Saturday, March 01, 2003
My association with the Stan Zemanek program has resulted in me receiving a share of the flood of mail sent by Stan Zemanek fans.
One letter, written by a lady named June is so good that it deserves to be quoted.
Auberon Waugh identified the verb 'to Pilger': meaning to make a pompous judgement based on wrong premises. A typical Pilgerism, noted by Senator Steve Hutchins on 5th February, was John Pilger’s infamous assertion: “The American elite is the Third Reich of our times”.
Now to quote June:
“We have once again been subjected to the moralistic pontifications of John Pilger – a weak excuse for a journalist who masquerades as a true blue Australian but who prefers to pen his poisonous diatribes against his native land from London.
Thank you June.
It is possible that John Pilger saw deformed children in Iraq. Sadly, deformed children are always more common in societies where cousins marry cousins through many generations. Moreover, Saddam Hussein’s notorious contempt for the environment obviously has unpredictable consequences. For John Pilger and his ilk, every wrong in the world has been caused by the Americans.
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Friday, February 28, 2003
FROM THE ZIMBABWEAN OPPOSITION
(Opening remarks by MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai at a Press conference at Harvest House in Harare, 21 February 2003)
AS YOU ARE ALL AWARE, I wrote a letter to Prime Minister John Howard of Australia in his capacity as chairman of the Commonwealth Troika, mandated by the last Commonwealth summit to look into the situation in Zimbabwe.
The letter was in response to statements and letters from General Olusegun Obasanjo where he clearly indicated that he was stating the agreed positions between himself and Mr. Thabo Mbeki regarding the crisis of legitimacy and governance in Zimbabwe. These agreed positions, as expressed in General Obasanjo’s letter to Mr Howard were nothing but essentially a digression from the original mandate of the Troika. The Troika came about as a result of a stolen election. We expected it to deal decisively with that issue in accordance with the adverse report of the Commonwealth Observer Mission to the March Presidential election.
Zimbabwe was suspended from the Councils of the Commonwealth because of the Mugabe regime’s blatant refusal to hold a free and fair election and the lifting of that suspension is contingent upon the extent to which the issues raised by the Commonwealth are successfully addressed. The troika was expected to push the regime to implement concrete and irrevocable steps to return to the country to legitimacy. But in his letter to Prime Minister Howard, General Obasanjo makes no reference to this.
Instead he talks about anti-Zimbabwe propaganda in the UK and the land question in Zimbabwe. In our view, this has nothing to do with the stolen election and the question of an unacceptable government in Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwe crisis has never been about land. What is at stake are the violent and unsustainable methods employed by ZANU PF and which have reduced a once vibrant and highly productive agricultural sector to a wasteland, threatening over half of the population with chronic poverty and starvation in the process.
The mandate of the Commonwealth troika was to monitor the situation on the ground in Zimbabwe and establish the extent to which the Mugabe regime was prepared to embrace the basic tenets of democracy and good governance. Tragically, the situation has deteriorated and the Zimbabwe crisis has assumed even more dangerous and explosive levels. In a further infringement of basic rights the regime has decreed that any person wishing to enter an institution of higher learning (University, Teacher Training etc.) must have gone through at least six months of “training” in the Youth Service. The use of sexual violence in these camps and in the activities of the Youth Service is now well documented.
In addition, all branches of the armed forces continue to be used by the Mugabe regime as a means to intimidate and suppress opposition activity. No normal democratic activities are permitted; demonstrations, placards, posters and meetings are routinely banned or suppressed by violent means. All branches of the uniformed forces are heavily armed and equipped with live ammunition at all times.
In particular, the Central Intelligence Organisation and the Police are used extensively for the purpose of suppressing democratic activity. Several thousand MDC activists, including virtually every member of the national leadership of the MDC has been arrested, detained and tortured in the past 10 months. The MDC spends nearly Z$10 million a month on legal fees alone.
Another very concerning development during the past 10 months has been the growing use of torture by agents of the State in political cases. Torture is now used almost routinely, even in cases where the victims have no case to answer. Obasanjo, in his letter, acknowledges this. But in the same document he maintains the situation has improved to warrant no further action against Mugabe.
In the past month, a large number of cases of severe torture were recorded countrywide involving officials of the MDC and including Members of Parliament. There have been two cases of death under suspicious circumstances of MDC Members of Parliament and a list of potential targets for death threats is in circulation. One Member of Parliament has recently fled into exile under threats of arrest, torture and death.
It is therefore absolutely callous, disgraceful and dishonest for anyone to try to falsify the political facts on the ground in an attempt to mislead the Commonwealth and the world to surrender to the Mugabe dictatorship.
It is common knowledge that since the March 2002 election, the Mugabe regime has done absolutely nothing to dismantle the infrastructure of tyranny upon which its rulership is based. If anything, Mugabe and his associates have actually consolidated dictatorial rule to the point whereby violent autocracy has become the guiding political philosophy.
The rule of law remains effectively subverted; law enforcement continues to be selective and heavily politicised; persistent violations of human rights is still a central instrument of governance; the torture of political opponents has been intensified; ZANU PF political thugs continue to roam around the country perpetrating untold atrocities on a defenceless population; democratic space has been effectively shrunk and the general militarization of the political process has made it virtually impossible for the political opposition to conduct normal or legitimate political activity.
The Public Order and Security Act (POSA) continues to criminalize all opposition political activity and MDC political meetings are routinely banned. Through POSA freedom of speech, assembly and association, which are basic rights in a normal democratic political dispensation, are severely curtailed. The Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) continues to gag freedom of the press and guarantees the Mugabe regime free rein to monopolize and abuse the public media.
The cosmetic changes that General Obasanjo refers to in his letter to Howard are totally irrelevant. The basic fact is that there is no place in any democratic society for the kind of behaviour shown by Mugabe and Zanu PF.
Comments? Email Michael Darby
Thursday, February 27, 2003
CHIRAC & MUGABE
By Erich Kern
Perhaps we should take some little comfort in the thought that France's Chirac and Mugabe are two peas in a pod and deserve one another. We are often defined by our enemies, and I am proud that both of these narcissistic poseurs hate my country.
Mugabe has done far, far worse to the people of Zimbabwe than Pinochet was ever accused of doing to the people of Argentina, yet he is wined and dined by "old Europe". This has been a much needed wake-up call to Americans who used to look to the Continent for cultural benchmarks. No more. Yet the "international community" which has chastised America says not a word of condemnation to this murderous thug ruining one of the best nations in Africa. Mugabe's legacy will be a broken and impoverished nation. May he rot in hell. And Chirac too.
By Naomi Ragen
I have been watching the news from all over the world. Millions of people demonstrating in favor of allowing Saddam Hussein more time to develop his weapons of mass destruction. And of course, CNN is leading the “rah rah” anti Americanism in its European edition. Hundreds of thousands in Sydney. A million in New York City. In Rome. In Great Britain. And anyway, CNN tells us, the scars from the Twin Towers are already “ beginning to heal.”
And I wonder, where were all of these millions demonstrating for “human rights” when Jewish children were blown up on buses in Jerusalem?
Where were they when the Twin Towers fell?
Where were they when the USS Cole was attacked?
Where they when the nightclub in Bali was bombed?
And where will they be when Saddam unleashes his poisons, renews his attempts to create a nuclear bomb? Where?
Here in Israel, where we have more reason to fear for our personal safety from a U.S. attack on Saddam, I saw ten people with bedraggled signs that said: Peace Now. Because we in Israel understand that Saddam’s poisons, his missiles with mustard gas, and anthrax are either going to be destroyed in Iraq now, or they are going to land in Tel Aviv anon.
I personally wish Godspeed to President Bush for taking the lead in this most just war. Do not be deterred by the naysayers. They were there sixty years ago cheering for peace with Hitler. They got millions killed, and their own cities destroyed. They’ve learned nothing, and they understand nothing. The Islamists started this war. The Islamists and their truly moronic Western supporters are trying to prevent the West from protecting itself, because they long to see Saddam finish Israel off. And then come after the U.S. and Western Europe.
And anyone who thinks Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden weren’t in complete cooperation, is, in my humble opinion, an idiot.
Those two have already made great progress in finishing off the freedoms we in the West took for granted only a short while ago. Ask anyone who has tried to take a flight from one American city to another. Anyone attempting to land in Heathrow. Or visit Jerusalem.
If America, and what is left of the freedom-loving peoples of the world, don’t stand firm now, the world as we know it is over for good as things go from bad to worse. Now it’s your airports. As an Israeli, I can tell you, your supermarkets, movie theatres, and wedding halls are next. Don’t let it happen. War is a horrible, hateful thing. But allowing yourself to be defeated without fighting back is even worse.
Comments? Email Michael Darby
Wednesday, February 26, 2003
IT’S ALL ABOUT OIL MONEY
In the two decades before the Gulf War, I played a role in Iraq's efforts to acquire major technologies from friendly states. In 1974, I headed an Iraqi delegation to France to purchase a nuclear reactor. It was a 40-megawatt research reactor that our sources in the IAEA told us should cost no more than $50 million. But the French deal ended up costing Baghdad more than $200 million. The French-controlled Habbania Resort project cost Baghdad a whopping $750 million, and with the same huge profit margin. With these kinds of deals coming their way, is it any surprise that the French are so desperate to save Saddam's regime?
Mr. Hamza, a former director of Iraq's nuclear-weapons program, is the co-author of "Saddam's Bombmaker: The Terrifying Inside Story of the Iraqi Nuclear and Biological Weapons Agenda" (Scribner, 2000).
Marching for the Enemy
FOR ALMOST A YEAR the Don't-Touch-Saddam lobby has been warning that action against the Iraqi tyrant could provoke an explosion in the "Arab street." The promised explosion came on Saturday. But it was on the streets of Western capitals, from Berlin to Washington.
Mr. Taheri is the author of "The Cauldron: Middle East Behind the Headlines" (Hutchinson, 1988)
Comments? Email Michael Darby
Tuesday, February 25, 2003
A War for Oil? Not This Time
When Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld visited "Old Europe" last week, the placards and protesters lining his path were a visceral reminder of what the Bush administration already knew: Solid majorities in key European countries think that greed is our motive for wanting to depose Saddam Hussein. In fact, in a recent Pew Research Center poll 75 percent of respondents in France, 54 percent in Germany and 76 percent in Russia said that America wants to invade Iraq because "the U.S. wants to control Iraqi oil."
SOCIALIST RAILWAY MAINTENANCE IN NEW SOUTH WALES
TRAIN BRAKE PARTS found on the track at Schofields have raised serious concerns about State Rail's maintenance.
"It's disturbing that brake parts have fallen off trains, but it is of grave concern that State Rail maintenance records don't show which trains lost the parts," says New South Wales Shadow Transport Minister Peter Debnam. "Train maintenance and the lack of proper records were severely criticised in audit reports last year."
"We know the Carr Government was penny pinching on track maintenance in recent years, now there are very serious concerns about maintenance of carriages."
"The Carr Government cut back on track maintenance from 1996 until at least 2000 and State Rail is still catching up on the backlog. Last year the Auditor-General highlighted a $73 million backlog in track maintenance."
"Maintenance of train carriages is also in a state of crisis," says Peter Debnam.
Comments? Email Michael Darby
Monday, February 24, 2003
CHILD PROTECTION DISGRACE
The interim report on child protection services in New South Wales is a shameful political whitewash that fails to address the major problems besetting the Department of Community Services, Shadow Community Services Minister Brad Hazzard said recently.
Mr Hazzard said the Coalition has been compelled to issue a dissenting report (in only one and half hours) because the Committee has minimised the current problems within DOCS by suggesting they are largely being addressed by certain senior management changes.
“Despite 6 months of hearing scathing critical evidence the Committee has chosen to drop most of it out of the Report”, said Mr Hazzard.
The report’s statement that “an overarching problem is the poor public image of the Department of Community Services” reflects DOCS’s own predilection for spin and imagery rather than addressing the substantive issues.
The report states that “a number of significant events and decisions have had an impact on the system since the commencement of the inquiry” and by implication suggests the system has improved.
Children are continuing to be injured and die because DOCS has failed to intervene.
“This disgraceful report does nothing in an immediate sense to improve the prospects for young children seriously at risk today. This Labor Government should be ashamed that it has used its numbers on a parliamentary committee to ignore the outrage expressed by many witnesses.
I fear that as a consequence of this whitewash, children may ultimately be placed at even greater risk. DOCS officers across the State are so stretched that in many areas the majority of cases go without a response.
For example, I was told last week that Lismore office is taking on average 300 “at risk of harm”¯ reports a month, and less than 10% are getting any response at all!
The report has failed to such a degree that the current Labor Government will be under no pressure to bring about immediate improvements in the current system” said Mr Hazzard.
The full official report and the detailed dissent from it can be found here but note that it is a PDF document (slow download).
A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE ON THE ZIMBABWE SITUATION
By Eddie Cross
Beware of political structures that have no moral base. Ian Smith was a devastatingly efficient and effective white politician. He knew just how to manipulate the whites in Rhodesia and ran a very competent political machine, the Rhodesian Front. Mugabe is a very clever and ruthless political leader. He runs a very competent and efficient political machine called Zanu PF. He knows what buttons to press to evoke a desired reaction both from his own people here and from his constituencies outside the country. Both organisations share two key objectives -- to stay in power and to protect the interests of those who exercised that power. To move against such a machine with a political party that is made up of volunteers and amateurs and funded by "nickels and dimes", is a formidable task. I know because I spent 15 years fighting Smith through such organisations and it was a bit like leading a troop of Boy Scouts against a Nazi Panzer Division!
I am reading a book about the Normandy landings by allied forces in June 1944. After 12 years of Nazi government and 5 years of total warfare, an Allied force that was less than a quarter of the German forces in Europe was going to attempt an invasion. Right up to the last minute, the allied leadership did not think they had more than a 50/50 chance. Even then the Nazis looked almost invincible. But for all tyrannies there comes a time in the tide of time when the forces ranged against them cannot be overthrown by a Blitzkrieg. When the moral foundations of the tyranny are exposed for what they are -- just a sham and a cover for the selfish grasp on power and wealth -- Then the forces working on the basis of clear principle -- even though they are not ruthless, have to consult and gain consensus to make decisions and are inferior in all other material respects -- they are suddenly in the ascendancy.
Then, even though on paper, the tyranny should continue to win, and does in the short term and in many spheres, it is nevertheless in retreat. A retreat that will ultimately lead to its defeat at the hands of the forces they once despised and belittled. Smith was not defeated militarily when he ceded power, neither was the South African nationalist government. Hitler was still supreme in Europe -- almost overwhelmingly so in early 1944, but was gone in a year -- dead in his bunker with the rest of his crew either dead or on the run. They were inevitable victims of the tides of time. It has always been thus throughout history.
The other day I talked about the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 with a former East German civil servant. He told me that had I said to him 48 hours before the wall came down that in 48 hours the Wall would no longer divide Germany and the Communist leadership of East Germany would be out of power, he would have laughed. My son requested a tourist visa to visit East Berlin in that year and was denied a visa by the local Embassy. When he visited West Berlin during that trip he was in time to witness hundreds of thousands of young Germans knocking holes in the hated wall -- he still has a piece from that famous night. When I visited the City in 1990, the former East German Ambassador to Harare was serving hot dogs in a fast food outlet in Berlin. The tide of time in the life of a nation has many unexpected outcomes -- but one thing is certain, tyrannies always fall. The tyranny we live under is no different.
Comments? Email Michael Darby
Sunday, February 23, 2003
THE NATURE OF INTELLIGENCE GATHERING
THE DREGS OF THE LEFT have attempted with limited success to convince the Australian people that the horror of mass murder in Bali was caused by the pro-American and/or anti-terrorist commitment made and maintained by Prime Minister and his Government. Less fanciful and less tendentious is the suggestion that a possible motive for the unspeakably brutal attack of 12 October 2002 may have been resentment about Australia’s role in facilitating the liberation of East Timor.
The more irresponsible opponents of the Howard Government have been trumpeting the false assertion that the Government knew about the danger of a terrorist attack, and failed to warn Australians.
A constructive step, which would reduce the likelihood of future misunderstanding and conflict, lies in a necessary change in the philosophy and practice of intelligence gathering.
Historically, all people involved in the business of collecting and analysing intelligence have been trained to keep secret all the information they acquire about the enemy, for two principal reasons:
1). The belief that the enemy must not be allowed to learn how effective our intelligence is.
2). Genuine concern to protect sources, especially individuals whose lives might be endangered.
With progressively greater reliance on technology, the second motive for secrecy about the enemy is becoming less important.
Logically, there is little point in keeping secret things which the enemy already clearly knows, and there is always a danger that restricting access by our own people to information can be wholly counterproductive. A WWII example is that the Japanese military knew very well the details of its bombing raids against Darwin, Townsville and elsewhere, but the information was kept from the Australian people.
The Howard Government has the opportunity to reform the intelligence process by insisting that with rare exceptions, intelligence received about Australia¡¯s actual and potential enemies should be made public as rapidly as possible. Let the public make decisions about the validity of the raw intelligence data. It does not matter if the public reaches conclusions which are different from the conclusions reached by the experts.
Presently we have active discouragement of Australian tourists going to Bali. Very likely, in the aftermath of shocking atrocity and continuing tragedy, Bali is for the foreseeable future a very safe place for tourists. Rather than ask the public to accept expert interpretations of intelligence about threats and potential threats, far better that the Government should release all such information as it becomes available, and let the public decide.
There could be an exception where for some reason the release of information might compromise efforts to arrest perpetrators of acts of terrorism. But let’s establish the principle of transparency.
Hell Is a Real Place
THIS IS THE STORY OF A WOMAN in Zimbabwe. She is not one of the white farmers being extracted from their land and homes by President Robert Mugabe and the veterans of the 1980 war for independence, who are in the front lines of the takeovers. This woman is black and is being punished for her support of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the leading opposition party.
Comments? Email Michael Darby