The tape is searing. There is the voice of an infant screaming as he is wrenched from his mother, who pleads, "There is nothing wrong with my baby. Why are you doing this to us? I would've been hung years ago, wouldn't I? Because [as an Australian Aborigine] you're guilty before you're found innocent." The child's grandmother demands to know why "the stealing of our kids is happening all over again". A welfare official says, "I'm gunna take him, mate."
Washington's role in the fascist putsch against an elected government in Ukraine will surprise only those who watch the news and ignore the historical record. Since 1945, dozens of governments, many of them democracies, have met a similar fate, usually with bloodshed. Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries on earth with fewer people than Wales, yet under the reformist Sandinistas in the 1980s it was regarded in Washington as a "strategic threat". The logic was simple; if the weakest slipped the leash, setting an example, who else would try their luck?
The BBC's Today program is enjoying high ratings, and the Mail and the Telegraph are, as usual, attacking the corporation as left-wing. Last month, a single edition of Today was edited by the artist and musician PJ Harvey. What happened was illuminating.
It's celebrity time again. The Golden Globes have been, and the Oscars are coming. This is a “vintage year” say Hollywood's hagiographers on cue. It isn't. Most movies are made to a formula for the highest return, money-fuelled by marketing and something called celebrity. This is different from fame, which can come with talent. True celebrities are spared that burden.
In five-star hotels on Mumbai's seafront, children of the rich squeal joyfully as they play hide and seek. Nearby, at the National Theatre for the Performing Arts, people arrive for the Mumbai Literary Festival: famous authors and notables drawn from India's Raj class. They step deftly over a woman lying across the pavement, her birch brooms laid out for sale, her two children silhouettes in a banyan tree that is their home.
In the late 1960s, I was given an usual assignment by the London Daily Mirror's editor-in-chief, Hugh Cudlipp. I was to return to my homeland, Australia, and "discover what lies behind the sunny face". The Mirror had been an indefatigable campaigner against apartheid in South Africa, where I had reported from behind the "sunny face". As an Australian, I had been welcomed into this bastion of white supremacy. "We admire you Aussies," people would say. "You know how to deal with your blacks."
England is two countries. One is dominated by London, the other remains in its shadow. When I first arrived from Australia, it seemed no one went north of Watford and those who had emigrated from the north worked hard to change their accents and obscure their origins, and learn the mannerisms and codes of the southern comfortable classes. Some would mock the life they had left behind. They were changing classes, or so they thought.
The corridors of the Australian parliament are so white you squint. The sound is hushed; the smell is floor polish. The wooden floors shine so virtuously they reflect the cartoon portraits of prime ministers and rows of Aboriginal paintings, suspended on white walls, their blood and tears invisible. The parliament stands in Barton, a suburb of Canberra named after the first prime minister of Australia, Edmund Barton, who drew up the White Australia Policy in 1901. "The doctrine of the equality of man," said Barton, "was never intended to apply" to those not British and white-skinned.
Countries are “pieces on a chessboard upon which is being played out a great game for the domination of the world,” wrote Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India, in 1898. Nothing has changed. The shopping mall massacre in Nairobi was a bloody facade behind which a full-scale invasion of Africa and a war in Asia are the great game. The al-Shabaab shopping mall killers came from Somalia. If any country is an imperial metaphor, it is Somalia. Sharing a common language and religion, Somalis have been divided between the British, French, Italians and Ethiopians.
The most important anniversary of the year was the 40th anniversary of September 11, 1973 — the crushing of the democratic government of Chile by General Augusto Pinochet and Henry Kissinger, then US secretary of state. The National Security Archive in Washington has posted new documents that reveal much about Kissinger's role in an atrocity that cost thousands of lives. In declassified tapes, Kissinger is heard planning with President Richard Nixon the overthrow of left-wing President Salvador Allende. They sound like Mafiosi thugs.
On my wall is the front page of the Daily Express of September 5, 1945, and the words: “I write this as a warning to the world.” So began Australian journalist Wilfred Burchett's report from Hiroshima. It was the scoop of the century. For his lone, perilous journey that defied the US occupation authorities, Burchett was pilloried, not least by his embedded colleagues. He warned that an act of premeditated mass murder on an epic scale had launched a new era of terror.
I have known my postman for more than 20 years. Conscientious and good-humoured, he is the embodiment of public service at its best. The other day, I asked him, “Why are you standing in front of each door like a soldier on parade?” “New system,” he replied. “I am no longer required simply to post the letters through the door. I have to approach every door in a certain way and put the letters through in a certain way.” “Why?” “Ask him.”
The critical moment in the political trial of the century was on February 28 when Bradley Manning stood and explained why he had risked his life to leak tens of thousands of official files to WikiLeaks. It was a statement of morality, conscience and truth: the very qualities that distinguish human beings. This was not deemed mainstream news in the United States; and were it not for Alexa O'Brien, an independent freelance journalist, Manning's voice would have been silenced.
When I reported from South Africa in the 1960s, the Nazi admirer Johannes Vorster occupied the prime minister's residence in Cape Town. Thirty years later, as I waited at the gates, it was as if the guards had not changed. White Afrikaners checked my ID with the confidence of men in secure work. One carried a copy of Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela's autobiography. “It's very eenspirational,” he said.
Imagine the aircraft of the president of France being forced down in Latin America on “suspicion” that it was carrying a political refugee to safety — and not just any refugee but someone who has provided the people of the world with proof of criminal activity on an epic scale.
In his 1928 book Propaganda, Edward Bernays wrote: “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organised habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. “Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.” The American nephew of Sigmund Freud, Bernays invented the term “public relations” as a euphemism for state propaganda. He warned that an enduring threat to the invisible government was the truth-teller and an enlightened public.