The Supreme Court hearing in the Julian Assange case has profound meaning for the preservation of basic freedoms in Western democracies. This is Assange’s final appeal against his extradition to Sweden to face allegations of sexual misconduct that were originally dismissed by the chief prosecutor in Stockholm and constitute no crime in Britain.
Lisette Talate died the other day. I remember a wiry, fiercely intelligent woman who masked her grief with a determination that was a presence. She was the embodiment of people’s resistance to the war on democracy. I first glimpsed her in a 1950s Colonial Office film about the Chagos Islanders, a tiny creole nation living midway between Africa and Asia in the Indian Ocean. The camera panned across thriving villages, a church, a school, a hospital, set in a phenomenon of natural beauty and peace. Lisette remembers the producer saying to her and her teenage friends: “Keep smiling girls.”
On 22 May 2007, the British Guardian's front page announced: Iran's secret plan for summer offensive to force US out of Iraq. The writer, Simon Tisdall, claimed that Iran had secret plans to defeat United States' troops in Iraq, which included "forging ties with al-Qaeda elements". The coming "showdown" was an Iranian plot to influence a vote in the US Congress.
Alameda Park is Mexico City's languid space for lovers and open-air ballroom dancers: the gents in two-tone shoes, the ladies in finery and heels. The cobbled paths undulate from the great earthquake of 1985. You imagine the fairground sinking into the cobwebs of cracks, its Edwardian organ playing forlornly. Two small churches nearby totter precariously: the surreal is Mexico's facade.
United States President Barack Obama announced on October 14 that he was sending US special forces troops to Uganda to join the civil war there. In the next few months, US combat troops will be sent to South Sudan, Congo and Central African Republic. They will only "engage" for "self-defence", says Obama, satirically. With Libya secured, a US invasion of the African continent is under way. Obama's decision is described in the press as "highly unusual" and "surprising", even "weird". It is none of these things. It is the logic of US foreign policy since 1945.
The High Court in London will soon decide whether Julian Assange is to be extradited to Sweden to face allegations of sexual misconduct. At the appeal hearing in July, Ben Emmerson QC, counsel for the defence, described the whole saga as “crazy”. Sweden’s chief prosecutor had dismissed the original arrest warrant, saying there was no case for Assange to answer. Both the women involved said they had consented to have sex. On the facts alleged, no crime would have been committed in Britain.
On a warm spring day, strolling in south London, I heard demanding voices behind me. A police van disgorged a posse of six or more, who waved me aside. They surrounded a young black man who, like me, was ambling along. They appropriated him; they rifled his pockets, looked in his shoes, inspected his teeth. Their thuggery affirmed, they let him go with the barked warning there would be a next time. See also: After the riots, poor repressed, criminalised
On my first day in Cuba, in 1967, I waited in a bus queue that was really a conga line. Ahead of me were two large, funny females resplendent in frills of blinding yellow; one of them had an especially long bongo under her arm. When the bus arrived, painted in Cuba's colours for its inaugural service, they announced that the gringo had not long arrived from London and was therefore personally responsible for this breach in the United States' blockade. It was an honour I could not refuse.
In Scoop, Evelyn Waugh’s brilliant satire on the press, there is the moment when Lord Copper, owner of the Daily Beast, meets his new special war correspondent, William Boot, in truth an authority on wild flowers and birdsong. A confused Boot is brought to his lordship’s presence by Mr Salter, The Beast’s foreign editor. “Is Mr. Boot all set for his trip?” “Up to a point, Lord Copper.” Copper briefed Boot as follows: “A few sharp victories, some conspicuous acts of personal bravery on the Patriot side and a colourful entry into the capital.
How does political censorship work in liberal societies? When my film, Year Zero: the Silent Death of Cambodia, was banned in the United States in 1980, the broadcaster PBS cut all contact. Negotiations were ended abruptly; phone calls were not returned. Something had happened. But what? Year Zero had already alerted much of the world to the horrors of Pol Pot, but it also investigated the critical role of the Nixon administration in the tyrant’s rise to power and the devastation of Cambodia.
The City of Sydney has voted to replace the words “European arrival” in the official record with “invasion”. The deputy lord mayor, Marcelle Hoff, says it is intellectually dishonest to use any other word in describing how Aboriginal Australia was dispossessed by the British. “We were invaded,” said Paul Morris, an Aboriginal adviser to the council. “It is the truth and it shouldn’t be watered down. We wouldn’t expect Jewish people to accept a watered-down version of the Holocaust, so why should we?”
One of the most original and provocative books of the past decade is Disciplined Minds by Jeff Schmidt. “A critical look at salaried professionals,” says the cover, “and the soul-battering system that shapes their lives.” Its theme is postmodern America. But it also applies to Britain, where the corporate state has bred a new class of Americanised manager to run the private and public sectors: the banks, the main parties, corporations, important committees, the BBC.
ZCommunications received the following open letter from indpendent filmmaker and journalist John Pilger reporting very disturbing events in progress. Visit www.johnpilger.com for more of Pilger's work. * * * Dear Noam...
The illegal eavesdropping on famous people by the Rupert Murdoch-owned British tabloid News of the World is said to be Murdoch’s Watergate. But is it the crime by which Murdoch ought to be known? In his native land, Australia, Murdoch controls 70% of the capital city press. Australia is the world’s first “murdochracy”, in which smear by media is power. The most enduring and insidious Murdoch campaign has been against the Aboriginal people, who were dispossessed by the arrival of the British in the late 18th century and have never been allowed to recover.
The Euro-US attack on Libya has nothing to do with protecting anyone; only the terminally naive believe such nonsense. It is the West’s response to popular uprisings in strategic, resource-rich regions of the world and the beginning of a war of attrition against the new imperial rival, China. US President Barack Obama’s historical distinction is now guaranteed. He is the US’s first black president to invade Africa.
The public forum “Breaking Australia's silence: WikiLeaks and freedom” took place on March 16 at Sydney Town Hall. More than 2000 people attended. The event was staged by the Sydney Peace Foundation, Amnesty, the Sydney Stop the War Coalition, and supported by the City of Sydney. It featured speeches by journalist John Pilger, MP Andrew Wilkie (the only serving Western intelligence officer to expose the truth about the Iraq invasion) and human rights lawyer Julian Burnside, QC. Pilger’s speech to the meeting appears below. The video recording of the event also appears below.