THE DREAD OF BEING A BYSTANDER
Journal of a Futurist - 14 June 2006
Because of the defilement of our political culture in the aftermath of 9/11, it is now acceptable for a Pentagon General to describe the suicide of three Guantanamo inmates as an act of war and not be laughed out of Washington. Because of the timidity of academia, it is now acceptable for Dr James Carafano of the US Heritage Foundation, currently a visiting professor at the National Defence University, to state on ABC radio that the Iraq people were really the ones who organised the killing of al Zarqawi, and that all the US army did was drop the bombs. In another age, he would have been laughed off campus.
All reports relating to Zarqawis life and death should be treated with caution. It takes a bit of digging to learn that two women and a child perished in the farmhouse along with the Psy-Ops embellished villain. Once upon a time, the targeting of a toddler might have been a matter of regret. Today it is barely a matter worth mentioning. The war against terror is marketed as a defence of civilisation, but from its opening aerial assault on the mud huts of Afghanis, it has been a betrayal of civilisation.
While the Pentagon can sometimes shoot straight, often at civilians, it can never talk straight. It was inevitable that within hours of Zaqarwis reported death by bombing, the official story was revised. He was found to be still alive when the Iraqis arrived and remained so while he was loaded into an ambulance. Next to appear were US soldiers, who took him off, according to Gen. George Casey on Fox News, where he was rendered first aid, and he expired. Not a surprising outcome.
According to Associated Press, a neighbour turned up, Mr. Ahmed Mohammed, who offered this insight into military medicare. "When the Americans arrived they took him out of the ambulance, they beat him on his stomach and wrapped his head with his dishdasha [robe], then they stomped on his stomach and his chest until he died and blood came out of his nose". The advantage of this assisted expiration, if Ahmed Mohammed is to be believed, is that the former leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq will be unable to challenge the Pentagons version of his career. A version that has been subject to constant revision,
According to one military commander, Col. Derek Harvey, Zarqawis input was a very small part of the actual carnage in Iraq. Our own focus on Zarqawi has enlarged his caricature, if you will made him more important than he really is. He was a useful source of propaganda. Magnification of his role and of the threat he posed grew to the point, suggested the Washington Post, that some senior intelligence officers believed it was counterproductive. This problem has now been solved.
Okay, lets step back a bit. No matter how disgusting and self defeating this terror war becomes, its prime instigators insist its on track, that freedom is on the march, that even if 82% of Iraqis and Afghanis want the occupiers out, we must stay the course, knee deep in blood. So whats really going on? In the process of brutally overthrowing two nasty regimes (with logistic help from other nasty regimes), we watch our Government - in Britain, in the US, in Australia - become ever more unscrupulous. We apparently live in a democracy, but it no longer feels like a democracy. British cops shoot before searching. Tony Blair sells seats in the House of Lords and puts his own Lord before his obligations to Parliament. In Australia, we harass refugees, bolster the secret police and turn a blind eye to US war crimes, even to the torture of our own citizens. As for America, it seems to be re-engineering itself into a global monster, albeit with a pin head.
FREEDOM NEXT TIME
Time for a flashback. Try to imagine you have survived a ten day trip on a cattle train from Yugoslavia to Lower Saxony, Germany, in 1944, with people dying all around you. From the station, youre about to be marched off to Bergen Belsen. The local women have turned up to watch the show, and you watch them watching you, as though you were a cockroach. Unlike Anne Frank, you somehow manage to survive the death camp and make your way to brave new Israel, carting along your emotional baggage an ingrained contempt for the dead eyed bystanders, the ones who look from the side and, unlike Ahmed Mohammed, never get involved. This revulsion is passed on to your daughter, the Israeli journalist Amira Hass. In 1993, Amira decided to live and report from among the oppressed residents of the Gaza Strip.
How do I know this? Because it is recounted by John Pilger in his horrifying and illuminating new book, Freedom Next Time, a book that is likely to be blacklisted by the media. In a chapter on The Last Taboo, Pilger interviews Amira Hass about the confluence of Jewish history with the plight of the Palestinians. The everyday humiliations and brutalities inflicted on these citizens, as witnessed by Hass, are as Nazi-like as it gets, short of swastika armbands. Amira says that her decision to live in Gaza, stemmed from the dread of being a bystander. This remark hits like a thunderbolt, because it strikes at the heart of what we in the war-on-terror West have become: oblivious to our own complicity.
But how can that be? You didnt vote for the hawks at the helm. You marched in protest against the attack in Iraq. You sent radical weblinks to friends, letters to editors, a plea to priests. Youve kept abreast of the string of horrors, from the precision bombs shredding crowded markets, the serial checkpoint murders, the illegal weapons, the porno tortures, the razing of cities, the massacres, the defence of massacres
. on and on, ad infinitum. All for what?
The conspirators have not yet been bundled off to The Hague. The US military bases spread like the plague. In Iraq, the gold plated US embassy rises higher, ever higher, from the rubble of wrecked infrastructure and broken dreams. Fresh talks of oil pipes rolling across Afghanistan, even as we bomb a religious school in Kandahar, the liquid black gold destined for tankers, and for our gas tanks, to be discharged into the noxious sky. The show must go on; the never ending spectacle of distraction in our heads, on our screens, supported by the never ending tragedy of disempowerment out of view. Three bodies swinging in their isolation cells. Strange Fruit. Dont mention Geneva. What is our society in danger of becoming? Hypnotised with apathy. The German women lining the road to Belsen got out of their houses to gawk. Today, too many just cruise the cables; immobilised bystanders with a remote control.
POST SCRIPT. ALL IS NOT LOST.
The minute I finished the above, I checked the links at http://www.whatreallyhappened.com and came across a site that renews hope for the future. Congratulations to everyone involved: http://www.worldonfire.ca
Flower empowered at the White House
THE FLOWER CHILDRENS DAUGHTERS
Journal of a Futurist - 18 May 2006
In the sprawling living room of a Blue Mountains house, six young ladies in their last year at high school are draped across cane armchairs and a leather couch, polishing off their assignments. The marks are vital. Heathers head is buried deep in calculus; she wants to be an engineer; Lola is embroiled in her major work, flicking through a paperback on Heidegger, for a screenplay that will pit Buddhism against existentialism. Another is writing a treatise on the links between slam poetry and Dada. As I padded about the house, an invisible caretaker plunging the coffee, tending the fire, I marvelled at their level of expertise. Even more so at their learning strategies.
Each one doing their own thing, at the same time as contributing to each others thing; a creative hot house. Good humoured, productive, multi-focused. I felt wistful. The pre exam period of my student era was a lonely slog, locked up in a cupboard with a tin of Nescafe, phone off the hook, the hi-fi dead. These students from three separate schools, are not only mutually supportive, but faced the future with exuberance, determined to better it. So much is extruded on the collapse of education by politicians who look at the world through the back of a limo. Meanwhile, our 17 year olds look at Othello through the lens of homo-eroticism, and never has Shakespeare been more revealing. These girls borrow books from university libraries; one is now boning up on the CIAs bloody record in 50s Guatemala. The stuff they watch on commercial TV is fun to laugh at, not with. While education ministers bribe high schools to install functioning flagpoles, the students are electronically grazing the global smorgasbord, downloading at will.
Check out your childs i-Tune library; its range is likely to span several decades and as many countries. Ditto for DVD rentals. Kurosawa one weekend, Doris Day the next. Watching an old movie through the eyes of a teen is a treat. Okay, but why the lack of political activism? Because its bad strategy, they say. And maybe theyre right. Street demos look cheesy on TV and fail to influence politicians. Except in France, when the wounds and the skylines turn crimson. In middle Australia, hounded by a shock-jock-ocracy easily incensed by graffiti and tree huggers, the millennial generation is biding its time. Education before agitation. The spanner they will eventually throw at the machine will be of their own design. Its a group that will make history, not repeat it.
Akino Kondoh, Spreading Flowers.
THE REVIVAL OF LETHAL IDEAS
Of whatever persuasion Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Islam - religious fundamentalism is a global curse. As is militarism and market fundamentalism. The Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, recently took aim at Islam: "In my own reading of the Koran, I began to note down invocations to violence. There are so many of them, however, that I abandoned this exercise after 50 or 60 or 70 pages." He is probably right about violence in the texts, as in so much orthodox drivel, but what about the violence in real life
being done by Christians to Muslims? Most Afghanis had nothing to do with 9/11, but they are still being killed in their homeland by Christians. Ditto Iraq. The Palestinian people are still being punished for a holocaust they did not perpetrate, more so than the Catholic theologians who turned a blind eye at the time. Now they are copping it again for practicing democracy in a way we dont like. The hospitals in Gaza have already run out of bandages and pain killers.
Cardinal Pell has wrath to spare for another enemy of his old time religion, the new pagans, who are really the old pagans dressed up as environmentalists. "In the past, pagans sacrificed animals and even humans in vain attempts to placate capricious and cruel gods. Today they demand a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions." Its a strange sin to add to the Vaticans copious ledger: slashing pollution. Even such bibles of the consumerism as Time and Vanity Fair have accepted the science of climate change. If it wasnt for one of the worlds first greenies, a man who welcomed the wolf and preached to the birds, then Cardinal Pells institution would likely have sunk into a Gothic cesspit. Lets hear it for the 13th Century monk, St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and ecology. Christ told him, "Francis, go out and build up my house, for it is nearly falling down, so he flung off his shoes, tore down the drapes and howled to the moon. St Francis re-connected Christianity with Christ, and Christ with nature. In so doing he re-invigorated the church with a sense of the sublime. His deeds inspired Giotto, the first genius of art in the Italian Renaissance, and he immortalized St Francis in frescoes. Catholicism was rescued from irrelevance and wildlife from the likes of Pell.
THE REVIVAL OF CENSORSHIP
Two out of the three daily newspapers in Sydney are owned by Rupert Murdoch and reflect his obsessions, which must be a pain for some of the livelier scribes. In the early years of the Iraq invasion, one reporter kept filing gung-ho effusions on street markets buzzing with laughter and jazz, the gleaming hospitals rising from rubble, the plump urchins blowing kisses to Laura Bush, grateful for their new found lodgings at Abu Ghraib, etc .
What the paper excludes is also revealing. When Murdochs foreign correspondent recently rambled on about the rambling letter sent by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to George Bush, I wondered why it wasnt excerpted (and why the White House withheld it). Answer, because it is ingenious and scathing, despite the nuttiness. In reality, Ahmadinejad, has little power and doesnt control the Iranian army, so what we are watching is theatre.
A Murdoch tabloid is campaigning for the suppression of hate filled booklets they discovered on sale at a mosque, despite the content having been declared fit for public consumption. The Director of Public Prosecutions and the Federal Police cleared the books. It seems unlikely these are fronts for subversive cells of pinko libertarian ratbags intent on transforming barbecue nation into a global jihad controlled by Mecca. The booklets do not even breach the tough new sedition laws. According to MurdochWorld, the pages promote nasty anti Australian conspiracies intended to foment dissatisfaction with out political system. Blow me down. Is that a crime? The political systems of Muslim nations are so much worse than our own, that debate is obviously a better weapon than hysteria and censorship. Still, there is something haunting about the phrase, nasty anti Australian conspiracies intended to foment dissatisfaction
. . Change Australian to German and youll get a whiff of the thirties.
From the The Declining World Order, by Richard Falk: "The dangers of global fascism cannot be discounted as imaginary or alarmist."
Tragic geriatric hippies arming themselves against the imminent threat of nasty anti Murdochian conspiracies seething from the catacombs of radical mosques.
BOMBOCRACY: FREEDOMS GIFTS
There were three ravens sat on a tree
They were as black as they might be
The one of them said to his mate
Where shall we our breakfast take?
Down in yonder Iraqi soil
A feast of blood, a sea of oil.
Will not they rise with sword & gun
To send us back to kingdom come?
From sky well strike with shock & awe
And then marines will kill some more.
Add phosphorous, jails, uranium
Pain & pandemonium.
When all is done, asked raven of mate,
Where shall we our breakfast take?
Down in yonder Iranian soil
A feast of blood, a sea of oil.
No foreigner on earth is more loyal to George Bush than Australian Prime Minister, John Howard. This week, he was rewarded with a black tie State dinner at the White House. Lights, cameras, fiction! This re-bonding of blood brothers with a shared aptitude for lying and law-breaking will shake the chandeliers with songs of freedom, even as both men keep shredding the freedoms of their own citizens.
On Howards arrival in Washington, George Bush presented his mate with elm and magnolia saplings taken from the grounds of the White House, for replanting in the grounds of the Australian embassy. Another photo-op that violates truth. Neither leader cares two hoots about trees, emissions, Kyoto or climate change. On Mothers Day, anti war activist Cindy Sheehan, who was demonstrating outside the White House with flower bedecked supporters, reportedly called John Howard a fool. If only. Unlike fellow Christians George Bush and Tony Blair, whose rape of Iraq he fervently embraced, the Australian leader has tightened his grip on the electorate. Even more so than Bush, John Howard was aware that grounds for the invasion were concocted.
RELAXED AND COMFORTABLE
Howard loves Guantanamo Bay. He applauds Military trials. He let Australian officers cover up events at Abu Ghraib and the pain management centre at Baghdad Airport, Camp Nama, run by US Special Forces. When the US inched towards a police state, so did we, only quicker. John Howard has legalised secret trials. He is introducing a national identity card. He has enfeebled the rights of workers. This week, a retiring Federal judge, Ron Merkel QC, warned that the intrusive powers of government agencies are being allowed to expand unchecked. The worse it gets, the more Australia dozes off.
Many citizens are so grid locked by melancholia and workaholia, that all they want from media is entertainment. Like tobacco ads, the evening news should carry an alert, any connection between our edited footage and what really happened is accidental. Three seconds of a smouldering helicopter in Basra and shots of raggedy children hurling stones is what passes for war reportage: be the first to know
and the last to understand. Where is the context? Not in the print media. The capacity to probe is shrinking faster than Arctic ice. Anyway, who has the time?
In Baghdad in April, almost 700 civilians were murdered as a result of terrorist activity. More accurately, murdered as a result of a sequence of terrorist activities, starting with the Coalitions invasion of Iraq. Many bodies are found bound, gagged and mutilated. Who by? Death squads. Who is in charge of these death squads? Why, none other than Iraqs Ministry of the Interior, according to reports. Veteran war correspondent John Pilger, among others, says the Ministry of the Interior is run by the CIA, which directs the principal death squads. One unit was formed and trained by CIA counter-insurgency experts, including veterans of the CIA's terror operations in central America in the 1980s, notably El Salvador. Needless to say, Pilgers dissection of the Salvador Option has not spilled into the media mainstream. Shortly after his column appeared in the UKs New Statesman, the boss of the CIA, Porter Goss, resigned for reasons he mysteriously claimed were mysterious. In my naive way, I wondered whether his bail out could be connected to death squads.
Nah, the general contention is that its to do with gambling and hookers. Which makes sense. At the CIA, death and torture is the goal. So why the fuss over the proposed replacement of Porter Goss with an airforce General? When you think about it, the US air force has long been auditioning for the gig. Fading in memory are plucky skirmishes with the Luftwaffe.Todays gallantry is to bomb the shit out of countries that dont have an air force. Easy. Kill unseen strangers, get medals, die happy. As a commander of aerial death squads, General Hayden is well qualified to run the CIA.
Downfall of a Headless Giant
On January 14, 2005 Newsweek reported rumors of The Salvador Option, the use of death squads as part of the U.S. strategy to subdue the people we had come to free. According to Nicolas J S Davies, in the Dirty War in Iraq, the interior ministry units that are most frequently implicated in these abuses were formed under U.S. supervision and work closely with U.S. advisors - retired Colonel James Steele and former DEA officer Steven Casteel. Both are veterans of previous dirty wars.
HATCHING PLOTS IN MEXICO,
BACK IN 63
The situation becomes scarier the deeper you delve. The occupiers are apparently running competing death squads: those which target the Sunnis and those which target the Shias, with the aim of dividing Iraq on ethnic lines. But what do I know? The sordid details are revealed in Max Fullers masterful essay, Media Disinformation and Death Squads in Occupied Iraq, but these allegations will NEVER penetrate CNN.
The public is locked out, and it doesnt possess the means or even the inclination to break down the doors. As Fuller says, the presence of Anglo-American forces in Iraq does not merely exacerbate the present violence; in Iraq we are the violence." And ninety per cent of our citizens dont even know it. At heart, the mass media remains a servant of the state. Or is the other way round?
How many suspect that the deposed CIA head Porter Goss was once a member of the CIA's super-secret Operation 40, an assassination squad which roamed through North and Central America during the 1960's? So says author Daniel Hospicker.
In a 1963 photograph of this group taken in a Mexico City nightclub, Goss is said to be the second figure on the left. Sitting opposite is Frank Sturgis, famous for being one of the Watergate burglars. Others present are well known to students of the 1963 Kennedy assassination, but thats a whirlpool Ill resist. If Hospicker is correct, and Goss was part of a CIA hit team, then it reinforces claims of CIA death squads in Iraq.
As does the fate of Knight Ridders Baghdad based reporter Yasser Salihee, who was delving into the murky executions. On his day off, he was preparing to drive his family to a swimming pool, when he was cut down with a single shot to the head by Americans in a passing convoy." It didnt make a newsbyte.
On Sunday, while Cindy Sherman, Susan Sarandon and others assembled outside the White House to call for an end to the war in Iraq, brandishing roses, three vicious men climbed into a boat on Chesapeake Bay, Maryland. What did they discuss, these three vicious men in a boat? All three pushed hard for the invasion of Iraq. All three have been caught lying several times on matters of life and death, their lies now playing back ad infinitum on video (LINKS below). All three of these men are cruel and callous. All three of these men have legitimized torture. All three men are besotted with power. Because of their meddling, 20,000 or more are dead in Afghanistan, over 100,000 civilians dead in Iraq a dozen more while they bobbed contentedly on Chesapeake Bay - the world set on a perilous course, the Mid East STILL in flames, death squads in Baghdad, the West in disrepute, many of our citizens depressed, switched off, dumbed down. Rumsfeld, Cheney, Howard; their wives waiting ashore. Three men in a boat. It gives you a sinking feeling.
Down in yonder Iranian soil
A feast of blood, a sea of oil
The launche of SurvivaBall
HALLIBURTON TACKLES GLOBAL WARMING
SurvivaBalls will insulate managers from abrupt climate change, according to Halliburton, which claims its advanced technology will keep the wheels of industry turning, save lives and enable rescue operations in all conditions.
"The SurvivaBall is designed to protect security personnel and corporate managers, no matter what Mother Nature throws his or her way," said Fred Wolf, a Halliburton representative who spoke last week at the Catastrophic Loss conference held at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Amelia Island, Florida. "This technology is our contribution to coping with abrupt climate change", he told an enthusiastic crowd. More photos.
BLINDED BY SCIENCE,
TRAPPED IN A PARADOX
Journal of a Futurist - 21 April 2006
We live our everyday lives as though the Earth will continue on its orbit, much as always, indifferent to our aspirations and plots. Despite all kinds of upheavals, whether in bedrooms or on battlefields, there is expectation at dawn of solid ground, a jug of water and the rising sun. We lick our wounds and dream. Optimism kicks in, firing the imagination. Long ago we tilted at windmills, now we put them on our roof. Its taken almost 50 years for environmentalism to hit critical mass, from Rachel Carsons Silent Spring in 1962, to Time Magazines April cover story on global warming, declaring The Debate is Over, even as its every ink drop promotes excess. (Full page ads: Toyota Formula 1, Rolex Oyster Perpetual: $US16,400, Peugeot 407 starts at just $US51,990, Mercedes Benz
). The US needs to reduce its emissions, Sunita Nurain, director of New Delhis Centre for Science and Environment tells Time, It is unacceptable and immoral that the US doesnt take the lead on climate change. Actually, the US does take the lead on climate change as its prime cause. The average American emits 20 times as more carbon than the average Indian. Yet the greening of Time marks a turning point, just like its famous 1966 cover, which asked, Is God Dead? Today we ask: Is the Earth dying? And are we dying with it?
Yes, billions will die before the end of the century, according to James Gaia Lovelock, who believes civilisation as it is known is unlikely to survive. So what kind of civilisation will take its place? While we have all begun to experience global warming and the increase in wild weather events, it is depressing to realise that a dozen or so other threats are stalking the future: the Great Wealth Divide, the Oil Peak, the Groundwater Peak, Hyper Consumerism, Mass Medias False Reflection, War Without End, Nuclear Revivalism, the Spread of Megacities, Pandemics, the Rise of Lethal Ideas, the Decline of Free Speech and Toxic Leadership. In the next few days I plan to post a pdf on these issues for anyone who wishes to embark on a dark night of soul, stiff drink at hand, Gotterdammerung at full decibels. Although maybe not, owing to the gaining momentum of the truth versus empowerment paradox. Key experts want to yell, WAKE UP, climate change may have accelerated to such a degree that it will be impossible to reverse or contain. Others want to whistle a happy tune and rave on about hydrogen fuel, organic pears and a carbon neutral lifestyle. Sometimes these are the same person.
IS THE SHOPPING RELIGION
MUTATING INTO A
GLOBAL SUICIDE CULT?
When mingling with climatologists, and hearing of the plight of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, there comes a point when I ask something crass: yes, but how do you really feel about our chances? Reactions are strikingly similar. Furtive glances, hand across mouth, a muted tone: Were fucked. This is followed by a bleak cascade of data, until I interrupt. Why dont you say this publicly? Youve got to give people hope. But I wonder why cant truth and hope be friends?
We who are citizens of the incredible shrinking coalition of the formerly willing are awestruck at the deceptions of todays democracies. The Bush administration has gagged climatologists and Australia has reportedly attempted the same at the CSIRO. Both nations have repeatedly lied about the situation in Iraq. Its a culture of deceit that starts at the top and filters down, until it meets a whistle blower. Whenever Major Michael Mori, a lawyer for the Marines and the US Navy appears on TV to defend the rights of Guantanamo Bay inmates, it is a reminder that nobility still flourishes down the line, a long way down the line in the case of the US military. In 2003, Major Moris boss, General Richard Myers, famously said that his forces had only fired off 1,500 cluster bombs in Iraq, injuring just one civilian. In fact,13,000 cluster bombs were used, according to Human Rights Watch and over 1,000 Iraqi civilians were killed, mostly children. In their inner selves, are Coalition leaders ashamed of running a blood bath in Iraq, now spilling into a civil war? Theres a whiff of a clue that they might be, which Ill float below in a post script. Now lets return to the issue at hand the truth/empowerment paradox.
DE-SALINATED WHISKY AND
WILD WILD WINDS
Last month in a boardroom on the edge of Sydney Harbour, the cruise ships gleaming in the midday sun, a leading climatologist presented the latest stats on our global predicament. Worse than we feared, he said, displaying mysterious graphs. I asked how long before he expected a significant rise in sea levels? (The usual answer is a hundred years). Perhaps as soon as a decade, he said. Okay, now what? On top of this, theres an energy crisis. Princetons eminent petroleum academic, Kenneth Deffeyes, has already put a date on the oil peak last November. He has expressed a strong conclusion that the oil fields we have already found contain 94 percent of all the oil we are ever going to find". Black gold fuels 90% of all transportation. It is involved in the production of 95% of all the goods in shops, including 95% of all food - produced as it is, mainly by industrialized means and shipped halfway round the world. In the sixties, a poster urged us to Plant a Flower Child Today, but now it might be wiser to plant fruit trees. Except that fresh water could be as scarce as hens teeth, which will indeed be scarce if bird flu strikes.
So to all those bright young things studying advertising, marketing, tourism, urban architecture, food technology, fashion, fine arts and so on, what should the climatologist be saying? That tomorrows shopping malls will be off the grid and T-bone steaks harvested in Petri dishes? That WallMart will re-invent itself as a farmers market, cars will run on hemp and desalinated Coke will get us through the night. Sure. Or will true leadership emerge on the world stage, extracting the West from its psychopathic imperial vortex in time to deal with a dramatic shift of priorities? The sun is indifferent to national boundaries. Aquifers are sinking. Hungry oceans gain advantage on the kingdom of the shore. Its not a dumb duality of us against them, Mr President, or good against evil, at least not yet. In the longer term, everyone on Earth faces the same threats, so it makes sense to switch collectively from exploitation to regeneration. If politicians keep putting the national interest before the interest of the globe, then we may as well start hoarding baked beans and candles.
a natural history museum of a future nature or another nature is a remark from artist Troy Innocent about his earlier work. The image above, New Home, is from a from a forthcoming exhibition at Sydneys Boutwell Draper Gallery 26 April to 20 May, 2006.
DO THEY FEEL SHAME?
Estimates of the total number of civilians who have been killed or maimed as a result of our intervention in Iraq are hardly ever mentioned in the media or by those who barracked for war. When pushed, George Bush recently suggested 34,000. The source of this figure is Iraqi Body Count, which does not claim to provide a tally of total deaths. As explained by Dahr Jamail and Jeff Pflueger this figure derives from a patchy record of war-related violent deaths that have been reported by two approved international English language media sources, whose correspondents are thin on the ground during midnight bombing sorties. Reports from over 500 Arabic and Persian news outlets are excluded. Iraqi Body Count acknowledges that thousands of deaths go unreported in its data base. More thorough compilations are available.
On October 29, 2004, The Lancet published its findings of casualty rates in Iraq: 100,000 deaths, and more. Eighty-four percent of the deaths were caused by the actions of Coalition forces, and most of the victims were women and children. The lead author of the Lancet report, Les Roberts, has elsewhere concluded there could be double this number of civilian deaths. An Iraqi humanitarian group released a report last July, counting 128,000 violent deaths and specified that it included only deaths confirmed by relatives, omitting the large numbers of people who have simply disappeared without trace amid the ongoing bloodletting.
Why are these shocking statistics ignored in the West? Is it from a sense of shame, or from a fear of further inflaming the public distaste for our meddling? Journalists who keep citing the discredited figure of 34,000 are engaging in propaganda.
Contested Zone, 2005, Troy Innocent.
Post script 2
THE JOKE THAT WENT BALLISTIC
After realising it had been hoodwinked by the Prime Minsters department, Melbourne IT has put the domain name back in my control, by which time the parody had outlived its usefulness. The site will be re-activated at a time of my choosing.
The Australian Federal Police has issued a statement relating to its role in the sites suppression:
- The Australian High Tech Crime Centre (AHTCC) can confirm that it was contacted by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet regarding a website using the domain name of johnhowardpm.org. [Within an hour or so of its appearance on March 13/06, RN]
- The AHTCC can confirm that it did not initiate an investigation in relation to this website.
- The AHTCC can confirm it advised the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet that no criminal offence had been committed with respect to the site and its contents and provided guidance to the Department regarding how they might proceed.
- As this matter is not being investigated by the AHTCC it would not be appropriate to make further comment.
That same afternoon, Melbourne IT received a call from Greg Williams of the People, Resources & Communications Division at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, which led to the site being closed down. The reasons given remain unclear, but as now confirmed by police, had no legal basis. According to Melbourne IT, Greg Williams followed up his phonecall to them with an email, the contents of which have not been made public. Numerous phonecalls to Greg Williams from media organsations have not been returned. His phone number is 61 (0)2 6271 5828.
If the Prime Ministers Department had closed down a printing press, there would be a hue and cry, and grounds for prosecution. The suppression of an online publication, however, is treated as a quirky footnote, rather than a criminal act, despite its implications for the future of free speech.
Meanwhile, thanks to the several hundred site visitors who emailed support, outrage and offers of legal assistance. My apologies for not replying to you all.
A SELECTION OF MEDIA REACTIONS
20 March 2006
THE MISSING LINKS
Owing to numerous complaints of dead links in our .pdf copy of John Howards disappeared speech, Reflections on the Situation in Iraq, these links have been re-activated below. Also included are new links which support the PMs re-appraisal of the invasions aftermath. A link to the text version of the speech, with some background on its removal, is available.
The domain name, johnhowardpm.org, is hosted by Melbourne IT. In less than 36 hours of its launch, following 10,500 visits to the site, the plug was pulled. By who? On what grounds? It took three days for Melb IT to make contact with me and help lift the veils of confusion. After receiving a phone call from Greg Williams of the People, Resources & Communications Division at the Department of the Prime Minister & Cabinet, Melb IT put the domain name on HOLD, where it remains. This domain cannot be transferred to another, more resilient host, for 60 days. In addition to the complaint from John Howards office, Melbourne IT said they had received calls from THREE Federal Police, and provided the name of an agent from the Australian High Tech Crime Centre. As far as I know, my passport has not met the same fate as my
So, what is the crime?
The nasty tech term is phishing, pronounced fishing. A comment on whether this applies to jonhnhowardpm.org comes from one of hundreds of emailers: For Melbourne IT to consider this a phishing site is ludicrous - phishing has to involve you deliberately trying to con people into giving up some sort of valuable personal information, not just stealing Johnny's traffic from Google. Phishing goes to identity theft, credit card fraud etc. and has nothing to do with satire - it is necessarily criminal in nature! Emulation is not in and of itself enough to constitute phishing.
There is a process that has to be followed if their is any contention over the intellectual property inherent in a domain name. You're entitled to be notified and to argue your case. Melbourne IT is bound to follow this process, and I suggest that you complain to ICANN. I think it's also pretty well established that you can't claim copyright in a person's name.
Furthermore if there's any debate over the actual content of the site being hosted and the intellectual property contained therein, that's a civil matter - a copyright matter - and has to be taken up through the courts. In other words the Attorney General would have had to send you a nice letter asking you to "cease and desist" because you had infringed a copyright vested in the Commonwealth. Thanks for that.
I freely admit that johnhoawrdpm.org looked similar to the previously unknown site that hosts the speeches of the PM, and that this similarity was intentional. My purpose was to make the noble sentiments emanating from the mind of a troubled John Howard seem convincing, if only for a few hours. Without this visual reinforcement, the notion that our PM was being honestly self reflective about the human costs of invading to Iraq , and that he "was looking into his heart", even expressing doubts, etc, would have been dismissed.
An enormous number of people believed the mock speech to be true, - and were thrilled, they report - and many more wanted to believe it. On a second reading, however, or with a bit of playing around, it is obvious that johnhowardpm.org operated in a satirical zone. Would the real John Howard have linked to anti war sites? Or admitted that this claims about improved infrastructure were bogus? Or criticised the US treatment of prisoners, the killing of journalists, the bombing of hospitals?
Yes, johnhowardpm is similar to the PMs site, just as The Chaser's ABC TV series CNNN, captured the tone and design of the real network. Would the site have been left standing if it was less like Johns Howards lonely, grey, un-noticed original? Well never know. Any first time visitor to the US parody site, http://www.whitehouse.org/ , would be alarmingly misled, although http://www.whitehouse.gov had yet to send in the Feds. You be the judge.
SOME ON-LINE REACTIONS
JOHN HOWARDS ORIGINAL HOTLINKS
LINKS IN SUPPORT OF JOHN HOWARDS RE-THINK
SYRIANA AND THE SHIFTING WINDS
Journal of a Futurist - 1 March 2006
Every time I push people to see Syriana, the Arab/Texas oil romp, they emerge impressed, yet bewildered. No-one fully understands the plot, probably not even the writer. Its one of Syrianas many virtues. A geopolitical intrigue touching CIA terror, suicide bombers, spoilt princes, feminist mothers and the rise of China is bound to be murky and complex. Holes in the story are true to life. A furtive achievement is its sympathetic insight into the moulding of a suicide bomber, played by Mazhar Munir, whose performance is gripping. While the sweep is global, the metaphoric skyline is Iraq, awash with oil, blood and extracted fingernails.
Another big-picture critique of the West is the Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins, who feels weighed down with guilt for the wreckage he and his colleagues have inflicted on the developing world. The paperback edition is flying out the door of Australian bookshops, hurrah.
A former Peace Corps activist, Perkins was lured by an executive prostitute into Halliburton Heaven, a vortex of Lear Jets, pillage and dodgy statistics. His inflated forecasts of growth served to increase the indebtedness of client states, adding to the poverty of their people and the profits of his employers. Any odd glitch, such as an elected third world leader with good intentions is dealt with by the CIA. The story is almost too evil to be true, and yet Perkins case is solid. The book reprints his photo/bio from corporate brochures, names, dates, minutes of meetings, corroborating sources. A veteran hit on the New York Times & Washington Post best-seller lists, this book was largely ignored by mainstream reviewers. Its revelations make Syriana seem soft.
ALL THAT IS WRONG IN
The State Memorial Service for loveable media magnate, Kerry Packer, inspired a former employee, Richard Walsh, to go into print with some of his own special memories and reflections on Australias champion tax avoider. Packer had utter contempt for politicians, for the arts, for idealism of any kind, for the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake and for those who did not share his world view writes Walsh, a former teenage satirist. His ethics were defined simply as whatever the law allows
In some ways he unfortunately represents all that is wrong with contemporary Australia. In response to an appreciative email, the co-founder of Sydney Oz magazine replied: I have NEVER had such a tsunami of enthusiasm in all my born days. Clearly I touched a nerve.
Around the same time I happened to see the first of The Chasers War on Everything (ABC, Fridays) and was thrilled at the reach of its boot. Clips emailed from mainstream US TV, including David Letterman, reveal a revival of political satire that three months ago would have been unthinkable, thanks to Dick Cheneys trigger finger.
Am I reading too much into straws in the wind? Are we finally watching an awakening? Are Australians, though our swimming pools be full and our global view obscured, becoming aware of the moral emptiness at the core of our political life? Or is it only the emptiness of the landscape that we notice, as featured in the current tourist blitz, SO WHERE THE BLOODY HELL ARE YOU? Lost, perhaps. Appreciating the gifts Australia has to offer, but all too aware of the little shop of horrors at the core of Government. Slightly schizoid, we zoom off to forest and beach.
DOWN ON THEIR KNEES, AMEN
Even today there appears to be no-one in the media with access and courage enough to quiz Bush, Blair or Howard on their true feelings about the deaths and maiming of over a 100,000 Iraqis, many of them children, resulting from our intervention. John Howard lectures the nation on the perversions of Islam, without a hint of awareness that our deeds in the terror war are a perversion of Christianity.
Meanwhile, some Christian groups in the US are taking the kind of radical political stance that befits the followers of Jesus of Nazareth. As army chaplains bless the bombers and anoint the torturers, the US branch of the World Council of Churches has made a public confession to the Assembly of its Global Council, denouncing the policies of the White House.
We acknowledge that we are citizens of a nation that has done much in these years to endanger the human family and to abuse the creation .We lament with special anguish the war in Iraq, launched in deception and violating global norms of justice and human rights. We mourn all who have died or been injured in this war; we acknowledge with shame abuses carried out in our name; we confess that we have failed to raise a prophetic voice loud enough and persistent enough to deter our leaders from this path of preemptive war. Lord, have mercy. WCC members include mainline Protestants, Anglicans and Orthodox churches representing more than 500 million followers.
The confession continues: Rivers, oceans, lakes, rainforests, and wetlands that sustain us, even the air we breathe continue to be violated, and global warming goes unchecked while we allow Gods creation to veer toward destruction. Yet our own country refuses to acknowledge its complicity and rejects multilateral agreements aimed at reversing disastrous trends. Christ have Mercy. And so on.
And let me make my own confession. As the credits rolled on Syriana, the three of us felt so flat as we trudged for the exit. Why? An overheard remark from a teenager offers a clue: Syriana shows how fucked up the world is and theres nothing anyone can do about it. Its disconcerting for a work of art to leave you wiser, but feeling so disempowered. But not for long. Could the rash of confessions, the rebirth of satire and the rise of the politically savvy blockbuster be signalling a shift in the public mood away from soul-dead materialism?
Thanks to Norwegian artist, Edvard Munch for his moody contribution.
SCENES OUR MEDIA ARE TOO TIMID TO SHOW
Listed on US flights as embassy cargo, these planes pass unhindered through global airspace, the hooded prisoners unprotected by law. They haven't even been legally arrested. No limit will be set on the level of torture. The International Red Cross will not be notified. The prisoners have not been charged or convicted.
WHOSE BREAD YOU EAT,
WHOSE SONG YOU SING.
Journal of a Futurist - 25 January 2006
An Hong, Born 1963 Beijing, Untitled, 1998:
In an ongoing series of self-portraits and performances that he calls the Buddha series, An Hong mixes images taken from Chinese and Tibetan Buddhism with elements of popular culture. His sensual, theatrical tableaux throw a sceptical light on both traditional values and those of today's pleasure-seeking society. Of this series, An Hong writes, Buddha may be the monarch who blesses and protects our paths toward a life of kitsch.' The images and those which follow are from the exhibition, Between Past & Future, New Photography and Video from China, held at the V&A. Captions are from the catalogue.
The human potential movement emerged from the fuzzy fringes of late 60s counter culture and managed to shift desiccated radicals and potheads into another state of being. A state many of the original recruits try to maintain, with a focus on self growth and conscious evolution, despite the encroachment of global consumerism. Yoga is a franchise, meditation is a balm for harassed execs, enlightenment is a perfume. In many ways, the mind/body movement has won the day. Most of the activities offered to guests at resort hotels have been adapted from ashrams. Yoga mats at K-Mart. But this is not the big story. The big story is that human evolution is speeding up, and that it is being engineered by scientists with a mission.
In terms of human empowerment, the research is jaw dropping. How to enable humans to function without sleep or food for weeks on end, unburdened by hunger pangs or bursts of paranoia. How to control a computer telepathically, to the extent of one day piloting an aircraft without touching the controls. Mighty budgets, edgy labs and Nobel prize winners are being utilised to extend the horizons of human capacity into realms previously the province Greek Gods, except this isnt mythology. According to a feet-on-the ground futurist, Joel Garreau, the author off Radical Evolution, we are in the forefront of the engineered revolution of mankind. I havent even finished his first chapter, but the cascading examples have stopped me up in my tracks. Like a toddler wandering onto a Hollywood set and watching the birth of Frankenstein. But this isnt a movie thats being produced. Its the future. And its being funded by the US military.
XING Danwen, Born 1967 Xi'an, Shaanxi province: Born with the Cultural Revolution, 1995.
This photograph come from a series documenting people of Xing Danwen's generation, born at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution. The pregnant woman is a close friend of the artist, who - like many in the early 1990s - was a collector of Mao memorabilia. 'Under Mao, there was no separation between the private world of the individual, the family, and the public political realm.' The photographs suggest contradictory feelings towards this period of history.
BE ALL YOU CAN BE
AND MORE, AND YET LESS.
Yes, the guys who gave us Guantanamo Bay, pre-emptive strikes and nuclear arsenals are now in the throes of creating the Metabolically Dominant Soldier (MDS). The military is tinkering with the machinery of human cells to create a soldier who can perform 300 pull-ups and walk forever with a 150-pound pack. Tomorrows killers with X-Ray vision will be primed to bomb and shoot around the clock for weeks on end. No need for food, sleep or even medics, as the MDS can stem bleeding by thought control (!), and will be immune to pain. A vaccination will block intense pain in less than 10 seconds. Its effects last for 30 days, all part of a program called Persistence in Combat. So far there hasnt been a reference to mastering the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilians in Time of War.
HUANG Yan, Born 1966 Jilin province
Chinese Landscape - Tattoo, 1999
To make these pieces, the painter and poet Huang Yan covered a model's torso with white powder and then applied ink and paint in the manner of the traditional Chinese 'scholar artists'. These artists were civil servants who used landscape painting as an escape from their daily responsibilities. Recalling this attitude, Huang Yan writes that 'landscape is an abode in which my mortal body can reside, landscape is my rejection of worldly wrangling, landscape is a release for my Buddhist ideas.'
SOLDIERS FOR GLOBAL JUSTICE
Much of the funding for radical evolutionaries is provided by DARPA (Defense, Advanced Research Projects Agency), whose goal is to create human beings who are unstoppable. This is in contrast with the timeless wisdom of such mystics and Meister Eckhart, who taught we progress by stopping. Its silly to be picky about a book I havent yet finished, and Joel Garreau is a smart and lucid explorer, but it is tempting to wonder what his billion dollar eggheads would be researching if the funds came from a less bellicose source. Conflict resolution, perhaps, or the infinite provision of cheap, tasty, nutritious food, or sharpening the desire of the Military for social justice, or creating innovations for living sustainably, or re-engineering democracy so its no longer a sham. Am I dreaming too big? Okay, lets think small. How about creating the Morally Dominant Soldier? Someone who knows in their soul that its WRONG to wipe out a household of women and children on the hunch that a suspect is inside.
C-type print Courtesy of the artist
ZHU Ming, Born 1972 Changsha, Hunan province.
Zhu Ming uses bubbles in his performances to evoke the fleetingness of life and feelings of isolation from society. This photograph documents a performance that took place in Beijing. The artist sealed himself inside a bubble and then coated the inside with Chinese ink. After 40 minutes, the bubble was pumped full of water. The photograph records the moment when the paint was washed away and the naked artist emerged into the open.
FULL MANY A GLORIOUS
MORNINGS HAVE WE SEEN
Is it true, as Nancy Goldstein writes in her searing portrait of this Gilded Age, that todays lack of effective dissent is secured by the substitution of consumer choice for genuine political choice, and abetted by a lazy, corporate-run media? The list of deadly threats facing the world Ive been chronicling since first stalking the conference stage as a futurist, seems to get longer/darker every time I open a newspaper. Tucked away the other day was the Howl of James Lovelock, devisor of the Gaia hypothesis, who warns that billions Earthlings will die by the end of the century, and civilisation as it is known is unlikely to survive. Burp, pass the Red Bull. Somehow, the more the ice caps melt, the more we run off to the beach - and why not? These snaps of Bondi captures a certain something of summer 06, and only a killjoy could wish anything less than fun and adventure for the upcoming gens. Our ingenuity is remarkable, IQs seem to be soaring. Out of left field the next leap will come, like Iceland suddenly breaking an addiction to fossil fuel, Bhutan pursuing Gross National Happiness. In battered shoes and bright sweaters the dispossessed of Latin American sweep into high office. Today no less than three World Social Forums in Venezuela, Mali, Pakistan are convening to nourish democracy and opportunity through the power of open debate and grass roots solidarity, not spin and bombs. The dreadful old buzzards who dragged us into the lands of civilisations ancestors to kill and be killed, will slink back into their gilded lairs. The artists and idealists will again emerge naked into the open, lighting the way for leaders driven by values and vision, instead of bigotry and the calculator. True leaders who know the future can no longer be taken for granted, and that another world is taking wing.
WAS IT WORTH IT AFTER ALL,
THE DAGGER ARGUMENTS
AND DESIGNER DRUGS ?
Journal of a Futurist - 19 December 2005
In the 1943 thriller I read on the flight to Phuket, the hero/narrator casts a cynical eye on the citizens of a Californian town on the skids: Haggard landladies bicker with shifty tenants
and old men sit staring at nothing on wide cool porches with faces like lost battles. Raymond Chandler the pen, Phillip Marlowe the voice. Fly cops with granite faces and unwavering eyes mingle with people who look like nothing in particular and know it. And then a phrase that nails my crowd: worn intellectuals with cigarette coughs and no money in the bank. I down another shot of in-flight gin and try to feel hard bitten. Was it worth it after all, our dagger words, the midnight arguments, our pamphlets, our rants, our taunting of the Bush-appeasers who condone blood-spilling without contrition, who wreck nature without regret?
I mean, how many Western chauvinists read our pesky blogs and cry, Okay, okay, I was wrong to look away while the coalition trashed Iraq. Tomorrow Ill join the Greens. The reason most people are looking away is because theyre looking after their family, their future. Too busy to research, too in debt to rock the boat.
Prior to the flight, I was asked to address a Balmain salon of worn intellectuals with marijuana coughs and no retirement fund. The group meets monthly. I love salons, or at least the idea of salons, because one day therell be a fiery speech of the kind now banned under Australias new terror-panic laws and well surround Parliament with a load of hand-me-down ideas and first rate designer drugs, chanting wind power to the people. During my closing riff, I said that responsibility for the bloodbath of Iraq belongs to the invaders, just as the blame for a fire which destroys a town falls on those who lit the match. The Australian Prime Minister is one of the instigators, which makes all of us, to a degree, complicit in his crimes. Thats not true, yelled an unworn student , spoiling my big finish, I didnt vote for John Howard.
WATCH IT AND ASK,
WHAT HAVE WE BECOME?
Its a mystery that our Prime Minister ever got elected, because no-one admits to voting for him. But maybe the interjection was valid. That by not casting a vote for a politician who commits a crime, and dutifully going about your everyday life, watching bad movies, applying moisturiser, talkn about the footy, etc, is enough to absolve you from a sense of guilt when the whole world wakes up to whats really been going on in our secret gulags, and about bloody time, little thanks to mainstream media. Abu Ghraib was hors doeuvres. Dont worry, Im not going to bang on about it anymore, in this my last rave for the year, hopefully my last ever about the war. (Yes, fingers crossed! Now can you fix the garden furniture? Wife) You can be sure that the West will be held to account, however long it takes, and new generations in scores of nations will ask, echoing Nuremberg, how did you let your leaders do it? What will we say? I didnt know it was happening. I didnt vote for them. I was watching Big Brother.
There is a scene in the Spielberg movie, Schindler's List (1993), which catches the essence of the holocaust, in all its insouciant depravity. The concentration camp boss sits on a veranda with a rifle on his knee, entertaining guests (I think), as the doomed inmates trudge about their duties. Every so often, he picks up the gun and shoots a Jew. For no reason other than malice and target practice. A similar scene has been playing out on the road to Baghdad airport, courtesy of our coalitions mercenaries. Heres the video-link. Watch it and ask, what have we become?
(For two other chilling video links, and the usual array of alternative insights, visit HOTLINKS in the right hand column).
AUSSIE AUSSIE AUSSIE, OY OY OY,
YOB YOB YOB
John Howard hitched our wagon to falling star. By siding with the global bully, he stained our soul and stirred up demons. We are unique in the West for refusing to condemn the Guantanamo Inquisitions. We turn a blind eye to systemic sadism, banned weapons, targeted assassinations (often of the innocent). We trumpet the nobility of our own military and cloak its unsavoury deeds in secrecy. Our Department of Immigration is driven by a culture of cruelty masquerading as incompetence, for which its instigator is promoted to Attorney General. Now he is laying the foundations of a police state, as MurdochWorld applauds. Howard keeps claiming the two Bali bombings are unrelated to our role in the terror wars, because the first attack, October 2002, preceded our invasion of Iraq. But it FOLLOWED our October 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.
Deep down, Howard must know that his playing of deputy to an ignoble sheriff has helped inflame terror in our region, cost tens of thousands of innocent lives and may well land him in the international criminal court. His political strategy is to heighten fear, pump up patriotism, glorify war, trash the academy. His famous, we decide who comes to Australia, was meant to scare the heartland, conjuring barbarians at the gate. And sure, hooning Lebanese Aussie adolescents can be obnoxious and frightening, as can Anglo Aussie meatheads who think theyre Anzacs on the sands of Gallipoli. Howard has helped turn us into a bunch of self congratulating flag waving materialist pisspots singing our own praises, oy oy oy, yob yob yob, screaming death to the wog wog wog. At heart, these are his people, the only constituency he ever cared about, the ones he sucks up to on the shock jock airways, the biffos who love his military parades, his anti intellectuality, his climate change denial, his medieval mindset, his taking us from a lucky, plucky, good natured land to an Ugly Oz in a single backflip, vomiting as we light our farts on Reality TV.
The day I arrive in Thailand, thankfully not aboard a CIA torture flight, King Bhumibol Adulyadej is sitting on a massive golden throne, delivering his annual birthday speech. It looks like a pompous Royal ceremony, all show and no substance, until I check out what hes saying. The Kings speech is utterly without guile and spin. It is self effacing, it is healing. It stands up for the right to dissent. It offers a rebuke to the Thai Prime Minister for trying to silence his critics with lawsuits. It unfolds a vision of a sustainable, efficient Thailand , one powered entirely by renewable energy (much of it palm oil, which he is developing). The King is candid about his short-comings. His words are a window to an eccentric, subtle and compassionate mind. It is not a speech that a Bush, a Blair or a Howard could ever conceive, much less deliver. It is a reminder that the measure of a nation is not the measure of its GDP. A countrys true wealth is derived from its values. When these values are enshrined in the actions of those at the top, then mutual respect becomes the intangible currency that empowers the population. The morning after the Kings speech the Prime Minister, Mr Thaksin, publicly withdrew all lawsuits against his critics.
Happy Xmas, everyone.
Therell be bilious sermons, a vile effusion of plastic crap under plastic trees. Carols that make the blood curdle. Therell be gongs for timid public servants who kept their traps shut. Military chaplains will reassure the troops of their sacred duty to keep dropping bombs from midnight skies on restive Iraqi villages, and never make it public. All this and more, praise the Lord. Our collective stupor will persist to Australia Day. Sure, Ill drink a schooner of Tooheys under the Southern Cross and propose a toast to the all the worn out intellectuals of the world, a toast to feisty bloggers and threadbare idealists stretching from Bangkok to Baghdad to Byron Bay and beyond, to all the NGOs, the human rights guerrillas, the ABC truth seekers, the haggard Pilger, Fisk, Monbiot, Dahr Jamail, even the bewildered plane spotters who provided proof of the CIAs numerous torture flights, to many more, to the latecomer peaceniks, multiplying by the minute, to all opinion shapers not funded by corporations or fearful of Murdoch, to everyone, everywhere, whose role is to slide the peas under fatcat mattresses, to keep the liars tossing and turning at night, worrying about how much we know and why we wont shut up, and to remind them
. we are everywhere.
POST SCRIPT, SHORT TAKES,
BACK TO THE FUTURE
This site was launched in August 2001 to explore the future. A month later came the wild-card attacks on America and the resulting politics of revenge. Such was the hysteria, the disinformation and the loony war-mongering, that the future seemed best served by offering an alternative perspective: suspicion of the coalitions motives, disgust at the methods, the certainty of a bloodbath, etc. Back then, to question the nobility of Americas agenda was tantamount to treason; even our smarter politicians regarded the White House as imbued with the aura of Abraham Lincoln. No longer. What was once seen as defeatist and conspiratorial is now regarded as prophetic. The mainstream media has been cut down to size. Lofty conservative voices are finally speaking out, the neocons are virtually a laughing stock. The Iraqis have paid the heaviest price, but heres hoping their suffering will diminish and a new future can begin, an attitude reflected with more wisdom by the BBCs departing correspondent. Even now, you can go to the main emergency hospital in Baghdad at any time, and you are likely to find Iraqis injured by mistake by US troops, BBC 17 Dec 05, though not always by mistake. Anyway, the plan next year is to keep the wider global future in focus, and leave much of the US specific political commentary for my spot at opednews.com, the last one ABSURDS THE WORD - posted from the isle of Phuket.
Okay, enjoy the break. Personal Best Fiction of the year, Kafka on the Shore, by Haruki Murakami; Best Non Fiction, for all its coyness, the Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, by John Perkins, understandably under-reviewed; the Worst Movie of the Century, so far, Mr & Mrs Smith, which, despite the bizarre rave reviews is a nasty, noxious one joke hymn to collateral damage, assassination on demand and kicking the wife for kicks. Mr and Mrs Smith is every bit a sign of cultural decline as the three videos featured on HOTLINKS, all of which I would love to thoroughly deconstruct. See ya. Mrs N wants me to trim the hedge.
PS - as I finish this year, I want to thank the one person who ensures my rambles are uploaded on time. She tells me she never reads a word... but I couldn't have done it without her. Thanks webmistress.
Journal of a Futurist - 20 November 2005 - The Land That Said No
I never appreciated the metaphor of a frog placed in a saucepan of water and so gradually brought to the boil, that it expires unawares, until I flew to New Zealand. Landing at midnight, the change of atmosphere was palpable. Clearing customs a breeze; free tea and baggage trolleys, an absence of gun toting ninjas. I had come to deliver a keynote on the future of recreation, despite its lack in my current incarnation. According to the conference brochure, recreation is at the heart of our identity, quality of life, health and wellbeing. New Zealand is an appropriate setting for such an event, themed AT THE HEART, being a land that still has one.
Wellingtons sun-flattered harbour foreshores throbs with the fit: toddlers scaling a mighty artificial cliff, while their carers belayed ropes; kayaks bobbing, skateboards zooming, geriatrics jogging. The citys museums and art galleries are free to the public, open seven days a week. The multi media public library is as packed as a dance party. Adorning Cuba Street are quirky sculptures created by council workers, even the manhole covers are individually engraved. In the distance, a busker-with-sax tackles Miles Davis. The virtues of Wellington are listed as compact, cultural and creative, but there is more to it than that. This is a city without fear. In three days I never saw a cop, not even a security guard. The doors of corporate buildings were open wide, no identity tags, no patdowns. Why are you all so bloody friendly? I asked the Kiwi at the cappuccino bar. Because weve still got what Australia once had. Yep, what we had before we joined the Bush crusade. I felt like the frog fallen from saucepan into a pond. How simple it had been to ignore the rising heat back home. To loll in the Jacuzzi of forgetfulness, until the heart stopped.
New Zealand resisted the call of the Devils bugle, and has grown in moral stature. Australia, on the other hand, puffed up with self importance, still dances to the madmans jig as it sinks into the abyss.
WHO DOESNT LIKE NEW ZEALAND?
On the weekend I arrived in Wellington, a navy frigate shuddered from a series of explosions and burst into a ball of orange flames. Two minutes later, like a scene from Pearl Harbour, it sank to the bottom of the sand. Was Osama bin Laden grinning in his cave, or from the grave? Not really. The ship was scuttled to provide a dive attraction. In the spirit of swords into ploughshares, the wreckage will be transformed by Neptune into an artificial reef, providing a future haven for barnacles, lobsters and scuba divers. If only all weapons of war were put to such use. Who doesnt like the new New Zealand? One person doesnt, and his identity will come as no surprise.
Can you guess? Yup, the new United States ambassador, Bill McCormick, a seafood tycoon, who achieved his posting by tossing gold at Republicans, and probably a few crates of crayfish. McCormick warned New Zealand that its relations with Washington will not improve until it drops its 1985 ban on all things nuclear, including US warships. Then he attacked the nation for not attacking Iraq: "It is always disappointing when there isn't participation by a freedom-loving country . . . in a very important matter". That is, murdering civilians, torturing POWs at will, often as a kind of recreation, and using chemical weapons (Also see HOTLINKS in the right hand column). New Zealands Prime Minister, Helen Clark, the former headmistress of the St Trinians Girls School, politely told the ambassador to jump in the harbour. The Australian Government, meanwhile, licks the shoes of visiting Torturer General Donald Rumsfeld and offers him the outback as a bombing range.
In Wellington, the local newspaper mocked McCormick for reinforcing the image of the US as a swaggering superpower, strutting the world in the expectation that small countries such as New Zealand will simply fall into line. What this nation was not willing to do, much to US displeasure, is blindly embark on foreign adventures that are dubious ethically and ill-conceived strategically. New Zealand followed the US into the quagmire of Vietnam. Wisely, it has not repeated that folly in Iraq. The long standing friendship between the two countries does not and should not mean blind allegiance. A more experienced diplomat than Mr McCormick would know that. What a change from the appeasing drivel dished up by the Australian media. But of course! New Zealand is a Murdoch free zone. Hallelulah!
The soul of John Howards Australia. (Artwork: Tracy Emin)
Free of its press, that is, though not of his presence, as I discovered on the hotel TV.
A FIT AND PROPER PERSON
TO HOLD A LICENCE?
Two desperate old hams from Fox News, the Beltway Boys, were trying to shore up the White House with falsehoods:
- "Those aluminum tubes really proved Iraq was about to go nuclear. All they proved was a forgery.
- Dont blame President for being wrong about Iraqs weapons. Why not? His team manipulated the data and turned a deaf ear to contrary views. As former President Jimmy Carter again affirmed, the war was hatched before 9/11.
- Saddam Husseins regime definitely fostered Al Qaeda. Not even the CIA believes that.
How odd that Rupert Murdoch is considered a fit person to hold a broadcasting license, when his lies cost so many lives. Its also odd that the CIA has failed to list itself as a terrorist organisation. What do their agents say to their partners at dinner? A pretty dull day, really, kidnapped a few suspects in Italy, had them tortured in Iceland. Called in a strike on a terrorist cell in Makr al-Deeb, but it was a bunch of rag heads getting married. Oooops! We denied it of course
..Did I mention the waterboarding in Bagram?
THE THEME PARK TO END ALL
You might be fed up with hearing about this dirty war, but Im even more fed up with writing about it. Theres all sorts of buzzy stuff coming down the pipeline, like The Singularity, the moment when runaway advances outstrip human comprehension and all our knowledge and experience becomes useless as a guidepost to the future (Bruce Sterling), but the War to Spread Terror is fouling tomorrow and needs to be scrutinised. Futurists bury their heads in bio-tech, robot-tech, nano-tech, which is mind blowing and all that, oft funded by the military, but the carnage in Iraq needs to be resolved, not ignored. We threw the first bomb.
Now we have constructed a bigger theme park than the one we set out to demolish. Welcome to SaddamsWorld, Global. Nastier than the original. More jails, more inmates, more torture, more spin. Weve recruited some of the old personnel, like the secret police and the indomitable Donald Rumsfeld, now back in charge of Chemical Weapons. Its a mirror all right, but we mostly look the other way.
The result of phosphorus, as used in Fallujah.
THANKS TO THE READER WHO SENT THIS ANCIENT CARTOON, TO REMIND US ALL OF THE CYCLES
THANKS TO REG MOMBASSA FOR THIS COMMENT
ON THE DESTRUCTION OF COLLECTIVE BARGAINING
One of the numerous unknown soldiers featured in the "wife/girlfriend" section of the controversial sex-for-death-pics site.
Journal of a Futurist - 30 September 2005
Washington, Warporn and Wild Wild Weather
It wasnt only the way he spoke or what he said that betokened an inner crisis for George W Bush, it was the befuddlement that dulled his eyes. Everything he held dear was falling apart. The most powerful man in the world was telling his people to limit the use of their cars. Even as he mouthed the words, Bush looked like he wanted to eat them. At Brazils environmental summit in 92, his father had famously issued a stern warning to Earth: The American way of life is not negotiable, and now the White House was waving the white flag.
It was not the option he favoured. You can imagine the scenes at the Oval Office, the President in a flight suit pounding the table: Lets declare a war on the weather!
Who dared to tell him? You already have! From his first days as President, Bush and his friends at Big Oil had doctored the data on Global Warming, cut funds for climate mitigation and bribed journalists to fling mud at environmentalists. So successful was this strategy, that it was adapted to pump up support for the conquest of Iraq spread lies, embed the media, fling mud. Securing the oil was part of the plan.
FUELLING TOMORROWS NIGHTMARES
Now that the chickens have come home to roost, what do the chicken hawks do? While over a 100,000 peace protesters converged on the White House last weekend, the chicken-hawk-in-chief took flight. I dont want to get in the way of relief efforts, he said, as he proceeded to get in the way. Among images of Rita flashing onscreen, was one of a battered oil plant emblazoned with the slogan: EXXON, fuelling Americas dreams. Exactly. The dream that oil will last forever, that our lifestyle is not negotiable, that the killing over a 100,000 Iraqis is worth it, that Gods on our side.
The dazed look on the face of Bush is that of someone who has woken from a wonderful dream to find himself in a prison, a prison of his own construction. It turns out that climate change is not a figment of green paranoia, but a wrecker of oil rigs, communities and Presidential repute. Instead of boosting the flow of oil from Iraq, his illegal invasion has slashed the countrys output by three quarters of a million barrels a day. Instead of a hero, he is a scoundrel.
And thats not all. Something more important than the supply of oil has been diminished by his actions in Iraq. And by the echoing actions of Australian Prime Minister, John Howard. Dare I say it? Perhaps youre thinking, reputation, but this is about something even more vital than Brand America, also in a tailspin. Were talking about a nations soul.
Not that of its citizens, who possess soul and spirit in abundance, but of its public persona, its governing ethos, its aura.
VIRTUE, TRANSPARENCY, THE LONG VIEW FAREWELL!
A similar decline is happening in Australian, unaccompanied by robust dissent, so this is not a sneer from higher ground. Our politicians compete with each other to peel away civil rights. In lieu of a terrorist attack, we suffer panic attacks. A Ghandi inspired American peace activist was locked up by our secret police and deported, with barely a blip of protest.
In Iraq, the collapse of honour and moral courage is blatant. Human Rights Watch reports that soldiers in the US Army's elite 82nd Airborne Division systematically tortured Iraqi detainees for a whole year, breaking limbs with metal baseball bats and dousing eyes with chemicals.This is on top of depriving prisoners of sleep, food and water, subjecting them to extreme heat and cold, stacking prisoners in human pyramids and kicking them in the face. Officers often instructed the soldiers to "smoke" detainees, meaning to abuse them until they lost consciousness. The motive was not always to gain intelligence, according to a sergeant, it was a sport.
Drawing on similar reports of systemic brutality, most of the victims had probably committed no crime, unlike most of the troops of the 82nd Airborne Division, who turned up in New Orleans and again behaved like thugs. One of its soldiers warned media reps that if they took pictures or wrote about the body recovery process, their press credentials would be shredded and they would be kicked out of the state, an improvement on being kicked in the face.
MEDALS, BRASS BANDS,
PATS ON THE BACK
This week at the American University in Washington, Mr Viges, who also served with the 82nd Airborne Division, offered an extraordinary insight into the dehumanising impact of war. Viges revealed that indiscriminate fire from US troops is likely to have killed an untold number of Iraqi civilians and that he was still haunted by the memories: "I had days that I don't want to remember. His battalion was ordered to open fire on all taxis in the city of Samawa because it was believed they might be transporting Iraqi forces. Of course no soldier will be charged. Medals will glitter on chests.
Found in the car - dirty work at the crossroads?
The Australian military consorts with this torture regime, but our own Government denies culpability and blocks media access to files and possible witnesses. We are good people, remember, the Others are evil. And lets not ask why two British undercover soldiers were driving a car in Basra that reportedly contained wigs, Arabic headgear, explosives and detonators. (For more info, see HOTLINKS - on the right)
PATRIOTISM AND NECROPHILIA
ON PORNO PLANET
A new generation is learning that fellow humans who are under suspicion, despite being citizens of a country the Coalition is supposedly liberating, can be brutalized at will, even exterminated, with absolute impunity, both moral and legal. The stench of this degradation is starting to percolate the homeland. Soldiers stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan have long been taking snaps of the enemy dead, many of them horribly mutilated or blown to pieces, and sending them to a web site. In exchange for permission to post these images, the soldiers get free access to porn. While the death images are vomitous, it is not their display that curdles the blood. In fact, I believe the exclusion of such images from the mass media advances the cause of the warmongers. It shields the public from the horrors of whats been unleashed in their name. No, what is truly terrifying, is the attitude of these soldiers towards the people theyve killed.
A picture of a victim lying in a pool of his own brains and entrails is captioned, "What every Iraqi should look like." A corpse whose jaw has rotted away, is mocked with the phrase, "bad day for this dude."
A group of young Marines in fatigues laugh and smile for the camera while pointing at a burned, charcoal-black body: cooked Iraqi. And so on. To be fair, the website warns, if you have a problem with dead terrorists please don't look here. But what if we have a problem with deadened soldiers?
- Bring the troops back home.
- Treat their incipient psychopathology.
- Hold to account those at the top whose defiance of the UN is responsible for the bloodbath.
POST SCRIPT: FRAGMENTS, NOTES, QUOTES, OFFCUTS
What people fail to realise is that we do not need to erode civil liberties to prevent terrorism. We simply need an ethical and just foreign policy. Letter on BBC website.
US WARPLANE BOMBS HOME, KILLING A FAMILY
In a dispatch posted at 11:35am Mecca time Friday morning, Mafkarat al-Islam reported that a short while earlier a US fighter plane had bombed a two-story house owned by a local resident in the middle of al-Qaim, a city in western Iraq near the Syrian border.
The al-Qaim correspondent for Mafkarat al-Islam reported witnesses as saying that seven people a man, his wife, two girls, and two elderly women were killed in the American air attack.
The correspondent reported that the Director of the Emergency Ward of the city hospital told the press that all the seven family members died instantly in the attack and that the body of one woman, aged 80 according to neighbors, was still under the rubble. Rescue teams were working on its recovery. At the time of reporting, US forces had made no comment on their attack.
Published: September 10, 2005 Author: Mafkarat al-Islam, Mohammed Abu Nasr translation
HE IS NO GREAT CIVIL LIBERTARIAN HIMSELF, BUT
"The British and American bomber pilots came, unopposed, safe and cosy in their state-of-the-art aircraft, pressing buttons to drop bombs, to kill and maim," Mr Mahathir said. "And these murderers, for that is what they are, would go back to celebrate 'Mission Accomplished'.
"Who are the terrorists? The people below who were bombed, or the bombers? Whose rights have been snatched away? - Malaysia's former leader, Mahathir Mohamad, Sept 9/05.
THE AMAZING AMANDA
In the last three months, nearly 300 asylum seekers detained in camps by Australian immigration officials have tried to harm themselves. The head of the department, Amanda Vanstone, was last seen in a Bush-like photo-op extravaganza, tearing down the razor wire erected by her demonic forebear. Amanda was less visible a few days later, when the razor wire was replaced with an electric fence. This week a robotic doll is to be launched by J. Shackelford & Associates, who will greet her first owner with the words, "We're going to have the best time together. This hot new toy is marketed under the name, Amazing Amanda, $99.
Unlike the real-life Amanda, robo-doll will listen and show emotion. Some analysts who have played with her, say Amanda represents an evolutionary leap from earlier talking models, like Crazy Germaine of the 1960's, a doll that cycled through a collection of bizarre speeches when a child pulled a cord in its back.
Smarter Than Your Daughter
Radio frequency tags in Amanda's accessories - including toy food, potty and clothing - wirelessly keep the doll informed. For instance, if Amanda asks for a bucket full of peas, potatoes, pork chops and lashings of ice cream and is fobbed off with a plastic cookie, she will have her owner deported to Uzbekistan.
Its inventor, Ms. Shackelford, is trying a new frontier with Amazing Amanda, convinced that it will stoke a girl's imagination, not take its place.The pre-release model of Amazing Amanda, once it was activated (by flipping the toy's only visible switch hidden high on its back and beneath its clothing), woke with a yawn, slowly opened its eyes and started asking questions in a cutesy, almost cartoonlike girl's voice.
What the doll is actually doing, Ms. Shackelford said, is "voice printing" the primary user's voice pattern. By asking a child to repeat "Amanda" several times, the doll quickly comes to recognize and store in its electronic memory that child's voice, and only that child's voice, as its "mommy." Other voices are greeted with Amanda's cautionary proclamation, "You don't sound like Mommy, and unless she is satisfied, Amanda can dial up the immigration police.
The doll is equipped for almost an hour of speech that includes misleading responses, policy statements, and the hymns of Hillsong. And as Amanda speaks, the doll's soft-plastic lips move and its face, using Disney-like animatronics, help to suggest expressions of compassion.
Some 150 pages of logic are programmed into Amanda so she can assist the children of refugees to spy on their parents and keep lists of foreign peace activists.
"The idea that a child can be led is so important to me," notes her creator, Amandas sophisticated surveillance technologies must be invisible. Ms. Shackelford, who says she is in her mid-60's, wears sensible shoes and has no children of her own, explains, "You have a baby doll that is supposed to make a little girl feel like the doll loves her. Girls tell dolls all the time that they love them."This doll," Ms. Shackelford said, "acts like she loves you." She laughs. But its just an act!.
Amazing Amanda crushes the asylum seeker from outer space.
Links for 18 May journal
Links for 21 April journal
BEYOND ORWELL: No wonder Zacarias Moussaoui changed his tune
Links for 1 March journal
Links for 19 December journal
First, three creepy video links:
DECLINE OF THE WEST 1
A TERRORIST SABOTAGE MANUAL:
THEATRE OF THE ABSURDS LATEST SCRIPT
Links for 20 November journal
And took another week for the news to reach the Australia press, which, like the BBC, omitted this vital proof
THE SAME ATTEMPT TO HOAX THE WORLD ABOUR NAPALM ALSO BACKFIRED.
Links for 30 September journal