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Support David Miller: fired by Bristol University for resisting Israel’s assault on free speech

Update:

On October 11th, Labour Campaign for Free Speech organised an online meeting to discuss the background to Prof. David Miller’s sacking and how to resist the ongoing Zionist campaign to restrict free speech and academic freedom.

David Miller spoke first, and other speakers included Jewish mathematician, philosopher and socialist activist, Moshé Machover; pro-Palestinian activist, Natalie Strecker, who served as a human rights monitor in Hebron in 2018; rapper and political activist, Lowkey; doctor of medicine, author and academic, Dr Ghada Karmi; and British student, activist and writer with Palestinian and Iraqi heritage, Huda Ammori, who is co-founder of the solidarity group Palestine Action.

Lowkey’s contribution is so well-informed and powerfully expressed that I have cued the video to begin there, however, the discussion is excellent throughout (although there are audio problems in some parts) but in particular I also direct readers to listen to David Miller’s introduction, Huda Ammori’s call for direct action [from 58 mins] and Natalie Strecker’s [from 24 mins] courageous defiance of Labour’s adoption of the IHRA definition of anti-semitism which conflates Judaism with Zionism in assuming that all Jews are Zionists, and that the state of Israel in its current reality embodies the self-determination of all Jews:

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The University of Bristol has fired Professor David Miller, a leading UK critic of Israel and its lobby.

After a years-long campaign of smears by that same lobby, the university said on Friday [Oct 1st] that, “Professor David Miller is no longer employed by the University of Bristol.”

The statement said only that Miller “did not meet the standards of behavior we expect from our staff,” though it did not elaborate.

Miller told The Electronic Intifada he would be appealing and “fighting it all the way.”

From a report written by Asa Winstanley, published by The Electronic Intifada.

It continues:

The university said in its statement that Miller “has a right of internal appeal which he may choose to exercise and nothing in this statement should be taken to prejudge that.”

The university “does not intend to make any further public comment at this time,” it said.

Bristol University further claimed that it was committed to an environment preserving “academic freedom.” But in what seemed a Freudian slip, it also said that “we take any risk to stifle that freedom seriously.”

Adding:

A who’s who of right-wing figures, anti-Palestinian activists and Israel lobbyists made a massive effort to push for Miller to be fired, with even British politicians piling on. […]

These included the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Zionist Federation, the Jewish Labour Movement and the Community Security Trust.

At the end of February, Israel itself also got involved, mobilizing one of its online troll armies to flood social media conversations with calls for Miller to be fired.

Act.IL – which is directed and funded by an Israeli ministry – issued a mission calling for attacks on an opinion piece published by Al Jazeera defending Miller.

However, David Miller has also received a great deal of support including statements of solidarity from filmmaker Ken Loach and comedian Alexei Sayle and many hundreds of academics and relevant others including Noam Chomsky, Ilan Pappé, Norman Finkelstein, Ronnie Kasrils and John Pilger who have signed an open letter of support which is reprinted in full below.

On February 20th, Miller wrote in a piece for The Electronic Intifada that:

Britain is in the grip of an assault on its public sphere by the state of Israel and its advocates.

Meaningful conversations about anti-Black racism and Islamophobia have been drowned out by a concerted lobbying campaign targeting universities, political parties, the equalities regulator and public institutions all over the country.

Earlier this month, the newly elected secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, Zara Mohammed, was set upon by two of the most energetic Zionist campaigners in British public life (Laura Marks and BBC presenter Emma Barnett) within days of taking up her position.

This month American commentator Nathan J. Robinson revealed how The Guardian fired him as a columnist for a mere tweet referencing US military aid to Israel.

At the same time, the celebrated film director Ken Loach was smeared by Israel lobby groups such as the Board of Deputies of British Jews, who attempted to prevent him speaking to students at the Oxford college where he studied.

And this week, Israel’s lobby in Britain has trained its guns on me.

Adding:

In February 2019, I delivered a lecture for a course I teach at Bristol explaining the five pillars theory of Islamophobia.

The theory details the mechanisms by which certain states, far-right movements, the neoconservative movement, the Zionist movement and the liberal New Atheist movement promote Islamophobia.

Within weeks, the pro-Israel Community Security Trust complained to Bristol university about the inclusion of the Zionist movement in my teaching.

This was followed by a complaint to university authorities against me drafted by the Union of Jewish Students, a group revealed in an undercover Al Jazeera investigation to be funded by the Israeli embassy in London.

And concluding:

There can be no doubt, too, about the threat Israel’s campaign of censorship poses to Arab and Muslim students, who are silenced from expressing how the racism that targets them actually works.

Bristol university has seen several shocking racist incidents unfold in recent years, including far-right posters plastered over its campus and an event co-hosted by the Zionist Pinsker Centre at which the guest speakers included the proudly Islamophobic former British army colonel, Richard Kemp.

Also speaking was Yossi Kuperwasser, the former “head of research” of Israeli military intelligence and former director general of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, the department in charge of overseeing manufactured anti-Semitism allegations internationally and of targeting pro-Palestinian activists around the world.

The Israel lobby’s attack on me lays bare what is actually going on – a weaponization of bogus anti-Semitism claims to shut down and manipulate discussion of Islamophobia.

But the lobby’s tactics are only so effective because they are rarely challenged. It is time for those who are concerned about Islamophobia, racism and academic freedom to make their voices heard.

Click here to read David Miller’s full article entitled “We must resist Israel’s war on British universities” published by The Electronic Intifada on February 20th.

And here to read Asa Winstanley’s full article published by The Electronic Intifada on October 1st.

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Additional: Educators and researchers in support of Professor Miller

Public intellectuals, educators and researchers speak out against the censorship campaign targeted at Bristol’s David Miller

Professor Hugh Brady

President and Vice-Chancellor

University of Bristol

Re: Academic freedom and the harassment and victimisation of Professor David Miller

Dear Professor Brady,

We wish to express our serious concerns about the unrelenting and concerted efforts to publicly vilify our colleague Professor David Miller.

Professor Miller is an eminent scholar. He is known internationally for exposing the role that powerful actors and well-resourced, co-ordinated networks play in manipulating and stage-managing public debates, including on racism. The impact of his research on the manipulation of narratives by lobby groups has been crucial to deepening public knowledge and discourse in this area.

The attacks on Professor Miller stem from a lecture on Islamophobia that he gave to students at the University of Bristol two years ago. In the most recent instance of this harassment, Professor Miller was approached to provide a statement on Israel-Palestine. When he responded honestly to the query, well-orchestrated efforts were made to misrepresent these responses as evidence of anti-Semitism. A call was then made to the University of Bristol to deprive him of his employment.

We oppose anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and all forms of racism. We also oppose false allegations and the weaponisation of the positive impulses of anti-racism so as to silence anti-racist debate. We do so because such vilification has little to do with defeating the harms caused by racism. Instead, efforts to target, isolate and purge individuals in this manner are aimed at deterring evidence-based research, teaching and debate.

Prolonged harassment of a highly-regarded scholar and attempts to denigrate a lifetime’s scholarship cause significant distress to the individual. Such treatment also has a broader pernicious effect on scholarship and well-informed public discourse. It creates a culture of self-censorship and fear in the wider academic community. Instead of free and open debate, an intimidatory context is created and this can be particularly worrying for those who do not hold positions of seniority, influence or stable employment, particularly in times of job uncertainty and in a sector with high levels of casualised employment. As a result, important scholarship is omitted, and this curtails the public’s and students’ right to learn and to engage in thoughtful debate.

At a time when the Black Lives Matter movement has reinvigorated public consciousness about the structural factors entrenching racism, attempts to stifle discourse on Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian racism are particularly regressive and inconsistent with the values the University of Bristol espouses.

As public intellectuals and academics, we feel duty-bound to express our solidarity with Professor Miller and to oppose such efforts to crush academic freedom. Given your roles within the University and your responsibilities to the wider academic community, we urge you to vigorously defend the principle of academic freedom and the rights to free speech and to evidence-based & research-informed public discourse. We hope that you will uphold the integrity of academic debate.

cc:

Professor Simon Tormey, Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Professor Sarah Purdy, Pro VC (Student Experience) 

Professor Tansy Jessop, Pro VC (Education) 

Professor Judith Squires, Provost 

Mr Jack Boyer, Chair, Board of Trustees 

Dr Moira Hamlin, Vice-Chair, Board of Trustees

Ms Jane Bridgwater, Director of Legal Services 

Yours truly

Professor Noam Chomsky, University of Arizona, Linguistics

Dr Ahdaf Soueif, Writer and Retired Professor in English at Cairo University 

Professor Sami Al-Arian, Istanbul Zaim University, Director, Center for Islam and Global Affairs

Professor Ilan Pappé, University of Exeter, Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies

Mr John Pilger, Journalist, Author and Filmmaker

Dr Norman G Finkelstein, Political Scientist and Author

Mr Ronnie Kasrils, Author and Former South African Government Minister (1994-2008)

Dr François Burgat, Emeritus Senior Research Fellow at French National Centre for Scientific Research

Professor Deepa Kumar, Rutgers University, Communication and Information

Dr Françoise Vergès, Political Scientist, Historian and Feminist

Professor Emeritus Seamus Deane, University of Notre Dame

Mr Sami Ramadani, London Metropolitan University, Social Sciences (Retired)

Professor Peter Kennard, Royal College of Art, Photography

Professor Salman Sayyid, University of Leeds, Sociology and Social Policy

Professor Augustine John, Coventry University, Office of Teaching & Learning

Professor Emeritus Joseph Oesterlé, Sorbonne University, Paris, Mathematics

Professor Ad Putter, University of Bristol

Professor Alf Nilsen, University of Pretoria, Sociology

Professor Aeron Davis, Victoria University of Wellington, Political Science and International Relations

Professor Ali Rattansi, City, University of London, Sociology

Professor Anand Pillay, University of Notre Dame, Mathematics

Professor Andreas Bieler, University of Nottingham, Politics and International Relations

Professor Anna Gilmore, University of Bath, Health

Professor Bryan McGovern, Kennesaw State University, History

Professor Cahal McLaughlin, Queen’s University Belfast, School of Arts, English and Languages

Professor Chris Knight, University College London, Anthropology

Professor Craig Brandist, University of Sheffield, Languages and Cultures

Professor Cyra Choudhury, Florida International University, Law

Professor Daniel Boyarin, University of California at Berkeley, Near Eastern Studies and Rhetoric

Professor Daniel Broudy, Okinawa Christian University, Rhetoric and Applied Linguistics

Professor David H. Price, St Martin’s University, Society and Social Justice

Professor David Randall Roediger, University of Kansas, American Studies

Professor David Whyte, University of Liverpool, Sociology 

Professor Des Freedman, Goldsmiths, University of London, MCCS

Professor Elizabeth Poole, University of Keele, Humanities

Professor Eshragh Motahar, Union College, Schenectady NY, Economics 

Professor Frank García Hernández, Juan Marinello Cuban Institute for Cultural Research

Professor Hagit Borer, QMUL, Fellow of the British Academy

Professor Haim Bresheeth-Zabner, SOAS, Palestine Studies Centre

Professor Hamish Cunningham, University of Sheffield, Computer Science

Professor Hans Klein, Georgia Institute of Technology, Public Policy 

Professor Harry Hemingway, UCL, Institute of Health Informatics

Professor Hatem Bazian, Zaytuna College and University of California, Berkeley, Islamic Law and Theology 

Professor Helen Colhoun, University of Edinburgh, IGMM 

Professor Iain Munro, Newcastle University, Business

Professor Iftikhar H. Malik, Bath Spa University, History 

Professor Izzat Darwazeh, University College London, Engineering

Professor James Dickins, University of Leeds, Languages, Cultures and Societies

Professor Jane Wheelock, Newcastle University, Geography, Politics and Sociology

Professor Janet C.E. Watson, University of Leeds, Languages, Cultures and Societies

Professor Jared Ball, Morgan State University

Professor Jawed IA Siddiqi, Sheffield Hallam University, Computing

Professor Jeff Goodwin, New York University, Sociology 

Professor Jeremy Keenan, Queen Mary University London, Law

Professor John Parkinson, Maastricht University, Philosophy

Professor John Womack Jr, Harvard University, History 

Professor Julia O’Connell Davidson, University of Bristol, Sociology, Politics and International Studies 

Professor Julian Petley, Brunel University London, Social Sciences

Professor Julian Williams, University of Manchester, Education

Professor Kate Alexander, University of Johannesburg, South African Research Chair in Social Change

Professor Kevin O’Neill, Boston College, History

Professor Mario Novelli, University of Sussex, Education

Professor Maurice L. Wade, Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut, Philosophy

Professor Megan Povey, University of Leeds, Food Science and Nutrition

Professor Michael Rowlinson, University of Exeter, Business

Professor Michael Wayne, Brunel University London, Media

Professor Miguel Martinez Lucio, University of Manchester, Humanities 

Professor Mohan Dutta, Massey University, Culture-Centered Approach to Research & Evaluation

Professor Mujahid Kamran, Former Vice-Chancellor of Punjab University

Professor Nacira Guénif, University of Paris VIII, Education Sciences

Professor Natalie Fenton, Goldsmiths, Media, Communications and Cultural Studies

Professor Nigel Patrick Thomas, University of Central Lancashire, Social Work, Care and Community

Professor Patrick Bond, University of the Western Cape, Government

Professor Paul McKeigue, University of Edinburgh, Medicine and Veterinary Medicine

Professor Penny Green, QMUL, Law

Professor Pilar Garrido Clemente, Murcia University, Arabic and Islamic Studies

Professor Rafik Beekun, University of Nevada, Management and Strategy

Professor Ray Bush, University of Leeds POLIS 

Professor Richard Jackson, University of Otago, New Zealand, National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies

Professor Salim Vally, University of Johannesburg, Education

Professor Sam Ashman, University of Johannesburg, Economics

Professor Sandra Eldridge, QMUL, Institute of Population Health Sciences

Professor Saoirse Nic Gabhainn, National University of Ireland Galway, Health Promotion

Professor Schneur Zalman, Newfield CUNY, Social Sciences

Professor Siobhan Wills, Ulster University, Law

Professor Steve Tombs, The Open University, Social Policy and Criminology

Professor Susan Newman, The Open University, Economics

Professor Tariq Modood, University of Bristol, Sociology, Politics and International Studies

Professor Tim Hayward, University of Edinburgh, Social and Political Science

Professor T. J. Demos, UC Santa Cruz, History of Art and Visual Culture

Professor Tom Cockburn, Edge Hill University, Social Sciences

Professor Yosefa Loshitzky, SOAS, University of London, Media Studies

Professor Emeritus Alex Callinicos, King’s College London

Professor Emerita Avery F Gordon, UC Santa Barbara, Sociology

Professor Emeritus Bill Rolston, Ulster University, Transitional Justice Institute

Professor Emeritus Chris Roberts, University of Manchester, Health Science

Professor Emeritus Colin Green, University College London, Surgery and Interventional Sciences

Professor Emeritus Colin Webster, Leeds Beckett University, Social Sciences 

Professor Emeritus Daniel Cornford, San Jose State University, History

Professor Emeritus David Emmons, University of Montana, History

Professor Emeritus David Moshman, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Educational Psychology

Professor Emeritus Dennis Leech, University of Warwick, Economics

Professor Emeritus G Rex Smith, University of Manchester, History

Professor Emeritus Hartmut Logemann, University of Bath, Mathematical Sciences

Professor Emeritus Henry Maitles, University of the West of Scotland, Education and Social Sciences

Professor Emeritus Jennifer Birkett, University of Birmingham, Modern Languages

Professor Emeritus John Marriott, University of Oxford, History

Professor Emeritus Kerby Miller, University of Missouri, History

Professor Emeritus Laurence Dreyfus, University of Oxford, Faculty of Music

Professor Emeritus Leslie Sklair, London School of Economics, Sociology

Professor Emeritus Mark Duffield University of Bristol, School of Politics and International Studies

Professor Emeritus Mike Gonzalez, University of Glasgow, Latin American Studies

Professor Emeritus Mike Tomlinson, Queen’s University Belfast, Social Sciences, Education and Social Work

Professor Emeritus Moshé Machover, King’s College London, Philosophy (Retired)

Professor Emeritus Oliver Boyd-Barrett, Bowling Green State University, Journalism and Public Relations

Professor Emeritus Paddy Hillyard, Queen’s University Belfast, Sociology

Professor Emeritus Patrick Williams, Nottingham Trent University, Media and Cultural Studies

Professor Emeritus Phil Scraton, Queen’s University Belfast, School of Law

Professor Emeritus Stan Smith, Nottingham Trent University, English

Professor Emeritus Timothy Gorringe, University of Exeter, Theology

Professor Emeritus Vivien Walsh, University of Manchester, Innovation Research

Professor Emeritus William Nolan, University College Dublin, Geography

Adjunct Professor Matthew MacLellan, Mount Saint Vincent University

Associate Professor Anthony J Langlois, Flinders University, Business, Government and Law

Associate Professor Claire Blencowe, University of Warwick, Sociology

Associate Professor Issam Aburaya, Seton Hall University, Religion

Associate Professor Jesús David Rojas Hernández, Universidad Nacional Experimental Simón Rodríguez

Associate Professor Mark Taylor, University of Queensland, Modern Languages

Associate Professor Yusuf Ahmad, University of the West of Bristol England (Retired)

Assistant Professor Tim Kelly, Coventry University, English

Honorary Professor Iain Ferguson, University of the West of Scotland

Former Honorary Visiting Professor Roy Greenslade, City, University of London, Journalism

Click here to read the original letter with the complete list of signatories.

And here to add your own name to support David Miller

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Filed under Britain, campaigns & events, Israel, John Pilger, Noam Chomsky

Free Donziger: Steven Donziger now faces 6 months in jail despite UN calls for his release

Steven Donziger is a human rights lawyer who represented the indigenous people of Ecuador in a class action lawsuit against petrochemical giant Chevron after it had systematically polluted a vast area of rainforest during the two decades of the 70s and 80s in what has been dubbed the ‘Amazon Chernobyl’. Following a landmark judgment that awarded nearly $10 billion in damages, Chevron has since refused to pay any of the compensation to the tens of thousands of victims of its toxic spills, but instead withdrew all of its assets from Ecuador and launched legal action against Donziger.

On Friday 1st October, after more than two years under house arrest, Steven Donziger was sentenced to six months in prison for a misdemeanour. While still under house arrest pending appeal, yesterday [October 7th] he spoke with independent journalist and activist Katie Halper, who was joined by guests Marianne Willamson and Chris Hedges:

Click here to read more about the case in a previous article.

The following statement is reproduced in full from an email I also received yesterday from the Free Donziger campaign. Highlights using bold, italics and capitals have been retained from the original.

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On Friday, October 1st, 2021, Judge Preska sentenced me to six months in jail. It has taken days for me and my family to process this shocking turn of events. I now want to speak directly to my supporters.

First, I want you to know that I believe I could be forced into prison as soon as the week of October 25 unless the federal appellate court intervenes to keep me “out” under house arrest with the ankle bracelet still shackled to my leg. Yes, it appears the “choice” is not between prison and freedom while my appeal winds its way slowly through the courts, but between prison and home confinement. It’s just outrageous given that I have now served four times longer under house arrest than my prison sentence. And if I am allowed to stay home, I likely will have served close to four years under house arrest on a misdemeanor charge even if I win my appeal and get exonerated.

As a result, I am again asking for immediate help. I need to raise $150,000 by Friday, October 22 to hire two people who can carry forward the work if and when I get incarcerated. Please help by donating what you can. (If I don’t get incarcerated, I am hiring them anyway because we need the help.)

Second, I want you to know that I am fine and that my family is standing strong. Obviously, this experience causes great pain to our son in particular. But the overwhelming response from our supporters has thus far fortified our sense that the future will be secure. As many know, I have for years been targeted with withering attacks from 60 Chevron law firms in retaliation for helping Indigenous peoples in Ecuador fight back against the company for dumping billions of gallons of cancer-causing oil waste onto ancestral lands. While we expect those attacks to continue, we are steadfast in our determination to withstand them.

My pending prison sentence is incredibly difficult for me and my family, but for the climate movement as a whole it is potentially a disaster of epic proportions. That is, unless we either stop it or use it as an opportunity to build this campaign even stronger.

Many legal observers believe my sentence is a slap in the face by Judge Preska to the rule of law. It comes after five respected jurists from the top human rights legal body in the world, the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights, issued a unanimous decision calling my home detention “arbitrary” and a violation of multiple provisions of international law. The body concluded that my treatment violates my right to a fair trial and my right to an impartial judge. The U.N. jurists also demanded that the United States government IMMEDIATELY free me and pay compensation for the time that I have lost while locked up in home imprisonment.

Despite the fact that the decision from the U.N. Working Group requested that the U.S. government “take the steps necessary to remedy the situation of Mr. Steven Donziger without delay,” Judge Preska continued to do Chevron’s bidding to silence me and send a message of intimidation to all Earth Defenders.

Day by day, the stakes of this case grow higher. The more Judges Preska and Kaplan attack me, the stronger our movement seems to become. My appellate attorneys already have filed our challenge to this conviction. Now it is as critical as ever that we put an end to Chevron’s two-decade campaign to evade complying with court orders that it compensate the Indigenous peoples in the Amazon that it poisoned.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, 68 Nobel Laureates, 475 lawyers and human rights defenders, and several members of Congress, including AOC and Rep. Jim McGovern, have joined us in this fight. Chevron’s plan to silence me is backfiring. But we now must focus on increasing our reach and taking our leverage higher. 

Please help us to expose this incredible human rights violation and ensure that NO environmental advocate or Earth Defender ever goes through this again. Help us hire staff to keep the work going stronger than ever even if I go to prison and am unable to communicate or work.  Will you please chip in $500, $250, $100, $50, $25, or whatever you can today to help fight Judge Preska’s decision and keep me out of jail while guaranteeing this work continues?

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Filed under campaigns & events, Ecuador, USA

I wouldn’t start from here…

The following article is the Introduction to a book entitled Finishing The Rat Race.

All chapters are available (in sequence) by following the link above or from category link in the main menu, where you will also find a table of contents and a preface on why I started writing it.

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The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism – ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power…. Among us today a concentration of private power without equal in history is growing.

— Franklin D. Roosevelt 1

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Talk of revolution is very much out of vogue. Instead, we look back on the late sixties, when its prospect was the brightest in living memory, with nostalgia and wistful detachment. Certainly it is true that we pay homage to the civil rights movement and tribute to its lasting achievements, but little else remains – that sexual liberation happened to coincide with the invention of the pill was surely no coincidence!

Tragically, what started up as glorious peaceful sedition: an anti-war, anti-establishment, anti-capitalist upwelling that had genuinely threatened the existing order; finished up largely as a carnival – ultimately the dark carnival of Altamont 2 and the depravity of the Manson Family murders 3 – and with this, the path to social justice was promptly cordoned off. The revellers mostly went home, cut their hair, removed the flowers and beads to keep as mementos, and then looked ahead to another fad. All of which is unsurprising. After all, why jeopardise the comforts and security won during the heated post-war struggles in the slim hope of a resoundingly radical victory?

If history teaches anything – other than its central thread that empires rise and fall – is it not that the toppling of entrenched political regimes or even of diabolical tyrannies, whether by violent means or more peaceable ones, ends too often with the emergence of new regimes as tyrannical and entrenched as the ones they replaced? True or false (and how to decide anyway?) what matters is that the modern tendency is to believe this is the case: thus contrary to Marx’s bold forecast, the age of revolutionary upheaval appears over, or – in the West at least – perpetually stalled with political quietism established as the norm – don’t worry, I shall go on shortly to contradict myself!

Indeed, our acquired taste for conservatism has usefully served the interests of the ruling establishment throughout my adult life, a period lasting three decades in which time its creed became ever more rapacious. ‘Conservatism’ has in fact been transformed well beyond any easy recognition. Adapted in the eighties, it came to serve the demands of a rising corporatist class which, like various species of shark, is itself compelled to move restlessly forward or perish. As the Red Queen tells Alice in Through the Looking-Glass, “it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.” 4

To these ends traditional conservatism, which tries to engender forms of social stagnation, has been entirely superseded by neo-liberalism; today’s predominant, in fact unrivalled, politico-economic ideology with its overarching quasi-conservative doctrine of minimal ‘state interference’.  In practice this involves a combination of wholesale privatisation with swingeing cuts to public services and welfare. Inculcated by economics departments throughout the land, it has been implanted as a monoculture within our institutions of government, as within the plethora of foundation-funded think tanks and policy forums from whence it originally sprang (most notably The Adam Smith Institute and the Aspen Institute).

All distinguished economists, senior politicians, civil servants and mainstream journalists (the latter three more than likely indoctrinated through courses on Philosophy, Politics & Economics (PPE) at Oxford – with stress here very much placed on the ‘E’ of neo-liberal economics 5) are attuned to the belief that, in the words of its great trailblazer, Margaret Thatcher, “there is no alternative”. And luminaries of the new economics turn to historical precedents to buttress their pervasive doctrine; every kind of planned redistribution of wealth and resources (i.e., any conceivable alternative to their own ‘free market’ absolutism), irrespective of competency or goodwill, they say, has been doomed to failure.

The communist experiments of the Soviet Union and Mao’s China – examples they single out (continuing to do so long after the fall of both regimes) – did indeed result in catastrophes both at the level of production and due to lack of supply of goods. And if, indeed, the only foreseeable alternatives to neoliberalism were thoughtless reruns of a Soviet model or Maoism, this line of criticism could hardly be gainsaid; in reality, however, the vast majority of the world already subsists, living in dire poverty and likewise deprived of basic resources, although not under socialism, but in strict adherence to ‘free market’ directives extolled by the self-same experts. China, on the other hand, which remains autocratic and to a great extent a centrally planned economy, is evidently booming – but that’s for a different debate (suffice to say here, I certainly do not propose we follow their example).

In reality, neo-liberalism is an exceedingly cruel doctrine, and its staunchest proponents have often been candid about administering what they openly describe as their economic ‘shock therapy’ – although this label is generally attached when the treatment is meted out to the poorest nations. To soften its blow in other instances, a parallel ideology has arisen. The principle of so-called meritocracy provides the velvet glove when this same iron fist of laissez-faire fundamentalism is applied throughout western democracies. You get just as much as you deserve and this is best ensured by market mechanisms.

But finally, the socio-economic pendulum has moved in extremis. Today, even in the comfortable West, income and wealth inequality have grown to unprecedented levels. Our societies appear to be in the process of rupturing just as they did less than a century ago on the eve of the most destructive war in history. Meanwhile, the ‘progressives’, who long ago ditched the dog-eared pamphlets of revolutionaries, remain captivated by the spell of the more glossy portfolios of the meritocracists.

Having inveigled both political wings – becoming the new left and new right – they now hope to persuade us that ‘centrism’, founded on strict meritocratic principles, remains the single viable – since least ‘extreme’ – vision for democracy. Mostly stuck on the lower social rungs, however, we, the people are clearly restless. For the moment we moan and groan impatiently, but that moment is set to pass. Calls for fundamental social change are gaining strength and I dare to predict that we are on the brink – for better or for worse – of an altogether seismic shift.

Jordan Peterson is famously critical of ‘ideology’. He has a particular distain for Marxism, Stalinism, Nazism, Postmodernism, Feminism, in fact, any ism. Instead, he argues, that the individual is sovereign, ideology should be renounced, and that, quote, “If we each live properly, we will collectively flourish.” So what is ideology? And what leads Jordan Peterson (and others) to believe he is somehow above it all?

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So how do we break free of the spells that bind us – the increasingly entangled entrapments of technology, money and work? There are really only two approaches we can take. Either we turn inwards, as an increasing number are doing, to try to rediscover who we are through methods of deep introspection. Or, confronting external reality head-on, we engage in collective acts of defiance, since our true strength lies in numbers.

There are good arguments for both approaches. The boundary between the subjective and objective is infinitely thin and I address this more fully in the chapters ahead. To repeat an old rallying slogan: the personal is the political! This cannot be said often enough.

My greatest concern is that we should not remain passive. Clear and unshakeable demands are urgent, since power concedes nothing without. But again, introspection is invaluable in this regard – for how can we better understand what we truly want without solidly comprehending who we really are? Any hope of shaping a better future nevertheless lies in collective hands and depends upon acts of solidarity.

The alternative is grim. Besides the prospect of new kinds of techno-tyranny, failure or refusal to react decisively will exacerbate the troubles that already plague us; ones forecast by Erich Fromm in the conclusion to his book The Sane Society:

In the 19th century inhumanity meant cruelty; in the 20th century it means schizoid self-alienation. The danger of the past was that men became slaves. The danger of the future is that men may become robots. True enough, robots do not rebel. But given man’s nature, robots cannot live and remain sane, they become “Golems”; they will destroy their world and themselves because they cannot stand any longer the boredom of a meaningless life. 6

Fromm’s vision is the best outcome, not the worst. For it wrongly presumes, as many still do, that the ruling class has no agenda of its own. In fairness, he lived in a different age: a time before the significant rise of today’s postmodern, globalist (supranationalist as opposed to internationalist), corporatocratic, neo-feudal, technetronic, technocratic age – I have chosen each of these words with care, since each reveals a different facet of the grand design. Hold the thought, because I’ll come back to it.

In Europe, America and much of the rest of the Western world, the entire political system is captured by variants of what would traditionally be labelled ‘right-wing’ or even ‘extreme right’. However, this is not the old-style extremism of Hitler or Mussolini, which was built upon the foundations of bombastic nationalism, but a new brand that cleverly disguises itself as non-ideological, tolerant or even moderate – I heard political commentator Tariq Ali once refer to it as the ‘extreme centre’. This is actually the best description we have.

This new extremism chooses new methods to promote and protect its crony insiders. It says sorry but we (meaning ‘you’) just have no choice – there is no alternative! – and these other chaps are more valuable, and simply “too big to fail”, before confirming, more or less as an aside, that democracy wasn’t working in any case. Meanwhile, it also finds new justifications for engaging in aggressive foreign wars that we are told have no relationship to the old wars of conquest and exploitation. War today becomes nothing more than a matter of preemption, or if that fails to impress the grumbling populous, a means of humanitarianism. However, the new extremism finds old and very well-tested excuses when it comes to clampdowns on our individual freedoms at home, with the main one being, ironically enough, to protect us from ‘extremists’.

Were the ruling class more candid about their truer intent (and the broader agenda is gradually emerging as an open secret) then we would have heard plenty by now about the coming dawn of what ought to be straightforwardly called fascism (Trump was not an aberration, but a symptom), except that aspiring tyrants, for self-evident reasons, cannot be expected to speak too loudly about their grandest ambitions. Even so, the quickening steps on our road to serfdom are becoming harder to deny.

*

Some years ago I had been thinking up names for an envisaged progressive political movement, when, after realising that all of the traditional labels ‘people’s’, ‘popular’, ‘democratic’, ‘freedom’, ‘revolutionary’, etc were already irreparably sullied, it occurred to me that in our mimetic age something snappier might be more suitable. Something along the lines of ‘system reset’, although without the Maoist overtones! Briefly that led me to consider the familiar 3-fingered salute on every computer keyboard, Ctrl-Alt-Del: a consideration that altogether stopped me in my tracks.

In fact, picking apart the elements, Ctrl-Alt-Del already represents the three-pronged assault we are increasingly subjected to: the plutocrats using these precise three strategies to oppress and dominate. First through Ctrl by means of propaganda and censorship, with the steady encroachment of mass surveillance in all areas of our lives (the panopticon), and arguably too with the mental health crisis and widespread prescription of ‘chemical cosh’ opiates and more Soma-like SSRI antidepressants.

In a recent study by scientists at University of Chicago, it was found that rats given anti-anxiety medications were less inclined to free a companion in distress, presumably because they didn’t have the same ability to feel empathy:

Next is Alt (i.e., alteration) with rollout of GMO in agriculture and transhumanism which opens the door to many developments including the advent of designer babies by means of gene editing and the literal rewiring of human consciousness. Finally there is Del (delete) by virtue of ‘population control’ which is a shorthand euphemism for the desire to dramatically reduce human numbers.

Nick Bostrom is a philosopher with deep scientific and technical training 7, who aside from being Director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University is also co-founder of the World Transhumanist Association (renamed Humanity+, Inc.) as well as an acknowledged inspiration for Elon Musk and Bill Gates. 8

Bostrom clearly stands at the forefront of methods of Ctrl and Alt being a leading proponent of total surveillance and for transhumanism, which is basically eugenics 2.0 enhanced by virtue of refined genetic manipulation and accentuated through interfacing with machines. As Bostrom’s Humanity+ announces its own intentions:

What does it mean to be human in a technologically enhanced world? Humanity+ is a 501(c)3 international nonprofit membership organization that advocates the ethical use of technology, such as artificial intelligence, to expand human capacities. In other words, we want people to be better than well. This is the goal of transhumanism.

‘Better than well’ is putting it extremely mildly. If you read past the opening statements then you quickly appreciate that the final goal is nothing short of total mastery of biology in order to achieve absolute control of human life and everything in the biosphere. Advocates of such godlike dominion over Nature should perhaps attend to the writings of Mary Shelley and Johann von Goethe. For Bostrom with his outspoken desire to install mass surveillance to save the world, I also recommend a healthy dose of Orwell.

It is almost tempting to think that the choice of Ctrl-Alt-Del was meant to be a piece of subliminal predictive programming, except that the man credited with its origins is an IBM engineer called David Bradley, who says it was not intended for use by ordinary end users but helpful for software designers. Curiously, however, as Bradley also says (see interview embedded below): “I may have invented control-alt-delete, but Bill Gates made it really famous.” 9

This section above was previously posted on October 14th 2020 as part of an extended article entitled the united colours of Bilderberg — a late review of Montreux 2019: #7 global system reset.

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Civilisation stands on the brink. A radical transformation is coming; that is inescapable. The old patterns can no longer sustain us either materially or spiritually, and this seldom confessed truth is perfectly well understood by the ruling class who have already constructed the road ahead to an envisioned future and presented us with roadmaps.

Eager to keep as much control over everything as possible – call it ‘full spectrum dominance’ as the military arm of their military-industrial-financial complex does – they have long-since spread their tentacles into every conceivable area of politics and society more generally. This has been achieved primarily through the agency of huge foundations which indirectly support a network of think tanks, policy forums, NGOs and so forth: a stealth takeover, spreading into every nook and cranny of public life. By cloaking their real intentions under the guise of internationalism (or “globalisation”, or “global governance”) and environmentalism (or “sustainability”) since the 1970s and long before, the mainstream left is today as sold out to the same ruling powers and, in consequence, has become as unimaginative and non-progressive, as the right.

And the ruling class is the master of illusion that has slowly perfected its talent for deception and manipulation. Unlike the Wizard of Oz, who has a certain homespun wisdom, it has nothing real to offer in exchange for our deepening servitude. But the racket persists because the majority of us have become so intellectually impoverished we somehow cannot imagine any better alternative.

But finally, the system is crumbling apart altogether. One way or another, and very soon, it will have to be replaced. The ruling class, interested first and foremost in maintaining and increasing their power and privilege, already understand and acknowledge this, seeing that they must resort to some form of neo-feudalism, or creeping fascism, if you prefer (more below), which in any case they also see as “the natural order”.

For now, we find ourselves in the midst of desperate fight to preserve our remaining wealth and freedoms. The onslaught facing those of us in the West already seems a relentless one. As we enter the most important period of world history since the Second World War, this immediate fight is political, and involves us in the perennial Marxist dispute one over control and allocation of material resources. By contrast, the longer-term battle assaults our humanity at the most fundamental levels since it threatens to hold autonomy over our minds and bodies; policing our thoughts and finally altering our biology down to the molecular level. This last step of transhumanism seeks the literal melding of humans to artificial technology. Bizarre, certainly, like the worst science fiction dystopia, yet this is what the billionaires are seriously into, and what they are beginning to discuss publicly at gatherings like the World Economic Forum.

The infrastructure for this coming era of tyranny has been installed, or already close to completion: a mass surveillance panopticon; the arming and privatisation of the police (in America this militarisation being more starkly evident); the emergence of secret courts and draconian legislation (America’s NDAA 2012 arguably the most egregious example so far). In short, we see the emergence of a revised judicial framework that prosecutes whistleblowers for treason and charges dissenters as terrorists.

It is also a shift that coincides with our “age of austerity”, which is again gamed to ruin the already destitute, while simultaneously it undermines the middle class. An economic coup de grâce following four decades of more gradual decline: incomes continue to be reduced in real terms thanks to stagnant wages and zero interest on savings, neither of which can keep up with the demands of rising costs of living. But all stages of this ongoing decline – a more or less controlled collapse – are facilitated by the most sophisticated systems of mass propaganda ever devised. The internet is owned by the same billionaires, as is the bulk of the corporate media. Free speech was snuffed out years ago.

Incidentally, for those who feel that ‘fascism’ is too strong a word, or too vague, and too freely bandied around by the doom-mongers who proffer nothing but “a council of despair”, there is another post (which is essentially the book’s final extra chapter) where I try to explain at greater length why we need to keep using the word, no matter how badly misappropriated and damaged it has become over time.

A brief aside: the vitally important lesson to be learned from the rise of the Nazis (as well as the other fascist governments of the twentieth century) is not that monsters are sometimes capable of holding an otherwise educated if unwitting public in their thrall, but that fascism is most vigorous when it feeds on the pain and fear of a desperately struggling population. It is when economies are ruined that fascism almost spontaneously arises, just as flies rush to a rotting corpse. As for the monsters, it may be that many of them do not appear much like monsters at all. As Hannah Arendt, who is best known for coining the phrase “the banality of evil”, wrote after she saw Adolf Eichmann testify at his trial in 1961:

The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal. From the viewpoint of our legal institutions and of our moral standards of judgment, this normality was much more terrifying than all the atrocities put together, for it implied — as had been said at Nuremberg over and over again by the defendants and their counsels — that this new type of criminal, who is in actual fact hostis generis humani [“enemy of mankind”], commits his crimes under circumstances that make it well-nigh impossible for him to know or to feel that he is doing wrong. 10

Today, Hitler strikes us as an absolutely ridiculous and grotesque figure. He is the epitome of evil; the devil incarnate. His chubby pal Mussolini appears no less ranting and raving mad. The very fact I have included any reference to them in my argument already weakens it: the first person to mention Hitler being the loser in all our debates today.

Indeed, when it comes to any appraisal of Hitler and Mussolini, an extraordinarily difficult task presents itself in simply disentangling the caricatures from the men themselves. So unfortunately, we are unable to see these demagogues through the eyes of their contemporaries. We ought to be periodically reminded therefore – pinching ourselves if necessary – how throughout Europe and America both men were not only presented as respectable, but feted as great statesmen. Hitler was lauded by Time magazine and the Daily Mail; he was good friends with Henry Ford and King Edward VIII; financially supported by Prescott Bush, father of George H. W., and by the then-Governor of the Bank of England, Montagu Norman. Prior to – and also during the war – fascism met with great favour amongst the highest echelons of the ruling class: aristocrats and plutocrats falling in love with fascism, because fascism is inherently plutocratic and aristocratic. 11

But fascism is not just the dirty secret of a staggeringly recent past, all mention of it as a political force now seems anachronistic. Few outside the thuggish gangs of neo-Nazis and white supremacists will openly call themselves fascist today. But tragically, fascism as a mainstream political force did not expire with the deaths of Hitler and Mussolini; it changed its name and its modus operandi, but little else.

So while any mention of fascism as a major political force seems anachronistic, and no-one outside the thuggish gangs of neo-Nazis and white supremacists openly calls themselves fascist today, it remains the dirty mainstream secret of an astonishingly recent past. Tragically, its mainstream political force did not expire, however, with the deaths of Hitler and Mussolini; it changed its name and its modus operandi, but little else.

The steady rise of this postmodern, globalist, corporatocratic, neo-feudal, technetronic, technocracy is, as I say, an open secret. Saying you don’t like my characterisation is a bit like saying you don’t like the colour of the sky! Indeed, half of these identifiers are ones coined, or at least preferred, by the world shapers themselves – the globalist plutocrats who so love technocracy. Certainly, you may raise a challenge that we are now beyond postmodernism, the irony of which ought to raise a little smile if not a full-blown chuckle, whilst it may also be admitted that ‘corporatocracy’ and ‘neo-feudal’ are pejorative terms. What is harder to ignore is the stench of decay under our peasant noses, although dutifully the pliant hoards will often hold their noses with considerable gratitude.

The majority has always behaved this way, although history was reshaped regardless and in spite of such widespread propensity for Stockholm syndrome. As Goethe wrote: “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” 12

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Addendum: A republic of the new malarkey

A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail. Progress is the realisation of Utopias. 13

— Oscar Wilde

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“What is the meaning of life?” is an unintentionally hilarious question. So abstruse and rarified that it awkwardly bumps into the authentic experience of being alive before meandering off with eyes barely lifted from its own navel. It is just too damned philosophic! And yet there is a related though ineffable question that does respectfully and more intelligently seek an answer, and so at a primordial and existential level a kind of paradox confronts us daily. This paradox is indeed a source of much merriment.

But then, this question, which is hardly raised in polite company, finds a more permissible everyday enquiry: “what is the purpose of life?” A question, I think, we all ask ourselves from time to time, and one that takes its lead from the Socratic challenge: the search for self-improvement through self-examination. More confrontationally, you may have faced interrogation along the lines of: “so what are you doing with your life?” The implication here, of course, is that something purposeful needs to be done in life, whereas just drifting along without a clear purpose or goal is completely unacceptable.

In the modern world this belief is common sense. By contrast, pre-modern humans mostly live from day-to-day – as we all did until comparatively recent times – but still we forget how ‘purpose’ is not an ordinary and natural consideration, and not one that those in primitive societies would actually understand, but a later invention. Civilisation gave birth to ‘purpose’ in the abstract, and then once we had acquired aspirations of ‘purpose’, ‘meaning’ arose as a more diffuse back-projection.

And formerly, religion was the wellspring we drew upon to make determinations about our ultimate significance and so answers to questions of ‘purpose’ and ‘meaning’ were entirely contingent upon ordained beliefs about the divine and of morality. Today, with no gods to bother us, we might suppose the invitation simply to eat, drink and be merry would be sufficient enough, and yet few appear fully satisfied in following this straightforward directive; a nagging doubt persists that we may still be here for some higher purpose – or failing that that we can reinvent one anyway. Put differently, we have a tremendous longing for ‘worth’.

Unfortunately in our valiant attempt to save the world from the most egregious of religious doctrines, the cure becomes rather too clinical. In practical terms utilitarianism has stolen religion’s mantle and this numbs us in a peculiar way. With notions of ‘purpose’ and ‘worth’ necessarily adapted to fit the new paradigm, and with no better yardstick these have become equated, almost unavoidably, with notions of being socially useful in one way or another. Finally, morality, which is inherently unquantifiable, might be conveniently cut away too leaving usefulness above all else apprehended as good, virtuous and valuable. This is where utilitarianism logically leads and it is how modern society trains us to feel. What is your contribution? This is really the measure of man today.

Of course, tracing the lineage, we see utilitarianism is actually the bastard child of science – a quasi-Newtonian calculus misapplied to happiness such that all human relations can be narrowly reduced to a cost-benefit analysis. We have adopted this approach primarily because of its origins: science works! But science in turn depends upon reductionism. It maps reality, and as with every other map, does this by craftily omitting all of the detail of the actual territory; this refined attention to very specific elements is what makes all maps and scientific models useful. Utilitarianism reduces everything to usefulness.

Moreover, by successfully measuring all of creation, including each particle of our own nature, in the strict but narrow terms of what is scientifically quantifiable, we have accidentally impaired ourselves in another way. Through the high-magnification lens of science, we have learned to see trees, flowers, birds and all other creatures as cellular machines programmed and operating purely to survive and reproduce. This is a partial truth, of course, for no matter how high our magnification, science sees the world through its glass darkly, and at another level we remain keenly aware that the universe is not a wholly dead and lifeless automaton that endlessly recycles itself through ingestion and procreation. That there is more ‘meaning’ to life.

Back in the real world, the trees, the birds, the sky and the stars above that enthralled us as children, are no less wondrous if as adults we remain incurious to reflect upon their immanent mysteriousness. Indeed, not only life, but sheer existence is absolutely extraordinary and beyond all words. This we know at one level – call it ‘the unconscious’ for lack of a better term – with unflinching certainty. Importantly, and aside from death, it is the only substantial thing we can ever know for sure. The poets keep vigil to this spectacularly simple truth and are endlessly enraptured by it.

Thus the gauche and frankly silly question “what is the meaning of life?” has actually never gone away, but now hides out of bemused embarrassment in the more or less unconscious form of “what is my social function in life?” Life may be just as meaningless as it is mechanical, the acceptable view goes, but we can surely agree on the seriousness of this meaninglessness and on importance of making a worthwhile contribution. Robots in particular just need to get with the program!

When philosopher and spiritual teacher Alan Watts advises that “The meaning of life is just to be alive”, what does he mean precisely? Iain McGilchrist, who first studied literature before retraining in biology and becoming a expert is brain lateralisation, tackles this question and also considers more broadly how our pursuit of meaningful goals is related to happiness and a fulfilled life:

McGilchrist is also concerned by how meaning has been crushed through the ultra-capitalism of the West with its destructive obsession about the efficient use of ‘human resources’ and by the commensurate micro-management of the modern workplace:

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A few years ago a friend said that, like him, I too was fed up with the old malarkey. What you want, he proposed, is “a republic of the new malarkey”! Well, since life always involves a certain amount of malarkey, then maybe this is the best we can finally hope to achieve. But then, continuing the theme, I wondered, why not aim instead for “a republic of the least malarkey”? After all, ask most people (myself included) if the world might be improved and they will generally say yes, but then ask how, and answers typically become trite and (for want of a better word) utopian. ‘Make poverty history’ is a perfect example. Remember that one? Some of us once marched under banners demanding that we ‘make poverty history’ – yes, but how? ‘Give peace a chance’, we might add – but again, getting no closer to ending the daily carnage of the forever wars.

Ask most people (again myself included) to explain the nitty-gritty of how we might make our societies better and we probably feel dumbstruck by the complexity and overwhelmed by the confusion of potential outcomes. We simply don’t quite know precisely what we want, or, better put, how to bring about the necessary changes – or at least never precisely enough to outline effective measures. Our problem, in one sense, is that positive action becomes difficult. After all, the world is a deeply and inherently puzzling place and so figuring the best course can be an inordinately difficult task.

But then ask an alternative question and you immediately receive better answers. Ask, for instance, what our society least needs and many people can instantly pull up a fairly detailed list of complaints. Pointing out stupidities, asinine rules, debilitating conventions, especially wherever our personal development is stunted or our lives are hamstrung; this comes perfectly naturally. Finding faults is just so much easier than offering details for improvements or formulating solutions. “It is very easy to criticise”, people often say, which is itself a criticism! But why? Why the eagerness to dismiss this one faculty common to all? Wouldn’t it be better to exploit it?

Which brings me to establishment of “a republic of the least malarkey”: a society constructed with the very deliberate intention of avoiding too many negatives: negatives being that much easier to put your finger on, and, crucially, to agree about. So why not make this our ambition? To set forth boldly to junk all nonsensical burdens and impositions because, aside their counterproductivity, any such transparently pointless impediments are generally as tedious as they are odious. Time is too precious to be needlessly wasted on nonsense.

*

A corresponding political movement would aim at an intelligent and humane transformation, turning away from the current drive for structuring societies on the proclaimed basis of the optimisation of efficiency and productiveness, with rigidly imposed structures that inevitably hamper the human imagination whilst infringing our most basic right: the inalienable right to be free-thinking human beings. Surely this is the most fundamental of all rights. So what of our other inalienable right, so far as practicable without infringing the freedoms and rights of others, which is to be freely-acting creatures?

All of this is a kind of ‘liberalism’, although of a very rough, unpolished form. Together with the Golden Rule, ‘liberalism’ of some kind is vital presuming we wish to live in a freer, saner and more tolerant society. Indeed, if we ever seriously decide to construct a better world for ourselves then freedom for the individual must remain the paramount concern, but so too is ensuring a nurturing and protecting society. I feel obliged therefore to add a few important caveats. As the poet and English civil war polemicist John Milton wrote:

For indeed none can love freedom heartily, but good men: the rest love not freedom, but license: which never hath more scope, or more indulgence than under tyrants. 14

The great danger of liberalism, as Milton says, is that inadvertently or otherwise, licence may be granted to tyrants, and then one man’s ‘freedom’ offers legitimacy, since it is reliant upon, another’s debasement and servitude. Sadly, this has been the primary mode of liberalism as it has existed until now, and in spite of the warnings of more thoughtful liberals who, from the outset, asserted loudly that unfettered individual liberty is entirely at odds with freedom that serves any common interest.

Elizabeth Anderson, Professor of Philosophy at University of Michigan, is the author of “Private Government: How Employers Rule Our Lives (and Why We Don’t Talk about It)” about the tyranny of the corporate workplace from non-disclosure agreements to punitive, restrictive work conditions and censorship. Here she discusses with journalist Chris Hedges how the libertarian model is cruel and why liberalism has historically defended the rights of capital above the rights of the individual:

Today’s self-proclaimed (neo-)liberal thinkers are misguided in another crucial and related way. Their emphasis on freedom of the market has dispelled one system of serfdom only to replace it with another that, although superficially different, is comparably repressive: the exaltation of the market to the rank of our new lord and master brings tyranny of more cleverly concealed designs.

What the liberal too often and rather too conveniently overlooks is that money, besides being an inherently utilitarian artifact, is a thoroughly and indivisibly social instrument too. That money is not some product of private contracts since these do not supply and protect its value, but that since society creates it to lubricate its means for production and distribution of goods and services, then society maintains, in principle at least, complete autonomy over it. Taxation, therefore, isn’t reducible to theft of private property since money isn’t strictly speaking either private or property.

Nor should money or the profit-making engines called corporations be put on a pedestal: money has no rights at all, only sentient beings can have rights, and likewise, having money ought to accord no special rights or privileges other than in enabling the procurement of stuff. This is what it does and nothing else. Money has been our terrible master, but now we must transform it into a useful servant, striving to break its links to power in every way this can be achieved.

In fact, the decline of money is already happening, and this is rather crucial to understand. Once industrial production becomes fully automated, and services follow, money will lose its primary function, which is as a token of exchange for labour. Without labour there will be no need to reward it. In order to ensure a smooth and humane transition to this future post-wage society (and the robots are coming sooner than we think), we need an honest reflection of our values: values entirely without any pound or dollar sign attached. If we are serious about our collective futures, this fundamental reevaluation of life has to happen without delay and in earnest, long before we are completely freed from treadmill of work itself.

James Suzman, author of “Work: A History of How We Spend Our Time”, here discusses how work as we know it is really a modern concept that didn’t exist until recently:

But then, final and complete individual freedom (as we often claim to desire) is only attainable once the reins that harnessed us to work have begun to slacken. Meanwhile, unbridling ourselves of the work ethic, as unavoidable as it is, is no straightforward matter, since it requires the tackling opponents on all sides. Both left and right, for contrary reasons, are mindful to keep the workers hard at it.

Indeed, all that ultimately stands between us and this gateway to an unprecedented age of freedom and abundance are two abiding obstructions. The first of these: further advances and refinements to our technology, are certain to arise whatever we decide to do; whereas, the second, that invisible but super-sticky glue which binds money to political power, can never be fully dissolved unless we act very decisively to see that it is.

This second obstacle is virtually immoveable, and yet we must finally meet it with our truly irresistible force, if only because tremendous concentrations of wealth and power are overbearingly anti-democratic. In fact they reinforce themselves entirely to the exclusion of the dispossessed, and as the tie between money and power continually tightens, so the world is made captive to a tiny privileged coterie in what are already de facto plutocracies where the lives of workers increasingly resemble those of more visibly bonded slaves – held captive by chains of debts rather than steel. So long as the economic system is not reformed, we will head unswerving to a time when the current labour resource is made totally redundant. If no action is taken, this future prospect leaves us infinitely worse off again.

Moreover, the obstacles we face are interconnected, since for so long as a few moneyed interests hold such an iron grip on political power (as is currently the case), all technological development must remain primarily directed to serve and maintain these special interests. Rather glaringly, government money is today ceaselessly pumped into the giant hands of the military-industrial complex.

Suppose instead that this enormous expenditure on the weapons industry, and thus into weapons research, was redirected to transform methods of energy production and transportation systems. Imagine then how more wonderful our lives would be had this wasteful investment in destruction already been funneled into peacetime projects. And here I mean real investment in the fullest, truest sense of time and human ingenuity, rather than simply investment of money – which is only ever a tool remember.

Full and final severance of financial and political power is extremely hard to achieve, of course, but there is a great deal that could be done to remedy the present crisis. However, to begin to move in the right direction we are compelled first to organise. This is as urgent as it is imperative. Seizing power from the one-percent must become the primary goal for all who sincerely wish to usher in a better age.

Here is Comedian Lee Camp considering the same issue in one of his “Moments of Clarity”:

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Effing utilitarianism

If we require a more ideologically framed foundation then I also half-jokingly make the following proposal: our new approach can be futilitarianism. 15 That is, a full one-eighty degree U-turn against utilitarianism and its consequentialist basis in which ends alone purportedly justify means. Let us instead turn this inculcated foolishness entirely on its head such that, and aside from properly disconnecting moral value from mere usefulness, we remind ourselves, as Gandhi correctly asserted, that ‘means’ are also ‘ends in the making’. Thus we grant that, conversely, ‘means’ really can and do justify themselves, intrinsically, without regard to whatever the ‘ends’ may to turn out to be. 16

In other words, emphasis should be correctly placed on a person’s sincere endeavour “to do the right thing”, since this is inherently virtuous. In all ethical matters, reciprocity then becomes the touchstone again: that maxim of the Golden Rule, which holds that each should treat the other as one wishes to be treated in return. For the most ancient of all ethical rules remains the wisest and most parsimonious; and it is always better not to fix things that were never broken. 17

Futilitarianism involves an item-by-item elimination of each of our extant but inessential sociopolitical complications: an unravelling of the knots that hogtie us little by little. Beginning from the top, to first free up our financial systems, although not by so-called ‘deregulation’, since deregulation is precisely how those systems became so corrupted; but by dispelling all that is so toxic, craftily convoluted, nonsensical and plain criminal (the last ought to go without saying but evidently doesn’t!). Whilst from the bottom, the goal is to bring an end to the commercialisation of our lives on which our debt-riven (because debt-driven) economies depend: to unwind our ever-more rampant and empty consumerist culture.

In the futilitarian future, security – that most misappropriated of words – would ensure that everyone (not just the super rich) is fully protected against all conceivable forms of harm that can feasibly be eradicated, or – if eradication is not completely realisable – then greatly diminished and/or ameliorated. It will mean the individual is protected from persecution by all agents including the state itself, and will guarantee both the freedom and privacy which permit us to think and act as individuals.

From the outset, therefore, a social framework must ensure basic freedoms by acknowledging and guaranteeing not only civil liberties, but economic rights too. A living income for all and one that is eventually independent of earned salary. Such unconditional basic incomes are now under consideration, but I advocate a steady move in this direction through instituting a range of measures including extended holidays, reductions in working hours, and the lowering of the pension age. All of this should be achieved on a voluntary basis, since nobody ought to be compelled to remain idle any more than we must be compelled to work. In pursuing this goal it is also vital to maintain equivalence or preferably to increase levels of income.

Ensuring essential economic rights requires universal provision of the highest quality healthcare and optimum social entitlement. Homes and food for all. Clothing and warmth for all. Unpolluted air and clear water for all. In fact, such universal access to every necessity and much else besides is already inscribed in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) under Article 25, which reads:

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control. 18

The overarching aim is to reconstruct every society (beginning with our own) to eliminate the ills of poverty because there is ample energy, food, and even non-essential but desirable material goods for everyone alive in the world today and much more again.

Emphatically, this does NOT require any form of imposed population controls, since prosperity automatically correlates with population stability (as proved by the steadily declining populations in the Western world), and so we should resolutely reject the scaremongering about imminent global scarcity of food or other vital resources. In fact contrary to all the neo-Malthusian prophesies of doom, just as the population of the world is peaking 19 we still have a great plenty of food to go around (lacking only the political and economic will to distribute it fairly) 20, with official UN estimates indicating that we shall continue to have such abundance both for the immediate future and far beyond. 21

Likewise, problems associated with energy production and hazards like pollution need to be tackled as a priority. To such ends, the brightest minds should be organised to find daring solutions to our energy needs – a new Manhattan Project, but this time to save lives. For technology justly configured is the essential key to humanity’s continuing betterment.

In short, the futilitarian cry is “Basta!” Enough is enough! Enough of poverty, and of curable sickness. Enough of excessive hard labour. An end to so much insanity.

The long-term vision might see an international community no longer perpetually at war, nor hypnotised and zombified by the infinitely-receding baubles of our faux-free markets nor the limiting and phoney promise of “freedom of choice”. Likewise, it marks a sharp retreat from our red in tooth and claw ‘meritocracies’, offering genuine hope (that most shamelessly abused of all words!) to millions in our own societies, who devoid of respect and finding little evidence of compassion, exist in abject desperation having long since turned their backs both on politics and society. Numbing their hardships with recourse to narcotics (criminalised by virtue of that other war against the dispossessed) or, more permissibly, since corporately profitable, they fill the emptiness with lifelong dependence upon doses of fully legally sanctioned opiates.

Besides the regular bread and circuses of TV, Hollywood and wall-to-wall professional sport, the rush of high-speed editing and ceaseless agitation offered through CGI, we also have nonstop access to more and more digital pacifiers thanks to iphones, Candy Crush, and TikTok. Driven to worship the tawdry, there was never a more distracted and narcissistic age than ours. It is self-evident however that we are hooked on painkillers because we are so deeply racked with pain. No amount of such distractions can ever satisfy us: the emptiness persists.

Lastly, and should we find a requirement for some pithy and memorable slogan, I propose recycling this one: “people before profits”. Generously acted upon, the rest follows automatically. Or, if such a slogan smacks too much of pleading, then let’s be more emphatic saying, “Power to the people!” Hackneyed, yes, but risible – why risible? “Power to the people” speaks to the heart and soul of what it should literally mean to live in any democracy. Our greatest tragedy is that the people have long since forgotten their birthright.

As playwright Harold Pinter said in the final words of his magnificent Nobel Lecture speech delivered in late 2005 when he was already dying from cancer:

I believe that despite the enormous odds which exist, unflinching, unswerving, fierce intellectual determination, as citizens, to define the real truth of our lives and our societies is a crucial obligation which devolves upon us all. It is in fact mandatory.

If such a determination is not embodied in our political vision we have no hope of restoring what is so nearly lost to us – the dignity of man.

Go to first chapter.

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Please note that for the purposes of ‘publishing’ here I have taken advantage of the option to incorporate hypertext links and embed videos – in order to distinguish additional commentary from the original text all newly incorporated text has been italised.

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1 A warning to Congress that the growth of private power could lead to fascism, delivered by Franklin D. Roosevelt on April 29, 1938.

2 The Altamont Free Concert was held in northern California in December 1969. The security had been given over to a chapter of Hells Angels. It is mostly remembered for violence and a number of deaths, including the murder of Meredith Curly Hunter, Jr.

3 The Tate–LaBianca murders were a series of murders perpetrated by members of the Manson Family during August 8–10, 1969, in Los Angeles, California, under the direction of Tex Watson and Charles Manson.

4 Quote from Chapter 2 entitled “The Garden of Live Flowers” of Through the Looking-Glass (1871) by Lewis Carroll.

5 Wikipedia devotes an entire entry to “List of University of Oxford people with PPE degrees which begins:

Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) at Oxford University has traditionally been a degree read by those seeking a career in politics, public life (including senior positions in Her Majesty’s Civil Service) and journalism. This list does not include those notable figures, such as U.S. President Bill Clinton, who studied PPE at the university but did not complete their degrees.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_University_of_Oxford_people_with_PPE_degrees

6 From The Sane Society, Ch. 9: Summary — Conclusion, written by Erich Fromm, published in 1955.

7 He was awarded a PhD in philosophy, but perhaps a more fitting title is ‘futurist’.

8

Bostrom, a 43-year-old Swedish-born philosopher, has lately acquired something of the status of prophet of doom among those currently doing most to shape our civilisation: the tech billionaires of Silicon Valley. His reputation rests primarily on his book Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies, which was a surprise New York Times bestseller last year and now arrives in paperback, trailing must-read recommendations from Bill Gates and Tesla’s Elon Musk. (In the best kind of literary review, Musk also gave Bostrom’s institute £1m to continue to pursue its inquiries.)

From an article entitled “Artificial intelligence: ‘We’re like children playing with a bomb’” written by Tim Adams, published in the Guardian on June 12, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jun/12/nick-bostrom-artificial-intelligence-machine

9 From an article entitled “Ctrl-Alt-Del inventor makes final reboot: David Bradley, we salute you” written by Andrew Orlowski, published in The Register on January 29, 2004. https://www.theregister.com/2004/01/29/ctrlaltdel_inventor_makes_final_reboot/

10 From the Epilogue of Eichmann in Jerusalem: A report on the Banality of Evil written by Hannah Arendt, published in 1963.

11 The word ‘fascism’ is beginning to be usefully reclaimed. Reattached with careful deliberation and appropriateness to the situation we find unfolding today. For instance, veteran journalist and political analyst John Pilger writes:

Under the “weak” Obama, militarism has risen perhaps as never before. With not a single tank on the White House lawn, a military coup has taken place in Washington. In 2008, while his liberal devotees dried their eyes, Obama accepted the entire Pentagon of his predecessor, George Bush: its wars and war crimes. As the constitution is replaced by an emerging police state, those who destroyed Iraq with shock and awe, piled up the rubble in Afghanistan and reduced Libya to a Hobbesian nightmare, are ascendant across the US administration. Behind their beribboned facade, more former US soldiers are killing themselves than are dying on battlefields. Last year 6,500 veterans took their own lives. Put out more flags.

The historian Norman Pollack calls this “liberal fascism”: “For goose-steppers substitute the seemingly more innocuous militarisation of the total culture. And for the bombastic leader, we have the reformer manqué, blithely at work, planning and executing assassination, smiling all the while.” Every Tuesday the “humanitarian” Obama personally oversees a worldwide terror network of drones that “bugsplat” people, their rescuers and mourners. In the west’s comfort zones, the first black leader of the land of slavery still feels good, as if his very existence represents a social advance, regardless of his trail of blood. This obeisance to a symbol has all but destroyed the US anti-war movement – Obama’s singular achievement.

In Britain, the distractions of the fakery of image and identity politics have not quite succeeded. A stirring has begun, though people of conscience should hurry. The judges at Nuremberg were succinct: “Individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity.” The ordinary people of Syria, and countless others, and our own self-respect, deserve nothing less now.

From “The silent military coup that took over Washington” written by John Pilger, published in the Guardian on September 10, 2013. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/10/silent-military-coup-took-over-washington

12 In the original German: “Niemand ist mehr Sklave, als der sich für frei hält, ohne es zu sein.

From Book II, Ch. 5 of Die Wahlverwandtschaften (‘Elective Affinities’ or ‘Kindred by Choice’) by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, published in 1809.

13    From The Soul of Man under socialism, an essay by Oscar Wilde published in 1891.

14    From Tenure of Kings and Magistrates written by John Milton, published in 1649.

15    I recently discovered that there is already a name for the kind of social philosophy I have tried to outline here. Apparently it’s called “metanoia” and that fine with me… a rose by any other name. In any case, the term futilitarianism was originally coined as a joke by a friend. Suggested as a useful working title to encapsulate the views of our mutual friend, James, the economist, who gets a mention earlier in the book. It was a great joke – one of those jokes that causes you to laugh first and then to think more deeply afterwards. I have kept the word in mind every since simply because it fit so comfortably with my own developing thoughts about life, the universe and everything – thoughts fleshed out and committed to the pages of this book. Of course, neologisms are useful only when they happen to plug a gap, and futilitarianism serves that function. Once I had the word I wanted to know what it might mean. The joke became a matter for playful contemplation, and that contemplation became what I hope is a playful book – playful but serious – as the best jokes always are.

16    After writing this I came across a quote attributed to Aldous Huxley (from source unknown) as follows: “But the nature of the universe is such that the ends never justify the means. On the contrary, the means always determine the end.”

17    There are many formulations of the Golden Rule. A multitude of philosophical attempts to refine and more strictly formalise the basic tenet to the point of logical perfection. Kant’s concept of the “categorical imperative” is one such reformulation. But these reformulations create more confusion than they solve. There simply is no absolutely perfect way to state the Golden Rule and recast it into a solid law. The Golden Rule better understood and applied as a universal guideline. Acting in accordance with the spirit of the rule is what matters.

18    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948. It consists of 30 articles which have been elaborated in subsequent international treaties, regional human rights instruments, national constitutions and laws. Eleanor Roosevelt, first chairwoman of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) that drafted the Declaration, stated that it “may well become the international Magna Carta of all men everywhere.”

These notes are taken from the wikipedia entry on UDHR. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UN_Declaration_of_Universal_Human_Rights

19    We have now reached what is called “peak child”, which means that although the overall population of the world will continue to grow for a few moire decades, the number of children in the world has already stopped rising. The global population is set to reach at 10 billion people, due to the “Great Fill-Up”.  World-famous statistician Professor Hans Rosling explains this using building blocks to illustrate the point [from 10 mins in]:

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After 30 years of rapid growth in agricultural production, the world can produce enough food to provide every person with more than 2 700 Calories per day level which is normally sufficient to ensure that all have access to adequate food, provided distribution is not too unequal

From report of World Food Summit of FAO (Rome 13-17 November 1996), entitled “Food for All”. http://www.fao.org/3/x0262e/x0262e05.htm#e

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“[However,] the slowdown [of worldwide agricultural production] has occurred not because of shortages of land or water but rather because demand for agricultural products has also slowed. This is mainly because world population growth rates have been declining since the late 1960s, and fairly high levels of food consumption per person are now being reached in many countries, beyond which further rises will be limited.” – “This study suggests that world agricultural production can grow in line with demand, provided that the necessary national and international policies to promote agriculture are put in place. Global shortages are unlikely, but serious problems already exist at national and local levels and may worsen unless focused efforts are made.” – “Agricultural production could probably meet expected demand over the period to 2030 even without major advances in modern biotechnology.”

Extracts from the Executive Summary of the FAO summary report “World agriculture: towards 2015/2030”, published in 2002. http://www.fao.org/3/y3557e/y3557e.pdf

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Don’t tell Sid | statement issued by campaign group ‘we own it’

The following statement produced by the campaign group ‘we own it’ landed in my email inbox today. It provides an excellent summary of recent privatisation failures in the operation of UK public services and highlights how these mounting problems are beginning to shift perceptions across the political spectrum in favour of renewed state intervention within the public sector.

I am reprinting their statement in full with all highlights and links retained, and also strongly encourage readers to follow the main link to an open letter to Labour leader, Keir Starmer, which was published on September 23rd.

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People are waking up to the fact that privatisation has failed the UK for nearly 40 years.

In the Times, Jon Yeomans talks about Thatcher’s sell offs, saying “More than 30 years later, Britain lives with the consequences of that 1980s revolution. From buses to trains to energy, there are signs that the wheels may be coming off.”

In the Herald, Lesley Riddoch asks on behalf of frustrated Scots “Is there any way to escape privatised Britain other than independence?”

Scotland is bringing its railway into public ownership.

Wales is bringing its railway into public ownership.

The East Coast line was brought into public ownership in 2018 (it’s now run by the government’s operator of last resort).

The Northern franchise was brought into public ownership in 2020.

And this week Southeastern, after defrauding the government of £25 million, has also been brought into public hands.

As the Telegraph (yes, the Telegraph) says “the Southeastern debacle exposes the failure of Britain’s rail privatisation”.

It’s not just rail – with Covid, the bus ‘market’ (never much of a market) is collapsing.

The Guardian comments on the proposed merger of Stagecoach and National Express, saying “Passengers, who have seen rail fares rocket and local bus services wither, may also hope this signals the end of a chapter when a few could profit so enormously from an essential public service.”

Meanwhile Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, who has committed to re-regulating the buses there (a victory of our campaign!) comments about himself and Mayors Tracy Brabin and Dan Jarvis “Between us we are rolling back the 1980s, we are overturning the Thatcher legacy.”

At the Labour party conference, shadow energy secretary Ed Miliband talked about the Green New Deal, committing to “a green Britain where public and alternative models of ownership play their proper role in making the transition affordable, secure and fair.”

Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon confirmed his support for public ownership of rail and buses.

And Labour delegates voted for a Green New Deal, including public ownership of transport and energy, with speech after inspiring speech explaining why this is needed.

Despite all of this, Keir Starmer (who hasn’t responded yet to our open letter) and his shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves have said they don’t support nationalising the energy supply companies. They’ve said they don’t want to be “ideological” about it.

But the truth, as Cat writes in the Guardian today, is that privatisation is an extreme ideological experiment that has failed us all for decades, and people have had enough of it.

When the Times, the Telegraph, the Herald and the Guardian are questioning privatisation, when more and more of our railway is being brought into public ownership, when Mayors are re-regulating buses, and when the energy market is in crisis – there’s a shift happening.

On moral and on economic grounds, privatisation just isn’t making sense anymore.

Don’t tell Sid 😉

Cat, Alice, Johnbosco, Matthew, Zana and Anna – the We Own It team

PS Who’s Sid? In 1986, when Thatcher sold off British Gas, the company was floated on the stock market, accompanied by the famous ‘Tell Sid’ advertising campaign.

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Free Donziger: update and final call for support before sentencing on Oct 1st

Steven Donziger is a human rights lawyer who represented the indigenous people of Ecuador in a class action lawsuit against petrochemical giant Chevron after it had systematically polluted a vast area of rainforest during the two decades of the 70s and 80s in what has been dubbed the ‘Amazon Chernobyl’.

Following a landmark judgment that awarded nearly $10 billion in damages, Chevron has since refused to pay any of the compensation to the tens of thousands of victims of its toxic spills, but instead withdrew all of its assets from Ecuador and launched legal action against Donziger.

Click here to read more about the case in a previous article.

The following statement is reproduced in full from an email I received today from the Free Donziger campaign. Highlights using bold, italics and capitals have been retained from the original.

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Days ago my lawyers Rob Kuby and Marty Garbus filed a powerful petition before Judge Preska giving all the compelling reasons why I should be freed at sentencing on October 1.

To be clear, no lawyer EVER in the United States has been sentenced to prison for the crime of misdemeanor contempt. Yet Chevron is doing everything in its power to weaponize the legal system against me and convince Judge Preska of the Chevron-funded Federalist Society to make me the first.

Here is a preview of the letter:

Steven Donziger letter Sept 2021

You can read the full letter here.

October 1 is just around the corner where I could be sentenced to jail after already spending 787 days in home confinement, eight times longer than the longest sentence ever given to a lawyer convicted of my supposed crime. But this is all a part of Chevron’s demonic plan to silence me and the affected communities in Ecuador who won the historic pollution judgment.

Chevron is now using me as a foil to distract from the plight of Indigenous peoples in Ecuador who are suffering massive health problems because of the company’s planet and people-destroying practices. I am far from the only person who was involved in the pollution judgment against Chevron, but I am the most convenient target to try to scare future environmental lawyers from seeking accountability for the industry’s destructive operational practices. If I didn’t exist, Chevron probably would have invented me.

To reiterate, no lawyer ever has been sentenced to prison for the misdemeanor crime of contempt. We must fight back to make sure that I am not the first. We only have a few days left before my sentencing. Please donate today to help fund my defense and continue this critical battle against Chevron.

Thank you so much,

Steven

P.S. Reminder: If you are in the New York area, please come on Oct. 1 to the federal courthouse at 500 Pearl Street in Lower Manhattan to show your support. Click here for more information.

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more hope please (with Jeremy Corbyn)

“You don’t have to take what you’re given. You don’t have to live without power and without hope. Things can, and they will change.” — Jeremy Corbyn

On the eve of this year’s Labour Party conference, Jeremy Corbyn sat down with comedian Alexei Sayle to talk about his remarkable political journey that reached its apogee during the 2017 general election.

Despite being ‘under siege’ even prior to being elected leader in 2015, and with backstabbers actually inside Labour HQ determined to undermine Labour’s election campaign, a narrow defeat had actually strengthened his leadership. Even so, this only briefly interrupted a vicious counteroffensive of smears orchestrated by the Blairites and a universally compliant media, and just months after stepping down as party leader in April 2020, he was suspended, becoming the most high-profile victim of Keir Starmer’s ongoing purge. Still a member of the Labour Party, today Corbyn sits in limbo as an independent MP.

Relaxed, funny and characteristically humble, Corbyn is also joined by his former political strategist, Karie Murphy in a discussion that ranges from the travails of his time as leader, to the opportunism of Keir Starmer, to his international Project for Peace and Justice which he launched last January, to poetry and art and broader visions of a better future.

I have cued the podcast to begin at the start of the main conversation [warning strong language]:

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20 years on: still searching for the truth about 9/11

John Pilger, who stands out as one of the few remaining independent voices, says that he began to understand how censorship works in so-called free societies when he reported from totalitarian regimes. During the 1970s, he filmed secretly from within Czechoslovakia (still, as then, a Stalinist dictatorship), interviewing members of the dissident group Charter 77. There the novelist Zdenek Urbánek explained the situation to Pilger as follows:

“In dictatorships we are more fortunate than you in the West in one respect – we believe nothing of what we read in the newspapers, and nothing of what we watch on television, because we know it’s propaganda and lies. Unlike you in the West, we’ve learnt to look behind the propaganda, and to read between the lines. Unlike you, we know that the real truth is always subversive.” 1

In challenging the official story of the 9/11 attacks, here is Gore Vidal saying something remarkably similar:

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Released in 2006, 9/11: Press for Truth is a documentary directed by the American filmmaker Ray Nowosielski. Partially based on The Terror Timeline, by Paul Thompson, the film recounts the inspiring story of the Jersey Girls (Kristen Breitweiser, Patty Casazza, Lorie Van Auken, and Mindy Kleinberg), all residents of New Jersey and the widows of individuals killed in the September 11th attacks, who tenaciously lobbied the Bush administration to open an investigation. It was their demands that culminated in the eventual formation of the 9/11 Commission.

Although the film sticks rigorously to the facts and credible claims reported and published by reputable journalists, you will almost certainly never see this documentary aired on BBC, Channel 4 or ITV. The reason for this is that mainstream outlets have consistently shunned all serious challenges to the official story. Moreover, they have dependably concealed two inconvenient facts.

Firstly, they continue to ignore how the US government delayed and then used tricks to control and suppress a full investigation. Secondly, they have cultivated a fiction that the 9/11 families and other victims fully accept the official story and just want to be left in peace. In reality it was the Jersey Girls and other members of 9/11 Family Steering Committee who were entirely instrumental in the creation of the 9/11 Commission.

Nowosielski’s documentary is outstanding in that it shows how the investigation was deliberately set up to fail and how the truth surrounding the crimes of 9/11 has been systematically covered up both prior to the Commission and since:

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Although its portrayal of the September 11th attacks is perhaps the most poignant of all memorials, another documentary that has not received a mainstream airing during this anniversary (or indeed at any other time) is Michael Moore’s evergreen Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004).

A special screening shown online yesterday with live Q+A is embedded below (and cued up to begin at the start of the film):

Moore’s mistake was to contextualise too much. The film’s pre-credits tell the story of the brazen election fraud in Florida that sealed Bush’s victory and how that led to unprecedented scenes on the day of his inauguration as the presidential motorcade was held up by thousands of protesters.

Moore then highlights the multiple warnings of threats of an imminent terrorist attack, which are interspersed with reminders of American collaboration with soon-to-be-villains Saddam Hussein and the Taliban, before he moves to consider relations with the Saudi regime. Indeed, the central focus of Moore’s investigation (although there is a great deal besides) reveals the intimate ties between the Bush family and the Bin Ladens.

Moore’s accusing figure points to the nefarious role played by the Saudis, and in fact the subsequent release of the so-called 28 pages entirely vindicates this accusation, although this too is evidently part of an ongoing limited hangout. Moore treads very carefully throughout this film and if I have a criticism it is only that he does not go far enough. That said, what he does show is damning enough and sufficient enough reason to call for a new investigation.

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In the mainstream tributes and memorials instead, we hear solely from those who don’t protest too loudly. All official tributes have been obliged therefore to ignore the plight of Bob and Helen McIlvaine, whose son, Bobby, was killed inside the World Trade Center, and who alongside other families are continuing the campaign to get justice for their loved ones and the thousands of other victims:

Nor will you hear from Matt Campbell, the brother of Geoff, a British victim who died in the North tower, and who has requested the Attorney General to open a new inquest in the UK under Section 13 of the UK Coroners Act 1988:

Nor from fire commissioner Christopher Gioia whose fire district recently passed a historic resolution supporting a new investigation and seeking justice for firefighters:

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Barry Jennings is another who was desperately looking for answers. As the Deputy Director of the Emergency Services Department for the New York City Housing Authority, Jennings inadvertently became a crucial eyewitness when, on the morning of September 11th, he was trapped together with Michael Hess, the New York City Corporation Counsel, inside Building 7 (or WTC7).

Following their rescue, Michael Hess gave a live interview with Frank Ucciardo, in which he stated:

“I was up the emergency management center on the 23rd floor and when all the power went out in the building, er, another gentleman [Barry Jennings] and I walked down to the 8th floor where there was an explosion and we were trapped on the 8th floor with smoke, thick smoke, all around us for about an hour and a half”

Barry Jennings confirmed the account of explosions in an interview shortly after his own escape from the building:

A few years later in 2007, Barry Jennings gave a lengthier account in an interview to Dylan Avery – for some reason the full interview is extremely hard to locate and in the version embedded below his testimony has been truncated, however this seems to be the best version currently uploaded:

William Rodriguez, the caretaker of the WTC, courageously went back into the main towers with his master key to help rescue others who were trapped inside. For a time Rodriguez was actually granted the status of a national hero.

However, Rodriguez is another 9/11 victim who finally became frustrated by the lack of formal investigations and although he was able to give evidence to the Commission, he was not granted permission to testify publicly and none of his testimony appears in the final report.

Like Jennings, Rodriguez has consistently maintained that explosions happened inside the buildings. Memorably he once compared the whole event to a magic trick (previously he had worked as a magician’s assistant).

Today it is remarkably difficult to find clips of William Rodriguez retelling his account or questioning the official narrative of 9/11 (although for a brief period he has made a number of TV appearances including at least one in Britain). Such is the degree of censorship across the web this is the single extended presentation I can actually find on Youtube:

Click here to listen to a radio interview with William Rodriguez.

The Jersey Girls and the other families as well as so many firefighters and first responders are still desperately seeking answers. Before he sadly passed away, Barry Jennings was one of countless victims more quietly seeking the truth. He and William Rodriguez are just two amongst many who directly witnessed the events and could not believe the official story. All want answers. All seek justice. This is why I support their cause for 9/11 truth and in a small way have tried to act on their behalf by presenting their stories and delving into the subject more deeply myself (see below and read this previous article published for the tenth anniversary).

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You may have noticed that up to this point, I have carefully steered clear of any mention of the dread word “conspiracy”. My reason for this avoidance is obvious enough: that the word “conspiracy”, though acknowledged as a valid synonym for plot, intrigue and affair in both dictionaries and, perhaps more significantly, in courts of law, has increasingly been tarnished.

More often than not conjoined with another otherwise neutral term “theory”, it nowadays functions as a compound noun of exceptionally potent force. For it is next to impossible to hear the words “conspiracy theorist” and not think “conspiracy nut”. In short, “conspiracy theory” is a weaponised term; its use is therefore tantamount to pointing the finger and saying: “are you an idiot or charlatan?”

But there is a “conspiracy theory” at work, of course, and James Corbett brilliantly elucidates the absurdity of it in his miniature Youtube masterpiece [only 4 mins long] aptly entitled “9/11: a conspiracy theory”:

As with all the best satire, its brilliance resides in its closeness to reality. This really is the official story of 9/11 and Corbett provides links to verify the many statements in his own transcript which I have reproduced in full below as an addendum.

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Gore Vidal once said “I am not a conspiracy theorist, I am a conspiracy analyst”. And Vidal, a close friend of the Kennedys and a close student of history, was one of the most high-profile figures to call for a reopening of the investigation into 9/11.

What Vidal understood from firsthand experience is that politics is replete with instances that would be labelled “conspiracy theories” except the fact that they have already been proven “conspiracy fact”.

I shall list a few that are both germane and that have been established with historical certainty:

Firstly, the coups: Guatemala (Operation PBSuccess, 1953), Iran (Operation Ajax, 1954), the various CIA attempts to kill Castro, and significantly the overthrow of democratic socialist government of Salvador Allende in Chile on another day of infamy, September 11th 1973, that led to 16-year reign of terror by the Pinochet regime.

On a special edition of RT’s ‘Going Underground’ embedded below, Farhaan Ahmed spoke with Pablo Vivanco, a Chilean journalist and the former director of TeleSUR English. They marked the 48th anniversary of coup and the subsequent transformation of Chilean society into one modelled on the Chicago Boys’ neoliberalism, and also discussed the rise of a continent-wide purge of the left through the US-organised Operation Condor:

More controversially, under the codename Operation Gladio, a network of “stay-behind” anti-communist armed groups, presided over by US and British secret service agents, infiltrated extremist groups around Europe during the 1970s, and were used to assist and provoke multiple terrorist attacks (this was well-documented in an excellent three-part BBC Timewatch special by filmmaker Allan Francovich):

Other so-called ‘false flag’ provocations have included the Gulf Of Tonkin incident, a hoax that served as the pretext for the Vietnam War, and Israel’s attack and attempt to sink the unarmed USS Liberty during the Six-Day War, with the intention of attributing blame to the Egyptians in the hope of bringing America into the war.

False pretexts for war are so common in fact, that very few wars are ever started without them. Notoriously, the first Gulf War was commenced following the completely staged false claims of “babies out of incubators”. On the occasion of the subsequent Iraq War there were a variety of falsehoods including yellowcake, Colin Powell’s vial of anthrax at the United Nations Security Council and the UK’s ‘Dodgy Dossier’.

Prior to Nato’s assault on Libya, the media reported unsubstantiated claims that Gaddafi’s forces were committing mass rape with use of Viagra. More recently again, the Syrian army has been repeatedly accused of using chemical weapons to kill civilians – accusations that have since been challenged by multiple whistleblowers inside the OPCW (see here).

Beyond the coups and the false flag attacks, there have also been many other well-established secret operations. One of the better known is Project MKUltra, in which the US covertly subjected members of its military and civilian population to mind-control experiments (this included the work of Canadian psychiatrist Ewan Cameron, who subjected many patients to horrendous doses of drugs and ECT in any attempt to literally erase their minds – some of his victims later won claims for compensation).

Any attempt to provide a complete list of known conspiracies involving US intelligence services alone would require library shelves full of material, so allow me to finish with just one more historic example to illustrate the point. The Iran-Contra affair (or simply Irangate), when money from the secret sale of arms to Iran was used to fund right-wing death squads in Nicaragua, journalist Gary Webb exposed how the CIA was also covertly involved in drug-running cocaine.

In short, post-war history shows how terrible crimes of every conceivable kind have been committed for the purpose of grabbing power and perpetuating war. Secret conspiracies to these ends happen routinely.

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The events of 9/11 served as a unique opportunity both domestically and for foreign policy. It was a made-to-measure “New Pearl Harbor” that happened almost a year to the day after the neo-con faction who seized power had publicly called for it. The 9/11 attacks gave rise directly to the Patriot Acts and mass surveillance on the population that NSA whistleblower William Binney has described as “better than anything that the KGB, the Stasi, or the Gestapo and SS ever had”. 2 They also enabled the Bush administration to launch an immediate war against Afghanistan and shortly after a “shock and awe” regime change in Iraq. They have continued to shape the world two decades later.

Nine years ago, I launched a separate blog where a more detailed analysis can be found. As I wrote at the time under the heading “11 years on”:

We still have the right to know the truth…

More than a decade on and the horrific attacks of September 11th 2001 continue to cast a long shadow over all of us. The ridiculous “war on terror” that commenced after the Twin Towers had crumbled to dust is still determining the foreign and domestic policies of many governments throughout the world.

9/11, as the atrocity was quickly re-branded, has been used to legitimise not only the subsequent neo-imperialist adventuring into Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond, but also the opening of Guantanamo and with it, the approved use of torture. At the same time, the “war of terror” is still used to justify the escalating assault on personal privacy, on freedom of speech, and our right to dissent. The decade long crackdown on civil and human rights that began with 9/11 has now culminated in America with the removal of habeas corpus – under the Obama authorised NDAA 2012, the indefinite detention of US citizens being made permissible on the ill-defined grounds of having “substantially supported” terrorists or their “associated forces,” and without properly defining what any of these terms precisely mean.

For all these reasons, 9/11 remains vitally important, and yet the events of that terrible morning have still never been properly investigated. My attempt here is put forth another challenge to the commonly held opinion that the case should now be closed, and to shed a little light into the many areas of darkness that remain. In doing so I have tried to investigate the details of the case as accurately as I can, with objections to the official narrative being backed up with more detailed footnotes. If there are errors within my analysis then please feel free to send updated evidence that refutes any of my statements. On the other hand, if you are simply intent to darken the debate with lies and obfuscation then your comments will be deleted.

The survivors, the first responders, and the families of the victims of the September 11th attacks, many of whom continue their fight for a full and independent inquiry, deserve our respect and our support.

On the back of this I accepted an invitation to give a talk in London about discrepancies in the official account and specifically in relation to the physics of the building collapses. My presentation is embedded below:

In posting this article I genuinely do not expect to change anyone’s view while being fully aware that it is counterproductive to step too far into this debate – something Spike Lee found out during the release of his recent HBO documentary series. As I have written previously about dissenting voices:  it is not that one person’s actions will change the world (of course to some degree all actions do), but that you are able to find a way to stop the world adversely changing you.

There are, of course, many better sources to read that challenge the official story of 9/11 (for instance here and here), and so I have referenced my own small contribution above purely as a continuing act of solidarity with the 9/11 families and other victims seeking the truth.

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Update:

This year’s anniversary was marked by a Media Roots special in which Abby Martin and Robbie Martin spoke with independent researcher Gumby in a two-part broadcast entitled “The Return of the 9/11 Conspiracy Left, Restrategizing & Turning Over More Stones”:

After taking listeners on a brief tour of the early rise of the 9/11 Truth movement with its predominantly left-leaning origins, explaining how it reached a critical mass within anti-George W Bush liberalism, they then remind us of the prominent political figures, intellectuals and Hollywood celebrities who spoke out and questioned the official story, and how that legacy has been whitewashed today.

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Addendum: Transcript to James Corbett’s “9/11: A Conspiracy Theory”

On the morning of September 11, 2001, 19 men armed with boxcutters directed by a man on dialysis in a cave fortress halfway around the world using a satellite phone and a laptop directed the most sophisticated penetration of the most heavily-defended airspace in the world, overpowering the passengers and the military combat-trained pilots on 4 commercial aircraft before flying those planes wildly off course for over an hour without being molested by a single fighter interceptor.

These 19 hijackers, devout religious fundamentalists who liked to drink alcohol, snort cocaine, and live with pink-haired strippers, managed to knock down 3 buildings with 2 planes in New York, while in Washington a pilot who couldn’t handle a single engine Cessna was able to fly a 757 in an 8,000 foot descending 270 degree corskscrew turn to come exactly level with the ground, hitting the Pentagon in the budget analyst office where DoD staffers were working on the mystery of the 2.3 trillion dollars that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had announced “missing” from the Pentagon’s coffers in a press conference the day before, on September 10, 2001.

Luckily, the news anchors knew who did it within minutes, the pundits knew within hours, the Administration knew within the day, and the evidence literally fell into the FBI’s lap. But for some reason a bunch of crazy conspiracy theorists demanded an investigation into the greatest attack on American soil in history.

The investigation was delayed, underfunded, set up to fail, a conflict of interest and a cover up from start to finish. It was based on testimony extracted through torture, the records of which were destroyed. It failed to mention the existence of WTC7, Able Danger, Ptech, Sibel Edmonds, OBL and the CIA, and the drills of hijacked aircraft being flown into buildings that were being simulated at the precise same time that those events were actually happening. It was lied to by the Pentagon, the CIA, the Bush Administration and as for Bush and Cheney…well, no one knows what they told it because they testified in secret, off the record, not under oath and behind closed doors. It didn’t bother to look at who funded the attacks because that question is of “little practical significance“. Still, the 9/11 Commission did brilliantly, answering all of the questions the public had (except most of the victims’ family members’ questions) and pinned blame on all the people responsible (although no one so much as lost their job), determining the attacks were “a failure of imagination” because “I don’t think anyone could envision flying airplanes into buildings ” except the Pentagon and FEMA and NORAD and the NRO.

The DIA destroyed 2.5 TB of data on Able Danger, but that’s OK because it probably wasn’t important.

The SEC destroyed their records on the investigation into the insider trading before the attacks, but that’s OK because destroying the records of the largest investigation in SEC history is just part of routine record keeping.

NIST has classified the data that they used for their model of WTC7’s collapse, but that’s OK because knowing how they made their model of that collapse would “jeopardize public safety“.

The FBI has argued that all material related to their investigation of 9/11 should be kept secret from the public, but that’s OK because the FBI probably has nothing to hide.

This man never existed, nor is anything he had to say worthy of your attention, and if you say otherwise you are a paranoid conspiracy theorist and deserve to be shunned by all of humanity. Likewise him, him, him, and her. (and her and her and him).

Osama Bin Laden lived in a cave fortress in the hills of Afghanistan, but somehow got away. Then he was hiding out in Tora Bora but somehow got away. Then he lived in Abottabad for years, taunting the most comprehensive intelligence dragnet employing the most sophisticated technology in the history of the world for 10 years, releasing video after video with complete impunity (and getting younger and younger as he did so), before finally being found in a daring SEAL team raid which wasn’t recorded on video, in which he didn’t resist or use his wife as a human shield, and in which these crack special forces operatives panicked and killed this unarmed man, supposedly the best source of intelligence about those dastardly terrorists on the planet. Then they dumped his body in the ocean before telling anyone about it. Then a couple dozen of that team’s members died in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.

This is the story of 9/11, brought to you by the media which told you the hard truths about JFK and incubator babies and mobile production facilities and the rescue of Jessica Lynch.

If you have any questions about this story…you are a batshit, paranoid, tinfoil, dog-abusing baby-hater and will be reviled by everyone. If you love your country and/or freedom, happiness, rainbows, rock and roll, puppy dogs, apple pie and your grandma, you will never ever express doubts about any part of this story to anyone. Ever.

This has been a public service announcement by: the Friends of the FBI, CIA, NSA, DIA, SEC, MSM, White House, NIST, and the 9/11 Commission. Because Ignorance is Strength.

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1  John Pilger speaking about his book “Freedom next time” at Socialism 2007: Socialism for the 21st Century, June 16th, 2007. Transcribed by the author from a film made by Paul Hubbard and broadcast as Democracy Now – the War and Peace Report, August 7th, 2007. Available on the internet.

2 From an article entitled “Obama’s Crackdown on Whistleblowers” written by Tim Shorrock, published in The Nation magazine on March 26, 2013. https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/obamas-crackdown-whistleblowers/

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Afghanistan: the war you didn’t see

A war that began with the massacre of hundreds of captured Taliban soldiers who were crammed into shipping containers and left to suffocate under the baking desert sun – the containers vented with machine gun fire once the victims pleaded for air – now ends with the targeted drone killing of a family and credible reports of the indiscriminate shooting of dozens more innocent civilians in the ensuing pandemonium after Thursday’s ISIS-K suicide bombing:

With the spotlight now fixed on Afghanistan and Kabul in particular, these latest atrocities have received an uncommon level of mainstream coverage, shedding light on what the public is only seldom permitted to see. These images and reports present us with the true face of the West’s dirty war and a glimpse of the day-to-day evils of a foreign occupation. They should also lead to the following questions:

How many more men, women and children have been casually butchered by “soldiers” an ocean away playing computer games for real in their air-conditioned offices? Moreover, what warfare could ever be more asymmetric than the cowardly terrorisation of a population by drones?

How many innocent others have been mown down by the indiscriminate fire of automatic weapons, whether unleashed by panicked troops or else with cold-blooded deliberation?

And lastly, how many more horrific war crimes have been perpetrated by western troops or their “allies” in the vast wilderness of the Afghan deserts?

As Harold Pinter said in his Nobel Prize winning speech delivered in 2005:

It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest.

Continuing:

The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.

Watch it above and read it in full here – it is without doubt one of the greatest political speeches of all-time.

Update:

Glenn Greenwald contrasts the US media’s immediate embrace of the Biden administration’s false claim that its Afghan drone strike killed no civilians, with its polar-opposite Trump-era posture of extreme scepticism:

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In 2011, investigative journalist and filmmaker John Pilger released a documentary entitled “The War You Don’t See” in which he exposed the western media’s central role and historic complicity in manufacturing consent for wars.

In the film, he says:

“We journalists… have to be brave enough to defy those who seek our collusion in selling their latest bloody adventure in someone else’s country… That means always challenging the official story, however patriotic that story may appear, however seductive and insidious it is. For propaganda relies on us in the media to aim its deceptions not at a far away country but at you at home… In this age of endless imperial war, the lives of countless men, women and children depend on the truth or their blood is on us… Those whose job it is to keep the record straight ought to be the voice of people, not power.”

Framing the current plight of the people of Afghanistan within its broader political and historical context, Pilger writes in his latest article:

As a tsunami of crocodile tears engulfs Western politicians, history is suppressed. More than a generation ago, Afghanistan won its freedom, which the United States, Britain and their “allies” destroyed.

In 1978, a liberation movement led by the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) overthrew the dictatorship of Mohammad Dawd, the cousin of King Zahir Shar. It was an immensely popular revolution that took the British and Americans by surprise.

Foreign journalists in Kabul, reported the New York Times, were surprised to find that “nearly every Afghan they interviewed said [they were] delighted with the coup”. The Wall Street Journal reported that “150,000 persons … marched to honour the new flag …the participants appeared genuinely enthusiastic.”

The Washington Post reported that “Afghan loyalty to the government can scarcely be questioned”. Secular, modernist and, to a considerable degree, socialist, the government declared a programme of visionary reforms that included equal rights for women and minorities. Political prisoners were freed and police files publicly burned.

Under the monarchy, life expectancy was thirty-five; one in three children died in infancy. Ninety per cent of the population was illiterate. The new government introduced free medical care. A mass literacy campaign was launched.

For women, the gains had no precedent; by the late 1980s, half the university students were women, and women made up 40 per cent of Afghanistan’s doctors, 70 per cent of its teachers and 30 per cent of its civil servants.

So radical were the changes that they remain vivid in the memories of those who benefited. Saira Noorani, a female surgeon who fled Afghanistan in 2001, recalled:

Every girl could go to high school and university. We could go where we wanted and wear what we liked … We used to go to cafes and the cinema to see the latest Indian films on a Friday … it all started to go wrong when the mujahedin started winning … these were the people the West supported.

For the United States, the problem with the PDPA government was that it was supported by the Soviet Union. Yet it was never the “puppet” derided in the West, neither was the coup against the monarchy “Soviet backed”, as the American and British press claimed at the time.

President Jimmy Carter’s Secretary of State, Cyrus Vance, later wrote in his memoirs: “We had no evidence of any Soviet complicity in the coup.”

In the same administration was Zbigniew Brzezinski, Carter’s National Security Adviser, a Polish émigré and fanatical anti-communist and moral extremist whose enduring influence on American presidents expired only with his death in 2017.

On 3 July 1979, unknown to the American people and Congress, Carter authorised a $500 million “covert action” programme to overthrow Afghanistan’s first secular, progressive government.  This was code-named by the CIA Operation Cyclone.

The $500 million bought, bribed and armed a group of tribal and religious zealots known as the mujahedin. In his semi-official history, Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward wrote that the CIA spent $70 million on bribes alone. He describes a meeting between a CIA agent known as “Gary” and a warlord called Amniat-Melli:

Gary placed a bundle of cash on the table: $500,000 in one-foot stacks of $100 bills. He believed it would be more impressive than the usual $200,000, the best way to say we’re here, we’re serious, here’s money, we know you need it … Gary would soon ask CIA headquarters for and receive $10 million in cash.

Recruited from all over the Muslim world, America’s secret army was trained in camps in Pakistan run by Pakistani intelligence, the CIA and Britain’s MI6. Others were recruited at an Islamic College in Brooklyn, New York – within sight of the doomed Twin Towers. One of the recruits was a Saudi engineer called Osama bin Laden.

The aim was to spread Islamic fundamentalism in Central Asia and destabilise and eventually destroy the Soviet Union.

Aptly entitled “The Great Game of Smashing Countries”, I very much encourage readers to follow the link to the full article and so will merely add Pilger’s concluding remarks:

The invasion of Afghanistan was a fraud. In the wake of 9/11, the Taliban sought to distant themselves from Osama bin Laden. They were, in many respects, an American client with which the administration of Bill Clinton had done a series of secret deals to allow the building of a $3 billion natural gas pipeline by a US oil company consortium.

In high secrecy, Taliban leaders had been invited to the US and entertained by the CEO of the Unocal company in his Texas mansion and by the CIA at its headquarters in Virginia. One of the deal-makers was Dick Cheney, later George W. Bush’s Vice-President.

In 2010, I was in Washington and arranged to interview the mastermind of Afghanistan’s modern era of suffering, Zbigniew Brzezinski. I quoted to him his autobiography in which he admitted that his grand scheme for drawing the Soviets into Afghanistan had created “a few stirred up Muslims”.

“Do you have any regrets?” I asked.

“Regrets! Regrets! What regrets?”

When we watch the current scenes of panic at Kabul airport, and listen to journalists and generals in distant TV studios bewailing the withdrawal of “our protection”, isn’t it time to heed the truth of the past so that all this suffering never happens again?

Click here to read John Pilger’s full article published by Counterpunch on Wednesday August 25th.

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Additional:

On August 27th, independent journalist Katie Halper spoke with three-times Nobel Peace Prize nominated peace activist Kathy Kelly, who since 2010 has made thirteen trips to Afghanistan, and with anti-war veteran and author Danny Sjursen. They discussed the true motives behind the Afghanistan War and carefully deconstructed the media narrative about women’s rights and human rights:

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failure in Afghanistan was inevitable yet the noble lies of the “war on terror” persist

In the last few days we have heard a great deal about the plight of Afghanistan, which is in stark contrast to the last two decades when there has been next to no news reporting from this war-torn and beleaguered nation. The officially recorded quarter of a million lives lost in the last twenty years of western invasion and occupation have mostly happened unseen; the millions more soldiers and civilians who lost their limbs, eyes, genitals or were otherwise mutilated by shrapnel and high explosives and others who fell victim to shadowy CIA-backed death squads have likewise hardly received any mention.

On December 18th 2020, Democracy Now! spoke to Andrew Quilty of The Intercept about his shocking exposé of how CIA-backed death squads in Afghanistan have killed children as young as eight-years old in a series of night raids on madrassas, which are Islamic religious schools:

Yet it is only in the aftermath of America’s shambolic and humiliating exit when suddenly there is any outpouring of expressed concern for the plight of women and children (in particular), as if all the drones and the air strikes and the CIA black sites and Trump’s “mother of all bombs” were their last and only salvation from the admittedly monstrous Taliban. And I say admittedly monstrous, but again, these are strictly speaking our monsters; ones America trained and funded to be the cat’s paw that ultimately defeated the Soviet Union.

As Hillary Clinton admitted an interview to Fox News: “we have helped to create the problem we are now fighting”:

And here is a different statement made by Hillary Clinton justifying the US support for the Afghan mujahideen against the Soviets under Operation Cyclone:

Click here and here to watch different uploads of the same clips available on DailyMotion.

More recently the western powers have trained, funded and also provided air support for comparable and arguably worse Islamist factions in order to bring about regime change in Libya and to attempt another overthrow in Syria – if you’ve never heard of it, look up Timber Sycamore. This is how western foreign policy operates covertly today.

For a better perspective on moral responsibility, here is Noam Chomsky’s response to a concerned pro-war critic speaking at a forum held on October 18th 2001 (the war began on October 7th) at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT):

Click here to watch the full debate. The excerpt above is from 3:50 mins of the second part which is a Q+A session.

The extreme levels of hypocrisy and ahistorical revisionism surrounding the Afghan War (so often downplayed as merely an “intervention”) make the task of unravelling the truth a difficult one, so I shall leave it to two US war veterans turned activists to supply the details.

Mike Prysner served in Iraq and afterwards became co-founder of March Forward!, an organisation of active-duty members of the U.S. military and veterans that encourages current active-duty service personnel to resist deployment. Stan Goff retired from the US Army in February 1996. A veteran of the US occupation of Vietnam, he also served in seven other conflict areas.

In an interview with Katie Halper (embedded below), Mike Prysner addresses a range of questions that cover the true historical background to conflict, the serious issues around women’s rights, and gives valuable insight into how for more than a decade the war was officially but secretly acknowledged as a failure. In more sardonic tone, Stan Goff gives praise to Biden for finally ending the perpetual war and considers the true repercussions of the US withdrawal. Please skip down the page for these excellent pieces.

Update: On Thursday 19th, Novara Media spoke with British Labour MP Clive Lewis, a veteran of the Afghanistan War who did not get a chance to speak during the previous day’s parliamentary debate:

My purpose here is instead to scrutinise the latent ideology that actually drove the West into this well-named “graveyard of empires” and that entirely inflamed the “war on terror”. Once this is properly understood, it becomes clear that as Joe Biden confessed in his recent White House speech on Monday 16th:

Our mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to have been nation building.  It was never supposed to be creating a unified, centralized democracy.

Of course, for these candid admissions, Biden has received furious bipartisan opprobrium from the usual hand-wringing politicians and media alike, although this part of his statement is nothing more than the unvarnished truth.

Moreover, when George W Bush told the world two decades ago that America was hunting down Osama Bin Laden “wanted: dead or alive”, he was clearly playing both to an audience traumatised by the attacks of 9/11 and one brought up on Hollywood stories where the guys with the white hats are unimpeachably good and always win.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the neo-con faction who seized power were eager to launch a global US-led military offensive on the pretext of a “new Pearl Harbor” that neatly fitted the one outlined in their own document Rebuilding America’s Defenses published almost precisely one year earlier.

Furthermore, if the Afghanis were the immediate victims of this neo-con strategy that got the ball rolling on “the New American Century”, then even from the outset it was abundantly clear that the next target would be Iraq. In a letter to President Bush dated September 20th (scarcely more than a week after 9/11), the neo-con think tank Project for the New American Century (PNAC) led by William Kristol and Rober Kagan already implored the president to ramp up his “war on terrorism”, specifying:

We agree that a key goal, but by no means the only goal, of the current war on terrorism should be to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, and to destroy his network of associates. To this end, we support the necessary military action in Afghanistan and the provision of substantial financial and military assistance to the anti-Taliban forces in that country.

Continuing in the next paragraph under the heading “Iraq”:

We agree with Secretary of State [Colin] Powell’s recent statement that Saddam Hussein “is one of the leading terrorists on the face of the Earth….” It may be that the Iraqi government provided assistance in some form to the recent attack on the United States. But even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack, any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.

Clearly then, the neo-cons were not interested in “justice” (the official spin) but determined to embark on a vast neo-imperialist project that in their own terms would bring about a Pax Americana. However even this is a lie, of course, as they knew perfectly well too, since peace was never a serious concern. But the neo-cons unflinchingly justified every deception in terms their intellectual progenitor Leo Strauss espoused: for these were “noble lies”.

Significantly, the neo-cons are the direct heirs of Strauss and not only because Paul Wolfowitz was one of his most notable students. Strauss’s uncompromising worldview is the main inspiration to the whole neo-con ideology. In order to better understand their methods and motives, therefore, we must take a closer look at Straussian philosophy.

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In 2003, Danny Postel, who is Associate Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies, and former senior editor of openDemocracy, produced an extended article based on an interview with Shadia Drury, professor of political theory at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan and a leading scholarly critic of Leo Strauss.

The article entitled “Noble lies and perpetual war: Leo Strauss, the neo-cons, and Iraq” is a really excellent one and its significance is very much resonant today – why? Because although the discussion surrounds the illegal Iraq invasion, it considers the motives of the same cast of neo-cons who launched the “war on terror” against Afghanistan; both conflicts clearly intended to deliver corresponding geopolitical ends.

Of course, it more or less goes without saying that the “war on terror” was an absolute godsend for the military-industrial complex. As America’s most decorated general Smedley Butler told us: war is a racket! – which is always the bottom line.

Top 5 US Defence Contractors shock market gains since 2001

But what of the ideology behind the neo-cons and the importance of Leo Strauss? Well, the key to following their methods, and to seeing why their approach has been so succesful in inculcating a pro-war consciousness amongst the liberal classes, lies in understanding their basic stratification of society into three layers: the wise few (the elite, and in their terms, rightful rulers), the vulgar many (the majority), and the gentlemen. Crucially, it is role of the gentlemen to be the unwitting enablers, who, according to this scheme, although well-intentioned are simply useful idiots who are manipulated to achieve the desired ends for the ruling elite. As Shadia Drury says:

“There are indeed three types of men: the wise, the gentlemen, and the vulgar. The wise are the lovers of the harsh, unadulterated truth. They are capable of looking into the abyss without fear and trembling. They recognise neither God nor moral imperatives. They are devoted above all else to their own pursuit of the higher pleasures, which amount to consorting with their puppies or young initiates.

“The second type, the gentlemen, are lovers of honour and glory. They are the most ingratiating towards the conventions of their society that is, the illusions of the cave [reference to Plato’s cave]. They are true believers in God, honour, and moral imperatives. They are ready and willing to embark on acts of great courage and self-sacrifice at a moment’s notice.

“The third type, the vulgar many, are lovers of wealth and pleasure. They are selfish, slothful, and indolent. They can be inspired to rise above their brutish existence only by fear of impending death or catastrophe.”

She continues:

“For Strauss, the rule of the wise is not about classic conservative values like order, stability, justice, or respect for authority. The rule of the wise is intended as an antidote to modernity. Modernity is the age in which the vulgar many have triumphed. It is the age in which they have come closest to having exactly what their hearts desire wealth, pleasure, and endless entertainment. But in getting just what they desire, they have unwittingly been reduced to beasts.”

Drury then considers Strauss’s immediate philosophical influences, before summarising his general political outlook as follows:

“Only perpetual war can overturn the modern project, with its emphasis on self-preservation and creature comforts. Life can be politicised once more, and man’s humanity can be restored.

“This terrifying vision fits perfectly well with the desire for honour and glory that the neo-conservative gentlemen covet. It also fits very well with the religious sensibilities of gentlemen. The combination of religion and nationalism is the elixir that Strauss advocates as the way to turn natural, relaxed, hedonistic men into devout nationalists willing to fight and die for their God and country.

“I never imagined when I wrote my first book on Strauss that the unscrupulous elite that he elevates would ever come so close to political power, nor that the ominous tyranny of the wise would ever come so close to being realised in the political life of a great nation like the United States. But fear is the greatest ally of tyranny.”

Understood in this context, it is perfectly easy to see why the neo-cons would be keen to initiate conflicts that might then go on indefinitely. Although Drury herself offers a caveat saying that factions within the neo-cons may also have somewhat different aspirations; ones that more closely align with those ‘the gentlemen’ are in fact encouraged to believe:

“I think that the neo-conservatives are for the most part genuine in wanting to spread the American commercial model of liberal democracy around the globe. They are convinced that it is the best thing, not just for America, but for the world. Naturally, there is a tension between these idealists and the more hard-headed realists within the administration.

“I contend that the tensions and conflicts within the current administration reflect the differences between the surface teaching, which is appropriate for gentlemen, and the nocturnal or covert teaching, which the philosophers alone are privy to. It is very unlikely for an ideology inspired by a secret teaching to be entirely coherent.”

To sum up then, the chief architects of the “war on terror” which began in Afghanistan hold views that are (in Drury’s own terms) wholly fascistic, although into that mix we must admit that some do believe in globalised neoliberalism. Soft or hard, the imperialist desire is both undeniable and unrestrained.

I have appended an unabridged version of their “guide to his influence on US neo-conservatism” that takes the form of Q+A interview with all highlights and links retained at the end and recommend reading it all – indeed following the link to read the original article.

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Understanding Afghanistan with Anti-war Iraq Veteran Mike Prysner

On August 16th, political commentator Katie Halper invited Mike Prysner, an Iraq veteran, anti-war activist and organiser, producer of Empire Files and co-host of the Eyes Left Podcast to share his thoughts on the war in Afghanistan, what needed to happen, and what needs to happen next. Their discussion features in the first 45 minutes of the video upload embedded below. I have also produced a full transcript with relevant links included.

Katie Halper: [from 2:05 mins]

I just wanted to know your perspective on this as someone who was an anti-war former soldier, a current veteran – I guess you’re always a veteran – what you thought of what’s happening in Afghanistan. If you could just set up where we are right now and I guess the question I have is what could have been done? What should have been done? And what needs to happen now?

Mike Prysner: [from 2:30 mins]

I just want to say from the outset that I wasn’t in Afghanistan – I was in Iraq. I joined the army two months before the September 11th attacks in 2001, so I witnessed the Afghanistan war from an inside perspective. From the beginning, even though I was sent to, as Obama called it, ‘the dumb war’, instead of ‘the smart war’ which is Afghanistan: that whole framing…

But I’ve been super-engaged in this issue for the duration because after I separated from the military in 2005 and became a part of the anti-war movement, since then [I’ve been] very much a part of organising around the Afghanistan war specifically – so mobilisations for the anniversary of Afghanistan, but in particular, working with active-duty soldiers who were deploying to Afghanistan and Iraq. And so, I got that inside perspective of organising with Afghanistan veterans who were then returning to the country, helping them resist orders to go, and still to this day I’m in touch with that community.

I know a lot of people normally don’t talk about Afghanistan – a lot of people are talking about it now who never talked about it before. But my engagement with the issue of Afghanistan was always around creating media content and agitation directed at active-duty soldiers who were about to deploy. So having to follow the issue very closely because we were literally on a military bases talking to soldiers who were having orders to go – and talking to them about their options for why they should not go, and all the political and strategic reasons why they shouldn’t as well.

My take on what’s happening now is… what we’re seeing now is what we knew back in Obama’s first term. You know I think in 2009-2010 there was probably still some hope among the Pentagon establishment that the war could be turned around. I mean the Taliban were dispersed within the first months of the US invasion, but then once they started mounting a comeback there was probably some belief in the Pentagon brass that they could turn the war around and emerge victorious.

But by 2011, it was clear to the military establishment – the top generals, the commanders, all of them – they knew that they couldn’t win. They knew that they could never defeat the Taliban. They knew that the only possible victory that the US military and US government could get out of Afghanistan was putting enough military pressure on the Taliban where the Taliban would enter a power-sharing agreement. Where they’d say okay we get 50% of the new government and the US-backed puppet government will get 50%.

So that since about 2010 that’s what the US has been pursuing. The troop surge in Afghanistan – all these massive strategies that led to large numbers of people dying on US and Afghan sides and the Nato side – all of that was on the understanding that the US couldn’t actually defeat the Taliban. All they could do was maybe give them enough of a bloody nose where the Taliban would concede and say maybe we’ll do a 50/50 government. So that’s really been the goal of the war for the entire time.

You know in 2011, is when there is this major report came out by a guy named Lieutenant-Colonel [Daniel] Davis, and he was tasked by the Pentagon to travel to every province in Afghanistan – travel 9,000 miles across the country – and give an honest assessment of how everything was going. And he came back and he went out to the media and he said ‘we’ve got to get out now’. He’s like ‘I’ve seen the war more than anyone else – for a longer period of years than anyone else – and we have lost and there is no possibility for us to win’. I mean this is back in 2011 that he did this.

From that point on the Pentagon knew that there was no military victory against the Taliban and the best they could do was unity government. Even that seemed almost impossible to accomplish because the Afghan puppet forces were not reliable, they weren’t capable, and you know the Taliban were just a strong resistance force. And that knew then too that if there was a US withdrawal the very situation we are seeing today would happen.

You know in 2019, we had the Pentagon Papers [aka Afghanistan Papers], the bombshell revelation that came out, which made a little bit of a media splash but not much – you know Joe Biden was very much implicated in the Pentagon Papers as one of the people who helped cover up how badly the Afghanistan war was going. He got one debate question the Primary that was hammering him for it, but he never really had to answer for that.

For those who don’t know, really what the Pentagon Papers revealed was that, particularly throughout the Obama administration, all of the generals were going to the White House and saying ‘by every metric we have lost the war – by every metric’ and the Obama administration went back and said ‘well create a metric that has us winning the war’. So they created all these false charts for progress of oh, we built this many schools compared to five years before, so that shows we’re winning! They just created all these fake rationales to show there was progress. To deceive the American people into thinking there was some hope for a victory in Afghanistan, while they knew all along they were just lying to the American people.

So, for example, the maps that we are seeing now of how quickly the Taliban took over – where you see the provinces outlined – and saying two months ago the Afghan government controlled all of these provinces and now it’s all Taliban controlled – I mean most of those have been under Taliban control forever – as the Pentagon Papers show, the US is just lying about what provinces the US-backed Afghan government controlled. So this has been, of course, a dire situation for the US for a long time.

For the United States they know that it looks bad for the image of the empire. A war that they can’t win – to just be bogged down for twenty years in a military quagmire where we can talk about how badly they were losing – but when they try to go out into the countryside they are hammered and kicked back to the main bases and then they could have dealt with maybe this endless stalemate situation, but that looks back for the empire. And so for a long time the Pentagon has acknowledged that they need to retreat. They need to leave.

And really this is what happened under Obama, when Obama announced his troop surge – his flooding of soldiers into every remote area of Afghanistan – like bulking up troop numbers to 100,000 US troops in Afghanistan bolstered by a lot of Nato forces too – because it wasn’t just a defeat for the US but every other major imperialist army was a part of this. You know when Obama announced we are going to do this troop surge but then we’re going to leave in two years – announcing the end of the war – they knew that they are going to be retreating and so it’s very similar to the Vietnam war where once the White House and the Pentagon knew ‘we’ve lost – we can’t win’ instead of just saying ‘well if we’ve lost and we can’t win and the outcome of a conquest by our enemies is the same no matter what, [so] why don’t we  just leave right now and stop killing people and stop having our own people [killed]’ but the hubris of the American political machine doesn’t allow that.

I mean what President wants to admit defeat at the hands of an insurgency that’s using rifles from a hundred years ago? No-one wants to be in that position of admitting defeat and so what we’ve seen over the past more than a decade has really been a slow-motion retreat by the US empire. Knowing that eventually they are going to fully leave, but like Nixon did, the strategy of ‘peace through honour’, meaning ‘yes we’ve lost, we’ve got to end the war, but we’re going to kill a bunch more people on our way out, so it doesn’t seem like the empire has been defeated so badly’.

So that’s really been the strategy [with] an acceptance that the US would eventually leave…

[connection problems briefly cut the conversation]

Katie Halper: [from 10:40 mins]

I was listening to you on Brian Becker’s show on his podcast [embedded immediately below], and I don’t know if I ever knew this, or I don’t know if my politics were so naive that I didn’t think this was a big deal, but I didn’t realise that… the Taliban said that they were willing to give up Osama Bin Laden and the United States said ‘we refuse to negotiate with terrorists’ – again, it shouldn’t have been shocking, but it was shocking. Can you talk about that and what the significance is and what it reveals about the United States’ motives in Afghanistan?

Mike Prysner: [from 11:20 mins]

Yeah. Well, it’s important to remind people that the Taliban had nothing to do with the September 11th attacks – no role in it. Of course, Bin Laden from being essentially an operative and ally of the United States through the war in the 1980s and funded by the United States, you know had training camps and a base of operation for his al-Qaeda network in Afghanistan. And maybe there was some overlap with Taliban people going to the al-Qaeda schools. You know they’re in a war with a group called the Northern Alliance and so they would send some of their soldiers to al-Qaeda training camps that existed in Afghanistan.

But the Taliban did not support the 9/11 attacks. They condemned the 9/11 attacks, so it was a shock to them when all of a sudden the US was talking about the Taliban and at the time the Taliban was trying very hard to prevent that from happening.

And we’re not just talking about this ragtag group that’s just issuing statements from the middle of nowhere in Afghanistan. Afghanistan had a robust press network and so they’d have spokespeople who would give press conferences in English in countries in the region and would be talking directly to the United States saying ‘we’re trying to negotiate; we don’t support what happened; we want to find a resolution’ and they even said in these press conferences ‘the United States used to call us freedom fighters, not too long ago – and then all of a sudden we’re terrorists and they won’t negotiate with us’.

So that is what happened, as you recounted it Katie. The Taliban offered a solution where the US didn’t have to invade and occupy the government in Afghanistan but that wasn’t really the motives for the US going into Afghanistan. The US didn’t really invade Afghanistan because they thought that was the only way to destroy al-Qaeda and get Osama Bin Laden. They easily could have done that through other methods.

The reason that they wanted to invade Afghanistan is because the Taliban weren’t subservient collaborators to the United States. I mean Clinton in the ’90s had tried very hard to build relationships. He didn’t care that the Taliban lynched people when they came to power in the ’90s. He just cared that maybe they could sign an oil contract together. Unocal, the oil company, flew delegations of Taliban leaders to Texas to stay in their ranches and discuss plans for oil pipelines.

But the Taliban wasn’t that interested in that kind of development and they weren’t a subservient client state to the United States. So any country that is in its own orbit – [enjoys] its own independence – and isn’t a client to US corporations and subservient to the US government, they get targeted for destruction. And so when 9/11 happened, the US government said ‘great, this is perfect’ because we’ve been trying to negotiate with these guys and they won’t let us build this pipeline, or they won’t let us have a military base, so we’ll just overthrow them, set up our own puppet government – move over to Iraq, overthrow them, set up a puppet government, move over to Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Somalia, Sudan – all the countries that were on their list for overthrow after the 9/11 attacks.

So that was the reason in the first place. I mean that’s really what’s behind it. It was never really about al-Qaeda. And it was never really about giving the Afghan people a better life from the Taliban. But to answer your question, yes, it was a totally avoidable war in the first place – there was no reason to do – but if you can remember at that time, I mean support for it was high.

[And 9/11] was used as a way for the US to achieve its other objectives, which is proven by the fact that we ended up in Iraq a year later, which had less to do with 9/11 than the Taliban.

Katie Halper: [from 15:25 mins]

There’s a kind of parallel between the way people frame the war in Afghanistan with the first Iraq War. There’s a whole group of liberals who consider the first Iraq War, ‘the good Gulf War’, and the war in Afghanistan, ‘the good response to 9/11’. As you have pointed out, and others have pointed out, that’s not the case and… I don’t know if you know about Phyllis and Orlando Rodriguez – they started “not in our name” – their son Greg was in one of the towers when he was killed, and they immediately knew that the US government was going to try to use this to justify a war and they wrote a letter saying “Not in our son’s name”… you know, he didn’t die so that you could use his name to invade another country.

And you know what she told me…? She told me that they wrote an op-ed for the New York Times that they didn’t publish. Can you imagine? Right after 9/11, you have one of the parents of the people who died saying ‘don’t go to war in our son’s name’ – can you imagine the gall of the New York Times not even printing that op-ed?  Like not even seeing the newsworthiness of it? They’re such ideologues that they would not publish that.

Mike Prysner: [from 16:50 mins]

The first major demonstration against war on Afghanistan occurred, I think it was four days after the September 11th attacks. It was about 40,000 people – so it’s not a small crowd. The slogan of the march: the banner was “war won’t bring our loved ones back”, and the march was led by people who lost loved ones in the 9/11 attacks [Guardian report from Sept 20th ­­] .

And then all the headlines about this fairly significant anti-war demonstration after 9/11 was like ‘people rally in support of terrorists’ and ‘people rally in support of negotiating with terrorists and not fighting terrorism’ and things like that. So it just gives you a window into the war fervour in the country post-9/11, which continued for quite a long time.

I mean even in the anti-war movement there was an entire sector that supported the Afghanistan war. Even in Veterans Against the War, it was controversial – it wasn’t okay to talk about Afghanistan too, in fact it was too alienating to lots of veterans who were in the anti-war movement – ‘I joined the army to go fight in Afghanistan, I didn’t join to go fight in Iraq’. It was a significant faction that had to be battled against for a long time.

And so that’s [what] Obama essentially campaigned on: he campaigned on the intense opposition to the Iraq War, but kind of this idea: ‘weren’t we supposed to go fight in Afghanistan…? And then immediately we went to Iraq and then we lost the war in Afghanistan’. So Obama’s thing was, we’re going to get out of Iraq (‘the dumb war’) and then we’re going to win the war in Afghanistan. And that got a lot of support from liberal-minded people as well.

But that’s when that new era began that really defined the Afghanistan War. The US said: ‘okay, we were slacking, focussing too much on Iraq, so now we’re going to get everyone out of Iraq (not everyone) but we’re going to get a good portion of people out of Iraq and send them right to Afghanistan, and then we’re going to try to completely overwhelm the Taliban’. And even when the United States had an insane number of troops there – and they were everywhere in Afghanistan – there was really no place where they really could win or beat back the Taliban. So I think that’s one of the hidden histories of the Afghanistan War.

I mean you have the US outposts out in the middle of the countryside with [about] 40 soldiers there – 40 US troops – this is what a normal day would be like: you would get up (and this is just recounting from countless friends of mine) and you would leave the gates of your base to go on a patrol that had no purpose other than to say ‘hey, we’re here! we’re patrolling this area’.

You get a hundred yards off the base, if you’re lucky, when you start getting shot at by people that you do not see – they are a thousand yards away just harassing you with sniper fire and machine gun fire – at some point on your little walk, your little pointless walk through a bunch of fields that have no purpose to walk through for any reason, some will get blown up by an IED because you’re walking on paths every day – and you know the signature wound of the Afghan War around that time (the surge time) was triple amputations; so losing usually two legs and one arm and your genitalia (I think when the troop surge happened there was about a 92% increase in wounds to genitalia – that became really the most common wound)… If you kept your legs you probably lost a bunch more flesh down there.

So every day you’d go on these completely meaningless, pointless patrols, where basically the point was just to get shot at so then you know who to shoot back at, which most of the time they didn’t do anyway. Then you’d go back to your base at night, and then at night you would just come under heavy assault by missiles and mortars and indirect fire. And sometimes you’d have hundreds of Taliban fighters assaulting a little outpost that had 40 US soldiers. And this was happening all over the country… and in a lot of cases you had Taliban fighters getting over the wall, and being inside the US base and being killed inside the US base.

The job of US soldiers then was basically to be bait for these Taliban to come – it was exactly like the Vietnam War: you’re on a hilltop [and] you’re just bait for the Taliban to attack, and your job is to survive long enough for air support to get to you. So you start getting attacked, you call in air support, it takes 30 minutes or so for the Apache helicopters, the A-10s, [and] the B-52 bombers to come in and just level the area where you’re being attacked from with heavy munitions.

So that really defined the troop surge era of the war. I mean it was just a complete failure from a military standpoint and it was just completely senseless bloodshed. There’s even a lot of rebellion and opposition among soldiers who are very pro-military and pro-war – blowing the whistle on all this, just saying there’s no reason for us to do this; there’s no reason for us to go on these convoys; no reason to go on these patrols. We’re just meant to be bait. We’re just meant to be sitting ducks.

All of those deaths then were just completely pointless. And then the US realised, you know this strategy doesn’t work at all. They retreated from all those areas all across the country – you know places like Korangal Valley [nicknamed “The Valley of Death”] which was ‘the most strategically important valley’ of the Afghanistan War. Like 120 US soldiers died defending just this one valley and then at the end of this two year period of huge battles there, the Pentagon said: ‘you know what this valley doesn’t actually matter at all, we’re just going to go back here’. So that really was emblematic of the war.

So then the US pulled back to its main bases and that defined the war in the post-surge era when US casualties went down, but that’s because they basically had retreated from most of the country already [and] were just holed up on the big bases, where they are operating through proxy forces and special operations. And then the ironic thing about that too is that the US said: the US casualties are getting too serious, we need to just hide out on the bases and send our proxy forces out. Well, when they tried that strategy the number one killer of US troops became the Afghan soldiers who they were training just killing them.

So you had tons of people who were either Taliban or just anti-US joining the Afghan army and then within a week they’re sitting there with US soldiers getting trained on how to shoot, they just turn their guns around and kill all the US soldiers training them. So then it became even too strategically untenable to have US soldiers training troops back in these supposedly super-safe and secure bases. So from every angle it was a total military defeat. Mind you we’re talking about a decade ago that it was that bad, and they knew at that point we’re not going to make any more progress.

You know Trump came in and thought he could win the war by taking bombing to a whole new level, and that was really Trump’s legacy in Afghanistan. Although he campaigned on ending the war, he was responsible for more civilian casualties for two years in a row than any other previous year of the war, just through air strikes. And that says a lot because Obama was in charge of the troop surge. A lot of people died in the troop surge. Trump killed more people just by changing the rules of engagement so they could really drop huge munitions everywhere in the country. And that didn’t do anything either.

I mean I guess it got the Taliban to the table in the sense that they would accept this deal which they did accept – and the Taliban spokesman before we started talking said we are going to honour our commitment to not allow terrorist attacks against the United States from Afghanistan, and we’re not going to punish anyone in the former government – it’s kind of sticking to the Doha Agreement so they have some kind of legitimacy.

I think the important thing is that the generals, the Pentagon, the White House; they’ve always known that this was inevitable anyway, unless we just stayed forever holed up on a base in Kabul. But what we didn’t have was a president that was willing to say: ‘I’m going to end the war and I accept the responsibility for it looking bad when the Taliban comes in to take over’.

And it’s funny that Biden is that person, because Biden doesn’t have any guts. He never has been advocating for withdrawing from Afghanistan because it’s the right thing [and] it is the right thing. A full, complete and immediate withdrawal of US troops is the right thing. Biden never advocated for that. He always advocated staying until the Afghan government was stable enough to stand on its own, which was always a pipedream.

So I think he was just kind of the fall guy, you know. He came in after campaigning on staying in Afghanistan – criticising Trump’s Taliban agreement and saying that we need to leave 3,000–4,000 troops because we can’t abandon the Afghan government. After a couple of months in office, he’s like: ‘actually, you know what? we’re going to leave Afghanistan fully’. So he does press conferences now and [he gets]: ‘what do you mean the Taliban are going to take over the government? what are you talking about?’

So instead of having a president saying ‘finally I’m willing to do the right thing even though it’s going to end up aesthetically bad, it’s still a war that we need to get out of’, he didn’t do that for that reason… and the proof that Biden thought it was going to look good for him – ‘I’m the one who ended the war that the Americans are tired of’, which they are; polls show that about 70% of Americans support the withdrawal – Biden actually thought he could have a 9/11 victory lap celebration. And they’ve been planning this event for 9/11 where he could boast that our administration ended the war: we did it; we ended a long, unpopular forever war. I don’t think they’re going to be doing that celebration any more.

And even if back in April they were getting some good press around this: for ending the war; people want the war to end. You know this is maybe a good thing. Kamala Harris came out and leaked to the press back in April: ‘I helped convince Biden to do a complete withdrawal’ and ‘the last person Biden talked to before making his decision was me, Kamala Harris’; trying to take credit because she anticipated that the story was actually going to look good for the Biden administration.

I think now that the press is pretty negative – it’s a pretty humiliating, embarrassing defeat for the US that their puppet forces fell so dramatically – but the Pentagon knew. You had Pentagon insiders weeks ago saying the Taliban will probably take over within 30 days. And there was a real disconnect between what Biden and Harris were projecting out to the public and what the actual Pentagon officials were telling them.

Katie Halper: [from 27:35 mins]

So why is the withdrawal happening when it’s happening?

Mike Prysner: [from 27:40 mins]

I think the US really just needed to get out. I mean obviously the US is going to stay engaged in some way. They’re going to continue with probably bombing Afghanistan whenever they feel like it; just like they did a B-52 bombing just a week ago against a school and a health clinic and killed about 20 civilians. There’s still going to be CIA operatives and proxy forces on the ground – you know the death squads that have been terrorising the country for 20 years. They are of course still going to be there.

But the US lost and I think a lot people just thought well there’s money to be made in the Afghanistan War and so they’re going to stay forever. So job of the state (which includes the military establishment) is to advance the collective interests of the ruling class, right? – so yes, there are particular industries (the weapons manufacturers, the mining companies, energy companies) that probably aren’t happy with the withdrawal. But it’s not about this or that sector of the ruling class that matters, it’s what collectively is good for the empire; what’s collectively good for American capitalism and American imperialism.

US Defence Contractor board members and revolving doors of govt

And so the state [and] military establishment calculated that ‘you know we’re not really achieving our objectives here’. We can’t have a puppet government because the Taliban are too powerful. We can’t defeat the Taliban. And this idea of well we can be there to steal Afghanistan’s mineral resources – well, how are you going to build a mine if you’re coming under attack by the Taliban constantly? And they knew that it was never going to be resolved. They were never going to be able to build a pipeline through Afghanistan, or mine Afghanistan, so long as they were in a war with the Taliban.

So they figured we can get out of Afghanistan and then just do what we do with every country: we negotiate with them; sanction them if they don’t do what we want; bomb them if they don’t do what we want; but try to get something out of the situation. Because they knew that staying and fighting endlessly wasn’t going to. So they felt that the time had finally come. They had a president who was willing to – whether he was conscious of it or not – bear the brunt of all the negative press that’s going to come down. And then they’re going to treat the Taliban government like they do others that they try to get something out of who, you know, they don’t approve of everything they do, but well as long as you’ll meet our strategic interests we’ll work with you, and if you don’t we’ll just bomb you.

Katie Halper: [from 30:15 mins]

And what do you say to people who are arguing that women are going to be especially vulnerable? I’m not talking about cynical people who have shitty politics. I’m talking about people who really are in good faith worried about the civilian population. What’s your response to that?

Mike Prysner: [from 30:35 mins]

Sure well, the backwardness that exists there, first of all is a construct of the United States. It was the legacy of US intervention in the country that even brought to prominence these reactionary forces; these right-wing forces. I mean they are completely born from the US intervention in the ’80s. So first off, the situation for women in Afghanistan is because of the United States in the first place. So the idea that it could be solved by continued US intervention is just also kind of absurd.

Everyone talks about the Taliban’s treatment of women but the Afghan puppet government was also really bad towards women. And that was never really scandalous in the media that the Afghan puppet government had almost the same policies towards women as the Taliban…

To understand that the majority of civilian casualties – for people who care about women in Afghanistan – are from US air strikes, and US forces, and US proxy forces. So it’s kind of disingenuous to say the US military can play some sort of role of protecting women in Afghanistan. But how many women have been killed by US air strikes over the last 20 years? A lot.

The US government doesn’t care about that. They’re happy to work with Saudi Arabia. They’re happy to work with other countries that have horrible repressive policies towards women. And they will be happy to work with the Taliban, as long as the Taliban say ‘hey, we’re ready to work with you’, the US government [in] Washington will forget about all of the criticisms they have of the Taliban’s treatment of women.

And just one thing I’ll say about the conduct of US forces in Afghanistan. There is an expose by The Intercept. It was covered on Democracy Now! I think the Washington Post did a story on it also. But the CIA, you know these Special Activities Divisions – the CIA soldier, ground troops – did a couple of operations where they went to religious schools in Afghanistan. They rounded up these children – some of them were as young as eight-years old, nine-years old – they took them all into one room together and then they executed them.

I mean this is Americans – CIA soldiers, ground troops – who were executing children. Shooting children in the head to create the sense of terror that if you one day – you know, this is what happens if you go to a religious school that could one day feed people into the ranks of the Taliban army. And that’s pretty brutal. That’s pretty representative of the conduct of Afghan military, Afghan special operations, US special operations. I mean summary executions were so, so commonplace, especially by special operations, US and CIA and others.

So the idea that an occupying military force that is carrying out over the last 20 years these type of actions can be some sort of force that can protect people is just false. Afghanistan can [move] forward; it can move towards progress; just like so many other countries that are plagued with the backwardness of just the impact of US imperialism. They can’t begin to move forward – they can’t begin to progress – until they solve that main contradiction, which is the contradiction with imperialism; an occupying foreign army.

So any [progressive] forces in Afghanistan – women’s activism – none of that will be able to get momentum or steam to push Afghanistan in the direction that it needs to go socially if there’s a war in the country between an occupying imperialist power – multiple ones – and an insurgent force that’s fighting it – that gets pretty popular fighting it, because most people don’t like the foreign occupying troops.

Of course we want to see social progress in Afghanistan, but that is a chapter that has to start with the elimination of an occupying imperialist force – when that exists it sucks up everything [and] becomes the main problem in the country. And I think now that that’s gone, it opens up an entirely new space for there to be social progress.

And the last thing I’ll say is I don’t want to paint any kind of rosy picture of the Taliban, or make any optimistic predictions about the kind of government that they’re going to impose on the country, but I will say that one of the recent statements by the Taliban was saying ‘we want to create a unity government’, and even said specifically ‘we believe in the right of women to get an education and so forth’ and so they seem to be trying to have some kind of PR around the fact that ‘we’re not what everyone says we are, we’re not going to do things that are objectionable, we’re going to be a legitimate government of a sovereign country on the world’s stage’.

So I don’t want to give that too much credence – I mean we’ll have to see – but that’s also the kind of thing that you don’t see in the dire projections. Not only that but also the impact on women by the US occupation.

Katie Halper: [from 35:55 mins]

Yes, that’s a really important point, and the civilian deaths are something that don’t really get talked about.

Can you also share what changed your politics?  I mean you were in the army, so what changed your politics? Why are you anti-war now? And what were your politics like when you enlisted?

Mike Prysner: [from 36:15 mins]

Well like I said, I joined before 9/11, so it was just a different climate. Everyone I was in training with, everyone was just like ‘we’re not going to have to go to war’. Like the last war in our memory was the Gulf War when barely anyone went and all of the soldiers who died – like 99% – died from friendly fire: everyone blowing themselves up!

So there wasn’t really a consciousness about ‘oh, we’re going to go to war’. The memory of Vietnam was [that] that was the way wars were fought in the past, whereas they aren’t fought this way anymore. So everyone in my generation who joined was like ‘ah, we’re never going to go to war’.

I think the Iraq War in particular was just so outrageous, so heinous, that it didn’t matter how much propaganda and racism we were fed. I mean being in Iraq as an occupying soldier, pretty quickly you see that everything Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld were saying on TV when you were going were just complete lies and that there was no justification…

For me I think that the thing that turned me around – which was the thing for most soldiers, because thousands of active-duty people turned against the Iraq War, the Afghanistan War too, but predominantly the Iraq War – is realising we’d be doing the same thing if we were Iraqi. And seeing what US forces were doing in the country.

I mean even if they weren’t just driving around shooting random people – which was happening – just being there, just being this kind of messed up occupying force, you know imposing a new government on people, subjecting people to checkpoints and home raids and all of these things – everyone I was with was basically like: ‘if I was Iraqi I’d be shooting at American forces’. You know who wouldn’t? It was like Red Dawn – everyone’s like this is like Red Dawn, except that we’re the bad guys!

So it wasn’t a big leap for people to not only to see through the propaganda, but identify with the people that we were told were enemies – and to see a great deal of commonality between the Iraqi people and ourselves. That’s really what moved me was feeling an intense brotherhood and kinship and commonality with the people that I was interacting with every day as an occupying soldier and understanding.

You know it reached the point where we’d be getting attacked and I’d be [thinking] I support this even though I might die, you know I definitely support that this is happening. Because I’d become so disgusted with what the Iraqi people had been made to live under.

And so I think that that actually happens in every war that the US wages, and that’s really the history of US intervention in every war – I mean going back to the 1800s [with] US occupation of the Philippines and so forth, you had soldiers who basically switched sides. I think that’s going to be the case in future wars also, but it’s also part of the history of the Afghanistan War. Large numbers of Afghanistan veterans became fighters and activists against it and they’re as much a part of the history as the history that’s going to be written for us.

After Obama ended the Iraq War, you know he declared this new national holiday: I thnk it was called ‘Freedom Day’ or something; marking the end of the Iraq War. And just laid out: this is the legacy of the Iraq War. The White House gave their own convoluted narrative history of the Iraq War, which was completely false and fake.

So it’s up to people like us to make sure they don’t do the same thing with the Afghanistan War. They’re going to try to rewrite the narrative, rewrite the history of what happened, what US forces did, but of course it’s going to bear no real resemblance to what really happened, and that’s up to grassroots independent media to make sure that stuff is still on the record.

Katie Halper: [from 40:10 mins]

A lot of people are talking about the poppy fields. Do you know what the significance of those are and the motives of the United States?

Mike Prysner: [from 40:25 mins]

Yeah, Afghanistan is like the biggest heroin producer. I mean it wasn’t until the US invasion. The Taliban had strict rules against cultivation of opium and so they had eradicated most of the opium production in the country. The US comes in and I think there’s a lot of speculation that the CIA wanted the opium because it was using it for dark money for black ops, and there probably was some degree of that.

The Taliban and the US basically allowed the cultivation of poppy in the country. The Taliban because it was a big money-maker. They had moral objection to it, but when you’re fighting a war against not only the United States, but all of the Nato powers, all the big imperialist countries, and all of their technological advance, it helps to have, you know, a few million dollars a week rolling in in heroin money.

How Afghan opium farming expanded during US occupation

But also the US allowed the heroin production because the US is stationed in all these middle-of-nowhere areas in Afghanistan; they’re having to have the loyalty of local farmers [as] people that they want to trust and say don’t let the Taliban put IEDs on our path. Tell us if there are insurgents who are going to come kill us. So in order to maintain good relationships with farmers in the countryside, they had to not just let them grow opium, but protect the opium.

And so you’ll hear any soldier who was stationed in the area where they were growing opium – there’d be paths where there would be IEDs on them, where you know if you walk down this path you’re going to get blown up – then there’s the opium field where you know if we walk through the field there’s probably not a good chance that there’s going to be an IED because where would you put them, it’s such a huge field? But they would get in trouble for walking through the opium field, because then the farmer would get mad and then they would call the commanders and the commanders would say ‘don’t walk through the opium fields’.

So then who knows how many people are walking around right now, or who are not walking around, [but] in wheelchairs or missing arms and legs, missing their genitals, simply because they didn’t want to walk through the opium fields because they would make someone [mad] who the commander thought was strategically important. So that speaks to the absurdity of the war the entire time.

The US of course would have liked to have a puppet government in Afghanistan – you know big pharma buys opium from places like India – I mean it is a commodity on the market; the US doesn’t really grow it itself. So of course the US, if they had won the Afghanistan War, would have thought ‘oh great, now we have a supply of opium that’s under our own jurisdiction’. And so yes, that was probably one of the ideal outcomes for the US war on the country – not just the oil industry, not just the mineral industry, not just the defence industry, but big pharma had a lot to gain from it also.

So I think that’s why you’re seeing a lot of opposition in the media. In the corporate media there’s a lot of anger about the withdrawal right now. Number one, because it’s just humiliating and makes the US look bad, and so they’re all mad that it happened in such a disastrous way. But there are sectors of the ruling class that are pissed that they are going to miss out on a huge cash crop unless they can have some kind of long-shot deal with the Taliban.

It’s funny because normally the media are just stenographers of the Pentagon, but it’s more that they’re just supporters of war whatever war it is. Because the Pentagon wants to leave: this is the Pentagon’s plan, and so it’s the first time I’ve ever seen the entirety of the establishment media, and all these big talking heads, go against the wishes of pretty much the entire Pentagon establishment is when they’re actually pulling back from a war. So it made me reevaluate that they don’t just repeat everything the Pentagon says, but [only] when it’s pushing more war around the world.

Katie Halper: [from 44:15 mins]

Yes, that’s really interesting.

And finally, [a listener] asks “isn’t this withdrawal to help with the new cold war with China?”

Mike Prysner: [from 44:20 mins]

Oh, absolutely. I mean that’s probably the most important thing about this.

When Obama came into office, he became very critical of Bush’s wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan. He said, ‘you screwed up Afghanistan; that should have been a quick easy in-and-out war’. But the case that Obama made was not that Iraq was just immoral and wrong, Afghanistan was a complete mistake to do this – his thing was: the American empire has become bogged down in the Middle East, and it is preventing us from pointing towards our real enemy which is China, and this doctrine of great power confrontation.

‘The Asia Pivot’ – many people will know that term, ‘the Asia Pivot’, which was Obama’s foreign policy orientation towards confronting China and building up military forces against China and rallying all our allies and potential allies to create confrontation and conflict with China

Pivot away from what? He meant pivot to Asia from the Middle East. So that was the Obama Doctrine: pivot away from the Middle East towards our real enemy China.

The drawdown, which is also happening in Iraq, the drawdown in Afghanistan, this is very much a re-orientation. That’s been happening for a little while. A re-orientation of US foreign policy and imperialism to try to disrupt and confront China, and other places in the world as well. But it’s harder to do that when you’re bogged down in a lost war. So yes, that’s obviously something everyone needs to be very conscious of.

You know I see a lot of comments saying, ‘the empire’s crumbling, the empire’s in decline’, because it’s been dealt this big embarrassing, humiliating military defeat. You know it was defeated very badly in Korea. The US was defeated very badly in Vietnam. That didn’t mean the US backed off at all: ‘hey man, we’ve got to relax on this war stuff’. They just went towards other parts of the world. They went to Latin America, and they went to the Middle East. I mean it doesn’t matter and it’s almost like they need to redeem themselves.

You know after the defeat in Vietnam, they were like: ‘communism got one over on us, but we’re going to get one over on the communists in Latin America’, and sponsor all these dirty wars, and start funding coups of independent and socialist governments around the world.

They’re not going to take this well. They know they look very bad. And what they can do to recover from it is focus everyone’s attention on some other theatre or some other American victory around the world, which we should be a little nervous about, but also prepared to confront it, because that’s of course what’s necessary.

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In Praise of Joe Biden | Stan Goff

The following extended excerpt is taken from an article published by Counterpunch on August 18th.

The US is not morally, socially, or politically fit to run the affairs of people halfway around the world. Forgotten — in the plethora of images being pumped into the fires of public outrage by the military-industrial-media complex — are the atrocities of “our side,” of the state of extreme exception that has been normalized since 2001, of the expansion of the war into seven countries by Obama, of the torture and execution black sites, the drone strikes against civilians, and the fascist Patriot Act. Unreported were the day-to-day humiliations and abuses that are committed by ALL occupying forces everywhere and throughout history.

I’ll tell you who made out like bandits, though. War industries and their politicians. Mercenary “contractors.” Cable news.

I completely understand, even if I disagree with, the sentiment of veterans and military families: “Can this all be for nothing? Did all those people spend all that time and effort, some losing life, limb, or eyesight . . . was all that treasure spent ($2.26 trillion conservatively) . . . for nothing?”

It’s an important question, because it’s the question that will become a campaign slogan soon enough, even though the answer is far less satisfying and politically effective than attacking Joe Biden for this affront to the nation’s masculinity. To those veterans and military families — from a retired Army veteran who belongs to a very military family — I say, yes, it was all for nothing . . . like a tragic accident, only one that someone did on purpose. It was all for nothing . . . if we let it be; that is, if we fail to learn from this. That’s how we make it “worth it,” as if such an accounting weren’t part of the bodyguard of lies that accompanies all wars.

I’m praising Joe Biden. This departure took guts. It takes guts in a culture so steeped in simulacra, manufactured myth, and incessant political maneuvering to do a thing that’s simultaneously necessary and sure to produce unsavory results. Whatever else Biden does that pisses me off in the future — and that’s a sure thing — he deserves credit, not all this hand-wringing and blame. He has confronted the Archons of the military-industrial-media complex, who are writhing and raging now across the screens of cable news — an industry taken over by the same ideology that got us into Afghanistan in the first place: neoconservatism, an arrogant and clueless late imperial ideology now spouted on Fox, CNN, and MSNBC.

Biden is not to blame for a “debacle” in Afghanistan.

This exercise in mortal stupidity started with George W. Bush, and cheered on by the media. It was extended and expanded by Bush II (Obama). It was denounced by Trump, but allowed to go on, because even Trump didn’t have the guts to risk a hit to the very performative masculinity that fueled his popular appeal. The occupation was not wine, improving with age. It was a wound festering to gangrene, and now there had to be an amputation. And none of them, not Bush, not Obama, not Trump, had the guts to say, “Stop!” Only Biden, at long last. Praise be!

Click here to read the full article entitled “In Praise of Joe Biden” by Stan Goff, published by Counterpunch on August 18th.

*

Addendum: a guide to Leo Strauss’s influence on US neo-conservatism

A natural order of inequality

Danny Postel: You’ve argued that there is an important connection between the teachings of Leo Strauss and the Bush administration’s selling of the Iraq war. What is that connection?

Shadia Drury: Leo Strauss was a great believer in the efficacy and usefulness of lies in politics. Public support for the Iraq war rested on lies about Iraq posing an imminent threat to the United States the business about weapons of mass destruction and a fictitious alliance between al-Qaida and the Iraqi regime. Now that the lies have been exposed, Paul Wolfowitz and others in the war party are denying that these were the real reasons for the war.

So what were the real reasons? Reorganising the balance of power in the Middle East in favour of Israel? Expanding American hegemony in the Arab world? Possibly. But these reasons would not have been sufficient in themselves to mobilise American support for the war. And the Straussian cabal in the administration realised that.

Danny Postel: The neo-conservative vision is commonly taken to be about spreading democracy and liberal values globally. And when Strauss is mentioned in the press, he is typically described as a great defender of liberal democracy against totalitarian tyranny. You’ve written, however, that Strauss had a profound antipathy to both liberalism and democracy.”

Shadia Drury: The idea that Strauss was a great defender of liberal democracy is laughable. I suppose that Strauss’s disciples consider it a noble lie. Yet many in the media have been gullible enough to believe it.

How could an admirer of Plato and Nietzsche be a liberal democrat? The ancient philosophers whom Strauss most cherished believed that the unwashed masses were not fit for either truth or liberty, and that giving them these sublime treasures would be like throwing pearls before swine. In contrast to modern political thinkers, the ancients denied that there is any natural right to liberty. Human beings are born neither free nor equal. The natural human condition, they held, is not one of freedom, but of subordination and in Strauss’s estimation they were right in thinking so.

Praising the wisdom of the ancients and condemning the folly of the moderns was the whole point of Strauss’s most famous book, Natural Right and History. The cover of the book sports the American Declaration of Independence. But the book is a celebration of nature – not the natural rights of man (as the appearance of the book would lead one to believe) but the natural order of domination and subordination.

The necessity of lies

Danny Postel: What is the relevance of Strauss’s interpretation of Plato’s notion of the noble lie?

Shadia Drury: Strauss rarely spoke in his own name. He wrote as a commentator on the classical texts of political theory. But he was an extremely opinionated and dualistic commentator. The fundamental distinction that pervades and informs all of his work is that between the ancients and the moderns. Strauss divided the history of political thought into two camps: the ancients (like Plato) are wise and wily, whereas the moderns (like Locke and other liberals) are vulgar and foolish. Now, it seems to me eminently fair and reasonable to attribute to Strauss the ideas he attributes to his beloved ancients.

In Plato’s dialogues, everyone assumes that Socrates is Plato’s mouthpiece. But Strauss argues in his book The City and Man (pp. 74-5, 77, 83-4, 97, 100, 111) that Thrasymachus is Plato’s real mouthpiece (on this point, see also M.F. Burnyeat, Sphinx without a Secret, New York Review of Books, 30 May 1985 [paid-for only]). So, we must surmise that Strauss shares the insights of the wise Plato (alias Thrasymachus) that justice is merely the interest of the stronger; that those in power make the rules in their own interests and call it justice.

Leo Strauss repeatedly defends the political realism of Thrasymachus and Machiavelli (see, for example, his Natural Right and History, p. 106). This view of the world is clearly manifest in the foreign policy of the current administration in the United States.

A second fundamental belief of Strauss’s ancients has to do with their insistence on the need for secrecy and the necessity of lies. In his book Persecution and the Art of Writing, Strauss outlines why secrecy is necessary. He argues that the wise must conceal their views for two reasons to spare the people’s feelings and to protect the elite from possible reprisals.

The people will not be happy to learn that there is only one natural right the right of the superior to rule over the inferior, the master over the slave, the husband over the wife, and the wise few over the vulgar many. In On Tyranny, Strauss refers to this natural right as the tyrannical teachingof his beloved ancients. It is tyrannical in the classic sense of rule above rule or in the absence of law (p. 70).

Now, the ancients were determined to keep this tyrannical teaching secret because the people are not likely to tolerate the fact that they are intended for subordination; indeed, they may very well turn their resentment against the superior few. Lies are thus necessary to protect the superior few from the persecution of the vulgar many.

The effect of Strauss’s teaching is to convince his acolytes that they are the natural ruling elite and the persecuted few. And it does not take much intelligence for them to surmise that they are in a situation of great danger, especially in a world devoted to the modern ideas of equal rights and freedoms. Now more than ever, the wise few must proceed cautiously and with circumspection. So, they come to the conclusion that they have a moral justification to lie in order to avoid persecution. Strauss goes so far as to say that dissembling and deception in effect, a culture of lies is the peculiar justice of the wise.

Strauss justifies his position by an appeal to Plato’s concept of the noble lie. But in truth, Strauss has a very impoverished conception of Plato’s noble lie. Plato thought that the noble lie is a story whose details are fictitious; but at the heart of it is a profound truth.

In the myth of metals, for example, some people have golden souls meaning that they are more capable of resisting the temptations of power. And these morally trustworthy types are the ones who are most fit to rule. The details are fictitious, but the moral of the story is that not all human beings are morally equal.

In contrast to this reading of Plato, Strauss thinks that the superiority of the ruling philosophers is an intellectual superiority and not a moral one (Natural Right and History, p. 151). For many commentators who (like Karl Popper) have read Plato as a totalitarian, the logical consequence is to doubt that philosophers can be trusted with political power. Those who read him this way invariably reject him. Strauss is the only interpreter who gives a sinister reading to Plato, and then celebrates him.

The dialectic of fear and tyranny

Danny Postel: In the Straussian scheme of things, there are the wise few and the vulgar many. But there is also a third group the gentlemen. Would you explain how they figure?

Shadia Drury: There are indeed three types of men: the wise, the gentlemen, and the vulgar. The wise are the lovers of the harsh, unadulterated truth. They are capable of looking into the abyss without fear and trembling. They recognise neither God nor moral imperatives. They are devoted above all else to their own pursuit of the higher pleasures, which amount to consorting with their puppies or young initiates.

The second type, the gentlemen, are lovers of honour and glory. They are the most ingratiating towards the conventions of their society that is, the illusions of the cave. They are true believers in God, honour, and moral imperatives. They are ready and willing to embark on acts of great courage and self-sacrifice at a moment’s notice.

The third type, the vulgar many, are lovers of wealth and pleasure. They are selfish, slothful, and indolent. They can be inspired to rise above their brutish existence only by fear of impending death or catastrophe.

Like Plato, Strauss believed that the supreme political ideal is the rule of the wise. But the rule of the wise is unattainable in the real world. Now, according to the conventional wisdom, Plato realised this, and settled for the rule of law. But Strauss did not endorse this solution entirely. Nor did he think that it was Plato’s real solution Strauss pointed to the nocturnal council in Plato’s Laws to illustrate his point.

The real Platonic solution as understood by Strauss is the covert rule of the wise (see Strauss’s The Argument and the Action of Plato’s Laws). This covert rule is facilitated by the overwhelming stupidity of the gentlemen. The more gullible and unperceptive they are, the easier it is for the wise to control and manipulate them. Supposedly, Xenophon makes that clear to us.

For Strauss, the rule of the wise is not about classic conservative values like order, stability, justice, or respect for authority. The rule of the wise is intended as an antidote to modernity. Modernity is the age in which the vulgar many have triumphed. It is the age in which they have come closest to having exactly what their hearts desire wealth, pleasure, and endless entertainment. But in getting just what they desire, they have unwittingly been reduced to beasts.

Nowhere is this state of affairs more advanced than in America. And the global reach of American culture threatens to trivialise life and turn it into entertainment. This was as terrifying a spectre for Strauss as it was for Alexandre Kojève and Carl Schmitt.

This is made clear in Strauss’s exchange with Kojève (reprinted in Strauss’s On Tyranny), and in his commentary on Schmitt’s The Concept of the Political (reprinted in Heinrich Meier, Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss: The Hidden Dialogue). Kojève lamented the animalisation of man and Schmitt worried about the trivialisation of life. All three of them were convinced that liberal economics would turn life into entertainment and destroy politics; all three understood politics as a conflict between mutually hostile groups willing to fight each other to the death. In short, they all thought that man’s humanity depended on his willingness to rush naked into battle and headlong to his death. Only perpetual war can overturn the modern project, with its emphasis on self-preservation and creature comforts.” Life can be politicised once more, and man’s humanity can be restored.

This terrifying vision fits perfectly well with the desire for honour and glory that the neo-conservative gentlemen covet. It also fits very well with the religious sensibilities of gentlemen. The combination of religion and nationalism is the elixir that Strauss advocates as the way to turn natural, relaxed, hedonistic men into devout nationalists willing to fight and die for their God and country.

I never imagined when I wrote my first book on Strauss that the unscrupulous elite that he elevates would ever come so close to political power, nor that the ominous tyranny of the wise would ever come so close to being realised in the political life of a great nation like the United States. But fear is the greatest ally of tyranny.

Danny Postel: You’ve described Strauss as a nihilist.

Shadia Drury: Strauss is a nihilist in the sense that he believes that there is no rational foundation for morality. He is an atheist, and he believes that in the absence of God, morality has no grounding. It’s all about benefiting others and oneself; there is no objective reason for doing so, only rewards and punishments in this life.

But Strauss is not a nihilist if we mean by the term a denial that there is any truth, a belief that everything is interpretation. He does not deny that there is an independent reality. On the contrary, he thinks that independent reality consists in nature and its order of rank the high and the low, the superior and the inferior. Like Nietzsche, he believes that the history of western civilisation has led to the triumph of the inferior, the rabble something they both lamented profoundly.

Danny Postel: This connection is curious, since Strauss is bedevilled by Nietzsche; and one of Strauss’s most famous students, Allan Bloom, fulminates profusely in his book The Closing of the American Mind against the influence of Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger.

Shadia Drury: Strauss’s criticism of the existentialists, especially Heidegger, is that they tried to elicit an ethic out of the abyss. This was the ethic of resoluteness choose whatever you like and be loyal to it to the death; its content does not matter. But Strauss’s reaction to moral nihilism was different. Nihilistic philosophers, he believes, should reinvent the Judæo-Christian God, but live like pagan gods themselves taking pleasure in the games they play with each other as well as the games they play on ordinary mortals.

The question of nihilism is complicated, but there is no doubt that Strauss’s reading of Plato entails that the philosophers should return to the cave and manipulate the images (in the form of media, magazines, newspapers). They know full well that the line they espouse is mendacious, but they are convinced that theirs are noble lies.

The intoxication of perpetual war

Danny Postel: You characterise the outlook of the Bush administration as a kind of realism, in the spirit of Thrasymachus and Machiavelli. But isn’t the real divide within the administration (and on the American right more generally) more complex: between foreign policy realists, who are pragmatists, and neo-conservatives, who see themselves as idealists even moralists on a mission to topple tyrants, and therefore in a struggle against realism?

Shadia Drury: I think that the neo-conservatives are for the most part genuine in wanting to spread the American commercial model of liberal democracy around the globe. They are convinced that it is the best thing, not just for America, but for the world. Naturally, there is a tension between these idealists and the more hard-headed realists within the administration.

I contend that the tensions and conflicts within the current administration reflect the differences between the surface teaching, which is appropriate for gentlemen, and the nocturnal or covert teaching, which the philosophers alone are privy to. It is very unlikely for an ideology inspired by a secret teaching to be entirely coherent.

The issue of nationalism is an example of this. The philosophers, wanting to secure the nation against its external enemies as well as its internal decadence, sloth, pleasure, and consumption, encourage a strong patriotic fervour among the honour-loving gentlemen who wield the reins of power. That strong nationalistic spirit consists in the belief that their nation and its values are the best in the world, and that all other cultures and their values are inferior in comparison.

Irving Kristol, the father of neo-conservatism and a Strauss disciple, denounced nationalism in a 1973 essay; but in another essay written in 1983, he declared that the foreign policy of neo-conservatism must reflect its nationalist proclivities. A decade on, in a 1993 essay, he claimed that “religion, nationalism, and economic growth are the pillars of neoconservatism.” (See The Coming Conservative Century, in Neoconservatism: the autobiography of an idea, p. 365.)

In Reflections of a Neoconservative (p. xiii), Kristol wrote that:

patriotism springs from love of the nation’s past; nationalism arises out of hope for the nation’s future, distinctive greatness. Neoconservatives believe that the goals of American foreign policy must go well beyond a narrow, too literal definition of national security. It is the national interest of a world power, as this is defined by a sense of national destiny not a myopic national security. The same sentiment was echoed by the doyen of contemporary Straussianism, Harry Jaffa, when he said that America is the Zion that will light up all the world.

It is easy to see how this sort of thinking can get out of hand, and why hard-headed realists tend to find it naïve if not dangerous.

But Strauss’s worries about America’s global aspirations are entirely different. Like Heidegger, Schmitt, and Kojève, Strauss would be more concerned that America would succeed in this enterprise than that it would fail. In that case, the last man would extinguish all hope for humanity (Nietzsche); the night of the world would be at hand (Heidegger); the animalisation of man would be complete (Kojève); and the trivialisation of life would be accomplished (Schmitt). That is what the success of America’s global aspirations meant to them.

Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man is a popularisation of this viewpoint. It sees the coming catastrophe of American global power as inevitable, and seeks to make the best of a bad situation. It is far from a celebration of American dominance.

On this perverse view of the world, if America fails to achieve her national destiny, and is mired in perpetual war, then all is well. Man’s humanity, defined in terms of struggle to the death, is rescued from extinction. But men like Heidegger, Schmitt, Kojève, and Strauss expect the worst. They expect that the universal spread of the spirit of commerce would soften manners and emasculate man. To my mind, this fascistic glorification of death and violence springs from a profound inability to celebrate life, joy, and the sheer thrill of existence.

To be clear, Strauss was not as hostile to democracy as he was to liberalism. This is because he recognises that the vulgar masses have numbers on their side, and the sheer power of numbers cannot be completely ignored. Whatever can be done to bring the masses along is legitimate. If you can use democracy to turn the masses against their own liberty, this is a great triumph. It is the sort of tactic that neo-conservatives use consistently, and in some cases very successfully.

Among the Straussians

Danny Postel: Finally, I’d like to ask about your interesting reception among the Straussians. Many of them dismiss your interpretation of Strauss and denounce your work in the most adamant terms (bizarre splenetic). Yet one scholar, Laurence Lampert, has reprehended his fellow Straussians for this, writing in his Leo Strauss and Nietzsche that your book The Political Ideas of Leo Strauss contains many fine skeptical readings of Strauss’s texts and acute insights into Strauss’s real intentions. Harry Jaffa has even made the provocative suggestion that you might be a closet Straussian yourself!

Shadia Drury: I have been publicly denounced and privately adored. Following the publication of my book The Political Ideas of Leo Strauss in 1988, letters and gifts poured in from Straussian graduate students and professors all over North America books, dissertations, tapes of Strauss’s Hillel House lectures in Chicago, transcripts of every course he ever taught at the university, and even a personally crafted Owl of Minerva with a letter declaring me a goddess of wisdom! They were amazed that an outsider could have penetrated the secret teaching. They sent me unpublished material marked with clear instructions not to distribute to suspicious persons”.

I received letters from graduate students in Toronto, Chicago, Duke, Boston College, Claremont, Fordham, and other Straussian centres of learning. One of the students compared his experience in reading my work with a person lost in the wilderness who suddenly happens on a map. Some were led to abandon their schools in favour of fresher air; but others were delighted to discover what it was they were supposed to believe in order to belong to the charmed circle of future philosophers and initiates.

After my first book on Strauss came out, some of the Straussians in Canada dubbed me the bitch from Calgary. Of all the titles I hold, that is the one I cherish most. The hostility toward me was understandable. Nothing is more threatening to Strauss and his acolytes than the truth in general and the truth about Strauss in particular. His admirers are determined to conceal the truth about his ideas.

Respond to this article, and debate Strauss, philosophy and politics in our forum.

My intention in writing the book was to express Strauss’s ideas clearly and without obfuscation so that his views could become the subject of philosophical debate and criticism, and not the stuff of feverish conviction. I wanted to smoke the Straussians out of their caves and into the philosophical light of day. But instead of engaging me in philosophical debate, they denied that Strauss stood for any of the ideas I attributed to him.

Laurence Lampert is the only Straussian to declare valiantly that it is time to stop playing games and to admit that Strauss was indeed a Nietzschean thinker that it is time to stop the denial and start defending Strauss’s ideas.

I suspect that Lampert’s honesty is threatening to those among the Straussians who are interested in philosophy but who seek power. There is no doubt that open and candid debate about Strauss is likely to undermine their prospects in Washington.

Click here to read the full article written by Danny Postel based on an interview with Shadia Drury, published in October 2003.

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Filed under Afghanistan, al-Qaeda & DAESH / ISIS / ISIL, analysis & opinion, Noam Chomsky, September 11th, USA

Craig Murray becomes the UK’s latest prisoner of conscience

 

FORMER UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, is to begin an eight-month jail term after being found guilty of contempt of court after an appeal bid was refused.

Murray was sentenced to eight months imprisonment after a judge ruled that he had unlawfully published details about the identities of female witnesses in Alex Salmond’s criminal trial on his blog last year. But he was released on bail in order to launch an appeal bid that has now failed.

Murray continues to deny intent to breach the court order protecting their identities, and that such a breach took place.

Lady Dorrian laid down her verdict in May, saying that Murray’s blog could lead to jigsaw identification of four of those involved, if read with other published materials.

A statement released yesterday said the 62-year-old would “surrender himself to police shortly and begin to serve the custodial sentence handed to him”.

That comes after the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal.

Sentence was deferred for that purpose but will now begin

Click here to read the full article entitled “Craig Murray to hand himself over to police to face jail sentence” written by Kirsteen Paterson published in The National on July 29th.

For more details surrounding the case you can find many articles on Craig Murray’s website. For a summary and overview I recommend this one written by Kirsten MacDonald: https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2021/06/craig-murrays-trial-what-happens-next/

It begins:

On Monday morning [June 7th], Lady Dorrian and two supporting judges will hear the application from Roddy Dunlop QC for Craig Murray to be allowed to appeal to the UK Supreme Court against both their verdict of contempt of court for jigsaw identification, and against the disproportionate sentence.

It is widely expected, given the obvious animus against Murray she has shown throughout the proceedings, that leave to appeal will be refused and Lady Dorrian will commit Craig Murray to jail, probably from Wednesday 9 June. At that stage, Murray’s legal team will have to apply direct to the UK Supreme Court to grant him an appeal, but his eight month sentence will likely be served before the Supreme Court even looks at whether to consider it.

Concluding:

Murray is of course one of Sturgeon’s fiercest critics and opposes both the abolition of juries and the abolition of the right of defence lawyers to cross-examine accusers. The prime thrust of the reporting for which he is being jailed was that Nicola Sturgeon was behind the false accusations that were made against Alex Salmond.

There is a real possibility that aspects of Dorrian’s handling of the Murray case could come in for serious criticism by the Supreme Court. These include her acceptance of a handful of anonymous tweets claiming to have learnt identities from Murray’s blog (with zero evidence they actually knew identities) as having important evidential weight, her effective dismissal of his entire affidavits as lies despite hearing no evidence that contradicted them, her making no reference at any stage to Salmond’s acquittal (indeed both her judgement and sentencing remarks on Murray refer to Salmond’s “victims” and “offences” with no “purported”, “alleged” or other qualifier, even after the acquittal), her extremely low bar for jigsaw identification (to any individual who already had specialist knowledge), the breathtakingly draconian sentence, and the curt and offhand dismissal of all Article X ECHR freedom of speech arguments.

If Dorrian grants the appeal to the Supreme Court, she is opening herself up to criticism at a crucial time in her career. As one lawyer put it to me, to grant the appeal would be “asking for a kicking”. If she refuses permission to appeal, she is putting back any Supreme Court decision probably for two years, and giving herself the ability to imprison and silence Murray in the interim.

Murray’s team have very little hope for Monday.

*

Now a prisoner himself, Craig Murray has been at the forefront of the campaign calling for the release of Julian Assange. Held indefinitely in Belmarsh, Assange currently faces extradition to the US on the basis of charges relating solely to allegations made by an Icelandic informant, Sigi Thordarson. Thordarson is a registered sex offender guilty of online activities with under-age boys. He was also convicted of stealing approximately $50,000 from Wikileaks as well as of impersonating Julian Assange online. More recently, Thordarson confessed that his claims against Assange are entirely false.

As Murray reported a month ago on June 29th:

Thordarson has now told Icelandic magazine Stundin that his allegations against Assange contained in the indictment are untrue, and that Assange had not solicited the hacking of bank or police details. This is hardly a shock, though Thordarson’s motives for coming clean now are obscure; he is plainly a deeply troubled and often malicious individual.

Thordarson was always the most unreliable of witnesses, and I find it impossible to believe that the FBI cooperation with him was ever any more than deliberate fabrication of evidence by the FBI.

Edward Snowden has tweeted that Thordarson recanting will end the case against Julian Assange. Most certainly it should end it, but I fear it will not.

Many things should have ended the case against Assange. The First Amendment, the ban on political extradition in the US/UK Extradition Treaty, the CIA spying on the preparations of Assange’s defence counsel, all of these should have stopped the case dead in its tracks.

It is now five months since extradition was refused, no US government appeal against that decision has yet been accepted by the High Court, and yet Julian remains confined to the UK’s highest security prison. The revelation that Thordarson’s allegations are fabricated – which everyone knew already, Baraitser just pretended she didn’t – is just one more illegality that the Establishment will shimmy over in its continued persecution of Assange.

Assange democratised information and gave real power to the people for a while, worldwide. He revealed US war crimes. For that his life is destroyed. Neither law nor truth have anything to do with it.

Click here to read Craig Murray’s full piece “FBI Fabrication Against Assange Falls Apart”.

As Julian Assange languishes in prison under conditions described by UN special rapporteur, Nils Melzer, as torture for no crime other than publishing facts that are embarrassing to the British and US State, now Craig Murray too has been jailed for publishing unwanted facts and, in this case, ones already widely available in the public domain.

Assange and Murray are Britain’s most prominent political prisoners. Their prosecutions represent the finals blows to the last vestiges freedom of speech in the UK. Meanwhile, where is the outcry from the liberal media? The Guardian which once worked with Assange in releasing Wikileaks documents, today fabricates and disseminates savage but idiotic propaganda hit-pieces that it then fails to retract even when caught out.

And where too is the outcry from backbench and/or opposition politicians including Labour leader Keir Starmer who is the former Head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and Director of Public Prosecutions?

Following the expected outcome of his own case, Craig Murray issued a response on his official website yesterday under the title “Going Dark” with a statement from his wife, Nadira:

This blog will be going dark for a few months. The Queen kindly paid for my dinners for over twenty years while I was a British diplomat and Ambassador, and now she is going to be paying for my dinners again. That is very kind, I thought she had forgotten me.

The following is a statement from Nadira:

29.07.21
Today is the most heartbreaking day. My husband whose health has been found to not be suitable for prison must hand himself in for detention within hours following the UK Supreme Court’s decision not to hear his appeal.

We were extremely hopeful that the Supreme Court would hear his case and had no doubt that this particular case should have been heard given how important and relevant it is in the context of Freedom of Speech in the UK. Instead, the Supreme Court declined to hear it.

Yet again my heart is deeply saddened to find that the UK, once a country which placed great importance on Human Rights issues, has failed to listen to my husband’s case. Additionally, the Scottish Court outright dismissed Craig’s poor health, having been made aware through the mandatory Social Work report and doctor’s reports that his wellbeing would be at risk if forced to go to jail.

At first I tried to come to terms of him being jailed in the hope he would be granted dignified conditions in jail but I am saddened and shocked to learn he could be placed among criminals, with no ability to bring books or enable him to write, with no entertainment allowed. He is being treated like a criminal. This is not a just punishment, this is a deliberate attempt to break the spirit of anyone brave enough to make use of free speech.

Given a pen and paper what do you do? You write in your own voice speaking the truth. Having been with Craig for two decades he has always spent his time and energy highlighting injustices and standing up for what is right, carefully, considerately and consistently.

I was brought up during Soviet times, and post independence in my own country, Uzbekistan. I have witnessed and personally experienced myself what the price of freedom of speech truly is. Opponents were ‘disappeared’ or it was claimed they had ‘taken their own life’, or been locked away in asylums. I am filled with fear this pattern is now repeating itself in the UK. It is appalling to see Craig is going through the same treatment in the so-called ‘human rights’ respecting country UK.

This is an attack on Truthtellers. His writings are those of a highly qualified Journalist, Human Rights Activist, former Rector of Dundee University and former British Ambassador. To us, his family, this situation is devastating: I am now left with my 5 months old baby, yet to find a good way to explain Craig’s jail sentence to his confused and anxious 12 year old son.

Of any readers concerned with the loss of freedom of speech and equality before the law I ask that you show active and outspoken solidarity with my partner.

A Craig Murray Justice Campaign has been formed which I hope you can support. Find them on twitter @cmurrayjustice. Their website will be up shortly and details will be posted on this site.

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Update:

The Campaign for Justice for Craig Murray has released an official statement which is reproduced in full below:

Legal precedent will be set tomorrow as Craig Murray will be the first person to be imprisoned on the charge of jigsaw identification in the UK, and indeed in the entire world. Scotland’s second most senior judge, Lady Dorrian, sentenced Murray to 8 months of incarceration following a contempt of court charge for ‘jigsaw identification’ relating to the trial against Alex Salmond.

In May Lady Dorrian said that in her view Murray had intended to release identities of Salmond’s accusers. Mr Murray has always denied any intent to identify and that anybody was actually identified. Murray had not directly identified any of the accusers in the Salmond trial, but Dorrian argued identification may be possible if his reporting of the case was read in connection with other materials in the public domain.

No one aside from Murray was charged with jigsaw identification in connection with the Salmond case, despite the fact that 81% of respondents in a Panelbase survey who believed that they had learned identities, gave mainstream media as the source of their knowledge. Lady Dorrian specifically stated that bloggers and mainstream media should be treated differently, as mainstream media are self-regulated.

Murray is the first person to be imprisoned in the UK for a media contempt for over 50 years, and in Scotland for over 70 years.

Murray’s imprisonment comes after an announcement from the UK Supreme Court that it will not hear his appeal. Former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray will surrender himself to Police shortly and begin to serve the custodial sentence handed to him. A public protest against Murrays’ incarceration is planned. Murray’s wife and mother of their 5 month and 12 year old sons Nadira has written an open letter asking for “active and outspoken solidarity from anyone concerned about the loss of freedom of speech and equality before the law”.

Murray had recently been called as a witness in a case brought by Spanish state prosecutors against UC Global for allegedly acting on behalf of the CIA in covertly spying on Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy. Material before the Spanish court includes several hours of covert surveillance video of Murray in private conversation with Assange on the future of Assange and Wikileaks. The Scottish court removed Murray’s passport expressly to prevent him traveling to Spain to testify.

Craig Murray commented:

“I go to jail with a clean conscience after a Kafkaesque trial. I genuinely do not know who I am supposed to have identified or which phrases I published are said to have identified them, in combination with what other information in the public domain. This judgement will have a chilling effect on reporting of the defence case at trials, to the detriment of justice, and the different treatment of bloggers and approved media is sinister. I carefully protect the identities of the accusers in my reports. I believe this is actually the state’s long sought revenge for my whistleblowing on security service collusion with torture and my long term collaboration with Wikileaks and other whistleblowers. Unfortunately important free speech issues are collateral damage.”

Murray and the Craig Murray Justice committee have both signalled their intention to continue to resist the penalty handed to him by continuing to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights via all routes required. They are particularly concerned that in her opinion Lady Dorrian implied that bloggers and public commentators like Murray ought to be punished more severely than mainstream journalists for the same offense. Ellen Joelle Dalzell, coordinator of the Craig Murray Justice campaign group stated:

“The sentence handed to Craig Murray not only sets legal precedent in terms of a custodial sentence for the charge of jigsaw identification, it represents an attack on free speech in general, and a tangible threat to the free reporting of legal trials in particular. The judgement is excessively punitive, is likely to have severe implications for Murray’s poor health and represents a dangerous precedent for journalists and other writers who seek to fairly report or comment on matters of public law.”

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Additional:

On August 1st, Craig Murray posted the following article summarising once again the importance of issues surrounding his own case and in a response to the ensuing Twitter storm. I have reproduced his article in full including the embedded House of Commons speech made by Kenny MacAskill MP with transcript supplied beneath courtesy of Hansard:

I want to make one or two points for you to ponder while I am in jail. This is the last post until about Christmas; we are not legally able to post anything while I am imprisoned. But the Justice for Craig Murray Campaign website is now up and running and will start to have more content shortly. Fora and comments here are planned to stay open.

I hope that one possible good effect of my imprisonment might be to coalesce opposition to the imminent abolition of jury trials in sexual assault cases by the Scottish Government, a plan for which Lady Dorrian – who wears far too many hats in all this – is front and centre. We will then have a situation where, as established by my imprisonment, no information at all on the defence case may be published in case it contributes to “jigsaw identification”, and where conviction will rest purely on the view of the judge.

That is plainly not “open justice”, it is not justice at all. And it is even worse than that, because the openly stated aim of abolishing juries is to increase conviction rates. So people will have their lives decided not by a jury of their peers, but by a judge who is acting under specific instruction to increase conviction rates.

It is often noted that conviction rates in rape trials are too low, and that is true. But have you ever heard this side of the argument? In Uzbekistan under the Karimov dictatorship, when I served there, conviction rates in rape trials were 100%. In fact very high conviction rates are a standard feature of all highly authoritarian regimes worldwide, because if the state prosecutes you then the state gets what it wants. The wishes of the state in such systems vastly outweigh the liberty of the individual.

My point is simply this. You cannot judge the validity of a system simply by high conviction rates. What we want is a system where the innocent are innocent and the guilty found guilty; not where an arbitrary conviction target is met.

The answer to the low conviction rates in sexual assault trials is not simple. Really serious increases in resources for timely collection of evidence, for police training and specialist units, for medical services, for victim support, all have a part to play. But that needs a lot of money and thought. Just abolishing juries and telling judges you want them to convict is of course free, or even a saving.

The right to have the facts judged in serious crime allegations by a jury of our peers is a glory of our civilisation. It is the product of millennia, not lightly to be thrown away and replaced by a huge increase in arbitrary state power. That movement is of course fueled by current fashionable political dogma which is that the victim must always be believed. That claim has morphed from an initial meaning that police and first responders must take accusations seriously, to a dogma that accusation is proof and it is wrong to even question the evidence, which is of course to deny the very possibility of false accusation.

That is precisely the position which Nicola Sturgeon has taken over the Alex Salmond trial; to be accused is to be guilty, irrespective of the defence evidence. That people are oblivious to the dangers of the dogma that there should be no defence against sexual assault allegations, is to me deeply worrying. Sexual allegation is the most common method that states have used to attack dissidents for centuries, worldwide and again especially in authoritarian regimes. Closer to home, think of history stretching from Roger Casement to Assange and Salmond.

Why would we remove the only barrier – a jury of ordinary citizens – that can stop abuse of state power?

I am worried that this abolition of juries will have been enacted by the Scottish Parliament, even before I am out of jail. I am worried Labour and the Lib Dems will support it out of fashionable political correctness. I am worried an important liberty will disappear.

I want to touch on one other aspect of liberty in my own imprisonment that appears not understood, or perhaps simply neglected, because somehow the very notion of liberty is slipping from our political culture. One point that features plainly in the troll talking points to be used against me, recurring continually on social media, is that I was ordered to take down material from my blog and refused.

There is an extremely important point here. I have always instantly complied with any order of a court to remove material. What I have not done is comply with instructions from the Crown or Procurator Fiscal to remove material. Because it is over 330 years since the Crown had the right of censorship in Scotland without the intervention of a judge.

It sickens me that so many Scottish Government backed trolls are tweeting out that I should have obeyed the instructions of the Crown. That Scotland has a governing party which actively supports the right of the Crown to exercise unrestrained censorship is extremely worrying, and I think a sign both of the lack of respect in modern political culture for liberties which were won by people being tortured to death, and of the sheer intellectual paucity of the current governing class.

But then we now learn that Scotland has a government which was prepared not only to be complicit in exempting the Crown from climate change legislation, but also complicit in hushing up the secret arrangement, so I am not surprised.

What is even more terrifying in my case is that the Court explicitly states that I should have followed the directions of the Crown Office in what I did and did not publish, and my failure to not publish as the Crown ordered is an aggravating factor in my sentencing.

If the Crown thinks something I write is in contempt and I think it is not, the Crown and I should stand as equals in court and argue our cases. There should be no presumption I ought to have obeyed the Crown in the first place. That Scottish “justice” has lost sight of this is disastrous, though perhaps as much from stupidity as malice.

My next thought on my trial is to emphasise again the dreadful doctrine Lady Dorrian has now enshrined in law, that bloggers should be held to a different (by implication higher) standard in law than the mainstream media (the judgement uses exactly those terms), because the mainstream media is self-regulated.

This doctrine is used to justify jailing me when mainstream media journalists have not been jailed for media contempt for over half a century, and also to explain why I have been prosecuted where the mainstream media, who were provably responsible for far more jigsaw identification, were not prosecuted.

This is dreadful law, and my entire legal team are frankly astonished that the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal on this point. This excellent article by Jonathan Cook explains further the chilling implications.

Those articles which the Court ordered me to take down, have been taken down. But I was not ordered to take down this one, which was found not to be in contempt of court. I was also not ordered to take down my affidavits, which though slightly redacted are still extremely valuable. I swore to the truth of every word and I stick by that. At the time I published these, far less was known about the Salmond affair than is known now, and I believe you will find it well worth reading them again in the light of your current state of wider knowledge – absolutely nothing to do with learning identities, but to do with what really happened on the whole plot to destroy Alex Salmond (something the judgement states I am allowed to say).

Finally I urge you to consider this truly remarkable speech from Kenny MacAskill MP. Scotland’s former Justice Secretary, and consider its quite staggering implications. It tells you everything you want to know about the British Establishment’s capture of the Scottish government, that the mainstream media felt no need to report the main points he was making, which constitute a simply astonishing outline of corrupt abuse of power.

Kenny MacAskill:

Before the post of Secretary of State for Scotland was created, the Lord Advocate was the power in the land, and some postholders were despotic indeed. The transportation of Thomas Muir and the hanging and beheading of Baird, Hardie and Wilson, the Scottish radicals and 1820 martyrs, are crimes that lie with them. Thankfully, the post devolved and became a purely legal role, but an anachronism was built in, for the postholder is both principal legal adviser to the Scottish Government yet also head of the prosecution service—the Crown Office, as it is known. That is something replicated neither elsewhere in the United Kingdom nor, indeed, in any modern democracy. Conflict of interest precludes it. In England and Wales, an Attorney General advises the Government from within. Meanwhile, a head of the prosecution service is both separate and independent from Government. But not so in Scotland, and therein lies the problem.

To be fair, apart from those despotic years, postholders, irrespective of political hue and whether pre or post-devolution, have acted with the impartiality expected. Modest steps were taken to mitigate the conflict of powers. Under Alex Salmond’s Administration a convention was invoked that the Lord Advocate appeared at Cabinet only when legal advice was to be given and did not participate in wider political debate. But the anachronism still lingered. Under Nicola Sturgeon’s Administration it has been brutally exposed by both Scottish Government and Crown Office actions, with the Lord Advocate straddling both. Change is now needed, and fast.

Firstly, there has been an admission by the outgoing Lord Advocate of malicious prosecutions involving the administrators in the Rangers FC liquidation. That is unprecedented in Scotland, not just in recent years but since those days of the early 19th century. Even south of the border there have been no such cases since 1999, and high-profile cases before such as the Winston Silcott and Daniel Morgan cases were rare. It has caused alarm with the public and been of huge reputational damage in an organisation where impartiality is imperative. It has also caused consternation and anger within police and prosecution services, where the overwhelming majority of staff act without bias and free of any favour or prejudice. The reputation of the many has been traduced by a few.

It was the former Lord Advocate’s decision, and seeking to cast blame on his predecessor was shameful and inadequate. An inquiry, perhaps even by a non-Scottish judicial figure, has been promised. Additionally, there is the financial cost. The quantum of damages is for the court, but suggestions are that the final bill could reach £60 million or £80 million—this in an organisation with an annual budget of £300 million, struggling to meet existing commitments. The price will be paid by Scottish taxpayers and the loss felt by hard-pressed Scottish public services.

Secondly, and just as alarming, has been the role of the Lord Advocate and a coterie around him within the Crown Office in the Alex Salmond case, and the fallout from it. It is another instance of the public having to pay the price of Government incompetence, with the legal expenses bill in the civil case amounting to £500,000, but where the issue of impartiality as well as competence was raised. In the civil case, the presiding judge described the Scottish Government’s actions as “unlawful”, “unfair” and “tainted by apparent bias”. During proceedings, senior external counsel, Roddy Dunlop QC, dean of the Faculty of Advocates, expressed horror at the situation he and his colleague had been put in by their client. They could no longer rest on pleadings they knew to be untrue. The client was the Government, and their senior legal adviser was the Lord Advocate. A criminal case followed the failed civil case and was prosecuted by the Crown Office, where the same Lord Advocate remained in office.

Despite growing pressures on police and prosecution, nothing has been spared—nothing has been too trivial—but the targets always seem selective. The Alex Salmond case saw resources deployed that are normally reserved for serious organised crime figures or serial killers, for charges that, were it not for who was being prosecuted, would either never have seen the light of day or appeared only in the lowest courts, not the High Court. I say that as someone who was Justice Secretary for seven and a half years but also a defence agent for 20 years. As it was, Mr Salmond was acquitted on all charges, by a majority female jury.

It is standard practice in cases involving politicians that the Lord Advocate recuses himself from involvement in the consideration or prosecution of the case, and that was done here, with no direct involvement in the prosecution. However, at the same time, the Lord Advocate had been, and was, sitting on Scottish Government committees dealing with the civil case, where referral or prosecution was being actively sought and advised by the Administration.

Let us recall that a prosecution was sought by the Scottish Government, as the actions of the director of human resources in contacting the police confirm. Many—indeed, most—complainers were and remain at the heart of Government, or are officials or otherwise closely linked with the governing party. Prosecution was encouraged and pressed for by the chief executive of the governing party, who is the First Minister’s husband.

Chinese walls and recusal are entirely inadequate. In one role, the Lord Advocate was supporting a Government pursuing prosecution; in another, he was denying that it was anything to do with him. A separation of powers this certainly was not. When James Wolffe appeared before the Holyrood Committee considering the Salmond prosecution, he was frankly evasive and obfuscating, mirroring the actions of the Crown and the Government in a lack of openness and transparency. There was neither contrition nor candour. Open government this certainly was not.

The fallout and failures continue to reverberate. Following on from the Alex Salmond case has been that of Craig Murray, a writer and former diplomat. His conviction is under appeal at the Supreme Court; accordingly, I refrain from commenting on specifics of the case. Instead, I restrict my remarks to the decision by the Crown to prosecute Mr Murray for jigsaw identification of complainers in the case. Why was he prosecuted when others who did so—in one case certainly overtly, and in many others much more flagrantly than by Mr Murray—were not? No action was taken against them.

Moreover, publications that in any other case would have constituted a clear contempt of court went without censure by the Crown. They included newspaper articles as prejudicial as I have ever seen, but they were supporting prosecution, whereas Mr Murray, though seeking to report factually, was not. It seems that the Crown has one law for those supporting the Government line and another for those who challenge it.

Click here to read the full transcript of Kenny MacAskill’s House of Common’s speech.

And here to read Craig Murray’s original post entitled “Keeping Freedom Alive”.

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