John Pilger and others at Rebellious Media Conference A panel featuring John Pilger at the Rebellious Media Conference in London on the 8th October 2011. Great session. Check out www.rebelliousmediaconference.org
The Son of Africa claims a continent’s crown jewels Barack Obama is leading the US at the head of a pack of western nations intent on the new scramble to exploit Africa’s resources. Their chief aim? To squeeze a China hungry for raw materials.
On 14 October, President Barack Obama announced that he was sending United States special forces to Uganda to join the civil war there. In the next few months, US combat troops will be sent to South Sudan, Congo and Central African Republic. They will "engage" only for "self-defence", says Obama, satirically. With Libya secured, an American invasion of the African continent is under way.
The press describes Obama's decision as "highly unusual" and "surprising", even "weird". It is none of these things. It is the logic of US foreign policy since 1945. Take Vietnam. The priority was to halt the alleged influence of China, an imperial rival, and "protect" Indonesia, which President Richard Nixon called "the region's richest hoard of natural resources . . . the greatest prize". Vietnam got in the way; the slaughter of more than three million Vietnamese and the devastation and poisoning of their land were the price of America achieving its goal.
As in all subsequent invasions by America, a trail of blood stretching from Latin America to Iraq and Afghanistan, the rationale was "self-defence" or "humanitarian", words long emptied of their dictionary meaning.
In Africa, says Obama, the "humanitarian mission" is to assist the government of Uganda to defeat the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), which "has murdered, raped and kidnapped tens of thousands of men, women and children in Central Africa". This is an accurate description of the LRA, evoking multiple atrocities administered by the US, such as the bloodbath in the 1960s following the CIA-arranged murder of Patrice Lumumba, the independence leader and first legally elected prime minister of Congo, and the CIA coup that installed Mobutu Sese Seko, regarded as Africa's most venal tyrant.
Obama's other justification also invites satire. This is the "national security of the United States". The LRA has been doing its nasty work for 24 years. Today, it has fewer than 400 fighters, and has never been weaker. However, "US national security" usually means buying a corrupt and thuggish regime that has something Washington wants. Uganda's "president-for-life", Yoweri Museveni, is already receiving the larger part of $45m in US military "aid" - including Obama's favoured drones. This is his bribe to fight a proxy war against America's latest phantom Islamic enemy, the ragtag al-Shabaab, based in Somalia. The LRA will play a public relations role, distracting western journalists with its perennial horror stories.
However, the main reason the US is invading Africa is no different from that which ignited the Vietnam war. It is China. In the world of self-serving, institutionalised paranoia that justifies what General David Petraeus, the former US commander and now CIA director, implies is a state of perpetual war, China is replacing al-Qaeda as the official "threat".
When I interviewed Bryan Whitman, a deputy assistant secretary of defence, at the Pentagon last year, I asked him to describe the current danger to America. Struggling visibly, he repeated, "Asymmetric threats . . . asymmetric threats." These justify the money-laundering, state-sponsored arms conglomerates and the biggest military and war budget in history. With Osama Bin Laden airbrushed, China takes the mantle.
Africa is China's success story. Where the Americans bring drones and destabilisation, the Chinese bring roads, bridges and dams. What they want is resources, especially fossil fuels. With Africa's greatest oil reserves, Libya under Muammar al-Gaddafi was one of China's most important sources of fuel. When civil war broke out and Nato backed the "rebels" with a fabricated story about Gaddafi planning "genocide" in Benghazi, China evacuated its 30,000 workers in Libya. The subsequent UN Security Council resolution that allowed the west's "humanitarian intervention" was explained succinctly in a proposal to the French government by the "rebel" National Transitional Council, disclosed last month in the newspaper Libération, in which France was offered 35 per cent of Libya's gross national oil production "in exchange" (the term used) for "total and permanent" French support for the NTC. Running up the Stars and Stripes in "liberated" Tripoli, the US ambassador, Gene Cretz, blurted out: "We know that oil is the jewel in the crown of Libyan natural resources."
The de facto conquest of Libya by the US and its imperial partners heralds a modern version of the "Scramble for Africa" at the end of the 19th century. Like in the "victory" in Iraq, journalists have played a critical role in distinguishing between worthy and unworthy Libyan victims. A recent Guardian front page carried a photograph of a terrified "pro-Gaddafi" fighter and his wild-eyed captors who, the caption said, "celebrate". According to General Petraeus, there are now wars "of perception . . . conducted continuously through the news media".
For more than a decade, the US has tried to establish a command on the African continent, AFRICOM, but has been rebuffed by governments fearful of the regional tensions this would cause. Libya, and now Uganda, South Sudan and Congo, provide the main chance. As WikiLeaks cables and the US National Strategy for Counter-terrorism show, American plans for Africa are part of a global design in which 60,000 special forces, including death squads, operate in 75 countries. As the then defence secretary Dick Cheney pointed out in the 1990s, America simply wants to rule the world.
That this is now the gift of Barack Obama, the "Son of Africa", is supremely ironic. Or is it? As Frantz Fanon explained in Black Skin, White Masks, what matters is not so much the colour of your skin as the power you serve and the millions you betray.
The Grierson Trustees in London have announced that its top award for 2011 has been won by John Pilger for his "outstanding contribution to the art or craft of documentary making". Given in memory of the pioneer of the documentary, John Grierson, this is "the most coveted prize of the British Documentary Awards".
Dawn Airey, Chair of the Grierson Trust, said: "John Pilger is one of the world's great documentary producers. His work has uncovered atrocity, probled the underbelly of society, sparked controversy and challenged the heart of democracy. The Grierson Trust is proud and thrilled to honour John with its most prestigious award."
In Mexico, a universal struggle against power and forgetting
Alameda Park is Mexico City's languid space for lovers and open-air ballroom dancers: the gents in two-tone shoes, the ladies in finery and heels. The cobbled paths undulate from the great earthquake of 1985. You imagine the fairground sinking into the cobwebs of cracks, its Edwardian organ playing forlornly. Two small churches nearby totter precariously: the surreal is Mexico's facade.
Hidden behind the poplars is the museum where Diego Riviera's mural Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park occupies the entire ground floor. You sink into sofa chairs and journey for an hour across his masterpiece. Originally painted at the Hotel Prado in 1947, it was rescued and restored when the earthquake demolished all around. More than 45 feet long and 14 feet high, it presents the political warriors of Mexico's past, from the conquistador Hernando Cortes to Rivera himself, depicted as a child holding the hand of a fashionably dressed skeleton, the iconic symbol of the Day of the Dead. Standing maternally beside him is his wife, Frida Kahlo, Mexico's artistic heroine. Around them parade the impervious rich and unrequited poor.
What is it about Mexico that is a universal political dream? As in a Rivera mural, nothing is held back: no class martyrdom, no colonial tragedy. The message is freedom next time. The autocracy that emerged from the revolution of 1910-19 gave itself the Orwellian-name Party of the Institutionalised Revolution. This was eventually replaced by businessmen promising a pseudo democracy, which in 1994 embraced Bill Clinton's rapacious North American Free Trade Association (Nafta). Within a year, a million jobs were destroyed south of the border, along with Emiliano Zapata's revolutionary triumph, the constitutional protection of indigenous land from sale or privatisation. At a stroke, Mexico surrendered its economy to Wall Street.
The beneficiaries of the new, privatised Mexico are those like Carlos Slim, now ahead of Bill Gates as the world's richest man, whose fingers are lodged in every imaginable pie: from food and construction to the national telephone company. A US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks says, "The net worth of the 10 richest people of Mexico - a country where more than 40 per cent of the population lives in poverty - represents roughly 10 per cent of the gross domestic product."
The last election, in 2006, was won by Felipe Calderon, Washington's man, followed by persistent allegations that it was rigged. Calderon declared what he calls "a war on drug gangs" and 50,000 dead are the result. No one doubts the menace of the drug cartels, but the real "security issue" is more likely the resistance of ordinary Mexicans to an enduring inequity and a rotten elite.
For most of this year, thousands of los indignados have taken over the massive parade ground known as the Zocalo facing the National Palace. The occupations in Wall Street and around the world have their genesis in Latin America. The difference here is there is none of the angst about the protestors' "focus". As in all places where people live on the edge and the state and its cronyism cast lawless shadows, they know exactly what they want. Ask some of the 44,000 employees of the national power company, who prevented the fire sale of the national grid until Calderon sacked them all; and the striking copper miners of Cananea, whose owners funded Calderon's campaign; and the former pilots and stewards of the national airline, Mexicana, dissolved in a sham bankruptcy that was a gift to the private airline industry.
These angry, eloquent and often courageous people have long known something many in Europe and the United States are only beginning to realise: there is no choice but to fight the economic extremism unleashed in Washington and London a generation ago. Employment, trade unionism, public health, education, "life itself", says Manuel Lopez Obrador, the former mayor of Mexico City who ran against Calderon, "has since been struck by a political and economic earthquake". Since Calderon came to power, 30 journalists have been killed, ten this year alone, says the Committee to Protect Journalists. Again, the drug cartels are blamed, but suppression of a national resistance, co-ordinated with the United States, is also the truth.
Unlike in the US and Britain, many journalists, some of them inspired by the rise of the Zapatistas in the 1990s, have thrown off the patronage of the political and business elite and pursue what they call "civic journalism". The second largest newspaper in Mexico is La Jornada, famous for its fearless investigations and campaigns and for surviving mostly on subscriptions; it carries no commercial advertising. Reminiscent of newspapers before they were consumed by corporations, there is nothing like it in Britain; it reflects much about Mexico City that is surprising and enlightened.
In the National Palace the presence of Robocop guards is at once overwhelmed by Diego Rivera's most epic mural. Painted between 1929 and 1945, it follows the walls of the staircase, spilling, like his Alameda work, spectacles of revolution and tragedy, hope and defiance. When I filmed it 30 years ago, I tried unsuccessfully to write a narrative to the pictures. In condensing and bringing alive 2000 years of history, it is art of which Europeans and North Americans are sometimes disdainful yet envious; for it charts the struggle of ordinary people, uniting and celebrating them, and identifying their true political enemies. Seeing it again, I am struck by how it speaks for us all.
Jonathan Dimbleby presents a panel discussion of news and politics from Sir John Cass Red Coat School in Stepney, London with broadcaster and former Cabinet minister, Michael Portillo, poet Andrew Motion and writer, John Pilger.
forget the previous post, the bbc have replaced him. bastards. but there is the following interview and article;
‘Journalism, not truth, is the first casualty of war’
How has journalism changed since when you started as a young reporter?
The means — the technology of journalism — have changed out of all recognition. As a foreign correspondent, I carried a portable typewriter, a shortwave radio and a thick notebook. Getting the story back to London often meant pleading with postal officials to cable it after hours. Thanks to a redoubtable Mrs Bannerjee, who ran the switchboard at the Grand Hotel in Calcutta during the Bangladesh War, I was able to get a line through to London and dictate my story to a ‘copy-taker’. Today, communications are instant; the Mrs Bannerjees have been made redundant. But does that mean better journalism? Yes, when the news is breaking and the correspondent is a witness and the images can be sent instantaneously. But generally speaking, the answer is no. Journalists now are under constant pressure to file 24/7 even — or usually — when they don’t know what is going on. Those precious hours of reflection and proper professional investigation are gone; technology has made competition almost absurd, with journalists often interviewing each other in order to be ahead of rivals.
The War You Don’t See is a hard-hitting film. Are you aiming it at your colleagues in the media fraternity? Is there a particular report that was a final straw, resulting in this film?
The film is aimed both at journalists and the general public. Remember, the public has long been ahead of the media in understanding that news is not as it seems. The defensiveness of journalists to discuss openly the way they work, and the way news is selected has left them behind. For me, the horrific human carnage of the wanton invasion of Iraq was the ‘final straw’ — if one was needed. The invasion caused the deaths of more than a million men, women and children — that’s the figure that comes from the Johns Hopkins University epidemiological survey, the only peer-reviewed study, and it’s higher than the Fordham University estimate of the number of people who died in the Rwanda genocide. The Johns Hopkins work was attacked and ignored by much of the western media, so that most people in the West have no idea of the sheer scale of suffering caused by their governments. According to Dan Rather, the former CBS news anchor I interview in my film, had journalists in the US done their job and challenged the lies about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, instead of amplifying and echoing them, the invasion may not have happened. So the blood of all those people is on our hands in the media.
Why is self-critique such a taboo for journalists? Have journalism’s basic ethics changed to cater to a market rather than a conscience?
Yes, the so-called market has consumed much of journalism. Editors have become business managers, imbued with the jargon and mythology of ‘neoliberalism’. This is also true of state broadcasters like the BBC. Watch BBC World and you’ll see much of it is about business.
In the film, you speak about the ‘drumbeat or war’. Is journalism a casualty of war too?
Journalism, not truth, is the first casualty of war. Dan Rather referred to those who apologised for the Iraq invasion as “stenographers”, not journalists.
Does embedded journalism exist only in war reportage? What is the way to counter the ‘public relations’ style reportage?
‘Embedded reporting’ exists right throughout the media. The studio host, in his or her selection of news, or subjects, even language, demonstrates perhaps the most common form of embedded journalism.
Which media group do you think is the worst offender? And which one has remained true to the ethics of journalism?
There is a close contest for the ‘worst offenders’. They range from Fox News to BBC. Many journalists have rema ined true to a view of the craft as the agency of people, not authority and power. In Mexico, La Jornada is the second most popular newspaper and run almost entirely on subscriptions. It is rem iniscent of the great newspapers in the West that investigated and campai gned on behalf of their readers. Realnews.com produced a better service of breaking news on a shoe-string [budget] than most wealthy TV networks. Websites like Information Clearing House and ZNet offer excellent daily journalism.
Is there still hope for young journalists today? How do they avoid the seduction of easy access to the powerful?
You avoid the ‘seduction’, as you put it, by being true to yourself and remembering that real journalism seldom comes from the top but from hard work at the bottom. In other words, you regard yourself always as independent of government and all vested interests. It’s hard, but many have achieved this independence. It’s about will and not a little passion for the craft.
Once again, war is prime time and journalism's role is taboo
On 22 May 2007, the Guardian's front page announced: "Iran's secret plan for summer offensive to force US out of Iraq." The writer, Simon Tisdall, claimed that Iran had secret plans to defeat American troops in Iraq, which included "forging ties with al-Qaida elements". The coming "showdown" was an Iranian plot to influence a vote in the US Congress. Based entirely on briefings by anonymous US officials, Tisdall's "exclusive" rippled with lurid tales of Iran's "murder cells" and "daily acts of war against US and British forces". His 1,200 words included just 20 for Iran's flat denial.
It was a load of rubbish: in effect a Pentagon press release presented as journalism and reminiscent of the notorious fiction that justified the bloody invasion of Iraq in 2003. Among Tisdall's sources were "senior advisers" to General David Petraeus, the US military commander who in 2006 described his strategy of waging a "war of perceptions... conducted continuously through the news media".
The media war against Iran began in 1979 when the west's placeman Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, a tyrant, was overthrown in a popular Islamic revolution. The "loss" of Iran, which under the shah was regarded as the "fourth pillar" of western control of the Middle East, has never been forgiven in Washington and London.
Last month, the Guardian's front page carried another "exclusive": "MoD prepares to take part in US strikes against Iran". Again, anonymous officials were quoted. This time the theme was the "threat" posed by the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon. The latest "evidence" was warmed-over documents obtained from a laptop in 2004 by US intelligence and passed to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Numerous authorities have cast doubt on these suspected forgeries, including a former IAEA chief weapons inspector. A US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks describes the new head of the IAEA, Yukiuya Amano, as "solidly in the US court" and "ready for prime time".
The Guardian's 3 November "exclusive" and the speed with which its propaganda spread across the media were also prime time. This is known as "information dominance" by the media trainers at the Ministry of Defence's psyops (psychological warfare) establishment at Chicksands, Bedforshire, who share premises with the instructors of the interrogation methods that have led to a public enquiry into British military torture in Iraq. Disinformation and the barbarity of colonial warfare have historically had much in common.
Having beckoned a criminal assault on Iran, the Guardian opined that this "would of course be madness". Similar arse-covering was deployed when Tony Blair, once a "mystical" hero in polite liberal circles, plotted with George W. Bush and caused a bloodbath in Iraq. With Libya recently dealt with ("It worked," said the Guardian), Iran is next, it seems.
The role of respectable journalism in western state crimes -- from Iraq to Iran, Afghanistan to Libya - remains taboo. It is currently deflected by the media theatre of the Leveson enquiry into phone hacking, which Daily Telegraph's Benedict Brogan describes as "a useful stress test". Blame Rupert Murdoch and the tabloids for everything and business can continue as usual. As disturbing as the stories are from Lord Leveson's witness stand, they do not compare with the suffering of the countless victims of journalism's warmongering.
The lawyer Phil Shiner, who has forced a public inquiry into British military's criminal behaviour in Iraq, says that embedded journalism provides the cover for the killing of "the hundreds of civilians killed by British forces when they had custody of them, [often subjecting them] to the most extraordinary, brutal things, involving sexual acts... embedded journalism is never ever going to get close to hearing their story". It is hardly surprising that the Ministry of Defence, in a 2000-page document leaked to WikiLeaks, describes investigative journalists -journalists who do their job - as a "threat" greater than terrorism.
In the week the Guardian published its "exclusive" about Ministry of Defence planning for an attack on Iran, General Sir David Richards, Britain's military chief, went on a secret visit to Israel, which is a genuine nuclear weapons outlaw and exempt from media opprobrium. Richards is a highly political general who, like Petraeus, has worked the media to considerable advantage. No journalist in Britain revealed that he went to Israel to discuss an attack on Iran.
Honourable exceptions aside - such as the tenacious work of the Guardian's Ian Cobain and Richard Norton-Taylor - our increasingly militarised society is reflected in much of our media culture. Two of Blair's most important functionaries in his mendacious, blood-drenched adventure in Iraq, Alistair Campbell and Jonathan Powell, enjoy a cosy relationship with the liberal media, their opinions sought on worthy subjects while the blood in Iraq never dries. For their vicarious admirers, as Harold Pinter put it, the appalling consequences of their actions "never happened".
On 24 November, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the feminist scholars Cynthia Cockburn and Ann Oakley, attacked what they called "certain widespread masculine traits and behaviours". They demanded that the "culture of masculinity should be addressed as a policy issue". Testosterone was the problem. They made no mention of a system of rampant state violence that has rehabilitated empire, creating 740,000 widows in Iraq and threatening whole societies, from Iran to China. Is this not a "culture", too? Their limited though not untypical indignation says much about how media-friendly identity and issues politics distract from the systemic exploitation and war that remain the primary source of violence against both women and men.
In the land of facades, mark the first signs of an Indian spring In his latest column for the New Statesman, John Pilger describes his return to India, now promoted as an "economic tiger" and a "global leader", where the reality is very different for the lives of those beyond the advertisers' hoardings.
When the early morning fog rises and drifting skeins from wood fires carry the sweet smell of India, the joggers arrive in Lodi Gardens. Past the tomb of Mohammed Shah, the 15th century Munghal ruler, across a landscape manicured in the 1930s by Lady Willingdon, wife of the governor-general, recently acquired trainers stride out from ample figures in smart saris and white cotton dhotis. In Delhi, the middle classes do as they do everywhere, though here there is no middle. By mid-morning, children descend like starlings. They wear pressed blazers, like those of an English prep school. There are games and art and botany classes. When shepherded out through Lady Willingdon's elegant stone gateway, they pass a reed-thin boy, prostrate beside the traffic and his pile of peanuts, coins clenched in his hand.
When I was first sent to report India, I seldom raised my eyes to the gothic edifices and facades of the British Raj. All life was at dust and pavement level and, once the shock had eased, I learned to admire the sheer imagination and wit of people who survived the cities, let alone the countryside -- the dabbawallahs (literally "person with a box"), cleaners, runners, street barbers, poets, assorted Fagans and children with their piles of peanuts. In Calcutta, as it was still known during the 1971 war with Pakistan, civil defence units in soup-plate helmets and lungis toured the streets announcing an air-raid warning practice during which, they said, "everybody must stay indoors and remain in the face-down position until the siren has ceased to operate". Waves of mocking laughter greeted them, together with the cry: "But we have no doors to stay inside!"
When the imperial capital was transferred to Delhi early last century, New Delhi was built as a modernist showpiece, with avenues and roundabouts and a mall sweeping up to the viceroy's house, now the president's residence in the world's most populous democracy. If the experience of colonialism was humiliating, this proud new metropolis would surely be enabling. On 15 August, 1947, it was the setting for Pandit Nehru's declaration of independence "at the midnight hour". It was also a façade behind which the majority hoped and waited, and still wait.
This notion of façade is almost haunting. You sense it in genteel Lodi Gardens and among the anglicised elites and their enduring ambiguity. In the 1990s, it became a wall erected by the beneficiaries of Shining India, which began as a slogan invented by an American advertising firm to promote the rise of the Hindu nationalist BJP-led government. Shorn of Nehru's idealism and paternalism, it marked the end of the Congress Party's pretence of class and caste reconciliation: in other words, social justice. Monsanto and Pizza Hut, Microsoft and Murdoch were invited to enter what had been forbidden territory to corporate predators. India would serve a new deity called "economic growth" and be hailed as a "global leader, apparently heading "in what the smart money believes is the right direction" (Newsweek).
India's ascent to "new world power" is both true and what Edward Bernays, the founder of public relations, called "false reality". Despite a growth rate of 6.9 per cent and prosperity for some, more Indians than ever are living in poverty than anywhere on earth, including a third of all malnourished children. Save the Children says that every year two million infants under the age of five die.
The facades are literal and surreal. Ram Suhavan and his family live 60 feet above a railway track. Their home is the inside of a hoarding which advertises, on one side, "exotic, exclusive" homes for the new "elite" and on the other, a gleaming car. This is in Pune, in Maharashtra state, which has "booming" Bombay and the nation's highest suicide rate among indebted farmers.
Most Indians live in rural villages, dependent on the land and its rhythms of subsistence. The rise of monopoly control of seed by multinationals, forcing farmers to plant cash crops such as GM cotton, has led to a quarter of a million suicides, a conservative estimate. The environmentalist Vandana Shiva describes this as "re-colonisation". Using the 1894 Land Acquisition Act, central and state governments have forcibly dispossessed farmers and tribal peoples in order to hand their land to speculators and mining companies. To make way for a Formula One racetrack and gated "elite" estates, land was appropriated for $6 a square metre and sold to developers for $13,450 a square metre. Across India, the communities have fought back. In Orissa State, the wholesale destruction of betel farms has spawned a resistance now in its fifth year.
What is always exciting about India is this refusal to comply with political mythology and gross injustice. In The Idea of India, wrote Sunil Kjilnani, "The future of western political theory will be decided outside the west." For the majorities of India and the west, liberal democracy was now diminished to "the assertion of an equal right to consume [media] images".
In Kashmir, a forgotten India barely reported abroad, a peaceful resistance as inspiring as Tahrir Square has arisen in the most militarised region on earth. As the victims of Partition, Muslim Kashmiris have known none of Nehru's noble legacies. Thousands of dissidents have "disappeared" and torture is not uncommon. "The voice that the government of India has tried so hard to silence," wrote Arundhati Roy, "has now massed into a deafening roar. Hundreds of thousands of unarmed people have come out to reclaim their cities, their streets and mohallas. They have simply overwhelmed the heavily armed security forces by their sheer numbers, and with a remarkable display of raw courage." An Indian Spring may be next.
The Liberal Way To Run The World -- "Improve" Or We'll Kill You
What is the world’s most powerful and violent “ism”? The question will summon the usual demons, such as Islamism, now that communism has left the stage.
The answer, wrote Harold Pinter, is only “superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged”, because only one ideology claims to be non-ideological, neither left nor right, the supreme way. This is liberalism.
In his 1859 essay On Liberty, to which modern liberals pay homage, John Stuart Mills described the power of empire. “Despotism is a legitimate mode of government in dealing with barbarians,” he wrote, “provided the end be their improvement, and the means justified by actually effecting that end.” The “barbarians” were large sections of humanity of whom “implicit obedience” was required.
The French liberal Alexis de Tocqueville also believed in the bloody conquest of others as “a triumph of Christianity and civilisation” that was “clearly preordained in the sight of Providence”.
“It’s a nice and convenient myth that liberals are the peacemakers and conservatives the warmongers,” wrote the historian Hywel Williams in 2001, “but the imperialism of the liberal way may be more dangerous because of its open ended nature–its conviction that it represents a superior form of life [while denying its] self-righteous fanaticism.” He had in mind a speech by Tony Blair in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 attacks, in which Blair promised to “reorder this world around us” according to his “moral values”. At least a million dead later – in Iraq alone – this tribune of liberalism is today employed by the tyranny in Kazakhstan for a fee of$13m.
Blair’s crimes are not unusual. Since 1945, more than a third of the membership of the United Nations – 69 countries – have suffered some or all of the following. They have been invaded, their governments overthrown, their popular movements suppressed, their elections subverted and their people bombed. The historian Mark Curtis estimates the death toll in the millions.
This has been principally the project of the liberal flame carrier, the United States, whose celebrated “progressive” president John F. Kennedy, according to new research, authorized the bombing of Moscow during the Cuban crisis in 1962. “If we have to use force,” said Madeleine Albright, US secretary of state in the liberal administration of Bill Clinton, “it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall. We see further into the future.” How succinctly she defines modern, violent liberalism.
Syria is an enduring project. This is a leaked joint US-UK intelligence file:
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, though it might have come from a recent report by the Royal United Services Institute, A Collision Course for Intervention, whose author says, with witty understatement: “It is highly likely that some western special forces and intelligence sources have been in Syria for a considerable time.”
And so a world war beckons in Syria and Iran.
Israel, the west’s violent creation, already occupies part of Syria. This is not news. Israelis take picnics to the Golan Heights to watch a civil war directed by western intelligence from Turkey and bankrolled and armed by the medievalists in Saudi Arabia.
Having stolen most of Palestine, viciously attacked Lebanon, starved the people of Gaza and built an illegal nuclear arsenal, Israel is exempt from the current disinformation campaign aimed at installing western clients in Damascus and Tehran.
On 21 July, the Guardian commentator Jonathan Freedland warned that “the west will not stay aloof for long . . . Both the US and Israel are also anxiously eyeing Syria’s supply of chemical and nuclear weapons, now said to be unlocked and on the move, fearing Assad may choose to go down in a lethal blaze of glory.” Said by whom? The usual “experts” and spooks.
Like them, Freedland desires “a revolution without the full-blown intervention required in Libya”. According to its own records, Nato launched 9,700 “strike sorties” against Libya, of which more than a third were civilian targets.
These included missiles with uranium warheads.
Look at the photographs of the rubble of Misurata and Sirte, and the mass graves identified by the Red Cross. Read the Unicef report on the children killed, “most [of them] under the age of ten”. Like the destruction of the Iraqi city of Fallujah, these crimes were not news, because news as disinformation is a fully integrated weapon of attack.
On 14 July, the Libyan Observatory for Human Rights, which opposed the Gaddafi regime, reported, “The human rights situation in Libya now is far worse than under Gaddafi.” Ethnic cleansing is rife. According to Amnesty, the entire population of the town of Tawargha “are still barred from returning [while] their homes have been looted and burned down”.
In Anglo-American scholarship, influential theorists known as “liberal realists” have long taught that liberal imperialists – a term they never use – are the world’s peacebrokers and crisis managers, rather than the cause of a crisis.
They have taken the humanity out of the study of nations and congealed it with a jargon that serves warmongering power. Laying out whole nations for autopsy, they have identified “failed states” (nations difficult to exploit) and “rogue states” (nations resistant to western dominance).
Whether or not the regime is a democracy or dictatorship is irrelevant. The same is true of those contracted to do the dirty work. In the Middle East, from Nasser’s time to Syria today, western liberalism’s collaborators have been Islamists, lately al-Qaeda, while long discredited notions of democracy and human rights serve as rhetorical cover for conquest, "as required”. Plus ça change.
We've moved on from the Iraq war
but Iraqis don't have that choice Like characters from The Great Gatsby, Britain and the US have arrogantly turned their backs and left a country in ruins
26 May 2013
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% 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 neuroblastoma. "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 Warthog 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 World Health Organisation's cancer programme 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, 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." A WHO report, the result of a landmark study conducted 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 birth defects have risen to a "crisis" right across Iraqi society where depleted uranium and other toxic heavy metals were used 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 one or both parents. "This means a horrific 14% 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 Guantánamo 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?
Understanding the Prism leaks is understanding the rise of a new fascism It is in popular culture that the fraudulent “ideal” of America as morally superior, a “leader of the free world”, has been most effective.
20 June 2013
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, the whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg leaked US government files known as the Pentagon Papers, which showed that the invasion of Vietnam was based on systematic lying. Four years later, Frank Church conducted sensational hearings in the Senate: one of the last flickers of American democracy. These laid bare the 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 the capacity that there is to make tyranny total 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, following the revelations in the Guardian by the NSA contractor Edward Snowden, 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 a modern form of fascism. Having nurtured oldfashioned 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 1970s, 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, America is still far from being a classic police-state . . .” he wrote. “But no president has done more to create the infrastructure for a possible future police state.” Why? Because Obama 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 cyberpower, only the revolving doors have changed. The director of Google Ideas, Jared Cohen, was an adviser to Condoleezza 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 Snowden, that provides the NSA with 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 design, of which mass surveillance is an essential part, but also by insinuating propaganda into the public consciousness. This was Edward Bernays’s point. His two most successful PR campaigns convinced Americans that they should go to war in 1917 and persuaded 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, such as those of the exiled Stanley Kubrick, and adventurous European films would find 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, liberal-minded US distributor, I was handed a laundry list of changes, 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?” Kathryn Bigelow’s torture-apologising Zero Dark Thirty and, this year, 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 advanced surveillance technology. The company also has lucrative interests in “liberated” Iraq.
The power of truth-tellers such as Bradley Manning, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden is that they dispel a whole mythology carefully constructed by the corporate cinema and the corporate media. WikiLeaks is especially dangerous because it provides truthtellers with a means to get the truth out. This was achieved by Collateral Damage, the cockpit video of a US Apache helicopter allegedly leaked by 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; for we are all witnesses now, and the rest is up to us.
Forcing down Evo Morales's plane was an act of air piracy Denying the Bolivian president air space was a metaphor for the gangsterism that now rules the world
4 July 2013
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 airspace 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, Morales had been asked about Snowden – who remains trapped in the city's 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 Guantánamo.
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 Bolivia's president, ought to stir us into recognising the true nature of the enemy.
Snowden's revelations are not merely about privacy, or civil liberty, or even mass spying. They are about the unmentionable: that the democratic facades of the US 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 US and its agents. "But you wouldn't know it," said Pinter. "It never happened. Even while it was happening it never happened."
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. Snowden's whistleblowing, like that of 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 falling, we might all look closer to home.
The silent military coup that took over Washington This time it's Syria, last time it was Iraq. Obama chose to accept the entire Pentagon of the Bush era: its wars and war crimes
10 September 2013
On my wall is the Daily Express front page 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 by 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, suppressing the truth 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 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 phosphorus, as did the Israelis in Gaza. No Obama "red line" for them. No showdown psychodrama for them.
The sterile repetitive debate about whether "we" should "take action" against selected dictators (ie cheer on the US and its acolytes in yet another aerial killing spree) is part of our brainwashing. Richard Falk, professor emeritus 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 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 appeared 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 signed a treaty to pirate the oil and gas of the stricken country where the 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, piled up the rubble in Afghanistan and reduced Libya to a Hobbesian nightmare, are ascendant across the US administration. Behind their beribboned facade, 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 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.
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