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A. Loewenstein Online Newsletter



Americans Rabbis support church divestment from Israeli occupation

 

Posted: 30 Mar 2012

 

Disaster capitalism in Pakistan

 

Posted: 30 Mar 2012

 

I’ve just visited Pakistan investigating disaster capitalism for a forthcoming book and documentary. Amazing country. Beautiful, troubled, scary, complicated and centre of the world since 9/11 for (mostly) the wrong reasons. And private security is rampant.

Stories coming but in the meantime here’s photos; Islamabad/Rawalpindi/Peshawar and Karachi.

Challenging MSM approved imperial enforcers

 

Posted: 29 Mar 2012

 

Here’s a book review I wrote a while ago published here exclusively:

The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work

Belen Fernandez

Verso, $22.95

Michael Ignatieff: The Lesser Evil?

Derrick O’Keefe

Verso, $22.95

Antony Loewenstein

Back in May 2003, two months after the start of the American-led war in Iraq, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman appeared on the Charlie Rose TV talk show. The conflict was “unquestionably” worth doing, said the self-described liberal. He went on:

“What (Iraqis) needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, and basically saying, ‘Which part of this sentence don’t you understand? You don’t think, you know, we care about our open society, you think this bubble fantasy, we’re just gonna to let it grow? Well, Suck. On. This.”

Friedman, a former Middle East correspondent for the Times, has cemented himself as a key foreign affairs commentator in America and is regularly re-printed in publications across the world, including Australia.

Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Friedman has supported American or Israeli wars against Afghanistan, Iraq, the Palestinian West Bank, Lebanon, Gaza and covert American operations endorsed by both the Bush and Obama administrations. In the words of Belen Fernandez, author of this compelling book on Friedman – published in a new Counterblasts series by British publisher Verso – the Times writer “discredits himself as a journalist by championing the killing of civilians.”

Fernandez forensically dissects the career of Friedman and challenges the very basis of his currency. “Friedman’s accumulation of influence is a direct result of his service as mouthpiece for empire and capital”, she writes. “I.e. as a result apologist for US military excess and punishing economic policies.”

Friedman has championing the supposed glories of US-led globalisation – “Is this a great country or what?” and the Iraq war – “the most radical-liberal revolutionary war the US has ever launched”. He celebrated the financial insights of Goldman Sachs until finally in 2010 Friedman acknowledged the firm as “the poster boy for banks behaving for ‘situational values’ – exploiting whatever the situation…allowed”.

The Times journalist is passionate about reducing America’s reliance on oil and yet, as Fernandez pithily comments, “Friedman has managed to greenwash the institution that holds the distinction of being the top polluter in the world…The US military’s overwhelming reliance on fuel means that its presence in Iraq is not at all reconcilable with Friedman’s insistence that dependence on foreign oil reserves is one of the greatest threats to US security.”

The Imperial Messenger isn’t just arguing that Friedman is an indulgent Times spokesman and faux liberal who dresses up his desire for the US to shed foreign blood as “humanitarian”, but a broader point against the Times itself as the centre of supposedly quality journalism.

Dishonest myth-making is the key reason the paper should not be taken as gospel, argues Fernandez, and not least due to its constant defence of Israeli crimes. Witness Friedman in 1989 writing about his Zionist dreams: “I’ll always want [Israel] to be the country I imagined in my youth. But what the hell, she’s mine and for a forty-year old, she ain’t too shabby.” This was expressed during the First Intifada, a time when Israel was torturing and killing unarmed Palestinian civilians.

But Friedman isn’t the only “liberal” needing to be fought. Canadian human rights activist, writer and politician Michael Ignatieff is the subject of The Lesser Evil by journalist Derrick O’Keefe. Like Friedman, Ignatieff frames his concern for humanity by loving the smell of American fire-power in the morning.

Incendiary British historian Tony Judt opined in 2006 about “Bush’s Liberal Idiots”, and included Ignatieff in a stinging rebuke. He stated that, “intellectual supporters of the Iraq War…have focused their regrets not on the catastrophic invasion itself (which they all supported) but on its incompetent execution. They are irritated with Bush for giving ‘preventive war’ a bad name.”

O’Keefe uncovers a litany of comments from Ignatieff since September 11 that place him in the inglorious tradition of countless “liberals” desperate to unleash Washington’s war machine on “apocalyptic nihilism.” Unlike Christopher Hitchens, who continues to champion the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and encourages a military strike against Iran, Ignatieff has at least had a few moments of doubt.

The vital importance of both these small titles is to highlight that some of the worst offenders, and least accountable, in the “war on terror” decade has been the warrior-scholar-journalist desperate to prove toughness. This desired projection of F-18s and drone strikes was encapsulated by a typically callous comment by Ignatieff in 2003:

“If the consequence of intervention of a rights-respecting Iraq in a decade or so, who cares whether the intentions that led to it were mixed at best?”

The death of innocent Iraqis was clearly an irrelevance (the numbers of dead in that country now number likely over one million).

At a time of American economic, political and moral decline – and fear that the Chinese economic model may supersede the unequal and fundamentalist capitalist model pursued by Washington since World War II – it’s grimly amusing to note an infamous Friedman thought:

“Many big bad things happen in the world without America, but not a lot of big good things.”

Antony Loewenstein is an independent journalist writing a book on disaster capitalism

North Korean horrors make us realise true meaning of depravity

 

Posted: 29 Mar 2012

 

Sometimes I read something that puts the notion of human rights into perspective. This story about a man who escaped from a North Korean gulag is shocking beyond belief. It sounds like hell on earth:

His first memory is an execution. He walked with his mother to a wheat field, where guards had rounded up several thousand prisoners. The boy crawled between legs to the front row, where he saw guards tying a man to a wooden pole.

Shin In Geun was four years old, too young to understand the speech that came before that killing. At dozens of executions in years to come, he would listen to a guard telling the crowd that the prisoner about to die had been offered “redemption” through hard labour, but had rejected the generosity of the North Korean government.

Guards stuffed pebbles into the prisoner’s mouth, covered his head with a hood and shot him.

In Camp 14, a prison for the political enemies of North Korea, assemblies of more than two inmates were forbidden, except for executions. Everyone had to attend them.

The South Korean government estimates there are about 154,000 prisoners in North Korea’s labour camps, while the US state department puts the number as high as 200,000. The biggest is 31 miles long and 25 miles wide, an area larger than the city of Los Angeles. Numbers 15 and 18 have re-education zones where detainees receive remedial instruction in the teachings of Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung, and are sometimes released. The remaining camps are “complete control districts” where “irredeemables” are worked to death.

Shin’s camp, number 14, is a complete control district. Established around 1959 near Kaechon County in South Pyongan Province, it holds an estimated 15,000 prisoners. About 30 miles long and 15 miles wide, it has farms, mines and factories threaded through steep mountain valleys.

Shin and his mother lived in the best prisoner accommodation the camp had to offer. They had their own room, where they slept on a concrete floor, and they shared a kitchen with four other families. Electricity ran for two hours a day. There were no beds, chairs or tables. No running water.

If Shin’s mother met her daily work quota, she could bring home food. At 4am, she would prepare breakfast and lunch for her son and for herself. Every meal was the same: corn porridge, pickled cabbage and cabbage soup. Shin was always hungry and he would eat his lunch as soon as his mother left for work. He also ate her lunch. When she came back from the fields at midday and found nothing to eat, she would beat him with a shovel.

Her name was Jang Hye Gyung. She never talked to him about her past, her family, or why she was in the camp, and he never asked. His existence as her son had been arranged by the guards. They chose her and the man who became Shin’s father as prizes for each other in a “reward” marriage.

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