Category Archives: Australia

Keeping Your Refugees: Macron, Francafrique and Euro-African Relations

Ties between Europe and Africa have never been rosy.  A relationship based on predatory conquest and the exploitation of resources (slave flesh, minerals, and such assortments) is only ever going to lend itself to farce and display rather than sincerity.  The late Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, whose death must be placed squarely at the feet of the Franco-Anglo-American intervention in the Libyan conflict of 2011, typified the cruelly distorted relationship, a man who morphed from erratic, third way statesman of revolution to terrorist inspired “Mad Dog”; then to a modern, if cartoonish figure capable of rehabilitating a state from pariah to flattered guest.

A neat expression of Euro-African ties was captured in the 2007 Dakar address by then French President Nicolas Sarkozy.  Like the current French President Emmanuel Macron, Sarkozy wanted to make an impression on those in what had been formerly characterised as the Dark Continent.  The leaders of the Maghreb and West Africa had been led to believe that promise was wafting in the air, that France would have a grand update on its relationship with former colonies on the continent.  The system of Francafrique, larded with neo-colonial connotation, would be scrapped.  Sweet sensible equality would come to be.

An impression he did make, albeit in spectacularly negative, sizzling fashion.  “The tragedy of Africa is that the African has not fully entered into history… They have never really launched themselves into the future.”

Sarkozy’s speech seemed a cribbed version of texts produced at a time when European officials were falling over each in other in acquiring and renting portions of the continent.  But in 2007, a French leader could still be found speculating about the limited world view of African agrarianism, its peasantry cocooned from enlightenment.  “The African peasant only knew the eternal renewal of time, marked by the endless repetition of the same gestures and the same words.”  This, for the French President, was a “realm of fancy – there is neither room for human endeavour nor the idea of progress.”

The impact of the speech was such as to prompt Senegal’s foremost scribe Boubacar Boris Diop to suggest a cognitive confusion of some scale.  “Maybe he does not realise to what extent we felt insulted.”  Defences were offered in France, one coming from Jean-Marie Bockel.  The speech, he concluded, had one thread through it: “the future of Africa belongs firstly to the Africans.”

And so now, in 2018, where history has again become an issue, throwing up its human cargo of suffering from conflict, poverty and strong shades of neo-colonialism, France, fashioned as a European leader, again finds itself considering how to respond to relations with the southern continent.

For various African states, the signs are not good.  Historical condescension and the sneer seemingly persists.  Macron, in an effort to steady the refugee control effort in the European Union, has gone into full school teacher mode.  The EU, he has iterated, cannot take decisions on behalf of African states, though he does suggest that, “Helping Africa to succeed is good for Europe and France.”

African states also suffered from a distinct problem of fecundity: unplanned population growth threatened further northward migration.  Immigrant processing centres in North Africa designed to halt the flow into Europe’s south, he suggests, “can fly, just if some African governments decide to organise it”.

This is something Macron has been onto for a time, and it replicates a broader formula adopted by wealthier states to more impoverished ones.  No doubt eyeing such ghoulish experiments as Australia’s Pacific Solution, which shifts the burden of processing and assessing refugee claims to small, low-income Nauru and unstable Papua New Guinea, Macron suggested in 2017 that states such as Libya carry the can, a suggestion as absurd as it is venal.

In August that year, he ventured, with agreement from German, Spanish and Italian counterparts, to focus on the setting up of migrant processing centres in Libya, Chad and Niger.  These would involve European resources to help create and sustain them.  The gaping flaw of this suggestion, one carried over into the EU negotiations last week, ignores the shattered status of Libya, a state in all but name.

Such plans, in the assessment of Left MEP Malin Björk, were “tainted by structural racism towards the African population”. In the opinion of the Swedish MEP, “Europe has not right to criminalise mobility of movement especially not in third countries.”  Such views are coming across as marginally quaint in the hard nosed and distinctly inhumane line of EU politics.

The value of Macron’s schooling is also compounded by manifold problems on what Europe actually intends to do.  The EU-Turkey Joint Action Plan that came into force on March 20, 2016 was meant to be a holy of holies, stemming the flow of refugees into frontline Greece.  It came with the natural consequence of shifting the routes of movement towards the dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean.  Like aqueous matter, human flows will find a way.

Macron is only speaking for Europe in one respect: regaining control of borders and putting the refugee genie as far as possible back into the bottle.  Disagreement reigns over the method.  During negotiations in Brussels, EU leaders agreed, for instance, that “regional embarkation platforms” established outside the zone would be implemented to target the people-smuggling process.  In principle, it was also agreed that there would be secure migrant processing centres set up in EU countries.

On this point, member states remain deafeningly silent, though Macron has insisted on the traditional formula that states who first receive the migrants should have those centres. The current Italian government hardly sees the point of why; other EU states are more than fit to also conduct such processes.

As such squabbling to the richer North takes place, the impecunious South will simply continue to be a massive conduit of dangerous, often deadly travel.  This, along with Francafrique notions and various lacings of European suspicion towards African states, will continue with headstrong stubbornness.

Send in the Troops! Deploying the ADF against Rioters

Such moves should trouble any constructive dissenter and civil libertarian: the vesting of powers in a military force to be used against domestic disturbances.  While the United States has a troubled history with it, posse comitatus still remains something of a letter restricting the deployment of the US armed forces on the streets of the country’s cities. That doctrine has effectively seen an expansion of the FBI’s role to occupy what might have been seen in the past to be traditional military roles.

In Australia, no such reining in powers and impediments exist, though States have been hamstrung by the requirement of making a request to the Commonwealth to initiate military action in the event that their police forces lack the means to protect themselves or the Commonwealth’s interests.

This has left the prospect of enlarging the army’s role in civilian life disturbingly possible in times of perceived crisis.  Utterings since the 2014 Lind Café hostage taking by Man Haron Monis, absurdly described as a “siege” by the counter-terror fraternity, combined with other foreign terrorist incidents that call out powers be broadened have become regular.

Last week, the Australian Attorney-General Christian Porter, who occupies a position where this sort of thing shouldn’t happen, announced that members of the Australian Defence Force would be vested with “shoot to kill” powers to be used only in “reasonable and necessary” circumstances to protect life.

Porter’s arguments give the impression that such military operations will be governed by the protocols of good sense and reason, notwithstanding that the ADF is a killing rather than justice machine.  Matters of evidence matter less than those of expediency.

The use of force by the ADF in a battle situation off Australian soil in a war zone is somewhat different and this is a much higher and more stringent standard, and the same standard in effect the police have been operating under for many decades in our variety of jurisdictions.

The ADF will also be given pre-authorised power to respond to threats on land, at sea and in the air, and given expanded powers to search, seize and control movement at the scenes featuring terrorist incidents. This power would also apply to quelling riots.

Porter also uses the creaky argument that changing security environments have warranted the move. “The terror threat we face today,” he says tediously, “is greater and more complex than that we faced when these laws were introduced almost 20 years ago.”

Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin has felt besieged by a movement that can only be described as a militarisation of civil space.  Pressed for comparisons between the effectual nature of a police operation against terrorism last year with its military analogue, Colvin made the following observation:

Of course, [the military] are in a better position to deal with some situations than us.  But the concept that we aren’t trained or capable to deal with the domestic terrorism situations that we see, I think, needs to be challenged.

Specific interest here is focused on Part IIIAAA of the Defence Act 1903, covering the “Utilisation of Defence Force to protect the Commonwealth Interests and States and Self-governing Territories.” Porter’s aim was to ensure “that law enforcement agencies around Australia can easily request ADF assistance to respond to these threats where necessary and are available to states and territories to assist with major incidents, such as geographically dispersed or otherwise widespread, coordinated acts of violence of other domestic incidents that threaten the security and lives of Australians.”

But critics of encouraging military deployments in local counter-terrorist situations have been sharp enough to note that the Lindt operation, which resulted in three deaths including the hostage taker was, in Allan Orr’s words, “not the NSW Tactical Operations Unit (TOU), it was the competitive and jealous quarantining of tactical skills, resources and budget entitlements by the ADF that left the frontline TOU without the training and equipment it needed to do its job properly.”

Orr’s sensible appraisal has been put to one side by such individuals as Neil James of the Australia Defence Association, who takes the line of Australian exceptionalism and creativeness with the historical record.

The whole concept of this goes back centuries back in the days when they didn’t have police forces and governments used to call on the military to do things that the police do now.  All this is doing is putting in a statute was is a century-and-a-half of precedent.

This blotching of the historical record ignores the fundamental wisdom of separating the functions of police and the functions of defending the realm in an industrial society.  Muddling these merely serves to doom the security of citizens, rather than enhancing them.  Such is the danger of amalgamating, rather than dispersing, forces.

As with matters affecting liberty, the bungling nature of proto-authoritarianism is what spares it.  While the ADF might well have these new powers, police are still vested with the lion’s share of dealing with terrorism incidents. The powers in Canberra have also insisted that the military’s Tactical Assault Groups specialised in anti-terrorism activities can only be deployed nearer their bases in Sydney and Perth.  Changing legislation, for all the aspiration of the drafters, does not necessarily change operational realities.

Humanity’s “Dirty Little Secret”: Starving, Enslaving, Raping, Torturing and Killing our Children

In a recent article titled ‘Challenges for Resolving Complex Conflicts‘, I pointed out four conflict configurations that are paid little attention by conflict theorists.

In this article, I would like to discuss a fifth conflict configuration that is effectively ignored by conflict theorists (and virtually everyone else). This conflict is undoubtedly the most fundamental conflict in human society, because it generates all of the violence humans perpetrate and experience, and yet it is utterly invisible to almost everyone.

I have previously described this conflict as ‘the adult war on children’. It is indeed humanity’s ‘dirty little secret’.

Let me illustrate and explain the nature and extent of this secret war. And what we can do about it.

Every day, according to some estimates, human adults kill 50,000 of our children. The true figure is probably significantly higher. We kill children in wars. We kill them with drones. We kill them in our homes and on the street. We shoot them at school.

We also kill children in vast numbers by starving them to death, depriving them of clean drinking water, denying them medicines – or forcing them to live in a polluted environment, particularly in parts of Africa, Asia and Central/South America. Why? Because we use military violence to maintain an ‘economic’ system that allocates resources for military weapons, as well as corporate profits for the wealthy, instead of resources for living.

We also execute children in sacrificial killings after kidnapping them. We even breed children to sell as a ‘cash crop’ for sexual violation, child pornography (‘kiddie porn’) and the filming of ‘snuff’ movies (in which children are killed during the filming), torture and satanic sacrifice. And these are just some of the manifestations of the violence against children that have been happening for centuries or, in some cases, millennia. On these points, see the video evidence presented at the recent Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Human Trafficking and Child Sex Abuse organized by the International Tribunal for Natural Justice.

The opening statement by Chief Counsel Robert David Steele refers to an estimated eight million children trafficked annually – with 600,000-800,000 of these children (excluding both those bred within the USA without birth certificates and those imported without documentation) in the United States alone – and mentions such practices as ritual torture and ritual murder as well as training dogs to rape children and toddlers. He mentions the range of organizations involved from Oxfam and the Boy Scouts of America to ‘child-service’ agencies and police forces as well as various United Nations organizations, where pedophiles (those who prey on children) rise through the ranks to exercise enormous control. He also points out that many of the children bred or kidnapped into this system usually last about two years before dying (often after being raped several times each hour for some of that time) or being killed outright. He also mentions (with evidence provided in other video presentations) the forced removal of body organs from children of Falun Gong practitioners in China.

Steele, who is a former CIA operations officer, also points out that the 1,000 US military bases around the world are ‘not there for national defense; they are there to serve as lilypads for the smuggling of guns, gold, cash, drugs and small children’. The obvious and clear inference to be drawn from his statement is that the US military is heavily involved in child trafficking (as well as its well-known involvement in drug and weapons trafficking, for example), which means that vast numbers of US military personnel know about it too. And do nothing.

The compelling testimony at the Commission of Inquiry of survivor/perpetrator Ronald Bernard will give you a clear sense of the deep elite engagement (that is, the 8,000-8,500 ‘elite’ individuals running central banks, governments, secret service agencies, multinational corporations, terrorist organizations and churches) in the extraordinary violence inflicted on children, with children illegally trafficked internationally along with women, weapons, drugs, currencies, gold and wildlife.

In a particularly poignant series of moments during the interview, after he has revealed some of the staggering violence he suffered as a child at the hands of his father and the Church, Bernard specifically refers to the fact that the people engaged in these practices are terrified (and ‘serving the monster of greed’) and that, during his time as a financial entrepreneur, he was working with people who understood him as he understood them: individuals who were suffering enormously from the violence they had suffered as children themselves and who are now so full of hatred that they want to destroy life, human and otherwise. In short: they enjoy and celebrate killing people and destroying the Earth as a direct response to the violence they each suffered as a child.

There are more video testimonies by survivors, expert witnesses, research scholars in the field and others on the International Tribunal for Natural Justice website and if you want to read scholarly books documenting aspects of this staggering violence against children then see, for example, Childhunters: Requiem of a Child-killer and Epidemic: America’s Trade in Child Rape.

For further accounts of the systematic exploitation, rape, torture and murder of children over a lengthy period, which focuses on Canada’s indigenous peoples, Rev. Kevin Annett’s evocative report ‘Hidden from History: The Canadian Holocaust – The Untold Story of the Genocide of Aboriginal Peoples by Church and State in Canada’, and his books Unrelenting and Murder by Decree: The Crime of Genocide in Canada use eyewitness testimonies and archival documentation to provide ‘an uncensored record of the planned extermination of indigenous children in Canada’s murderous “Indian residential schools”’ from 1889 to 1996.

Apart from what happened in the Indian Residential Schools during this period, however, the books also offer extensive evidence documenting the ongoing perpetration of genocide, including child rape, torture and killing, against Canada’s indigenous peoples by its government, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Catholic, Anglican and United Churches since the 19th century. Sadly, there is plenty more in Kevin’s various books and on the website of the International Tribunal into Crimes of Church and State which also explain the long-standing involvement of the Vatican in these genocidal crimes against children.

Of course, Canada is not alone in its unrelenting violence against indigenous children (and indigenous peoples generally). The United States and Australia, among many others, also have long records of savagery in destroying the lives of indigenous children, fundamentally by taking their land and destroying their culture, traditional livelihoods and spirituality. And when indigenous people do not simply abandon their traditional way of being and adopt the dominant model, they are blamed and persecuted even more savagely, as the record clearly demonstrates.

Moreover, institutional violence against children is not limited to the contexts and settings mentioned above. In the recently conducted Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse undertaken in Australia, childcare services, schools, health and allied services, youth detention, residential care and contemporary out-of-home services, religious activities, family and youth support services, supported accommodation, sporting, recreational and club activities, youth employment, and the military forces were all identified as providing contexts for perpetrating violence against children.

Over half of the survivors suffered sexual violation in an institution managed by a religious organization such as places of worship and for religious instruction, missions, religious schools, orphanages, residential homes, recreational clubs, youth groups, and welfare services. Another one-third of survivors suffered the violence in an institution under government management such as a school, an out-of-home care service, a youth detention centre or at a health service centre. The remaining 10% suffered violence in a private organization such as a child care centre, a medical practice or clinic, a music or dance school, an independent school, a yoga ashram or a sports club, a non-government or not-for-profit organization.

Needless to say, the failure to respond to any of this violence for the past century by any of the institutions ‘responsible’ for monitoring, oversight and criminal justice, such as the police, law enforcement and agencies responsible for public prosecution, clearly demonstrates that mechanisms theoretically designed to protect children (and adults) do not function when those same institutions are complicit in the violence and are, in any case, designed to defend elite interests (not ‘ordinary’ people and children). Hence, of course, this issue was not even investigated by the Commission because it was excluded from the terms of reference!

Separately from those children we kill or violate every day in the ways briefly described above, we traffic many others into sexual slavery – such as those trafficked (sometimes by their parents) into prostitution to service the sex tourism industry in countries such as Thailand, Cambodia, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines and India – we kidnap others to terrorize them into becoming child soldiers with 46 countries using them according to Child Soldiers International, we force others to work as slave laborers, in horrific conditions, in fields, factories and mines (and buy the cheap products of their exploited labor as our latest ‘bargain’) with Human Rights Watch reporting over 70,000,000 children, including many who aren’t even, technically-speaking, slaves, working in ‘hazardous conditions’ – and we condemn millions to live in poverty, homelessness and misery because national governments, despite rhetoric to the contrary, place either negligible or no value on children apart from, in some cases, as future wage slaves in the workforce.

We also condemn millions of children, such as those in Palestine, Tibet, Western Sahara and West Papua, to live under military occupation, where many are routinely imprisoned, shot or killed.

In addition, while fighting wars we cause many children to be born with grotesque genetic deformities because we use horrific weapons, like those with depleted uranium, on their parents.

In other cases, we cause children shockingly debilitating injuries, if they are not killed outright, by using conventional, biological and chemical weapons on them directly.

But war also destroys housing and other infrastructure forcing millions of children to become internally displaced or refugees in another country (often without a living parent), causing ongoing trauma. Worldwide, one child out of every 200 is a refugee, whether through war or poverty, environmental or climate disruption.

We also inflict violence on children in many other forms, ranging from ‘ordinary’ domestic violence to genital mutilation, with UNICEF calculating that 200 million girls and young women in 30 countries on three continents have been mutilated.

And we deny children a free choice (even those who supposedly live in a ‘democracy’) and imprison vast numbers of them in school in the delusional belief that this is good for them. Whatever other damage that school does, it certainly helps to create the next generation of child-destroyers. And, in many countries, we just imprison children in our jails. After all, the legal system is no more than an elite tool to control ‘ordinary’ people while shielding the elite from accountability for their grotesque violence against us all.

While almost trivial by comparison with the violence identified above, the perversity of many multinational corporations in destroying our children’s health is graphically illustrated in the film Global Junk Food. In Europe, food manufacturers have signed up to ‘responsibility pledges’, promising not to add sugar, preservatives, artificial colours or flavours to their products and to not target children.

However, the developing world is not in Europe so these ‘responsibility pledges’ obviously do not apply and corporations such as Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Domino’s Pizza sell their junk food in developing countries (with the video above showcasing Brazil and India) loaded with excess oil, salt and sugar and even using fake cheese.

The well-documented report reveals corporations like these to be nothing more than drug dealers, selling toxic food to ill-informed victims that deliver a lifetime of diabetes and obesity to huge numbers of children. So, just as weapons corporations derive their profits from killing children (and adults), junk food corporations derive their profits from destroying the health of children (and adults). Of course, the medical industry, rather than campaigning vigorously against this outrage, prefers to profit from it too by offering ‘treatments’, including the surgical removal of fat, which offer nothing more than temporary but very profitable ‘relief’.

But this is far from representing the only active involvement of the medical industry in the extraordinary violence we inflict on children. For example, western children and many others are rarely spared a plethora of vaccinations which systematically destroy a child’s immune system, thus making their health ongoingly vulnerable to later assaults on their well-being.

And before we leave the subject of food too far behind, it should be noted that just because the junk food sold in Europe and some other western countries has less fat, salt, sugar, preservatives and artificial colors and flavours in it, this does not mean that it is healthy. It still has various combinations of added fat, salt, sugar, preservatives and artificial colors and flavours in it.

Separately from this: don’t forget that virtually all parents are systematically poisoning their children by feeding them food grown by the corporate agribusiness giants which is heavily depleted of nutrients and laced with poisons such as glyphosate. Of course, in many countries we are also forcing our children to drink fluoridated water to the detriment of their health too.

Obviously, organically/biodynamically grown food, healthily prepared, and unfluoridated water are not health priorities for their children, according to most parents.

As our ultimate act of violence against all children, we are destroying their future.

So how do we do all of this?

Very easily, actually. It works like this.

Perpetrators of violence learn their craft in childhood. If you inflict violence on a child, they learn to inflict violence on others. The child rapist and ritual child killer suffered violence as a child. The terrorist suffered violence as a child. The political leader who wages war suffered violence as a child. The man who inflicts violence on women suffered violence as a child. The corporate executive who exploits working class people and/or those who live in Africa, Asia or Central/South America suffered violence as a child. The racist and religious bigot suffered violence as a child. The soldier who kills in war suffered violence as a child. The individual who perpetrates violence in the home, in the schoolyard or on the street suffered violence as a child. The parent who inflicts violence on their own children suffered violence as a child.

So if we want to end violence, exploitation, ecological destruction and war, then we must finally admit our ‘dirty little secret’ and end our longest and greatest war: the adult war on children. And here is an incentive: if we do not tackle the fundamental cause of violence, then our combined and unrelenting efforts to tackle all of its other symptoms must ultimately fail. And extinction at our own hand is inevitable.

How can I claim that violence against children is the fundamental cause of all other violence? Consider this. There is universal acceptance that behavior is shaped by childhood experience. If it was not, we would not put such effort into education and other efforts to ‘socialize’ children to fit into society. And this is why many psychologists have argued that exposure to war toys and violent video games shapes attitudes and behaviors in relation to violence.

But it is far more complex than these trivialities suggest and, strange though it may seem, it is not just the ‘visible’ violence (such as hitting, screaming at and sexually abusing) that we normally label ‘violence’ that causes the main damage, although this is extremely damaging. The largest component of damage arises from the ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ violence that we adults unconsciously inflict on children during the ordinary course of the day. Tragically, the bulk of this violence occurs in the family home and at school.

So what is ‘invisible’ violence? It is the ‘little things’ we do every day, partly because we are just ‘too busy’. For example, when we do not allow time to listen to, and value, a child’s thoughts and feelings, the child learns to not listen to themSelf thus destroying their internal communication system. When we do not let a child say what they want (or ignore them when they do), the child develops communication and behavioral dysfunctionalities as they keep trying to meet their own needs (which, as a basic survival strategy, they are genetically programmed to do).

When we blame, condemn, insult, mock, embarrass, shame, humiliate, taunt, goad, guilt-trip, deceive, lie to, bribe, blackmail, moralize with and/or judge a child, we both undermine their sense of Self-worth and teach them to blame, condemn, insult, mock, embarrass, shame, humiliate, taunt, goad, guilt-trip, deceive, lie, bribe, blackmail, moralize and/or judge.

The fundamental outcome of being bombarded throughout their childhood by this ‘invisible’ violence is that the child is utterly overwhelmed by feelings of fear, pain, anger and sadness (among many others). However, mothers, fathers, teachers, religious figures and other adults also actively interfere with the expression of these feelings and the behavioral responses that are naturally generated by them and it is this ‘utterly invisible’ violence that explains why the dysfunctional behavioral outcomes actually occur.

For example, by ignoring a child when they express their feelings, by comforting, reassuring or distracting a child when they express their feelings, by laughing at or ridiculing their feelings, by terrorizing a child into not expressing their feelings (e.g. by screaming at them when they cry or get angry), and/or by violently controlling a behavior that is generated by their feelings (e.g. by hitting them, restraining them or locking them into a room), the child has no choice but to unconsciously suppress their awareness of these feelings.

However, once a child has been terrorized into suppressing their awareness of their feelings (rather than being allowed to have their feelings and to act on them) the child has also unconsciously suppressed their awareness of the reality that caused these feelings. This has many outcomes that are disastrous for the individual, for society and for nature because the individual will now easily suppress their awareness of the feelings that would tell them how to act most functionally in any given circumstance and they will progressively acquire a phenomenal variety of dysfunctional behaviors, including some that are violent towards themself, others and/or the Earth.

From the above, it should also now be apparent that punishment should never be used. ‘Punishment’, of course, is one of the words we use to obscure our awareness of the fact that we are using violence. Violence, even when we label it ‘punishment’, scares children and adults alike and cannot elicit a functional behavioural response.

If someone behaves dysfunctionally, they need to be listened to, deeply, so that they can start to become consciously aware of the feelings (which will always include fear and, often, terror) that drove the dysfunctional behavior in the first place. They then need to feel and express these feelings (including any anger) in a safe way. Only then will behavioral change in the direction of functionality be possible.

‘But these adult behaviors you have described don’t seem that bad. Can the outcome be as disastrous as you claim?’ you might ask. The problem is that there are hundreds of these ‘ordinary’, everyday behaviors that destroy the Selfhood of the child. It is ‘death by a thousand cuts’ and most children simply do not survive as Self-aware individuals. And why do we do this? We do it so that each child will fit into our model of ‘the perfect citizen’: that is, obedient and hardworking student, reliable and pliant employee/soldier, and submissive law-abiding citizen. In other words: a slave.

Of course, once we destroy the Selfhood of a child, it has many flow-on effects. For example, once you terrorize a child into accepting certain information about themself, other people or the state of the world, the child becomes unconsciously fearful of dealing with new information, especially if this information is contradictory to what they have been terrorized into believing. As a result, the child will unconsciously dismiss new information out of hand.

In short, the child has been terrorized in such a way that they are no longer capable of thinking critically or even learning (or their learning capacity is seriously diminished by excluding any information that is not a simple extension of what they already ‘know’). If you imagine any of the bigots you know, you are imagining someone who is utterly terrified. But it’s not just the bigots; virtually all people are affected in this manner making them incapable of responding adequately to new (or even important) information. This is one explanation why many people are ‘climate deniers’ and most others do nothing in response to the climate catastrophe.

Of course, each person’s experience of violence during childhood is unique and this is why each perpetrator becomes violent in their own particular combination of ways.

But if you want to understand the core psychology of all perpetrators of violence, it is important to understand that, as a result of the extraordinary violence they each suffered during childhood, they are now (unconsciously) utterly terrified, full of self-hatred and personally powerless, among another 20 psychological characteristics. You can read a brief outline of these characteristics and how they are acquired on pages 12-16 of Why Violence?

As should now be clear, the central point in understanding violence is that it is psychological in origin and hence any effective response must enable both the perpetrator’s and the victim’s suppressed feelings (which will include enormous fear about, and rage at, the violence they have suffered) to be safely expressed.

Unfortunately, this nisteling cannot be provided by a psychiatrist or psychologist whose training is based on a delusionary understanding of how the human mind functions. Nisteling will enable those who have suffered from psychological trauma to heal fully and completely, but it will take time.

So if we want to end violence (including the starvation, trafficking, rape, torture and killing of children), exploitation, ecological destruction and war, then we must tackle the fundamental cause. Primarily, this means giving everyone, child and adult alike, all of the space they need to feel, deeply, what they want to do, and to then let them do it (or to have the feelings they naturally have if they are prevented from doing so). In the short term, this will have some dysfunctional outcomes. But it will lead to an infinitely better overall outcome than the system of emotional suppression, control and punishment which has generated the incredibly violent world in which we now find ourselves.

This all sounds pretty unpalatable, doesn’t it? So each of us has a choice. We can suppress our awareness of what is unpalatable, as we have been terrorized into doing as a child, or we can feel the various feelings that we have in response to this information and then ponder (personal and collective) ways forward.

If feelings are felt and expressed then our responses can be shaped by the conscious and integrated functioning of thoughts and feelings, as evolution intended, and we can plan intelligently. The alternative is to have our unconscious fear controlling our thinking and deluding us that we are acting rationally.

It is time to end the most fundamental conflict that is destroying human society from within – the adult war on children – so that we can more effectively tackle all of the other violence that emerges from this cause too.

So what do we do?

Let me briefly reiterate.

If you are willing, you can make the commitment outlined in ‘My Promise to Children‘. If you need to do some healing of your own to be able to nurture children in this way, then consider the information provided in the article ‘Putting Feelings First‘.

In addition, you are also welcome to consider participating in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth‘ which maps out a fifteen-year strategy for creating a peaceful, just and sustainable world community so that all children (and everyone else) has an ecologically viable planet on which to live.

You might also consider supporting or even working with organizations like Destiny Rescue, which works to rescue children trafficked into prostitution, or any of the many advocacy organizations associated with the network of End Child Prostitution and Trafficking.

But for the plethora of other manifestations of violence against children identified above, you might consider using Gandhian nonviolent strategy in any context of particular concern to you. See Nonviolent Campaign Strategy or Nonviolent Defense/Liberation Strategy. And, if you like, you can join the worldwide movement to end all violence by signing online ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World‘.

In summary: Each one of us has an important choice. We can acknowledge the painful truth that we inflict enormous violence on our children (which then manifests in myriad complex ways) and respond powerfully to that truth. Or we can keep deluding ourselves and continue to observe, powerlessly, as the violence in our world proliferates until human beings are extinct.

If you want a child who is nonviolent, truthful, compassionate, considerate, patient, thoughtful, respectful, generous, loving of themself and others, trustworthy, honest, dignified, determined, courageous, powerful and who lives out their own unique destiny, then the child must be treated with – and experience – nonviolence, truth, compassion, consideration, patience, thoughtfulness, respect, generosity, love, trust, honesty, dignity, determination, courage, power and, ideally, live in a world that prioritizes nurturing the unique destiny of each child.

Alternatively, if you want a child to turn out like the perpetrators of violence described above, to be powerless to respond effectively to the crises in our world, or to even just turn out to be an appalling parent, then inflict violence – visible, ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ – on them during their childhood.

Tragically, with only the rarest of exceptions, human adults are too terrified to truly love, nurture and defend our children from the avalanche of violence that is unleashed on them at the moment of birth.

Evading Medical Care: Australia’s Refugee Arrangements with Taiwan

It is a credit to the venality of Australia’s refugee policy that much time is spent on letting others do what that particular country ought to be doing.  For a state so obsessed with the idea of a “rule-based order”, breaking those rules comes naturally – all in the national interest, of course.

Canberra’s policy makers, since the 1990s, have been earning their morally tainted fare evading international law with an insistence bordering on the pathological.  The reasons for doing so have been cruel and vapid: target the market of people smuggling by moving it to other regions; harden the Australian electorate against dissolute “queue jumpers” who don’t know their place in the international refugee system; and speak to the idea of saving people who would otherwise drown.

In a tradition reminiscent of secret treaties, clandestine compacts underhand arrangements, Australia has done well for itself. The Turnbull government, spear-tipped by the one-dimensional former policeman Peter Dutton of the Home Affairs Department, has shown itself to be obsessed with the clandestine when it comes to dealing with asylum seekers and refugees.  Its invidious sea operation, termed Operation Sovereign Borders, continues to deter refugee-carrying boats approaching Australia.  Last month, it took the revelations of a Taiwanese official to The Guardian to show that Australia had forged a deal with Taiwan on treating some of the most dire medical conditions afflicting refugees on Nauru.

The memorandum of understanding was made with Taipei in September last year. Since then, some five refugees have been flown to the state – some 5,500 kilometres – to receive treatment.  “The government has been clear,” came the cold, unchanging line from a spokeswoman for the Department of Home Affairs, “that people subject to regional processing arrangements will not be settled in Australia.”

The punitive dimension here has been stressed.  Medical transfer would not be used as “a pathway to settlement in Australia”.  Besides, Taiwan’s medical system was more than adequate, being “consistently ranked as having some of the best hospitals and medical technology in the world”.

There is an element of the police state grotesque about this, a whiff of the tyrant in search of satisfying a sadistic whim.  Those who have found their way to treatment in Taiwan have been in particularly acute medical distress.  There have been questions about incomplete understanding on the part of patients, and problems with informed consent.  But such vulnerability is not one to prompt Australia’s officials to well up.  No excuse will be accepted in permitting resettlement in Australia.

Such conduct continues to rattle human rights advocates who continue skirmishing with the Home Affairs department.  Refugee lawyer David Manne sums up the issue.

The fundamental concern must be the person’s need for medical treatment.  Once again, we see the absurd spectacle of the Australian government searching the globe to hive off its basic obligations… to properly care for people subject to its policies which inflict such devastating harm.

To that end, such individuals as an Iranian woman in need of critical heart surgery was sent to Taiwan to be treated, after which she was returned to Nauru.  (This resembles, in part, the ailing person awaiting execution treated to ensure his good health on being hanged.)  A 63-year-old Afghan man has been offered a similar option in terms of treating his lung cancer, but has been eminently sensible, and damned for that reason, for wanting to go to Australia.

The scrap over outsourcing medical care to third countries, and not merely the processing and housing of refugees, has also received attention in the Australian Federal Court.  Lawyers from the National Justice Project this month won a bid to prevent a 30-year-old Somali woman from being sent to Taiwan.  The lady in question had been a victim of female genital mutilation, and was seeking an abortion.

Expert evidence was given that the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne, or the Westmead Hospital in Sydney, would be appropriate venues to treat victims of infibulation.  The Taiwan Adventist Hospital, it was suggested, would not be up to scratch to supply either the medical expertise or the psychological ballast for the patient. Taiwanese physician Dr Sheng Chiang told the court that experience in performing pregnancy terminations on women with female genital mutilation was conspicuously absent in Taiwan.

In Justice Alan Robertson’s words, “infibulation carries significant emotional and psychological implications and those aspects of care need to be expertly managed.”  Risks also came with later terminations, becoming “increasingly complex and dangerous”.

As for Taiwan’s side of the bargain, Shyang-yun Cheng, deputy representative of the Taipei Representative Office in the UK, has written glowingly about Taiwan’s commitment “to cooperating with like-minded countries to provide high-quality medical support and humanitarian assistance.”  Encouraging, indeed, if for the obvious point that is permits Australia to evade its obligations while showing Taipei to be a good international citizen.

It is about time that Australia withdraws from the Refugee Convention and cognate documents protecting refugees and asylum seekers.  In making arrangements with Taiwan, a non-signatory to the Refugee Convention, the point is clear enough.  At the very least, it would be an honest admission that the legal order of the time is up for dissolution and repudiation.  While US President Donald Trump scours the world for deals to abolish and arrangements to upend, Australia can be looked upon as a prime example of disruption in a field that is now crowded with contenders from the United States to Hungary.  A disturbing accolade indeed.

The Catholic Church in Resistance

The tradition is represented as noble, the confiding link between confessor and penitent, a bridge never to be broken, even under pain of death.  Taken that way, the confessional is brandished as the Catholic Church’s great weapon against the wiles and predations of secular power.  The State shall have no say where the priest’s confidence is concerned, for all may go to him to seek amends.  “The sacramental seal,” goes the relevant code of canon law, “is inviolable; therefore it is absolutely forbidden for the confessor to betray in any way a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason.”

Those points certainly have merits, even if these seem a touch faded after the sex abuse imbroglio the Church has found itself in.  Confession, which functions as a barometric reading of Catholic guilt, has developed its own succour and relish, an ecosystem of ritual and understanding resistant to the prying of the criminal law.  Not merely does its ironclad protection provide a dispensation from the laws of the land in certain troubling cases; the confession, in effect, serves as an economy of ordered guilt, reassurance for the next binge of sin. To remove it, or at the very least heavily qualify it, would be an unsettling challenge to a distinct Weltanschauung.

The process effectively permits all – including erring priests – to engage the process from either side of the grille. Historically, the process also imperilled children.  Pope Pius X, in decreeing in 1910 that confession should commence at the tender age of seven, permitted an army of celibates access to vulnerable, and in certain instances titillating flesh.

Legislators troubled by the enduring force and fascination with the seal of the confessional have gotten busy, most notably in Australia.  This was prompted, in no small part, by the findings and recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. “We are satisfied,” went the Australian report, “that confession is a forum where Catholic children have disclosed their sexual abuse and where clergy have disclosed their abusive behaviour in order to deal with their own guilt.”

One recommendation specifies that institutions “which have a religious confession for children should implement a policy that requires the rite only to be conducted in an open space within the clear line of sight of another adult.” But the members of the Royal Commission went beyond the spatial logistics of the confessional.  Institutional jolting was required.

Each state and territory government, argued Commission members, should pass legislation creating “a criminal offence of failure to report targeted at child sexual abuse in an institutional context”.  This, it was suggested, would extend to “knowledge gained or suspicions that are or should have been formed, in whole or in part, on the basis of information disclosed in or in connection with a religious confession.”  The law would also exclude existing excuses, protections or privileges.

Despite treading delicately, such recommendations were not merely matters for demurral by the Church, but considerations to be sneered at from the summit of spiritual snobbery.  President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart reduced the matter to one of neat sophistry veiled by religious freedom.  “Confession in the Catholic Church,” he reasoned in August last year, “is a spiritual encounter with God through the priest” being “a fundamental part of the freedom of religion”.

Hart’s protestations did not go heeded in the South Australian legislature, making it the first in Australia to legally oblige priests to report confessions of child abuse from October 1.  Omitting to do so will result in a fine of $10,000.  Bishop of Port Pirie and acting Adelaide Archbishop Greg O’Kelly, much in Hart’s vein, saw the move as having “much wider implications for the Catholic Church and the practice of the faith.” Such comments could only come across as archaic and insensitive, given the conviction of his predecessor, Archbishop Philip Wilson, for concealing child sex abuse.

More to the point, the remarks by Bishop O’Kelly are brazenly selfish, permitting the priest an all-exclusive gold card for reasons of amendment, “that the penitent actually is sincere about wanting forgiveness, is sincere about wanting reparation”.  The conspicuous absentee here is the victim, always abstracted, if not totally hidden, by matters of the spirit.

While accounts such as John Cornwell’s, whose stingingly personal The Dark Box makes the sensible point that abolishing the confession and its lusty pull would essentially address the problem, the Church is already finding fewer penitents.  In a sense, it is already losing the appeal, the allure, and even the danger, of the confessional.  Musty physical convention has given way to digital releases and outpouring.  Social media, crowned by the confessional fetish that is Facebook, takes the disturbed soul and expresses it to the globe.

From the vacuity of the Kardashian phenomenon to the newly enlisted grandparent keen to reflect on banal deeds, these platforms have stolen an irresistible march on those in the land of Catholicity.  Such confessions of sin or achievement – the distinctions are not always clear – have become the preserve of Mark Zuckerberg and his technicians, rather than a local priest desperate to remain relevant. But that age old resistance against the laws of the civic secular domain remains the Church of Rome’s stubborn, practised specialty. The elusive spirit, in dialogue with an unverified Sky God, continues to be its invaluable alibi for crimes of the flesh.

Dark Precedents: Matteo Salvini, the MV Tampa and Refugees

In August 2001, Australia’s dour Prime Minister John Howard demonstrated to the world what his country’s elite soldiers could do. Desperate, close to starvation and having been rescued at sea from the Palapa I in the Indian Ocean, refugees and asylum seekers on the Norwegian vessel, the MV Tampa, were greeted by the “crack” troops of the Special Air Services.

A bitter, politicised standoff ensued.  The Norwegian vessel had initially made its way to the Indonesian port of Merak, but then turned towards the Australian territory of Christmas Island.  Howard, being the political animal he was, had to concoct a crisis to distract.  The politics of fear had a better convertibility rate than the politics of hope.

Australian authorities rebuked and threatened the container ship’s captain, claiming that if Rinnan refused to change course from entering Australia’s territorial sea, he would be liable to prosecution for people smuggling.  The vessel was refused docking at Christmas Island.  As was remarked a few years later by Mary Crock in the Pacific Rim Law and Policy Journal, “The stand taken by Australia in August 2001 set a precedent that, if followed by other refugee receiving countries, could only worsen the already deplorable problems facing asylum seekers in the world today.”

And so it has transpired. Italy’s response to the migrant rescue ship, MV Aquarius, eerily evoked the Tampa and its captain’s plight.  The charity ship, carrying some 629 African refugees, found all Italian ports closed to it under the express orders of Matteo Salvini, who has debuted in stormy fashion as Italy’s new deputy prime minister and minister for the interior.

Salvini had, at first instance, pressed Malta to accept the human cargo, but only got an offer of assistance with air evacuations.  “The good God,” he bitterly surmised, “put Malta closer to Africa than Sicily.”  The result was initial diplomatic inertia, followed by growing humanitarian crisis, and a Spanish offer to accept the vessel.

The situation clearly, as it did in the case of the Tampa, was calculated for maximum political bruising.  One of Salvini’s many political hats is federal secretary of the populist Lega party, which capitalised, along with the Five Star Movement, on the shambles of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s failure to form a government in May.  The nature of that calculation was made clearer by the uneventful rescue of 937 refugees off the Libyan coast who were taken to Catania in Sicily by the Italian warship, the Diciotti on Tuesday. Little fuss arose from that engagement.

The target seemed to be the French-based non-governmental organisation SOS Méditerranée, who so happens to own the Aquarius.  The implication here is the Salvini camp are none too pleased with those rescue organisations they accuse of feeding a people smuggling racket.

Again, this very sentiment accords with Australia’s manic obsession in breaking what is termed by all major parties to be a “market model” that ignores humanity for profit.  In categorising such activity with an accountant’s sensibility, it becomes easier to dispose of the human subjects in a more cavalier manner.

The sentiments expressed by the newly emboldened Italian authorities do not merely speak volumes to a change of heart which, given the boatloads of irregular arrivals in the wake of Libya’s collapse in 2011, was bound to happen.  They point to a disintegration of a common front regarding the rescue and processing of asylum seekers and refugees, a general fracturing of the European approach to a problem that has been all too disparate in responses.

Over the last few years, the number of arrivals fell but this has been occasioned by patchwork interventions by such countries as Greece, which has in its place a questionable agreement with Ankara to keep a lid on arrivals from Syria. Italy has much the same with Libya, courtesy of a 2017 memorandum of understanding hammered out by Marco Minniti ostensibly in the field of security and cooperation to stem illegal immigration.  Salvini lay, in due course, in not-so-quiet incubation, becoming a vocal representative of a front suspicious of intentions in Brussels and northern European states.

Righteous France, fuming at Italy’s conduct, has done its bit to keep pathways to its territory with Italy shut.  Ditto Austria.  Other states such as Spain and Malta have preferred indifference, leading to the assertion by Salvini that his country has become the “refugee camp of Europe”.

For the interior minister, the Australian “stop the boats” mantra is something like a godsend, a note of clarity in the humanitarian murkiness.  He has also admired the firm-fisted approach of Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, who supplied Salvini with ample electoral ammunition on the refugee crisis in Europe, not to mention those bleeding, yet stingy hearts in Brussels.

The Tampa platform has become something of an inspiration to a range of European politicians, be it Germany’s Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer, and Austria’s Sebastian Kurz, not to mention Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia.  They form a collective of hardening irritables who are taking the issue of regulating refugees away from the centralised assumptions of the EU polity.

The Italian government’s plans on the issue of irregular migration refocus interest in evaluating asylum applications in countries of origin or transit, stemming migrant flows at external borders, targeting international trafficking utilising the assistance of other EU states, and establishing (Australian politicians would delight in this) detention centres in all of Italy’s 20 regions. The standout feature here is abolishing the Dublin Regulation obliging countries on the border of the EU – and in this, Italy is most prone – to host arrivals.

Had the warnings and urgings of the previous Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni been heeded, notably on the sharing of the housing and processing burdens across other countries, the spectacle of a rebuffed Aquarius may well have been averted.  EU complicity in this debacle is unquestionable and it is not merely refugees who need rescuing, but the European Project itself, which will require a Good Samaritan to storm in with vision and purpose.  To save one may well save the other.

Pushing Huawei Out: Australia, the Solomon Islands and the Internet

Be wary of the Chinese technological behemoth, goes the current cry from many circles in Australia’s parliament.  Cybersecurity issues are at stake, and the eyes of Beijing are getting beadier by the day.

The seedy involvement of Australia in the Solomon Islands, ostensibly to block the influence of a Chinese company’s investment venture, is simply testament to the old issues surrounding empire: If your interests are threatened, you are bound to flex some muscle, snort a bit, and, provided its not too costly, get your way.  Not that Canberra’s muscle is necessarily taut or formidable in any way.

The inspiration behind Canberra’s intervention was an initial contract between Huawei and the Solomon Islands involving the Chinese giant in a major role building the high-speed telecommunications cable between Sydney and Honiara. Even more disconcerting might be the prospects that it would work, supplying a cable that would enable the Chinese to peer into the Australia’s own fallible network.

What made this particular flexing odd was the spectacle of an Australian prime minister congratulating himself in securing tax payer funding for the building of a 4,000 kilometre internet cable even as the domestic National Broadband Network stutters and groans.  Another juicy point is that Huawei was banned from applying for tendering for the NBN in 2012.

As the world’s second largest maker of telecommunications equipment was told, “there is no role for Huawei in Australia’s NBN”. The then Attorney-General Nicola Roxon explained that the move was “consistent with the government’s practice for ensuring the security and resilience of Australia’s critical infrastructure more broadly.”  Better an incompetent local provider of appropriate “values” than a reliable foreign entity.

The move against Huawei has largely centered on fears voiced by the intelligence community in various states that Beijing might be getting a number up on their competitors.  In February this year, the FBI Director Chris Wray expressed the US government’s concern “about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don’t share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks.”  Doing so would enable them to “maliciously modify or steal information” and provide “the capacity to conduct undetected espionage.”

Such comments tend to suggest envy; the US intelligence community chiefs know all too well that they, not a foreign entity, should have the means to conduct their own variant of undetected espionage on the citizens of the Republic, not to mention the globe.

The concerns fomented by Huawei’s alleged profile are such to have featured in the telecommunications sector security reforms pushed by the Turnbull government.  When they come into effect in September, they would permit the government “to provide risk advice to mobile network operators or the relevant minister to issue a direction.”

Labor backbencher Michael Danby has also pushed the line that Huawei is materially compromised by its links to the Chinese Communist Party, a point that only becomes relevant because of its expertise in technology infrastructure.  By all means allow Chinese companies to “build a fruit and vegetable exporting empire in the Ord and Fitzroy River” but be wary of the electronic backdoor.

“On matters like the electronic spine of Australia, the new 5G network which will control the internet of things – automatically driven cars, lifts, medical technology – I don’t think it’s appropriate to sell or allow a company like Huawei to participate.”

Certain figures backing Australian intervention can be found, though they tend to take line of ignoble Chinese business instincts.  Robert Iroga of the Solomon Islands Business Magazine noted that no public tender was made, with Huawei getting “the right… this is where the big questions of governance comes.”

Ruth Liloqula of Transparency Solomon Islands spoke of “paying under the table to make sure that their applications and other things are top of the pile.”  None of these actions, however, are above the conduct of Australia’s own officials, who tend to assume that matters of purity seem to coincide with those of self-interest.

The message from Canberra has fallen on appropriate ears.  Penny Williams, Canberra’s Deputy Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, told her counterparts in the Solomons that a study had been commissioned on the undersea cable project.  Miracle of miracles, it “found a number of solutions that would provide Solomon Islands with a high speed internet connection from Australia at a competitive price.”

DFAT’s head of the Undersea Cable Task Force Pablo Kang also had the necessary sweeteners for his target audience; the project, appropriately managed by Australia, would be cheaper than the Huawei alternative.

It will be a delightfully grotesque irony should the Internet speed on the Solomons be quicker than their Australian counterparts, who specialise in lagging behind other countries.  In May, the Speedtest Global Index, which provides monthly rankings of mobile and fixed broadband speeds across the globe, found Australia languishing at an inglorious 56 on the ladder.  (A relatively impoverished Romania comes in at an impressively kicking number 5.)  Should that happen, the political establishment in Honiara will feel they have gotten the steal of the decade.

Elite Atrocities: Australia’s Special Forces in Afghanistan

Further into the Afghanistan mission, after multiple deployments, soldiers began to refer to members going ‘up the Congo’.

— Chris Masters, The Sydney Morning Herald, June 9, 2018

They operate with impunity in areas already deemed lawless by their civilising superiors.  Afghanistan, derided as a country of anarchic sensibilities, was never going to be a place for those abiding by armchair rules. Whether it was the Soviet army engaged in strafing operations indifferent to combatant and civilian, or those subsequent intruders of the Global War on Terror – the forces of the US-led International Security Assistance Force and associated allies – the complement of atrocities was only set to grow.

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, has had an eye on Afghanistan for some time for that very reason. In 2016, she claimed in a report that, “Members of US armed forces appear to have subjected at least 61 detained persons to torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity on the territory of Afghanistan between 1 May 2003 and 31 December 2014.”

The Central Intelligence Agency was not to be left out sulking on the side, with Bensouda suggesting that 27 detainees in Afghanistan, Poland, Romania and Lithuania had been subjected to “torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity and/or rape” between December 2002 and March 2008. A true smorgasbord of violence.

In November 2017, Bensouda concluded, after a seemingly interminable preliminary process, “that all legal criteria required under the Rome statute [of the ICC] to commence an investigation have been met”.  The investigation specifically into the conduct of forces in Afghanistan, she suggested, would cover the alleged perpetration of crimes against humanity including murder, targeting humanitarian workers, and summary executions.

Afghanistan has again become the site of interest for the maligned side of human nature, this time from the Australian angle.  The weekend began with Canberra in a tizz over allegations that Australia’s special forces have committed war crimes since commencing operations in 2001.

On Friday, Fairfax Media revealed certain contents of a report written by Defence Department consultant Dr Samantha Crompvoets in 2016 alleging the commission of such crimes suggesting a “complete lack of accountability”.  It had been instigated at the behest of the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force (IGADF) examining “rumours… [of] possible breaches of the Laws of Armed Conflict by members of the ADF in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016”.

Various “unsanctioned and illegal” applications of “violence in operations” entailing a “disregard for human life and dignity” had purportedly taken place.  There were “allusions to behaviour and practices involving abuse of drugs and alcohol” peppered with instances of “domestic violence”.

The report by Crompvoets points to “problems deeply embedded in the culture” of the Special Operations Command.  The account of one interviewee is studded with suggestion though little detail.  “I know there were over the last 15 years some horrendous things.  Some just disgraceful things happened in Kabul… very bad news, or just inappropriate behaviour, but it was pretty much kept under wraps.”

A central theme emerges here: ignorance in central command and amongst the civilians at the helm.  Unvarnished, necessary, practised, Australia’s national security remains detached from an understanding of its elite, anointed arm which does its best to keep bloody in conditions of utmost secrecy.  Such ignorance extends to matters of “mentality” and the logistical makeup of the Special Air Service Regiment itself and the Commandos.

Chris Masters has tailed the culture of the SASR for some time, being himself “embedded” within the organisation in Afghanistan that yielded No Front Line – Australia’s Special Forces at war in Afghanistan.  “The long deployment to Afghanistan had worn at the character of some members, who were beginning to act as a law unto themselves.”  Such are the ugly disfigurements produced by small, endless wars.

Evidence would be planted on the dead to throw off beady-eyed investigators; detainees would be slaughtered in acts of “competitive killing” to prevent the endless questioning that awaited them back at base. By 2010, the butcher’s bill for Oruzgan province, euphemised by the term EKIA (enemies killed in action) had become so lengthy as to raise eyebrows back amongst the paper shufflers in Kabul.

The report has produced its own precipitate in the form of another inquiry, this time fronted by Australia’s judicial arm.  A dozen or so men of the Special Air Service Regiment have been subject to lengthy periods of questioning by New South Wales Supreme Court Justice Paul Brereton.

Concern of this ugliness is tempered with well-seeded praise. “The SAS is in my electorate,” Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop took care to point out, “they are regarded as some of the finest men prepared to put their life on the line in conflict situations to defend us and our freedoms, they are one of the finest fighting forces in the world.”

The opposition minister for defence, Richard Marles, was similarly tiptoeing with a pseudo-psychologist’s hat, wanting a killing force that was doing its bit in accordance with decency. “Our soldiers, particularly our special forces, work in difficult and complex environments.  It’s important that we know, as a country, that they’re doing it in a professional and legal way.”

Elite forces trained to liquidate their opponents with ruthlessness do not suggest law book observers and the scrupulous reading of statutes.  Their very existence is owed to being unorthodox, to operate outside convention in contempt of local rules and the encumbrances of red tape.

The issue, as ever, is not their operational doctrine so much as the political masters who put them there, inspired by fatuous assessments of what the defence of freedom might look like.  The crimes will happen, but the mandate to do so will always come from high and farther afield, those tut tutting types back in the bureaucracy who insist that small wars in vaguely defined theatres are necessary for the national interest.

Universities, Branding and Saudi Arabia

The modern university is a tertiary colonising institution.  Like the old mercantilist bodies – the Dutch East India Company and its equivalents – the educational world is there to be acquired by bureaucrats, teachers and, it is hoped, suitable recruits.

To that end, a good degree of amorality is required.  Scruples are best left to others, and most certainly not university managers, who prefer counting the sums rather than pondering deontological principles.  Such a point seems very much at the forefront of an arrangement between the Melbourne Graduate School of Education (MGSE) and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  The MGSE, which seems, in acronym, similar to a salt brand, struck gold in its arrangement to reform the Kingdom’s school curriculum – some 36,000 schools in all comprising 500,000 teachers.

“This project,” stated the Minister for Education Ahmed Bin Mohammed Al-Issa, “will have a significant impact on the development of the new educational process in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”  It will require “patience”, and the contributions of “international experts”.

Irons were already being laid in the fire the previous year, with thirty teachers from Saudi Arabia engaging a six month program “designed,” according to the MGSE dispatch, “to transform their teaching knowledge, skills and attitudes.”

The search for such experts is part of a broader Saudi mission, the “Vision 2030” ostensibly designed to produce a new generation of “critical” thinkers.  “A system of transmitting existing knowledge,” opined Al-Issa to a gathering of education and business figures at the Yidan Prize Summit in Hong Kong last year, “is no longer adequate.  We need to rethink education from preschool through graduate schools and we need to do this urgently.”

Al-Issa has spread matters broadly, with his ministry signing an agreement with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in November 2017 “to explore opportunities to further deepen cooperation on the design and implementation of education reform in Saudi Arabia.”

The Melbourne University newsroom was beaming with remarks sweetened by success. MGSE’s Dean Jim Watterston kept it vague and professional. “We look forward to working with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to deliver evidence-based research methods into classrooms.”  The impression given by Watterston is a system of education that enlightens rather than indoctrinates, something distinct from what passes for Saudi teaching fare.

Which brings us to the sticking, and even fatal, point behind the whole ghastly business.  As the chief Sunni state wages remorseless war on Yemen, in the process robbing cradles and breaching human rights in the name of geopolitical goals, business is still to be done.  Australian education envoys, sent by overly managed universities, are the ideally blinkered.  Given that it remains the country’s third largest earner of gross domestic product, principles would be a needless encumbrance.

What gives this whole matter of pedagogical enterprise between the MGSE and Saudi Arabia a good lashing of irony is that the Kingdom is at war with what it deems extremism.  Only its own Wahhabi brand, the same sort that inspired those who flew the murderous missions on September 11, 2001 against US targets, is tolerated.

Saudi Arabia, for one, boasts an education program that lends itself to the standardised, hardened teachings of Wahhabism.  Nina Shea, director of the Centre for Religious Freedom of the Hudson Institute, told the United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade in July 2017 how “violent and belligerent teachings” abounded in the curriculum like dandruff.

Two years after the 9/11 hijackers reaped sorrow, the National Dialogue in Saudi Arabia sported the findings of a scholarly panel commissioned by King Abdullah.  The religious studies curriculum, in particular, “encourages violence towards others, misguides the pupils into believing that in order to safeguard their own religion, they must violently repress and even physically eliminate each other.”

According to Shea, not much had changed.  The textbooks authorised by the Ministry of Education still taught “an ideology of hatred and violence against Jews, Christians, Muslims, such as Shiites, Sufis, Ahmadis, Hindus, Bahais, Yizidis, animists, sorcerers, and ‘infidels’ of all stripes, as well as other groups with different believes.”  If you hate, hate well, thoroughly and diligently.

Behind the current agenda of the Ministry of Education is an effort to root out rival Islamic doctrines, a program that is only critical in its evisceration and selective censorship.  In March this year, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told CBS television that the dreaded Muslim Brotherhood had found its way into the Saudi school system, a carcinogenic force that needed a good dose of administrative chemo.

The Kingdom, he promised, will “fight extremist ideologies by reviewing school curricula and books to ensure they are free of the banned Muslim Brotherhood’s agenda”.  This act of pedagogical cleansing was promised to be harsh, seeking to “ban books attributed to the Muslim Brotherhood from all schools and universities and remove all those who sympathise with the group.”

Short shrift, in other words, is being given to the functions of actual critical thinking, the very stuff Watterston boasts about somewhat uncritically.  But that will not bother him, or those who have put their signatures in this particular form of international engagement.  The perks are bound to be endless.  Like the selling of arms, education is a business designed to line pockets, feed the parasites of management, and enhance an empty brand.  Forget the students – they are the last in the dismal food chain. Even more importantly, ignore the politics of it all.

Cover Ups and Confessions: Pope Francis and Child Abuse

It is the season for exposures and exposes, and the Catholic Church has been making regular ripples of the wrong and undeniably crude sort.  Globally, the church is finding itself being picked bare in terms of institutional malfeasance, not merely on the issue of having harboured abusive priests, but of placing a dark, impenetrable cover over them.

No area of influence has been spared.  In Guam, the disruptive efforts of former Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron made it into public eye with G. R. Pafumi’s work citing attempts to invalidate a 2016 statute lifting limitations for child sex abuse.  In Pafumi’s grave words, “The Church believes it is never wrong because it has been guided by the Holy Spirit for nearly 2,000 years.”

The Holy Spirit has not being doing much work of late, and seemed to have deserted Adelaide’s Archbishop Philip Wilson last week when he was found guilty of concealing acts of child abuse by a priest.  Australia’s media cognoscenti claimed this to be a globally significant move, as it made Wilson the most senior Catholic in the world to be found guilty of such a charge. The legal argument for Wilson had been one of ignorance: he had not known that a priest by the name of James Fletcher had abused a boy back in the 1970s.

Magistrate Robert Stone did not find much to merit that version, rejecting Wilson’s frail memory on a conversation in 1976 in which the then 15-year-old victim described the abuse by Fletcher, who was working in the Maitland/Newcastle diocese in New South Wales.

Would there be immediate effect upon his office?  Certainly no resignation, a move deemed arrogant by former NSW police detective chief inspector Peter Fox.  The Church, as ever, remains an obstinately self-policing institution at logger heads with secular institutions.  Wilson was hoping for a soft landing, a reprieve from “the people of the archdiocese of Adelaide” to whom he urged to “continue to pray for me.”   In the meantime, he would continue his “prayers and best wishes” for the faithful in the archdiocese.

There would, at best, be a temporary standing down, but hardly a genuine resignation.  Spokeswoman for the archdiocese Jenny Brinkworth seemed to undo the seriousness of the conviction with bureaucratic numbing.  “Standing aside doesn’t necessarily mean it’s forever.  He’s standing aside until process has run its course.”

Pope Francis has found himself reeling in managing the child abuse crisis, and more specifically the machinery of deception and concealment.  For all the claims of his supposedly more progressive streak, he has been traditionally resistant on the Church’s sclerosis in dealing with the culpable management of abusive priests.

Chile has proven to be particularly problematic, a veritable crown of thorns.  The Pope had, for instance, gone as far as accusing child abuse victims, notably those associated with the infamous Rev. Fernando Karadima, of calumny.  An exchange with a reporter at the gate of the Iquique venue, the site of Mass on the last day of his Chile visit, sent the press and commentators into a spin of dizzied alarm.

Central to the exchange was the pontiff’s 2015 appointment of Bishop Juan Barros.  The appointee to the diocese of Osorno had been a Karadima protégé, who survivors say bore witness and covered-up abuses in Chile.  In a more moderate tone, the Pope decided to sober up matters on returning to Rome.  “You [reporters],” went Francis, “in all good will, tell me that there are victims, but I haven’t seen any, because they haven’t come forward.”  This was a far-fetched assertion, given that Barros has been lighting up matters on the abuse trail since 2012.

Since then, victims have been furnishing Chilean prosecutors with a bounty of testimony.  Former member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, Marie Collins, was significantly riled, having delivered a letter of 8 pages to the Pope outlining her own accounts of abuse.

Collins’ own resignation from the body was prompted by a seemingly incurable bureaucratic inertia.  “The most significant problem,” she penned in her resignation in March 2017, “has been reluctance of some members of the Vatican Curia to implement the recommendations of the Commission despite their approval by the pope.”

In his January 31, 2015 letter to the executive committee of the Chilean bishops’ conference, it became clear that Francis was entirely cognisant of the problems.  “Thank you for having openly demonstrated the concern that you have about the appointment of Monsignor Juan Barros.  I understand what you are telling me and I’m aware that the situation of the church in Chile is difficult due to the trials you’ve had to undergo.”

Having rounded up on critics of those accused of child abuse, he has been pushed into an act of near grovelling contrition, suggesting last month that there has been “serious errors of assessment and perception”.  The question lurking amidst the frocks was who had supplied the supposedly infallible Francis with the unreliable information. He had claimed to have precipitated the errors of assessment “due to lack of truthful and balanced information.”  Cardinals Francisco Javier Errázuriz and Ricardo Ezzati, both archbishops of Santiago, have denied being involved in that defective information loop.

By the end of April, the pontiff had met three victims of Karadima in Rome.  One of the survivors, Juan Carlos Cruz, claimed that the Pope had sorrowfully relented.  “I was part of the problem,” he is reported to have said.  “I caused this and I apologize to you.”

The Vatican Curia’s response to the dimension of shuffling, moving and redirecting errant and abusive priests supplies a general, global blue print.  Dioceses have duly complied, taking their lead from the top.  All in all, responses by the Church have been irregular and often soft.  Sabbaticals and exit strategies have been promised to those in the higher realms of the church food chain.

Those constructively guilty of abuse – through denial and administrative dissimulation – are merely moved on.  Individuals like Apuron have not been defrocked, nor restrictions placed on his continued ministry.  Wilson, despite his conviction, remains defiant.  Given the Vatican’s previous form, he has every reason to be so.