Being a political activist can be fun. About 15 of us enjoyed throwing shoes in a Sydney Stop The War Coalition action on November 8 outside the US Consulate. We were protesting against the AUSMIN war talks with US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Melbourne. Protesters threw shoes at cardboard cutouts of Gates, Clinton, PM Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd.
As a former refugee, I can understand and share the concerns of the many Afghan asylum seekers currently facing deportation back to Afghanistan, the very country they had to flee from. This would send them into the hands of the very people responsible for much of the insecurity and threats to the lives and livelihoods of these asylum seekers. It is unbelievable and preposterous.
Matiullah Khan is reportedly illiterate, but he is a very wealthy man. A warlord accused of mass murder, rape and abduction, the June 5 New York Times reported that Matiullah earned US$2.5 million a month through highway robbery, drug trafficking and extortion. The news that members of his private army were training in Australia — revealed by the Sydney Morning Herald on October 29 — exposes the reality Australia’s “nation building” project in Afghanistan by putting a spotlight on a key local partner.
World renowned novelist and global justice activist Arundhati Roy is facing escalating threats of violence in India because of her support for justice in Kashmir — the disputed region partitioned between India and Pakistan and occupied by military forces in the area India controls. Roy faced sedition charges for comments she made about Kashmir at a public meeting in October. The government has since indicated it would not pursue the charge.
Republicans are trumpeting their big gains in the November 2 midterm elections as a mandate to turn the country sharply to the right. Don’t buy it. Mainstream media commentary on the election was largely set before a single vote was cast. Voters would correct President Barack Obama’s supposed leftward course in his first two years in office by sending a cabal of right-wingers to Congress. The scale of the Republican victories — especially in House of Representative races, where the party now holds a comfortable majority — cemented the media’s impressions.
The Conservative Party, or Tories, has never really forgiven the British working class for demanding and winning the creation of the “welfare state”. Gains won included such things as free health care, council homes at affordable rents, and care for the elderly and vulnerable. From the Tories’ point of view, these are all things individuals should sort out for themselves. The modern state should provide the same level of social protection as was available to Queen Victoria’s subjects in the 19th century.
Whistleblower website Wikileaks released its “Iraq War Log” on October 22. This featured almost 400,000 classified US military documents that provide a detailed, if incomplete, record of the US occupation of Iraq from 2004 (a year after the invasion) until January 2010. The log revealed high level US military documentation of serious war crimes the US and its allies have committed in Iraq, including massacres of civilians and systematic torture.
Six fighters from the private army of Afghan warlord, drug trafficker and highway robber Matiullah Khan were recently in Australia for training with the Australian Defence Forces, the October 29 Sydney Morning Herald said. Khan’s power base is in Oruzgan province, where most Australian forces in Afghanistan are stationed. Such is Khan’s reputation for criminality and violence that Dutch forces, who before their withdrawal in August were the largest foreign contingent in Oruzgan, refused to work with him.
Former Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks was under a control order that prevented him from speaking about his ordeal for a year after his release. In an attempt to further silence him, on October 27 shadow attorney-general George Brandis called on the government to charge Hicks with profiting from crime for writing a book. The book about his experiences, Guantanamo: My Journey hit number four in the non-fiction bestseller category.
Hunter Valley activist Pete Gray gained notoriety on October 25 for throwing shoes at former prime minister John Howard on ABC’s political talk show, Q&A. Gray is a long-time activist committed to non-violent direct action. He is a member of climate action group Rising Tide and has also been involved in a variety of social justice campaigns. Gray’s decision to throw his shoes at Howard was a homage to Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zaidi, who threw his shoes at former US president George Bush during a press conference in December 2008.