The return of George Orwell and Big Brother’s war on Palestine, Ukraine and the truth

John Pilger

The other night, I saw George Orwells's '1984' performed on the London stage. Although crying out for a contemporary interpretation, Orwell's warning about the future was presented as a period piece: remote, unthreatening, almost reassuring. It was as if Edward Snowden had revealed nothing, Big Brother was not now a digital eavesdropper and Orwell himself had never said, "To be corrupted by totalitarianism, one does not have to live in a totalitarian country."

Acclaimed by critics, the skilful production was a measure of our cultural and political times. When the lights came up, people were already on their way out. They seemed unmoved, or perhaps other distractions beckoned. "What a mindfuck," said the young woman, lighting up her phone.

As advanced societies are de-politicised, the changes are both subtle and spectacular. In everyday discourse, political language is turned on its head, as Orwell prophesised in '1984'. "Democracy" is now a rhetorical device. Peace is "perpetual war". "Global" is imperial. The once hopeful concept of "reform" now means regression, even destruction. "Austerity" is the imposition of extreme capitalism on the poor and the gift of socialism for the rich: an ingenious system under which the majority service the debts of the few.

In the arts, hostility to political truth-telling is an article of bourgeois faith. "Picasso's red period," says an Observer headline, "and why politics don't make good art." Consider this in a newspaper that promoted the bloodbath in Iraq as a liberal crusade. Picasso's lifelong opposition to fascism is a footnote, just as Orwell's radicalism has faded from the prize that appropriated his name.


Recent report confirms: US depleted uranium weapons targeted civilian areas in Iraq war

Barry Mason

Laid to Waste”, a report by the Dutch Catholic NGO Pax Christi International, confirms that US forces in Iraq used depleted uranium (DU) weapons in civilian areas during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

More than a decade later, DU is still harming people’s health. The impact of the use of DU in 2003 added to that resulting from the Gulf War of 1991.

Pax made field trips to Iraq in November 2013 and January 2014 to collect data for the report, visiting sites containing scrap metal remnants resulting from DU attacks. They interviewed people living or working nearby.

DU weapons are formed into dart-like projectiles from the remains of natural uranium, left when it is enriched to make nuclear weapons or for use in a nuclear reactor. It is mildly radioactive, but is extremely dense—1.7 times that of lead.

As well as being radioactive, it is chemically toxic. It was developed as a weapon to use against armour-plated objects like tanks and can be fired from planes, tanks or armoured vehicles. When fired the DU core of the projectile (the penetrator) penetrates the armour plating and burns fiercely, producing a radioactive and toxic dust.


Break the silence: a world war is beckoning

John Pilger

Why do we tolerate the threat of another world war in our name? Why do we allow lies that justify this risk? The scale of our indoctrination, wrote Harold Pinter, is a "brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis", as if the truth "never happened even while it was happening".

Every year the American historian William Blum publishes his "updated summary of the record of US foreign policy" which shows that, since 1945, the US has tried to overthrow more than 50 governments, many democratically elected; grossly interfered in elections in 30 countries; bombed the civilian populations of 30 countries; used chemical and biological weapons; and attempted to assassinate foreign leaders.

In many cases Britain has been a collaborator. The degree of human suffering, let alone criminality, is little acknowledged in the west, despite the presence of the world's most advanced communications and nominally freest journalism. That the most numerous victims of terrorism - "our" terrorism - are Muslims, is unsayable. That extreme jihadism, which led to 9/11[*], was nurtured as a weapon of Anglo-American policy (Operation Cyclone in Afghanistan) is suppressed. In April the US state department noted that, following Nato's campaign in 2011, "Libya has become a terrorist safe haven".

The name of "our" enemy has changed over the years, from communism to Islamism, but generally it is any society independent of western power and occupying strategically useful or resource-rich territory. The leaders of these obstructive nations are usually violently shoved aside, such as the democrats Muhammad Mossedeq in Iran and Salvador Allende in Chile, or they are murdered like Patrice Lumumba in the Congo. All are subjected to a western media campaign of caricature and vilification - think Fidel Castro, Hugo Chávez, now Vladimir Putin.

Washington's role in Ukraine is different only in its implications for the rest of us. For the first time since the Reagan years, the US is threatening to take the world to war. With eastern Europe and the Balkans now military outposts of Nato, the last "buffer state" bordering Russia is being torn apart. We in the west are backing neo-Nazis in a country where Ukrainian Nazis backed Hitler. Having masterminded the coup in February against the democratically elected government in Kiev, Washington's planned seizure of Russia's historic, legitimate warm-water naval base in Crimea failed. The Russians defended themselves, as they have done against every threat and invasion from the west for almost a century. But Nato's military encirclement has accelerated, along with US-orchestrated attacks on ethnic Russians in Ukraine. If Putin can be provoked into coming to their aid, his pre-ordained "pariah" role will justify a Nato-run guerrilla war that is likely to spill into Russia itself.


The Strangelove effect - or how we are hoodwinked into accepting a new world war

John Pilger

I watched Dr. Strangelove the other day. I have seen it perhaps a dozen times; it makes sense of senseless news. When Major T.J. 'King' Kong goes "toe to toe with the Rooskies" and flies his rogue B52 nuclear bomber to a target in Russia, it's left to General 'Buck' Turgidson to reassure the President. Strike first, says the general, and "you got no more than 10 to 20 million killed, tops."

President Merkin Muffley: "I will not go down in history as the greatest mass-murderer since Adolf Hitler."
General Turgidson: "Perhaps it might be better, Mr. President, if you were more concerned with the American people than with your image in the history books."

The genius of Stanley Kubrick's film is that it accurately represents the cold war's lunacy and dangers. Most of the characters are based on real people and real maniacs. There is no equivalent to Strangelove today, because popular culture is directed almost entirely at our interior lives, as if identity is the moral zeitgeist and true satire is redundant; yet the dangers are the same. The nuclear clock has remained at five minutes to midnight; the same false flags are hoisted above the same targets by the same "invisible government", as Edward Bernays, the inventor of public relations, described modern propaganda.

In 1964, the year Strangelove was made, "the missile gap" was the false flag. In order to build more and bigger nuclear weapons and pursue an undeclared policy of domination, President John Kennedy approved the CIA's propaganda that the Soviet Union was well ahead of the US in the production of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. This filled front pages as the "Russian threat". In fact, the Americans were so far ahead in the production of ICBMs, the Russians never approached them. The cold war was based largely on this lie.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US has ringed Russia with military bases, nuclear warplanes and missiles as part of its "Nato Enlargement Project". Reneging a US promise to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990 that Nato would not expand "one inch to the east", Nato has all but taken over eastern Europe. In the former Soviet Caucuses, Nato's military build-up is the most extensive since the second world war.


The forgotten coup - and how the godfather rules from Canberra to Kiev

John Pilger

Washington's role in the fascist putsch against an elected government in Ukraine will surprise only those who watch the news and ignore the historical record. Since 1945, dozens of governments, many of them democracies, have met a similar fate, usually with bloodshed.

Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries on earth with fewer people than Wales, yet under the reformist Sandinistas in the 1980s it was regarded in Washington as a "strategic threat". The logic was simple; if the weakest slipped the leash, setting an example, who else would try their luck?

The great game of dominance offers no immunity for even the most loyal US "ally". This is demonstrated by perhaps the least known of Washington's coups - in Australia. The story of this forgotten coup is a salutary lesson for those governments that believe a "Ukraine" or a "Chile" could never happen to them.

Australia's deference to the United States makes Britain, by comparison, seem a renegade. During the American invasion of Vietnam - which Australia had pleaded to join - an official in Canberra voiced a rare complaint to Washington that the British knew more about US objectives in that war than its antipodean comrade-in-arms. The response was swift: "We have to keep the Brits informed to keep them happy. You are with us come what may."


The truth about the criminal bloodbath in Iraq can't be 'countered' indefinitely

John Pilger

There will be a reckoning - not just for the Blairs, Straws and Campbells, but for those paid to keep the record straight.

The BBC's Today programme is enjoying high ratings, and the Mail and the Telegraph are, as usual, attacking the corporation as left-wing. Last month, a single edition of Today was edited by the artist and musician P.J. Harvey. What happened was illuminating.

Polly Harvey's guests caused panic from the moment she proposed the likes of Mark Curtis, an historian rarely heard on the BBC, who chronicles the crimes of the British state; and the lawyer Phil Shiner and journalist Ian Cobain, who reveal how the British kidnap and torture; and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange; and myself.

There were weeks of absurd negotiation at Broadcasting House about ways of "countering" us and whether or not we could be allowed to speak without interruption from Today's establishment choristers. What this brief insurrection demonstrated was the fear of a reckoning. The crimes of western states like Britain have made accessories of those in the media who suppress or minimise the carnage.


In India, a spectre for us all, and a resistance coming

John Pilger

In five-star hotels on Mumbai's seafront, children of the rich squeal joyfully as they play hide and seek. Nearby, at the National Theatre for the Performing Arts, people arrive for the Mumbai Literary Festival: famous authors and notables drawn from India's Raj class. They step deftly over a woman lying across the pavement, her birch brooms laid out for sale, her two children silhouettes in a banyan tree that is their home.

It is Children's Day in India. On page nine of the Times of India, a study reports that every second child is malnourished. Nearly two million children under the age of five die every year from preventable illness as common as diarrhoea. Of those who survive, half are stunted due to a lack of nutrients. The national school dropout rate is 40 per cent. Statistics like these flow like a river permanently in flood. No other country comes close. The small thin legs dangling in a banyan tree are poignant evidence.

The leviathan once known as Bombay is the centre for most of India's foreign trade, global financial dealing and personal wealth. Yet at low tide on the Mithi River, in ditches, at the roadside, people are forced to defecate. Half the city's population is without sanitation and lives in slums without basic services.

This has doubled since the 1990s when "Shining India" was invented by an American advertising firm as part of the Hindu nationalist BJP party's propaganda that it was "liberating" India's economy and "way of life". Barriers protecting industry, manufacturing and agriculture were demolished. Coke, Pizza Hut, Microsoft, Monsanto and Rupert Murdoch entered what had been forbidden territory.

Limitless "growth" was now the measure of human progress, consuming both the BJP and Congress, the party of independence. Shining India would catch up China and become a superpower, a "tiger", and the middle classes would get their proper entitlement in a society where there was no middle. As for the majority in the "world's largest democracy", they would vote and remain invisible. There was no tiger economy for them.


Mandela is gone, but apartheid is alive and well in Australia

John Pilger

In the late 1960s, I was given an usual assignment by the London Daily Mirror's editor in chief, Hugh Cudlipp. I was to return to my homeland, Australia, and "discover what lies behind the sunny face". The Mirror had been an indefatigable campaigner against apartheid in South Africa, where I had reported from behind the "sunny face". As an Australian, I had been welcomed into this bastion of white supremacy. "We admire you Aussies," people would say. "You know how to deal with your blacks."

I was offended, of course, but I also knew that only the Indian Ocean separated the racial attitudes of the two colonial nations. What I was not aware of was how the similarity caused such suffering among the original people of my own country. Growing up, my school books had made clear, to quote one historian: "We are civilised, and they are not". I remember how a few talented Aboriginal Rugby League players were allowed their glory as long as they never mentioned their people. Eddie Gilbert, the great Aboriginal cricketer, the man who bowled Don Bradman for a duck, was to be prevented from playing again. That was not untypical.


Mandela's Disturbing Legacy

Stephen Lendman

On December 5, Mandela died peacefully at home in Johannesburg. Cause of death was respiratory failure. He was 95. Supporters called him a dreamer of big dreams. His legacy fell woefully short. More on that below.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation, Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, and Mandela Rhodes Foundation issued the following statement:

"It is with the deepest regret that we have learned of the passing of our founder, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela - Madiba. The Presidency of the Republic of South Africa will shortly make further official announcements. We want to express our sadness at this time. No words can adequately describe this enormous loss to our nation and to the world. We give thanks for his life, his leadership, his devotion to humanity and humanitarian causes. We salute our friend, colleague and comrade and thank him for his sacrifices for our freedom. The three charitable organisations that he created dedicate ourselves to continue promoting his extraordinary legacy."

He'll be buried according to his wishes in Qunu village. It's where he grew up. In 1943, he joined the African National Congress (ANC). He co-founded its Youth League.

He defended what he later called Thatcherism. On trial for alleged Sabotage Act violations, he said in court:

"The ANC has never at any period of its history advocated a revolutionary change in the economic structure of the country, nor has it, to the best of my recollection, ever condemned capitalist society."


One of the truest journalists is a cartoonist armed with a penguin

John Pilger

In its bid to continue lawlessly spying on almost everyone, Britain's "intelligence" and "security" establishment has launched an assault on the Guardian. Such is the rise of the totalitarian state that the secret police enter a newspaper to witness the smashing of computer hard-drives, as happened at the Guardian, and the government, via a poodle MP, can call for the paper's prosecution for treason. As if to prove its respectability, the Guardian has sought the endorsement of notables, including Nick Clegg, Harold Evans and other specialists in faint praise.

The most effective defender of the paper is not one of these. He has shaggy dark hair and a beard - or he did when I last saw him. For more than 20 years I have turned to his work as you would reach for coffee in the morning. He is outrageous, anarchic, brilliant, sometimes inexplicable and a bit mad (not really). For those who doubt the truth is subversive and often absurd, I point them towards two pages in the Guardian, where he resides.

Only Steve Bell exposes consistently, fearlessly, the bullshit of "public life". Indeed, his characters are often drowning in or water-skiing on the stuff. "Right, that's it," says the last governor of the Bank of England, Sir Mervyn King, to Gordon Brown, then prime minister, and chancellor Alistair Darling, "heads down, tea break over!" They are up to their chins in a tank of turds.

Steve Bell is a cartoonist and a true journalist with few rivals. He is Hogarth and Swift with a touch of Peter Sellers and a sprinkling of Orwell. He is more of an English original than one of his prime targets, Margaret Thatcher, the former petit-bourgeois totem. Often using the wickedly all-seeing penguin star of his strip, "If..." he rumbled both Thatcher and her protege, Blair, early in their criminal ascendancy.

While his Guardian colleagues swooned over Blair as a mystic of the "Third Way", Steve Bell planted Thatcher's crazed eye on Blair's rictus mask. A print of that first appearance of the Thatcher/Blair eye, which he sent me, hangs in pride of place, though the gaze is disconcerting. Opening the Guardian news pages recently to find Blair boasting about his ability to absorb "the sense of pain" of others was like reading a Steve Bell cartoon.


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