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Who’s Responsible for the Palestinian Political Crisis?
Analysis/Features, Palestinian grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, June 22nd, 2007
The West Bank and Gaza are in disarray, constitutional chaos, contradicting authorities and cross accusations. Yet, as the tensions in the streets simmer down, the most surprising thing is that anybody out there in the world can be surprised at all. The foundations of what has happened in Gaza and the West Bank in the last weeks were laid long ago – and it was the Israeli occupation and the US and Europe who were the chief architects.
The question where the responsibility lies, with Hamas or Fatah, is thus utterly out of place. The real plotters of the current situation are Israel, the US and Europe.
The latest round started almost one and a half years ago when the Palestinian people voted in the elections for the legislative council against the party the Occupation and the international community expected them to vote for. The aims of the West and the occupation were immediately clear: Palestinian democracy (which miraculously worked even under conditions of brutal occupation) had to be destroyed and Hamas was not to be governing the PA, whatever the movement might state or compromise on. The plans to get there might have developed only over the following months.
Almost instantly, sanctions have been imposed on the Palestinian people. They should have been starved until they revolt against the forces they had just elected. The scheme – evidently – didn’t work out as Palestinians never fought for bread but for their rights and have never been willing to exchange the UN sacks of wheat with the right to return to their homes and statehood. To instigate the revolt, strikes of the public services have been organized by the Fatah movement asking for salaries. Yet, it was evident that the strikes were not coming from the people, who had just voted Fatah out of power because of the political and financial corruption many leaders of the movement are considered to have succumbed to. The strikes had thus no relevant impact on the political set up. They had one affect: after months of all PNA offices being completely paralyzed and life going on as usual, dictated by the Occupation’s random rules, it became clear that the PNA is not governing anything and in practical terms is a completely redundant body.
But behind the scenes more hideous and sophisticated plans have been developed that furthermore aim to use the current Palestinian political set up to achieve the overall aims of Israel: the substitution of the two-state solution with a Bantustan rule for Palestinians divided into 4 major ghettos on not more than 12 % of historic Palestine, each of them separated from the other.
The first steps towards this reality had already been undertaken during the Oslo period. Gaza has been completely isolated from the West Bank and increasingly from the rest of the world. The redeployment from Gaza in August 2005 has further evidenced the Zionist scheme of a complete division between the West Bank (or what will remain from it) and the open air prison to which Gaza has been transformed.
Gaza has become a veritable laboratory for the West Bank. Slowly even the 50 % of the West Bank – not much more than the Palestinian built up areas – that are to become the three ghettos surrounded by the Apartheid Wall are isolated from each other and from the rest of the world. Recent announcements that soon access to the southern ghetto including Bethlehem and Hebron will be regulated by a separated visa are further underlining the institutional process that is going hand in hand with the facts created on the ground.
The results of the Palestinian elections had little or no effect on this “unilateral disengagement” or Bantustanization of Palestine. They evidently put in doubt the possibility for the occupation to have a malleable Palestinian leadership willing to reign peacefully over the ghettos. Yet, they opened the way for a vicious plan to disband a unified Palestinian National Authority that in the case of the Bantustanization of Palestine would have been more of hindrance than of use.
The existence of such a plan has long since been no secret. In the streets of the West Bank and Gaza, in the taxis and in the living rooms, people were talking about it. The international news agencies carried the news. The Occupation, the US, the EU and some docile Arab leaders were plotting to overthrow the Hamas government (and later the National Unity government) and to conduct the Palestinian leadership – against the will of the people – into the hands of Abu Mazen and the most discredited wing of the Fatah movement.
That Israel and the international community were planning such a coup was evident long before the "Action Plan for the Palestinian Presidency", a 16 page secret document detailing the steps to disauthorize the Palestinian parliament and government and thus Hamas, was leaked to a Jordanian newspaper Al Majd.
When it became evident that sanctions would not make the Palestinians bow to the will of Israel and the West, the political tensions had to be escalated. Al Fatah leaders such as Muhammad Dahlan were buoyoned since the elections by the fact that they could expect any possible support to defeat Hamas.
Clashes have been provoked and both sides, Hamas and Fatah, engaged in a lethal tit for tat that cost many lives. Internet cafes went up in flames, streets were controlled by militias. In addition, weapons of all kinds were procured by the US for Muhammad Dahlan and his allies in Gaza. Arms, including small scale tanks, have been found in his ransacked “preventive security” offices. They had passed through Israeli or EU controlled border crossings. Special corps for Dahlan have been trained in Egypt and another 500 are still waiting in Yemen after having been trained there for guerrilla warfare.
Hamas was trapped. They believed they either had to act or to accept that forces were building up to literally wipe out their power in Gaza. Thus - they argue - they took the step to eradicate Dahlan and his plots from the Gaza Strip at a time when most of the leaders were outside and his military logistics were not yet ready to respond by provoking an extenuating civil war. In the Machiavellian logic of power, better to loose the West Bank via a take over of the Gaza Strip than to loose both to Dahlan and international pressure.
Had anybody thought first about the cause of Palestine and its people and then about the interests of factional power, maybe we could have avoided getting to the stage we are at now. Here lies the grave responsibility of our political leadership: in not preventing a coup, not in orchestrating it.
In fact, the present situation could hardly be more favourable for Israel and the US government. The Palestinian political structures in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank appear split. Neither of the Palestinian political factions that are accusing each other of orchestrating a coup have actually gained any power. Hamas is completely trapped within an open air prison with no control over borders, access or any other means to keep the population alive. Dahlan and his allies have fled to the West Bank and are now facing a political Fatah leadership that is not at all willing to stay under his command and has even issued a public statement calling for him to be tried in court. The call for escalation in the West Bank issued by Dahlan to make up for the defeat in Gaza has been only heeded in isolated cases.
Meanwhile the Action Plan for the Palestinian Presidency continues. Abu Mazen is now “legitimately” the only internationally recognized Palestinian leader. A new government has been formed and immediately backed by the world. Sanctions have been lifted to overload the new “government” with funds. Once again, the world thinks it can buy the surrender of the Palestinian people with its money.
No doubt, the whole Palestinian cabinet together would have gotten not more than a hand full of votes in any Palestinian election. But on this point who cares? The prime minister is now Salam Fayyad, loyal son of the World Bank and willing to implement the economic steps to ensure the Bank’s plans for the sustainability of the ghettos will be implemented and Palestinian dispossessed farmers are adequately exploited in the Israeli sweatshops constructed on their confiscated lands. Next to him are all those that have signed up to normalization with Israel long ago. The world has finally overcome the problem of Palestinian democracy and popular will when dealing with its “leaders”.
If this looks bad, the way ahead seems even more worrying.
Ehud Barak, the one that first proposed a wall to be built in the West Bank and the leader of the Labour party, has become defense minister and his first proposal was an invasion into Gaza. After watching the Occupation create an even worse humanitarian situation and commit further massacres, the international community and some Arab countries would probably then come forth to “save” Gaza and install an international force there to take up the job the Occupation left behind. Hamas would continue to claim its rule over Gaza and de facto reigning over not much more than the rubbish collection in the overcrowded strip.
In the West Bank, Abu Mazen is more and more inclined to dissolve the whole PNA and the collateral problems of democracy. Doing away with the PNA and calling upon the PLO to take over its place could be a possible option Abu Mazen is considering. The PLO could then adopt the Emergency government and confer upon it a semblance of democracy. Hamas, not being part of the PLO, would be bypassed by the historic body of Palestinian leadership and all those Palestinian parties that are now cut out from the power game would be appeased via their representation in the PLO. They would then maybe help to shore up support a “reformed” Emergency government. The international community would be more than gratified with the “solution”.
This step would further cement the divide between the West Bank and Gaza but, more importantly, calling in the PLO to come to save the Bantustans would disfigure even the last Palestinian political body that held together the Palestinian struggle in its core principles of liberation of our land and return for our refugees.
Early elections, called for by the minor political parties in Palestine in the hope to gain a space in the political power game, are practically off the table. It is rather improbable that Gaza would join in the elections and West Bank elections are not an option. Further, Fatah in the current situation is less than ever prepared to run and win the polls.
The way to get out of the political disaster created in the West Bank and Gaza is neither clear nor easy.
The Palestinian people will have to create the strength to take their struggle in their own hands again. As a Palestinian grassroots movement we have to contribute to the reshaping and development of our struggle, protecting it from being divided, hijacked or deviated. We have to shift the confrontation back to the Occupation. The real struggle of the Palestinian people cannot be about who will be in charge of a “National Authority” which de facto wields no authority over the land and its people anyway. It is the walls, checkpoints, prisons and the entire Israeli occupation with its racist policies that has to become the target once again.
In order to be able to continue our national struggle with the necessary determination, we have to talk to each other as Palestinians. We have to find unity among the different political expressions, based on the will of the people that continue their resistance and steadfastness on the ground and on the founding principles of our struggle based on our rights to self-determination, land and return.
We have to evaluate the past and the dynamics that led us to the situation we are in now. Since the signing of the Oslo agreements almost 15 years ago, how did our struggle and leadership develop? How could we accept to trap our struggle in the stranglehold of international governments and donors? Finally, we have to come up with a shared political vision of our aims and strategies as a people. Only on this basis we can legitimately talk to the world and effectively face the occupation. Today, some are still dreaming about a two state solution while a “three state solution” of isolated Bantustans is to be cemented on the ground. Instead, the only option that can provide us with a framework that respects human and national rights still consists in the creation of a single democratic state for all.
However, the recent developments on the ground in Palestine - more than highlighting a crisis in Palestinian leadership - have laid bare the full extend of the international community’s involvement in a veritable coup demanded by the Occupation against any national and united Palestinian leadership. It shows more than ever the need to stop international support to the Occupation.
It is thus up to all those that are able to understand and believe in the rights of the Palestinian people to continue working on your societies and governments to create the necessary fissures and rifts between the Occupation and its international backers.
This will help to create the spaces needed to reconstruct our struggle but foremost, it is a moral and political imperative for all those that do not want to be complicit with the crimes against our people.
You should hold your governments accountable for abusing your tax money and your votes to overthrow other people’s democratic choices. Maybe, if the world had respected the Palestinian democratic choice and had given Hamas a chance that would have avoided us the current escalation. Hamas was ready to be integrated at the table of the international community. But had the West opted to deal with the Palestinian democratic choices, this would have necessarily been a sign to the Occupation that the Palestinian people, their will and rights do matter. It would have created inherently limits to the Occupation’s wanton destruction of our lives and land. Thus, the international community never considered this an option; they preferred their complete disregard for the democracy they are apparently calling for to be openly shown to the world. The values of democracy have been further plundered
It’s further worth asking those that consider Hamas a politically not acceptable party, whether governments planning and financing coups and occupations around the world are more “politically correct” and those that delegitimize Fatah as horrendously corrupt whether your foreign offices are after all any better. If they are truly against corruption they would not legitimate immediately an illegitimate emergency government formed by unrepresentative individuals and would not arm and finance truly corrupted individuals
To all those that call for negotiations and international mediation on Palestine, ask them whether they seriously pretend that Palestinian can still be so blue eyed to consider western powers as anything similar to balanced brokers? Now that your governments have destroyed the already imperfect Palestinian political set up there is really nobody to negotiate with anymore.
More than anything else, however, the global efforts to build the movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions have to be stepped up. In these dark days, the courageous steps to adopt boycott undertaken by British unions such as the University and College Union (UCU) and Unison, the public service union, are truly well-needed signs that there is a hope that unconditional international support for Israeli occupation and apartheid can end. Through the collective efforts of the struggle of the people and solidarity of civil society all over the world it has been possible to stop the plans of Bantustanization in South Africa. We can reach the same power once again to gain the liberation of Palestine and the return of our refugees.
The Unseen Lies: Journalism As Propaganda
by John Pilger
Published on Wednesday, August 8, 2007 byDemocracyNow.org
The following is a transcript of a talk given by John Pilger at Socialism 2007 Conference in Chicago this past June:
The title of this talk is Freedom Next Time, which is the title of my book, and the book is meant as an antidote to the propaganda that is so often disguised as journalism. So I thought I would talk today about journalism, about war by journalism, propaganda, and silence, and how that silence might be broken. Edward Bernays, the so-called father of public relations, wrote about an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. He was referring to journalism, the media. That was almost 80 years ago, not long after corporate journalism was invented. It is a history few journalist talk about or know about, and it began with the arrival of corporate advertising. As the new corporations began taking over the press, something called “professional journalism” was invented. To attract big advertisers, the new corporate press had to appear respectable, pillars of the establishment-objective, impartial, balanced. The first schools of journalism were set up, and a mythology of liberal neutrality was spun around the professional journalist. The right to freedom of expression was associated with the new media and with the great corporations, and the whole thing was, as Robert McChesney put it so well, “entirely bogus”.
For what the public did not know was that in order to be professional, journalists had to ensure that news and opinion were dominated by official sources, and that has not changed. Go through the New York Times on any day, and check the sources of the main political stories-domestic and foreign-you’ll find they’re dominated by government and other established interests. That is the essence of professional journalism. I am not suggesting that independent journalism was or is excluded, but it is more likely to be an honorable exception. Think of the role Judith Miller played in the New York Times in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. Yes, her work became a scandal, but only after it played a powerful role in promoting an invasion based on lies. Yet, Miller’s parroting of official sources and vested interests was not all that different from the work of many famous Times reporters, such as the celebrated W.H. Lawrence, who helped cover up the true effects of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in August, 1945. “No Radioactivity in Hiroshima Ruin,” was the headline on his report, and it was false.
Consider how the power of this invisible government has grown. In 1983 the principle global media was owned by 50 corporations, most of them American. In 2002 this had fallen to just 9 corporations. Today it is probably about 5. Rupert Murdoch has predicted that there will be just three global media giants, and his company will be one of them. This concentration of power is not exclusive of course to the United States. The BBC has announced it is expanding its broadcasts to the United States, because it believes Americans want principled, objective, neutral journalism for which the BBC is famous. They have launched BBC America. You may have seen the advertising.
The BBC began in 1922, just before the corporate press began in America. Its founder was Lord John Reith, who believed that impartiality and objectivity were the essence of professionalism. In the same year the British establishment was under siege. The unions had called a general strike and the Tories were terrified that a revolution was on the way. The new BBC came to their rescue. In high secrecy, Lord Reith wrote anti-union speeches for the Tory Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin and broadcast them to the nation, while refusing to allow the labor leaders to put their side until the strike was over.
So, a pattern was set. Impartiality was a principle certainly: a principle to be suspended whenever the establishment was under threat. And that principle has been upheld ever since.
Take the invasion of Iraq. There are two studies of the BBC’s reporting. One shows that the BBC gave just 2 percent of its coverage of Iraq to antiwar dissent-2 percent. That is less than the antiwar coverage of ABC, NBC, and CBS. A second study by the University of Wales shows that in the buildup to the invasion, 90 percent of the BBC’s references to weapons of mass destruction suggested that Saddam Hussein actually possessed them, and that by clear implication Bush and Blair were right. We now know that the BBC and other British media were used by the British secret intelligence service MI-6. In what they called Operation Mass Appeal, MI-6 agents planted stories about Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction, such as weapons hidden in his palaces and in secret underground bunkers. All of these stories were fake. But that’s not the point. The point is that the work of MI-6 was unnecessary, because professional journalism on its own would have produced the same result.
Listen to the BBC’s man in Washington, Matt Frei, shortly after the invasion. “There is not doubt,” he told viewers in the UK and all over the world, “That the desire to bring good, to bring American values to the rest of the world, and especially now in the Middle East, is especially tied up with American military power.” In 2005 the same reporter lauded the architect of the invasion, Paul Wolfowitz, as someone who “believes passionately in the power of democracy and grassroots development.” That was before the little incident at the World Bank.
None of this is unusual. BBC news routinely describes the invasion as a miscalculation. Not Illegal, not unprovoked, not based on lies, but a miscalculation.
The words “mistake” and “blunder” are common BBC news currency, along with “failure”-which at least suggests that if the deliberate, calculated, unprovoked, illegal assault on defenseless Iraq had succeeded, that would have been just fine. Whenever I hear these words I remember Edward Herman’s marvelous essay about normalizing the unthinkable. For that’s what media clichéd language does and is designed to do-it normalizes the unthinkable; of the degradation of war, of severed limbs, of maimed children, all of which I’ve seen. One of my favorite stories about the Cold War concerns a group of Russian journalists who were touring the United States. On the final day of their visit, they were asked by the host for their impressions. “I have to tell you,” said the spokesman, “that we were astonished to find after reading all the newspapers and watching TV day after day that all the opinions on all the vital issues are the same. To get that result in our country we send journalists to the gulag. We even tear out their fingernails. Here you don’t have to do any of that. What is the secret?”
What is the secret? It is a question seldom asked in newsrooms, in media colleges, in journalism journals, and yet the answer to that question is critical to the lives of millions of people. On August 24 last year the New York Times declared this in an editorial: “If we had known then what we know now the invasion if Iraq would have been stopped by a popular outcry.” This amazing admission was saying, in effect, that journalists had betrayed the public by not doing their job and by accepting and amplifying and echoing the lies of Bush and his gang, instead of challenging them and exposing them. What the Times didn’t say was that had that paper and the rest of the media exposed the lies, up to a million people might be alive today. That’s the belief now of a number of senior establishment journalists. Few of them-they’ve spoken to me about it-few of them will say it in public.
Ironically, I began to understand how censorship worked in so-called free societies when I reported from totalitarian societies. During the 1970s I filmed secretly in Czechoslovakia, then a Stalinist dictatorship. I interviewed members of the dissident group Charter 77, including the novelist Zdener Urbanek, and this is what he told me. “In dictatorships we are more fortunate that you in the West in one respect. We believe nothing of what we read in the newspapers and nothing of what we watch on television, because we know its propaganda and lies. Unlike you in the West. We’ve learned to look behind the propaganda and to read between the lines, and unlike you, we know that the real truth is always subversive.”
Vandana Shiva has called this subjugated knowledge. The great Irish muckraker Claud Cockburn got it right when he wrote, “Never believe anything until it’s officially denied.”
One of the oldest clichés of war is that truth is the first casualty. No it’s not. Journalism is the first casualty. When the Vietnam War was over, the magazine Encounter published an article by Robert Elegant, a distinguished correspondent who had covered the war. “For the first time in modern history,” he wrote, the outcome of a war was determined not on the battlefield, but on the printed page, and above all on the television screen.” He held journalists responsible for losing the war by opposing it in their reporting. Robert Elegant’s view became the received wisdom in Washington and it still is. In Iraq the Pentagon invented the embedded journalist because it believed that critical reporting had lost Vietnam.
The very opposite was true. On my first day as a young reporter in Saigon, I called at the bureaus of the main newspapers and TV companies. I noticed that some of them had a pinboard on the wall on which were gruesome photographs, mostly of bodies of Vietnamese and of American soldiers holding up severed ears and testicles. In one office was a photograph of a man being tortured; above the torturers head was a stick-on comic balloon with the words, “that’ll teach you to talk to the press.” None of these pictures were ever published or even put on the wire. I asked why. I was told that the public would never accept them. Anyway, to publish them would not be objective or impartial. At first, I accepted the apparent logic of this. I too had grown up on stories of the good war against Germany and Japan, that ethical bath that cleansed the Anglo-American world of all evil. But the longer I stayed in Vietnam, the more I realized that our atrocities were not isolated, nor were they aberrations, but the war itself was an atrocity. That was the big story, and it was seldom news. Yes, the tactics and effectiveness of the military were questioned by some very fine reporters. But the word “invasion” was never used. The anodyne word used was “involved.” America was involved in Vietnam. The fiction of a well-intentioned, blundering giant, stuck in an Asian quagmire, was repeated incessantly. It was left to whistleblowers back home to tell the subversive truth, those like Daniel Ellsberg and Seymour Hersh, with his scoop of the My-Lai massacre. There were 649 reporters in Vietnam on March 16, 1968-the day that the My-Lai massacre happened-and not one of them reported it.
In both Vietnam and Iraq, deliberate policies and strategies have bordered on genocide. In Vietnam, the forced dispossession of millions of people and the creation of free fire zones; In Iraq, an American-enforced embargo that ran through the 1990s like a medieval siege, and killed, according to the United Nations Children’s fund, half a million children under the age of five. In both Vietnam and Iraq, banned weapons were used against civilians as deliberate experiments. Agent Orange changed the genetic and environmental order in Vietnam. The military called this Operation Hades. When Congress found out, it was renamed the friendlier Operation Ranch Hand, and nothing change. That’s pretty much how Congress has reacted to the war in Iraq. The Democrats have damned it, rebranded it, and extended it. The Hollywood movies that followed the Vietnam War were an extension of the journalism, of normalizing the unthinkable. Yes, some of the movies were critical of the military’s tactics, but all of them were careful to concentrate on the angst of the invaders. The first of these movies is now considered a classic. It’s The Deerhunter, whose message was that America had suffered, America was stricken, American boys had done their best against oriental barbarians. The message was all the more pernicious, because the Deerhunter was brilliantly made and acted. I have to admit it’s the only movie that has made me shout out loud in a Cinema in protest. Oliver Stone’s acclaimed movie Platoon was said to be antiwar, and it did show glimpses of the Vietnamese as human beings, but it also promoted above all the American invader as victim.
I wasn’t going to mention The Green Berets when I set down to write this, until I read the other day that John Wayne was the most influential movie who ever lived. I a saw the Green Berets starring John Wayne on a Saturday night in 1968 in Montgomery Alabama. (I was down there to interview the then-infamous governor George Wallace). I had just come back from Vietnam, and I couldn’t believe how absurd this movie was. So I laughed out loud, and I laughed and laughed. And it wasn’t long before the atmosphere around me grew very cold. My companion, who had been a Freedom Rider in the South, said, “Let’s get the hell out of here and run like hell.”
We were chased all the way back to our hotel, but I doubt if any of our pursuers were aware that John Wayne, their hero, had lied so he wouldn’t have to fight in World War II. And yet the phony role model of Wayne sent thousands of Americans to their deaths in Vietnam, with the notable exceptions of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.
Last year, in his acceptance of the Nobel Prize for Literature, the playwright Harold Pinter made an epoch speech. He asked why, and I quote him, “The systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought in Stalinist Russia were well know in the West, while American state crimes were merely superficially recorded, left alone, documented.” And yet across the world the extinction and suffering of countless human beings could be attributed to rampant American power. “But,” said Pinter, “You wouldn’t know it. It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest.” Pinter’s words were more than the surreal. The BBC ignored the speech of Britain’s most famous dramatist.
I’ve made a number of documentaries about Cambodia. The first was Year Zero: the Silent Death of Cambodia. It describes the American bombing that provided the catalyst for the rise of Pol Pot. What Nixon and Kissinger had started, Pol Pot completed-CIA files alone leave no doubt of that. I offered Year Zero to PBS and took it to Washington. The PBS executives who saw it were shocked. They whispered among themselves. They asked me to wait outside. One of them finally emerged and said, “John, we admire your film. But we are disturbed that it says the United States prepared the way for Pol Pot.”
I said, “Do you dispute the evidence?” I had quoted a number of CIA documents. “Oh, no,” he replied. “But we’ve decided to call in a journalistic adjudicator.”
Now the term “journalist adjudicator” might have been invented by George Orwell. In fact they managed to find one of only three journalists who had been invited to Cambodia by Pol Pot. And of course he turned his thumbs down on the film, and I never heard from PBS again. Year Zero was broadcast in some 60 countries and became one of the most watched documentaries in the world. It was never shown in the United States. Of the five films I have made on Cambodia, one of them was shown by WNET, the PBS station in New York. I believe it was shown at about one in the morning. On the basis of this single showing, when most people are asleep, it was awarded an Emmy. What marvelous irony. It was worthy of a prize but not an audience.
Harold Pinter’s subversive truth, I believe, was that he made the connection between imperialism and fascism, and described a battle for history that’s almost never reported. This is the great silence of the media age. And this is the secret heart of propaganda today. A propaganda so vast in scope that I’m always astonished that so many Americans know and understand as much as they do. We are talking about a system, of course, not personalities. And yet, a great many people today think that the problem is George W. Bush and his gang. And yes, the Bush gang are extreme. But my experience is that they are no more than an extreme version of what has gone on before. In my lifetime, more wars have been started by liberal Democrats than by Republicans. Ignoring this truth is a guarantee that the propaganda system and the war-making system will continue. We’ve had a branch of the Democratic party running Britain for the last 10 years. Blair, apparently a liberal, has taken Britain to war more times than any prime minister in the modern era. Yes, his current pal is George Bush, but his first love was Bill Clinton, the most violent president of the late 20th century. Blair’s successor, Gordon Brown is also a devotee of Clinton and Bush. The other day, Brown said, “The days of Britain having to apologize for the British Empire are over. We should celebrate.”
Like Blair, like Clinton, like Bush, Brown believes in the liberal truth that the battle for history has been won; that the millions who died in British-imposed famines in British imperial India will be forgotten-like the millions who have died in the American Empire will be forgotten. And like Blair, his successor is confident that professional journalism is on his side. For most journalists, whether they realize it or not, are groomed to be tribunes of an ideology that regards itself as non-ideological, that presents itself as the natural center, the very fulcrum of modern life. This may very well be the most powerful and dangerous ideology we have ever known because it is open-ended. This is liberalism. I’m not denying the virtues of liberalism-far from it. We are all beneficiaries of them. But if we deny its dangers, its open-ended project, and the all-consuming power of its propaganda, then we deny our right to true democracy, because liberalism and true democracy are not the same. Liberalism began as a preserve of the elite in the 19th century, and true democracy is never handed down by elites. It is always fought for and struggled for.
A senior member of the antiwar coalition, United For Peace and Justice, said recently, and I quote her, “The Democrats are using the politics of reality.” Her liberal historical reference point was Vietnam. She said that President Johnson began withdrawing troops from Vietnam after a Democratic Congress began to vote against the war. That’s not what happened. The troops were withdrawn from Vietnam after four long years. And during that time the United States killed more people in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos with bombs than were killed in all the preceding years. And that’s what’s happening in Iraq. The bombing has doubled since last year, and this is not being reported. And who began this bombing? Bill Clinton began it. During the 1990s Clinton rained bombs on Iraq in what were euphemistically called the “no fly zones.” At the same time he imposed a medieval siege called economic sanctions, killing as I’ve mentioned, perhaps a million people, including a documented 500,000 children. Almost none of this carnage was reported in the so-called mainstream media. Last year a study published by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health found that since the invasion of Iraq 655, 000 Iraqis had died as a direct result of the invasion. Official documents show that the Blair government knew this figure to be credible. In February, Les Roberts, the author of the report, said the figure was equal to the figure for deaths in the Fordham University study of the Rwandan genocide. The media response to Robert’s shocking revelation was silence. What may well be the greatest episode of organized killing for a generation, in Harold Pinter’s words, “Did not happen. It didn’t matter.”
Many people who regard themselves on the left supported Bush’s attack on Afghanistan. That the CIA had supported Osama Bin Laden was ignored, that the Clinton administration had secretly backed the Taliban, even giving them high-level briefings at the CIA, is virtually unknown in the United States. The Taliban were secret partners with the oil giant Unocal in building an oil pipeline across Afghanistan. And when a Clinton official was reminded that the Taliban persecuted women, he said, “We can live with that.” There is compelling evidence that Bush decided to attack the Taliban not as a result of 9-11, but two months earlier, in July of 2001. This is virtually unknown in the United States-publicly. Like the scale of civilian casualties in Afghanistan. To my knowledge only one mainstream reporter, Jonathan Steele of the Guardian in London, has investigated civilian casualties in Afghanistan, and his estimate is 20,000 dead civilians, and that was three years ago.
The enduring tragedy of Palestine is due in great part to the silence and compliance of the so-called liberal left. Hamas is described repeatedly as sworn to the destruction of Israel. The New York Times, the Associated Press, the Boston Globe-take your pick. They all use this line as a standard disclaimer, and it is false. That Hamas has called for a ten-year ceasefire is almost never reported. Even more important, that Hamas has undergone an historic ideological shift in the last few years, which amounts to a recognition of what it calls the reality of Israel, is virtually unknown; and that Israel is sworn to the destruction of Palestine is unspeakable.
There is a pioneering study by Glasgow University on the reporting of Palestine. They interviewed young people who watch TV news in Britain. More than 90 percent thought the illegal settlers were Palestinian. The more they watched, the less they knew-Danny Schecter’s famous phrase.
The current most dangerous silence is over nuclear weapons and the return of the Cold War. The Russians understand clearly that the so-called American defense shield in Eastern Europe is designed to subjugate and humiliate them. Yet the front pages here talk about Putin starting a new Cold War, and there is silence about the development of an entirely new American nuclear system called Reliable Weapons Replacement (RRW), which is designed to blur the distinction between conventional war and nuclear war-a long-held ambition.
In the meantime, Iran is being softened up, with the liberal media playing almost the same role it played before the Iraq invasion. And as for the Democrats, look at how Barak Obama has become the voice of the Council on Foreign Relations, one of the propaganda organs of the old liberal Washington establishment. Obama writes that while he wants the troops home, “We must not rule out military force against long-standing adversaries such as Iran and Syria.” Listen to this from the liberal Obama: “At moment of great peril in the past century our leaders ensured that America, by deed and by example, led and lifted the world, that we stood and fought for the freedom sought by billions of people beyond their borders.”
That is the nub of the propaganda, the brainwashing if you like, that seeps into the lives of every American, and many of us who are not Americans. From right to left, secular to God-fearing, what so few people know is that in the last half century, United States adminstrations have overthrown 50 governments-many of them democracies. In the process, thirty countries have been attacked and bombed, with the loss of countless lives. Bush bashing is all very well-and is justified-but the moment we begin to accept the siren call of the Democrat’s drivel about standing up and fighting for freedom sought by billions, the battle for history is lost, and we ourselves are silenced.
So what should we do? That question often asked in meetings I have addressed, even meetings as informed as those in this conference, is itself interesting. It’s my experience that people in the so-called third world rarely ask the question, because they know what to do. And some have paid with their freedom and their lives, but they knew what to do. It’s a question that many on the democratic left-small “d”-have yet to answer.
Real information, subversive information, remains the most potent power of all-and I believe that we must not fall into the trap of believing that the media speaks for the public. That wasn’t true in Stalinist Czechoslovakia and it isn’t true of the United States.
In all the years I’ve been a journalist, I’ve never know public consciousness to have risen as fast as it’s rising today. Yes, its direction and shape is unclear, partly because people are now deeply suspicious of political alternatives, and because the Democratic Party has succeeded in seducing and dividing the electoral left. And yet this growing critical public awareness is all the more remarkable when you consider the sheer scale of indoctrination, the mythology of a superior way of life, and the current manufactured state of fear.
Why did the New York Times come clean in that editorial last year? Not because it opposes Bush’s wars-look at the coverage of Iran. That editorial was a rare acknowledgement that the public was beginning to see the concealed role of the media, and that people were beginning to read between the lines.
If Iran is attacked, the reaction and the upheaval cannot be predicted. The national security and homeland security presidential directive gives Bush power over all facets of government in an emergency. It is not unlikely the constitution will be suspended-the laws to round of hundreds of thousands of so-called terrorists and enemy combatants are already on the books. I believe that these dangers are understood by the public, who have come along way since 9-11, and a long way since the propaganda that linked Saddam Hussein to al-Qaeda. That’s why they voted for the Democrats last November, only to be betrayed. But they need truth, and journalists ought to be agents of truth, not the courtiers of power.
I believe a fifth estate is possible, the product of a people’s movement, that monitors, deconstructs, and counters the corporate media. In every university, in every media college, in every news room, teachers of journalism, journalists themselves need to ask themselves about the part they now play in the bloodshed in the name of a bogus objectivity. Such a movement within the media could herald a perestroika of a kind that we have never known. This is all possible. Silences can be broken. In Britain the National Union of Journalists has undergone a radical change, and has called for a boycott of Israel. The web site Medialens.org has single-handedly called the BBC to account. In the United States wonderfully free rebellious spirits populate the web-I can’t mention them all here-from Tom Feeley’s International Clearing House, to Mike Albert’s ZNet, to Counterpunch online, and the splendid work of FAIR. The best reporting of Iraq appears on the web-Dahr Jamail’s courageous journalism; and citizen reporters like Joe Wilding, who reported the siege of Fallujah from inside the city.
In Venezuela, Greg Wilpert’s investigations turned back much of the virulent propaganda now aimed at Hugo Chávez. Make no mistake, it’s the threat of freedom of speech for the majority in Venezuela that lies behind the campaign in the west on behalf of the corrupt RCTV. The challenge for the rest of us is to lift this subjugated knowledge from out of the underground and take it to ordinary people.
We need to make haste. Liberal Democracy is moving toward a form of corporate dictatorship. This is an historic shift, and the media must not be allowed to be its façade, but itself made into a popular, burning issue, and subjected to direct action. That great whistleblower Tom Paine warned that if the majority of the people were denied the truth and the ideas of truth, it was time to storm what he called the Bastille of words. That time is now.
© 2007 John Pilger
Bush War Adviser Says Draft Worth a Look
The Associated Press
Friday 10 August 2007
Washington - Frequent tours for U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan have stressed the all-volunteer force and made it worth considering a return to a military draft, President Bush's new war adviser said Friday.
"I think it makes sense to certainly consider it," Army Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute said in an interview with National Public Radio's "All Things Considered."
"And I can tell you, this has always been an option on the table. But ultimately, this is a policy matter between meeting the demands for the nation's security by one means or another," Lute added in his first interview since he was confirmed by the Senate in June.
President Nixon abolished the draft in 1973. Restoring it, Lute said, would be a "major policy shift" and Bush has made it clear that he doesn't think it's necessary.
"The president's position is that the all volunteer military meets the needs of the country and there is no discussion of a draft. General Lute made that point as well," National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.
In the interview, Lute also said that "Today, the current means of the all-volunteer force is serving us exceptionally well."
Still, he said the repeated deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan affect not only the troops but their families, who can influence whether a service member decides to stay in the military.
"There's both a personal dimension of this, where this kind of stress plays out across dinner tables and in living room conversations within these families," he said. "And ultimately, the health of the all-volunteer force is going to rest on those sorts of personal family decisions."
The military conducted a draft during the Civil War and both world wars and between 1948 and 1973. The Selective Service System, re- established in 1980, maintains a registry of 18-year-old men.
Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., has called for reinstating the draft as a way to end the Iraq war.
Bush picked Lute in mid-May as a deputy national security adviser with responsibility for ensuring efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan are coordinated with policymakers in Washington. Lute, an active-duty general, was chosen after several retired generals turned down the job.
China threatens 'nuclear option' of dollar sales
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
The Chinese government has begun a concerted campaign of economic threats against the United States, hinting that it may liquidate its vast holding of US treasuries if Washington imposes trade sanctions to force a yuan revaluation.
Two officials at leading Communist Party bodies have given interviews in recent days warning - for the first time - that Beijing may use its $1.33 trillion (£658bn) of foreign reserves as a political weapon to counter pressure from the US Congress.
Shifts in Chinese policy are often announced through key think tanks and academies.
Described as China's "nuclear option" in the state media, such action could trigger a dollar crash at a time when the US currency is already breaking down through historic support levels.
It would also cause a spike in US bond yields, hammering the US housing market and perhaps tipping the economy into recession. It is estimated that China holds over $900bn in a mix of US bonds.
Xia Bin, finance chief at the Development Research Centre (which has cabinet rank), kicked off what now appears to be government policy with a comment last week that Beijing's foreign reserves should be used as a "bargaining chip" in talks with the US.
"Of course, China doesn't want any undesirable phenomenon in the global financial order," he added.
He Fan, an official at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, went even further today, letting it be known that Beijing had the power to set off a dollar collapse if it choose to do so.
"China has accumulated a large sum of US dollars. Such a big sum, of which a considerable portion is in US treasury bonds, contributes a great deal to maintaining the position of the dollar as a reserve currency. Russia, Switzerland, and several other countries have reduced the their dollar holdings.
"China is unlikely to follow suit as long as the yuan's exchange rate is stable against the dollar. The Chinese central bank will be forced to sell dollars once the yuan appreciated dramatically, which might lead to a mass depreciation of the dollar," he told China Daily.
The threats play into the presidential electoral campaign of Hillary Clinton, who has called for restrictive legislation to prevent America being "held hostage to economic decicions being made in Beijing, Shanghai, or Tokyo".
She said foreign control over 44pc of the US national debt had left America acutely vulnerable.
Simon Derrick, a currency strategist at the Bank of New York Mellon, said the comments were a message to the US Senate as Capitol Hill prepares legislation for the Autumn session.
"The words are alarming and unambiguous. This carries a clear political threat and could have very serious consequences at a time when the credit markets are already afraid of contagion from the subprime troubles," he said.
A bill drafted by a group of US senators, and backed by the Senate Finance Committee, calls for trade tariffs against Chinese goods as retaliation for alleged currency manipulation.
The yuan has appreciated 9pc against the dollar over the last two years under a crawling peg but it has failed to halt the rise of China's trade surplus, which reached $26.9bn in June.
Henry Paulson, the US Tresury Secretary, said any such sanctions would undermine American authority and "could trigger a global cycle of protectionist legislation".
Mr Paulson is a China expert from his days as head of Goldman Sachs. He has opted for a softer form of diplomacy, but appeared to win few concession from Beijing on a unscheduled trip to China last week aimed at calming the waters.
German journalists face prosecution over rendition documents
By Anne Penketh, Diplomatic Editor
Published: 09 August 2007
Seventeen German journalists from leading national publications are being investigated for having quoted from classified documents in covering the "rendition" of terror suspects.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an independent organisation which is based in New York, has expressed its concern that the reporters were being targeted.
The investigation, launched after the head of a parliamentary investigating committee complained about leaks to the press, also concerns several members of parliament.
"We are deeply worried about the criminal proceedings launched against our German colleagues and call on state prosecutors to drop the probe immediately," said the CPJ head, Joel Simon. "With respect to the sensitivity of the information published, whoever leaked the classified documents should be investigated, not the journalists. It is their duty to publish matters of public interest. They should not be criminally charged for doing their job."
At the root of the complaint is alleged German government complicity in CIA-run prisoner flights to countries where detainees were alleged to have been tortured. The CIA flights had stopovers in Germany.
The parliamentary panel is also looking into the alleged involvement of the German foreign intelligence service BND with the CIA at the start of the Iraq war. The remit also includes investigating the kidnapping and rendition of Khalid el-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese origin, and the detention at Guantanamo Bay of a German-born Turkish citizen Murat Kurnaz.
The journalists under investigation for breach of secrecy include reporters for Der Spiegel, the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Die Zeit and Die Welt. The editor-in-chief of Der Spiegel, Stefan Aust, who is under investigation with four of the weekly magazine's reporters, called the inquiry an attack on press freedom.
German prosecutors confirmed the criminal investigation after the ARD television network broke the story last Friday.
A Free Democrat deputy, Max Stadler, accused the parliamentary panel of "going over the top" by complaining about the journalists who had "a duty to inform the public".
The inquiry was launched after the head of the parliamentary investigating committee, Siegfried Kauder, told ARD: "You could read more from the classified documents in the press than what was available to the committee."
Iran - Iraq pipeline deal to flow through
China National News
Saturday 11th August, 2007
Iran and Iraq will sign a deal next week to build an oil pipeline to transfer crude from southern Iraqi oilfields to refineries in Iran.
Iraq announced in May it had agreed to begin discussions with Iran over the pipeline that will carry 200,000 barrels of Iraqi crude to Iran per day.
Iraqi oil minister Hussain Al Shahristani will visit Tehran in coming days to sign the contracts.
Iran ready to help Iraqimprove security situation
Tehran Times Political Desk
TEHRAN-- Iran is prepared to contribute to Iraq's reconstruction program and to assist in efforts to improve the security situation, Iranian First Vice President Parviz Davudi said in Baghdad on Wednesday.
At a meeting between Davudi and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, senior Iranian and Iraqi officials stressed the need to use all available means to promote bilateral cooperation and the expansion of ties and to remove obstacles.
The officials also called for speedy implementation of the bilateral agreements signed during Davudiï¿½s trip to Iraq.
Davudi and al-Maliki stated that Tehran and Baghdad seek to enhance cooperation in the industrial, energy, commerce, trade, and economic spheres.
Davudi said that Iran has always sought to help restore security in Iraq because a secure Iraq benefits Iran and the entire region.
Elsewhere in his remarks, Davudi called for foreign troops to withdraw from Iraq.
ï¿½The Iraqi people and youth, through hard work, high morale, and strong motivation, can prepare the ground for the withdrawal of the occupiers from their homeland and guarantee security in the country,ï¿½ Davudi observed.
He pointed out that Iranian technicians and entrepreneurs are prepared to participate in the construction of refineries and hospitals and the implementation of petrochemical, water, sewage treatment, power, telecommunications, and scientific projects in Iraq.
Al-Maliki said that Iraq wants to make use of Iranï¿½s experiences in many areas, including power transmission, oil derivative swaps, and power plant construction.
He also expressed hope that Iranian companies would invest in and contribute to the implementation of development and infrastructure projects in Iraq
US Hegemony Spawns Russian-Chinese Military Alliance
by Paul Craig Roberts
This week the Russian and Chinese militaries are conducting a joint military exercise involving large numbers of troops and combat vehicles. The former Soviet Republics of Tajikistan, Kyrgkyzstan, and Kazakstan are participating. Other countries appear ready to join the military alliance.
This new potent military alliance is a real world response to neoconservative delusions about US hegemony. Neocons believe that the US is supreme in the world and can dictate its course. The neoconservative idiots have actually written papers, read by Russians and Chinese, about why the US must use its military superiority to assert hegemony over Russia and China.
Cynics believe that the neocons are just shills, like Bush and Cheney, for the military-security complex and are paid to restart the cold war for the sake of the profits of the armaments industry. But the fact is that the neocons actually believe their delusions about American hegemony.
Russia and China have now witnessed enough of the Bush administration's unprovoked aggression in the world to take neocon intentions seriously. As the US has proven that it cannot occupy the Iraqi city of Baghdad despite 5 years of efforts, it most certainly cannot occupy Russia or China. That means the conflict toward which the neocons are driving will be a nuclear conflict.
In an attempt to gain the advantage in a nuclear conflict, the neocons are positioning US anti-ballistic missiles on Soviet borders in Poland and the Czech Republic. This is an idiotic provocation as the Russians can eliminate anti-ballistic missiles with cruise missiles. Neocons are people who desire war, but know nothing about it. Thus, the US failures in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Reagan and Gorbachev ended the cold war. However, US administrations after Reagan's have broken the agreements and understandings. The US gratuitously brought NATO and anti-ballistic missiles to Russia's borders. The Bush regime has initiated a propaganda war against the Russian government of Vladimir Putin.
These are gratuitous acts of aggression. Both the Russian and Chinese governments are trying to devote resources to their economic development, not to their militaries. Yet, both are being forced by America's aggressive posture to revamp their militaries.
Americans need to understand what the neocon Bush regime cannot: a nuclear exchange between the US, Russia, and China would establish the hegemony of the cockroach.
In a mere 6.5 years the Bush regime has destroyed the world's good will toward the US. Today, America's influence in the world is limited to its payments of tens of millions of dollars to bribed heads of foreign governments, such as Egypt's and Pakistan's. The Bush regime even thinks that as it has bought and paid for Musharraf, he will stand aside and permit Bush to make air strikes inside Pakistan. Is Bush blind to the danger that he will cause an Islamic revolution within Pakistan that will depose the US puppet and present the Middle East with an Islamic state armed with nuclear weapons?
Considering the instabilities and dangers that abound, the aggressive posture of the Bush regime goes far beyond recklessness. The Bush regime is the most irresponsibly aggressive regime the world has seen since Hitler's.
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