Yesh Gvul
Courage To Refuse
Free The Five
New Profile
Refuser Solidarity Network

Name: Antony Loewenstein
Home: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Comment Rules
About Me:
See my complete profile

My Work

Sweat-Shop Productions
Sweat-Shop Productions
Sweat-Shop Productions



Previous Posts



Powered by Blogger


Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Money buys lots of lollies

Who said that being a multimillionaire defence contractor doesn't make good business sense? David H. Brooks' daughter had her bat-mitzvah last weekend in the US, so naturally enough daddy wanted to show how much he cared - while ignoring the misery his job actually creates - and hired a plethora of A-list musicians to entertain the audience/kid's party.

A worthwhile lesson in how dirty money can be used for good...instead of evil.

Time to say goodnight?

Steve Wasserman,, November 28:

"Why continue to read newspapers? After all, newspapers are losing circulation at precipitous rates, giving rise to fears that they may not survive long enough to write their own obituaries. Cutbacks, buyouts and layoffs are widespread, affecting many of America’s most prestigious newspapers, including The New York Times, The Boston Globe, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Chicago Tribune, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Times, where it was recently announced that the paper faced an 8% reduction in its editorial staff. Morale plummets, anxiety mounts.

"The growing maturity of the Internet and the explosion of the blogosphere suggest that newspapers’ demise is inexorable. A perfect storm of technological advances appears to make newspapers fit for the study less of schools of journalism than departments of anthropology. The virtual world is incontestably more nimble and democratic. It permits a chorus of diverse voices that newspapers can’t hope to replicate, if only for reasons of space. Why remain loyal to a medium that every day seems increasingly anachronistic?"

Piers: no elitism here

Piers Akerman, Murdoch's dutiful columnist, fails to understand the outcry over convicted Australian drug smuggler Nguyen Tuong Van, due to be hanged in Singapore this Friday. Indeed, he seems to believe that the death penalty is a sign of a country's maturity. Akerman, always portraying himself as a man of the people, is actually little more than a useful stirrer of bigotry and malice:

"Nguyen, according to friends, seems to have come to terms with his crime and his punishment in a far more graceful manner than those shrilly hectoring the Singapore Government over its well-publicised drug laws.

"Despite facing the ultimate penalty, he has not succumbed to the madness that seems to have affected many in the media and political worlds, indeed, there seems in his writings to be a sense of relief that he will soon be spared their incessant irrelevant chattering.

"Though he has no choice in the matter, it does seem unfortunate in the extreme that death will provide Nguyen with his only release from their nonsensical posturing.

"We now wait for the same vacuous fools to mount another meaningless assault against capital punishment - and call for the cancellation of sporting events - when the smiling [Bali] assassin Amrozi is given the date for his execution.

"Let's hope that more than sports fixtures are scheduled for the same day, the event of his death should be marked with parties."

No play-lunch for you

Islamophobic Daniel Pipes thinks Muhammad Ali is a fundamentalist traitor to the American cause:

"Awarding of the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Muhammad Ali gratuitously celebrated a man profoundly opposed to Mr. Bush's own, his party's, and the country's principles. It represents, I submit, the nadir of his presidency."

Pipes wants to create an America where militant patriotism is taught in kindergarten.

Finding the sticks

Underwater hockey is the hottest sport in the world right now. Well, perhaps in Slovenia.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Saluting the shrub

"...The president of the United States is all-powerful, that as commander in chief the president of the United States can do anything he damn well pleases."

Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former chief of staff, Associated Press, November 28

Warm and comfortable

Ever wondered if you are one of John Howard's bitches? Take the test.

What balance?

Israeli historian and dissenter Ilan Pappe explains the inherent pro-Israel bias at the BBC:

"The decision to maintain the disciplinary procedures against [BBC journalist] Barbara Platt and even to go as far as to establish a commission of inquiry into the way the BBC covers the Palestine question (BBC bias complaint upheld, November 26) is one of many manifestations of the grotesque phase we have all reached in this troublesome part of the world.

"Had it not been for Ms Platt's balanced and informative reports, it would have been difficult to distinguish between the BBC coverage of the occupied territories and that of the Israeli Broadcasting Authority. Ms Platt admirably tried for many months to "balance" a simple imbalanced reality: of Israeli occupation and Palestinian victimisation. The atrocities on the ground - the killing of children and women and the blowing up of houses - warranted an emotional response as it is, and it was only natural that once, and only once, this would show in her reports (as many BBC reporters allowed themselves a show of emotion when reporting the deaths of George Best or Princess Diana). Only outside pressure could have produced such an ill-thought procedure and action.

"As for the inquiry commission, one can save taxpayers' money. The cable companies in Israel come now and then under official pressure for allowing free access to international TV news stations. They would like to remove CNN and al-Jazeera. There are no complaints in Israel about Fox news (representing the US neoconservative point of view) and the BBC. The BBC is indeed a pro-Israeli news agency and is going to remain so if its directors silence the professional reporting of Barbara Platt."

Ilan Pappe
Tivon, Israel

Indeed, every major news organisation in the Western world shares a similar bias.

Lock 'em up

Australia will soon enter the dark ages with draconian legislation to fight "terror." The political imperative will allow Australia's tradition of (relative) legal fairness to be superseded and forgotten. Caution is being urged but the Howard government knows the power of being seen to be doing something against the terror threat. As ever, foreign affairs are totally absent from the political and media debate.

How these new laws will actually assist law enforcement agencies remains a mystery. Furthermore, Liberal backbenchers - the ones not totally in awe of Howard - are seriously challenging the government's intentions.

Stay tuned.

Another vote for democracy

Washington's "war on terror" is a violent fantasy wrapped in a veneer of respectability. Ethiopia has some experience receiving US support for its fight on "terror."

Ethiopundit tells us that the West is knowingly aiding a tyrannical regime in the name of "stability":

"This year the Ethiopian regime put on an election show for the benefit of Western donors who were to give their applause in the form of extra billions of dollars in aid. The ruling party's show failed with bad reviews when all voting districts with observers present voted for the opposition.

"Subsequently a massive effort to rig the results was only matched by mass repression of which we only know a fraction of the resulting suffering and bloodshed in urban areas. All the illusory human rights have ended and tens of thousands are subject to disappearance, imprisonment, torture and further destitution for their refusal to accept the eternal rule of the politburo.

"The opposition has resorted to only peaceful means of defiance. Western nations seeing a general interest in the status quo have pressured the opposition to 'obey the constitution' and to pray for better next time when all will likely be far worse.

"While the opposition would have been killed in its entirety years before without Western interest, the response of the West this time has been one of espousing an infamous moral equivalence between a bloody dictatorship and a victorious democratic opposition."

The hand in the till

The Independent reports on yet more grim news for the Palestinians:

"Millions of pounds donated by British and other European charities to help the Palestinian poor were unwittingly diverted to fund terror and support the families of suicide bombers, Israeli prosecutors claimed yesterday."

Resistance is one thing but outright deception is another.

Lessons ignored

America's finest reporter, Seymour Hersh, examines the future of the Iraq conflict and further Bush administration delusions. Hersh paints George Bush as a man led by religious conviction, removed from reality and ignoring the wishes of his military commanders:

"A key element of the drawdown plans, not mentioned in the President’s public statements, is that the departing American troops will be replaced by American airpower. Quick, deadly strikes by U.S. warplanes are seen as a way to improve dramatically the combat capability of even the weakest Iraqi combat units. The danger, military experts have told me, is that, while the number of American casualties would decrease as ground troops are withdrawn, the over-all level of violence and the number of Iraqi fatalities would increase unless there are stringent controls over who bombs what."

Once again, America has learnt nothing from Vietnam. The insurgency will grow and the US will, in time, exit in defeat.

Monday, November 28, 2005

News bytes

- Riverbend explains the brain-drain in Iraq, due to assassinations, random violence and kidnappings:

"Whoever is behind the assassinations, Iraq is quickly losing its educated people. More and more doctors and professors are moving to leave the country.

"The problem with this situation is not just major brain drain - it's the fact that this diminishing educated class is also Iraq's secular class."

- Forbes magazine features yet more disturbing allegations about US activities in Europe:

"The US military ran a Guantanamo Bay-type detention centre in Kosovo, a top Council of Europe official said.

"The Council of Europe's Human rights commissioner Alvaro Gil-Robles said he had been 'shocked' by conditions at the barbed wire-rimmed centre inside a US military base, which he witnessed in 2002."

- John Pilger explains how the mainstream media has become little more than a mouthpiece for the corporate agenda.

- Palestinian public opinion is shifting and years of occupation are causing unsurprising results. Israel and her allies should be concerned.

- Labor leader Kim Beazley thinks that personal abuse maketh a leader.

- Afghanistan is a supposed success in the "war on terror." Mainstream media propaganda pushes this misconception. So what of this news, published in Asia Times Online?

"Reports emerged in the Pakistani media at the weekend that the US had contacted the Taliban leadership with the aim of establishing a truce in Afghanistan."

- How does a Chinese blogger answer questions from a Western journalist about issues of censorship?

Caution noted

Peter Rodgers is a former Australian ambassador to Israel and author of the incisive book, Herzl's Nightmare. Unlike much of the international media, keen to salivate over Ariel Sharon and his "peace process", Rodgers rightly issues caution:

"And what of Sharon's political makeover? Has he really accepted that Israel's best chance for future security lies in the creation of a viable Palestinian state? He won international praise for his mid-2005 withdrawal of Israeli settlers from Gaza. Not surprisingly, this move was portrayed as a painful concession by Israel to the Palestinians.

"In reality the winner was Israel itself, which continues to exercise a veto over everyday Gazan life without having to risk too many Israeli lives."

The Palestinians have their own problems, too. Internal division, Hamas as a political force and the ongoing occupation.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Justice in the face of injustice

It takes a certain kind of lawyer to be attracted to terror suspects. Sydney attorney Adam Houda is that kind of man.

"I didn't go looking for this work", he says. "I don't choose my clients, but I believe every person is entitled to proper legal defence. It is an honour that people think I could provide that quality defence when the consequences of the cases for them are so enormous."

Houda provides interesting insights into the ways in which the Howard government and the corporate media constantly shift the goalposts, making fair trials all but impossible.

When such conditions are threatened, our democracy dies a little death.

A revolution is brewing

A fascinating list - courtesy of Committee to Protect Bloggers - of bloggers who have run foul of state power. Democratic and autocratic states are increasingly aware, and fearful of, unfiltered and non-corporate information. We should be proud and vigilant.

Liberation isn't painless

Ayad Allawi, Iraq's first Prime Minster after Saddam, has a shady past. He allegedly assassinated prisoners in cold blood and worked for the CIA. His latest comments, however, are startling:

"Human rights abuses in Iraq are now as bad as they were under Saddam Hussein and are even in danger of eclipsing his record, according to the country's first Prime Minister after the fall of Saddam's regime.

"'People are doing the same as [in] Saddam's time and worse,' Ayad Allawi told The Observer. 'It is an appropriate comparison. People are remembering the days of Saddam. These were the precise reasons that we fought Saddam and now we are seeing the same things.'"

An enemy of the Jews?

Israel claims the British are anti-Israel and "unrelentingly pro-Palestinian", after this report leaked late last week. I'm surprised the Jewish state didn't claim the Blair government was anti-Semitic. Seems to be a familiar - yet increasingly futile - tactic.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Dropping freedom from above

Ladies, Rupert wants you!

Rupert Murdoch is concerned that people don't give him the respect he deserves and the "establishment" is out to get him.

It's hard to feel sorry for a multi-billionaire who represents the very worst excesses of the establishment.

As for his contributions to the media industry, we get insights into Rupert's character by hearing recent comments by John Malone, a large shareholder in News Ltd:

"Rupert's got the creativity and the drive. He's got the guts to drive it. It will be more sensational, it [Fox News] will have topless news reporters if it has to. It doesn't really matter. Rupert is just more aggressive than other people. He's smart and he puts the pieces together. The bottom line is it's more important to him than to other people."

The real agenda

The Guardian discovers yet more evidence of Israel's hampering of the peace process:

"A confidential Foreign Office document accuses Israel of rushing to annex the Arab area of Jerusalem, using illegal Jewish settlement construction and the vast West Bank barrier, in a move to prevent it becoming a Palestinian capital.

"In an unusually frank insight into British assessments of Israeli intentions, the document says that Ariel Sharon's government is jeopardising the prospect of a peace agreement by trying to put the future of Arab East Jerusalem beyond negotiation and risks driving Palestinians living in the city into radical groups. The document, obtained by the Guardian, was presented to an EU council of ministers meeting chaired by the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, on Monday with recommendations to counter the Israeli policy, including recognition of Palestinian political activities in East Jerusalem."

If evidence was still needed of Ariel Sharon's determination to prevent a true Palestinian state, today's revelation is yet another nail in the coffin of the media elite. The Melbourne Age yesterday called Sharon's recent political move as "boldly invoking the hope of peace."

When will they ever learn?

Democracy denied

Zimbabwean Pundit explains a country ruled by events bigger than Robert Mugabe:

"...It is not that we don't care about democracy or having the right politicians in place or any other high sounding question you may want to throw at us. No, our nonchalance is evidence only that we care about other things more than we care about politics and governance. We care more about living to see tomorrow. It is all about survival now. Such is the result of how simple and unsophisticated a society [Mugabe's] ZANU-PF has made us."

International pressure on Mugabe must increase, but then, Western moral legitimacy has never been lower.

Taking a stand

A cause of shame in our supposedly enlightened age:

"Domestic violence against women has shot up about 40 per cent in Sydney and more than 50 per cent in the rest of NSW over the past seven years, new research shows."

Today is White Ribbon Day, international day for the elimination of violence against women.

News bytes

- Human Rights Watch writes to Hilary Clinton and explains a few facts about the Israeli occupation and Israel's "security" fence. Anybody who thinks Clinton will be a dynamic and bold American President should really set their sights much higher.

- Noted Israeli economist Avishai Braverman: "I believe that the state of Israel is at a crossroads today. If Israel continues on its present path, it will degenerate into a Third World country."

- The Sydney Morning Herald's Peter Hartcher wonders if the West is winning the "War on Terror." The inanity of such a column astounds. Like most corporate journalists, he quotes US government statistics, Donald Rumsfeld and other reliable sources. No mention, of course, of the innocent civilians murdered during the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan or the hornet's nest created by America's clueless and damaging militarism.

- Ariel Sharon's adviser ensures the world understands what the "peace-maker" thinks about the Israel/Palestine conflict. The occupation is not regarded as the main source of terror, according to Eyal Arad. Everybody clear about that?

Run to the hills

Martin van Creveld is a professor of military history at the Hebrew University and is the only non-American author on the U.S. Army's required reading list for officers. His article in the current edition of the Jewish newspaper, The Forward, is a stinging rebuke of the Iraq war and explains his ideal course of action:

"The number of American casualties in Iraq is now well more than 2,000, and there is no end in sight. Some two-thirds of Americans, according to the polls, believe the war to have been a mistake. And congressional elections are just around the corner.

"What had to come, has come. The question is no longer if American forces will be withdrawn, but how soon - and at what cost. In this respect, as in so many others, the obvious parallel to Iraq is Vietnam.

"...Simply abandoning equipment or handing it over to the Iraqis, as was done in Vietnam, is simply not an option. And even if it were, the new Iraqi army is by all accounts much weaker, less skilled, less cohesive and less loyal to its government than even the South Vietnamese army was. For all intents and purposes, Washington might just as well hand over its weapons directly to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

"Clearly, then, the thing to do is to forget about face-saving and conduct a classic withdrawal.

"Tehran is certain to emerge as the biggest winner from the war - a winner that in the not too distant future is likely to add nuclear warheads to the missiles it already has.

"For misleading the American people, and launching the most foolish war since Emperor Augustus in 9 B.C sent his legions into Germany and lost them, Bush deserves to be impeached and, once he has been removed from office, put on trial along with the rest of the president's men. If convicted, they'll have plenty of time to mull over their sins."

When a man like van Creveld calls for impeachment, be rest assured that Bush and his cronies are worried.

Take that, Washington

Al-Jazeera staff have started a blog. It's a bold statement of journalistic independence and wish for freedom from US aggression.

UPDATE: A thorough investigation into the role of Al-Jazeera and US attempts to muzzle its voice.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Turning off the heteros

Has Hollywood become more gay friendly? Yes and no. Philip Hensher navigates the ins and outs with aplomb.

Land of the (kinda) free

The fallout from Hurricane Katrina continues. The New Standard reports:

"Having survived Hurricane Katrina, New Orleanians who live in rented housing face a new threat: Landlords, tempted by rising rents and crunched by monetary losses from the storm, are engaged in a massive campaign to evict thousands of residents. Some groups, however, are pushing back, by filing challenges to the eviction system itself or by organizing tenants to fight their expulsions through protest and public pressure."

The war against the poor - generally unreported by the corporate media - requires constant vigilance by activists. The New Standard is following developments closely.

Our values tested

Terry Waite (former hostage in Lebanon), The Guardian, November 23:

"...War, as well as being a blunt instrument, fails totally to deal with the root issues underlying terrorism. In the political realm it requires statesmen and women; individuals who can think beyond the next election and who have the wisdom that comes from making an attempt to understand cultures other than those of the west.

"Western democracy has many attractive features and has brought manifold benefits. It takes no intelligence to recognise that it also has its dark side and that it cannot, nor necessarily ought it to be, exported to all parts of the world. If the optimistic statements made by some British and US politicians before the Iraqi war - when it was stated that the conflict would be concluded in weeks - were truly believed then one can only despair at the level of understanding demonstrated."

Justice served

Former Salvadoran Colonel Nicolas Carranza – torturer, criminal and CIA informant – has been found guilty of torture in a Tennessee courtroom.

The Center for Justice and Accountability explains the importance of the verdict:

"On November 18, 2005, the federal court jury found Memphis resident Colonel Nicolas Carranza, the former Vice-Minister of Defense of El Salvador, responsible for overseeing torture and killings in that country. The verdict is a partial verdict in favur of four of the five plaintiffs. The jury has yet to reach a verdict on the claim of the fifth plaintiff, Ana Patricia Chavez, and is continuing to deliberate.

"The verdict represents the first time that a U.S. jury in a contested case has found a commander liable for crimes against humanity. This means that violations were committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against the civilian population of El Salvador. The jurors awarded each of the four plaintiffs $500,000 in compensatory damages for a total of $2 million.

"The jury also recommended that Carranza should pay punitive damages. Additional testimony will be taken today or Monday to determine the precise amount of that award.

"The trial was marked by several important revelations. Former U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador Robert White testified that Colonel Carranza was a paid informant for the CIA while he was Vice-Minister of Defense and a member of the High Command in 1980. At that time White asked the CIA station chief in El Salvador to remove Carranza from the CIA payroll because of his deplorable human rights record but no action was ever taken. Carranza admitted on the witness stand that he had been receiving money from the U.S. government since 1965."

The decision didn't stop the Salvadoran President Tony Saca telling the periodical El Faro, "I respect the internal judicial processes of the United States, however, there were people who fought for peace, democracy and liberty, and one of those was Colonel Nicolas Carranza...He was a hero of democracy in the country."

The US government funded any number of torturers, murderers and monsters throughout Latin America during the 1970s and 1980s. This court case proves, albeit in a small way, that such crimes have a price and victims will be compensated.

UPDATE: In related news, former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet has been placed under house arrest on tax evasion charges, two days before his 90th birthday. One more Western-friendly monster will suffer his last days in disgrace.

Shock me, already

Anthony Bubalo is a research fellow at the Sydney-based Lowy Institute for International Policy. He seems to write regularly about the Israel/Palestine conflict, yet is simply another policy wonk more interested in the political machinations within Israel than the average Israeli or Palestinian. His article in today's Sydney Morning Herald - on Sharon's political earthquake and the country's chances for peace - is a master-class in subject avoidance. Bubalo manages to ignore mentioning the occupation and the ever-growing settlements across the West Bank.

He is, in other words, perfectly predictable and therefore highly appropriate for the fence-sitting Herald.

New headwear required

One British university seems to have a problem with religious dress and street wear:

"Imperial College London has issued a ban on its staff and students wearing hijabs or hoodies in its buildings as part of an effort to improve campus security."

The decision was taken in the name of security, you understand, and a desire to not allow students to obscure their faces.

It seems, however, that the university's accountant may step in sooner rather than later:

"Students also pointed out that the move could be bad for sales of the university-branded hooded tops from union shops."

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Toeing the line

My latest New Matilda column discusses media complicity in hyping the terror threat and the seeming unwillingness of the political and media elite to acknowledge why Australia has become a target in the first place:

"Prime Minister John Howard and his media cheerleaders (the vast majority of the corporate media elite) tell us that a terrorist threat exists in Australia. This is hardly news, but is reported as a shock announcement. Why are we under threat? 'They' hate our way of life. 'They' want to impose sharia law on us all. 'They' hate Aussie women wearing bikinis on Bondi Beach. 'They' hate us because that's what extremists do. 'They' hate irrationally and passionately and uncontrollably.

"All nonsense, of course."

My New Matilda archive can be found here.

Taking on the big boys

Does the future of "citizen journalism" start here?

Internet entrepreneur Craig Newmark wants to revolutionise the media business. The Independent explores a development we should be watching very closely:

"'I do think professional and citizen journalism will blur together,' Newmark predicts, 'because we will find that some amateurs are as talented as a professional journalist.'

"The White House press corps seems to enrage him especially. 'No one is taking their job seriously there,' he recently remarked. 'Now it could be that they could be under a directive to not do so. We don't know. I've spoken to a lot of journalists who are very frustrated.'

"Part of the problem lies with the newspapers themselves. The race for dollars, he insists, has obscured the race for truth. 'They're being run as profit centres, and they're trying to get pretty high profit margins. As a result, investigative reporting has been seen as a problem.'"

Dying with a little dignity

Cambodia is hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons. The Hindustan Times reports:

"Websites advocating 'euthanasia tourism' allegedly posted by a US national from a sleepy Cambodian town have sparked outrage and confusion as businesses and the government debate what action to take.

"The family and friends of a British national have already alleged that the twin sites were directly linked to a 47-year-old woman's suicide in September in Kampot, about 180 km from the capital, following the break-up of a relationship."

The New Scotsman provides further details.

Euthanasia is not illegal in Cambodia and therefore provides a perfect opportunity for Westerners to die with dignity. Many other issues remain, however.

I support euthanasia but worry about the lack of regulation. The New Scotsman reports:

"A spokesman for the Voluntary Euthanasia Society said they supported the right to a 'good death' but that proper regulation was needed to prevent vulnerable people taking 'bad' decisions.

"'We should regulate our own laws so that people wouldn't look overseas to places without regulation,' he said."

The possibility of further exploiting Asia should cause concern. HIV/AIDS is on the rise across Asia, child prostitution continues unabated and sex tourism is a plague across many countries. While Western countries refuse to maturely engage with the ethical dilemmas surrounding euthanasia, desperation may lead to unpalatable decisions.

News bytes

- The Independent, November 22:

"Iraqis face the dire prospect of losing up to $200bn (£116bn) of the wealth of their country if an American-inspired plan to hand over development of its oil reserves to US and British multinationals comes into force next year. A report produced by American and British pressure groups warns Iraq will be caught in an "old colonial trap" if it allows foreign companies to take a share of its vast energy reserves. The report is certain to reawaken fears that the real purpose of the 2003 war on Iraq was to ensure its oil came under Western control."

- Murdoch's Australian thinks Ariel Sharon is a "dove" and a "strong voice for peace." Shame about that pesky occupation and the building of even more settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

- Blogger Joshua Marshall @ Talking Points Memo is hiring two journalists. The rise of the blogs continues.

- Colin Powell's former chief of staff expands on the "cabal" that led the US into Iraq and America's tattered reputation.

- The Guardian reports on a book discussing that lover of freedom and democracy, Maggie Thatcher:

"Margaret Thatcher forced Francois Mitterrand to give her the codes to disable Argentina's deadly French-made missiles during the Falklands war by threatening to launch a nuclear warhead against Buenos Aires, according to a book."

- Russ Baker on Bob Woodward:

"...The very definition of an "investigative reporter," as Woodward is labelled these days ad nauseum, is a pretty elastic one. Meeting a source in a parking garage as a way of identifying abuses and high crimes by powerful insiders is one thing. Dining off that for the next three decades while chumming it up with well-placed insiders for their 'exclusive accounts' is another."

- Tim Dunlop @ Road to Surfdom wonders if Dick Cheney understands what his little liberation flourish in Iraq has created.

Bombing the opposition

Why am I not surprised?

The UK Daily Mirror reports:

"President Bush planned to bomb Arab TV station al-Jazeera in friendly Qatar, a "Top Secret" No 10 memo reveals.

"But he was talked out of it at a White House summit by Tony Blair, who said it would provoke a worldwide backlash.

"A source said: "There's no doubt what Bush wanted, and no doubt Blair didn't want him to do it." Al-Jazeera is accused by the US of fuelling the Iraqi insurgency.

"The attack would have led to a massacre of innocents on the territory of a key ally, enraged the Middle East and almost certainly have sparked bloody retaliation."

I watched Control Room again last night, the story of Al-Jazeera during the 2003 Iraq invasion. It's almost comical watching the US trying to sell its war to the world's media. Only the compliant US journalists followed the script, while many other journalists simply didn't believe the prepared lines of "liberation" and "freedom", especially in the face of mounting civilian casualties.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Before the storm

Yossi Verter, Haaretz, November 22:

"The feeling of relief flooding Ariel Sharon on Monday was unmistakable like a life prisoner who has been set free, or a woman who finally got a divorce from an abusive husband."

Israeli politics is currently experiencing an earthquake. Ariel Sharon is leaving Likud and forming a new party. Early polls suggest Sharon would win an election held in 2006 but it's early days and Israeli politics is never known for its stability. Small, often extremist, parties have long held sway in the Jewish state.

What does all this mean for the Israel/Palestine conflict? Very difficult to say. Sharon is no peace-maker. This is a man who has long taken pleasure in expanding Jewish settlements on Palestinian land and crushing Palestinian dissent with brute force. In recent times, however, many of his Likud colleagues have expressed an even more extreme ideology than Sharon. Sharon now acknowledges that some West Bank settlements will have to be removed in any final deal, but "
there is no additional disengagement plan."

Ultimately, it's important to place current events into perspective. The occupation continues unabated. Both Labor and Likud have long colluded in maintaining the occupation, so a change in government next year may be only cosmetic. A debate last week in Birmingham - between Israeli historian Ilan Pappe and David Hirsch, an opponent of the academic boycott of Israel - reminded us that while the brutal occupation continues and Jewish-only roads allow Israel to be labelled an apartheid state, discussing the leader of the country remains secondary at best.

Peace in the region will only come when both sides acknowledge the suffering and history of the other. The occupation must end. The Palestinian right of return must be fairly negotiated. Jerusalem must be split in two. Arabs and Palestinians must not be treated as second-class citizens in their own land.

He will not be missed

James Carroll, Boston Globe, November 21:

"The free press is an absolute value not only because the unfettered flow of information is essential to the republican system, nor only because the fourth estate serves as a check on the power of the other three, but because public expression is necessary for the communal self-awareness that keeps the body politic alive. You routinely turn to the newspaper each morning not only to learn what happened, but to stroke the otherwise intangible bond you share with the neighbours and strangers in whose company you will spend the day. Reading the morning paper is like tagging up, a literal ''touching wood," a dispelling of the darkness of night, all done in the knowledge that everyone else is doing the same thing, which gives you not only a place to start the day from, but a reassurance that you are not alone in your concern for the common good. The news media do for democracy what liturgy does for religion; what poetry does for experience; what gesture does for feeling. With words out of silence, the press tells you who you are.

"And why shouldn't you be disturbed by Woodward's fall? As Watergate was about the war in Vietnam, so the Valerie Plame affair is about the war in Iraq. Woodward turns out to have been just another embedded reporter, doing the war-work of the Bush administration while pretending to be independent of it. But, speaking generally, the press has not been independent since the traumas of the autumn of 2001. Newsrooms were themselves targeted by the anthrax killer, and the fear that paralyzed the nation was felt as much by reporters as by anyone."

Torturers take note

Chile's Augusto Pinochet always thought he was above the law so his arrest in London in 1998 surprised the world.

International law is developing to the point where administrators and advocates for unacceptable norms will soon face justice. And this includes those in the West.

How about individuals who advised the Bush administration to avoid the Geneva Convention and advocate torture? John Yoo, a UC Berkeley law professor, is one such man.

Philippe Sands is professor of law at University College London and practicing barrister and he recently debated Yoo:

"Yoo was well aware of the torture convention. However, when I raised the Pinochet precedent in our debate, he seemed slightly taken aback.

"It seems he may not have turned his mind to the possibility that a legal adviser associated with a policy that permits torture contrary to international legal obligations could be subject to international investigation."

Nobody should be immune.

Boring and predictable

Is brave cultural warrior and Howard government mouthpiece Gerard Henderson capable of mounting an argument without resorting to damning the Left and reasserting those visionary conservative values?

No, didn't think so. And no wonder most Australians care little for such faux battles.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Dot joining

An article in the current edition of Rolling Stone restores my faith in investigative journalism.

It tells the story of "perception manager" John Rendon and his role in selling wars for imperial America. James Bamford discovers connections throughout the media and political elite in London, Washington and Australia. The New York Times' Judith Miller, Ahmad Chalabi, WMD, bogus intelligence and media manipulation all play key roles.

The Iraq war was never about democracy or freedom. And an all-too-willing media and cynical cheerleaders contributed to the deception.

I dare anybody to read this long piece and not realise that unaccounted individuals are greasing the wheels in Washington. Lies become the "truth." And war becomes a seeming necessity. Corporate media cannot be trusted:

"As the acknowledged general of such propaganda warfare, Rendon insists that the work he does is for the good of all Americans. "For us, it's a question of patriotism," he says. "It's not a question of politics, and that's an important distinction. I feel very strongly about that personally. If brave men and women are going to be put in harm's way, they deserve support." But in Iraq, American troops and Iraqi civilians were put in harm's way, in large part, by the false information spread by Rendon and the men he trained in information warfare. And given the rapid growth of what is known as the "security-intelligence complex" in Washington, covert perception managers are likely to play an increasingly influential role in the wars of the future."

Getting inside the French mind

Paul Silverstein and Chantal Tetreault, Middle East Report Online, November 2005:

"The colonial law’s deployment in response to the present crisis points to an enduring logic of colonial rule within post-colonial metropolitan France. Like settler cities of the colonial period, contemporary French urban centres function in opposition to their impoverished peripheries, the latter being consistently presented in the media, state policy and popular speech as culturally, if not racially, different from mainstream France. The application of a last-ditch instrument of colonial governance indicates a set of structural tensions within, if not the ultimate failure of, the French state’s self-congratulatory colonial 'civilizing mission' turned postcolonial 'integrating mission.'

"For the last 50 years, the state has sought to transform the children of immigrants and other members of the suburban underclass into productive and well-adjusted Frenchmen, all the while bemoaning their resistance to being so transformed. The state has simultaneously worried aloud, to a public obsessed with security, about the immigrants’ suspect stability and potential for violence."

Tipping point

UK Telegraph, November 20:

"Col Tim Collins, the controversial Iraq war commander, trained his soldiers to use white phosphorus, which burns through flesh to the bone, in combat against enemy troops.

"The admission by the former Special Air Service officer, revealed in his autobiography Rules of Engagement, contradicts claims by the Ministry of Defence that the chemical was only ever used to create a smokescreen.

"British troops also used white phosphorus to kill Argentinian troops during the Falklands conflict."

Another day and yet another lie by the occupiers of Iraq exposed. The winds of change are blowing through the Iraq quagmire. Murdoch's mouthpiece, the Australian, still talks about "staying the course" and "angry voices on the Left" but only ideologues fail to see the disaster the West has created in fractured Iraq.

The Toronto Star sees clear comparisons between Vietnam and Iraq. Public support has crashed, some Democrats and Republicans are growing a backbone and questioning their "wartime" President and American soldiers keep on getting killed in large numbers. And let's not forget the Iraqi deaths. Impossible to calculate, but hundreds, if not thousands, per month. And this is "liberation"? The occupation is making the country more dangerous and provides a rallying cry for jihadists around the world.

The "liberal" Sydney Morning Herald still refuses to endorse a call for withdrawal but it's only a matter of time. As usual, and despite some qualifications, the SMH advocates exactly the same policy as the Murdoch mouthpiece. "Staying the course" is the catch-phrase for the intellectually unimaginative and politically naive. Besides, how many Iraqis need to die before the Western media elite accepts reality? But then, the daily carnage is barely reported and exact casualty figures are unknown.

Western imperialism has been dealt a deadly blow in Iraq and it couldn't have come a day too soon. A superpower on its knees, and its lap-dog allies, have finally realised that Western "democracy" is not transportable. Cronyism, torture chambers, death squads, random kidnappings - largely committed by US-backed Shiite militias - is the new Iraq.

Welcome to liberation.

This is not about Gaza

The following letter appears in today's Australian:

Your editorial ("A lifeline to Gaza", 17-18/11) overlooks the remainder of the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel's violations.

While we welcome Israel's withdrawal from any inch of Palestine, it is important to know that the Gaza Strip represents less than 1.5 per cent of historic Palestine, and what should not be overlooked here is what Israel is doing in the West Bank in terms of building and expanding settlements and the apartheid wall deep inside the occupied West Bank. The Wall, which is near completion, is twice as high and seven times as long as the Berlin Wall. It is 8m high and over 700km long, and consists of reinforced cement, barbed wire, electrical fences, trenches, electronic motion sensors, guard towers and military roads.

The Wall is having a devastating impact on the lives of Palestinians in the occupied territories, and by the time it is complete, it will close off the Palestinian territories from the outside world. Israel will control all entries and exits as well as all the aerial and electromagnetic space and approximately 56 per cent of the West Bank will be de facto annexed to Israel.

The land incorporated into Israel by the Wall is the richest agricultural land in the West Bank and includes the aquifer system which provides 51 per cent of the West Bank's water resources. The Palestinians will effectively be living in the largest prison in the world. What (Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon is trying to do is exchange the withdrawal from Gaza with the theft of 56 per cent of the West Bank as well as the entire city of Jerusalem. Needless to say this expansion is rejected by the Palestinians and will not bring peace, stability and security.

When will Israel understand that what it needs to build are bridges and peace with the Palestinian people and not walls?

Ali Kazak
Head of delegation to Australia and New Zealand
Ambassador of Palestine to Vanuatu and East Timor

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Dodging a curveball

Los Angeles Times, November 20:

"The German intelligence officials responsible for one of the most important informants on Saddam Hussein's suspected weapons of mass destruction say that the Bush administration and the CIA repeatedly exaggerated his claims during the run-up to the war in Iraq.

"Five senior officials from Germany's Federal Intelligence Service, or BND, said in interviews with The Times that they warned U.S. intelligence authorities that the source, an Iraqi defector code-named Curveball, never claimed to produce germ weapons and never saw anyone else do so.

"According to the Germans, President Bush mischaracterized Curveball's information when he warned before the war that Iraq had at least seven mobile factories brewing biological poisons. Then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell also misstated Curveball's accounts in his prewar presentation to the United Nations on Feb. 5, 2003, the Germans said.

"Curveball's German handlers for the last six years said his information was often vague, mostly secondhand and impossible to confirm."

The Bush administration and Blair and Howard governments didn't lie about intelligence before the Iraq war?

Read the whole article.

Time to take a stand

While Democrats and Republicans fight over Iraq policy - withdrawal is only a matter of time and the sooner the better - and America increasingly looks to Israel for inspiration in "fighting terror", support for the Iraqi resistance is growing. Haifa Zangana is an Iraqi-born novelist and former prisoner of Saddam's regime. She writes that torture, collective punishment, kidnappings, random killings and US-led abuses mean that Iraqis "have been engaged in a different struggle: to survive the increasingly harsh occupation, and to define democracy and human rights accordingly."

Zangana continues:

"As large-scale US-led military operations continue, the health situation on the ground is at breaking point. The Iraqi health infrastructure, doctors and hospital staff are unable to cope with the deepening humanitarian crisis. No wonder more Iraqis are supporting the resistance.

"Armed resistance is in accordance with the 1978 UN general assembly resolution that reaffirmed "the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence...from...foreign occupation by all available means, particularly armed struggle". The Iraqi National Foundation Congress (INFC), an umbrella group of parties and civil society organisations, is leading political resistance. There is also civil and community resistance, involving mosques, women's organisations, human-rights groups and unions, which are linking up with international anti-war groups and anti-globalisation movements.

"Most Iraqis believe that they have a right to more than a semblance of independence. The lesson history taught us in Vietnam, that stubborn national resistance can wear down the most powerful armies, is now being learned in Iraq."

It is our duty to support the Iraqi resistance and demand an end to the US-led occupation.

Patriotism is not enough

Robert Fisk writes about the betrayed mothers of America:

"I sit in one of the dives on 44th Street, uncertain how to approach Sue Niederer and Celeste Zappala, afraid that their stories can be too easily turned into tears, their message lost after the Veterans' Day march. They were put at the back of the New York parade, humiliated, with their little crowd of anti-war veterans and their memories of boys who left young wives for Iraq and came back in coffins.

"Later I sit between the two women and remember the blood splashed across the road at Khan Dari and the 82nd Airborne washing away the brains from the highway in central Fallujah and the body lying beneath a tarp in north Baghdad. I've seen the American corpses. Now here are the American mothers."

When will they learn?

Israel's persecution of nuclear whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu continues. Haaretz reports:

"Mordechai Vanunu was arrested by Border Policemen on Friday during an inspection of a bus at the A-Ram checkpoint north of Jerusalem.

"Vanunu, who was a passenger on a bus en route to Jerusalem, is suspected of violating the terms of his parole.

"Jerusalem police officials said that authorities plan on transferring Vanunu - who had pledged to notify law enforcement anytime he plans on leaving the city - to the International Crimes Unit."

The man serves 18 years in prison, many in solitary confinement, and the Jewish state still argues he's a security risk. Vanunu is a fierce critic of Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians. He's one of the great heroes of the 20th century.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Reasserting news values

The mainstream media is under attack like never before and I'm often at the front of the line. News junkies still consume information across a wide spectrum. Many people are simply tuning out, however, and living their lives without the intellectual tools to make informed decisions on matters of war and peace.

What happens when news becomes little more than propaganda?

Michael Massing examines the conundrum in the New York Review of Books.


Posting will be light this weekend. Deadlines approaching. If you live in Australia, enjoy the last days of free speech before the imposition of draconian anti-terror legislation.

News bytes

- The Guardian says sorry to Noam Chomsky.

- Journalist James Fallows wishes the Bush administration would face reality over Iraq.

- The new US ambassador to New Zealand helps the spread of freedom, democracy and understanding to the outer province.

- A Mongolian blog explains what George W. Bush can expect during his upcoming visit:

"Yes, Mongolians are quite friendly toward Americans. But as any foreigner who's been to Mongolia can tell you [I was there in 2000 and found the country and people beautiful], Mongolians give warm hospitality to just about anyone who happens by their ger [tent] regardless of the traveller's passport."

- An American Zionist leader claims lobbying of the American administration regarding Israel is not uncommon but he is personally against it. Really:

"Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League, said it was not uncommon for Jewish organizations to lobby the administration to exert pressure on Israel. Foxman himself opposes such activity, but said the IPF, Americans for Peace Now and sometimes the Reform Movement all engage in it."

From the inside

Lawyer Clive Stafford Smith regularly visits clients in Guantanamo Bay. His report in the New Statesman provides yet more evidence why America’s version of justice (shamefully supported by Australia) is a perfect recruitment tool for jihadists.

The Bush administration and Congress are supporting a provision that would bar suspected terror suspects at Guantanamo from any legal rights in US courts. Many of the inmates, including Australian David Hicks, have languished uncharged for nearly four years.

Some "war on terror." Perhaps it would be easier if the American administration simply drew up a list of grievances and passed them around to Muslims and libertarians.

Bedtimes stories

"What does America think of Australia, Daddy?" asked the curious child. "I need to know. I need reassurance. I need credibility in the eyes of my fellow empire-builders. I want to be told that we need more tanks and bombs and bombers. I need to be reassured that George W. Bush likes what we're doing, approves of every move and encourages even stronger relations. I want to be told that the noble missions in Iraq and Afghanistan are indeed noble and right. Where can I find some answers, Daddy?"

"Son, Rupert Murdoch has all the answers. Sit tight, grab a warm beverage, and relax."

A rallying call

Brent Cunningham, Columbia Journalism Review's Managing Editor, argues that the American mainstream media (though this could equally apply to Australia) need to more forcefully deconstruct the country's myths and in doing so discover a far more complex world than "liberal" or "conservative":

"It’s time for the press to help broaden the scope of public discourse - not just by sounding an alarm, but by exploring possible solutions beyond those offered by government. By 'the press' I mean the mass media - the newspapers and broadcast outlets that cater to a mass audience, and thus have the most influence over what people know about the world beyond their own experiences. While it’s now commonplace to say that the media have become diffuse, most primary journalism is still done by the mainstream media, segments of which strive for intellectual honesty and believe deeply in reporting.

"To make aggressive journalism about the various threats to human society a priority will require a radical reassessment of America’s relation to the world as well as the American press’s definition of news. Last January in an op-ed in The New York Times, Jared Diamond, the author of Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, explained that among the lessons he gleaned from studying the survival of societies is the need for “a willingness to re-examine long-held core values, when conditions change and those values no longer make sense.” The press alone can’t force this re-examination on the nation, but it could start the conversation."

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Local issues

The real story of the insurgency is the fact that Iraqis form the bulk of the resistance, not foreign fighters. This fact is largely obscured by American propaganda for obvious reasons.

The Washington Post reports.

UPDATE: The vast resources of the MSM can sometimes bear fruit. The New York Times explains the vast corruption and nepotism in "liberated" Iraq. The West have imported "disaster capitalism" in all its glory:

"In what is expected to be the first of a series of criminal charges against officials and contractors overseeing the rebuilding of Iraq, an American has been charged with paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and kickbacks to American occupation authorities and their spouses to obtain construction contracts, according to a complaint unsealed late yesterday."

So many opinions, so little time

The Guardian profiles Britain's new wave of political bloggers who are thankfully challenging the country's old codgers and establishment media elite:

"As I arrive, De Havilland is laughing, nearly hysterically, at a blog by Oliver Kamm, a London hedge-fund manager and member of the 'pro-war left' who now also writes a column for the Times. 'Just marvellous,' says De Havilland. 'I was thinking of making it Samizdata quote of the day. It's something to the effect that, well, there's no point in denying that our involvement in Iraq has inflamed [Islamist totalitarian] opinion. Why should we deny it? It's something we should be proud of!'"

Listening is important

Bitterlemons is a weekly online newsletter featuring Israeli and Palestinian voices on the conflict. It's often essential reading. Virtually every perspective is covered, from the settler movement, to Hamas, to Jewish and Palestinian moderates.

This week is no exception: "One year after Arafat."

The walls are crumbling

William Greider, The Nation, November 21 issue:

"Heroic truth-tellers in the Watergate saga, the established media are now in disrepute, scandalized by unreliable 'news' and over-intimate attachments to powerful court insiders. The major media stood too close to the throne, deferred too eagerly to the king's twisted version of reality and his lust for war. The institutions of 'news' failed democracy on monumental matters. In fact, the contemporary system looks a lot more like the ancien regime than its practitioners realize. Control is top-down and centralized. Information is shaped (and tainted) by the proximity of leading news-gatherers to the royal court and by their great distance from people and ordinary experience."

Although Greider is talking about establishment media, he could be referring to any number of bloggers who like to fly a little too close to the corporate drip-feed.

Creating another monster

The world has been shocked at the discovery of 173 prisoners in a squalid Baghdad jail, many of them malnourished and showing clear signs of torture.

But we shouldn't be surprised. The raid by US troops may not have been accidental, as claimed, and could have been intended to woo Sunni Arabs before next month's election. Claims of torture have existed for years around Iraq, especially at the hands of the Shiite-dominated Interior Ministry. And who has been training such forces? The US military.

There is a war in the shadows. Paramilitary groups roam the streets with impunity, kidnapping, torturing, maiming and killing. The Independent explains:

"The paramilitaries are not held responsible for all the deaths - some are the work of insurgents murdering supposed informers or government officials, or killing for purely sectarian motives.

"You very seldom see American soldiers on the streets of Baghdad now. The Iraqi police are in evidence outside, but so are increasing numbers of militias running their own checkpoints - men in balaclavas or wrap-around sunglasses and headbands, with leather mittens and an array of weapons. An American official acknowledged: 'It is getting more and more like Mogadishu every day.'"

The US government has funded many activities and former intelligence officers with Saddam are in on the ride. Not unlike the dirty wars of Latin America - a time when Reagan funded paramilitary death squads to quash dissenters - the empire has learnt the lesson of history.

Unlike Latin America, however, the world is now watching Iraq and sees a superpower more than happy to kill by proxy.

Meanwhile, Australia may stay in Iraq for some time yet, according to Defence Minister Robert Hill.

"...There will be plenty of important work in Iraq to help the new government, which will be put in place early next year after the December elections, to consolidate its support and provide the security it needs for its people", he said.

Does consolidating its support mean turning a blind eye to death squads? What exactly does the Australian government know? It's frightening to think that Hill believes the US and Australian position on Iraq is virtually identical.

As the Titatic starts to sink, and the rats are jumping for their lives, Australia remains an ally blinded by folly.

Remember how history views Australia's involvement in Vietnam?

Another scalp

Bob Woodward is now involved in Plamegate.

His reputation - this is the man, after all, behind Watergate - has been steadily declining for years. Such is the price for gaining exclusive access to the Bush administration.

We also learn that Woodward asked a fellow Washington Post reporter to not pursue certain story angles as far back as 2003.

Josh Marshall @ Talking Point Memo puts it best:

"Woodward seems to have some explaining to do, at least for the fact that he became an aggressive commentator on the leak story without ever disclosing his own role in it, not even to his editors."

There hasn't been a more instructive case of corporate media corruption for years. The insiders are finally being exposed. And we learn that their primary duty - to inform the public - was furthest from their minds.

Three cheers

It's enough to make a grown man weep (and I'm hardly a hardened sports nut.)

After a 32-year wait, Australia is through to the 2006 football World Cup in Germany.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Facing the facts

Conservative Andrew Sullivan challenges blogger Glenn Reynolds on his inability to challenge Bush on massive Iraq failings. Sullivan could be talking about virtually every pro-war commentator in Australia and the US. Somehow the culture wars are more important to these people than speaking truth to power. Go figure:

"Maybe Bush is horrible as a war-leader. Has that occurred to Reynolds yet? Maybe if he'd had the balls to point that out last year, instead of cowering behind the "Kerry-is-worse" meme for months on end, and hyping the Swift-Boat attacks, we'd have had more pressure to change course. For the record, it is not unpatriotic to call this president on the mistakes he has made - the grotesque recklessness of invading a country with no serious plan for the post-invasion, the wrecking of the United States' reputation for humane treatment of prisoners, the debunked intelligence on which he relied (oh, sorry, we're not supposed to criticize the guy who assured us that there were stockpiles of WMDs as a fact, because others were wrong as well). Reynolds simply won't criticize the president for the mistakes for which this president is responsible. Worse, he's arguing that anyone who points out that, yes, Bush is horrible as a commander-in-chief is somehow unhelpful or unpatriotic. One day, denial and distraction from reality will finally collapse at Instapundit. And it won't be pretty."

For the record, Sullivan still supports America's interventionist foreign policy, but at least he has the intellectual rigour to question the talking points parroted by little empire-builders.

Some chickens, some roosting

The tide may be turning within the US. The current Iraq policy is a shambles and the country is largely controlled by insurgents. George W. Bush is being challenged like never before and increasing number of senators want to discuss an exit strategy.

Prime Minister John Howard should be similarly challenged.

Next step is an international court of justice for the likes of Bush, Blair and Howard. They deserve little better than prison scraps.

Bill me

Is Israel selling off parts of Mount Zion, specifically the area of Dovid HaMelek's (King David's) tomb and the location of the Diaspora Yeshiva (Jewish religious school) in Jerusalem to the Vatican?

Onward Murdoch soldier

Rupert Murdoch loves being the centre of attention. His pro-war, pro-business, anti-union attitude is slavishly replicated around his empire, including Australia. But guess who said this?

"Well, it might not have been a good idea to create it [Israel], but now that it’s there, it has to be supported."

Murdoch, according to Scott McConnell, former New York Post editorial page editor. McConnell's article on the influence of the Weekly Standard magazine makes for fascinating reading. In the weeks after 9/11, Max Boot wrote for the Standard and included this line: "Afghanistan and other troubled lands today cry out for the sort of enlightened foreign administration once provided by self-confident Englishmen." That's US foreign policy in one, echoed by any number of neo-conservatives, chicken-hawks and imperialists the world over.

Murdoch's Australian today features, without a hint of irony, an article "written" by US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. What exactly does it take for a person to be excised from the pages of the Murdoch organ? Henry Kissinger is still published, so presumably war crimes aren't an impediment to editorial space.

Rumsfeld talks about the glorious bond between Australia and the US and the "bold, significant" steps to enhance the relationship. At a time when Iraq is in chaos and the country has become the new Afghanistan, Murdoch's little helpers are happy to publish a man who has contributed incompetence, barbarity and sanctioned torture to the "war on terror." I'm surprised he wasn't placed on page one.

Tipping the balance

Ezequiel Adamovsky, Znet, November 10:

"It is in the front page of all major Argentine newspapers: "the Summit split up over FTAA" (Clarín); "The US fails to get support for FTAA" (Pagina/12). By all accounts, the Summit of the Americas ended up in total failure. After several weeks of intense debates before the actual Summit, the negotiators representing the countries of the Americas could not reach an agreement on a final statement. The drafts being debated were revealing of the main issues at stake: the FTAA, of course, but also the way in which the US relates to its neighbours in the region. Thus, for example, when the traditionally patronizing reference to the need to "fight poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean" showed up, the Venezuelan representative insisted on an addition pointing to the need to fight poverty "also in the US", which was of course unacceptable.

"The fiasco of the Summit for Bush's plans, the little "rebellion" of the "five musketeers" and the utter weakness of US diplomacy that all this revealed, may end up bringing about a reversion to a more "Clintonean" approach to Empire building, one in which local Aristocracies have more autonomy, resources and power to manage local discontents, and also one in which local economic elites get a bigger share.

"While these tensions in the making of Empire take place, let us hope that the common working men and women of the planet find a way to put an end to capitalism and to get rid of Empire in any shape or form."

Would you like gravy with that?

Torture arrives in American lounge-rooms:

"Two former Iraqi detainees tell ABC News in an exclusive interview that they were repeatedly tortured by U.S. forces seeking information about Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction.

"Thahee Sabbar and Sherzad Khalid are two of eight men who, with help from the American Civil Liberties Union and the group Human Rights First, are suing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The men claim they were tortured for months, in violation of the U.S. Constitution and international law.

"Khalid told ABC News that U.S. soldiers at one point threatened him with live lions.

'They took us to a cage - an animal cage that had lions in it within the Republican Palace,' he said. 'And they threatened us that if we did not confess, they would put us inside the cage with the lions in it. It scared me a lot when they got me close to the cage, and they threatened me. And they opened the door and they threatened that if I did not confess, that they were going to throw me inside the cage. And as the lion was coming closer, they would pull me back out and shut the door, and tell me, 'We will give you one more chance to confess.' And I would say, 'Confess to what?''

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

News bytes

- Noam Chomsky on "malignant design" and world cruelty.

- Karma Nabulsi, politics fellow at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, and a former PLO representative, discusses the Arafat myth and Western ability to humanise the Israelis and demonise the Palestinians.

- George Monbiot on the US using chemical weapons in Iraq, lying about it and covering it up.

- The Australian government continues its immoral ban on abortion drug, RU486.

- American journalist David Corn discusses Ahmed Chalabi and Christopher Hitchens. Chalabi is a crook and Hitchens seems content defending the indefensible: "Christopher, you would not trust Bush to review a single death penalty application, yet you were happy to hand him the keys to this invasion and now you make excuses for how he misrepresented the intelligence he did not even bother to read."

- Al-Ahram Weekly examines the possibility of a democratic future for the Arab world. Ayman El-Amir writes:

"...The US has never been a net exporter of democratic models to undemocratic countries. If anything, the US has a historical record of supporting tyrannical regimes that served its strategic interests. This remains true today as it was half a century ago."

UPDATE: The Independent investigates the claim that the US used chemical weapons in Fallujah and concludes that the US military are lying and eyewitness accounts confirm the charges.

Bring your documents

Desperate times call for desperate measures. The Palestine News Network reports:

"The Mayor of Bethlehem arrives in London today (Wednesday 9 November) to declare Bethlehem an open city and announce that his city is to issue a Bethlehem passport, open to anyone in the world.

"The initiative is designed to transcend the imprisonment of his city by a combination of the illegal wall and militarised fences, with only two gates to the outside world.

"The current situation is grim. The walls and fences that encircle Bethlehem have turned this 4000 year old city into a prison for its 160,000 citizens. The number of tourists visiting Bethlehem has dropped from nearly 92,000 in 2000 to a mere 7,249 in 2004. In the last five years 9.3 per cent of the Christian population of Bethlehem has emigrated. Restaurants, shops and commercial outlets have shrunk and Bethlehem’s economy is threatened."

Yet another nearly hidden side of Israel's ongoing occupation.

Getting results

Just how does the Pentagon conduct its PR exercises? It takes skill and millions of dollars in the Middle East and Central Asia to contribute to a fall in America's international standing. Iraq, Guantanamo, Afghanistan, torture, Abu Ghraib and "rendition" may have something to do with it, as well.

Who ya gonna call? The Rendon Group is the answer.

The bogeyman

Terrorism expert Loretta Napoleoni claims the US has created a convenient myth around Iraqi insurgent Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

"He became what we wanted him to be. We put him there, not the jihadists," Napoleoni said.

Just remember this when administration officials blame Zarqawi for every insurgent attack in Iraq and beyond.

Marching down the road

What kind of country is Australia becoming? The Sydney Morning Herald reports:

"The Federal Government has warned its workforce of 120,000 not to attend today's mass rallies against its tough industrial relations legislation, circulating memos that public servants will be breaking the law even if they take a day of annual leave to protest."

Looks like tens of thousands of workers care little for government intimidation. Protesting is a right in any democracy and some fly-by-night ideologue that tries to remove that right will justly face the wrath of the people.

Torture is so yesterday's news

Robert Fisk, during a tour of the United States, notices the inability of the media to call torture by its real name and deluded establishment figure "prevailing" in Iraq:

"It’s like living in a prism in New York and Washington these days. "Torture" is out. No one tortures in Iraq or Afghanistan or Guantanamo. What Americans do to their prisoners is "abuse" and there was a wonderful moment this week when Amy Goodman, who is every leftist’s dream, showed a clip from Pontecorvo’s wonderful 1965 movie The Battle of Algiers on her Democracy Now programme. 'Colonel Mathieu' - the film is semi-fictional - was shown explaining why torture was necessary to safeguard French lives. Then up popped Mr Bush’s real spokesman, Scott McClellan, to say that while he would not discuss interrogation methods, the primary aim of the administration was to safeguard American lives."

Monday, November 14, 2005

Looking inside

There is a partner for peace, writes Akiva Eldar in Haaretz:

"A few days after Rabin's assassination, Shimon Peres invited the leaders of Meretz to discuss the guidelines of the government. The representatives of the left-wing party wanted the document being drafted to express support for the Palestinians' right to self-determination. None of them expected that, more than two years after the agreement regarding mutual recognition between the State of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, the architect of Oslo would have a problem making such a declaration. To their great surprise, Peres gave them a look full of reprimand. "Do you understand that this means a Palestinian state?" he asked. "Absolutely," replied the guests in unison. "And who told you that I'm in favour of a Palestinian state?" replied the prime minister offhandedly. "I believe in functional compromise."

Ten years after Rabin's assassination, we have an Israeli political leader [new Labor chairman Amir Peretz] who considers the occupation a moral, security and economic burden, a man who is in no need of internal or external pressure to leave the territories. Finally, peace has emerged from the back benches and returned to centre stage.

"Palestinian neighbours: You have a partner, don't let the fanatics harm him."

There has always been a partner in the Palestinians but the Zionists and Western media have convinced the public otherwise. Not anymore. People no longer believe Israel when it talks about a marauding Palestinian rabble. The Palestinian people have finally acquired a humanity that cannot be ignored. Israel, on the other hand, continues its immoral occupation.

Gaza, meanwhile, is in danger of becoming a "giant prison", according to
James Wolfensohn, the West's special envoy on post-disengagement Gaza. Israel's main benefactor, the USA, continues its disastrous occupation of Iraq. It's the blind clique leading the morally bankrupt. And Australia stands ready throughout it all to offer guidance and support. Brave, little, irrelevant Australia.

The myths are ending and Israel stands accused in the dock.

Rogue state

America's reputation continues to flat-line. If anyone truly believes that present-day United States is a beacon of democracy and freedom, they've clearly been spending too much time in the company of torturer-defenders.

The Observer, November 13:

"Human rights campaigners are calling it the 'November surprise' - a last-minute amendment smuggled into a Pentagon finance bill in the US Senate last Thursday.

"Its effects are likely to be devastating: the permanent removal of almost all legal rights from 'war on terror' detainees at Guantanamo Bay and every other similar US facility on foreign or American soil.

"'What the British law lord Lord Steyn once called a legal black hole had begun to be filled in,' said the British lawyer Clive Stafford Smith, speaking from Guantanamo, where he represents more than 40 detainees. 'It looks as if it is back, and deeper than before.'

"If the amendment passes the House of Representatives unmodified, one of its immediate effects is that Stafford Smith and all the other lawyers who act for Guantanamo prisoners will again be denied access, as they were for more than two years after Camp X-Ray opened in 2002."

Bye, bye Tony

British MPs are aiming to impeach Tony Blair over his conduct before the 2003 Iraq invasion.

Britain's former ambassador to Washington, Sir Christopher Meyer, recently slammed Blair over the Iraq war and challenged his assertion that the war hadn’t made Britain a greater terrorist target:

“There is plenty of evidence around at the moment that home-grown terrorism was partly radicalised and fuelled by what is going on in Iraq. There is no way we can credibly get up and say it has nothing to do with it. Don't tell me that being in Iraq has got nothing to do with it. Of course it does."

Furthermore, Meyer claims Blair failed to influence US planning for the war.

Such discussions are almost absent in Australia, so let's say it once again: our involvement in the Iraq war has made Australia a greater terrorist target. Prime Minister John Howard denies this, but then, he's a liar.

Deluding themselves

The Melbourne Age reflects on the Israel/Palestine peace process and manages to avoid mentioning the occupation:

"It is increasingly clear that Israeli and Palestinian members of the moderate mainstream, who long for peace and accept each other's right to statehood, must stand together against extremists on both sides. These peace partners must marginalise the rejectionists - some of whom will stop at nothing to sabotage a settlement that will require pragmatic and painful compromises. While realignments are taking place in Israeli and Palestinian society, let there be no mistake: a crucial dividing line runs through both. It is the line between those with the vision to work together for peace and the blind ideologues who will never see that the human costs of their conflict are simply intolerable."

"Every Western pundit or official who pontificates about Palestinian terrorism", wrote Edward Said in 2001, "needs to ask how forgetting the fact of the occupation is supposed to stop terrorism."

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The bigots come out to play

Jason Burke, The Observer, November 13:

"Analysts and commentators often seek to find evidence to support their well-established ideas in any given event. So while critics of the 'French social model' have gleefully seen evidence of its failure in the recent violence in France, its supporters have seen evidence of the damage done by right-wing policies in the country. But little compares with the extraordinary way in which the disturbances of the last two weeks have been hijacked by those who appear set on either finding, or creating, a 'clash of civilisations' between Islam and the West.

"Take one particularly egregious example. Melanie Phillips, writing in the Daily Mail, described the riots in France as 'a French intifada, an uprising by French Muslims against the state'. I covered the intifada in Israel and Palestine and, beyond the fact that thrown stones look much the same wherever they are, saw little that resembled the Gaza Strip in the autumn of 2000 in Clichy-sous-Bois in the autumn of 2005. In the course of her article, Phillips spoke of how 'night after night, France [had] been under attack by its Muslim minority', how the country was being 'torched from Normandy to the Mediterranean', how it had 'sniffed the danger that had arisen in its midst' and quoted a little-known writer called Bat Ye'Or who is a favourite of the more unsavoury right-wing American websites and believes that the European Union is a conspiracy dedicated to creating one Muslim-dominated political entity that will comprise most of the Middle East and Europe.

"Phillips also conflated Arabs (a race), and Muslims (a global religion of 1.3 billion, some devout, some not). This is dangerous nonsense, but needs to be studied."

Swapping gender

Tehran has become the sex change capital of the world. The Independent's Caroline Mangez investigates. Iran is a country of light and shade, with harsh oppression living alongside startling liberty.

Better at breeding terrorism

Zionists will be most displeased but it appears the US now relies on Jordanian torturers (sorry, intelligence) more than Israel's Mossad. Haaretz reports:

"Jordan's General Intelligence Directorate has become the CIA's most important and effective counter-terrorism ally in the Middle East, a standing once held by the Mossad, the Los Angeles Times reported in its Friday editions.

"The newspaper reported that Jordan and the U.S. have cooperated in the interrogation of suspected terrorists, the methods of which have been subject to widespread media criticism due to the alleged use of torture."

The "War on Terror" is going swimmingly.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

The pro-life man

Noam Chomsky, Haaretz, November 10:

"...Elections are carefully contrived so that they are like selling toothpaste. In fact, they're run by the same people who sell toothpaste. I mean when you turn on an ad on television, you don't expect to get any information. You expect deception. That's the point. Only economists talk about markets. Business can't tolerate markets. They don't want markets in which informed consumers make rational choices. What they want is deluded consumers who will make irrational choices. That's what hundreds of billions of dollars in advertising are spent on. You don't get any information about the product."

A fascinating interview, read the whole piece.

A fair Australia

A mother speaks

The following letter to Prime Minister John Howard was written by the mother of an Australian soldier and appeared in yesterday's Melbourne Age:

"You would not have recognised our son, he was just another face in the group as you met members of the defence forces and their families in Darwin this year.

"You would not have known of the pain trapped in my heart as he held me in his strong arms prior to his departure, reassuring me he would be OK.

"I do not presume to speak for others but simply as a mother whose only son is deployed in Iraq. I feel betrayed and misled by you and your Government regarding the justification for the invasion of Iraq.

"Time passes slowly for me, never more than in the early hours of the morning when unanswered questions, hopes and fears compete for time. Occasionally I am visited by despair. I despair when old men send young men to war, when those detained are mistreated and subjected to acts of humiliation, and the relative ease with which those with opposing views are labelled.

"If I condone this behaviour, what can I expect in the event a member of the Australian Defence Force is detained? I wonder what the Iraqi definition of terrorism might be. Could ADF members be perceived as terrorists by some Iraqis? What might the consequences be?

"If detained, would they be treated in accordance with international law, or an interpretation of the law created to justify the situation? Is there an Iraqi equivalent to Guantanamo Bay? These are the questions that haunt me in the early hours of the morning. I know fear can be irrational, real or perceived. This is my perception, my reality.

"I think of the young lives extinguished in Iraq, and of the Iraqi civilians killed in the conflict. Every death represents the loss of somebody's son/daughter and perhaps somebody's father/mother, brother/sister, uncle/aunt, nephew/niece...I wonder about the futility of war.

"I will light a candle as a symbol of hope - hope that those entrusted with the responsibility of leading nations will act with honesty, integrity and compassion in the interest of all humanity, hope for the safe return of defence force members, hope for the safe return of our son."