Letters to the Editor

July 22, 2007

Gollinger interview

Eva Gollinger, in her interview "US continues destabilisation push in Venezuela" (GLW #716), regrettably made errors in referring to our organization, the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC).

She says that our organisation was in part "responsible for helping to promote, fund and advise the 'coloured' revolutions in Eastern Europe [in the] Ukraine, Serbia, Yugoslavia and Georgia. They failed in Belarus."

The ICNC was not established until 2002, over a year after the events in Serbia. With respect to Georgia, Ukraine and Belarus, neither the ICNC nor any of its staff had any contact with people in those countries involved in those events.

Moreover, as our operating guidelines (posted on our website, at <http://www.nonviolent-conflict.org>) make clear, we do not ever provide funding or advice to any groups or individuals that ask for our assistance. The latter is strictly limited to generic information about the history and lessons of nonviolent struggle, contained in books, films, games, workshops and seminars.

Gollinger says that the student movement in Venezuela is "using the same symbols and actions and strategies that were used by other groups that were trained and formed by the Albert Einstein Institute and the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict". The ICNC has never formed any groups in Venezuela or in any other country, nor has it trained groups of Venezuelans.

There are three instances in which Venezuelans have come into contact with people we have supported, in order to receive standard generic information on nonviolent struggle: (1) In summer 2004, we hosted a retreat in Canada on sharing skills in nonviolent struggle, and it was attended by one Venezuelan, among people from over ten other countries; (2) In March 2005, we gave support to the Einstein Institute for a workshop it conducted on nonviolent action for Venezuelans, held in Boston; and (3) In January 2006, we supported David Hartsough of Peaceworkers and Stephen Zunes of the University of San Francisco for participating in the World Social Forum in Caracas, for showing the documentary on the history of nonviolent struggle, A Force More Powerful.

Gollinger's general claim that in some way our Center is associated with actions of the US government in Venezuela is false. We have not and will not accept any support from any government for any purpose, nor have we coordinated any of our operations with agencies of the US government.

Jack Duvall

President, ICNC

Washington, DC

Racist issue

John Howard is announcing the election by dividing Australia with a racist issue. It is ludicrous and outrageous to compare Aboriginal child abuse to Hurricane Katrina, and a government's lack of response to either. Higher incidences of child abuse normally accompany populations living on the fringe of society, as the communities in question are.

The threat of having police forcibly removing children from their home and family for their own good would create yet another stolen generation.

Not dealing with the causes of these social ills that these communities are suffering from and simply "taking the children away" is a racist, sensationalist and inhuman attempt to divide Australia to win an election.

Don't be fooled Australia! Do you really think John Howard cares about the Australian Aboriginal people? He hasn't done much for them for the last twelve years. This must have been some guaranteed bigot trump card he's been holding and keeping a secret.

Well Australia, if you're dumb enough to be suckered into voting with the same blind racism as your parents, look forward to another term of John Howard.

If only the ALP could offer us an alternative. Its silence is deafening.

Richard Davine

St Kilda, Vic

Fair Pay Commission

Congratulations to the Sydney Morning Herald (July 7) for reporting the news that the St. Vincent de Paul Society gave its employees a $30 a week pay rise after its president, John O'Neill, stated that the $10.26 awarded by the Australian Fair Pay Commission was inadequate.

However, why wasn't this article on SMH's front-page? We should be having a parade down George Street, Sydney, to honour Vinnies! Finally there is an employer who has done the "right thing"!

Here is a quote from a prominent politician: "The widening gap between rich and poor is the worse thing that has happened in Australia for the last 20 years. One of the terrific things we prided ourselves on was being a classless society. You can't say that anymore because class is built on economic well being" (John Howard, SMH, 1995).

He also went on to say that he would like to be part of a government that could restore the old Australian egalitarianism. Well, that was before he allowed the Business Council of Australia to run this country and before he stacked the "Fair Pay Commission" with Liberals.

Kerrie Lay

Toongabbie, NSW

Mohamed Haneef

One can only admire the moral courage of Dr Mohamed Haneef's barrister in releasing the transcript of interview of Haneef's first interrogation by the federal police to the media. What is distressing are the circumstances which compelled him to do this.

That Howard, Ruddock and Andrews ignored Haneef's presumption of innocence and beat up his arrest in connection with the British "doctor's plot" is no surprise.

That Kevin Andrews ignored that presumption of innocence and took away Haneef's visa, with the intention of imprisoning him in the Villawood detention centre — despite the fact that the case against Haneef was so weak, the Brisbane magistrate felt she had no alternative but to grant him bail — is disgusting, but not surprising.

That the Howard government selectively leaked parts of that transcript of interview to put Haneef in a bad light is also no surprise. After all, Howard's only chance of winning the next federal election, if the polls are right, is to create a panic in the electorate about national security — even if it means having to totally subvert the rule of law in our once-proud democracy.

What is extremely disturbing, however, is the role the federal police played in this selective leaking to blacken Haneef's name. At a time when most of our police forces, after a hard-won internal battle, are now recognised for their general honesty and integrity, and are zealous about fighting corruption within their own ranks, the apparent politicisation of the federal police by the Howard government is truly alarming.

The police everywhere in Australia should be like the army. The army serves the state, not the government of the day.

Is there any genuine Australian value, any aspect of our democracy that John Howard has not corrupted in his years in government?

Paul Burns

Armidale, NSW

AWB and Haneef

The Bush/Howard duet have long maintained that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden worked hand-in-glove and were behind the 9/11 attacks. However, this did not stop the AWB Ltd from filling Saddam's alleged terrorism coffers with bribes.

Dr Mohamed Haneef has been inexcusably reckless. Instead of sharing his SIM card, he should have played it safe and learnt from the AWB — if you bribe Saddam Hussein there's no detention and you just walk free.

Gareth Smith

Byron Bay, NSW

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