The Secret Country Again Wages War On Its Own People

by John Pilger

Australia has again declared war on its Indigenous people, reminiscent of the brutality that brought universal condemnation on apartheid South Africa. Aboriginal people are to be driven from homelands where their communities have lived for thousands of years. In Western Australia, where mining companies make billion dollar profits exploiting Aboriginal land, the state government says it can no longer afford to "support" the homelands.

Vulnerable populations, already denied the basic services most Australians take for granted, are on notice of dispossession without consultation, and eviction at gunpoint. Yet again, Aboriginal leaders have warned of "a new generation of displaced people" and "cultural genocide".

Genocide is a word Australians hate to hear. Genocide happens in other countries, not the "lucky" society that per capita is the second richest on earth. When "act of genocide" was used in the 1997 landmark report 'Bringing Them Home', which revealed that thousands of Indigenous children had been stolen from their communities by white institutions and systematically abused, a campaign of denial was launched by a far-right clique around the then prime minister John Howard. It included those who called themselves the Galatians Group, then Quadrant, then the Bennelong Society; the Murdoch press was their voice.

The Stolen Generation was exaggerated, they said, if it had happened at all. Colonial Australia was a benign place; there were no massacres. The First Australians were victims of their own cultural inferiority, or they were noble savages. Suitable euphemisms were deployed.

The government of the current prime minister, Tony Abbott, a conservative zealot, has revived this assault on a people who represent Australia's singular uniqueness. Soon after coming to office, Abbott's government cut $534 million in indigenous social programmes, including $160 million from the indigenous health budget and $13.4 million from indigenous legal aid.

In the 2014 report 'Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage Key Indicators', the devastation is clear. The number of Aboriginal people hospitalised for self-harm has leapt, as have suicides among those as young as eleven. The indicators show a people impoverished, traumatised and abandoned. Read the classic expose of apartheid South Africa, The Discarded People by Cosmas Desmond, who told me he could write a similar account of Australia.

Having insulted indigenous Australians by declaring (at a G20 breakfast for David Cameron) that there was "nothing but bush" before the white man, Abbott announced that his government would no longer honour the longstanding commitment to Aboriginal homelands. He sneered, "It's not the job of the taxpayers to subsidise lifestyle choices."

The weapon used by Abbott and his redneck state and territorial counterparts is dispossession by abuse and propaganda, coercion and blackmail, such as his demand for a 99-year leasehold of Indigenous land in the Northern Territory in return for basic services: a land grab in all but name. The Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, refutes this, claiming "this is about communities and what communities want". In fact, there has been no real consultation, only the co-option of a few.
Both conservative and Labor governments have already withdrawn the national jobs programme, CDEP, from the homelands, ending opportunities for employment, and prohibited investment in infrastructure: housing, generators, sanitation. The saving is peanuts.

The reason is an extreme doctrine that evokes the punitive campaigns of the early 20th century "chief protector of Aborigines", such as the fanatic A.O. Neville who decreed that the first Australians "assimilate" to extinction. Influenced by the same eugenics movement that inspired the Nazis, Queensland's "protection acts" were a model for South African apartheid. Today, the same dogma and racism are threaded through anthropology, politics, the bureaucracy and the media. "We are civilised, they are not," wrote the acclaimed Australian historian Russel Ward two generations ago. The spirit is unchanged.

Having reported on Aboriginal communities since the 1960s, I have watched a seasonal routine whereby the Australian elite interrupts its "normal" mistreatment and neglect of the people of the First Nations, and attacks them outright. This happens when an election approaches, or a prime minister's ratings are low. Kicking the blackfella is deemed popular, although grabbing minerals-rich land by stealth serves a more prosaic purpose. Driving people into the fringe slums of "economic hub towns" satisfies the social engineering urges of racists.

The last frontal attack was in 2007 when Prime Minister Howard sent the army into Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory to "rescue children" who, said his minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mal Brough, were being abused by paedophile gangs in "unthinkable numbers".

Known as "the intervention", the media played a vital role. In 2006, the national TV current affairs programme, the ABC's 'Lateline', broadcast a sensational interview with a man whose face was concealed. Described as a "youth worker" who had lived in the Aboriginal community of Mutitjulu, he made a series of lurid allegations. Subsequently exposed as a senior government official who reported directly to the minister, his claims were discredited by the Australian Crime Commission, the Northern Territory Police and a damning report by child medical specialists. The community received no apology.

The 2007 "intervention" allowed the federal government to destroy many of the vestiges of self-determination in the Northern Territory, the only part of Australia where Aboriginal people had won federally-legislated land rights. Here, they had administered their homelands in ways with the dignity of self-determination and connection to land and culture and, as Amnesty reported, a 40 per cent lower mortality rate.

It is this "traditional life" that is anathema to a parasitic white industry of civil servants, contractors, lawyers and consultants that controls and often profits from Aboriginal Australia, if indirectly through the corporate structures imposed on Indigenous organisations. The homelands are seen as a threat, for they express a communalism at odds with the neo-conservatism that rules Australia. It is as if the enduring existence of a people who have survived and resisted more than two colonial centuries of massacre and theft remains a spectre on white Australia: a reminder of whose land this really is.

The current political attack was launched in the richest state, Western Australia. Last October, the state premier, Colin Barnett, announced that his government could not afford the $90 million budget for basic municipal services to 282 homelands: water, power, sanitation, schools, road maintenance, rubbish collection. It was the equivalent of informing the white suburbs of Perth that their lawn sprinklers would no longer sprinkle and their toilets no longer flush; and they had to move; and if they refused, the police would evict them.

Where would the dispossessed go? Where would they live? In six years, Barnett's government has built few houses for Indigenous people in remote areas. In the Kimberley region, Indigenous homelessness - aside from natural disaster and civil strife - is one of the highest anywhere, in a state renowned for its conspicuous wealth, golf courses and prisons overflowing with impoverished black people. Western Australia jails Aboriginal males at more than eight times the rate of apartheid South Africa. It has one of the highest incarceration rates of juveniles in the world, almost all of them indigenous, including children kept in solitary confinement in adult prisons, with their mothers keeping vigil outside.

In 2013, the former prisons minister, Margaret Quirk, told me that the state was "racking and stacking" Aboriginal prisoners. When I asked what she meant, she said, "It's warehousing."
In March, Barnett changed his story. There was "emerging evidence", he said, "of appalling mistreatment of little kids" in the homelands.  What evidence? Barnett claimed that gonorrhoea had been found in children younger than 14, then conceded he did not know if these were in the homelands. His police commissioner, Karl O'Callaghan, chimed in that child sexual abuse was "rife". He quoted a 15-year-old study by the Australian Institute of Family Studies. What he failed to say was that the report highlighted poverty as the overwhelming cause of "neglect" and that sexual abuse accounted for less than 10 per cent.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, a federal agency, recently released a report on what it calls the "Fatal Burden" of Third World disease and trauma borne by Indigenous people "resulting in almost 100,000 years of life lost due to premature death". This "fatal burden" is the product of extreme poverty imposed in Western Australia, as in the rest of Australia, by the denial of human rights.

In Barnett's vast rich Western Australia, barely a fraction of mining, oil and gas revenue has benefited communities for which his government has a duty of care. In the town of Roeburne, in the midst of the booming minerals-rich Pilbara, 80 per cent of the indigenous children suffer from an ear infection called otitis media that causes deafness.

In 2011, the Barnett government displayed a brutality in the community of Oombulgurri the other homelands can expect. "First, the government closed the services," wrote Tammy Solonec of Amnesty International, "It closed the shop, so people could not buy food and essentials. It closed the clinic, so the sick and the elderly had to move, and the school, so families with children had to leave, or face having their children taken away from them. The police station was the last service to close, then eventually the electricity and water were turned off. Finally, the ten residents who resolutely stayed to the end were forcibly evicted [leaving behind] personal possessions. [Then] the bulldozers rolled into Oombulgurri. The WA government has literally dug a hole and in it buried the rubble of people's homes and personal belongings."

In South Australia, the state and federal governments launched a similar attack on the 60 remote Indigenous communities. South Australia has a long-established Aboriginal Lands Trust, so people were able to defend their rights - up to a point. On 12 April, the federal government offered $15 million over five years. That such a miserly sum is considered enough to fund proper services in the great expanse of the state's homelands is a measure of the value placed on Indigenous lives by white politicians who unhesitatingly spend $28 billion annually on armaments and the military. Haydn Bromley, chair of the Aboriginal Lands Trust told me, "The $15 million doesn't include most of the homelands, and it will only cover bare essentials - power, water. Community development? Infrastructure? Forget it."

The current distraction from these national dirty secrets is the approaching "celebrations" of the centenary of an Edwardian military disaster at Gallipoli in 1915 when 8,709 Australian and 2,779 New Zealand troops - the Anzacs - were sent to their death in a futile assault on a beach in Turkey. In recent years, governments in Canberra have promoted this imperial waste of life as an historical deity to mask the militarism that underpins Australia's role as America's "deputy sheriff" in the Pacific.

In bookshops, "Australian non-fiction" shelves are full of opportunistic tomes about wartime derring-do, heroes and jingoism. Suddenly, Aboriginal people who fought for the white man are fashionable, whereas those who fought against the white man in defence of their own country, Australia, are unfashionable. Indeed, they are officially non-people. The Australian War Memorial refuses to recognise their remarkable resistance to the British invasion. In a country littered with Anzac memorials, not one official memorial stands for the thousands of native Australians who fought and fell defending their homeland.

This is part of the "great Australian silence", as W.E.H. Stanner in 1968 called his lecture in which he described a "cult of forgetfulness on a national scale". He was referring to the Indigenous people. Today, the silence is ubiquitous. In Sydney, the Art Gallery of New South Wales currently has an exhibition, 'The Photograph and Australia', in which the timeline of this ancient country begins, incredibly, with Captain Cook.

The same silence covers another enduring, epic resistance. Extraordinary demonstrations of Indigenous women protesting the removal of their children and grandchildren by he state, some of them at gunpoint, are ignored by journalists and patronised by politicians.  More Indigenous children are being wrenched from their homes and communities today than during the worst years of the Stolen Generation. A record 15,000 are presently detained "in care"; many are given to white families and will never return to their communities.

Last year, the West Australian Police Minister, Liza Harvey, attended a screening in Perth of my film, 'Utopia', which documented the racism and thuggery of police towards black Australians, and the multiple deaths of young Aboriginal men in custody. The minister cried.
On her watch, 50 City of Perth armed police raided an Indigenous homeless camp at Matagarup, and drove off mostly elderly women and young mothers with children. The people in the camp described themselves as "refugees... seeking safety in our own country". They called for the help of the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees.

Australian politicians are nervous of the United Nations. Abbott's response has been abuse. When Professor James Anaya, the UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous People, described the racism of the "intervention", Abbott told him to, "get a life" and "not listen to the old victim brigade".

The planned closure of Indigenous homelands breaches Article 5 of the International Convention for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP). Australia is committed to "provide effective mechanisms for prevention of, and redress for... any action which has the aim of dispossessing [Indigenous people] of their lands, territories or resources". The Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is blunt. "Forced evictions" are against the law.

An international  momentum is building. In 2013, Pope Francis urged the world to act against racism and on behalf of "indigenous people who are increasingly isolated and abandoned". It was South Africa's defiance of such a basic principle of human rights that ignited the international opprobrium and campaign that brought down apartheid. Australia beware.

Why the Rise of Fascism is Again the Issue

by John Pilger
(Originally published 2015.2.26)

The recent 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz was a reminder of the great crime of fascism, whose Nazi iconography is embedded in our consciousness. Fascism is preserved as history, as flickering footage of goose-stepping blackshirts, their criminality terrible and clear. Yet in the same liberal societies, whose war-making elites urge us never to forget, the accelerating danger of a modern kind of fascism is suppressed; for it is their fascism.

"To initiate a war of aggression...," said the Nuremberg Tribunal judges in 1946, "is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."

Had the Nazis not invaded Europe, Auschwitz and the Holocaust would not have happened. Had the United States and its satellites not initiated their war of aggression in Iraq in 2003, almost a million people would be alive today; and Islamic State, or ISIS, would not have us in thrall to its savagery. They are the progeny of modern fascism, weaned by the bombs, bloodbaths and lies that are the surreal theatre known as news.

Like the fascism of the 1930s and 1940s, big lies are delivered with the precision of a metronome: thanks to an omnipresent, repetitive media and its virulent censorship by omission. Take the catastrophe in Libya.

In 2011, Nato launched 9,700 "strike sorties" against Libya, of which more than a third were aimed at civilian targets. Uranium warheads were used; the cities of Misurata and Sirte were carpet-bombed. The Red Cross identified mass graves, and Unicef reported that "most [of the children killed] were under the age of ten".

The public sodomising of the Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi with a "rebel" bayonet was greeted by the then US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, with the words: "We came, we saw, he died." His murder, like the destruction of his country, was justified with a familiar big lie; he was planning "genocide" against his own people. "We knew... that if we waited one more day," said President Obama, "Benghazi, a city the size of Charlotte, could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world."

This was the fabrication of Islamist militias facing defeat by Libyan government forces. They told Reuters there would be "a real bloodbath, a massacre like we saw in Rwanda". Reported on March 14, 2011, the lie provided the first spark for Nato's inferno, described by David Cameron as a "humanitarian intervention".

Secretly supplied and trained by Britain's SAS, many of the "rebels" would become ISIS, whose latest video offering shows the beheading of 21 Coptic Christian workers seized in Sirte, the city destroyed on their behalf by Nato bombers.

For Obama, David Cameron and then French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Gaddafi's true crime was Libya's economic independence and his declared intention to stop selling Africa's greatest oil reserves in US dollars. The petrodollar is a pillar of American imperial power. Gaddafi audaciously planned to underwrite a common African currency backed by gold, establish an all-Africa bank and promote economic union among poor countries with prized resources. Whether or not this would happen, the very notion was intolerable to the US as it prepared to "enter" Africa and bribe African governments with military "partnerships".

Following Nato's attack under cover of a Security Council resolution, Obama, wrote Garikai Chengu, "confiscated $30 billion from Libya's Central Bank, which Gaddafi had earmarked for the establishment of an African Central Bank and the African gold backed dinar currency".

The "humanitarian war" against Libya drew on a model close to western liberal hearts, especially in the media. In 1999, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair sent Nato to bomb Serbia, because, they lied, the Serbs were committing "genocide" against ethnic Albanians in the secessionist province of Kosovo. David Scheffer, US ambassador-at-large for war crimes [sic], claimed that as many as "225,000 ethnic Albanian men aged between 14 and 59" might have been murdered. Both Clinton and Blair evoked the Holocaust and "the spirit of the Second World War". The West's heroic allies were the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), whose criminal record was set aside. The British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, told them to call him any time on his mobile phone.

With the Nato bombing over, and much of Serbia's infrastructure in ruins, along with schools, hospitals, monasteries and the national TV station, international forensic teams descended upon Kosovo to exhume evidence of the "holocaust". The FBI failed to find a single mass grave and went home. The Spanish forensic team did the same, its leader angrily denouncing "a semantic pirouette by the war propaganda machines". A year later, a United Nations tribunal on Yugoslavia announced the final count of the dead in Kosovo: 2,788. This included combatants on both sides and Serbs and Roma murdered by the KLA. There was no genocide. The "holocaust" was a lie. The Nato attack had been fraudulent.

Behind the lie, there was serious purpose. Yugoslavia was a uniquely independent, multi-ethnic federation that had stood as a political and economic bridge in the Cold War. Most of its utilities and major manufacturing was publicly owned. This was not acceptable to the expanding European Community, especially newly united Germany, which had begun a drive east to capture its "natural market" in the Yugoslav provinces of Croatia and Slovenia. By the time the Europeans met at Maastricht in 1991 to lay their plans for the disastrous eurozone, a secret deal had been struck; Germany would recognise Croatia. Yugoslavia was doomed.

In Washington, the US saw that the struggling Yugoslav economy was denied World Bank loans. Nato, then an almost defunct Cold War relic, was reinvented as imperial enforcer. At a 1999 Kosovo "peace" conference in Rambouillet, in France, the Serbs were subjected to the enforcer's duplicitous tactics. The Rambouillet accord included a secret Annex B, which the US delegation inserted on the last day. This demanded the military occupation of the whole of Yugoslavia - a country with bitter memories of the Nazi occupation - and the implementation of a "free-market economy" and the privatisation of all government assets. No sovereign state could sign this. Punishment followed swiftly; Nato bombs fell on a defenceless country. It was the precursor to the catastrophes in Afghanistan and Iraq, Syria and Libya, and Ukraine.

Since 1945, more than a third of the membership of the United Nations - 69 countries - have suffered some or all of the following at the hands of America's modern fascism. They have been invaded, their governments overthrown, their popular movements suppressed, their elections subverted, their people bombed and their economies stripped of all protection, their societies subjected to a crippling siege known as "sanctions". The British historian Mark Curtis estimates the death toll in the millions. In every case, a big lie was deployed.

"Tonight, for the first time since 9/11, our combat mission in Afghanistan is over." These were opening words of Obama's 2015 State of the Union address. In fact, some 10,000 troops and 20,000 military contractors (mercenaries) remain in Afghanistan on indefinite assignment. "The longest war in American history is coming to a responsible conclusion," said Obama. In fact, more civilians were killed in Afghanistan in 2014 than in any year since the UN took records. The majority have been killed - civilians and soldiers - during Obama's time as president.

The tragedy of Afghanistan rivals the epic crime in Indochina. In his lauded and much quoted book 'The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives', Zbigniew Brzezinski, the godfather of US policies from Afghanistan to the present day, writes that if America is to control Eurasia and dominate the world, it cannot sustain a popular democracy, because "the pursuit of power is not a goal that commands popular passion... Democracy is inimical to imperial mobilisation." He is right. As WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden have revealed, a surveillance and police state is usurping democracy. In 1976, Brzezinski, then President Carter's National Security Advisor, demonstrated his point by dealing a death blow to Afghanistan's first and only democracy. Who knows this vital history?

In the 1960s, a popular revolution swept Afghanistan, the poorest country on earth, eventually overthrowing the vestiges of the aristocratic regime in 1978. The People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) formed a government and declared a reform programme that included the abolition of feudalism, freedom for all religions, equal rights for women and social justice for the ethnic minorities. More than 13,000 political prisoners were freed and police files publicly burned.

The new government introduced free medical care for the poorest; peonage was abolished, a mass literacy programme was launched. For women, the gains were unheard of. By the late 1980s, half the university students were women, and women made up almost half of Afghanistan's doctors, a third of civil servants and the majority of teachers. "Every girl," recalled Saira Noorani, a female surgeon, "could go to high school and university. We could go where we wanted and wear what we liked. We used to go to cafes and the cinema to see the latest Indian film on a Friday and listen to the latest music. It all started to go wrong when the mujaheddin started winning. They used to kill teachers and burn schools. We were terrified. It was funny and sad to think these were the people the West supported."

The PDPA government was backed by the Soviet Union, even though, as former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance later admitted, "there was no evidence of any Soviet complicity [in the revolution]". Alarmed by the growing confidence of liberation movements throughout the world, Brzezinski decided that if Afghanistan was to succeed under the PDPA, its independence and progress would offer the "threat of a promising example".

On July 3, 1979, the White House secretly authorised support for tribal "fundamentalist" groups known as the mujaheddin, a program that grew to over $500 million a year in U.S. arms and other assistance. The aim was the overthrow of Afghanistan's first secular, reformist government. In August 1979, the US embassy in Kabul reported that "the United States' larger interests... would be served by the demise of [the PDPA government], despite whatever setbacks this might mean for future social and economic reforms in Afghanistan." The italics are mine.

The mujaheddin were the forebears of al-Qaeda and Islamic State. They included Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who received tens of millions of dollars in cash from the CIA. Hekmatyar's specialty was trafficking in opium and throwing acid in the faces of women who refused to wear the veil. Invited to London, he was lauded by Prime Minister Thatcher as a "freedom fighter".

Such fanatics might have remained in their tribal world had Brzezinski not launched an international movement to promote Islamic fundamentalism in Central Asia and so undermine secular political liberation and "destabilise" the Soviet Union, creating, as he wrote in his autobiography, "a few stirred up Muslims". His grand plan coincided with the ambitions of the Pakistani dictator, General Zia ul-Haq, to dominate the region. In 1986, the CIA and Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI, began to recruit people from around the world to join the Afghan jihad. The Saudi multi-millionaire Osama bin Laden was one of them. Operatives who would eventually join the Taliban and al-Qaeda, were recruited at an Islamic college in Brooklyn, New York, and given paramilitary training at a CIA camp in Virginia. This was called "Operation Cyclone". Its success was celebrated in 1996 when the last PDPA president of Afghanistan, Mohammed Najibullah - who had gone before the UN General Assembly to plead for help - was hanged from a streetlight by the Taliban.

The "blowback" of Operation Cyclone and its "few stirred up Muslims" was September 11, 2001. Operation Cyclone became the "war on terror", in which countless men, women and children would lose their lives across the Muslim world, from Afghanistan to Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and Syria. The enforcer's message was and remains: "You are with us or against us."

The common thread in fascism, past and present, is mass murder. The American invasion of Vietnam had its "free fire zones", "body counts" and "collateral damage". In the province of Quang Ngai, where I reported from, many thousands of civilians ("gooks") were murdered by the US; yet only one massacre, at My Lai, is remembered. In Laos and Cambodia, the greatest aerial bombardment in history produced an epoch of terror marked today by the spectacle of joined-up bomb craters which, from the air, resemble monstrous necklaces. The bombing gave Cambodia its own ISIS, led by Pol Pot.

Today, the world's greatest single campaign of terror entails the execution of entire families, guests at weddings, mourners at funerals. These are Obama's victims. According to the New York Times, Obama makes his selection from a CIA "kill list" presented to him every Tuesday in the White House Situation Room. He then decides, without a shred of legal justification, who will live and who will die. His execution weapon is the Hellfire missile carried by a pilotless aircraft known as a drone; these roast their victims and festoon the area with their remains. Each "hit" is registered on a faraway console screen as a "bugsplat".

"For goose-steppers," wrote the historian Norman Pollack, "substitute the seemingly more innocuous militarisation of the total culture. And for the bombastic leader, we have the reformer manque, blithely at work, planning and executing assassination, smiling all the while."

Uniting fascism old and new is the cult of superiority. "I believe in American exceptionalism with every fibre of my being," said Obama, evoking declarations of national fetishism from the 1930s. As the historian Alfred W. McCoy has pointed out, it was the Hitler devotee, Carl Schmitt, who said, "The sovereign is he who decides the exception." This sums up Americanism, the world's dominant ideology. That it remains unrecognised as a predatory ideology is the achievement of an equally unrecognised brainwashing. Insidious, undeclared, presented wittily as enlightenment on the march, its conceit insinuates western culture. I grew up on a cinematic diet of American glory, almost all of it a distortion. I had no idea that it was the Red Army that had destroyed most of the Nazi war machine, at a cost of as many as 13 million soldiers. By contrast, US losses, including in the Pacific, were 400,000. Hollywood reversed this.

The difference now is that cinema audiences are invited to wring their hands at the "tragedy" of American psychopaths having to kill people in distant places - just as the President himself kills them. The embodiment of Hollywood's violence, the actor and director Clint Eastwood, was nominated for an Oscar this year for his movie, 'American Sniper', which is about a licensed murderer and nutcase. The New York Times described it as a "patriotic, pro-family picture which broke all attendance records in its opening days".

There are no heroic movies about America's embrace of fascism. During the Second World War, America (and Britain) went to war against Greeks who had fought heroically against Nazism and were resisting the rise of Greek fascism. In 1967, the CIA helped bring to power a fascist military junta in Athens - as it did in Brazil and most of Latin America. Germans and east Europeans who had colluded with Nazi aggression and crimes against humanity were given safe haven in the US; many were pampered and their talents rewarded. Wernher von Braun was the "father" of both the Nazi V-2 terror bomb and the US space programme.

In the 1990s, as former Soviet republics, eastern Europe and the Balkans became military outposts of Nato, the heirs to a Nazi movement in Ukraine were given their opportunity. Responsible for the deaths of thousands of Jews, Poles and Russians during the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, Ukrainian fascism was rehabilitated and its "new wave" hailed by the enforcer as "nationalists".

This reached its apogee in 2014 when the Obama administration splashed out $5 billion on a coup against the elected government. The shock troops were neo-Nazis known as the Right Sector and Svoboda. Their leaders include  Oleh Tyahnybok, who has called for a purge of the "Moscow-Jewish mafia" and "other scum", including gays, feminists and those on the political left.

These fascists are now integrated into the Kiev coup government. The first deputy speaker of the Ukrainian parliament, Andriy Parubiy, a leader of the governing party, is co-founder of Svoboda. On February 14, Parubiy announced he was flying to Washington get "the USA to give us highly precise modern weaponry". If he succeeds, it will be seen as an act of war by Russia.

No western leader has spoken up about the revival of fascism in the heart of Europe - with the exception of Vladimir Putin, whose people lost 22 million to a Nazi invasion that came through the borderland of Ukraine. At the recent Munich Security Conference, Obama's Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland, ranted abuse about European leaders for opposing the US arming of the Kiev regime. She referred to the German Defence Minister as "the minister for defeatism". It was Nuland who masterminded the coup in Kiev. The wife of Robert D. Kagan, a leading "neo-con" luminary and co-founder of the extreme right wing Project for a New American Century, she was foreign policy advisor to Dick Cheney. 

Nuland's coup did not go to plan. Nato was prevented from seizing Russia's historic, legitimate, warm-water naval base in Crimea. The mostly Russian population of Crimea - illegally annexed to Ukraine by Nikita Krushchev in 1954 - voted overwhelmingly to return to Russia, as they had done in the 1990s. The referendum was voluntary, popular and internationally observed. There was no invasion.

At the same time, the Kiev regime turned on the ethnic Russian population in the east with the ferocity of ethnic cleansing. Deploying neo-Nazi militias in the manner of the Waffen-SS, they bombed and laid to siege cities and towns. They used mass starvation as a weapon, cutting off electricity, freezing bank accounts, stopping social security and pensions. More than a million refugees fled across the border into Russia. In the western media, they became unpeople escaping "the violence" caused by the "Russian invasion". The Nato commander, General Breedlove - whose name and actions might have been inspired by Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove - announced that 40,000 Russian troops were "massing". In the age of forensic satellite evidence, he offered none.

These Russian-speaking and bilingual people of Ukraine - a third of the population - have long sought a federation that reflects the country's ethnic diversity and is both autonomous and independent of Moscow. Most are not "separatists" but citizens who want to live securely in their homeland and oppose the power grab in Kiev. Their revolt and establishment of autonomous "states" are a reaction to Kiev's attacks on them. Little of this has been explained to western audiences.

On May 2, 2014, in Odessa, 41 ethnic Russians were burned alive in the trade union headquarters with police standing by. The Right Sector leader Dmytro Yarosh hailed the massacre as "another bright day in our national history". In the American and British media, this was reported as a "murky tragedy" resulting from "clashes" between "nationalists" (neo-Nazis) and "separatists" (people collecting signatures for a referendum on a federal Ukraine).

The New York Times buried the story, having dismissed as Russian propaganda warnings about the fascist and anti-Semitic policies of Washington's new clients. The Wall Street Journal damned the victims - "Deadly Ukraine Fire Likely Sparked by Rebels, Government Says". Obama congratulated the junta for its "restraint".

If Putin can be provoked into coming to their aid, his pre-ordained "pariah" role in the West will justify the lie that Russia is invading Ukraine. On January 29, Ukraine's top military commander, General Viktor Muzhemko, almost inadvertently dismissed the very basis for US and EU sanctions on Russia when he told a news conference emphatically: "The Ukrainian army is not fighting with the regular units of the Russian Army".  There were "individual citizens" who were members of "illegal armed groups", but there was no Russian invasion. This was not news. Vadym Prystaiko, Kiev's Deputy Foreign Minister, has called for "full scale war" with nuclear-armed Russia.

On February 21, US Senator James Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma, introduced a bill that would authorise American arms for the Kiev regime. In his Senate presentation, Inhofe used photographs he claimed were of Russian troops crossing into Ukraine, which have long been exposed as fakes. It was reminiscent of Ronald Reagan's fake pictures of a Soviet installation in Nicaragua, and Colin Powell's fake evidence to the UN of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

The intensity of the smear campaign against Russia and the portrayal of its president as a pantomime villain is unlike anything I have known as a reporter. Robert Parry, one of America's most distinguished investigative journalists, who revealed the Iran-Contra scandal, wrote recently, "No European government, since Adolf Hitler's Germany, has seen fit to dispatch Nazi storm troopers to wage war on a domestic population, but the Kiev regime has and has done so knowingly. Yet across the West's media/political spectrum, there has been a studious effort to cover up this reality even to the point of ignoring facts that have been well established... If you wonder how the world could stumble into world war three - much as it did into world war one a century ago - all you need to do is look at the madness over Ukraine that has proved impervious to facts or reason."

In 1946, the Nuremberg Tribunal prosecutor said of the German media: "The use made by Nazi conspirators of psychological warfare is well known. Before each major aggression, with some few exceptions based on expediency, they initiated a press campaign calculated to weaken their victims and to prepare the German people psychologically for the attack... In the propaganda system of the Hitler State it was the daily press and the radio that were the most important weapons." In the Guardian on February 2, Timothy Garton-Ash called, in effect, for a world war. "Putin must be stopped," said the headline. "And sometimes only guns can stop guns." He conceded that the threat of war might "nourish a Russian paranoia of encirclement"; but that was fine. He name-checked the military equipment needed for the job and advised his readers that "America has the best kit".

In 2003, Garton-Ash, an Oxford professor, repeated the propaganda that led to the slaughter in Iraq. Saddam Hussein, he wrote, "has, as [Colin] Powell documented, stockpiled large quantities of horrifying chemical and biological weapons, and is hiding what remains of them. He is still trying to get nuclear ones." He lauded Blair as a "Gladstonian, Christian liberal interventionist". In 2006, he wrote, "Now we face the next big test of the West after Iraq: Iran."

The outbursts - or as Garton-Ash prefers, his "tortured liberal ambivalence" - are not untypical of those in the transatlantic liberal elite who have struck a Faustian deal. The war criminal Blair is their lost leader. The Guardian, in which Garton-Ash's piece appeared, published a full-page advertisement for an American Stealth bomber. On a menacing image of the Lockheed Martin monster were the words: "The F-35. GREAT For Britain". This American "kit" will cost British taxpayers £1.3 billion, its F-model predecessors having slaughtered across the world.  In tune with its advertiser, a Guardian editorial has demanded an increase in military spending.

Once again, there is serious purpose. The rulers of the world want Ukraine not only as a missile base; they want its economy. Kiev's new Finance Minister, Nataliwe Jaresko, is a former senior US State Department official in charge of US overseas "investment". She was hurriedly given Ukrainian citizenship. They want Ukraine for its abundant gas; Vice President Joe Biden's son is on the board of Ukraine's biggest oil, gas and fracking company. The manufacturers of GM seeds, companies such as the infamous Monsanto, want Ukraine's rich farming soil.

Above all, they want Ukraine's mighty neighbour, Russia. They want to Balkanise or dismember Russia and exploit the greatest source of natural gas on earth. As the Arctic ice melts, they want control of the Arctic Ocean and its energy riches, and Russia's long Arctic land border. Their man in Moscow used to be Boris Yeltsin, a drunk, who handed his country's economy to the West. His successor, Putin, has re-established Russia as a sovereign nation; that is his crime.

The responsibility of the rest of us is clear. It is to identify and expose the reckless lies of warmongers and never to collude with them. It is to re-awaken the great popular movements that brought a fragile civilisation to modern imperial states. Most important, it is to prevent the conquest of ourselves: our minds, our humanity, our self respect. If we remain silent, victory over us is assured, and a holocaust beckons.


Rise of the New Black Radicals

by Chris Hedges

The almost daily murders of young black men and women by police in the United States?a crisis undiminished by the protests of groups such as Black Lives Matter and by the empty rhetoric of black political elites?have given birth to a new young black militant.

This militant, rising off the bloody streets of cities such as Ferguson, Mo., understands that the beast is not simply white supremacy, chronic poverty and the many faces of racism but the destructive energy of corporate capitalism. This militant has given up on electoral politics, the courts and legislative reform, loathes the corporate press and rejects established black leaders such as Barack Obama, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Michael Eric Dyson. This militant believes it is only in the streets and in acts of civil disobedience that change is possible. And given the refusal of the corporate state to address the mounting suffering of the poor and working poor, draconian state repression and indiscriminate use of lethal state violence against unarmed people of color, I think the new black radical is right. It will be a long, hot and violent summer.

The world’s hundreds of millions of disenfranchised youths?in America this group is dominated by the black and brown underclass?come out of the surplus labor created by our system of corporate neofeudalism. These young men and women have been discarded as human refuse and are preyed upon by a legal system that criminalizes poverty. In the United States they constitute the bulk of the 2.3 million human beings locked in jails and prisons. The discontent in Ferguson, Athens, Cairo, Madrid and Ayotzinapa is one discontent. And the emerging revolt, although it comes in many colors, speaks many languages and has many belief systems, is united around a common enemy. Bonds of solidarity and consciousness are swiftly uniting the wretched of the earth against our corporate masters.

Corporate power, which knows what is coming, has put in place sophisticated systems of control that include militarized police, elaborate propaganda campaigns that seek to make us fearful and therefore passive, wholesale surveillance of every citizen and a court system that has stripped legal protection from the poor and any who dissent. The masses are to be kept in bondage. But the masses, especially the young, understand the game. There is a word for what is bubbling up from below?revolution. It can’t begin soon enough.

The global leadership for this revolt comes not from the institutions of privilege, elite universities where ambitious and self-centered young men and women jockey to become part of the ruling 1 percent, but from the squalid internal colonies that house the poor and usually people of color. The next great revolutionary in America won’t look like Thomas Jefferson. He or she will look like Lupe Fiasco.

T-Dubb-O is a hip-hop artist from St. Louis. He is one of the founders, along with Tef Poe, Tory Russell, Tara Thompson and Rika Tyler, of Hands Up United. The organization was formed in the wake of the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson. It has built close alliances with radical organizations in Brazil and elsewhere in Latin American, in Europe and in Palestine.

“I honestly think it’s going to be worse than last year, this summer,” T-Dubb-O said when I met with him and Tyler at Princeton University, where they had gone to speak to students. “People have become more radical,” he said. “They’ve realized the power that they have. They’re no longer afraid of the police, the state, but also you have a police and a military force that’s been training for a year to deal with this type of circumstance. So I honestly think this summer is gonna be worse. More violence from the police, and this time you won’t have a group of people who is just gonna sit there and let it happen to ’em?you’re gonna have people that are actually gonna fight back instead of just continue to be peaceful protesters. Right now everybody is just on edge. I mean, it’s the same situation we was in before Mike Brown. People that don’t have jobs, there’s crime everywhere, there’s drugs everywhere, there’s predator policing. It’s the same circumstances, it’s just no cameras.”

“In my city every day, police is pulling somebody over, harassing them, extorting them,” he said. “Because that’s what it is?it’s legal extortion. When a government is making 30 to 40 percent of their yearly budget off of tickets, fines and imprisonment, it’s extortion. It’s the same thing the mob did in the ’20s. So we fight. We can’t go back to normal lives. We get followed, harassed, death threats, phones tapped, social media watched, they hack into our emails, hack into our social media account, we all got FBI files. They know we here right now. So I mean it’s not a game, but it’s either continue to deal with not being able to just live like a regular person, and dream, and have an opportunity, or get up and do something about it. And we decided to do something.”

Tyler said she was propelled into the movement by seeing the body of Michael Brown, which the Ferguson police left lying in the street for more than four hours.

“I went to Canfield [Drive, where Brown was killed],” she said when we spoke. “I saw the body. I saw the blood. I just broke down. And ever since then I’ve just been out there [as an activist] every day.”

“They left [Brown] in the street for four and a half hours in the hot sun on concrete, just for display,” she said. “That reminded me of a modern-day lynching. Because you know, they used to lynch slaves and then have it displayed. And that’s basically showing us that this system is not built for us. It made me wake up a little bit more.”

“Just envision a debtor’s prison being run by a collusion between city officials, police and court judges, who treated our community like an ATM machine,” Tyler said. “Because that’s all they did. Ferguson is in St. Louis County. It’s 21,000 people living in 8,100 households. So it’s a small town. Sixty-seven percent of the residents are African-American. Twenty-two percent live below poverty level. A total of $2.6 million [were paid in fines to city officials, the courts and the police] in 2013. The Ferguson Municipal Court disposed of 24,532 warrants and 12,018 cases. That’s about three warrants per household. One and a half cases for each household. You don’t get $321 in fines and fees and three warrants per household from an average crime rate. You get numbers like this from racist bullshit, arrests from jaywalking, and constant low-level harassment involving traffic stops, court appearances, high fines and the threat of jail for failure to pay.”

“For an example,” she went on, “I got pulled over. I turned a left [illegally] and my car was searched. I was met with three different officers, two detectives. I got a traffic ticket. I had a ticket because I didn’t have my license on me. So I had a ticket for not having my license, and then I got a ticket from turning the wrong way. I did not go to court because I was out of town. However, I called them and told them I will not appear to court and my lawyer would handle it from there. I got a letter in the mail that said failure to appear to court, and they have a warrant out for my arrest. They’re threatening to take my license and suspend it because I didn’t appear to court. So these are just the things that had happened in St. Louis right now. You can get a ticket from walking across the street, or a ticket from not cutting your grass, and then you’re stuck in this system that they put us in, that is oppressed, and keeps us oppressed.”

“I was arrested when I was pregnant, I was 37 weeks and I was arrested in St. Charles County by four white officers,” she said. “They took me into custody when I had this big-ass stomach. And I’m like, I’m pregnant. I had a traffic ticket for parking in the wrong meter. And they wrote me a ticket and I never paid it, so they took me. I had a warrant out for my arrest. I sat in jail, pregnant, had my baby a week early because I was stressed out and crying my eyes out in jail.”

“No person should have to go through this,” T-Dubb-O said, “whether it’s in America, Palestine, Mexico, Brazil, Canada. Nobody should have to go through this. You look at a bunch of young people [in Ferguson], their age ranges anywhere from 12 to 28 or 29, that went against the most powerful military force in this world. That’s pretty much what happened. … That’s not what’s explained, but that’s what it was. It was tanks on every corner, our phones tapped, they follow us. Every day we was out there we thought we were gonna die. At one point in time they said they were gonna kill us. ‘We’re not shooting rubber bullets tonight, we’re shooting live ammunition.’ And these are the things that you don’t see on the news. It was just because we was tired of being treated as less than people. Just for opportunity to be able to walk the streets and live and breath and do what everybody else does. And that’s pretty much what we was fighting for. I mean, the level of oppression, it’s kind of hard to fathom, and believe that it’s actually true in America, especially the middle of America. But it’s real, where you have people that are judged off the neighborhoods they come from and the color of their skin and they’re denied certain opportunities.”

“In St. Louis if you’ve been arrested and you’re facing a misdemeanor or felony charges, you’re not allowed a Pell Grant to go to college,” he said. “So if you can’t afford to pay to go to college you’re just stuck. If you’re on probation and you’re trying to get a job, it’s a right-to-work state, they have the right to deny you employment because of your past. They don’t have to give you an opportunity to work. Where do they leave you, back in the same system that puts you in the same position where you made the first mistake. It’s all set up like this.”

“I’ve been tear-gassed six times,” Tyler said. “I’ve been put on the car, had different guns to my head. I’ve been shot at with rubber bullets, live ammo, wooden bullets, bean bag bullets, sound cannons, everything you can think of. I’ve went up against militarized police, and they did different things like a five-second rule, like I would get arrested if I stood still for longer than five seconds. I would get arrested if I didn’t walk longer than five seconds. It was just different things. They don’t wear their name badges. They don’t tell us who they are. They’re not transparent at all. They harass us. Women have been hogtied, beaten. I got arrested for standing on the sidewalk, just recording them.”

T-Dubb-O after the murder of Brown and the unrest in Ferguson was invited with other community leaders to meet with President Barack Obama in the White House. The president, he said, spoke “in cliches” about black-on-black crime, the necessity of staying in school, working hard and the importance of voting.

“He asked me did I vote for him,” he said, “I told him no. I didn’t vote for him either time, because I didn’t want to vote for him just because he was black. I felt like that would have been shallow on my end. Because he’s never honestly spoken and touched and said he was going to do anything for my community or the issues that we face on a daily basis, so why would I vote for somebody like that, whether you white, black, male, female, so on and so forth?”

As president he is proof that the system works, Obama told T-Dubb-O. The hip-hop artist said this statement shows how out of touch Obama is with the reality faced by poor people of color.
“When you have an 11-year-old boy whose mother is single, or has a single father who’s working two or three jobs just to put food on the table, he has to wake up at 5:30 in the morning, catch public transportation to school,” T-Dubb-O said. “Everything around him is damnation. You can’t expect an 11-year-old to have the mental capacity of an adult, to say I’m going to make the mature decisions and not get into trouble. So I don’t care about black-on-black crime. I don’t care about the normal cliche of working hard, you can do anything, you can accomplish, because that’s bullshit. And excuse my language, but I can’t tell a little boy up the street in my neighborhood, where over a hundred murders happened last year, that he can be an astronaut if he wants to be, because that’s not possible.”

“I think D.C. is a perfect example of what America is,” he said. “You have this big white house representing the government, that was built by slaves, that’s beautiful, excellent manicured lawns, and right outside the gate you have 50 homeless people sleeping in a park. Right outside of the gate of the White House. That perfectly describes America.”

“The difference between us and those leaders is that we aren’t doing it for fame, we aren’t doing it for political gain, we aren’t doing it for money,” he said, speaking of Obama, Sharpton, Jackson, Dyson and the other establishment black leaders. “We’re doing it because every day that we’ve lived we’ve been denied normal human rights, and we could have lost our life. We don’t believe those leaders are properly representing our community. Because they are no longer a part of the community, they don’t speak for the community, and honestly they don’t do much for it. They do some things, because they have to, being 501(c)3s, but they don’t speak for the people.”
Jackson and Sharpton have been heckled by crowds in Ferguson and told to leave, along with crews from CNN. Tyler described CNN and other major news outlets, which steadfastly parrot back the official narrative, as “worse than politicians, worse than police.”

“So people in Ferguson is basically like, fuck Al Sharpton, and fuck Jesse Jackson, for real,” Tyler said. “And that’s the best way I can put it, for real, because they are co-opted, first off. They had their own movement. They were co-opted. Their movement got destroyed. Now they want to come to the new leaders and try to come in our movement and give guidance and stuff, but it’s a totally different generation. They marched with suits and ties and sung ‘Kumbaya’ and stuff. It’s people out there that look like him,” she said, motioning to T-Dubb-O, “shirtless, tattoos, like Bloods, Crips, whatever, out there just mad, because they was pissed off and they was passionate about it.”

“Jesse Jackson came, actually we were in the middle of a prayer for Michael Brown’s mother, and we were at the memorial site in Canfield Apartments, where he was killed and laid down in the street for four and a half hours,” Tyler said. “Everyone has their heads bowed and he comes over and starts shouting ‘No justice, no peace’ in the middle of a prayer. So instantly the community is pissed the fuck off?like who the hell is this? I finally recognized his face. I went over to him, because the guys were ready to fight him. Like, you don’t come over here and, this mother’s grieving, we’re all upset, and break up our prayer. And he’s all like ‘No justice, no peace!’ He has his bullhorn, and his sign and everything, just for a photo op. So I went over and I said to him, you probably should leave, because they’re really angry and they’re gonna get you out of here. And he was like ‘No justice, no peace!’ and he just kept chanting. So I moved out of the way, and the dudes told him, like ‘Hey bro, if you don’t back the fuck up we’re gonna make you leave.’ And he’s like, ‘This is what’s wrong with us!’ and ‘generational divide!’ and everything like that. And you know the community wasn’t taking for it, so he got scared, and him and the people he came with, like his best-dressed suit on and everything, and everybody was out there shirtless, or tank tops, or just in their normal clothes. And he came out there with a cameraman and everything, like this is just a frenzy or a freaking parade or something to film. So people were pissed off and he instantly left, and he hasn’t really been back since.”

“Every national organization you can think of is in St. Louis, Mo.,” T-Dubb-O said. “We have Urban League. We have the NAACP. We have all these different organizations. But yet for the last two decades we’ve always had one of the three top murder rates, one of the three highest crime rates. Poverty level is crazy, unemployment, you have all these mission statements on your website saying you do this and you do that, yet those programs aren’t available in our city. But you have offices here. You’re getting grants. But you’re not doing anything. And the community sees that now. So it’s gonna come a point in time to where all 501(c)3s,  and all organizations, have to actually be active in the communities that they’re representing.”

The young Ferguson activists respect only the few national black leaders who do not try to speak for the movement or use the unrest as a media backdrop to promote themselves. Among those they admire is Cornel West.

“He was kind of like a big brother or father of the movement,” Tyler said of West. “Instead of stepping up, he always brought me with him. He always uplifted us. They’ll try to put him in front of the camera, he’d always bring somebody with him. He would say, ‘These are the people, these are the new leaders of the world, and you guys need to talk to them.’ He’s very transparent. He always voices and uplifts our name.”

The activists are preparing for increased unrest. And they are preparing for increased state repression and violence.

“As far as politics,” T-Dubb-O said, “it’s going to go either one of two ways. Right now we have a window that’s closing pretty fast, to where we can either re-create this system for something that’s going to actually be equal for all people, or they’re going to re-create the system to where we’ll never be able to punch it in the mouth like we did in Ferguson again.”

“We don’t know what it’s gonna look like, honestly,” he said of the coming unrest. “It’s been legal to kill a black man in this country. Just since Mike Brown, 11 more people has been killed by police in St. Louis alone, one being a woman who was raped then hung in jail. But none of the other murders got national coverage. It was just two standoffs with police yesterday. So I mean, we don’t know what that’s going to look like. We know we’re dedicated. We’re going to continue to fight. It’s going to take full-fledged revolution to make a change. The worst of the worst would be civil war. That’s just where my mind is.”

“I don’t see them pulling back,” he said of the state and its security forces. “They have no problem killing people. They have no problem shooting gas at babies, pregnant people, old people. They don’t have an issue with it. And our politicians are just standing around with their arms folded.”

“As long as the powers that be are in control, the oppression isn’t going to go anywhere,” he said. “It’s really going to take people to unite worldwide, not just in America, not just in St. Louis, not just in one particular city or state. It’s gonna have to be people identifying their struggles with each other worldwide, internationally, and say enough is enough. That’s the only way oppression will ever leave.”


Why Chagos Islanders should be hailed as heroes

by Eamonn McCann
The Irish Times

Louis Olivier Bancoult, chairman of the Chagos Refugees Group.
In The Hague last month, the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration found that the United Kingdom's declaration in 2010 of a Marine Protection Area around the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean was illegal. The decision endorsed the claim of the government of Mauritius that the UK did not have jurisdiction to make rulings relating to the status of the area.

The finding marked, if not the end, at least, it is hoped, the beginning of the end of the Chagos Islanders' long legal battle to be allowed to return to the homes from which they were deported in 1973 and deposited in Mauritius more than a thousand miles away. The intention was to facilitate construction of a US military base. The deported islanders numbered fewer than 2,000. Many have since died, some, say the islanders, of sadness. Along with first and second generation, there are now about 2,500 exiles. A majority still live in dire circumstances in Mauritius.

For many years their plight was ignored by the "international community". Their treatment illustrates as clearly as any action by major powers in recent decades the contempt in which lesser breeds are held by powerful states asserting that their security interests trump human rights anywhere in the world.

Indentured labourers
In terms of legality and morality, the appropriation of the islands offers precedent for the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the bombing of Libya, etc. The Chagossians had inhabited the archipelago since the mid-18th century, shipped in by French colonialists as slaves or indentured labourers to work on plantations.

French law recognised the islands as part of Mauritius. When control of Mauritius was passed to the British in 1814 as part of the settlement which ended the Napoleonic Wars, the islands came as part of the package. However, when Mauritius gained independence in 1968, the Labour government of Harold Wilson insisted on retaining the islands, now renamed the British Indian Ocean Territory. The reason became clear three years later when the US military decided that the largest and only inhabited island, Diego Garcia, was a perfect place for a military base. Wilson's administration agreed, without consultation with Mauritius and without its knowledge.

In return, Britain got a discount from the US on the purchase of Polaris nuclear missiles. Two years later, the "cleansing" of Diego Garcia ? the term was used by a foreign office official ? was under way. Herded on to cargo ships, the islanders were taken first to prison camps on the Seychelles, then trafficked to Mauritius.

A memo from FO permanent under-secretary, Sir Paul Gore-Booth, told the Americans: "There will be no indigenous population except seagulls." Another official scrawled a note on the margin: "Along with the birds go some Tarzans or Men Fridays."

The islanders launched legal actions successively in the British, the American and European courts, with the pro-bono assistance of UK lawyer Richard Gifford and journalists including John Pilger and the presenter of the BBC's Countryfile programme Ben Fogle. Fogle says he became involved because, "The story makes me ashamed to be British".

Secret deal
In 2000, the islanders won what seemed a famous victory when the high court in London declared their expulsion illegal. Within hours, the Blair government had announced that the ruling was incapable of implementation, being in conflict with a US-UK treaty. This was a lie. There was no treaty, merely a secret deal withheld from both parliament and congress.

In 2009, Gordon Brown's government devised a plan to turn thousands of square miles around the islands into a Marine Protection Area, ostensibly to conserve the coral reefs and diversity of sea life.
British environment minister Ed Miliband hailed the move as proving Labour's green credentials. In 2010, WikiLeaks published a US memo quoting FO official Colin Roberts (now governor of the Falklands/Malvinas) saying that, "Establishing a marine park would, in effect, put paid to resettlement claims of the archipelago's former inhabitants". It went on: "Roberts believed that the UK's environmental lobby is far more powerful than the Chagossians' advocates."

Diego Garcia now houses 5,000 US service personnel, a squadron of B-52 bombers, 30 warships, a satellite spy system, a nuclear storage capacity, a bowling alley, a cinema, a bank, a chapel, a nine-hole golf course and a prison. Bombers take off to dump their loads on countries which the US believes it must subdue. Planes carrying prisoners stop off en route to CIA torture sites, or deliver captives for torture on the island itself.

There is no legal route to an appeal against last month's decision. Still, the UK and US may simply refuse to obey the court. Pressure from other countries, such as Ireland, could help tip the balance. The Chagos Islanders are meantime entitled to be hailed as heroes of the struggle for justice across the world.

America is Jailing Immigrant Mothers and Babies

by Sonali Kolhatkar

Hundreds of undocumented families who have fled from poverty, violence and organized crime in Central American countries including Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador are locked up in “residential centers” in Karnes County and Dilley, Texas; Berks County, Pa.; and, until recently, Artesia, N.M. The families are imprisoned while awaiting their immigration hearings.

The fact that we have “family detention” centers in the U.S. to imprison whole families, including newborns, ought to frighten the hell out of us. How we treat the most vulnerable among us is a measure of our humanity. By the yardstick that these centers offer us, we are downright barbaric.

When President Obama took office in 2009, he rightly ended the practice of family detention, which began under President George W. Bush. Hundreds of families were being held at the notorious T. Don Hutto Residential Center, a former state prison in Taylor, Texas. Inside the center, which was privately run by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), conditions were appalling?particularly for children, who made up half the population. The New York Times described the policy change to end family detention as “the Obama administration’s clearest departure from its predecessor’s immigration enforcement policies.”

Families apprehended at the border were once more allowed to stay with relatives in the U.S. while awaiting their court hearings for asylum and other immigration-related requests. Then, five years later, President Obama abruptly decided to resume family detention, a decision made public in an ill-timed announcement by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)?on World Refugee Day in 2014. The change in policy was likely a response to the influx of unaccompanied Central American minors arriving in the U.S. last summer, which caused great controversy in Congress. Now, reported The Times, “Since June of last year, the Obama administration has upended that tradition [of allowing asylum applicants to live with family and friends]. Rather than release the families on bond to await a hearing, officials place virtually all women with children into the new detention facilities.” That includes a baby as young as 14 days old.

Like much of what the Democrats do in comparison to Republicans, brutality has a veneer of humanity. Originally called the Karnes County Civil Detention Center, the Texas prison where hundreds of women and children are locked up was recently euphemistically renamed Karnes County Residential Center. The center is run by the GEO Group, the second-largest private company after CCA operating prisons in the United States. It received a makeover to transform it from a prison into nothing more than a nicer-looking prison. Furniture is colorful and kid-friendly. A large, painted sign reading “Bienvenidos Welcome” greets people at the door. But the soft facade obscures the fact that it incarcerates mothers and babies.

Sameera Hafiz, a legislative and policy consultant with the group “We Belong Together,” has been working closely with the immigrants detained at Karnes. She explained in an interview on “Uprising” that most of the women involved in a hunger strike at Karnes in early April had “passed their credible fear interviews, so they had made an initial showing that they are eligible for asylum because they faced persecution if they are returned to their home countries.” These mothers were attempting to go through the legal process of applying for immigration status. It was only after they remained imprisoned for months under unbearable conditions that they began fasting to draw public attention.

Jonathan Ryan, executive director of the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) in Texas, told me that the hunger strikers faced retaliation so severe that they were placed in solitary confinement along with their children. “Several women were rounded up as the supposed ringleaders of the fast,” Ryan said, “and they were brought into isolation rooms which were dark, in which they were kept with their children.”

Rather than serving as some sort of humane alternative to separating families by imprisoning just the adults, family detention is a traumatic experience?especially for children. It can result in serious psychological scars for life. Delmi Cruz and her 11-year-old son, Alexis, have been held at Karnes for seven months and continue to remain locked up despite being eligible for parole. After participating in the hunger strike, they were among those placed in solitary confinement. Alexis is reportedly suffering from deep depression. Ryan related that those who have visited the mother and son recently found that:

"… Alexis’ entire demeanor and mental health deteriorated rapidly during that time and that he really has not recovered. He is in a constant state of crying and depression, and is failing to make eye contact. It has been a really brutal, brutal experience, not just for the mothers but of course for these children."

Another mother, Kenia Galeano, who also participated in the hunger strike, was allowed to post bond and was finally released a week later. As a second hunger strike began in mid-April, Galeano gave interviews to the press about her friends inside Karnes who remain imprisoned and the conditions she and others faced. Guards reportedly threatened to separate her from her 2-year-old child if she continued her hunger strike. Like Cruz, she, too, was placed in a dark isolation room with her baby.

But why was Galeano released whereas Cruz and others remain locked up? The answer is shocking. Galeano’s $7,500 bond was paid by a staffer at RAICES, which also has acampaign to free Delmi Cruz. The reason both women were locked up in the first place was, as Hafiz revealed, because the Obama administration “has been using family detention as a deterrent against immigration.”

In February, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ordered a preliminary injunctionhalting the practice of family detention as a deterrent. Boasberg wrote, “Such detention ... is particularly harmful to minor children.” DHS seems to have responded, not by freeing families, but by simply increasing the bonds so much ($7,500 to $10,000) that most of the mothers, like Cruz and Galeano, who are poor to begin with cannot afford them on their own.

Officials have made no secret of using detention as a deterrent. At an opening ceremony of the nation’s largest family detention center in Dilley, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson declared, “l believe this is an effective deterrent. … Frankly, we want to send a message that our border is not open to illegal migration, and if you come here, you should not expect to simply be released.” Unless you can muster the thousands of dollars to post bond, he should have added.

Despite Boasberg’s injunction, Congress passed a spending bill a month later that included hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars to continue and even expand the use of family detention centers.

As a nation, we are locking up babies and their mothers in order to discourage other babies and mothers from crossing the border as they flee violence and poverty looking for a better life. Setting aside the cruelty of such a policy, studies such as this one have shown that detention has no deterrent effect on would-be immigrants. Moreover, the issue itself is being wrongly framed. Ryan clarified that “This is not about the enforcement of our immigration laws. This is about refugee resettlement and how our country treats bona fide refugees who seek protection.”

So then why are we continuing these horrific policies that are scarring children?the most innocent and vulnerable among us? One possible reason is simply that there is a great hunger for our tax dollars from private corporations like GEO and CCA that have crafted a business model based on incarceration. Ryan revealed that “today if a woman and child arrive at the border and there is no room at the for-profit, private detention center, then that woman and child is apparently not a threat to our nation’s security and they are released.” This means that those families unlucky enough to arrive at the border when beds are available will be locked up. Ryan added that the “government’s quota ... was established to keep those companies profitable by maintaining 34,000 people in detention every night.” Every mother and child incarcerated at facilities like Karnes are simply a conduit for funneling $350 a day into corporate coffers.

Detainees at Karnes earn a paltry $3 a day to clean the premises. Incidentally, a single bottle of water costs $2.50 at the commissary, and many mothers work all day to purchase water for their children, worried about the strong-smelling tap water available at the detention center. Karnes County is, according to RT, “in the middle of one of the most active fracking and drilling areas in the nation, with nearly 9,000 sunken wells and another 5,500 approved since 2008.” Fracking operations are notorious forcontaminating drinking water. Ryan also recounted that mothers who might try to smuggle a box of milk or an orange from the cafeteria to give their children later in the day have had the food confiscated as “contraband” and been told to purchase the same items from the commissary of the for-profit prison. Children, who are not used to the food being served, have lost weight, and mothers are literally watching their babies waste away in front of their eyes.

It is under these circumstances that the mothers at Karnes have launched the second hunger strike to call attention to their plight and that of their children. Hafiz said “it is inhumane and un-American to hold children and mothers in jail facilities.”

She is right. Family detention is antithetical to the ideals of freedom, family values and human rights often touted by leaders. The mothers of Karnes County Residential Center are fighting to be heard. Will we listen?


Kitchen Conflict!

by Laila El-Haddad from Gaza Mom
Originally published 2014.11.12
No doubt many readers have by now heard of the death threats received by the unique takeaway restaurant, The Conflict Kitchen, in Pittsburgh last week, and their unfortunate temporary closure (and subsequent re-opening as of today, November 12).

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of speaking (and eating!) in Conflict Kitchen after being invited by founder Jon Rubin. Truth be told, I’ve been a fan of the Kitchen ever since its establishment in 2010, and have been secretly wishing they would one day do a Palestine iteration at which I could speak. After all, this seemed right up my alley: A place that literally serves up food for thought! You CAN have your cake and eat it too! Many years and one cookbook later, my dream was fulfilled.

And so it was. On October 16, I spoke alongside Omar Abuhejleh, the Palestinian owner of the Allegro Hearth Bakery, one of Pittsburgh’s most popular specialty bakeries, in the heart of a historically Jewish squirrel Hill neighborhood, and Ziad Adamo, whose family owns a popular Middle Eastern restaurant in Pittsburgh. Omar spoke about the continued fragmentation of the Palestinian population both in historic Palestine and abroad, and the effects of being separated from one’s land.

It was a lively lunchtime conversation, had over steaming plates of Maftoul, Muskahan, Salata Gazawiya, followed by an even more inspiring dinner the next day, cooked by their chef using recipes from The Gaza Kitchen.

What makes Conflict Kitchen unique is its commitment to sharing the struggles, lives, and histories of peoples in area with which the US is either IN conflict or has furthered conflict in their own unmediated voices, and in so doing, , to encourage re-engagement and understanding. A project by Carnegie Mellon University art professor Jon Rubin and Dawn Weleski, “Conflict Kitchen uses the social relations of food and economic exchange to engage the general public in discussions about countries, cultures, and people that they might know little about outside of the polarizing rhetoric of governmental politics and the narrow lens of media headlines.”

This most recent Palestine iteration has been their most popular yet, serving up to 400 people a day. But that has not shielded it from controversy The focus has been on so-called “anti-Israeli sentiments” (see: interviews with Palestinians, about their lives in Palestine, under occupation, in their own land) printed on on the wrappers that the food comes packaged in, which include interviews with Palestinians on subjects ranging from culture to politics-a staple of all other Conflict Kitchen iterations.

“Perhaps it is hard for some people to hear that Palestinians are not happy with Israeli policies or the actions of some of its citizens, but to cast their viewpoints as simply anti-Israel is to reinforce the simplest, most polarizing, and dehumanizing reading of their lives and perpetuate the silencing of their voices” said a statement issued by Conflict Kitchen this past weekend.

Among the critics, according to Haaretz, B’nai B’rith International, “wrote a letter to the Heinz Endowments late last month to express dismay that the $50,000 grant it gave Conflict Kitchen was being used for what it called “anti-Israel propaganda”, though Heinz Endowments later denied the money was being used for this iteration of the project (oh the horror if it was, right!?).

When it comes down to it, its hard for the mainstream media to accept a Palestinian narrative as it is, without automatically assuming it is by its very nature biased (despite CK’s multiple attempts to get Pittsburgh media to interview Palestinians on the controversy, none were). This is a common theme in the media’s dealings with Palestinians-whose voices are never viewed as credible enough on their own. Even as I was interviewed by NPR station in Pittsburgh during my stay, I was ] asked whether I thought this Palestinian iteration by its very nature anti-Israeli. My response, in short: sharing the struggles of your people’s history, their continuation violation of their rights, freedoms, the fragmentation of their nation, is pro-justice, not anti-Israeli.

And that is precisely why what Conflict Kitchen is doing has been perceived as so threatening: its unsettling to read accounts by Palestinians of what Zionist militias did in 1948, and what continues to happen till this day to Palestinian land and lives. Its a reminder that in the wake of Israel’s founding, an entire nation was un-founded, uprooted, violently, purposefully, maliciously, and that this simple and cruel fact is for all practical purposes either denied or never discussed in Israel.

Our very existence, emboldened by our own voices, our narrative, our food, our identity, is a threat to the dominant discourse that informs the general public’s views on who Palestinians are and what rights they have. But more so, it is a threat to those opposed to recognizing Palestinians as full human beings entitled to freedoms, rights, and self-determination. The reaction is usually to resort to silencing Palestinian voices altogether or resorting to claims of antisemitism (an invitation I was given to speak at Pittsburgh’s World Affairs Council was abruptly withdrawn after a board member expressed concern about bringing “anti-Israeli” speakers and how the Jewish community would respond).

Here, it would serve us well to cite Franz Fanon, who so eloquently argued in his Wretched of the Earth that colonizers and occupiers make a determine effort to devalue or invisible the history of the native people they control and thus heir hope of a future national culture.

In the end, the naysayers and ne’er-do-wellers did not have their way. Jon Rubin told me he expects hundreds of people to be there today in support during the restaurant’s reopening, and hopefully, some good will come of the controversy in generating renewed interested and curiosity in Palestine and about what the heck is so threatening about Palestinian food and freedom.


The Ballad of Crowfoot (1968), a film by Willie Dunn

The Ballad of Crowfoot by Willie Dunn, National Film Board of Canada

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Bomb?

by Uri Avnery

I MUST start with a shocking confession: I am not afraid of the Iranian nuclear bomb.
I know that this makes me an abnormal person, almost a freak.
But what can I do? I am unable to work up fear, like a real Israeli. Try as I may, the Iranian bomb does not make me hysterical.
MY FATHER once taught me how to withstand blackmail: imagine that the awful threat of the blackmailer has already come about. Then you can tell him: Go to hell.
I have tried many times to follow this advice and found it sound. So now I apply it to the Iranian bomb: I imagine that the worst has already happened: the awful ayatollahs have got the bombs that can eradicate little Israel in a minute.
So what?
According to foreign experts, Israel has several hundred nuclear bombs (assessments vary between 80-400. If Iran sends its bombs and obliterates most of Israel (myself included), Israeli submarines will obliterate Iran. Whatever I might think about Binyamin Netanyahu, I rely on him and our security chiefs to keep our "second strike" capability intact. Just last week we were informed that Germany had delivered another state-of-the-art submarine to our navy for this purpose.
Israeli idiots – and there are some around – respond: "Yes, but the Iranian leaders are not normal people. They are madmen. Religious fanatics. They will risk the total destruction of Iran just to destroy the Zionist state. Like exchanging queens in chess."
Such convictions are the outcome of decades of demonizing. Iranians – or at least their leaders – are seen as subhuman miscreants.
Reality shows us that the leaders of Iran are very sober, very calculating politicians. Cautious merchants in the Iranian bazaar style. They don't take unnecessary risks. The revolutionary fervor of the early Khomeini days is long past, and even Khomeini would not have dreamt of doing anything so close to national suicide.
ACCORDING TO the Bible, the great Persian king Cyrus allowed the captive Jews of Babylon to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple. At that time, Persia was already an ancient civilization – both cultural and political.
After the "return from Babylon", the Jewish commonwealth around Jerusalem lived for 200 years under Persian suzerainty. I was taught in school that these were happy years for the Jews.
Since then, Persian culture and history has lived through another two and a half millennia. Persian civilization is one of the oldest in the world. It has created a great religion and influenced many others, including Judaism. Iranians are fiercely proud of that civilization.
To imagine that the present leaders of Iran would even contemplate risking the very existence of Persia out of hatred of Israel is both ridiculous and megalomaniac.
Moreover, throughout history, relations between Jews and Persians have almost always been excellent. When Israel was founded, Iran was considered a natural ally, part of David Ben-Gurion's "strategy of the periphery" – an alliance with all the countries surrounding the Arab world.
The Shah, who was re-installed by the American and British secret services, was a very close ally. Teheran was full of Israeli businessmen and military advisers. It served as a base for the Israeli agents working with the rebellious Kurds in northern Iraq who were fighting against the regime of Saddam Hussein.
After the Islamic revolution, Israel still supported Iran against Iraq in their cruel 8-year war. The notorious Irangate affair, in which my friend Amiram Nir and Oliver North played such an important role, would not have been possible without the old Iranian-Israeli ties.
Even now, Iran and Israel are conducting amiable arbitration proceedings about an old venture: the Eilat-Ashkelon oil pipeline built jointly by the two countries.
If the worst comes to the worst, nuclear Israel and nuclear Iran will live in a Balance of Terror.
Highly unpleasant, indeed. But not an existential menace.
HOWEVER, FOR those who live in terror of the Iranian nuclear capabilities, I have a piece of advice: use the time we still have.
Under the American-Iranian deal, we have at least 10 years before Iran could start the final phase of producing the bomb.
Please use this time for making peace.
The Iranian hatred of the "Zionist Regime" – the State of Israel – derives from the fate of the Palestinian people. The feeling of solidarity for the helpless Palestinians is deeply ingrained in all Islamic peoples. It is part of the popular culture in all of them. It is quite real, even if the political regimes misuse, manipulate or ignore it.
Since there is no ground for a specific Iranian hatred of Israel, it is solely based on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. No conflict, no enmity.
Logic tells us: if we have several years before we have to live in the shadow of an Iranian nuclear bomb, let's use this time to eliminate the conflict. Once the Palestinians themselves declare that they consider the historic conflict with Israel settled, no Iranian leadership will be able to rouse its people against us.
FOR SEVERAL weeks now, Netanyahu has been priding himself publicly on a huge, indeed historic, achievement.
For the first time ever, Israel is practically part of an Arab alliance.
Throughout the region, the conflict between Muslim Sunnis and Muslim Shiites is raging. The Shiite camp, headed by Iran, includes the Shiites in Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen. (Netanyahu falsely - or out of ignorance - includes the Sunni Hamas in this camp.)
The opposite Sunni camp includes Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Gulf states. Netanyahu hints that Israel is now secretly accepted by them as a member.
It is a very untidy picture. Iran is fighting against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, which is a mortal enemy of Israel. Iran is supporting the Assad regime in Damascus, which is also supported by Hezbollah, which fights against the lslamic State, while the Saudis support other extreme Sunni Syrians who fight against Assad and the Islamic State. Turkey supports Iran and the Saudis while fighting against Assad. And so on.
I am not enamored with Arab military dictatorships and corrupt monarchies. Frankly, I detest them. But if Israel succeeds in becoming an official member of any Arab coalition, it would be a historic breakthrough, the first in 130 years of Zionist-Arab conflict.
However, all Israeli relations with Arab countries are secret, except those with Egypt and Jordan, and even with these two the contacts are cold and distant, relations between the regimes rather than between the peoples.
Let's face facts: no Arab state will engage in open and close cooperation with Israel before the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is ended. Even kings and dictators cannot afford to do so. The solidarity of their peoples with the oppressed Palestinians is far too profound.
Real peace with the Arab countries is impossible without peace with the Palestinian people, as peace with the Palestinian people is impossible without peace with the Arab countries.
So if there is now a chance to establish official peace with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, and to turn the cold peace with Egypt into a real one, Netanyahu should jump at it. The terms of an agreement are already lying on the table: the Saudi peace plan, also called the Arab Initiative, which was adopted many years ago by the entire Arab League. It is based on the two-state solution of the Israeli-Arab conflict.
Netanyahu could amaze the whole world by "doing a de Gaulle" – making peace with the Sunni Arab world (as de Gaulle did with Algeria) which would compel the Shiites to follow suit.
Do I believe in this? I do not. But if God wills it, even a broomstick can shoot.
And on the day of the Jewish Pesach feast, commemorating the (imaginary) exodus from Egypt, we are reminding ourselves that miracles do happen.