No confirmation of this is currently available.
Take this 2003 survey conducted by British public relations company Weber Shandwick in relation to Iraq’s WMD. The results speak for themselves: “The public is two times more likely to trust the BBC over the Government on the issue of weapons of mass destruction. More than half (54%) of the respondents are much more likely (28%) or somewhat more likely (26%) to believe the BBC on the issue of WMDs. Only one in five (21%) are much more likely (9%) or somewhat more likely (12%) to believe the government.
The European Federation of Journalists reports that journalists across Europe are banding together to voice their concern over the crisis in public broadcasting. Arne König, the Chairman of the EFJ, says that aside from worker’s rights being questioned, political pressure is attempting to silence dissenting viewpoints. “More than ever, these values need to be defended,” says König.
The state of Australia’s public broadcasters, ABC and SBS, is worrying. Governmental pressure is resulting in increasingly reluctant staff tackling the hard issues or asking the tough questions. We now have to rely on comedy to provide the most incisive political comment:
INTERVIEWER: Mr Howard, I wondered if the meaning of Anzac Day has somehow changed?
JOHN HOWARD: Anzac Day is a day of great importance in the Australian calendar, Graham.
INTERVIEWER: What do you think that importance is?
JOHN HOWARD: Well, I think the essential lessons and characters of Anzac Day are as they have always been, Bryan.
INTERVIEWER: And what are they?
JOHN HOWARD: Well, it celebrates that very important time when the Australian Government made a very significant decision, Bryan to
INTERVIEWER: To do as it was told by an imperial power.
JOHN HOWARD: — to assemble a very, very impressive body of young men, very talented, very resourceful young men and to send them away to
INTERVIEWER: Invade another country.
JOHN HOWARD: — to defend Britain.
INTERVIEWER: By invading Turkey.
The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) is holding the annual Orwell Awards – “the gong for the annual tongue-in-cheek anti-press freedom awards.” Aimed at those in power who actively discourage press freedom, including the majority of the ministers in the Howard government. One note of advice to the MEAA. Holding an Inaugural World Press Freedom Dinner tomorrow night is a noble idea, and speakers include shit-stirrers David Marr, Richard Neville and John Birmingham. But how the hell did the NSW Premier Bob Carr score an invitation? He has more press secretaries than John Howard and is the master of spin. His press secretary Walt Secord won an award in 2003 for best spinner in the state.
A final warning to those who believe in retaining the current state of affairs regarding Australian defamation laws. This report by the University of Melbourne proves that our freedom of speech, compared to the US, is being seriously eroded:
“This article reports on a comparative content analysis of more than 1,400 Australian and US newspaper articles. The study suggests that in the US – where defamation plaintiffs face much heavier burdens than under Australian law – defamatory allegations are made more frequently against both political and corporate actors than in Australia. The US articles contained apparently defamatory allegations at nearly three times the rate of the Australian sample. In particular, the Australian media appeared to be less comfortable making allegations in relation to corporate affairs than its US counterpart. In addition, some US articles included far more extreme commentary than the Australian sample, which suggests a less restrained style of public debate may be fostered under US law. Through introducing comparative content analysis to Australian media law research, the article supports the idea that Anglo-Australian defamation law has a chilling effect media speech.”
Reform is essential, as online magazine Crikey have been saying for years.
Fundamental to Australia is the legal advice offered to John Howard. On what basis did the Prime Minister commit this country to war? Legal eagle Richard Ackland today asks the key question:
“How did the legal smoke-and-mirrors game play out in this corner of the globe? The Prime Minister, John Howard, told the House of Representatives on March 18, 2003: “Our legal advice … is unequivocal … This legal advice is consistent with that provided to the British Government by its Attorney General.
“As we now realise, the legal advice to the British Government was highly equivocal. With which piece of legal advice was Howard’s legal advice consistent?”
Pressure must be placed on the government to release its own legal advice. Without it, serious doubts will remain over the true intentions of our elected officials.
Deputy Secretary of Defence, Paul Wolfiwitz, told the U.S. House Budget Committee on February 27, 2003 that oil exports would pay for the reconstruction of post-invasion Iraq: “It’s got already, I believe, on the order of $15 billion to $20 billion a year in oil exports, which can finally – might finally be turned to a good use instead of building Saddam’s palaces. It has one of the most valuable undeveloped sources of natural resources in the world. And let me emphasize, if we liberate Iraq those resources will belong to the Iraqi people, that they will be able to develop them and borrow against them.”
One can safely interpret “borrow” to mean the rapid arrival of massive financial loans on the condition that privatisation of natural resources and essential services are undertaken by Western multinationals.
McGeough writes: “The rest of the world vowed to help Iraq after the ousting of Saddam Hussein. Billions ofdollars have been set aside and because Basra is Iraq’s only city by the sea, hundreds of military and civilian supply convoys thunder past its hospitals, heading to Baghdad and other centres as part of a huge military and reconstruction effort.
“But few trucks stop at these hospitals. A few did pull up outside the Al-Sadr Teaching Hospital a month ago and dumped donated second-hand hospital equipment from Japan in the forecourt. But no one knows how to install it all – so the delivery just gathers dust and its flat surfaces have become an extension of the waiting room for day patients.”
Chalabi’s reputation is so sullied that his appointment throws into question the agendas behind the endorsement of a government by the National Assembly. Already, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari’s connections to Iran remain unclear.
A startling revelation in today’s Guardian and a story that should receive widespread coverage in Australia, but has not, thus far. The BBC and Independent are leading with the story and yet neither the Sydney Morning Herald nor News Limited websites mention the yarn at all. The Age features the story from Reuters. Will any paper in Australia dare print the story on their front page tomorrow, giving it equal weight to the numerous page one articles before the war channelling government propaganda on WMDs?
Let’s take a look back. At the time of the Iraq invasion in early 2003, Bush, Blair and Howard all claimed that the “Coalition of the Unwilling” was engaged in lawful behaviour. John Howard said on March 14, 2003: “There is adequate legal authority in the existing [UN] resolutions for force to be used.” Dissenting views were expressed but had little practical effect.
Fast forward to 2005. The British election is days away. Tony Blair is likely to win (a report in today’s Australian explains this will be largely due to a “badly distorted electoral system”) but the leaking of the UK Attorney General Lord Goldsmith’s pre-war advice reveals that serious doubts were expressed merely days before the invasion, not least because of dubious evidence of Iraq’s WMD capability. Ten days later, Blair claimed his country could enter the war legally. What happened during those ten days remains a mystery though governmental pressure on the Attorney General seems likely.
In October 2003, leading Pentagon hawk Richard Perle admitted that the Iraq war was illegal. “International law … would have required us to leave Saddam Hussein alone”, and this would have been morally unacceptable, Perle said. This caused barely a ripple. Indeed, in 2003 the New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh uncovered numerous shady dealings involving Perle and arms dealing. Today, however, with an upsurge in violence across Iraq, an ever-increasing “Coalition” death toll and no clear exit strategy, the new leaks will hopefully re-focus attention on the nature of taking a country to war.
Families of some of the British soldiers killed in Iraq are preparing legal action against Blair based on the leaked information. Furthermore, the initial concerns expressed by Lord Goldsmith were never seen by the British Cabinet, “an apparent breach of the official code covering ministerial behaviour”, reports the Guardian.
Can you imagine a world where Western leaders could be brought before an international court and charged with war crimes? As John Pilger said in 2003: “To call them war criminals is not to take a cheap shot. It is to speak the truth. In 1946, the judges at the Nuremberg war crimes trials said that unprovoked aggression against another state was, and I quote, ‘the supreme international war crime because it contains all the evils of other war crimes.'”
Those who argue that the Iraq issue is dead misunderstand the direction our leaders are taking us. Just a few weeks ago, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon asked George W. Bush to step up pressure on Iran’s alleged nuclear weapon’s facilities. Today we learn that the US is likely to sell bunker-buster bombs to Israel, weapons designed to destroy underground nuclear factories.
It has already been proven that the Iraq war was illegal. The next challenge is to bring accountability back to Western democracy and today’s news brings the public one small step closer to realising how far our governments have strayed.
I’m proud to join the club…
Hunter S. Thompson
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
I’ll be speaking on Sunday morning on the topic: “Web Tactics: Blogging and New Technologies.” I’ll be joined by Trevor Cook, a director of PR firm Jackson Wells Morris. Expect heated debate over the impact of blogging on journalism and perhaps the odd joke about Rupert Murdoch’s recent realisation that money could be made on the internet.
Watch this exclusive report to prepare yourself for the onslaught of fake news coming soon to a TV near you.
“When George Bush visited John Paul II in June of last year, he asked the Pontiff for a political favour. Shortly thereafter, Cardinal Ratzinger issued a letter to American bishops that essentially threatened to excommunicate all Catholics who voted for John Kerry. Upon receipt of the letter, five prominent Roman Catholic bishops held an unprecedented press conference to proclaim their preference for George Bush over his rival, John Kerry. Bush received 6% more Roman Catholic votes last year than he did in 2000, even though his opponent was a lifelong Catholic who had served as an altar boy. Ratzinger’s political intervention had worked wonders for neoconservativism, and it is now being recognized as one of the most decisive factors in Bush’s electoral strategy.”
Ratzinger has a history of silencing critics who challenge the church’s behaviour over sexual abuse. Many critics, including some critical of this blog, argue that challenging the new Pope is somehow inappropriate, insensitive, intolerant, prejudicial. My point has never been to chastise Catholics for their faith. I take issue, however, with the history of Ratzinger, his associations and the likely future of an increasingly tight union between religious fundamentalism and the political realm. The flaunting of religious belief for the sake of political gain seen across the Western world is yet another sign of traditional democratic values being challenged.
Ratzinger deserves to be questioned and investigated like any other religious leader. Of course, not many other religions would appoint someone like Ratzinger to the throne.
After 29 years of occupation, the last Syrian soldier has left Lebanon.
The Syrians consider Lebanon part of their “historic homeland”. They thought that their occupation is “irreversible”. Now, suddenly, they were forced to leave.
Many Israelis consider the occupied territories part of our historic homeland. They believe that the occupation is “irreversible”.
But in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and the Golan Heights, too, the occupation will come to an end. And perhaps much sooner than many people expect.