Saturday, June 17, 2006

what are the chances?

global deaths by cause annually

sources: 1, 2.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

world crime

the following is part of british writer harold pinter's
acceptance speech for the 2005 nobel prize for literature

POLITICIANS are interested not in truth but in power. To maintain that power it is essential that people remain in ignorance, that they live in ignorance of the truth, even the truth of their own lives. What surrounds us therefore is a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed.

The justification for the invasion of Iraq was that Saddam Hussein possessed a highly dangerous body of weapons of mass destruction, some of which could be fired in 45 minutes, bringing about appalling devastation. We were assured that was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq had a relationship with al-Qaeda and shared responsibility for the atrocity in New York of September 11, 2001. We were assured that this was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq threatened the security of the world. We were assured it was true. It was not true.

The truth is something entirely different. The truth is to do with how the United States understands its role in the world and how it chooses to embody it.

Everyone knows what happened in the Soviet Union and throughout Eastern Europe during the postwar period: the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought. All this has been fully documented and verified.

The US crimes in the same period have only been superficially recorded, let alone recognised as crimes at all. I believe this must be addressed and that the truth has considerable bearing on where the world stands now. Although constrained, to a certain extent, by the existence of the Soviet Union, America's actions throughout the world made it clear that it had concluded it had carte blanche to do what it liked.

The US supported and in many cases engendered every right-wing military dictatorship in the world after the end of World War II. I refer to Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador and Chile.

The crimes of the US have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It's a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.

I put to you that the US is without doubt the greatest show on the road. Brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be but it is also very clever. As a salesman it is out on its own and its most saleable commodity is self love. It's a winner. Listen to all American presidents on television say the words, "the American people", as in the sentence, "I say to the American people it is time to pray and to defend the rights of the American people and I ask the American people to trust their president in the action he is about to take on behalf of the American people."

It's a scintillating stratagem. Language is actually employed to keep thought at bay. The words "the American people" provide a truly voluptuous cushion of reassurance. You don't need to think. Just lie back on the cushion. The cushion may be suffocating your intelligence and your critical faculties but it's very comfortable. This does not apply of course to the 40 million people living below the poverty line and the 2 million men and women imprisoned in the vast gulag of prisons, which extends across the US.

The US no longer bothers about low-intensity conflict. It no longer sees any point in being reticent or even devious. It quite simply doesn't give a damn about the United Nations, international law or critical dissent, which it regards as impotent and irrelevant. It also has its own bleating little lamb tagging behind it, the pathetic and supine Britain.

What has happened to our moral sensibility? Did we ever have any? What do these words mean? Do they refer to a term very rarely employed these days — conscience? A conscience to do not only with our own acts but to do with our shared responsibility in the acts of others? Is all this dead?

Look at Guantanamo Bay. Hundreds of people detained without charge for over three years, with no legal representation or due process, technically detained forever. This totally illegitimate structure is maintained in defiance of the Geneva Convention.

This criminal outrage is being committed by a country that declares itself to be the leader of the free world. Do we think about the inhabitants of Guantanamo Bay? They have been consigned to a no-man's-land from which indeed they may never return. At present many are on hunger strike, being force-fed. No niceties in these force-feeding procedures. No sedative or anaesthetic. Just a tube stuck up your nose and into your throat. You vomit blood. This is torture. What has the British Prime Minister said about this? Nothing. Why not? Because the US has said: to criticise our conduct in Guantanamo Bay constitutes an unfriendly act. You're either with us or against us. So Blair shuts up.

The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law. The invasion was an arbitrary military action inspired by a series of lies upon lies and gross manipulation of the media and therefore of the public; an act intended to consolidate American military and economic control of the Middle East masquerading — as a last resort, all other justifications having failed to justify themselves — as liberation. A formidable assertion of military force responsible for the death and mutilation of thousands and thousands of innocent people.

We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery, degradation and death to the Iraqi people and call it "bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East".

How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal?

Death in this context is irrelevant. At least 100,000 Iraqis were killed by American bombs and missiles before the Iraq insurgency began. These people are of no moment. Their deaths don't exist. They are blank. They are not even recorded as being dead. "We don't do body counts," said general Tommy Franks.

The 2000 American dead are an embarrassment. They are transported to their graves in the dark. Funerals are unobtrusive, out of harm's way. The mutilated rot in their beds, some for the rest of their lives. So the dead and the mutilated both rot.

The US is now totally frank. Its official declared policy is now defined as "full spectrum dominance". That means control of land, sea, air and space and all attendant resources. The US now occupies 702 military installations in 132 countries. It possesses 8000 active and operational nuclear warheads. Two thousand are on hair-trigger alert, ready to be launched with 15 minutes warning. This infantile insanity — the possession and threatened use of nuclear weapons — is at the heart of American political philosophy.

Many thousands, if not millions, of people in the US itself are demonstrably sickened, shamed and angered by their Government's actions, but as things stand they are not a coherent political force — yet. But the anxiety, uncertainty and fear which we can see growing daily in the US is unlikely to diminish.

When we look into a mirror we think the image that confronts us is accurate. But move a millimetre and the image changes. Sometimes a writer has to smash the mirror, for it is on the other side of that mirror that the truth stares at us.

Despite the enormous odds that exist, unflinching, unswerving, fierce intellectual determination, as citizens, to define the real truth of our lives and our societies is a crucial obligation that devolves upon us all. It is in fact mandatory. If such a determination is not embodied in our political vision we have no hope of restoring what is so nearly lost to us — the dignity of man.


Friday, December 09, 2005

september 12th

september 12th is a charming and pertinent interactive simulation
of the logic driving the war on terror.

see if you can eliminate all the terrorists!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

who do you ask for help when you're raped by the police?

a small group of people seems to rarely require the intervention of force

once you expand that to the size of a village
you realise that occasionally the marginalised and irresponsible
might be driven to do things
that the community would rather prevented
with sufficient vehemence
to tolerate the use of force

this is why we as a community have a police force
a group of people trained and armed
to deliver the intervention of force

the action of the police force at large
as a cultural entity
are largely uncontroversial

most people in the community
do not commonly perceive themselves
to be under the thumb of the police
and most of the time would consider the law
and the style in which it is enforced
to be reasonable

we are thankful that for the most part this force is not misused
the police force does little to maneuver itself politically
it does not apppear to have much of a public policy agenda

this is at it should be

if we then go out one further level
from the national to the international arena
where the international equivalent of the police force
is a military force
we find the military forces of the 'allied' nations
being used in very controversial and wilful ways

regardless of whether you think the military action
by the 'allied' nations in the middle east is justified
most people who live in those countries do not

maybe it has always been the way
that the more powerful will oppress the less powerful
and steal from them

in previous centuries the expansion of empire was laudable
murder and theft were just the cut and thrust of life
and international politics

now it is not

the values of the community
which have allowed untold centuries of bloody conflict
have changed

but the international empire-building actions
which those values supported and justified
have not

and so the gulf between what is actually going on
and what is publically admitted by the government to be going on
seems forever widening

our governments have become increasingly deceptive and hypocritical
and we know this

this is more significant and pressing
than international mass-murder

we are being forced into pulic submission
forced to openly accept that we are not self-governing
but rather, that we are ruled
and that we are powerless to do anything about it

what would you do
if you saw the police rob a bank
or burgle a house?

what would we do
if everybody knew
the police were corrupt
and operating wilfully
pursuing their own ends
and the interests of their friends?

the answer is


Friday, September 09, 2005

katrina vs new orleans vs usa

the 1927 mississippi flood

Thousands drowned in the murky brew that was soon contaminated by sewage and industrial waste. Thousands more who survived the flood later perished from dehydration and disease as they waited to be rescued. It took two months to pump the city dry, and by then the Big Easy was buried under a blanket of putrid sediment, a million people were homeless, and 50,000 were dead. It was the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States. When did this calamity happen?

It hasn't—yet
published in the national geographic
april 10, 2005

As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various directions. As the crowd scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched forward and managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation ... We questioned why we couldn't cross the bridge anyway, especially as there was little traffic on the 6-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their City. These were code words for if you are poor and black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River and you were not getting out of New Orleans.
eyewitness account from livejournal


Wednesday, August 31, 2005

'the algebra of infinite justice'

according to the u.s military
an al-qaeda operative
known only by the generic alias abu islam
was among the numeorus occupants of two houses
in a small village called qusayba
close the the iraq-syria border

so at 2am local time yesterday
they dropped (or 'guided') four bombs onto one of the houses

and just after 6am
they dropped two bombs on the other

they soon proudly proclaimed that they had killed abu islam
and several of his associates

the 'associates' that were killed numbered at least 46
and of course included numerous women and children

a military spokesman said
"coalition forces take all precautions
to minimize collateral damage
and prevent the loss of civilian life"

even if we pretend for a moment
that this was a tragic accident
surely dropping bombs on houses doesn't count
as "tak[ing] all precautions ... to prevent the loss of civilian life"

what ratio, i wonder, would be acceptable to the military planners?
if osama bin laden was somewhere in a crowd of 100,000
would they just bomb the lot?

here's hoping you or i aren't in that crowd

as arundhati roy wrote in her essay "war is peace",
"Each innocent person that is killed must be added to, not set off against, the grisly toll of civilians who died in New York and Washington"

indeed, despite what we might be led to believe
the killing of innocent civilians by allied forces
is neither morally nor even strategically different
from civilian deaths at the hands of other 'terrorists'.


Sunday, August 28, 2005

i've been to bali too

what's happening in indonesia?

are more australian tourists taking drugs than ever before?
of course not

australians use drugs and will continue doing so
and indonesians use drugs and will continue to also

the increase in the number of australians charged with drug offences in bali
is indirectly caused by australia's involvement in the war on iraq

muslim people the world over
feel persecuted by the allies
mainly because they are

the muslim world feels an emotional solidarity that western nations don't know
a loyalty
and what we are doing to their brothers and sisters in iraq
is upsetting to indonesian muslims

that australia is assisting in this humiliation
after causing indonesia to lose face
by assisting east timor to gain independence
has generated righteous indignation
amongst the muslim electorate of indonesia

there is very little that is within the power of the indonesian government
that can be done to placate these feelings of powerlessness and rage

one small thing that can be done
to signify a rejection of australia's international behaviour
is to crack down on the drug-taking australian tourists in bali

the indonesian government is of course perfectly aware that to the average australian
having two eckies in your handbag
is pretty normal

but to the sensationalist sensibilities of rightwing indonesian nationalism
this is obvious evidence of the pollution of muslim culture
by morally degenerate infidels
a tide that must be stemmed

schapelle corby and the bali 9 are political prisoners
sacrifices of protest against australian mistreatment of muslims

michelle leslie