meal and to learn music, art and dansce. “I have seen their confidence blossom like flowers,” she said. One night in barrio La Vega, in a bare room beneath a single light bulb, I watched Mavis Mendez, aged 94, learn to write her own name for the first time. More than 25,000 communal councils have been set up in parallel to the old, corrupt local bureaucracies. Many are spectacles of raw grass-roots democracy.

Spokespeople are elected, yet all decisions, ideas and spending have to be approved by a community assembly. In towns long controlled by oligarchs and their servile media, this explosion of popular power has begun to change lives in the way Beatrice described. It is this new confidence of Venezuela’s “invisible people” that has so enflamed those who live in suburbs called Country Club. Behind their walls and dogs, they remind me of white South Africans.Venezuela’s wild west media is mostly theirs; 80 per cent of broadcasting and almost all the 118 newspaper companies are privately owned. Until recently one television shock jock liked to call Chavez, who is mixed race, a “monkey”.

Front pages depict the president as Hitler, or as Stalin (the connection being that both like babies). Among broadcasters crying censorship loudest are those bankrolled by the National Endowment for Democracy, the CIA in spirit if not name. “We had a deadly weapon, the media,” said an admiral who was one of the coup plotters in 2002.

The television station, RCTV, never prosecuted for its part in the attempt to overthrow the elected government, lost only its terrestrial licence and is still broadcasting on satellite and cable. Yet, as in Nicaragua, the “treatment” of RCTV has been a cause celebre for those in Britain and the US affronted by the sheer audacity and popularity of Chavez, whom they smear as “power crazed” and a “tyrant”. That he is the authentic product of a popular awakening is suppressed. Even the description of him as a “radical socialist”, usually in the pejorative, wilfully ignores that he is actually a nationalist and a social democrat, a label many in the British Labour Party were once proud to wear.

In Washington, the old Iran-Contra death squad gang, back in power under Bush, fear the economic bridges Chavez is building in the region, such as the use of Venezuela’s oil revenue to end IMF slavery. That he maintains a neo-liberal economy with a growth rate of over 10 per cent, allowing the rich to grow richer, and described by the American Banker magazine as “the envy of the banking world” is seldom raised as valid criticism of his limited reforms.

These days, of course, any true reforms are exotic. And as liberal elites under Blair and Bush fail to defend their own democracies and basic liberties, they watch the very concept of democracy as a top-down liberal preserve challenged on a continent about which Richard Nixon once said “people don’t give a shit”. However much they play the man, Chavez, their arrogance cannot accept that the seed of Rousseau’s idea of direct popular sovereignty may have been planted among the poorest, yet again, and “the hope of the human spirit”, of which Roberto spoke in the stadium, has returned.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Howard In Echo Lie Shock by Phil Doyle

Howard browns out again on the truth stakes when Katoomba resident and all round legend, John "Togs"Tognolini, host of the Katoomba Surf Club (Sundays from 8 on 89.1FM), tests Howard's claims in Parliament about about Big Kev Rudd being a re-appearance of his childhood experiences with the echo at the eponymouslynamed Echo Point. Made-in-Australia Mythbusting at it's best. Who is right? Howard or Togs? We report,you decide.
Click on the link to watch and feel free to share

Sunday, August 12, 2007

An Interview with Noam Chomsky-On Responsibility, War Guilt and Intellectuals By GABRIEL MATTHEW SCHIVONE

Schivone: In 1969, addressing a community of mostly students during a public forum at the steps of MIT, you said: “This particular community is a very relevant one to consider at a place like MIT because, of course, you’re all free to enter this community -- in fact, you’re invited and encouraged to enter it. The community of technical intelligentsia, and weapons designers, and counterinsurgency experts, and pragmatic planners of an American empire is one that you have a great deal of inducement to become associated with. The inducements, in fact, are very real; their rewards in power, and affluence, and prestige and authority are quite significant.” Let’s start off talking about the significance of these inducements, on both a university and societal level. How crucial is it that students understand the function of this highly technocratic social order of the academic community?

CHOMSKY: How important it is, to an individual, depends on what that individual’s goals in life are. If the goals are to enrich yourself, gain privilege, do technically interesting work -- in brief, if the goals are self-satisfaction -- then these questions are of no particular relevance. If you care about the consequences of your actions, what’s happening in the world, what the future will be like for your grandchildren and so on, then they’re very crucial. So, it’s a question of what choices people make.

What makes students a natural audience to speak to? And do you think it’s worth ‘speaking truth’ to the professional scholars?

I’m always uneasy about the concept of “speaking truth,” as if we somehow know the truth and only have to enlighten others who have not risen to our elevated level. The search for truth is a cooperative, unending endeavor. We can, and should, engage in it to the extent we can and encourage others to do so as well, seeking to free ourselves from constraints imposed by coercive institutions, dogma, irrationality, excessive conformity and lack of initiative and imagination, and numerous other obstacles.As for possibilities, they are limited only by will and choice.Students are at a stage of their lives where these choices are most urgent and compelling, and when they also enjoy unusual, if not unique, freedom and opportunity to explore the choices available, to evaluate them, and to pursue them.

What is it about the privileges within university education and academic scholarship which correlate with a greater responsibility for catastrophic atrocities such as the Vietnam War or those in the Middle East in which the United States is now involved?

There are really some moral truisms. One of them is that opportunity confers responsibility. If you have very limited opportunities, then you have limited responsibility for what you do. If you have substantial opportunity you have greater responsibility for what you do. I mean, that’s kind of elementary, I don’t know how it can be discussed.

And the people who we call ‘intellectuals’ are just those who happen to have substantial opportunity. They have privilege, they have resources, they have training. In our society, they have a high degree of freedom -- not a hundred percent, but quite a lot -- and that gives them a range of choices that they can pursue with a fair degree of freedom, and that hence simply confers responsibility for the predictable consequences of the choices they make.
From where may we trace the development of this strong coterie of technical experts in the schools, and elsewhere, sometimes referred to as a ‘bought’ or ‘secular priesthood’?
It really goes back to the latter-part of the nineteenth century, when there was substantial discussion -- not just in the United States but in Europe, too -- of what was then sometimes called ‘a new class’ of scientific intellectuals. In that period of time there was a level of knowledge and technical expertise accumulating that allowed a kind of managerial class of educated, trained people to have a greater share in decision-making and planning. It was thought that they were a new class displacing the aristocracy, the owners, political leaders and so on, and they could have a larger role -- and of course they liked that idea.
Out of this group developed an ideology of technocratic planning. In industry it was called ‘scientific management’. It developed in intellectual life with a concept of what was called a ‘responsible class’ of technocratic, serious intellectuals who could solve the world’s problems rationally, and would have to be protected from the ‘vulgar masses’ who might interfere with them. And, it goes right up until the present.

Just how realistic this is, is another question, but for the class of technical intellectuals, it’s a very attractive conception that, ‘We are the rational, intelligent people, and management and decision-making should be in our hands.’Actually, as I’ve pointed out in some of the things I’ve written, it’s very close to Bolshevism. And, in fact, if you put side-by-side, say, statements by people like Robert McNamara and V.I. Lenin, they’re strikingly similar. In both cases there’s a conception of a vanguard of rational planners who know the direction that society ought to go and can make efficient decisions, and have to be allowed to do so without interference from, what one of them, Walter Lippmann, called the ‘meddlesome and ignorant outsiders’ , namely, the population, who just get in the way.

It’s not an entirely new conception: it’s just a new category of people. Two hundred years ago you didn’t have an easily identifiable class of technical intellectuals, just generally educated people. But as scientific and technical progress increased there were people who felt they can appropriate it and become the proper managers of the society, in every domain. That, as I said, goes from scientific management in industry, to social and political control.

There are periods in history, for example, during the Kennedy years, when these ideas really flourished. There were, as they called themselves, ‘the best and the brightest.’ The ‘smart guys’ who could run everything if only they were allowed to; who could do things scientifically without people getting in their way.

It’s a pretty constant strain, and understandable. And it underlies the fear and dislike of democracy that runs through elite culture always, and very dramatically right now. It often correlates closely with posturing about love of democracy. As any reader of Orwell would expect, these two things tend to correlate. The more you hate democracy, the more you talk about how wonderful it is and how much you’re dedicated to it. It’s one of the clearer expressions of the visceral fear and dislike of democracy, and of allowing, again, going back to Lippmann, the ‘ignorant and meddlesome outsiders’ to get in our way. They have to be distracted and marginalized somehow while we can take care of the serious questions.Now, that’s the basic strain. And you find it all the time, but increasingly in the modern period when, at least, claims to expertise become somewhat more plausible. Whether they’re authentic or not is, again, a different question. But, the claims to expertise are very striking. So, economists tell you, ‘We know how to run the economy’; the political scientists tell you, ‘We know how to run the world, and you keep out of it because you don’t have special knowledge and training.’
When you look at it, the claims tend to erode pretty quickly. It’s not quantum physics; there is, at least, a pretense, and sometimes, some justification for the claims. But, what matters for human life is, typically, well within the reach of the concerned person who is willing to undertake some effort.

Given the self-proclaimed notion that this new class is entitled to decision-making, how close are they to actual policy, then?

My feeling is that they’re nowhere near as powerful as they think they are. So, when, say, John Kenneth Galbraith wrote about the technocratic elite which is taking over the running of society -- or when McNamara wrote about it, or others -- there’s a lot of illusion there. Meaning, they can gain positions of authority and decision-making when they act in the interests of those who really own and run the society. You can have people that are just as competent, or more competent, and who have conceptions of social and economic order that run counter to, say, corporate power, and they’re not going to be in the planning sectors.

So, to get into those planning sectors you first of all have to conform to the interests of the real concentrations of power.

And, again, there are a lot of illusions about this -- in the media, too. Tom Wicker is a famous example, one of the ‘left commentators’ of the New York Times. He would get very angry when critics would tell him he’s conforming to power interests and that he’s keeping within the doctrinal framework of the media, which goes back to their corporate structure and so on. And he would answer, very angrily -- and correctly -- that nobody tells him what to say. He wrote anything he wanted -- which is absolutely true. But, if he wasn’t writing the things he did he wouldn’t have a column in the New York Times.

That’s the kind of thing that is very hard to perceive.

People do not want,or often are not able, to perceive that they are conforming to external authority. They feel themselves to be very free, and indeed they are, as long as they conform. But power lies elsewhere. That’s as old as history in the modern period. It’s often very explicit.
Adam Smith, for example, discussing England, quite interestingly pointed out that the merchants and manufacturers, the economic forces of his day, are the ‘principal architects of policy’, and they make sure that their own interests are ‘most peculiarly attended to’, no matter how grievous the effect on others, including the people in England. And that’s a good principle of statecraft, and social and economic planning, which runs pretty much to the present. When you get people with management and decision-making skills, they can enter into that system and they can make the actual decisions within a framework that’s set within the real concentrations of power. And now it’s not the merchants and manufacturers of Adam Smith’s day, it’s the multinational corporations, financial institutions, and so on.

But, stray too far beyond their concerns and you won’t be the decision-maker.
It’s not a mechanical phenomenon, but it’s overwhelmingly true that the people who make it to decision-making positions (that is, what they think of as decision-making positions) are those who conform to the basic framework of the people who fundamentally own and run the society.
That’s why you have a certain choice of technocratic managers and not some other choice of people equally or better capable of carrying out policies but have different ideas.
What about degrees of responsibility and shared burdens of guilt on an individual level? What can we learn about how those in positions of power or authority often view themselves?
You almost never find anyone, whether it’s in a weapons plant, or planning agency, or in corporate management, or almost anywhere, who says, ‘I’m really a bad guy, and I just want to do things that benefit myself and my friends.’

Almost invariably you get noble rhetoric like: ‘We’re working for the benefit of the people.’ The corporate executive who is slaving for the benefit of the workers and community; the friendly banker who just wants to help everybody start their business; the political leader who’s trying to bring freedom and justice to the world--and they probably all believe it. I’m not suggesting that they’re lying. There’s an array of routine justifications for whatever you’re doing. And it’s easy to believe them. It’s very hard to look into the mirror and say, ‘Yeah, that guy looking at me is a vicious criminal.’ It’s much easier to say, ‘That guy looking at me is really very benign, self-sacrificing, and he has to do these things because it’s for the benefit of everyone.’

Or you get respected moralists like Reinhold Niebuhr, who was once called ‘the theologian of the establishment’. And the reason is because he presented a framework which, essentially, justified just about anything they wanted to do. His thesis is dressed up in long words and so on (it’s what you do if you’re an intellectual). But, what it came down to is that, ‘Even if you try to do good, evil’s going to come out of it; that’s the paradox of grace’. And that’s wonderful for war criminals. ‘We try to do good but evil necessarily comes out of it.’ And it’s influential. So, I don’t think that people in decision-making positions are lying when they describe themselves as benevolent. Or people working on more advanced nuclear weapons. Ask them what they’re doing, they’ll say: ‘We’re trying to preserve the peace of the world.’ People who are devising military strategies that are massacring people, they’ll say, ‘Well, that’s the cost you have to pay for freedom and justice’, and so on.

But, we don’t take those sentiments seriously when we hear them from enemies, say, from Stalinist commissars. They’ll give you the same answers. But, we don’t take that seriously because they can know what they’re doing if they choose to. If they choose not to, that’s their choice. If they choose to believe self-satisfying propaganda, that’s their choice. But, it doesn’t change the moral responsibility. We understand that perfectly well with regard to others. It’s very hard to apply the same reasoning to ourselves.In fact, maybe the most elementary of moral principles is that of universality, that is, If something’s right for me, it’s right for you; if it’s wrong for you, it’s wrong for me. Any moral code that is even worth looking at has that at its core somehow. But that principle is overwhelmingly disregarded all the time. If you want to run through examples we can easily do it. Take, say, George W. Bush, since he happens to be president. If you apply the standards that we applied to Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg, he’d be hanged. Is it an even conceivable possibility? It’s not even discussable. Because, we don’t apply to ourselves the principles we apply to others.

There’s a lot of talk about ‘terror’ and how awful it is. Whose terror? Our terror against them? I mean, is that considered reprehensible? No, it’s considered highly moral; it’s considered self-defense, and so on. Now, their terror against us, that’s awful, and terrible, and so on.
But, to try to rise to the level of becoming a minimal moral agent, and just enter in the domain of moral discourse is very difficult. Because, that means accepting the principle of universality. And you can experiment for yourself and see how often that’s accepted, either in personal or political life. Very rarely.

What about criminal responsibility and intellectuals?

Nuremberg is an interesting precedent.

The Nuremberg case is a very interesting precedent. Of all the tribunals that have taken place, from then until today Nuremberg is, I think, the most serious by far. But, nevertheless, it was very seriously flawed. And it was recognized to be. When Telford Taylor, the chief prosecutor, wrote about it, he recognized that it was flawed, and it was so for a number of fundamental reasons. For one thing, the Nazi war criminals were being tried for crimes that had not yet been declared to be crimes. So, it was ex post facto. ‘We’re now declaring these things you did to be crimes.’ That is already questionable.

Secondly, the choice of what was considered a crime was based on a very explicit criterion, namely, denial of the principle of universality. In other words, something was called a crime at Nuremberg if they did it and we didn’t do it.So, for example, the bombing of urban concentrations was not considered a crime. The bombings of Tokyo, Dresden, and so on -- those aren’t crimes. Why? Because we did them. So, therefore, it’s not a crime. In fact, Nazi war criminals who were charged were able to escape prosecution when they could show that the Americans and the British did the same thing they did. Admiral Doenitz, a submarine commander who was involved in all kinds of war crimes, called in the defense a high official in the British admiralty and, I think, Admiral Nimitz from the United States, who testified that, ‘Yeah, that’s the kind of thing we did.’ And, therefore, they weren’t sentenced for these crimes. Doenitz was absolved. And that’s the way it ran through. Now, that’s a very serious flaw. Nevertheless, of all the tribunals, that’s the most serious one.

When Chief Justice Jackson, chief counsel for the prosecution, spoke to the tribunal and explained to them the importance of what they were doing, he said, to paraphrase, that: ‘We are handing these defendants a poisoned chalice, and if we ever sip from it we must be subject to the same punishments, otherwise this whole trial is a farce.’ Well, you can look at the history from then on, and we’ve sipped from the poisoned chalice many times, but it’s never been considered a crime. So, that means we are saying that trial was a farce.

Interestingly, in Jackson’s opening statement he claimed that the prosecution did not wish to incriminate the whole German for the crimes they committed, but only the “planners and designers” of those crimes, “the inciters and leaders without whose evil architecture the world would not have been for so long scourged with the violence and lawlessness … of this terrible war.”

That’s correct. And that’s another principle which we flatly reject. So, at Nuremberg, we weren’t trying the people who threw Jews into crematoria; we were trying the leaders. When we ever have a trial for crimes it’s of some low-level person like a torturer from Abu Ghraib, not the people who were setting up the framework from which they operate. And we certainly don’t try political leaders for the crime of aggression. That’s out of the question.

The invasion of Iraq was about as clear-cut a case of aggression than you can imagine. In fact, by the Nuremberg principles, if you read them carefully, the U.S. war against Nicaragua was a crime of aggression for which Ronald Reagan should have been tried. But, it’s inconceivable; you can’t even mention it in the West. And the reason is our radical denial of the most elementary moral truisms. We just flatly reject them. We don’t even think we reject them, and that’s even worse than rejecting them outright.

If we were able to say to ourselves, ‘Look, we are totally immoral, we don’t accept elementary moral principles,’ that would be a kind of respectable position in a certain way. But, when we sink to the level where we cannot even perceive that we’re violating elementary moral principles and international law, that’s pretty bad. But, that’s the nature of the intellectual culture--not just in the United States--but in powerful societies everywhere.
You mentioned Doenitz escaping culpability for his crimes.

Two who didn’t escape punishment and were among the most severely punished at Nuremberg were Julius Streicher, an editor of a major newspaper, and -- lso an interesting example -- Dr. Wolfram Sievers of the Ahnenerbe Society’s Institute of Military Scientific Research, whose own crimes were traced back to the University of Strasbourg. Not the typical people prosecuted for international war crimes, it seems, given their civilian professions.

Yes; and there’s a justification for that, namely, those defendants could understand what they were doing. They could understand the consequences of the work that they were carrying out. But, of course, if we were to accept this awful principle of universality, that would have a pretty long reach, to journalists, university researchers, and so on.

Let me quote for you the mission statement of the Army Research Office. This “premier extramural” research agency of the Army is grounded upon “developing and exploiting innovative advances to insure the Nation’s technological superiority.” It executes this mission “through conduct of an aggressive basic science research program on behalf of the Army so that cutting-edge scientific discoveries and the general store of scientific knowledge will be optimally used to develop and improve weapons systems that establish land-force dominance.”

This is a Pentagon office, and they’re doing their job. In our system, the military is under civilian control. Civilians assign a certain task to the military: their job is to obey, and carry the role out, otherwise you quit. That’s what it means to have a military under civilian control. So, you can’t really blame them for their mission statement.

They’re doing what they’re told to do by the civilian authorities. The civilian authorities are the culpable ones. If we don’t like those policies (and I don’t, and you don’t), then we go back to those civilians who designed the framework and gave the orders.

You can, as the Nuremberg precedents indicated, be charged with obeying illegal orders, but that’s often a stretch. If a person is in a position of military command, they are sworn, in fact, to obey civilian orders, even if they don’t like them. If you say they’re really just criminal orders, then, yes, they can reject them, and get into trouble and so on. But, this is just carrying out the function that they’re ordered to carry out. So, we go straight back to the civilian authority and then to the general intellectual culture, which regards this as proper and legitimate. And now we’re back to universities, newspapers, the centers of the doctrinal system.

It’s just the forthright honesty of the mission statement which I think is also very striking.
Well, it’s like going to an armory and finding out they’re making better guns. That’s what they’re supposed to do. Their orders are, ‘Make this gun work better.’ and so they’re doing it. And, if they’re honest, they’ll say, ‘Yes, that’s what we’re doing; that’s what the civilian authorities told us to do.’

At some point, people have to ask, ‘Do I want to make a better gun?’ That’s where the Nuremberg issues arise. But, you really can’t blame people very severely for carrying out the orders that they’re told to carry out when there’s nothing in the culture that tells them there’s anything wrong with it. I mean, you have to be kind of like a moral hero to perceive it, to break out of the cultural framework and say, ‘Look, what I’m doing is wrong.’ Like somebody who deserts from the army because they think the war is wrong. That’s not the place to assign guilt, I think. Just as at Nuremberg. As I said, they didn’t try the SS guards who threw people into crematoria, at Nuremberg. They might have been tried elsewhere, but not at Nuremberg.
But, in this case, the results of the ARO’s mission statement in harvesting scholarly work for better weapons design, it’s professors, scholars, researchers, scientific designers, etc., who have these choices to do intellectual work and to be so used for such ends, and who aren’t acting necessarily from direct orders but are acting more out of free will.

It’s free will, but don’t forget that there’s a general intellectual culture that raises no objection to this.Let’s take the Iraq war. There’s libraries of material arguing about the war, debating it, asking ‘What should we do?’, this and that, and the other thing. Now, try to find a sentence somewhere that says that ‘carrying out a war of aggression is the supreme international crime, which differs from other war crimes in that it encompasses all the evil that follows’ (paraphrasing from Nuremberg). Try to find that somewhere. I mean, you can find it. I’ve written about it, and you can find a couple other dozen people who have written about it in the world. But, is it part of the intellectual culture? Can you find it in a newspaper, or in a journal; in Congress; any public discourse; anything that’s part of the general exchange of knowledge and ideas? I mean, do students study it in school? Do they have courses where they teach students that ‘to carry out a war of aggression is the supreme international crime which encompasses all the evil that follows’?

So, for example, if sectarian warfare is a horrible atrocity, as it is, who’s responsible? By the principles of Nuremberg, Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rice -- they’re responsible for sectarian warfare because they carried out the supreme international crime which encompasses all the evil that follows. Try and find somebody who points that out. You can’t. Because, our dominant intellectual culture accepts as legitimate our crushing anybody we like.
Take Iran. Both political parties and practically the whole press accept it as legitimate and, in fact, honorable, that ‘all options are on the table’, presumably including nuclear weapons, to quote Hilary Clinton and everyone else. ‘All options are on the table’ means we threaten war. Well, there’s something called the U.N. Charter, which outlaws ‘the threat or use of force’ in international affairs. Does anybody care? Actually, I saw one op-ed somewhere by Ray Takeyh, an Iran specialist close to the government, who pointed out that threats are serious violations of international law. But that’s so rare that when you find it it’s like finding a diamond in a pile of hay. It’s not part of the culture. We’re allowed to threaten anyone we want--and to attack anyone we want. And, when a person grows up and acts in a culture like that, they’re culpable in a sense, but the culpability is much broader.

I was just reading a couple days ago a review of a new book by Steven Miles, a medical doctor and bioethicist, who ran through 35,000 pages of documents he got from the Freedom of Information Act on the torture in Abu Ghraib. And the question that concerned him is, ‘What were the doctors doing during all of this?’ All through those torture sessions there were doctors, nurses, behavioral scientists and others who were organizing them. What were they doing when this torture was going on? Well, you go through the detailed record and it turns out that they were designing and improving it. Just like Nazi doctors.

Robert Jay Lifton did a big study on Nazi doctors. He points out in connection with the Nazi doctors that, in a way, it’s not those individual doctors who had the final guilt, it was a culture and a society which accepted torture and criminal activities as legitimate. The same is true with the tortures at Abu Ghraib. Just to focus on them as if they’re somehow terrible people is just a serious mistake. They’re coming out of a culture that regards this as legitimate. Maybe there are some excesses you don’t really do but torture in interrogation is considered legitimate.
There’s a big debate now on, ‘Who’s an enemy combatant?’; a big technical debate. Suppose we invade another country and we capture somebody who’s defending the country against our invasion: what do you mean to call them an ‘enemy combatant’? If some country invaded the United States and let’s say you were captured throwing a rock at one of the soldiers, would it be legitimate to send you to the equivalent of Guantanamo, and then have a debate about whether you’re a ‘lawful’ or ‘unlawful’ combatant? The whole discussion is kind of, like, off in outer space somewhere. But, in a culture which accepts that we own and rule the world, it’s reasonable.
But, also, we should go back to the roots of the intellectual or moral culture, not just to the individuals directly involved.

At my school, the University of Arizona, there are courses in bioethics -- required ones, in fact, to hard scientific undergraduates (I took one, out of interest)-- which mostly just discuss scenarios in terms of ‘slippery slopes’ and hypothetical questions within certain bounds. There are l none at all in the social sciences or humanities. Do you think there should be? Would that be beneficial?

If they were honest, yes. If they’re honest they’d be talking about what we’re talking about, and doing case studies. There’s no point pontificating about high minded principles. That’s easy. Nazi doctors could do that, too. Let’s take a look at the cases and ask how the principles apply - to Vietnam; to El Salvador; to Iraq; to Palestine -- just run through the cases and see how the principles apply to our own actions. That’s what is of prime importance, and what is least discussed.

As a note to end on, There seems to be some very serious aberrations and defects in our society and our level of culture. How, in your view, might they be corrected and a new level of culture be established, say, one in which torture isn’t accepted? (After all, slavery and child labor were each accepted for a long period of time and now are not.)

Your examples give the answer to the question, the only answer that has ever been known. Slavery and child labor didn’t become unacceptable by magic. It took hard, dedicated, courageous work by lots of people. The same is true of torture, which was once completely routine.If I remember correctly, the renowned Norwegian criminologist Nils Christie wrote somewhere that prisons began to proliferate in Norway in the early 19th century. They weren’t much needed before, when the punishment for robbery could be driving a stake through the hand of the accused. Now it’s perhaps the most civilized country on earth.There has been a gradual codification of constraints against torture, and they have had some effect, though only limited, even before the Bush regression to savagery. Alfred McCoy’s work reviews that ugly history. Still, there is improvement, and there can be more if enough people are willing to undertake the efforts that led to large-scale rejection of slavery and child labor--still far from complete.

Gabriel Matthew Schivone is editor Days Beyond Recall Literary Journal, based in Tucson, AZ.