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Sunday, December 20, 2015

Tariq Ali:The assault on Stop the War is really aimed at Jeremy Corbyn

Stop the War, of which I am a founder member, was created to oppose the crude war of revenge against Afghanistan in 2001. I remember arguing at the time that the war would be a disaster for Afghans, it would destabilise neighbouring Pakistan and would end without solving anything.

I was wrong on one point. It has not yet ended. We denounced the war in Iraq as being based on a huge lie. A million lives later the country is still a wreck, its infrastructure destroyed, the political vacuum has produced Isis (even Obama acknowledged this fact) and the Western politicians responsible for the crimes walk free. At that time a lot of stage Kurds were brought into BBC studios to support the war.

We campaigned as a small minority against Nato’s six-month assault on Libya that cost between 20 and 30 thousand lives and has left the country divided into three jihadi zones (Isis, al-Qaeda and local variants of both). In neither of these cases did the English media conduct a concerted witch-hunt to denounce us as a malign force in British politics.

So what occasions the current assault on Stop the War, with some prominent Greens even arguing a “loss of moral compass”? The answer is simple. In addition to the wars in the Middle East there is a nasty and unpleasant war being waged in England, targeting Jeremy Corbyn. Some had hoped that a majority of the PLP would vote for bombing Syria. This did not happen. Hilary Benn’s pathetic pro-war speech (he voted for the Iraq war as well) was boosted beyond belief by a media and political establishment desperate to replace Corbyn.

How to explain the majority of Labour MPs who voted against? Simple. They were “bullied” by Stop the War supporters. Three pages of this tripe were published in this paper. The real bully was the Bullingdon boy in Parliament, accusing anti-war MPs of being terrorist sympathisers just like Bush at the outset of the “war against terror”. But no mention whatsoever of the wavering Labour MPs flattered into voting for the bombing by tutorials on Syria at the Ministry of Defence.

Did anyone bully the staunch anti-war contingent of Scottish MPs or did they decide on their own like the 70 per cent of Scots opposed to war?

In the forefront of this campaign against Corbyn – who made no attempt to conceal his political views on domestic and foreign policy prior to his election – are his own Thatcherite colleagues on front and back benches. No opponent in the Conservative Party has ever aroused such fixity of hatred and rancour as their newly elected leader.

The bile is reserved for those who refuse to abandon social democracy. Realising that anti-austerity arguments are popular, the scoundrels have switched to “patriotism”, to defence issues, to the safety of the realm, sacralising the ridiculous Trident missiles in the process. A serving general is wheeled on to breakfast shows to suggest that if Corbyn is elected the British Army might mutiny. Since Corbyn is a founder member of Stop the War, the propaganda assault is essentially designed to weaken and destroy him.

Stop the War is opposed to foreign interventions and especially where the British Government is involved. There is a long tradition of such activity in British politics, starting with William Morris’s observation in 1885 that the defeat of the British Army in the Sudan under General Gordon at the hands of the Mahdi (a religious leader par excellence), was a positive event insofar it weakened the British Empire. He was writing as a socialist. During the 1950s CND prevented Britain from becoming a replica of the United States or West Germany and over a hundred Labour MPs were at one point members of this movement that won over the majority of the Labour Party before the capitulation of Aneurin Bevan reversed  the decision in the following year.
Stop the War was founded in different times. It is and has been a coalition of individuals and organisations with differing views on many issues. This is as it should be and always has been with broad single-issue campaigns. It does NOT take positions on the demerits or otherwise of the Taliban, Saddam, Gaddafi, Assad. It is in favour of the withdrawal of ALL foreign troops (this includes the Russians) and bomber jets. The arguments against the war deployed by Stop the War are not all that different from some conservative columnists who cannot be bullied: Simon Jenkins, Peter Hitchens, Peter Oborne. None of the three are Corbynistas.

We have been consistent over the years, which is why the organisation has survived. There is no similar body anywhere else. The recent upsurge in activities against the Syrian debacle is due to the growing realisation that the murderous chaos in the region that has produced such misery will get worse with more bombs. The sight of hundreds of thousands of Syrian war refugees seeking shelter in Europe has made many realise that the way to peace is not through a war waged by the US, Europe and Russia.

That is why jumping on the anti-Stop the War bandwagon by some leading Greens suggests a loss of political nerve. Is it too cynical to detect in this behaviour a fear that the Pied Piper of Islington is attracting the electoral support of large numbers of hitherto Green supporters and needs to be denounced?

The “moral compass” of the anti-war movement has not shifted. It is no better or worse since the day it was founded. Meanwhile the wars continue.  I hope there will be a large turnout on Saturday.

Article originally published in the Independent.

Click on these video links, 

Tariq being interviewed by BBC on Jeremy Corbyn.


Saturday, November 21, 2015

John Pilger on Paris attacks, root causes of terrorism and what we can do about it

In transmitting President Richard Nixon's orders for a "massive" bombing of Cambodia in 1969, Henry Kissinger said, "Anything that flies on everything that moves". 

As Barack Obama wages his seventh war against the Muslim world since he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and Francois Hollande promises a "merciless" attack on that ruined country, the orchestrated hysteria and lies make one almost nostalgic for Kissinger's murderous honesty.
As a witness to the human consequences of aerial savagery - including the beheading of victims, their parts festooning trees and fields - I am not surprised by the disregard of memory and history, yet again.
A telling example is the rise to power of Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge, who had much in common with today's Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). They, too, were ruthless medievalists who began as a small sect. They, too, were the product of an American-made apocalypse, this time in Asia.
According to Pol Pot, his movement had consisted of "fewer than 5,000 poorly armed guerrillas uncertain about their strategy, tactics, loyalty and leaders". Once Nixon's and Kissinger's B-52 bombers had gone to work as part of "Operation Menu", the west's ultimate demon could not believe his luck.
The Americans dropped the equivalent of five Hiroshimas on rural Cambodia during 1969-73. They leveled village after village, returning to bomb the rubble and corpses. The craters left giant necklaces of carnage, still visible from the air. The terror was unimaginable.
A former Khmer Rouge official described how the survivors "froze up and they would wander around mute for three or four days. Terrified and half-crazy, the people were ready to believe what they were told... That was what made it so easy for the Khmer Rouge to win the people over."
A Finnish Government Commission of Inquiry estimated that 600,000 Cambodians died in the ensuing civil war and described the bombing as the "first stage in a decade of genocide". What Nixon and Kissinger began, Pol Pot, their beneficiary, completed. Under their bombs, the Khmer Rouge grew to a formidable army of 200,000.
ISIS has a similar past and present. By most scholarly measure, Bush and Blair's invasion of Iraq in 2003 led to the deaths of at least 700,000 people - in a country that had no history of jihadism. The Kurds had done territorial and political deals; Sunni and Shia had class and sectarian differences, but they were at peace; intermarriage was common. Three years before the invasion, I drove the length of Iraq without fear. On the way I met people proud, above all, to be Iraqis, the heirs of a civilization that seemed, for them, a presence.
Bush and Blair blew all this to bits. Iraq is now a nest of jihadism. Al-Qaeda - like Pol Pot's "jihadists" - seized the opportunity provided by the onslaught of Shock and Awe and the civil war that followed. "Rebel" Syria offered even greater rewards, with CIA and Gulf state ratlines of weapons, logistics and money running through Turkey. The arrival of foreign recruits was inevitable.
A former British ambassador, Oliver Miles, wrote, "The [Cameron] government seems to be following the example of Tony Blair, who ignored consistent advice from the Foreign Office, MI5 and MI6 that our Middle East policy - and in particular our Middle East wars - had been a principal driver in the recruitment of Muslims in Britain for terrorism here."
ISIS is the progeny of those in Washington, London and Paris who, in conspiring to destroy Iraq, Syria and Libya, committed an epic crime against humanity. Like Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, ISIS are the mutations of a western state terror dispensed by a venal imperial elite undeterred by the consequences of actions taken at great remove in distance and culture. Their culpability is unmentionable in "our" societies, making accomplices of those who suppress this critical truth.
It is 23 years since a holocaust enveloped Iraq, immediately after the first Gulf War, when the US and Britain hijacked the United Nations Security Council and imposed punitive "sanctions" on the Iraqi population - ironically, reinforcing the domestic authority of Saddam Hussein. It was like a medieval siege.
Almost everything that sustained a modern state was, in the jargon, "blocked" - from chlorine for making the water supply safe to school pencils, parts for X-ray machines, common painkillers and drugs to combat previously unknown cancers carried in the dust from the southern battlefields contaminated with Depleted Uranium.
Just before Christmas 1999, the Department of Trade and Industry in London restricted the export of vaccines meant to protect Iraqi children against diphtheria and yellow fever. Kim Howells, parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Blair government, explained why. "The children's vaccines", he said, "were capable of being used in weapons of mass destruction".
The British Government could get away with such an outrage because media reporting of Iraq - much of it manipulated by the Foreign Office - blamed Saddam Hussein for everything.
Under a bogus "humanitarian" Oil for Food Programme, $100 was allotted for each Iraqi to live on for a year. This figure had to pay for the entire society's infrastructure and essential services, such as power and water.
"Imagine," the UN Assistant Secretary General, Hans Von Sponeck, told me, "setting that pittance against the lack of clean water, and the fact that the majority of sick people cannot afford treatment, and the sheer trauma of getting from day to day, and you have a glimpse of the nightmare. And make no mistake, this is deliberate. I have not in the past wanted to use the word genocide, but now it is unavoidable."
Disgusted, Von Sponeck resigned as UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator in Iraq. His predecessor, Denis Halliday, an equally distinguished senior UN official, had also resigned. "I was instructed," Halliday said, "to implement a policy that satisfies the definition of genocide: a deliberate policy that has effectively killed well over a million individuals, children and adults."
A study by the United Nations Children's Fund, Unicef, found that between 1991 and 1998, the height of the blockade, there were 500,000 "excess" deaths of Iraqi infants under the age of five. An American TV reporter put this to Madeleine Albright, US Ambassador to the United Nations, asking her, "Is the price worth it?" Albright replied, "We think the price is worth it."
In 2007, the senior British official responsible for the sanctions, Carne Ross, known as "Mr. Iraq", told a parliamentary selection committee, "[The US and UK governments] effectively denied the entire population a means to live."  When I interviewed Carne Ross three years later, he was consumed by regret and contrition. "I feel ashamed," he said. He is today a rare truth-teller of how governments deceive and how a compliant media plays a critical role in disseminating and maintaining the deception. "We would feed [journalists] factoids of sanitised intelligence," he said, "or we'd freeze them out."
Last year, a not untypical headline in the Guardian read: "Faced with the horror of Isis we must act." The "we must act" is a ghost risen, a warning of the suppression of informed memory, facts, lessons learned and regrets or shame. The author of the article was Peter Hain, the former Foreign Office minister responsible for Iraq under Blair. In 1998, when Denis Halliday revealed the extent of the suffering in Iraq for which the Blair Government shared primary responsibility, Hain abused him on the BBC's Newsnight as an "apologist for Saddam". In 2003, Hain backed Blair's invasion of stricken Iraq on the basis of transparent lies. At a subsequent Labour Party conference, he dismissed the invasion as a "fringe issue".
Here was Hain demanding "air strikes, drones, military equipment and other support" for those "facing genocide" in Iraq and Syria. This will further "the imperative of a political solution". The day Hain's article appeared, Denis Halliday and Hans Von Sponeck happened to be in London and came to visit me. They were not shocked by the lethal hypocrisy of a politician, but lamented the enduring, almost inexplicable absence of intelligent diplomacy in negotiating a semblance of truce.
Across the world, from Northern Ireland to Nepal, those regarding each other as terrorists and heretics have faced each other across a table. Why not now in Iraq and Syria? Instead, there is a vapid, almost sociopathic verboseness from Cameron, Hollande, Obama and their "coalition of the willing" as they prescribe more violence delivered from 30,000 feet on places where the blood of previous adventures never dried. They seem to relish their own violence and stupidityso much they want it to overthrow their one potentially valuable ally,  the government in Syria. 
This is nothing new, as the following leaked UK-US intelligence file illustrates:
"In order to facilitate the action of liberative [sic] forces... a special effort should be made to eliminate certain key individuals [and] to proceed with internal disturbances in Syria. CIA is prepared, and SIS (MI6) will attempt to mount minor sabotage and coup de main [sic] incidents within Syria, working through contacts with individuals... a necessary degree of fear... frontier and [staged] border clashes [will] provide a pretext for intervention... the CIA and SIS should use... capabilities in both psychological and action fields to augment tension."
That was written in 1957, although it could have been written yesterday. In the imperial world, nothing essentially changes. In 2013, the former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas revealed that "two years before the Arab spring", he was told in London that a war on Syria was planned. "I am going to tell you something," he said in an interview with the French TV channel LPC, "I was in England two years before the violence in Syria on other business. I met top British officials, who confessed to me that they were preparing something in Syria... Britain was organising an invasion of rebels into Syria. They even asked me, although I was no longer Minister for Foreign Affairs, if I would like to participate... This operation goes way back. It was prepared, preconceived and planned."
The only effective opponents of ISIS are accredited demons of the west - Syria, Iran, Hezbollah and now Russia. The obstacle is Turkey, an "ally" and a member of Nato, which has conspired with the CIA, MI6 and the Gulf medievalists to channel support to the Syrian "rebels", including those now calling themselves ISIS. Supporting Turkey in its long-held ambition for regional dominance by overthrowing the Assad government beckons a major conventional war and the horrific dismemberment of the most ethnically diverse state in the Middle East.
A truce - however difficult to negotiate and achieve - is the only way out of this maze; otherwise, the atrocities in Paris and Beirut will be repeated. Together with a truce, the leading perpetrators and overseers of violence in the Middle East  -- the Americans and Europeans - must themselves "de-radicalise" and demonstrate a good faith to alienated Muslim communities everywhere, including those at home.
There should be an immediate cessation of all shipments of war materials to Israel and recognition of the State of Palestine. The issue of Palestine is the region's most festering open wound, and the oft-stated justification for the rise of Islamic extremism. Osama bin Laden made that clear. Palestine also offers hope. Give justice to the Palestinians and you begin to change the world around them.
More than 40 years ago, the Nixon-Kissinger bombing of Cambodia unleashed a torrent of suffering from which that country has never recovered. The same is true of the Blair-Bush crime in Iraq, and the Nato and "coalition" crimes in Libya and Syria.
With impeccable timing, Henry Kissinger's latest self-serving tome has been released with its satirical title, "World Order". In one fawning review, Kissinger is described as a "key shaper of a world order that remained stable for a quarter of a century".
Tell that to the people of Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Chile, East Timor and all the other victims of his "statecraft".  Only when "we" recognise the war criminals in our midst and stop denying ourselves the truth will the blood begiin to dry.
John Pilger . 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

'Isis in Paris'—By Tariq Ali

So ISIS has claimed the attacks as a response to France bombing the 'caliphate' in the Middle East. That Hollande/Valls are warmongers is beyond dispute . Ironically they were preparing to topple the Assad regime (till Washington insisted on a delay) which would have made them ISIS allies in the region. In fact the bulk of the opposition in Syria regard Assad as the primary contradiction and were also hoping the West would deliver another regime change. Had they done so a new civil war would have erupted between rival jihadi groups and who knows which of them the US/EU would have supported.

ISIS has hit the French capital and killed over a hundred citizens with double that number injured. I know the West does the same and, in fact, kills tens of thousands, but this clash of fundamentalisms leads nowhere. The West is NOT morally superior to the jihadis. Why is a public execution with a sword worse than an indiscriminate drone attack? Neither can nor should be supported. 

The point has often been made that both al Qaeda and ISIS are the result of imperial wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and this is undoubtedly the case, but its not enough. The suicide of secular nationalism and the impotence of the tiny progressive groups as a result of both local repression and decline in mass support has to be taken into account. This process has pushed the Saudi regime to the fore and both al-Qaida and ISIS are under the strong influence of Wahhabiism which is a tiny minority within Sunni Islam.

There are three important pre-requisites to re-stabilising the region:
end of Western support to the extended Saudi royal family; end of all Western intervention in the region; a single Israeli/Palestinian state with equal rights for all its citizens. As long as this doesn't happen, political freaks and monsters will continue to proliferate.

Nothing justifies the killing of innocents in Paris or in any city of the Arab East.

By Tariq Ali / 14 November 2015 

Tariq Ali

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

HISTORY MAN by Rowan Cahill

I have before me a copy of the latest book by John TognoliniA History Man’s Past & Other People’s Stories: A Shared Memoir, Part One: Other People’s Wars (2015). This is not a  brief title, and had the book come via a mainstream publisher and gone through the hands of a marketing person, rather than  the ebook self-publishing manner in which John publishes (this is his fourth book), it would no doubt have had a less cumbersome title, maybe just A History Man’s Past. But John does not operate this way, and if I was asked to name a favourite Australian radical/commentator/author, I would probably bypass the famous and the well-known and nominate ‘John Tognolini’. I’ll return to the ‘why’ of this later.

First, A History Man’s Past. The ‘history man’ of the title is John. He has a passion for history from a leftist perspective. Employment-wise and professionally, he is a secondary school history teacher in rural NSW (Australia). This book is a collection of his writings, and interviews he has conducted, on the theme of war and militarisation, exploring why it is that Australia has been at war for much of its time as a nation as the junior partner of either Britain or the United States. As the reader soon learns, war is part of the Tognolini’s family. Four of his uncles went to World War 1, the youngest, his namesake ‘John/Jack’, on the Western Front aged sixteen or seventeen, a boy-soldier who lied about his age to enlist. Gallipoli veteran Andrew Tognolini died shortly after the war. 

For author John, war is nothing to glorify, no height of nobility as currently being evangelised by Australian war-propagandists bankrolled by multi-millions of dollars of government and corporate money to commemorate/celebrate World War 1.  Rather, Tognolini’s take on war is it is a human tragedy, not only about carnage and slaughter but also of hardships and sufferings and traumas for those on the home-front, and later for many of the front-liners who return home and struggle to live in the aftertime of ‘peace’. Constantly in Tognolini’s work there are the shadows of the geopolitics of war, and the politicians who engineer ‘war’, these latter mostly unblooded martial enthusiasts.

A History Man’s Past is a welcome contribution to the small body of Australian anti-war writing, a corpus that is overwhelmed by the tsunami of pro-war literature that flows from the presses of mainstream publishers, helping fuel Australia’s ongoing participation in other people’s wars and  legitimise increasing military budgets and expenditures. As few Australians seem pause and  question………not enough money for health, education, pensions, but a bottomless bucket for ‘war’?   

However, this does not explain my liking for John Tognolini as a dissident/radical. His latest book is only part of the answer.  The full reason lies in the way Tognolini operates; in a self-directed way. He makes his own spaces for dissident interventions and comment, demonstrating a media savvy that was/is no doubt helped by his academic studies; he has a First Class Honours degree in Communications from the University of Technology, Sydney, gained at a time when the institution had a reputation for producing independent journalists/communicators.  Tognolini  publishes his own books. Since 2006 he has run a massive website/blog (Tog’s Place.Com) as a platform for his own writings and commentaries, and also as an alternative leftist news, information and cultural site. The site takes its name from the Cobb and Co way-station run by his Italian grandfather and his Australia-born grandmother (from English/Irish convict parentage) near Castlemaine, Victoria, during the 19th century. Tognolini has also been involved in community radio since 1987, and with the socialist newspaper Green Left Weekly since 1990. He has produced radio documentaries for ABC Radio National/RN.

Tognolini’s independence as an intellectual/communicator is rooted in his employment background;  before becoming a school teacher in 2000, he variously worked as a labourer, scaffolder, rigger, dogman, railway fettler, and painter and docker, and whilst in these employments was a trade unionist. This long and varied employment background means that the language of Tognolini is from the world of public communication, and not from school-to-academia niche worlds; his long and deep immersion in the labouring workforce also means he developed strong self-respect and individuality that have helped him resist/escape the cap-in-hand-defer-to-intellectual-power-elites mode of conduct that tends to come with professional writer training and with academia. 

Involvement in unionism, militant unionism in Tognolini’s case, led him to make two documentary films that are worth chasing down, one (1992) on the deregistration of the Builders Labourers Federation in Victoria, the other (with Frances Kelly) on the three-month occupation/strike by militant trade unions of Cockatoo Island Dockyard, Sydney, 1989, in which John was involved. Both substantial films are available on Youtube.

Tognolini does not need peer- reviewing or permission to speak, nor does he need the approbation of pecking orders to comment and create his brand of opposition and dissidence. He does not agonise as to where to act, where to ‘say’. He simply goes out and does/say it, and as I said earlier, makes his own spaces. There is a valuable message, and example, here that I regard highly, and respect. 

Rowan Cahill, 10 November 2015 Radical Sydney 

A History Man’s Past & Other People’s Stories: A Shared Memoir. Part One: Other People’s Wars is a shared history in many ways. It’s where part of my story reflects the people I’ve interviewed with my media work over thirty years.

My interview with retired Australian SAS Warrant Officer Dr Brian Day, who served with the US Special Forces in Vietnam and Cambodia. He was also a founding member of the Australian Vietnam Veterans Association. I interviewed him in 1992 on Anzac, Racism, and the Madness of the Vietnam War.

My interview with Stan Goff, a retired US Army Special Forces Master Sergeant and Vietnam Veteran who served in the US Army up until Haiti in 1996. He became involved in Military Families Against War that was formed when George W.Bush invaded Iraq in 2003.
My question to Veteran Journalist, Writer and Filmmaker John Pilger, at a public meeting in Katoomba, in the Blue Mountains about history being memory in 2008.

My question to Activist, Academic, Writer and Linguist Noam Chomsky, and coverage of his Sydney Press Conference, when he visited Australia in 1995, campaigning for an independent East Timor, then under the murderous Indonesian Occupation.

A shared history in another way too, I argue here that Australia’s Frontier Wars against our Indigenous Peoples should be recognised in the Australian War Memorial.

I also argue against former prime minister Tony Abbott’s $90 million dollar John Monash Centre at Villers-Bretonneux, France and highlight the $400 million spent on the Centenary of Australia’s involvement in World War One as a major act of hypocrisy, when one in ten of our nation’s homeless are War Veterans.

This book is also an attempt to answer that big question, why has Australia been at War so much in so many places normally as junior partner to Britain or the United States?

John Tognolini 16th September 2015

just click on the link available as eBook: AUD$5.00

Paperback: AUD$24.00
plus delivery 

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Australia and Other Peoples' Wars by John Tognolini

The continuous wars that we have been involved with such as the War on Terror have not been in Australia’s interest. We’ve really been in a state of continuous war since George Bush Senior’s Gulf War in 1991. We did not get a peace dividend at the end of the Cold War. George W.Bush’s 2003 Invasion of Iraq killed hundreds of thousands people and destroyed that nation. The United States promoted sectarian divisions between the Shite and Sunni Muslims in order to retain control in what had been largely a secular nation. It created the conditions for the rise of the ‘Islamic State’ and is thus responsible for the current crisis. The US’s actions changed the map of the Middle East that had been drawn up since the end of World War One by the victors.

Australia, US and British military involvement in Iraq and soon Syria has only fuelled a desperate situation. Western bombs have not and will not stop Isis, they will only deepen misery, further fragment these countries and spread bitterness throughout the region. The Isis atrocities against civilians are horrific, but they should not be used as a justification for the failed policies which have helped create terrorism. The only force that can stop the Isis is the Kurdish, Iraqi and Syrian peoples. Australia should remove the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) from its list of declared ‘terrorist’ organisations and press the US and other governments to do the same. Australia must exert pressure on Turkey to cease its support for the Isis (deny any transit to Isis fighters coming or going, etc.).  We should also pressure Turkey to end their war against their Kurdish minority population.

The fear campaigns have made people scared for no reason and has led to increased racial attacks on Muslim Australians. The Australia Guardian’s Michael Safi Australians think Muslim population is nine times greater than it really is article reported on 30-10-14 that most Australians believe the Muslim population in Australia is eighteen per cent when it is only two per cent.  This fear has been generated by the media and politicians. Andrew Wilkie, former army colonel, intelligence analyst and member of parliament said “There is no doubt that the Abbot Government is playing up the terror threat for political gain.  16-6-2015.

Abbott asked Obama to bomb Syria, not an invite is it? Visiting Pakistani born British journalist, writer and filmmaker Tariq Ali said of Abbott sending our Air Force to bomb Isis in Syria, “It's an absolute desperation, and he's hoping that it might win him a by-election victory,….. And he does need the war. Not that it'll necessarily do the trick. What politicians still fail to realise is that the more that they go into these countries, the more the war will come back to them. They hate seeing the link, but without the link you can't understand the rise in jihadi currents in the West. Why weren't they there 30 years ago?” Tony Abbott's Syria gamble will backfire: Tariq Ali by Bianca Hall, The Melbourne Age 26-8-15.

Abbott is another Australian politician using a war & our military for political gain. Today marked 50 years since then prime minister Robert Menzies sent Australian troops to the Vietnam War, and we have Australian military forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.

There is also the real possibility that Australia will be dragged into a war with China by the US. The late Malcolm Fraser warned of this and proposed that Australia should remove ourselves from the US military alliance, remove the US Troops from Northern Australia and close the US’s Pine Gap Base and become independent.

As someone who protested against Fraser in 1975 when he became prime minster with Whitlam’s sacking he made a lot of sense. Ironically Pine Gap was a major issue in Whitlam’s dismissal because he threatened not to renew the lease for it with the US.

Knowledge of our past helps us to understand our present and to shape its future. We won’t have a future if people don’t involve themselves in politics and stand up for our liberties. The points that Fraser pointed to are fundamental not just for Australia but to humanity as whole for it would take us away from a war with China and a certain nuclear holocaust.  

From A History Man’s Past & Other People’s Stories: A Shared Memoir. Part One: Other People’s Wars 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

An Open Letter to Australian former prime minister Tony Abbott on the question of War.

I have a number of issues with you Tony but this letter will concentrate on one. War. Let start with the amount of money your spending on the Centenary of World War One, 500 million dollars, more than the rest of the World’s nations combined who were involved in it including, Britain, United States, Russia, Canada, New Zealand, Turkey, Germany, Belgium and France.  At the same time we have homeless people on our nation’s streets and one in ten of them are War Veterans.

I take particular issue with the $90 million to be spent on your Sir John Monash Centre at Villers-Bretonneux in France. Another of your captain’s choices. I know you’ve said that it would increase our understanding of the Australian effort on the Western Front during World War I. Well, what sort of “understanding” do you want? 

Don’t get me wrong I’m not against commemoration, but I’m firmly against the celebration of War. War is a failure of diplomacy and politics and a bloody disaster for all involved. You see that one word question why has not been asked? Why were we at war against Germany and Turkey? Before that, why against the Boers in South Africa and the Maoris in New Zealand? Why is there no serious acknowledgement of the Frontier Wars of against our Indigenous Peoples.

We’ve had the official celebrations. Politicians posing at ceremonies like yourself at Villers-Bretonneux this year. This of course has been something that Bob Hawke started back in 1990 with the 75th Anniversary of Gallipoli. However, you’ve gone further than anyone else spending far more of our money. And the $43 million that was spent on refurbishing the World War One Gallery of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, was that separate to the Centenary fund? If that was the case then that $43 million brings us up to $533 million dollars being spent on World War One.  

One other question with all this money being spent we have cuts to the Australian War Memorial’s research section. That helps people find out what their ancestors endured. The dedicated staff of this area of the Memorial helped me back in 1998 to get my Uncles John/Jack and Stephen’s Military Medal citations. And again in 2012 when I did research on Stephen’s 21st Battalion and my Uncle Andrew’s 24th Battalion for my historical novel Brothers Part One: Gallipoli 1915. This is John/Jack’s from the Battle of Passchendaele says,

At Broodseinde during the period 26/27th October 1917 No 3648 Pte John Tognolini did excellent work on the morning of the 26th October. He was one of a party of eight carrying two stretcher cases to the Regimental Aid Post when a shell burst and severely wounded three of the party. Although wounded himself he continued with his work and made two trips back to get the wounded they had left on the way. He then returned to line and on the morning of the 27th October when several men were wounded by shell fire and all the stretchers in use. He dressed one man and carried him on his back to the R.A.P. All this work was under very heavy shell fire.

He set a fine example of coolness and courage to the men of his company.
Private Tognolini has on many occasions shown great courage and devotion to duty.

That’s the other thing with me and Villers-Bretonneux. The man, sorry boy I’m named after was killed there when Australian and English soldiers took it back from the German Army on that third Anzac Day, 25th April 1918. The army had his age when he was killed as 24 but that doesn’t square up with the year he was born 1900 so he was either 16 or 17.

John/Jack Tognolini 1900-1918

He had served on the Western Front since Fromelles in 1916, where he and his 57th Battalion were witness to one of the greatest slaughters that Australians endured there. All armies had boy soldiers Tony but Australia had a reputation for them. Will Anzac boy soldiers feature in your theme park at Villers-Bretonneux?

Will the slaughter at Fromelles be present as the Australian version of the Charge of the Light Brigade be prominent?  Charge of the Light Brigade was a comparison used to describe Fromelles by Walter Downing, M.M, a soldier of the 57th battalion gave this account of happened at Fromelles from his book To The Last Ridge.

“The 60th [battalion] climbed on the parapet, heavy laden, dragging with them scaling ladders, light bridges, picks, shovels and bags of bombs.

There was wire to go through and sinking ground; a creek to cross, more marsh and wire; then the German line. Scores of stammering German machine-guns spluttered violently, drowning the noise of the cannonade.

The air was thick with bullets, swishing in a flat lattice of death. There was gaps in the lines of men -- wide ones, small ones. The survivors spread across the front, keeping the line straight. There was no hesitation, no recoil, no dropping of the unwounded into shell holes. The bullets skimmed low, from knee to groin, riddling the tumbling bodies before they touched the ground. Still they kept the line on.

Hundreds were mown in the flicker of an eyelid, like great rows of teeth knocked from a comb, but still the line went on, thinning and stretching. Wounded wriggled into shell holes and were hit again.

Men were cut in two by streams of bullets. And still the line went on.
Fifty-six remained of a full thousand. It was over in five minutes.

And then the 59th rose, vengeful, with a shout--a thousand as one man.
The chattering, metallic staccato of the tempest of hell burst in nickelled gusts. Sheaves and streams of bullets were like metal knives. There were many corpses hung inert on our wire, but the 59th surged forward, now in silence, more steadily, more precise than on parade. A few yards and there was but two hundred marching on. The rest lay in heaps and bloody swathes. They began firing at the German line as they advanced. Lewis gunners dropped into shell holes and fired burst and burst, dashing from cover to cover.

A hundred men broke into a wild but futile charge, determined to strike, if possible, one blow, but enemies pressed their red-hot thumb pieces with blistered fingers, spraying death from the tortured muzzles. That hundred lay flat in attitudes of sleep.
It grew quiet again. A few wounded crawled in the grass, sniped at by riflemen. There was silence. Eighty came back that night.

Two companies from the 58th rose from the breastwork-the remainder were elsewhere carrying ammunition- and advanced by rushes with covering fire. In banks of battle reek the sun went down, as red as blood.

As darkness drew on, the 57th went forward, but most were recalled almost before they left,  for there was nothing to be gained by further loss of life. A few reached the creek.

It was the Charge of the Light Brigade once more, but more terrible, more hopeless--magnificent, but not war ---a valley of death fuelled by somebody's blunder, or the horrid necessities of war.

The handful in our trenches stood to arms all night because the line was dangerously weak, for there was no supports and no reserves and many elite forces were in front.

The remnants of the 57th and 58th held the front line system for a further fifty days, making fifty-nine days without relief.”

Will you put Dowling’s words up in your Villers-Bretonneux theme park?

Will you cover the mutiny that Australian soldiers took part in along with English, Scottish, Welsh, Canadian and New Zealand soldiers at the Etaples, the major British training base that Wilfred Owen called the “Bull Ring” because of the sadism of the British Training instructors and ruthlessness of the British Military Police in 1917?

Many of those soldiers were killed in the Battle of Passchendaele.

And of our 46,000 dead on the Western Front will your Villers-Bretonneux theme park mention that 15,000 whose grave headstones have the words “Known unto God” on them because they have no known grave as they were blown to bits by artillery or disappeared in the mud during Passchendaele.

Also will your Villers-Bretonneux theme park display the two conscription referendums of 1916 and 1917 where the majority voted no, including the majority of frontline soldiers on the Western Front.

1st Referendum Oct.28-1916 For Conscription 1,087,577 Against 1,160,033
 2nd Referendum Dec.20-1917 For Conscription 1,015,159 Against 1,181,747

To quote Charles Bean who wrote in his Volume III – The Australian Imperial Force in France, 1916, of this meeting of soldiers after the slaughter of Pozières, where 23,000 Australians were casualties, of whom 6,800 men were killed or died of wounds in less than seven weeks. ”The Agent General of South Australia, Frederick Young, ably addressed part of the 6th Brigade, explaining frankly the object of the meeting, and relying largely upon the argument that Australia at present stood first among the dominions in the eyes of the British nation, and that, if she did not adopt conscription as the British had done, she would lose this regard. The attitude of the troops was quite clear: they did not care whether Australia came first in the opinion of Great Britain or not-they desired that a sufficient number of Australians should be left after the war to develop their empty country in accordance with present character of their nation. Australia, they held, was already "doing enough".

Some were strongly averse to the prospect of having in their regiments those who had avoided voluntary enlistment. Others feared that conscription would mean the introduction of the hated death penalty. Others again would vote as members of the Labour Party, of which the main wing opposed conscription. The common argument that it would provide rest for their overworked units did not impress them, for they well knew that replenished units were likely to be constantly sent into battle and weaker ones rested. But beyond question the most general motive among the soldiers for opposing conscription was one not without nobility. They themselves when they had enlisted had not known the trials and horrors of war; and now they did know, they would not, by their votes force another man into those trials against his will.”

Will your Villers-Bretonneux theme park display Australian Aboriginal soldiers who fought and died there despite them not being citizens of our nation?

Will you have your “Shit Happens” quote on display from your 2011 trip to Afghanistan when Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney was shot dead in a battle with the Taliban. You remember when Channel 7 caught you saying that to senior army officers on camera. At the time Gumbainggir, Aboriginal man and historian and activist Dr Gary Foley said, ”Somewhere there is a big pile of shit in a paddock saying Abbott happens.” 

A History Man’s Past & Other People’s Stories: A Shared Memoir. Part One: Other People’s Wars eBook AUD$5.00 Paperback: AUD$24.00 plus delivery

Monday, May 18, 2015

Stan Goff, Retired US Army Special Forces Master Sergeant & Anti-War Campaigner's Interview with John Tognolini

“We are going to punish somebody for this attack, but just who or where will be blown to smithereens for it is hard to say. Maybe Afghanistan, maybe Pakistan or Iraq, or possibly all three at once. Who knows? Not even the Generals in what remains of the Pentagon or the New York papers calling for war seem to know who did it or where to look for them.
This is going to be a very expensive war, and Victory is not guaranteed--for anyone, and certainly not for a baffled little creep like George W. Bush. All he knows is that his father started the war a long time ago, and that he, the goofy child President, has been chosen by fate and the global oil industry to finish it off.”
Hunter. S. Thompson, Writer 1937 – 2005 on the 9/11 Attacks.

"The trouble with America is that when the dollar only earns 6 percent over here, then it gets restless and goes overseas to get 100 percent. Then the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag. I wouldn't go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defence of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket. There isn't a trick in the racketeering bag that the military gang is blind to. It has its "finger men" to point out enemies, its "muscle men" to destroy enemies, its "brain men" to plan war preparations, and a "Big Boss" Super-Nationalistic-Capitalism. It may seem odd for me, a military man to adopt such a comparison. Truthfulness compels me to. I spent thirty- three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country's most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle- man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. "
Major General Smedley Butler, 1881-1940 War is a Racket.

  “Official Washington cannot tell the American people that the real purpose of its gargantuan military expenditures and belligerent interventions is to make the world safe for General Motors, General Electric, General Dynamics, and all the other generals.”
Michael Parenti, Historian

 “The Americans had this catch-all approach to lifting suspects. The tactics were draconian and completely ineffective. The Americans were doing things like chucking farmers into Abu Ghraib or handing them over to the Iraqi authorities, knowing full well they were going to be tortured.

The Americans had a well-deserved reputation for being trigger happy. In the three months that I was in Iraq, the soldiers I served with never shot anybody. When you asked the Americans why they killed people, they would say 'we were up against the tough foreign fighters'. I didn't see any foreign fighters in the time I was over there.

I can remember coming in off one operation which took place outside Baghdad, where we had detained some civilians who were clearly not insurgents, they were innocent people. I couldn't understand why we had done this, so I said to my troop commander 'would we have behaved in the same way in the Balkans or Northern Ireland?' He shrugged his shoulders and said 'this is Iraq', and I thought 'and that makes it all right?'

As far as I was concerned that meant that because these people were a different colour or a different religion, they didn't count as much. You cannot invade a country pretending to promote democracy and behave like that.”
Commenting in similar vein to another former British SAS soldier, Griffin also gives his account of how the Americans view Iraqis:

“As far as the Americans were concerned, the Iraqi people were sub-human, untermenschen. You could almost split the Americans into two groups: ones who were complete crusaders, intent on killing Iraqis, and the others who were in Iraq because the Army was going to pay their college fees. They had no understanding or interest in the Arab culture. The Americans would talk to the Iraqis as if they were stupid and these weren't isolated cases, this was from the top down. There might be one or two enlightened officers who understood the situation a bit better, but on the whole that was their general attitude. Their attitude fuelled the insurgency. I think the Iraqis detested them.””

Ben Griffin, interview for The Sunday Telegraph, he told Defence Correspondent Sean Rayment, 12 March 2006.

Stan Goff, a former United States “special ops” soldier who served on the ill-fated mission to Somalia (of Black Hawk Down fame) was a key speaker at Asia Pacific International Solidarity Conference in Sydney at Easter 2005 organised by Green Left Weekly.

Stan was a Vietnam Veteran of the 82nd Airborne. He later became a Special Operations soldier in the U.S. Army (which included Paratroop, Ranger, Special Forces and so-called Counter Terrorist assignments) in every corner of the globe and into the highest echelons of U.S. serving as an infantryman, an Airborne Ranger, and as a member of the Special Forces and Delta Force.
Stan was deployed to Grenada, El Salvador, Columbia, Guatemala, Somalia, Peru and Haiti. He also trained troops in Panama, Venezuela, Honduras, South Korea and taught Military Science at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and tactics at Army’s Jungle School in Panama and worked in some cases directly under the supervision of the U.S. Embassy.

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

Stan has also written a number of books, including Hideous Dreams-A Soldiers Memoir of the US Invasion of Haiti and Full Spectrum Disorder: The Military in the New American Century.
At the time of the interview Stan’s son had returned from serving in Iraq and was waiting for deployment to Afghanistan.

John: Why did you join the military?

Stan: When I joined the military, both my parents were working in the same aircraft factory as riveters on the centre fuselage at McDonnell-Douglas.

John: And where was that?

Stan: That was in a suburb of St. Louis. We moved around a lot. My father chased work a lot. And everyone in our neighbourhood worked in the same place and what people talked was where they worked in the plant. What shift they were on and that kind a thing. That was pretty much the prospect that I saw in front of me.

It was 1969. I was out of high school. I was floating around. I was roaming the streets, probably on a fast track to getting into trouble. Or if I wasn’t going to get into trouble, work in the plant. And I bought the official sort of story. You know the Domino Theory and the world communist conspiracy and the threat.

So it wasn’t a big leap, I could go in the army, everybody would admire me because I was a soldier. I could go to Vietnam and fight. It was the typical thinking process of an eighteen year old boy that doesn’t have much else to look forward to and that’s what I did. And I got out, for the first time for four years. I reverted to reserve status, not on active duty, I found myself working in a sweatshop in Arkansas and the army started to look good again.

John: What happened when you came back from Vietnam?

Stan: I came back from Vietnam. I was in the 82nd Airborne and separated from active duty. I did what most did that came back from Vietnam. I used my GI Bill to go to college. Then I worked in a sweatshop. I had a daughter by then and some responsibilities to take care off and ended up back in.

And once you are in and especially if you advance a bit; you’ve got your standing, you’ve learnt some skills, you’re not treated like a recruit any longer, you have a little bit of authority. But the skills you have are not transferable to the civilian sector. So it becomes the easiest thing to do to continue to look after yourself and your family and you sign the reenlistment papers, next thing I know, I was in the military as a career.

John: Did you go back in the Airborne again?
Stan: Oh yeah. I spent about two years as a cavalry scout and found out that I did not like large track vehicles or motor pools and I ended up submitting my paper work to a reassignment to the 2nd Ranger Battalion and at that point I went into the special operations field and basically never got out it after that.

The Ranger Battalion is elite shock infantry and also a parachute infantry outfit. Then from the Ranger Battalion I progressed to other special operations forces and as a Small Unit Tactics Instructor at the Jungle School in Panama. In Panama I was assigned Special Operations Forces Delta for about four years. After that worked as Military Science Instructor at West Point, went back and run a platoon in the 1st Ranger Battalion and did what they call a qualifications course, and went into 7th Special Forces and was in the Task Force Ranger debacle they had in Somalia. I left there and went in the 3rd Special Forces. The 7th Special Forces our area of operation was Latin America. The 3rd Special Forces was Sub Saharan Africa and the Caribbean. It was that last assignment with 3rd Special Forces, when I was deployed to Haiti. That’s when I got in trouble in Haiti and I wrote the book Hideous Dreams-A Soldiers Memoir of the US Invasion of Haiti about that and then retired.

And in that process I went to eight conflict areas, Vietnam through to Haiti.
John: What was so special about Haiti? What was the turning point for you?
Stan: I’m not too sure that Haiti was a turning point, but there were some circumstances that were unique in Haiti.

I’ve been struggling with issues around race ever since my experience in Vietnam. And race is a big issue in the military and a big issue in our culture generally. Racial issues became very stark in Haiti.

But I was already in the process as to my own transformation early in my assignment to West Point. I became familiar with of Nadine Gordimer who [1923-2014] was a South African Leftist who became a Noble Laurite and that in a way made me
a little more open minded. The first book I read of her’s was Burger's Daughter (1979) which was about the struggle of this woman, whose father had died in prison and he was a member of the South African Communist Party. And the humanisation of the Left through literature like that was part of that process.

Working in Guatemala and El Salvador directly under the supervision of the United States Embassy gave me a snapshot of the foreign policy establishment that most soldiers don’t have. I became very familiar with the inner workings of the US Embassy. That was where it begun to occur to me that there was an economic reason for a lot these foreign policies. And believe it or not I spent all this time in the military, gone to these different places, and understand that until then. I stared see how important the host country’s chamber of commerce was to the US embassies in places like Guatemala and El Salvador.

My mind was opening to the Left. I was beginning to see some structural similarities in different conflict areas, our role tended to be always siding with people in their war against the poor people. You know, you make a lot of excuses for yourself like that and certainly no one wants to go to jail or anything like that. I was in the process of going through a role conflict.

John: Let’s go back a bit. It’s generally regarded that Special Forces have always been the Central Intelligence Agency’s army, do you agree with that?

Stan: Well, yes. It’s changing now but certainly true that Special Forces are closely integrated with the work of the CIA [Central Intelligence Agency]. The whole establishment is networked together. That’s not to say that there are not bureaucratic turf wars with different agencies. There’s a sort of a revolving door especially since it has become less of an intelligence agency and more of a covert operations agency. With the revolving door between the Special Forces and the CIA, most of people involved in paramilitary operations are former Special Forces. The Special Forces primary operation is to work with indigenous forces in other nations. If the CIA was heavily involved in say political destabilisation or the prosecution of some kind of a war. Special Forces played an instrumental role primarily in training host nation forces and there’s always been a close relationship between Special Forces and the Central Intelligence Agency.
Now we are seeing the Agency sort of shuffled aside because there has always been sort of a contest between the power of the Department of Defence and the CIA. I think what we are seeing now with the CIA being made the scapegoat by claiming that all these lies they developed for a pretext for the war on Iraq were intelligence failures.

John: So what took place in Haiti?

Stan: Haiti was kind of a different situation. Haiti was the first time where we got ourselves involved for which we had no established doctrine. And they didn’t know exactly what to do. The only people who had any language capability at all in the army were Special Forces. And in 3rd Special Forces there were some of us who spoke Spanish, a good number of us spoke French, some that were actually trained in Creole. So 3rd Special Forces took a sort of a point mission inside the Task Force during the invasion and there was no way to go out and establish some sort of a presence in the rest the country without using Special Forces detachments. Which are small detachments of nine to twelve people, maximum. Mine had nine people, out into the hinterland, into the country side to establish some sort of a presence out there as a basis for future organisation of US diktat, into a post invasion milieu in Haiti.
They had spent three years intimidating and defaming Aristide, but they bought him back into the saddle of a US invasion. Tactically what we did was ‘Hubs and Spokes’. They established Special Forces battalion headquarters in key places around the country and pushed teams out on the Spokes.

What was interesting, unique about that I was running a team that was all the way out to the Dominican border. I was as far away as you could get from the capital and the Task Force headquarters, so I was physically out of reach. And I was not in a location that people wanted to visit, just to pass some time. It was a place called Forte Liberte. Long story short. I was there by myself and a nine man team and basically the defacto military dictator for an area of a thousand square kilometres. If that was what I wanted to be and the mission guidance was very vague. Normally a mission guidance is very specific, so you knew what was expected, but because no one knew where they were going with this invasion after they got there. Their mission guidance was to establish stability. You can’t come up with a more elastic kind of mission guidance and say we are going to establish stability.

At that point I was developing ideas that were very consciously socialist and I was very interested in the idea of Liberation Theology and the history of Aristide and sympathetic to the Lavalas movement. [Lavalas, a popular movement of peasants, workers, and some sectors of small business in Haiti. Began in the “ti egliz” or little church, as the network of Catholic parishes advocating for the poor. Combined elements of liberation theology with Haitian nationalism and opposed the autocratic system left behind 1915-34 United States Marine occupation of Haiti, of which Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier was an emblem though only in a series of autocrats. The word “lavalas” means flood. It was popularised by Father Jean-Bertrand Arisitde, who emerged as the national leader of the Lavalas Movement, was elected President of Haiti in its first open election in 1990, took office in 1991, and was deposed in a violent coup d’ etat eight months later. Each person, said Aristides, is like a mere drop of rain, and therefore insignificant by herself. But the combination of many drops of rain can be unified into a cleansing—flood.]

Now that was the movement that was crushed in the coup in 1991. The US actually subsidized and assisted and facilitated even though they turned it around in 1994. Primarily, because it wasn’t working very well. And so I had this autonomy and in those two months that I was there I was operating on my own and I was making decisions on my own. I was establishing relationships with actually establishing relationships members of the committee of Lavalas. I had the opportunity to start arresting people. I wasn’t arresting the people you’d normally think that Special Forces would arrest, which would be people who were dangerous to the ruling establishment of the country. I arrested the North East President of FRAPH. [ An acronym for the Allied Front for Progress in Haiti, FRAPH is phonetically the same as the French word for blow. Composed of military, former military, and members of the Tonton Macoutes , FRAPH was a network of right-wing death squads that was strengthened in the wake 1991 coup d’ etat against Aristide. FRAPH’s principle purpose, which it pursued with determination, was to annihilate the Lavalas Movement. It functioned as a kind of secret police on behalf of the Cedras. It was headed by Emmanuel “Toto” Constant, who also worked as an agent for the Central Intelligence Agency.] I arrested the former ambassador to France under Papa Doc [Nyll Calixte] I actually got a presidential reprimand for that.

John: This was under Clinton.

Stan: Yes, it was passed down orally all the way from the top, ’You cannot put ambassadors in jail!’ So I locked him up.

John: So what did he do? Why did you arrest him?

Stan: Because I went out and talked to the population and found out that they had been responsible for all this stuff. They had five thousand people killed. That’s considered conservatively in three years. They were going out there and trying to completely decapitate this popular political movement. And they were still doing right up until the day we arrived. It was like a local gang they used and when the sun rose up I had ten people in jail at Forte Liberte. Eventually all these guys got let lose except one and a couple I had arrested four people with my team when I was Gonaives, one of them is part of the new coup.

In a way I bent my team to my own will, until my own team rebelled against me, because my own team was being subjected to the daily intelligence summaries that we were received over the radio. Those intelligence summaries just like the intelligence summaries we got before Iraq had nothing to do with the interpretation of data or any other kind of interpretation of intelligence. They were basically screened anti-Aristide propaganda even though in the period that we were there to reinstall the legitimately elected president of Haiti. The so called intelligence we were receiving and the actual practice of the task force commander was to undermine his power in every way possible and the anti-Aristide propaganda we were getting under the guise of being intelligence summary were designed as guidance for the way we would relate to the Haitian population and various forces on the ground.

We were expected to read between the lines and to subdue our lot after I arrested a couple of members of FRAPH, these are death squads network, that operated under the Cedras, the defacto coup after the regime in 1999. These death squads were rehabilitated with the stroke of an American pen and they sent us down this mission that we have to release all these members of FRAPH. They are now the legitimate political opposition. Just like that. So I’m supposed to read between the lines. I was supposed to put the FAd’H, [Force Armee d’Haiti] the Haitian Armed Forces, the Haitian Police back in power. They said, ”You have to put them back on the street.” And you know I was doing some dumb stuff that I was eventually going to get caught at. So I said I put them on the street. I put them in positions in the shade trees and let them have their dominoes and give them their weapons but not their bullets and that got reported.
And everything I did eventually got reported and the end of this thing three months into the mission my own team rebelled against me. They said, ”You’re not supposed to do this stuff.” At the point they were accusing me of being seditious and then one day a jeep rolled up and relived me, searched all my bags, took the bullets away from me so I couldn’t shoot them or commit suicide. I don’t know what it was but it was crazy, it was nuts. I was subjected to a 15/6 Investigation. The only thing they could get on me that was legally binding was that I drank beer. Because there was a clause in general order one. There was a general blanket order that we were not to drink alcohol and it was universally ignored, everybody was drinking beer. The commanding general bought a case of beer, General Donavan bought a case of beer. One of The highest ranking generals in Special Forces bought a case of beer. This was the only thing they could get me on. They charged me with violation of general order one, but when they went to the investigation, the interviews all they were interested were what kind of contacts I had.
That’s all they were interested in and things that I said that were politically suspect. And the word sedition came up, “Don’t you think this is seditious?” One of the other accusations that came up was that was ironic, that I was to pro-Haitian. I said, ”OK I’m in Haiti,what am I supposed to be pro-Albanian? What does that mean I’m to pro-Haitian?” This sort of describes the mentality.

The other thing that came up was the issue of race, because I acted out on my anger one time and said something in front of my whole team, about how racist so many people were in Special Forces. It became a big issue during the investigation.

I got sent back to the States, threatened with a general court martial and I was just a hop, skip and a jump away from collecting my pension. And at that point I said “Court martial me and I’m going to tell all and we are going to go head to head and mud wrestle. We’ll talk about everything that happened in Haiti.”

In the course of three months, I heard about violations of general order one and violations of international law and everything else that had gone on all the way up to the level of O/C colonel in Haiti. I’m fighting for my life right now if you’re going to court martial, then I’m going to tell everybody everything and we are not going to talk about me.

The next day I get called into my battalion Sargent Major’s office. He calls me by my first name, “Have a seat Stan. We decided it is time for you to submit your retirement paper work.” I said “I agree with you 100 per cent. I’ll start working on my retirement paper work right away.” That was basically the end of my military career.

John: What rank were you finished.

Stan: I was a Master Sergeant.

John: What happened when you left the military?

Stan: Not much. I worked a couple of odd jobs. Then I ended up working as an organiser with an NGO that was dealing with politics. Even while I was waiting for my retirement paper work to go through, I became involved with a small, student based socialist organisation in North Carolina. I was going to their meetings and some of their events. I began to study social theory more thoroughly. I became very politically active in the campaign to defeat Jesse Helms, who was this fascist old guard segregationist. A senator from my state. We lost that. He won the election again. That was sort of the beginning of my political activism. That’s what I’ve been doing ever since and writing books.

John: Talking about your political activism. You’re very involved in Military Families Against the War. Can you say what Military Families is? And how it came about?

Stan: It is a group called Military Families Speak Out and it really just started with this couple, Charlie Richardson and Nancy Lesson and during the initial mobilisation before the 2003 ground offensive in Iraq and you had these massive mobilisations in October 2001 and 2003 in Washington DC. Nancy and Charlie had a son in the Marine Corp. And they went to one of these mobilisations and they had this big portrait photograph of him, about four feet tall. This picture of this young man in uniform and they had thing down there, ”Don’t Send My Son to Die for Oil!” While they were there, with the sign. You know, tens of thousands of people in the mall of Washington DC. Other people, who were part of the demonstration with family members in the military, came up to them. They said, ”Wait a minute. We’ve got to stay in touch.” And that was this military families peak organisation came to pass and there’s about 200 families. People who have loved ones in the military. So the Military Families Speak Out, these were wives, mothers, husbands, grand dads of soldiers. Veterans for Peace was a standing organisation that was an outgrowth of Vietnam Veterans against the War, because after a while, there was only so many people, who were Vietnam Veterans and they wanted a veterans antiwar organisation that could capture all those veterans that came after the Vietnam War Era, so they had Veterans for Peace.

After George Bush made that inane comment, ”Bring them on.” I’d written an article for Counterpunch which is an online Left wing journal, taking Bush to task about it. It was column size, maybe a thousand words, but my e-mail address was posted on it and in a couple of days I had two thousand e-mails responding. I touched a nerve with this thing, people were so angry about this comment Bush had made about, “Bring them on.” They were angry because it was un-statesmen like. They were angry because it was stupid, adolescent and macho. They were angry and a lot of them were angry because they had family members who were in theatre. So we went through the e-mail responses and we found out over forty per cent we’re veterans and military families. We said damn we’ve got something going on here. So we got on the phone and got hold of Nancy and Charlie form Military Families Speak Out. We got hold of Dave Kline from Veterans for Peace. And on the telephone within 48 hours we had coordinated a campaign between Veterans for Peace and Military Families Speak Out and that campaign we call Bring Them Home Now. Instead of “Bring them on.” Bring Them Home Now.

We were shocked in how quickly it took off and its grown into a huge campaign. The membership of Military Families Speak Out has gone tenfold. Out of the network of Veterans for Peace there is a new group called Iraq Veterans Against the War. We basically established a speakers bureau and Veterans and Military Families and veterans of this invasion and occupation.

John: Your son was in Iraq?

Stan: When it first started out my son was in Iraq. He had just joined the army. He ended up in Ramadi which their preparing to turn into another Fallujah. He’s back now. He’s still in the military. He’s scheduled to go to Afghanistan next month.

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

Stan: I think they see themselves that way. If you read the documents, later called the Wolfiwiltz doctrine, they see themselves as that. They see themselves as the new Romans. The only difference is that they see it as a permanent situation. The problem with that whole construction is that is that not one single initiative they’ve taken in that direction, since they used 9/11 as a pretext, has worked its worse. The interesting thing about Iraq is that they were going to in and pacify Afghanistan.

They have not been able to do that. In fact the Taliban is running around in battalion size elements in the south of Afghanistan, running around with near absolute impunity. The puppet president, Kazia is the mayor of Kabul. He has no capacity to extend his governance elsewhere. The heroin enriched warlords in the north are running everything up there. So that’s been a disaster. They do have some permanent military bases in Afghanistan. That was probably the permanent goal in the first place.

Any way they’re in a region now that is in deep jeopardy. They’ve created contradictions for the Pakistani government that are going to be impossible to sustain. Let’s not forget the Taliban was a creation of Mushrafi’s ISI.

John: During the war against the Soviets.

Stan: During the war against the Soviets. Everything that Mushrafi’s doing on behalf of the United States right now is incredibly unpopular in his own armed forces and security apparatus. They were two attempts on his life, that could have not been attempted without inside information. He’s got his own people trying to kill him right now. This has the potential to destabilise a nuclear power that is adjacent to a hostile power, India who is also a nuclear power. How stupid is that?

Now we go to the next one, Iraq. Iraq they were going to go in there, invade the place. A minimal troop commitment. It was going to be over in two days. They claimed initially. They were going to conquer Bagdad in two days, everybody was going to throw roses at them like the Allies marching into Paris in 1944. And none of that stuff came to pass. They not only had a political defeat from the outcome. It took them four weeks to get to Bagdad….

They’re sitting on one of the richest oilfields in the world. They’ve created a situation where they thought they were going in and restabilise and reconcentrate in the area their military forces in South West Asia from their old Cold War dispositions and use that as the basis of restructuring the world’s geopolitical architecture, in a way so they could control the tap on the energy resources coming out of South West Asia, every single thing they’ve tried gone wrong, even from their own perspective, it’s all gone wrong. It’s a complete disaster. The only reason no one in the United States knows what’s going on is because that the one thing these people are masterful at is bullshit. Propaganda, their great spin artists and they’ve convinced everyone that we are making progress.

John: One thing you’re touching on is the role of the media.

Stan: Well, who’s media is it any? Do you know what news channel the GIs get in Iraq?

John: Murdoch’s Fox network if you call it a news channel.

Stan: It’s not news. It’s Murdoch. It’s a right wing propaganda channel. Thank you Australia you sent him to us.

John: He hasn’t been an Australian for over twenty years.

Stan: The other thing is that the administration is very successful at mobilising demagogic appeals. The most demagogic appeal is the patriot appeal. No one in the media wants to be perceived as somehow unpatriotic. They get caught up in the same source of hysteria that seizes the whole population. One of the things that is interesting is my experience in El Salvador. I talked to a reporter from the Chicago Tribune. In fact I bought her a beer and we sat around and chatted for a while after this big Independence Day celebration in El Salvador. I asked her do you guys report on the stuff that is going on? I knew what was going on. A guy that I used to work with told me, ”That we are training the best right wing death squads in the world.” Working directly out of  the [US] embassy. How come you don’t report what the El Salvadorans are doing in Morazan? She said, ”Are you crazy? I can’t report that. If I reported that I would never have access to my sources inside the embassy again.” So they will basically impose an official spokesperson embargo on any news organ that strays to far afield. There’s a lot of questions that you can’t raise about this war without implicitly raising things about capitalism and the capitalist press is not willing to go there.

John: There’s an old saying about war that truth is the first casualty. In one of your interviews on American Public Radio you made the point about this being the most stage managed war ever.

Stan: Yes it is. It is totally a war of images and the offensive is not against anyone else but the American public to continue to get there acquiescence. They haven’t got their consent really. There’s no popular support for the war. All they have managed to gain is their acquiescence, which is enough for the time being.

John: Saying that how important are Military Families in lessening the gain they’ve got in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Stan: There’s two dimensions of its importance, one is that anything that we are doing right now to undermine the ability of the military as an institution to carry out its mission is a positive and the creation of not just the Military Families campaign and the larger veteran organisations is a way to begin to hollow out some of the capacity. That is now beginning to support open disobedience and dissent among the military population is a way to begin to hollow out some of the capacity. The biggest, the most important destructive influence on the institution of the military is the Iraq war itself. We can’t replace that. That’s what has created the main problem. All we are doing is taking advantage of it, by using it as a teachable moment to begin to raise the level of conscious among people inside the institution, to contend for these people, because the military is a bureaucracy in one dimension but on another dimension its people. It is people that we know friends, families and neighbours and so forth. The right to contend for their loyalty, especially if our justifiable perception is quite right, their under the control of a gangster government right now. The institutional impact it has on the military itself. I think if we have a special role to play in the Anti-War movement because Military Families and Veterans have a certain degree of immunity from the kind of demagogic patriot baiting that is directed at everybody else in the Anti-war movement. It is very difficult, but they try it. George Bush comes up and says,” You’re not supporting the troops.” In fact, don’t tell me about not supporting troops. My offspring is one of them. You can’t get away with that. And veterans have a certain extra element of credibility in any discussion on war and peace. So the credibility and immunity of the kind of patriot baiting on the one hand and we have a special sort of inroad to develop into the military itself to weaken the willingness of people inside the institution itself, to continue serve it uncritically. So that’s where the two dimensions of Military Families and Veterans organisations together are uniquely important. Not privileged among all Anti War sectors but certainly important.

John: Is this just a war over oil?

Stan: No. I think that is a simplification. I’m no expert on this. I have a blog called Feral Scholar. That’s what I am a Feral Scholar. I’m someone who looks up a lot of stuff on my own, like a lot of people do now days. I’m not a credentialed academic or a Middle East expert or an expert or anything like that. I don’t have to go to the library anymore to do research. I can do it on the World Wide Web. There’s an avalanche of information out there, if you can make some sense of it. And everything I’ve been able to research, leads me to believe and usually straight from the horse’s mouth, read the documents like The Project for a New America, Century for a New American Empire, the Enterprise Institute, the Hudson Institute, all these right wing think tanks.

They’ve created their ideological foundation for what we see going on right now. They stated years ago what their intent was. This is a key area of the world, especially when they are facing competition with China. A steep, industrial development turn right now. And the production of oil worldwide is beginning to peak, it is becoming a much more critical resource. The idea is not steal the oil. The US doesn’t need to steal oil. Saddam Hussein would have sold us all the oil we wanted. Anybody would have sold us the oil. And we are getting cheap as it is. At fifty dollars a barrel we are getting it cheap. When you consider, how much work you get done, out of a given unit of fossil fuel. But when you’re in a position with military bases to control the region, then you’ve got your finger on the tap. And the finger on the tap is not an attack on the Muslim World. The attack on the Muslim World right now is an instrumental attack but it’s directed against future competitors towards places like China, Western Europe. And you know, the rest of the world be dammed. Instead to continue them with loan sharking regime, that we have in the IMF.

The goal is not to steal oil. The goal and this is really important for to understand, to have some sort of criteria to gauge the level of Success, the goal is to establish permanent military bases in the region. That is a permanent military presence in the region.

When the whole world system was defined by the conflict between the US and Soviet Union, where did we have the troops? We had them in Korea. We had them in Germany. That system has changed so what we are doing now is picking up these military forces up and reconcentrating them in a new place, so a new geopolitical military architecture that they are trying to impose but what they didn’t factor in was the people in the region might not perform according to the script. And the Iraqis are not performing to the script with the resistance.
John: Iraq has been compared to Vietnam. As a Vietnam Veteran what do you think of that comparison?

Stan: Not only has the situation not improved on the ground but the situation has not improved politically but the longer they stay there the more they bring down the institution itself. We are seeing a material degradation of the capacity of the US military. We’ve got people going back for their third tour in less than three years. That’s a much higher operational tempo than the operational tempo that tore us apart in Vietnam. That cannot be sustained indefinitely. They’re going to have to draft or do something differently than what they are doing right now because they can’t sustain it. The other thing it has done is tie up the capacity to organise a ground offensive, they’ve still got plenty of naval and air force capacity if they want to go and bomb somebody, there’s more than enough capacity to do that, but to go and occupy somebody, their done. They’re not occupying any places. They barely occupied Haiti. They had to go and blackmail Brazil and Argentina and Chile to take up the occupation of Haiti after they organised a coup, this last year because they couldn’t even afford one battalion of Marines to protect the rich up in Paton Ville. They had to go and get somebody else to take over. In a way they created breathing space for popular resistance around the world. I’m sure they would love to something right now in Venezuela right now, except they haven’t got capacity to do it. I was there in 1992 when Chavez was locked up. What is going on right now is Chavez is in the process of arming his population. He just made a deal with Russia. Who is sort of mad at the United States. Because they’ve gone around into the former Soviet republic to gain influence as we speak the Russians are sending a hundred thousand Kalashnikovs to Chavez but they’ve only got twenty thousand soldiers, so they are arming the population. Venezuela is preparing itself right now for a resistance if necessary to a United States invasion. They are already a formidable opponent. The Venezuelan army is not to be toyed with. They’re a very competent military and are in a large part loyal to the democratic forces of the Chavezista Revolution. There are other people doing the same thing around the world. These popular movements are advancing right now and they consolidating their gains, because the United States is tied down. George Bush and his administration have probably done more in many ways to advance our cause right now. They’ve created a lot of space for people to consolidate their popular gains around the world by tying up the military in South West Asia. But look at what they’ve done to the forces on the Left inside the United States. This is the highest level of collaboration since the 1960s and early 70’s on the Left.

John: Going back to Vietnam.

Stan: Going back to Vietnam and the Civil Rights Movement, the struggle against American Apartheid follow by the Vietnam Anti War Movement. We didn’t have much to but squabble on the Left. All of a sudden there’s one project we can all give way and work on and that’s opposition to the war. So it has not only strengthened the Left, we’ve seen an expansion of the people who have got involved in the Anti-War Movement, we find more and more of them have moved from an anti-war consciousness to an anti-imperialist consciousness. And we are seeing the people who consciously identify with the Left forces

The Neo-con project has actually helped us. Maybe I’m an incurable optimist but I don’t want to see a hundred thousand Iraqis killed or a million Iraqis killed by sanctions, or my son or someone like him killed. This is totally an optimistic scenario this has created conditions that are less favourable to the American Bourgeois, where before they started this adventure.

John: How important do you think the internet is building opposition to this war?

Stan: You’ll have to talk to someone much smarter than me. I mean I’ve learned how to use a mouse and weave around the web but I don’t speak that special kind of language, especially young folk. I think for the time being at least until they figure out how to control that, it does have potential especially in metropolitan countries like the United States and Australia where a lot of people are on line. It has huge potential as in run democratic medium to get information out there to people that is being spiked by the capitalist press and it that it has been very effective. It is not just effective in getting information out. It is an easy to overcome some of the geographical difficulties of us being spread out all over the place. The flip side of all that is that we have to be real careful that we don’t end up spending all our time in our little computer rooms with our mouse and begin to think that sending messages back and forth on the internet can’t replace face to face activism. The society already got us isolated and atomised let’s not make it worse. All just becoming computer geeks sitting in computer rooms and talk about our politics. Let use this medium to amplify our work but let not forget that the work we do is with real people.