Category Archives: East Timor

The Power of the Documentary

At the same time that John Pilger makes his keynote speech to open his The Power of Documentary Film Festival, you can read the text here.

Breaking the Silence

The Power of the Documentary is an unusual film festival, because its aim is to break a silence that extends across much of film-making, the arts and journalism.

By silence I mean the exclusion of ideas that might change the way we see our world, or help us make sense of it.

There are 26 films in this festival and each one pushes back a screen of propaganda – not just the propaganda of governments but of a powerful groupthink of special interests designed to distract and intimidate us and which often takes its cue from social media and is the enemy of the arts and political freedom.

Documentary films that challenge this are an endangered species. Many of the films in the festival are rare. Several have never been seen in this country. Why?

There’s no official censorship in Australia, but there is a fear of ideas. Ideas of real politics. Ideas of dissent. Ideas of satire. Ideas that go against the groupthink. Ideas that reject the demands of corporatism. Ideas that reach back to the riches of Australia’s hidden history.

It’s as if our political memory has been hi-jacked, and we’ve become so immersed in a self-regarding me-ism that we’ve forgotten how to act together and challenge rapacious power that is now rampant in our own country and across the world.

(pause)

The term “documentary” was coined by the Scottish director John Grierson. “The drama of film,” he said, “is on your doorstep. It is wherever there is exploitation and cruelty.”

I like those words: “on your doorstep”.

What they say is that it’s the blood, sweat and tears of ordinary people that has given us the documentary film at best. That’s the difference.

A documentary is not reality TV.  Political documentary is not the consensual game played by politicians and journalists called “current affairs”.

Great documentaries frighten the powerful, unnerve the compliant, expose the hypocritical.

Great documentaries make us think, and think again, and speak out, and even take action.

Tomorrow at the MCA, we’ll show a documentary called Harvest of Shame directed by Susan Steinberg and Fred Friendly and featuring the great American journalist Edward R. Murrow.

Made in 1960, this film helped pave the way to the first Civil Rights laws that finally ended slavery in the United States, though not the oppression borne of slavery.  It has great relevance in the Age of Donald Trump, and Theresa May and Scott Morrison.

On 9th December, we’ll show a remarkable film entitled I am Not Your Negro, in which the writer James Baldwin speaks not only for African-Americans but for those who are cast aside everywhere, and these include the First Nations people of Australia, still invisible in the country that is unique only because of them.

Next week, at the Riverside, we’ll  show The War Game.

The War Game was made for the BBC in 1965 by Peter Watkins, a brilliant young film-maker then in his early 20s.

Watkins achieved the impossible — he re-created the aftermath of a nuclear attack on a town in southern England. It’s true reality; it’s surreal; it’s truth.

No one has ever matched Peter Watkins’ achievement, or the direct challenge of his art to the insanity of nuclear war.

What he did was so authentic it terrified the BBC, which banned The War Game from television for 23 years.

In one sense, this was the highest compliment. His grainy 48-minute film had scared the powerful out of their wits.

They knew this film would change minds and cause people to question Cold War policies. They knew it would even turn people away from war itself, and save lives.

Today, not a frame of The War Game has been altered — yet it’s right up to date.

Not since the 1960s have we been as close to the risks and provocations and mistakes that beckon nuclear war. The news won’t tell you that. The incessant alerts on your smart phone won’t tell you that. That’s what I mean by ‘silence’.

Governments in Australia – a country with no enemies – seem determined to make an enemy out of China, a nuclear armed power, because that’s what America wants.

The propaganda is like a drumbeat. Our TV and newspapers have joined a chorus of American admirals and self-appointed experts and spooks in demanding we take the final steps to a confrontation with China and Russia.

Donald Trump’s vice president, a religious fanatic called Mike Pence, destroyed this month’s APEC conference with his demands for conflict with China.

Not a single voice in Australia’s privileged, deferential elite spoke out against this madness.

Well paid journalists have become gormless cyphers of the propaganda of war: lies known these days as fake news and spread by the intelligence agencies.

How shaming for my craft.

The aim of this festival is to break that collusive silence  –  not only with The War Game but with documentaries like The War You don’t See and The Coming War on China.

(pause)

And the festival is proud to feature Australian documentaries that have broken silences: Dennis O’Rourke’s haunting Half Life, and Curtis Levy’s The President Versus David Hicks — and Salute, Matt Norman’s film about his uncle, Peter Norman, the most courageous and least known of our sporting heroes.

Mark Davis’s film, Journey into Hell, was one of the first to report the persecution of the Rohingya in Thailand and Burma.

I shall be in conversation with Mark at the MCA next Wednesday. I urge you to come and hear this distinguished Australian journalist and film-maker.

This coming Friday, the 30th, the festival will welcome Alec Morgan, who will introduce his historic film, Lousy Little Sixpence.  This landmark documentary revealed the secrets and suffering of the Stolen Generation of Indigenous Australia.

We owe a debt to Alec Morgan, who made his film in the early 1980s, around the time Henry Reynolds published his epic history of Indigenous resistance, The Other Side of the Frontier. Together, they turned on a light in Australia.

Alec’s film has never been more relevant. Last week the NSW parliament passed a law which, for many Aboriginal people, brings back the whole nightmare of the Stolen Generation. It allows the adoption of their children. It allows Pru Goward’s troopers to turn up at dawn and take babies from birth tables. It was barely news, and it’s a disgrace.

I have made 61 documentaries. My first, The Quiet Mutiny, will be shown immediately after this talk. Filmed in 1970 when I was a young war reporter, The Quiet Mutiny revealed a rebellion sweeping the US military in Vietnam. The greatest army was crumbling. Young soldiers were refusing to fight and even shooting their officers.

When The Quiet Mutiny was first broadcast in Britain, the American ambassador, Walter Annenberg, a close friend of President Nixon, was apoplectic. He complained bitterly to the TV authorities and demanded that something be done about me. I was described as a “dangerous subversive”.

This is certainly the highest honour I have ever received, and tonight I bestow it on all the film makers in this festival. They, too, are dangerous subversives, as all documentary film-makers ought to be.

One of them is the Mexican director Diego Quemada-Diez whose film, The Golden Dream, will be shown at the MCA on 2nd December.

This wonderful film takes us on a perilous journey through Central America to the US border. It could not be more relevant.

The heroes are children: the kind of children Peter Dutton and Scott Morrison and Donald Trump would call “illegal migrants”.

I urge you to come and see this film and to reflect on the crimes our own society commits against children and adults sent to our Pacific concentration camps: Nauru, Manus Island and Christmas Island: places of shame.

Of course, many of us are bothered by the outrages of Nauru and Manus. We write to the newspapers and hold vigils. But then what?

One film in the festival attempts to answer this question.

On 6th December, we’ll show Death of a Nation: the Timor Conspiracy, which the late David Munro and I made 25 years ago.

David and I filmed undercover in East Timor when that nation was in the grip of the Indonesian military. We were witnesses to the destruction of whole communities while the Australian government colluded with the dictatorship in Jakarta.

This documentary became part of one of the most effective and inspiring  public movements we’ve known in Australia. The aim was to help rescue East Timor.

There is a famous sequence in Death of a Nation in which Gareth Evans, foreign minister in the Labor governments of the 80s and 90s, gleefully raises a glass of champagne to toast his Indonesian counterpart, Ali Alatas, as they fly in an RAAF plane over the Timor Sea.

The pair of them had just agreed to carve up the oil and gas riches of East Timor.

They were celebrating an act of piracy.

Earlier this year, two principled Australians were charged under the draconian Intelligence Services Act.  They are whistleblowers.

Bernard Collaery is a lawyer, a former distinguished member of the ACT government and a tireless champion of refugees and justice. Collaery’s crime was to have represented an intelligence officer in ASIO, known as Witness K, a man of conscience.

They revealed that the government of John Howard had spied on East Timor so that Australia could defraud a tiny, impoverished nation of the proceeds of its natural resources.

Today, the Australian government is trying to punish these truth tellers no doubt as an example to us all — just as it tried to suppress the truth about Australia’s role in the genocide in East Timor, and in the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, just as it has colluded with Washington to silence the courageous Australian publisher Julian Assange.

Why do we allow governments, our governments, to commit great crimes, and why do so many of us remain silent?

This is a question for those of us privileged to be allowed into people’s lives and to be their voice and seek their support. It’s a question for film-makers, journalists, artists, arts administrators, editors, publishers.

We can no longer claim to be bystanders. Our responsibility is urgent, and as Tom Paine famously wrote: “The time is now.”

The Power of the Documentary

At the same time that John Pilger makes his keynote speech to open his The Power of Documentary Film Festival, you can read the text here.

Breaking the Silence

The Power of the Documentary is an unusual film festival, because its aim is to break a silence that extends across much of film-making, the arts and journalism.

By silence I mean the exclusion of ideas that might change the way we see our world, or help us make sense of it.

There are 26 films in this festival and each one pushes back a screen of propaganda – not just the propaganda of governments but of a powerful groupthink of special interests designed to distract and intimidate us and which often takes its cue from social media and is the enemy of the arts and political freedom.

Documentary films that challenge this are an endangered species. Many of the films in the festival are rare. Several have never been seen in this country. Why?

There’s no official censorship in Australia, but there is a fear of ideas. Ideas of real politics. Ideas of dissent. Ideas of satire. Ideas that go against the groupthink. Ideas that reject the demands of corporatism. Ideas that reach back to the riches of Australia’s hidden history.

It’s as if our political memory has been hi-jacked, and we’ve become so immersed in a self-regarding me-ism that we’ve forgotten how to act together and challenge rapacious power that is now rampant in our own country and across the world.

(pause)

The term “documentary” was coined by the Scottish director John Grierson. “The drama of film,” he said, “is on your doorstep. It is wherever there is exploitation and cruelty.”

I like those words: “on your doorstep”.

What they say is that it’s the blood, sweat and tears of ordinary people that has given us the documentary film at best. That’s the difference.

A documentary is not reality TV.  Political documentary is not the consensual game played by politicians and journalists called “current affairs”.

Great documentaries frighten the powerful, unnerve the compliant, expose the hypocritical.

Great documentaries make us think, and think again, and speak out, and even take action.

Tomorrow at the MCA, we’ll show a documentary called Harvest of Shame directed by Susan Steinberg and Fred Friendly and featuring the great American journalist Edward R. Murrow.

Made in 1960, this film helped pave the way to the first Civil Rights laws that finally ended slavery in the United States, though not the oppression borne of slavery.  It has great relevance in the Age of Donald Trump, and Theresa May and Scott Morrison.

On 9th December, we’ll show a remarkable film entitled I am Not Your Negro, in which the writer James Baldwin speaks not only for African-Americans but for those who are cast aside everywhere, and these include the First Nations people of Australia, still invisible in the country that is unique only because of them.

Next week, at the Riverside, we’ll  show The War Game.

The War Game was made for the BBC in 1965 by Peter Watkins, a brilliant young film-maker then in his early 20s.

Watkins achieved the impossible — he re-created the aftermath of a nuclear attack on a town in southern England. It’s true reality; it’s surreal; it’s truth.

No one has ever matched Peter Watkins’ achievement, or the direct challenge of his art to the insanity of nuclear war.

What he did was so authentic it terrified the BBC, which banned The War Game from television for 23 years.

In one sense, this was the highest compliment. His grainy 48-minute film had scared the powerful out of their wits.

They knew this film would change minds and cause people to question Cold War policies. They knew it would even turn people away from war itself, and save lives.

Today, not a frame of The War Game has been altered — yet it’s right up to date.

Not since the 1960s have we been as close to the risks and provocations and mistakes that beckon nuclear war. The news won’t tell you that. The incessant alerts on your smart phone won’t tell you that. That’s what I mean by ‘silence’.

Governments in Australia – a country with no enemies – seem determined to make an enemy out of China, a nuclear armed power, because that’s what America wants.

The propaganda is like a drumbeat. Our TV and newspapers have joined a chorus of American admirals and self-appointed experts and spooks in demanding we take the final steps to a confrontation with China and Russia.

Donald Trump’s vice president, a religious fanatic called Mike Pence, destroyed this month’s APEC conference with his demands for conflict with China.

Not a single voice in Australia’s privileged, deferential elite spoke out against this madness.

Well paid journalists have become gormless cyphers of the propaganda of war: lies known these days as fake news and spread by the intelligence agencies.

How shaming for my craft.

The aim of this festival is to break that collusive silence  –  not only with The War Game but with documentaries like The War You don’t See and The Coming War on China.

(pause)

And the festival is proud to feature Australian documentaries that have broken silences: Dennis O’Rourke’s haunting Half Life, and Curtis Levy’s The President Versus David Hicks — and Salute, Matt Norman’s film about his uncle, Peter Norman, the most courageous and least known of our sporting heroes.

Mark Davis’s film, Journey into Hell, was one of the first to report the persecution of the Rohingya in Thailand and Burma.

I shall be in conversation with Mark at the MCA next Wednesday. I urge you to come and hear this distinguished Australian journalist and film-maker.

This coming Friday, the 30th, the festival will welcome Alec Morgan, who will introduce his historic film, Lousy Little Sixpence.  This landmark documentary revealed the secrets and suffering of the Stolen Generation of Indigenous Australia.

We owe a debt to Alec Morgan, who made his film in the early 1980s, around the time Henry Reynolds published his epic history of Indigenous resistance, The Other Side of the Frontier. Together, they turned on a light in Australia.

Alec’s film has never been more relevant. Last week the NSW parliament passed a law which, for many Aboriginal people, brings back the whole nightmare of the Stolen Generation. It allows the adoption of their children. It allows Pru Goward’s troopers to turn up at dawn and take babies from birth tables. It was barely news, and it’s a disgrace.

I have made 61 documentaries. My first, The Quiet Mutiny, will be shown immediately after this talk. Filmed in 1970 when I was a young war reporter, The Quiet Mutiny revealed a rebellion sweeping the US military in Vietnam. The greatest army was crumbling. Young soldiers were refusing to fight and even shooting their officers.

When The Quiet Mutiny was first broadcast in Britain, the American ambassador, Walter Annenberg, a close friend of President Nixon, was apoplectic. He complained bitterly to the TV authorities and demanded that something be done about me. I was described as a “dangerous subversive”.

This is certainly the highest honour I have ever received, and tonight I bestow it on all the film makers in this festival. They, too, are dangerous subversives, as all documentary film-makers ought to be.

One of them is the Mexican director Diego Quemada-Diez whose film, The Golden Dream, will be shown at the MCA on 2nd December.

This wonderful film takes us on a perilous journey through Central America to the US border. It could not be more relevant.

The heroes are children: the kind of children Peter Dutton and Scott Morrison and Donald Trump would call “illegal migrants”.

I urge you to come and see this film and to reflect on the crimes our own society commits against children and adults sent to our Pacific concentration camps: Nauru, Manus Island and Christmas Island: places of shame.

Of course, many of us are bothered by the outrages of Nauru and Manus. We write to the newspapers and hold vigils. But then what?

One film in the festival attempts to answer this question.

On 6th December, we’ll show Death of a Nation: the Timor Conspiracy, which the late David Munro and I made 25 years ago.

David and I filmed undercover in East Timor when that nation was in the grip of the Indonesian military. We were witnesses to the destruction of whole communities while the Australian government colluded with the dictatorship in Jakarta.

This documentary became part of one of the most effective and inspiring  public movements we’ve known in Australia. The aim was to help rescue East Timor.

There is a famous sequence in Death of a Nation in which Gareth Evans, foreign minister in the Labor governments of the 80s and 90s, gleefully raises a glass of champagne to toast his Indonesian counterpart, Ali Alatas, as they fly in an RAAF plane over the Timor Sea.

The pair of them had just agreed to carve up the oil and gas riches of East Timor.

They were celebrating an act of piracy.

Earlier this year, two principled Australians were charged under the draconian Intelligence Services Act.  They are whistleblowers.

Bernard Collaery is a lawyer, a former distinguished member of the ACT government and a tireless champion of refugees and justice. Collaery’s crime was to have represented an intelligence officer in ASIO, known as Witness K, a man of conscience.

They revealed that the government of John Howard had spied on East Timor so that Australia could defraud a tiny, impoverished nation of the proceeds of its natural resources.

Today, the Australian government is trying to punish these truth tellers no doubt as an example to us all — just as it tried to suppress the truth about Australia’s role in the genocide in East Timor, and in the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, just as it has colluded with Washington to silence the courageous Australian publisher Julian Assange.

Why do we allow governments, our governments, to commit great crimes, and why do so many of us remain silent?

This is a question for those of us privileged to be allowed into people’s lives and to be their voice and seek their support. It’s a question for film-makers, journalists, artists, arts administrators, editors, publishers.

We can no longer claim to be bystanders. Our responsibility is urgent, and as Tom Paine famously wrote: “The time is now.”

The “Economy” of Espionage: Witness K, East Timor and Reframing Whistleblowers

Intelligence and the law ought to work together. Often they do synchronise. Sometimes they clash.   Indeed, it was with some levity that Justice Mason commented on this vexed relationship when ruling on the Australian Secret Intelligence Service’s (ASIS) botched training session at the Sheraton Hotel, Melbourne, in November 1983.

Here’s Mason J: “There is an air of unreality about this stated case. It has the appearance of a Law School moot based on an episode taken from the adventures of Maxwell Smart”. In that case, the High Court decided the identities of the ASIS operatives could be disclosed to the police, but, perhaps, ought not be. While their identities remained concealed, their antics were revealed: thus Mason’s comments.

It’s now three decades later. ASIS operatives are again in the public spotlight and before the courts. Although this time the hijinks has been revealed by one of their own. Moreover, the consequences of this case are more solemn than the Sheraton incident. It is a story about blowing-the-whistle on the entanglement of intelligence, politics and commercial interests. It is also a story about exposing where all three unite, and what happens when they do.

To set the scene some context is in order. It’s 2004. The government of John Howard authorises ASIS to clandestinely bug the offices of the East Timorese Prime Minister and his cabinet in Dili. By doing so Australian officials are able to covertly record internal discussions revealing the East Timorese negotiating position and strategy over the maritime boundaries of an oil and gas treaty known as ‘Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea’ (CMATS). Over its lifetime, that treaty is estimated to have a multi-billion-dollar value, and it was a much-needed source of revenue to the East Timorese government and people.

At this point, keep in mind East Timor is not a hostile country toward Australia. It’s more ally than adversary. Also keep in mind that the Timor bugging operation occurred not too long after the Bali terrorist bombings in Indonesia had killed over 200 people. It also occurred shortly after the bombing of the Australian Embassy in Jakarta, by the terrorist group, Jemaah Islamiyah. Terrorism in the region was thus imposed on the minds and screens of the public and security agencies alike. One might, then, ask legitimate questions about where Australia’s intelligence priorities lay and how intelligence resources were allocated.

Key point (1): Private economic priorities tend to prevail. It would appear that ever-malleable concept, national security, became a metonym for private commercial gain. The covertly obtained information clearly gave the Australian government an advantage over the East Timorese, in the negations. Indeed, the direction and authorisation to conduct the Timorese bugging operation was rationalised under the justification that it was in the interests of Australia’s ‘economic well-being’ (could one even say: advantage?). But this is highly contentious. Specifically because the principal beneficiary of the treaty, to which Australia obtained an undue (possibly illegal) advantage through the intelligence gleaned from the negotiations, would have gone to a private consortium led by Woodside Petroleum. But more on this shortly.

First, a deeper question needs addressing: how is covertly bugging the East Timorese government in the interests of Australia’s economic well-being when the pecuniary benefits of the treaty would have gone to a private consortium? Answers, indeed, became rather vague.

When quizzed on this very issue, the former Inspector General of Intelligence and Security (that supposed impartial body responsible for oversight of the intelligence community), Dr Vivian Thom, had trouble explaining the difference between spying for national security and spying for private commercial gain. ‘National economic well-being’, Thom averred, ‘is a broad umbrella’ and the differentiation is not always clear. ‘Australia’s national security, foreign relations or national economic wellbeing are overlapping categories. You cannot always clearly differentiate between the three’, she said.

Matters of setting intelligence priorities are just as nebulous. As Dr Thom stated, it is up to the Executive or National Security Committee of cabinet (NSC) to decide what is an appropriate intelligence requirement. ‘Let us first remember’, Dr Thom reminds us, ‘that it has to reach the threshold of being in accordance with the government’s requirements. The government’s requirements for intelligence are set by the National Security Committee of cabinet’.

Key point (2): It might not surprise, then, that the NSC is hardly what could be called ‘bi-partisan’ in constitution. Consider the implications of the ‘quotation marks’. It’s comprised entirely of members of the incumbent government. It’s chaired by the PM. And, it sits within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.  The leader of the Opposition can be asked to sit in on major decisions, but such courtesies do not extend to any Independents or Greens. Likewise, its decisions do not require the endorsement of the full cabinet. The government’s assurances that an intelligence agency has been directed to act in the national interest must be taken a face value — a fool’s gold standard of accountability and transparency. Just as Dr Thom explained. In her view, ASIS collected intelligence in line with requirements set by the government. In short, ASIS did what the government asks it to do. Nothing to see here. Next question, please.

Little wonder, then, that after becoming aware of the bugging the East Timorese government protested. It declared Australia’s conduct had rendered the treaty invalid under international law because the negotiations had not been undertaken in good faith. When it comes to the economics of espionage, Uberrima Fides, (the notion of acting in the utmost good faith) appears as flexible as national security.

Using parliamentary privilege, Andrew Wilkie made his feelings about the matter quite clear. The result, as he aptly put it, was ‘one of the richest countries in the world forced East Timor, the poorest country in Asia, to sign a treaty which stopped them obtaining their fair share of oil and gas revenue’. East Timor’s Prime Minister, Rui Maria Araujo, concurred, calling such actions a ‘moral crime’, while former President, Xanana Gusmao, referred to the matter as a ‘criminal act’.

Some intelligence personnel held similar qualms about the operation.  But, just pause for a moment to remember what happens to intelligence personnel that take a stand, or blow that shrieking tin-whistle on the alleged improper use of intelligence.

Still memorable is the resignation of former ONA officer, Andrew Wilkie, due to Australia’s use (or ‘alleged’ misuse) of intelligence to justify the case for the invasion of Iraq in 2003. History tells us what happened here. Does Mr Bolt ring any bells? But that inquiry only took twelve years to become public, and then there was nothing to see there either.

One might also consider the cases of Lance Collins and Martin Toohey or even the most despicable circumstances that led to the death of Mervin Jenkins. And these are just cases that are known to the public.

Now consider the case of Witness K. You might have some clairvoyance of where this is going? K is a former distinguished and decorated ASIS Officer that was directly involved in the Timor bugging operation. K initially sought advice from the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) after being ‘constructively dismissed’ from ASIS in 2008. Again, read between the quotation marks.

But K suspected that his dismissal was more in relation to concerns he raised about the East Timor bugging operation. The IGIS advised K that he could seek private counsel regarding a means of redress. (The IGIS denies having ever received K’s complaint.)

K thereafter sought the advice of distinguished lawyer, Bernard Collaery. After investigating K’s claims, Collaery, determined that the Timor operation likely fell outside ASIS’s remit under the Intelligence Services Act 2001, and likely breached section 334 of the Criminal Code of the Australian Capital Territory 2002. (Alleged reason: the instructions to bug the Timorese buildings were given in Canberra). Collaery and K then sought to have the matter brought before the International Court of Justice, at the Hague.

But the mousetrap slapped. On 3 December 2013, under warrant issued by the Attorney General, ASIO raided Witness K’s home and confiscated his passport, while also raiding the offices of Mr Collaery seizing documents and electronic data relevant to the case. K was thus stymied from leaving the country and providing any testimony.

Key point (3): As Senator Rex Patrick, rightly argues, ‘the government is trying to prosecute people for revealing its crimes’. This is fairly clear: The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions subsequently filed criminal charges against Witness K and Bernard Collaery, for breaching section 11.5 of the Criminal Code and section 39 of the Intelligence Services Act. While the Attorney General theoretically has the power to stop these legal proceedings under the Judiciary Act 1903, he did the opposite.

But, not only did the Attorney General, Christian Porter, consent to the prosecution, the prosecution is now seeking to have the judicial proceeding conducted without commentary, under the provisions of the National Security Information Act 2004. If this occurs, details of the proceeding will remain concealed. The actions of the government may never be heard in an open court. As K might just find out, the law can beat you with its own gavel.

Disturbing point: here is what makes this case so much more distasteful. Aside from the unscrupulous nature of the bugging operation and the persecution of whistleblowers and their legal representatives, there is a glaring impression of government impropriety.

As it turns out, the minister with statutory responsibility for authorising the ASIS bugging operation, former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, went on to consult for Woodside Petroleum after he left parliament in 2008. Note that he took a retainer, too. Several other political links can be established. Again, perceptions are important.  Former Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ashton Calvert later obtained a position on its Board of Directors. Other DFAT officers at the time of the Timor operation, including Brendan Augustin and John Prowse, are alleged to have latter worked for Woodside at the managerial level.1 Likewise, the Howard government’s Minister for Resources and Energy, during the Timor operation, Ian MacFarlane, now sits on the Board of Directors. After resigning from his position as National Secretary of the Australian Labor Party, Gary Grey went on to be Woodside’s principal strategic advisor and later joined the Executive Board.2

It is on this point that the proximity between intelligence, policy, and commercial interests seem to have blurred (dissolved?) considerably. By 2007, Grey was holding the Federal position of Minister for Natural Resources Energy and Tourism in the Gillard government. The inequity is clear. Those that speak out are exiled and punished; others appear to act with impunity.

There are significant implications to be realised here. First, there is a conspicuous absence of options available to intelligence personnel that decide to speak out about any impropriety. Whistleblower protections are somewhat muted.

Some protections do fall under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 (PID). But consider what legal scholars, Keiran Hardy and George Williams, have to say about that:

Requirements under the PID will be particularly difficult to satisfy where the information being disclosed relates to the conduct of intelligence agencies. This is because special restrictions on information connected with intelligence agencies due to the greater risk involved to national security.

Essentially what this means: the Australian intelligence community is excluded from any whistleblower protections.

Likewise, limited protections can be found in section 79 of the Crimes Act that provide for disclosures made in the interests of the Commonwealth. But, disclosures about one friendly nation spying upon another are unlikely to be revealed in the Commonwealth’s interest. Overall there are fairly minimal (at best) protections for whistleblowers that disclose security information because of the special status given to intelligence information, and that broad umbrella—‘national security’.

But the Timor case gives rise to other significant issues One is the possibility of an Australian intelligence agency being abused not just for political ends, but also for private commercial gain. One more is the perception that ASIS activities seem to have been aligned with the commercial interests of a private company. Ultimately, the perceived impartiality of ASIS could be diminished.

My key point: the act of whistleblowing is always framed as one of political rebellion, rather than political reform.

Indeed, perceptions of impropriety become evident by posing the simple question: did this ASIS intelligence operation serve the Australian public interest, those of a minister, or a private company? What becomes apparent is that national security is working as a metonym for commercial economic advantage.

There are significant moral and legal questions that need addressing. Witness K and Bernard Collaery are accused of conspiring to reveal secret information. Yet, there in no evidence available that Australia’s national security has ever been compromised by the incident. Nonetheless, proceedings for the case began in the ACT Magistrates Court on 12 September. It lasted 15 minutes before the directives were adjourned. The Attorney General wants that case to be conducted behind closed doors. The defence wants only that which is essential to the preservation of K’s anonymity and national security heard in confidence.

What is remarkable is that three decades ago, Justice Mason, when ruling on the ASIS—Sheraton incident, may have unwittingly summoned a prophecy. ‘For the future,’ he said, ‘the point needs to be made loudly and clearly, that if counter-espionage activities involve breaches of the law they are liable to attract the consequences that ordinarily flow from breaches of the law.’  Whether his prophecy comes true remains to be seen. The case was due to resume on 29 October 2018, but it has been ‘delayed’ until November 1.

  1. See, Fernandes, C., Island Off the Coast of Asia, Instruments of Statecraft in Australian Foreign Policy, (Monash University Publishing: Victoria, 2018): 125-126.
  2. See Cleary, P. Shakedown, Australia’s Grab for Timor Oil, (Allen & Unwin, NSW, Australia, 2007), pp. 93-94.

The West Really Hates China

It appears that the Western public, both relatively ‘educated’ and thoroughly ignorant, could, after some persuasion, agree on certain very basic facts – for instance that Russia has historically been a victim of countless European aggressions, or that countries like Venezuela, Cuba, Iran or North Korea (DPRK) have never in modern history crossed the borders of foreign nations in order to attack, plunder or to overthrow governments.

OK, certainly, it would take some ‘persuasion’, but at least in specific circles of the otherwise hopelessly indoctrinated Western society, certain limited dialogue is still occasionally possible.

China is different. There is no ‘mercy’ for China in the West. By many standards, the greatest and one of the oldest cultures on Earth, has been systematically smeared, insulted, ridiculed and arrogantly judged by the opinion-makers, propagandists, ‘academia’ and mainstream press with seats in London, New York, Paris and many other places which the West itself calls the centers of ‘erudition’ and ‘freedom of information’.

Anti-Chinese messages are sometimes overt, but mostly thinly veiled. They are almost always racist and based on ignorance. And the horrifying reality is: they work!

They work for many reasons. One of them is that while the North Asians in general, and the Chinese people in particular, have been learning with zeal all about the rest of the world, the West is thoroughly ignorant about almost everything Asian and Chinese.

I personally conducted a series of simple but revealing ‘experiments’ in China, Korea and Japan, as well as in several countries of the West: while almost every North Asian child can easily identify at least a few basic ‘icons’ of Western culture, including Shakespeare and Mozart, most of the European university professors with PhDs could not name one single Korean film director, Chinese classical music composer, or a Japanese poet.

Westerners know nothing about Asia! Not 50% of them, now even 90%, but most likely somewhere in the area of 99.9%.

And it goes without saying, that Korea is producing some of the best art films in the world, while China and Japan are renowned for their exquisite classical art, as well as modern masterpieces.

In the West, the same ignorance extends to Chinese philosophy, its political system and history. In both Europe and North America, there is absolute darkness, withering ignorance, regarding the Chinese vision of the world. In Paris or Berlin, China is being judged exclusively by Western logic, by Western ‘analysts’, with unsurpassable arrogance.

Racism is the only fundamental explanation, although there are many other, secondary reasons for this state of affairs.

Western racism, which used to humiliate, attack and ruin China for centuries, has gradually changed its tactics and strategies. From the openly and colorfully insulting and vulgar, it has steadily evolved into something much more ‘refined’ but consistently manipulative.

The spiteful nature of the Western lexicon of superiority has not disappeared.

In the past, the West used to depict Chinese people as dirty animals. Gradually, it began depicting the Chinese Revolution as animalistic, as well as the entire Chinese system, throwing into the battle against the PRC and the Communist Party of China, such concepts and slogans as “human rights”.

We are not talking about human rights that could and should be applicable and respected in all parts of the world (like the right to life) protection for all the people of the Planet. That’s because it is clear that the most blatant violators of such rights have been, for many centuries, the Western countries.

If all humans were to be respected as equal beings, all countries of the West would have to be tried and indicted, then occupied and harshly punished for countless genocides and holocausts committed in the past and present. The charges would be clear: barbarity, theft, torture as well as the slaughter of hundreds of millions of people in Africa, the Middle East, what is now called Latin America, and, of course, almost everywhere in Asia. Some of the most heinous crimes of the West were committed against China and its people.

The ‘human rights’ concept, which the West is constantly using against China is ‘targeted’. Most of the accusations and ‘facts’ have been taken out of the context of what has been occurring on the global scale (now and in the history). Exclusively, Eurocentric views and ‘analyses’ have been applied. Chinese philosophy and logic have been fully ignored; never taken seriously. No one in the West asks the Chinese people what they really want (only the so-called ‘dissidents’ are allowed to speak through the mass media to the Western public). Such an approach is not supposed to defend or to help anybody; instead it is degrading, designed to cause maximum damage to the most populous country on Earth, to its unique system, and increasingly, to its important global standing.

It is obvious that the Western academia and mass media are funded by hundreds of millions and billions of dollars to censor the mainstream Chinese voices, and to promote dark anticommunist and anti-PRC nihilism.

I know one Irish academic based in North Asia, who used to teach in China. He told me, with pride, that he used to provoke Chinese students: “Do you know that Mao was a pedophile?” And he ridiculed those who challenged him and found his discourses distasteful.

But such an approach is quite acceptable for the Western academia based in Asia. Reverse the tables and imagine a Chinese academic who comes to London to teach Chinese language and culture, beginning his classes by asking the students whether they know that Churchill used to have sex with animals? What would happen? Would he get fired right away or at the end of the day?

*****

The West has no shame, and it is time for the entire world to understand this simple fact.

In the past, I have often compared this situation to some medieval village, attacked and plundered by brigands (The West). Food stores were ransacked, houses burned, women raped and children forced into slavery, then subjected to thorough brainwashing.

Any resistance was crushed, brutally. People were told to spy on each other, to expose “terrorists” and “dangerous elements” in society, in order to protect the occupation regime.

Only two “economic systems” were allowed – feudalism and capitalism.

If the villagers elected a mayor who was ready to defend their interests, the brigands would murder him, unceremoniously. Murder or overthrow him, so there would always be a status quo.

But there had to be some notion of justice, right?

Once in a while, the council of the brigands would catch a thief who had stolen few cucumbers or tomatoes. And they would then brag that they protect the people and the village. While everything had already been burned to ashes by them

Given the history and present of China, given the horrid and genocidal nature of the Western past, ancient and modern, given the fact that China is by all definitions, the most peaceful large nation on Earth, how can anybody in the West even pronounce the words like ‘human rights’, let alone criticize China, Russia, Cuba or any other country that it put on its hit-list?

Of course, China, Russia or Cuba are not “perfect countries” (there are no perfect countries on Earth, and there never will be), but should a thief and mass murderer be allowed to judge anybody?

Obviously yes! It is happening, constantly.

The West is unapologetic. It is because it is ignorant, thoroughly uninformed about its own past and present deeds, or conditioned to be uninformed. It is also because the West is truly a fundamentalist society, unable to analyze and to compare. It cannot see anymore.

What is being offered by its politicians and replicated by the servile academia and mass media, is totally twisted.

Almost the entire world is in the same condition as the village that I just described.

But it is China (and also Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, Iran, and other nations) that is being portrayed as villains and tormentors of the people. Black becomes white. War is peace. Slavery is freedom. A mass rapist is a peacemaker and a cop.

*****

Once again: The West hates China. Let us be totally honest.

China has to understand it, and act accordingly. Sooner rather than later.

As we have already determined, the hatred towards China is irrational, illogical, purely racist; mainly based to the superiority complex of Western “thinkers”.

But also, it is based on the subconscious fear of the Westerners that Chinese culture and its socialist system (with all its ‘imperfections’) are greatly superior to the culture of terror and thuggery spread throughout our Planet by both Europeans and then North Americans.

Several years ago, I was interviewed by various Chinese media outlets, including the legendary People’s Daily, China Radio International and CCTV (now CGTN).

They all wanted to know why, despite all those great efforts of China to befriend the world, there is so much Sino phobia in Western countries. I had to face the same question, again and again: “What else could we do? We tried everything… What else?”

Because of its tremendous hereditary optimism, the Chinese nation could not grasp one simple but essential fact: the more China does for the world, the less aggressively it behaves, the more it will be hated and demonized in the West. It is precisely because China is, unlike the West, trying to improve the lives of the entire planet Earth, that it will never be left in peace, it will never be prized, admired or learned from in such places like London, Paris or New York.

I replied to those who were interviewing me:

“They hate you, therefore you are doing something right!”

My answer, perhaps, sounded too cynical to the Chinese people. However, I wasn’t trying to be cynical. I was just trying to answer, honestly, a question about the psyche of Western culture, which has already murdered hundreds of millions of human beings, worldwide. It was, after all, the greatest European psychologist of all time, Carl Gustav Jung, who diagnosed Western culture as “pathology”.

But Who Really Hates China and How Much?

But let’s get numbers: who hates China and how much? Mainly, the Westerners – Europeans and North Americans. And Japan, which actually murdered tens of millions of Chinese people, plus China’s main regional rival, Vietnam.

Only 13% of the Japanese see China favorably, according to a Pew Research Center Poll conducted in 2017. 83% of the Japanese, a country which is the main ally of the West in Asia, see China “unfavorably”. In Italy which is hysterically anti-Chinese and scandalously racist at that, the ratio is 31% favorably, 59% unfavorably. Shocking? Of course, it is. But Germany does not fare much better, with 34% – 53%. The United States – 44% – 47%. France 44% – 52%. Entire half of Spanish nation sees China unfavorably – 43% – 43%.

Now something really shocking: the “rest of the world”. The numbers are totally the opposite! South Africa: 45% see China favorably, 32% unfavorably. Argentina 41% – 26%. Even the Philippines which is being pushed constantly by the West into confrontation with China: 55% favorably – 40% unfavorably. Indonesia that perpetrated several anti-Chinese pogroms and even banned the Chinese language after the US-sponsored coup in 1965: 55% favorably – 36% unfavorably. Mexico 43% – 23%. Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela: 52% – 29%. Chile 51% – 28%.

Then it gets even more interesting: Lebanon: 63% – 33%. Kenya: 54% – 21%. Brazil 52% – 25%. Tunisia 63% – 22%. Russia: 70% – 24%. Tanzania 63% – 15%. Senegal 64% – 10%. And the most populous country in Sub Saharan Africa, Nigeria – 72% – 13%.

The 2017 BBC World Service poll, Views of China’s influence by country, gives even more shocking results:

At the two extremes, in Spain, only 15% see China’s influence as positive, while 68% see it as negative. In Nigeria, 83% as positive and only 9% as negative.

Now, think for a while what these numbers really say.

Who is really benefiting from China’s growing importance on the world scene? Of course – the wretched of the Earth; the majority of our Planet! Who are those who are trying to stop China from helping the colonized and oppressed people? The old and new colonialist powers!

China is predominantly hated by Western imperialist countries (and by their client states, like Japan and South Korea), while it is loved by the Africans), most Asians and Latin Americans, as well as Russians.

Tell an African what is being said to the Europeans – about the negative or even “neo-imperialist”, influence of China on the African continent – and he or she will die laughing.

Just before submitting this essay, I received a comment from Kenya, from my comrade Booker Ngesa Omole, National Organizing Secretary, SDP-Kenya (Socialist):

The relationship of China and Kenya particularly and Africa generally has not only led to tremendous development both in infrastructure but also a genuine cultural exchange among the Chinese and African people, it has also made African people understand the Chinese people firsthand, away from the daily half-truths and lies generated against China and the Chinese people and transmitted en masse globally through the lie factories like CNN. It’s has also shown that there is a different way to relate to the so called development partners and the international capital, the Chinese have developed a policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign country as opposed to USA and Western Countries through IMF and World Bank who have imposed destructive policies on the continent that has led to the suffering and death of many African people, like that infamous Structural Adjustment Plan, that was a killer plan, after its implementation Kenyans unemployment skyrocketed, our country also became bankrupt .

Another comparison is the speed at which the projects are done, in the past we had a gruesome bureaucratic expensive process, which could take several years before any work could start on the ground. This has changed with the coming in of Chinese capital, we see the projects are being effected just in time, we see very high quality work contrary to what the western media want to portray that everything from China and Russia are fake before arrival.

*****

The Chinese system (Communism or socialism with Chinese characteristics), is in its essence truly internationalist.

As Chairman Mao Tse Tung wrote in his “Patriotism and Internationalism”:

Can a Communist, who is an internationalist, at the same time be a patriot? We hold that he not only can be but also must be… The victory of China and defeat of the invading imperialists will help the people of other countries…

Chairman Mao wrote this during the China’s liberation struggle against Japanese invaders. However, not much has really changed since then.

China is definitely willing and capable of putting much of the world devastated by Western imperialism, back onto its feet. It is big enough to do it, it is strong enough, it is determined and full of optimism.

The West produces, directly manufactures, crises and confrontations, like the one that took place in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989, or the one that never really managed to ‘take off’ (mainly due to the disgust of the majority of the local people with the selfish and pro-Western protesters) in Hong Kong, in 2014.

However, those Western implants and proxies are all that most Europeans and North Americans know about China (PRC): ‘Human Rights’, Falun Gong, Tibet, Dalai Lama, ‘Northwest of the Country’ (here, they don’t remember, or cannot pronounce the names, but they were told in the mainstream Western media that China is doing ‘something sinister’ there, so that’s what they are repeating), Tiananmen Square, Ai Wei-Wei and few other disconnected barks, ‘events’, and names.

This is how this colossus with thousands of years of history, culture and philosophy, is perceived, judged, and how it is (mis-) understood.

The entire situation would be laughable, if it were not so tragic, so thoroughly appalling and dangerous.

It is becoming clear who really hates China: it is not the “world”, and it is not those countries on all the continents that have been brutalized and enslaved by the Western imperialists. There, China is loved.

Those who hate China are the nations which are not ready to let go of their de facto colonies. The nations who are used to a good, too good and too easy life at the expense of others. To them, historically egalitarian and now for many decades socialist/Communist (with Chinese characteristics) China poses a truly great threat. Threat – not to their survival or peaceful existence, but threat to their looting and raping of the world.

China’s internationalist attitude towards the world, its egalitarianism and humanism, its emphasis on hard work and the tremendous optimism of its people, may soon, very soon, break the horrid inertia and the lethargy injected by Europe and the United States into the veins of all raped, plundered and humiliated nations.

China Has Already Suffered Enough!

In his ground-breaking book “China Is Communist, Damn It!” a prominent China expert, Jeff Brown (who is presently based in Shenzhen) writes about the dehumanizing treatment, which the Chinese people had been receiving from Westerners, for centuries:

…untold numbers in the 19th century… were pressganged and kidnapped, to be sent to the New World to work as coolie slaves.

The racism conducted on these Chinese coolies was instructive. On the ocean voyage from China to Vancouver, Canada, they were tightly packed and kept in dark, poorly ventilated holds for the three-week trip, so they would not have any contact with the Whites traveling aboveboard. No sunlight, no fresh air. The crew on the ships routinely talked about these Chinese allies in terms of “livestock” and they were handled and treated as such. Actually, they were treated worse than cattle, pigs, sheep and horses, as there are laws that require animals get so much open air and exercise per day, while in transit…

This kind of inhumane treatment of Chinese citizens is dispassionately captured in the diaries of a British officer, charged with overseeing them,

‘As children, we were taught that Cain and Coolies were murderers from the beginning; no Coolie was to be trusted; he was a yellow dog… The task of stowing away Coolies is a tiresome one. In orders, it is alluded to as “embarkation”. By those experienced in the job, it is known more as “packing”. The Coolies are not passengers capable of finding each his cabin. The Coolies are so much cargo, livestock, which has to be packed away. While experiences are ceaselessly pressing upon him, his attitude towards existence is the attitude of a domesticated animal.’

British 2nd Lieutenant Daryl Klein, from his memoir, “With the Chinks”, spoken like a true Western imperial racist. Of course, chinks is the worst slur word to be used against the Chinese. It’s the equivalent of yellow nigger. The term Coolie is not any better. It’s like calling someone from Latin America a wetback. At least Lt. Klein was honest in his total dehumanization of the Dreaded Other.

There are countless examples of discrimination against, and humiliation of, the Chinese people by the Western colonialists, on the territory of China. The Chinese were literally butchered and enslaved in their own territory, by the Westerners and the Japanese.

However, there were also despicable crimes committed against Chinese people on the territory of the United States, including lynching, and other types of killing.

Hard working, many Chinese men were brought as slave laborers to the United States and to Europe, where they were often treated worse than animals. For no other reason but for just being Chinese. No apologies or compensation were ever offered for such acts of barbarity; not even decades and centuries later. Until now, there is a silence surrounding the topic, although one has to wonder whether it is really simple ‘silence’ that grows from ignorance, or whether it is something much more sinister; perhaps defiance and conscious or subconscious refusal to condemn the fruits of Western culture, which are imperialism, racism and consequently – fascism.

Gwen Sharp, PhD, wrote on June 20, 2014 for Sociological Images in his essay ‘Old “Yellow-Peril” Anti-Chinese Propaganda’:

Chinese men were stereotyped as degenerate heroin addicts whose presence encouraged prostitution, gambling, and other immoral activities.  A number of cities on the West Coast experienced riots in which Whites attacked Asians and destroyed Chinese sections of town. Riots in Seattle in 1886 resulted in practically the entire Chinese population being rounded up and forcibly sent to San Francisco. Similar situations in other towns encouraged Chinese workers scattered throughout the West to relocate, leading to the growth of Chinatowns in a few larger cities on the West Coast.

Throughout history, China and its people have suffered at the hands of Westerners, both Europeans and North Americans alike.

According to several academic and other sources, including a publication “History And Headlines” (History: October 9, 1740: Chinezenmoord, The Batavia Massacre):

On October 9, 1740, Dutch colonial overlords on the Island of Java (now a main island in Indonesia) in the port city of Batavia (now Jakarta, capital of Indonesia) went on a mad killing spree of ethnic cleansing and murdered about 10,000 ethnic Chinese. The Dutch word, “Chinezenmoord,” literally means “Chinese Murder.

Anti-Chinese massacres were also repeatedly committed by the Spanish occupiers of the Philippines, and there were countless other cases of anti-Chinese ethnic cleansing and massacres committed by the European colonialist administrations, in various parts of the world.

The ransacking of Beijing’s Summer Palace by French and British forces was one of the most atrocious crimes committed by Westerners on the territory of China. An outraged French novelist, Victor Hugo, then wrote:

We call ourselves civilized and them barbarians. Here is what Civilization has done to Barbarity.

*****

The West cannot treat Chinese people this way, anymore, but if it could get away with it, it definitely still would.

The superiority complex in both Europe and North America is powerful and unapologetic. There is real great danger that if unchecked and unopposed, it may soon terminate all life on our Planet. The final holocaust would be accompanied by self-righteous speeches, unrestrained arrogance, gasping ignorance of the state of the world, and generally no regrets.

Chinese people cannot be beaten on the streets of Europe or North America, anymore; they cannot be, at least theoretically, insulted directly in the face just for being Chinese (although that is still happening).

But there are many different ways to hurt and deeply injure a human being or the country.

My close friend, a brilliant Chinese concert pianist, Yuan Sheng, once told me, right after he left a well-paid teaching position in New York, and moved permanently back to Beijing:

In the United States, I used to cry late into the night, almost every night… I felt so helpless. Things they were saying about my country… And it was impossible to convince them that they were totally wrong!

Several years later, at the “First World Cultural Forum” held in Beijing, an Egyptian-French fellow thinker Amin Said argued that we are all victims of capitalism. I strongly disagreed, and confronted him there, in Beijing, and later in Moscow where we spoke, again, side by side.

Western bigotry, brutality and imperialism are much older than capitalism. I believe that the things are precisely the opposite: Western violent culture is the core of the savage capitalism.

Recently, while addressing students and teachers at one of old alternative and officially progressive schools in Scandinavia, I finally understood the scope of the creeping anti-Chinese sentiments in Europe.

During my presentation about the global conflicts being fueled by the United States and Europe, the audience was silent and attentive. I spoke at a huge hall, addressing some 2 – 3 hundred people, most of them future educators.

There was some sort of standing ovation. Then questions. Then discussion over coffee. There, precisely then, things got very wrong.

A girl came and with an angelic smiled uttered: “Sorry, I know nothing about China…. But what about the Northwest of the country?”

The northwest of China is a few times bigger than Scandinavia. Could she be more specific? No, she couldn’t: “You know, the human rights… Minorities…”

An Italian girl approached me, saying she is studying philosophy. The same line of questions: “I don’t know much about China, but…” Then her questions got aggressive: “What do you mean when you talk about ‘China’s humanism?’”

She was not asking, she was attacking. I snapped at her: “You don’t want to listen, you simply want to hear yourself repeating what they brainwashed you with.”

One of the organizers of the conference hated my interaction with her spoiled, rude, self-centered and uneducated brats. I could not care less. I told her directly to her face.

“Then why did you accept the invitation to be a keynote speaker?” she asked. I answered, honestly: “To study the Europeans, anthropologically. To face your racism and ignorance.”

Next day, the same. I showed my shocking documentary film Rwanda Gambit about how the West created the totally false Rwanda narrative, and how it triggered real genocide, that in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

But all that the audience wanted to discuss was China!

One said: “I saw a Chinese government company building two sports stadiums in Zambia. Isn’t it strange?”

Really? Strange? The Chinese health system is mainly based on prevention and it is successful. Building stadiums is a crime?

Another one recalled that in West Africa, “China was planting cashew nuts.” That was supposed to match centuries of horrors of Western colonialism, the mass murder and slavery of hundreds of millions of Africans at the hands of the Brits, French, Germans, Belgians and others.

At the airport, leaving back for Asia, I wanted to throw up and simultaneously, to shout from joy. I was going home, leaving this brainwashed continent – this intellectual bordello behind.

The West was beyond salvation. It will not stop or repent.

It can only be stopped, and it has to be stopped.

*****

Jeff Brown in his book China Is Communist, Damn It! pointed out one essential difference between the Chinese and Western mindset:

China and the West could not be more different. Western civilization is founded on Greek philosophy, culture, politics and economy. Ancient Greece was composed of hundreds of relatively small, independent city-states, which on a daily basis, were comparatively isolated from each other. They were separated by water or mountain ranges, ensconced in bays and valleys. Each city-state’s population could usually be counted in the thousands, not millions. There were a number of different dialects, with varying degrees of mutual comprehension, from familiar to total misunderstanding. Contact with each other was based on commerce and trade, grounding Western economy in the precepts of capitalism. The notion of personal agency in the West is founded in this economic system, where farmers, landowners, merchants and craftsmen were able to work and make business decisions individually, between themselves. Each city-state had its own independent government and over the centuries, there were phases of monarchy, oligarchy, tyranny and democracy. Local wars were frequent, to settle disagreements. These battles happened steadily, as ancient Greece’s agricultural production was not abundant, due to poor soils and limited tillable land. When food became scarce with droughts, agricultural trade could be interrupted, due to shortages, thus stoking the need for war, to reclaim the lost purchases of food.

Ancient and modern China could not be more radically different. Life, the economy and development all revolved around a large central government, headed by the emperor. Instead of being based on trade and commerce, China’s economy has always been founded on agricultural production and the harvests were and still are largely sold to the state. Why? Because the government is expected to maintain the Heavenly Mandate, which means making sure that all of the citizens have enough to eat. Therefore, farmers always knew that the grain they grew could very easily end up in another part of China, because of distant droughts. This whole idea of central planning extended to flood control. Communities in one area of China would be tasked to build dams or canals, not to help reduce flood risk for themselves, but for other citizens far away, downstream, all for the collective good.

The idea of independent city-states is anathema in China, as it always signaled a breakdown in the central power’s cohesion and governance, from border to border, leading to warlordism, strife and hunger.

Chinese socialist (or call it Communist) system has clearly roots in China’s ancient history.

It is based on sharing and cooperation, on solidarity and harmony.

It is a much more suitable system for humanity, than what the West spread by force to all corners of the world.

When the West succeeds in something, it feels that it has “won”. It drives the banner pole into the earth, gets some fermented drink to celebrate, and feels superior, unique.

China thinks differently: “if our neighbors are doing well and are at peace, then China will prosper too, and will enjoy peace. We can trade, we can visit each other, exchange ideas.”

In the ancient days Chinese ships used to visit Africa, what is now Somalia and Kenya. The ships were huge. In those days, Europe had nothing so enormous at its disposal. Chinese ships were armed against the pirates, but they mainly travelled with scribes, scholars, doctors and researchers.

When they reached the African shore, they made contacts with the locals. They studied each other, exchanged gifts (some Chinese pottery and ceramics are still being found near the island of Lamu).

There was not much common ground between those two cultures, at that time. The Chinese scribes recorded: “This is not yet right time for permanent contact”. They left gifts on the shore, and sailed home. Nobody died. Nobody was “converted”. No one was raped. African land still belonged to Africans. African people were free to do what they chose.

A century or two later, the Westerners arrived…

*****

I know China, but even better, I know the world in which China operates.

The more I see, the more I am impressed – I actually want China to be everywhere, and as soon as possible!

I have worked in all the tiny and large nations of Oceania (Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia), except in Niue and Nauru. There, the West divided this gorgeous and once proud part of the world, created bizarre borders, literally forced people to eat shit (dumping animal food in local stores), burdened them with foreign loans and introduced a culture of dependency and destruction (nuclear experiments, and military bases). Due to global warming, RMI, Kiribati and Tuwalu began “sinking” (in reality, the water is rising).

China came, with real internationalist determination. It began doing everything right – planting mangroves, building sport facilities for people in countries where over half of the population has to often live with diabetes. It constructed government buildings, hospitals, schools. The response of the West? They encouraged Taiwan to come, bribe the local governments and to make them recognize Taipei as the capital of an independent country, forcing China to break diplomatic relationships.

In Africa, I saw Chinese people building roads, railroads, even city trams, schools, hospitals, fighting malaria. This continent was only plundered by the West. Europeans and North Americans built nothing there. China did, and still does, miracles. Out of solidarity, out of internationalist principles so clearly defined decades ago by Chairman Mao.

And I don’t really care what the Western propagandists and ideologues think about the Chinese Communist Party, about Mao and about President Xi Jinping. I see results! I see China, huge, compassionate and confident, rising, and with its close allies like Russia, ready to defend the world.

China saved Cuba. The Western “left-wing” intellectuals said nothing about it. I did. I was attacked. Then, Fidel personally confirmed that I was correct.

China helped Venezuela and it helped Syria. Not for profit, but because it was its internationalist duty.

Saw China in action in East Timor, (Timor Leste), a tiny poor country that the West sacrificed, delivering it on a silver platter to the murderous Indonesian dictator Suharto and his military cronies. 30% of the people were brutally massacred. After independence, Australia began robbing the weak new government of the natural gas in a disputed area. China came in, built the energy sector and an excellent modern hospital (public), staffed with top Chinese surgeons (while Cuba sent field doctors).

Afghanistan? After 16 years of monstrous NATO occupation, this once proud and progressive (before the West manufactured terrorist movements there, to fight socialism) country is one of the poorest on Earth. The West built walls, barbed wire fences, military bases and total misery. China? China built a huge modern hospital wing, actually the only decent and functioning public medical facility in the country.

These are just some of many examples that I have been witnessing during my work, all over the world.

When I lived in Africa (I was based in Nairobi for several years), across the floor was a flat housing four Chinese engineers.

While the Westerners in Africa are almost always secretive, snobbish and arrogant, this group of Chinese builders was loud, enthusiastic and always in a great mood. They power-walked downstairs, in the garden, they ate, joked together. They looked like a good old “socialist realism” poster. They were clearly on a mission. They were building, trying to save the continent. And it was so clear how confident they were.

They were building, and I was making documentary films about what the West did to Africa, including my above-mentioned Rwanda Gambit.

It was clear where I stood. It was clear where the Chinese engineers stood. We stood with the people of Africa. Firmly. No matter what the Western propaganda, academia and mass media keep inventing, that is where we stood, and that is where we are standing right now, although geographically far apart. Once comrades, always comrades. And if we fall, that is how we fall – with no regrets, building a much better world.

And the people of Africa, of Oceania, Latin America and increasingly of Asia, are beginning to realize, to understand.

They are learning what The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is. They are learning about “Ecological Civilization“. They are slowly learning that not everyone is the same; that each country has a different culture and goals. They are learning that not everything in life is a lie or for profit. Yes, of course, resources are not unlimited and expenses have to be sometimes covered, but there is much more to life than just cold calculations.

The West and its client states cannot understand this. Or they can, but do not want to. As a moral entity, they are finished. They can only fight for their own interests, as their workers in Paris are only fighting for their own benefits; definitely not for the world.

The West tries to smear everything that is pure and it repeats that “everyone in this world is essentially the same” (a thief).

Their (mainly Western, but also South Korean, Taiwanese, Hong Kong and Japanese) academia is deeply involved. It has already infiltrated the entire world, particularly Asia, including China itself. It teaches young Chinese people that their country is actually not what they think it is! At some point, Chinese students were travelling to the West, in order to study… about China!

North American and European universities are spreading funding and trying to manipulate the best Chinese minds.

In other parts of Asia, again through funding and scholarships, the local academics “get matched” with the anti-Communist and pro-Western counterparts that operate at the universities inside the PRC.

This problem has been, fortunately, identified in the PRC, and the shameless attacks against the Chinese education system are being dealt with.

Mass media and bookstores are not far behind. Anti-Chinese propaganda is everywhere. Anti-Communist propaganda is everywhere.

Yet, China is rising. It is rising despite racism, the lies, and fake news.

Socialist, internationalist China is slowly but confidently marching forward, without confronting anyone, without making too much noise about the unfair, aggressive treatment it receives in the West and from countries like Japan.

It appears that its leadership has nerves of steel. Or perhaps those long thousands of years of great culture are simply allowed to speak for themselves.

When a great Dragon flies, you can bark, shout insults, even shoot at it. It is too big, too ancient, too wise and determined: it will not stop, turn back or fall from the sky. And when the people on Earth have enough time to observe it in its full glory and in full flight, they may, just finally may understand that the creature is not only mighty, but also tremendously beautiful and kind.

*****

• Originally published by New Eastern Outlook (NEO)

Bullied Relations: Australia, East Timor and Natural Resources

The Commission instead opted for the easiest way out, which is a shame as in my perception it reveals a lack of impartiality on your behalf!

Xanana Gusmão, Chief East Timorese negotiator, February 28, 2018

In the scheme of things, Australia has deputised as regional bully for imperial powers since it became an outpost of the British empire.  Neighbouring states have been ridiculed, mocked and derided as sub-human and incapable.  The term “failed state” is still used in Canberra’s circles of presupposing power over desperate basket cases.  Little wonder that China smells a wounded reputation.

It is in that spirit that signing of an agreement between Australia and East Timor to demarcate maritime borders took place.  Officially, there were smiles, even a sense of back slapping.  The March 7 press release from Foreign Minister Julie Bishop conveys the moment of false elevation:

The treaty is a historic agreement that opens a new chapter in our bilateral relationship.  It establishes permanent maritime boundaries between our countries and provides for the joint development and management of the Great Sunrise gas fields.

The story behind the rubbing and flesh pressing was more questioning.  The countries had, after all, reached this point after allegations of espionage threatened to scupper talks.  Those allegations pertained to efforts on the part of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service to spy on East Timorese delegates during negotiations of the 2006 CMATS (Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea).  Where the division of revenue is concerned – in that case, the Greater Sunrise gas field in the Timor Sea – the spooks will follow.

The central points of historic contention between the states remain traditional: natural resources and how best to harness them.  Neither could quite agree on who should have access to oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea.  The political imbroglio had its genesis in the 1989 Timor Gap Treaty signed between Australia and Indonesia when President Suharto’s kleptocracy, not to mention brutal suppression of East Timor, were deemed acceptable matters of realpolitik.

The subsequent liberation of East Timor left the fledgling state in a parlous, near-death state.  Indonesia and Australia continued to share the resources of the Timor Gap in gluttonous merriment till the signing of the Timor Sea Treaty.  The document had one glaring flaw: the lack of a determined permanent maritime border.  CMATS, which East Timor duly tore up, permitted an equal division of revenue, but similarly postponed the discussion of a maritime border.

Central to the Timor-Leste strategy was a determination to do it by the international law book.  East Timor argued for a maritime border lying half way between it and Australia; Australia, that it follow its continental shelf.  The Permanent Court of Arbitration, and Conciliation Commissioners, were duly engaged in applying the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.  Australia subsequently celebrated the outcome as “the first ever conciliation under [UNCLOS].”

While students of international law cheered the result, the political dimension proved uglier.  East Timor’s chief negotiator and all-round resistance figure Xanana Gusmão lashed Australia and the Commissioners in a letter to the Conciliation Commission.

The Commission, he argued, were ignorant on East Timorese matters.  The “chosen technical expert does not have appropriate experience or understanding from working in Timor-Leste or similar developing country contexts.”  Their assessments on “potential benefits to the Timor-Leste population” were “shockingly superficial”, a point that only advantaged Australia.

Gusmão also had another gripe: Australian negotiators had seemingly been gotten to by the extractive industry heavies, Woodside Petroleum and Conoco Philips. “Civil society could potentially perceive this as a ‘form’ of collusion between the Government of Australia and Darwin LNG Partners and/or the Sunrise J.”

That the officials of Timor-Leste should harbour obstinate suspicions is not only understandable but sagacious.  To deal with a repressive, sanguinary Indonesian military was painful enough.  But then came international knowledge about the brutal regime operating in East Timor, knowledge that came precariously close to active complicity.  Fraternal talk tends to be counterfeit in the market of geopolitics.

The 2,500 page Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor, transmitted by Gusmão, then East Timorese president, to the national parliament in November 2005 referenced hundreds of illuminating formerly classified US and British documents.  These showed tacit approval by both the US and UK for the invasion of East Timor in 1975 and the status quo till 1999, during which some 100,000 Timorese died.

There were even open instances of Indonesian officials showing interest, as a National Security Council memorandum to US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger states, “in knowing the American attitude regarding Portuguese Timor (and, by implication, our reaction to a possible Indonesian takeover).”  They were not disappointed.

As late as 2014, the Australian government would go to considerable lengths to prevent the release of files pertaining to Canberra’s knowledge of Indonesian troop deployments during the occupation.  Of particular sensitivity were operations conducted in late 1981 and early 1982 which ended in predictable massacre.  In a decision by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal agreeing with the government, President Justice Duncan Kerr claimed with Kafkaesque absurdity that he had to “express conclusions which I am unable to explain”.

What the justice did reveal was a tantalising titbit on the regional bullying East Timor has been subjected to at the hands of murderous and occasionally complicit powers.  Evidence submitted to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade revealed a certain insistence on the part of US authorities in 2013 wanting “the Australian government to continue to restrict access to… four documents” with “ongoing sensitivities”.

East Timor remains a state on a drip. It is impoverished.  Despite all this, the Australian preference remains determined and exploitative.  The issue on where the oil and gas will be processed continues as a niggling sore point.  Canberra prefers that piping take place through Darwin, with an 80 percent revenue sweetener to East Timor.

That will hardy pass muster for Dili, which sees value in having the processing facility in East Timor, where a “petroleum hub” is being developed. To that end, it is even willing to surrender a revenue cut to Australia.  Power machinations, and Australia’s petroleum lobby, may well yet undo these arrangements. The regional bully remains renascent.

52 Years after Fascist Genocide, Indonesians Scared of “Communist Ghosts”

From Jakarta and Yogyakarta — It was once again a hot, muggy day in Jakarta. The air was full of pollutants, epic traffic jams blocking entire center of the city. Biasa, as locals would say, or in a lax translation, ‘business as usual’.

It is September 29th, 2017, Friday, just one day before the most sinister anniversary in the entire Southeast Asia.

On September 30th, 1965, the Indonesian military, obeying orders from foreign powers (mainly the US and the UK), overthrew the progressive and anti-imperialist government of President Sukarno, murdering between 1 and 3 million men, women and children (including almost all members of the Communist Party of Indonesia – PKI). This was done with the direct help of almost all the major religious organizations (Muslim, Protestant, Catholic and Hindu). The bloodshed continued well into 1966, and the “Rivers were choked with corpses and ran red from blood,” as I was told by Pramoedya Ananta Toer, the greatest Indonesian novelist. All the hopes for a socialist, just and egalitarian motherland were wasted.

Before the coup, Indonesia used to be a true internationalist nation, and was one of the proud founders of the Non-Aligned Movement (the West Javanese city of Bandung hosted its establishing conference in 1955). President Sukarno and his progressive and patriotic government used to hold in their hands almost all the natural resources, trying to build a proud, artistic and productive nation. Sukarno once even humiliated the US Ambassador, in front of a huge crowd, at a packed stadium: “To hell with your aid!” He did not need any Western aid. He was presiding over potentially one of the richest nations on Earth.

The Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI), the third largest in the world after those of the Soviet Union and China, was going to win the elections, comfortably and democratically, in 1966, while being fully supported by President Sukarno. Their manifesto was clear: anti-imperialism, social justice and land reforms. But who were some of the largest landowners in Indonesia during that period? Religious leaders! And they, together with the military and corrupt elites, decided: “No!” This has to be stopped! No justice. No internationalism. No socialism.” They betrayed the nation and its people; they committed treason and on September 30, 1965, overthrew socialist democracy.

The results were horrifying. Perhaps the worst massacres of the 20th Century took place. Mass slaughter, mass rape, and cutting off of female breasts, torture, and shortly after the initial horrors, overflowing prisons and concentration camps. Around 40% of all the teachers of Java were slaughtered and the military was substituted into the school classrooms. Film studios and traditional theatres were shut down, and writers were sent to Buru concentration camp. Intellectualism was fully discouraged, while Communism, the Chinese language and culture, but also all progressive arts and creativity were either ridiculed, or out rightly banned. Promoted instead, were Western-style turbo-capitalism (that which was invented for the colonies, not that for the local consumption in Europe and North America), ‘religions’ (based on repetitive rituals, not on intellectual or spiritual search for God), ‘family values’ (read: patriarchal oppression), an empty pop culture, and selfishness, boosted by consumerism. All this combined gave birth to some of the worst corruption levels in the world.

Indonesia as it used to be before September 30, 1965, died. Unable to produce anything of substantial value, it began perpetrating the unbridled plunder of its own natural resources, predominantly on behalf of foreign conglomerates. The entire beautiful and naturally rich, enormous islands, like Borneo (the largest island in Asia and the second largest in the world), Sumatra and Papua, were converted into devastated, poisoned and fully privatized ecological and social nightmares.

*****

It seems that killing everything decent and hopeful has not been enough for this regime. Even memories have to be killed, even dreams. The great progressive past of Indonesia is being smeared and twisted, until there is nothing more left, only confusion and mechanical religious, family and commercial rituals.

Now, one of the mainstream Indonesian magazines Tempo put on its 25 September – 1 October 2017 cover: “SEKALI LAGI HANTU PKI”
(“Once Again, Ghost of PKI”).

Whenever it suits the corrupt elites, the military and the religious cadres (three main pillars of the Indonesia oppressive regime), the Communist ghost is evoked. It is depicted as a monstrous, nasty, and murderous creature. Indonesian children were taught that the Communist hammer was there to smash the heads of the people, while the sickle was – to cut their throats.

Islamic organizations, as well as the military and police are ‘guarding the nation’ from vicious atheist religious gangs and the security forces regularly dispersing countless meetings. Those who dare to address topics such as social inequality, the lack of decent medical care, affordable education, housing and other basic services, get physically attacked, or legally sanctioned.

MP’s and some government officials, who dare to talk about the necessity to redistribute the wealth of the country, favoring the poor, get attacked or at least openly smeared, including such individuals like the present President, Joko Widodo. Popular, extremely effective and left-leaning, the Governor of Jakarta, ‘Ahok’, was recently locked up in a prison for ‘insulting Islam’ – on thoroughly bogus charges. His biggest ‘sin’ appeared to be his determination to build a mass public transportation system (instead of forcing people to use private vehicles, as all previous pro-business administrations have been doing, submissively), creating green public areas, building drainage and cleaning clogged and polluted canals.

‘Ahok’ is of Chinese origin, a great ‘crime’ in the racially intolerant Indonesia. President Widodo is not. No matter what his ‘blood’ is, he is repeatedly accused of being a ‘Communist’, especially after his State of the Nation speech earlier this year. He has been addressing issues related to social justice, something thoroughly unacceptable in extremely pro-business and pro-Western Indonesia.

Putting the interests of his people above the interests of foreign corporations has gained him countless enemies, at home (from the elites servile to the West) and abroad. His arch-rival and enemy, General Prabowo (former commander of the notorious Kopassus Special Forces under Suharto) is taking full advantage of the situation.

Many Islamists are now calling President Widodo ‘a Communist’. In Indonesia, it is synonymous with a threat and it could also mean a death sentence.

*****

And so it is September 29th, 2017, Friday, in Jakarta, Indonesia. Thousands of protesters are gathering in front of the main gate of the Parliament. Today it is hot and humid, and the air is hopelessly polluted.

March of Anti-Communists

A river of human beings flows slowly. Today it consists predominantly of Muslim militants. Loudspeakers are blasting “Allahu Akbar!” and almost simultaneously:

Ganyang, ganyang, ganyang PKI
Ganyang PKI, sekarang juga!

(Destroy, destroy, destroy PKI
Crush PKI right now!)

These are mainly men, excited and determined. Some women are present, too. Most of them are fully covered. And there are also some children, clinging to their parents, several of them scared, but others clearly enjoying the loud yells and deafening noise.

Huge anti PKI demonstration

Numerous black banners, carrying Arabic insignia, can be spotted in the hands of demonstrators, some suspiciously resembling those of the ISIS. Other flags belong to such organizations as the outlawed but largely tolerated Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, which is determined to establish a caliphate all over this vast archipelago.

Theoretically illegal but also tolerated Forum Pembela Islam (FPI) – Islamic Defender’s Front – is operating openly, and it is rubbing shoulders with the police and other security forces. No one would dare or even bothers to stop them from giving speeches or publicly displaying force.

It is obvious that the law is taken seriously only when it comes to the Communists (who are now practically non-existent in this country), or to any socially or people-oriented movements. Radical Islam is increasingly becoming untouchable, as it generally defends the status quo, as well as the political interests of several high-ranking extreme right-wing military officers, business elites, and Western imperialists.

I look around and I see not a single Western reporter. Surely they are busy sitting in their clubs, luxury hotels and condominiums, dutifully scribbling that Indonesia is a ‘vibrant democracy’, and ‘a country known for its predominantly tolerant brand of Islam’; an official Western dogma since 1965 coup.

At one point I’m approached by a group of young men with a small camera.

“What do you think about PKI?” I’m asked in English.

I pretend to be totally brain-dead. I smile. We shake hands.

“You killed PKI here, didn’t you?” I reply with a question.

“You think so?” they are grinning, talking to me as if I was a child. “You really think so? You are mistaken. PKI are like rats; they are hiding underground… they are everywhere. But don’t worry, we will get them all, soon!”

“Islam is a religion of peace. Indonesians are peaceful people,” his friend concludes. He sounds like the BBC.

*****

Then it is my turn to ask questions. I go from person to person. I want to know what do they really know about the PKI, about Communism? For years and decades, Indonesians have been bombarded by grotesque propaganda which was aiming at discrediting everything great and positive that ever took place in the Communist and socialist countries, from the Soviet Union and China, to Cuba, Venezuela, Vietnam, North Korea and dozens of other left-wing states all over the world.

After 1965, the perception of Indonesians about the world was never based on knowledge and well-informed analyses, but instead on the lowest grade of Western and local propaganda, on racist clichés, and on the gross censorship of everything that could challenge official dogmas.

Destroy PKI Totally, ‘Til Nothing is Left

I talk to a dozen “Communism-haters” and I realize that they know absolutely nothing about the subject they are loudly shouting about. Some are clearly paid to be here. Some have nothing better to do. Some are, perhaps, subconsciously scared about the emptiness of their lives in present-day Indonesia, and they need to cheer each other up, with hate speeches and feelings that they are not alone, that they are like hundreds of millions of others.

Mrs. Bode from Gerakan Ibu Negeri (Movement of the Country’s Mothers):

We are here protesting against resurgence of the PKI! PKI is here; it exists! Their members are all over the social media. They even held seminars, recently.

Some seminars were held recently. Not by the PKI, but by scholars and activists who were trying to address the history of Indonesia, particularly the coup of 1965. But the military interfered. Orders were given to break such encounters. A one-sided interpretation of history is the main and sacred pillar of the propaganda unleashed by the regime.

Mr. Wahnad from Majelis Taklim Nurul Ikhlas (Islamic studies assembly) from the city of Bekasi:

We are supporters of the HTI and we are against the government regulation which bans extremist mass organizations like ours. But PKI is real danger to our country. We want them to be banned. Now we even have them represented in the Parliament. Ribka Tjiptaning, an MPs from PDIP, proudly stated that she is a daughter of a former PKI member!

Poor Ms. Ribka Tjiptaning is the daughter of a former PKI member (and a Javanese aristocrat) who was hanged upside-down and tortured in front of her and her little brother (when they were children), before being sent to a prison. Consequently, each of her steps is being scrutinized as if under a microscope. She is clearly left wing, perhaps the most progressive Indonesian politician. And she wrote a book called I’m Proud To Be a Daughter of a PKI Member. But this lone socialist voice could hardly be mistaken for a great renaissance of the Communist thought in Indonesia.

A small, bearded man wearing white robes introduced himself only as Hamba Allah (Allah’s slave):

We are against the resurrection of PKI. They have distributed t-shirts, pictures, and other things, and there are even some children of the PKI members now pushing this ideology.

Mr. Wahnad from Majelis Taklim Nurul Ikhlas (Islamic studies assembly) from the city of Bekasi:

We are against the resurgence of the PKI. PKI was a party that did some sadistic things to Muslims in general and to Ulamas in particular.

“Sadistic things?” I wonder. The PKI was a relatively tame, constitutional and democratic political party. Even in 1965, many of its members were Muslims. Unless by ‘sadistic things’ she meant that it was pushing for land reforms, and had it won the elections in 1966 (it definitely would have done, if the West had not intervened), it would most definitely have broken the scandalous and feudal mass land ownership by the religious leaders.

“Yes, sadistic,” Ms. Khairunnisa raises her voice.

“How do you know?” I ask.

She replies without hesitation:

We know from G30S/PKI film and also from what the teachers told us. We haven’t read any history books on this issue; why should we? We know anyway…

By “G30S/PKI” she means an official state propaganda film, full of gore, with which all children of Indonesia were terrorized and shocked with on the anniversary of the coup. The film was directed by an arch ‘cultural’ collaborator with the ‘New Order” regime of General Suharto – Mr. Arifin C. Noer.

*****

At one point, I get fully covered by an enormous white flag with Arabic script. The flag covers several lanes of the roadway. Perhaps, as a foreigner, I’m being shown my place, taught a lesson, but I don’t care. I just sit down on the concrete road divider and rest for a couple of minutes. It is cooler under the flag, and all those aggressive, militant noises are now mercifully muted.

Flag under which I was later buried

‘Indonesia is a peaceful country’, I think, sarcastically. That’s what the West wants everybody to believe, convincing even Indonesians themselves that it is the case. ‘Indonesia committed three horrid genocides after 1965 – against its  people, against inhabitants of East Timor, and now against Papuans. Here, I have witnessed and covered all sorts of horrors, for decades: from the mass rapes of Chinese women in Jakarta and Solo, to religious violence in Ambon, Lombok and elsewhere. Even members of most of the non-Sunni Muslim groups (including Shia, Liberal Islam, Ahmadiyah) are frequently attacked, even physically liquidated.

The West praises Indonesia, as long as the country allows its companies to plunder the vast natural resources, in such places as Borneo (Kalimantan), Sumatra and Papua, as long as Indonesia remains anti-Communist, as long as its elites – business, military and religious – are willing to sacrifice hundreds of millions of its defenseless, desperately uninformed and mainly wretched citizens.

*****

“Protests in front of the Parliament were confusing. They brought the issue of PKI awakening. But they were led by the hardline Islamist group, HTI, which is itself banned,” explained Iman Soleh, a professor at the Faculty of Social and Political Science (University of Padjadjaran- UNPAD). He continued:

“In the meantime, it is suspected that the demonstrations were supported by anti Jokowi (President Joko Widodo’s nickname) parties, especially Gerindra and PKS… also Aksi 299 is allegedly funded by General Prabowo group, which always uses month of September to bring forward the issue of ‘PKI awakening’… of course it does it in order to weaken Jokowi’s government.”

In Indonesia, everything appears to be confusing, even what is and what isn’t truly Communist.

Several months ago I met a former Indonesian Mujahedeen fighter in Afghanistan, who barefacedly told me that the present-day Russia is actually Communist, and so is Assad’s government in Syria. According to him, even the governments of Karzai and Ghani in NATO-occupied Afghanistan continue to be essentially Communist.

In the minds of many local people, Communist ghosts appear to be crawling out from every corner, even from the tiniest cracks in the floor.

Indonesia is scared; it is clearly not at peace with itself.

It is not really scared of “Communism”, but of something else, although it finds very difficult to define what exactly is frightening it.

Between 1 and 3 millions of corpses could compile an unimaginably huge mountain of horrors. Most of the Indonesian families have both victims and killers in their ranks. And the killings in 1965/66 Indonesia were not perpetrated ‘long-distance’, by pressing some button. People were often slaughtered with bare hands. Victims looked into the eyes of their killers and tormenters, and they were begging, screaming, howling.

There were never any trials like those that took place in Chile, Argentina or South Africa. There was no serious reconciliation process. The military leaders are not rotting in jail; they are actually running the country.

In fact, the crimes have never been acknowledged. Even worse: the victims are still being officially blamed for the beginning of the 1965 ‘tragedy’.

A bad conscience is hanging over this entire enormous archipelago. Bad conscience because of at least three genocides committed in the last half a century, because of selling the entire country to foreign interests, because of the unimaginable plunder of this once, a long time ago, beautiful and abundant land.

Bad conscience is being silenced by loud senseless sounds of brainless pop music, by countless religious rituals, and by continuous attempts not to read anything serious, not to learn and not to understand.

Jihadi Selfies

Another anniversary of the terrible event has just passed. And thousands took to the streets to protest against the victims. They went to insult the memory of those who were mercilessly slaughtered on orders coming from the West. They went to demand that the days of true independence and the greatness of the Indonesian nation would never return.

•  Photos by Andre Vltchek

*  First published by New Eastern Outlook

The Rising of Britain’s “New Politics”

As the Tories plot to get rid of Prime Minister Theresa May, John Pilger analyses the alternative Labour Party, specifically its foreign policy, which may not be what it seems.

*****

Delegates to the recent Labour Party conference in the English seaside town of Brighton seemed not to notice a video playing in the main entrance.  The world’s third biggest arms manufacturer, BAe Systems, supplier to Saudi Arabia, was promoting its guns, bombs, missiles, naval ships and fighter aircraft.

It seemed a perfidious symbol of a party in which millions of Britons now invest their political hopes. Once the preserve of Tony Blair, it is led today by Jeremy Corbyn, whose career has been very different from Blair’s and is rare in British establishment politics.

Addressing the Labour conference, the campaigner Naomi Klein described the rise of Corbyn as “part of a global phenomenon. We saw it in Bernie Sanders’ historic campaign in the US primaries, powered by millennials who know that safe centrist politics offers them no kind of safe future.”

In fact, at the end of the US primary elections last year, Sanders led his followers into the arms of Hillary Clinton, a liberal warmonger from a long tradition in the Democratic Party.

As President Obama’s Secretary of State, Clinton presided over the invasion of Libya in 2011, which led to a stampede of refugees to Europe. She gloated notoriously at the gruesome murder of Libya’s president. Two years earlier, she signed off on a coup that overthrew the democratically elected president of Honduras. That she has been invited to Wales on 14 October to be given an honorary doctorate by the University of Swansea because she is “synonymous with human rights” is unfathomable.

Like Clinton, Sanders is a cold-warrior and an “anti-communist” obsessive with a proprietorial view of the world beyond the United States. He supported Bill Clinton’s and Tony Blair’s illegal assault on Yugoslavia in 1998 and the invasions of Afghanistan, Syria and Libya, as well as Barack Obama’s campaign of terrorism by drone. He backs the provocation of Russia and agrees that the whistleblower Edward Snowden should stand trial. He has called the late Hugo Chavez – a social democrat who won multiple elections – “a dead communist dictator”.

While Sanders is a familiar liberal politician, Corbyn may well be a phenomenon, with his indefatigable support for the victims of American and British imperial adventures and for popular resistance movements.

For example, in the 1960s and 70s, the Chagos islanders were expelled from their homeland, a British colony in the Indian Ocean, by a Labour government. An entire population was kidnapped. The aim was to make way for a US military base on the main island of Diego Garcia: a secret deal for which the British were “compensated” with a discount of $14 million off the price of a Polaris nuclear submarine.

I have had much to do with the Chagos islanders and have filmed them in exile in Mauritius and the Seychelles, where they suffered and grieved and some of them “died from sadness”, as I was told. They found a political champion in a Labour Member of Parliament, Jeremy Corbyn.

So did the Palestinians. So did Iraqis terrorised by a Labour prime minister’s invasion of their country in 2003. So did others struggling to break free from the designs of western power. Corbyn supported the likes of Hugo Chavez, who brought more than hope to societies subverted by the US behemoth.

And yet, now that Corbyn is closer to power than he might have ever imagined, his foreign policy remains a secret.

By secret, I mean there has been rhetoric and little else. “We must put our values at the heart of our foreign policy,” said Corbyn at the Labour conference.  But what are these “values”?

Since 1945, like the Tories, British Labour has been an imperial party, obsequious to Washington and with a record exemplified by the crime in the Chagos islands.

What has changed? Is Jeremy Corbyn saying Labour will uncouple itself from the US war machine, and the US spying apparatus and US economic blockades that scar humanity?

His shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry, says a Corbyn government “will put human rights back at the heart of Britain’s foreign policy”. But human rights have never been at the heart of British foreign policy — only “interests”, as Lord Palmerston declared in the 19th century: the interests of those at the apex of British society.

Thornberry quoted the late Robin Cook who, as Tony Blair’s first Foreign Secretary in 1997, pledged an “ethical foreign policy” that would “make Britain once again a force for good in the world”.

History is not kind to imperial nostalgia. The recently commemorated division of India by a Labour government in 1947 – with a border hurriedly drawn up by a London barrister, Gordon Radcliffe, who had never been to India and never returned – led to blood-letting on a genocidal scale.

Shut up in a lonely mansion, with police night and day
Patrolling the gardens to keep the assassins away,
He got down to work, to the task of settling the fate
Of millions. The maps at his disposal were out of date
And the Census Returns almost certainly incorrect,
But there was no time to check them, no time to inspect
Contested areas. The weather was frightfully hot,
And a bout of dysentery kept him constantly on the trot,
But in seven weeks it was done, the frontiers decided,
A continent for better or worse divided.

— W.H. Auden, ‘Partition’.

It was the same Labour government (1945–51), led by Prime Minister Clement Attlee – “radical” by today’s standards — that dispatched General Douglas Gracey’s British imperial army to Saigon with orders to re-arm the defeated Japanese in order to prevent Vietnamese nationalists from liberating their own country. Thus, the longest war of the century was ignited.

It was a Labour Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, whose policy of “mutuality” and “partnership” with some of the world’s most vicious despots, especially in the Middle East, forged relationships that endure today, often sidelining and crushing the human rights of whole communities and societies. The cause was British “interests” – oil, power, wealth.

In the “radical” 1960s, Labour’s Defence Secretary, Denis Healey, set up the Defence Sales Organisation (DSO) specifically to boost the arms trade and make money from selling lethal weapons to the world. Healey told Parliament, “While we attach the highest importance to making progress in the field of arms control and disarmament, we must also take what practical steps we can to ensure that this country does not fail to secure its rightful share of this valuable market.”

The double-think was quintessentially Labour.

When I later asked Healey about this “valuable market”, he claimed his decision made no difference to the volume of military exports. In fact, it led to an almost doubling of Britain’s share of the arms market. Today, Britain is the second biggest arms dealer on earth, selling arms and fighter planes, machine guns and “riot control” vehicles, to 22 of the 30 countries on the British Government’s own list of human rights violators.

Will this cease under a Corbyn government? The preferred model – Robin Cook’s “ethical foreign policy” – is revealing. Like Jeremy Corbyn, Cook made his name as a backbencher and critic of the arms trade. “Wherever weapons are sold,” wrote Cook, “there is a tacit conspiracy to conceal the reality of war” and “it is a truism that every war for the past two decades has been fought by poor countries with weapons supplied by rich countries”.

Cook singled out the sale of British Hawk fighters to Indonesia as “particularly disturbing”. Indonesia “is not only repressive but actually at war on two fronts: in East Timor, where perhaps a sixth of the population has been slaughtered … and in West Papua, where it confronts an indigenous liberation movement”.

As Foreign Secretary, Cook promised “a thorough review of arms sales”. The then Nobel Peace Laureate, Bishop Carlos Belo of East Timor, appealed directly to Cook: “Please, I beg you, do not sustain any longer a conflict which without these arms sales could never have been pursued in the first place and not for so very long.” He was referring to Indonesia’s bombing of East Timor with British Hawks and the slaughter of his people with British machine guns. He received no reply.

The following week Cook called journalists to the Foreign Office to announce his “mission statement” for “human rights in a new century”. This PR event included the usual private briefings for selected journalists, including the BBC, in which Foreign Office officials lied that there was “no evidence” that British Hawk aircraft were deployed in East Timor.

A few days later, the Foreign Office issued the results of Cook’s “thorough review” of arms sales policy. “It was not realistic or practical,” wrote Cook, “to revoke licences which were valid and in force at the time of Labour’s election victory”. Suharto’s Minister for Defence, Edi Sudradjat, said that talks were already under way with Britain for the purchase of 18 more Hawk fighters. “The political change in Britain will not affect our negotiations,” he said. He was right.

Today, replace Indonesia with Saudi Arabia and East Timor with Yemen. British military aircraft – sold with the approval of both Tory and Labour governments and built by the firm whose promotional video had pride of place at the Labour Party conference – are bombing the life out of Yemen, one of the most impoverished countries in the world, where half the children are malnourished and there is the greatest cholera epidemic in modern times.

Hospitals and schools, weddings and funerals have been attacked. In Ryadh, British military personnel are reported to be training the Saudis in selecting targets.

In Labour’s 2017 manifesto, Jeremy Corbyn and his party colleagues promised that “Labour will demand a comprehensive, independent, UN-led investigation into alleged violations … in Yemen, including air strikes on civilians by the Saudi-led coalition. We will immediately suspend any further arms sales for use in the conflict until that investigation is concluded.”

But the evidence of Saudi Arabia’s crimes in Yemen is already documented by Amnesty and others, notably by the courageous reporting of the British journalist Iona Craig. The dossier is voluminous.

Labour does not promise to stop arms exports to Saudi Arabia. It does not say Britain will withdraw its support for governments responsible for the export of Islamist jihadism. There is no commitment to dismantle the arms trade.

The manifesto describes a “special relationship [with the US] based on shared values … When the current Trump administration chooses to ignore them … we will not be afraid to disagree”.

As Jeremy Corbyn knows, dealing with the US is not about merely “disagreeing”. The US is a rapacious, rogue power that ought not to be regarded as a natural ally of any state championing human rights, irrespective of whether Trump or anyone else is President.

When Emily Thornberry linked Venezuela with the Philippines as “increasingly autocratic regimes” – slogans bereft of contextual truth and ignoring the subversive US role in Venezuela — she was consciously playing to the enemy: a tactic with which Jeremy Corbyn will be familiar.

A Corbyn government will allow the Chagos islanders the right of return. But Labour says nothing about renegotiating the 50-year renewal agreement that Britain has just signed with the US allowing it to use the base on Diego Garcia from which it has bombed Afghanistan and Iraq.

A Corbyn government will “immediately recognise the state of Palestine”. But it is silent on whether Britain will continue to arm Israel, continue to acquiesce in the illegal trade in Israel’s illegal “settlements” and continue to treat Israel merely as a warring party, rather than as an historic oppressor given immunity by Washington and London.

On Britain’s support for Nato’s current war preparations, Labour boasts that the “last Labour government spent above the benchmark of 2 per cent of GDP” on Nato. It says, “Conservative spending cuts have put Britain’s security at risk” and promises to boost Britain’s military “obligations”.

In fact, most of the £40 billion Britain currently spends on the military is not for territorial defence of the UK but for offensive purposes to enhance British “interests” as defined by those who have tried to smear Jeremy Corbyn as unpatriotic.

If the polls are reliable, most Britons are well ahead of their politicians, Tory and Labour. They would accept higher taxes to pay for public services; they want the National Health Service restored to full health. They want decent jobs and wages and housing and schools; they do not hate foreigners but resent exploitative labour. They have no fond memory of an empire on which the sun never set.

They oppose the invasion of other countries and regard Blair as a liar.  The rise of Donald Trump has reminded them what a menace the United States can be, especially with their own country in tow.

The Labour Party is the beneficiary of this mood, but many of its pledges – certainly in foreign policy – are qualified and compromised, suggesting, for many Britons, more of the same.

Jeremy Corbyn is widely and properly recognised for his integrity; he opposes the renewal of Trident nuclear weapons; the Labour Party supports it. But he has given shadow cabinet positions to pro-war MPs who support Blairism, and tried to get rid of him and abused him as “unelectable”.

“We are the political mainstream now,” says Corbyn.  Yes, but at what price?

Western Propaganda in Southeast Asia: A True “Success Story”

It is all done in a fully barefaced manner. Those who are not part of this world could never even dream about such a ‘perfect’ design.

You come to your club, in my case to The Foreign Correspondent Club of Thailand (FCCT), and immediately the long arm of indoctrination begins stretching towards you.

US filmmakers of Neighbour at FCCT Bangkok

You place yourself on a comfortable couch, and soon after get fully serviced. You get instructed, told what to think and how to formulate or modify your ideas.

You are periodically shown movies about “corruption and immorality” in China. You get encouraged to participate in some public discussions that are, among other things, trashing the anti-Western president of the Philippines.

Although lately also the Middle East, and particularly Syria, are brought into the spotlight.

Of course, almost all that is on offer in such places like FCCT is the Western view, or concretely a set of Western views raging from conservative to ‘liberal’. The club is located in Asia, in the heart of Southeast Asia, but very few Asians are invited to speak here, except the few Thais who are well versed in the Western way of thinking. Or Western agents like the Dalai Lama, of course – such individuals can come anytime they want! Forget about hearing from ‘the other side’ – you’d never stumble here over speakers such as Communist thinkers or writers from Mainland China, or pro-Duterte academics or activists from the Philippines.

Most of the Thais who get spotted at the FCCT are actually those who provide support services for the Western gurus of mainstream media: interpreters, fixers, waiters and as well as some administrative support staff.

This is not a place for Asians to lecture Westerners about Asia; this is where Westerners tell Asians how to think in general, and what to think about their own countries in particular.

On the same floor as the FCCT, right down the narrow carpeted corridor, there are the offices of the BBC, the NBC and several other mainstream Western media outlets. ‘The Penthouse’ of the Maneeya Center Building in Bangkok is actually a self-sufficient propaganda complex.

At FCCT in Bangkok it is mostly whites and their friends who can speak

And tonight it is offering a free screening (free for us, members) of a U.S. documentary film called Salam Neighbor, about Jordan’s huge Za’atari refugee camp, which hosts approximately 80,000 refugees just a few miles away from the Syrian border.

On the FCCT flier it says openly: “In partnership with the U.S. Embassy Bangkok and The American Film Showcase.“

A U.S. embassy official introduces the film. It is also being sponsored (openly) by the U.S. Department of State.

The FCCT is packed. Beer flows. People obediently clap to all the opening speeches. No one seems to be noticing the irony: The Empire’s foreign ministry hosting an event at the foreign correspondent’s club in the most important city of Southeast Asia. There are no jokes flying about, no sarcasm. Western media people are well disciplined. Forget about “Salvador” by Oliver Stone – these are quite different times.

It all feels mildly embarrassing. Here, one can never really witness a fiery ideological confrontation. People know their place. They are well aware of what they should say, and how to behave. But most importantly, they know what to write.

*****

The film is short, only some 75 minutes, and it is truly predictable. It is not out-rightly bad. Cinematography is fine, and there are very few factual errors, perhaps because there are only a few facts on offer. The filmmakers are ‘politically correct’: they periodically break down in tears, particularly when interacting with some refugee children.

It is full of clichés, such as: “….. inhabitants of the camp opened their hearts and homes to us”.

But there are also several clearly predictable scenes, appearing on the monitors in all corners of the FCCT, with chilling regularity. Here is one, for instance: kids are playing violent war video games. One child suddenly comments:

Yes, and this is Assad’s regime flag… They give me ammunition and weapons…

We are fed with soft, ‘well-intentioned’ and well-filmed propaganda. Not one word is uttered about the essential and monstrous role of the West in the Syrian war. There is nothing about the Za’atari Camp being one of the training camps for the most extreme pro-Western and pro-Gulf terrorist organizations.

After the films ends, I decide to participate in the Q/A session.

Somehow sarcastically, I congratulate the two filmmakers who were flown to Thailand at the US taxpayer’s expense. I mention that I have also made some films inside refugee camps, including the notorious and brutal Dadaab on the Kenyan-Somali border. Then I ask, point blank:

Did you know that Syrian refugees were allowed to tell you only one side of the story? I am well familiar with the Za’atari camp. There, as well as in the camps for Syrian refugees located in the Iraqi Kurdish region, Syrians are screened and unless they declare that they are against President Assad, they have no chance of getting processed and receiving assistance.

The annoyed faces of veteran Western propaganda-makers now stare at me, point blank. The US embassy apparatchiks maintain their composure. These people are professionals and they hardly ever lose their calm.

But media people are scandalized. I exaggerate my Russia accent and I mention South American Telesur as one of the channels for which I have been making films. How dare I? Don’t I know my place? A non-Westerner telling Western opinion-makers about the world!

I conclude:

Most of the Syrian refugees are not escaping from their government. They are fleeing from the horrors of war, triggered and upheld by the West and its allies in the Gulf and elsewhere.

The silence is now complete.

Then a girl, a local Thai miss, obviously coming from the upper middle class and groomed in the West, approaches the microphone and asks with a cute giggle:

I want to visit the Za’atari Camp early next year. I don’t know why, as I don’t know anything about the Middle East… but maybe I can do something for the refugees, no? And maybe I learn something?

“And maybe take some selfies,” I think.

Soon after I begin to feel sick, and literally flee the place.

*****

The entire Southeast Asia is imprisoned in the tight straightjacket of Western and Japanese pro-Western propaganda. However, the mainstream media and the way it disseminates Western propaganda is not the only example of how the straightjacket works.

Almost all serious and large bookstores, (at least those that are selling books in English), have already been ‘defeated’ by Kinokuniya, a Japanese mega seller. Kinokuniya is to bookselling in Southeast Asia, what Carrefour is to food vending. It operates in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore, and its shops look elegant and sleek. But unless you want to buy some mainstream stuff, you may be truly disappointed, even shocked, by what you find (or not find) on the shelves.

At Jakarta Kinokuniya Bookstore – Mein Kampf and anti-Communist propaganda

It goes without saying that in those stores, one would always be able to find hundreds of appalling anti-Soviet propaganda books, such as those of the Nobel Prize in Literature laureate, Svetlana Alexievich. But try to search for a great, iconic Mexican left-wing author like Elena Poniatowska, and you will get nothing! And forget about finding most of works there of such enormous (but Communist) thinkers like Jose Saramago, Dario Fo, and Harold Pinter (all three authors were also awarded with the Nobel prizes in literature, but are strongly hated by the regime). If you are lucky, you will find one or two books from each of them, but not more than that.

Perhaps you may also find one or two plays by Bertolt Brecht. I searched in Bangkok, and found only one – Galileo.

In Southeast Asian bookstores, you can have “all you can eat” anti-Chinese, anti-Communist propaganda, but except for Mo Yan, not one book of any truly great modern Chinese Communist novelist or a poet.

Of course, you should never even try to find some “offensive materials”; and by offensive I mean sarcastically critical of all that the West has been implanting and upholding in this part of the world – religion, neo-colonialism, monarchism, or even local feudalistic structures which often hide behind such terms as ‘cultures’…

In Indonesia, the situation is the most ridiculous. There, all decent bookstores that mushroomed after Suharto stepped down have literally disappeared. Thereafter, Kinokuniya ‘modified’ its operation in Jakarta, and is presently selling only pop fiction, some Penguin classics and similar mainstream stuff.

Mr. Ariff, a staff marketing person at Kinokuniya, Plaza Senayang in Jakarta, explained:

Arrangement of the shells has to be the same as in our Singapore store, but Indonesian management decides what to sell here.

And decide they do! As expected, many books about Adolf Hitler (very popular historic individual in Indonesia), including his ‘best selling’ (at least in Jakarta) Mein Kampf. Right next to it, there are few shelves filled with anti-Communist propaganda of the lowest grade.

Indonesia has been, since 1965, always a Southeast Asian leader in brainwashing of the population.

One could, of course, argue that there are also some local chains of bookstores, selling books exclusively in the languages of Southeast Asia. However, the offering there is very limited. Frankly, there is no culture of high-quality translations of books in this part of the world, and the number of titles published in local languages is relatively small. Even the most prominent Indonesian novelist, Pramoedya Ananta Toer, once confessed to me, that while translating Maxim Gorky’s “Mother” to Bahasa Indonesia (“Ibunda”), he used the Dutch translation for his work, as well as his ‘intuition’ while scrolling through the original Russian text (he did not really speak much Russian, as he admitted).

*****

After decades of great effort, the Western intellectual indoctrination of Southeast Asia is now almost complete.

It is partially being done through ‘education’, by disbursing scholarships for students and offering conditional funding for Indonesian, Thai, Malaysian and other ‘scholars’ and professors.

Anti-Communist propaganda in Indonesia

Western propaganda is also ‘successfully’ distributed through ‘culture’. Western ‘cultural centers’, which are often (bizarrely) the only places offering ‘high art’ in most of the local cities, are clearly advancing their European and North American imperialist agenda (as I colorfully described in my latest novel Aurora).

The elites here are almost fully subservient to foreign business and political interests. Patriotism is only a buzzword, with no substance behind it.

There is no other part of the world so disconnected from the ideological and physical opposition to Western imperialism, as Southeast Asia.

The consequences of total Western brainwashing are devastating: the entire colossus of Southeast Asia is unable to produce great thinkers, writers, filmmakers, or scientists. There are only a few small exceptions in Thailand (including an important novelist Chart Korbjitti) and in Indonesia (the political painter Djokopekik, a former political prisoner during Suharto’s fascist regime, described by my Australian friend, the artist George Burchett, as ‘an explosive local fusion of Diego Rivera and Picasso’).

Other poor, devastated or complex parts of the world are literally regurgitating entire armies of tremendous writers, filmmakers and intellectuals: from Nigeria to Lebanon, from Iran to Mexico.

*****

With the exception of Vietnam (and to some extent, Laos), the West has literally uprooted all Communist and socialist ways of thinking, as well as internationalism. It was done brutally, though orchestrating massacres and purges. Hundreds of thousands of leftists, perhaps millions, were killed in Indonesia alone, after the 1965 coup. 30% of the population was murdered by Suharto’s military in East Timor, after the left-wing FRETILIN movement won independence from Portugal and consequently took power in fair and clear elections. In Thailand, Communists were burned alive in oil barrels. The killing and disappearing of Communists took place in Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines.

In several countries, including Indonesia, the entire ‘Communist ideology’ is still officially banned.

After internationalism, anti-imperialism, Communism and intellectualism were destroyed, Southeast Asia was injected from abroad with conservative forms of religion, with consumerism, ‘traditional family values’ and grotesquely extreme individualism.

Simultaneously and already for years and decades, this part of the world has become truly famous, even notorious, for sex tourism, and for armies of ‘expats’ who are searching for a cheap and easy lifestyle. In the process they are managing to shape local ‘cultures’, to de-intellectualize this part of the continent. While Beijing and Tokyo are attracting, like magnets, countless great foreign scholars, thinkers and creative people, Southeast Asia is generally besieged by, to put it mildly, a very different type of foreigners. Why are they so comfortable here? It is because of the ‘great respect’ they can enjoy in Southeast Asia for just being white, no matter what their age or life achievements. This respect comes from the clear indoctrination of locals, from the pronounced lie, repeated thousands of times (mostly indirectly), that Western culture is superior, and, in fact, the greatest in the world.

To make Europeans and North Americans even more comfortable here: in Southeast Asia, almost all basic doctrines disseminated by Western propaganda, as well as the most primitive grain of capitalist and right wing ideologies have been historically accepted, tolerated, and even dutifully replicated.

*****

For the local academia, it is only the Western (or Japanese) stamp of approval that matters. As a result Southeast Asia forgot what patriotic and independent thought truly consists of.

Most of the Southeast Asian newspapers have no ‘foreign correspondents’ in faraway places. Almost all of their international news reports come directly from Western mainstream agencies such as Reuters, AFP and AP. No loopholes through which at least some alternative opposition information could enter and influence the masses, seems to be available.

You ask on the streets of Bangkok, Jakarta or even Kuala Lumpur about ‘South-South’ co-operation, and you will be greeted with blank stares. You would be suspected of talking about some new mobile phone application, or a chain of fast food restaurants. And what is BRICS, masonry?

While bookstores are basically finished, commercial cinemas are offering extremely carefully selected (the emptier the better) Hollywood ‘blockbusters’ and local horror films.

Local art forms, including traditional political theatre in Indonesia (ketoprak) is lately ‘out of fashion’, read: sidelined, made fully irrelevant, silenced.

Scarce art film clubs, like the one in the River City in Bangkok, has stickers of US and European cultural institutions (“sponsors”) ‘decorating its entrance.

One naughty art seller, in one of the galleries near the River City film club, just recently dared to exhibit a painting depicting Obama, with two obnoxious missiles hanging in between his legs. But was apparently asked to remove provocative art work, right before the official film screening which was sponsored by the Turkish embassy and attended by several Western diplomats. “Come with me into the storage and I will show you,” he whispered to me, as if he was peddling some illegal pornographic material or narcotics.

*****

Perhaps the most telling example of “how things are done”, I encountered several years ago on the premises of the Goethe Institute in Jakarta. Its curators decided to exhibit some old photographs from the Polish ‘Solidarity’ days, when, during one protest in the city of Gdansk, security forces fired at protesters.

The exhibition was put together, barefacedly, in the capital city of Indonesia, where ‘Communism’ is patently banned, where millions were massacred during the US-sponsored coup of 1965, and where the entire huge archipelago has been irreversibly plundered and devastated by multi-national and local mining and logging cartels. The nightmarish, ultra-extreme capitalism has been ruling and ruining Indonesia for years and decades, but it was Gdansk that Germany decided to show to the Indonesian public!

A handful of people killed by the Communists, decades ago, in Poland, were commemorated and the act shown to Jakarta dwellers. Of course, the German cultural institute would never even dream about arranging an exhibition commemorating the mass slaughter of Communists by Indonesian pro-Western genocidal forces.

*****

Now Southeast Asia knows nearly nothing about Russia, and almost nothing about China (except what the Western demagogues want it to know). Africa, including South Africa, is located on another planet, and so is Latin America. Only local elites can afford to travel to far away places, and these people are loyal to their Western masters and official doctrines; they would never tell the truth, never rock the boat of disinformation.

The local population knows generally more about North American pop or European football, than about its neighboring countries. The Southeast Asian poor are kept totally ignorant about Latin American attempts to build just, egalitarian societies. They know close to zero about Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuela or Ecuador.

Of course, there is absolutely no way one could discuss, in Southeast Asia, the recent re-election of MPLA in Angola (an event of tremendous global significance, as Angola is one of the symbols of the Western colonialist crimes against humanity, as well as of neo-colonial plunder). There is no way of discussing Cuba and its internationalism here, or even the coalition of countries, which are now standing proudly and determinedly against Western imperialism.

And what about the Middle East? It is fully limited to the Palestinian issue, and even that is discussed only in predominantly Muslim Indonesia and Malaysia. Another Middle Eastern ‘link’ is the unnaturally injected hatred for President Assad, who is accused of being too ‘secular’ and too ‘socialist’ (of course, these are great ‘crimes’ here, definitely not praise).

*****

In Southeast Asia, the West is clearly victorious. It has successfully ‘neutralized’, ‘pacified’, indoctrinated and intellectually enslaved this large (and in the past diverse) part of the world.

Hopefully this situation will not last forever, and not even for too long a time.

The Philippines and Vietnam are rapidly coming back to their senses, increasingly determined not to take dictates from the West.

But Indonesia has suffered a major setback, after its traditional-style ‘legal coup’ against Jakarta’s progressive Governor ‘Ahok’, who was smeared and then imprisoned on thoroughly irrational and bizarre accusations that he ‘insulted Islam’ (charges so bizarre that even local linguists came to his defense, but the verdict was ‘political’ and had nothing to do with justice). His true ‘sin’: Ahok tried to implement at least some elements of socialism in this still hopelessly fascist country. He fell. Others may make a fresh attempt, soon.

In the meantime, both China and Russia are making great inroads in the region. Local ‘creams’ are watching, attentively. Most of Southeast Asian elites have always been for sale, for centuries, of course, with the exception of those in North Vietnam.

As the anti-imperialist coalition is getting stronger and wealthier, there could actually be some serious changes of heart in foreseeable future, at the top of several Southeast Asian countries. Even Communism could be finally legalized again, but only if it manages to disperse some funding, scholarships, and substantial grants.

If it would, than those uniform debates at the FCCT in Bangkok could finally become vibrant and diverse.

The West will, of course, work very hard to prevent all this from happening.

*****

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

• First published in New Eastern Outlook (NEO)

Repair or Replace?

There are very few inventions which are perfect at the moment of their creation, or which cannot be improved over time. The League of Nations was a new invention when it was first created after the First World War. It was the first attempt to form a global organisation whose main purpose was to prevent war through achieving disarmament and settling disputes through negotiation and arbitration. Like most new inventions, it wasn’t perfect. It failed, and World War Two followed.

However, the League did have some partial success. It established for the first time the concept of international law, the idea that there should be global laws to which every nation should conform. And it established the concept of international government, that some sort of international body should coordinate and regulate the international relationships between countries. The League failed, but it was a start; and when the United Nations was created after World War Two there was an old model upon which it could be based, and whose weaknesses and mistakes could be improved upon in the new model.

But like the League before it, the UN hasn’t lived up to the hopes and aspirations of many of those who created it. But also like the League, it has had some partial success. The concept of international law, although still poorly policed, is now even more firmly established in the global consciousness. The UN Charter, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and several other internationally accepted treaties are fine achievements, slowly building an infrastructure of standards to which all nations should conform. So although the UN has clearly failed to create world peace, it has provided another useful stepping stone in the gradual evolution of what our planet desperately needs: an effective world government.

The UN has been very useful in one other important way: it has shown us what not to do; its failures have particular reasons for failing, and a clearer understanding of those reasons, and how to avoid them happening again, will help in designing the next stage in the evolution of world government.

The emperor is dead. Long live the emperor.

A brief glance at the short history of the United Nations quickly provides more than sufficient evidence of its main problems.

The period covering the fall of the British Empire probably started and ended with the United States. The end of the American War of Independence in 1783 was the first time a sizeable British colony successfully broke free of England’s control, and the conclusion of the Atlantic Charter, an agreement between Britain and the USA in 1941, effectively transferred control of what remained of Britain’s imperial pretensions to Washington. The Charter was Britain’s only chance of avoiding an early defeat by Germany in World War Two, and it marked the end of the British Empire, together with the birth of the American Empire. It was effectively a hostile takeover, an old and decrepit global corporation being bought out by a young and ambitious one.

Britain had started a war it had no chance of winning without American support, support they had no right or reason to think would be forthcoming. When the crunch came, and it came within the first two years of Britain’s six year war, the US found itself sitting in the pound-seats – the only nation capable of saving Britain’s neck. The US would do so, but at a price of its choosing. The Atlantic Charter was a bill of sale, transferring ownership of the planet from one grasping corporation to another.

Arrangements for the future shape of the new world order began well before the end of WW2. The first major issue to be resolved was how the new global economy would be managed — especially regarding the new global currency. Prior to the war British pounds were the most widely-used currency. After the war it would be the US dollar. British negotiators battled hard and valiantly at Bretton Woods to prevent this happening. Their lead negotiator, the famous economist JM Keynes, knowing the pound had had its day but wanting to prevent the inevitable, proposed a novel idea whereby no one country would control the global currency. But the moment had gone. If his ideas had been forthcoming and acted on twenty years earlier they might have succeeded and the war avoided altogether, but in 1945 it was too late; bankrupt, war-torn Britain had no bargaining power left, and the mighty US dollar won the day.

The next big question to be resolved was how international affairs would be administered, what new system would replace the League of Nations?

The San Francisco Conference

Delegates from fifty countries met in San Francisco in 1945 to create the United Nations. But right from the very beginning political games between the three major powers – Britain, US, and USSR – were being played. The other forty six countries were effectively little more than on-lookers. When the US emerged from the war as the most powerful country on earth, effectively the last man standing, it had absolutely no intention of equitable power-sharing. The UN would become an agent for implementing US foreign policy, or it would not exist at all. President Truman, writing in his memoirs, explained that the intentions of the US delegates to San Francisco would be to make sure the new UN would provide, the maintenance of United States military and strategic rights… [and] such control as will be necessary to assure general peace and security in the Pacific Ocean area as well as elsewhere in the world…”

Gabriel Kolko goes on to point out:

The assumption of this statement hardly concealed the strategic objectives of the United States, for it was perfectly clear that the United States sought to advance its national interests in the guise of performing erstwhile international obligations, obligations which threatened to take it to every corner of the globe.1

The position of the other main players, USSR and Britain, although individually far weaker than the US, was nevertheless significant. If the US was too blatant or greedy in its efforts to control the new world body they too could have refused to play; and Britain especially, with its crumbling but still vast imperial possessions still wielded considerable diplomatic influence around the world.

No doubt Britain mourned the loss of its imperial crown, and had to try to gain as much influence as it could with the new emperor. Fortunately both nations shared a common dread of the USSR and could see that working together would be in both their interests.

From the beginning of the postwar period until the present day, a primary aim of the leading Western states – and especially the United States and Britain – has been to render the United Nations an instrument of their foreign policies: serviceable as such when required; discarded when not…

A British Foreign Office memorandum of 1952, for example, called for strengthening the UN ‘as an instrument of Anglo-American foreign policy’.2

It must also have been very apparent to the delegation from the USSR, in the early days of the San Francisco conference, that their position was especially vulnerable. They were the only communist country in existence, and were only too well aware – after the numerous shenanigans played by their so-called allies during the war – that they could not trust the new global imperium one inch.

So the compromise arrangement, which would appear to ensure no one country had too much power, was the creation of the Security Council (SC), an “upper chamber” of the UN, comprising the handful of most powerful nations, any one of which could override any General Assembly (GA) decision, or any draft resolution made by fellow SC members.

However, there can be little doubt that by the 19990s the UN had evolved to pretty much serve the purpose for which the US originally intended it:

The dominant elite view with regard to the UN was well expressed in 1992 by Francis Fukuyama, who had served in the Reagan-Bush State Department: the UN is ‘perfectly serviceable as an instrument of American unilateralism and indeed may be the primary mechanism through which that unilateralism will be exercised in the future.’3

But ten years later a certain arrogant indifference had developed. The UN could be useful when compliant, irrelevant when not:

[A] senior Bush administration official explained in October 2002 that ‘we don’t need the Security Council.’ So if it ‘wants to stay relevant, then it has to give us similar authority’ to that just granted by Congress – authority to use force at will. The stand was endorsed by the president and Colin Powell, who added that ‘obviously, the Council can always go off and have other discussions,’ but ‘ we have the authority to do what we believe is necessary.’ Washington agreed to submit a resolution to the Security Council (UN1441), leaving no doubt, however, that the exercise was meaningless. ‘Whatever the diplomatic niceties, Mr Bush made it clear that he regarded the resolution to be all the authority he needed to act against Iraq should Mr Hussein balk.’ Diplomatic correspondents observed, ‘Though Washington would consult other members of the Security Council, it would not find it necessary to win their approval.’ Echoing Powell, White House chief of staff Andrew Card explained that ‘the UN can meet and discuss, but we don’t need their permission.’4

The UN in Action and Inaction

With over seventy years of UN history to consult there are two fairly damning pieces of irrefutable evidence showing how an organisation that showed so much promise for achieving great good has been abused and manipulated into presiding over very great evil: the record of vetoes cast in the so-called “Security Council”; and the record of trade sanctions imposed by the UN.

The Veto Record

The very concept of the Security Council (SC) veto is something which should be deeply pondered. What is the point of having a world assembly if one of five countries (the US, UK, Russia, France, or China) has the power to overrule its decisions? It’s a point that’s been raised before:

As the 1994 report of the International Commission on Peace and Food notes, ‘in no other constitution or organisation founded on democratic principles is it accepted that a few members [in the Security Council] may thus invalidate the decisions of the majority [in the General Assembly].5

The record of vetoes cast in the Security Council since the creation of the UN up to recent times is interesting. According to the Dag Hammarskjold Library (a UN service) a summary of vetoes cast is as follows:

  1. USSR (and later the Russian Federation): 107
  2. The USA: 78
  3. The UK: 29
  4. France: 16
  5. China: 10

Interestingly, the USSR used its veto seventy eight times in the first twenty years of the UN’s life, whilst the USA didn’t use theirs at all. Ever since then, over the last fifty years, the USSR/Russian Federation have used their veto 29 times compared to the USA’s 78 times. In fact, American vetoes cast during the last half century almost equals the number of vetoes used by the other four permanent SC members put together.

The power of the veto can be immense. It is, for example, the main reason why the living nightmare in Occupied Palestine has been going on for almost seventy years, and still shows no sign of ending. There, despite numerous efforts by the UN to bring a semblance of justice to that tragic land, the US routinely prevents it doing so by wielding its veto.

The Sanctions Record

Whilst the veto can work as an effective means to prevent the UN doing something helpful and useful (as in Palestine), the use of the UN to impose trade sanctions on a country can be every bit as horrific as declaring war on it. Trade sanctions imposed on Iraq, for example, in the lead-up to the 2003 war there, are known to have been directly responsible for the deaths of over half a million children – as well as many uncounted others. Madeleine Albright, US Ambassador to the UN at the time, infamously agreed that this was an “acceptable price” to pay for what amounted to achieving a US foreign policy objective.6

Looking at the data for the occasions when the UN has imposed trade sanctions on a country, a very clear pattern once again emerges.

My second edition copy of Economic Sanctions Reconsidered was published in 1990, so obviously only has information up to that time (more recent editions are available). The book does not cover every instance of economic sanctions, but does focus “on the use of sanctions to achieve foreign policy goals”.7

Starting just after the creation of the United Nations, the USA imposed trade sanctions a massive seventy five times. No other country comes close. The second most prolific user was USSR, which imposed them seven times. All the other countries put together imposed sanctions just fifty times.

So it’s very clear to see, from the use of the Security Council veto, and the record of trade sanctions, how the US has used and abused the United Nations.

The “Security Council” and the war industry

It’s interesting to reflect on the fact that the five permanent members of the UN’s so-called Security Council are also homes of the biggest arms makers in the world, and that the USA is by far the biggest of them all. Given that weapons of war contribute vastly to global insecurity, the conflict of interest for the five permanent members of the SC — and especially the extreme capitalist nations of USA, UK and France — is obvious to see. How could these nations possibly be striving for global security when they are the main providers of the principle means for guaranteeing insecurity? How could they possibly be active in achieving global arms reduction if their most powerful and politically influential arms manufacturers are amassing vast profits from producing weapons of war?

The enormous war machine known as NATO has engineered for itself the incredible situation where its member nations are bound to spend a minimum of around 2% of their annual GDP on “defence”. In effect this means constantly purchasing new war materials from the main providers — war materials which must of course continually be used in order to justify to taxpayers the need for this horrendous expense.

The USA is currently believed to be spending over six hundred billion dollars (about three per cent of US GDP) this year on its “defence” — more than China, Russia and the other countries on the “Security Council” put together.

Looking at the statistics, it’s stunning to compare the data for Costa Rica, for example, where a long line of zeros appear by the side of its name. Why does one country need to spend almost a trillion dollars a year on its “defence”, when another can maintain a truly peaceful existence without spending a single cent on armies? And this when wholly surrounded by countries which have been torn apart by war and revolution for many decades.

The enormous amount of money spent by the US on its war machines is a major driver for global insecurity. Given that the US, more than any other country since the end of WW2, has been instrumental in overthrowing at least fifty foreign governments, many of which were democracies, it’s very clear to see that it’s the US rather than any other country, which causes most global conflicts.

The economics of war clearly favour the US. The hundreds of billions of dollars it spends every year come from its own money, of which it has a limitless supply. Other nations must obtain their dollars (for most arms deals are done in US dollars) by using some sort of real commodity — like oil, for example. This is one reason why Saudi Arabia has one of the biggest military machines in the world. It has more oil than it knows what to do with — a product highly desired by the biggest arms maker in the world.

Nations who have every reason to feel seriously intimidated by the US – such as the USSR – are forever trying to keep up with their arch-nemesis. But unlike the US, they must sell real commodities in order to obtain the dollars they need to purchase the necessary raw materials or high-tech products in order to keep up. Wasting their precious foreign exchange this way obviously makes it impossible to spend money on more socially useful goods. This is, of course, a common problem that also effects most other nations. Kept permanently intimidated, one way or another, by the world’s biggest bully they too feel they must waste precious foreign currency purchasing vast quantities of military hardware – which must be used in artificially contrived wars to justify the expense to their taxpayers.

The Empty Vessel

The fact that the so-called “Security Council” is capable of turning UN decisions into dead letters is seriously important, but it’s only half the problem. The other issue which prevents the UN being anything other than an empty vessel is the fact that it cannot control the finances it needs for its works.

From its earliest days, UN finances have been administered mainly in US dollars, which means that the US effectively controls its spending.

So if we put together all of these factors — the use of vetoes to override the General Assembly — mainly by the USA; the use of trade sanctions as a weapon of war — mainly by the USA; the fact that the USA is by far the biggest arms dealer on the planet — the single greatest cause of global insecurity; and the fact that the US has almost total control of the UN’s finances; it’s very clear to see that not only is the UN largely incapable of performing the function for which it was intended, it has been wholly subverted by the US so that it’s no more than another agent for implementing US foreign policy — pretty much as intended by American elites since before it was founded.

Repair or Replace?

When things get old and worn out we’re often faced with a dilemma: should we repair them or replace them?  Usually repairs are only a serious possibility when the damage is superficial or fairly minor. When it comes to the UN, its worst problems are considerably more serious and of a similar nature to those identified by Tom Paine, writing about the British government over two hundred years ago:

The defect lies in the system. The foundation and the superstructure of the government is bad.8

Unfortunately we’re still waiting to replace Britain’s corrupt system. It’s to be hoped that the wait to replace the UN is not near so long.

Daniel Moynihan, who served as the US ambassador to the UN in the 1970s, verified what was already becoming standard practice:

The United States wished things to turn out as they did [in East Timor], and worked to bring this about. The Department of State desired that the United Nations prove utterly ineffective in whatever measures it undertook. This task was given to me and I carried it forward with no inconsiderable success.9

There is a certain gloating smugness to his comment, as though it was something Mr Moynihan felt proud about. But the success he speaks of resulted in one of the worst genocides of the twentieth century. About three hundred thousand East Timorese — a third of the population — were murdered by the Indonesian government The fact that just one member country of the UN could ensure it was “utterly ineffective” at preventing such horrors indicates the major systemic problem of the UN, a problem which is surely beyond repair.

The Repair Option

One of the most frustrating things which surely effects every waking minute of most activists’ lives is the certain knowledge that things could be so much better, so easily. It’s not as though we knew about some comet heading for earth that would annihilate the world and there was nothing we could do about it. The problems that plague our planet are entirely man-made. We could easily do something about them — if the political will was there to do so. But it isn’t, and never has been.

For this reason it isn’t very realistic to think the UN could be repaired. The USA, being by far the most powerful nation on earth, could, if it so chose, be a real force for real good. It could, almost single-handedly, transform the UN so that it was able to work in the way that most hoped it would work. But given that there’s absolutely nothing in the entire history of the USA to suggest that it has ever done anything other than enhance the interests of its own rich and powerful elites, at the expense of the poor and powerless, we should not only not expect the US to undertake such repair work, we should expect the US to fight tooth and claw to prevent anyone else doing so either. This suggests that replacement of the UN, by others, is the best option.

The Replace Option

At first glance, replacement may seem far-fetched. But we often have to use our imaginations to find innovative solutions, to ponder “what if…”. Given that the UN is clearly no longer fit for purpose, if indeed it ever was, it’s surely time to imagine what a properly-functioning world government should look like.

Perhaps the first question to ask is do we need one at all? I believe we do, for the simple reason that mankind has not yet evolved to such an advanced state that greed and ambition, the curse of humanity, has been eradicated from human DNA. Until that happy day arrives we will need governments to try to curb the worst excesses of human nature. And no government is more important, or more needed, than an effective world government.

Our most serious immediate problem is time. Our planet is perilously close to ecological and environmental catastrophe. Species are going extinct today at a faster rate than at any other time since the extinction of the dinosaurs. This is clearly directly related to the one species whose numbers are exploding — human beings. China is the only nation that has attempted to address this issue, at first with its one-child policy, and now with a far more sensible and perfectly adequate two-child policy. Promoting this as an urgently-needed global cause, arguably even more important than the need to eradicate Permanent War, is something that only a world government could achieve — in the time we have remaining.

So if we accept that we do need a world government, what should it look like?

Fortunately we do not have to invent something that’s never been seen before. The basic concept of a world government has been around now for about a hundred years. It simply needs to be tweaked, improved on, genetically mutated as a natural evolutionary process. I don’t think very much needs to change, except for a few key functions. A handful of foundational and structural improvements may not create the perfect government, but they would surely vastly improve what we have, and that has to be a good thing.

The first thing that has to go is the so-called “Security Council”. Given its long record of vetoing many of the good works the UN has tried to achieve — like bringing justice to Palestine — together with its imposition of hundreds of cases of murderous economic sanctions, together with its total failure to hold to account the principal villains responsible for Permanent War, this Orwellian construct has without doubt been responsible for more global insecurity than any other single factor in recent history. Any new world government cannot allow any one country to have the right to veto the democratic decisions of the government — like some king or emperor overruling parliament.

The next most important requirement is for our new government to have independent economic control. It must have its own currency, which it and it alone controls, and which is acceptable legal tender anywhere amongst member nations. This money should be used to finance the operations and activities of the new government, and every member nation should automatically receive an allocated amount of this money every year, according to the size of its population, and the needs of that nation for essential goods and services.

Next up is an effective global police force. This does not need to be an army, it simply needs to be a proper police force that can work with national police forces to arrest and bring to justice anyone, anywhere, charged with contravening international law.

One other vitally important function, which is not provided for by the UN, is a reliable information service. Most nations are fed false and deceitful information all of the time by their mainstream media, mainly to serve the venal purposes of corrupt leaders. Everyone on the planet should be able to access information whose accuracy and credibility is second to none; information which is not only seen as accurate and credible at the time it is happening, but which fifty or a hundred or two hundred years later would still be viewed as truthful and balanced. A new global government could and should provide such a global information service.

Very little else about our existing UN needs to change, because much about the UN is very good. It has a fine Charter, and its Universal Declaration of Human Rights is just about perfect, as are many of its other international agreements – such as the recent treaty signed by 122 nations to ban all nuclear weapons. So most of the UN’s basic organisation is good and doesn’t need to change much. But if we could make the four changes shown above, and properly administer them, massive improvements would materialise in a very rapid space of time.

Steps to Achieve

The USA could and should be a loud voice demanding these changes, but there’s no reason to think it will be. Quite the opposite. Therefore something else needs to happen.

It’s unrealistic and unnecessary to imagine somehow overthrowing the USA and thereby reforming the UN. But could it be simply bypassed?

What if an embryonic alternative international organisation, such as BRICS, say, started to create a replacement UN? What if the new replacement was designed so that, unlike the old one, it could not possibly be used to promote and further the interests of just one country, or group of countries? What if it drafted a new constitution based on the existing UN Charter, including its UDHR, but left out the possibility of any one nation having veto powers over the democratic decisions of fellow members? What if it started its own currency unit, and created its own police force — not an army, just a police force? This principle has worked for Costa Rica for seventy years, why should it not work for the whole planet? What if we suddenly had access to good, reliable and trustworthy information about world events? What if the new embryonic government invited any country in the world to join it, to help create the world future generations desperately need right now?

Such an organisation would pose no threat to the people of the USA — or anywhere else. It would have no army, so would not be capable of invading anyone. Membership would be voluntary and open to any country that subordinated itself to the constitution. It would not take long to see that such a body would be infinitely more useful to its members, and the planet generally, than the existing United Nations; and membership of the UN would slowly become irrelevant, useful only for the fact of the rung it once provided on the evolutionary ladder to a properly functioning world government. The USA, just like any other country, should be invited and encouraged to join the new organisation — but it would have to understand that, contrary to its existing position, it is NOT exceptional, it is no more or less important than any other country in the world, and its people and their “interests” are no more or less important than other people and their interests anywhere else in the world.

The planet, as a whole, faces a very considerable danger: its fantastic multitude of species of animals and plants are being wiped out at a faster rate than at any time since dinosaurs became extinct — because of the actions of human beings. This danger cannot be fought and overcome by one country or a small group of countries acting alone — especially when one or two powerful rogue states routinely ignore the long-term health of the planet for their own selfish short-term gain. It’s a global problem and needs a global solution, a solution that could only be found, and properly acted upon, by a properly functioning world government, a government that acts in the best interests of the planet as a whole – not the best interests of a handful of super-rich individuals controlling the world’s most powerful nation.

  1. Politics of War, Gabriel Kolko, p. 466.
  2. The Great Deception, Mark Curtis, p. 176.
  3. Hegemony or Survival, Noam Chomsky, p. 29.
  4. Ibid, p. 32.
  5. The Great Deception, Mark Curtis, p. 199.
  6. Hidden Agendas, John Pilger, p. 54.
  7. Economic Sanctions Reconsidered, Hufbauer, Schott and Elliott, p. 2.
  8. Rights of Man, Tom Paine, p. 315.
  9. Hidden Agendas, John Pilger, p. 302.

The Universal Lesson of East Timor

On May 5, John Pilger was presented with the Order of Timor-Leste by East Timor’s Ambassador to Australia, Abel Gutteras, in recognition of his reporting on East Timor under Indonesia’s brutal occupation, especially his landmark documentary film, Death of a Nation: the Timor Conspiracy. The following is John Pilger’s response.

Filming undercover in East Timor in 1993 I followed a landscape of crosses: great black crosses etched against the sky, crosses on peaks, crosses marching down the hillsides, crosses beside the road. They littered the earth and crowded the eye.

The inscriptions on the crosses revealed the extinction of whole families, wiped out in the space of a year, a month, a day. Village after village stood as memorials.

Kraras is one such village. Known as the “village of the widows”, the population of 287 people was murdered by Indonesian troops.

Using a typewriter with a faded ribbon, a local priest had recorded the name, age, cause of death and date of the killing of every victim. In the last column, he identified the Indonesian battalion responsible for each murder. It was evidence of genocide.

I still have this document, which I find difficult to put down, as if the blood of East Timor is fresh on its pages.

On the list is the dos Anjos family.

In 1987, I interviewed Arthur Stevenson, known as Steve, a former Australian commando who had fought the Japanese in the Portuguese colony of East Timor in 1942. He told me the story of Celestino dos Anjos, whose ingenuity and bravery had saved his life, and the lives of other Australian soldiers fighting behind Japanese lines.

Steve described the day leaflets fluttered down from a Royal Australian Air Force plane; “We shall never forget you,” the leaflets said. Soon afterwards, the Australians were ordered to abandon the island of Timor, leaving the people to their fate.

When I met Steve, he had just received a letter from Celestino’s son, Virgillo, who was the same age as his own son. Virgillo wrote that his father had survived the Indonesian invasion of East Timor in 1975, but he went on: “In August 1983, Indonesian forces entered our village, Kraras. They looted, burned and massacred, with fighter aircraft overhead. On 27 September 1983, they made my father and my wife dig their own graves and they machine-gunned them. My wife was pregnant.”

The Kraras list is an extraordinary political document that shames Indonesia’s Faustian partners in the West and teaches us how much of the world is run. The fighter aircraft that attacked Kraras came from the United States; the machine guns and surface-to-air missiles came from Britain; the silence and betrayal came from Australia.

The priest of Kraras wrote on the final page: “To the capitalist governors of the world, Timor’s petroleum smells better than Timorese blood and tears. Who will take this truth to the world? … It is evident that Indonesia would never have committed such a crime if it had not received favourable guarantees from [Western] governments.”

As the Indonesian dictator General Suharto was about to invade East Timor (the Portuguese had abandoned their colony), he tipped off the ambassadors of Australia, the United States and Britain. In secret cables subsequently leaked, the Australian ambassador, Richard Woolcott, urged his government to “act in a way which would be designed to minimise the public impact in Australia and show private understanding to Indonesia.” He alluded to the beckoning spoils of oil and gas in the Timor Sea that separated the island from northern Australia.

There was no word of concern for the Timorese.

In my experience as a reporter, East Timor was the greatest crime of the late 20th century. I had much to do with Cambodia, yet not even Pol Pot put to death as many people – proportionally — as Suharto killed and starved in East Timor.

In 1993, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Australian Parliament estimated that “at least 200,000” East Timorese, a third of the population, had perished under Suharto.

Australia was the only western country formally to recognise Indonesia’s genocidal conquest. The murderous Indonesian special forces known as Kopassus were trained by Australian special forces at a base near Perth. The prize in resources, said Foreign Minister Gareth Evans, was worth “zillions” of dollars.

In my 1994 film, Death of a Nation: the Timor Conspiracy, a gloating Evans is filmed lifting a champagne glass as he and Ali Alatas, Suharto’s foreign minister, fly over the Timor Sea, having signed a piratical treaty that divided the oil and gas riches of the Timor Sea.

I also filmed witnesses such as Abel Gutteras, now the Ambassador of Timor-Leste (East Timor’s post independence name) to Australia. He told me, “We believe we can win and we can count on all those people in the world to listen — that nothing is impossible, and peace and freedom are always worth fighting for.”

Remarkably, they did win. Many people all over the world did hear them, and a tireless movement added to the pressure on Suharto’s backers in Washington, London and Canberra to abandon the dictator.

But there was also a silence. For years, the free press of the complicit countries all but ignored East Timor. There were honourable exceptions, such as the courageous Max Stahl, who filmed the 1991 massacre in the Santa Cruz cemetery. Leading journalists almost literally fell at the feet of Suharto. In a photograph of a group of Australian editors visiting Jakarta, led by the Murdoch editor Paul Kelly, one of them is bowing to Suharto, the genocidist.

From 1999 to 2002, the Australian Government took an estimated $1.2 billion in revenue from one oil and gas field in the Timor Sea. During the same period, Australia gave less than $200 million in so-called aid to East Timor.

In 2002, two months before East Timor won its independence, as Ben Doherty reported in January, “Australia secretly withdrew from the maritime boundary dispute resolution procedures of the UN convention the Law of the Sea, and the equivalent jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice, so that it could not be compelled into legally binding international arbitration”.

The former Prime Minister John Howard has described his government’s role in East Timor’s independence as “noble”. Howard’s foreign minister, Alexander Downer, once burst into the cabinet room in Dili, East Timor, and told Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, “We are very tough … Let me give you a tutorial in politics …”

Today, it is Timor-Leste that is giving the tutorial in politics. After years of trickery and bullying by Canberra, the people of Timor-Leste have demanded and won the right to negotiate before the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) a legal maritime boundary and a proper share of the oil and gas.

Australia owes Timor Leste a huge debt — some would say, billions of dollars in reparations. Australia should hand over, unconditionally, all royalties collected since Gareth Evans toasted Suharto’s dictatorship while flying over the graves of its victims.

The Economist lauds Timor-Leste as the most democratic country in southeast Asia today. Is that an accolade? Or does it mean approval of a small and vulnerable country joining the great game of globalisation?

For the weakest, globalisation is an insidious colonialism that enables transnational finance and its camp-followers to penetrate deeper, as Edward Said wrote, than the old imperialists in their gun boats.

It can mean a model of development that gave Indonesia, under Suharto, gross inequality and corruption; that drove people off their land and into slums, then boasted about a growth rate.

The people of Timor-Leste deserve better than faint praise from the “capitalist governors of the world”, as the priest of Kraras wrote. They did not fight and die and vote for entrenched poverty and a growth rate. They deserve the right to sustain themselves when the oil and gas run out as it will. At the very least, their courage ought to be a beacon in our memory: a universal political lesson.

Bravo, Timor-Leste. Bravo and beware.