2007-05-29

Report from Donna Mulhearn on the Pine Gap Trial

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by Neil Godfrey

Dear friends

Tuesday: Today the trial proceedings finally began (after a colourful procession to court with banners and singing) with some house-keeping, including an attempt by the Crown Prosecutor, Mr Hilton Dembo, to place us under house arrest!

Needless to say we argued back – and we won! He also argued that we not be permitted to be anywhere within 2kms within Pine Gap, (meaning we could not attend our planned demonstrations there on the weekend). We argued back that we had a right to political protest, and we won!

The only other piece of colour today in the usually serious courtroom came from the judge and crown prosecutor. The sun-tanned, silver-haired, gowned and wigged Mr Dembo who a few months ago declared: “what is civil disobedience anyway?” is starting to fit well into a caricature of a bombastic, cranky prosecutor.

He requested that a Australian Federal Police officer be seated next to him at the bar table when the trial begins so that he could assist with exhibits. And, he added: “to be a buffer between myself and the defendants….not that I am scared of them…”

Without missing a beat, the usually poker-faced judge, Justice Sally Thomas commented:

“Perhaps they should be scared of you!”

Meanwhile today, successful solidarity events were held all over Australia to mark the start of the trial. Thank you everyone for your support and thoughts and prayers – we are off to a great start!

Tomorrow we have jury selection at 10am, and after that the prosecution opens its case and the trial proper begins.

Here’s how the media reported today’s events:

http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,21815635-1702,00.html

http://www.smh.com.au/news/National/Pine-Gap-protesters-gather-in-Brisbane/2007/05/29/1180205216633.html

http://www.melbourne.indymedia.org/news/2007/05/145591.php

http://sydney.indymedia.org.au/node/51062

Have a listen to late night live with Philip Adams on Radio National on Wednesday night

And this analysis from Crikey.com yesterday:

15. Pine Gap protestors facing the long, cold arm of the law

Greg Barns writes:

Tomorrow, in the Northern Territory Supreme Court, Pine Gap military base protesters go on trial. Nothing unusual in that — the US Australian military facility has long been a focal point for discontent, and the Alice Springs courts regularly process defendants charged with trespass, assault and other petty crime charges. And nearly all of these cases are dealt with a slap on the wrist for the protestors, or at worst, a fine.

But Bryan Law, Donna Mulhearn, Adele Goldie, and James Dowling, who are appearing in the Alice Springs court tomorrow, fac e jail terms because on 9 December, 2005, they managed to gain access to Pine Gap by cutting a fence, climbing onto the roof of a building and taking photographs of the facility.

This quartet of activists self-described as “Christian Pacificists” say they wanted to conduct a citizens’ inspection of Pine Gap. They, like many Australians, are opposed to the war in Iraq, and believe that Australian participation in the Iraq war has made this country more vulnerable to a terrorist attack.

But their short and harmless foray into the Pine Gap has been taken very seriously by the Howard Government and its law enforcement agencies. No easy ride through the Alice Springs Magistrates Court for this lot. Instead, the Commonwealth ha s dusted off a 1952 law, passed by the Menzies government at the height of the Cold War, and called the Defence Powers (Special Undertakings) Act 1952. Breach this Act and you can face jail terms of up to seven years.

This is the law which allowed the Menzies government to keep from public view vast tracts of South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory where nuclear tests, including the infamous Maralinga tests, were carried out. It hasn’t been used by the Commonwealth for years. In fact, according to some academic reports, this is the first time anyone has been prosecuted under this law — a remarkable fact given it has been around for 55 years and there have been literally hundreds of Pine Gap protests.

But then, Philip Rud dock is the most aggressive attorney-general this country has seen in years. As he showed when he was immigration minister, he’s prepared to use the full legislative arsenal at his disposal to enforce government policy, even if the law in question is obscure and of questionable validity in this day and age.

The importance of this case in the context of a civil liberties and human rights is evidenced by the fact that high-profile Melbourne barrister and former Federal Court judge Ron Merkel is heading the legal team for the activists.

Many Australians might not agree with direct action protest of the type undertaken by these four activists, but there’s a larger issue in this case. Should governments be using draconian Cold War laws on the citizenry of Australia almost 20 years after the Berlin Wall came down?

More news and pics soon!

We’re excited!

from

pilgrim Donna


2007-05-24

The rises and falls of the religious right: Spong on Falwell

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by Neil Godfrey

Spong discusses Jerry Falwell’s place in the history of America’s religious right; and “optimistically” sees the beginning of the decline of Bush administration’s popularity and the influence of the religious right to the Terry Schiavo scandal. Continue reading “The rises and falls of the religious right: Spong on Falwell”


2007-05-19

Spiderman 3 — an amateur social and political critique

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by Neil Godfrey

Even when I do get out to see the odd movie I still see politics on the screen. For the hell of it I decided to see Spiderman 3 for total escape but even with this one I could not escape the political. What an updated commentary on “The Current Political State of America” this movie is! — well at least in my eyes.

It went out of its way to show how the good guy in red, (a little) white and blue could become bad and like his enemies, and needed to keep himself in check (with church redemption of course) — and how even the worst enemies have human motivations and hearts and need forgiveness. What else could have echoed more loudly so much of the liberal anti-neocon popular mood against the warmongering of the Bush admin since 9/11.

But it was still oh so puerile in its manichaean view of evil. It was still showing “evil” as some alien cosmic force that is antithetical to people, something abstract and absolute out there that people “choose” bla blah bs bs bs.

Near the dramatic end Spiderman flashed across a huge screen-size American flag that came out of nowhere — a clip that sort of helped me think I was thinking on the right track about it with all my political perspective after all.

America is singular in being an advanced industrial nation that still collectively projects a medieval sense of morality. There appears to be no grasp of evil as something possibly complex and human. If they think you’re evil you have to die, simple as that! Except Spiderman was showing them a better way — damn liberals. But too many cars rolling around and getting smashed, too much metal clashing, too much animation for my taste after 3 minutes. I’m old fashioned and like my actors to do more than spend most of their time swinging against a blue screen — I want my politics undiluted, maybe.

Back to the movie. It was a sort of “every individual can make a difference” type of fantasy. Identify with the nerdy hopeless Spiderman who is just like those old western heroes, a Jimmy Stewart type, looks completely hopeless till pushed too far then goes in and suddenly puts an end to their mockery and shoots them all dead. Except Spiderman is still knocked as a nerd when he returns to his “out of uniform” normal self (except when he becomes bad — the only real antidote to nerdiness?) . An interesting mutation on the old westerns.

I really know squat about movies. I’m making all this up of course. But the girl in the movie? She’s jsut a symbol of freedom and democracy, the frail beauty who is under threat. No superhero can just go out and fight evil for the hell of it. He has to be fighting the monster men to rescue her. And of course he rescues her and wins her love.

But talking of the girl, oh how very puritanically American this movie was! The only time there is any sexual attraction and desire expressed is when Spiderman was consumed by cosmic evil for a while. And that tinge of sexuality was coupled with bad-man violence. Interesting association, I thought. As a friend commented, “So cosmic evil equates with lust?” Yup, guess so, just like in the Bible. One is never quite sure if sexual sin is ranked way higher than any form of violence there too.

Almost forgot. How tediously unimaginative that the moment of Spiderman’s redemption from the power of evil had to happen in a damned church! I guess it can’t be any other way if one sees “good” and “bad” as cosmic or alien forces that people have to struggle over, and not as something more basically inherent in our socio-biological and psychological makeup.

Well, we must be grateful for small steps, and I can’t deny it was nice to see a violent movie showing its hero demonstrating some meaure of understanding and forgiveness for his, … ‘alter ego’?


2007-04-26

Gallipoli and the Armenian Genocide

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by Neil Godfrey

ABC’s RN had the good sense to play a repeat of a Hindsight program on Anzac Day — a lecture by Robert Manne disussing the direct link between Gallipoli and the Armenian Genocide. It’s talks like these that remind me why I’m an internationalist, not a nationalist.

No transcript or podcast of the talk, but in the same month as the original broadcast Manne had an article based on the talk published in The Monthly.

Continue reading “Gallipoli and the Armenian Genocide”


2007-04-25

Why I always have misgivings every ANZAC Day

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by Neil Godfrey

My childhood memories of school Anzac services are still very strong. I have never forgotten the grim tones of dark-suited men standing beside canon and soldier-statues in the park opposite our school warn us of the horrors of war. Their message was “Lest We Forget” but what was not to be forgotten was the horror of the battles that had brought us together that day.

It is not the same today. Or maybe my childhood experience or memory was limited. Today the government invests huge budgets in funding Anzac memorial services. The message is “Lest We Forget” but there has been a slight detour of direction. Today we are admonished never to forget the sacrifices that bought us our freedoms. Today, the message is that war is a necessary sacrifice to maintain our freedoms. In this way Anzac Day is used to justify with political spin the government’s current wars.

Anzac Day is being used to perpetuate and even increase national lies. No-one died at Gallipoli to protect our freedoms. No-one died in Vietnam to protect our way of life either. Wars have mostly been part of imperial ventures, not desperate acts to save our nation.

Is this also why there is so much emphasis now on “character”, “mateship”, “heroism”? Is this focus meant to ameliorate the horror of the reality? To justify war as an everpresent necessary act of government policy?

I can’t think of a better time than Anzac Day to ask Why our governments sent anyone to their murderous deaths and maimings. That, of course, would be sacriligious in today’s climate. But it would also surely do a lot more for reminding the nation to put a break on their government’s war policies whitewashed by their political spin.

Beside the wreaths and medals on the monuments, let’s start to place images of severed limbs and heads with their brains and eyesockets falling out and bring out for “show” some living victims from the less public institutions. “Lest We Forget”.


2007-04-19

Big Brother News tells us Europe meets U.S. on the Missile Shield

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by Neil Godfrey

Duh . . . so Big Brother News Voice says Europe has now agreed to allow US to build a missile shield around much (not all) of that continent, to guard against the threat, of course, of ‘rogue states’ like Iran. (For ‘rogue state’ read state who does not submit to the will and whim of the U.S. and who has yet to pay the price for daring oppose the Boss of the Whole World back in President Jimmy Carter days.)

And why would European states now at this time finally agree to go along with the Missile Shield? Why no threat perceived before now? Well, one does wonder about how the U.S. usually goes about getting support for its projects — economic bribes and threats. So that’s why News reports sound so Orwellian — they make it sound like Europe has now seen ‘eye to eye’ with the U.S. More likely, as common sense and experience would tell us, they now see more clearly and in focus nice fresh American dollars.

And a Missile Shield for “defence”? So what wasn’t needed to defend againt the Soviet Union is now needed to defend against Iran who doesn’t even have a nuclear missile?

The threat of guaranteed total annihilation in retaliation for any nuclear strike is not enough?? This sort of fear-mongering is all from the same Monty Python cloth as Saddam threatening to launch missiles on the U.S. mainland!

Of course to any rational person the intent of the Missile Shield is clear. It is to position the U.S. to be able to threaten and attack any country without substantially reduced risk of their target being able to retaliate in any way at all. But you don’t get rational or two-sided reporting on the News bytes.


2007-04-18

The US can now be proud of Iraq

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by Neil Godfrey

America has without question successfully exported their way of life to the Emerald City in the Middle East, Baghdad, enjoying as it does the equivalent of 2 Virginia Techs every day!


2007-04-17

Faith based empire

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by Neil Godfrey

Amazing. Conquer a country and then select the loyal and the willing, the politically correct, often the youth with no experience, to run the country, flick off with scorn anyone with real knowledge or skills relevant to the country, — then set up your new ruling body in a sealed off area that is a little america, where once a year they have a cultural evening of entertainment to show what the culture is like on the outside — that’s how Rajiv Chandrasekaran discovered the US has misruled Iraq from the “green zone” in Baghdad! He discussed his experiences in “Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Baghdad’s Green Zone” (2007). Haven’t read it, but listened to a lengthy interview with him on Late Night Live last night.

Among the highlights:

A young man less than a year out of college with no experience in the stock market was put in charge of getting Iraq’s stock exchange up and running again. Result: he had it shut down for a year despite many locals willing and able to get it going immediately.

At the time of massive unemployment Bremer’s first task as he saw it was not to create jobs but to sit down and re-write the TAX laws.

Americans are so fearful of being poisoned that they import all their food into the Green Zone from outside Iraq. This includes pork and ham which of course is offensive to local Muslim workers in that zone.

Many employees in the Green Zone demonstrate not the slightest interest in life or the country outside concrete walls of the Green Zone.

But one thing not in the book, the comment on the recent bombing inside the Iraqi parliament — now that could well be a turninng point, as the bombing of the Shia mosque was that triggered the sectarian war. Without the most basic security able to be given the (supposed) rulers . . . .

And despite all the hype at the time on how hard it would have been to get past the security to blow themselves up, Rajiv explained it was not difficult at all. The only places where one goes through endless security checks is the entries to American areas. The parliament was being guarded by Iraqis with minimal checks.


2007-04-16

America Right or Wrong / Anatol Lieven

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by Neil Godfrey

Not sure if this series of posts is going to turn out to be more review or just notes and commentary on Anatol Lieven’s book, America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism (2004).

“This book seeks to help explain why a country which after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, had the chance to create a concert of all the world’s major states — including Muslim ones — against Islamist revolutionary terrorism chose instead to pursue policies which divided the West, further alienated the Muslim world and exposed America itself to greatly increased danger. The most important reason why this has occurred is the character of American nationalism, which in this book I analyze as a complex, multifaceted set of elements in the nation’s political culture.” (p.2)

Lieven compares America’s nationalist popular bellicosity and foreign policy stance to that of the great imperial powers of the nineteenth century — Germany, Britain, Russia — and observes that it is the European countries who tasted the fruits of that sort of belligerent nationalism in World Wars 1 and 2 who today look down on America’s belated attempt to continue that same path.

Lieven notes the irony of American isolationism, too. It is not something that predictably pulls America inward and avoiding any involvement with the outside world, but manifests itself as a sense of being alone, the light on the hill, the misunderstood white knight, who unilaterally involves itself with other nations. It is her isolationist stance that prevents her from understanding and truly effectively engaging with the world except in ways that only ‘blowback’ the consequences of scorn and contempt.

But one difference between America’s position and that of the Europeans of the 19th century: America’s population does not have the motivation to expend the vast amounts of energy required to maintain their empire. Many even deny that it is an empire that they rule. They fail to see that though they may not always rule as directly as did the British in India, they surely do rule in a manner that is little different from the way the Dutch in the 17th and 18th centuries ruled the East Indies — indirectly.

to be continued of course….


2007-04-15

Why the misconceptions about Al-Qaeda?

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by Neil Godfrey

Continuation of notes from Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror by Jason Burke.

Why do the misconceptions about Al-Qaeda persist?

Reason 1: It is convenient and reassuring to think of al-Qaeda as a traditional terrorist group. It promises an sure victory once the organization is defeated.

Reason 2: Repressive governments can avoid international criticism by labelling their opponents as having links with al-Qaeda. Jason Burke notes that in the autumn of 2001 previously undetected al-Qaeda cells were “discovered” in scores of countries:

  • Uzbekistan (Tashenk suddenly branded U’s local Islamic Movement as ‘al-Qaeda’)
  • China (the longstanding independence movement among the Uighar Moslems was branded an ‘al-Qaeda’ branch)
  • Thailand (bomb blasts in the south of Thailand by groups for many years in turf war between police and military over smuggling and racketing, and in which local Islamic gropus were sometimes involved, were now blamed on ‘al-Qaeda’)
  • Macedonia (8 illegal economic immigrants shot dead at a border were accused of being ‘al-Qaeda’)
  • Tunisia (left-wing opponents of the Tunisian government were re-labelled as ‘al-Qaeda’)
  • Philippines (The Abu Sayyaf group, a local independence movement many decades old, that has largely abandoned militant Islam in preference for crime, especially kidnapping western tourists, has been branded ‘al-Qaeda’)
  • Kashmir (As tensions mount between Pakistan and India over Kashmir claims of bin-Laden hiding there always arise.)

Reason 3: “Intelligence services lie, cheat and deceive. Propaganda is one of their primary functions.” (p.19) — e.g. the British intelligence dossier of 4 October 2001 claimed substantial bin-Laden links with the drug trade. Fact: everyone involved in the drug trade from Pakistan and Afghanistan and elsewhere, including UN experts monitoring drugs production, deny bin-Laden’s involvement. The lie was akin to propaganda about German atrocities in World War 1. Similar false stories circulated about Saddam’s links with al-Qaeda.

Reason 4: The media knows what sells. Ironically information from security services is widely seen as having greater veracity and is exempt from normal journalistic scrutiny. A story containing bin-Laden will sell easily.

Reason 5: Bin Laden is happy to encourage myths about his power. He rarely confirms or denies his involement in any operation.

“Myth breeds more myth” (p.21)

I would add another here — that a few groups may well want to proclaim a link with al-Qaeda to provoke more fear than their real clout warrants. Such may be the case of the group claiming responsibility for recent bombing in Algeria (if indeed they did claim this and that news was not concocted by the Algerian government).


Part 6 of “Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror”

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by Neil Godfrey

Continuation of notes from Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror by Jason Burke.

3rd element: the idea, the worldview, ideology of ‘al-Qaeda’ and those who subscribe to it.

Bin Laden does not have power to issue orders that are instantly obeyed.

Bin Laden does not kidnap young men and brainwash them. People voluntarily travelled to the Afghan ‘al-Qaeda’ run military and terrorist training camps (1996-2001) and none was kept there against their will.

Bin Laden’s associates spent much of their time selecting which of the myriad requests for assistance they would grant. These requests were for help with bombings, assassinations and murder on large scale. (Burke, p.17)

These people share the same worldview as bin Laden and the ‘al-Qaeda hardcore’. They may or may not belong to any radical group. What unites them is the ‘way of thinking about the world, a way of understanding events, of interpreting and behaving’. (p.17)


2007-04-12

Questions to be answered re the strange Brit captivity in Iran

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by Neil Godfrey

“This week Bea ruminates upon the latest Iran hostage crisis and wonders why these British sailors were so vulnerable to capture in the first place and why the Ministry of Defence made the extraordinary decision to allow them to sell their stories?”

check out late night live 11 april 2007


America’s plans for Baghdad

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by Neil Godfrey

This was originally planned to be my main blog but it is too painful by half to maintain the way I once intended. Just to hear the news brings pain. But it is the most important one in intent so must get back to it somehow.

Meanwhile, do have a look at Robert Fisk’s latest. And keep in touch with http://informationclearinghouse.info

We did what we could in the streets back in 2002 and 2003/4 to stop all this shit but I can’t believe our warnings of what would be the consequences of US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq were so underestimated. Well, we got it pretty right with Afghanistan (we warned women would not be better off, that the drug trade and warlords would return, and that we’d have to settle in for a long long very long war just like the Russians and the Brits before us) — but who could have foreseen that Iraq would descend to worse than a war for liberation (or civil war if that’s what you were predicting). Trust old Negraponte from his days as ambassador to Honduras to be given just a few months in Baghdad to see the same rival killings in his wake, only on a worse scale. — How encouraging to see Shias and Sunnis come together on the 4th anniversary of the American invasion to demand the liberation of their country! How “surprise surprise” to see not a hint in Washington that it even was the 4th anniversary of the “liberation” (Russian and Nazi style) of Iraq.


2007-04-05

Easter Bunny Must Die to Save the Soul of Oz

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by Neil Godfrey

must die to save

Once again farmer and conservationist lobbies are coming together to try to persuade Australians to scapegoat the easter bunny and worship, buy and eat instead our endangered bilby in its place. The bilby represents, I suspect, a deeply hidden part of the Aussie psyche — what we like to think of as our “unique character”. Not inappropriate, given the possible scapegoat origins of the Christ-myth.

After all, the rabbit is an unwelcome foreigner import that undermines and destroys the livelihood of the “good” foreigners we have brought in — sheep, cattle. Not unlike the attitudes towards unwelcome foreign human counterparts who too many of us see as undermining the way of life of us, the “good” white English speaking imports.

And the bilby is obviously the perfect symbol of our national soul — endangered, fragile, in need of drastic measures if it is to survive — and the main enemy is of course that rabbit pest. We once introduced diseases to the aboriginals, gave it to them in blanket and food gifts — just as we carefully handled the rabbits to give them mixemitosis in hopes of eradicating the lot. Didn’t work in either case. Now the aboriginals have been somewhat redeemed as part of our decorative fauna for tourists and image promotion (— let’s not trouble ourselves that their life expectancy is still 17 years less than the whites’).

What a coincidence all this has against a backdrop of a cultural and political war against the unwelcome foreigners, the Asians, especially the Moslem kind. Africans are okay so long as they are expat whites from the Southern parts of that continent or Sudanese who are on the right religious side (catholic) of the war there.

I feel ashamed of “patriotism” when political leaders are able to so easily able to whip up racist fears among so many compatriots and instil in them such a rabid fear that the “unique character” of Australians is under threat. Enter the bilby symbol.

For more on the bilby check out:
http://www.abc.net.au/science/scribblygum/april2006/

For more links scroll down here.

No no, I’m not against conserving the bilby. Just find it of interest the way national attitudes to bigger issues subliminally find expression through our attitude towards animals — like kangaroos, cane toads, cockroaches, sharks, koalas, wallabies, dingoes, brumbies, rabbits and bilbies.

An interesting read is Adrian Franklin’s Animal Nation: the true story of animals and Australia. Not that he discusses the easter bilby, but the message from this sociologist is nonetheless interesting.


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