Categorized | Middle East



Israel lobby snares elite, Australian minds (and very few resist)

24 Oct 2010

Yet more evidence that the Australian political and media are largely bought by the Zionist lobby, unable to think for themselves. This upcoming trip will result in the following (let me make some wild guesses). Iran is a focus, Palestinians have to stop incitement, the occupation isn’t really a problem and Australia must support the Middle East’s “only democracy”.

How many of these folk will actually leave the official tour and visit the West Bank for a period of time or even Gaza? As global public opinion increasingly recognises Israeli apartheid, our “leaders” are blind to facts on the ground (such as the latest evidence that the Israeli siege on Gaza has nothing to do with security and is all about punishing the Palestinians there).

Just like politicians who visited apartheid South Africa, we will not forget these people, who remained silent and who became complicit:

The largest ever Australian parliamentary delegation to visit Israel will travel to Jerusalem in December.

They will be part of a dialogue hosted by the privately funded Australia Israel Leadership Forum.

Julia Gillard has given approval for six ministers and parliamentary secretaries to be part of the trip led by Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd.

They will be part of a record 17 members of the House of Representatives and Senate who will take part in the visit.

The other Labor MPs are Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, Industry Minister Kim Carr, Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture Mike Kelly, Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs Richard Marles and MPs Michael Danby and Anthony Byrne. Bill Shorten, the Assistant Treasurer, is expected to join.

The Liberal Party plans to send nine members and senators — deputy leader Julie Bishop, Christopher Pyne, Andrew Robb, George Brandis, Kevin Andrews, Brett Mason, Mitch Fifield, Steven Ciobo and Guy Barnett.

And the ABC will break with long-held tradition and allow a journalist to attend, political editor Chris Uhlmann. AILF is the project of Melbourne property developer Albert Dadon and is modelled on the Australian American Leadership Dialogue begun by businessman Phil Scanlon.

Mr Dadon said the record number of participants “is testimony of the goodwill that exists between Australia and Israel”.

Asked who was paying for the 17 members of parliament, Mr Dadon said: “The general rule for parliamentarians taking part in the leadership forum is that they pay their own way to Israel and we take care of all expenses on the ground except for ministers, who are also paying for their expenses.”

Five journalists are expected to attend, Uhlmann, Greg Sheridan from The Australian, Steve Lewis from News Limited, Tony Walker from The Australian Financial Review and Lenore Taylor from The Sydney Morning Herald.

On the trip, a ceremony will be held at Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum to honour William Cooper, the Aborigine who led a protest to the German consulate in Melbourne in 1938 after Kristallnacht (On November 9, 1938, the Nazis launched their first anti-Semitic attack on German Jews, to become known as the Night of Broken Glass).

While various organisations protested after Kristallnacht, Cooper is the only known individual to have organised a demonstration.

Funding for a “chair” dedicated to studying resistance during the Holocaust will be formalised.

“It’s fitting that the study chair at Yad Vashem that will be researching the resistance against the Nazi occupation during the Holocaust be dedicated to the memory of the only man in the world who had the courage to protest and stand up against Kristallnacht,” Mr Dadon said.


If Washington doesn’t pursue Blackwater, somebody has to

24 Oct 2010

Let’s get this straight. The US government has smeared the latest Wikileaks Iraq information dump and apparently has no interest in investigating anything. The Iraqi government, undeniably corrupt and broken, has a rather different attitude:

The Iraqi government says that it will investigate whether employees of the Blackwater security company were involved in hitherto undisclosed killings that emerged from the Wikileaks documents.

In addition to a notorious case in Baghdad in 2007, when Blackwater guards killed 17 and wounded 18 civilians, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism says that it has discovered a further 14 cases when Blackwater personnel allegedly opened fire on civilians. The information comes from the war logs made public by Wikileaks and allegedly shows that a further 10 civilians were killed and seven wounded by Blackwater, a US-based private security company now known as Xe. In one third of cases, the Blackwater guards were protecting US diplomats under a $465m (£300m) contract when they opened fire.

The war logs reveal repeated cases when they shot at civilian vehicles that came close to their convoys, on one occasion even shooting dead the driver of an ambulance who had attended the scene of a bomb attack.

Sunni politicians in Baghdad say that the US military reports confirm and give credibility to their claims over the years that members of their community were being tortured by Shia-dominated security forces.

Iraq Body Count says that the 400,000 Wikileak war logs show that an additional 15,000 Iraqi civilians had been killed in addition to the 107,000 in the group’s database, which was built up from published sources. From the start of the war in 2003, the US military claimed that it did not have statistics on how many Iraqi civilians were being killed or injured. The aim of this was apparently to try to undermine protests against civilian loss of life as had happened in Vietnam.

The American and British governments both sought to play down civilian casualties in Iraq, claiming that only four out of 18 Iraqi provinces had a high level of violence. The Pentagon did ultimately admit that civilian deaths peaked at between 3,500 and 4,000 in a single month in December 2006.


Needing security to protect the Wikileaks asset

24 Oct 2010

This is a battle for public opinion but only of these players has access to extra-judicial methods:

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said on Israeli television he was taking security precautions following the release of nearly 400,000 secret US military documents on the Iraq war.

“No, I’m not running for my life, but we do have to take extra security precautions,” Mr Assange told Channel Two television in an interview that took place in London.

The Israeli channel reported that Mr Assange was accompanied by bodyguards during the interview.

The mass of US documents from 2004 to 2009, released by WikiLeaks on Friday, offer a grim snapshot of the Iraq conflict, especially of the abuse of civilians by Iraqi security forces.

“Just yesterday, in fact, the former general counsel of the CIA said that it was his view that the US was trying to get me personally and possibly some other people into the US jurisdiction, and that corresponds to former statements made by the Pentagon,” Mr Assange told Channel Two.

Asked whether the WikiLeaks revelations could be of use to Osama bin Laden, Mr Assange told the Israeli broadcaster that he was not privy to the thoughts of the Al Qaeda chief.

“I do not have access to Osama bin Laden’s thoughts. Many people want the truth out, insofar as Al Qaeda wants the truth out, they are correct,” he said.


Assange needs to take questions about his position in Wikileaks

24 Oct 2010

When Julian Assange walked out of an CNN interview after a journalist asked questions about his role in the organisation, it seemed both petty and justified. The Iraq war logs deserve serious examination but Assange himself is clearly a legitimate line of questioning: 


The Pentagon bathes in blood on a daily basis

24 Oct 2010

With customary passion, Robert Fisk on the real significance of the Wikleaks Iraq dump:

As usual, the Arabs knew. They knew all about the mass torture, the promiscuous shooting of civilians, the outrageous use of air power against family homes, the vicious American and British mercenaries, the cemeteries of the innocent dead. All of Iraq knew. Because they were the victims.

Only we could pretend we did not know. Only we in the West could counter every claim, every allegation against the Americans or British with some worthy general – the ghastly US military spokesman Mark Kimmitt and the awful chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Peter Pace, come to mind – to ring-fence us with lies. Find a man who’d been tortured and you’d be told it was terrorist propaganda; discover a house full of children killed by an American air strike and that, too, would be terrorist propaganda, or “collateral damage”, or a simple phrase: “We have nothing on that.”

Which makes it all the more astonishing that the Pentagon is now bleating that WikiLeaks may have blood on its hands. The Pentagon has been covered in blood since the dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima in 1945, and for an institution that ordered the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003 – wasn’t that civilian death toll more than 66,000 by their own count, out of a total of 109,000 recorded? – to claim that WikiLeaks is culpable of homicide is preposterous.

The truth, of course, is that if this vast treasury of secret reports had proved that the body count was much lower than trumpeted by the press, that US soldiers never tolerated Iraqi police torture, rarely shot civilians at checkpoints and always brought killer mercenaries to account, US generals would be handing these files out to journalists free of charge on the steps of the Pentagon. They are furious not because secrecy has been breached, or because blood may be spilt, but because they have been caught out telling the lies we always knew they told.


Serco and G4S are peas from the same pod

24 Oct 2010

In Australian political life, only the Greens are hammering away against the privatisation of detention centres:

Australia’s immigration detention system is failing, and this makes the need for transparency greater than ever, according to Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.

Senator Hanson-Young, Greens spokesperson on Immigration, says she is concerned at reports that immigration service provider SERCO may have sub-contracted unlicensed security guards in a number of detention facilities in the Northern Territory.

“Anyone who works in the immigration detention system should have appropriate training and knowledge to work in such a sensitive area, so we are extremely concerned at any evidence that standards are slipping – but there is a wider problem here,” Senator Hanson-Young said.

“From evidence at estimates hearings it is clear that there is no real public oversight of service providers like Serco. This is the critical problem with using private contractors to run a sensitive system like immigration detention.

“This also flies in the face of Labor’s commitment in 2007, when it promised to return the management of detention centres to public hands.”

We know the future and it’s Britain. Multinationals given extraordinary powers to treat refugees as numbers to be managed:

The UK Border Agency has launched its second investigation this month into allegations of mistreatment of a man being forcibly deported through Heathrow after being refused asylum.

José Gutiérrez, 37, from Colombia, needed hospital attention after G4S security guards escorted him on to a British Airways flight. He was subsequently removed from the plane before take-off.

His experience – on the evening of 6 October – came only a few days before Jimmy Mubenga, a 46-year-old Angolan refugee, collapsed and died after employees of the same private security firm put him on to another BA flight at Heathrow. Gutiérrez’s partner, Teresa Ramsey, contacted the Guardian after reading of Mubenga’s death.


Online dissent is being crushed (and we don’t feel fine)

24 Oct 2010

My 2008 book, The Blogging Revolution, documented the rise of web censorship across the world and those fighting against it.

Tragically, the problem is only getting worse in Asia and rest assured many Western web multinationals are involved:

Governments across south-east Asia are following China‘s authoritarian censorship of the digital world to keep political dissent in check, the Guardian can reveal.

Vietnam, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines have all moved or are moving towards monitoring internet use, blocking international sites regarded as critical and ruthlessly silencing web dissidents.

• In Vietnam, the Communist party wants to be your “friend” on the state-run version of Facebook, provided you are willing to share all personal details.

• In Burma, political unrest can be silenced by cutting off the country from the internet.

• In Thailand, website moderators can face decades in jail for a posted comment they did not even write, if the government deems it injurious tothe monarchy.

While much is made of China’s authoritarian attitudetowards internet access, a majority of south-east Asian governments have similar controls and , rather than relaxing restrictions on internet use, many are moving towards tighter regulation.


They torture, we ignore

24 Oct 2010

How we built a Western-backed, torturing nation:

How the newly released US military files reveal an instruction to ignore detainee abuse by Iraqi authorities.


Of course Iran wants to challenge Washington on the streets of Iraq

24 Oct 2010

Why are we surprised that Iran worked to influence events in Iraq after the 2003 invasion? Wikileaks shows the extent of Tehran’s understandable role.

When America invades a country, it’s called liberation. When Iran “meddles” in Iraq’s internal affairs, it’s called terrorism.


Thank you for outsourcing and protecting our imperial wars

24 Oct 2010

Private mercenaries have been integral to the “war on terror”, so much so that Western aid groups are warning the Afghan government that without them the country will miss billions of dollars in aid:

More than a billion dollars worth of aid projects in Afghanistan will have to be cancelled by the end of the month if Hamid Karzaiprivate security companies should be disbanded by the end of the year, according to figures seen by the Guardian.

Foreign contractors insist on private security companies to protect their staff, and warn that the presidential decree, first issued in August, will put workers in jeopardy.

Now figures presented by companies running aid projects to the US Embassy in Kabul show that the proposed revolution to the country’s security industry will “severely handicap the counter-insurgency strategy” in the country and “put in jeopardy substantial humanitarian and development efforts”.

The report, collated by Overseas Security Advisory Council, a group representing the private sector but which works under the auspices of the US State Department, offers the best available guess of the effect on development work by 59 organisations that work on US funded projects, including massive road-building programmes and agricultural support.

The estimates suggest that of a total of $5.1bn worth of US aid earmarked for spending by the 59 companies, 18 projects worth $1.4bn would have to be shut down, starting at the end of this month.

The Wikileaks Iraq logs have revealed the US reliance on contractors and their complete lack of accountability. The New York Times have a piece about all this and feature the Australian company Unity Resources Group:

In 2007, a convoy operated by Unity Resources Group, based in Dubai, shot at an approaching vehicle near the Green Zone in Baghdad, wounded a bodyguard for President Jalal Talabani of Iraq and did not report the shooting until Mr. Talabani’s staff contacted the American authorities, one report said.

When asked about the incident last week, a Unity official, Jim LeBlanc, said that “in a time of numerous suicide vehicle attacks, a vehicle had presented itself in a profile that was consistent with the behavior of a suicide attacker.” Unity guards fired “carefully aimed warning shots” when the vehicle refused to stop, Mr. LeBlanc said, and the company did not initially believe that anyone had been hurt.

Only when contacted by American investigators did Unity realize that “an Iraqi security force member” had been struck by a ricochet, and from that point on, the company fully cooperated, Mr. LeBlanc said. After the investigation, he said, “all Unity members were cleared to immediately return to work.”

And still more recently, in July 2009, local contractors with the 77th Security Company drove into a neighborhood in the northern city of Erbil and began shooting at random, setting off a firefight with an off-duty police officer and wounding three women, another report said.

“It is assessed that this drunken group of individuals were out having a good time and firing their weapons,” the incident report concluded.

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