Best-selling journalist Antony Loewenstein trav­els across Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Papua New Guinea, the United States, Britain, Greece, and Australia to witness the reality of disaster capitalism. He discovers how companies such as G4S, Serco, and Halliburton cash in on or­ganized misery in a hidden world of privatized detention centers, militarized private security, aid profiteering, and destructive mining.

Disaster has become big business. Talking to immigrants stuck in limbo in Britain or visiting immigration centers in America, Loewenstein maps the secret networks formed to help cor­porations bleed what profits they can from economic crisis. He debates with Western contractors in Afghanistan, meets the locals in post-earthquake Haiti, and in Greece finds a country at the mercy of vulture profiteers. In Papua New Guinea, he sees a local commu­nity forced to rebel against predatory resource companies and NGOs.

What emerges through Loewenstein’s re­porting is a dark history of multinational corpo­rations that, with the aid of media and political elites, have grown more powerful than national governments. In the twenty-first century, the vulnerable have become the world’s most valu­able commodity. Disaster Capitalism is published by Verso in 2015 and in paperback in January 2017.

Profits_of_doom_cover_350Vulture capitalism has seen the corporation become more powerful than the state, and yet its work is often done by stealth, supported by political and media elites. The result is privatised wars and outsourced detention centres, mining companies pillaging precious land in developing countries and struggling nations invaded by NGOs and the corporate dollar. Best-selling journalist Antony Loewenstein travels to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Papua New Guinea and across Australia to witness the reality of this largely hidden world of privatised detention centres, outsourced aid, destructive resource wars and militarized private security. Who is involved and why? Can it be stopped? What are the alternatives in a globalised world? Profits of Doom, published in 2013 and released in an updated edition in 2014, challenges the fundamentals of our unsustainable way of life and the money-making imperatives driving it. It is released in an updated edition in 2014.
forgodssakecover Four Australian thinkers come together to ask and answer the big questions, such as: What is the nature of the universe? Doesn't religion cause most of the conflict in the world? And Where do we find hope?   We are introduced to different belief systems – Judaism, Christianity, Islam – and to the argument that atheism, like organised religion, has its own compelling logic. And we gain insight into the life events that led each author to their current position.   Jane Caro flirted briefly with spiritual belief, inspired by 19th century literary heroines such as Elizabeth Gaskell and the Bronte sisters. Antony Loewenstein is proudly culturally, yet unconventionally, Jewish. Simon Smart is firmly and resolutely a Christian, but one who has had some of his most profound spiritual moments while surfing. Rachel Woodlock grew up in the alternative embrace of Baha'i belief but became entranced by its older parent religion, Islam.   Provocative, informative and passionately argued, For God's Sakepublished in 2013, encourages us to accept religious differences, but to also challenge more vigorously the beliefs that create discord.  
After Zionism, published in 2012 and 2013 with co-editor Ahmed Moor, brings together some of the world s leading thinkers on the Middle East question to dissect the century-long conflict between Zionism and the Palestinians, and to explore possible forms of a one-state solution. Time has run out for the two-state solution because of the unending and permanent Jewish colonization of Palestinian land. Although deep mistrust exists on both sides of the conflict, growing numbers of Palestinians and Israelis, Jews and Arabs are working together to forge a different, unified future. Progressive and realist ideas are at last gaining a foothold in the discourse, while those influenced by the colonial era have been discredited or abandoned. Whatever the political solution may be, Palestinian and Israeli lives are intertwined, enmeshed, irrevocably. This daring and timely collection includes essays by Omar Barghouti, Jonathan Cook, Joseph Dana, Jeremiah Haber, Jeff Halper, Ghada Karmi, Antony Loewenstein, Saree Makdisi, John Mearsheimer, Ahmed Moor, Ilan Pappe, Sara Roy and Phil Weiss.
The 2008 financial crisis opened the door for a bold, progressive social movement. But despite widespread revulsion at economic inequity and political opportunism, after the crash very little has changed. Has the Left failed? What agenda should progressives pursue? And what alternatives do they dare to imagine? Left Turn, published by Melbourne University Press in 2012 and co-edited with Jeff Sparrow, is aimed at the many Australians disillusioned with the political process. It includes passionate and challenging contributions by a diverse range of writers, thinkers and politicians, from Larissa Berendht and Christos Tsiolkas to Guy Rundle and Lee Rhiannon. These essays offer perspectives largely excluded from the mainstream. They offer possibilities for resistance and for a renewed struggle for change.
The Blogging Revolution, released by Melbourne University Press in 2008, is a colourful and revelatory account of bloggers around the globe why live and write under repressive regimes - many of them risking their lives in doing so. Antony Loewenstein's travels take him to private parties in Iran and Egypt, internet cafes in Saudi Arabia and Damascus, to the homes of Cuban dissidents and into newspaper offices in Beijing, where he discovers the ways in which the internet is threatening the ruld of governments. Through first-hand investigations, he reveals the complicity of Western multinationals in assisting the restriction of information in these countries and how bloggers are leading the charge for change. The blogging revolution is a superb examination about the nature of repression in the twenty-first century and the power of brave individuals to overcome it. It was released in an updated edition in 2011, post the Arab revolutions, and an updated Indian print version in 2011.
The best-selling book on the Israel/Palestine conflict, My Israel Question - on Jewish identity, the Zionist lobby, reporting from Palestine and future Middle East directions - was released by Melbourne University Press in 2006. A new, updated edition was released in 2007 (and reprinted again in 2008). The book was short-listed for the 2007 NSW Premier's Literary Award. Another fully updated, third edition was published in 2009. It was released in all e-book formats in 2011. An updated and translated edition was published in Arabic in 2012.

The Cold War is back and arms dealers are laughing

Global powers rarely learn from history. Instead, they look to find ways to influence others with a range of sticks and carrots. Hello, weapons manufacturers, stop smiling.

Michael Klare in TomDispatch:

Did Washington just give Israel the green light for a future attack on Iran via an arms deal?  Did Russia just signal its further support for Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime via an arms deal?  Are the Russians, the Chinese, and the Americans all heightening regional tensions in Asia via arms deals?  Is it possible that we’re witnessing the beginnings of a new Cold War in two key regions of the planet — and that the harbingers of this unnerving development are arms deals?

International weapons sales have proved to be a thriving global business in economically tough times.  According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), such sales reached an impressive $85 billion in 2011, nearly double the figure for 2010.  This surge in military spending reflected efforts by major Middle Eastern powers to bolster their armories with modern jets, tanks, and missiles — a process constantly encouraged by the leading arms manufacturing countries (especially the U.S. and Russia) as it helps keep domestic production lines humming.  However, this familiar if always troubling pattern may soon be overshadowed by a more ominous development in the global arms trade: the revival of far more targeted Cold War-style weapons sales aimed at undermining rivals and destabilizing regional power balances.  The result, inevitably, will be a more precarious world.

Arms sales have always served multiple functions.  Valuable trade commodities, weapons can prove immensely lucrative for companies that specialize in making such products.  Between 2008 and 2011, for example, U.S. firms sold $146 billion worth of military hardware to foreign countries, according to the latest CRS figures.  Crucially, such sales help ensure that domestic production lines remain profitable even when government acquisitions slow down at home.  But arms sales have also served as valuable tools of foreign policy — as enticements for the formation of alliances, expressions of ongoing support, and a way to lure new allies over to one’s side.  Powerful nations, seeking additional allies, use such sales to win the allegiance of weaker states; weaker states, seeking to bolster their defenses, look to arms deals as a way to build ties with stronger countries, or even to play one suitor off another in pursuit of the most sophisticated arms available.

Throughout the Cold War, both superpowers employed weapons transfers as a form of competition, offering advanced arms to entice regional powers to defect from each other’s alliance systems or to counter offers made by the other side.  Egypt, for example, was convinced to join the Soviet sphere in 1955 when provided with arms the West had refused to deliver.  In the late 1970s, it moved back into the American camp after Washington anted up far better weapons systems.

11 comments ↪

Washington’s love of deja vu politics between Israel and Palestine

Rashid Khalidi writes in Foreign Policy:

Observing U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry`s efforts to restart negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis one can`t help but be struck by a sense of dיjא vu. Kerry, who visits Israel and the Palestinian territories this week, has launched an initiative to improve the economic conditions of Palestinians living under occupation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. This proposal might be considered innovative if a plan to `improve the Palestinian quality of life` — which in practice means improving the conditions of Israel`s Palestinian subjects while ignoring their subjugation — had not been mooted in 1983 by Secretary of State George Shultz. In the intervening decades, Palestinian `quality of life` has worsened considerably.

Similarly, there are reports of Kerry touting an Arab peace plan that would reaffirm the 1967 boundaries as the basis for a settlement. The same plan was originally put forward by Saudi Arabia`s then-Crown Prince Abdullah at the 2002 Arab summit meeting and reiterated in 2007, both times to general Israeli and U.S. indifference. The core principles in the original initiative were far from novel: they simply recapitulated the terms of U.N. Security Council resolution 242 of 1967. Like its nearly-identical predecessors, the plan was ignored by the Israeli government, even though it includes explicit reference to the possibility of territorial `swaps` Israel has long insisted on.

Finally, there are again rumblings of a new U.S. initiative to re-start bilateral negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis. After over two decades of failed U.S.-brokered talks on the basis of the Madrid-Oslo model, this proposal too is far from novel.

Why should the reiteration of these failed approaches reverse the steady entrenchment of Israel`s settlement project and its 46-year old occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, when they failed to do so in the past? Indeed, I have argued in my book Brokers of Deceit that this outcome has been largely the result of these U.S. approaches: via unstinting support for Israel, the United States has done much to reinforce Israel`s occupation, its settlement project, and its continued denial of Palestinian rights. This willful blindness to the lessons of the past can be partially explained by U.S. policy-makers` dread of straying from a narrow range of tepid bromides guaranteed not to arouse the ire of the Israeli government and its vocal supporters in the United States.

If the aim is to change the status quo, rather than consecrate it, a radically different approach by the United States and others will be necessary.

Firstly, there has to be a U.S. willingness to consider the views of other consequential actors where the Palestine issue is concerned, from Europe and Russia to China, India and Turkey, and including countries farther afield like Brazil and South Africa. After three and a half decades of failed efforts to broker an Israeli-Palestinian settlement, going back to the 1978 Camp David Accords, the United States is no position to insist on monopolizing peacemaking, or to claim that it is the only party qualified to offer constructive proposals. Indeed, the enforced closeness between the U.S. and Israeli positions on all substantive issues where Palestine is concerned (originating in a confidential 1975 pledge from President Gerald Ford to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhadk Rabin) makes the United States unfit to serve as an intermediary on this issue.

Secondly, all concerned, including the United States, must insist that a solution be grounded in first principles like international law, the Geneva conventions, and U.N. resolutions, and in basic notions of equity and comparable human, national and political rights for all. This is necessary whether or not this pleases Israel and its claque in congress and the media. A just and lasting settlement cannot result from inherently skewed frameworks concocted mainly to meet Israeli desiderata like the Madrid and Oslo formulas, and all of their deformed offspring. Indeed, these very formulae have produced the abysmal situation that worsens daily in Palestine. This is precisely what schemes like Oslo, based on `autonomy for people not land,` and on an `interim period` that has gone on for over a decade and a half, were meant to do by Menachem Begin and others who inspired them. They can produce nothing else. After two decades, it is irrational to assume that the Oslo process can lead to anything but further dispossession of the Palestinians by their Israeli overlords.

Thirdly, whatever the supposed aspirations of U.S. leaders, where Palestine is concerned the U.S. political system has demonstrated sclerotic immobility. This is true in spite of stirrings of change at the grassroots, among young people, on many campuses and in numerous churches, and even in some quarters of the mainstream media. Until these stirrings translate into concrete political outcomes that politicians and the media are obliged to take notice of, however, it is essentially up to others to make the first moves if things are going to change. These others include the international community, the Arab states, and the Palestinians themselves.

5 comments ↪

Julian Assange on Democracy Now! talks Wikileaks, Bradley Manning, censorship

12 comments ↪

Jewish Care residents in Australia tackle Gangnam Style

Hilarious:

6 comments ↪

How Israel’s weapons industry thrives on ever-greater conflict

Fascinating and depressing (via 972 magazine) about the radically different view of Israel in the general public globally (never been worse due to racism and occupation against Palestinians) and the elites who see endless financial opportunity. Vulture capitalism brought to you by Zionism:

In his new documentary, ‘The Lab,’ Yotam Feldman explores how Israel’s weapons industries interact with the country’s politics, economy and military decision-making. Israeli weapons, military technology and know-how become more valuable because they have been field-tested in its wars and combat against Palestinians and neighboring countries. A conversation with Yotam Feldman about his film, arms dealers and Israel’s war economy.

Perhaps we should start with the question of Israel’s international standing. In recent years it is often termed as “growing global isolation.” This isolation may diminish at times, but there is a wall-to-wall consensus about Israel becoming less popular with every war and military operation. You say that in fact the opposite is true. In your film, one can see officers from armies the world over coming to Israel to purchase arms – from Europe, India, Latin America, and of course – the U.S. So is this talk of criticism and isolation a show in which everyone partakes? Or is this criticism another force that we need to take into account?

I think that a view of Israel as an unrestrained savage that resides in a brutal neighborhood and therefore has to exercise excessive/immense albeit necessary force, has taken hold. It follows that this view is usually condescending-forgiving. More importantly, I believe that Israel’s security marketing succeeds where Israeli Hasbara [advocacy] is less fruitful. Many people fail to make the connection between Israel’s hi-tech weapons and the unrestrained military force about which one can read in reports by human rights NGOs. People think of these as two disparate phenomena merely existing in spatial and temporal proximity. If you read the Goldstone Report about the bombing of the ceremony at the police academy in Gaza on the first day of Cast Lead, and then read a marketing brochure of Rafael about the operational experiment involving “Spike 4″ (the missile used by Israel in that incident), some effort is required in order for you to realize that these are different accounts of one historical event. The same goes for the drones used for assassinations in Gaza. On the other hand, It is possible that the Europeans understand all this and simply don’t care.

In the previous decade, following operation Cast Lead, there was a feeling that this cannot go on, that in this constellation, Israel would have to go to a third, fourth, fifth and sixth Gaza war, and perhaps on other fronts as well – but also that it cannot really be involved in so many wars.

After the disengagement (from Gaza) a process noticed only by a few outside the army occurred. War has stopped being an extraordinary, unexpected and dramatic event in the life of the nation, and has become a periodic activity which is a part of that national life. Thus, at any given time, Israel is either in the midst of a Gaza war or awaiting the next one. Between the 2005 disengagement and “Cast Lead,” we had “Summer Rains”, “Hot Winter” and several other Israeli military operations in Gaza. Yoav Galant, the commander of the southern front between the disengagement and Cast Lead, who can be seen in the film, played a major role in the formulation of this doctrine. He employed the metaphor of a lawn mower to describe it: war as routine, periodic maintenance beyond the borders.

One of the contributing factors has been the massive use of shielded or automatic unmanned vehicles, which allows for wars in which there is no proportion between the risk taken by one side and the risk incurred by the other. This has reshuffled all the moral, political and legal categories which had been applied to warfare. In the past, all these campaigns were based on the assumption that this is a conflict in which two parties accept the possibility of killing or dying, but here, in almost all cases, one party kills and the other dies. The military industries, which develop products for conflicts of the Gazan type, and coax the Israeli army to purchase them, are playing a pivotal role here. The result is disturbing, because it seems to me that the war in Gaza has become inherent to the Israeli political system, possibly a part of our system of government. This was particularly noticeable during operation Pillar of Defense which took place during the election campaign, but support for it unified all the contenders for power.

Do you think that the testing of weapons systems played a part in, say, Ehud Barak’s calculations during the recent wars in Gaza?

It’s hard to rule this out. This connection is much more immediate than the one made by General Dan Halutz between the second Lebanon War and his personal portfolio. There are very close ties between the military industries, on one hand, and the army and the political system on the other. The most profitable military company is Elbit, owned by Mickey Federman, one of Ehud Barak’s confidants and a key player in his electoral campaigns. This company specializes in advanced means of asymmetric warfare, exactly the type of wars conducted by Barak in Gaza in recent years. There are other such personal ties. Furthermore, this is a national economic interest. The Defense Ministry plays a double role as the authority overseeing the military system and a sales promoter for the Israeli military industry abroad. I think it’s inhumane to demand that Barak separate the two issues. I am not saying that they embark on military campaigns in Gaza in order to test systems and make money, but it does play a part.

And in the lower echelons, Israeli military industries invest a great deal of effort in order to make IDF officers purchase their products, and use them to boost their export potential. They do so also by hiring retired senior officers en-masse, as sales promoters and project managers vis-a-vis their former colleagues in the IDF. A prominent case is Elbit and General (Ret.) Yiftach Ron-Tal.

This approach bears fruit. A key player in the military industries told me that the operational testing in Gaza of Elbit’s BMS (Battle Management System – a special internet-like system for ground forces), a huge project worth $1 billion, has allowed Elbit to raise its price in a deal signed a year later with Australia. The same goes for Rafael. The company stated openly that it would capitalize on the escalation that preceded operation Pillar of Defense – with the first operational use of Iron Dome – to raise around half a billion shekels (rougly $135 million) through the issuance of bonds. A salesman for the IAI (Israel Aerospace Industries) told me that assassinations and operations in Gaza bring about an increase of tens of percentage points in company sales.

29 comments ↪

The last thing Syria needs, or the Middle East, is more Western “engagement”

Stunning Simon Jenkins piece in The Guardian that explains why Western imperialists, of the liberal and conservative kind, just need to butt out of the Middle East:

There could no more dreadful idea than to pour more armaments into the sectarian war now consuming Syria. Yet that is precisely what Britain’s coalition government wants to do. The foreign secretary, William Hague, seemed on Monday to parody his hero Pitt the Younger by demanding “how long must we go on allowing … ?” and “what we want to see is …”. Who is this we? But even Pitt would never be so stupid as to declare war on Syria, which is the only morally sound outcome of Hague’s rhetorical mission creep.

For two years pundits have proclaimed the imminent fall of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. High on Arab spring, they declared he would fall from the logic of history. Or he would fall because western sanctions would bring him down. Or he would fall because the media, as in the novel Scoop, were with the rebels and had decided they would win.

Assad has not fallen. He is still there, locked in the lethal Muslim schism that resurfaced with the demise of the region’s secularist dictators. These have now almost all gone: the shah in Iran, Najibullah in Afghanistan, Saddam in Iraq, Mubarak in Egypt, Gaddafi in Libya. They had faults in abundance, but they succeeded in suppressing religious discord, instilling rudimentary tolerance and keeping the region mostly in order. This was in the west’s interest, and the rulers, like those in the Gulf, were supported accordingly.

Turning turtle and abetting their downfall may yet prove the most disastrous miscalculation of western diplomacy since the rise of fascism. Prior to the Iraq war, Saddam persecuted the Shias, but their shrines were safe and intermarriage was common. After the war, Sunni and Shia are torn asunder, with a death toll of ghastly proportions. Similar agony may soon be visited on the Afghans. Libya’s Tripoli is more unstable now the west has toppled Gaddafi, its fundamentalist guerrillas spreading mayhem south across the Sahara to Algeria, Mali and Nigeria.

These upheavals might have occurred without western intervention. The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt were largely self-starting. Islamist parties often came to power, because they offered an alternative discipline to the existing regimes. But the west’s sudden zest for “wars of choice”, its meddling in the politics of Pakistan and its sabre-rattling in Iran have created a cause on to which neoconservative Islamism could fasten.

Al-Qaida was in 2000 a tiny group of fanatics. America and Britain have portrayed it as an all-powerful enemy, apparently lurking in support of every anti-secularist rebellion. Cameron calls it “an existential terrorist threat… to inflict the biggest possible amount of damage to our interests and way of life”. Yet stabbings and bombings do not constitute an “existential threat”. The UK is a stronger culture than Cameron appears to believe. There is no threat to its existence, while the chief damage being done to its way of life comes from the incompetence of its government.

41 comments ↪

How privatisation infects Australia

My following piece is published today in the Guardian Australia:

The racism was raw. In 2011, John worked inside the Villawood detention centre in Sydney, and had little time for asylum seekers and their plight. He believed they had more rights than he and his co-workers had been given. John was employed by MSS Security, a private company contracted by British multinational Serco for menial work. He claimed that the lack of accountability for the behaviour of his employer proved the immigration detention system was broken. It was his opinion that the Australian army should manage detainees, because companies such as Serco “balk at a problem and remain eternally paranoid about losing the contract with the government”. The racism expressed by John is commonplace; I have met countless others on Christmas Island and at the Curtin detention centre holding similar views.

Nothing, it seems, has happened since that would change his view. Serco has over a billion dollars’ worth of contracts with Canberra to manage the never-ending stream of asylum boats. No other country in the world has outsourced these services to so few companies (you can count on on one hand the corporations receiving the vast bulk of the government’s money). In recent years, countless alleged cases of mismanagement and price-gouging have been documented within Serco and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. These include Canberra’s failure to impose an independent auditing regime to monitor the multinational’s conduct in its many centres and the apparent failure to address potential remaining asbestos risks at Villawood.

Despite such problems, both the Labor and Liberal parties support the model currently in place for immigration detention, and few voices in the mainstream media challenge the underlying philosophy of having a for-profit company managing some of the most vulnerable people in society. The results are high rates of self-harmmental health problems and attempted suicide (all documented last week in a damning report by the Commonwealth and immigration ombudsman), restricted media access and unnecessary commercial-in-confidence agreements between the government and corporations. There is an ethically blurry environment where the more refugees arrive on our shores, the more profits companies make.

The ongoing march for privatisation does not stop here. Rightwing thinktanks in Australia, such as the Centre for Independent Studies and the Institute of Public Affairs (a group that refuses to release a list of its financial donors), regularly call for the mass privatisation of state services. This includes the ABC, despite consistent public polling findinghuge support for the broadcaster.

Australia is the most tightly controlled media environment in the western world, with over 70% of print publication owned by US citizen Rupert Murdoch; in the words of John Pilger, “Australia is the world’s first murdochracy”. Indeed, charges against the ABC mirror the comments by James Murdoch about the BBC in 2009: “The expansion of state-sponsored journalism is a threat to the plurality and independence of news provision.”

Imagining a different Australia is possible, but the challenges are great.

The corporate media deliberately conflates “privatisation” with “reform”, and neoliberal ideology is accepted as fact. Even the Greens have embraced a market mechanism to reduce climate change, despite vast evidence questioning for-profit companies being the most appropriate way to do so. Canadian writer Naomi Klein is currently working on a book that will argue that capitalism is inherently incapable of reforming itself to tackle catastrophic changes to our climate.

In Australia, resistance to privatisation is reflected at the ballot box. The vast bulk of voters, according to polling, believe that corporations are the greatest beneficiaries from selling off public assets and overwhelmingly think that the state should own essential infrastructure. Voters also show their displeasure with the outsourcing agenda by often opposing parties that back it. Queensland is a key example, with current moves for mass outsourcing facing huge union opposition.

The left must now do a far better job in providing appealing alternatives. The facts are on its side. According to a recent report by the Australia Institute, electricity privatisation in Victoria has neither increased efficiency nor reduced prices. You won’t hear these uncomfortable truths from neoliberal propagandists. Despite the corporate press praising public-private partnerships, 2013 has seen the collapse of Australia’s biggest transport infrastructure project, Brisbane’s Airport Link tunnel, leaving more than $3bn of debt.

Civil disobedience, akin to protests in Western Australia against theoverwhelming influence of Serco, or detainees on Nauru hunger-strikingfor better care and processing, may be necessary. But more central is understanding how privatisation has become normalised in this country, despite it being opposed by societies across the world. Although states such as Argentina have seen first-hand the disastrous consequences of a rush to privatise water, Australians’ ability to resist similar plans requires a concerted effort from communities, media and politicians to explain the fallacies of accepted wisdom from market fundamentalists and free-marketeer historians who hold extreme views too often dressed up as rational and sensible.

The rot sits deep in Australia. The dumping of asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island is enriching countless organisations who know a desperate government when they smell it. Vulture capitalism thrives on poor Pacific islands because the Labor party wants to restrict the ability of the public to humanise the plight of those fleeing Afghanistan, Sri Lanka or Iran.

That companies are making a profit from this suffering shames us all.

24 comments ↪

Zionist world says BDS irrelevant yet obsesses over it daily

It’s been nothing short of hilarious watching politicians, the Israel lobby, some journalists and Zionists continually say that BDS against Israel should be ignored, it’s achieving nothing and is simply anti-Semitic. Nothing to see here. Of course, the opposite is true and it’s having a major effect on public perceptions of Israel globally. Brutally occupying the Palestinians for decades ain’t that great for your image.

Just the latest example of this cognitive dissonance disease is this:

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel has returned to the headlines recently. In response, the Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS) held a Q&A session on Monday night where an expert panel discussed the history, impact and different viewpoints of BDS.

7 comments ↪

How conservatives view free speech when discussing Israel and war

Let’s not be under any illusion that conservatives who talk about a love of “freedom” (including Rupert Murdoch, for that matter) mean nothing of the sort, but only views that push a pro-US, pro-Israel and pro-war agenda. The Zionist lobby, a long-time fan of bullying opponents, is on-board. Here’s Murdoch’s Australian on the weekend:

A Coalition government would block all federal funds to individuals and institutions who speak out in favour of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel.

In a move that has shocked the academic community but won praise from Jewish leaders, foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop has hardened up the Coalition’s policy, saying not only would funds be cut for BDS-related activities, but for any research, educational, or other purpose.

“The Coalition will institute a policy across government that ensures no grants of taxpayers’ funds are provided to individuals or organisations which actively support the BDS campaign,” Ms Bishop told The Weekend Australian.

The policy has alarmed the National Tertiary Education Union, whose president, Jeannie Rae, said it would undermine hard fought-for federal legislation that “protects freedom of intellectual inquiry for university staff and students”.

“One of the traditional roles for universities is to facilitate informed debate about controversial topics,” Ms Rae said.

Even the University of Sydney, which vigorously opposes BDS, was lukewarm, with a spokeswoman declining to comment on “hypothetical” legislation but saying “we defend academics’ right to contribute to public debate”.

The Coalition policy is most immediately directed at Jake Lynch who, along with the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies that he directs, is a vocal supporter of BDS.

Associate Professor Lynch drew the ire of Jewish groups when he rejected a request for help from Israeli academic Dan Avnon, who developed Israel’s only civics curriculum for both Jewish and Arab school students.

Professor Lynch has the backing of Sydney University’s student representative council, which passed a resolution supporting him when officials of the university, to which his centre is attached, disowned the BDS campaign.

Professor Lynch insists the federal government grants he and his centre receive are not used for promoting BDS, but for a wide range of research and education covering many countries.

But Ms Bishop told The Weekend Australian: “It is inappropriate for Associate Professor Lynch to use his role as director of the taxpayer-funded CPACS . . . in support of the anti-Semitic BDS campaign.”

This week Professor Lynch told a student forum the BDS campaign was not anti-Semitic, and said the suggestion was a “cynical smear”.

Professor Lynch described the Coalition’s new policy as “an attempt to silence me by threatening to harm me in my profession”.

“I am being told that I cannot get any government funds for my research, on topics unrelated to BDS, as long as I hold the views I do,” he said.

Australia-Israel and Jewish Affairs Council executive director Colin Rubenstein supported the Coalition’s initiative.

“It is obviously inappropriate for publicly funded bodies to engage in BDS against Israel . . . it is the role of government to make this clear,” he said.

Australian conservative are following the lead of censorious types in the US (examples here and here).

Now there’s another disturbing example, sent to my via Melbourne academic Scott Burchill, who wrote to Noam Chomsky and received this reply:

Pretty bad, but the Libs are amateurs.  Here’s an example of Real BDS, from experts.  This is a news item from Science.  A lot of scientists and mathematicians are furious about it, but too intimidated to say anything.

Noam
***

Scientific journals are being asked to help tighten U.S. trade sanctions on Iran. On 30 April, the Dutch publishing behemoth Elsevier of the Netherlands sent a note to its editorial network saying that all U.S. editors and U.S. reviewers must “avoid” handling manuscripts if they include an author employed by the government of Iran. Under a policy that went into effect in March — reflecting changes in a law passed by the U.S. Congress in December — even companies like Elsevier not based in the United States must prevent their U.S. personnel from interacting with the Iranian government.

The sanctions, aimed at punishing Iran for its pursuit of nuclear technology, have been broadened somewhat from previous rules issued by the enforcement agency, the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), a division of the Treasury Department.

According to a treasury official, OFAC has not changed its “general license” policy for journals; it still allows them to publish articles authored by nongovernmental scientists from Iran and other sanctioned countries. The new wrinkle is that OFAC insists that all U.S. citizens, no matter who employs them, comply with the sanctions against papers authored by governmental researchers. That apparently prompted Elsevier to issue a warning to its employees.

Elsevier spokesperson Harald Boersma explained in an e-mail that the new restrictions are expected to affect a small number of papers and that the company had implemented “more specific sanctions … over the past year or two” as a result of U.N. recommendations.

“In recent changes … U.S.-owned scientific and medical journals would violate OFAC regulations if they handle scientific manuscripts where any of the authors are employed by the government of Iran. This includes research departments of nuclear facilities as well as the various oil and gas companies which are deemed to be entities of the Government of Iran. The sanctions do not apply to manuscripts from academic and research institutes and manuscripts originating from non-governmental clinical settings, such as hospitals [or] clinical practices. This means that the sanctions only apply to a very small part of research papers coming out of Iran. Our recent communications with editors were motivated out of concern that U.S. citizens acting as editors of our journals might also be subject to personal liability.”

 In a note to editors (a copy of which was obtained by ScienceInsider), Elsevier gives advice on what a manager should do if he or she can’t find a non-U.S. person to work on a paper that requires special handling: “Please reject the manuscript outright.” According to the note, the rejection should apologize to the submitter and explain that because of U.S. sanctions, “we are unfortunately unable to handle your manuscript.”

OFAC tangled with scientific journals almost a decade ago when it proposed much harsher restrictions on communications from Iran. That led to an organized protest by the American Institute of Physics, the Association of American Publishers, and others, resulting in the current understanding: OFAC permits the exhange of scientific but not government-sponsored communications from Iran.

Several other scientific publishing organizations—including AAAS, the publisher of ScienceInsider—said that they did not see a need to change the way they handle manscripts at present.

11 comments ↪

Israeli electric car company, promoted as progressive, dies

This is a classic case of mainstream journalists, so keen to promote Progressive and Green Israel, shilling for Israeli electric corporation Better Place. The fact that members of its board had troubling human rights records and it operated in the occupied West Bank was conveniently ignored.

Now news that will sadden nobody except individuals who believe that finding alternatives to fossil fuels should not involve considering human rights of Palestinians (via New York Times):

The vision was ambitious. Better Place, an electric vehicle infrastructure company, unveiled plans more than five years ago to pioneer a system of quick-service battery swapping stations across Israel to enable unlimited travel.

The company’s founder predicted that 100,000 electric cars would be on the roads here by 2010.

But on Sunday, Better Place announced that its venture, a flagship enterprise of Israel’s image as a start-up hub, was coming to an end.

Dan Cohen, the company’s third chief executive, said in a statement that financial difficulties had left the company no option but to file for liquidation in a district court and to request the appointment of a provisional receiver “to find the best way to minimize the damage to its employees, customers and creditors.”

The announcement followed a string of setbacks in the emerging electric car market. Fisker, a carmaker, is in financial distress; A123 Systems, a battery supplier for Fisker, and, more recently, Coda Holdings, another carmaker, filed for bankruptcy. Tesla, the prominent car manufacturer, has had success, though, repaying its government loan last week after a successful sale of new shares.

Israel had been considered a perfect testing ground for Better Place’s green project, given the country’s small size and high gasoline prices. The electric car fit into Israeli dreams of reducing oil dependency; the initiative gained the support of the government and was embraced by Shimon Peres, the president of Israel. President Obama, during his March visit here, praised the Israelis’ innovative spirit, mentioning electric cars as one of several examples.

Yet the project was hobbled by problems and delays, and the company’s idea failed to gain traction, with fewer than 1,000 cars on the road in Israel and another few hundred in Denmark.

Mr. Cohen said on Sunday that the vision and the model had been right, but that the pace of market penetration had not lived up to expectations. Without a large injection of cash, he said, Better Place was unable to continue its operations.

“This is a very sad day for all of us,” Mr. Cohen added. “The company brought with it a vision that swept along many people here and around the world.”

About $850 million in private capital has been invested in the company, which has 350 employees in Israel. The largest shareholder, with about 30 percent of the stock, was the Israel Corporation, a large holding company that focuses on chemicals, energy, shipping and transportation. The corporation’s decision not to invest further in Better Place led to the motion for receivership.

The Better Place model for electric car use emerged from an effort among manufacturers and suppliers to establish a standard infrastructure in the nascent industry.

Under terms that resembled a cellphone plan, subscribers to Better Place bought their cars and paid about $350 a month to lease access to the batteries, swap stations and charge points. But only one car manufacturer, the French automaker Renault, signed on to adapt its Fluence Z.E. sedan to enable battery switching, limiting the customers’ choices and the company’s potential.

The battery has a range of about 100 miles. For those traveling longer distances, Better Place set up a network of switching stations where it promised that swapping a depleted battery for a fully charged one would take about the same time as filling a car with gas, so that range would no longer be an issue.

“It’s not the future of gas stations; it’s the end of them,” the company Web site boasted.

About three dozen switching stations now dot Israel, which is about 260 miles long from north to south, but they often look deserted.

The company was founded in Palo Alto, Calif., by Shai Agassi, an Israeli entrepreneur who had previously been a top executive at SAP, the German software company. It then moved from California to Tel Aviv.

In October, Better Place said that Mr. Agassi had been succeeded as its chief by Evan Thornley, the company’s top executive in Australia. The company said Mr. Agassi would continue as a board member and shareholder. Mr. Thornley left after only three months, over differences regarding the direction of the company, according to Globes , the Israeli business publication. He was succeeded by Mr. Cohen.

In February, Better Place announced that it was winding down its operations in North America and Australia to concentrate on its core markets in Denmark and Israel.

Mr. Cohen said on Sunday that the company would do what it could to continue to serve its customers and operate the recharging network, until the liquidator decided on a course of action.

6 comments ↪

Looking for the Left, please apply at the door

In 2012, I published with Jeff Sparrow an edited collection called Left Turnessays designed to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the global and Australian Left.

Here’s a sobering piece by Jeffrey St. Clair in Counterpunch about the US Left and its failings:

Is there a Left in America today?

There is, of course, a Left ideology, a Left of the mind, a Left of theory and critique. But is there a Left movement?

Does the Left exist as an oppositional political, cultural or economic force? Is anyone intimidated or restrained by the Left? Is there a counterforce to the grinding machinery neoliberal capitalism and its political managers?

We can and do at CounterPunch and in similar publications, such as Monthly Review and the New Left Review, publish analyses of capitalism and its inherent vulnerabilities, catalogue its predations and wars of military conquest and imperial exploitation. But where is our capacity to confront the daily horrors of drone strikes, kill lists, mass layoffs, pension raids and the looming nightmare of climate change?

It is a bitter reality, brought into vivid focus by five years of Obama, that the Left is an immobilized and politically impotent force at the very moment when the economic inequalities engineered by our overlords at Goldman Sachs who manage the global economy, should have recharged a long-moribund resistance movement back to life.

Instead the Left seems powerless to coalesce, to translate critique into practice, to mobilize against wars, to resist incursions against basic civil liberties, powerless to confront rule by the bondholders and hedgefunders, unable to meaningfully obstruct the cutting edge of a parasitical economic system that glorifies greed while preying on the weakest and most destitute, and incapable of confronting the true legacy of the man they put their trust in.

This is the politics of exhaustion. We have become a generation of leftovers. We have reached a moment of historical failure that would make even Nietzsche shudder.

Our politics has gone sociopathic and liberals in America have been pliant to every abuse, marinated in the toxic silt of Obama’s mordant rhetoric. They eagerly swallow every placebo policy Obama serves them, dutifully defending every incursion against fundamental rights. And each betrayal only serves to make his adoring retinue crave his smile; his occasional glance and nod all the more urgently. Still others on the dogmatic Left circle endlessly, like characters consigned to their eternal roles by Dante, in the ideological cul-de-sac of identity politics.

How much will we stomach before rising up? A fabricated war, a looted economy, a scalded atmosphere, a despoiled gulf, the loss of habeas corpus, the assassination of American citizens…

One looks in vain across this vast landscape of despair for even the dimmest flickers of real rebellion and popular mutiny, as if surveying a nation of somnambulists.

We remain strangely impassive in the face of our own extinction.

6 comments ↪

Full transcript of my interview with Jeremy Scahill

Australian publication New Matilda published my interview with journalist and author Jeremy Scahill yesterday. 

Our recent conversation covered many areas so I’m publishing below a full transcript of the interview conducted by phone on 15th May:

  • Where are the main places US is using armed drones outside Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia?

One area that has received far too little coverage in the role that it’s playing in the broader US wars around the globe is Africa. In Djibouti, the US several years ago took over this old French army outpost called Camp Lemonier and began building up a capacity  to do covert actions throughout Africa but also have used it to strike in the Arabian Peninsula. Teams from the CIA and JSOC and the broader conventional US military and they use Djibouti as a jump off point not only to strike in Somalia but also Western Africa. There’s definitely a drone base in Djibouti. In Ethiopia, the US has been training these Agazi commando units, special operations forces of Ethiopia, to use them as a proxy force. It’s not confirmed that the US has a drone base in Ethiopia. US likely has a drone base in Mali for the targeting of the Al Qaeda of the Islamic Magreb and other militant groups in northern and western Africa will become a serious focal point for US special forces and the CIA. Drone base in Saudi. The drones used to kill Anwar al-Awlaki and Samar Khan seemed to have flown out of Saudi Arabia. Also reports that US has staging ground in Oman, not sure if drones fly from here. Just yesterday I was talking to somebody who was connected to Yemeni intelligence who told me that there’s a base inside Yemen that the US uses sometimes to launch drones and other attacks. In East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, over the past 5 years, the Obama admin has both intensified operations and expanding the archipelago in Africa for US actions and intelligence.

  • Would it make any difference in your opinion if the US Army (as opposed to CIA/JSOC) were solely responsible for the drones?

The ascent of John Brennan to CIA director has been a dog and pony show, a farce. It’s staged theatre. The fact is that the US military essentially runs the drone program. The CIA doesn’t have pilots, these are mostly US army personnel from the airforce that are piloting the drones. The US military already has a drone program that it’s running. JSOC has operated drones in Pakistan, Yemen and probably elsewhere. The idea that you can simply tweak the program, move it from the CIA over to the Pentagon, and that’s going to result in any greater transparency is not based in reality. The military can conduct covert operations. People tend to think that the CIA is conducting covert operations and the military is more public. There’s a difference between a clandestine and covert operation. Clandestine operation means that the US military is engaged in an operation where the planning of the mission and the mission itself is kept secret until it’s done but eventually the US will own that it did it. Covert action means that the entire mission itself needs to be deniable so the raid on Bin Laden, although it involved US military forces, was a covert action is because if something went wrong, there was a disaster, if US troops got killed, if Bin Laden escaped, the US would never have to publicly own it and the US would say their soldiers died in a training exercise. At the end of the day, whether it’s CIA or military, the issue is not the technology, it’s not who is in operational control, it’s not even the weapon itself, it’s what do we believe about this program where the US is asserting its authority to assassinate people in countries without any permission from the home government in some cases or without any effective oversight from its own body of law makers. When people talk about drones or cruise missiles or night raids, the more central question is why is the program continuing unabated with very little scrutiny from the very people who are supposed to overseeing US government activities.

  • Have you ever been given an explanation (formal or informal) as to why Pakistan govt has consistently refused to give you a visa?

I recently received communication from the Pakistani Ambassador to the US, I’ve tried repeatedly over the last years to get a visa to Pakistan and have been denied, and I was told by a senior Pakistani official that I would not be getting a visa. So I said, are you saying I’m banned and he said you can read into that what you want. The Interior Minister Rehman Malik made all of these ludicrous statements how Blackwater has never been operating in Pakistan. He said at one point that if anybody shows proof that Blackwater is in Pakistan I’ll resign. Shortly after he made that statement I did an expose about Blackwater in Pakistan. Blackwater’s relationship with Pakistan involved very powerful and wealthy Pakistanis, the Pakistani equivalent of Halliburton. I wrote about what Blackwater was doing with the Pakistani Frontier Corp, how they were doing actual operations. I don’t think my banning has anything to do with my reporting on drones but a private company that has caused death and destruction across the Muslim world but about a company that is working with the Pakistani government. They don’t want me poking around powerful Pakistani families and US mercenary companies. One of the problems with reporting on Pakistan is that there’s such hysterics about the role of the US, the CIA and military and you often have exaggeration. The truth is bad enough but there’s a need to take it five steps further and it makes it very difficult to offer a credible argument to what the US is doing in Pakistan because there’s a lot of conspiracy theories. There are some fantastic journalists in Pakistan and some insane conspiracy theories. My reporting has been misused by people who are trying to exaggerate the situation in Pakistan. I don’t know if Blackwater still operates in Pakistan but many US private military companies are there.

  • Who are the main corporations that build drones and drones ordinance like Hellfires? Any campaigns going on at the moment to bring legal cases against these companies? What else can citizens do to address the US assassinations program?

One company that has escaped public scrutiny for its role in all of these wars is Lockheed Martin. It’s a parallel US military. Blackwater is a parallel CIA/special operations force. LH is like a government unto itself. Their commercials celebrate that they’re involved in every possible aspect of the US war machine. It’s involved from the production of weapons to intelligence to logistics.

  • Thoughts on Obama’s attitude towards the secret war he is prosecuting?

I don’t think Obama is all that conflicted about these secret wars. Obama had no military experience, very little foreign policy experience outside of his short stint in the US Senate, he comes into office after campaigning on a pledge to reverse the Bush era excesses but he’d refined his message to the point where he was going to escalate the war in Afghanistan and taking the fight to the terrorists, which means waging offensive/pre-emptive war. He comes into office and the people he’s surrounded with are the people who ran the most covert aspect of Bush’s wars. Stanley McCrystal, who ran JSOC, Admiral William McRiven, original member of Seal Team 6, who helped the Bush admin formulate its kill/capture program in the early days after 9/11 and then the head of JSOC under Obama and David Petraeus, Cheney’s general and somebody who had pushed for a policy to strike in countries around the world not just in declared battlefields. Those three men pitched to Obama that if we don’t give authority to US military forces to strike at will in countries around the world there’s going to be another attack, that there are people plotting to blow up airliners or poison the US water supply or attack public transportation systems or attack US embassies, if we don’t take the fight to them, and take them out, then this is going to be a one-term President who’s going to be responsible for another terror attack on US soil and he would have been eaten alive by the Republicans. So Obama said he would draw down from Iraq, surge in Afghanistan, and decapitate these terror networks, then once we get into that game, of whack-a-mole, a war of attrition. I think they believed that by killing the heads of various militant groups around the world that they’re actually keeping America safe. I think Obama and Cheney are very different people. Cheney is a caricature sitting in his lair plotting the destruction of the world but Obama has bought into this idea that America needs to wage pre-emptive war to keep itself safe. The result will a state of perpetual war for many years to come.

  • Implications of future electronic warfare? US dominance won’t last so what does this mean for the wars of the future?

It’s important to not just fight drone program. We’re living in a country in America right now where Sarah Palin has come out against drones. Why? Because the scary black man is president. They’ve created this theory that Obama will kill US citizens who are members of the Tea Party for publishing their little web zine in the mountains of Montana. A lot of this mood from the right-wing is that this Kenyan, socialist, black president is going to hunt them down with a drone strike in whatever strip mall they’re hanging out in. When a Republican is back in office they’ll become the most enthusiastic backer of the kill program. However, because the Tea Party is a significant feature in US politics the issue has come more into the public light. Senator Rand Paul, when he filibusted the nomination of John Brennan, broke the discussion wide open. His filibuster caused big, corporate media outlets to actually talk about the kill program, some for the first time ever.

On Capitol Hill they don’t even ask the right questions. It was wonderful seeing this young Yemeni guy, Farea al-Muslimi, who I know and spent time with in Yemen, came over to testimony in front of the US Senate. 6 days before he testifies his family’s village had been hit by a drone strike and he was live tweeting text messages from his relatives who were at the scene. He described who the target was of the strike and explained how he could have been handed over to the US if they’d wanted to extradite or charge him. Do we have a kill/capture program or just a kill program? As an American, I want people stopped who want to blow up the subway system. Terrorism is a crime. This isn’t a war. I don’t want our response to a relatively minor threat, a real threat, to put us in greater danger. At the US Senate, this Yemeni guy sat next to 3 professors, most of whom could walk to the capitol on any given day and give testimony, and instead asking him about his views nearly the entire hearing is spent talking about theoretical war philosophy by the blowhard professors.

Al Franken and other Democrats are saying we should have drone courts, a judiciary who decides who lives and dies. If that’s the level of discussion in official Washington, it’s probably better not to have hearings on this. If you’re just looking for a more efficient way to kill people or we’ll give it the veneer of legitimacy by involving the courts. Obama admin’s war on whistleblowers is causing a chill through the military and intelligence communities and speaking out.

Anyone who is doing this work is subjected to some degree of surveillance. I try and be careful in protecting sources. My computer was hacked a few years ago. A message was left on my desk top that revealed the actual name of a source of mine that I’d only referred to with code names in my digital life. I think it was a warning. I’m not sure who did it but it suggested that we know who you’re talking to. After that I changed my behaviour online and protected my information. But short of becoming a Luddite, those of us involved in international journalism need to use a computer and have to find a way to use it in the safest way possible. My biggest concern is not somebody snooping into my life but protecting the people I talk to. We’re up against powerful forces.

  • Failures of MSM post 9/11, too many journalists embedded physically and psychologically. Importance of alternative/indy media? Have you ever been tempted to take a bigger salary and work for the big media players? Personal philosophy towards journalism?

I started off in community media being a coffee runner for Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now! I’d never taken a journalism class, I begged my way into a job with Goodman and learned journalism as a trade, like you’d learn to be a carpenter or plumber rather than a course of academic study or viewing it as a career. I don’t view journalism as my job, it’s my life. It’s a way of life I believe in independent media to the core of my being. When I’m at an event and a young person comes up to me and asks how do I get involved, I’ll always stop and encourage them to get involved because we need fiercely independent people serving as reporters around the world. Part of my bigger mission in life is to built independent media. I’m not interested in going to a bigger publication because it will bring fame or a bigger pay cheque. I stick with an independent publisher when I write a book, I work with independent media outlets because I believe in building them up. I support independent media that has truth and justice at its core. We’re all trying to figure out how to sustain independent media with the economic situation in the world with the consolidation of corporate media outlets, infotainment media culture, pictures of cute cats, we need to create a culture where citizen journalists, the ones you see on Twitter doing a fantastic job, often better than corporate journalists, how do you take the energy of citizen journalist movement and combine it with the necessary components of good journalism; fact-checking, peer review, editing, old school muckraking techniques, document diving.

How do we merge the energy of new, creative media folks with the proven old school tactics? To fund it, unless you want to sell out to click bait with cute cat pics, we have to look at alternative ways to funding our media. My advice to young journalists, if you don’t have obligations or have to look after a sick parent, is to find a job that doesn’t drain your brain, like picking apples or working the night shift somewhere, and spend 6 or 8 months saving up money, with the goal of trying to go somewhere for 3 months that you’re interested in reporting on, whether it’s Palestine, Egypt or somewhere in Africa. And even if  you don’t have an employer and nobody is sending you there, act like you do have an assignment and develop a discipline. Even if all you’re doing is starting a newsletter to send back to your friends or your community, you treat yourself like you are working for a real media outlet and you get that experience. The best journalists I’ve met in the world almost never have degrees in journalism. They’re united in one thing, a passion for the truth. We need to mainstream that kind of program, where we develop apprenticeships for young people. Journalism isn’t rocket science. It should be a working class course of work where you are getting your hands dirty and not the [New York Times’] Thomas Friedmans of the world about what taxi drivers he’s met. If I hear about one more taxi driver or concierge he’s met I want to shave off his mustache.

  • Significance of Wikileaks/Bradley Manning connection?

It would be impossible to quantify the significance of Wikileaks not just to my or your work but to the world’s understanding of US covert and overt operations. It was the most significant document dump in modern history. It altered history. It was like an earthquake. It was the most real confrontation of American empire certainly since the Pentagon Papers but it may prove to be more significant. The idea that you had a democratisation of classified documents and access to them, you can go in and search any country and figure out what the US relationship is with various political forces or factions. I dug deep into the relationship between the US and Somalian warlords. I found individuals who were on the CIA payroll because of Wikileaks and went and found them and got them on record. I would never have known that these people even existed but for Wikileaks.

The smear campaign against Wikileaks is clearly politically motivated, it’s retaliatory, there’s an attempt to portray Wikileaks as responsible for putting America in jeopardy. I would argue that Wikileaks has done a tremendous public service, not only to the American public but to the world. We have a right to understand as Americans what is being done in our name. But the rest of the world has a right to understand how they’ve being targeted economically or militarily by the most powerful nation on earth.

I had hesitated to praise Bradley Manning or discuss Manning’s actions until I heard the leaked recording of him at his court martial owning responsibility. What we’ve become very good at in the American media is litigating cases against people through leaks and we don’t allow evidence to be presented against them. I get asked all the time what I think of the Boston marathon bombers and I say that we don’t know the facts yet. There has to be a judicial process that plays out and evidence. We can’t have a state of justice where for certain kinds of people or crimes you call out the mob with their pitchforks and deliver citizen’s justice. You’re either governed by the rule of law or you’re not.

Once Manning came out and owned that he did it. Every one should listen to that young man’s testimony that he offered at his court martial because there has been a smear campaign against him to portray him as a moral degenerate or to constantly focus on his sexual orientation. This was a guy who calmly stood up, facing potentially the death penalty, and owned his actions as an act of conscience. Once he said that I felt comfortable telling my own small story involving Manning which was that before the Collateral Murder video was published, he had emailed me and I didn’t know it was him. I get emails all the time tipping me off to something. Another journalist had contacted me about a project on Bradley Manning and I’m reaching out to people who have been in touch with him. I said I’ve never been in touch with him and he said that he must have been mistaken because I was told that you were. I said no and that I think I would remember that. He calls me back a few days later and asks me to search my email with this address. So I search it pulls up an email very clearly from Bradley Manning. What’s remarkable about the email is that Manning did not offer me any classified information, he didn’t say he was in the US military, he told me he had a personal connection to someone that had information about the movements of Erik Prince,  the founder of Blackwater.

Through Bradley Manning I discovered that Prince was leaving the US at a time when Blackwater was falling apart and they were multiple investigations against them and 5 people under Prince got indicted. Manning when he wrote to me was concerned with the idea that if Prince was trying to flee the US to avoid accountability for the activities of his company, Manning found this deeply offensive and he was writing to me just as an ordinary person saying I have this tiny piece of information and I want to offer it to you. It wasn’t a short email and clearly motivated by someone with a conscience. It was very well-written. The point of it was that I don’t want people to get away with potential crimes. I felt stupid later when I realised it was Bradley Manning and reminded me how many people stick their neck out for journalists and we maybe don’t even know their names. When I spoke to that journalist who called me about Manning I didn’t confirm or deny that I got an email from Manning because I considered him to be a source. I didn’t realise who he was. He wasn’t writing to me to interview me.

The reason I feel comfortable talking about that initial communication with him is that because it’s relevant to how Bradley Manning is. My motivation for talking about it is that Manning should be treated as a serious prisoner of conscience. There’s a pattern that’s borne out in his history of believing what he was doing was moral and necessary and he probably was terrified of what it would mean for him but ultimately felt that the greater good being served by him going to prison was so important that he couldn’t not blow the whistle. Manning will face the consequences of his actions, he knew what he was doing was against his oath as a soldier but he felt what he was did served a greater good and I certainly admire this young man’s courage and it’s shameful that only three journalists, none of whom worked for big corporate media outlets in the US, are covering that trial with any regularity. The New York Times should be ashamed of itself. They sold newspapers based on the documents Manning provided to Wikileaks and they had it splashed across its front pages for days on end and when Manning goes down they ignore his situation.

Julian Assange is living in a small room in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. I would like to see Assange be able to respond to the allegations against him in Sweden. I don’t know the facts of what happened there but I believe that he should be able to respond to those allegations. The issue here is if I was Assange I’d be concerned about my life. You have prominent political commentators in the US going on TV to call for his assassination on the most powerful media outlets in America. There have been rumblings about grand juries. Perhaps there’s a sealed indictment against Assange. Whatever you think about him as a person, and I want to hear his explanation for what happened in Sweden, but this is a guy who has been threatened by the most powerful nation on earth for having been responsible for the significant exposure of secret, covert US activities around the globe in history. The idea that the New York Times has tried to turn this into a twisted tale of sex and ego misses the entire point of it. This man was responsible for an epic exposure of the empire and of course he has reason to be concerned. But for the New York Times, when Assange was convenient to their agenda to scoop other US media outlets and to break this incredibly significant story, then he was a legitimate partner. But then the pile on begins against Assange and [New York Times’] Bill Keller and others throw him under the bus and act as though they don’t owe him some debt for what he did for them, it’s shameful.

46 comments ↪