Archive | October 23, 2014

Putting Australia under Raps*

Putting Australia under Raps*

By John Pilger

Across the political and media elite in Australia, a silence has descended on the memory of the great, reforming prime minister Gough Whitlam, who has died. His achievements are recognised, if grudgingly, his mistakes noted in false sorrow. But a critical reason for his extraordinary political demise will, they hope, be buried with him.

Australia briefly became an independent state during the Whitlam years, 1972-75. An American commentator wrote that no country had “reversed its posture in international affairs so totally without going through a domestic revolution”. Whitlam ended his nation’s colonial servility. He abolished Royal patronage, moved Australia towards the Non-Aligned Movement, supported “zones of peace” and opposed nuclear weapons testing.

Although not regarded as on the left of the Labor Party, Whitlam was a maverick social democrat of principle, pride and propriety. He believed that a foreign power should not control his country’s resources and dictate its economic and foreign policies. He proposed to “buy back the farm”. In drafting the first Aboriginal lands rights legislation, his government raised the ghost of the greatest land grab in human history, Britain’s colonisation of Australia, and the question of who owned the island-continent’s vast natural wealth.

Latin Americans will recognise the audacity and danger of  this “breaking free” in a country whose establishment was welded to great, external power. Australians had served every British imperial adventure since the Boxer rebellion was crushed in China. In the 1960s, Australia pleaded to join the US in its invasion of Vietnam, then provided “black teams” to be run by the CIA. US diplomatic cables published last year by WikiLeaks disclose the names of leading figures in both main parties, including a future prime minister and foreign minister, as Washington’s informants during the Whitlam years.

Whitlam knew the risk he was taking. The day after his election, he ordered that his staff should not be “vetted or harassed” by the Australian security organisation, ASIO – then, as now, tied to Anglo-American intelligence. When his ministers publicly condemned the US bombing of Vietnam as “corrupt and barbaric”, a CIA station officer in Saigon said:

“We were told the Australians might as well be regarded as North Vietnamese collaborators.”

Whitlam demanded to know if and why the CIA was running a spy base at Pine Gap near Alice Springs, a giant vacuum cleaner which, as Edward Snowden revealed recently, allows the US to spy on everyone. “Try to screw us or bounce us,” the prime minister warned the US ambassador, “[and Pine Gap] will become a matter of contention”.

Victor Marchetti, the CIA officer who had helped set up Pine Gap, later told me, “This threat to close Pine Gap caused apoplexy in the White House. … a kind of Chile [coup] was set in motion.”

Pine Gap’s top-secret messages were de-coded by a CIA contractor, TRW. One of the de-coders was Christopher Boyce, a young man troubled by the “deception and betrayal of an ally”. Boyce revealed that the CIA had infiltrated the Australian political and trade union elite and referred to the Governor-General of Australia, Sir John Kerr, as “our man Kerr”.

Kerr was not only the Queen’s man, he had long-standing ties to Anglo-American intelligence. He was an enthusiastic member of the Australian Association for Cultural Freedom, described by Jonathan Kwitny of the Wall Street Journal in his book, ‘The Crimes of Patriots‘, as, “an elite, invitation-only group… exposed in Congress as being founded, funded and generally run by the CIA”. The CIA “paid for Kerr’s travel, built his prestige… Kerr continued to go to the CIA for money”.

When Whitlam was re-elected for a second term, in 1974, the White House sent Marshall Green to Canberra as ambassador. Green was an imperious, sinister figure who worked in the shadows of America’s “deep state”. Known as the “coupmaster”, he had played a central role in the 1965 coup against President Sukarno in Indonesia – which cost up to a million lives. One of his first speeches in Australia was to the Australian Institute of Directors – described by an alarmed member of the audience as “an incitement to the country’s business leaders to rise against the government”.

The Americans and British worked together. In 1975, Whitlam discovered that Britain’s MI6 was operating against his government.

“The Brits were actually de-coding secret messages coming into my foreign affairs office,” he said later.

One of his ministers, Clyde Cameron, told me,

“We knew MI6 was bugging Cabinet meetings for the Americans.”

In the 1980s, senior CIA officers revealed that the “Whitlam problem” had been discussed “with urgency” by the CIA’s director, William Colby, and the head of MI6, Sir Maurice Oldfield. A deputy director of the CIA said: “Kerr did what he was told to do.”

On 10 November, 1975, Whitlam was shown a top secret telex message sourced to Theodore Shackley, the notorious head of the CIA’s East Asia Division, who had helped run the coup against Salvador Allende in Chile two years earlier.

Shackley’s message was read to Whitlam. It said that the prime minister of Australia was a security risk in his own country. The day before, Kerr had visited the headquarters of the Defence Signals Directorate, Australia’s NSA where he was briefed on the “security crisis”.

On 11 November – the day Whitlam was to inform Parliament about the secret CIA presence in Australia – he was summoned by Kerr. Invoking archaic vice-regal “reserve powers”, Kerr sacked the democratically elected prime minister. The “Whitlam problem” was solved, and Australian politics never recovered, nor the nation its true independence.


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Ebola Fears: Raising the Ugly Head of Racism*

Ebola Fears: Raising the Ugly Head of Racism*

If Vaccine-Induced Ebola Doesn’t Get Rid of Blacks, Ebola Myths Will…


A three-year-old girl has been banned from a kindergarten in Italy after her classmates’ parents protested her return over fears she could have Ebola after a vacation in Uganda. Despite no cases registered there, parents demanded a full check-up.

The girl’s parents have been forced to keep the child at home for a week after other parents threatened to boycott the public school in the town of Fiumicino, near Rome, despite the child feeling fine and showing no symptoms.

“Uganda is Ebola-free, and anyway I had my kids tested to make sure they are in good health,” the child’s father said to In Terris online newspaper. “There was no actual reason to imagine a risk…the only explanation is we were coming from Africa. What happened is pure madness.”

Italy’s health minister, who expressed solidarity with the girl’s family, has called the situation “alarming” and condemned parents for an “absolutely unjustified” reaction.

In her statement, Beatrice Lorenzin stressed that “Uganda is not a country affected by Ebola and is very far from the area in West Africa struck by Ebola.” In fact, Uganda is nearly 5,000km (almost 3,000 miles) from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, the three most severely Ebola-hit countries.

The mayor of Fiumicino has urged alarmed parents to not transform fears into discrimination.

“I have spoken to the director of the Isola Sacra school, who reassured me that having carried out the necessary checks, understanding the protocols at international airports, the school of the nursery school on Via Coni Zugna will remain open for all children, including the little girl who has returned from her travels in Uganda,” Esterino Montino posted on Facebook.

The Local tried to reach the school for comments, but a spokesperson was not available at the time.

The Italian school is not the first in the world to give into Ebola hysteria. At the beginning of October, a nine-year-old boy from Sierra Leone had his placement at a school in Stockport, UK, canceled.

A Guinean woman has been attacked in a bus in Rome by angry passengers who told her she was infected by Ebola and had to get off the bus, Italian media reports. She was taken to hospital suffering from multiple bruises.

‘I am a Liberian, not a virus’ campaign fights Ebola stigma plaguing West Africans

Fataomata Sompare, 26, was about to get off the bus on Monday, said Il Messaggero, an Italian newspaper, as cited by the Local.

A teenage girl who was on the bus with her friends saw Sompare and began accusing her of having the deadly virus. Then some of the teen’s relatives started beating the woman.

“They told me that I had Ebola and that I had to get off the bus,” said Sompare, who has been living in Italy for four years.

People at a bus stop near Grotte Celoni Metro station in the east of the city managed to save the woman, who suffered multiple bruises after being beaten by passengers. The police arrived and she was taken to hospital.

The incident was reported to public prosecutors by Sompare’s lawyer.

“[She is] a victim of racism, which is now rampant in this city,” the Sompare’s partner Alessandro Corbelli told Il Messaggero. He added that the incident was “shameful” and she had been attacked “only because she’s black.”

The incident is not the only example of Ebola hysteria in recent days. In the US, Ebola-phobic parents sent a Maine teacher on mandatory leave after he returned from Dallas, where first victim of the virus in the country died. In Mississippi, parents pulled their kids out of school because of the principal’s trip to Zambia.

The death toll from the Ebola virus has reached 4,877 people for far, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday.


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The Hawaiian Sovereignty Movement

The Hawaiian Sovereignty Movement

From Alexandra Bruce

Simon Baker travels to Hawaii to examine the growing native sovereignty movement and how it helped halt construction of the largest public infrastructure project in Hawaii’s history.

As Dr. Keanu Sai explains, the sovereignty movement in Hawaii asserts that there are no legal documents to prove Hawaii was ever legally ceded to the US, as a territory. It was annexed by an Act of US Congress during the Spanish-American War, in 1898 and legally, this annexation has no effect beyond the US.

Moreover, there were many 19th century documents from other nations in Europe and elsewhere, acknowledging the Hawaiian Kingdom during this era. Thus, the Hawaiian sovereignty movement’s goal of becoming independent from the US cannot be construed as one of “seceding” because it was never ceded, to begin with. Hawaii was simply kidnapped and rolled over by the US.

The Hawaiian sovereignty movement’s goal is to “heat the rock (the Hawaiian Islands) that is held by the United States, so that the hand will let it go’. And they are doing it through education, social and economic means.”

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Long time Coming: Blackwater Mercenaries Found Guilty for Crimes against Iraqis*

Long time Coming: Blackwater Mercenaries Found Guilty for Crimes against Iraqis*

By Ian Johnston

Four American mercenaries who opened fire into a crowd of unarmed civilians in Baghdad in the apparently mistaken belief they were under attack have been found guilty over the shootings of more than 30 people.

A jury in Washington has convicted Nicholas Slatten of first-degree murder over one death. Three of his colleagues, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard, were found guilty of the manslaughter of at least 12 people and of the attempted manslaughter of at least 11 others who were injured.

All four guards were working for the US security firm then known as Blackwater. Following widespread horror at the shootings, Blackwater changed its name to Xe Services.

A total of 14 people were killed and 18 others injured in the shootings in Nisour Square in September 2007.

Slatten now faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. The maximum sentence for the manslaughter charges is eight years, but the men also face gun charges that carry a minimum prison term of 30 years.

They had been tasked with making sure that the square was safe for a convoy carrying a US State Department official to pass through.

The guards claimed they were fired upon and insisted they had acted in self-defence. However, federal US prosecutors said there had been no incoming gunfire and that the shootings were entirely unprovoked.

Nicholas Slatten was convicted of first-degree murder (AP)

Nicholas Slatten was convicted of first-degree murder (AP)

They claimed the guards had a deep hostility towards ordinary Iraqis and “a grave indifference” to whether they lived or died. Prosecutor Anthony Asuncion described how there was “gunfire coming from the left, gunfire coming from the right” as civilians in the crowded square fled.

“These men took something that did not belong to them; the lives of 14 human beings… they were turned into bloody bullet-riddled corpses at the hands of these men,” he told the jury in closing arguments.

“There was not a single dead insurgent on the scene. None of these people were armed.”

Slatten was convicted of first-degree murder for firing the first shot with a sniper’s rifle from the convoy’s command vehicle, killing the driver of a nearby car, medical student Ahmed Haithem Ahmed Al Rubia’y.

That led others to open fire indiscriminately into the crowd. Some 14 people were killed and 18 were wounded.

At the trial, two Iraqi traffic officers and one of the injured testified that Mr Al Rubia’y’s car was stationary when the mercenaries first opened fire, supporting the prosecution’s claim that there was no need to do so.

And Blackwater guard Jeremy Ridgeway, a government witness in the case, pleaded guilty to killing Mr Al Rubia’y’s mother, who died in the passenger seat next to her son.

The jury reached verdicts on only some of the total of 33 charges faced by the men, but Judge Royce Lamberth allowed them to announce the decisions that they had reached. The jury was expected to continue deliberating on the other charges. The four men had denied all charges.

Former Blackwater Worldwide guard Evan Liberty arriving at federal court (AP)

Former Blackwater Worldwide guard Evan Liberty arriving at federal court (AP)

Mohamad al-Quraishy, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Iraqi Embassy in Washington, said the Iraqi people had been closely monitoring the trial, hoping that the guards would be convicted.

“They will welcome this decision,” he said.

David Schertler, a lawyer for Dustin Heard, strongly implied they would appeal.

“The verdict is wrong, it’s incomprehensible,” he said.

“We’re devastated. We’re going to fight it every step of the way. We still think we’re going to win.”

William Coffield, a defence lawyer, earlier admitted there was “a lot of tragedy here”, but insisted the four men on trial had not been to blame.

However, several former Blackwater guards testified that they had been distrustful of Iraqis generally, saying they had been led into ambushes on occasion.

Blackwater was set up by a former US Navy Seal, Erik Prince, who had links to George W Bush’s administration. Mr Prince sold his stake in the firm in 2010, blaming “politics” in Washington and a failure to “appreciate” the work it had done in Iraq.

Blackwater’s employees were linked to 195 shooting incidents between 2005 and 2008 while conducting international operations. They also took part in clandestine operations run by the CIA.


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