"Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons." Bertrand Russell

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Theres advertising and theres...

ZNet Commentary

Let's Play War: How Militarism is Marketed to Children

August 25, 2005 By Lucinda Marshall

My friend Loretta is hopping mad about the mail that her nine year old grandsonis receiving. While military recruiters cannot 'recruit' children underseventeen years of age, there is nothing stopping them from waging a marketingcampaign to win the hearts and minds of much younger children such as Loretta'sgrandson. She tells me that he just received a mailing from the Marines labeled"Required Summer Reading" that offers him limited edition posters. As any parentwell knows, anything labeled as 'limited edition' is irresistible to kids ofthat age.
Parents are becoming more aware of the presence of military recruiters in highschools because of the No Child Left Behind Act which requires schools to turnover contact information on students to the military unless the students requestthat their records not be shared. While this is an easy way for the military toobtain information on prospective recruits, it is only one of many ways in whichthe military can make a sales pitch to children.

Each branch of the military runs its own JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer TrainingCorps) programs. The Air Force alone runs 746 JROTC programs throughout the U.S.with plans start more this year. The programs enroll more than 100,000 students.According to the American Friends Service Committee, each program costs schooldistricts an average of $76,000, effectively putting cash-strapped schools inthe position of subsidizing the military. It is important to note that JROTCprograms routinely bring weapons into schools (and teach children how to usethem) and there are numerous reports of JROTC-related violence, includingmurder.

The programs claim that they are not geared towards recruiting, that theirpurpose is to teach leadership and discipline. But as former defense secretaryWilliam Cohen told Congress in 2000, JROTC is "one of the best recruitingdevices we have." (1)

When now Vice President Cheney served as Secretary of Defense, he summarized thepurpose of the military quite accurately, "The reason to have a military is tobe prepared to fight and win wars. That is our basic fundamental mission. Themilitary is not a social welfare agency, it's not a jobs program." Yetrecruiters and JROTC programs as well as television ads routinely hawk theeducational and job benefits of joining the military.

continued... Media Lens via Zmag


Friday, August 26, 2005

Marxist control in the White House

Dear Madam,

Professor William Reville puts forward an interesting argument in Thursday's Irish Times, the overpowering influence of leftist fundamentalism. Asserting several facts about the nature of fundamentalism Professor Reville concludes that the 'leftist agenda' is a form of fundamentalism itself and one that wields the 'sway of power'. The article is at first glance quite convincing in its interpretation of 'leftism' as a pseudo belief that is, if strictly adhered to under fundamental principles, a form of fundamentalism quite similar to that found within the Christian and Islamic faiths.

However, this argument is quite familiar and has appeared in several different forms with varying levels of success. Professor Reville uses as one corner stone of his argument a quote from an article my Martin Amis in the Guardian, "[w]e are obliged to accept the fact that Bush is more religious than Saddam: of the two presidents, he is, in this respect, the more psychologically primitive." (1) Now, the general rule in quoting a source to fortify a particular view is to give that quote in its proper context. The context the quote pertains to is slightly more nuanced than Professor Reville would suggest. Mr. Amis begins "in central Baghdad [there] is a copy of the Koran written in Saddam Hussein's own blood," and "[a]ll US presidents - and all US presidential candidates - have to be religious or have to pretend to be religious," similarly Saddam "is, in reality, a career-long secularist - indeed an "infidel", according to Bin Laden." While Bush promotes religious fundamentalism verbally his actions defy his preaching, case in point, his unswayed support for the death penalty.

The point that Professor Reville makes, in a familiar style to Timothy Garton Ash in the Guardian several days after Mr. Amis' article (2), is that this logic results in Mother Teresa being more 'psychologically primitive' than Hitler. The two writers, being surprisingly unfamiliar with logic, have made the mistake of confusing Mother Teresa with someone who feigns religious belief in order to hold sway over a public who demand a fundamentalist leader. Whether Mr. Amis holds a certain disdain for religious belief is beside the point, one cannot infer from this piece that he would come to the same conclusion as Mr. Garton Ash as to Mother Teresa's psychological state. In much the same way we cannot infer from Professor Revilles article that President Bush is a Marxist, even though he holds the sway of power.

Amis can be understood more clearly here, "What religion used to take care of was to give one a sense that one wasn't just living in a meaningless present, and that there were greater contexts. Religion won't quite do this for us anymore, If we're to believe in perfectibility or even improvement, then we need to be able to think of the human soul as an imperishable image of our potential and our battered innocence and so on." (3)

The thrust of the article is that "[t]he fundamentalist left has come to command great influence in the media and powerfully moulds public opinion. Paradoxically this "liberal" media influence seems to exert a tighter grip on public opinion that the old-style thundering Catholic bishops ever did." Now while this is an interesting opinion it may not hold the necessary water for it to be considered realistic under further examination. Firstly, Professor Reville uses two basic premises to construct his argument, the first is that 'leftism' has a number of fundamental principles, one of which being religious intolerance, and the second that those with the sway of power strictly adhere to those fundamental principles. It is therefore necessary to ascertain who holds 'the sway of power'.

There are many influencing factors contributing to ones 'power', the most obvious being monetary wealth, political dominance and control over information. These can be roughly divided between political, financial and media institutions. The balance of power then slowly precipitates downwards towards the powerfully insignificant, those that don't register on Professor Reville's spectrum of influence.

At present in Britain the preponderance of power sways towards opposing the rights of religious extremists to speak openly about subjects deemed incitement to terrorism. While across the Atlantic Donald Rumsfeld, presently controlling the most advanced army in the world, defends the rights of certain religious fundamentalists to advocate individual acts of terrorism, "[o]ur department doesn't do that kind of thing. It's against the law. He's a private citizen. Private citizens say all kinds of things all the time."(4) Since we are to believe from Professor Reville's title that the 'sway of power' lies with the leftist middle class, we can then infer that this class is quite confused as to which religious fundamentalism to be intolerant towards. Which ties in quite succinctly with Martin Amis description of religious perversion for the purpose of political gain. Am I to assume that Professor Reville and Mr. Amis are in agreement?

Since the financial sphere is ruled out from the off and the political sphere is apparently confused as to its leftist agenda, it falls to the media to bear the brunt of Professor Reville's criticism. The BBC, considered one of the most influential and liberal media outlets in the world has this to say about he present conflict in Iraq, "If the president pulls it off, he can leave the legacy he has been seeking in the Middle East - Iraq as the democratic example which justified the war and the cost." This amounts to unconditional support for both the invasion of Iraq and the sanctions that preceded it, and therefore the justification of over 500,000 dead. The mainstream media does indeed support the sway of power.

Just as the mainstream media refrained from framing the debate after 9/11, it was also deficient in remembering Russian terrorism towards Chechnya after the horrific incident in a Moscow theatre. This is not to say Russia has escaped all forms of criticism from the liberal media, it was left to the 'fundamentalist left' to criticise Russian aggression against "hapless Chechen civilians and refugees...now paying the price, as they have repeatedly over the past eight years. An endless litany of reports by groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch document the extent of Moscow's abuses in the conflict; Chechnya is one of several places in the world at the moment where the word "genocide" is being used by reasonable people. It is the Russian government, far more than isolated rebel bands in Moscow, who have repeatedly targeted innocent lives during the conflict."(6) This merely highlights the gap between apparent leftist control and the reality of a sway favouring those that feign fundamentalism then oppose whatever other fundamentalism is necessary to retain that power.

The most interesting aspect of Professor Revilles piece is the conflict between a professors duty to condemn plagiarism while at the same time practising it openly. I think this says more about the state of the Irish college system than a hundred different articles about the popularity of science among undergraduates.

Yours etc...

1. Martin Amis in the Guardian
2. Timothy Garton Ash in the Guardian
3. Amis Interview
4. Quote concerning Pat Robertson
5. BBC on the war
6. Russian Aggression

How middle-class political correctness holds the sway of power
Under the Microscope/Prof William Reville: Fundamentalism is defined as strict adherence to the fundamental principles of any set of beliefs.

The term is commonly associated with certain brands of Christianity or Islam and, in politics, with extreme right-wing movements.

continued... The Irish Times via Media Lens


Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Bono and Blair, a job well done

How the G8 lied to the world on aid
The truth about Gleneagles puts a cloud over the New York summit
Mark Curtis
Tuesday August 23, 2005The Guardian

World leaders are now preparing for the millennium summit to be held in New York next month, described by the UN as a "once-in-a-generation opportunity to take bold decisions". Yet the current draft outcome simply repeats what was agreed on aid and debt last month in Gleneagles. The reality of that G8 deal has recently emerged - and is likely to condemn the New York summit to be an expensive failure.

The G8 agreed to increase aid from rich countries by $48bn a year by 2010. When Tony Blair announced this to parliament, he said that "in addition ... we agreed to cancel 100% of the multilateral debts" of the most indebted countries. He also stated that aid would come with no conditions attached. These were big claims, all of which can now be shown to be false. First, in recent evidence to the Treasury committee, Gordon Brown made the astonishing admission that the aid increase includes money put aside for debt relief. So the funds rich countries devote to writing off poor countries' debts will be counted as aid. Russia's increase in "aid" will consist entirely of write-offs. A third of France's aid budget consists of money for debt relief; much of this will be simply a book-keeping exercise worth nothing on the ground since many debts are not being serviced. The debt deal is not "in addition" to the aid increase, as Blair claimed, but part of it.

Far from representing a "100%" debt write-off, the deal applies initially to only 18 countries, which will save just $1bn a year in debt-service payments. The 62 countries that need full debt cancellation to reach UN poverty targets are paying 10 times more in debt service. And recently leaked World Bank documents show that the G8 agreed only three years' worth of debt relief for these 18 countries. They state that "countries will have no benefit from the initiative" unless there is "full donor financing".

The deal also involves debts only to the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the African Development Bank, whereas many countries have debts to other organisations...

The government's claim that debt relief will free up resources for health and education is also a deception. The deal explicitly says that those countries receiving debt relief will have their aid cut by the same amount...

Blair's assertion that aid will come with no conditions is contradicted by Hilary Benn, his development secretary, who told a parliamentary committee on July 19 that "around half" of World Bank aid programmes have privatisation conditions...

According to recently leaked documents, four rich-country representatives to the IMF board want to add yet more conditions to debt relief...

This makes a mockery of Brown and Blair's claim that poor countries are now free to decide their own policies...

Poor countries are free to do what rich countries tell them. The cost is huge. Christian Aid estimates that Africa has lost $272bn in the past 20 years from being forced to promote trade liberalisation as the price for receiving World Bank loans and debt relief. The draft outcome of the millennium summit says nothing about abolishing these conditions and contains little to address Africa's poverty. With only a few weeks to go, massive pressure needs to be brought to bear.

Full Article: The Guardian


Monday, August 22, 2005

'Media conscience' talking to Indymedia

I wrote to ask them their thoughts on the idea, this is a condensed version:

Would you consider supporting an initiative intended to correct the distortion caused by corporate control of the liberal media. The intention is to build a group of people who out of their own frustration have decided to be proactive in criticizing the 'liberal' media. My role, which is not restricted to me specifically, is basically to organise and inform any participants of issues arising in those publications I have chosen to address. This is not to say they are the only relevant publications, simply the ones I feel need the attention, and also the ones which should respond constructively. The criticism is to be directed in a polite manner to the editors of each newspaper for the purpose of constructive criticism. Therefore The Irish Times, the Irish Independent and RTE news are the outlets I consider most beneficial to monitor. My idea is formed with influence particularly from UK based Media Lens, Justice Not Vengeance (JNV) and US F.A.I.R. I have been involved in media commentary for the several years now, and have contacted the Irish Times Editor many times now, without much progress. This is why I think organized and informed criticism may have a greater impact. The frustration with the liberal media's reporting is quite evident on the letters page of the Times, however, the opinion and analysis does not reflect this. If you have any suggestions I would be grateful.


Firstly I'd like to thank M and T for their encouraging words, I think this form of activism has been quite successful for the Media Lens contributors as after much effort there has been a considerable response from the dominant media. I've been toying with ideas for a site to host the organization, possibly www.mediaconscience.org, as my blog will not be sufficient to allow discussion between contributors.

I am not sure whether you are familiar with how Media Lens works, so I'll briefly try and summarize their work. It is edited by David Edwards and David Cromwell, both write for the New Statesman. They produce 'media alerts' on specific topics, these then form a basis for medialens readers to form their own emails to be directed towards either/both the journalist or editor of said publication. This is quite different from Amnesty's copy, paste and sign format, and therefore more personnel and in my opinion more effective.

I would like to try and explain my thinking on how this would work. I have come up with two broad options. The first is for me, or whoever else, to take an article that they consider distorts the truth and provide their own criticism of it, while also providing relevant information for readers unfamiliar with the topic to form their own opinion. Then each reader/contributor puts together their own e-mail, as a 'member' of 'mediaconscience'. The main problem with this is that it may be the case that people would seek to undermine the effort by being rude or aggressive in their communication with editors/journalists. This would tarnish the whole community and make the effort pointless.

The second option, there are obviously more, is that within a forum on the website contributors are able to put forward their ideas as to what the relevant points are, with these in mind a letter is then formed by someone/a group of writers and then contributors/readers would sign the email jointly. There are problems with this approach too, some may feel their points are not given adequate prominence in the email, also the email my be easily discarded by editors as only representing one criticism..

T I understand your pessimism and agree with you. I try not to read the dominant news, however I have discussed the role of blogging and the internet based media with journalists and the response I get is 'until they get out into the field and do the digging' then they will have no effect. The problem with relying on the wires is that the sources will always distort the truth. One also relies so heavily on corporate/government funded research, for example, studies into depleted uranium. Therefore within the capitalist system a totally independent media is very difficult to establish without, as you point out, the dominant media 'jumping on the bandwagon'. I am convinced that the 'gap for dissent' is great enough for this type of activism to change at least a few minds and maybe give newspaper readers the insight to go and look for the truth elsewhere. Sorry I haven't more time to address your concerns properly.


Thanks for your thoughts P. In reference to independent media, I contribute to an independent publication when I have time, however I sometimes think it exists only to 'preach to the converted'.

The following may sound critical, however I don't intend it to be derogatory. The first problem I have with the independent internet media is one of awareness. The vast majority of people are not aware of indymedia and this is not necessarily the fault of indymedia promotion, the corporate media (and capitalism) serves to anesthetise the population and reinforce their prejudices. And in my opinion the internet is and will remain for the time being an elitist medium. Access to the internet is one constraint and having the time to use it is another. The second problem I have is that, if aware, many people do not trust these publications for the basic reason that they are not well known or long established like Amnesty. People are so consumed by branding, they will not place trust in an organisation unless it is well advertised and openly supported by celebrities/politicians/media pundits etc, the very people that make the dominant media so ridiculous. These problems need to be addressed by deconstructing the established media. Now, the initiative I am proposing is not intended to deconstruct the corporate media itself, it would simply serve to bring awareness to people of the protective structure that the corporate media relies on. If people can interact with the very people that have been standardised by it, they will hopefully gain insight into 'corporate protectionism for the pursuit of profit', ie don't rock the boat, allow only certain dissent, keeping 'the more aware' at bay/in check.

I understand there have been huge leaps in independent 'digging', but I am still unsure as to how the more costly research is to be tackled. For instance how could you force governments to control tobacco products if research wasn't available to prove its harm? Who pays for this research?

Until people realise that the corporate media is incapable of telling the truth then it will always be dominant. By providing an alternative, independent media, those who become disaffected by continual distortion can be enlightened. However, many/the majority are still unaware they are being duped. This is the purpose of what I propose, it is not until one realises one has been blinded by propaganda that he/she can search for reality. Changing the dominant media is neigh on impossible, revealing it for what it is, much simpler.

Media Lens has said "It seems clear to us that quite obvious conflicts of interest mean it is all but impossible for the media to provide this information. We did not expect the Soviet Communist Party's newspaper Pravda to tell the truth about the Communist Party, why should we expect the corporate press to tell the truth about corporate power?"

"We hope that this website will help to turn bystanders into compassionate actors."

FAIR state they want to "encourage the public…to become media activists rather than passive consumers of news."

This initiative represents only a stepping stone for people from corporate to independent and as such it is not an alternative to indymedia, it is simply a branch of it.

If you can dismantle the trust given to broadsheets you can make people question everything they 'know'. Just as the media is a medium, the broadsheet is "an advertisement (usually printed on a page or in a leaflet) intended for wide distribution."


I am aware that indymedia readership is growing, but the dominant news is also thriving on the internet: "The Sun continues to struggle with the success of its own website, latest figures suggest. More than five million users visited the site in January 2005 - a year-on-year increase of 56 per cent." The numbers of people marching against war was as much a show of peoples in-built questioning of power as well as their ethical stance against aggression, it was a victory for independent medias. However the response from 'power' was damning and I think it may have made those 'beginners' disillusioned as to what influence they have, even as a collective majority.

With regard to workshops, this seems to be a great idea, but my pessimistic side wants to ask who are you meeting with? Does this sometimes involve 'preaching to the converted'? In my immediate group of friends, there is a group of people who think along similar lines to me in almost every way and yet my interest in alternatives to the dominant news does not extend to them. Some I have 'converted' over time, others have found it themselves eventually. But the majority are completely uninterested or suspicious. In wider circles, from varied backgrounds and interests, I know very few who are informed via the independent media. This is my main concern, if one can't get the people who are already aware of the distortion of the mainstream media to seek alternatives, how do you get a Sun reader?

As for indymedia hosting corporate criticism, I still believe that for the reasons I outlined, this form of contribution to the deconstruction of the corporate media must be separate to the indymedia collective and publications like counterpunch etc. However, indymedia, for instance, is just as appropriate a place for criticism of the dominant mediums.

As to why people would trust this watchdog, I think I outlined this in how the site would work, the site exists only through reader input, the readers themselves are the ones criticising the media, it is their arguments that make up the content.

To address the passive readership it might be productive to host a message board, where people who are unsure whether their views are relevant, or for those that may be afraid to comment/criticise an article for fear of sounding ignorant.


In pointing out that the Sun readership is also growing, I was simply remarking that growth in Independent readership is only relative to overall change. And unfortunately it is not just the 'tittys' that attract people to the Sun, the delusion of US Fox viewers evidences that. I don't think its sensationalist stories that will attract viewers though, although much more interesting reading, there is a massive void between those institutionalised by years of propaganda and the reality of inherent corporate corruption. With reference to M's discussion of pharmaceutical monopoly/tax breaks (evasion) etc there is only so much one will accept. The common notion is that low taxes and subsidies bring big multi-nationals into the country, providing jobs, security, lower cost of goods and services and the rejuvenation of 'dying' communities. Any sleaze or mis-management is simply extra ordinary, bad eggs in an otherwise positive community enterprise. The problem with getting people to read indymedia etc is that theres just too much reality, one can't be subjected to news that the corporation supplying their extravagant/comfortable/basic lifestyle is also contributing to death and suppression. Even publicity of the cost of global warming is not enough to curb the promotion of lifestyle luxuries like air travel. The new airbus being a prime example, how many people recognised the contradiction in this new gas guzzler and the concern for polar ice cap melting on the next page? Years of reading about CEOs stealing millions and rogue traders making pensioners penniless are closely followed by flicking to the finance section to see how much you made or lost in the stock market, for those who are privileged enough anyway. Just as the trade unions have not been performing, so have people been under performing in their support for them. Literature has always sought to undermine the trade union, to demonise it, and in general this view seems quite prevalent although again contradictory in most mainstream papers. On the one hand you have articles calling for the need to increase teachers salaries and reduce doctors hours, and then on the other you have condemnation of striking workers. The same is true of opposition to the war. From one page to the next the Times changes its tune from outright support, bordering on xenophobic scaremongering to accurate and insightful reporting of what is really going on in the middle east. Either this is the journalists real agendas slipping through or simply the market forces allowing certain forms of dissent to appease those 'left wingers' needing some balance or the 'right wingers' calling for stability, privatisation and the 'free market'. Even the supposed bastions of liberality, the colleges, are businesses. The corporate media exists because of the way we live not the other way round. For this reason the critique and analysis of the corporate/institutionalised media is news in itself. This ramble is obviously not news to any of you, and I have managed to drag this discussion way off course.

There is a hundred reasons why I think this initiative needs to exist, separate or joined to indymedia (for one), it is collective dissent, and it has an effect. It has to, after all corporate media is a business, that is its fatal flaw, it will destroy itself or adapt in pursuit of profit. It exists only through readership, if the readership is vocally dis-satisfied with the product, it has to change, this is its obligation to its shareholders/advertisers. It cannot function only as a tool for propaganda.

One reason, is Myers in the Times: "The standard liberal way of discussing immigration in Britain is to misrepresent the arguments of those who counsel caution and control....[he then goes on to issue caution and control] who is the more likely to have an interest in reviving an Auschwitz? ...Answer: in large part through an ignoble and doctrinaire multiculturalism."

Or worse still, respected journalists like Vincent Browne, using a document which has been deemed a "complete forgery" by the attorney General's office to argue the illegal nature of the war in Iraq. Something that should have been straight forward to prove, he manages to undermine. No admission of error was made and no correction. A complete lack of accountability seems to prevail in Irish journalism.

I don't consider it 'passive reaction' either, it is public condemnation. Media Lens for instance is very well known (by journalists anyway), the editors were given space last year in the Guardian to criticise the publication. Some may consider it just a ploy to appease them, either way it is a small victory. The second reason is that in writing an email to a journalist you are in direct contact, they 'at the end of the day' human, with the possible exception of Mark Steyn. I don't think you should underestimate the impact of several hundred angry and informed protests from readers, this isn't going to sink the ship, but it may rock a few egos. My own responses from the dominant media have been few and far between, with only one letter seen fit for publication (although heavily edited):

"Does Mark Steyn realise that although he may be right in saying "There are millions of Americans who take the view that there's no such thing as a bad reason to whack Saddam." Saddam remains well and truly alive, while over 100,000 Iraqis and several thousand coalition troops suffered said 'whacking'."

The question of whether this should be incorporated into the site as opposed to separate is not that important. If the initiative is successful, I would hope it would play a part in all Irish media alternatives, with many different groups contributing. As I see it there is no reason for indymedia to be the watchdog. In terms of spreading the word, just one letter in the Times/Independent would be enough to create interest.

And as I said this is not intended to limit the growth of new media, it is simply a branch of it. It is as much a learning experience as it is a critic of the dominant news. And I am convinced that people active in this sort of critique will contribute more to independent media in turn. That is certainly my experience.


Gaza - a 'terrorist squat' apparently

Dear Madam,

On the 5th of August an Israeli soldier killed four Israeli Arabs on a bus travelling through the settlement of Shfaram in protest against the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, he was then beaten to death by an angry mob.

Imagine an Independent newspaper reporting with reference to this inexplicable event that, even as the Israeli people move to change the international perception of their intentions towards a Palestinian state by conceding land to their perceived enemy some Israelis just can't help but murder someone. In today's Irish Times Mark Steyn manages this tricky feat. Racism, contradiction and incoherence in the space of five lines.

"Even when Ariel Sharon hands them a great "victory", some Palestinians can't stop blowing themselves up long enough to celebrate it...The United States doesn't exist because the colonists "deserved" a state, but because they went out and fought for one. The same with the Irish Republic. By contrast, the world deemed Palestinians "deserving" of a state, and they've absolutely no interest in getting one."

The apparent concession made by Ariel Sharon to the Palestinian people has been an enormous success for the Israeli leader, the media have revelled in the emotional imagery of children being torn from their homes by anguished soldiers, some of whom are known personally to them, so as to give land to Mr. Steyn's ungrateful Palestinians. ITV News refers to the Palestinians momentary refrain from violence, preferring instead to enjoy the spectacle of Israeli suffering. BBC News displays picture after picture of Israelis being man handled by their own people in an effort to appease the aggressors on the other side of that defensive wall.

Where was this massive show of compassion for the 23,000 Palestinians forcibly removed from their homes in the dead of night moments before the Caterpillar appeared. Where were the interviews with the Palestinian children made homeless. Where were the Israelis who enjoyed the scenes of Palestinian suffering. Why the silence over the terms of this 'concession', the terms that ensure Israels continued control over the Gaza Strip including the movement of goods, a 'concession' that the World Bank found would cause a rise in both poverty and unemployment.

While those settlers being forced from their homes will now receive upwards of $140,000 for their troubles, the Palestinians still clutching the deeds to that land received nothing, not one single cent.

Mr. Steyn's perceived world "embrace of the Palestinian 'cause'" is unlikely given that in the present circumstances a Palestinian state is improbable. The liberal media have made it their job to glorify shallow concessions, to embrace stability, to favour the bad guys, but not the ones Mr. Steyn refers to. Supporting an endless purgatory, while the Palestinians fall ever closer towards a living hell.

How much longer will we be subjected to this warbling hack?

Yours etc...


Counterpunch Article via Media Lens

Gaza set to decay further into terrorist Islamic squat
Mark Steyn

Opinion: From New York's Newsday report of the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza: "Palestinians Friday celebrated what they consider their victory over Israel...

"'This pull-out is a result of our sacrifice,' he [ Mahmoud Abbas] said, 'of our patience, the sacrifice of our people, the steadfastness and the wise people of our nation.' Still, all was not calm among Palestinians. Two Hamas militants were wounded as they carried an explosive device that blew up accidentally near the evacuated Kfar Darom settlement."

Ah, well. Even when Ariel Sharon hands them a great "victory", some Palestinians can't stop blowing themselves up long enough to celebrate it. I've never subscribed to the notion that this or that people "deserve" a state - a weird and decadent post-modern concept of nationality and sovereignty, even if it weren't so erratically applied (how about the Kurds then?). The United States doesn't exist because the colonists "deserved" a state, but because they went out and fought for one. The same with the Irish Republic.

By contrast, the world deemed Palestinians "deserving" of a state, and they've absolutely no interest in getting one.

Any honest visitor to the Palestinian Authority is struck by the complete absence of any enthusiasm for nation-building - compared with comparable pre-independence trips to, say, Slovenia, Slovakia, or East Timor.

continued... The Irish Times


Friday, August 19, 2005

Nuclear Nightmare Diplomacy

We Must Act Now to Prevent Another Hiroshima -- or Worse
The explosions in London are a reminder of how the cycle of attack and response could escalate
by Noam Chomsky
August 17, 2005

This month's anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki prompts only the most somber reflection and most fervent hope that the horror may never be repeated.

In the subsequent 60 years, those bombings have haunted the world's imagination but not so much as to curb the development and spread of infinitely more lethal weapons of mass destruction.

A related concern, discussed in technical literature well before 11 September 2001, is that nuclear weapons may sooner or later fall into the hands of terrorist groups.

The recent explosions and casualties in London are yet another reminder of how the cycle of attack and response could escalate, unpredictably, even to a point horrifically worse than Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

The world's reigning power accords itself the right to wage war at will, under a doctrine of "anticipatory self-defense" that covers any contingency it chooses. The means of destruction are to be unlimited.

US military expenditures approximate those of the rest of the world combined, while arms sales by 38 North American companies (one in Canada) account for more than 60 per cent of the world total (which has risen 25 per cent since 2002).

There have been efforts to strengthen the thin thread on which survival hangs. The most important is the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which came into force in 1970. The regular five-year review conference of the NPT took place at the United Nations in May.

The NPT has been facing collapse, primarily because of the failure of the nuclear states to live up to their obligation under Article VI to pursue "good faith" efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons. The United States has led the way in refusal to abide by the Article VI obligations. Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, emphasizes that "reluctance by one party to fulfill its obligations breeds reluctance in others".

President Jimmy Carter blasted the United States as "the major culprit in this erosion of the NPT. While claiming to be protecting the world from proliferation threats in Iraq, Libya, Iran and North Korea, American leaders not only have abandoned existing treaty restraints but also have asserted plans to test and develop new weapons, including Anti-Ballistic missiles, the earth-penetrating 'bunker buster' and perhaps some new 'small' bombs. They also have abandoned past pledges and now threaten first use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states".

The thread has almost snapped in the years since Hiroshima, repeatedly. The best known case was the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962, "the most dangerous moment in human history", as Arthur Schlesinger, historian and former adviser to President John F Kennedy, observed in October 2002 at a retrospective conference in Havana.

continued... The Independent via ZMag


Thursday, August 18, 2005

Brush it under the carpet

Dear Madam,

Martin Wall reports in the Irish Times today, in reference to the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes, that "the details in the papers, which include witness statements from people in the Tube station, differ significantly from the circumstances of the shooting as set out in the media and in some police briefings immediately after the event." However, one need not lay the blame upon the unaccountable (and usefully vague) entity 'the media', a more constructive criticism would be to analyse ones own culpability in this system of misinformation which has contributed to the legitimisation of the inhuman 'shoot-to-kill' policy.

On the 23th July Frank Millar detailed several eyewitness statements, few of which bear any resemblance to the actual event. References to a man of Asian origin wearing unseasonably warm clothing were rampant. On the 25th July Rosie Cowan used the word 'bolted' several times to describe the manner in which Mr. de Menezes allegedly boarded the train, still wearing his unseasonably warm clothing, in response to being approached by police officers. On the 26th of July the Times again reported that Mr. de Menezes ignored police orders. Not until the 28th July did the Irish Times relay word from Mr. de Menezes' family that he wouldn't have jumped the barrier due to the fact he possessed a travel card.

The question is not whether 'shoot-to-kill' is a reasonable response to a terrorist threat, this was neatly summed up in the Times on the 26th " It is one thing to base a shoot-to-kill policy on such extreme cases, quite another to trust the intelligence and policing authorities to implement it effectively," it is whether the present police chief is competent and whether the fourth estate can be relied upon to provide accurate reporting without succumbing to the rhetoric of those in power.

Are the Irish Times readership expected to consider every event in retrospect? If this is the case can you send me a copy of next months Irish Times as I wish to see whether Iran can avoid war in light of its continued association, in the media, with nuclear terrorism.

Yours sincerely,


Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Menezes truth finally

Even after all the disinformation and lies clear, the corporate lap dogs still manage to justify murder. An inexplainable tragic mistake, maybe, but definitely a reason to question even the the suggestion of 'shoot to kill'.


Mistakes led to tube shooting
8.25PM, Tue Aug 16 2005

ITV News has obtained secret documents and photographs that detail why police shot Jean Charles De Menezes dead on the tube.

The Brazilian electrician was killed on 22 July, the day after the series of failed bombings on the tube and bus network.

The crucial mistake that ultimately led to his death was made at 9.30am when Jean Charles left his flat in Scotia Road, South London.

Surveillance officers wrongly believed he could have been Hussain Osman, one of the prime suspects, or another terrorist suspect.

By 10am that morning, elite firearms officers were provided with what they describe as "positive identification" and shot De Menezes eight times in the head and upper body.

The documents and photographs confirm that Jean Charles was not carrying any bags, and was wearing a denim jacket, not a bulky winter coat, as had previously been claimed.

He was behaving normally, and did not vault the barriers, even stopping to pick up a free newspaper.

He started running when we saw a tube at the platform. Police had agreed they would shoot a suspect if he ran.

A document describes CCTV footage, which shows Mr de Menezes entered Stockwell station at a "normal walking pace" and descended slowly on an escalator.

The document said: "At some point near the bottom he is seen to run across the concourse and enter the carriage before sitting in an available seat.

"Almost simultaneously armed officers were provided with positive identification."

A member of the surveillance team is quoted in the report. He said: "I heard shouting which included the word `police' and turned to face the male in the denim jacket.

"He immediately stood up and advanced towards me and the CO19 officers. I grabbed the male in the denim jacket by wrapping both my arms around his torso, pinning his arms to his side.

"I then pushed him back on to the seat where he had been previously sitting. I then heard a gun shot very close to my left ear and was dragged away onto the floor of the carriage."

The report also said a post mortem examination showed Mr de Menezes was shot seven times in the head and once in the shoulder, but three other bullets missed, with the casings left lying in the tube carriage.

Police have declined to comment while the mistaken killing is still being investigated.


Monday, August 15, 2005

Money fight

While a "Top civilian in U.S. Army Corps of Engineers blows whistle, and may lose her job," Iraq's new constitution is being prepared.

A constitution that means nothing to ordinary Iraqis
Monday, 15th August 2005, by Robert Fisk

Behind ramparts of concrete and barbed wire, the framers of Iraq’s new constitution wrestled yesterday to prevent - or bring about - the federalisation of Iraq while their compatriots in the hot and fetid streets outside showed no interest in their efforts.

Today is supposed to be "C" day, according to President Bush and all the others who illegally invaded this country in 2003. However, in " real" Baghdad - where the President and Prime Minister and the constitutional committee never set foot - they ask you about security, about electricity, about water, about when the occupation will end, when the murders will end, when the rapes will end.

They talk, quite easily, about the "failed" Jaafari government, so blithely elected by Shias and Kurds last January. "Failed" because it cannot protect its own people. "Failed" because it cannot rebuild its own capital city - visible to it between the Crusader-like machine-gun slits in the compound walls - and because it cannot understand, let alone meet, the demands of the "street".

In the Alice-in-Wonderland Iraq of Messrs Bush and Blair - inhabited, too, by the elected government of Iraq and its constitutional drafters and quite a few Western journalists - there are no such problems to cope with. The air-conditioners hiss away - there are generators to provide 24-hour power - and almost all senior officials have palatial homes in the heavily protected "Green Zone" which was once Saddam Hussein’s Republican Palace compound. No power cuts for them, no petrol queues, no kidnaps and murders.

continued... Selves and Others


Thursday, August 11, 2005

The yearly dissent

Its been a while since hes been allowed column inches and it'll probably be another 6 months before he gets space again. But beggars can't be choosers...

Like it or not, we are up to our neck in the Iraq war
Richard Boyd Barrett

The targeting of innocent civilians in London on July 7th was an atrocity to be condemned without reservation. However, the response of Tony Blair, much of the media and our own Government has been dishonest and hypocritical.

The tragedy is being used to whitewash the US-UK war in Iraq, attack civil liberties and inflame the conditions that led to the attack in the first place.

Blair denies any link between the attacks and the invasion of Iraq. Instead, the finger is pointed at Islam, producing a dramatic increase in attacks on Muslims in Britain, including mosque burnings and physical attacks.

John Waters asks us to "embrace" Bush and Blair as "our true protectors" against the "virus" that wants "to remake the world in the image of Islam."

Mark Steyn obscenely suggests that the incineration by the US of 300,000 innocent civilians in Nagasaki and Hiroshima with nuclear bombs offers a guide for dealing with Iraq today. Such views offer a certain path to further atrocity.

It is blatantly obvious that the war and occupation in Iraq, based on lies about weapons of mass destruction, has produced raging anger in the Muslim and Arab world. It was predicted that this anger would increase support for al-Qaeda. London was on high alert since the Iraq war started for precisely this reason. A recent poll in Britain shows that 85 per cent of people believe Iraq and the London attacks are connected.

The Iraq war poured petrol on already simmering anger in the region over Israeli oppression of Palestinians, the US presence in Saudi Arabia and 10 years of murderous sanctions against Iraq. Where a few thousand subscribed to al-Qaeda ideology before the Iraq war, tens of thousands do today.

Islam is no more to blame for this or the London attacks than Christianity is for what Bush has done in Iraq. The focus on Islam is a racist attempt to divert attention away from the political issues of Iraq, Palestine and Western control of oil that fuel the rising cycle of violence.
Blair's new "war on extremism", with plans for compulsory ID cards and new crimes such as "indirect incitement to terrorism", is a major threat to the civil liberties clearly aimed at those who offer strident criticism of US and British foreign policy.

Thus we enter an Orwellian world where those that kill civilians with cluster bombs, missiles or even nuclear weapons are "our protectors" but those that defend Iraq's right to resist occupation are terrorists.

Bertie Ahernclaims Shannon plays no role in the Iraq war. He says there is no risk of a London-style attack. Yet we are also told there are al-Qaeda activists operating in Ireland requiring draconian new security measures and enhanced co-operation with US intelligence services. Both can't be true.

In truth, Ireland is up to its neck in the Iraq war. The number of US troops going through Shannon airport has increased rapidly since the invasion. Some 153,381 went through in the first six months of this year. Shannon is the main European hub for transporting US troops to Iraq.

In 2003 Bush's envoy to Ireland publicly thanked the Government for the use of Shannon. He made it clear that, in terms of "location and capacity", it would be difficult to replace.
The London and Madrid bombings show that states linked to the US occupation are potential targets. By allowing US troops to travel through Shannon to Iraq this country is linked to the occupation. To suggest there is no risk is a lie.

That aside, the more important reason to stop the US military using Shannon is the horror in Iraq itself. The civilian death toll is at least 25,980 and may¨ be as high as 128,000. Iraqis have faced London-style atrocities every day since the US led invasion began.

The violence, now spreading to the West, will only end if the US ends its occupation. Here, we must renew pressure on Ahern's government to end its collaboration with the US war machine at Shannon.

This would be a vital act of solidarity with the Iraqi people and the anti-war movement in the US. On Saturday September 24th there will be major protests in Washington, San Francisco and London calling for the withdrawal of US/UK troops from Iraq.On that date, the Irish Anti-War Movement and other peace groups have called a major peace rally and festival at Shannon airport. Be there!

• Richard Boyd Barrett is chairman of the Irish Anti-War Movement

The Irish Times

and a letter rubbishing the 'nuclear justification debate'

Madam, - Around the 60th anniversary of the atomic incineration of Hiroshima, you had a headline about the "lessons of the nuclear catastrophe". Like other papers you also published articles which said there was an unresolved debate about whether or not that incineration was justified.

Surely in Ireland, where no patriotism or wartime loyalty induces us to deceive ourselves, we can speak about the matter in plain terms and state the obvious.

The wiping out of Hiroshima was not a "catastrophe": that word means a disaster caused by natural or other impersonal agents. Objectively and beyond possible dispute, it was a deliberate act of indiscriminate massacre. The cited debate as to whether that massacre was "justified" is ambiguous. In the verbal sense of the word, it was justified, with reasons given, by president Truman and others, and their "justification", though rejected by many prominent persons, was tacitly accepted by the rulers of the West. The question that has since been debated is whether the massacre was "justified" in the sense of being a legitimate act or, alternatively, was a war crime.

The answer is obvious, and if the Germans or the Soviets had done it, there would be no debate. The agreed morality and law of the West at the time forbade any deliberate act of indiscriminate massacre and held such an act to be a grievous sin and a heinous crime. This ethical and legal principle admitted of no exception, no possible justifying circumstances or motives.

Consequently, in pleading that he had justifying motives, president Truman was proposing and declaring a new post-hoc and post-Western ethic, namely: "A deliberate act of indiscriminate massacre is legitimate if performed with good intentions, such as bringing a war to a rapid end or saving a larger number of lives than would otherwise be lost."

That ethic had not been in force when the massacre was committed. If a criminal on trial for a crime were to enunciate novel legal principles that would have justified his act if they had been in force, he would be laughed out of court.

Those are the facts of the matter. Quite apart from them, historians have observed with dismay the pitiful, lying tactic which Truman used in subsequent years in a desperate attempt to justify himself to himself. The American military's advance estimates of fatal casualties in a full-scale invasion of Japan varied between 20,000 and 63,000, with 46,000 being the most accepted estimate. In a speech on August 9th, just after the double bombings, Truman said that "thousands of American lives" had been saved. By December, the figure he was citing had risen
to "a quarter of a million lives".

In subsequent years, in his speeches or writings, it rose further - until in 1959, at a Columbia University seminar, he said: "The dropping of the bombs stopped the war, saved millions of lives."

Historians now generally accept that Truman's motives in perpetrating the two massacres were a mixture of righteous revenge, a desire to placate the nuclear scientists who wanted experimental data, and, above all, a desire to impress and warn the Soviets by a display of American power. - Yours, etc,

Dr DESMOND FENNELL, Maynooth, Co Kildare.


Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Constant patterns of light

By David Edwards

Samples From An Ocean Of SufferingIn 1992 a group of neuroscientists travelled to India to research the effects of meditation. In the mountains above Dharamsala, the scientists spent time with a young monk who had been meditating intensively for six years. Richard Davidson, a psychobiologist from the University of Wisconsin, had done pioneering work correlating minute shifts in facial expression with emotions. He explained to the monk that he would be shown a video of Tibetan demonstrators being beaten by Chinese security forces. His face would simultaneously be videoed to record any reactions. Writer Alan Wallace described the result:
"As the monk watched the video, we didn't detect any change of expression in his face at all, no grimace, no shudder, no expression of sadness." (Wallace, Buddhism With An Attitude, Snow Lion Publications, 2001, p.176)

The monk was asked to describe his experience while watching the video. He replied:
"I didn't see anything that I didn't already know goes on all the time, not only in Tibet but throughout the world. I am aware of this constantly."

It was not that the monk failed to experience compassion while watching these brutal scenes, Wallace explains: "He was aware that he was simply being shown a video - patterns of light - representing events that took place long ago. But this suffering was simply one episode in the overall suffering of samsara [existence], of which he was constantly aware. Hence, while looking out over the ocean of suffering, he didn't feel anything extraordinary when he was shown a picture of a glass of water". (Email to author, July 15, 2005)

This account came to mind when I saw the response to the July 7 terrorist atrocities in London. In the video experiment, the monk's mind was so steeped in compassion that his expression did not change at all even when he saw images of his own people being brutalised. So what does it tell us that so many British people were so deeply shaken by the suffering of their fellow citizens?After all, have we not been reading and watching endless accounts and footage of near-identical horrors in Iraq and Palestine on mainstream and internet-based media over the last few years? The suffering of the Iraqi people, for example, is almost beyond belief. When the West again blitzed Baghdad in March 2003, this followed years of war and sanctions that had shattered the country's infrastructure. The population again being bombed had already had to endure the deaths of literally hundreds of thousands of children from malnutrition, water-borne diseases and other horrors caused by US-UK sanctions. This truly was suffering heaped on suffering.

Howard Zinn made the point after the September 11 attacks:

"One of the things that occurred to me, after I had gotten over my initial reaction of shock and horror at what had been done, was that other scenes of horror have taken place in other parts of the world and they just never meant very much to us." (Zinn, Terror And War, Open Media Book, 2002, p.90)

One Second Per DeathI don't believe this comparative indifference is hard-wired into human nature. The truth is that we are trained to value the lives of our countrymen more highly by a socio-political system that has much to gain from a restricted, patriotic version of compassion, and much to lose from an excess of popular concern for suffering inflicted on 'foreigners' by our governments and corporations.

continued... Media Lens


Sunday, August 07, 2005

The myths of Hiroshima

By Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin, KAI BIRD and MARTIN J. SHERWIN are coauthors of "American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer," published earlier this year by Knopf.

SIXTY YEARS ago tomorrow, an atomic bomb was dropped without warning on the center of the Japanese city of Hiroshima. One hundred and forty thousand people were killed, more than 95% of them women and children and other noncombatants. At least half of the victims died of radiation poisoning over the next few months. Three days after Hiroshima was obliterated, the city of Nagasaki suffered a similar fate.

The magnitude of death was enormous, but on Aug. 14, 1945 — just five days after the Nagasaki bombing — Radio Tokyo announced that the Japanese emperor had accepted the U.S. terms for surrender. To many Americans at the time, and still for many today, it seemed clear that the bomb had ended the war, even "saving" a million lives that might have been lost if the U.S. had been required to invade mainland Japan.

This powerful narrative took root quickly and is now deeply embedded in our historical sense of who we are as a nation. A decade ago, on the 50th anniversary, this narrative was reinforced in an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution on the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the first bomb. The exhibit, which had been the subject of a bruising political battle, presented nearly 4 million Americans with an officially sanctioned view of the atomic bombings that again portrayed them as a necessary act in a just war.

But although patriotically correct, the exhibit and the narrative on which it was based were historically inaccurate. For one thing, the Smithsonian downplayed the casualties, saying only that the bombs "caused many tens of thousands of deaths" and that Hiroshima was "a definite military target."

Americans were also told that use of the bombs "led to the immediate surrender of Japan and made unnecessary the planned invasion of the Japanese home islands." But it's not that straightforward. As Tsuyoshi Hasegawa has shown definitively in his new book, "Racing the Enemy" — and many other historians have long argued — it was the Soviet Union's entry into the Pacific war on Aug. 8, two days after the Hiroshima bombing, that provided the final "shock" that led to Japan's capitulation.

The Enola Gay exhibit also repeated such outright lies as the assertion that "special leaflets were dropped on Japanese cities" warning civilians to evacuate. The fact is that atomic bomb warning leaflets were dropped on Japanese cities, but only after Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been destroyed.

The hard truth is that the atomic bombings were unnecessary. A million lives were not saved. Indeed, McGeorge Bundy, the man who first popularized this figure, later confessed that he had pulled it out of thin air in order to justify the bombings in a 1947 Harper's magazine essay he had ghostwritten for Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson.

The bomb was dropped, as J. Robert Oppenheimer, scientific director of the Manhattan Project, said in November 1945, on "an essentially defeated enemy." President Truman and his closest advisor, Secretary of State James Byrnes, quite plainly used it primarily to prevent the Soviets from sharing in the occupation of Japan. And they used it on Aug. 6 even though they had agreed among themselves as they returned home from the Potsdam Conference on Aug. 3 that the Japanese were looking for peace.

These unpleasant historical facts were censored from the 1995 Smithsonian exhibit, an action that should trouble every American. When a government substitutes an officially sanctioned view for publicly debated history, democracy is diminished.

continued... LA Times


Friday, August 05, 2005

Nice Wall

Unwelcome Intervention

Banksy also records on his website how an old Palestinian man said his painting made the wall look beautiful. Banksy thanked him, only to be told: 'We don't want it to be beautiful, we hate this wall. Go home.'




Thursday, August 04, 2005

Eras and Mavericks

Why the era of 9/11 and not the era of Iraq?

Dear Madam,

In today's Irish Times Deaglán de Bréadún refers to George Galloway as a 'maverick MP'. Given that a politicians responsibility is to serve the interests of his or her constituents and the public in general, in this case the constituents of Benthanal Green, do you consider the term 'maverick' an appropriate description? The majority of people in Britain do not support the war in Iraq, they do not support the continued occupation of a foreign nation and they do not support many of the present British policies in the middle east. In light of this well established information, would it not be more accurate to refer to Tony Blair and Jack Straw as the 'maverick MPs'? Since they are the principle proponents of dissent within the only important political group, the British voters.

Yours sincerely,

Plane hijacker turned politician disapproves of today's 'terrorism'

Palestine: Leila Khaled, who, in another era, was the symbol of the Palestinian struggle, makes her first visit to Ireland, writes Deaglán de Bréadún, Foreign Affairs Correspondent

In the era of 9/11 and bombs on the London underground it may be hard to believe there was once a certain glamour attached to people who carried out what would now be widely condemned as terrorist actions.

Nobody epitomised that more at one time than Leila Khaled, a member of the People's Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), who hijacked two passenger aircraft in 1969 and 1970. Far from incurring universal outrage, this elegant young woman became a media icon, wearing a kaffiyeh on her head and a ring on her finger made from a bullet and the pin of a hand grenade.

continued... The Irish Times