Bombing Syria – to restore “democracy”

April 14, 2018

The bombing campaign and missile attacks on Syria began a few hours ago. Supposedly targeting military sites, there is no word yet on civilian casualties, but its certain there will be plenty. Assad, like most dictators, likes to keep his military bases close to civilian centres and no matter how “smart” Trump’s missiles are, a few will surely miss their targets.

I wrote this before the bombing began, but it is still relevant.

First published on Independent Australia

Neither Washington, Moscow, nor Damascus — long live the Syrian Revolution

U.S. President Donald Trump has pushed the world to the edge of a new conflict by threatening a missile attack on Syria. Russia has responded with threats of its own, foreshadowing a new Cold War. Political editor Dr Martin Hirst examines the potential fall-out from the escalating rhetorical duel between rival superpowers.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result (Image by Alisdare Hickson via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0])

THIS WEEK, I was reminded of the life and work of one of my Marxist heroes, Tony Cliff. Cliff was a founding member and leading theorist of the International Socialist Tendency and famously coined the term “state capitalism” to characterise the degraded socialism and despotic regime in the Soviet Union. The politics of Russia have changed, it is now a rampant capitalist oligarchy, but “state capitalism” remains the economic policy of the Putin regime.

Thinking about Tony Cliff also prompted me to note that he would have taken a very firm position on the conflict in Syria and he would have been vehemently opposed to the Trump regime’s threats to rain down ‘nice and new and “smart”‘ missiles on Damascus.

However, Cliff’s opposition to a U.S. military strike against the Assad regime – supposedly in response to a chemical weapons attack on civilians in the rebel-held enclave of Houda – would not be based on misguided love for the criminal Assad. Nor would it be based on the mistaken view that Russia is somehow “better” than the United States in terms of the Syria conflict.

(In case you’ve not been paying attention, Russia is committed to propping up the Assad Government while ostensibly fighting Islamic terrorism. In retaliation for Trump’s provocation, Russia threatened to shoot down any U.S. missiles fired at Syria.)

Tony Cliff was an International Socialist and, therefore, would not be advocating for taking the side of either of the imperialist powers in their proxy war being fought in Syrian airspace. Understanding Cliff’s background is important here.

Cliff was born Yigael Gluckstein, a stateless Jew from what was then Palestine. He was born in 1917 – coincidentally the first year of the Russian revolution. In his youth, Cliff was a member of the Revolutionary Communist League in Palestine and left for Britain in 1947, effectively exiled for his anti-Zionist political activity.

At the height of the Cold War, when it seemed that the Soviet Union and the United States might actually launch an all-out nuclear strike on each other, the International Socialist Tendency adopted the slogan, ‘Neither Washington, nor Moscow, but international socialism’.

(Image via National Museum of Australia / nma.gov.au)

Today, Tony Cliff would be urging all progressive people to unite behind a similar slogan when it comes to the conflict in Syria. To round out the political message, he would perhaps suggest the following edit:

“Neither, Washington, Moscow, nor Damascus.”

To explain this clearly, a little bit of history is necessary.

The conflict in Syria began with an uprising against Bashar Al-Assad during the ill-fated Arab Spring of 2011. At the heart of the Syrian resistance was a largely secular working class movement which drew strength and inspiration from events in Egypt and elsewhere.

The Syrian revolution grew quickly, and Assad’s response was swift and brutal. He reasoned – as most desperate despots do – that it would be better to destroy large swathes of the nation than see Syria fall into the hands of the rebels.

Assad’s brutality extended to indiscriminate mass murder of civilians through air strikes on some of Syria’s largest cities; the imprisonment and torture (often to death) of his opponents and the deliberate targeting of foreign journalists bravely covering the conflict from behind rebel lines.

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World War 3 – will it start over North Korea?

April 25, 2017

Since the arrival of Donald Trump in the White House the world appears to be moving closer to a catastrophic military conflict that threatens nuclear Armageddon. In this first in a series, political editor Dr Martin Hirst assesses the possibility that we’re already fighting World War Three.

‘The fear of war hangs over society. This is almost literally true, for it is not the invader in the streets but the warhead exploding on us which dominates our nightmares.’

~ Martin Shaw, Dialectics of War, 1988

(Image via @BlackJesuscom)

THIS IS A SERIES that looks at global flashpoints and their potential to blast the world into a nuclear nightmare. It was once unthinkable that strategic nuclear weapons might be used in a world-wide war, but now we need to start thinking it is more likely than not.

And just this month, Donald J Trump caused the “Mother of all bombs” to be dropped in Afghanistan to explode over… we may never know what exactly.

Are we already inside World War Three?

In this series, I will look at Asia, the Middle East and Europe as places where potential nuclear trigger points might occur and then, on a brighter note, I’ll offer some suggestions about how we might stop it.

Let’s begin on our own doorstep.

We are not neutral

We are not neutral and we never have been. Australia is a willing and active partner in many of today’s global conflicts. Despite contrary propaganda, this does not make us safer, it increases the risk that we will be a target too.

Pine Gap makes us a target for Chinese and possibly North Korean and Russian nukes. I’m more worried about China and Russia because they both have nuclear-capable submarines that can reach us almost undetected.

When 1,250 US marines flew into Darwin this week, the NewsCorpse rag that dominates Northern Territory journalism, the NT News, could hardly contain its jingoistic excitement, declaring on page one that they are “ready to fight” against “our” common enemies.

We should be under no illusion or misapprehension about their intent:

Lieut. Colonel Middleton said when US Marines were in forward deployment they were ready for battle.

“I think that the commitment that we’ve taken to put a task force here with a conversation to get larger over the years says that we do think this is an important region,” Lieut. Colonel Middleton said.

When asked about the North Korea stand-off he said: “We stand ready to fight.”

I can only hope that this made the good souls of Darwin feel a lot safer, knowing that they are potentially within range of North Korean rockets.

We all have “potential”

It’s important to focus on this word “potentially”, because it is a crucial qualifier.

Our foreign minister, Julie Bishop, has used the threat of a DPRK nuclear strike on Australia as one reason for enthusiastically welcoming over 1,000 marines to northern Australia, but the threat is not imminent, or even realistic today.

Weapons experts agree that North Korea is at least four years away from developing a ballistic missile capable of a) carrying a nuclear warhead and b) travelling as far as Australia without blowing up mid-flight.

Speaking on the ABC’s AM program earlier this week Bishop was keen to talk up the North Korean “threat”.

[North Korea] is on a path to achieving nuclear weapons capability and we believe Kim Jong-un has a clear ambition to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear payload as far as the US.”

But what Bishop ignores here – and she hopes you will too – is that while North Korea’s nuclear threat is only “potential”, the United States has a proven nuclear capability and a proven propensity to use atomic weapons.

Not only that, hawkish American analysts are now insisting that the U.S. must strike first and this first strike should happen sooner rather than later.

…the United States must plan to destroy North Korea’s nuclear and long-range missile sites sometime in the next several years — and perhaps within the next two.

At the same time, it must be expected that the American action would trigger the North Korean military to instinctively launch a full-scale retaliatory strike against the Republic of Korea (ROK) along the armistice line of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), whether or not Mr. Kim remains alive. With that as a given, the United States must prevent such an event by launching, simultaneously with the initial attack on the North Korean nuclear and ICBM facilities, a full-scale offensive against the North’s positions along the DMZ. There can be no delay in this U.S.-ROK offense, for it is essential to preclude North Korea’s own counteroffensive against the South.

This is a clear statement of aggression from the American side.

The argument for a pre-emptive strike against North Korea is that its patron-state, China, is incapable of stopping Pyongyang through purely diplomatic efforts.

So is China an ally or an enemy?

This piece first published on Independent Australia as Are we already fighting World War 3?

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It’s lonely crying “wolf”: Terrorism 101 – lesson for the Herald Sun

January 2, 2015

Ah, so the new year starts as the last one ended with a fact-free front-page EXCLUSIVE, but this time, the culprit is not The Australian, but its sister paper, the Herald Sun published in Melbourne.

According to today’s front-page splash “EXCLUSIVE TERROR SIEGE TWIST”, the Hun makes the bold claim that Sydney siege killer Man Haron Monis is “NO LONE WOLF“.

Don't worry, its bark is worse than its bite

Don’t worry, its bark is worse than its bite

It really is like taking cheese from a mouse to pick on this sad excuse for a birdcage liner, but when it get as silly as this, I must call out the editor because, surely, it is his call to put such garbage on the front page. Take this for a lead (and remember the root word in “news” is new):

Sydney siege terrorist Man Haron Monis delivered a chilling lecture calling for an “Islamic society” to a packed prayer hall in 2009 — the same year he dropped off security watch lists.

Did you catch the date? It was five or six years ago, give or take a New Year holiday. And, wow, a Muslim who believes in an “Islamic society”; I bet there are not more than, Oh, I don’t know, let’s guess 1.6 billion people who might fit that description.

But, hey, Muslims; they’re dangerous, right? Yes, they are; not like the world’s estimated 2.2 billion Christians who go to church every week and listen to crazed men in long frocks calling for a “Christian society”.

A list of the world's scariest religions from worst to least worser

A list of the world’s scariest religions from worst to least worser

Read the rest of this entry »


Many places to hide information in the national security media

August 2, 2014

No place to hide: Snowden, Greenwald and Australia’s “national security media”

This piece was first published in New Matilda on 29 July 2014

Eyes On: The Five Eyes agreement means Australia is implicated in the global surveillance economy

Australia is about to get a new raft of national security legislation – the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill – that will radically increase the scope and powers of our spy agencies to snoop on private citizens. The justification for this ramping up of ASIO and ASIS espionage power is the supposed threat from Islamic radicals who, having fought overseas in Syria and Iraq, will be likely to import violent jihad back into Australia. It is a line run almost daily in the Australian news media over the past few weeks .

This is a tenuous justification at best. The historic evidence shows that the police – at both state and federal level – and the nation’s spooks already have ample power to deal with any real and present danger posed by jihadists. For example, Operation Pendennis, which led to the conviction of 13 alleged terrorists in 2007-2008, was conducted using existing phone-tap and other surveillance powers. Between July 2004 and November 2005, the Pendennis dragnet accumulated 16,400 hours of recordings from bugs and 98,000 telephone intercepts; but now ASIO, the Federal Police and state agencies want to sweep up even more calls and even more data.

Additional powers – to tap phones, infiltrate and hack computer networks, give spies the power to entrap suspects and to store electronic metadata for several years – are not necessary under current conditions. However, that has not stopped Attorney General George Brandis (aka “Raging Bedsore”) from touting the new laws as measures to save Australian lives and to keep safe the national interest.

Well, of course the Government – and her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition – would say that wouldn’t they? It’s no surprise that the nation’s politicians, who govern through the promotion of irrational fears and promises of a quick fix, would jump on the “more powers to the spooks” bandwagon. After all, there are votes and endorsements in “security” issues; as well as happy feelings of safety and warmth induced by the vague and unfounded notion of keeping the country out of “harm’s way” and by appearing to be “tough” on terrorists. It is the tried and true method of invoking the sexy beast Laura Norder; and in a world of uncertainty, devastation and death (think Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan Gaza, MH17 and other global hotspots) her warm, comforting embrace seems like a haven from the horror and bloodshed.

But perhaps we might have expected a little more searching, or a little more critical and independent analysis from the nation’s leading media outlets. Maybe it would not have been too much to ask for at least one correspondent or pundit to write a “think piece” about how the call for more spying and less oversight could result in less freedom, not more. Surely there is one “national security” correspondent or “defence” editor out there in the media world who feels it necessary to add a note of caution about our unthinking stumble towards Nineteen Eighty-four?

If you’ve been looking for that op-ed or the news piece quoting critics of the Government’s new legislation, you’ve no doubt been thoroughly disappointed. It is missing in action; not there, invisible and unreported. Instead what we’ve seen in the last few weeks is article after op-ed after editorial praising and supporting the unseemly rush to becoming a nation of spies and spied upon.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised at the lack of critical reporting; and, if you’ve seen Glenn Greenwald’s excellent recent book, No Place to Hide , you might be slightly and wryly amused at the lack of opposing views, but you won’t be surprised.

Greenwald has written his insider’s account of meeting Edward Snowden for the first time in a Hong Kong hotel room and coming to terms with the enormity of Snowden’s selfless action and the implications held in the treasure trove of National Security Administration data held in the cache of secrets he handed over for public scrutiny.

That story should be familiar to New Matilda readers. Unless you’ve been on Mars for the past year you will know about the NSA documents that revealed, inter alia, Australia’s spying on the Indonesians, the Americans spying on the Germans and pretty much any nation and anybody with a copper wire communication network, an Internet connection or mobile phone.

The sheer scale of snooping – billions of intercepted messages every day – is mind-boggling enough. Greenwald is convinced (and convincing) on the point that the NSA has a goal to collect every bit of electronic information that blips its way across the global communication network. He writes that the NSA mantra is “collect everything” and it is the logistics of doing this, then storing and sorting the results, that he forensically dissects in No Place to Hide.

One of the realisations that any intelligent reader of this book will come to is that the NSA and its “Five Eyes” partners (UK, New Zealand, Canada and Australia) [https://www.privacyinternational.org/reports/eyes-wide-open/understanding-the-five-eyes] could not manage the collection and sifting of so much data without the explicit cooperation of the world’s major telecommunications companies. Yep, just about everyone you deal with for your electronic data life is implicated – Yahoo, Skype, Microsoft, Apple, Google, Verizon, Dell, Facebook and countless others – everyone is scooping and sharing your data with the NSA and God knows who else.

As Edward Snowden told Greenwald during one of their first Hong Kong interviews: “I saw firsthand that the State, especially the NSA, was working hand in hand with the private tech industry to get full access to people’s communications.”

A quick reminder that Snowden was employed by the private consulting firm Booz, Allen Hamilton while working at the NSA HQ is all you need to grasp the implications of this. The entire global economy is now systemically and irrevocably enmeshed in an alliance with Governments to suck, squeeze and pulp our data in order to make the juice of profits and to keep the world safe from people like us.

That’s why it is really good to have strong individuals like Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden in the world today. If we relied on the mainstream media to tell us this stuff, we would never know.

No Place to Hide also provides clues as to the “Why?” of the MSM’s silence on the downsides to the creeping, all-seeing surveillance state. There’s a fantastic chapter that details the media’s complicity in not reporting, or more often mis-reporting, the actions of the NSA. The details are different, of course, but the general outline is applicable in Australia. We are experiencing the world of the “national security news media”.

The roots of the media’s complicit silence in relation to surveillance go back to the immediate political reactions to the events of “9/11”. Since that time, Greenwald writes, “the US media in general has been jingoistic and intensely loyal to the government and this hostile, sometimes viciously so, to anyone who exposed its secrets.” The same thing applies here. Even today some columnists cling to the lie of Iraqi WMD, preferring to spout the line that they just “haven’t been found yet”; more than a decade on from the disaster of Iraq some commentators refuse to see that it was a terrible mistake, built on fabrication and probably a war crime. But, history is written by the victors and its first “rough draft” is compiled by the loyal stenographers in the political press corps.

When it comes to “national security” and the surveillance state, loyal news editors and respected senior writers on policy and politics continue to toe the

When Greenwald appeared on the talk shows he was accused of helping a traitor [Snowden]

When Greenwald appeared on the talk shows he was accused of helping a traitor [Snowden]

line. When Greenwald was doing the rounds of American political talk shows, he was confronted with a wall of hostility from his journalistic colleagues: “Many US journalists resumed their accustomed role as servants to the government.” In June 2103 the story turned from the expose of “serious NSA abuses”, to one that Snowden had “betrayed” the US, “committed crimes and then ‘fled to China’”.

In Australia, the Snowden is a “traitor” line continues to be vehemently pursued in the Murdoch newspapers, which increasingly reflect a kind of Aussie-fied Tea Party ideological bent. And it is Murdoch’s The Australian that is leading the “national security”: cheer squad for Bedsore’s touted “improvements” to ASIO and ASIS spying powers. However, to be fair, the Fairfax outlets are well and truly in-line and waving the flag almost as vigorously as News Corps.

I call this proposition the “position of the complicit insider” and it’s not a new phenomenon. The political media – Press Gallery journalists in Australia – enjoy a privileged status alongside politicians, political advisors and senior bureaucrats. Reporters and commentators are often seduced by the close access they gain to the centres of power and political operators are therefore able to prevail upon them to non-disclosure of uncomfortable secrets. As well as this agreement not to rock the boat too hard in return for favours (in reality scraps of information that the insiders want revealed), political reporters feel a false sense of duty to act “responsibly” and not reveal information, or write stories that might damage some false notion of “national security”.

Anyone who regularly reads the “quality” press in Australia (including The Guardian), or who watches political chat shows on television will instantly recognize this problem.

In July 2014 we saw a good example of the supportive opinion piece genre in The Weekend Australian. Associate Editor Cameron Stewart wrote a lengthy commentary endorsing the Government’s proposed tougher surveillance powers and data retention laws . Stewart noted the “hand-wringing” of Left and liberal commentators when the then Howard Government updated and upgraded anti-terror and security laws in 2005 and added that in 2014 it was only “the Greens and a handful of human rights lawyers” who seemed to be complaining. Stewart repeats all the claims made by Bedsore and ASIO boss David Irvine that returning jihadists pose a significant danger and that the collection of electronic “metadata” is just a harmless means of identifying potential threats.

In Stewart’s worldview, any opposition to greater surveillance powers is dismissed as being an issue of concern only for “the Left” and its “prism of Cold War excesses”. Security officials are uncritically quoted about the effectiveness of metadata collection in previous terror-related prosecution. Stewart has only one area of concern: that journalists could be targeted by new provisions to prevent Snowden-style leaks. Stewart’s newspaper has never had much regard for Edward Snowden, whom it says – echoing the American view – is a traitor, not a whistleblower.

The Weekend Australian also carried an editorial supporting the boosting of security laws; ironically the paper seemed to blame communications technology for creating the need to change the law:

In the internet age, legislation governing Australia’s intelligence agencies must keep pace with terrorists’ capacity to use technology

When it comes to the Snowden materials, Greenwald makes the argument that the well-connected Washington media will never go all the way. He says it is an “unwritten rule” that only a few documents from such a vast treasure trove of secrets would be revealed, “so as to limit its impact…and then walk away, ensuring that nothing had really changed”.

This sensibility is evident in the recent Australian reporting of ASIO seeking more powers, or police breach of their own rules for eavesdropping.

A June 2014 story headlined ‘New surveillance powers aim to boost fight against terrorism’, by the Fairfax “National security correspondent” David Wroe, is framed in such a way that the move seems both natural and necessary. The lede clearly suggests that the move is necessary, “amid growing fears about the terrorism threat posed by Australians fighting in the Middle East.”

In the second par the clear distinction is made between “innocent third-party computers” and “a computer used by a suspect terrorist or criminal”, but already the scope of the powers is broadened from just a “suspect terrorist” to now include “criminal” behaviour.

The third par equates the reader’s interest with the point of view of the security services themselves by suggesting the new rules would benefit law enforcement “dramatically freeing up surveillance powers”. Of course, there’s really nothing to worry about because the new, expanded spying powers would only be used, reassuringly, “under ministerial authorisation”.

In the fifth par we are lulled to sleep with the anodyne phrase the “intelligence community” and with the further assurance that what this benign community group has “long called for” is to remove “hurdles” in the way of legitimate “investigations” and to fix a “failure of the law to keep pace with technology”.

The report goes on to tell us that the changes are based on recommendations made by a “parliamentary inquiry, last year, supported by Labor” – the appearance of bi-partisan support is meant to be reassuring too. We are reminded that the report to parliament “stressed there needed to be strict safeguards, including guarantees that the intrusion on the third party’s privacy would be minimised”.

The security community worldwide is fond of the word “minimised”. “Minimisation” is supposed to occur in the US context too, where it means that all non-relevant information is stripped from surveilled communications before it is passed on for analysis. However, as the Snowden documents reveal, in the race to “collect everything”, non-relevant data is always collected and nearly always stored, analysed and archived for later retrieval.

In other words, we cannot trust our political masters; they are probably lying to us and they are most certainly pulling the wool over the eyes of gullible “National security reporters” like David Wroe. Perhaps I’m being a bit harsh by suggesting Wroe is gullible and there is another explanation that stands up. If you are the “National security reporter” it really is not in your interests (or your employer’s) for you to run foul of the key sources who inhabit your beat. If you were to write critically about an official source, for example, the next time you call for a comment, s/he might hang up on you. More likely, their departmental boss will call your boss and you’ll be back on the shipping rounds.

Whatever the ultimate cause, the gulling of the public continues in Wroe’s June 2014 article when he pulls in a “third party” expert to assess the situation. In this case the expert is hardly an independent analyst:

Tobias Feakin, a cybersecurity expert at the Australian Strategic Police [sic] Institute, said the changes would update legislation that was ”well out of date”.

Oops, an interesting Freudian slip by David Wroe; Dr Feakin is actually attached to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and has solid ties into the defence and security establishment, including the Royal United Services Institute (a UK-based military think tank) where he was “Head of Homeland Security Capabilities” and “Director, National Security and Resilience Department” between 2006 and 2007.

Most of the time we don’t bother to check the CVs of these experts that are put in front of us, all too often without question. If “expert” and “official” sources say something then a journalist will usually just report it with stenographic accuracy and perhaps (if we’re lucky) offer up one or two tame questions to be kicked away by the expert.

Dr Feakin is particularly popular on ABC News24 where he pops up on an all too regular basis, confirming Greenwald’s central thesis about media complicity. In September 2013 Dr Feakin was used as a source in an Australian Financial Review story about the new and expensive ASIO headquarters building in Canberra. This story reveals that when ASIO and the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) occupy their new building, private companies in the security industry will be offered the opportunity to “collocate” some of their employees alongside the nation’s senior spooks.

It is expected the centre will allow executives and security staff from select industries to share knowledge and learn from government cyber specialists…in a bid to liaise more frequently with private industry, a task DSD cannot easily do as a Department of Defence entity.

This is another classic play from the American security state experience that highlights with some certainty that the Security State needs to be enmeshed with the security industry in order to function at a high level. If you ever thought the interests of the State and of Capital were not contiguous, let this dispel you of that myth right now. The AFR article confirms it with this simple statement:

Senior intelligence officials said they remain deeply concerned about the ­vulnerabilities that exist outside a few “islands of excellence”. They said ­relatively “hardened” areas include the major banks and Telstra, which last year hired a former DSD deputy director, Mike Burgess, as its chief security officer. (emphasis added)

Dr Feakin makes an appearance in the final two paragraphs of the story and it is abundantly clear which side of the security fence this “independent” analyst sits:

[Feakin] welcomed the move to integrate private firms into the new cyber operations centre, but said companies would have to be “willing to share data with government, otherwise momentum will be lost and they won’t keep their focus on such efforts”.

The story of Dr Feakin is also a salutary lesson that we should never take for granted the so-called independence and bona fides of the experts served up to us by a complicit and compliant media.

We can expect to see more of this type of “national security news” over the coming months as the new expanded spying power legislation is passed and bedded in. If you want to really know what’s going on, look beyond the mainstream media, which has decided to enjoy the comforts of the insider and to lull the rest of us into a false sense of security.

Remember, there really is no place to hide any longer.

 


“They shoot journalists, don’t they?”

April 6, 2010

So, the American military has what it calls “rules of engagement” when active in a combat zone.

Normally these “rules” are to protect the lives of non-combatants, but in the urban battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq there is sometimes very little difference.

At least according to the US military. But how far does the American war machine go to distinguish between friendlies and civilians and the so-called “enemy” – the Taleban in Afghanistan or “insurgents” in Iraq?

Really, it doesn’t go very far at all. In a recent Vanity Fair article about snipers in Afghanistan, one US soldier is quoted as calling the Afghan interpreter in his unit a “stinky”.

A Special Forces sergeant came up and said, “Hey, dude, I got some bad news. I gotta put a Stinky in your truck.” Afghans are Stinkies because they don’t wash.

We’ve all heard the term “raghead” used in relation to Iraqis. When this level of embedded racism is in play, the rules of engagement are not worth wiping your stinky on.

Whenever civilians are killed by “mistake” there are major efforts to cover it up. Details are only released when the families of the dead – you should always make sure there are no survivors – make a fuss, or the media starts nosing around.

But what happens when reporters and news workers are killed? Then the cover up goes into overdrive!

The Wikileaks site has just released some very disturbing video footage of two Reuters correspondents being gunned down in Baghdad. According to the army’s statement, the action that led to their murder was within the rules of engagement.

The attack took place on the morning of 12 July 2007 in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad. Two children were also wounded.

Reuters had been seeking access to the video – shot from one of the Apache helicopters that also gunned down the men – for more than two years.

The murdered newsworkers  were local Reuters staff; Saeed Chmagh and Namir Noor-Eldeen. Chmagh was a 40-year-old Reuters driver and assistant; Noor-Eldeen was a 22-year-old war photographer.

Rule #1: It’s OK to shoot journalists.

Read the rest of this entry »


Soldiers in harms way: Don’t ask, don’t tell

January 22, 2010

Philip Poupin/NZH 21-01-2010

Good on the New Zealand Herald for publishing this picture of two NZ SAS soldiers in Kabul.

And cheers to the Dominion Post for going for it again today.

It’s a Kiwi version of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and really quite pathetic that the Defence Minister is upset about this image. He’s said that identifying the soldiers puts them in harm’s way. Presumably because now those pesky Taleban can put a name or a face to the troopers.

That’s just bullshit. These guys wander around Kabul in heavy body armour, armed to the teeth and ready to take potshots at anyone who looks remotely suspicious. That’s about 90 per cent of the population in the reasoning of the occupying forces.

Let’s be clear about this; these SAS troopers are in harms way because of a series of political decisions taken in Washington and Wellington. Read the rest of this entry »


I’ve taken sides in the social networked war

January 15, 2009

The propaganda war in cyberspace is hotting up. It’s an interesting twist on social networking that Facebook has become a battleground in the Gaza conflict.

The BBC is carrying a detailed report about hacker attacks on pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian websites.

Gaza crisis spills onto web [BBC]

I’ve also joined a Facebook group “Stop Israeli attacks on Gaza”


Australian Jihad: Now you read it, now you don’t

June 15, 2008

For some time I’ve been wanting to do a series of posts about a book that’s been withdrawn from sale, but I couldn’t find the right peg.

This morning I decided that I’d start a post on the book, Australian Jihad, regardless of the peg issue; and as coincidences are, this other story was kicking around about three men in Ohio who, on Friday 13 June, were convicted of a terrorist plot on the strength of evidence gathered by an undercover agent.

What’s the link? Australian Jihad is a journalistic account of “the battle against terrorism from within and without”, by Martin Chulov – a journalist with Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian. The link is that the main characters are also now on trial, facing similar charges to the three Ohioans.

The Ohio case too contains allegations of insider-trading within the so-called Jihadist organisations that are an issue “uncovered” in Australian Jihad.

Read the rest of this entry »


Harry Hotpants exposes himself to Terry Taleban: "I’m a f*ck*** tosser!"

March 3, 2008

Now that the giddy “Oh my gosh!” pretend outrage has cooled a little I’d like to add my ten Kiwi cents to the Harry-Embargo-Imbroglio (HEI).

It seems that the English tosser who happens to be 3rd-in-line to the best paid non-job in the world is not that keen on the country of his birth. HEI’s been telling anyone who’ll listen – pretty much the entire world’s media – that, actually, HEI hates England. In particular Harry Hotpants doesn’t like English beer (he drinks something called a Crack

baby cocktail
(see separate post) and HEI doesn’t like the English media too much either.

From today’s New Zealand Herald (and a 1000 other quasi-tabloid shi*sheets. The NZH lifted the story from The Observer):

“I don’t want to sit around Windsor,” HEI admitted. “I generally don’t like England that much and, you know, it’s nice to be away from all the press and the papers and all the general shite that they write.”

England was, in fact, “poo”, HEI declared.

That’s a pity really. His retainers and flunkies should tell the lucky shite that thanks to the world’s oversupply of trash and gossip magazines HEI’s one of the most eligible rich dicks around and can get into the pants of every young ‘gel’ who takes his royal fancy. HEI doesn’t even know that “poo” (how upper-class quaint) “stinks”.

To be honest, I wouldn’t lose a minute of my life worrying or being upset if HEI was topped by an IED. Apparently there’s a price on HEI’s head.

‘Prince Harry

Is A Top Terror Target’

Prince Harry is now a top terror target after serving in Afghanistan, a radical cleric has warned.

<img src=”http://static.sky.com/images/pictures/1125999.jpg&#8221; alt=”Omar

Omar Bakri Mohammad

Omar Bakri Mohammad said the Prince, who is arriving back in the UK today, was behaving like a “big man, tough man” and that would make him a target for Islamic militants.

The cleric said the Prince had become an “ambassador of war” unlike his mother Diana who had been an “ambassador of peace”.

“I think now he will be more targeted by the Taliban and al Qaeda supporters than before,” he said. “It’s better for him to return home.

However, let’s remember that while the world’s media spent far too much time fawning over this blue-blooded waste of oxygen, real people were dying in Afghanistan and Iraq. We can pause to reflect on another British serviceman who was killed on Sunday March 2:

British airman killed

in Iraq attack named

8:29AM Monday March 03, 2008

By Peter Griffiths
British airman killed in rocket attack named.  Photo /Reuters.

British airman killed in rocket attack named. Photo /Reuters.

LONDON – A British airman killed in a rocket attack in southern Iraq was named on Sunday as Sergeant Duane Barwood.

The Ministry of Defence in London said the 41-year-old from the town of Carterton, Oxfordshire, died on Friday after an attack on the British military base outside Basra.

His death brings to 175 the number of British armed forces personnel who have died in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.

Barwood, known as “Baz“, was part of the 903 Expeditionary Air Wing of the Royal Air Force and was based at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.

He leaves a wife, Sharon, and two daughters, Leanna and Rebecca. In a statement, his family said: “Baz will be greatly missed by all those who knew him.

Harry Hotpants you are a lucky and privileged bastard. Shove another Crack Baby down your sun-burnt neck instead of complaining about English ordinariness. Harry have you sent flowers to Mrs Barwood? I didn’t think so, you insufferable waste of space.

We should also pause for the other victims of this senseless Imperialist adventure in which Prince Hotpants got to play toy soldiers. We need to be reminded of the hundreds who die every week in Iraq and Afghanistan whose names we are never told by the press.

Sunday 2 March: 22 dead

Baghdad: 3 bodies.

Diyala

Baquba: roadside bomb kills policeman trying to defuse it; gunmen kill civilian.

Wajihiya: roadside bomb kills 6, 2 of them children.

Buhriz: motorist is shot dead by Iraqi soldiers, after failing to ‘respond to checkpoint instructions.’

Muqdadiya: 3 bodies.

Ninewa

Mosul: car bomb kills civilian.

Shabana: 2 policemen killed in clashes with gunmen.

Salahuddin

Samarra: car bomb kills 4, a child among them.

But while all this is going on, the crap media’s attention is somewhere else. The photogenic action man Harry Hotpants has been discovered living a “normal” life in southern Afghanistan.

As an aside:

“Oh shi*, hold the presses!” Harry Hotpants leads ‘normal life’, now there’s a headline you don’t see every day.
You little silver-coated turd; you think life in southern Afghanistan is ‘normal’? You freakish little rich shi*, fu** you and your warped idea of ‘normal’. A life of war and poverty is not ‘normal’. You, sir, have no idea of what ‘normal’ is. Suck down another Crack Baby you lazy ill-begotten drunk and fu** off back to Knightsbridge.

HEE HEE HEE…Oops…

Sorry, back to the real point of this post:

A few days ago there was an almighty fuss that was heard around the world: some pissant little Australian gossip rag had broken an embargo on a story that the valiant prince had “seen action” in Afghanistan.

No, it wasn’t about the princely prick getting on in a Kabul whorehouse; though it would be a better story if it was. There happened to be a jeep-load of photos and video footage of Harry with a pistol tucked into his flack jacket in really cool wrap-around sunglasses in a cool brown T-shirt and a backwards baseball cap chatting to “Terry Taleban“. but I noticed with some delight that Harry and Terry were never in the same frame; though HEI did tell the media that when Terry’s head “popped up”, HEI fired his trusty blunderbuss for a minute or too.

As an aside: Does anyone else feel slightly uncomfortable about this veiled reference to “Towel Heads” (Terry-toweling)?



When HEI wasn’t kissing Terry’s babies, or getting the footman to make HEI an icy Crack Baby back in the mess, HEI was cracking off some rounds of 50 calibre machine gun fire in the general direction of the native men-folk.

“Mix me another Crack Baby, Hughes.

This damn gunnery is hot work.”

Harry Hotpants on show during a secret attack

against Terry Taleban of Helmand Province.

As an aside:

Cue Monty Python music: “I fart in your general direction.” Did you notice HEI looked remarkably uncomfortable behind that gun, with the regimental SM leaning over his shoulder: “Put your balls into it you useless twat.” Not the right kind of show for a chap with the (purely ceremonial) rank of Coronet.



Is it just me, or did the whole thing seem slightly staged from the royal “get go”?

And why pick on New Idea, according to other media reports the story was also on the Drudge Report and on several European news websites.

The point is that the whole idea of an embargo is stupid and the media who were prepared to stick with an agreement to keep Sir Hotpants‘ deployment to Afghanistan secret were colluding in a restraint of trade and an ideological hoodwinking of their readers and viewers.

Buckingham Palace and the British government had a deal: Sir Hotpants‘ heroic (sic) stint in dusty Afghanistan would be revealed to a grateful public at a time of their own choosing; preferably when Harry was doing the horizontal Zorba with a suitably lubricated (with Crack Baby) Chelsea slapper and was safely out of the way.

Just to make sure the loyal tabloids didn’t miss a beat, or a shot, a royal battalion of tame paparazzo was billeted next to HEI to film his every move across the wide brown plains of Helmand province.

“Sir, would you mind pooing in this trench, sir. We can shoot your royal buttocks from a flattering angle over here, sir.”

“Make-up, more powder on the royal derriere please…and…action.”

“Oh sir, it’s true! Royal poo is blue, and sir, it smells divine, sir.”

You think I’m being funny? No? Well, yes and no. The Telegraph story on the breaking of the embargo contained this little gem:

As part of the deal between the media and the MoD, a small number of journalists went to Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan to report.

[British defence chief] Sir Richard said: “What the last two months have shown is that it is perfectly possible for Prince Harry to be employed just the same as other Army officers of his rank and experience.

Yes, just the same as any officer with rank of Coronet with fuc*all experience, except in drinking Crack Baby cocktails and senseless rutting.

Yes, just the same as every Coronet who needs a battalion of minders tagging along in a war zone.

Harry Hotpants was never in danger in Helmand Province. He’s safer there than in any Soho nightclub where he might drown in his 37th Crack Baby of that particular binge.

The whole thing was a stinking propaganda exercise designed to hit British hearts and minds with a “shock and awe” message bomb. The war is unpopular in Britain and this would have been a huge publicity coup.

I don’t much care who broke this story. If it was New Idea then good luck to them. According to The Telegraph in London, the story was in New Idea a month ago and no one picked it up then. In a statement issued on Feb 29, New Idea is quoted as saying:

“New Idea was not issued with a press embargo and was unaware of the existence of one…

The story was published on Monday, January 7. Since then New Idea has received no comment from the British Ministry of Defence.

We take these matters very seriously and would never knowingly break an embargo. We regret any issues the revelation of this story in America has caused today. “

Six weeks ago this story was mentioned in NW; now they’re getting blasted by the rest of the press. Actually, NW was probably dobbed in by Palace flacks as a way of giving the story a boost. How else could Sky TV and other networks have a special all ready to go with the shit-eating headline “Hero Harry Home At Last”. PUKE!

The British tabloids hate to be upstaged and for an Antipodean trash mag to do it is the height of colonial bastardry. For revenge, the tabbies have been falling over themselves to gush the mush about the heroic Harry Hotpants and sections of the quality press have been rubbing their noses in it:

Earlier yesterday even The Sun found itself saying: “There’s no doubt Harry has struggled with the pressures of Royalty. But Harry has found richer fulfilment serving with his mates than he ever found in the bottom of a Crack Baby cocktail.

“In place of the tipsy playboy, we saw a self-assured and mature man of action at ease with himself.”

The Daily Mirror said: “Harry, famous in the past for his partying, is a young man who has come of age, serving his Queen — his grandmother — and country with distinction…

The Daily Express said: “For Harry to serve his country in a combat zone will boost the morale of forces families everywhere. Britain can be extremely proud of its soldier Prince and so can the Royal Family.”

The story was heavily used around the world, and in the United States there was sometimes a little more comment added.

The New York Post said: “Looks like the Taliban is getting the royal treatment.” And it added: “The 23-year-old royal heir, once nicknamed ‘Dirty Harry’ by British tabloids for his hard-partying ways, has now been dubbed ‘Harry the Hero’ for his role in the war on terror.”

The real point is the sycophantic coverage by the hypocritical tabloids that’s vomited up on every news website since Sir Hotpants‘ glorious return to the country of his mother, his mother country that he hates.

As an aside:

Fuck you, Harry Hotpants; bloodsucking scion of inbred ingrates.

And to you sycophantic toadies of the tabloids:

Get a grip (or actually let go of your august organs and start thinking with your brains, not your assholes).

I’m with Peter Preston of The Observer on this shabby little story:

But phooey! Double phooey! There’s no point in criticising anyone involved in this deluded little charade, because everyone acted from perfectly comprehensible motives. Harry wanted a bit of proper soldiering. The MoD wanted a warm bath of publicity on its own terms. The press loves being praised for restraint, plus getting pool exclusives of ‘Hero Harry’ playing ‘keepyuppy‘ with a toilet roll shortly after ‘shedding tears for Chelsea’. But the difficulty is that this was always going to be a flaky deal, which lasted rather longer than you’d have bet at the start.

That’s right, a flaky deal designed to get some good publicity for the British military machine and for dumbass Gordon Brown.

A flaky deal aimed at the gullible audience (in MoD parlance) of New Idea readers who were told this remarkable and top secret news SIX WEEKS AGO, but didn’t see they’d been duped by those nasty editor-bitches.

Hey guess what, Terry Taleban (or at least his missus) must also not be reading NW. Terry and his brothers had six weeks to get to Harry Hotpants with a suicide bomb or a sniper yet the self-confessed “bullet magnet” made it home alive.

The power of the press HEI HEI HEI. It seems HEI actually blew it with his “I don’t like England” comments. I think the good folk of the Home Counties should whip the hat around to buy the idiot prince a ticket back to Helmand Province. Perhaps HEI and Terry Taleban could share a Crack Baby and get drunk enough to think they’d solved all the world’s problems. At least they’d be too pissed to shoot at each other.

And for those whingeing outlets who are now ganging up on New Idea, including stupid, inane and unethical gossip websites, such as Defamer.com, stop the crocodile tears. You would steal your granny’s nickers for the sake of a story.


Citizen Journalism at War

January 6, 2008

Citizen Journalism at War
Video sent by 18doughtystreet

Broadcast Journalist David Heathfield’s report investigating the impact of citizen journalism on war.