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Thursday, July 31, 2008

AWU: apologists for polluters? by Margarita Windisch

On July 23, Australian Workers Union national secretary Paul Howes teamed up with a select group of CEOs of some of the richest companies and major employers of AWU members in a roundtable discussion on climate change.

The AWU represents around 130,000 workers, of whom many work in emission-intensive and polluting industries such as aviation, aluminium and petrol refineries. Howes told the July 24 Australian newspaper that the aim of the roundtable discussion was to develop a “co-ordinated” approach “to protect Australian industry”. No environmental groups or other unions were invited to the discussion.

Howes, an outspoken proponent of nuclear power, released the union’s response to the federal government’s carbon reduction green paper during the discussion. Titled “A national emission trading scheme”, the AWU’s position paper advocates a greenhouse gas emission reduction target of 60% by 2050. This target will, in fact, accelerate global warming.

At odds with evidence from climate scientists, which shows the need for urgent action on emissions, the AWU’s paper explicitly supports a go-slow approach to the implementation of any Australian timetables on carbon emission reductions, favouring a “global agreement” instead.

The paper supports the introduction of free carbon credits for companies and individual employees in emission-intensive industries, and proposes taxpayer assistance and incentive measures for the industry.

Howes defends his support for massive government subsidies to big business, saying, “We are keen to defend the living standards of the tens of thousands of AWU members working in the resources and energy industries”, according to the AWU website. However, he offers no proposals on how these corporations, which have been reaping mega-profits for decades, are to share the burden and start paying for polluting the environment.

The AWU paper also fails to put forward concrete solutions for rapidly converting from a carbon-intensive to a carbon-neutral economy.

In a July 23 Melbourne Herald Sun article, Howes accuses the Greens of being “the real enemy”, accusing them of wanting to close down industry, causing “death for my [union] members and death for the economy”.

The real enemy of a job-rich, sustainable future for Australian workers — including current AWU members — is Howes’ unprincipled alliance with large polluting corporations that not only attack workers’ rights but are also hell-bent on putting their financial interests before the survival of the planet.

Togs's Quotes Thursday 31 July 08

I am not interested in dry economic socialism. We are fighting against misery, but we are also fighting against alienation. One of the fundamental objectives of Marxism is to remove interest, the factor of individual interest, and gain, from people's psychological motivations. Marx was preoccupied both with economic factors and with their repercussions on the spirit. If communism isn't interested in this too, it may be a method of distributing goods, but it will never be a revolutionary way of life.

Ernesto Che Guevara

The terror of the rich is greater than ever, and the poor have passed on their delusion to those who believe that when George W Bush finally steps down next January, his numerous threats to the rest of humanity will diminish.

John Pilger

As the 40th anniversary of the death of Argentinean-born revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara, murdered in Bolivia on October 9, 1967, on the orders of the CIA, arrives, there is increasing evidence that his spirit of struggle against injustice continues to get stronger in Latin America.

Che Guevara's legacy lives on in Latin America by Stuart Munckton

It's been ten months since the publication of my book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, in which I argue that today's preferred method of reshaping the world in the interest of multinational corporations is to systematically exploit the state of fear and disorientation that accompanies moments of great shock and crisis. With the globe being rocked by multiple shocks, this seems like a good time to see how and where the strategy is being applied.

Disaster Capitalism: State of Extortion By Naomi Klein

I sometimes think that the price of liberty is not so much eternal vigilance as eternal dirt........

War against a foreign country only happens when the moneyed classes think they are going to profit from it.

Quotes from George Orwell 1903-1950 English Writer

"You have no respect for excessive authority or obsolete traditions. You're dangerous and depraved, and you ought to be taken outside and shot!"

Chapter 27, pg. 309

Quotes from Joseph Heller (1923-1999) and his Classic Catch 22

Quotes compiled by John/Togs Tognolini each week , check out Togs's Place.Com

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Unionists to Rudd: `Where are our rights at work?’ by Margarita Windisch

Labor won the November, 2007 federal election on the promise to “tear-up” Work Choices, abolish the hated Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs — individual contracts) and overhaul the entire industrial relations system. Of course, all of this was promised to contain ample consultation and be in the spirit of balance.

Unbeknown to most, behind the spin of “tearing-up” Work Choices, coupled with a new vision of industrial relations, Labor’s intention was always to only tinker with then-PM John Howard’s notorious IR regime, maintain the deregulation of the labour market and provide the utmost flexibility for bosses: a “Work Choices lite”. Consultation did occur, especially with business. Big business met with Labor’s parliamentary leaders prior to the federal election, after which Labor released its Policy Implementation Plan, which was a revision of their Forward with Fairness IR policy, adopted by national conference in April 2007.

In a speech given in May this year, Australian Industry Group CEO Heather Ridout referred to this change of ALP policy as “alleviating industry’s concerns” and “an important sign that a Labor Government would be prepared to listen to genuine concerns and take a practical approach to implementation”. According to Steve Dargavel, Victorian state secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, rising opinion polls before the election gave Labor the confidence to do a backflip on their IR policy.

He also thinks the ALP deliberately created the impression in people’s minds that they would restore workers’ rights. “Labor assumed that a lot of people would not pay attention to the detail of their policy and I think they were correct in that”, he told Green Left Weekly. Eight months later, the massive gulf between working people’s expectations of what Labor was elected to do and the reality of what Labor is doing in government is growing.

At the same time, Labor is saying that it will deliver the policy it promised. So what did it promise? Amid much media hype and fanfare, the Labor government introduced the Workplace Relations Amendment (Transition to Forward with Fairness) Bill 2008 into parliament on February 13, prohibiting the signing of new AWAs. The government hailed this step as the first in a raft of bills that would see the end of Work Choices. However this small concession on AWAs was neutralised by the fact that existing AWAs can continue even after their nominal end-date — until either the boss or the worker opts out.

Bosses were also given the option of using a “transitional” AWA clone — the Interim Transitional Employment Agreement (ITEA), if they had just one worker on an existing AWA. The Workplace Relations Amendment bill also introduced an award modernisation process and enabled the creation of the National Employment Standards (NES). All “modern awards” and collective agreements will have a mandatory “flexibility” clause, which will allow bosses to negotiate working conditions with individual workers. While the government says the “flexibility” is aimed at working parents, giving them greater leeway, clauses will also allow business to use individual agreements more comprehensively and as compensation for the lost AWAs.

Touted as an important safety net for workers, the NES will come into effect in January 2010. Between now and then, the NES will form the basis of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission’s work to “simplify” more than 2400 awards. The benefit to workers of the NES is, however, minimal. All the apparently progressive elements are already contained in awards. Dargavel told GLW that changes made to the Industrial Relations Act in 1996 allowed employers to undercut collective agreements through the insertion of individual provisions into awards, which essentially were the precursors to AWAs.

He also said that the proposed modernised award system will give employers the ability to suppress wages and reduce conditions. Under the award modernisation process, awards will be stripped back to 10 allowable matters, forcing workers to negotiate with their boss at enterprise level for conditions that are part of current awards. Low-paid workers in the private system without union coverage will be the worst affected. They won’t have the benefit of unions bargaining for better conditions to supplement an award.

Apart from prohibiting the creation of new AWAs, PM Kevin Rudd is simply planning to leave the rest of Work Choices intact until the “new” IR regime is introduced in 2010. There are no plans in Labor’s new IR vision to re-introduce the right of unions to organise in the workplace. Restrictive laws on union officials’ right of entry are here to stay and strikes would only be legal during the bargaining period for a new agreement, and only after holding a secret ballot.

Dargavel told GLW that he is concerned that Labor is continuing the Howard government’s policy of restricting workers’ right to organise. “We still have a hostile rights agenda and international and Australian experiences confirm that under these circumstances it is very difficult for workers to organise for justice”, he said.

Industry-wide pattern bargaining will remain outlawed. Labor has also explicitly ruled out re-introducing unfair dismissal laws until January 2010, leaving workers in small businesses without protection.

Of serious concern to many workers is the ongoing existence of the Australian Building and Construction Commission. The ABCC was set up by the previous government in 2005 to break the industrial muscle of the building unions and guarantee a profit bonanza for developers. Under the ABCC’s draconian powers, telling someone about your interrogation is an offence and refusing to attend hearings or answer questions can lead to a six-month jail sentence.

No other group of Australian workers is subject to such discriminatory laws, just building industry workers. Since the election of the Rudd government, the number of investigations by the ABCC has increased dramatically, from 33 in November to 49 in June. Site visits have increased from 15 in November to 109 in June. Unions featured overwhelmingly as subjects of investigation in 73% of all ABCC cases, countering the claim that the ABCC was a “neutral” body. Rudd has pledged to keep the ideologically driven secret taskforce until 2010.

In a further concession to business, federal industrial relations minister Julia Gillard announced before the election that she wants to keep a “tough cop on the beat” in the building industry, and plans to establish a separate building industry inspectorate in Labor’s new workplace “umpire”, Fair Work Australia.

Dean Mighell, Victorian state secretary of the Electrical Trades Union told GLW that it is absurd to keep the ABCC, or any taskforce for that matter. “Why should you keep a body that attacks one small sector of the Australian work force? It is very disappointing that a Labor government was willing to take the bastard child of a political witch-hunt, the royal commission into the building industry”. Dargavel agrees: “Labor now has to make a decision if they will be the perpetrators of this injustice. They can’t simply sit on the fence and say these are John Howard’s laws.” “If Rudd and Gillard choose to keep the laws in place then they are their laws, not Howard’s. You can’t keep blaming the prime minister of the past for current stuff”, Mighell said. Frustration at the slow pace of government action to overturn the laws is growing. A recent Galaxy poll revealed that an overwhelming majority of respondents want the hated Work Choices legislation abolished immediately, no further delays on the re-introduction of unfair dismissal laws and collective bargaining restored now.
Kathy Jackson, national secretary of the Health Services Union, told ABC Lateline on July 24: “We feel that we’re not getting the outcome that was promised to us before the election. Now they’ve been elected, now they need to discharge their commitment to the electorate, and I mean totally discharge that commitment by tearing out Work Choices.” There is also growing discontent among unionists with the lack of leadership provided by the Australian Council of Trade Unions in pressuring Labor to deliver to working people. According to the July 22 Australian, a range of unions are dissatisfied with the ACTU’s reluctance to publicly criticise the Rudd government and push harder on the dismantling of Work Choices.

Mighell was also critical of the ACTU’s leadership. “The ACTU needs to step up the campaign. Some people in the ACTU are too conflicted when it comes to ALP matters and have been for decades: this has to stop. The ACTU needs to fire up for workers not for the ALP”, he said. Mighell told GLW that the ALP has turned its back on workers’ rights and if the union movement is “fair dinkum” about workers’ rights it will have to campaign as hard under a Labor government as it did against Howard. Mighell, who has supported socialist and Greens candidates in the past, also has a message for the Labor party: “If we can prove that ALP politicians can’t uphold labour values then we must campaign to support an alternative.”

Both Dargavel and Mighell call for a vigorous campaign to get rid of the anti-union laws in the spirit of the Your Rights at Work campaign. Dargavel said that the YRaW campaign was effective because it mobilised the community and raised the profile of the issues — but it hasn’t been effective in overturning Work Choices. “We have to run a YRaW campaign and engage the community and the [union] membership; it is not enough to simply remove a government and have a new one that doesn’t do what it undertook to do”, Dargavel said. He also argued that the key challenge for unions now was to build sufficient unity within the workers’ movement to pressure the ALP into responding to that community sentiment.
From: Comment & Analysis, Green Left Weekly issue #760 30 July 2008.

Obama, the prince of bait-and-switch by John Pilger

In his latest column for the New Statesman, John Pilger describes the devaluing of civilian casualties in colonial wars, and the anointing of Barack Obama, as he tours the battlefields, sounding more and more like George W. Bush.

On 12 July, The Times devoted two pages to Afghanistan. It was mostly a complaint about the heat. The reporter, Magnus Linklater, described in detail his discomfort and how he had needed to be sprayed with iced water. He also described the "high drama" and "meticulously practised routine" of evacuating another overheated journalist. For her US Marine rescuers, wrote Linklater, "saving a life took precedence over [their] security". Alongside this was a report whose final paragraph offered the only mention that "47 civilians, most of them women and children, were killed when a US aircraft bombed a wedding party in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday".

Slaughters on this scale are common, and mostly unknown to the British public. I interviewed a woman who had lost eight members of her family, including six children. A 500lb US Mk82 bomb was dropped on her mud, stone and straw house. There was no "enemy" nearby. I interviewed a headmaster whose house disappeared in a fireball caused by another "precision" bomb. Inside were nine people – his wife, his four sons, his brother and his wife, and his sister and her husband. Neither of these mass murders was news. As Harold Pinter wrote of such crimes: "Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest."A total of 64 civilians were bombed to death while The Times man was discomforted. Most were guests at the wedding party. Wedding parties are a "coalition" speciality. At least four of them have been obliterated – at Mazar and in Khost, Uruzgan and Nangarhar provinces. Many of the details, including the names of victims, have been compiled by a New Hampshire professor, Marc Herold, whose Afghan Victim Memorial Project is a meticulous work of journalism that shames those who are paid to keep the record straight and report almost everything about the Afghan War through the public relations facilities of the British and American military.

The US and its allies are dropping record numbers of bombs on Afghanistan. This is not news. In the first half of this year, 1,853 bombs were dropped: more than all the bombs of 2006 and most of 2007. "The most frequently used bombs," the Air Force Times reports, "are the 500lb and 2,000lb satellite-guided...". Without this one-sided onslaught, the resurgence of the Taliban, it is clear, might not have happened. Even Hamid Karzai, America’s and Britain’s puppet, has said so.

The presence and the aggression of foreigners have all but united a resistance that now includes former warlords once on the CIA’s payroll.

The scandal of this would be headline news, were it not for what George W Bush’s former spokesman Scott McClellan has called "complicit enablers" – journalists who serve as little more than official amplifiers. Having declared Afghanistan a "good war", the complicit enablers are now anointing Barack Obama as he tours the bloodfests in Afghanistan and Iraq. What they never say is that Obama is a bomber.

In the New York Times on 14 July, in an article spun to appear as if he is ending the war in Iraq, Obama demanded more war in Afghanistan and, in effect, an invasion of Pakistan. He wants more combat troops, more helicopters, more bombs. Bush may be on his way out, but the Republicans have built an ideological machine that transcends the loss of electoral power – because their collaborators are, as the American writer Mike Whitney put it succinctly, "bait-and-switch" Democrats, of whom Obama is the prince.

Those who write of Obama that "when it comes to international affairs, he will be a huge improvement on Bush" demonstrate the same wilful naivety that backed the bait-and-switch of Bill Clinton – and Tony Blair. Of Blair, wrote the late Hugo Young in 1997, "ideology has surrendered entirely to ‘values’... there are no sacred cows [and] no fossilised limits to the ground over which the mind might range in search of a better Britain...".

Eleven years and five wars later, at least a million people lie dead. Barack Obama is the American Blair. That he is a smooth operator and a black man is irrelevant. He is of an enduring, rampant system whose drum majors and cheer squads never see, or want to see, the consequences of 500lb bombs dropped unerringly on mud, stone and straw houses.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Moral Debt to the African People, Can Reparations for Apartheid Profits be Won in US Courts? By PATRICK BOND

Patrick Bond

A telling remark about US imperialism's double standards was uttered by Clinton-era deputy treasury secretary Stuart Eizenstat, who a decade ago was the driver of reparations claims against pro-Nazi corporations, assisting plaintiffs to gain $8 billion from European banks and corporations which ripped off Holocaust victims' funds or which were 1930s beneficiaries of slave labor (both Jewish and non-Jewish).

But how about reparations for apartheid profits? As a November 2002 keynote speaker for the “USA Engage” lobby of 650 multinational corporations organised to fight the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA), Eizenstat warned that South African reparations activists “can galvanise public opinion and generate political support,” and “may achieve some success despite legal infirmities.”
Six months later, at a Columbia University seminar, Eizenstat noted that “Anti-apartheid victims from SA have sued scores of US companies in US courts for their alleged - and I underscore alleged - participation in facilitating apartheid.” (He prefaced this with a post-racist personal explanation for his own Holocaust-restitution zeal, embarrassedly recalling a 1950s experience in his hometown: “I was unwilling to break with convention and give an elderly black lady my seat on the white section of an Atlanta bus.”)

Today, convention has it that the apartheid victims should and will lose the lawsuit to be heard in the New York Southern District Court on Tuesday, July 8. Attending will be professor Dennis Brutus, the 83 year old poet and activist who served time on Robben Island with Nelson Mandela, before kicking SA out of the 1968 Olympic Games. Brutus is a leading plaintiff, amongst many thousands of black South Africans suing three dozen corporations for profiting from a “crime against humanity”, as the United Nations termed apartheid.

The ATCA, passed in 1789, says, simply, “The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.” ATCA was meant to get a legal handle on piracy, and in the process to persuade colonial powers it was safe to trade with the US.

But only in the last two decades has the law become widely known. Encouraged by Burmese villagers fighting Unocal, a case which in 2003 withstood challenge by the Bush Administration, activists like Brutus, Cape Town academic Lungisile Ntsebeza, the Khulumani Support Group for apartheid victims and Jubilee SA used the ATCA to sue latterday pirates: dozens of multinational corporations operating in SA prior to 1994 in spite of calls for sanctions and disinvestment.

But matters were complicated when SA president Thabo Mbeki was requested by the Bush administration to oppose Brutus and the other activists in 2003. Thanks to the overarching imperial-subimperial alliance between Pretoria and Washington (as well as the British and German governments) on behalf of multinational corporations, Judge John Sprizzo initially decided the case on behalf of the defendants in late 2004. He reasoned that ATCA conflicted with US foreign policy and SA domestic economic policy, and indeed it did insofar as these policies consider corporate profits as their first priority.

But last October, litigants won an appeal and in May, when the US Supreme Court was expected to finally kill the lawsuit, on behalf of the corporations, four of the justices discovered conflicts of interest in their own investment portfolios. Because they owned shares in the sued companies, the case went back to Sprizzo, in what plaintiff lawyer Charles Abrahams argued was “a massive victory for the international human rights movement as a whole.”

In contrast, the Washington representative of the SA government's International Marketing Council, Simon Barber, was dismissive of the litigants' Supreme Court win, citing Mbeki's charge that SA sovereignty was violated. In any case, “The endeavour remains quixotic.”

Nicole Fritz, director of the Southern African Litigation Centre, disagrees: “Companies that were not perpetrators of human rights violations but were complicit in such violations through their dealings with oppressive governments are now potentially liable in law for their actions.”

Disincentivizing future profit-taking from dictatorships such as Burma or Zimbabwe is a central objective. In mid-2008, just as Robert Mugabe's Zanu(PF) paramilitaries committed sufficient murder and torture to ensure his “reelection”, thanks in part to Mbeki's perpetual connivance, AngloPlats announced a US$400 million investment in lucrative Zimbabwean platinum mines.
As Abrahams argues, “The substantive basis of the suit is that foreign multinational corporations aided and abetted the apartheid government by providing arms and ammunition, military technology, transportation and fuel with which the government and its armed forces were able to commit the most heinous crimes against the majority of the people of South Africa.” (Such corporate work was, for Eizenstat, “alleged” - not obvious - facilitation of apartheid.)

Corporations being sued by Abrahams' plaintiffs include the Reinmetall Group, for providing arms and ammunition to the Apartheid government; British Petroleum (BP), Shell, Chevron Texaco, Exxon Mobil, Fluor Corporation and Total Fina-Elf, for providing fuel to the armed forces; Ford, Daimler-Chrysler and General Motors, for providing transportation to the armed forces; and Fujitsu and IBM for providing the government with much needed military technology. Banks financing apartheid include Barclays, Citibank, Commerzbank, Credit Suisse, Deutsche, Dresdner, J P Morgan Chase and UBS.

Although Mbeki was an exiled foreign representative of the African National Congress prior to 1994 and demanded that multinational corporations disinvest from SA, in subsequent years he conveniently developed amnesia.

In 2001, at the UN World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) here in Durban, he censored a suggested clause that the “US should take responsibility and pay reparations for the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.” In spite of reparations advocacy by Nigeria and other African states, Mbeki refused to allow this to be mentioned in the final document, calling instead merely for more donor aid.

In April 2003, Mbeki agreed with Bush that it was “completely unacceptable that matters that are central to the future of our country should be adjudicated in foreign courts which bear no responsibility for the well-being of our country, and the observance of the perspective contained in our constitution of the promotion of national reconciliation.”

He expressed “the desire to involve all South Africans, including corporate citizens, in a cooperative and voluntary partnership” - but failed to reflect upon numerous such attempts by the Reparations Task Force and Cape Town’s Anglican Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, for years prior to the lawsuits.

SA trade minister Alec Erwin then insisted that Pretoria was “opposed to, and contemptuous of the litigation” by activists. Any findings against companies “would not be honoured” within SA.
In July 2003, SA justice minister Penuell Maduna wrote to the courts that the case would discourage “much-needed foreign investment and delay the achievement of the government’s goals. Indeed, the litigation could have a destabilising effect on the SA economy as investment is not only a driver of growth, but also of unemployment.”

As a friend of the court on behalf of the claimants (alongside Archbishop Desmond Tutu), Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz replied that such comments had “no basis,” because, “those who helped support that system, and who contributed to human rights abuses, should be held accountable.”
Maduna’s letter to the US court requested that the lawsuits be dismissed, “in deference to the sovereign rights of foreign countries to legislate, adjudicate and otherwise resolve domestic issues without outside interference.” (Mbeki and Maduna made no effort to establish SA's own ATCA.)

But in August 2003, at the opening plenary of a major Reparations Conference, Jubilee SA’s Berend Schuitema reported that Maduna made an extraordinary confession: “The reason why he had made the objection was that he was asked for an opinion on the lawsuit by Colin Powell. He gave Powell his written response, whereupon Powell said that he should lodge this submission to the Judge of the New York Court. Howls from the floor. Jubilee SA chairperson M.P. Giyose pointed out the bankruptcy of the sovereignty argument.”

Within a few months, the adverse implications of Maduna’s intervention for international justice became even more ominous, in a case involving women victims of Japanese atrocities during World War II. Fifteen “comfort women” from Korea, China, the Philippines and Taiwan sued Tokyo in the US using the ATCA. In June 2005, the US Court of Appeals in the District of Colombia rejected their suit, citing Maduna’s affidavit.

Meanwhile at home, the South African government was unilaterally paying just $3500 each to 19 000 families whose members suffered apartheid-era murder or torture, considered a paltry sum.

Jubilee then took the opportunity to tackle Barclays in a mass citizens’ campaign, in the course of the London financier’s 2005 takeover of SA's second-largest bank, ABSA. SA justice minister Brigitte Mabandla (Maduna’s 2004 replacement) responded with an October 2005 friends of the court brief on behalf of the bank, prompting a demonstration by Jubilee.

Led by Brutus, Jubilee went on to picket eight international banks located in Sandton: “These banks gave billions of dollars of loans to the Apartheid Government, renegotiated its debts and thus enabling it to spend even more on its military, and, in the case of Barclays, gave money directly to the South African Defense Force in 1976.”

Jubilee's demand was simple: “All of these banks need to fully apologize to the South African people for the support they gave to the Apartheid regime, and pay reparations to those who have suffered from its actions.” The Washington-based Mobilization for Global Justice and a coalition of Swiss activists joined Jubilee protesters in solidarity demonstrations.

From Sandton to Washington, Citibank was targeted, for as the UN’s Special Committee against Apartheid had observed in 1979, “Citigroup has loaned nearly 1/5 of the $5 billion plus which has gone to bolster apartheid”. In Berne and Zurich, Credit Suisse and UBS were the subject of protest because from the early 1980s they replaced US and British banks as the main apartheid financiers.

To be sure, conflict has existed between plaintiffs that makes it harder to win the hearts and minds of the broader public. The first set of cases were filed by a discredited New York lawyer (active in the Holocaust settlement), Ed Fagan, who fell out with Ntsebeza.

Then, between the Khulumani Support Group and Jubilee, tensions arose over claims to ownership of the case and over direction of strategy. And between Jubilee's former Johannesburg staff on the one hand, and on the other, board members and several provincial chapters, a dispute erupted that temporarily paralyzed the organization.

Still, Brutus believes the plaintiffs can leapfrog Mbeki to appeal to a much richer strand of African nationalism than one that relies simply upon an appeal to sovereignty. The Organization of African Unity made a case for reparations in the 1993 Abuja Proclamation against slavery, colonialism, and neo-colonialism, damage from which is “not a thing of the past, but is painfully manifest in the damaged lives of contemporary Africans from Harlem to Harare, in the damaged economies of the black world from Guinea to Guyana, from Somalia to Surinam.”

A “moral debt is owed to the African peoples”, the Abuja Proclamation declares, requiring “full monetary payment through capital transfer and debt cancellation.”

In addition, Northern ecological debt to the South must be raised, in contrast to dubious climate change policy proposals for “Clean Development Mechanism” projects as funding vehicles for Third World greenhouse gas reduction.

So the challenge for activists is not only to protest and to deploy ATCA, and in the process – as Eizenstat fears – win more hearts and minds. It is also to gather more allies across the African continent and Third World so that reparations demands can be expanded. In the process, these linkages to other constituencies will ensure the struggle becomes a broader, deeper critique of economic injustice, at its roots, in the profit motive.

Patrick Bond directs the Centre for Civil Society at the University of KwaZulu-Natal: (this article was originally a commentary)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Togs's Quotes for July 14 2008

There is no other definition of socialism valid for us than that of the abolition of the exploitation of man by man.
-Ernesto Che Guevara

If you have embraced a creed which appears to be free from the ordinary dirtiness of politics - a creed from which you yourself cannot expect to draw any material advantage - surely that proves that you are in the right?
-George Orwell

Quotes from George Orwell 1903-1950 English Writer

George Orwell Appreciation Society

John Pilger's Uses Three References to Catch 22 About Vietnam & Iraq

My first documentary for television was The Quiet Mutiny, made in 1970 for Granada. It was an unusual film, laced with irony and farce, rather like a factual Catch-22, and shot in a gentle, almost lyrical style by George Jesse Turner. The story was something of a scoop: America's huge army in Vietnam was disintegrating as angry conscripts brought their rebellion at home to the battlefields of Vietnam. The film's evidence of soldiers shooting their officers and refusing to fight caused a furore among the guardians of official The American ambassador to Britain, Walter Annenberg, a crony of President Richard Nixon, phoned Sir Robert Fraser, director of the Independent Television Authority (ITA). Although he had not seen the film, Sir Robert was apoplectic. Summoning Granada executives, he banged his desk and described me as "a bloody dangerous subversive" who was "anti-American". This puzzled Lord Bernstein, Granada's libertarian founder, who protested that The Quiet Mutiny had received high praise from the public and, far from being anti-American, had shown only sympathy for the despair of young GIs caught up in a hopeless war........................

New Statesmen 11 September 2006

A BBC television producer, moments before he was wounded by an American fighter aircraft that killed 18 people with "friendly fire", spoke to his mother on a satellite phone. Holding the phone over his head so that she could hear the sound of the American planes overhead, he said: "Listen, that's the sound of freedom."Did I read this scene in Catch-22? Surely, the BBC man was being ferociously ironic. I doubt it, just as I doubt that whoever designed the Observer's page three last Sunday had Joseph Heller in mind when he wrote the weasel headline: "The moment young Omar discovered the price of war".
These cowardly words accompanied a photograph of an American marine reaching out to comfort 15-year-old Omar, having just participated in the mass murder of his father, mother, two sisters and brother during the unprovoked invasion of their homeland, in breach of the most basic law of civilised peoples.No true epitaph for them in Britain's famous liberal newspaper; no honest headline, such as: "This American marine murdered this boy's family". No photograph of Omar's father, mother, sisters and brother dismembered and blood-soaked by automatic fire. Versions of the Observer's propaganda picture have been appearing in the Anglo-American press since the invasion began: tender cameos of American troops reaching out, kneeling, ministering to their "liberated" victims.
And where were the pictures from the village of Furat, where 80 men, women and children were rocketed to death? Apart from the Mirror, where were the pictures, and footage, of small children holding up their hands in terror while Bush's thugs forced their families to kneel in the street? Imagine that in a British high street. It is a glimpse of fascism, and we have a right to see it.......

CounterCurrents 11 April, 2003

I never met a foreigner who cared as wisely for the Vietnamese, or about ordinary people everywhere under the heel of great power, as Philip Jones Griffiths. He was the greatest photographer and one of the finest journalists of my lifetime, and a humanitarian to match. He died on 19 March.At the end of that first assignment, he handed me a crumpled brown envelope containing just six photographs. I was aghast – where was the bundle of rolls of film, where were the copious sheets of contact prints over which my picture editor in London would pore? I was puzzled that he had seemed to take so few pictures, though his war-weary Leica seldom left his hand. He watched, puckish, eyes twinkling, as I opened the envelope, then enjoyed my reaction as I examined the contents. Each print was exquisite in the power of its symbolism and true to everything we had seen and talked about, especially the destructive relationship between the Vietnamese and the Americans, the invaded and the invaders.
My favourite was of a large GI in a crowd of busy, opaque Vietnamese faces including a young woman photographed in the act of picking his pocket artfully, elegantly, little finger extended. This was the picture for which he had waited days on the balcony at the Royale. Another was Catch-22 in a single frame – spruce US officers peering at IBM computer printouts which “proved” they were winning the war they were demonstrably losing. It might have been Iraq........
New Statesmen 03/27/08
The Joseph Heller Catch 22 Appreciation Society
Quotes compiled by John/Togs Tognolini each week , check out Togs's Place.Com

How Britain wages war by John Pilger

In an article for the New Statesman, John Pilger describes the insidious militarisng of Britain as the effects of two colonial wars and the cover-up of atrocities come home.

The military has created a wall of silence around its frequent resort to barbaric practices, including torture, and goes out of its way to avoid legal scrutiny.Five photographs together break a silence. The first is of a former Gurkha regimental sergeant major, Tul Bahadur Pun, aged 87. He sits in a wheelchair outside 10 Downing Street. He holds a board full of medals, including the Victoria Cross, the highest award for bravery, which he won serving in the British army.

He has been refused entry to Britain and treatment for a serious heart ailment by the National Health Service: outrages rescinded only after a public campaign. On 25 June, he came to Down ing Street to hand his Victoria Cross back to the Prime Minister, but Gordon Brown refused to see him.

The second photograph is of a 12-year-old boy, one of three children. They are Kuchis, nomads of Afghanistan. They have been hit by Nato bombs, American or British, and nurses are trying to peel away their roasted skin with tweezers. On the night of 10 June, Nato planes struck again, killing at least 30 civilians in a single village: children, women, schoolteachers, students. On 4 July, another 22 civilians died like this. All, including the roasted children, are described as "militants" or "suspected Taliban". The Defence Secretary, Des Browne, says the invasion of Afghan istan is "the noble cause of the 21st century".

The third photograph is of a computer-generated aircraft carrier not yet built, one of two of the biggest ships ever ordered for the Royal Navy. The £4bn contract is shared by BAE Systems, whose sale of 72 fighter jets to the corrupt tyranny in Saudi Arabia has made Britain the biggest arms merchant on earth, selling mostly to oppressive regimes in poor countries. At a time of economic crisis, Browne describes the carriers as "an affordable expenditure".

The fourth photograph is of a young British soldier, Gavin Williams, who was "beasted" to death by three non-commissioned officers. This "informal summary punishment", which sent his body temperature to more than 41 degrees, was intended to "humiliate, push to the limit and hurt". The torture was described in court as a fact of army life.

The final photograph is of an Iraqi man, Baha Mousa, who was tortured to death by British soldiers. Taken during his post-mortem, it shows some of the 93 horrific injuries he suffered at the hands of men of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment who beat and abused him for 36 hours, including double-hooding him with hessian sacks in stifling heat. He was a hotel receptionist. Although his murder took place almost five years ago, it was only in May this year that the Ministry of Defence responded to the courts and agreed to an independent inquiry. A judge has described this as a "wall of silence".

A court martial convicted just one soldier of Mousa's "inhumane treatment", and he has since been quietly released. Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers, representing the families of Iraqis who have died in British custody, says the evidence is clear - abuse and torture by the British army is systemic.

Shiner and his colleagues have witness statements and corroborations of prima facie crimes of an especially atrocious kind usually associated with the Americans. "The more cases I am dealing with, the worse it gets," he says. These include an "incident" near the town of Majar al-Kabir in 2004, when British soldiers executed as many as 20 Iraqi prisoners after mutilating them. The latest is that of a 14-year-old boy who was forced to simulate anal and oral sex over a prolonged period."At the heart of the US and UK project," says Shiner, "is a desire to avoid accountability for what they want to do. Guantanamo Bay and extraordinary renditions are part of the same struggle to avoid accountability through jurisdiction." British soldiers, he says, use the same torture techniques as the Americans and deny that the European Convention on Human Rights, the Human Rights Act and the UN Convention on Torture apply to them. And British torture is "commonplace": so much so, that "the routine nature of this ill-treatment helps to explain why, despite the abuse of the soldiers and cries of the detainees being clearly audible, nobody, particularly in authority, took any notice".

Unbelievably, says Shiner, the Ministry of Defence under Tony Blair decided that the 1972 Heath government's ban on certain torture techniques applied only in the UK and Northern Ireland. Consequently, "many Iraqis were killed and tortured in UK detention facilities". Shiner is working on 46 horrific cases.

A wall of silence has always surrounded the British military, its arcane rituals, rites and practices and, above all, its contempt for the law and natural justice in its various imperial pursuits. For 80 years, the Ministry of Defence and compliant ministers refused to countenance posthumous pardons for terrified boys shot at dawn during the slaughter of the First World War. British soldiers used as guinea pigs during the testing of nuclear weapons in the Indian Ocean were abandoned, as were many others who suffered the toxic effects of the 1991 Gulf War. The treatment of Gurkha Tul Bahadur Pun is typical. Having been sent back to Nepal, many of these "soldiers of the Queen" have no pension, are deeply impoverished and are refused residence or medical help in the country for which they fought and for which 43,000 of them have died or been injured. The Gurkhas have won no fewer than 26 Victoria Crosses, yet Browne's "affordable expenditure" excludes them.

An even more imposing wall of silence ensures that the British public remains largely unaware of the industrial killing of civilians in Britain's modern colonial wars. In his landmark work Unpeople: Britain's Secret Human Rights Abuses, the historian Mark Curtis uses three main categories: direct responsibility, indirect responsibility and active inaction."The overall figure [since 1945] is between 8.6 and 13.5 million," Curtis writes. "Of these, Britain bears direct responsibility for between four million and six million deaths. This figure is, if anything, likely to be an underestimate. Not all British interventions have been included, because of lack of data."

Since his study was published, the Iraq death toll has reached, by reliable measure, a million men, women and children.The spiralling rise of militarism within Britain is rarely acknowledged, even by those alerting the public to legislation attacking basic civil liberties, such as the recently drafted Data Com muni cations Bill, which will give the government powers to keep records of all electronic communication. Like the plans for identity cards, this is in keeping what the Americans call "the national security state", which seeks the control of domestic dissent while pursuing military aggression abroad. The £4bn aircraft carriers are to have a "global role". For global read colonial.

The Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office follow Washington's line almost to the letter, as in Browne's preposterous description of Afghanistan as a noble cause. In reality, the US-inspired Nato invasion has had two effects: the killing and dispossession of large numbers of Afghans, and the return of the opium trade, which the Taliban had banned. According to Hamid Karzai, the west's puppet leader, Britain's role in Helmand Province has led directly to the return of the Taliban.The militarising of how the British state perceives and treats other societies is vividly demonstrated in Africa, where ten out of 14 of the most impoverished and conflict-ridden countries are seduced into buying British arms and military equipment with "soft loans". Like the British royal family, the British Prime Minister simply follows the money. Having ritually condemned a despot in Zimbabwe for "human rights abuses" - in truth, for no longer serving as the west's business agent - and having obeyed the latest US dictum on Iran and Iraq, Brown set off recently for Saudi Arabia, exporter of Wahhabi fundamentalism and wheeler of fabulous arms deals.

To complement this, the Brown government is spending £11bn of taxpayers' money on a huge, privatised military academy in Wales, which will train foreign soldiers and mercenaries recruited to the bogus "war on terror". With arms companies such as Raytheon profiting, this will become Britain's "School of the Americas", a centre for counter-insurgency (terrorist) training and the design of future colonial adventures.

It has had almost no publicity.Of course, the image of militarist Britain clashes with a benign national regard formed, wrote Tolstoy, "from infancy, by every possible means - class books, church services, sermons, speeches, books, papers, songs, poetry, monuments [leading to] people stupefied in the one direction". Much has changed since he wrote that. Or has it? The shabby, destructive colonial war in Afghanistan is now reported almost entirely through the British army, with squaddies always doing their Kipling best, and with the Afghan resistance routinely dismissed as "outsiders" and "invaders". Pictures of nomadic boys with Nato-roasted skin almost never appear in the press or on television, nor the after-effects of British thermobaric weapons, or "vacuum bombs", designed to suck the air out of human lungs. Instead, whole pages mourn a British military intelligence agent in Afghanis tan, because she happens to have been a 26-year-old woman, the first to die in active service since the 2001 invasion.Baha Mousa, tortured to death by British soldiers, was also 26 years old. But he was different. His father, Daoud, says that the way the Ministry of Defence has behaved over his son's death convinces him that the British government regards the lives of others as "cheap". And he is right.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Plebiscite on Power Sell-off at NSW Council Elections

I support the call for plebiscite on the proposed energy sell-off at NSW council election, a plebiscite or referendum on this unpopular and anti-environment policy of privatisation of NSW's energy power industry, could easily take place at the same time as the council elections on September 13.

Some 85 per cent of residents in NSW do not want our energy generators and retailers to be sold off. Premier Morris Iemma's own party has told him and Michael Costa, by a margin of 7 to 1 that they disagree with privatisation. Iemma has been forced to withdraw the energy bills for this session of parliament, due to a lack of support from his own Members of Parliament.

Socialist Alliance says that Iemma and Costa should listen to the public. Put the sell-off to the public: let democracy prevail. This is also the view of the Blue Mountains People Power group opposing privatisation. Also local Blue Mountains MP Phil Koperberg should be commended for opposing privatisation.Socialist Alliance supports the power industry workers who know that some of their work mates will be out of a job if this sale goes ahead.

We also support their calls for action if anyone is sacked, or if the energy bills go through with the support Liberal, Nationals, Shooters and Fred Nile. Like many others, we don't think that a sale will help shift energy production away from its main power base - polluting coal – towards the sustainable energy sector. To do this requires a political commitment to finding real and lasting solutions to the climate crisis – something that this government doesn't have.

Socialist Alliance has been given advice by the State Electoral Commission that such a plebiscite would be possible. The state government only has to ask the governor to issue a writ, and a plebiscite could be carried out at the same time as the council elections on September 13.

Let the people decide after all, this is what democracy is supposed to be about isn't it?

John Tognolini, Socialist Alliance Candidate for Ward One Blue Mountains City Council.

published in Blue Mountains Gazette July 9 2008

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Timor Leste: Xanana Gusmao govt depletes Petroleum Fund, arrests protesting students By Tomas Freitas*, Dili

On Monday July 7 at 9am, approximately one hundred students held a protest on their campus, East Timor National University, against the members of the national parliament. The students are not happy about the MPs who are about to buy an imported luxury car each for each themselves. The students protested peacefully by holding banners yet 21 students were detained by the Timorese National Police.

Messages of solidarity can also be emailed via Tomas Freitas* Watch NNC TV report on the student protest

Timorese law states that there may be no demonstrations within 100 metres of government buildings. However the students were protesting on their own campus. The location of the campus is indeed less than 100 metres from the National Parliament; however this is the student's campus, an important place for expression of free speech and demonstrations.It is not clear who issued the order to arrest the students but it is widely believed that the order came from Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao himself.BudgetOn May 23, 2008, the Council of Ministers has approved the final draft of Mid Year Budget 2008.

The total proposed amount is US$773.312 million, to be spent as follows: US$59.4 million for 12,600 civil servants' salaries including police and defence forces; US$240 million for the food crisis and US$207.4 million for goods and services; US$1.4 million of US$39.4 million will buy luxury cars for each member of the National Parliament; US$114.7 million for infrastructure development and US$112.2 million for pensions and other social security.The Gusmao government has cut down the domestic income tax to almost 10% flat rate and spent almost 30% of the Petroleum Fund to cover his budget deficit.Petroleum FundThe Petroleum Fund was established by the previous Fretilin government its operation has been recognised as the third best transparency model in the world. But and now the fund itself is under threat.

In order to be sustainable, only US$396.1 million should be taken out of the fund this year, however the Gusmao government has taken an extra US$290.7 million to balance the prices of construction material and to assist in the food crisis, through tasking his friend, the vice-secretary general of CNRT, to purchase rice in Asian countries without tender.The continuing inability of the government to carry out the previous budget did not stop Gusmao increasing budget allocations. Only US$31.9 from US$347.5 million of budget allocations has actually been executed for this first trimester.

The previous execution on the Gusmao government's transitional budget was not certified by the Delloitte Company, which usually certifies the execution report from the Timorese government.Students' roleThe issues of the purchase of luxury cars and the petroleum fund are now big issues in the country. Civil society, media and the Timorese people have criticised this budget, but the academics are silent because their money comes from the government. In turn, the minister of education Joao Cancio has criticised the students, and asked them not to use the Campus as a place for demonstrations. Ironically this minister was previously the Head of the Dili Institute Technology, one of the country's universities.

The student demonstrations are continuing. The police continue to protected the parliament zone and have arrested more than 17 student in this morning.The crackdown on the students is ironic, considering the pivotal role that students played in East Timor's struggle for independence, a role that PM Gusmao himself has previously acknowledged.* Tomas Freitas is director of Luta Hamutuk, a progressive Timorese NGO
Timor Leste Students' PetitionA petition was delivered July 7, 2008 to the Parliament (received by the President of the Parliament, Fernando Lasama and the two vice-Presidents of the Parliament, Vicente Guterres and Maria Paixão), the Office of the President (received by the Chief of the Cabinet, Ms Natalia Carrascalão), the Office of the Prime Minister (received by Ms Elisabeth Exposto). F-FDTL (received by Colonel Lere). The students will also deliver the same petition to the Court of Appeal and the Office of the Ombudsman. The petition was presented by Timor Leste University Students Solidarity Action (ASUTIL).

It demands the following:1. that state institutions look into measures to decrease food prices to allow people to have greater access to food.2. that the President of the Republic uses his power of veto to block the rectifiying budget because it is too high, the government is incapable spending it appropriately, it is only going to further benefit the powerful elite, it would lead to corruption and also lead to greater dependency of Timor-Leste on debts when the country stops receiving revenues from the petroleum resources. This could happen in the very near future.3. that the Parliament blocks the proposal on the arms law in which article 4 is a major concern.4. that the President and the both Vice-Presidents of the Parliament should not change the agreement they had made with the students on the June 12, 2008 in regards to the purchase of the luxury cars for the parliamentarians. On this agreement they were told that only 26 cars would be purchased for the Parliament Committees.5. that Mariano Sabino, the Minister of Agriculture should stop making agreements to provide land for foreign companies for sugar cane and rubber plantations because people need this land for food production.6. that the President meets the students to hold talks on scholarships which should have taken place on February 11, 2008 (the date of the assassination attempt on the President).7. that government should resolve the issue of Internally Displaced People to avoid having refugees in our own countryA peace march will be organized to defend people's rights if thestudents' demands are not met.
Action Coordinator: Santiago Ximenes Vaz "Kilikai Mata"Spokesperson: Marcos Guterres Gusmão "Auraga"Dili, 7 July 2008Contact: +670 737 9007

Reuters: E.Timor police arrest student protestersJul 8, 2008: East Timor police have arrested nearly 40 people and fired tear gas to disperse a protest against a parliament decision to buy 65 luxury cars - one for each member of parliament - in one of the world's poorest nations.East Timor's parliament decided last month to buy the Toyota Land Cruisers amid soaring food and oil prices in a country where the average income is about 50 US cents a day and 42 percent are unemployed.Around 1,000 protesters, mostly students, staged a rally at the parliament building, carrying the national black and red Timorese flag and banners saying, "Stand up East Timor, Fight Against Immoral Decisions".They were also protesting against a bill being discussed in parliament which will allow prosecutors and members of the intelligence service to possess weapons."Do they want students to keep silent and let them buy luxury cars and allow civilians to own weapons? We are not yes men and we say no to the decision," Agusto Pinto, the rally's coordinator, said."Petroleum funds must be used for people's interest, not to buy cars and weapons ... we are ready to die if the decision is not revoked."
We agree if they buy rice to feed the people but not to permit civilians to kill each other like the 2006 crisis." The youngest Asian nation descended into violence in 2006 when the government decided to lay off 600 soldiers, which led to a clash between the two main tribes and left 37 people killed and 150,000 displaced from their homes.The students said they would continue to protest until Friday.
The tiny nation that won their independence from Indonesia in 1999 has been striving to maintain political and social stability ever since. The country has substantial oil reserves but has only started to develop them.

The former Portuguese colony, invaded by Indonesia in 1975, won independence in a violence-marred vote organised by the United Nations in 1999. It became fully independent in 2002 after a period of UN administration.The government and the United Nations launched a programme early this year to relocate some 30,000 refugees living in camps that dot the capital.
Source: Reuters

Togs's Quotes 9-7-08

At the risk of sounding ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by feelings of love.”
Che Guavara

See for example, I just could not believe and found it very difficult in the end to believe that the Australian Army had been used for political and military gain in South East Asia. I always thought the Australian Army would be used for good things. I just didn't believe that our government would have used the Australian Army as a cheap mercenary outfit to run around the world killing people to make politicians happy or more powerful and this security of Australia. That the Vietnamese could ever come down and invade us, you know, the Domino Theory, that was all crap. But people actually used the ANZAC tradition in conjunction with these theories to convince people like myself and thousands and thousands of others that by going to Vietnam we were serving our country and we weren't. We were serving the politicians. We were serving the Americans and we were there basically doing in Vietnam what the Japanese did in Asia and what the Germans did in Europe. We invaded a foreign country to stop those people from having the government they wanted, whether we agree with it or not, surely the first thing is democracy. By going there we were actually killing democracy. We weren't helping people to become democratic.

Brian Day, Australian Vietnam Veteran, retired SAS Warrant Officer.

Togs: Getting back to the War. What do you think of the analogy, that has been made between the United States as the new Romans on the block?

Stan: I think they see themselves that way. If you read the documents, later called the Wolfiwiltz doctrine, they see themselves as that. They see themselves as the new Romans. The only difference is that they see it as a permanent situation. The problem with that whole construction, is that is that not one single initiative they’ve taken in that direction, since they used 9/11 as a pretext, has worked, its worse. The interesting thing about Iraq is that they were going to in and pacify Afghanistan.They have not been able to do that. In fact the Taliban is running around in battalion size elements in the south of Afghanistan, running around with near absolute impunity. The puppet president Kazia is the mayor of Kabul. He has no capacity to extend his governance elsewhere. The heroin enriched warlords in the north are running every thing up there. So that’s been a disaster. They do have some permanent military bases in Afghanistan. That was probably the permanent goal in the first place.Any way their in a region now that is in deep jeopardy. They’ve created contradictions for the Pakistani government that are going to be impossible to sustain. Let’s not forget the Taliban was a creation of Mushrafi’s ISI.

Stan Goff was a Vietnam Veteran of the 82nd Airborne. He later became a Special Operations in the U.S. Army (which included Paratroop, Ranger, Special Forces and so-called Counter Terrorist assignments) in every corner of the globe and into the highest echelons of U.S. serving as an infantryman, an Airborne Ranger, and as a member of the Special Forces and Delta Force.

Stan was deployed to Grenada, El Salvador, Columbia, Guatemala, Somalia, Peru and Haiti. He also trained troops in Panama, Venezuela, Honduras, Korea and taught Military Science at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and tactics at Army’s Jungle School in Panama and worked in some cases directly under the supervision of the U.S. Embassy.

Since his retirement in 1996, Stan made a dramatic transition from elite soldier to outspoken critic of the U.S. military and Iraq War. He is a prominent figure in the anti-war campaigns by military families in the U.S.A. >

When the outside world thinks about Australia, it generally turns to venerable clichés of innocence – cricket, leaping marsupials, endless sunshine, no worries. Australian governments actively encourage this. Witness the recent “G’Day USA” campaign, in which Kylie Minogue and Nicole Kidman sought to persuade Americans that, unlike the empire’s problematic outposts, a gormless greeting awaited them Down Under. After all, George W Bush had ordained the previous Australian prime minister, John Howard, “sheriff of Asia”.

Australia's Hidden Empire by John Pilger

Once oil passed $140 a barrel, even the most rabidly right-wing media hosts had to prove their populist cred by devoting a portion of every show to bashing Big Oil. Some have gone so far as to invite me on for a friendly chat about an insidious new phenomenon: ""disaster capitalism." It usually goes well--until it doesn’t.For instance, "independent conservative" radio host Jerry Doyle and I were having a perfectly amiable conversation about sleazy insurance companies and inept politicians when this happened: "I think I have a quick way to bring the prices down," Doyle announced. "We've invested $650 billion to liberate a nation of 25 million people. Shouldn't we just demand that they give us oil?

There should be tankers after tankers backed up like a traffic jam getting into the Lincoln Tunnel, the Stinkin' Lincoln, at rush hour with thank-you notes from the Iraqi government.... Why don't we just take the oil? We've invested it liberating a country. I can have the problem solved of gas prices coming down in ten days, not ten years."

There were a couple of problems with Doyle's plan, of course. The first was that he was describing the biggest stickup in world history. The second, that he was too late: "We" are already heisting Iraq's oil, or at least are on the cusp of doing so.

Disaster Capitalism: State of Extortion By Naomi Klein

Quotes compiled by John/Togs Tognolini each week , check out Togs's Place.Com

Saturday, July 05, 2008

One Journalist's Story: From Triumph to Torture by John Pilger

In an article for the Guardian, John Pilger describes presenting a top journalism award to a young Palestinian, Mohammed Omer, and how, on his return home to Gaza, he was seized by the Israelis, who demanded the prize money and tortured him.

Two weeks ago, I presented a young Palestinian, Mohammed Omer, with the 2008 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism. Awarded in memory of the great American war correspondent, the prize goes to journalists who expose establishment propaganda, or “official drivel”, as Martha called it. Mohammed shares the prize of £5,000 with the fine war reporter Dahr Jamail. At 24, Mohammed is the youngest ever winner. His citation reads: “Every day, he reports from a war zone, where he is also a prisoner. His homeland, Gaza, is surrounded, starved, attacked, forgotten. He is a profoundly humane witness to one of the great injustices of our time. He is the voice of the voiceless.” The eldest of eight children, Mohammed has seen most of his siblings killed or wounded or maimed. An Israeli bulldozer crushed his home while the family were inside, seriously injuring his mother. And yet, says a former Dutch ambassador, Jan Wijenberg, “he is a moderating voice, urging Palestinian youth not to court hatred but seek peace with Israel.”

Getting Mohammed to London to receive his prize was a major diplomatic operation. Israel has perfidious control over Gaza’s borders, and only with a Dutch embassy escort was he allowed out. Last Thursday, on his return journey, he was met at the Allenby Bridge crossing from Jordan by a Dutch official, who waited outside the Israeli building, unaware that Mohammed had been seized by Shin Bet, Israel’s infamous security organisation. Mohammed was told to turn off his cell phone and remove the battery. He asked if he could call his Dutch embassy escort and was told forcefully he could not. A man referred to as Avi stood over his luggage, picking through his documents. “Where’s the money?” he demanded. Mohammed produced some US dollars.

“Where’s is the English pound you have?”

“I realised,” said Mohammed, “he was after the award stipend for the Martha Gellhorn Prize. I told him I didn’t have it with me. ‘You are lying’, he said. I was now surrounded by eight Shin Bet officers, all armed. The man called Avi ordered me to take off my clothes. I had already been through an x-ray machine. I stripped down to my underwear and was told to take off everything. When I refused, Avi put his hand on his gun. I began to cry: ‘Why are you treating me this way? I am human being’. He said, ‘This is nothing compared with what you will see now’. He took his gun out, pressing it to my head and with his full body weight pinning me on my side, he forcibly removed my underwear. He then made me do a concocted sort of dance. Another man, who was laughing, said, ‘Why are you bringing perfumes?’ I replied, ‘They are gifts for the people I love’. He said, ‘Oh, do you have love in your culture?’

“As they ridiculed me, they took delight most in mocking letters I had received from readers in England. I had now been without food and water and the toilet for twelve hours, and having been made to stand, my legs buckled. I vomited and passed out. All I remember is one of them gouging, scraping and clawing with his nails at the tender flesh beneath my eyes. He scooped my head and dug his fingers in near the auditory nerves between my head and eardrum. The pain became sharper as he dug in two fingers at a time. Another man had his combat boot on my neck, pressing into the hard floor. I lay there for over an hour. The room became a menagerie of pain, sound and terror.”

An ambulance was called and told to take Mohammed to a hospital, but only after he had signed a statement indemnifying the Israelis from his suffering in their custody. The Palestinian medic refused, courageously, and said he would contact the Dutch embassy escort. Alarmed, the Israelis let the ambulance go. The Israeli line, as reported by Reuters, is familiar; it is that Mohammed was “suspected” of smuggling and “lost his balance” during a “fair” interrogation.

Israeli human rights groups have documented the routine torture of Palestinians by Shin Bet agents with “beatings, painful binding, back bending, body stretching and prolonged sleep deprivation”. Amnesty has long reported the widespread use of torture by Israel, whose victims emerge as mere shadows of their former selves. Some never return. Israel is high in an international league table for its intimidation and murder of journalists, especially Palestinian journalists who receive barely a fraction of the kind of coverage given to the hostage-taking of the BBC’s Alan Johnston.

The Dutch government says it is shocked by Mohammed Omer’s treatment. Former ambassador Jan Wijenberg said, “This is by no means an isolated incident, but part of a long term strategy to demolish Palestinian social, economic and cultural life... I am aware of the possibility that Mohammed Omer might be murdered by Israeli snipers or bomb attack in the near future.

”While Mohammed was receiving his prize in London, the new Israeli ambassador to Britain, Ron Proser, was publicly complaining that many Britons no longer appreciated the uniqueness of Israel’s democracy. Perhaps they do now.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Disaster Capitalism: State of Extortion By Naomi Klein

Once oil passed $140 a barrel, even the most rabidly right-wing media hosts had to prove their populist cred by devoting a portion of every show to bashing Big Oil. Some have gone so far as to invite me on for a friendly chat about an insidious new phenomenon: ""disaster capitalism." It usually goes well--until it doesn’t.

For instance, "independent conservative" radio host Jerry Doyle and I were having a perfectly amiable conversation about sleazy insurance companies and inept politicians when this happened: "I think I have a quick way to bring the prices down," Doyle announced. "We've invested $650 billion to liberate a nation of 25 million people. Shouldn't we just demand that they give us oil? There should be tankers after tankers backed up like a traffic jam getting into the Lincoln Tunnel, the Stinkin' Lincoln, at rush hour with thank-you notes from the Iraqi government.... Why don't we just take the oil? We've invested it liberating a country. I can have the problem solved of gas prices coming down in ten days, not ten years."

There were a couple of problems with Doyle's plan, of course. The first was that he was describing the biggest stickup in world history. The second, that he was too late: "We" are already heisting Iraq's oil, or at least are on the cusp of doing so.

It's been ten months since the publication of my book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, in which I argue that today's preferred method of reshaping the world in the interest of multinational corporations is to systematically exploit the state of fear and disorientation that accompanies moments of great shock and crisis. With the globe being rocked by multiple shocks, this seems like a good time to see how and where the strategy is being applied.

And the disaster capitalists have been busy--from private firefighters already on the scene in Northern California's wildfires, to land grabs in cyclone-hit Burma, to the housing bill making its way through Congress. The bill contains little in the way of affordable housing, shifts the burden of mortgage default to taxpayers and makes sure that the banks that made bad loans get some payouts. No wonder it is known in the hallways of Congress as "The Credit Suisse Plan," after one of the banks that generously proposed it.

Iraq Disaster: We Broke It, We (Just) Bought It

But these cases of disaster capitalism are amateurish compared with what is unfolding at Iraq's oil ministry. It started with no-bid service contracts announced for ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, BP and Total (they have yet to be signed but are still on course). Paying multinationals for their technical expertise is not unusual. What is odd is that such contracts almost invariably go to oil service companies--not to the oil majors, whose work is exploring, producing and owning carbon wealth. As London-based oil expert Greg Muttitt points out, the contracts make sense only in the context of reports that the oil majors have insisted on the right of first refusal on subsequent contracts handed out to manage and produce Iraq's oil fields. In other words, other companies will be free to bid on those future contracts, but these companies will win.

One week after the no-bid service deals were announced, the world caught its first glimpse of the real prize. After years of back-room arm-twisting, Iraq is officially flinging open six of its major oil fields, accounting for around half of its known reserves, to foreign investors. According to Iraq's oil minister, the long-term contracts will be signed within a year. While ostensibly under control of the Iraq National Oil Company, foreign firms will keep 75 percent of the value of the contracts, leaving just 25 percent for their Iraqi partners.

That kind of ratio is unheard of in oil-rich Arab and Persian states, where achieving majority national control over oil was the defining victory of anticolonial struggles. According to Muttitt, the assumption until now was that foreign multinationals would be brought in to develop brand-new fields in Iraq--not to take over ones that are already in production and therefore require minimal technical support. "The policy was always to allocate these fields to the Iraq National Oil Company," he told me. This is a total reversal of that policy, giving INOC a mere 25 percent instead of the planned 100 percent.

So what makes such lousy deals possible in Iraq, which has already suffered so much? Ironically, it is Iraq's suffering--its never-ending crisis--that is the rationale for an arrangement that threatens to drain its treasury of its main source of revenue. The logic goes like this: Iraq's oil industry needs foreign expertise because years of punishing sanctions starved it of new technology and the invasion and continuing violence degraded it further. And Iraq urgently needs to start producing more oil. Why? Again because of the war. The country is shattered, and the billions handed out in no-bid contracts to Western firms have failed to rebuild the country.

And that's where the new no-bid contracts come in: they will raise more money, but Iraq has become such a treacherous place that the oil majors must be induced to take the risk of investing. Thus the invasion of Iraq neatly creates the argument for its subsequent pillage.
Several of the architects of the Iraq War no longer even bother to deny that oil was a major motivator. On National Public Radio's To the Point, Fadhil Chalabi, one of the primary Iraqi advisers to the Bush Administration in the lead-up to the invasion, recently described the war as "a strategic move on the part of the United States of America and the UK to have a military presence in the Gulf in order to secure [oil] supplies in the future." Chalabi, who served as Iraq's oil under secretary and met with the oil majors before the invasion, described this as "a primary objective."

Invading countries to seize their natural resources is illegal under the Geneva Conventions. That means that the huge task of rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure--including its oil infrastructure--is the financial responsibility of Iraq's invaders. They should be forced to pay reparations. (Recall that Saddam Hussein's regime paid $9 billion to Kuwait in reparations for its 1990 invasion.) Instead, Iraq is being forced to sell 75 percent of its national patrimony to pay the bills for its own illegal invasion and occupation.

Oil Price Shock: Give Us the Arctic or Never Drive Again

Iraq isn't the only country in the midst of an oil-related stickup. The Bush Administration is busily using a related crisis--the soaring price of fuel--to revive its dream of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). And of drilling offshore. And in the rock-solid shale of the Green River Basin. "Congress must face a hard reality," said George W. Bush on June 18. "Unless members are willing to accept gas prices at today's painful levels--or even higher--our nation must produce more oil."

This is the President as Extortionist in Chief, with gas nozzle pointed to the head of his hostage--which happens to be the entire country. Give me ANWR, or everyone has to spend their summer vacations in the backyard. A final stickup from the cowboy President.

Despite the Drill Here. Drill Now. Pay Less bumper stickers, drilling in ANWR would have little discernible impact on actual global oil supplies, as its advocates well know. The argument that it could nonetheless bring down oil prices is based not on hard economics but on market psychoanalysis: drilling would "send a message" to the oil traders that more oil is on the way, which would cause them to start betting down the price.

Two points follow from this approach. First, trying to psych out hyperactive commodity traders is what passes for governing in the Bush era, even in the midst of a national emergency. Second, it will never work. If there is one thing we can predict from the oil market's recent behavior, it is that the price is going to keep going up regardless of what new supplies are announced.

Take the massive oil boom under way in Alberta's notorious tar sands. The tar sands (sometimes called the oil sands) have the same things going for them as Bush's proposed drill sites: they are nearby and perfectly secure, since the North American Free Trade Agreement contains a provision barring Canada from cutting off supply to the United States. And with little fanfare, oil from this largely untapped source has been pouring into the market, so much so that Canada is now the largest supplier of oil to the United States, surpassing Saudi Arabia. Between 2005 and 2007, Canada increased its exports to the States by almost 100 million barrels. Yet despite this significant increase in secure supplies, oil prices have been going up the entire time.
What is driving the ANWR push is not facts but pure shock doctrine strategy--the oil crisis has created the conditions in which it is possible to sell a previously unsellable (but highly profitable) policy.

Food Price Shock: Genetic Modification or Starvation
Intimately connected to the price of oil is the global food crisis. Not only do high gas prices drive up food costs but the boom in agrofuels has blurred the line between food and fuel, pushing food growers off their land and encouraging rampant speculation. Several Latin American countries have been pushing to re-examine the push for agrofuels and to have food recognized as a human right, not a mere commodity. United States Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte has other ideas. In the same speech touting the US commitment to emergency food aid, he called on countries to lower their "export restrictions and high tariffs" and eliminate "barriers to use of innovative plant and animal production technologies, including biotechnology." This was an admittedly more subtle stickup, but the message was clear: impoverished countries had better crack open their agricultural markets to American products and genetically modified seeds, or they could risk having their aid cut off.
Genetically modified crops have emerged as the cureall for the food crisis, at least according to the World Bank, the European Commission president (time to "bite the bullet") and Prime Minister of Britain Gordon Brown. And, of course, the agribusiness companies. "You cannot today feed the world without genetically modified organisms," Peter Brabeck, chairman of Nestlé, told the Financial Times recently. The problem with this argument, at least for now, is that there is no evidence that GMOs increase crop yields, and they often decrease them.
But even if there was a simple key to solving the global food crisis, would we really want it in the hands of the Nestlés and Monsantos? What would it cost us to use it? In recent months

Monsanto, Syngenta and BASF have been frenetically buying up patents on so-called "climate ready" seeds--plants that can grow in earth parched from drought and salinated from flooding.
In other words, plants built to survive a future of climate chaos. We already know the lengths Monsanto will go to protect its intellectual property, spying on and suing farmers who dare to save their seeds from one year to the next. We have seen patented AIDS medications fail to treat millions in sub-Saharan Africa. Why would patented "climate ready" crops be any different?

Meanwhile, amid all the talk of exciting new genetic and drilling technologies, the Bush Administration announced a moratorium of up to two years on new solar energy projects on federal lands--due, apparently, to environmental concerns. This is the final frontier for disaster capitalism. Our leaders are failing to invest in technology that will actually prevent a future of climate chaos, choosing instead to work hand in hand with those plotting innovative schemes to profit from the mayhem.

Privatizing Iraq's oil, ensuring global dominance for genetically modified crops, lowering the last of the trade barriers and opening the last of the wildlife refuges... Not so long ago, those goals were pursued through polite trade agreements, under the benign pseudonym "globalization." Now this discredited agenda is forced to ride on the backs of serial crises, selling itself as lifesaving medicine for a world in pain.

July 3rd, 2008

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

In the cause of fear and ignorance by John Pilger

In his latest column for the New Statesman, John Pilger describes another Britain: "a vicious, sectarian and mostly unreported war" against Muslims.
People snatched from the homes following 9/11 are consigned to a Kafkaesque oblivion, and worse.The British lawyer Gareth Peirce, celebrated for her defence of miscarriage of justice victims, wrote recently: “Over the years of the conflict, every lawless action on the part of the British state provoked a similar reaction: internment, ‘shoot to kill’, the use of torture... brutally obtained false confessions and fabricated evidence. This was registered by the community most affected, but the British public, in whose name these actions were taken, remained ignorant.”

Referring to the conflict in Northern Ireland, she was drawing a comparison with “our new suspect community”, people of Muslim faith, against whom a vicious, sectarian and mostly unreported war is well under way.

As Peirce points out, “internment, discredited and abandoned in Northern Ireland”, now allows, not 42 days, but the “indefinite detention without trial of foreign nationals, the ‘evidence’ to be heard in secret with the detainee’s lawyer not permitted to see the evidence against him”. Those snatched from their homes in Britain following 11 September 2001 have all but vanished into an Anglo-American gulag, which in this country joins Belmarsh Prison, where people are consigned to oblivion, with Broadmoor psychiatric prison, where they are sent as they go mad, and with Kafkaesque versions of “home” where others are interred under “control orders”.

One such home prisoner, wrote Peirce, “a man without arms, was left alone and terrified, unable to leave the flat or to contact anyone without committing a criminal offence, subject to a curfew and allowed no visits unless approved in advance by the Home Office”. Going into the garden, arranging a plumber, speaking to a child’s teacher, all require permission. The families go mad, too.

Preferring “a quick death... to a slow death here”, one man who took a risk and returned to Algeria has been lost in the subcontracted gulag, where his new torturers have given the British government “assurances” and are themselves reassured by the fact that BP, the ethical oil company, has sunk £6bn into getting oil out of Algeria’s southern Sahara. Jordan, another subcontractor, is held economically afloat by the US so George W Bush’s “renditions” and torture can proceed there. No British court has found any of these people guilty of any crime, but as Tony Blair, a genuine prima facie criminal, put it so well, “the rules of the game have changed”.

As in the Irish conflict, it is again the ignorance of us, the public, upon which the state relies. All propaganda is directed at honing this ignorance and fabricating a fear. This is primarily the task of journalists. True fear is in Muslim communities. Visit them and you will find people terrified by your knock on the door, and women who now never go out. In effect, control orders have been served on thousands of British citizens.

As Peirce reminds us, the Irish had allies in the Catholic Church and the 40 million Americans of Irish descent; Muslims are alone as they watch the British state, with its “obstinate incomprehension” of their faith, do to them as it would never do to those of other faiths. You can’t imagine Jews treated this way; the profanity is too great. The silence of British Jews, who have the history, is also great.

As the suppressed facts of “terrorism” show, Muslims are by far the most numerous victims – up to a million Iraqis dead, including 500,000 infants, during “sanctions” against Iraq in the 1990s; perhaps another million dead when Blair and his mentor ignited the current inferno; countless killed and maimed in Afghanistan by weapons that include the British thermobaric bomb, designed to suck the air out of human beings. And there is Palestine, an entire nation under a permanent control order.

Reviewing this monstrous record, it is no less than amazing that the world’s most violent governments – Britain is now the world’s leading arms merchant – have sustained only two retaliations on their home soil. With every hypocritical act, they beckon another. Moreover, wrote Gareth Peirce, “If our government continues on [this destructive] path, we will ultimately have destroyed much of the moral and legal fabric of the society that we claim to be protecting.

The choice and the responsibility are entirely ours.”Was it like this for the Irish? by Gareth Peirce, London Review of Books.

Togs's Quotes Wednesday July 2

“As long as imperialism exists, it will, by definition, exert its domination over other countries. Today that domination is called neocolonialism. “
- Ernesto Che Guevara

“Vietnam was as much a laboratory experiment as a war. “
-John Pilger

“It became necessary to destroy the town to save it.”Anonymous: statement issued by US Army, referring to Ben Tre in Vietnam; in New York Times 8 February1968

“We are the unwilling, led by unqualified, doing the unnecessary for the ungrateful.”Graffito, Vietnam War, 1970“Anyone who isn't confused doesn’t really understand the situation.”
Ed Murrow, American Television Journalist on the Vietnam War 1970, in Walter Bryan The Improbable Irish (1969)

“The belief that one Marine was better than ten Slopes saw Marine squads fed in against known N.V.A. [North Vietnamese Army] platoons, platoons against companies, and on and on, until whole battalions found themselves pinned down and cut off. That belief was undying, but the Grunt was not, and the Corps came to be called by many the finest instrument ever devised for the killing of young Americans.”
Michael Herr’s Khesanh published in Tom Wolfe’s New Journalism.

“They were our best friends and whatever we needed we got, and did not cost a penny. We never made a grant, never made a loan, never made a gift. They bought their planes, ammunition, their guns, trucks, they bought all of whatever they needed to carry on the war for us, and paid a fair price.”
Ed Clark, US Ambassador to Australia 1965-68 from the film Allies.

“Lyndon Johnson always thought that Australia was the next large rectangular State beyond El Paso, and treated it accordingly.”
Marshall Green, US ambassador to Australia 1973-75 from the film Allies.

“I remember one night a very senior American officer, who was a close friend of mine, said he had nothing but praise for the expertise and discipline of the Australian soldier. He told me, ‘We really like having you guys here.’ And I said, ’Why’s that? And he said, ‘You’re very good, you’ve helped us a lot….it’s like the British having the Ghurkhas, we have the Australians.”

Brian Day in John Pilger’s A Secret Country.
“Insanity is a kind of innocence.”
Graham Greene’s The Quite American
Quotes compiled by John/Togs Tognolini each week , check out Togs's Place.Com