"Politicians who believe the media is their friend are fools. When the time comes, the same journalists who give you obsequious airtime to promote your achievements will dance on your grave. And history will probably be kind to them because they'll write it."
Crikey's Hugo Kelly reflects on the demise of NSW Liberal leader John Brogden.
David Frum is a former speechwriter for George W. Bush. He coined the term, "Axis of Evil." He co-wrote a book with Richard Perle called "An End to Evil", "a how-to guide for winning the war on terror." Their answer? "The United States is good, those who pose a threat, current or future, are evil and must be neutralized or destroyed." Why anybody would listen to either of these morons is beyond me, especially after the Iraq debacle.
Frum was on ABC Lateline a few nights ago and it was a sight to behold. Along with strategic analyst Harlan Ullman - the ABC website called the debate, "Experts discuss Iraq's political situation" - they analysed the current quagmire in Iraq, the political process and constitution and increasing influence of Iran. Ullman is a pragmatist - he coined the military term, "Shock and Awe" - and sees issues in purely strategic terms. He's long called for a greater US troop commitment in Iraq.
Frum, on the other hand, was flailing. Some "highlights" of his expertise:
"I know Ahmed Chalabi not well but reasonably well. He is not a perfect man. But in a country full of very, very imperfect people, I think he is and always has been our best hope as somebody who shares democratic ideals, has political effectiveness, understands the system, is committed to a united and democratic Iraq."
"I don't think getting out of the mess should be America's top priority. I think fixing the mess should be our top priority. I think what everyone would agree or almost everyone, at least in this country and in this city, would be regardless of what your opinion was about the beginning of the Iraq war, Iraq is a major prize in the Middle East. The possibilities of success are very great and the danger from failure is very great. This is as close as you can get to the heart of the strategic interests of the Western World. It is essential to succeed."
"The United States using all of the arsenal of power at its disposal, not just military means but not excluding military means, needs to begin by saying this is a regional conflict and regional players who intervene in Iraq will face consequences, there should be diplomatic pressure on the Saudis and the Jordanians, very clear warnings to the Iranians and hot pursuit across the Syrian border and air strikes in Syria if the Syrians continue to let their land be used as a base."
So, he advocates bombing Syria, holding Iraq as the Western "major prize" - the people of Iraq are not his concern - and bringing back fraudster Chalabi as the country's saviour.
It's a damning indictment that one of the "experts" on Iraq is so open about his country's imperial ambitions (though perhaps we should be grateful that they no longer hide it.) The Iraq war is lost but people like Frum are clutching onto anything that may even vaguely resemble success.
Pro-war supporters, Frum is your man. Stand proud.
UPDATE 2: Thanks to a perceptive reader for pointing out this "new" reason for invading and occupying Iraq:
"Standing against a backdrop of the imposing USS Ronald Reagan at a naval air station near San Diego, the president gave a fresh reason for American troops to continue fighting: protection of the Iraq's vast oil fields, which he said would otherwise fall under the control of terrorists.
"Bush said the Iraqi oil industry, already suffering from sabotage and lost revenues, must not fall under the control of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida forces led in Iraq by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
"If Zarqawi and bin Laden gain control of Iraq, they would create a new training ground for future terrorist attacks,'' Bush said. "They'd seize oil fields to fund their ambitions. They could recruit more terrorists by claiming a historic victory over the United States and our coalition.''
"A one-time oilman, Bush has rejected charges that the war in Iraq is a struggle to control the nation's vast oil wealth. The president has avoided making links between the war and Iraq's oil reserves, but the soaring cost of gasoline has focused attention on global petroleum sources."
The Pentagon is organising a "Freedom March" in September. "This year the Department of Defence will initiate an America Supports Your Freedom Walk," US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said. The march would remind people of "the sacrifices of this generation and of each previous generation". Let's make a wild guess that the Bush administration will spuriously connect 9/11 and Iraq. Again.
The Washington Post initially agreed to co-sponsor the event but pulled out after protests from within the paper and by anti-war groups. "As it appears that this event could become politicised, The Post has decided to honour the Washington area victims of 9/11 by making a contribution directly to the Pentagon Memorial Fund," said Eric Grant, a Post spokesman, at the time of the paper's pullout. "It is The Post's practice to avoid activities that might lead readers to question the objectivity of The Post's news coverage." The Post's true colours were revealed, however. Independence between the Bush administration and the media, already far-too-cosy, was shown to be worth less than displaying appropriate patriotism.
The Washington Times has now stepped in. "We offered to help with free advertising," said Dick Amberg, general manager and vice president of the Times. "It seems like a very reasonable thing to do in terms of public service."
No conflict of interest there at all.
Perhaps Kerry Packer's Bulletin could buy rounds of armour-piercing ammunition for the Australian military. Or Rupert Murdoch's Australian could fund the welcome home parade for troops returning from active duty in Iraq. How about the Sydney Morning Herald agreeing to publish free ads to recruit more cannon fodder for imperial wars?
- "'Documents From the US Espionage Den' is a legendary series of Iranian books containing classified US documents that were found in the American Embassy in Tehran when it was taken over by revolutionaries." The essential Memory Hole reports.
- The Chicago Reader documents Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz's desperate attempts to dump Norman Finkelstein from his academic institution. Upon the release of Finkelstein's new book this month, Beyond Chutzpah, he's released a statement that outlines the charges against Dershowitz, the so-called human rights defender's slander against his Holocaust surviving mother and attempts to get his book banned. Now we know where his Australian sidekick gets all his brilliant ideas. Of course, Dershowitz failed miserably in his efforts. Finkelstein has been endorsed by Raul Hilberg, dean of the Holocaust historians.
- Today is World Blog Day, a time for bloggers to recommend blogs other readers may never have heard of. My suggestion are blogs from Bangladesh, a part of the world rarely examined in the West.
- The Scotsman reports: "A former Scottish police chief has given lawyers a signed statement claiming that key evidence in the Lockerbie bombing trial was fabricated. The retired officer - of assistant chief constable rank or higher - has testified that the CIA planted the tiny fragment of circuit board crucial in convicting a Libyan for the 1989 mass murder of 270 people."
The saga over the publication of my forthcoming book on Israel/Palestine continues today. Federal Labor MP Michael Danby responds to Crikey. For background information on the controversy, read this, then this.
Danby misses the point entirely in his letter. He claims he has "made no attempt to censor Mr Antony Loewenstein, or anyone else." Er, how else to read this line from his original letter? "MUP should drop this whole disgusting project." Furthermore, it is revealing that he thinks he has the right to question the publishing decisions of my publisher MUP. His expertise now clearly extends way past the taxing duties of representing Melbourne Ports. It's encouraging to see the esteemed MP likes to presume the contents of my book before it has been published.
Watch this space for more developments in the coming weeks/months.
29. Australia's Israel debate -- Danby hits back
Last Friday Crikey ran a story about a letter Federal Labor MP Michael Danby wrote to the Australian Jewish News calling on the Jewish community to boycott a book by journalist Antony Loewenstein. Today Danby responds:
Your story is headed “Danby's silly attempt at censorship.” This is very misleading. I have made no attempt to censor Mr Antony Loewenstein, or anyone else. Mr Loewenstein is entitled to his opinions, and to publish them.
What I have done is to exercise my right to criticise his views, which I find abhorrent, and to urge people not to reward those views by buying his book. Readers are free to reject my advice.
I don't need to read Mr Loewenstein's book to know what he thinks. He has described himself as “a Jew who doesn't believe in the concept of a Jewish state,” which he calls “a fundamentally undemocratic and colonialist idea from a bygone era.” He has described the Australian Jewish community as “vitriolic, bigoted, racist and downright pathetic” and as “incapable of hearing the true reality of their beloved homeland and its barbaric actions.” (These quotes appear at Mr Loewenstein's own website.)
As a representative of mainstream, moderate Jewish opinion, who supports both Israel's right to exist and defend itself and the right of the Palestinian people to a viable state, I find such opinions disgusting, and I did no more in my letter to the Jewish News than express that disgust. The response from the Jewish community to my comments has been overwhelmingly positive.
Finally, I am curious to know why Melbourne University Press thinks it is appropriate to be publishing two anti-Israel books at a time when Israel is making such a painful withdrawal from Gaza, when we have a new and more moderate Palestinian leadership and when the prospects for peace are improving. I can only conclude that someone at MUP has an axe to grind on this subject.
UPDATE: Phil Gomes offers insights into the latest Danby letter:
"How does Danby know how many books about Israel MUP has in development? Why is it inappropriate for a publisher to have them in the pipeline? And what do Israel’s moves in Gaza have to do with when a book is or is not published?
"Danby still has not really given us any answers or insights on any of this or the supposedly offensive questions Loewenstein originally posed to him, and continues to attack the publishers with a veiled reference of “an axe to grind” at MUP, which, in this fight, is a seriously coded term that might be interpreted as an accusation of anti-Semitism."
Filip Dewinter is chairman of the far-right Vlaams Belang (The Flemish Interest) party in Antwerp, Belgium. He has articulated policies such as segregation at public swimming pools "to decrease the number of young Arabs who try to take over the pools. I say there is a problem and that most of the people at these pools are young Arabs who make problems."
Dewinter has transformed his party into a political force and reflects the increasing dislocation between the Muslim and non-Muslim population across Europe. Other parties in the country shun the group, citing racist material. Dewinter hopes the Jewish community will embrace and introduce him to the business world and legitimise his position. Is this a friend the Jewish people really want?
You be the judge:
"I'm interested in visiting Israel," Dewinter tells Haaretz. "First of all, from a geopolitical point of view. We in Western Europe should realize that our allies are not in the Arab or Muslim world, but rather in Israel. This is not just because we have a common civilization and values, but also to balance out the Islamic forces in the Middle East that are getting stronger. The State of Israel is a sort of outpost for our Western society, an outpost of democracy, of freedom of speech, of protecting common values within a hostile environment. You are surrounded by Islamic states, some of them fundamentalist, which are interested in only one thing: to throw the Jews into the sea.
"I also think that Islam is now the No. 1 enemy not only of Europe, but of the entire free world. After communism, the greatest threat to the West is radical fundamentalist Islam. There are already 25-30 million Muslims on Europe's soil and this becomes a threat. It's a real Trojan horse. Thus, I think that an alliance is needed between Western Europe and the State of Israel. I think we in Western Europe are too critical of Israel and we should support Israel in its struggle to survive. I think we should support Israel more than we do because its struggle is also very important for us."
He dismisses the far right's association with neo-Nazis and anti-Semitism. "No, we want good relations with the Jews'", he says. "We should distance ourselves from all of those individuals and groups with anti-Semitic tendencies and from Holocaust deniers. I have no connection with these things."
Dewinter associates with anti-Semites, however, and the roots of the Flemish nationalist movement lie in collaboration with the Nazis.
The flag of Israel sits in his office. "You should know, the real enemies of Israel today are not on the right, but rather on the left: the socialists and the Greens," he says. This sounds as ludicrous as Liberal Senator George Brandis who compared the Greens to the Nazis in late 2003.
Dewinter is opposed to Muslim women wearing headscarves in public - not worlds away from recent comments by local politicians - and finds multiculturalism offensive. "Multiculturalism is destroying the immune system of Europe," he argues. "Multiculturalism and political correctness lead to extreme tolerance for everyone and everything. It destroys our ability to mount a counterattack."
Such comments may seem like worlds away from Australia. Yet John Stone, former treasury secretary and National Party senator, was given open slather in Murdoch's Australian in late July to call for an immediate halt to the "Muslim immigrant inflow", the abolition of multicultural broadcaster SBS and "official multiculturalism policies [to] be abandoned outright."
How far are Stone's views from Dewinter? Not that far, I suspect. Our current political environment allows hard-won achievements to be questioned. Open and free debate is essential in a true democracy but criticism of Stone was muted. What kind of Australia was he imagining? If it's anything like the "good old days", presumably he'll want men to only wear suits in public, abortion to be illegal and the reinstatement of the death penalty.
Australia has entered a dangerous phase in its history.
A group who believes in establishing a government based on religious principles. Individuals who want to "call back the country to a righteous standard." Sounds like the kind of thing our leaders are trying to avoid. An Islamic state, you say?
Er, no. Try a Christian state in America (and yes, the country is already very far from a secular nation).
The Los Angeles Times reports:
"Christian Exodus activists plan to take control of sheriff's offices, city councils and school boards. Eventually, they say, they will control South Carolina. They will pass godly legislation, defying Supreme Court rulings on the separation of church and state."
The NSW Liberal Opposition Leader, John Brogden, has been caught sprouting a racist obscenity. Again. During an "alcohol fuelled night" - according to the Sydney Morning Herald that placed the story across its front page - Brogden pinched a journalist's behind and called former NSW Premier Bob Carr's wife, Helena, a "mail-order bride". On July 29, soon after Carr's resignation, Brogden says he was "very happy with the change and events in NSW."
Brogden should resign immediately.
This is not the first time Brodgen has displayed racist tendencies. In 2004, during the Orange Grove controversy, he said this in relation to Frank Lowy: "Bob Carr is a Judas to the people of Western Sydney. He has taken his 30 pieces of silver from Westfield and they get a good deal."
The Australian Jewish News rightly condemned the comments as alluding to anti-Jewish stereotypes.
It is amazing, however, that Brogden comes under heavy fire - deservedly, to be sure - and yet any number of Federal Liberal MPs rave on about "Australian values" and banning Muslims headscarves and it's considered an acceptable part of civilised debate.
The following letter appears in today's UK Independent:
"Sir: Let me see if I've got this right. I admit straight out that my grasp of the history of both Iran and Iraq is shaky, but I am relying on what I have learned this week.
"In 1953 in Iran the Brits and Yanks conspired to oust through a coup, in favour of the Shah, the secular and democratic government of Dr Moussadeq because he was going to nationalise what is now BP. (He took the odd view that it was their oil, not ours). Since the Shah imprisoned or killed off all his other opponents, by 1979 the only forces capable of organising the Iranian revolution were Ayatollah Khomeini and his mates. Result: Islamic state.
"In 2003 in Iraq, the Brits and Yanks conspired to invade in order to remove the secular though vile and tyrannical government of Saddam Hussein. The justification was that he was either dangerous or horrible; the latter was certainly true, the former has proved untrue. The objective was, in the words of George W Bush, to make Iraq "a beacon of democracy". But it transpires that Iraqi women and probably men will be losing freedoms, not gaining them. The draft constitution hammered out, with a great deal of help from US draughtsmen, not only establishes Islam as the religion of the state but Sharia law as "a fundamental source for legislation". Result: pre-Islamic state.
"Apart from all the usual reactions one could have - anger, despair, hysterical laughter, I told you so - I think my main conclusion is to support even more fervently the need for alternative fuels to oil. Not only for the sake of the planet, but for the sake of our moral honour."
BARONESS SARAH LUDFORD MEP LIBERAL DEMOCRAT EUROPEAN JUSTICE SPOKESWOMAN, LONDON N1
"There is no question that the Iraqi people suffered under one of the vilest dictators of the 20th century and longed for liberation. But a foreign power that, largely through ignorance, disrespects Arab pride, tribal custom, Iraqi nationalism, and Islamic sensibility has not been able to fulfill its promises of freedom and security. How the Iraqis themselves have experienced a war supposedly waged in their name is the missing piece of the story that Americans [and Australians], especially those who continue to support the war, need to understand."
Spencer Ackerman, The American Prospect, September 2005, reviewing Night Draws Near: Iraq's People in the Shadow of America's War by Anthony Shadid
While the Iraq quagmire continues to be routinely ignored in Australia, today's UK Observer leads with a sadly predictable tale:
"The Foreign Office's top official warned Downing Street that the Iraq war was fuelling Muslim extremism in Britain a year before the 7 July bombings."
Any mention of the Israel/Palestine conflict and the Iraq war were removed from "'core scripts' - briefing papers given to ministers to defend the government's position on Iraq and terror." Furthermore, many Muslims saw Britain, like America, as a "crusader state."
The Age's Michelle Grattan explained the local context last week:
"But until the Government acknowledges that policy heightens both resentment and the terrorism risk, it will be operating in an unreal world."
To suggest, as does the Howard government and pro-war supporters, that hatred of the West and its foreign policy is motivated by nothing more than irrational disdain for Western "values" is delusional and dangerous.
But who actually wants to seriously examine themselves and the actions our government commits in our name?
UPDATE: In place of any kind of serious political debate on Iraq, today's Fairfax press publishes an article about...Tony Blair's summer holiday. Clearly an event to stop the nation.
"That's not really a number I'm terribly interested in."
General Colin Powell, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, on being asked his assessment of Iraqi military and civilian casualties, April 1991.
Let's not forget that Powell, far from being a moderate, as many claimed during his time in the Bush administration, is in fact a man, in the words of Normon Solomon and Robert Parry, who has "learned that a military bureaucrat succeeds best by sidestepping controversy and keeping quiet when superiors screw up." Examples include his role in the army's cover-up of the infamous My Lai massacre, his involvement in Reagan-era war games such as the Iran/Contra affair and the covert U.S. policy in the 1980s to supply Saddam Hussein with military equipment.
"During the 1991 Gulf war, BBC audiences were told incessantly about "surgical strikes" so precise that war had become almost a bloodless science. [Journalist] David Dimbleby asked the US ambassador: "Isn’t it in fact true that America, by dint of the very accuracy of the weapons we’ve seen, is the only potential world policeman?"
"Dimbleby, like his news colleagues, had been conned; most of the weapons had missed their military targets and killed civilians.
"In 1991, according to the Guardian, the BBC told its broadcasters to be "circumspect" about pictures of civilian death and injury. This may explain why the BBC offered us only glimpses of the horrific truth – that the Americans were systematically targeting civilian infrastructure and conducting a one-sided slaughter. Shortly before Christmas 1991, the Medical Education Trust in London estimated that more than 200,000 Iraqi men, women and children had died in the "surgical" assault and its immediate aftermath."
The US military has dismissed calls by Reuters and other news organisations in Iraq about the arrest and incarceration of journalists. A Reuters cameraman has been held incommunicado for over two weeks and is currently at Abu Ghraib. Many reporters have been falsely accused by the US of knowing about insurgent attacks before their occur, charges strongly denied.
Reporters Without Borders said the arrests do "not reflect well on the United States, which nonetheless does not hesitate to give the rest of the world lessons on freedom of expression and democracy".
A Washington Post article this week revealed that more than 40,000 people had been arrested since the March 2003 invasion.
"The population today at the three U.S.-run prisons - Bucca, Abu Ghraib and Camp Cropper near the Baghdad airport, where former President Saddam Hussein and his lieutenants are being held - is 10,600, double the number of a year ago. The average incarceration at Bucca is a year. The military attributes the surge in detentions to an increase in combat operations and the inability of the nascent Iraqi justice system to handle the crushing caseload.
"Many of the freed detainees express bewilderment at why they were held; even the U.S. commander who oversees Bucca, Col. Austin Schmidt, 55, of Fairfax, estimated that one in four prisoners "perhaps were just snagged in a dragnet-type operation" or were victims of personal vendettas.
"This is like Chicago in the '30s: You don't like somebody, you drop a dime on them," Schmidt said. "And by the time the Iraqi court system figures it out, they go home. But it takes a while."
Such behaviour is perfect to instil a sense of trust in the occupation.
The delusion continued this week when Major General Douglas Lute, director of operations at US Central Command, announced that a drastic reduction in troop numbers was likely in the coming 12 months.
"You have to undercut the perception of occupation in Iraq", he said. "It's very difficult to do that when you have 150,000-plus, largely western, foreign troops occupying the country."
Iraqis will no doubt be pleased to read the occupation is merely a "perception". Furthermore, when the US does eventually withdraw some of its troops, though still maintains forces on the ground within heavily-fortified bunkers, Iraqis will feel much more comfortable in the knowledge that it's only a "mini" occupation, rather than a full-scale one.
Global Voices rounds-up the latest threats to freedom of speech around the world and includes Libya, Tunisia, China, Maldives and Belarus.
Allow me to include Australia's media in discussing the Israel/Palestine conflict. The Age today treats us to an editorial about the Gaza withdrawal. Note the "logic" of this:
"Israel also announced plans to build a new police station in the West Bank and expropriate another 60 hectares to extend its anti-terrorist barrier around a large settlement, cutting the territory in half. Even a staunch friend such as the US sees this as provocative. But the suspected involvement of the dead Palestinians in a suicide bombing that killed five Israelis also highlights Palestinian responsibility for regular, murderous provocations."
Let me get this straight. Israel brazenly flouts international law, continues settlement expansion and makes a Palestinian state all but impossible, but it's somehow justified because of Palestinian "provocations."
"Arab satellite news channels Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya have been forced to fend off accusations that they served up Israeli propaganda with their coverage of the historic evacuation of the Gaza Strip settlements."
"We understand when the international media fall into the trap of the Jewish settlers and run live coverage of the evacuation," said Mr Abdel Bari Atwan, editor-in-chief of the London-based Al-Qods Al-Arabi newspaper.
If the media coverage was anything like Australia - showing settlers in a great state of distress and conveniently forgetting that they had been living there illegally - Israeli propaganda did indeed win the day.
When the Sydney Morning Herald placed a crying man and his settler daughter on its front page, I wondered when a Palestinian's grief had been equally displayed. And I knew the answer.
Following the publication of a letter by Federal Labor MP Michael Danby in this week's Australian Jewish News (for background and more information, see here), Crikey has placed this story of free speech as one of its top yarns of the day:
4. Loewenstein v Danby -- Australia's debate over Israel
By Crikey reporter Sophie Vorrath
There's an ugly fight brewing in Australia's Jewish community over a controversial new book by Sydney-based journalist Antony Loewenstein. Due for publication by Melbourne University Press next May, Loewenstein's as yet unfinished, untitled book is already attracting feverish criticism for its take on the Israel/Palestine conflict.
Leading the attack on the book is the federal member for Melbourne Ports, Michael Danby. In a scathing letter published in Australian Jewish News this week, Danby says he wants no part in Loewenstein and MUP's Louise Adler's "propaganda tract,” which he said was an attack on the mainstream Australian Jewish community.
Danby said he had taken this stance after questions he got from Loewenstein made his views on the issue “blatantly obvious.”
“MUP should drop this whole disgusting project. If they proceed, I urge the Australian Jewish community, and particularly the Australian Jewish News, to treat it with dignified silence. That is our best response. If, God forbid, it is published, don't give them a dollar. Don't buy the book.”
So why has a book by a relatively little-known journalist that's not even finished got Danby so fired up? And is calling for it to be boycotted appropriate behaviour for a parliamentarian?
Loewenstein told Crikey this morning it was "incredibly disappointing" that Danby would try to "dictate policy" to a publisher. It's a matter of free speech, he said: "It should be acceptable for a Jew or anyone else to criticise Israel or any other country."
"The attitude is 'there's one line and one perspective (on the Israel/Palestine conflict) and if you dare to question it then look out'," said Loewenstein, "it's like 'this is a war and there's no room for dissent'."
MUP's Louise Adler, who graduated from Melbourne school Mount Scopus the same year as Danby and was given "faint praise" in his letter, told Crikey the political views Michael Danby ascribed to her in the letter were "palpable nonsense and pure invention."
Adler said she was proud of MUP's 80-year history of independent publishing and its mandate to publish books of public interest, and "dismayed" that a publisher like AJN "gives space to proposals to boycott ideas." Danby's proposal, she said, was "inimical to the central Jewish values of tolerance and open debate."
Crikey called Michael Danby for a response, but we're still waiting for him to get back to us.
TONY JONES: This is Henry Kissinger's point. He says, "Victory over the insurgency is the only meaningful exit strategy." Could you possibly pull Australian troops out if the insurgency is still strong?
JOHN HOWARD: Tony, I'm not going to tie the foreign policy of this country to an interpretation of an article written by a very esteemed person whom I respect a lot. I'll just deal with the current realities and you asked me "What is a benchmark?" A benchmark to me is the Iraqis being able to stand up. That's what we're trying to do. We're seeing their security forces get better all the time. Our troops in Al-Muthana, whose dispatch the Labor Party opposed, are amongst other things training the Iraqis so they can stand on their own two feet and provide for the security of their own country. Now that's tremendously important.
If Howard and his merry Liberal cabal are getting their values from the likes of Kissinger - need some reminding of his blood-stained record? - the current debate over Australian values gains much needed perspective.
The following letter appears in this week's Australian Jewish News. It's written by Federal Labor MP, Michael Danby. Its agenda is clear. Why is a member of parliament trying to stop the publication of my book? What is he afraid of? History doesn't look kindly on such attitudes. And we all know what other historical individuals favoured this behaviour. By the way Michael, try and spell my name properly next time. It's Antony, not Anthony:
"The graduating class of Mount Scopus of 1972 had some interesting people, many of whom made a mark on wider Australian society. One of my fellow graduates of that year is Louise Adler, the current publisher of Melbourne University Press (MUP).
"Louise was and is an intellectually engaging person, if a little predictable with her inevitable criticism that Labor is a "sell-out" and that supporting Israel, moderate democratic Israel, as I do, makes me a "Zionist right-winger". It's a badge of honour, Louise.
"However, faint praise for Adler is a sidebar to the substance of the issue. I want the entire Jewish community to know that I absolutely dissociate myself from her decision to publish a book edited by Anthony Loewenstein about the Australian Jewish community.
"In preparation for writing his book, Loewenstein sent me a number of questions, based on assumptions, which made his views so blatantly obvious that I refused to answer them or participate in his book.
"I will have no part in his and Adler's propaganda tract scheduled for publication in 2006, which will be an attack on the mainstream Australian Jewish community.
"MUP should drop this whole disgusting project. If they proceed, I urge the Australian Jewish community, and particularly the Australian Jewish News, to treat it with dignified silence. That is our best response. If, God forbid, it is published, don't give them a dollar. Don't buy the book."
MICHAEL DANBY MHR Federal member for Melbourne Ports
UPDATE: I've been asked to provide the questions I emailed Danby in late 2004 (what, exactly, has taken him so long to respond?) The questions are reasonable and balanced. I was keen to have his opinions in my book. His then media flak, Dror Poleg, told me that Danby was considering the questions and would answer them asap. He gave me the same response for around one month.
It wasn't until early this year that Danby's office informed me that he wouldn't answer my questions, nor release a statement of any kind. His right. But to now suggest that my original questions were "based on assumptions" is incorrect, as you will see below. Michael, afraid of some old-fashioned debate?
1) What is your view of Labor backbenchers who express dissenting views on the Israel/Palestine question? Is the ALP a broad enough church to accommodate many views, rather than just the standard, pro-Sharon line?
2) Do you see and hear in your electorate dissenting Jewish voices critical of the Sharon government? If so, how do you incorporate them into your own viewpoints?
3) How do you explain the general acceptance in the Australian Jewish community of most, if not all, of Israeli government policies?
4) How do you explain the increasing closeness between the Australian and Israeli governments, particularly under John Howard's government? Do you think a Federal ALP government would have as close a relationship?
5) What is your view of the influence of the so-called pro-Israeli lobby in Australia? Is Melbourne the true source of this influence?
6) What is your view of the mainstream media's coverage of the Israel/Palestine conflict, especially the media in Melbourne and Sydney?
Cindy Sheehan has filmed an advertisement that accuses George W. Bush of lying about WMD and the Iraq war. She "claims the President lied about, among other things, the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq,” says Jeff Anderson the Vice President of sales at Fisher Broadcasting Inc., which owns KBCI (CBS). "There is no proof that we are aware of regarding the truthfulness of her claim. We require proof of claims such as this. Until that is provided, our station will not carry this ad."
Every now and then, I discover a story that makes me realise how sheltered and fearful our media has become. Never heard of Sibel Edmonds? Read on. I've seen no mention of this in the Australian media.
She was hired by the FBI in the days after 9/11 for translation work and stayed with the organisation for around six months. Gorilla in the Room continues:
"While at the FBI she uncovered criminal activity by certain Turkish business groups and, more interestingly, another translator within the FBI who was covering up the incriminating translations. When she attempted to expose the activity she was fired. The translator she exposed left the country shortly thereafter never to return.
"What makes the story particularly interesting is that a) she claims some of the translations are related to 9/11 and b) some high level government officials are involved in the criminal activities."
She is currently under a gag order and can only reveal snippets of the case (though more details are at her website). During an interview with Scott Horton, she revealed the type of corruption she thinks she may have uncovered:
"These people who call themselves Americans and these people are using their position, their official position within these agencies – some of them in the Department of Defense, some of them in the Department of State – and yet, what they are doing with their position, with their influence is against the United States' national security, it's against the best interests of its people, and that is treason.
"Be it giving information to those that are either quasi-allies – and I would underline quasi, who one day will be another al-Qaeda – and who are already are engaged in activities that are damaging to our country, its security and its interests – and that is treason. So that's what I was referring to. And what would you call someone who, let's say if they were to go after Douglas Feith, and if they were to establish that Douglas Feith with his access to information, willingly, intentionally used the information he had and gave it to those that would one day use it or maybe right now are using that information against the United States. Would you call that treason?"
During a recent interview on Democracy Now, Edmonds went even further:
"And what I have said all along is the fact that as far as the 9/11 is concerned, September 11 is concerned, these departments - and when I say “these departments,” the Department of Justice, the Department of State, and the Department of Defense - have intentionally blocked the investigations of real - the real criminals in this country. And we are talking about countries involved. The Vanity Fair article points out to Turkey - countries. And it's very interesting.
"To this date, we are not hearing anything about targeting, you know, certain Central Asian countries. They are not speaking about the link between the narcotics and al Qaeda. Yes, we are hearing about them coming down on some charities as the real funds behind al Qaeda, but most of al Qaeda's funding is not through these charity organizations. It's through narcotics. And have you heard anything to this date, anything about these issues which we have had information since 1997? And as I would again emphasize, we are talking about countries. And they are blocking this information, and also the fact that certain officials in this country are engaged in treason against the United States and its interests and its national security, be it the Department of State or certain elected officials."
Some of her allegations relate to Republican Senator Dennis Hastert and claims that he received Turkish bribes for political favours in Washington.
Even more disturbing is how these current allegations relate to the AIPAC spy scandal and Israel's involvement in the Iraq war, potential Iran conflict and intelligence failures before and after 9/11. Did certain senior members of the Bush administration, such as departing Pentagon Zionist fundamentalist Doug Feith, actively disseminate false intelligence for goals against the interests of the United States and by extension, her allies?
This story still remains confusing, at best. The amount of credible information slowly emerging reveals a potential conspiracy on a vast scale.
This isn't scare-mongering. It's politics in the modern age.
UPDATE: Further reading would suggest the following. Edmonds argues that America is keen to make friends in its "war on terror" - and, by the way, how much, if any, does the Australian government know about this? - and cares little about who these friends are, so long as they're obedient. Edmonds continues:
"OK, you're looking at this region of the world that nobody is referring to in the War Against Terror. OK, you're looking at Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhistan and Uzbekistan, and these are the countries that now we are busy establishing bases in. And a large portion of their GDP depends on narcotics. And there's a presence, Al Qaida presence, in these countries. We don't hear anything about Balkan countries and, again, their direct ties and their direct relevance to Al Qaida. They are not even naming these countries. The role that Pakistan played before and the role that Pakistan is playing today. So, as I said, as I have said before, there are several countries, there are several organizations, and not just say, isolate just one country or one organization."
Her claims are similar to British writer Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed (my post about him is here.) He claims that with one hand the Americans talk tough about so-called rogue states and terrorists, while at the same time they work with countries, groups and individuals who actively campaign against their interests. Why? Perceived pragmatism, desperation for reliable intelligence and woefully short-term thinking. Central Asia and the Balkans, mentioned by both Edmonds and Ahmed, are key areas to watch.
"The Bulletin's chief criticism of Keating is that he is bitter, foul-mouthed, bent on revenge and can't stop talking about the past, which is precisely how Kerry Packer comes across given his flagship magazine - "...loses up to $10 million a year and suffering from a falling circulation (especially when you consider the rorting and giveaways)" - thinks the antics of a reclusive private citizen 10 years out of office is worthy of a cover and 10 pages inside. Crikey could produce 5000 words on The Goanna, Packer's foul-mouth, his ruthlessness and his refusal to engage with society, but we wouldn't be telling you anything that wasn't already out there."
Who are the "terrorism experts" that constantly grace our screens? What are their backgrounds, qualifications and experience in the field? According to Lebanon's Daily Star columnist Rami G. Khouri, the West, and especially America, is being treated to "bravado, entertainment, 'kicking ass,' feel-good sentimentality, flag-waving patriotism, and "aw-shucks" amazement at the consistent capacity of foreigners, especially in the Arab and Islamic world, to behave according to the atavistic violence that defines them and their politics, history, religion and culture." (This also sounds like some contributors to this blog, mouthing clueless anti-Islam and blindly pro-Western propaganda.)
The key point: "Their guesswork is ideologically defined by the prevalent White House script of the day." And we can include Downing Street or Canberra, too. Are we receiving the information we want to hear or intelligence that offers uncomfortable positions on Western foreign policy decisions?
Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson, a close confidante of George W. Bush, recently advocated the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in an attempt to stop his country from becoming "a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism."
"We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability," Robertson said the Christian Broadcast Network's "The 700 Club."
"We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator," he argued. "It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."
This must be what Federal Treasurer Peter Costello meant when he talked last night on Lateline about American values.
TONY JONES: Given that the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq is probably the leading cause of anti-Americanism in the Arab world, does that make us, as an ally of the Americans, a greater target for terrorists?
PETER COSTELLO: I don't think it's the principle cause at all. I think if you want to look for perceived areas of anti-Americanism in the Arab world, it was around a lot before Iraq. It's been around for a very long time, Tony...There was substantial hostility to the US in the Arab world long before Iraq. Whether it's over perceived injustices to Islam, whether it's over the Palestinian issue, whether it's over support for Israel. Most of these things, and I don't believe justify hostility at all, but it's been there long before Iraq. Let me tell you this, Tony - you are profoundly wrong if you thought hostility to the United States started in 2003. It was around a long before that."
Costello's almost comical understanding of Muslim grievances wouldn't be so irrelevant if he wasn't Australia's next potential Prime Minister. Has the Treasurer not heard about Western meddling in the Middle East for the last 50 years or the imposition of deadly sanctions on Iraq, killing hundreds of thousands?
Even yesterday's Sydney Morning Herald exposed Costello's dishonesty:
"It is not anti-American to criticise the actions of the current US leadership or its policies. It is not anti-American to criticise the war in Iraq. Many, many Americans are doing precisely that right now. It is in fact the fullest expression of the freedom which both countries boast of as their heritage. The surest way to guarantee a rise in anti-Americanism is to try to stifle legitimate and justified criticism by smearing it as disloyal."
The fact that so-called "debate" in Australia is reduced to discussion about the evils of questioning the American alliance and the Bush doctrine - after all, apart from the ideologues, who really believes the Iraq war is a success? - illustrates what a parochial nation we have become.
The Sydney Morning Herald website has a new blog, Inkslinger, written by Fairfax journalist Matthew C Thompson. He writes: "Inkslinger will set the record straight on sex, terrorism, literature, bloodsports, art, individuality, and the importance of risk."
It's early days, but looks like Thompson will fit in quite well at the militarised Fairfax bunker: "I believe there is a worldwide struggle going on between jihadists and the US plus its allies...Asymmetric warfare it might be, but warfare it is. I'm not neutral. I'm against the jihadists...I hate those people. Three cheers to the Philippine Special Forces and their US advisors who are right now launching raids and strikes trying to capture or kill a pack of jihadists, including some of the Bali bombers."
Upon the departure of Margo Kingston from the SMH, editor-in-chief Mark Scott today Crikey yesterday that readers of the smh.com.au website could expect "new blogs which will provide opportunities for readers to express their views and communicate with each other, in addition to our strong breaking news coverage." Meaningless, bland rubbish, in other words.
Inkslinger may fit in quite well, though I'll be happy to be proven wrong.
The Take is a unique film. Made by Canadian couple Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein, it describes the cost of World Bank policies on Argentina in the 1990s and the brave attempt by auto-part workers today to reclaim their bankrupt factory and prove that the old economic model no longer applied. It's a wonderful documentary currently screening around the country and proves the power of the collective. While union membership is declining in the West, Latin America is experiencing a revolution of its own and challenging American hegemony. Wonder why America and its apologists are so nervous?
I was at the Sydney preview of the film some months ago. Lewis was present and spoke passionately about taking the movie around the world and inspiring a new generation of Western activists to believe that the current economic system wasn't the only way forward. He told of the film screening in Iraq and Beirut Indymedia performing miracles by completing rough subtitles a few hours before the print was flown to the occupied country.
Latin America is generally ignored in our media unless the Bush administration threatens one of its overly independent nations.
Take this story about Argentinean medical staff. The government threats, use of the word "terrorist" to describe workers fighting for better pay and conditions and rapid privatisation all show that Australia could one day experience a massive backlash against the status quo.
The financial cost of America's "war on terror" is usually hidden from public view.
Linda Bilmes, an assistant secretary at the Department of Commerce from 1999 to 2001 and lecturer of budgeting and public finance at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, wrote recently in the New York Times that, "if the American military presence in the [Middle East] region lasts another five years, the total outlay for the war could stretch to more than $1.3 trillion, or $11,300 for every household in the United States."
The San Francisco Chronicle has finally started publishing Sean Penn's reflections on Iran. He attended the country during the June elections. His short film is also worth a look and this great Reservoir Dogs style photo.
"He's a great friend of mine. He's a great friend of America. I am grateful for his courage and his resolve. I value his advice and good judgement."
President George W. Bush offered his praise to Prime Minister John Howard last night as he collected The Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars. Howard is a scholar? How about a blood-drenched leader keen to hang onto the boot-straps of a fundamentalist American administration? The Fairfax press were much kinder in their analysis.
What the hell was British lawyer Geoffrey Robertson doing at the event? This human rights advocate, a constant critic of the "Coalition", shouldn't be attending. But then, perhaps the elite can forgive the minor transgression of launching war on a false premise for just one wine-soaked evening?
"...It’s a highly partisan outfit well and truly connected to the Republican power centres of Washington, just another self-congratulatory circle jerk designed to reward loyal foot soldiers. Friends giving awards to friends. I’m sure Howard will wear it proudly on his Wallaby trackies while out on his Forrest Gump like power walks."
Iraqi blogger Sabbah writes about a forum that provides free access to its pornographic content to members of the United States military who are stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan, in exchange for their pictures of war.
Mother Jones investigates Saddam's nuclear and bioweapons scientists and the lack of American interest in dealing with them after the 2003 invasion:
Nobody knows how many Iraqi scientists may have been lured over the borders into Iran, Syria, or beyond. Nobody knows because no one is keeping tabs. But several observers agree that so little attention is being paid to Iraq's scientists, the war may actually have increased the chances of nuclear capabilities proliferating beyond the country's borders. Between its unemployed scientists and the disappearance of large amounts of WMD-related materials from former weapons sites, Iraq now poses a nightmare scenario, according to Ray McGovern, who spent 27 years analysing intelligence for the CIA and afterward co-founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.
"The danger is much more acute, both from the proliferation side and the terrorism side," McGovern says. "Before we invaded, there was no evidence that Iraq had any plan or incentive to proliferate. They didn't even have a current plan to develop WMDs. They just hadn't been doing it. Now, my God, we have a magnet attracting all manner of foreign jihadists to a place where the WMD expertise is suddenly unprotected. It just boggles the mind."
"We understand the Americans have sided with the Shi'ites. It's shocking. It doesn't fit American values. They have spent so much blood and money here, only to back the creation of an Islamist state. I can't believe that's what the Americans really want or what the American people want."
A secular Kurdish politician in Iraq expresses dismay at American claims of spreading democracy in Iraq. Fairfax's embedded Washington reporter Michael Gawenda may claim that, "there are no lessons from Vietnam that apply to Iraq", but he's clearly been spending too much time in White House briefings. "Bush's place in history depends on something he can call a victory and he has three years to do it." Victory? Gawenda's belief that "victory" is possible is laughable. What exactly does he have in mind? That Bush is still able to implement democracy in Iraq? Almost nobody believes that anymore, apart from the usual stragglers.
Back in reality land, news reports are finally giving us the perspective long denied: insurgents are taking over the country and "Coalition" forces have little or no control over large swathes and regions. Take this Guardian report from Haditha:
"A three-hour drive north from Baghdad, under the nose of an American base, it is a miniature Taliban-like state. Insurgents decide who lives and dies, which salaries get paid, what people wear, what they watch and listen to."
"Shiite and Kurdish militias, often operating as part of Iraqi government security forces, have carried out a wave of abductions, assassinations and other acts of intimidation, consolidating their control over territory across northern and southern Iraq and deepening the country's divide along ethnic and sectarian lines, according to political leaders, families of the victims, human rights activists and Iraqi officials."
"On Friday night, this crusader castle was bathed in its usual floodlights. I was looking up at the stars over the city when there was a dull sound and a flash of light from within the Green Zone. Somewhere not far from me, someone had launched a mortar at the illuminated fishbowl that has become the symbol of occupation for all Iraqis. Many ask what will become of it when the whole Western edifice here collapses. Some say it will become insurgent headquarters, others the next parliament. My guess is that whoever runs Iraq once the occupation collapses will turn the whole thing into a theme park. Or maybe just a museum."
Where exactly is any good news? Now that government propagandist Arthur Chrenkoff is retiring, who will tell us dear readers about the progress of Western forces in Iraq? This person? How about this individual?
I can picture it now. Just like some still defend Vietnam as a necessary battle against rampaging communism, deluded souls will still be talking about the "glory days" of American imperialism in years to come. Of course, most of the world will treat these dangerous ideologues with appropriate disdain; there are always people under Western-led bombs.
"If the world is to have a hegemon, the modern United States is the kind of hegemon we would like to have: democratic, respectful of human rights, with strong and genuine belief in individual liberty."
Some of the Bali Nine are facing the death penalty for drug trafficking in Indonesia. They are unlikely to elicit the same sympathy as Schapelle Corby - and we all know some of the major reasons behind this support - but has Australia crossed a line by providing information to Indonesian authorities that could lead to Australian citizens being executed?
Law Council of Australia president John North thinks so. The nation's peak law body today criticised the Federal Police and the government for building a case against the nine despite protocol and the law dictating support not be given if the death penalty is the ultimate outcome.
"The AFP would clearly know that drug smuggling in Indonesia in cases like these carries the death penalty," North said. "If they know that they are in Indonesia and they are going to get charged, then they are going to get shot."
Is Australia sacrificing long cherished and proper legal channels in the name of forging closer ties with Jakarta? It's hard to conclude otherwise.
George W. Bush is taking a bicycle ride with Tour de France legend Lance Armstrong. The president instructed journalists to stay behind him at all times.
It's good to see his priorities are in order. After all, George is on holiday at his Texas ranch and that's far more important than actually telling the American people the Iraq conflict has made the world a more dangerous place. But then, the American people already think that, according to recent polls.
Leading American politicians are now calling for withdrawal. December 31, 2006 has been suggested by Democrat senator Russ Feingold. It's a start though much later than necessary.
Sabah al-Mukhtar, President of the London-based Arab Lawyers' Association, spoke to ABC Lateline earlier in the week. His prognosis for Iraq and its constitution was almost definite failure. Host Tony Jones wasn't really up to the task and failed to understand the job at hand. His introduction to a related story offered this: "And there are fears Iraq's road to democracy is under threat." Road to democracy under threat? Despite all that has gone wrong, journalists still actually believe that America and its allies want democracy in Iraq. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Sabah al-Mukhtar explains:
"But even when you talk about a federal state, like the US of America or whatever, then you'd still have the oil, the national interest, the defence, the foreign affairs, the military in the hands of the central Government. What is being proposed, at least in one of the versions, is somebody said that we will follow the so-called Swiss example, ie any state can enter into a treaty with a foreign nation. So you can imagine what's going to happen. The south will team up with Iran. The north is going to be under the pressure of the Turks because they don't like the idea because they've an even bigger Kurdish community in Turkey.
"That's the problem which is going to be, what is going to happen is probably foreign powers will tear Iraq to pieces, either having a continuing war or occupying Iraq or parts of that in that this is the problem we have. You cannot create this kind of a federation, especially that one of the main leaders of the Shiites have already said that they would like to have a federation which covers nine Governments, more than half of Iraq, and the Kurdish leadership have already sent their people out in the street to say, "We would like to have a secession. We would like to have independence." This is tearing this country to bits. Maybe people don't mind, but what I'm suggesting is that this is not in the interests of Iraq and not the interests of the neighbouring countries and certainly not in the interests of the major powers, including the USA and Australia."
Thomas McCosker is a Victorian man sentenced to two years' jail in Fiji for having consensual sex with a man. Sodomy is a crime in Fiji and yet the injustice of this case has been virtually ignored in Australia.
The difference to the Schapelle Corby case is telling. The Australian government has consistently been seen to be doing something for Corby - the effectiveness is another matter - while McCosker has been left out to dry. His supposed "crime" is undoubtedly a factor.
The Gaza "disengagement" is nearly over - a media circus created by Israel for maximum world attention and trauma - and already the Jewish state is asking for more money. US$2.2 billion, to be precise.
Israel's ambassador in Washington, Daniel Ayalon, said he hoped America would be generous and support the development of Galilee and Negev. His chutzpah knows no bounds. "This would be a strong political message from the United States...for what we are doing. Israel is a cornerstone for stability in the Middle East", he said.
Washington has offered the Palestinians around US$240 million in its 2006 budget.
"On Wednesday, August 17th, I interviewed Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, author of The War on Freedom, which was one of the best books that has been written about the events of 9/11, about his new book, The War on Truth: 9/11, Disinformation and the Anatomy of Terrorism, just published by the Olive Branch Press. It provides the most detailed arguments that I have seen that link Al Queda and other international "terrorist" networks to elements of the US, UK, and Pakistani intelligence agencies, among others. Listen to the interview here."
UPDATE: The interview is extraordinary, all 28 minutes of it. Ahmed paints a disturbing picture of Western collusion with Islamic fundamentalism. He points to a Robin Cook penned column on July 8, the day after the London bombings:
"Bin Laden was, though, a product of a monumental miscalculation by western security agencies. Throughout the 80s he was armed by the CIA and funded by the Saudis to wage jihad against the Russian occupation of Afghanistan. Al-Qaida, literally "the database", was originally the computer file of the thousands of mujahideen who were recruited and trained with help from the CIA to defeat the Russians. Inexplicably, and with disastrous consequences, it never appears to have occurred to Washington that once Russia was out of the way, Bin Laden's organisation would turn its attention to the west."
The following petition calls on "[Nepal's] King Gyanendra to immediately reinstate and respect Nepal’s constitutional rights of freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of opinion and freedom of association."
Express your solidarity with Nepalese journalists, please sign the petition.
The ban on the word "mate" in Federal Parliament yesterday was clearly absurd. But how many politicians rushed to call it "unAustralian?" Too many. The desperation to be an appropriately observant Aussie never ceases to amaze.
Tanya Plibersek, Labor member for Sydney:
"I can't tell you how offended I am by this. I think, frankly, it's un-Australian."
But the comment of the day was surely reserved for Liberal backbencher, Bob Baldwin:
"I have never seen anything so criminal in all my life. It's part of the Australian vernacular. It's a term of endearment and of mateship."
Cindy Sheehan concerns pro-war supporters. Here's a woman who lost a son in Iraq and now calls for the withdrawal of troops from the country. What to do? Launch a massive smear campaign in a vain attempt to discredit her credentials. We've been largely spared the indignity in Australia - though one twit is happy to join the echo-chamber - but in America the conservative cabal is in full swing.
Sheehan has been called an "anti-Semite" (for daring to suggest the large amount of Jews behind the Bush administration) "engaged in Stalinist agitprop" (from Ann Coulter, America's answer to the shrill Miranda Divine) and a "nutbag" from Christopher Hitchens (once forthright and challenging before power and now hectoring a grieving mother. Brave stuff, indeed.)
Take this exchange on Fox News' Hannity & Colmes with former Nixon administration official G. Gordon Liddy:
"LIDDY: Well, I think that it's true that there are Americans who feel the way Cindy Sheehan does. Unfortunately, they are Americans who are very anti-Israel and, in some ways, anti-Semitic. She uses the term how the "neocons" are doing this thing - that's code word for "the Jews in the Pentagon." She has made statements such as -
ALAN COLMES (co-host): Are you calling her anti-Semitic?
LIDDY: Yes. If she gets Israel out of Palestine, then we can get out of Iraq. I mean, check out her statements, she's way out there.
COLMES: Cindy Sheehan's anti-Semitic?
COLMES: That's outrageous.
SEAN HANNITY (co-host): It's outrageous what has been said.
ELEANOR CLIFT (Newsweek contributing editor): That is almost not worth responding to.
LIDDY: Look at her statements. Look at her statements and judge for yourself.
CLIFT: Look at your statements.
It is indeed almost not worth responding to, and yet while these "usual idiots" argue over Sheehan, Iraq descends even further into chaos.
What's happened to Moveon.org? According to Norman Solomon, the organisation has lost its bite. He claims that the powers behind the group are hesitant to support the growing grassroots campaign to pressure the Bush administration in bringing troops home from Iraq.
"Part of the problem is MoveOn's routine fuzziness about the war - and the way that the group is inclined to water down the messages of antiwar activism, much of which is not connected to the organization.
"Consider how the MoveOn website summarized the [Cindy Sheehan] vigils: "Last night, tens of thousands of supporters gathered at 1,625 vigils to acknowledge the sacrifices made by Cindy Sheehan, her son Casey and the more than 1,800 brave American men and women who have given their lives in Iraq - and their moms and families." Such a gloss excludes a key reason why many people participated in the vigils: They wanted to express clear opposition to any further U.S. involvement in the war.
"Despite its high-profile role in the vigils this week, MoveOn is still not giving a high priority to addressing the Iraq war in its ongoing work. When I went to the MoveOn website today and looked at its roster of "Current Campaigns," just a single item on the list was focused on Iraq -- and that one, from June, involved "demanding that Bush address the evidence in the 'Downing Street Memo.'"
Australia's equivalent, Get Up!, may have made an initial media splash, but its effectiveness remains to be tested. How willing is it to openly challenge ALP policy, especially on foreign policy?
Jennifer Loewenstein (no relation) writes on the media's capitulation to the Israeli propaganda machine during the Gaza withdrawal:
"There was never the slightest reason for Israel to send in the army to remove these settlers. The entire operation could have been managed, without the melodrama necessary for a media frenzy, by providing them with a fixed date on which the IDF would withdraw from inside the Gaza Strip. A week before, all the settlers will quietly have left with no TV cameras, no weeping girls, no anguished soldiers, no commentators asking cloying questions of how Jews could remove other Jews from their homes, and no more trauma about their terrible suffering, the world's victims, who therefore have to be helped to kick the Palestinians out of the West Bank."
Australia has been little better. Journalists should report on the settler's pain during removal, BUT would the same reporters ever give similar coverage to the many more Palestinians whose homes are destroyed almost daily or lives ruined by the Israeli occupation?
"Australia's approach to immigration is confusing", writes the Guardian Newsblog. "As a country with some of the toughest immigration restrictions in the world, it is better known for banishing refugees to detention centres in the desert than actively seeking migrants, but that is exactly what John Howard’s government has decided to do."
The English are understandably suspicious about Australia's intentions.
Don Myles contributes to Murdoch columnist Andrew Bolt's online forum:
"Multiculturalism is a cancerous and destructive policy that has never worked in any country and never will. We already see enclaves of ethnic groups that will never assimilate and are already giving rise to "tribal gangs". Of all religions, Islam is the most satanic and destructive and it's history shows it. Muhammet was a butcher, not a prophet."
Bolt calls the comments "rather strong."
Of course, if was back in mid July that Bolt himself confidently pronounced: "It's time we accepted the difficult truth: many of the Muslims we invite to live in Australia want to destroy us."
"Many Muslims", he says. How many exactly? 20? 100? The Muslim population of Australia is around 300,000. Surely "many" means more than half. No doubt Bolt interviewed many Muslims before the writing of his column.
Fairfax is spending hansomely to entertain potential advertisers, according to today's Australian.
"...Several senior media buyers will travel courtesy of Fairfax to Double Island - which bills itself as Australia's most exclusive private island retreat - off the coast between Cairns and Port Douglas. Said media buyers, who may bring partners to the island with them, have been asked to attend a workshop on Saturday, when they will mull over some ideas for ways in which the publisher can find some of the $50 million in new revenue it is believed to be seeking. Some buyers have declined the invitation as inappropriate. It is understood Zenith Media, for example, is not attending."
No doubt, new Fairfax chief operating officer Brian Evans will pump any money sourced back into quality journalism.
Crikey reported a few days ago that Fairfax will not be offering journalism traineeships next year. I can't confirm this - can anybody? - but it seems to fit into their corporate thinking.
Fairfax - the lifestyle publisher - continues its descent.
Wasn't it just a few weeks ago that we were being told - by pro-war supporters, ideologues and defenders of Western civilisation - that London police had acted appropriately before the killing of Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes?
That typical disposition of believing the voice of the state - usually reserved for dutiful citizens in a dictatorship - appears to have got things horribly wrong.
Leaked documents prove that authorities initially lied about the circumstances of the Brazilian's death, he was not wearing a bulky coat or carrying a bag and he was not acting suspiciously after leaving his house.
Soon after the shooting, former London police chief John Stevens defended the "shoot-to-kill" policy and proudly explained how he'd sent teams to Israel to get an understanding of suicide bombers.
Israel's use of excessive and illegal force is legendary. It's encouraging that Britain is learning from the master.
I was speaking this morning on new AM station Radio 2 about the Gaza withdrawal. Hosts Ian Rogerson and Mikey Robbins wanted to know the real agenda behind Ariel Sharon's moves and I was more than happy to explain his intention of maintaining the West Bank occupation. The news that a Jewish fundamentalist has killed three Palestinians in a crazy attempt to stop the evacuation proves that Israel has created a monster within.
After the interview, the show's producer thanked me for my time. She said: "you know, when you see these mussies do all these suicide bombings and realise that Israel is surrounded by all these millions of Palestinians, it must be hard." For the uninitiated, "mussies" was short for Muslims. I politely explained that the situation was complex and Israel was certainly far from blameless.
My latest New Matilda column is published today. I'll be appearing every three weeks in the online magazine.
The article discusses Israel's withdrawal from Gaza and how the world's media is missing the true story behind the trauma:
"The withdrawal from Gaza is the mother of all smokescreens and masks a blatant attempt by Israel to create irreversible facts on the ground - more settlements and the security fence surrounding Jerusalem all make an independent Palestinian state virtually impossible. Former Israeli Education Minister, Shulamit Aloni, recently called Sharon a 'megalomaniac' who should face justice on war crimes. 'He doesn't mind sacrificing the lives of others, as happened in the invasion of Lebanon,' she said. 'Sharon and the Israeli leadership always try to make Israelis believe the lie that the Palestinians want to throw us to the sea.' It is a lie perpetuated by pro-Israeli supporters around the world, including the Howard Government."
Does anybody else find these proposals - banning the "evils" of TV's Big Brother et al - nothing more than appealing to the following constituents:
- rabid Christians/Muslims/Jews who find even the sight of a stray nipple hair too much to handle?
- those who prefer to ignore the greater problem of young men and women's body image issues during early years of puberty and development?
- those who still see our politicians as being the moral arbiters of our time?
- those who see no problem in launching an illegal war in far-away lands and violent movies screening nightly on commercial TV, but think that moral degradation is upon us with the sight of a stray breast?
"Iraqi women know that the enemy is not Islam. There is a strong antipathy to anyone trying to conscript women's issues to the racist "war on terror" targeted against the Muslim world. Most Iraqi women do not regard traditional society, exemplified by the neighbourhood and extended family, however restrictive at times, as the enemy. In fact, it has in practice been the protector of women and children, of their physical safety and welfare, despite lowest-common-denominator demands on dress and personal conduct. The enemy is the collapse of the state and civil society. And the culprit is the foreign military invasion and occupation."
The following appeared in the Beirut-daily Annahar on August 13, 2005:
Two days ago the Arab lawyers union issued a protest statement on the definition of the word 'Arab' in the 3rd and latest edition of the American Webster Dictionary, the synonyms of the word 'Arab' such as 'loiterer' and 'beggar', which the statement considered to be injurious and insulting to the Arabs.
The league is right, these synonyms exceed the limits of injury and insult, it exceeds the proper bounds and limits to red-letter racism by this dictionary, in the edition published last year. Arab Americans organized then a big campaign against Webster, because it added to the usual discretion of anti Semitism namely 'enmity to Jews as an ethnic and religious minority, accompanied by social, economic and political discrimination', two new meanings: Opposition to Zionism and sympathy with Israel's enemies.
It is possible that the racism of this description overshadowed the definition given to the word 'Arab', we were late to notice the negative synonyms mentioned in the union's statement.
This is "Webster".
What is worse is that Webster is not a special case. While searching for the word 'Arab' in another American dictionary, the 'Rogers New Millennium', which is available on line at the internet, and is being constantly updated, it includes a number of synonyms that show how much Webster is dragging behind in its racism.
I mean that it is in the number of synonyms and not in the negative stereotyped meanings. There is no problem in the change of meanings of the word for any researcher.
Here are some of the synonyms that Webster gives and 'Rogers' elaborates on in defining the word 'Arab':
If you were an Arab in an American dictionary, chose what ever you want among these words in describing what you are, you will not go wrong. Don't be sad, for if you try to go out of the dictionary nowadays you will stumble with other synonyms, and in no time you will come across with new additions, but what is strange in the stereotype dealing with Arabs is that the word 'terrorist' was not added yet as a synonym for 'Arab' in racist dictionaries. What type of siege is this?
Norman Finkelstein's new work, Beyond Chutzpah, is nearly ready for public consumption. One of his targets, Harvard law professor, Alan Dershowitz, continues his ranting and raving against the academic, calling Finkelstein a "Holocaust denier", a ludicrous and baseless charge.
Robert Fisk is still in Baghdad and writing some wonderfully evocative pieces. First up, a comment on the Iraqi constitution:
"The reality, of course, is that while Western governments have been watching the process of constitution writing with academic interest, most Iraqis have been regarding the whole thing as a distraction from the daily grind of killings, robbery, energy shortages and corruption. The world of political structures and "democracy" here are thus separated from the world of political action and armed insurgency by walls - real and symbolic - and the West largely, and through a process of imagination, lives within those same walls. Iraq exists outside."
Fisk discusses the lack of security, "the world’s first all-meat vegetarian pizza" and the increasing Islamicisation of the country:
"So there was much wolfing of food and demands for the bill. Fifty degrees of heat met us in the car park and Mohamed knelt below our car to see if he could check for those horrible wires for which every wise motorist searches before driving home. There were none, of course, just the searing heat and a breathtaking journey back along the Tigris to the hotel. The 15-minute meal had become the 45-minute meal. But we had done it. We had lunched out in Baghdad, discovered the Islamicisation of my favourite restaurant and eaten the world’s first all-meat vegetarian pizza. I’m sure Mr Bush and Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara would claim this as proof of another victory for the "new" Iraq."
"We are not supposed to know that the Iraqi capital’s death toll last month was only 700 short of the total American fatalities in Iraq since April of 2003. Of the dead, 963 were men - many with their hands bound, their eyes taped and bullets in their heads - and 137 women. The statistics are as shameful as they are horrifying. For these are the men and women we supposedly came to "liberate" - and about whose fate we do not care.
"It is clear that death squads are roaming the streets of a city which is supposed to be under the control of the US military and the American-supported, elected government of Ibrahim al-Jaafari. Never in recent history has such anarchy been let loose on the civilians of this city - yet the Western and Iraqi authorities show no interest in disclosing the details. The writing of the new constitution - or the failure to complete it - now occupies the time of Western diplomats and journalists. The dead, it seems, do not count."