Monday, 27 February 2012

Obama's Oceania.


We are concerned that the United States has not announced that it is going to conduct criminal investigations into the large number of previously undisclosed civilian casualty events that are revealed by this material. “
Julian Assange.

As an Englishman I recognise that since the end of the Second World War my country has shrivelled to become but a far flung outpost of what is now another empire in decline. To my mind, Orwell's 1948 depiction of our island as 'Airstrip One' remains an adequate description today, possibly with the caveat that we might now actually enjoy a lesser designation of 'Airstrip One Hundred and One' or more.
Until quite recently it has often paid to watch currents and trends in the US as they emerge in order to catch glimpses of our own destiny. It has been a truism that whatever happens on the other side of the Atlantic Basin today is certain to impact upon us here tomorrow. This long prevailing reality is now changing somewhat.
Today the all encompassing process of globalisation has served to bring centres of private power into a more common orbit than has ever been seen before. Finance capital now wing's it's way across the globe in the blink of an eye, unfettered by national boundaries.
Trans-national corporations can be legitimately described as 'Sans-national', owing no allegiance to any nation state. Currently the people of the United States of America are witness to this new and distressing reality which applies even to the original spawning ground of the giant megaliths.
While researching material for “Mummy Made Me A Terrorist” over the Christmas period, I arrived at the conclusion that 'Fascism' and 'Nazism'' are terms which now elude any universal definition. They thus remain ripe for abuse within the emotionally charged rhetoric of the circus which now passes for political discourse. Nowhere it seems is this more evident than in the US.
In writing about our “descent into an openly fascist society” here in Britain, more than once I found myself wondering whether we might actually have surpassed this stage and morphed into full blown Neo-Nazism. There are many ominous signs that this might be the case, and it was somewhat reassuring therefore to read an article by the veteran journalist and war correspondent John Pilger published shortly afterwards, in which he offers a more optimistic prognosis. He describes our woeful “perpetual war state”, but writes that “..this is not fascism, not yet, but neither is it democracy in any recognisable form, regardless of the placebo politics that will consume the news until November.” He is alluding to the forthcoming US presidential elections.
During a recent discussion with a visitor to my home, I happened to make a passing reference to this journalist's outstanding work over the years, and the response was telling: “I remember John Pilger... you don't hear much of him these days do you?“
My visitor's observation was entirely correct, but sadly he is unlikely to question why this might be the case. Pilger was once a mainstream journalist of the British press, and my own awareness of much of what was happening in our world during the mid 1960's was informed by his articles written for publication in the Daily Mirror. At the time I was still attending school and living with Mum and Dad, and this mass circulation tabloid newspaper was delivered to our home each day.
Today, John Pilgers work is regarded as 'radical', 'left wing', and decidedly out there on the fringes of mainstream media; a situation which tells us much about the direction that our society and culture have taken over the years.
Last June he was scheduled to give a talk in the United States sponsored by the progressive Lannan Foundation, an organisation which serves to provide both a forum and financial support for the endangered species of investigative writers and journalists. He is no stranger to the Lannan Foundation, having enjoyed a cordial relationship with them over the years to the point of representing them at one of their awards ceremonies. In addition to his scheduled talk, Pilger was also planning to show his most recent documentary 'The War You Don't See' to US audiences.
The Lannan Foundation however, cancelled him at short notice and furthermore refused to provide any explanation. For the citizens of the United States, not only was this to be the case of a 'War You Don't See', but also of a 'A Journalist You Wont Hear'.
Had his documentary been shown to US audiences it might have provided many with their first opportunity of seeing the 'gun barrel' film footage shot from a US Apache attack helicopter over Baghdad during the 'surge' of 2007. This chilling spectacle of the cold bloodied murder of twelve people, complete with the sound recording of the crew's comments during the execution of their duties provides the film's opening sequences. The video only came to light when it was published on the WikiLeaks website.
In the absence of any clarification from the Lannan Foundation itself, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the silencing of Pilger was because in the six months leading up to June of 2011 he had emerged as an outspoken defender of WikiLeaks, and of its embattled founder Julian Assange.
It is practically impossible to overstate how monumental a year 2010 was for journalism, and it is worthwhile to recall some of the actual chronology of the WikiLeaks major contributions:

April. WikiLeaks releases 'Collateral Murder'; the Pentagon film of an Apache helicopter attack over Baghdad which left twelve dead, including two Reuters journalists.
May. US Army Private Bradley Manning is arrested on suspicion of disseminating classified material.
July. WikiLeaks publishes the Afghan War Logs.
October. WikiLeaks publishes the Iraq War Logs.
November. WikiLeaks publishes a massive trove of US diplomatic cables, which promptly becomes known as 'Cablegate'.
December. Julian Assange is arrested in London and imprisoned at the request of a Swedish prosecutor alleging sex crimes.

At the time of writing, Private Manning is facing a court-martial in the US, charged with disseminating classified information, and Julian Assange is about to be extradited to Sweden to face questioning on what appear to be highly dubious rape allegations.
A common consensus among those who have been paying attention is that once in the hands of the Swedish authorities, Assange will be promptly handed over to the United States government where he and Manning might even face trial together, charged under the 1917 Espionage Act.
The prosecution of Daniel Ellsberg in 1971 heralded the first time this act was ever used against a 'whistle-blower', that is to say somebody who releases hitherto secret information into the public domain with the intent of exposing criminal behaviour. Ellsberg's crime had been to publish papers made available to him during the course of his employment with the Rand Corporation. Documentation he was privy to revealed the extent to which successive US administrations had lied to Congress and the American people about the 'progress' in Vietnam.
Between the time of Ellsberg's indictment and up until Obama's inauguration there had only been two other prosecutions of whistle-blowers under the Espionage Act.
Since the Obama administration has taken office however, it has used this law to prosecute individuals in no less than six cases, and Assange and Manning will in all likelihood make numbers seven and eight. This from a president who campaigned for more transparency of government during his bid for the residency of the White House, and who described whistle-blowers as “often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government.”
The US Justice Department under Obama has even pursued two individuals which the Bush administration had previously decided not to prosecute. This alone discredits Obama's avowed policy of 'not looking back' when it comes to criminal investigations of possible war crimes committed by high ranking government officials from the previous administration. It is clear that this policy only extends to former President Bush and Vice President Cheney, and their immediate chain of command. The enormous duplicity of this current administration in Washington should therefore now stand exposed before the world.
It is not only US centres of power that are potentially threatened by the WikiLeaks diplomatic cables disclosures. The Wikileaks revelations momentarily lifted the stone on many nation states, but how their citizens responded after seeing what crawled around underneath was a very mixed bag. This then is a global phenomena, and genuine journalists everywhere have taken heart from these developments, a very dangerous state of affairs. Democracy and transparency versus secret government and its subversion of the rule of law ought to define the shape of the debate today, and in a healthy society, one in which government was truly by, for, and of the people it would do.
In Spain the cables relating to the US attack on the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad which killed a Spanish photo journalist had “ enormous impact. That’s really all that’s being talked about. It’s even relegated the economic crisis we’re facing to a second topic”.
In Egypt, some have suggested that revelation might even be a stepping stone to revolution. At the time of writing, the generals are still very much in charge, but following the February 2011 uprising and the ongoing struggle there, genuine democracy might yet become a reality.
The story of the kidnapping and rendition of neuroscientist Dr Aafia Siddiqui in Pakistan meanwhile serves to show how easily the interpretation of these cables might be twisted to subvert the truth. A telling example is provided in an extract from a Guardian article which tells us that Dr Siddiqui “..... was never imprisoned at the Bagram military prison in Afghanistan, the embassy cables suggest. 'Bagram officials have assured us that they have not been holding Siddiqui for the last four years, as has been alleged'.”
'Never imprisoned' there despite independent eye witness testimony to the contrary? Perhaps she was only held at Bagram for three years, or maybe only two? The possibility never even appears to have crossed the mind of this institutionally supine Guardian journalist.

It has become clear that by refusing to deal with any of the compelling evidence available at the time, and confirmed by WikiLeaks long afterwards, the mainstream media has largely rendered itself redundant as a credible source of news. Since this 'war on terror' began, it has expended enormous efforts in projecting a slew of patently false realities, and this has reduced its role to one of mere distributor for state and corporate propaganda.
The values of investigative journalism are now firmly established as the province of the 'fifth estate'; cyberspace. The distribution and sharing of information has been revolutionised, and the internet is directly challenging the comfortable co existence of traditional media and the power centres that control it. As Kevin Zeese has pointed out, “If in 1450 Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press, had been prosecuted, the revolution of printing would have occurred anyway. The information revolution has progressed too far to be stopped. Information will flow, transparency will increase, and media will be democratized.” For this to mean anything though, it will require an engaged citizenry, one that has cast aside its apathy and equanimity.
From it's earliest days the potential of the printing press as a source of news was seen as a threat by the church and the state establishments, and its facilitators were pursued mercilessly. The Tudor monarchs only permitted presses in London, where they were able to control them, and at the two universities of Oxford and Cambridge. The first licence to print news was only granted in the early seventeenth century, and this was solely for the purpose of reporting events from abroad, not at home. Even this partial freedom only lasted for ten years, when all of the licences were revoked following protests by the Spanish authorities. Lilburne, one of the earliest advocates of press freedom, was pilloried, dragged and whipped through the streets of London before being cast into prison. Manning and Assange then are part of a long and courageous tradition, and throughout history the message from the masters has remained constant: “...resistance is futile, be aware of what we do to people who step out of line, and learn the appropriate lesson....”. This might explain why, of the two and a half million people who had access to the data that made it's way to WikiLeaks, one person alone had the courage to expose it to the light of day. 
Meanwhile, WikiLeaks' contribution towards a potential dawning of an informed public is but one, albeit crucial component in the sea change which the internet as a whole can bring about. There is no longer any excuse for ignorance about what has been taking place in our name. When the 'Collateral Murder' video footage first appeared, I tried talking to people about what it showed, and there were many who just didn't want to know. It came as a shock to discover that so many simply refused to listen, watch or think about it. I soon realised that raising the subject actually taught me much about the individual I was speaking with; about their commitment to justice and decency, and the presence (or absence) of a spine or a conscience or a heart. Their response in many ways mirrored that of the actual journalist who was embedded with the unit that committed this murder from the skies over Baghdad. Having suppressed the story at the time simply by not reporting it, he eventually went on to glibly record that it was “ bad day in a surge that was filled with such days.” He celebrated the unit in his book 'The Good Soldiers'. We all know that the guiding principle of the Mafia, is 'omerta', the code of silence, but 'Don't inform, don't snitch' ought to be a hard rule to follow if your job is supposed to be journalism.
Six months after WikiLeaks exposed this video to the light of day, another release, this time of Pentagon war logs, showed us that the US military had killed more civilians than insurgents at checkpoints in Iraq. That they had killed people trying to surrender. That prisoner abuse did not stop after the exposure of what was going on at Abu Ghraib. That the US had given the green light to the Iraqi security forces to continue killing and torturing civilians.
One entry tells of the discovery of the body of a six year old child, dead from wounds which appeared to be bullet holes, but which turned out in fact to be drill holes
The biggest revelation of all that WikiLeaks bought to light in 2010 might yet be that when war crimes are exposed, the whistle-blowers wind up with a lynch mob chasing them down, the perpetrators walk away untroubled and unharmed, and the majority among us at home choose to look the other way.
What this says about our own sense of justice and decency, and the values of our much vaunted 'democracy' that we are so keen to export to the rest of the world is therefore best left for others to judge. We ourselves are in no condition to form any rational conclusion because one of the symptoms of our sickness is blatant self delusion. Ron Paul best sums up this malaise when he explains that “In a society where truth becomes treason, we are in big trouble.”
We should take note that the enemies of WikiLeaks included Amazon, Pay Pal, Mastercard, and Visa, among others. These are the same corporations which have traditionally been happy to trade in every commodity from books by Western dissident authors to tee shirts of Che Guerva: because they have always ultimately been in control. Karl Rove is attributed with once explaining to the author Ron Suskind that he should catch up, because he was still living in the “reality-based community”, and elaborating on this, said: "That's not the way the world really works any more. We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do." Rove's world view is largely explained by the fact that so long as the corporations have enjoyed the monopoly on setting the narrative and also the perimeters of debate, dissent has been mostly tolerated and in many instances co opted. This is what is changing.
Recently I have had to cross over the River Thames on several occasions and I have watched the latest tall building being erected on the South bank, visible from far away in any direction, and known as the ''Shard'. Since I first caught sight of it early last summer, something about it has seemed eerily familiar. It wasn't until I viewed it from its base outside of London Bridge station though that I realised where I had seen it before.
Ignorance is Strength. War is Peace. Freedom is slavery. Truth is Treason.