Month: June 2016

Truth, Power, and the Duty to Act

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Lauri Love, a young political activist from Stradishall in the UK, is currently facing extradition to the US. There, he would face 99 years in prison, most likely in isolation. Love has Aspergers Syndrome, and told a British court today that he fears he would kill himself if he was extradited to the US. He has been accused of hacking and stealing data from US Government computers including the Federal Reserve, the US Army and NASA.

There is something hideously ironic about two governments which subject their citizenry to 24-hour mass surveillance, much of which has previously been declared illegal, suddenly seeking retribution against a young man who has dared to subject them to the same level of scrutiny. Indeed, there is something grotesque about it, given that we purport to live in a democracy, the very foundation of which is open government; in an ideal democratic society, those who wield the greatest political power would operate with transparency and openness, while the ordinary citizenry would not be subject to any level of close scrutiny or surveillance, hence the distinction between ‘public officials’ and ‘private citizens’. As pointed out by Edward Snowden, however, in the UK and the US this principle has been completely reversed; now, those who wield the greatest political power operate behind a wall of opaqueness and secrecy, while everything that private citizens do is open to maximum scrutiny and surveillance. Instead of our leaders being accountable to us, we are accountable to our leaders. What Lauri Love did, therefore, was seek to restore some semblance of balance to the vast disparity of power which now characterises our society. For that, he must be punished.

It is a universal truism that the powerless simply cannot adopt the same methods as the powerful. What the strong do to the weak can never be revisited upon them, because all of the power is on the side of the strong. If the weak even attempt to do to the strong what is consistently done to them, they are promptly crushed, unless they operate with extreme caution and tact. The case of Lauri Love proves that the powerful do not play by the same rules as the powerless, and that to resist the powerful through inflicting on them the same acts that they inflict on us is to sacrifice your life and freedom. After all, it is the strong who have a monopoly on violence. The reason why Love faces 99 years in a cage, a punishment so cruel and abhorrent that it seems more suited to a totalitarian state, is simple; a message is being sent out to the rest of us that disobedience will not be tolerated. The forces we are attempting to resist and overthrow are so beyond the reach of accountability and morality that they can throw us inside a cage for 99 years and there’s nothing we can do about it. The message being sent echoes Saruman’s advice to Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings: “Against the power of Mordor there can be no victory”. We should go back to being loyal, obedient citizens. This is the same reason that the US and its allies attacked and destroyed Iraq, abducted people from all over the world and locked them up without charge or trial in Guantanamo, and subjected Chelsea Manning to such egregious and brutal treatment while she was awaiting trial: “This is what will happen to you if you stand up to us. So stand down”.

But we can never stand down. To give up means to abandon those whom we are fighting for. It is true that to take action the way Lauri Love took action means to surrender your freedom, but there are so many other ways we can all resist the power of our rulers through smaller but no less significant actions. As George Orwell recognised, “In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act”. The most radical thing we can do right now is tell the truth. Snowden and Manning are heroes because they faced harsh and brutal punishment as a result of doing what they knew was right, but those of us with the privilege of not facing such punishment have an even greater responsibility to act upon our consciences in the face of injustice. This is especially true for those of us residing in the UK and the US, as we are relatively free to criticise and condemn the powers that be without facing repression and torture as a result, while we are defending the weak and vulnerable not just in our own societies but all over the world as well, who face terror and violence sponsored or perpetrated by our own governments.

You can support Lauri Love here, and keep up to date with the court proceedings by following this Twitter account. So long as we have hope, we will never be truly defeated. As Howard Zinn reminded us, “If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvellous victory”.

Why Jeremy Corbyn is So Dangerous

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The Guardian recently reported that the government has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money, if not more, on protecting Jack Straw (former home secretary under Tony Blair) and Mark Allen (former MI6 spy chief) from facing criminal charges over the abduction and rendition to Libya of anti-Gaddafi dissident Abdel Hakim Belhaj and his pregnant wife. Belhaj was brutally tortured while in the custody of the former Libyan dictator, while his wife, Fatima Boudchar, has alleged that she was chained to the wall of a dungeon for five days shortly before giving birth to her son, who was born weighing just four pounds. Documents between MI6 and Gaddafi’s spy chief Moussa Koussa reveal that Allen referred to Belhaj and Boudchar as “air cargo”.

This incident reveals a crucial insight into the way that power functions at the highest levels of the establishment; once you reach a position at which you wield near-unnacountable power, it is necessary not to view the people over whom you are exercising power as human beings. The establishment is necessarily psychopathic. The rendition of a man and his pregnant wife to Colonel Gaddafi’s torture chambers was a business deal, and nothing more. If Allen had allowed himself to view Belhaj and Boudchar as human beings, no different from himself, who were about to enter a hell on Earth on his command, it is likely that he would not have gone ahead and rendered them. But then an important strategic transaction would not have been completed, and he would no longer have been a useful cog in the system. The system does not function by prioritising people, but by prioritising profits. Rendering a man and his pregnant wife to a foreign dictator was perfectly understandable, given that it was in the interests of the British government at the time to be on good terms with the Gaddafi regime. Morality simply doesn’t enter the equation. The State is not a moral agent, and nor was Mark Allen when he authorised the abduction and rendition of Belhaj and Boudchar.

This may sound harsh, and I don’t mean to suggest that the government officials operating at the highest levels of the establishment are inhuman. Of course, they love their wives, they love their children, they are ordinary human beings in their personal lives who are capable of compassion and empathy just as every human being is. But the same can be said of Hitler. When they are functioning within the framework of the State, they no longer have moral agency, because in order for the State to function it is necessary for it to be operated with moral blindness. Any normal human being would be repulsed by the very suggestion of kidnapping and torturing a man and his pregnant wife, or by the idea of selling weaponry to a ruthless regime unleashing violence and terror on helpless civilians subject to its control. This is because we do not view other human beings in terms of how useful they are to maximising our own personal satisfaction; that is the very definition of psychopathy. But this is how the State functions; Belhaj and Boudchar were not ‘human beings’, they were ‘air cargo’ necessary for completing a transaction, just as civilians killed in airstrikes are not ‘human beings’, they are ‘collateral damage’, whose value is exactly zero. People are not people, they are a means-to-an-end, and that end is maximum power. Once the system is understood in these terms, it becomes perfectly comprehensible how someone could participate in torture, or invade and destroy a country in order to control its oil reserves, or sell arms to a brutal dictator. And this is how the State survives, which is a naturally and necessarily oppressive instrument of domination, whereby one group of human beings exercises power over another group of human beings.

This is why Jeremy Corbyn is so dangerous. He threatens to humanise a necessarily inhuman system. In order to reach the top, you need to be willing to see the people under your control as less than human, but Corbyn does not follow this maxim. He does not view the State as a mechanism for domination and control, or as a way of maximising power, but as a way of maximising happiness and wellbeing for all people. He regards power as a means-to-an-end, rather than as an end-in-itself. This is crucial because it fundamentally changes the nature of the system; it is no longer pathological, but humane, which in turn necessitates a more equal distribution of power and wealth. But that’s not how the game works. If you want to join the company of political elites, you need to play by the rules, and that means coveting more and more power and wealth for those at the top while abandoning those at the bottom to poverty and destitution. This is the very essence of state capitalism: economic tyranny. By refusing to play by these rules, Corbyn poses a threat to the very existence of the political establishment in its current form, whose interests overlap with those of corporations and banks, constituting a conglomerate of powerful and antidemocratic elites. By humanising the system, Corbyn would destroy the system.

This is why it is now crucial more than ever for people of conscience to support him. He is not without flaws, but a flawed and decent leader is better than a polished and amoral one. Blairites and right-wingers within the Labour Party are attempting to orchestrate a coup against his leadership in the wake of the fallout from Brexit, and this time it looks like they might succeed. We cannot allow that to happen. Of course, ultimately the overthrow of the system is the final goal. But in order for us to even contemplate that outcome, first it must be reformed and reformed until finally reform is no longer possible and revolution is the only alternative. Right now, we have many alternatives. And Corbyn is the best one.

Freedom for Britain

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This island is under siege. At this very moment, as I write these words, dark forces are trying to penetrate our borders, trying to invade our peace and comfort to snatch away our children, rape our women and destroy our way of life. Our way of life. We want our country back. We need to defend our values. If there is something that is ours, there must be something that is theirs. There is an us, and there is a them.

Who are we, and who are they? We are noble Britons, proud Englishmen, good people. We are a sacred race of warriors. But above all, we are human. We have thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreams – an inner life. They, on the other hand, are foreign, dangerous and different. They are the Other. And thus, they are not what we are. We are human, so they are not. They are lesser. If there are British Values, then there must be Unbritish Values; after all, self implies other. Our values are not their values, and their values are not our values. British Values are tolerance, freedom and respect for the rule of law. So, Unbritish Values must be intolerance, despotism and lawlessness; in short, barbarism. And so the wielders of these Unbritish Values must be barbarians. They are no longer humans, they are vessels, carriers of a plague of foreignness and savagery. They are not valuable in themselves, therefore; their value is no longer determined by what they are, but by what they denote. And what they denote is evil.

We are the survivors, shut up in our watchtower, defending everything that is ours against everything that is theirs. But slowly, the plague creeps in, as plague-carriers are washed up on our beaches in boats, after which point they must be immediately quarantined, or else destroyed. We must send them a message that we will not tolerate their nest-building in our precious palace, lest the infestation should spread to our shores. Or perhaps the plague is already here; perhaps the plague-carriers are already among us. They look just like us, they talk just like us, they dress just like us. But they are still Other. They do not share our values. They are parasites, pretending to be human, when in fact they are not. And then, there are those of Us who defend Them. Who speak out for Them, who claim that there is no divide between Us and Them. These traitors can no longer be called Us. They are, in fact, Them. This plague must be driven out, must be eradicated.

And who told us that all of this is true? Who warned us of the Other? The question should be: who yet hasn’t warned us of the Other? Everyday, on the front-pages of our newspapers, on our television screens, on our radios, our leaders warn us of this scourge, this “swarm”, coming to destroy everything we hold dear. Hatred is festering in the heart of this nation like a gaping wound. Hitler articulated the prevailing mentality in Mein Kampf: “the personification of the devil as the symbol of all evil assumes the living shape of the Jew”. Except, instead of the Jew, it is now the Muslim. The Migrant. The Traitor. The Other.

Human beings are dying at the hands of other human beings. We are all Us, and we are all Them. There is no Other; there are no borders; there are no nations. There is only this home we call Earth, and all of us who dwell here. There are no British Values, except in the minds of fantasists clinging onto superstitious notions of superiority and exceptionalism. Likewise, there is no intrinsic property called ‘otherness’, which certain people and objects possess. Otherness, or the quality of being strange and different, exists only in the mind; it refers to an illusory world constructed by politicians and media elites who deliberately engineer the reality they want us to see.

Only if we see a certain class of people not as human, but as Other, can elite agendas be served, be they the poor and destitute in our own society, the poor and destitute from other societies seeking our hospitality and compassion, or the poor and destitute in the third world we are helping to kill through economic terrorism and neocolonialism. Throughout history, there have been only two distinct classes in society: the oppressor and the oppressed. And, as Nelson Mandela reminded us, both must be set free. Our innate human instinct is to side with the oppressed, but this has been suppressed by the ruling classes who seek to ensure that their interests are served above all else. There is a threat to civilization, but it comes from above, not from below.

An Analysis of The Telegraph’s Complicity in Genocide

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The first important thing to note about this article, which appeared in The Telegraph earlier this year, is the headline. At first I thought it was perhaps ironic, and the writer of the article was engaging in a kind of dry, sarcastic humour, given that the words are so obviously absurd and nonsensical. 90% of children and 21.2 million people in total in desperate need of humanitarian aid, making the crisis in Yemen the “largest humanitarian crisis in the world right now” according to Save the Children, does not seem to fit any rational definition of “peace and stability”, after all. However, after scrolling down through the article and finding out that it was in fact written by none other than Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz, the Saudi ambassador to Britain, all hopes that this in fact could be a satirical article and not a defence of genocide were dashed. The second important thing to note is the mistake in the sub-heading referring to “the Saudi intervention in Syria”, rather than “in Yemen”, which offers another revealing insight into the minds of those who defend Our Crimes at all costs; it doesn’t really matter where we are slaughtering people. It could be in Yemen, it could be in Syria, it could be anywhere; so long as we are the perpetrators, it’s justified.

The article begins with some elementary fact-stating about the international reaction to the Saudi-led, UK and US-supported destruction of Yemen, setting the scene for how the condemnation of the aggression is monstrously unfair and unjust. However, the second paragraph then makes an interesting point.

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Indeed, the UK has suggested that “the most effective way” for these investigations to move forwards is “for the Saudis” to investigate themselves. This is conventional wisdom; when someone is accused of committing crimes, obviously the most effective way to investigate the crimes is for the accused to investigate themselves. A great example of this judicious process occurred last year after an American airstrike had (almost certainly deliberately) blown up an MSF hospital in Afghanistan (a serious war crime). However, this was soon cleared up after the Obama administration promptly investigated itself and found itself innocent; everyone soon forgot about what had happened. It is highly probable that the Saudis will also investigate themselves after a firm talking-to from the UK, and will promptly find themselves innocent, clearing up any fanciful notions about ‘war crimes’ and ‘atrocities’ and making the UK’s arms sales to the Kingdom respectable once again.

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The Telegraph reassures us that the Saudi regime “deeply regrets any civilian deaths”. Thank God for that. If you’re going to wage a war of extermination against a defenceless civilian population in the Middle East’s poorest country, at least have the decency to internally regret what you’re doing. Ladies and gentlemen, this is what separates Us from Them. While they gladly revel and glory in the perverse pleasure they gain from killing civilians, we shed tears whenever we do the same. And then we continue to do it. The Telegraph also correctly mocks the shameless “political posturing” of terrorist front groups such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the UN accusing the Saudi regime of “deliberately targeting civilians”. These organisations are allowing themselves to play into the hands of evil maniacs like ISIS – groups that behead people, stone women to death and kill gays. We wouldn’t want to be associated with people like that, now would we?

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As The Telegraph promptly informs us, the Saudi dictatorship is not only innocently attempting to “preserve its own security and promote regional stability”, but is actually making a noble effort to defend democracy against a sinister “Iran-backed” rebellion. And remember, good citizens: Saudi Arabia are Our Friends and Allies (hooray!), and therefore they’re Good; Iran are Our Enemies (boo!), and therefore they’re Bad. And what’s not to believe about the dictators of Saudi Arabia wanting to defend democracy in Yemen?

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Not only is Saudi Arabia going out of its way to defend democracy, but is also exercising its right to self-defence, just like we were doing in Iraq. When someone attacks you, what other option do you have except to create “the worst humanitarian crisis in the world right now”? Furthermore, we can’t let evil ISIS and Al Qaeda (remember: Bad Guys) grow and represent “a clear threat to the region and to the international community”. Not only are the Saudis defending themselves, they’re also defending us by destroying Yemen. And what better way to defeat extremism than by creating a humanitarian catastrophe in one of the world’s poorest countries?

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The Telegraph then reassures us in the best way possible: we are also helping Saudi Arabia destroy Yemen. We’re definitely Good Guys; there’s no way we would ever do anything immoral. The Saudi-led campaign of aggression must be good; we can be sure of that. “All foreign observers have expressed satisfaction with the safeguards in place” as well (so long as you discount the world’s leading human rights organisations). It all looks good and clean to me.

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And if all of these well-reasoned, clear and fact-based arguments have done nothing to convince you of the goodness and necessity of the destruction of Yemen, there’s always room for trying the Israel Technique – accuse the people you’re bombing of bombing themselves. It’s perfectly obvious that the noble and human rights-respecting Saudis are not really responsible for creating the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen; it’s those dastardly Houthis who are really to blame, by hiding in “hospitals, schools and civilian homes”, thus forcing the Saudis to bomb civilian targets (who deeply and sincerely regret doing so, but, alas, they have no choice). The Yemenis are killing themselves. We have no evidence of this, but who are you going to believe: the Saudis, or the world’s leading human rights organisations (AKA commie-jihadi-Iranian terrorist front groups)?

After some earnest declarations about the Saudis’ continuing support for human rights and justice, the article ends:

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Almost brings a tear to my eye. Rest assured, good citizens: all is right with the world.

Genocide in Yemen

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This is baby Udai. He was five months old when this picture was taken. He died five days later, finally succumbing to the ravages of starvation. According to his parents, he vomited yellow fluid from his nose and mouth before finally ceasing to breathe.

Baby Udai was one of 1.3 million under-fives currently suffering from malnutrition in Yemen. According to Save the Children, almost 90% of Yemeni children are in desperate need of humanitarian aid, and almost 10 million have no access to safe water, making the current crisis in Yemen the “largest humanitarian crisis in the world right now”, although “not enough people are talking about it”. Around half of the country is on the brink of famine, and according to the UN 21.2 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, compared with 12.2 million in Syria. As Professor of International Human Rights Law Dan Kovalik writes in the Huffington Post, the US-UK-Saudi-led destruction of Yemen clearly constitutes genocide. According to the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, any of the following three acts constitute genocide: “(a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”. As Kovalik writes, “there is no doubt that the Saudi-led coalition, with U.S. [and UK] help, is carrying out all three of these wrongful acts, and a on a massive scale”.

UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia have totalled around £6bn over the past year alone, while leading human rights organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, alongside the UN, have simultaneously compiled clear evidence that the Saudi-led bombing coalition is targeting Yemeni civilians. According to Donatella Rovera, the Senior Crisis Response Advisor at Amnesty International, “The Houthis and their allies are the declared targets of the [Saudi-led] coalition’s 5-month-old air campaign. In reality, however, it is civilians . . . who all too often pay the price of this war. Hundreds have been killed in such strikes while asleep in their homes, when going about their daily activities, or in the very places where they had sought refuge from the conflict”. Moreover, a “coalition-imposed blockade on commercial imports remains in place in much of the country and the ability of international aid agencies to deliver desperately needed supplies continues to be hindered by the conflict”. The U.N. World Food Program has also warned that the primary victims of the mass starvation now ravaging Yemen are “women and children”.

UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond claims that the Saudi-led coalition is “defending the legitimate government” of President Hadi in Yemen. This offers an interesting insight into official lexicon: a government is “legitimate” if it is serving our interests, and “illegitimate” if it is serving the interests of its population while not showing proper respect for American and British business interests. Hammond’s declaration is reminiscent of that of American intellectuals that America went to war in Indochina in defence of the South Vietnamese government, which was itself a US creation. As noted by British expert on international affairs Finian Cunningham, “Hadi was kicked out because he reneged for three years on a promised transition to democracy, as demanded by the Yemeni population”. Hadi has, for three years, allowed American drones to rampage across Yemen, murdering suspects and massacring countless innocent civilians in the process, with British support. The potential for the Yemeni working class, who now comprise a large swathe of the population opposed to the regime, rising up and taking power for themselves is too great a risk for the US and Britain, who treasure having a reliable puppet regime firmly in power. The effect of the political turmoil on American corporate interests is already evident; the Wall Street Journal reported in March of 2015 that American oil corporations such as Occidental Petroleum have flown their staff out of Yemen in response to the uprisings. This is clearly intolerable; destruction of the country and genocide of the population is preferable to having American corporate and hegemonic interests threatened by the stupid natives wanting to manage their own affairs.

All of this is met with astonishing silence in Britain, even though our role in this atrocity goes far beyond simply supplying Saudi Arabia with the weapons used to murder civilians; statements from the Saudi foreign ministry reveal that British and American military personnel are in the command and control rooms in which airstrikes are planned and launched, making this very much an Anglo-American war. The silence in the press and in Parliament over this mass-murder campaign has been shameful. Aside from some courageous reporting in The Independent and The Guardian, and snippets here and there in other newspapers, the genocide of the population of some Third World country is simply not deemed important. As the intellectual and political class fuss and fight over Brexit, which has been characterised by petty squabbling on a farcical level, Yemen has been dying a slow death, and it’s all been funded and supported by us. We killed baby Udai, just as we’re killing the children of Yemen right now. A referendum on Brexit is important, but perhaps an even more important referendum would be on whether we should be committing genocide in poor, starving nations, or on whether we should have a press which reports these things to us so that we can actually do something about it, instead of remaining complicit.

The devastation currently being wrought on Yemen is off the record. The situation is strikingly similar to the situation in East Timor from 1975 to 1999; most of the violence and savagery was carried out by a regional aggressor, in this case Indonesia, but could only continue with the eager support and participation of America and Britain. The destruction of East Timor was arguably the worst genocide of the 20th Century after the Holocaust; up to a third of East Timor’s population was exterminated. Ordinary citizens in America and Britain were kept almost completely uninformed about the situation in East Timor by the mainstream media, which meant that no large-scale protest movement could form, which in turn meant that the crimes could continue unabated. The devastation in Yemen has not yet reached the level of devastation in East Timor at the height of atrocities; there is still some hope that the crimes will stop, and a few pieces of Yemen may survive if we’re lucky. If not, Yemen will almost certainly become extinct “as a cultural and historic entity”, as the historian Bernard Fall warned would happen to Vietnam in 1967 during the American onslaught.

When jihadis carry out indefensible and abhorrent attacks in Brussels or Paris, the media and political figures rush to condemn what has happened and remind us of the humanity of the victims. When we destroy a starving Third World country for the sake of advancing strategic interests, the reaction is the same every time: “meh”. The people we slaughter are unpeople – they’re not really human and their lives don’t matter. While our leaders complain about the intolerable burden of a few refugees fleeing our crimes wanting to enter Britain in search of a better life, human misery is reaching new peaks all over the world; much of it is down to us. We have the choice of allowing it to continue or making it stop.

Dan Berrigan:”Nothing is ever lost”

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Chris Wallace, is the Fox News Sunday host and son of the legendary 60 Minutes journalist .In 1981 Wallace interviewed Dan Berrigan. the following clip says it all aboutAmerican celebrity culture and its almost total inability to fathom the life of the spirit, in this case the depth of a man such as Dan Berrigan. The interview was at the time of the Ploughshares action when Dan and Phil and six others broke into a nuclear plant a General Electric factory in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. They invoked the prophet Isaiah’s words as they hammered on an inert Mark 12 A nuclear warhead.

He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. 2: 4

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CHRIS WALLACE: Back in…

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