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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Response to SBS's Anti-Chavez Propaganda on Venezuela by Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network

Higo Chavez with Green Left Weekly's  Kiraz Janicke

The Dateline program “Power politics”, aired on SBS TV on May 23, 2010 (and on SBS2 on May 24) was one of the most blatantly biased reports on Venezuelan politics yet to be aired on Australian TV. The anti-Bolivarian line unashamedly pushed by reporter David O'Shea mirrors (in fact was shaped by) the most right-wing of Venezuela’s opposition parties.

O’Shea’s key spokesperson for the supposedly widespread public disgruntlement with President Chavez and his government was Aixa Lopez. Lopez is presented as an ordinary citizen/mother of an asthmatic daughter/lawyer turned activist who set up the "Association of Victims of the Blackouts" out of fear for her child’s safety. What O’Shea fails to mention is that Lopez is also a long-term, committed activist for the political right, including holding the position of Women’s Secretary in the conservative Accion Democratica (Democratic Action - AD) party.

Almost everyone interviewed by O’Shea are middle-class professionals with axes to grind, and he gives them free, uncritical rein. Their vague but vehement claims that the Chavez government silences dissent are ridiculous in a country where there is greater freedom of movement, speech and assembly than even in Australia.

In this regard, O’Shea’s apparent refusal to absorb the significance of some of his own script is stunning. For example, just seconds after footage showing government critics freely demonstrating outside the ombudsman's office, anti-Chavez leader Vladimir Villegas is presented accusing the Chavez government of “shutting down critics, restricting debate, trying to impose a political view that monopolises society and preventing dissidents from expressing their views, especially internally”.

Just minutes after O’Shea reports that Venezuela’s government has recently armed 30,000 farmers and other ordinary people in national defence militias, Chavez is described as an “egotistical, militaristic totalitarian”.

It doesn’t make sense. If Chavez is such a totalitarian, why would all members of Venezuela’s armed forces be required to pledge not harm their fellow citizens? Why would Chavez have led the radical reform of Venezuela’s military to include social and community work as part of military life?

What does make sense is that, in the face of coup threats and plots, the alarming militarisation of surrounding countries by the United States, and Western TV stations like SBS actively promoting “regime change” in his country, Chavez wants an armed population.

Before Chavez was elected in 1998, Venezuela was ruled by only two parties: Democratic Action (AD) and Copei, the Christian Democrats. By contrast, the September 26th, 2010, national assembly elections will be contested by around 10 major parties, as well as dozens of smaller parties. This is hardly a state that does not allow dissent.

In fact, this Dateline program is very like the many aired daily in Venezuela by the opposition, who own the licenses for all but one state-owned and one community TV broadcasting frequency. Again, hardly evidence of a state that does not allow dissent.

For a program supposedly focused on a basic service – electricity – it is remarkable that there was no mention of the many infrastructure projects the Chavez government has successfully undertaken: a huge expansion of public housing, schools, universities, hospitals and health clinics. Compared to 1998, more than 4 million more Venezuelans now have access to clean drinking water, and more than 5 million more Venezuelans now have access to sanitation.

It is even more remarkable that, having mocked the Chavez government’s public education campaign to reduce energy consumption, Dateline did not even mention the more significant attempts of the government and workers in the electricity sector to address the energy crisis. There was no mention, for example, of the two-day presidential consultation with the rank-and-file electricity workers in April, or the May 15 handover of control of various primary production plants to the workers.

Setting aside the absurdity of implying that President Chavez is somehow responsible for the current drought in Venezuela, or that low-energy light bulbs are evil tools of communist dictatorships, it in evident in every election result since Chavez first came to power that the poor of Venezuela know they would be the last to get any electricity had this happened before Chavez was elected.

And that is the nub of it: it is not Chavez the individual that fills the opposition with fear and loathing as much as the poor majority - the millions of Chavistas who are determined not to let themselves be driven back into an underclass of excluded and oppressed people. Despite undeniable obstacles and problems, in Venezuela a large proportion of people are starting to play an active role in their shaping their society, organising collectively to overcome their problems through mass movements, social missions, communal councils, community media and so on.

Rather than providing a well-researched, credible investigation of the social, economic and political situation in Venezuela, this Dateline program appeared, as one viewer’s comment on SBS’s website put it, to be little more than “an English version of the election launch for the Democratic Action (AD) Party … AD ruled Venezuela badly for 40 years. AD chose to boycott the last elections - their mistake. But now they are running for office with Dateline's help!”

We suggest that SBS endeavour to repair some of the damage to its reputation by commissioning another Dateline report that strives honestly to document the views of some of the majority of Venezuelans, who have repeatedly re-elected Chavez with increasing majorities each time, and who support his efforts to put such vital resources as electricity and the media under their/public control.

As another viewer commented on the SBS website: “For those who have missed out on dreams of a gravy boat ride or a green ticket to the US I imagine that Chavez would be hard to swallow. For the people of the world who support … equality across all economic groups, Chavez is a hero. Chavez supports the poor, obviously the rich are going to cry, they will have to share. Viva Chavez!”

Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network

May 24, 2010

Don't be fooled. This is Tory rule by Mark Steel

Mark Steel

Right – who knows a way of making "Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition out out out" scan properly? Events haven't been made easier by the news coverage, which involved reporters telling us "Oh my God it's historic and the two of them look so lovely together, and they're in the GARDEN, ooooo I haven't cried so much since I last saw Breakfast at Tiffany's." After the press conference the BBC's reporter gasped "It's EXTRAORDINARY, and when was the last time you could hear birdsong during a press conference?" I thought she'd carry on "It's as if the thrushes and blackbirds have arranged their own coalition and all the fluffy animals will be in the cabinet and the Home Secretary will be a lovely smiley caterpillar."
A much more stable solution was to keep the chaos going for four years, when it would be time for another election. So every day the news would say something like: "This morning William Hague offered the Lib Dems two places on the British Council of Buddhists, and the job of England football manager to Danny Alexander, but in a dramatic twist at 3.00 pm, following pressure from Paddy Ashdown, Peter Mandelson appeared at the Treasury and hung himself, thus removing a crucial obstacle to a pact with Labour."

Then Caroline Lucas of the Green Party could have nipped to the palace to say to the Queen, "Tell you what, I'll take over shall I?" and run the place while the other parties didn't even notice. Instead there's this "new" arrangement, in which the Tories have said to the Lib Dems: "We pledge to do exactly what we were going to do anyway, but if you can find some spare chairs we'll let some of you watch." And when the Tories say they're willing to consider electoral reform, you know for some that means we should get one vote each for every field we own.

So while I understand how so many were repulsed by Labour, and appreciate the vagaries of our voting system, it would be only fair if everyone who voted Lib Dem "to keep the Tories out" was made to queue up to get a good slap. Because this will be a Tory government. For now, both parties hail the partnership as a success. A Tory commentator said yesterday: "The friendly greeting given by David Cameron to Nick Clegg at Downing Street was a highly encouraging start." Well what did he think Cameron would do? Say: "Oi Clegg, never mind shaking hands, be a decent fag and toast me a crumpet while I chat to Nick Robinson"?

But nothing that made the Lib Dems distinctive, such as cancelling Trident or offering an amnesty to asylum seekers, will be even up for discussion. Instead they'll be boasting: "The new Budget is a positive example of coalition rule, in that the Conservatives made the economic decisions, but Vince Cable decided on the font it was published in. There were tough negotiations but the closure of the nation's libraries will now be outlined in Times New Roman, so both sides have made compromises, proving this arrangement does work."

But one issue apparently agreed upon by all the main parties is a government had to be found that would satisfy the markets. Because to solve the economic crisis caused by the people who run the markets, we must pick a government that doesn't upset the people who run the markets.

A consensus has been created that the deficit must must MUST be cut, as if to oppose cuts in welfare and public spending is as futile as trying to stop the laws of physics. So we'll now have a period of new modern politics, in which a Prime Minister from Eton and a Chancellor from St Paul's in coalition with a chap from Westminster Public School force the bulk of the population to pay for a mess they didn't create, rather than upset the richest one per cent who've enjoyed an unprecedented rise in their wealth. On the other hand the Liberal Democrats have already achieved one of their major aims, which is the introduction of the Single Transferable Voting system.

The way it works is fairly simple: you vote Liberal Democrat and you get the bloody Tories.

First published in The Independent on 13th May 2010

The heresy of the Greeks offers hope by John Pilger

In his latest column for the New Statesman, John Pilger inverts the perception of Greece as a "junk country" and sees hope in the uprising of ordinary Greeks protesting against the "bailout" of an economy plunged into debt by the tax-evading rich. Greece, he writes, is a microcosm for the developed world, where class war are the words seldom used because they are the truth.

As Britain’s political class pretends that its arranged marriage of Tweedledee to Tweedledum is democracy, the inspiration for the rest of us is Greece. It is hardly surprising that Greece is presented not as a beacon but as a “junk country” getting its comeuppance for its “bloated public sector” and “culture of cutting corners” (the Observer). The heresy of Greece is that the uprising of its ordinary people provides an authentic hope unlike that lavished upon the warlord in the White House.

The crisis that has led to the “rescue” of Greece by the European banks and the International Monetary Fund is the product of a grotesque financial system which itself is in crisis. Greece is a microcosm of a modern class war that is rarely reported as such and is waged with all the urgency of panic among the imperial rich.

What makes Greece different is that within its living memory is invasion, foreign occupation, betrayal by the West, military dictatorship and popular resistance. Ordinary people are not cowed by the corrupt corporatism that dominates the European Union. The right-wing government of Kostas Karamanlis, which preceded the present Pasok (Labour) government of George Papandreou, was described by the French sociologist Jean Ziegler as “a machine for systematic pillaging the country’s resources”.

The machine had infamous friends. The US Federal reserve Board is investigating the role of Goldman Sachs and other American hedge fund operators which gambled on the bankruptcy of Greece as public assets were sold off and its tax-evading rich deposited 360 billion euros in Swiss banks. The largest Greek ship-owners transferred their companies abroad. This haemorrhage of capital continues with the approval of the European central banks and governments.

At 11 per cent, Greece’s deficit is no higher than America’s. However, when the Papandreou government tried to borrow on the international capital market, it was effectively blocked by the American corporate ratings agencies, which “downgraded” Greece to “junk”. These same agencies gave triple-A ratings to billions of dollars in so-called sub-prime mortgage securities and so precipitated the economic collapse in 2008.

What has happened in Greece is theft on an epic, though not unfamiliar scale. In Britain, the “rescue” of banks like Northern Rock and the Royal Bank of Scotland has cost billions of pounds. Thanks to the former prime minister, Gordon Brown, and his passion for the avaricious instincts of the City of London, these gifts of public money were unconditional, and the bankers have continued to pay each other the booty they call bonuses. Under Britain’s political monoculture, they can do as they wish. In the United States, the situation is even more remarkable, reports investigative journalist David DeGraw, “[as the principal Wall Street banks] that destroyed the economy pay zero in taxes and get $33 billion in refunds”.

In Greece, as in America and Britain, the ordinary people have been told they must repay the debts of the rich and powerful who incurred the debts. Jobs, pensions and public services are to be slashed and burned, with privateers in charge. For the European Union and the IMF, the opportunity presents to “change the culture” and dismantle the social welfare of Greece, just as the IMF and the World Bank have “structurally adjusted” (impoverished and controlled) countries across the developing world.

Greece is hated for the same reason Yugoslavia had to be physically destroyed behind a pretence of protecting the people of Kosovo. Most Greeks are employed by the state, and the young and the unions comprise a popular alliance that has not been pacified; the colonels’ tanks on the campus of Athens University remain a political spectre. Such resistance is anathema to Europe’s central bankers and regarded as an obstruction to German capital’s need to capture markets in the aftermath of Germany’s troubled reunification.

In Britain, such has been the 30-year propaganda of an extreme economic theory known first as monetarism then as neo-liberalism, that the new prime minister can, like his predecessor, describe his demands that ordinary people pay the debts of crooks as “fiscally responsible”. The unmentionables are poverty and class. Almost a third of British children remain below the breadline. In working class Kentish Town in London, male life expectancy is 70. Two miles away, in Hampstead, it is 80. When Russia was subjected to similar “shock therapy” in the 1990s, life expectancy nosedived. A record 40 million impoverished Americans are currently receiving food stamps: that is, they cannot afford to feed themselves.

In the developing world, a system of triage imposed by the World Bank and the IMF has long determined whether people live or die. Whenever tariffs and food and fuel subsidies are eliminated by IMF diktat, small farmers know they have been declared expendable. The World Resources Institute estimates that the toll reaches 13-18 million child deaths every year. “This,” wrote the economist Lester C. Thurow, “is neither metaphor nor simile of war, but war itself.”

The same imperial forces have used horrific military weapons against stricken countries whose majorities are children, and approved torture as an instrument of foreign policy. It is a phenomenon of denial that none of these assaults on humanity, in which Britain is actively engaged, was allowed to intrude on the British election.

The people on the streets of Athens do not suffer this malaise. They are clear who the enemy is and they regard themselves as once again under foreign occupation. And once again, they are rising up, with courage. When David Cameron begins to cleave £6 billion from public services in Britain, he will be bargaining that Greece will not happen in Britain. We should prove him wrong

Friday, May 07, 2010

John Pilger: "Support NT Indigenous fightback."

John Pilger addresses the April 23 public meeting in Sydney. Photo by Saroj Devan.

The following is a transcript of a speech by award-winning journalist John Pilger at the Sydney Teachers’ Federation on April 23. It was part of a public launch of the Four Days in July national Aboriginal rights convergence in Alice Springs from July 6 to 9.

I am honoured to be on this platform tonight, and I would like to express my warm appreciation to Richard Downs for asking me to join him in launching this extraordinary call-out to all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous.

I would like also to pay tribute to Larissa Behrendt for her fine, untiring work, and to Paul McAleer and the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) for helping to restore the faith of many in a principled union movement, and not least to the Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney (STICS), a remarkable group that has stood boldly against the intervention and organised this and many other meetings.

When I first heard Downs speak in Melbourne at Easter, I knew that an exciting new chapter in the struggle of Indigenous Australians had opened. One of the most important political events of my lifetime was the long strike by the Gurindji people when they walked off the cattle station at Wave Hill in the Northern Territory in August 1966.

The issues which the Gurindji brought to light — the denial of basic human rights, the lack of proper living and working conditions and the racism — are no different in principle from those described by Downs and other Alyawarr elders since their own historic walk-off in July last year.

Make no mistake. We are celebrating tonight. We are celebrating once more the resolve and courage and political determination, and imagination, of a group of Indigenous Australians.

For just as Vincent Lingiari and his Gurindji comrades made their stand in the ’60s and ’70s, touring the country, forcing justice and land rights into the public consciousness and on to the political agenda, so Downs and his comrades are breaking a long and lethal silence that Canberra and the media have sought to inflict on the human rights and land rights of Indigenous Australia.

So — although we’re here too tonight to protest — let us also recognise what a wonderful moment this is: a historic moment. What Downs and the Alyawarr people are saying is that they will not meet with Indigenous affairs minister Jenny Macklin or Prime Minister Kevin Rudd until the government abolishes the intervention and fully restores the Racial Discrimination Act.

In other words, they’re on strike — like the Gurindji — and the aim of tonight’s meeting is to call on all Australians to walk off with them: to stand with them.

In doing so, we illuminate the injustice and the lies that shame this entire society and we say this to those Australians who look away: you are not innocent bystanders in your own country.

“If you are neutral in a time of injustice,” said Desmond Tutu, “you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Not only that, we are here to tell the world. Time and again the United Nations has identified the deep racism in our politics and our laws. Time and again, federal governments and their media allies have deflected the criticism. How dare these foreigners tell us what we know to be true!

Not any more. The indigenous struggle all over the world is gaining ground, and many people in other countries are now looking past picture postcard Australia at the injustice imposed on the most enduring human society on Earth, the First Australians.

Only last January, the United Nations released a report that examined the state of indigenous peoples in 90 countries. It revealed that the First Australians have the worst life expectancy gap of any indigenous people anywhere. Isn’t that shocking?

For many years, the United Nations has had a shame list of those countries that have not eradicated trachoma, which blinds children. Australia is the only so-called developed country on that shame list. Even impoverished, war-ravaged Sri Lanka has beaten the disease. But not lucky Australia.

So I believe this walk-off — and the great coming-together planned for Alice Springs in July — can be a turning point. By taking direct action and shutting out involvement with the federal government until it ends the intervention, Aboriginal people are taking control over their lives.

For what this walk-off and tonight are setting out to achieve is an Australia where Indigenous people are no longer spoken for by those seduced by authority: the kind who are given space in the Murdoch media, telling the white elite what it wants to hear.

What this call-out is setting out to achieve is an Australia where Aboriginal people are no longer spoken down to, no longer depicted in paternalistic stunts like that staged by the billionaires Andrew Forrest and James Packer at the Opera House the other day, with Macklin and rich celebrities feigning concern for the poor native folk.

What this call-out is setting out to achieve is an Australia where the likes of Macklin are no longer allowed to lie and get away with it, unchallenged. An Australia where Aboriginal people are never again subjected to discredited policies of income management and cynical concern for children.

What this call-out, this coming-together, this strike, this direct action, will do is reveal to the world that the intervention is a fraud, a con, a deception on all Australians.

In 2007, the Howard government used the report, Little Children are Sacred, to justify its actions. Child abuse in Indigenous communities was in “unthinkable numbers”, said Mal Brough, then Aboriginal affairs minister. In fact, the sexual abuse of Aboriginal girls and women is mostly committed by non-Aboriginal people living nearby.

Out of 7433 Aboriginal children examined by doctors, 39 were referred to the authorities for suspected abuse. Of those, four possible cases have been identified. In other words, as Professor Alastair Nicholson, a former chief justice of the Family Court, has pointed out, this is no more than the rate of child abuse in white Australia.

How did Brough and Howard get away with this? Certain journalists played a crucial role. The ABC program, Lateline, broadcast allegations about what it called “sex slavery” among the people of Mutitjulu. The program’s source was described as an “anonymous youth worker”.

In fact, he was exposed as a federal government official whose word was discredited by the Northern Territory chief minister and the police. The ABC has never withdrawn these damaging allegations, claiming it has been “exonerated by an internal enquiry”.

Just last week, the chief justice of New South Wales, Jim Spigelman, made a veiled attack on both the Indigenous and Muslim communities. Spigelman referred to the intervention as “triggered by revelations” of child abuse. Not surprisingly, his remarks were taken up by the likes of Piers Ackerman in the Murdoch press. Shame on him.

Our direct action comes at a critical time for the federal government, which is involved in wars of aggression overseas, while refusing to honour its commitment to protect those seeking refuge from the same wars.

This is all part of the militarising of our past and present, while refusing to raise a single official memorial to those who fought and fell in defence of their own country, this country, Australia.

I believe this historic initiative by Downs and his comrades addresses all these issues as well as revealing the so-called intervention as an old-fashioned colonial land grab.

Every government since Bob Hawke has tried to claw back the land rights that were won in the Northern Territory. It’s now happening by stealth and it’s happening quickly. In 2006, there were 180 licences for the exploration of minerals on Aboriginal land. By 2009, this had leapt to 400 licences.

Uranium, gold, oil, iron ore — these are the reasons why Aboriginal people are being humiliated in supermarkets with their Basics Cards. This travesty of welfare manipulation is costing the federal government $351 million just to administer. That’s a lot of money, isn’t it?

And a lot of money is to be made in contracts for the dumping of foreign toxic waste in the Northern Territory. This, and the riches beneath the ground, help us to understand why Jenny Macklin is attempting to destroy some 73 Aboriginal communities, and their languages, and move them to so-called hubs.

It’s getting those damn blackfellas out of the way. She dismisses their communities as “economically unviable”.

Meanwhile, government business managers are being paid salaries of up to $200,000 just to run this charade. The propaganda is laughingly called “Closing the Gap” and has concentrated on housing.

Since Rudd said “sorry” just three houses have been built for Aboriginal people, while 56 houses have been built for white managers.

If we had a free media in Australia, this would be exposed. And I take this opportunity to call on my fellow journalists to examine their consciences and to report the truth about what this intervention really means. And what it means is that Australian apartheid is being entrenched.

The political and media elite hates the term “apartheid”. It knows it means pariah status and shame. It doesn’t want the world to know that, beyond the postcard image of our country, black Australians are being jailed at five times the rate of South Africa during the apartheid years. In Western Australia, it’s eight times the apartheid rate of imprisonment.

When Rudd won the applause of the world by saying sorry to the First Australians, the Sydney Morning Herald published an editorial that said this: “The Rudd government has moved quickly to clear away this piece of political wreckage in a way that responds to some of its supporters’ emotional needs, yet it changes nothing. It is a shrewd manoeuvre.”

Actually, if the SMH believes nothing has changed, it’s mistaken. For behind the government’s shrewd manoeuvre is a piece of social engineering that will also affect non-Indigenous Australians.

The so-called special measures that control and restrict Aboriginal welfare are there to make it look as if the government is not discriminating, and they will apply eventually to the rest of the population.

Thousands of non-Indigenous people blighted by unemployment and homelessness will be quarantined and controlled; and I urge white Australia not only to listen to Richard Downs and his comrades but to support their action, because it concerns all of us.

For until our government ends its war on Indigenous Australia, until it negotiates a treaty that gives back to the First Australians their nationhood, we who came later can never claim our own.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Voting in Britain for war. Take your pick by John Pilger

In his latest column for the New Statesman, John Pilger describes how Edwardian notions of war are again being promoted in western democracies, along with the militarising of history, journalism and parliamentary politics. In Britain, the three main candidiates for prime minister are declared warmakers; and yet popular feeling is very different.

Staring at the vast military history section in the airport shop, I had a choice: the derring-do of psychopaths or scholarly tomes with their illicit devotion to the cult of organised killing. There was nothing I recognised from reporting war. Nothing on the spectacle of children’s limbs hanging in trees and nothing on the burden of shit in your trousers. War is a good read. War is fun. More war please.

The day before I flew out of Australia, 25 April, I sat in a bar beneath the great sails of the Sydney Opera House. It was Anzac Day, the 95th anniversary of the invasion of Ottoman Turkey by Australian and New Zealand troops at the behest of British imperialism. The landing was an incompetent stunt of blood sacrifice conjured by Winston Churchill; yet it is celebrated in Australia as an unofficial national day. The ABC evening news always comes live from the sacred shore at Gallipoli, in Turkey, where this year some 8000 flag-wrapped Antipodeans listened, dewy-eyed, to the Australian governor-general Quentin Bryce, who is the Queen’s viceroy, describe the point of pointless mass killing. It was, she said, all about a “love of nation, of service, of family, the love we give and the love we receive and the love we allow ourselves to receive. [It is a love that] rejoices in the truth, it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. And it never fails”.

Of all the attempts at justifying state murder I can recall, this drivel of DIY therapy, clearly aimed at the young, takes the blue riband. Not once did Bryce honour the fallen with the two words that the survivors of 1915 brought home with them: “Never again”. Not once did she refer to a truly heroic anti-conscription campaign, led by women, that stemmed the flow of Australian blood in the first world war, the product not of a gormlessness that “believes all things” but of anger in defence of life.

The next item on the TV news was an Australian government minister, John Faulkner, with the troops in Afghanistan. Bathed in the light of a perfect sunrise, he made the Anzac connection to the illegal invasion of Afghanistan in which, on 13 February last year, Australian soldiers killed five children. No mention was made of them. On cue, this was followed by an item that a war memorial in Sydney had been “defaced by men of Middle Eastern appearance”. More war please.

In the Opera House bar a young man wore campaign medals which were not his. That is the fashion now. Smashing his beer glass on the floor, he stepped over the mess which was cleaned up another young man whom the TV newsreader would say was of Middle Eastern appearance. Once again, war is a fashionable extremism for those suckered by the Edwardian notion that a man needs to prove himself “under fire” in a country whose people he derides as “gooks” or “rag-heads” or simply “scum”. (The current public inquiry in London into the torture and murder of an Iraqi hotel receptionist, Baha Mousa, by British troops has heard that “the attitude held” was that “all Iraqis were scum”).

There is a hitch. In the ninth year of the thoroughly Edwardian invasion of Afghanistan, more than two thirds of the home populations of the invaders want their troops to get out of where they have no right to be. This is true of Australia, the United States, Britain, Canada and Germany. What this says is that, behind the media façade of politicised ritual – such as the parade of military coffins through the English town of Wootton Bassett -- millions of people are trusting their own critical and moral intelligence and ignoring propaganda that has militarised contemporary history, journalism and parliamentary politics – Australia’s Labor prime minister, Kevin Rudd, for instance, describes the military as his country’s “highest calling”.

Here in Britain, the war criminal Tony Blair is anointed by the Guardian’s Polly Toynbee as “the perfect emblem for his people’s own contradictory whims”. No, he was the perfect emblem for a liberal intelligentsia prepared cynically to indulge his crime. That is the unsaid of the British election campaign, along with the fact that 77 per cent of the British people want the troops home. In Iraq, duly forgotten, what has been done is a holocaust. More than a million people are dead and four million have been driven from their homes. Not a single mention has been made of them in the entire campaign. Rather, the news is that Blair is Labour’s “secret weapon”.

All three party leaders are warmongers. Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrats leader and darling of former Blair lovers, says that as prime minister he will “participate” in another invasion of a “failed state” provided there is “the right equipment, the right resources”. His one condition is the standard genuflection towards a military now scandalised by a colonial cruelty of which the Baha Mousa case is but one of many.

For Clegg, as for Gordon Brown and David Cameron, the horrific weapons used by British forces, such as clusters, depleted uranium and the Hellfire missile, which sucks the air out of its victims’ lungs, do not exist. The limbs of children in trees do not exist. This year alone Britain will spend £4 billion on the war in Afghanistan, and that is what Brown and Cameron almost certainly intend to cut from the National Health Service.

Edward S Herman explained this genteel extremism in his essay, The Banality of Evil. There is a strict division of labour, ranging from the scientists working in the laboratories of the weapons industry, to the intelligence and “national security” personnel who supply the paranoia and “strategies”, to the politicians who approve them. As for journalists, our task is to censor by omission and make the crime seem normal for you, the public. For it is your understanding and your awakening that are feared, above all.