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Sunday, October 13, 2013

John Pilger:Old game, new obsession, new enemy. Now it’s China.

 
Countries are "pieces on a chessboard upon which is being played out a great game for the domination of the world," wrote Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India, in 1898. Nothing has changed. The shopping mall massacre in Nairobi was a bloody façade behind which a full-scale invasion of Africa and a war in Asia are the great game.

The al-Shabaab shopping mall killers came from Somalia. If any country is an imperial metaphor, it is Somalia. Sharing a common language and religion, Somalis have been divided between the British, French, Italians and Ethiopians. Tens of thousands of people have been handed from one power to another. "When they are made to hate each other," wrote a British colonial official, "good governance is assured."
Today, Somalia is a theme park of brutal, artificial divisions, long impoverished by World Bank and IMF "structural adjustment" programmes, and saturated with modern weapons, notably President Obama's personal favourite, the drone. The one stable Somali government, the Islamic Courts, was "well received by the people in the areas it controlled," reported the US Congressional Research Service, "[but] received negative press coverage, especially in the West." Obama crushed it; and in January, Hillary Clinton, then secretary of state, presented her man to the world. "Somalia will remain grateful to the unwavering support from the United States government," effused President Hassan Mohamud, "thank you, America."

The shopping mall atrocity was a response to this - just as the attack on the Twin Towers and the London bombings were explicit reactions to invasion and injustice. Once of little consequence, jihadism now marches in lockstep with the return of unfettered imperialism.

Since Nato reduced modern Libya to a Hobbesian state in 2011, the last obstacles to Africa have fallen. "Scrambles for energy, minerals and fertile land are likely to occur with increasingly intensity," report Ministry of Defence planners. They predict "high numbers of civilian casualties"; therefore "perceptions of moral legitimacy will be important for success". Sensitive to the PR problem of invading a continent, the arms mammoth, BAE Systems, together with Barclays Capital and BP, warn that "the government should define its international mission as managing risks on behalf of British citizens". The cynicism is lethal. British governments are repeatedly warned, not least by the parliamentary intelligence and security committee, that foreign adventures beckon retaliation at home.

With minimal media interest, the US African Command (Africom) has deployed troops to 35 African countries, establishing a familiar network of authoritarian supplicants eager for bribes and armaments. In war games, a "soldier to soldier" doctrine embeds US officers at every level of command from general to warrant officer. The British did the same in India. It is as if Africa's proud history of liberation, from Patrice Lumumba to Nelson Mandela, is consigned to oblivion by a new master's black colonial elite whose "historic mission", warned Frantz Fanon half a century ago, is the subjugation of their own people in the cause of "a capitalism rampant though camouflaged". The reference also fits the Son of Africa in the White House.

For Obama, there is a more pressing cause - China. Africa is China's success story. Where the Americans bring drones, the Chinese build roads, bridges and dams. What the Chinese want is resources, especially fossil fuels. Nato's bombing of Libya drove out 30,000 Chinese oil industry workers. More than jihadism or Iran, China is now Washington's obsession in Africa and beyond. This is a "policy" known as the "pivot to Asia", whose threat of world war may be as great as any in the modern era.

This week's meeting in Tokyo of US secretary of state John Kerry and defence secretary Chuck Hagel with their Japanese counterparts accelerated the prospect of war with the new imperial rival. Sixty per cent of US and naval forces are to be based in Asia by 2020, aimed at China. Japan is re-arming rapidly under the right-wing government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who came to power in December with a pledge to build a "new, strong military" and circumvent the "peace constitution". A US-Japanese anti-ballistic missile system near Kyoto is directed at China. Using long-range Global Hawk drones, the US has sharply increased its provocations in the East China and South China seas, where Japan and China dispute the ownership of the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. Advanced vertical take-off aircraft are now deployed in Japan; their purpose is blitzkrieg.

On the Pacific island of Guam, from which B-52s attacked Vietnam, the biggest military buildup since the Indochina wars includes 9,000 US Marines. In Australia this week, an arms fair and military jamboree that diverted much of Sydney, is in keeping with a government propaganda campaign to justify an unprecedented US military build-up from Perth to Darwin, aimed at China. The vast US base at Pine Gap near Alice Springs is, as Edward Snowden disclosed, a hub of US spying in the region and beyond; it also critical to Obama's worldwide assassinations by drone.

"We have to inform the British to keep them on side," an assistant US secretary of state McGeorge Bundy once said, "You in Australia are with us, come what may." Australian forces have long played a mercenary role for Washington. However, there is a hitch. China is Australia's biggest trading partner and largely responsible its evasion of the 2008 recession. Without China, there would be no minerals boom: no weekly mining return of up to a billion dollars.

The dangers this presents are rarely debated publicly in Australia, where prime minister Tony Abbott's patron, Rupert Murdoch, controls 70 per cent of the press. Occasionally, anxiety is expressed over the "choice" that the US wants Australia to make. A report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute warns that any US plan to strike at China would involve "blinding" Chinese surveillance, intelligence and command systems. This would "consequently increase the chances of Chinese nuclear pre-emption... and a series of miscalculations on both sides if Beijing perceives conventional attacks on its homeland as an attempt to disarm its nuclear capability".
In his address to the nation last month, Obama said, "What makes America different, what makes us exceptional is that we are dedicated to act."

10 October 2013

This article was first published in the Guardian, UK

John Pilger's new film, Utopia,
is released in cinemas in the UK on 15 November and is launched in Australia in January.
Follow John Pilger on twitter @johnpilger

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Tariq Ali: The Miliband Affair

Ralph Miliband was no patriot. He was a stern critic of the British ruling elite and its institutions.
 
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The only function of the assault on the reputation of Ralph Miliband was to punish and discredit his son. This operation, masterminded the Daily Mail and its editor — a reptile courted assiduously in the past by Blair and Brown — has backfired sensationally. It was designed to discredit the son by hurling the “sins of the father” on the head of his younger son. Instead, Edward Miliband’s spirited response united a majority of the country behind him and against the tabloid.

Ralph, had he been alive, would have found the ensuing consensus extremely diverting.
The Tories and Lib-Dems made their distaste for the Mail clear, Jeremy Paxman on BBC’s Newsnight held up old copies of the Mail with its pro-fascist headlines (“Hurrah for the Blackshirts” the best remembered), two former members of Thatcher’s cabinet defended Miliband pere with Michael Heseltine reminding citizens that it was the Soviet Union and the Red Army that made victory against the Axis powers possible in the first place and an opinion poll commissioned by the Sunday Times revealed that 73 percent supported Ed Miliband against the Rothermere rag. Did these figures compel the paper to hire a hack writer to carry on the Mail campaign in a marginally more ‘sophisticated’ style, but replete with smear and innuendo? If Paul Dacre is soon put out to pasture on his large estate in Ireland, the story will have a Hollywood ending. The triumph of good against evil, as one might say, using the language often deployed by tabloids and politicians in these bad times.
The demonization of Ralph Miliband raises a few issues avoided by both the Tory and the liberal press. These relate to Miliband’s own political views on Britain, its political institutions as well as the world at large; the context of the first Lord Rothermere’s addiction to Mussolini and Hitler and their English offspring in Britain (Oswald Mosley and gang but not them alone) right up till September 1939 and the question of patriotism and its compatibility with left-wing views.

The popularity of fascism on the Right was not, alas, confined to the Rothermeres or the Mitfords. The class confidence of European conservatism was shaken by the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia whose declared aim was to destroy global capitalism. Fear stalked the corridors of power in every capital and the presence of large numbers of Marxists of Jewish origin in both the Bolshevik and Menshevik parties stoked anti-semitism throughout Europe. The impact of the black-shirted fascist triumph in Rome, five years after the Bolshevik victory, should not be underestimated. With rare exceptions the European Right, including its liberal segments, greeted it as a huge triumph for western civilization and heaved a huge collective sigh of relief. Capitalism had found its own shock troops

Distinguished English-language publishers in London (Hutchinson) and New York (Scribners) published Mussolini’s My Autobiography in several editions: the introduction by Richard Child, a former US Ambassador to Italy and a fascist groupie who helped ghost-write the book, praised the dictator in extravagant language as one of the “leading statesman in the world.” To the end of his days the fascist leader would quote from memory what Winston Churchill had said during a visit to Rome five years after the fascist triumph in 1927:
I could not help being charmed, like so many other people have been, by Signor Mussolini’s gentle and simple bearing and by his calm, detached poise in spite of so many burdens and dangers. Secondly, anyone could see that he thought of nothing but the lasting good, as he understood it, of the Italian people, and that no lesser interest was of the slightest consequence to him. If I had been an Italian I am sure that I should have been whole-heartedly with you from the start to finish in your triumphant struggle against the bestial appetites and passions of Leninism.
Churchill proceeded to explain the international significance of fascism as lying in its capacity to mobilise friendly social forces to defeat the common enemy:
Italy has shown that there is a way of fighting the subversive forces which can rally the masses of the people, properly led, to value and wish to defend the honour and stability of civilised society. She has provided the necessary antidote to the Russian poison. Hereafter no great nation will be unprovided with an ultimate means of protection against the cancerous growth of Bolshevism.
Here we have it without any obfuscation. Fascism was a necessary bulwark against the threat of communist revolution. And all this was written and spoken long before the abomination of Stalin’s purges and the famines resulting from forced industrialization. It became the common sense of the continental Right and explains, apart from other things, the ease with which the regime at Vichy began its years of collaboration with the Third Reich after the 1940 occupation of France.

The British politicians — Chamberlain, Halifax, Butler and co — who would later be denounced as ‘appeasers’ were, in fact, far more representative of the Anglo-European elite than those who hurriedly changed their minds at the last moment when they realized that Hitler would neither agree to an equitable sharing of the continent and its colonies or oblige London by attacking the Soviet Union before taking the rest of Europe. This made war inevitable.

Churchill was never shy when it came to explaining primary and secondary contradictions. His strategic priority was to defend the interests of Britain. He was the most consistent and eloquent defender of its overseas colonies as were others in the imperial elite. In 1933 the British Secretary of State for India, L.S. Amery calmly explained to fellow parliamentarians, without arousing a storm of protest, why it would be hypocritical for Britain to oppose the Japanese occupation of Manchuria:
I confess that I see no reason whatever why, either in act or in word, or in sympathy, we should go individually or intentionally against Japan in this matter. Japan has got a very powerful case based upon fundamental realities…that is there among us to cast the first stone and to say that Japan ought not to have acted with the object of creating peace and order in Manchuria and defending herself against the continual aggression of vigorous Chinese nationalism? Our whole policy in India, our whole policy in Egypt, stands condemned if we condemn Japan.
Imperialist leaders of the early 20th century were less prone to double standards than their contemporaries. As late as 1939, Churchill, in his collection of essays Great Contemporaries, saw no reason why his reflections on Mein Kampf and its author should not be reprinted:
‘The story of that struggle cannot be read without admiration for the courage, the perseverance, the vital force which enabled him to challenge, defy, conciliate, or overcome, all authorities or resistance which barred his path…I have always said that if Great Britain were defeated in war, I hoped we should find a Hitler to lead us back to our rightful position among the nations.’
British and American bankers and businessmen were in the forefront of arming the Third Reich as a ‘bulwark against Bolshevism’ (as Lloyd George, mimicking Churchill, explained). The Governor of the Bank of England did not mince words: British loans to Hitler should be seen as an ”investment against Bolshevism.” This was a common view of the elite at the time. ‘The German claim to equality of rights in the matter of arms cannot be resisted and ought not to be resisted. You will have to face rearmament of Germany,’ declared the British Foreign Secretary, Sir John Simon, on 6 February 1934. A month later the Chairman of Vickers Limited justified sales to fascist Germany: “I cannot give you an assurance in definite terms, but I can tell you that nothing is being done without complete sanction and approval of our own government.” [War is Terribly Profitable by Henry Owen, London, 1936.] It was ever thus.

This was the atmosphere in which the Daily Mail and other tabloids (not to mention Geoffrey Dawson at The Times or King Edward VIII at the Palace) demonstrated varying degrees of affection and sympathy for the Third Reich. And it was this context that explains the attraction of many British intellectuals and workers (including comrades Philby, Burgess, Maclean, Blunt and others) to Communism as the only force capable of defeating the Nazis. In this, as Heseltine reminded the country, they were not so wrong. Curiously enough, Ralph Miliband, contrary to Tom Bower’s slurs in a recent issue of the Sunday Times, was never attracted to the Communist Parties or the groups to their left. Nor was he a partisan of the armed struggled line in South America even though he was ferociously hostile to the US-supported military dictatorships in the region.

The student uprisings of 1968-9 found him at the London School of Economics. His initial reaction, like that of Jurgen Habermas in Germany, was to describe (in a private letter) the occupation of the LSE by radicals as ‘fascism of the left’. He strongly disapproved of the notion that students should elect their professors and when it was pointed out that he would win by a large majority, he was not amused. He changed his mind after the mass arrests and the sacking of Robin Blackburn, writing that “sophisticated Oakeshottismus is a fairly thin crust; when it cracks, as it did here, a rather ugly, visceral sort of conservatism emerges.” He told me later that one of his big regrets was not resigning immediately from the LSE after Blackburn was sacked.

He was a fiercely independent-minded Marxist scholar who could be equally scathing about left-wing verities (he spoke very sharply to me in the 70s when I suggested that world revolution was not a utopia) as those of social democracy. His key work on Britain was Parliamentary Socialism (1961) where he referred to the “sickness of labourism,” leaving no doubt as to where he stood. And later he was prescient on what the future might really hold given the collapse of the broad Left, writing in 1989:
‘We know what this immense historic process is taken to mean by the enemies of socialism everywhere: not only the approaching demise of Communist regimes and their replacement by capitalist ones, but the elimination of any kind of socialist alternative to capitalism. With this intoxicating prospect of the scarcely hoped-for dissipation of an ancient nightmare, there naturally goes the celebration of the market, the virtues of free enterprise, and greed unlimited. Nor is it only on the Right that the belief has grown in recent times that socialism, understood as a radical transformation of the social order, has had its day: apostles of ‘new times’ on the Left have come to harbour much the same belief. All that is now possible, in the eyes of the ‘new realism’, is the more humane management of a capitalism which is in any case being thoroughly transformed.’
His political views were far removed from those of his sons and pretending otherwise is foolish. Ralph was not a one-nation conservative who believed in parcellized “social justice.” He remained a staunch anti-capitalist socialist till the end of his life. He was extremely close to both his sons, was proud of their success but as any other migrant refugee would be — kids have done well in a foreign land — , not in a political sense at all. He loathed New Labour and in of our last conversations described Blair as ‘teflon man’. Neither he nor his wife Marion (an equally strong minded socialist and feminist) ever tried to inflict their politics on the kids. Given his short temper I wonder whether this self-denying ordnance would, in his case at any rate, have survived the Iraq War. I doubt it.
And what of patriotism? Is it any different to national-chauvinism, jingoism, etc.? Does it have the same connotation in an occupied nation as in the occupying power? Many decades ago I was facing three journalists on Face the Press on Tyne Tees TV in Newcastle. The most rightwing of them, Peregrine Worsthorne from the Sunday Telegraph, annoyed by what I was saying interrupted me:
“Does the word patriotism have any meaning for people like you?”
“No,” I replied, “in my eyes a patriot is little more than an international blackleg.”
Taken aback, he muttered, “Rather a good phrase.”
In fact I had pinched it from Karl Liebknecht the German socialist, explaining his vote against war credits in the German parliament in 1914.

Ralph Miliband, like many anti-fascists, joined the armed forces during the Second World War. He opposed the wars in Korea and Vietnam, spoke loudly and clearly against the Falklands expedition. Even a cursory glance at Socialist Register, the annual magazine he founded in 1964, reveals the strong internationalism that was at its core. Marcel Liebman’s text on ‘The meaning of 1914’ might be well worth reprinting as official Britain prepares to celebrate the centenary of the carnage that was World War One. Ralph was always grateful (his word) that Britain offered him and his father, Jewish refugees fleeing occupied Belgium, asylum in 1940. Despite that fact he remained an outlier, a stern critic of the British ruling elite and its institutions as well as the Labour Party and the trade-union knights and peers.

It might be better if all sides left it at that…

If you like this article, please subscribe.
 
published in Jacobin Magazine 12/10/2013              

Chomsky: US drone campaign is world's biggest terrorist action



 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Melbourne Book Launch of Singing Johnny Cash in the Cardiac Ward

 
"The trouble with heart disease is that the first symptom is often hard to deal with − sudden death.”
Dr Michael Phelps.
 
I shouldn’t be writing this. I should be brown bread. Translating that good Cockney rhyming slang, that’s become part of the Australian vernacular, I should be dead. I say this because of my jam tart, my heart. Thanks to modern medical science I’m still here, and it’s been proved beyond all reasonable doubt that I have one, a heart that is.
I had a six-and-a-half hour heart operation in 2011 to replace my aortic valve with a mechanical valve. My book Singing Johnny Cash in the Cardiac Ward-A Personal Story of Heart Disease & Music is a serious attempt to raise awareness about heart disease that kills one Australian every 23 minutes.
This book is also a story about music and my relationship with it through 25 years of broadcasting radio. It’s also a story of my connection with Wellington in Central West NSW, Katoomba in the Blue Mountains, and Australia’s two biggest cities Melbourne and Sydney.
I want to share my experiences of: The restrictive lifestyle I had to bear for the best part of 2011 while waiting for the operation.The operation itself and my time in hospital.The six-week recovery period.The life I’m living now.
 
I hope this will raise awareness of cardiovascular disease in general and heart disease in particular, which is a major killer globally. This isn’t just a descriptive account of my experience with heart disease; it’s also a serious attempt to help reduce the large death toll caused by it. A large fatality count that in many cases is mostly preventable.
 
John/Togs Tognolini 18/9/13
 
 "It's a good read folks, especially if you have just had a heart attack." Gary Foley.
About the photo on the front cover
Russell Crowe, Amanda Dole and myself outside Radio Redfern on May Day 1989. Russell had just performed a few songs on my show, Radio Solidarity. In 1988, Radio Skid Row was evicted from our studios in the basement floor of Sydney University’s Wenthworth Building. We were taken in for eighteen months by the Aborigines/Kooris at Radio Redfern, who now broadcast across Sydney through Koori Radio, until we built and opened the Radio Skid Row studios in Marrickville in 1990. Photo by Frances Kelly.
Monday September 30 6.30pm, The Post Office Hotel, Sydney Rd Coburg

Sunday, September 15, 2013

John Pilger:From Hiroshima to Syria, the enemy whose name we dare not speak

On my wall is the front page of Daily Express of September 5, 1945 and the words: "I write this as a warning to the world." So began Wilfred Burchett's report from Hiroshima. It was the scoop of the century. For his lone, perilous journey that defied the US occupation authorities, Burchett was pilloried, not least by his embedded colleagues. He warned that an act of premeditated mass murder on an epic scale had launched a new era of terror.

Almost every day now, he is vindicated. The intrinsic criminality of the atomic bombing is borne out in the US National Archives and by the subsequent decades of militarism camouflaged as democracy. The Syria psychodrama exemplifies this. Yet again, we are held hostage to the prospect of a terrorism whose nature and history even the most liberal critics still deny. The great unmentionable is that humanity's most dangerous enemy resides across the Atlantic.

John Kerry's farce and Barack Obama's pirouettes are temporary. Russia's peace deal over chemical weapons will, in time, be treated with the contempt that all militarists reserve for diplomacy. With Al-Qaida now among its allies, and US-armed coupmasters secure in Cairo, the US intends to crush the last independent states in the Middle East: Syria first, then Iran. "This operation [in Syria]," said the former French foreign minister Roland Dumas in June, "goes way back. It was prepared, pre-conceived and planned."

When the public is "psychologically scarred", as the Channel 4 reporter Jonathan Rugman described the British people's overwhelming hostility to an attack on Syria, reinforcing the unmentionable is made urgent. Whether or not Bashar al-Assad or the "rebels" used gas in the suburbs of Damascus, it is the US not Syria that is the world's most prolific user of these terrible weapons. In 1970, the Senate reported, "The US has dumped on Vietnam a quantity of toxic chemical (dioxin) amounting to six pounds per head of population". This was Operation Hades, later renamed the friendlier Operation Ranch Hand: the source of what Vietnamese doctors call a "cycle of foetal catastrophe". I have seen generations of young children with their familiar, monstrous deformities. John Kerry, with his own blood-soaked war record, will remember them. I have seen them in Iraq, too, where the US used depleted uranium and white phosphorous, as did the Israelis in Gaza, raining it down on UN schools and hospitals. No Obama "red line" for them. No showdown psychodrama for them.
The repetitive debate about whether "we" should "take action" against selected dictators (i.e. cheer on the US and its acolytes in yet another aerial killing spree) is part of our brainwashing. Richard Falk, emeritus professor of international law and UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine, describes it as "a self-righteous, one-way, legal/moral screen [with] positive images of Western values and innocence portrayed as threatened, validating a campaign of unrestricted political violence". This "is so widely accepted as to be virtually unchallengeable".

It is the biggest lie: the product of "liberal realists" in Anglo-American politics, scholarship and the media who ordain themselves as the world's crisis managers, rather than the cause of a crisis. Stripping humanity from the study of nations and congealing it with jargon that serves western power designs, they mark "failed", "rogue" or "evil" states for "humanitarian intervention".

An attack on Syria or Iran or any other US "demon" would draw on a fashionable variant, "Responsibility to Protect", or R2P, whose lectern-trotting zealot is the former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans, co-chair of a "Global Centre", based in New York. Evans and his generously funded lobbyists play a vital propaganda role in urging the "international community" to attack countries where "the Security Council rejects a proposal or fails to deal with it in a reasonable time".
Evans has form. He appears in my 1994 film Death of a Nation, which revealed the scale of genocide in East Timor. Canberra's smiling man is raising his champagne glass in a toast to his Indonesian equivalent as they fly over East Timor in an Australian aircraft, having just signed a treaty that pirated the oil and gas of the stricken country below where Indonesia's tyrant, Suharto, killed or starved a third of the population.
Under the "weak" Obama, militarism has risen perhaps as never before. With not a single tank on the White House lawn, a military coup has taken place in Washington. In 2008, while his liberal devotees dried their eyes, Obama accepted the entire Pentagon of his predecessor, George Bush: its wars and war crimes. As the constitution is replaced by an emerging police state, those who destroyed Iraq with shock and awe, and piled up the rubble in Afghanistan and reduced Libya to a Hobbesian nightmare, are ascendant across the US administration. Behind their beribboned façade, more former US soldiers are killing themselves than are dying on battlefields. Last year, 6,500 veterans took their own lives. Put out more flags.

The historian Norman Pollack calls this "liberal fascism". "For goose-steppers," he wrote, "substitute the seemingly more innocuous militarisation of the total culture. And for the bombastic leader, we have the reformer manqué, blithely at work, planning and executing assassination, smiling all the while." Every Tuesday, the "humanitarian" Obama personally oversees a worldwide terror network of drones that "bugsplat" people, their rescuers and mourners. In the west's comfort zones, the first black leader of the land of slavery still feels good, as if his very existence represents a social advance, regardless of his trail of blood. This obeisance to a symbol has all but destroyed the US anti-war movement: Obama's singular achievement.
In Britain, the distractions of the fakery of image and identity politics have not quite succeeded. A stirring has begun, though people of conscience should hurry. The judges at Nuremberg were succinct: "Individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity." The ordinary people of Syria, and countless others, and our own self respect, deserve nothing less now.

11 September 2013
 
This article first appeared in the Guardian, UK
Follow John Pilger on twitter @johnpilger

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Prime Minister Abbott Happens, A Time to Organise by John Tognolini


 
 
 
This a letter I wrote earlier this year to my union's journal, the NSW Teachers' Federation's Education, not all of it was published. It is not a time to mourn but to organise and fight.

Yes Abbott Happens is prime minister, he won the race to the bottom on a election based on fear and ignorance. And amongst his targets are not just refugees but also workers' rights and the concept of a society. Sheer greed and welfare to the rich are his goals. We going to have to fight him and his plans. And the union "leaders" who have been on the nod for the last six years while the ALP has been in power, can go to hell if they want to sidetrack any fight back to a re-elect the ALP in 2016.
IF YOU DON'T FIGHT, YOU LOSE, DARE TO STRUGGLE, DARE TO WIN.

“re-elect Labor Campaign”

I’m so glad Maurie Mulheron [senior officer] has stated that Federation does not have a “re-elect Labor Campaign”.Not only is it such a forlorn hope in both the federal election this September but also the next two NSW elections in 2015 and 2019. Will there be an ICAC investigation not involving a former ALP state minister by 2020? That’s a fair question to ask colleagues.

As someone who’s home town is Melbourne. I saw firsthand the attacks on the public service including public education that Jeff Kennett carried out. Not only has Kennett been a role model for O’Farrell but also Newman in Queensland. I was also a witness to the ALP in their ten years of government following Kennett’s defeat, not reinstating one of four thousand permanent teaching positions that Kennett abolished. The ALP also did not reopen any of the schools and hospitals that Kennett shut down.

Now that Gillard has called the date of the federal election I feel that I would like to quote Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet and say, ”A plague on both your houses”. The thing is I’d feel sorry for the poor plague. Some people won't wear any critical comments of the ALP. Sorry they stink. They are the Alternative Liberal Party and their whiffy. Yes Abbott will be prime minister. It’s not something to look forward to.

I couldn't watch the ABC's Q&A the other week. Tony Abbott’s attack poodle Chris Hinde was on it, our future education minister. Flick. And can I find any reason to like the ALP? Well apart from Eddie Obeid’s appearances before ICAC providing a consistent source of amusement about how greed is such a big factor in the ALP. No I just can’t. He and other former ALP state ministers remind me of something Groucho Marx once said "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them…well, I have others." Old Groucho was only joking about it, the ALP do it for real.

I believe we should build on last year’s Community Day of Action with building May Day 2013 with a Defeat O'Farrell's Cuts theme or a Fight Back Theme. This is actually taking place in Orange and is a useful project for the Local Union Community Groups to work towards. These groups could build May Day within their unions and help get their members to May Day events across the state.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

John Pilger:The courage of Bradley Manning will inspire others to seize their moment of truth

 
The critical moment in the political trial of the century was on 28 February when Bradley Manning stood and explained why he had risked his life to leak tens of thousands of official files. It was a statement of morality, conscience and truth: the very qualities that distinguish human beings. This was not deemed mainstream news in America; and were it not for Alexa O'Brien, an independent freelance journalist, Manning's voice would have been silenced. Working through the night, she transcribed and released his every word. It is a rare, revealing document.

Describing the attack by an Apache helicopter crew who filmed civilians as they murdered and wounded them in Baghdad in 2007, Manning said: "The most alarming aspect of the video to me was the seemingly delightful bloodlust they appeared to have. They seemed not to value human life by referring to them as 'dead bastards' and congratulating each other on the ability to kill in large numbers. At one point in the video there is an individual on the ground attempting to crawl to safety [who] is seriously wounded... For me, this seems similar to a child torturing ants with a magnifying glass." He hoped "the public would be as alarmed as me" about a crime which, as his subsequent leaks revealed, was not an aberration.

Bradley Manning is a principled whistleblower and truth-teller who has been vilified and tortured - and Amnesty International needs to explain to the world why it has not adopted him as a prisoner of conscience; or is Amnesty, unlike Manning, intimidated by criminal power?

"It is a funeral here at Fort Meade," Alexa O'Brien told me. "The US government wants to bury Manning alive. He is a genuinely earnest young man with not an ounce of mendacity. The mainstream media finally came on the day of the verdict. They showed up for a gladiator match - to watch the gauntlet go down, thumbs pointed down."

The criminal nature of the American military is beyond dispute. The decades of lawless bombing, the use of poisonous weapons on civilian populations, the renditions and the torture at Abu Graib, Guantanamo and elsewhere, are all documented. As a young war reporter in Indochina, it dawned on me that America exported its homicidal neuroses and called it war, even a noble cause. Like the Apache attack, the infamous 1968 massacre at My Lai was not untypical. In the same province, Quang Ngai, I gathered evidence of widespread slaughter: thousands of men, women and children, murdered arbitrarily and anonymously in "free fire zones".

In Iraq, I filmed a shepherd whose brother and his entire family had been cut down by an American plane, in the open. This was sport. In Afghanistan, I filmed to a woman whose dirt-walled home, and family, had been obliterated by a 500lb bomb. There was no "enemy". My film cans burst with such evidence.

In 2010, Private Manning did his duty to the rest of humanity and supplied proof from within the murder machine. This is his triumph; and his show trial merely expresses corrupt power's abiding fear of people learning the truth. It also illuminates the parasitic industry around truth-tellers. Manning's character has been dissected and abused by those who never knew him yet claim to support him.

The hyped film, 'We Steal Secrets: the Story of WikiLeaks', mutates a heroic young soldier into an "alienated... lonely... very needy" psychiatric case with an "identity crisis" because "he was in the wrong body and wanted to become a woman". So spoke Alex Gibney, the director, whose prurient psycho-babble found willing ears across a media too compliant or lazy or stupid to challenge the hype and comprehend that the shadows falling across whistleblowers may reach even them. From its dishonest title, Gibney's film performed a dutiful hatchet job on Manning, Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. The message was familiar - serious dissenters are freaks. Alexa O'Brien's meticulous record of Manning's moral and political courage demolishes this smear.

In the Gibney film, US politicians and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff are lined up to repeat, unchallenged, that, in publishing Manning's leaks, WikiLeaks and Assange placed the lives informants at risk and had "blood on his hands". On 1 August, the Guardian reported: "No record of deaths caused by WikiLeaks revelations, court told." The Pentagon general who led a 10-month investigation into the worldwide impact of the leaks reported that not a single death could be attributed to the disclosures.

Yet, in the film, the journalist Nick Davies describes a heartless Assange who had no "harm minimisation plan". I asked the film-maker Mark Davis about this. A respected broadcaster for SBS Australia, Davis was an eyewitness, accompanying Assange during much of the preparation of the leaked files for publication in the Guardian and the New York Times. His footage appears in the Gibney film. He told me, "Assange was the only one who worked day and night extracting 10,000 names of people who could be targeted by the revelations in the logs."

While Manning faces life in prison, Gibney is said to be planning a Hollywood movie. A "biopic" of Assange is on the way, along with a Hollywood version of David Leigh's and Luke Harding's book of scuttlebutt on the "fall" of WikiLeaks. Profiting from the boldness, cleverness and suffering of those who refuse to be co-opted and tamed, they all will end up in history's waste bin. For the inspiration of future truth-tellers belongs to Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, Edward Snowden and the remarkable young people of WikiLeaks, whose achievements are unparalleled. Snowden's rescue is largely a WikiLeaks triumph: a thriller too good for Hollywood because its heroes are real.

8 August 2013

This article first appeared in the New StatesmanFollow John Pilger on twitter @johnpilger

Saturday, August 03, 2013

John Pilger: Australia's election campaign is driven by a barbarism that dares not speak its name

 

The election campaign in Australia is being fought with the lives of men, women and children. Some drown, others are banished without hope to malarial camps. Children are incarcerated behind razor wire in conditions described as "a huge generator of mental illness". This barbarism is considered a vote-winner by both the Australian government and opposition. Reminiscent of the closing of borders to Jews in the 1930s, it is smashing the façade of a society advertised as benign and lucky.

If a thousand Australians drowned in sinking boats in Sydney Harbour, the prime minister would lead the nation in mourning; the world would offer condolences. By one measure, 1376 refugees have drowned trying to reach Australia since 1998, many within range of rescue.

The policy in Canberra, known as "stop the boats", evokes the hysteria and cynicism of more than a century ago when the "yellow peril" was said to be falling down on Australia as if by the force of gravity. Last week, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd reached back to this era when he declared that no refugees in boats would be permitted to land in Australia. Instead, they are to be sent to concentration camps in impoverished Papua New Guinea, whose government has been suitably bribed.

Among them are people fleeing wars and their aftermath for which Australia and its US mentor bear responsibility. Those who survive are made prisoners in a harsh gulag on the most isolated islands on earth. Women and children sent to equatorial Manus Island already have had to be evacuated because of mosquito-infested conditions. Now Manus is to receive 3,000 more refugees who, denied legal rights, may spend years there. A former security guard on the island said, "[It's] worse than a prison actually... Words can't really describe ... I have never seen human beings so destitute, so helpless and so hopeless... In Australia, the facility couldn't serve as a dog kennel. Its owners would be jailed."

Australia is a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention. Rudd's actions are not only lawless actions but weaken international refugee law and the human rights movements that buttress it. In 1992, the Labor government of Paul Keating was the first to impose illegal mandatory detention of refugees, including children. Since then, Australian governments have waged a propaganda war on refugees, in alliance with a media dominated by Rupert Murdoch. Vast, sparsely-populated Australia demands "protection" from refugees and asylum seekers of whom fewer than 15,000 were settled last year - 0.99 per cent of the world's total.

The punitive, racist nature of this policy allows the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) to "assess" people in secret and detain them indefinitely - such as Tamils fleeing the civil war in Sri Lanka. Many have no idea why they are imprisoned and have included children.

Clearly, Rudd hopes to be re-elected on this "fear card". British politicians play a similar game; but in Australia race is all but genetically inscribed, as in apartheid South Africa. The federation of the Australian states in 1901 was founded on racial exclusion and a dread of non-existent "hordes" from as far away as Russia. A 1940s policy of "populate or perish" produced a vibrant multiculturalism - yet a crude, often unconscious racism remains an extraordinary current in Australian society and is exploited by a political elite with an enduring colonial mentality and obseiquiousness to western "interests".

Rudd's banishment of refugees who come by sea is designed to wrong-foot his opponent, the conservative Coalition leader, Tony Abbott, a Catholic fundamentalist. Labor restored Rudd to the leadership last month because Julia Gillard's unpopularity threatened to destroy the party at the polls and, with it, Australia's Westminster-style club of two major parties with mostly indistinguishable policies.

Rudd's move was nothing new - bashing the vulnerable is said to win votes in Australia, whether they are refugees or Aborigines. His predecessor, John Howard, bashed both. Shortly before the 2001 election, Howard claimed that people on a stricken boat had thrown their children into sea and so could not be "genuine refugees." Later, it was revealed the "children overboard" story was a fabrication.

Two weeks before the next election, in 2007, Howard declared a state of emergency in the Northern Territory and sent the army into impoverished indigenous communities where, his minister Mal Brough claimed, paedophile gangs were abusing children in "unthinkable numbers". The Australian Crime Commission, the Northern Territory Police and medical specialists who examined 11,000 children found his allegations to be false.

Although Howard failed to win this election, his vicious campaign of smear and dispossession - he demanded Aboriginal people hand over the leasehold of their land - succeeded in devastating whole communities which have yet to recover. A government review of what became known as the "intervention" found a "collective despair" among black Australians. The Australian Indigenous Doctors Association reported widespread hunger and starvation. Self-harm and attempted suicide quadrupled.

As opposition leader at the time, Rudd gave Howard full support. Later, as prime minister, he made an emotional public apology to the tens of thousands of Aboriginal Australians wrenched from the families during the twentieth century, known as the Stolen Generation. Quietly, Rudd refused the victims compensation of any kind. Had they been white, he would not have dared. When I asked him about this, he replied, "These questions should be dealt with over time". With Aboriginal life expectancy among the lowest in the world, the victims have no time.

Labor has since allowed the very assimilationist cruelties for which Rudd apologised. In a one-year period to June last year, 13,299 impoverished Aboriginal children were taken from their families, more than during any of the infamous years of the Stolen Generation. They include babies seized from birth tables. "We believe another stolen generation is well and truly under way," Josey Crawshaw, director of a respected Darwin-based child support organisation, told me. "They are plucked from their communities, often without explanation or any plan to return them, and they are given to whites. This is social engineering in its most radical sense. It's horrific." For both Aborigines and refugees, the irony is self evident. Only Aboriginal people are the true Australians. The rest of us - beginning with Captain Cook - are boat people.

29 July 2013
This article first appeared in the Guardian UK
Follow John Pilger on twitter @johnpilger

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

John Pilger:Forcing down the Bolivian president's plane was an act of piracy

 

 Imagine the aircraft of the President of France being forced down in Latin America on "suspicion" that it was carrying a political refugee to safety - and not just any refugee but someone who has provided the people of the world with proof of criminal activity on an epic scale.

Imagine the response from Paris, let alone the "international community", as the governments of the West call themselves. To a chorus of baying indignation from Whitehall to Washington, Brussels to Madrid, heroic special forces would be dispatched to rescue their leader and, as sport, smash up the source of such flagrant international gangsterism. Editorials would cheer them on, perhaps reminding readers that this kind of piracy was exhibited by the German Reich in the 1930s.

The forcing down of Bolivian President Evo Morales's plane - denied air space by France, Spain and Portugal, followed by his 14-hour confinement while Austrian officials demanded to "inspect" his aircraft for the "fugitive" Edward Snowden - was an act of air piracy and state terrorism. It was a metaphor for the gangsterism that now rules the world and the cowardice and hypocrisy of bystanders
who dare not speak its name.

In Moscow for a summit of gas-producing nations, Morales had been asked about Snowden who remains trapped in Moscow airport. "If there were a request [for political asylum]," he said, "of course, we would be willing to debate and consider the idea." That was clearly enough provocation for the Godfather. "We have been in touch with a range of countries that had a chance of having Snowden land or travel through their country," said a US state department official.

The French - having squealed about Washington spying on their every move, as revealed by Snowden - were first off the mark, followed by the Portuguese. The Spanish then did their bit by enforcing a flight ban of their airspace, giving the Godfather's Viennese hirelings enough time to find out if Snowden was indeed invoking article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states: "Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution."

Those paid to keep the record straight have played their part with a cat-and-mouse media game that reinforces the Godfather's lie that this heroic young man is running from a system of justice, rather than preordained, vindictive incarceration that amounts to torture: ask Bradley Manning and the living ghosts in Guantanamo.

Historians seem to agree that the rise of fascism in Europe might have been averted had the liberal or left political class understood the true nature of its enemy. The parallels today are very different; but the Damocles sword over Snowden, like the casual abduction of the Bolivian president, ought to stir us into recognising the true nature of the enemy.

Snowden's revelations are not merely about privacy, nor civil liberty, nor even mass spying. They are about the unmentionable: that the democratic facades of the United States now barely conceal a systematic gangsterism historically identified with if not necessarily the same as fascism. On Tuesday, a US drone killed 16 people in North Waziristan, "where many of the world's most dangerous militants live", said the few paragraphs I read. That by far the world's most dangerous militants had hurled the drones was not a consideration. President Obama personally sends them every Tuesday.

In his acceptance of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Literature, Harold Pinter referred to "a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed". He asked why "the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities" of the Soviet Union were well known in the West while America's crimes were "superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged". The most enduring silence of the modern era covered the extinction and dispossession of countless human beings by a rampant America and its agents. "But you wouldn't know it," said Pinter. "It never happened. Even while it was happening it never happened. It didn't matter. It was of no interest."

This hidden history - not really hidden, of course, but excluded from the consciousness of societies drilled in American myths and priorities - has never been more vulnerable to exposure. Edward Snowden's whistleblowing, like that of Bradley Manning and Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, threatens to break the silence Pinter described. In revealing a vast Orwellian police state apparatus servicing history's greatest war-making machine, they illuminate the true extremism of the 21st century. Unprecedented, Germany's Der Spiegel has described the Obama administration as "soft totalitarianism". If the penny is finally falling, we might all look closer to home.


This article first appeared in the Guardian 4 July 2013


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Tariq Ali: In Ankara,Turkey

A tear gas canister, made in Brazil, used in Turkey.

How it changes. When I was in Istanbul last April the mood was sombre. Even the most ebullient of friends were downcast. The latent hostility to the regime was always present, but the AKP’s hegemony, I was told many times, went deep. Erdoğan was a reptile, cynical but clever and not averse to quoting the odd verse from Nâzım Hikmet, the much-loved communist poet imprisoned by Atatürk. The poet had escaped in a boat and been rescued by a Soviet tanker. ‘Can you prove you’re Hikmet,’ the captain asked him. He laughed and pointed to a poster in the captain’s cabin which had his photograph on it.

He died in Moscow in 1963. His remains are still in exile. Talk now was of food (the exquisite wafer-thin pizzas from the Syrian border) or the delights of children produced in middle age. Complaints were varied. An old cinema on İstiklal was about to be dynamited. It would be replaced by yet more characterless shops that have already disfigured this historic street with its arcades and Belle Epoque apartments (where, once upon a time, many wealthy Armenian merchant families lived). There had been a few mild demonstrations against the execution of the movie house, but symbolic in character. The newspapers were talking of the regime’s latest PR triumph: sixty ‘wise men’ who would be consulted from time to time. There were photographs of their first assembly in the Dolmabahçe Palace, a suitably kitsch setting for a kitsch gathering. An old acquaintance, Murat Belge, was among their number. Encouraged by the indifference, Erdoğan proceeded with other plans: A shopping mall in Gezi Park, a new bridge over the Bosphorus and a new grand mosque to steal the landscape from Sinân’s delicate creations.

The citizens of Istanbul were never asked for their views. It was this lack of any consultation that angered the citizens and triggered the occupation of the tiny green space in the heart of the city. As we all now know, the spirit of conciliation is not the Turkish prime minister’s strong point. Nor is generosity of heart or mind. He loathes secular intellectuals, refers to the founders of the republic as drunkards or alcoholics (as if those were their defining characteristics rather than outwitting Lord Curzon and the British Empire to create a republic) and talks constantly of the danger from left-wing ‘terrorists’. When angry, which is often, Erdoğan takes on the character of a village bully, sometimes embarrassing his colleagues. Socially conservative, politically unscrupulous, economically beholden to the building industry and militarily/politically Nato’s favourite Islamists, the party in power ignored the voices on the street. They were meant to be the model for other Muslim countries.

Erdoğan’s arrogance in using violence – baton charges, water cannon and tear gas, against mainly young people – has wrecked the model. Hence the note of exasperation from the White House, and the familiar request that ‘both sides should show restraint.’The police assault on unarmed and peaceful occupiers backfired badly. Within 48 hours every city, bar four, had experienced solidarity demonstrations and occupations of public places. The tiny protest had grown into a national uprising against the sultan of the building trades, large and small.

When I arrived in Ankara on the evening of 15 June, the tell-tale signs were visible. Water-tanks and scorpions (police command cars) were stationed on the main streets, ready to go into action. It’s the first time I’ve experienced protests that begin at night. People come home from work, change, eat, discard their ties and get ready. Water bottles and handkerchief, soaked to protect against tear gas. At 10 or 11 p.m. they come out, usually in small groups, crossing streets like shadows till they reach Kuğulu Park and smile as thousands are already there, chanting slogans, singing songs, taunting Erdoğan. The police attack. Barricades hurriedly go up using advertising boards, the odd car and anything to hand. Water cannon try to disperse them. They fail. Then the tear gas (imported from Brazil). It keeps coming. The demonstrators disperse, assemble again and so it goes on till 3 a.m. or later. Action will be resumed the following night.

While this is happening on the streets, in apartment windows the mothers and grandmothers of the demonstrators bang pots and pans in solidarity – and as a warning to Erdoğan, for this is a very old Turkish protest pioneered by Janissary corps to warn the Ottoman sultan that enough was enough. In Istanbul, when Erdoğan asked parents to take their kids home, thousands of mothers joined the occupation, bringing pots, spoons and pans with them. Erdoğan denounced the protestors as çapulcu: ‘looters’. As in Paris in May 1968, the young Turks chanted: ‘We are all çapulcu.’ When I visited Kuğulu Park there was a slogan on the wall: ‘Welcome to the çapulcu fest.’ Passionate arguments were taking place, free libraries in every corner, free food brought by parents, and hope written on young faces. Steve Bell’s cartoon of Erdoğan as a water tank dousing the people is on all their phones.

I asked a young woman about the word. She laughed: ‘Yes. Our response was immediate. The semiotics of this uprising are certainly very interesting. But more importantly, what next? Our demobilisation would be a big tragedy.’ A young man interrupted: ‘We can’t hold on to the squares for ever. We need something more.’How the new opposition regroups is difficult to say, but if a new democratically structured political movement is formed (like, for instance, Syriza in Greece) it could give a permanent voice to the people from below. A monthly public assembly in Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Bodrum, Antakya and other cities to discuss the situation at home and abroad and report on the building of a new movement would create something permanent and make the clearing and reclearing of the squares a bit meaningless. This is my hope. Some agreed, but a young student piped up: ‘I’m a neoliberal capitalist and I’m here.’ Others laughed. I asked him why he was there.‘Because of the police violence.’ ‘But the police violence is being used to defend neoliberal values.’ ‘No.

Neoliberalism promotes liberal values.’ ‘Where?’ ‘In the United States.’I said what had to be said. A woman doctor told me she had to leave for a doctor’s assembly. The government is demanding that doctors who have been treating thousands of wounded demonstrators must hand over their names. The assembly is unanimous. No. Turkey has suddenly changed. The new generation is on the parapets. To demonstrate that he still has mass support, Erdogan had to ship and bus his supporters from all over the country. Few were impressed. The battle lines for the next elections have been laid. The builder’s friend can’t be the prime minister again. He was hoping to amend the constitution and make it presidential or failing that, to become president à la Putin. It will be more difficult now. He should read Aziz Nesin’s popular short story, ‘The New Prime Minister’, in which the sultan, tiring of a politician who is getting all his ideas from a mule, appoints the animal in his stead. -

See more at: London Review of Books

Saturday, June 22, 2013

John Pilger: Understanding the latest leaks is understanding the rise of a new fascism

In his book, 'Propaganda', published in 1928, Edward Bernays wrote: "The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organised habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country."

The American nephew of Sigmund Freud, Bernays invented the term "public relations" as a euphemism for state propaganda. He warned that an enduring threat to the invisible government was the truth-teller and an enlightened public.

In 1971, whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg leaked US government files known as The Pentagon Papers, revealing that the invasion of Vietnam was based on systematic lying. Four years later, Frank Church conducted sensational hearings in the US Senate: one of the last flickers of American democracy. These laid bare the full extent of the invisible government: the domestic spying and subversion and warmongering by intelligence and "security" agencies and the backing they received from big business and the media, both conservative and liberal.

Speaking about the National Security Agency (NSA), Senator Church said: "I know that the capacity that there is to make tyranny in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law... so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return."

On 11 June 2013, following the revelations in the Guardian by NSA contractor Edward Snowden, Daniel Ellsberg wrote that the US had now fallen into "that abyss".

Snowden's revelation that Washington has used Google, Facebook, Apple and other giants of consumer technology to spy on almost everyone, is further evidence of modern form of fascism - that is the "abyss". Having nurtured old-fashioned fascists around the world - from Latin America to Africa and Indonesia - the genie has risen at home. Understanding this is as important as understanding the criminal abuse of technology.

Fred Branfman, who exposed the "secret" destruction of tiny Laos by the US Air Force in the 1960s and 70s, provides an answer to those who still wonder how a liberal African-American president, a professor of constitutional law, can command such lawlessness. "Under Mr. Obama," he wrote, "no president has done more to create the infrastructure for a possible future police state." Why? Because Obama, like George W Bush, understands that his role is not to indulge those who voted for him but to expand "the most powerful institution in the history of the world, one that has killed, wounded or made homeless well over 20 million human beings, mostly civilians, since 1962."

In the new American cyber-power, only the revolving doors have changed. The director of Google Ideas, Jared Cohen, was adviser to Condaleeza Rice, the former secretary of state in the Bush administration who lied that Saddam Hussein could attack the US with nuclear weapons. Cohen and Google's executive chairman, Eric Schmidt - they met in the ruins of Iraq - have co-authored a book, The New Digital Age, endorsed as visionary by the former CIA director Michael Hayden and the war criminals Henry Kissinger and Tony Blair. The authors make no mention of the Prism spying programme, revealed by Edward Snowden, that provides the NSA access to all of us who use Google.

Control and dominance are the two words that make sense of this. These are exercised by political, economic and military designs, of which mass surveillance is an essential part, but also by insinuating propaganda in the public consciousness. This was Edward Bernays's point. His two most successful PR campaigns were convincing Americans they should go to war in 1917 and persuading women to smoke in public; cigarettes were "torches of freedom" that would hasten women's liberation.

It is in popular culture that the fraudulent "ideal" of America as morally superior, a "leader of the free world", has been most effective. Yet, even during Hollywood's most jingoistic periods there were exceptional films, like those of the exile Stanley Kubrick, and adventurous European films would have US distributors. These days, there is no Kubrick, no Strangelove, and the US market is almost closed to foreign films.

When I showed my own film, 'The War on Democracy', to a major, liberally-minded US distributor, I was handed a laundry list of changes required, to "ensure the movie is acceptable". His memorable sop to me was: "OK, maybe we could drop in Sean Penn as narrator. Would that satisfy you?" Lately, Katherine Bigelow's torture-apologising 'Zero Dark Thirty' and Alex Gibney's 'We Steal Secrets', a cinematic hatchet job on Julian Assange, were made with generous backing by Universal Studios, whose parent company until recently was General Electric. GE manufactures weapons, components for fighter aircraft and advance surveillance technology. The company also has lucrative interests in "liberated" Iraq.

The power of truth-tellers like Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, and Edward Snowden is that they dispel a whole mythology carefully constructed by the corporate cinema, the corporate academy and the corporate media. WikiLeaks is especially dangerous because it provides truth-tellers with a means to get the truth out. This was achieved by 'Collatoral Murder', the cockpit video of an US Apache helicopter allegedly leaked by Bradley Manning. The impact of this one video marked Manning and Assange for state vengeance. Here were US airmen murdering journalists and maiming children in a Baghdad street, clearly enjoying it, and describing their atrocity as "nice". Yet, in one vital sense, they did not get away with it; we are witnesses now, and the rest is up to us.

20 June 2013

This article first appeared in the New Statesman

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Saturday, June 15, 2013

John Pilger:There is a war on ordinary people and feminists are needed at the front

As editor of the Daily Mail in 1970s and 80s, David English invented a newspaper for those urgently seeking membership of the English middle classes. Whether his readers ever achieved their ambitions was beside the point; their prejudices and illusions were reflected, often brilliantly. Women were central to his project. The Mail became "their" paper, boasting a new "media feminism" that subtly divided men and women into opposing camps and added a dash of moral panic.

This is now standard media practice. "Most weeks some lovely, caring berks tell me I am a man-hating witch," wrote Suzanne Moore recently in the Guardian, "so let's get it out there. Sometimes I am. The acceptable kind of suck-it-up feminism (I love men really!) is hard to sustain after yet more abuse stories... Do I think all men are rapists? No. Do I think all women can be raped. Yes?"

How quickly the broad brush of blame is applied to a rash of dreadful murder and kidnap cases. Throw in an abduction in Cleveland, Ohio, and the arrest of "yet another TV personality"; and, according to Cynthia Cockburn and Ann Oakley, this represents "the profound, extensive and costly problem of male sexual violence."

Part of the problem, another commentator insinuates, is that men don't care as much as women because they don't use Twitter enough to express their abhorrence of rape and kidnap. This all adds up to a "crisis in masculinity" requiring men to join in a "conversation" about their social and moral deficiencies on terms already decided.

I am reminded of the elevation of Australian prime minister Julia Gillard to feminist hero following a speech she gave last October attacking Tony Abbott, the opposition leader, for his misogyny. Almost no one mentioned Gillard's hypocrisy - her stripping of benefit from the poorest single parents, mostly women, her inhuman treatment of refugees, including the detention of children, and her campaign against stricken indigenous Australians, forcing them off their land in defiance of international law. Under her watch, more Australian soldiers have died in colonial wars than under any recent prime minister.

That Gillard might be an old-fashioned class warrior and militarist was not news. The same could be said of many of the "progressive" female Labour MPs who entered Westminster with the first Blair administration in 1997 and supported their leader's almost immediate legislated attack on single mothers on benefit, and his numerous violent adventures abroad, notably the bloodbath in Iraq. Harriet Harman, a self-declared feminist and currently Labour's deputy leader, comes to mind.

The problem with media-run "conversations" on gender is not merely the almost total absence of male participants, but the suppression of class. It is tempting to say real politics are missing, too, but bourgeois boundaries and prescriptions are real enough. Thus, gender, like race, can be presented in isolation. Class is a forbidden word; and gender subordinate to class is heresy. The Daily Mail model is built on this.

There is indeed a crisis among men - actually ordinary men and women - and it is not their masculinity that is to blame, but the neutering of any credible resistance to a sociopathic system now given the Orwellian title of "austerity".

With honourable exceptions, the bourgeois media club relegates and distracts from the fact that a full-blooded class war is under way. Ask the women and men in Greece, Spain and Portugal who face Robocop police in defence of their right to basic decencies: jobs, education, medicine, even food. Ask the young people in state schools in Britain who have no hope of attending university; a recent survey found 11 to 16 year olds had "given up" because they knew their families could not afford higher education. Ask the family of Stephanie Bottrill, a disabled grandmother in the West Midlands, who took her own life in despair at the assault on housing benefit known as the "bedroom tax".

The killers and kidnappers whose trials apparently require wall-to-wall voyeuristic coverage are no less violent and no less abusive of children than a government that drives people to suicide, that sends young soldiers to kill or have their legs blown off in Afghanistan and that arms and supports fanatics in Syria and Saudi Arabia.

In incisive articles published mostly on opendemocracy.net, Heather McRobie describes how simultaneous war and "austerity" policies have exacerbated all kinds of abuse, including domestic violence. She lists "the most pitiless decimations of the country's social goods" - from cuts in public sector jobs to the closure of emergency hospital departments and domestic violence shelters and courts. "In media discussion of economic issues circa 2008," she wrote, "women were largely Sex and the City caricatures of white prosperity, frivolity, recession-triggering over-spenders." Behind these gender stereotypes lay the fake "empowering" of poor women in the United States. Persuaded to buy their own homes with rotten sub-prime mortgages, African-American women and their families fell into a chasm of debt. A report by United and Fair Economy, a non-profit group, estimates the total loss to Americans of colour who took out sub-prime loans as between $164bn and $213bn. Seven of Obama's top Wall Street campaign donors profiteered from these juicy deals, as did the major British banks - until the "bubble" burst and their "toxic" debts were picked up taxpayers, and the poor.

The imposition of this criminal debt on ordinary people is a breathtaking scandal. Why has it not been challenged with any seriousness? Where is the political opposition? Class is your answer. The style may be different from that of the Tory toffs in power, but most Labour MPs are from the new bourgeoisie. This unrepresentative managerial and professional class exercises also power right across the trade union bureaucracy; and it dominates the media. Once again, it's time to ask: whose side are you on?  

6 June 2013

This article first appeared in the New Statesman

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Friday, June 14, 2013

Sydney Book Launch: Singing Johnny Cash In The Cardiac Ward: A personal story about heart disease and music by John Tognolini

 
“The trouble with heart disease is that the first symptom is often hard to deal with − sudden death.
”Dr Michael Phelps.
 
Launched By Veteran Socialist Writer and Quadruple Bypass Survivor Jim McIlroy.
 
Health advocate, heart disease survivor and high school teacher John/Togs Tognolini's book Singing Johnny Cash In The Cardiac Ward: A personal story about heart disease and music. Is not only an educational memoir on heart disease but it's also a reflective history on music tied in with his 25 year involvement in radio.

He also touches on some of the political struggles he's been involved such as the Outlawing of the Builders Labourers Federation in the 1980's. As well telling of events such as Kev Carmody singing the song he wrote with Paul Kelly From Little Things, Big Things Grow to a dying Fred Hollows in 1993.

This isn’t just a descriptive account of his experience with heart disease, it’s also a serious attempt to help reduce the large death toll caused by it.

The books also shows his appreaciation for the work nurses do, whose working conditions and wages are under attack from O'Farrell's government and the three and half billion dollar cutback to the NSW's overworked and under funded public health system.


"Check out this fine piece of autobiographical writing by John-Togs Tognolini. Hey, even the mighty Roaring Jack figure prominently in John's story. John, we're glad you made it through to the other side!"

Andy Carr, historian of the late 1980s-early 90's Sydney Left punk/folk band Roaring Jack.

About the front cover photo.

 
Russell Crowe, Amanda Dole and myself outside Radio Redfern on May Day 1989. Russell had just performed a few songs on my show, Radio Solidarity. In 1988, Radio Skid Row was evicted from our studios in the basement floor of Sydney University’s Wenthworth Building. We were taken in for eighteen months by the Aborigines/Kooris at Radio Redfern, who now broadcast across Sydney through Koori Radio, until we built and opened the Radio Skid Row studios in Marrickville in 1990. Photo by Frances Kelly.
 
I should be brown bread. Translating that good Cockney rhyming slang, which has become part of the Australian vernacular, I should be dead. I say this because of my jam tart, my heart. Thanks to modern medical science I’m still here, and it’s been proved beyond all reasonable doubt that I have one, a heart that is. To use the football term, I’m in extra time. But instead of a few minutes, I’m talking about maybe three decades. I’m 54 years old.

On October 28, 2011, I had a six-and-a-half hour heart operation. It was actually two operations, one to replace my aortic valve with a mechanical valve and one to graph my aortic artery (the main trunk from the heart that connects all the arteries). If I did not have these jobs done I would have been a dead man walking, the victim of a coronary aneurysm and certain heart failure ten months later.

In writing this account I want to encourage people, especially men, to get their hearts checked out. There are many men who are not aware that they have a heart condition, let alone one that can kill them. There is a general reluctance among men to take our health issues seriously, not only in relation to the heart, but also other health issues that have a high fatality count, such as prostate cancer. As prostate cancer survivor and Hawthorn football legend Don Scott pointed out, men don’t take the same serious attitude to our health problems that women generally do.

There’s an additional part of my story, explaining the fantastic healing power of music. This isn’t just a recounting of my journey of the heart, but also the story of my relationship with music. That relationship goes back more than twenty five years, alongside my involvement in radio. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some great musicians over the years and a few have played a big role in my life.

 
No. of pages: 72
Size: 144x206mm
eBook: AUD$4.99
Paperback: AUD$9.95 plus delivery
 
 
 


 

 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Peter Boyle:Take back the wealth: Put the mines, banks and energy companies in the hands

Peter Boyle, Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Sydney looks at the greed of the big banks, mining industry and the energy sector and argues the case for the nationalisation of all these sectors under the public/community ownership and control so that they can be run in a way that respects Aboriginal rights, the environment and social justice rather than controlled by a small handful of private owners. Socialist Alliance Website

Saturday, June 01, 2013

John Pilger:From Iraq, a tragic reminder to prosecute the war criminals

The dust in Iraq rolls down the long roads that are the desert's fingers. It gets in your eyes and nose and throat; it swirls in markets and school playgrounds, consuming children kicking a ball; and it carries, according to Dr. Jawad Al-Ali, "the seeds of our death". An internationally respected cancer specialist at the Sadr Teaching Hospital in Basra, Dr. Ali told me that in 1999, and today his warning is irrefutable. "Before the Gulf war," he said, "we had two or three cancer patients a month. Now we have 30 to 35 dying every month. Our studies indicate that 40 to 48 per cent of the population in this area will get cancer: in five years' time to begin with, then long after. That's almost half the population. Most of my own family have it, and we have no history of the disease. It is like Chernobyl here; the genetic effects are new to us; the mushrooms grow huge; even the grapes in my garden have mutated and can't be eaten."


Along the corridor, Dr. Ginan Ghalib Hassen, a paediatrician, kept a photo album of the children she was trying to save. Many had neuroplastoma. "Before the war, we saw only one case of this unusual tumour in two years," she said. "Now we have many cases, mostly with no family history. I have studied what happened in Hiroshima. The sudden increase of such congenital malformations is the same."


Among the doctors I interviewed, there was little doubt that depleted uranium shells used by the Americans and British in the Gulf War were the cause. A US military physicist assigned to clean up the Gulf War battlefield across the border in Kuwait said, "Each round fired by an A-10 Warhog attack aircraft carried over 4,500 grams of solid uranium. Well over 300 tons of DU was used. It was a form of nuclear warfare."


Although the link with cancer is always difficult to prove absolutely, the Iraqi doctors argue that "the epidemic speaks for itself". The British oncologist Karol Sikora, chief of the cancer programme of the World Health organisation (WHO) in the 1990s, wrote in the British Medical Journal: "Requested radiotherapy equipment, chemotherapy drugs and analgesics are consistently blocked by United States and British advisers [to the Iraq Sanctions Committee]." He told me, "We were specifically told [by the WHO] not to talk about the whole Iraq business. The WHO is not an organisation that likes to get involved in politics."


Recently, Hans von Sponeck, the former assistant secretary general of the United Nations and senior UN humanitarian official in Iraq, wrote to me: "The US government sought to prevent WHO from surveying areas in southern Iraq where depleted uranium had been used and caused serious health and environmental dangers."


Today, a WHO report, the result on a landmark study conducted jointly with the Iraqi Ministry of Health has been "delayed". Covering 10,800 households, it contains "damning evidence", says a ministry official and, according to one of its researchers, remains "top secret". The report says that birth defects have risen to a "crisis" right across Iraqi society where DU and other toxic heavy metals were by the US and Britain. Fourteen years after he sounded the alarm, Dr. Jawad Al-Ali reports "phenomenal" multiple cancers in entire families.


Iraq is no longer news. Last week, the killing of 57 Iraqis in one day was a non-event compared with the murder of a British soldier in London. Yet the two atrocities are connected. Their emblem might be a lavish new movie of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Two of the main characters, as Fitzgerald wrote, "smashed up things and creatures and retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness... and let other people clean up the mess".


The "mess" left by George Bush and Tony Blair in Iraq is a sectarian war, the bombs of 7/7 and now a man waving a bloody meat cleaver in Woolwich. Bush has retreated back into his Mickey Mouse "presidential library and museum" and Tony Blair into his jackdaw travels and his money.


Their "mess" is a crime of epic proportions, wrote Von Sponeck, referring to the Iraqi Ministry of Social Affairs' estimate of 4.5 million children who have lost both parents. "This means a horrific 14 per cent of Iraq's population are orphans," he wrote. "An estimated one million families are headed by women, most of them widows". Domestic violence and child abuse are rightly urgent issues in Britain; in Iraq the catastrophe ignited by Britain has brought violence and abuse into millions of homes.


In her book 'Dispatches from the Dark Side', Gareth Peirce, Britain's greatest human rights lawyer, applies the rule of law to Blair, his propagandist Alastair Campbell and his colluding cabinet. For Blair, she wrote, "human beings presumed to hold [Islamist] views, were to be disabled by any means possible, and permanently... in Blair's language a 'virus' to be 'eliminated' and requiring 'a myriad of interventions [sic] deep into the affairs of other nations.'" The very concept of war was mutated to "our values versus theirs". And yet, says Peirce, "the threads of emails, internal government communiques reveal no dissent".


For Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, sending innocent British citizens to Guantanamo was "the best way to meet our counter terrorism objective". These crimes, their iniquity on a par with Woolwich, await prosecution. But who will demand it? In the kabuki theatre of Westminster politics, the faraway violence of "our values" is of no interest. Do the rest of us also turn our backs?

27 May 2013

 Follow John Pilger @pilgerwebsite

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Why class sizes matter By Mary Merkenich


In an article in the Australian on April 20, Adam Creighton asserted that: “Teachers’ unions in Australia and worldwide have been astonishingly successful at hoodwinking the public into thinking smaller classes matter.”
As a teacher with over 30 years’ experience and a member of the Australian Education Union, I can say articles such as that display ignorance about what it is really like to be a teacher in front of a class.

Classes are not homogenous groups of robots who all unquestioningly follow teacher instructions. They consist of individuals with individual needs, abilities, interests, concerns and social skills. Teachers have to manage these differences so that all have the best educational opportunities as well as a rewarding and rich social life.

Studies worldwide support the view that smaller class sizes improve the learning environment in a classroom and consequently academic achievement.

In a 2011 study into class sizes in the US, researchers concluded that students who were taught in a small class in primary school were more likely to attend university. The positive effects of small class sizes were largest among students from low-income families.

Another study in 2010 which examined students from a Latino background in the US evaluated variables such as school funding expenditures, tests scores, ethnicity, and teacher qualification, teacher-student ratio and degree obtainment to identify any impact on student achievement. It found “the most powerful predictor of changes in reading and math in all models was decreasing the student-teacher ratio”.

One of the most powerful examples supporting the benefits of smaller classes is the education outcomes achieved by Finland, which has been ranked at the top for educational results internationally for the past decade.

Finland’s average class size at primary and secondary levels is 20 students per teacher. Additionally, about 40% of students in Finnish secondary schools receive some kind of special intervention. School faculties include a "special teacher" who is assigned to identify students who need extra help and then provide it.

Finland's graduation rate for upper secondary students was 93% in 2008. It has scored either first or second out of OECD countries for scientific literacy, math literacy, and reading literacy in the past decade.

There is no credible evidence that smaller classes offer no benefits to the learner or to the teacher, but the issue is debated because politicians do not want to commit resources to allow for the extra teachers and classrooms that it would require.

Creighton writes: “Analysis by Inquirer estimates that lifting the average primary and secondary class size from about 23 to 27 — about where they were in 1980 — would save the NSW government more than $1bn a year.”

Small classes cost more resources in the short-term, but the costs to society of not engaging students are huge; welfare payments, teen pregnancy, crime, health care costs — these are all inevitable consequences when quality in education is compromised.

Christopher Pyne, the opposition education spokesperson, also frequently argues that class sizes don’t matter.

Pyne was educated at a private school where the average class size is 12. If small classes are not important than why do elite schools promote themselves by advertising that they have small classes? One could conclude that small classes matter only if you can afford to pay for them, otherwise it’s the “factory method” for you.

When teachers have time to give individual attention to students, in addition to having the opportunity for clarification or more help with their work, most students appreciate the recognition, the connection with the teacher and the respect they feel. Many studies have shown — and many parents can attest to the fact — that if a child has a positive relationship with their teacher they enjoy going to school.

Teachers want positive relationships with their students but they need the time to be able to develop such relationships with every student in their classes. This discussion must also be about nurturing the dreams and aspirations of each student.

These are important elements in a quality education. It is not merely a matter of dollars or numbers. Quality education is about providing the best possible learning conditions in which all young people, not just those who can afford it, thrive.

From GLW issue 964 Saturday, May 4, 2013