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Monday, August 30, 2010

‘Floods for Pakistan; Floods of Money For its Leader’ by Tariq Ali

 A disaster of biblical scope: the floods triggered by heavy monsoon rains a month ago have affected more than 17.2 million people and killed over 1,500, according to Pakistan’s disaster management body. August is the monsoon season in Pakistan. This year a hard rain keeps falling, which is why the floodwaters are not abating. Nearly two thousand deaths and over 20 million people are homeless. The man-made disasters—war in Afghanistan, its spillage into Pakistan—are bad enough. Now the country faces its worst ever natural disaster. Most governments would find it difficult to cope, but the current regime is virtually paralyzed.
 Over the last sixty years, the ruling elite in the country has never been able to construct a social infrastructure for its people. This is a structural defect that goes deep and affects the bulk of the population adversely. Today the country’s rulers eagerly follow the neoliberal dictates of the IMF, to keep the loans flowing. Not helpful at the best of times they are useless when the country is undergoing its worst humanitarian crisis of recent decades.
 The response of the West has been less than generous causing panic in Islamabad with pro-US journalists in the country pleading that if help is not forthcoming the terrorists might take over the country. This is nonsense. The Pakistani Army is firmly in control of the flood-relief effort. The religious groups and others too are raising money and helping the homeless. It’s normal.
 Since 9/11 a rampant Islamophobia has gripped Europe and parts of North America. A recent opinion-poll in “multicultural Britain” revealed that when asked what their first thought was on hearing the word “Islam” over fifty percent replied “Terrorist”. France and Germany, Holland and Denmark, are no different. 
on the responses to the floods in Pakistan for Counterpunch, August 27, 2010

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Andrew Wilkie: Afghan military intervention justified by a 'great lie' By Peter Boyle


Andrew WilkieAndrew Wilkie, speaking at anti-pulp mill rally - Launceston, June 16, 2007.

The death of Lance-Corporal Jared Mackinney in Oruzgan province in Afghanistan on August 25 brought the death toll of Australian soldiers to 21 — 10 of whom have died since June. Mackinney was the third Australian soldier killed in Afghanistan in four days.

Defence minister Senator John Faulkner defensively admitted at a media conference the same day that Australians are increasingly questioning the near nine-year old war.

Labor government and Liberal-National opposition leaders have responded to the latest casualties with old fashioned jingoistic rhetoric about the soldiers' lives being sacrificed for freedom and democracy on behalf of all Australians. This has become the routine tactic for deflecting discussion on whether Australian soldiers should be in Afghanistan.

However, this question has become unavoidable with the August 27 Sydney Morning Herald report that the Director of Military Prosecutions was considering prosecuting some commandos before a court martial for killing children.

The potential charges relate to a February 2009 incident in Oruzgan province in which Australian forces killed a teenager, two younger children and two babies, along with one adult.

Sydney Stop the War Coalition's Pip Hinman told Green Left Weekly that the possible prosecutions provided more evidence that the war was neither justified or winnable.

“If Australian soldiers are being court martialled for what are, essentially, war crimes, then the politicians who sent them under false pretexts into this dirty war should also be facing charges”, she added.

Despite the bipartisan support of the war by the major parties, who, aided by the media, ensured it was not a topic of debate during the election campaign, there was a swing to anti-war candidates, such as the Greens, in the election.

Andrew Wilkie, the independent who is likely to win the Tasmanian seat of Denison, has also spoken out against the war.

“One of the great lies, one of the big lies of this federal election campaign — a lie told by both the Labor Party and the Liberal Party — is that we have to be there to fight terrorists for Australia's national security”, he told the August 25 Australian.

Wilkie is the former defence analyst who resigned from the Office of National Intelligence to protest at the Howard government's false claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction in order to justify invading Iraq in 2003.

His comments on the nine-year war in Afghanistan, and his criticism of the lack of debate, have added pressure to the pro-war major parties.

For instance, Coalition leader Tony Abbott changed his pre-election position that Australia should send more troops to agreeing with the ALP's view that the Australian troop deployment is “about right”.

“Wilkie is correct that this war is based on a lie”, Hinman told Green Left Weekly. “The lie is that this war is about 'fighting terrorism'. In fact, this war of occupation and terror against the Afghan people is more likely to drive more people — not just in Afghanistan but around the world — to respond with terrorist acts.”

She said one of the original excuses for the war — to help the women in Afghanistan — was also a lie. “Despite all the talk from the pro-war camp, women remain marginalised and dispossessed, as Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission statistics indicate.”

The statistics showed violence against women was becoming even more prevalent in areas controlled by the occupying armies and their Afghan allies than it was in Taliban strongholds, she said.

Despite the best efforts of the major parties, the war is starting to be debated in the letters pages of the mainstream media. Hinman is confident that the new parliament — whatever its composition — will have to debate the war because of the anti-war positions of the Greens MPs and Wilkie.

“These anti-war MPs can help build a visible and dynamic anti-war movement that forces the new government to respect the majority view and pull the troops out", she said. "The resounding vote of no confidence in the major parties on August 21 means the Greens and Wilkie can play an important role in building a movement to stop this grotesque war."

The Sydney Stop the War Coalition is organising a rally on the anniversary of the invasion, October 8, at Sydney Town Hall. Visit www.stopwarcoalition.org.

Friday, August 27, 2010 Green Left Weekly

Friday, August 27, 2010

‘Greenslide’ a shift to left — neither major party wins a mandate By Peter Boyle

By denying both the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and the the Liberal-National coalition an outright majority in primary votes and in House of Representatives seats, Australian electors voted “neither of the above” for the traditional parties of government.

This followed an election campaign in which the major parties conducted an ugly race to the right, most notoriously by scapegoating the few thousand desperate refugees who attempt to get to Australia on boats.
The effect of this race to the right was to promote racism, further breakdown community solidarity, and a bolster a range of other conservative prejudices on issues ranging from climate change to the economy to same-sex marriage rights. Important issues like Indigenous rights and Australia's participation in the imperialist war of occupation in Afghanistan were totally screened out.

However, there was also a reaction to this push to the right. The Greens, a party with a record of taking positions well left of the major parties on many critical issues enjoyed a 3.8% swing, taking most of its votes away from the ALP.

At the time of writing, the Greens had obtained 1,187,881 (11.4%) of the first preference votes for House of Representatives. Yet under the undemocratic system for lower house elections, the Greens only got one of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives, that of Melbourne. There were a string of other once-safe ALP seats that came close to being taken by the Greens.

The contradiction between the size of the Green vote and their small representation in Parliament grows, suggests the need for a grassroots campaign for democratic reform of the electoral system. It is not democratic that the Nationals, who won a third the number of votes as the Greens, should get seven times their representation in parliament!

The power of corporate Australia to buy elections with massive donations and their domination of the media also has to be confronted.

The Greens won the seat of Melbourne with the open assistance of the Victorian Electrical Trade Union and many other militant trade unionists. This was an important break from the total domination of the labour movement by the pro-capitalist ALP.

At the time of writing, the Greens had won 1,266,521 first preference votes in the Senate election and socialist candidates, including the Socialist Alliance, a further 39,186 votes. The Greens look like raising their number of Senators from five to nine — giving them the balance of power in the Senate.

The progressive social movements, including the trade unions will be looking to these Greens Senators to offer strong support in the struggles ahead, no matter which major party eventually forms government.
The result after election night on August 21 was a hung parliament. The major parties are now desperately trying to negotiate agreements with three or four independents and the Greens MP to form a minority government, while the outcome in a number of seats remains uncertain. If a deal to form government cannot be made, the Governor-General has the power to call another election.

While the three independent MPs certain of a seat, Tony Windsor, Bob Katter and Rob Oakeshott, are former members of the conservative rural-based National Party, all broke over strong objections to particular aspects of the neoliberal agenda that has been pursued by both Liberal-National coalition and ALP governments since the 1980s.

Further, they have consolidated the hold on their seats by taking “community-first” positions on issues directly affecting their electorates. So neither major party can be certain of their support.

Newly elected Greens MP for Melbourne, Adam Bandt, indicated earlier in the campaign that he would support a hypothetical ALP minority government but since August 21, he's been reluctant to be so specific. He told ABC TV's 7.30 Report on August 22 that the Greens were entering discussions with various parties and independents and “there's nothing on or off the table”.

Progressive independent Andrew Wilkie, a former Greens candidate, has a chance of winning the Tasmanian seat of Denison away from the ALP. He laid out a position, on the August 22 7.30 Report on how he would be prepared to support a minority government:

“If I'm elected, the party I support will only be assured that I won't block supply, and that I won't support any reckless no confidence motion.

“Beyond that, it's all up for grabs. I will look at every piece of legislation, every issue and assess them on its merits. I think it's self evident what is reasonable ethical behaviour and what isn't. And any acts of lying and so on, I won't accept that and I won't support legislation in that regard.”

The Greens should make an offer to support a minority ALP government along similar lines because clearly a Liberal-National government would be a greater evil. However, entering or making any further commitments to a possible ALP government would trap the Greens in a conservative government that will be bad for the majority of people, bad for Indigenous communities, bad for refugees and bad for the environment.

Peter Boyle is national convener of the Socialist Alliance.

The political record of the independent MPs by By Graham Matthews

There are very few certainties about the federal Parliament over the next three years. The stunning rejection of both Labor and Liberal by the voting public has left neither likely to form a government in their own right. Whichever party governs, it will have to rely on the support of at least three and probably four independents (with Andrew Wilkie's chance of taking Denison from Labor firming).

Unlike Wilkie, whose most recent affiliation was with the Greens, the three established independents, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott from NSW and Bob Katter from Queensland, came out of the National Party. While they have been described by the media as conservative independents, on a raft of issues they are more progressive than either of the major parties.

Katter is perhaps the most ideological of the three independents. On his website he describes his motivation for leaving the National Party, which party he represented in state and federal parliaments for 27 years. Katter left the Nationals and ran as an independent in 2001, “due to his disenchantment with economic rationality that he felt the National Party was adopting”.

In Parliament, Katter opposed the sale of Telstra in 2003 and again in 2005. He opposed the sale of Medibank Private in 2006 and in that speech lamented the privatisation of the Commonwealth Bank, Qantas and other state assets. “So whether it is the railways, Qantas or the banks, we got a dreadful deal out of privatisation. If Medibank Private is sold, I do not doubt for a moment that we will get the same sort of deal,” he said on November 2, 2006.

No one could accuse Katter of being an environmentalist. A noted climate sceptic, Katter also opposes legislation to protect the environment, and grant Indigenous people native title. “Rural recreation, fishing, hunting, trail riding and camping have all been dramatically curtailed by the environmental push. Property rights were undermined by Mabo and Biodiversity Legislation,” he says on his website.

Nevertheless Katter has spoken publicly against the Northern Territory Emergency Intervention. “The fact that they've had all alcohol taken off them, all pornography taken off them and they're going to have their money taken off them and handed to them - like they were little children - through a trust fund sounds good but in reality it is the most dreadful, discriminatory, repressive laws,” Katter told SBS TV's Living Black program on September 10 2008.

Tony Windsor, independent MP for New England, has also stated his opposition to the NT Intervention. “One of the reasons why I was opposed to the intervention in the Northern Territory is that a blanket approach such as that does not recognise the flexibility that is required,” he told Parliament on February 19 2008. He concluded his speech by calling for the reinstatement of the permit system.

Unlike Katter, Windsor accepts the science of climate change. “I believe that there is human induced climate change. I believe it is something that we should do something about. I am not one of the sceptics,” he told Parliament on October 28 2009.

However, Windsor also opposed federal Labor's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, arguing that the target of 5% reductions was “nonsense” and that, “It does nothing about the issue. It puts in place an economic structure which will achieve not much more than people stopping cleaning their shoes, in terms of saving emissions.”

Windsor also opposed the sale of Telstra in 2002 and the bill to sell the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electricity scheme in 2006. “It was only the two independents ...who divided the parliament to vote against the sale as the Coalition and Labor parties crammed together to vote for its sale as they had done in the NSW and Victorian parliaments”, he said in a press release on August 5 this year.

The newest of the three independents, Oakeshott, is a former National turned independent in the NSW state parliament, who won the federal seat of Lyne in a bi-election when former National Party leader Mark Vaile retired in 2008. While a former shadow minister for the National Party in state parliament, Oakeshott has taken some progressive stands.

Oakeshott has championed renewable energy. He has criticised the Labor government for “browning down” renewable energy legislation, and demanded a national renewable energy feed-in tariff, to encourage investment, in speeches to Parliament in August 2009.

Oakeshott has voiced some support for justice for Indigenous people seeking Naive Title to land, and has noted the objections of the Australian Council for Social Service for the welfare quarantining aspects of the NT intervention. However, unlike Windsor and Katter, he has not publicly opposed it.

The strongest link between the three independents, all of whom came to politics through the National Party, is their rejection of that party. Styling themselves as defenders of the interests of farmers, small business and workers in the country, they oppose what they see as the destruction of services and the threat of deregulation and globalisation.

Whichever major party the independents ultimately decide to support to form a minority government, one thing is certain. On a wide range of issues, from climate change, to Indigenous rights, to economic policy, the independents are objectively to the left of both major parties. That will certainly make for an interesting term of Parliament.

Green Left Weekly 25-8-10

If anyone is fanatic it's Sarah Palin by Mark Steel

 
How far away is it permissible to be a Muslim? Maybe there should be special guidelines - for example, three blocks before you can whistle anything by Cat Stevens

To give yourself a stressful and futile day, try telling people there are no plans to build a mosque at Ground Zero. You'll get nowhere, although the truth is there are plans to build an Islamic centre, with a swimming pool open to everyone, two blocks away from Ground Zero. So if this is a continuation of the terrorist agenda as claimed, it's been a peculiar plan, and Bin Laden must have started by telling his followers "First we will destroy their buildings – and then, oo it's so deliciously evil, we will get people to swim near to where the buildings were... mwaHAHAHAHAHA."

The centre will include a memorial to victims of the attack on the towers, but even so Sarah Palin has called upon "peaceful Muslims" to reject the building. So, as she's asking Muslims to oppose a centre open to everyone, and that commemorates the victims of 9/11, it seems likely she's a militant Jihadist who thinks the building will be a betrayal of true radical Islam. She's certainly got experience of being filmed with rifles so she's probably sat by one while making a video up a mountain right now, leaning into the camera and booming "The front crawl is the agenda of the infidel, my friends."

The centre will also include a basketball court, but that doesn't convince these people because it won't be proper basketball, it will be Muslim basketball, and there's bound to have been some senator on Fox News howling "We've got to ask ourselves why these guys want to learn an American sport like this. Now, you imagine you've got the tallest Muslims learning to jump up high, next time you want to bring down a tower you don't have to fly planes to do it, you just get these guys to jump up with whatever bomb they've smuggled in through Mexico and whack, you've got five million dead."

And it's two blocks away, which in Manhattan is another district. So how far away is it permissible to be Muslim? Maybe there needs to be specific guidelines, for example three blocks before you can whistle anything by Cat Stevens, five blocks away before you can stop eating during Ramadan and so on, so as not to offend the families of the victims.

One persistent argument of those who oppose the mosque that isn't a mosque on Ground Zero that won't be on Ground Zero is that Ground Zero should remain a special place of sombre tranquillity.

So instead of this centre there should be more buildings such as The Pussycat Club, which is next door to where the towers were, and boasts of being the area's premier strip joint. But that must be in keeping with the sombreness, presumably because the girls start their slide down the pole in a fireman's uniform in honour of the heroic firefighters of that fateful day.

Then there are the salesmen who hover round Ground Zero. As you contemplate the poignancy of the site, someone from this franchise stands soulfully by you, taps your shoulder and opens a leather-bound collection of photos of the Twin Towers on fire.

"Hi, I'm offering souvenirs of 9/11," I was told when I was there. What are you supposed to say to that? Are you meant to go "Oo yes, you've caught the contrast between the fire and the clouds on that one, what a delightful shade of crimson?" So wait until Fox News and the Tea Party hear about that level of dishonouring the victims. Oo they'll be cross.

A philosophical argument against the new building came from Mark Williams, chairman and spokesman for the Tea Party, who said "The mosque would be for the worship of the terrorists' monkey god." To start with he appears to have mixed up Islam with Hinduism, so it may be when he finds that out he'll change his mind, and say "Oh it's Hindus with the monkey god. Silly me, well in that case go ahead with the mosque, it's Hindus I have a problem with, it's all to do with being squeamish about monkeys."

Similarly, Newt Gingrich, who hopes to be Republican candidate for President, said "The folks who want to build this mosque are radical Islamists."

And this is where they're more honest, because they seem to believe all Muslims are terrorists. In which case they don't really care where a mosque or Islamic centre is built, just as if the Continuity IRA applied for planning permission to build an explosives-testing plant, you wouldn't say "Well alright but not if it's less than half a mile from Canterbury Cathedral as that would be insensitive."

So there have been protests across America against mosques, in places such as Tennessee and Wisconsin. Presumably the argument there is "Imagine if someone who was in the Twin Towers on 9/11 was still so traumatised that they sleepwalked, and by chance one night they dreamily ambled into Grand Central station and got a train to Wisconsin and got out and wandered through the state and woke up just as they were by the new mosque, well it could be quite a shock."

More likely is there's a section of America that hates Muslims, and those like Palin and Gingrich are delighted to lead them. According to the latest survey, 24 per cent of America believes that Barack Obama is Muslim, and the Tea Party politicians promote that nonsense.

Obama seems willing to try and placate characters such as Palin, but he might be better off saying "Alright then – nothing Islamic near Ground Zero, but that principle applies to everything. So every Catholic Church within two blocks of a school is being shut down, as it would be grossly insensitive to allow an institution with such a record of child abuse to worship near its victims.

"We're withdrawing every branch of Macdonalds and Starbucks from Vietnam, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama or anywhere else we've ever bombed, and we're telling Wall Street that it has to move to New Jersey, as the Twin Towers were called the World Trade Center and the bankers were the ones that stopped the global economy in it's tracks."


Thursday, August 26, 2010

We didn’t get what we deserved By Fred Fuentes

Workers march in solidarity with Adelaide construction worker Ark Tribe facing jail for refusing to submit to interrogation under anti-worker laws kept in place by the ALP ; Sydney July 20, 2010. Photo by Peter Boyle.

Rather than getting the government we deserve, the August 21 federal election delivered an outcome the two old parties deserved.

With both Labor and the Coalition focusing on negative campaigning, sloganeering and scapegoating refugees and other minorities, an even larger number of voters decided to cast their vote for alternatives with some vision.

A hung parliament with the Greens holding the balance of power in the Senate was only a partial reflection of this growing disenchantment with the two-party system.

Close to one in five voters opted to show their opposition to both Labor and Liberal by voting for other parties.

Importantly, 11.4% of voters looked towards the progressive alternative posed by the Greens in the lower house, with 14% in the Senate nationally.

In a fairer electoral system, based on proportional representation, the Greens would have won not one but 17 of the 150 seats up for grabs in the House of Representatives.

A further sign of discontent was an informal vote of 5.6%, unseen since 1987, and reaching up to 14% in migrant working class electorates in western Sydney. More than 20% did not even bother to register or turn up.

With 80% of votes counted, 40% of votes have not gone to either Labor or the Coalition.

Julia Gillard, stealing a quote from former US president Bill Clinton, sought to downplay the discontent with this line: “It’s going to take a little while to determine exactly what [the people have] said”. In fact, the vote and the major parties’ post-election claims for “legitimacy” show neither has a mandate.

The response from the corporate backers of these parties is also crystal clear.

Graham Bradley, president of the Business Council of Australia wrote in the August 23 Australian Financial Review that any minority government requiring the support of independents and minor parties represented a “danger” to the “bold reforms Australia needs”.

“Regardless who wins, it’s not good news for business at all”, said Myers chief executive Bernie Brooks.

Australian Industry Group chief executive Heather Ridout said that a hung parliament was a “worrying outcome for business” that could lead to “instability, uncertainty and short-termism in policy development”. What was crucial, above all else, she said, is that the independents commit themselves to “supporting stable government”.

The editorial in the same issue of AFR read: “Regardless of whether the Coalition’s Tony Abbott or Labor’s Julia Gillard leads it, this is the worst possible outcome for stable government and the unpopular economic reforms required to reinforce the Australian economy against another global recession, the expiry of the resources boom and the challenges of an ageing population.”

Big business’ concern is not whether Abbott or Gillard runs the government, because they know that both will run it in their interest. Their concern for “stability” is really about parliament and the two parties restoring legitimacy – critical if either are to be able push through unpopular attacks on working people.

Both parties agree, as their platforms indicate, that neo-liberal measures are becoming increasingly necessary as the global economic crisis continues. Australia is not immune either: its rising debt looks likely to rise further as the Chinese economy, which has buffered Australia for the crisis, starts to slip.

The election result also opens up more cracks in the hegemony exercised by the two old parties. Their ability, and that of the corporate media, to silence dissident voices will be much harder in this new framework.

But for different views to better represented, we need far reaching electoral reforms that better reflect the will of the people and ensure that every vote counts.

It is also necessary for the progressive social movements to build on the 1.2 million-strong vote for the Greens. Undoubtedly a significant proportion of the Green vote was a protest vote, particularly against the ever rightward shift of the ALP. But, for an increasing number it was a conscious vote for a new progressive alternative.

In Melbourne, the Greens won their second ever lower house seat in the face of a ferocious campaign by Labor and the cravenly pro-ALP union bureaucracy against one of the most pro-union candidates with a chance of winning a seat.

Importantly, unions such as the Victorian Electrical Trade Union broke with the ALP to come behind the Greens in the seat of Melbourne and the Victorian Senate.

This, together with the Greens managing to turn the inner west NSW seat of Grayndler from the second safest ALP seat into a marginal seat, is a powerful message to millions looking for an alternative to the two corporate parties.

This is particularly true for the remaining rank and file ALP members disgusted by the direction of the party and who realise that the reason for Labor’s crisis is a lot deeper than a few cabinet discussion leaks.

With NSW Labor so on the nose, the Greens have a real chance of winning lower house seats in the 2011 March state election.

How the Greens move now to continue to build a third force in politics will be crucial to converting protest votes into a serious and lasting “new movement” as Bob Brown put it on election night. We need a political force that can continue to weaken the monopoly of the two corporate parties and work with the social and trade union movements to bring about real change.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Creating the democracy we don't yet have by Tim Anderson


Unexpectedly, it seems to me, a great opportunity for social change has emerged. This might seem strange, with another neo-fascist on the verge of becoming Australian Prime Minister. However remember that real change comes from widespread social participation, over longer periods.
First of all, the problem has to be clear - both of our major parties serve a tiny corporate elite, which likes to play them off against each other, to discipline them. This oligarchy (tightly interlocked finance, mining, media and investment groups) likes 'change' amongst the administrators, but never allows them 'power'.

Despite its origins in trade unions, the ALP is institutionally committed to gaining administrative office, and that means Labor must cut deals with this oligarchy. If the Greens, in their enthusiasm to be'credible' with the big powers, start cutting such deals, they will be similarly compromised, as were the Democrats before them. This is a time for bold new ideas, not shabby deals crippled by electoral ambitions.

The August election was a strong statement against this shallow electoral politics. Disillusionment with the two right wing parties has created an outcome where a few populist MPs and the Greens will have a chance to demand some institutional change. That is not enough, but it is important. What about proportional representation in elections? What about wider constitutional change and accountabilities, for example including

(i) prohibiting war without parliamentary consent

(ii) meaningful Aboriginal rights instead of constant tokenism, and

(iii) a wider set of citizens and workers' rights?

We must hear genuine voices for popular struggles. But how is it possible to have a 'new politics' through the old language? Such voices are not possible through the corporate media, which bombards us with trivia, consumerism and 'market solutions'. We need new media, and we need democratic controls (e.g. mandatory community participation in media boards, public and private) on the existing media. We want to hear the new MPs talking about real issues.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Iraq: Torture. Corruption. Civil war. America has Certainly Left Its Mark by Robert Fisk


 

When you invade someone else's country, there has to be a first soldier - just as there has to be a last.
 The first man in front of the first unit of the first column of the invading American army to reach Fardous Square in the centre of Baghdad in 2003 was Corporal David Breeze of the 3rd Battalion, Fourth Marine Regiment. For that reason, of course, he pointed out to me that he wasn't a soldier at all. Marines are not soldiers. They are Marines. But he hadn't talked to his mom for two months and so - equally inevitably - I offered him my satellite phone to call his home in Michigan. Every journalist knows you'll get a good story if you lend your phone to a soldier in a war.

"Hi, you guys," Corporal Breeze bellowed. "I'm in Baghdad. I'm ringing to say 'Hi! I love you. I'm doing fine. I love you guys.' The war will be over in a few days. I'll see you soon." Yes, they all said the war would be over soon. They didn't consult the Iraqis about this pleasant notion. The first suicide bombers - a policeman in a car and then two women in a car - had already hit the Americans on the long highway up to Baghdad. There would be hundreds more. There will be hundreds more in Iraq in the future.

So we should not be taken in by the tomfoolery on the Kuwaiti border in the last few hours, the departure of the last "combat" troops from Iraq two weeks ahead of schedule. Nor by the infantile cries of "We won" from teenage soldiers, some of whom must have been 12-years-old when George W Bush sent his army off on this catastrophic Iraqi adventure. They are leaving behind 50,000 men and women - a third of the entire US occupation force - who will be attacked and who will still have to fight against the insurgency.

Yes, officially they are there to train the gunmen and militiamen and the poorest of the poor who have joined the new Iraqi army, whose own commander does not believe they will be ready to defend their country until 2020. But they will still be in occupation - for surely one of the the "American interests" they must defend is their own presence - along with the thousands of armed and indisciplined mercenaries, western and eastern, who are shooting their way around Iraq to safeguard our precious western diplomats and businessmen. So say it out loud: we are not leaving.

Instead, the millions of American soldiers who have passed through Iraq have brought the Iraqis a plague. From Afghanistan - in which they showed as much interest after 2001 as they will show when they start "leaving" that country next year - they brought the infection of al-Qa'ida. They brought the disease of civil war. They injected Iraq with corruption on a grand scale. They stamped the seal of torture on Abu Ghraib - a worthy successor to the same prison under Saddam's vile rule - after stamping the seal of torture on Bagram and the black prisons of Afghanistan. They sectarianised a country that, for all its Saddamite brutality and corruption, had hitherto held its Sunnis and Shias together.

And because the Shias would invariably rule in this new "democracy", the American soldiers gave Iran the victory it had sought so vainly in the terrible 1980-88 war against Saddam. Indeed, men who had attacked the US embassy in Kuwait in the bad old days - men who were allies of the suicide bombers who blew up the Marine base in Beirut in 1983 - now help to run Iraq. The Dawa were "terrorists" in those days. Now they are "democrats". Funny how we've forgotten the 241 US servicemen who died in the Lebanon adventure. Corporal David Breeze was probably two or three-years-old then.

But the sickness continued. America's disaster in Iraq infected Jordan with al-Qa'ida - the hotel bombings in Amman - and then Lebanon again. The arrival of the gunmen from Fatah al-Islam in the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian camp in the north of Lebanon - their 34-day war with the Lebanese army - and the scores of civilian dead were a direct result of the Sunni uprising in Iraq. Al-Qa'ida had arrived in Lebanon. Then Iraq under the Americans re-infected Afghanistan with the suicide bomber, the self-immolator who turned America's soldiers from men who fight to men who hide.

Anyway, they are busy re-writing the narrative now. Up to a million Iraqis are dead. Blair cares nothing about them - they do not feature, please note, in his royalties generosity. And nor do most of the American soldiers. They came. They saw. They lost. And now they say they've won. How the Arabs, surviving on six hours of electricity a day in their bleak country, must be hoping for no more victories like this one.

Then and now

3,000 The estimated number of Iraqi civilians killed last year. That's less than a tenth of the 34,500 killed in 2007 but it's still testament to the dangers faced each day by Iraqis.

200 The number of Iraqis known to be still held in US custody - a fraction of the 26,000 held in military prisons three years ago.

15.5 The average number of hours of electricity a day Baghdad receives, a marked impovement from the six hours it got three years ago but still not up to pre-invasions standards, when Iraqi cities could rely on 24-hour power.
Robert Fisk is Middle East correspondent for The Independent newspaper.  He is the author of many books on the region, including The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East

Friday, August 20, 2010

Pip Hinman, Socialist Alliance for the seat of Grayndler

http://vimeo.com/14288937
 Pip Hinman, Socialist Alliance for the seat of Grayndler

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Why Wikileaks must be protected by John Pilger


In his latest column for the New Statesman, John Pilger describes the importance of Wikileaks as a new and fearless form of investigative journalism that threatens both the war-makers and their apologists, notably journalists who are state stenographers.


On 26 July, Wikileaks released thousands of secret US military files on the war in Afghanistan. Cover-ups, a secret assassination unit and the killing of civilians are documented. In file after file, the brutalities echo the colonial past. From Malaya and Vietnam to Bloody Sunday and Basra, little has changed. The difference is that today there is an extraordinary way of knowing how faraway societies are routinely ravaged in our name. Wikileaks has acquired records of six years of civilian killing for both Afghanistan and Iraq, of which those published in the Guardian, Der Spiegel and the New York Times are a fraction.

There is understandably hysteria on high, with demands that the Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is “hunted down” and “rendered”. In Washington, I interviewed a senior Defence Department official and asked, “Can you give a guarantee that the editors of Wikileaks and the editor in chief, who is not American, will not be subjected to the kind of manhunt that we read about in the media?” He replied, “It’s not my position to give guarantees on anything”. He referred me to the “ongoing criminal investigation” of a US soldier, Bradley Manning, an alleged whistleblower. In a nation that claims its constitution protects truth-tellers, the Obama administration is pursuing and prosecuting more whistleblowers than any of its modern predecessors. A Pentagon document states bluntly that US intelligence intends to “fatally marginalise” Wikileaks. The preferred tactic is smear, with corporate journalists ever ready to play their part.

On 31 July, the American celebrity reporter Christiane Amanapour interviewed Secretary of Defence Robert Gates on the ABC network. She invited Gates to describe to her viewers his “anger” at Wikileaks. She echoed the Pentagon line that “this leak has blood on its hands”, thereby cueing Gates to find Wikileaks “guilty” of “moral culpability”. Such hypocrisy coming from a regime drenched in the blood of the people of Afghanistan and Iraq – as its own files make clear – is apparently not for journalistic enquiry. This is hardly surprising now that a new and fearless form of public accountability, which Wikileaks represents, threatens not only the war-makers but their apologists.

Their current propaganda is that Wikileaks is “irresponsible”. Earlier this year, before it released the cockpit video of an American Apache gunship killing 19 civilians in Iraq, including journalists and children, Wikileaks sent people to Baghdad to find the families of the victims in order to prepare them. Prior to the release of last month’s Afghan War Logs, Wikileaks wrote to the White House asking that it identify names that might draw reprisals. There was no reply. More than 15,000 files were withheld and these, says Assange, will not be released until they have been scrutinised “line by line” so that names of those at risk can be deleted.

The pressure on Assange himself seems unrelenting. In his homeland, Australia, the shadow foreign minister, Julie Bishop, has said that if her right-wing coalition wins the general election on 21 August, “appropriate action” will be taken “if an Australian citizen has deliberately undertake an activity that could put at risk the lives of Australian forces in Afghanistan or undermine our operations in any way”. The Australian role in Afghanistan, effectively mercenary in the service of Washington, has produced two striking results: the massacre of five children in a village in Oruzgan province and the overwhelming disapproval of the majority of Australians.

Last May, following the release of the Apache footage, Assange had his Australian passport temporarily confiscated when he returned home. The Labor government in Canberra denies it has received requests from Washington to detain him and spy on the Wikileaks network. The Cameron government also denies this. They would, wouldn’t they? Assange, who came to London last month to work on exposing the war logs, has had to leave Britain hastily for, as puts it, “safer climes”.

On 16 August, the Guardian, citing Daniel Ellsberg, described the great Israeli whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu as “the pre-eminent hero of the nuclear age”. Vanunu, who alerted the world to Israel’s secret nuclear weapons, was kidnapped by the Israelis and incarcerated for 18 years after he was left unprotected by the London Sunday Times, which had published the documents he supplied. In 1983, another heroic whistleblower, Sarah Tisdall, a Foreign Office clerical officer, sent documents to the Guardian that disclosed how the Thatcher government planned to spin the arrival of American cruise missiles in Britain. The Guardian complied with a court order to hand over the documents, and Tisdall went to prison.

In one sense, the Wikileaks revelations shame the dominant section of journalism devoted merely to taking down what cynical and malign power tells it. This is state stenography, not journalism. Look on the Wikileaks site and read a Ministry of Defence document that describes the “threat” of real journalism. And so it should be a threat. Having published skilfully the Wikileaks expose of a fraudulent war, the Guardian should now give its most powerful and unreserved editorial support to the protection of Julian Assange and his colleagues, whose truth-telling is as important as any in my lifetime.

I like Julian Assange’s dust-dry wit. When I asked him if it was more difficult to publish secret information in Britain, he replied, “When we look at Official Secrets Act labelled documents we see that they state it is offence to retain the information and an offence to destroy the information. So the only possible outcome we have is to publish the information.”

No guns? They must be terrorists by Mark Steel


Somehow, the Chilcot Inquiry has become like Big Brother. About once a month it pops up as a small item in the news and you think: "Oh blimey, I didn't realise that was still going on." Before long, like Big Brother, they'll come up with stunts to try and revive some interest. So they'll reintroduce contestants from previous inquiries such as Martin McGuinness and Christine Keeler, or make some witnesses complete a task of finding hidden ping-pong balls in the room or they have to give evidence blindfold.
So it might seem these procedures are pointless, in which case it makes no difference that the Israelis have agreed to co-operate with a United Nations inquiry into the episode in which nine people died after the Israeli Defence Force went aboard the Mavi Marmara as it sailed towards Gaza.
But it seemed to matter to the Israelis, because until this week they insisted their own inquiry was sufficient, and that was already under way. One fact emerging from this process was that the victims, according to "Sgt S" who shot six of them, "were without a doubt terrorists". And he produced evidence to back this up, which was: "I could see the murderous rage in their eyes".
This matches the classic definition of a terrorist according to international law, as someone "with murderous rage in their eyes", and shows the key witness in any terrorist trial isn't the forensics expert or explosives analyst but an optician. If they're trained well enough they can shine a light at the iris and tell whether you're short-sighted, long-sighted, Hamas or Basque separatist.
But there was more. According to the Jersusalem Post the IDF told the inquiry that the group on the boat were "well-trained and likely ex-military" because "each squad of the mercenaries was equipped with a Motorola communication advice, so they could pass information to one another". A Motorola communication advice? So these so-called peace-activists were armed with mobile phones! It's a wonder the whole Middle East wasn't set alight. And to think Motorola and other sinister arms dealers such as Nokia and Orange go round trading in this deadly merchandise quite openly.
If the IDF were asked to police a rock festival, at the moment when everyone used their mobiles to take a photo they'd open fire on the whole crowd. Then once 3,000 were dead, Sgt S would say: "Well done, boys, if we hadn't been so careful that could have turned quite nasty."
One possible difficulty in proving the optically murderous gang's intent could be that none of them had guns. But the IDF dealt with that by saying the "mercenaries" preferred to use "bats, metal bars and knives, since opening fire would have made it blatantly clear they were terrorists and not peace activists". So this was another cunning trick of the terrorists, to disguise the fact they were terrorists by not doing anything terrorist. My neighbour's much the same; disguising her terrorism by being 74 and spending all day peacefully doing the garden without ever shooting anyone, the evil witch.
Even more blatantly, the inquiry was told the group did have guns on board, but "the mercenaries threw their weapons overboard after the commandos took control of the vessel". Because that's classic guerrilla training, to carry guns right up until the moment when the enemy arrives, and then throw them away. This is the strategy of all great military thinkers. That's why Nelson, at the Battle of Trafalgar said: "Men, I see the French, and so let every Englishmen do his duty, and chuck all our weapons in the sea. That'll teach the bastards."
On and on this goes, with Prime Minister Netanyahu making it clear he agrees with it, himself calling the victims "mercenaries". Because these mercenaries were trying to get goods such as medicine to an area that's under a blockade, which is typical mercenary behaviour, except instead of gun-running, they were inhaler-running.
But bit by bit Israel is finding it has to answer for itself publicly, and the old excuses are not so easily accepted. From now on they'll have to put a bit more thought into their bollocks, which has got to be for the good.
First published in The Independent on 5th August 2010

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Gillard plans for education counter-revolution By Graham Matthews


Lesser evilism — whereby one votes for a party defensively, because at least they are not as bad as the alternative — is a three-card trick that the Labor Party is very skilled at using.

In this election campaign, the very real threat of a Tony Abbott Coalition government is allowing Labor to establish the framework of a very harsh second term while scaring voters with the warning that the alternative would be even worse.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard is not just filling her days warning working people that an Abbott government would be a very bad one. She is also outlining a framework for the kinds of “microeconomic reform” she promised a second-term Labor government would carry-out in her July 15 National Press Club speech.

And the bosses love it.

At the heart of Labor’s pitch for support from the big end of town is the promise to “reform” the areas of the economy that the Hawke and Keating Labor government of 1983-‘96 failed to. Specifically, Gillard promised to take the axe to health and education.

Gillard’s support for education “reform” is well-known to public school teachers. Standardised, national testing of all students across the country in years 3, 5, 7 and 9 (the National Assessment Plan — Literacy and Numeracy, or NAPLAN tests) is the cornerstone. Students and schools are to be regularly assessed against each other and publicly ranked.

League tables, which list schools’ apparent achievements, will be published. The poor performers will be pilloried.

Poorly performing schools may be given extra funding (initially) to improve marks. But where a similar regime has been installed in Britain, ongoing failure to meet “benchmarks” (such as 30% of pupils achieving the benchmark of five A-C grades, including English and maths) renders a school liable to being closed, the British Guardian said on January 13. The article said 247 schools faced the threat of closure.

Gillard has not yet produced the big stick of school closures, but it’s a slippery slope.

On August 9, Gillard announced that from 2014 schools would compete nationally to receive one of 1000 reward payments of $100,000, for “improvement” in their test scores. Such payments — available to public and private schools — are most likely to benefit the wealthy, said Christine Cawsey, president of the NSW Secondary Principals' Council, reported the August 10 Sydney Morning Herald.

“We know that student growth in performance is often highest in affluent communities and we would be concerned that the model did not discriminate against students from low SES [socio economic status] backgrounds”, Cawsey said.

She also said she would be “worried” if no account were taken of “schools that select their own enrolments” — private schools and selective high schools.

A re-elected Gillard government would use competition for extra pay to break down solidarity among teachers. From 2014, 25,000 “top performing” teachers would receive one-off bonus payments of up to $8100.

The scheme would set “teacher against teacher”, said New South Wales Teachers’ Federation president Bob Lipscombe on August 9.

“A similar controversial scheme, using very similar and equally flawed criteria to assess teachers in Washington DC, has recently resulted in nearly 1000 teachers (representing 25% of Washington's teachers) either being dismissed or put on one year's notice. Like the proposed Australian scheme, the Washington scheme misuses NAPLAN-type student data to assess teacher performance.”

On August 10, Gillard announced that a re-elected Labor government would spend $16 million in a scheme to train “professionals” as teachers. Engineers, accountants and others would be given an eight-week training course, and then installed in schools for two years, ABC Online reported.

It is a move that mirrors what has happened to teachers in the technical and further education sector. Teaching qualifications would be watered down by the employment of such poorly trained “professionals”.

“The skills required to teach children cannot be learned in such a short period of time”, Australian Education Union national president Angelo Gavrielatos said on August 11.

“The focus should be on addressing the things that make it hard to recruit people into teaching and to keep our best teachers in the classroom: high workloads, large class sizes and inadequate career paths.”

Labor, however, is not interested in giving every child an equal opportunity for a rounded education. Labor will continue to ensure that the wealthy have all the access to education they need. Its decision, announced on August 4, to extend Howard-era funding guidelines for private schools until at least 2014 ensures that.

For the rest of us, the US and British system, where school closures, teacher sackings and funding cuts are the norm, is our future.
E
Green Left Weekly Saturday, August 14, 2010

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Workers, unions and stopping Abbott by Tim Gooden

Tim Gooden

For many union leaders afraid of a Coalition victory on August 21, campaigning against Tony Abbott simply means campaigning for Julia Gillard.

With a conservative win on the cards unions have escalated their pro-ALP campaigning. The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union — which has filled Labor’s coffers with more than $340,000 – has also enlisted its officials for ringarounds in marginal seats.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions has levied affiliates $1 per member, raising a further $1.8 million for electoral advertising. After three weeks of campaigning it had spent $2.13 million on metropolitan TV and radio ads, with the Australian Nursing Federation adding $475,000 of its own.

ACTU nonsense about Labor

Workers have every reason to be concerned about a Coalition victory: a triumphant Abbott would doubtless try to reintroduce aspects of Work Choices.

But does this mean that to defend workers’ rights the Rudd-Gillard record must be glossed over? Can unions campaign effectively against Abbott without being straight about Labor’s Fair Work Act?

Unfortunately, in their desperation to build support for Labor, the majority of unions are being dishonest about its industrial relations record.

For example, the ACTU executive’s pre-election resolution lists “protection from unfair dismissal for all workers” as a gain under Labor. But most workers in small businesses for less than a year have no right to appeal against unfair dismissal.

Another supposed gain is protection of delegates who exercise their workplace rights. But any union official who leaves the office desk knows union activists are regularly targeted and sacked, with successful reinstatement a rarity.

Many hail the FWA as a return to collective bargaining. While some FWA provisions do force the boss to negotiate, this law also gives the bloody-minded employer intent on frustrating bargaining an arsenal of weapons, with no obligation to reach an agreement.

By contrast, the right to strike remains one of the most restricted in any developed country and violates International Labor Organisation standards.

This makeover of the FWA has taken place even though workplace minister Simon Crean told the ACTU executive that there would be no “second tranche” of workplace reforms if Labor wins. It would also reintroduce legislation — blocked by the Coalition in the Senate — to replace the Australian Building and Construction Commission with a similar body with “coercive powers”!

Labor’s only carrot for the unions is its “Fair Entitlements Guarantee”, covering workers in businesses that go broke. This revamped version of the Coalition’s scheme significantly increases the guarantee to four weeks of redundancy pay per year of work. A welcome reform, even if it comes too late for the tens of thousands hurt by the Global Financial Crisis.

It’s no surprise then that a number of unions have broken ranks with the ACTU line. The Victorian branch of the Electrical Trades Union, which disaffiliated from the ALP earlier this year, is backing the Greens, as is the Victorian United Firefighters Union.

The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union is calling for a Green vote in the Senate, citing the ABCC and the charges against shop steward Ark Tribe. But the CFMEU has also contributed funds to the ALP campaign and is backing Labor candidates in the House of Representatives.

The Melbourne test

The dodgy argument that the unions need to support the ALP to keep the Coalition out of government is most plausible in marginal seats where the contest is between Labor and Coalition. It loses all punch in ALP-Green marginals such Melbourne, where Greens candidate Adam Bandt came within 4.7% of winning in 2007.

Bandt, a former lawyer well-known for his work defending workers and unions, is standing again, facing ex-ACTU official Cath Bowtell.

Reflecting the polarisation within the unions, the Victorian Trades Hall Council’s August meeting hosted presentations from Bandt and Bowtell. In discussion Victorian ETU secretary Dean Mighell asked the ALP candidate if she would be prepared to break Labor caucus discipline and speak publicly on issues of concern to unions.

Bowtell said she would make a judgment about “the most effective way to achieve reform…sometimes you will get reform working quietly and sometimes speaking publicly.” Bandt commented that “the ALP caucus is where progressive voices go to be silenced.”

Despite the Greens’ record in moving for the full abolition of Work Choices and the ABCC, some unions have gone into overdrive to support Bowtell. The ACTU has also approached affiliates seeking access to their membership data to allow a “cold-calling” campaign.

The Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union, Community and Public Sector Union and Australian Services Union have donated funds, staff time and office space. Left-wing unions such as the Maritime Union of Australia and AMWU are also reported to be assisting.

Responding to an ACTU request for membership data, Dean Mighell told the August 3 Australian: “I just question the judgment of the ACTU on a whole range of matters, given the Greens policy on industrial relations is far more favourable to Australian workers than the ALP’s, yet the ACTU issues a call to arms to support that party.”

On August 10, Crikey.com reported that CFMEU national president Dave Noonan said “a Bandt victory in Melbourne was a ‘zero sum game’ in terms of worker rights because it did nothing to keep Tony Abbott out of power”.

This argument is nonsense. A Greens victory in Melbourne wouldn’t deliver government to Abbott, but it /would /deliver an MP able to speak out against the ABCC, which all unions say they oppose.

Defeating Abbott, strengthening labour
Urging workers to put Abbott last would have been part of any serious union campaign at this election. But glossing over the reality of Labor in government only helps breed cynicism, confusion and disengagement. It is this mood that periodically delivers Coalition governments and allows Labor to get away with its own anti-worker policies when the political cycle turns.

By contrast, if the Greens win the Senate balance of power at this poll a returned Labor government will have to publicly bloc with the Coalition to keep anti-worker laws in place.

Unions have a duty to be honest with members and credit them with enough intelligence to vote against anti-worker policies without voting for the Coalition. When workers fully understand Labor’s failure to deliver, they are hardly likely to vote for more punishment under Abbott.

They will look for other parties to support, those — like socialists and Greens — that really do defend our rights at work.

Socialist Alliancce member Tim Gooden is Geeelong Trades Hall Council secretary. Written in a personal capacity

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Tony Blair must be prosecuted by John Pilger

In his latest column for the New Statesman, John Pilger writes about the "paramount war crime" defined by the Nuremberg judges in 1946 and its relevance to the case of Tony Blair, whose shared responsibility for the Iraq invasion resulted in the deaths of more than a million people. New developments in international and domestic political attitudes towards war crimes mean that Blair is now 'Britain's Kissinger'.

Tony Blair must be prosecuted, not indulged like his mentor Peter Mandelson. Both have produced self-serving memoirs for which they have been paid fortunes. Blair’s will appear next month and earn him £4.6 million. Now consider Britain’s Proceeds of Crime Act. Blair consired in and executed an unprovoked war of aggression against a defenceless country, which the Nuremberg judges in 1946 described as the “paramount war crime”. This has caused, according to scholarly studies, the deaths of more than a million people, a figure that exceeds the Fordham University estimate of deaths in the Rwandan genocide.

In addition, four million Iraqis have been forced to flee their homes and a majority of children have descended into malnutrition and trauma. Cancer rates near the cities of Fallujah, Najaf and Basra (the latter “liberated” by the British) are now revealed as higher than those at Hiroshima. “UK forces used about 1.9 metric tons of depleted uranium ammunition in the Iraq war in 2003,” the Defence Secretary Liam Fox told parliament on 22 July. A range of toxic “anti-personnel” weapons, such as cluster bombs, was employed by British and American forces.

Such carnage was justified with lies that have been repeatedly exposed. On 29 January 2003, Blair told parliament, “We do know of links between al-Qaida and Iraq …”. Last month, the former head of the intelligence service, MI5, Eliza Manningham-Buller, told the Chilcot inquiry, “There is no credible intelligence to suggest that connection … [it was the invasion] that gave Osama bin Laden his Iraqi jihad”. Asked to what extent the invasion exacerbated the threat to Britain from terrorism, she replied, “Substantially”. The bombings in London on 7 July 2005 were a direct consequence of Blair’s actions.

Documents released by the High Court show that Blair allowed British citizens to be abducted and tortured. The then foreign secretary, Jack Straw, decided in January 2002 that Guantanamo was the “best way” to ensure UK nationals were “securely held”.

Instead of remorse, Blair has demonstrated a voracious and secretive greed. Since stepping down as prime minister in 2007, he has accumulated an estimated £20 million, much of it as a result of his ties with the Bush administration. The House f Commons Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, which vets jobs taken by former ministers, was pressured not to make public Blair’s “consultancy” deals with the Kuwaiti royal family and the South Korean oil giant UI Energy Corporation. He gets £2 million a year “advising” the American investment bank J P Morgan and undisclosed sums from financial services companies. He makes millions from speeches, including reportedly £200,000 for one speech in China.

In his unpaid but expenses-rich role as the West’s “peace envoy” in the Middle East, Blair is, in effect, a voice of Israel, which awarded him a $1 million “peace prize”. In other words, his wealth has grown rapidly since he launched, with George W. Bush, the bloodbath in Iraq.

His collaborators are numerous. The Cabinet in March 2003 knew a great deal about the conspiracy to attack Iraq. Jack Straw, later appointed “justice secretary”, suppressed the relevant Cabinet minutes in defiance of an order by the Information Commissioner to release them. Most of those now running for the Labour Party leadership supported Blair’s epic crime, rising as one to salute his final appearance in the Commons. As foreign secretary, David Miliband, sought to cover Britain’s complicity in torture, and promoted Iran as the next “threat”.

Journalists who once fawned on Blair as “mystical” and amplified his vainglorious bids now pretend they were his critics all along. As for the media’s gulling of the public, only the Observer’s David Rose, to his great credit, has apologised. The Wikileaks’ exposes, released with a moral objective of truth with justice, have been bracing for a public force-fed on complicit, lobby journalism. Verbose celebrity historians like Niall Ferguson, who rejoiced in Blair’s rejuvenation of “enlightened” imperialism, remain silent on the “moral truancy”, as Pankaj Mishra wrote, “of [those] paid to intelligently interpret the contemporary world”.

Is it wishful thinking that Blair will be collared? Just as the Cameron government understands the “threat” of a law that makes Britain a risky stopover for Israeli war criminals, a similar risk awaits Blair in a number of countries and jurisdictions, at least of being apprehended and questioned. He is now Britain’s Kissinger, who has long planned his travel outside the United States with the care of a fugitive.

Two recent events add weight to this. On 15 June, the International Criminal Court made the landmark decision of adding aggression to its list of war crimes to be prosecuted. This is defined as a “crime committed by a political or military leader which by its character, gravity and scale constituted a manifest violation of the [United Nations] Charter”. International lawyers described this as a “giant leap”. Britain is a signatory to the Rome statute that created the court and is bound by its decisions.

On 21 July, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, standing at the Commons despatch box, declared the invasion of Iraq illegal. For all the later “clarification” that he was speaking personally, he had made “a statement that the international court would be interested in”, said Philippe Sands, professor of international law at University College London.

Tony Blair came from Britain’s upper middle classes who, having rejoiced in his unctuous ascendancy, might now reflect on the principles of right and wrong they require of their own children. The suffering of the children of Iraq will remain a spectre haunting Britain while Blair remains free to profit.