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by Tom H. Hastings
Reinvade, reoccupy, and redestroy Iraq. That is the solution to the inevitable civil war that happens when the US pulls out? Will we do it until either Iraq is remade in our image or until the US economy, political environment, and culture is also destroyed?
Eight years ago a group of Portland peace activists raised the funds to bring together a number of experts to produce an exit strategy from Iraq. Ours was done, as it turns out, at the same time that the Iraq Study Group did their work. We were just unaware that the government had finally at long last decided maybe it was time to think Exit Plan. Duh. I expect we were all simply inspired and challenged by the insightful and cogent strategy published shortly before in the widely cited peer-reviewed journal, The Onion.
Still, despite the obvious--and our group, which was informed by military experts and conflict transformation experts alike, noted well that no matter when the US left the Iraqis would have a bloody civil war and settle on a new autocratic government that shot its way to power and repressed its citizenry--it took the US three more years to begin to leave, longer to finish leaving, and now the correctly predicted violent settling-out process is happening in earnest.
Naturally, the US conflict industry is dismayed when the US isn't spending every last centavo on weaponry and other military profiteering contracts. Time to respond! Go bomb! Send in "advisers." No-fly attacks, hunt down insurgents with drones and war jets. Remobilize US troops because if there is one glaringly blatant truth, proxy troops no longer work in this post-Cold War era. They seemed to be Just Fine and a great way to drain the American taxpayer when their loyalty was fairly dependable. But the era of "he may be a son of a bitch but he's our son of a bitch" (ascribed a bit dubiously to FDR about our boy Somoza, the Nicaraguan dictator) is over. Our SOBs are now routinely driven from power by the ballot, the bullet, or the bodies--that is, by the elections we no longer control, by violent insurgencies, or by civil society nonviolent revolution.
Stop it. Stop interfering in other countries. Stop sending arms. Stop the drones. Just support civil society with helpful and requested aid, never guns or tanks or war jets or anti-insurgent helicopters or anti-government rocket-propelled grenade launchers. And for any chance of success, keep US troops at home. Let Iraqis work it through and then try to be a friend to their citizenry with our goods of life. It may not be as fast as the "I've got a gun to your head so go vote!" model of spreading "democracy" that is favored by our leaders and our military industrial congressional complex, but it is the only one that actually works. Can we please start now?
Dr. Tom H. Hastings is PeaceVoiceDirector.
To: U.S. Congress, President, Department of "Defense"
Stop arming Iraq. And do not bomb or send in troops. Remove U.S. drones immediately. Pursue a ceasefire and negotiations, working through the United Nations and the Arab League.
Why is this important?
Iraq needs actual aid, not "military aid." A policy of promoting, facilitating, and engaging in violence has produced nothing but disasters for decades.
To: U.S. Congress, President, Department of "Defense"
We call on the U.S. government to work with other NATO governments to cancel the Rapid Trident exercise, and to commit to not participating in military exercises in Ukraine.
Why is this important?
We note with great concern that U.S. and other NATO troops are scheduled to participate in joint military exercises in Ukraine in July as part of NATO’s Rapid Trident maneuvers. Ukraine is not a member of NATO. Its participation in military exercises by a nuclear-armed alliance with a first-strike policy can only further destabilize the country.
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A lead article on CNN today reads as follows: ‘Fellow soldiers call Bowe Bergdahl a deserter, not a hero.’
It seems that one is defining the term ‘hero’ in a rather odd way, if one can’t consider a deserter a hero. Let’s look first at what desertion from the U.S. military means, in terms of actions and possible consequences, and then more specifically at Mr. Bergdahl’s particular situation, or at least what is currently known of it.
Comedian Lee Camp premiered a never-before-televised video of former CIA Director General David Petraeus — who now serves as Chairman of the Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR)'s Global Institute — introduced in front of the North Dakota National Guard by Treasurer Kelly Schmidt at an April 29 event in Bismarck, North Dakota.
By Dave Lindorff
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
North Dakota Treasurer Kelly Schmidt has responded to DeSmogBlog's investigation of the Bakken Shale basin fracking field trip her office facilitated for former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus, who now works at the Manhattan-based private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR).
By Dave Lindorff
I was shocked to find myself in almost perfect agreement today with a recent column by the neoconservative pundit Charles Krauthammer.
Usually Krauthammer has me groaning, but yesterday his column nailed it.
- Fought to protect corporate America’s $50,000,000.00 investment in Cuba during the Spanish-American War;
- Died on foreign shores during World War I in what President Woodrow Wilson, who involved the U.S. in that war, later said “…in its inception, was a commercial and industrial war;”
- Sacrificed so much in World War II while U.S. companies, with U.S. government approval, continually supplied the Axis powers with goods that U.S. citizens had to ration, including materials used to help kill Allied soldiers;
- Suffered and died in Korea, to safeguard and ensure the expansion of U.S. trade throughout the region;
- Endured the hell of the Vietnam War to satisfy the egos of three presidents, and help ensure their elections and re-elections;
- Fought in the heat of the Iraqi and Kuwaiti deserts to protect Western oil sources;
The media is awash with information about a potential presidential run by Hillary Clinton. She has the overwhelming support of Democrats, unparalleled name-recognition, and the assurance of more money for her campaign than either candidate had in the historically-expensive Obama-Romney match-up of 2012. Her credentials – mastermind of her husband’s comeback campaign for Governor of Arkansas, former first lady, former senator from a heavily populated state, presidential candidate, former Secretary of State – look very impressive, if one doesn’t look too closely. However, it is high time one did so.
By John Grant
I met Janet Burroway when I was a Vietnam veteran on the GI Bill at Florida State University and I signed up for a creative writing workshop she was just hired to teach. She was a worldly, published novelist seven years older than me. She had just left an oppressive husband, a Belgian, who was an important theater director in London where she’d been to parties with the likes of Samuel Beckett. I graduate in 1973, and in a turn of events that still amazes me, I asked her out and ended up living with her for a couple years. She had two beautiful boys, Tim, 9, and Toby, 6, who I grew to love.
"I have unconditional support for our brave men and women serving America overseas, as well as for their families. As our military commanders have said, we must remain steadfast in a clear strategy to defeat the insurgency and prevent Iraq from again becoming a safe-haven for international terrorists. I think that the withdrawal of our troops should be based on the conditions on the ground, not political agendas."
When WAS Iraq a safe-haven for international terrorists?
What American men and women (as opposed to weapons) are now "serving" in Iraq?
Does the Congressman have Iraq and Afghanistan confused?
And should a government that can't keep all of its wars straight still be fighting them?
And should it hide its decision to engage in these murderous expeditions behind pretended concern for the young people sent to do the killing?
April 25, 2014
Dear Mr. Swanson:
Thank you for your recent communication concerning the United States' current involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. I appreciate your taking the time to express your thoughts on this important matter. I am grateful for the privilege of representing you and serving as a voice for the citizens of Virginia's Fifth District.
I have unconditional support for our brave men and women serving America overseas, as well as for their families. As our military commanders have said, we must remain steadfast in a clear strategy to defeat the insurgency and prevent Iraq from again becoming a safe-haven for international terrorists. I think that the withdrawal of our troops should be based on the conditions on the ground, not political agendas. We must not embolden the terrorists who believe that free societies will cave under the pressure of their violent acts. My highest priority is to safeguard our homeland. Please be assured that I will continue to monitor the conditions on the ground and will keep your thoughts in mind as events in Afghanistan and Iraq continue to unfold.
I hope you will stay connected to our office with updates on the latest news, legislation, and other useful information, by signing up for our e-newsletter on our website, hurt.house.gov. Thank you again for your communication and please do not hesitate to contact our office with any future questions or comments.
By Kathy Moorhead Thiessen, CPTnet
Streamers of blue, green, yellow and brown election pennants crisscrossed over the street and almost blocked out the sun. The symbols of the major parties in Iraqi Kurdistan for the 30 April election dominated the landscape. However, on Tuesday, 15 April, new flags waved from hand-held flagpoles. Many Syrian Kurds who have fled their country because of the turmoil marched through the streets of Sulaimani. They were crying out because the government of the region in which they have taken refuge has decided to create a dividing ditch. The KDP (Kurdish Democratic Party) that governs the area of Iraqi Kurdistan bordering Syria has sent workers, bulldozers, and security guards to facilitate the digging. It claims that the seventeen-kilometers-long, three-meters-deep, and two-meters-wide ditch will prevent terrorists and smugglers from entering the autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq.
However, the people of Rojava/Western/Syrian Kurdistan and their Iraqi Kurd supporters see the ditch differently. One man CPT’s Iraqi Kurdistan team spoke to said, “After WWI Britain drew lines that artificially separated the Kurds into four countries. Now Kurds are dividing Kurds from Kurds with ditches.”
Opinions about what is happening on the border—who is responsible and why they are doing it fly fast and furious. Kamal Chomani, an independent journalist in Iraqi Kurdistan told the team, “The root of this is that KDP wants to have power in Rojava and PYD (Democratic Union Party), the party in power there, won’t let them. KDP have some small “puppet parties” in Rojava but they don't have much support. PYD don't accept the demands of KDP. So closing the border is a way to punish them and put pressure on them.”
The political parties deny these allegations against them. But whatever the reason for the ditch, the ordinary people who have already experienced the trauma of war suffer the most. In the last week, there have also been several demonstrations on the Syrian side of the border, joined by men and women, old and young who are upset by the closing of the border. Some people showed their desperation by trying to fill in the ditches. They want to be able to go to Iraqi Kurdistan to work, have access to hospitals or to buy goods that are unavailable in Syria. Now they are denied these opportunities by other Kurds.
Taking the low road to war: Washington and the Corporate Media are in Full Propaganda Mode on Ukraine
By Dave Lindorff
The lies, propaganda and rank hypocrisy emanating from Washington, and echoed by the US corporate media regarding events in Ukraine are stunning and would be laughable, but for the fact that they appear to be aimed at conditioning the US public for increasing confrontation with Russia – confrontation which could easily tip over the edge into direct military conflict, with consequences that are too dreadful to contemplate.
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
At the just-completed U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing titled, "The Geopolitical Potential of the U.S. Energy Boom," Admiral Dennis Blair — former Director of National Intelligence, President and CEO of Institute for Defense Analyses and Commander in Chief of U.S. Pacific Command — admitted what's still considered conspiratorial to some.
Put tersely: the U.S. and allied forces launched the ongoing occupation in Iraq and occupy large swaths of the Middle East to secure the flow of oil to the U.S. and its global allies, explained Blair.
This case is a lawsuit against key members of the Bush Administration: Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Powell and Rice.
Not funny, but it’s still hard not to laugh: How Can the US Accuse Russia of Violating International Law?
By Dave Lindorff
If you want to make moral or legal pronouncements, or to condemn bad behavior, you have to be a moral, law-abiding person yourself. It is laughable when we see someone like Rush Limbaugh criticizing drug addicts or a corrupt politician like former Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) voting for more prisons, more cops, and tougher rules against appeals of sentences.
The same thing goes for nations.
By Dave Lindorff
US Secretary of State John Kerry is a man of many convictions--many of them in open conflict with one another.
Recall that back in 2004, while trying to unseat President George W. Bush, he famously told students at Marshall University who wanted to know his stand on the US invasion of Iraq, that he “actually did vote for” a bill funding the war “before I voted against it.”
The following was written by Art Laffin during his visit to the Amariyah Shelter in Iraq on Feb. 13, 1998, the 7th anniversary of the bombing.
by Art Laffin
February 13, 1991, 4:00 a.m.
Over 1,000 Iraqis, mostly women and children still sleeping, take refuge from the terror of U.S. bombs at a shelter in Amariyah, just outside Baghdad.
For several days a surveillance plane had flown over the shelter. U.S. officials say they think Saddam Hussein is there. The U.S. military knows different. A decision is made in secret by President George Bush, Defense (War) Secretary Dick Cheney and General Colin Powell — bomb the shelter, massacre the innocents!
First one “smart” bomb is dropped to make an opening in the roof, killing scores of people. Then, through the opening, another bomb falls, reaching deep into the shelter basement, killing everyone in its path. In total, nearly a thousand Iraqis are murdered, women and children burned alive. No more than 17 survive. I see flesh still seared on a wall under the basement stairway. People, reduced to mere shadows, form a human silhouette on the stone wall.
A replay of Auschwitz, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Vietnam, El Salvador, Panama.
The crime, premeditated and barbarous.
The sin, mortal.
The perpetrators unrepentant!
Seven years later, eight peacemakers from the U.S. and the U.K. come to pay homage to the victims at this shelter,
Photos and drawings of the dead adorn the walls of the shelter.
We repent, we mourn, we witness
the ongoing nightmare of the survivors.
We eight do what we can –
to console the mourners,
offering love and solidarity to the Iraqi people, already crucified to a cross of economic sanctions.
We stand with the victims, the children, seeking to stay the death-dealing hand of the U.S. empire.
I'd like to insert a joke about "freedom is on the march!" here but am too disgusted to do it. I just received a lengthy report from Dr. Muhamad Al-Darraji, President of CCER (Conservation Center of Environmental & Reserves), Fallujah City, Iraq (PDF, Doc). It documents the attacks of the past year on the people of Fallujah by the government of Iraq. The U.S. government has rushed weapons to the Iraqi government for this assault. A petition opposing further U.S. arms sales to the government that decades of U.S. violence left behind in Iraq is here.
By John Mesler
As I've watched the events unfold in the mid-east over the past 24 years it has become alarmingly clear to me that we didn't invade Iraq in 2003 because we thought they had weapons of mass destruction. We lied. We knew they did NOT have them. Well, at least 6 or 7 "decision and policy makers" knew they didn't. I will explain this the best I can but we now know that mostly every other nation in the world (including the United Nations weapons investigative team which included Scott Ritter) knew it back then. But Still we invaded. The US, the UK, Saudi Arabia and Israel were in on the plan. The plan I'm speaking of is called the Plan for the New American Century (PNAC) and to understand exactly what it is I would suggest that you google General Wesley Clark's 9 minute speech in which he mentions 2 meetings he had in 2002 with a liaison from then Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld office. Generally speaking that plan (which was laid out in about 1997) called for the US to control 7 countries including Libya, Syria ,Iraq and Iran.
I believe that the architects of the plan (Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and others) were so sure that the anti-Muslim, anti-Mid-east feelings among Americans brought on by media lies over the past 25 years would allow them to get away with almost anything. If they created a big enough lie they could get the American people to "go along" with their plan.They had to act fast and they did. 9/11 served as the perfect "incentive" to begin their plan.I also believe that they had the perfect president to "sell" this plan to the people. I may be wrong but I believe President George W. Bush believed the lie. He simply doesn't have the intellect or talent to lie so convincingly to the American public. He was the perfect president at the perfect time for the real "evil doers", Cheney and company. In1953 when we were involved with over-throwing the democratically elected leader of Iran, Mossadegh, it was easier to get away with the covert actions that our CIA carried out.The only surprise there was that it took 26 years for the Iranians to over-throw our puppet, the Shah of Iran and begin their own Islamic revolution.Today we have become much craftier .We use the corporate owned (and controlled) media to garner popular support. You may come to the same conclusion as to what's really been going on in Iraq from 2003 to this day.I believe we attacked Iraq hoping that it would bring about exactly what is occurring there now.
Chaos.Rumsfeld had to know we wouldn't be "showered with flowers" from thankful Iraqi's, as he stated in 2003.Our plan, in my opinion, was to create more turmoil in the mid-east so we could "install" yet another puppet regime.We had to know that Maliki would do what-ever we asked and that he would need our help in doing so.I wont get into the complicated issues now of ideological analysis and the imperialist-capitalist nature of the use and its rulers neoconservatives, neo-liberals, and Zionists who plan these wars and stand behind them , all driven by greed. Or will I get into what is the comprador nature of Arab reaction such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia who place themselves willingly in the service of imperialism against the interest of their own people and of the Arab nation. The help I speak of comes in the form of selling more weapons to Maliki's sectarian government and in return we get protection for the "green zone" (the largest area of it's kind in the world which is home to the US Embassy,private military contractors and major US consulting companies.It's size is 3.9 sq. miles) ,a guarantee of keeping the oil flowing to us from the worlds second largest oil reserve and Israel benefits by keeping these countries weak and in constant turmoil,thereby "distracted".In a way, what we've created in the mid-east is like a 5 ring circus. As all your attention is on one act you have little or no idea what's going on in the other 4 rings.
By Robert C. Koehler
Iraq vet Ross Caputi’s film opens with a fleeting synopsis of the American heartbreak — and the bandage we tape across it.
His documentary, Fear Not the Path of Truth, is about the U.S. devastation of Fallujah, in which he participated as part of Operation Phantom Fury in November 2004, but the first couple minutes give us an overview of his hometown, the “former industrial city” of Fitchburg, Mass.:
“But the factory jobs are long gone, so there’s really only two types of people that live here. They’re the people with good-paying jobs in Boston or Wooster who come out here to build big houses at relatively cheap prices. Everyone else gets by doing work on those houses, doing their lawns, putting additions on them, painting them.
“If there was a point of unity among all the racial and economic divisions in this little city, it had to be the troops. Everyone respected the troops.”
I was struck especially hard by this small moment because it encapsulates the lie of militarism where it is most invulnerable: at the humanity of the men and women who protect us, putting their lives on the line. When all else goes wrong, the troops remain sacred. In a broken economy, the troops are sacred. Militarism is the god we can manipulate.
And yet the moment to expel this lie from human society has never been riper. The trans-national cost of militarism is some $2 trillion a year, according to an ambitious new website called World Beyond War. The insanity of war not only squanders our resources, ravages the environment and slaughters the innocent, it perpetuates a global culture of violence, which is the very thing we honor our troops for protecting us from.
“Unless we want to risk catastrophic loss or even extinction, we must abolish war,” according to the site’s introductory statement. This puts it in the biggest context possible. We cannot settle for less.
“Every war brings with it both massive destruction and the risk of uncontrolled escalation. We are facing a world of greater weapons proliferation, resource shortages, environmental pressures, and the largest human population the earth has seen. In such a turbulent world, we must abolish sustained and coordinated militarized combat between groups (primarily governments) known as war, because its continuation puts all life on the planet at risk.”
And yet . . . the next war we enjoin will be fully funded and garner the support of most of the public. The current military budget keeps growing even as the country reels from the consequences of its most recent military rampages. The government continues to develop new generations of weapons to perfect and perpetuate its ability to eliminate all life on Earth in a context of almost complete acquiescence. The interests of continued war permeate the highest levels of political and economic power and control the mainstream media. How do war’s abolitionists stand a chance?
Ross Caputi, who came home a hero, begins to answer this question, or at least brings hope to those who ask it.
“It didn’t feel right to me, but I couldn’t put it into words,” he said. This was post-Phantom Fury, when he was back home, being applauded by his friends and by the media.
He’d been part of the most devastating carnage of the Iraq war. The city of Fallujah — “center of resistance” to the American occupation — was taught a big, bad lesson. Thousands were killed. The city was destroyed and, for good measure, saturated with depleted uranium dust, the equivalent of nuclear fallout. Yet the “we’re number one!” mentality was everywhere. A video game about the siege of Fallujah was in the works.
“Afterward it was rubble. The whole country said we were heroes, but it was a confusing experience. I decided I was not going to let Fallujah be a skeleton in my closet for the rest of my life.”
He told me: “I started to do a lot of reading. I was also drinking and doing drugs. Eventually the books won out.” These included Howard Zinn’s A Peoples History of the United States. “That was a game changer,” he said.
Caputi’s “confusion” over the devastation of Fallujah eventually turned into informed political activism. He joined with others to create a website called Justice for Fallujah and began spreading the word that the siege of the city was a war crime. A donation allowed him to makeFear Not the Path of Truth, his journey beyond the military mindset. One of the documentary’s appealing features is its honest inquiry into the psychology of war, beginning with his own manipulation.
“I struggle to even explain how something like Fallujah, so obviously wrong, seemed acceptable at the time,” he says to Kathleen Malley-Morrison, a psychology professor. “Even obvious things like kicking women and children out of their homes, forcing them to flee into the desert, then destroying their homes. I managed to believe what our command was telling us, that we were doing this for their own good. How is that possible?”
The question is an open wound, so utterly basic to war and its abolition. Malley-Morrison discusses the cognitive tricks that allow good people to behave inhumanely: dehumanizing the enemy, ignoring or minimizing the consequences of one’s actions.
Later Caputi asks another professor, Sohail Hashmi, about the differences between “insurgent,” “terrorist” and “jihadist” — terms the U.S. military used as casually interchangeable epithets for the enemy — and absorbs Hashmi’s discussion of the meaning of “jihad”: a Muslim’s struggle to be true to his faith and do the right thing.
The interviewees also include Noam Chomsky, who makes the point that the GIs, caught in the middle of the vortex of war, are far less to blame for their confusion over the wrong that was occurring than the politicians and editors at a comfortable remove from the hellish action, who also saw nothing wrong with the devastation of Fallujah.
At one point, Chomsky expresses wonderment that, on day one of Phantom Fury, the New York Times gleefully reported on the U.S. seizure of Fallujah General Hospital, deemed a “propaganda center” for the insurgents because it was reporting casualty figures. The paper even ran a photo on the front page of doctors and patients lying shackled on the floor of the hospital. How could they manage not to notice, Chomsky wanted to know, that this was a war crime in progress?
In February, Caputi’s documentary screens in Fitchburg. And the abolition movement takes another step forward.
Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound (Xenos Press), is still available. Contact him at email@example.com or visit his website at commonwonders.com.
© 2014 TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, INC.
Iraqis and U.S. military veterans are coming together to hold the U.S. government accountable for the lasting effects of war and to demand the right to heal.
By John Grant
US military history from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan is too often a combination of destructive stumbling around followed by an effort to sustain and project forward the notion of US power and exceptionalism. To forge another narrative is very difficult.
Audio and transcript BBC Radio 4 Today, Jan. 2, 2014
January 05, 2014 "Information Clearing House - When I travelled in Iraq in the 1990s, the two principal Moslem groups, the Shia and Sunni, had their differences but they lived side by side, even intermarried and regarded themselves with pride as Iraqis. There was no Al Qaida, there were no jihadists. We blew all that to bits in 2003 with 'shock and awe'. And today Sunni and Shia are fighting each other right across the Middle East.
A majority said that fewer than 10,000 had been killed. Scientific studies report that up to a million Iraqi men, women and children died in an inferno lit by the British government and its ally in Washington. That's the equivalent of the genocide in Rwanda. And the carnage goes on. Relentlessly.
What this reveals is how we in Britain have been misled by those whose job is to keep the record straight. The American writer and academic Edward Herman calls this 'normalising the unthinkable'. He describes two types of victims in the world of news: 'worthy victims' and 'unworthy victims'. 'Worthy victims' are those who suffer at the hands of our enemies: the likes of Assad, Qadaffi, Saddam Hussein. 'Worthy victims' qualify for what we call 'humanitarian intervention'.
'Unworthy victims' are those who get in the way of our punitive might and that of the 'good dictators' we employ. Saddam Hussein was once a 'good dictator' but he got uppity and disobedient and was relegated to 'bad dictator'.
In Indonesia, General Suharto was a 'good dictator', regardless of his slaughter of perhaps a million people, aided by the governments of Britain and America. He also wiped out a third of the population of East Timor with the help of British fighter aircraft and British machine guns. Suharto was even welcomed to London by the Queen and when he died peacefully in his bed, he was lauded as enlightened, a moderniser, one of us. Unlike Saddam Hussein, he never got uppity.
When I travelled in Iraq in the 1990s, the two principal Moslem groups, the Shia and Sunni, had their differences but they lived side by side, even intermarried and regarded themselves with pride as Iraqis. There was no Al Qaida, there were no jihadists. We blew all that to bits in 2003 with 'shock and awe'. And today Sunni and Shia are fighting each other right across the Middle East.
This mass murder is being funded by the regime in Saudi Arabia which beheads people and discriminates against women. Most of the 9/11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia. In 2010, Wikileaks released a cable sent to US embassies by the Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. She wrote this: "Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support for Al Qaeda, the Taliban, al Nusra and other terrorist groups... worldwide". And yet the Saudis are our valued allies. They're good dictators. The British royals visit them often. We sell them all the weapons they want.
I use the first person 'we' and 'our' in line with newsreaders and commentators who often say 'we', preferring not to distinguish between the criminal power of our governments and us, the public. We are all assumed to be part of a consensus: Tory and Labour, Obama's White House too. When Nelson Mandela died, the BBC went straight to David Cameron, then to Obama. Cameron who went to South Africa during Mandela's 25th year of imprisonment on a trip that was tantamount to support for the apartheid regime, and Obama who recently shed a tear in Mandela's cell on Robben Island - he who presides over the cages of Guantanamo.
What were they really mourning about Mandela? Clearly not his extraordinary will to resist an oppressive system whose depravity the US and British governments backed year after year. Rather they were grateful for the crucial role Mandela had played in quelling an uprising in black South Africa against the injustice of white political and economic power. This was surely the only reason he was released. Today the same ruthless economic power is apartheid in another form, making South Africa the most unequal society on earth. Some call this "reconciliation".
We all live in an information age - or so we tell each other as we caress our smart phones like rosary beads, heads down, checking, monitoring, tweeting. We're wired; we're on message; and the dominant theme of the message is ourselves. Identity is the zeitgeist. A lifetime ago in 'Brave New World', Aldous Huxley predicted this as the ultimate means of social control because it was voluntary, addictive and shrouded in illusions of personal freedom. Perhaps the truth is that we live not in an information age but a media age. Like the memory of Mandela, the media's wondrous technology has been hijacked. From the BBC to CNN, the echo chamber is vast.
In his acceptance of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005, Harold Pinter spoke about a "manipulation of power worldwide, while masquerading as a force for universal good, a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis." But, said Pinter, "it never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest."
Pinter was referring to the systematic crimes of the United States and to an undeclared censorship by omission - that is, leaving out crucial information that might help us make sense of the world.
Today liberal democracy is being replaced by a system in which people are accountable to a corporate state - not the other way round as it should be. In Britain, the parliamentary parties are devoted to the same doctrine of care for the rich and struggle for the poor. This denial of real democracy is an historic shift. It's why the courage of Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange is such a threat to the powerful and unaccountable. And it's an object lesson for those of us who are meant to keep the record straight. The great reporter Claud Cockburn put it well: "Never believe anything until it's officially denied".
Imagine if the lies of governments had been properly challenged and exposed as they secretly prepared to invade Iraq - perhaps a million people would be alive today.
This is a transcript of John Pilger's contribution to a special edition of BBC Radio 4's 'Today' programme, on 2 January 2014, guest-edited by the artist and musician Polly Harvey.