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Monday, December 27, 2010

Julian Assange Interview With Cenk Uygur from TruthOut

Below is the full transcript of Julian Assange's interview With Cenk Uygur  from TruthOut


Cenk Uygur (host of The Young Turks) interviewed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan show 22/12/2010. They discussed critics of Assange, the treatment of Private Bradley Manning and more. 

CENK UYGUR, GUEST HOST: First, our exclusive interview with WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, who sparked a global uproar with his release of hundreds of thousands of pages of secret government documents and diplomatic cables, information ranging from the outrageous -- we had innocent and unarmed reporters and Iraqi civilians being killed by U.S. troops -- to the downright embarrassing, comments about the hard partying and the corruption of different world leaders.

Not long after that latest release, Assange found himself in legal trouble in Sweden. But not for any reasons having to do with the leaks. Instead, he was booked on a series of sex charges.

With the help of people like the American filmmaker and activist, Michael Moore, Mr. Assange is now out on bail and speaking out to us.

Let's now go to Ellingham Hall in Norfolk, England, where Julian Assange is currently on house arrest.
Julian, great to have you with us.

JULIAN ASSANGE, FOUNDER, WIKILEAKS: Good evening, Cenk.

UYGUR: All right, the first question I have for you, Julian, is do you consider yourself a member of the press?
Are you a journalist?

ASSANGE: Well, I have been a member of the Australian press union for many years. I co-authored my first book when I was 25 and have been involved in setting up the -- the very fabric of the Internet in Australia since 1993 as a publisher.

So quite interesting that this is something that is being raised. It's -- it's actually a quite deliberate attempt to split off our organization from the First Amendment protections that are afforded to all publishers.
You know, as time has gone by and our journalism has increased, I've been pushed up into senior management, into a position where I manage other journalists. I now even am in a -- in a position where I'm managing the interrelations between "The Guardian," "Spiegel," "The New York Times," "Al Jazeera" and so on, which were used in -- in our last production.

So, yes, unfortunately, I don't write that much anymore, because I'm busy being editor-in-chief, coordinating the actions of other journalists. But a quite deliberate attempt to split us off in the mind of the public from those "good" traditions of the United States, protecting the rights of the press to publish, to split us off from the support of the press in the United States, the support of journalists.

Some of those journalists have fallen for that. And why?
Because they're worried that they're going to be next. They believe that if they sell us out, if they say, well, he's not really a journalist, they can have the U.S. -- have the Washington authorities target us and destroy us and somehow steer clear of the crossfire, which they worry will -- will scatter out through all journalists.
But I have a message to them. They're going to be next. And we're seeing these statements that "The New York Times" is -- is, you know, is now also being looked at in terms of whether it has engaged in what they call a conspiracy to con -- commit espionage.

So us journalists and publishers and writers, we all have to stick together to resist this sort of reinterpretation of the First Amendment, this attempt to use the 1917 Espionage Act, something that was put in place in the middle of World War -- toward the end of World War II, in the middle of the U.S. involvement in World War I, to stop bona fide espionage in World War I.

Now, we've got this antiquated act that they are trying to apply to publishers, arguably, unconstitutional. But that will take many years to get through the court.

And in the meantime, what happens?

In the meantime, we have our people harassed. We have calls to apply this to -- to other newspapers.
All members of the press and -- and all the American people who believe in freedom and the -- and the good founding principles of revolution -- of the revolutionary fathers have got to pull together and resist this attack on the First Amendment.

UYGUR: And do you think they have pulled together or do you think that large portions of -- whether it's the American media or the international media -- have abandoned you and not come to your defense when people in government call you a high tech terrorist?

ASSANGE: Yes, well, they were. They were. But we saw a bit of a shift around 10 days ago. You know, once I was put in prison, this really focused the mind of people intently into what was happening. So we -- we have seen a turnaround.

We saw the -- the House Judiciary Comm -- Committee issue a finding that this would be a -- a grave step and -- and an attack on the First Amendment. We've seen the New York-based Human Rights Watch saying that this would be a very grave step and should not be done. We've seen Reporters Without Borders issue an open letter to Obama condemning that sort of interpretation.

And we have seen a number of members of the mainstream press rightly stopping forward and understanding that there has to be a line drawn in the sand, that this erosion of the First Amendment must be stopped.
And so I'm quite hopeful about that. I think people are -- are saying that it's going too far. You know, always in this sort of situation, you have an institution like the State Department connected with military contractors and an institution like the Pentagon, an institution like the CIA, able to respond fairly quickly and get its agenda up fairly quickly because they are organized. They have a chain of command. They have internal e-mail communications and systems. They have existing contacts with the press. They spend an enormous amount of money on public relations. So they're -- they're able to get their message out quickly.
But the reality is that a large swathe of the population sees things differently, not just in the United States, but in Australia, my home country, where the -- the prime minister made similar sort of statements to the United States.

Now, that's completely turned around in Australia and Australians have gotten together --

UYGUR: Well --

ASSANGE: -- to even take out a full page ad in "The New York Times" condemning that -- that sort of behavior. As time goes by, the large number of people -- the silent majority start to become organized. And that's what we've seen over the last two or so weeks -- the gradual organization of the silent majority to resist a new type of tyranny, a new type of privatized censorship, a new type of digital McCarthyism that is being pushed from Washington.

People don't like it. Around the world, people don't like it. They don't like it in the United States, especially because of these good First Amendment, revolutionary traditions about the rights and freedoms of all people to criticize and open up their government.

UYGUR: Well, Julian, I want to get to as much as possible here. So I want to give you a chance to respond one by one to your critics.

First to Mitch McConnell, who is, of course, the leader of the Republicans in the Senate and to Joe Biden, who both said that -- called you a high tech terrorist. How do you respond to -- to Joe Biden, the Vice President of the United States, saying that to you?

ASSANGE: Well, let's look at the definition of terrorism. The definition of terrorism is a group that uses violence or the threat of violence for political ends. Now, no one in our four year publishing country covering over 120 countries has ever been physically harmed as a result of what we have done. And that's not just us saying that. It's the Pentagon saying that. That's NATO in Kabul saying that. No one -- not a shred of evidence. There are -- believe me that if they could find or even easily manufacture a shred of evidence, they would be doing that immediately. So it's clear that whoever the terrorists are here, it's not us.
But we see constant threats from people in the Re -- you know, Republicans in the Senate trying to make a -- a name for themselves, the people like Sarah Palin, top shock jocks on Fox and, unfortunately, some members, also, of the Democratic Party, calling for my assassination, calling for the illegal kidnapping of my staff.

And -- and just a few days ago, it was in Fox, that was the phrase that was used -- illegal. He should be illegally murdered if necessary-- assassinated by the law, if possible, if not, illegally.
What sort of message does that send about the rule of law in the United States?

That is conducting violence in order to achieve a political end -- the elimination of this organization or the threat of violence to achieve a political end, the elimination of a publisher. And that is the definition of terrorism.

UYGUR: Now, I want to give you a chance to respond personally, though, because here Mike Huckabee is making it very personal. You saw that quote we had up. He says, I think anything less than execution is too kind a penalty for you. Sarah Palin is saying that you are like al Qaeda and the Taliban and he -- you should be pursued with the same urgency.

So how would you respond to Mike Huckabee, who is a top Republican leader, who's likely to run for president again?

How do you respond to Sarah Palin, a top Republican leader who might run for president again?

ASSANGE: Oh, it's just another idiot trying to make a name for himself. But it's a -- it's a serious business. I mean if we are to have a civil society, you cannot have senior people making calls on national TV to go around the judiciary and illegally murder people.

That is incitement to commit murder. That is an offense. You cannot have senior people on national TV asking people to commit an offense.

That is not a country that obeys the rule of law.

Does the United States obey the rule of law?

Because Europeans are starting to wonder whether it is still obeying the rule of law?

And it needs to be very careful.

Is it going to descend into an anarchy where we don't have due process, where those great Bill of Rights traditions about due process are just thrown to the wind, when -- whenever some shock jock politician thinks that they can use it to make a name for themselves?

Or do we take things according to laws expressly made by the people and their representatives?
That is the way things should be done. And -- and when people call for illegal, deliberate assassination and kidnapping of others, they should be held to account. They should be charged for incitement to commit murder.

UYGUR: Well, that's a very strong charge. And what they're saying is very strong.
What -- what's actually happened, the only person who's actually been arrested on any leak is actually Private Bradley Manning. He's actually been in prison for the last seven months. And I know you spent a week in prison and you got a little sense of how bad it can be. He's had 200 days of solitary confinement in a small cell for 23 hours a day. He gets a 5:00 a.m. Wake up call. He's not even allowed to exercise in his cell. He's not allowed to have sheets or a pillow, etc. Etc. Etc.

A lot of people, including some of the top human rights analysts in-- in the world, believe that this is cruel and inhumane treatment.

Do you think Private Manning is, one, a hero?

And, number two, do you think the American government is treating him wrong by keeping him in isolation for so long?

ASSANGE: We don't know whether this young man is our source or not. Our technology is set up so we don't know that. That is the best way to protect people.

But let's look at the allegations. Regardless of whether he was the whistleblower behind some of these res -- revelations or not, he is a young man that has been caught up in this, kept in solitary confinement for some six months -- some 5,000 hours now -- in conditions that were even worse than the ones that I was in, held in a -- he's now held in a military brig. His visits are very limited, only once a week. And his lawyer has said that they have been getting worse and that his psychological health has been getting worse.

If we are to believe the allegations, then this man acted for political reasons. He is a political prisoner in the United States. He has not gone to trial. He's been a political prisoner without trial in the United States for some six or seven months. That's a serious business. Human rights organizations should be investigating the conditions under which he is held and is there really due process there?

Now, we've recently heard calls to try and set up a plea deal with Brad -- Bradley Manning to testify against me, personally, to say that we engaged in some kind of conspiracy to commit espionage -- absolute nonsense. Absolute nonsense. That's not how our technology works.

UYGUR: Well --

ASSANGE: That's not how our organization works. I never heard of the name Bradley Manning before it appeared in the media.

But actually, mainstream journalists in the United States, mainstream investigative journalists, how do they operate when they're investigating a story?
They do actually ring up their sources and say, do you have anything on this?
That is how they operate.

And if we are to -- if they want to push the line that when a newspaperman talks to someone in the government about looking for things relating to potential abuses, that that is a conspiracy to commit espionage, then that's going to take out all the good government journalism that occurs in the United States.
And, fortunately, as an organization, we're not too exposed to that because that's not how our technology works. But other journalists are. And they need to take action now.

And they need to understand another thing, that in this case of Bradley Manning, his conditions have been getting worse and worse and worse in his cell as they attempt to pressure him into testifying against me.
That's a serious problem.

UYGUR: Right. Right, Julian.
And I want to let the audience know that Private Manning, of course, has not been convicted of anything. He's in isolation as we keep our most serious criminals, even though he has not been convicted.

ASSANGE: But Julian Assange, we -- we really appreciate your time today.
Thank you for joining us.

ASSANGE: All right. Merry Christmas.
UYGUR: And -- all right. Merry Christmas to you, as well. 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Protect Assange, Don’t Abuse Him by John Pilger

John Pilger | Protect Assange, Don’t Abuse Him


The self was now the zeitgeist. Driven by the forces of profit and the media, the search for individual consciousness all but overwhelmed the spirit of social justice and internationalism. A new deity was proclaimed; the personal was the political.

In 1995, Reich published Opposing the System, in which he recanted almost everything in The Greening of America. "There will be no relief from either economic insecurity or human breakdown," he now wrote, "until we recognize that uncontrolled economic forces create conflict, not well-being . . ." There were no queues in the bookstores this time. In the age of economic neoliberalism, Reich was out of step with the rampant individualism of the west's new political and cultural elite.

False Tribunes

The revival of militarism in the west and the search for a new "threat" following the end of the cold war depended on the political disorientation of those who, 20 years earlier, would have formed a vehement opposition. On 11 September 2001, they were silenced finally, and many were co-opted into the "war on terror". The invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001 was supported by leading feminists, especially in the US, where Hillary Clinton and other false tribunes of feminism made the Taliban's treatment of Afghan women the rationale for attacking a stricken country and causing the deaths of at least 20,000 people while giving the Taliban new life. That the warlords backed by America were as medievalist as the Taliban was not allowed to interrupt such a right-on cause. The zeitgeist, the years of "personal" depoliticizing and distracting true radicalism, had worked. Nine years later, the disaster that is Afghanistan is the consequence.

It seems the lesson must be learned all over again as a group of media feminists joins the assault on Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, or the "Wikiblokesphere", as Libby Brooks abuses it in the Guardian. From the Times to the New Statesman, apparent feminist credence is given to the chaotic, incompetent and contradictory accusations against Assange in Sweden.

On 9 December, the Guardian published a long, supine interview by Amelia Gentleman with Claes Borgström, the "highly respected Swedish lawyer". In fact, Borgström is foremost a politician, a powerful member of the Social Democratic Party. He intervened in the Assange case only when the senior prosecutor in Stockholm dismissed the "rape" allegation as based on "no evidence". In Gentleman's Guardian article, an anonymous source whispers to us that Assange's "behaviour towards women . . . was going to get him into trouble". This smear was taken up by Brooks in the paper that same day. Ken Loach and I and others on "the left" are "shoulder to shoulder" with the misogynists and "conspiracy theorists". To hell with journalistic inquiry. Ignorance and prejudice rule.

The Australian barrister James Catlin, who acted for Assange in October, says that both women in the case told prosecutors that they consented to have sex with Assange. Following the "crime", one of the women threw a party in honour of Assange. When Borgström was asked why he was representing the women, as both denied rape, he said: "Yes, but they are not lawyers." Catlin describes the Swedish justice system as "a laughing stock". For three months, Assange and his lawyers have pleaded with the Swedish authorities to let them see the prosecution case. This was denied until 18 November, when the first official document arrived - in the Swedish language, contrary to European law.

Unveiled Threat

Assange still has not been charged with anything. He has never been a "fugitive". He sought and got permission to leave Sweden, and the British police have known his whereabouts since his arrival in this country. This did not stop a London magistrate on 7 December ignoring seven sureties and sending him to solitary confinement in Wandsworth Prison.

At every turn, Assange's basic human rights have been breached. The cowardly Australian government, which is legally obliged to support its citizen, has made a veiled threat to take away his passport. In her public remarks, the prime minister, Julia Gillard, has shamefully torn up the presumption of innocence that underpins Australian law. The Australian minister for foreign affairs ought to have called in both the Swedish and the US ambassadors to warn them against any abuse of human rights against Assange, such as the crime of incitement to murder.

In contrast, vast numbers of decent people all over the world have rallied to Assange's support: people who are neither misogynists nor "internet attack dogs", to quote Libby Brooks, and who support a very different set of values from those espoused by Charles Reich. They include many distinguished feminists, such as Naomi Klein, who wrote: "Rape is being used in the Assange prosecution in the same way that women's freedom was used to invade Afghanistan. Wake up!"

Friday 17 December 2010

Forty years ago, a book entitled The Greening of America caused a sensation. On the cover were these words: "There is a revolution coming. It will not be like revolutions of the past. It will originate with the individual." I was a correspondent in the United States at the time and recall the overnight elevation to guru status of the author, a young Yale academic, Charles Reich. His message was that political action had failed and only "culture" and introspection could change the world. This merged with an insidious corporate public relations campaign aimed at reclaiming western capitalism from the sense of freedom inspired by the civil rights and anti-war movements. The new propaganda's euphemisms were postmodernism, consumerism and "me-ism". (from TruthOut)

Friday, December 17, 2010

WikiLeaks: the emperor wears no clothes by John Pilger and others



Now WikiLeaks has laid bare the lies and collusion, we pledge to not just witness but actively participate in its fight for democracy

We are writing this statement in support of democracy.

Since Sunday, 28 November, WikiLeaks and five major newspapers from around the world (the Guardian, the New York Times, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, El Pais) have been publishing redacted versions of leaked US diplomatic cables in an ongoing story that has become known as "Cablegate". The identity of the original leaker is – as yet – unconfirmed.

This is not the first leak of confidential documentation that exposes governmental lies – and it won't be the last. Secret information has long been used by elites to build and maintain power over huge populations of citizens, workers, armed forces and others. But when the secrets of the elite are revealed, the power they represent can be confronted and reversed.

Nor is this the first time that state (and other) forces of power have acted to prevent dissemination of information on the internet – and it won't be the last.

Sites have been removed by their hosting companies, servers seized by police or other governmental authorities, take-down requests issued under the rule of law: none of these prevented information spreading.
But the issues run deeper than this. As former US president Thomas Jefferson once stated, "information is the currency of democracy". Democracy – the rule of the people – as currently understood and practiced is, and has long been, severely restricted.

Power is abused in our name by governments and transnational corporations around the world: they fight illegal wars; abuse and kill people; pillage property and planet. The powerful accumulate wealth and force the majority – the rest of us – to pay for it: with our health, our freedom, our time, our money and with our lives. For a long time, we have been deceived about the reasons for this: it is our right for the truth to be known. Without that right, democracy cannot and does not exist. The current assault on WikiLeaks is yet another instance of democracy-hating by elites.

Now, we find we are witnessing a new level of info-struggle. We are witnessing how the emperor wears no clothes. We can see the lies made bare, we can see the posturing and propositioning that our governments participate in. We can see the collusion that occurs with transnational corporations and with global media giants. WikiLeaks and others are battling against powerful institutions bent on curtailing our knowledge of and influence over policies and structures that impact our lives: they are information heroes, not information villains. We see all this being done in our name, and we condemn it.

Thus, we pledge to not simply bear witness but to actively participate in this fight – for freedom of speech, for real democracy and for justice. We know this is only the beginning: de-masking the puppeteers facilitates action towards fairer and more just societies. We demand that the truth be heard. We stand at the doorway to a new, just and democratic world: a doorway we pledge to keep open and to march through. We stand with all the inhabitants of this world who are affected daily by governments that oppress the right to free speech and obstruct the path to true democracy.

Signed:
Andrei Morgan
Michael Albert
Jamie McClelland
Daniel Kahn Gillmor
Tachanka! collective
John Pilger
Donnacha Delong, vice-president, National Union of Journalists
Yvonne Ridley, founder, Women In Journalism
Hessom Razavi
Mike Holderness, freelance journalist
Pennie Quinton, freelance journalist and human rights campaigner
Phil Edwards
Chris Grollman
Chris Anderson
David Graeber, reader in social anthropology, Goldsmiths, University of London

guardian.co.uk, Thursday 16 December 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Reclaim the Cyber-Commons by By George Monbiot

Julian Assange
They are the online equivalent of enclosure riots: the rick-burning, fence-toppling protests by English peasants losing their rights to the land. When MasterCard, Visa, Paypal and Amazon tried to shut WikiLeaks out of the cyber-commons, an army of hackers responded by trying to smash their way into these great estates and pull down their fences.

In the Wikileaks punch-up the commoners appear to have the upper hand. But it’s just one battle. There’s a wider cyberwar being fought, of which you hear much less. And in most cases the landlords, with the help of a mercenary army, are winning.

I’m not talking here about threats to net neutrality and the danger of a two-tier internet developing(1,2), though these are real. I’m talking about the daily attempts to control and influence content in the interests of the state and corporations: attempts in which money talks.

The weapon used by both state and corporate players is a technique known as astroturfing. An astroturf campaign is one that mimics spontaneous grassroots mobilisations, but which has in reality been organised. Anyone writing a comment piece in Mandarin critical of the Chinese government, for example, is likely to be bombarded with abuse by people purporting to be ordinary citizens, upset by the slurs against their country.

But many of them aren’t upset: they are members of the 50 Cent Party, so-called because one Chinese government agency pays 5 mao (half a yuan) for every post its tame commenters write(3). Teams of these sock-puppets are hired by party leaders to drown out critical voices and derail intelligent debates.
I first came across online astroturfing in 2002, when the investigators Andy Rowell and Jonathan Matthews looked into a series of comments made by two people calling themselves Mary Murphy and Andura Smetacek(4,5). They had launched ferocious attacks, across several internet forums, against a scientist whose research suggested that Mexican corn had been widely contaminated by GM pollen.

Rowell and Matthews found that one of the messages Mary Murphy had sent came from a domain owned by the Bivings Group, a PR company specialising in internet lobbying. An article on the Bivings website explained that “there are some campaigns where it would be undesirable or even disastrous to let the audience know that your organization is directly involved … Message boards, chat rooms, and listservs are a great way to anonymously monitor what is being said. Once you are plugged into this world, it is possible to make postings to these outlets that present your position as an uninvolved third party.”(6)

The Bivings site also quoted a senior executive from the biotech corporation Monsanto, thanking the PR firm for its “outstanding work”(7). When a Bivings executive was challenged by Newsnight, he admitted that the “Mary Murphy” email was sent by someone “working for Bivings” or “clients using our services”(8). Rowell and Matthews then discovered that the IP address on Andura Smetacek’s messages was assigned to Monsanto’s headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri(9). There’s a nice twist to this story. AstroTurf TM - real fake grass - was developed and patented by Monsanto.

Reading comment threads on the Guardian’s sites and elsewhere on the web, two patterns jump out at me. The first is that discussions of issues in which there’s little money at stake tend to be a lot more civilised than debates about issues where companies stand to lose or gain billions: such as climate change, public health and corporate tax avoidance. These are often characterised by amazing levels of abuse and disruption.
Articles about the environment are hit harder by such tactics than any others. I love debate, and I often wade into the threads beneath my columns. But it’s a depressing experience, as instead of contesting the issues I raise, many of those who disagree bombard me with infantile abuse, or just keep repeating a fiction, however often you discredit it. This ensures that an intelligent discussion is almost impossible - which appears to be the point(10).

The second pattern is the strong association between this tactic and a certain set of views: pro-corporate, anti-tax, anti-regulation. Both traditional conservatives and traditional progressives tend be more willing to discuss an issue than these right-wing libertarians, many of whom seek instead to shut down debate.
So what’s going on? I’m not suggesting that most of the people trying to derail these discussions are paid to do so, though I would be surprised if none were. I’m suggesting that some of the efforts to prevent intelligence from blooming seem to be organised, and that neither website hosts nor other commenters know how to respond.

For his film (Astro)Turf Wars, Taki Oldham secretly recorded a training session organised by a rightwing libertarian group called American Majority. The trainer, Austin James, was instructing Tea Party members on how to “manipulate the medium”(11). This is what he told them:

“Here’s what I do. I get on Amazon; I type in “Liberal Books”. I go through and I say “one star, one star, one star”. The flipside is you go to a conservative/ libertarian whatever, go to their products and give them five stars. … This is where your kids get information: Rotten Tomatoes, Flixster. These are places where you can rate movies. So when you type in “Movies on Healthcare”, I don’t want Michael Moore’s to come up, so I always give it bad ratings. I spend about 30 minutes a day, just click, click, click, click. … If there’s a place to comment, a place to rate, a place to share information, you have to do it. That’s how you control the online dialogue and give our ideas a fighting chance.”

Over 75% of the funding for American Majority, which hosted this training session, comes from the Sam Adams Alliance(12). In 2008, the year in which American Majority was founded, 88% of the alliance’s money came from a single donation, of $3.7m(13). A group which trains rightwing libertarians to distort online democratic processes, in other words, was set up with funding from a person or company with a very large wallet.

The internet is a remarkable gift, which has granted us one of the greatest democratic opportunities since universal suffrage. We’re in danger of losing this global commons as it comes under assault from an army of trolls and flacks, many of them covertly organised or trained. The question for all of us - the Guardian, other websites, everyone who benefits from this resource - is what we intend to do about it. It’s time we fought back and reclaimed the internet for what it does best: exploring issues, testing ideas, opening the debate.

www.monbiot.com




published in the Guardian, 14th December 2010


References:
1. http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/pda/2010/aug/10/google-verizon-net-neutrality?INTCMP=SRCH
2. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-10961776
3. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/7783640.stm
4. http://www.powerbase.info/index.php/Andura_Smetacek
5. http://www.powerbase.info/index.php/Mary_Murphy
6. Andrew Dimock, head of the Bivings Groups Online Marketing and Promotions division, 1st April 2002. “Viral Marketing: How to Infect the World”.
The original article was here:
http://www.thebivingsreport.com/search_view_full_article.php?article_id=73
But has since been taken down. Subsequently a note says that it has been “Recently edited for clarification”: which appears to mean saying the exact opposite of what the original stated, and re-posted here:
http://www.bivingsreport.com/2002/viral-marketing-how-to-infect-the-world/
You can read extracts from the original version here:
http://www.lobbywatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=166
 7. See http://www.powerbase.info/index.php/Bivings_Group
(The original has also been taken down).
8. Newsnight, 7th June 2002.
9. http://www.powerbase.info/index.php/Andura_Smetacek
10. See also the interesting comment by SteB1, here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/04/cancun-climate-talks-kyoto-latin-america?showallcomments=true#comment-8653581
11. http://astroturfwars.org/
12. Scott K Parks, 5th October 2009. American Majority holds Dallas workshop. The Dallas Morning News.
http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/localnews/stories/DN-americanmajority_05met.ART0.State.Edition2.4ba21b6.html
13. Karoli, 26th April 2010. American Majority: Part the astroturf to see what’s underneath. http://crooksandliars.com/karoli/american-majority-part-astroturf-see-whats

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Julian Assange For Australian of the Year by John Tognolini


Below is my submission for Julian Assange for the Australian of the Australian of the Year Awards for 2011.

I support his nomination for Australian of the Year because he's shown courage in letting the truth be known. Also the injustice he is suffering brings in to question what does democracy mean in Australia in the 21st Century?  To me the best definition is by an Australian about democracy is by three times Miles Franklin winner David Ireland,  1927-   in his 1971  novel The Glass Canoe

 "Democracy is not for people who just want to be left alone, so long as they do what their told and don’t answer back. The key people in the democratic process are the critics, dissenters, reformers. If their sealed off from the political process, the system grows tired and sick, and turns into something else."
 

And also what Julian  said in below in the British Guardian last week

"I am an Australian citizen and I miss my country a great deal. However, during the last weeks the Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard, and the attorney general, Robert McClelland, have made it clear that not only is my return is impossible but that they are actively working to assist the United States government in its attacks on myself and our people. This brings into question what does it mean to be an Australian citizen - does that mean anything at all? Or are we all to be treated like David Hicks at the first possible opportunity merely so that Australian politicians and diplomats can be invited to the best US embassy cocktail parties."



http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/blog/2010/dec/03/julian-assange-wikileaks 



John Tognolini
11/12/2010
Wellington, New South Wales
Australia

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Ark Tribe wins case — Abolish the ABCC now!

Ark Tribe
The following media statement was released on November 25 by Tim Gooden, Secretary of Geelong Trades Hall Council.

“The decision of Adelaide magistrate David Whittle that Ark Tribe is innocent is a tremendous victory for Ark, his family and for working people across Australia”, Geelong Trades Hall Council Secretary, Tim Gooden said today.

Geelong Trades Hall congratulates Ark Tribe for his brave stand against unjust laws. The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (Ark’s union) has done a great job in the courts and ensuring Ark received all the legal help he needed.

“But Ark should never have been put through 18 months of torture simply for standing up for his workmates’ right to health and safety on the job.

“Until the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) is scrapped the threat of future Ark Tribe cases will always be with us.”

Gooden called on the Federal government to immediately abolish the ABCC. “As Ark said after being found innocent, Julia Gillard must make clear which side she is on. Does she stand for equal rights for building workers or not?

“State governments should also stand up and be counted on this vital issue.”

Gooden, who is also a building worker, added that the magistrate’s grounds for dismissing the charges against Ark amounted to an explanation to the ABCC about how to win a conviction against a building worker who acts in the same way as Ark Tribe in the future.

“Whittle’s decision in effect says that, so long as a formal ABCC investigation is under way and the summons to appear before the ABCC is properly served, then a refusal to appear before the ABCC would bring a guilty verdict and the possibility of six months jail.” Gooden said.

Gooden concluded: “The whole union movement should be inspired by Ark’s courage to immediately crank up the campaign to force the Gillard government to ditch John Howard’s unjust laws against building workers and their unions.”

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Socialists stand against the rottenness in the state of Victoria

 Margarita Windisch

There is something rotten in the state of Victoria.

The legacy of secrecy in government reached a high point under Jeff Kennett’s Coalition state government in the 1990s. It continued under the Bracks Labor government and the current John Brumby Labor government.

The main reason for this was widespread privatisation and the policy of funding infrastructure projects through public-private partnerships (PPPs) — a policy begun by the Kennett government and continued by Labor.

Privatisation meant the government avoided responsibility for providing basic services such as public transport and electricity, while the private “public transport” companies pass the buck back to the government when they provide terrible service.

Privatisation and PPPs allow the government to keep information secret from the public, hiding behind commercial-in-confidence agreements.

An example is the Wonthaggi desalination plant. The government has refused to break down the figures and reveal the cost of the plant.

Most Victorians don’t realise that their water bills will increase from about $2000 to $6000 a year over the next few years to pay for the plant.

The state government no longer sees water as a human right that it is obliged to provide.
Other utility bills, such as gas and electricity, are set to increase at a similar rate.

The Socialist Alliance is running four candidates in the November 27 Victorian election.
It calls for public transport and utilities to be put back into public hands. Socialist Alliance candidate for Footscray Margarita Windisch said: “People are hurting. They can’t afford these huge bills. Even if people do their best to save water and electricity, their bills still increase because the supply or service charge keeps increasing.

“The Socialist Alliance believes everyone should have a basic allowance for water, gas and electricity at very cheap rates, with allowances for people with special needs (such as pensioners, people who are sick, large families) and then rising steeply according to use thereafter.
“This means rich people with big mansions who use a disproportionate amount of water and electricity would pay more than poor people who use very little.”

Socialist Alliance’s other candidates are Mitch Cherry for Bellarine, Trent Hawkins for Brunswick and Ron Guy for Melton.

The Socialist Party is standing Yarra councillor Steve Jolly for the seat of Richmond and the Revolutionary Socialist Party is standing Van Rudd in Derrimut.

Jolly’s campaign is backed by the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union, the Electrical Trades Union, and the United Firefighters Union.

Guy said the state election should be a referendum on public transport.
“Melbourne’s roads can’t cope with more cars and trucks”, he said. “The Brumby government must shift funding away from roads to public transport and rail freight.

“Areas like Melton in the outer western suburbs are a very neglected for public transport. If you don’t live near a train station, you have no hope of getting around by public transport, and the train service is overcrowded at peak hour.

“The state government had an opportunity to take public transport back into public hands when Connex’s contract ran out.

“Instead, it gave the contract to another private company, Metro, which has run an even worse service than Connex.”

The climate action movement is pressuring the state Labor government to close down the dirty coal-fired power stations, especially Hazelwood. Socialist Alliance supports closing the power stations and replacing them with renewable energy.

Hawkins, a renewable energy researcher, says renewables are already developed enough that Australia could shift to 100% renewable energy in 10 years.

“Socialist Alliance policy recognises it is not the fault of Latrobe Valley workers that they work in coal-fired power stations. The government should guarantee alternative employment and training for workers by putting manufacturing for the renewable energy industry in the valley.”

He said the Socialist Alliance also called for construction of the desalination plant at Wonthaggi to be stopped. “This project is not needed. It will add significantly to Victoria’s greenhouse gas emissions, put a private company in control of the state’s water and will massively increase water bills.

“As work has already started on the plant, the workers there need to be guaranteed alternative jobs by the government.”

The Brumby government is feeling public pressure over the disintegrating public transport system, an ambulance service in crisis, increasing hospital waiting lists and its closeness to the big developers.

To divert public attention, it has begun competing with the Liberals over which party can be tougher on crime.

Cherry said: “Anyone looking at the media or listening to the police and the major parties would think that crime rates are increasing. Statistics show that crime rates have decreased.

“But the Victorian police use of capsicum spray is increasing. In one week, the Victorian police used capsicum spray on a 12-year-old and a 13-year-old. They are trialling Tasers, which recently killed a man in New South Wales. Socialist Alliance opposes Victorian police getting Tasers .”
Cherry said the government was “using the ‘law-and-order’ issue in a similar way to how the federal parties use the refugee issue — to distract attention from what they’re not doing”.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Mark Steel: Shamed by our spirit of protest

Wayne Rooney must look in the papers every morning and think, "How does Vince Cable get away with it? Just like me, a year ago he was a national hero, the embodiment of hope, and now he's a bumbling fool and revealed as a cheat. But he's allowed to carry on as he pleases and isn't even substituted. I want a transfer to the Liberal Democrats."

For example, Cable campaigned for election on a promise to abolish university fees, even signing a pledge to prove his commitment, and interpreted that pledge by doubling the fees. Because abolish and double are like stalagmites and stalactites, it's so easy to get them mixed up. His party must have won countless votes as a result of that pledge, but he says now he's in government he has to be realistic, in which case the entire election campaign was pointless. When they had those debates, Clegg might as well have said, "I'll agree with whoever makes me a minister, so rather than waste time on what we think, in my time I'll show you my favourite scenes from Only Fools and Horses."
It's especially unsettling that such blatant lying came from Cable because he looked like a sweet old uncle, but it turns out he combines the demeanour of Mr Kipling with the economic ideals of Norman Tebbit. So every time he makes a statement he should be introduced with a cuddly slow deep voice saying, "Mr Cable wanted to be in the Government. So he set about doing all the things he'd said would be disastrous a few weeks ago. Because Mr Cable is an exceedingly power-hungry unprincipled little snake."

And yet no matter how vicious these cuts become, all the parties insist it would be wrong to protest or strike to try and curtail them, because they're being made by an elected government. But if they're doing things they promised not to do they've been elected fraudulently. In any case this is the thinking that got us into this mess. Most people are aware the people being made to pay for the debt aren't those who caused it, but we're resigned to putting up with it. Ministers could march round hospital wards ripping out drips and catheters and kidney machines, and we'd say to the patients, "You'd better put up with it dear, they do have a mandate." They could announce chemotherapy patients have to pay for their treatment by selling their bald heads for advertising space, and the level of protest would be a letter to The Times signed by 37 doctors and a treasurer at the BMA in a personal capacity.

Whereas in France they're running up and down the street and striking and setting fire to random objects and their cuts haven't even started yet. It's as if this is their warm-up match to get in practice and decide on the best formation for the real tournament. The Spanish have had a general strike, the Greeks are in a state of permanent revolt, and even the Belgians have had strikes and mass demonstrations. How humiliating is that? We're being put to shame by the bloody Belgians. How did we become so subservient and docile? It's as if the rest of Europe is preparing for mass protest and our slogan is, "I can't make it I'm afraid, I've got a tummy ache."

The unions have called for a demonstration against the cuts next March. Next bloody March. Even then they'll probably get frightened and call it off, and replace it with a "Gasp of Action", in which we're asked to go, "Ooh" at the same time to show our displeasure at the fire service being sold off to Balfour Beatty.

It's often claimed that protest doesn't make any difference. But then why have the French retained pensions and services and a working week (without the country falling apart) that few people here could aspire to? You can understand why a population feels unable to confront unfairness, if it's up against the North Korean army or the dictatorships of China or Zimbabwe. But surely we can't allow every public service to be dismantled and the poorest 90 per cent of the population to be wrung dry with no opposition, and say: "Well what could we do? I mean, never mind Mugabe or Kim Jong-Il, we were up against Vince Cable."
  
The Independent
Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Chile's Ghosts Are Not Being Rescued by John Pilger

In his latest column for the New Statesman, written as the 33 Chilean miners are brought to the surface after ther epic rescue, John Pilger describes the unspoken life in Chile behind the media facade that the government of President Sebastion Pinera has skilfully exploited.

The rescue of 33 miners in Chile is an extraordinary drama filled with pathos and heroism. It is also a media windfall for the Chilean government, whose every beneficence is recorded by a forest of cameras. One cannot fail to be impressed. However, like all great media events, it is a façade.

The accident that trapped the miners is not unusual in Chile and the inevitable consequence of a ruthless economic system that has barely changed since the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet. Copper is Chile’s gold, and the frequency of mining disasters keeps pace with prices and profits. There are, on average, 39 fatal accidents every year in Chile’s privatised mines. The San Jose mine, where the men work, became so unsafe in 2007 it had to be closed – but not for long. On 30 July last, a labour department report warned again of “serious safety deficiencies ”, but the minister took no action. Six days later, the men were entombed.

For all the media circus at the rescue site, contemporary Chile is a country of the unspoken. At the Villa Grimaldi, in the suburbs of the capital Santiago, a sign says: “The forgotten past is full of memory.” This was the torture centre where hundreds of people were murdered and disappeared for opposing the fascism that General Augusto Pinochet and his business allies brought to Chile. Its ghostly presence is overseen by the beauty of the Andes, and the man who unlocks the gate used to live nearby and remembers the screams.

I was taken there one wintry morning in 2006 by Sara De Witt, who was imprisoned as a student activist and now lives in London. She was electrocuted and beaten, yet survived. Later, we drove to the home of Salvador Allende, the great democrat and reformer who perished when Pinochet seized power on 11 September 1973 – Latin America’s own 9/11. His house is a silent white building without a sign or a plaque.

Everywhere, it seems, Allende’s name has been eliminated. Only in the lone memorial in the cemetery are the words engraved “Presidente de la Republica” as part of a remembrance of the “ejecutados Politicos”: those “executed for political reasons”. Allende died by his own hand as Pinochet bombed the presidential palace with British planes as the American ambassador watched.

Today, Chile is a democracy, though many would dispute that, notably those in the barrios forced to scavenge for food and steal electricity. In 1990, Pinochet bequeathed a constitutionally compromised system as a condition of his retirement and the military’s withdrawal to the political shadows. This ensures that the broadly reformist parties, known as Concertacion, are permanently divided or drawn into legitimising the economic designs of the heirs of the dictator. At the last election, the right-wing Coalition for Change, the creation of Pinochet’s ideologue Jaime Guzman, took power under president Sebastian Piñera. The bloody extinction of true democracy that began with the death of Allende was, by stealth, complete.

Piñera is a billionaire who controls a slice of the mining, energy and retail industries. He made his fortune in the aftermath of Pinochet’s coup and during the free-market “experiments” of the zealots from the University of Chicago, known as the Chicago Boys. His brother and former business partner, Jose Piñera, a labour minister under Pinochet, privatised mining and state pensions and all but destroyed the trade unions. This was applauded in Washington as an “economic miracle”, a model of the new cult of neo-liberalism that would sweep the continent and ensure control from the north.

Today Chile is critical to President Barack Obama’s rollback of the independent democracies in Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela. Piñera’s closest ally is Washington’s main man, Juan Manuel Santos, the new president of Colombia, home to seven US bases and an infamous human rights record familiar to Chileans who suffered under Pinochet’s terror.

Post-Pinochet Chile has kept its own enduring abuses in shadow. The families still attempting to recover from the torture or disappearance of a loved bear the prejudice of the state and employers. Those not silent are the Mapuche people, the only indigenous nation the Spanish conquistadors could not defeat. In the late 19th century, the European settlers of an independent Chile waged their racist War of Extermination against the Mapuche who were left as impoverished outsiders. During Allende’s thousand days in power this began to change. Some Mapuche lands were returned and a debt of justice was recognised.

Since then, a vicious, largely unreported war has been waged against the Mapuche. Forestry corporations have been allowed to take their land, and their resistance has been met with murders, disappearances and arbitrary prosecutions under “anti terrorism” laws enacted by the dictatorship. In their campaigns of civil disobedience, none of the Mapuche has harmed anyone. The mere accusation of a landowner or businessman that the Mapuche “might” trespass on their own ancestral lands is often enough for the police to charge them with offences that lead to Kafkaesque trials with faceless witnesses and prison sentences of up to 20 years. They are, in effect, political prisoners.

While the world rejoices at the spectacle of the miners’ rescue, 38 Mapuche hunger strikers have not been news. They are demanding an end to the Pinochet laws used against them, such as “terrorist arson”, and the justice of a real democracy. On 9 October, all but one of the hunger strikers ended their protest after 90 days without food. A young Mapuche, Luis Marileo, says he will go on. On 18 October, President Piñera is due to give a lecture on “current events” at the London School of Economics. He should be reminded of their ordeal and why.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Obama Syndrome: A Live Interview with Tariq Ali and Joel Whitney

 As part of his tour to launch The Obama Syndrome, Tariq Ali appeared at New York’s Asia Society September 17th, 2010 where he was interviewed on stage by Joel Whitney, Founding Editor in Chief of Guernica magazine
  Tariq Ali

http://tariqali.org/archives/1813

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Australia Should Leave Afghan War By Tariq Ali

The political commentator, Tariq Ali, is visiting Australia and says the country should grow up and pull out of the war on Afghanistan. The British Pakistani author, film maker, and activist has written more than two dozen books on world politics and terrorism. His latest is 'The Obama Syndrome: Surrender at Home, War Abroad'. He has also just taken part as a guest speaker at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas at the Sydney Opera House.

Presenter: Linda LoPresti

Speaker: Tariq Ali, political commentator, film maker, and author of 'The Obama Syndrome - Surrender at Home, War Abroad

ALI: The Dutch have already done it, the Spanish have been considering it, most of the European countries are extremely nervous and even in Britain there is now a huge debate on how long they can keep their troops in there. So, it can be done quite easily if politicians have the will to do so, but most politicians in the western world allied to the United States find it difficult to disagree with them. In fact, there is a big debate going on within the American military and political establishment as well. General Eikenberry, the US ambassador in Kabul, was opposed to sending more troops and escalating the war, but he lost the fight and Obama went with General Petraeus and sent in 30,000 more troops. So, no country, including the United States, is without debate on this issue.

LOPRESTI: Well, you're very critical of US President Barack Obama's policy on Afghanistan in your book 'The Obama Syndrome - Surrender at Home, a War Abroad'. You're more critical of Obama than of George W. Bush. Why is that?

ALI: Well, I was incredibly critical of George W. Bush. The only point I make in relation to Afghanistan-Pakistan is that Obama has escalated the war and he's been in power now for two years and during the two years he's launched more drone attacks in Pakistan than George Bush did over eight years. So, as far as Pakistan-Afghanistan is concerned, he is worse than Bush in terms of what's going on and you will recall that event when the Iranians killed the demonstrator Neda on the streets of Teheran and the whole world was weeping in public and a moist eyed president appeared on the lawn of the White House to speak to the press corp, that very same day, a US drone killed 50 people, mainly women and children in Pakistan and it was barely reported outside the country. So, that is what we are confronted with double standards every single day.

LOPRESTI: Well, what is your assessment of President Obama. There were very high hopes for him when he took office. You're critical of his policies, especially his foreign policies. Do you think he is a weak president?

ALI: I think he is a very weak president. I think, had he decided to make shifts both on the foreign policy level and at home within the first four to five months of being in power, appeal directly to his supporters, with a majority in the senate and the congress, he could have pushed things through. But essentially he is a machine politician, produced by the Chicago machine, one of the most notorious in the United States, and he capitulates far too easily, so that he has now got himself in a state where he's scared of even taking on the Tea Party people, who are - quite a lot of them - just simply nutty. So he's very, very weak, he capitulated to the insurance companies on the health reform, he's in favour of privatising education, handing over schools in Chicago for instance to the navy and the military, and so there is incredible disillusionment with him. And if he does badly in the mid terms next month, it will not be because his supporters are voting Republican, but because they are staying at home.

LOPRESTI: But he has pledged to scale back combat troops in Iraq.

ALI: Well, Bush had promised that too, there is no big difference. But it is scaling back, it is not withdrawing, and six huge US military bases have been built in Iraq, which will keep between 50 and 60,000 combat troops in that country ready to intervene should they feel the need to do so. Meanwhile, Iraqi oil has been privatised and handed over to oil companies from all over the globe

Source: Radio Australia Sunday, October 10, 2010

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Quotes from Tariq Ali on the ABC's Q &A Monday 4 October, 2010


Tariq Ali
 TARIQ ALI: Well, I think Australia should now grow up and stop being a junior ally, either to Britain - for years it was a junior ally to Britain. Australian Prime Ministers just mimicked the British. Now, they're doing the same as far as the United States is concerned and this is a country now which has lots and lots of young people from many different cultures and nationalities and it should just realise which part of the world it's in and settle down to it. Now, as far as the United States is concerned, you know, it's tempting to agree with you and say there are all these disasters happening. The American economy is on the decline. The war in Iraq has gone bad, the war in Afghanistan is getting even worse, and this is the end of America. It's not as simple as that. It isn't the end of America and it isn't the end of the American military industrial complex and America remains the world's most powerful militarised state, with a military budget that is 10 times more than the six countries after it put together and one just has to be aware of that. It's been written off before and it's also a world hegemony now with no rivals. You know, the notion that China is a serious military, political rival to the states is nonsense. It's an economic rival. That's absolutely true. The European Union isn't a rival so where is the treat to American hegemony coming from? I think it's overrated, this threat, and what will change the United States is not going to be defeats abroad, but what will change the United States is if there are movements of its own people within that country. That is what will bring about organic change so I hate to disappoint you. I wish I could agree with you but I can't.

TONY JONES: Barack Obama's rise to power was considered to be a movement. You've very disillusioned about that.

TARIQ ALI: Well, it was a movement but, you know, and the - what changed in the United States with Obama was not so much there was a big policy shift. In fact he escalated the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. What changed was the mood music. It was nicer. Nice smiles all around. Yes, we can. Do what? Change we can believe in. Which direction? You know, so I think a lot of Obama's own supporters are incredibly disappointed at the moment. He is not going to be defeated by the Tea Party or Sarah Palin or that crowd. What could bring him down is the fact that his own supporters, disappointed, decide to stay at home saying, "We tried you. You've let us down and we're not going to vote," and this is what we will probably see in the mid-term elections......................


TONY JONES: Okay. Let's got to Tariq. Could we have foreseen that conventional methods were always doomed to fail with sweeping ideological wars? That was the question.

TARIQ ALI: Well, I think the attack on Iraq planned by the Bush/Cheney Administration had very little to do with Al-Qaeda or terrorism because Al-Qaeda didn't exist in Iraq. One of the things about the Saddam Hussein regime was that it was secular and even harshly secular and very vicious in dealing with extremist religious organisations in its own country. In fact, Al-Qaeda landed up in Iraq together with the US Army, you know, like flies to honey. That is what happened. So the attack on Iraq very little to do with terrorism but just a desire on the part of this administration to remove a government and replace it with something else, which has backfired quite badly. I mean, this is a statistic people don't like hearing in the western world especially but according to medical experts and expeditions, over a million Iraqis have died; five million Iraqi refugees; five and a half million orphans in Iraq; the entire social infrastructure of that country destroyed. Now, naturally, it angers some young people and then they decide to take the law in their own hands and say, "We've got to do something." All the intelligence reports in Britain said that the bombers of July the 7th were fired up by British foreign policy backing Bush and had very little to do with religion as such. So these wars, far from helping solve the problem actually exacerbate it. But having said that, you have to understand that even in a country like Pakistan, which people often say is on the verge of falling into the hand of religious extremists, in every single democratic election in Pakistan religious extremist groups and sometimes even moderate religious groups have won less than six per cent of the vote. The bulk of the country votes for non-religious political parties. So it's worth bearing that in mind, especially given what is going on in that country now with the spillage of the ground war into Pakistan, the drone attacks which Obama has increased; more drone attacks on Pakistan in the last two years than in the previous eight years of the Bush administration. That is the figure. There's flood, which has made 24 million people homeless. It's a nightmare situation in that country so we need the wars to end so people can deal with other things.


TONY JONES: Geoffrey Robertson.

GEOFFREY ROBERTSON: Well, very quickly, I don't worry so much about Al-Qaeda. It's containable. What really worries me is the fact that the policy pursued by the Bush administration was to knock out the two governments that contain Iran and Iran, believe me, it's a question of state terrorism and is infinitely more dangerous when it obtains nuclear power, as it will in a couple of years.

TONY JONES: Geoffrey, military intervention in that case?

GEOFFREY ROBERTSON: No, this is...

TONY JONES: There will be cases made by military people for military intervention.

GEOFFREY ROBERTSON: There are cases being made at the moment. We should have thought years ago about how to avert this. Sanctions are not working. The prospect of military intervention would be a nightmare and America is too stretched anyway. The Security Council must put this as number one on the agenda. I've done a report on the prison massacres of 1988 where the administration of Iran - everyone still there, apart from the Ayatollah, approved the mass murder of 7000 political prisoners. They just went into the prisons at the end of the Iran/Iraq war and strung everyone up who would not agree with the Guardianship of the Jurist, the strange millennial thinking of this theocratic government. This is the danger. It's brutal. It's merciless. It believes in killing non-believers, the Moharabs, and it is, today, in Evin Prison, executing dissidents as Moharabs, enemies of God. So let us focus on this as the great problem that lies ahead and this is something that the...

TARIQ ALI: Geoffrey, can I just interrupt you on that?

GEOFFREY ROBERTSON: Yes.

TARIQ ALI: I mean there are problems with Iran. I agree but surely the simplest way to put pressure on Iran not to build nuclear weapons would be for the United States to use its pressure and influence to make the Middle East a nuclear free zone, which is telling the Israelis, "No nuclear weapons for you either."

TONY JONES: Tariq, how would you propose disarming Israel of its nuclear weapons? I mean, seriously.

TARIQ ALI: Well, seriously, by bringing about change in Israel not through any stupid interventions but, if necessary, through boycotts, divestment and sanctions as have been used against other countries with great effect in the past. You can't say to the Iranians, "The Israelis can have them, your neighbours; your neighbours Pakistan can have them; India can have them; US nuclear ships can patrol your seas; China has nuclear weapons but you can't have them." If you use force against Iran in that way you'd simply rally the population around the clerics. That's the problem, so other ways have to be thought of doing this.

GEOFFREY ROBERTSON: Yes. They have to be found. The first step, I agree with Tariq the first step is to get Israel to admit its nuclear weapons. It's got several hundred, it's believed, but it hasn't admitted it. The problem with that solution is that you cannot rely on Iran. Iran lies and lies and lies. There's Armadinejad last week saying that the 9/11 attack was orchestrated by the American government and the Jews.

TARIQ ALI: Well, unfortunately - I mean I agree with you. He made a nutty speech. But so many Americans I have to argue against when I travel the United States, who believe that, "Tariq, weren't the attacks carried out by ourselves? Didn't we do it?" And I have to argue against American citizens saying, "No, your government didn't actually knock out these two installations. It was Al-Qaeda who have admitted it." So there is this big conspiracy movement and a lot of them went actually and called on Armadinejad and congratulated him......