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"The death of freedom" by John Pilger (Jan. 9th New Statesman)

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  • timothygbaer
    The death of freedom by John Pilger New Statesman Monday 9th January 2006 The rights of ordinary people to speak out against an unjust war and atrocities
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 6, 2006
      The death of freedom

      by John Pilger
      New Statesman
      Monday 9th January 2006

      The rights of ordinary people to speak out against an unjust war and
      atrocities unleashed in their name are being crushed. Fascism is at
      the door. Who else, asks John Pilger, will fight it?


      On Christmas Eve, I dropped in on Brian Haw, whose hunched, pacing
      figure was just visible through the freezing fog. For four and a
      half years, Brian has camped in Parliament Square with a graphic
      display of photographs that show the terror and suffering imposed on
      Iraqi children by British policies. The effectiveness of his action
      was demonstrated last April when the Blair government banned any
      expression of opposition within a kilometre of parliament. The high
      court subsequently ruled that, because his presence preceded the
      ban, Brian was an exception.

      Day after day, night after night, season upon season, he remains a
      beacon, illuminating the great crime of Iraq and the cowardice of
      the House of Commons. As we talked, two women brought him a
      Christmas meal and mulled wine. They thanked him, shook his hand and
      hurried on. He had never seen them before. "That's typical of the
      public," he said. A man in a pinstriped suit and tie emerged from
      the fog, carrying a small wreath. "I intend to place this at the
      Cenotaph and read out the names of the dead in Iraq," he said to
      Brian, who cautioned him: "You'll spend the night in the cells,
      mate." We watched him stride off and lay his wreath. His head bowed,
      he appeared to be whispering. Thirty years ago, I watched dissidents
      do something similar outside the walls of the Kremlin.

      As the night had covered him, he was lucky. On 7 December, Maya
      Evans, a vegan chef aged 25, was convicted of breaching the new
      Serious Organised Crime and Police Act by reading aloud at the
      Cenotaph the names of 97 British soldiers killed in Iraq. So serious
      was her crime that it required 14 policemen in two vans to arrest
      her. She was fined and given a criminal record for the rest of her

      Freedom is dying.

      Eighty-year-old John Catt served with the RAF in the Second World
      War. Last September, he was stopped by police in Brighton for
      wearing an "offensive" T-shirt which suggested that Bush and Blair
      be tried for war crimes. He was arrested under the Terrorism Act and
      handcuffed, with his arms held behind his back. The official record
      of the arrest says the "purpose" of searching him was "terrorism"
      and the "grounds for intervention" were "carrying plackard and T-
      shirt with anti-Blair info" (sic).

      He is awaiting trial.

      Such cases compare with others that remain secret and beyond any
      form of justice: those of the foreign nationals held at Belmarsh
      Prison who have never been charged, let alone put on trial. They are
      held "on suspicion". Some of the "evidence" against them, whatever
      it is, the government has now admitted, could have been extracted
      under torture at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. They are political
      prisoners in all but name. They face the prospect of being spirited
      out of the country and into the arms of a regime which may torture
      them to death. Their isolated families, including children, are
      quietly going mad.

      And for what?

      Between 11 September 2001 and 30 September 2005, 895 people in total
      were arrested under the Terrorism Act. Only 23 have been convicted
      of offences covered by the act. As for real terrorists, the
      identities of two of the 7 July bombers, including the suspected
      mastermind, were known to MI5, yet nothing was done. And Blair wants
      to give the security services more power. Having helped to devastate
      Iraq, he is now killing freedom in his own country.

      Consider parallel events in the United States. Last October, an
      American doctor, loved by his patients, was punished with 22 years
      in prison for founding a charity, Help the Needy, which helped
      children in Iraq stricken by an economic and humanitarian blockade
      imposed by America and Britain. In raising money for infants dying
      from diarrhoea, Dr Rafil Dhafir broke a siege which, accor-ding to
      Unicef, had caused the deaths of half a million under the age of
      five. John Ashcroft, the then US attorney general, called Dr Dhafir,
      a Muslim, a "terrorist", a description mocked by even the judge in a
      politically motivated travesty of a trial.

      The Dhafir case is not extraordinary. In the same month, three US
      circuit court judges ruled in favour of the Bush regime's "right" to
      imprison an American citizen "indefinitely" without charging him
      with a crime. This was the case of Jose Padilla, a petty criminal
      who allegedly visited Pakistan before he was arrested at Chicago
      airport three and a half years ago. He was never charged and no
      evidence has ever been presented against him. Now mired in legal
      complexity, the case puts George W Bush above the law and outlaws
      the Bill of Rights. Indeed, on 14 November, the US Senate in effect
      voted to ban habeas corpus by passing an amendment that overturned a
      Supreme Court ruling allowing Guantanamo prisoners access to a
      federal court. Thus, the touchstone of America's most celebrated
      freedom was scrapped. Without habeas corpus, a government can simply
      lock away its opponents and implement a dictatorship.

      A related, insidious tyranny is being imposed across the world. For
      all his troubles in Iraq, Bush has carried out the recommendations
      of a Messianic conspiracy theory called the "Project for the New
      American Century". Written by his ideological sponsors shortly
      before he came to power, it foresaw his administration as a military
      dictatorship behind a democratic facade: "the cavalry on the new
      American frontier", guided by a blend of paranoia and megalomania.
      More than 700 American bases are now placed strategically in
      compliant countries, notably at gateways to sources of fossil fuels
      and encircling the Middle East and central Asia. "Pre-emptive"
      aggression is policy, including the use of nuclear weapons. The
      chemical warfare industry has been reinvigorated. Missile treaties
      have been torn up. Space has been militarised. Global warming has
      been embraced. The powers of the president have never been greater.
      The judicial system has been subverted, along with civil liberties.
      The former senior CIA analyst Ray McGovern, who once prepared the
      daily White House briefing, told me that the authors of the PNAC and
      those now occupying positions of executive power used to be known in
      Washington as "the crazies". He said: "We should now be very worried
      about fascism."

      In his epic acceptance of the Nobel Prize in Literature on 7
      December, Harold Pinter spoke of "a vast tapestry of lies, upon
      which we feed". He asked why "the systematic brutality, the
      widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of inde- pendent
      thought" of Stalinist Russia were well known in the west while US
      state crimes were merely "superficially recorded, let alone
      documented, let alone acknowledged".

      A silence has reigned. Across the world, the extinction and
      suffering of countless human beings can be attributed to rampant
      American power, "But you wouldn't know it," said Pinter. "It never
      happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it
      wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest."

      To its credit, the Guardian published every word of Pinter's
      warning. To its shame, though unsurprising, the state television
      broadcaster ignored it. All that Newsnight flatulence about the
      arts, all that recycled preening for the cameras at Booker Prize-
      giving events, yet the BBC could not make room for Britain's
      greatest living dramatist, so honoured, to tell the truth.

      For the BBC, it simply never happened, just as the killing of half a
      million children by America's medieval siege of Iraq during the
      1990s never happened, just as the Dhafir and Padilla trials and the
      Senate vote banning freedom never happened. The political prisoners
      of Belmarsh barely exist; and a big, brave posse of Metropolitan
      police never swept away Maya Evans as she publicly grieved for
      British soldiers killed in the cause of nothing except rotten power.

      Bereft of irony, but with a snigger, the newsreader Fiona Bruce
      introduced, as news, a Christmas propaganda film about Bush's dogs.
      That happened. Now imagine Bruce reading the following: "Here is
      delayed news, just in. From 1945 to 2005, the United States
      attempted to overthrow 50 governments, many of them democracies, and
      to crush 30 popular movements fighting tyrannical regimes. In the
      process, 25 countries were bombed, causing the loss of several
      million lives and the despair of millions more." (Thanks to William
      Blum's Rogue State, published by Common Courage Press.)

      The icon of horror of Saddam Hussein's rule is a 1988 film of
      petrified bodies of people in the Kurdish town of Halabja, killed in
      a chemical weapons attack. The attack has been referred to a great
      deal by Bush and Blair and the film shown a great deal by the BBC.
      At the time, as I know from personal experience, the Foreign Office
      tried to cover up the crime at Halabja. The Americans tried to blame
      it on Iran. Today, in an age of images, there are no images of the
      chemical weapons attack on Fallujah in November 2004. This allowed
      the Americans to deny it until they were caught out recently by
      investigators using the internet. For the BBC, American atrocities
      simply do not happen.

      In 1999, while filming in Washington and Iraq, I learned the true
      scale of bombing in what the Americans and British then called
      Iraq's "no-fly zones". During the 18 months to 14 January 1999, US
      aircraft flew 24,000 combat missions over Iraq; almost every mission
      was bombing or strafing. "We're down to the last outhouse," a US
      official protested. "There are still some things left [to bomb], but
      not many." That was seven years ago. In recent months, the air
      assault on Iraq has multiplied; the effect on the ground cannot be
      imagined. For the BBC, it has not happened.

      The black farce extends to those pseudo-humanitarians in the media
      and elsewhere, who themselves have never seen the effects of cluster
      bombs and air-burst shells, yet continue to invoke the crimes of
      Saddam to justify the nightmare in Iraq and to protect a quisling
      prime minister who has sold out his country and made the world more
      dangerous. Curiously, some of them insist on describing themselves
      as "liberals" and "left of centre", even "anti-fascists". They want
      some respectability, I suppose. This is understandable, given that
      the league table of carnage by Saddam Hussein was overtaken long ago
      by that of their hero in Downing Street, who will now support an
      attack on Iran.

      This cannot change until we, in the west, look in the mirror and
      confront the true aims and narcissism of the power applied in our
      name, its extremes and terrorism. The usual double standard no
      longer works; there are now millions like Brian Haw, Maya Evans,
      John Catt and the man in the pinstriped suit, with his wreath.
      Looking in the mirror means understanding that a violent and
      undemocratic order is being imposed by those whose actions are
      little different from the actions of fascists. The difference used
      to be distance. Now they are bringing it home.

      John Pilger's new book, Freedom Next Time, will be published in June
      by Bantam Press


      © New Statesman 1913 - 2006

      * * * * * * * * * *

      Timothy Baer
      Organizer, Bloomington Peace Action Coalition
      (812) 988-1917
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