A Difficult Question for PM Najib: To Convict Anwar Ibrahim or Not ?


October 25, 2014

A Difficult Question for PM Najib: To Convict Anwar Ibrahim or Not ?

by Kim Quek@www.malaysiakini.com

http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/278560

Support AnwarMassive Support for Anwar: A Factor?

Few would doubt that the outcome of the final appeal of Anwar Ibrahim on October 28 and 29 against his sodomy conviction will be decided by politics, not by law. More specifically, the court’s verdict will likely be determined by UMNO’s political considerations on the impact of such final judgment.

Two main factors will decide Anwar’s fate. The first is UMNO’s answer to this question: Will the jailing of Anwar be a net gain for UMNO’s political survival? The second is the outcome of the competitive influence on the Judiciary between Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and the conservative faction led by former Premier Mahathir Mohamad.

Imprisoning Anwar will save UMNO?

Will UMNO be safe after Anwar is put away to prison? It is the popular believe that once Anwar is jailed, the alliance of Pakatan Rakyat will disintegrate. Many in UMNO think that without the cementing factor of Anwar, DAP and PAS will part company due to their ideological differences over mainly religious issues. Such common notion is strengthened by the errant conduct of PAS in the recent Selangor crisis.

However, a closer look into that event will reveal that the trouble created by PAS was mainly caused by PAS President Hadi Awang and the conservative ulama, who seemed bent on going loggerheads with  PKR and DAP in the choice of MB for Selangor, despite being opposed by the party’s progressive and pro-Pakatan faction.

Though Hadi had managed to overrule the progressives in that episode, the latter were clearly in the majority in the central committee which is the party’s highest body for political decision making and implementation.

It is plain to all that Hadi’s (left)) extremist and reactionary stance on religion and politics, which has alienated both PKR and DAP and rejected by all non-Muslims and the moderate Muslims, is sheer political suicide for his party.  Unless Hadi changes his stance or is removed from power, PAS will be heading for obliteration in coming elections.

For this reason, I think even the conservatives will realise this unpalatable reality, given time and persuasion to chew over the fatal consequences of so decisively alienating such large and important sectors of the electorate; and the progressives who fervently believe and support the common cause of good governance and social justice of Pakatan Rakyat will surely prevail in the current power tussle and gain clear power by the next party election the latest.

When that happens, PAS will emerge stronger, so will Pakatan Rakyat, considering the excellent rapport existing between PAS’s progressive leaders and their counterparts in PKR and DAP.

The torch of Reformasi will be passed on

pakatan300Can PR hang together?

Anwar’s departure to prison will not leave a vacuum, as the Reformasi ideals are already firmly implanted into the leadership of all the component parties of Pakatan Rakyat. Neither would Anwar’s PKR party suffer a leadership deficit, as its youthful leaders are already groomed to carry on the torch of reforms without Anwar’s physical presence.

If there is any difference, Anwar in prison will only inspire and strengthen their political conviction that, come what come may, they must save the country from the seemingly unending crutches of an evil regime.

To those UMNO hardliners gleefully looking forward to what they think is the political annihilation of Anwar, I advise them to take a trip down memory lane. The last time Anwar was jailed on such sodomy charge in 1998, it caused such a torrential backlash that UMNO, for the only time in history, lost the support of the majority of Malays.  And Barisan Nasional (BN) would have been defeated in that 1999 elections, if not for the massive and unprecedented swing of Chinese support to BN.

That swing was a result of BN’s campaign of deception through a blitzkrieg on street violence against Chinese in Jakarta in the aftermath of the toppling of dictator Suharto, Mahathir’s constant warning of a May 13 style racial riot and the concocted imminence of an Islamic state under PAS.

Fifteen years on, the political scenario has much changed.  The sound and fury of the Malay masses that greeted the previous sodomy trial of Anwar is no more found in the current trial.  But, equally if not more important, is the virtual permanent alienation of Chinese electoral support for BN.

Taking the 2013 election as benchmark, where Pakatan’s 52 percent share of the popular votes is estimated to comprise 40 percent of Malays and 75-80 percent Chinese, and there were dozens of seats lost to BN on thin margins, BN can ill afford to lose even a small swath of Malay votes, keeping in mind that the massive swing of Chinese support to Pakatan in the last two general elections in 2013 and 2008 is virtually irreversible.

Is UMNO so sure that the second-time jailing of Anwar on sodomy will not incur a backlash among Malays, though understandably less sweeping than the previous occasion? The rapid advance of the social media has made our people much better informed now. If UMNO couldn’t hide the injustice against Anwar fifteen years ago, it is even less able to do the same this time.

Take it that the majority know what is going on, and it is certainly not to the credit of Najib’s leadership and government to so savagely maul Anwar yet again, with a trial which is manifestly void of merits in fact and in law. Keeping silent does not mean ignorance or approval. Beneath the calm on the surface, hazardous undercurrents could be running that may cause fatal consequences to the perpetrators of such injustice.  UMNO is hence advised to look before it leaps.

Mahathir vs Najib

Mahathir-Vs-NajibThe Games They Play

The other main factor that may impact the court verdict is the current power tussle between Najib and Mahathir. For Mahathir, it is a relatively simple decision.  Eliminate what is to him UMNO’s enemy No1 would safeguard UMNO’s hegemony, as well as dodging the day of reckoning for him personally if Anwar were to become the prime minister.

Besides, with Anwar removed from the scene, Mahathir would feel free to unleash his fury to unseat Najib without the worry of the dreaded Anwar to take advantage of UMNO’s open rift. However, Najib may have quite a different view.  Knowing that Mahathir sees Anwar as his most-feared enemy, the continued presence of Anwar in the political arena may serve as a counterweight to Mahathir’s reactionary influence to restrain him from all-out attacks against Najib’s premiership.

Another important consideration for Najib is his concern for his international image. For years, he has been painstakingly cultivating his image as a moderate leader in the international stage (at great costs to the public of course) and even launched his pet Global Movement of Moderates to buttress such credentials.

Now, what will the world make of Najib, if an internationally respected leader like Anwar is sent to prison in a notorious trial that has already been universally condemned as a great travesty of justice, transgression of human rights and democracy?  Where would Najib and his wife Rosmah (more so the latter) hide their faces at distinguished international gatherings during their frequent overseas trips?

Hence, it is not entirely impossible that Najib would prefer to see Anwar freed, or perhaps, as a compromise to UMNO’s hardliners, penalised with a fine that would bar him from election or appointment to party post for many years to come.

To sum up, Anwar’s fate at his final appeal hinges on the outcome of cross currents of UMNO’s party interests and conflicting personal interests of feuding leaders.

Will the Federal Court rule according to law?

The Federal Court--PutrajayaThe Federal Court-Putrajaya

Perhaps at this point, questions may be asked about our judges, whether they may exercise their judicial judgment strictly according to law and constitution, free of political influences. This is unlikely to happen, as the record of recent years has shown that the Federal Court has ruled in favour of the powers that be in every case where vital interest of  the latter is at stake, irrespective of whether the judgment is in conformity with the constitution and law. Such pattern of judgment was most glaringly demonstrated in the series of Federal Court decisions where the constitution was thrown to the wind to ensure BN succeeded in it’s power grab in Perak.

Having said that, miracles do happen.  Who knows the majority of judges may at the end decide to allow their judicial conscience to overrule their personal political loyalty or political bidding of others.

Ulamaks and Malay-Muslim Politicians Vs The Thinking Malay


October 24, 2014

MY COMMENT: Prolific commenter, Mariam Mohktar, has raised an age-old issuemariam-mokhtar of the partnership between the ruling Malay political elite, and the ulamas and conservative religious functionaries. It is a marriage of convenience between them. They need each other to maintain their hold on power. It is a case of “Gu tolong Lu, Lu tolong Gua” (with apologies to the Prime Minister).

They are bound to feel threatened by intellectuals like Kassim Ahmad, Azmi Sharom and  poet laureate and novelist A. Samad Said, by an outstanding and public-spirited lawyer like Rosli Dahlan, by civil society activists like Ambiga Sreenevasan, Haris Ibrahim, Adam Adli  and Hishamuddin Rais, among others and now by an individual like Syed Azmi who was merely trying to eliminate the fear of dogs among Muslims.

They perceive their hold on the Malay Muslim community is being eroded with globalization and the social media. Their reaction is not discourse, but threat of punishment in the here and now and the hereafter. The Malay mind is, therefore, being mummified  by ignorance and dogma.

mullah-harussani-and-najibMullah Harussani of Perak and PM Najib

In his book, Concept of A Hero in Malay Society*, Dr. Shaharuddin Maaruf, when commenting on this partnership, has this to say: “…the Malay elite is encouraging many misplaced ideas and trends in thinking which are incompatible with progress…Important Islamic values that are conducive and harmonious to progress are not emphasised by the Malay elite; the Islamic conception of leadership is relegated into the background while feudal ideas concerning leadership are encouraged and propagated”. (page 2)

Dr. Maaruf goes on to say that “Intellectual interests and values are not nourished while irrationality and superstition are strengthened and accorded importance…The development of moral character that is sensitive to injustice is thwarted while the servile and morally numb human type is propagated”. For this purpose, the Malay elite makes use of the presumed superior knowledge of Islam of the ulamas. In that way, the ruling elite and the ulamas work in common purpose, that is, to legitimatise their hold on power over the Malays and their thought processes.

Today, their partnership has grown in importance in terms of politics. How long thisDin MericanY partnership can last is a matter of conjecture. But at this time we can acknowledge that it serves the political interest of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak who must pander to the ulamas and religious functionaries in the Prime Minister’s Department. After all, his position as Prime Minister is under threat.–Din Merican

*Concept of a Hero in Malay Society  ( 2014, SIRD, First Published in 1984 by Eastern Universities Press (M) Sdn. Bhd). Also read Malay Ideas on Development by the same author and publisher.

Ulamas and Malay-Muslim Politicians Vs The Thinking Malay

by Mariam Mokhtar@http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

The most dangerous threat to the Malaysian government is not an invading army, a contagious disease, or a nuclear threat. It is the thinking Malay.

syed_azmi_alhabshi_organiser_dogs_191014

When young pharmacist Syed Azmi Alhabshi (above right in pic) decided to organise the “I Want to Touch a Dog” event at Bandar Utama on October 19, he didn’t expect such a huge response. More than 1,000 people –Muslims and non-Muslims – turned up.

Whilst man and beast were having lots of fun, in other parts of the country temperatures were raised. Syed Azmi was perceived as a threat. Syed Azmi may have united Malaysians but he was alienating some conservative Muslims in Malaysia. His innocent “dog touching event” is a defining moment in 21st Century Malaysian history.

Muslim Girls and the DogThe Internet was awash with photos of tudung-clad girls smiling with their favourite dogs, Malay toddlers chasing German Shepherds, elderly Muslim couples stroking contented looking Labradors and Malay teenagers playing with Cocker Spaniels. Malays and non-Malays were getting to know one another, through another of God’s creatures. The people learned to bond – not just dog with humans, but Muslims and non-Muslims.

Malaysians, including the political leaders, should have been pleased to see harmony in action. People forgot their inhibitions. They did not see themselves as people of different faiths or races. They got on with one another, with help from the dogs.

Society’s party pooper, JAKIM, waded in to spoil all the fun. Its Director-General, Othman Mustapha, was furious and said that the programme should not have taken place to begin with. He barked that JAKIM would investigate the matter immediately.

He was followed by a Kelantan ulama who cried “Repent. Repent. Repent.” Other conservative Muslims claimed that the ulamas were being insulted. If anyone needs their heads examined, it is these people. This is not a political issue; so why were the ulamas angry? They were furious because they saw their power being eroded. The 3Rs – race, religion and royalty – keep us in check, and safely divided.

For years, Muslims have been told what to do by the ulamas. The political leaders, together with their cronies and religious authorities carve up Malaysia for themselves.

One political cynic said, “To keep them in power, the leaders manipulate laws. To control dissent, they bully us with draconian laws. We are threatened with sedition. We are told that women leaders will lead us to hell. We are told that God approves of the GST. We are told that voting for UMNO-Baru is a one-way ticket to heaven. The sad thing is that many Malays believe this.”

His colleague said, “After last Sunday’s dog touching event, more Malays are finally seeing the light. The Malay mind is being freed from its mental slavery. That explains why the authorities and the conservative ulamas are working at breakneck speed to find Syed Azmi guilty, but he has done nothing wrong.”

Fear of being irrelevant

Syed Azmi only wanted Malaysians to be compassionate towards animals and overcome their fear of dogs. He was not insulting the ulamas. The ulamas did not even bother to ask him why he organised the event.

ANJING

The ulamas and conservative Muslims see their power base eroding. They are afraid that they will no longer be of relevance in a modern world which does not believe in the 3Rs.

Many Muslims nationwide observed the event on the Internet and saw no issue with dog touching. The ulamas are afraid that the thinking Malay will start to ask questions about their other edicts, handed down, in the past, to control Muslim behaviour. The ulamas, like the political leaders, are obsessed with power. The rakyat is at their mercy. However, a thinking Malay can see past their warped thinking.

Touching dogs is not going to lead to touching pigs or eating non-halal food. It will not lead to free sex. It is the ulamas and their obsession with sex which makes the thinking Malay question why the ulama are stupid and shallow. The ulamas use sex as a crowd puller.

The ulamas must realise that in Saudi Arabia, the Bedouin tribesmen hunt with dogs (the Salukis), as in Afghanistan (the Afghan hounds). Dogs are used in search and rescue, for drug detection, hunting, and to assist the blind, the deaf and those with epilepsy. The dog is man’s best friend.

The thinking Malays wonder why things like chocolates, dogs, the word “Allah” and beer take prominence in the national debate. They wonder why the ulamas keep silent about the rising cost of living, petrol price hikes, the collapsing infrastructure, corruption, the abuse of power by the leaders, incest, drug taking by Malays and the high crime rate.

Today, the ulamas are against us touching dogs. Knowing how their minds work, it won’t be long before Muslims will be banned from eating hot-dogs, and using English idioms like “dog in the manger” or complaining that a book is “dog eared”, or that Malaysia has “gone to the dogs”.

Malaysians urged to demand the A-G’s accountability


October 23, 2014

Malaysians urged to demand the A-G’s accountability

by http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

DAP Parliamentary Leader Lim Kit Siang today issued a clarion call to Malaysians to demand that the Attorney-General’s Chambers submit to public scrutiny for its accountability.

Gani PatailIn a media statement referring to A-G Abdul Gani Patail’s announcement on Septtember 9 that his office would review the sedition charges against academic Azmi Sharom and others, Lim noted that seven weeks had passed “but nothing has been forthcoming on the outcome of this review, or whether such a review has taken place.”

He said the opaqueness of the AG and his office “is not maintainable in a modern democratic country committed to accountability and good governance principles.”

He urged Malaysian citizens and their representatives in Parliament to demand that the A-G’s Chambers “submit to public and parliamentary scrutiny for accountability. MPs and the Malaysian public are entitled to know whether in the exercise of the prosecutorial discretion on the basis of public interest, are these purely legal considerations or they also involve political considerations, and if so, the nature of these political considerations,” he said.

The DAP leader also referred to former A-G Abu Talib Othman’s criticism of Gani’s Abu TalibSeptember  9 statement. “Is he (The A-G) admitting that he was not fair and transparent when the accused were first charged, and that is why he is reviewing the cases now? Maybe he should clarify,” he quoted Abu Talib as saying. Lim said Gani, more than failing to clarify, had allowed the sedition blitz to continue.

Contrasting the sedition charges against opposition leaders and activists with the apparent immunity of Perkasa chief Ibrahim Ali despite his call for the burning of Bibles, Lim said Gani was “fuelling the worst crisis of confidence in the nation’s history over the role and powers of the Attorney-General as a result of his silence over the escalating controversy”.

Serious questions

He said the A-G’s failure to provide an “acceptable explanation that there has been no arbitrary abuse of the A-G’s prosecutorial discretion … has raised serious questions as to whether he is committed to upholding the rule of law and to act as guardian of the public interest”.

KC VorahLim also quoted from a letter from former Court of Appeal judge K C Vohrah (left) that the Star published today. He said Vohrah expressed “the legitimate nagging concerns in many minds”. Vohrah called for the review and withdrawal of sedition cases based on three considerations:

1.The Sedition Act is an oppressive law and that many jurists and scholars consider sedition (based on common law seditious libel) as obsolete. Seditious libel came during a period when the divine right of rulers was not only accepted but believed to be necessary;

2.That once a person is charged for an offence under the act, looking at the state of case law in Malaysia, there is no defence that can normally be taken for offences, say, under the Penal Code or other acts creating offences. So it appears there can be no defence even of truth, lack of intention, presence of an innocent or honourable intention, absence of consequent harm, or even a lack of possibility or potential for consequent harm.

3.That the A-G before exercising his discretion whether to charge a person for sedition must ignore pressure from any quarter, political or otherwise, the noisy and the cantankerous, and the well-meaning and well-intentioned groups (who have not seen the oppressive implications of the law), and focus on whether it is reasonable to charge such a person in the context of all relevant circumstances in an age of “disagreement in ideas and belief on every conceivable subject” which are the essence of our life in modern Malaysia pushing on for developed status in 2020. http://www.thestar.com.my/Opinion/Letters/2014/10/23/Doubts-in-administration-of-justice/

 

Author Sayuti questions Hadi’s credibility


October 22, 2014

Author Sayuti questions Hadi’s credibility

by  Zefry Dahalan(10-21-14)@ http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com
Hadi3Hadi Awang–The Loser

A prominent analyst of Malay politics today placed a large part of the blame on PAS President Abdul Hadi Awang for the party’s failure to retain the Kedah government in the last general election.

Hadi’s failure to address a rift within Kedah PAS was one of the chief causes of thesayuti omar party’s defeat in the state, said Mohd Sayuti Omar (right) in a forum to discuss his 46th book, “The Fall of the Kedah PAS Government.” The discussion was organised by Youth Discourse of Negeri Sembilan.

Sayuti, who maintains close ties with the PAS and UMNO leaderships, said Hadi’s credibility as party leader was questionable because he had not taken responsibility for PAS’ failure to hold on to two states – Kedah in 2013 and Terengganu in 2004. “Also, the Selangor Menteri Besar crisis dragged on for longer than it should have because of Hadi’s flip flops,” he added.

Sayuti said Hadi persisted in supporting the late Kedah Menteri Besar, Azizan Abdul Razak, despite the latter’s unpopularity with the grassroots and Kedah PAS’ Ulama Council. He alleged that the council, at a meeting in February 2012, urged Azizan to step down as Kedah MB and Kedah PAS Commissioner.

“The reason given was that Azizan was not referring to the party when making state government decisions and that those decisions did not satisfy the Islamic criteria as given by the ulamas,” Sayuti said.

Azizan was also accused of abuse of power and making decisions that served his personal interest,”he said. Hadi ignored the Ulama Council’s complaints against Azizan.Sayuti also said there was discontent among the grassroots when Azizan unilaterally decided on his choice of candidates for GE-13.

“Some of the candidates Azizan fielded were candidates who were not proposed by the respective divisions and this made the leaders and members angry,” he said.“It is believed that disgruntled PAS members sabotaged the candidates to vent their anger against Azizan,” he added.

Pakatan Rakyat needs to Total Revamp


October 22, 2014

Pakatan Rakyat needs to Total Revamp

by T K Chua@www.freemalaysiatoday.com

pakatan300Pakatan Rakyat: Partnership of Equals

DAP’s Lim Kit Siang may have fallen short of his usual astute discernment when he recently warned Pakatan Rakyat(PR) against complacency and called on the coalition to renew its commitment to the Common Policy Framework and Operational Principle of Consensus.

PR needs a total revamp and a reboot, not just a refocusing or re-commitment if the coalition harbours the hope of governing Malaysia someday. The dichotomy within PR is just too wide and too irreconcilable.

The Common Policy Framework is just a Panadol, not a cure. It states what the coalition partners agree on, but it ignores or denies its disagreements. It is a matter of time before the disagreements simmering beneath the surface erupt into open fissures.

The common policy framework must override individual party policies. If it mandates parliamentary democracy, then we can’t have any party in the coalition still believing in a theocracy. If it says rule of law and secularism, then we can’t have a party within the coalition still insisting on hudud.

It may be time for all the coalition partners to do two things:

  1. They must subscribe to the common policy framework fully and unequivocally; and
  2. They must abandon all the policies and beliefs which are in conflict or contradict the common policy framework. If they can’t do these two, then it is better for each of the parties to be on its own fighting for its own cause and objectives.

anwar-ibrahim-recentPR’s Operational Principle of Consensus may sound reasonable but is impractical. Making decisions based on consensus is making decisions based on expediency or even hypocrisy. PR should be making decisions based on agreed principles and policies; otherwise there is nothing to prevent the coalition from having a “consensus” to make stupid decisions or to do stupid things.

Right now, each of the parties within the coalition is recruiting members or courting support fromHadi3 among Malaysians based on its own core policies. So PAS has its Islamic state and hudud, PKR has its equality (with a little of ketuanan), and DAP has its democratic secularism. If they have recruited people and solicited support based on different objectives, how then is the coalition able to promote one common policy framework and one objective?

It is time for PR to be upfront with what it stands for, not what PAS, PKR or DAP individually stands for. Many have argued that getting rid of BN is already a sufficient reason for PR to exist despite its inability to forge a common stand. Well, the Selangor MB saga has shown that a common enemy is not enough. Once the coalition has attained power, component party’s policies and objectives would start to rear their ugly heads.

Anything that flies on anything that moves


October 20, 2014

Anything that flies on anything that moves

By John Pilger

In transmitting President Richard Nixon’s orders for a “massive” bombing ofHenry A.Kissinger Cambodia in 1969, Henry Kissinger (left)  said, “Anything that flies on everything that moves”. As Barack Obama ignites his seventh war against the Muslim world since he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the orchestrated hysteria and lies make one almost nostalgic for Kissinger’s murderous honesty.

As a witness to the human consequences of aerial savagery – including the beheading of victims, their parts festooning trees and fields – I am not surprised by the disregard of memory and history, yet again. A telling example is the rise to power of Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge, who had much in common with today’s Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). They, too, were ruthless medievalists who began as a small sect. They, too, were the product of an American-made apocalypse, this time in Asia.

According to Pol Pot, his movement had consisted of “fewer than 5,000 poorly armed guerrillas uncertain about their strategy, tactics, loyalty and leaders”. Once Nixon’s and Kissinger’s B52 bombers had gone to work as part of “Operation Menu”, the west’s ultimate demon could not believe his luck.

The Americans dropped the equivalent of five Hiroshimas on rural Cambodia during 1969-73. They leveled village after village, returning to bomb the rubble and corpses. The craters left monstrous necklaces of carnage, still visible from the air. The terror was unimaginable. A former Khmer Rouge official described how the survivors “froze up and they would wander around mute for three or four days. Terrified and half-crazy, the people were ready to believe what they were told … That was what made it so easy for the Khmer Rouge to win the people over.”

A Finnish Government Commission of Enquiry estimated that 600,000 Cambodians RM Nixondied in the ensuing civil war and described the bombing as the “first stage in a decade of genocide”. What Nixon and Kissinger began, Pol Pot, their beneficiary, completed. Under their bombs, the Khmer Rouge grew to a formidable army of 200,000.

ISIS has a similar past and present. By most scholarly measure, Bush and Blair’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 led to the deaths of some 700,000 people – in a country that had no history of jihadism. The Kurds had done territorial and political deals; Sunni and Shia had class and sectarian differences, but they were at peace; intermarriage was common. Three years before the invasion, I drove the length of Iraq without fear. On the way I met people proud, above all, to be Iraqis, the heirs of a civilization that seemed, for them, a presence.

Bush and Blair blew all this to bits. Iraq is now a nest of jihadism. Al-Qaeda – like Pol Pot’s “jihadists” – seized the opportunity provided by the onslaught of Shock and Awe and the civil war that followed. “Rebel” Syria offered even greater rewards, with CIA and Gulf state ratlines of weapons, logistics and money running through Turkey. The arrival of foreign recruits was inevitable. A former British ambassador, Oliver Miles, wrote recently, “The [Cameron] government seems to be following the example of Tony Blair, who ignored consistent advice from the Foreign Office, MI5 and MI6 that our Middle East policy – and in particular our Middle East wars – had been a principal driver in the recruitment of Muslims in Britain for terrorism here.”

ISIS is the progeny of those in Washington and London who, in destroying Iraq as both a state and a society, conspired to commit an epic crime against humanity. Like Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, ISIS are the mutations of a western state terror dispensed by a venal imperial elite undeterred by the consequences of actions taken at great remove in distance and culture. Their culpability is unmentionable in “our” societies.

It is 23 years since this holocaust enveloped Iraq, immediately after the first Gulf War, when the US and Britain hijacked the United Nations Security Council and imposed punitive “sanctions” on the Iraqi population – ironically, reinforcing the domestic authority of Saddam Hussein. It was like a medieval siege. Almost everything that sustained a modern state was, in the jargon, “blocked” – from chlorine for making the water supply safe to school pencils, parts for X-ray machines, common painkillers and drugs to combat previously unknown cancers carried in the dust from the southern battlefields contaminated with Depleted Uranium.

Just before Christmas 1999, the Department of Trade and Industry in London restricted the export of vaccines meant to protect Iraqi children against diphtheria and yellow fever. Kim Howells, a medical doctor and parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Blair government, explained why. “The children’s vaccines”, he said, “were capable of being used in weapons of mass destruction”. The British Government could get away with such an outrage because media reporting of Iraq – much of it manipulated by the Foreign Office – blamed Saddam Hussein for everything.

Under a bogus “humanitarian” Oil for Food Programme, $100 was allotted for each Iraqi to live on for a year. This figure had to pay for the entire society’s infrastructure and essential services, such as power and water. “Imagine,” the UN Assistant Secretary General, Hans Von Sponeck, told me, “setting that pittance against the lack of clean water, and the fact that the majority of sick people cannot afford treatment, and the sheer trauma of getting from day to day, and you have a glimpse of the nightmare. And make no mistake, this is deliberate. I have not in the past wanted to use the word genocide, but now it is unavoidable.”

Disgusted, Von Sponeck resigned as UN Humanitarian Co-Ordinator in Iraq. His predecessor, Denis Halliday, an equally distinguished senior UN official, had also resigned. “I was instructed,” Halliday said, “to implement a policy that satisfies the definition of genocide: a deliberate policy that has effectively killed well over a million individuals, children and adults.”

AlbrightA study by the United Nations Children’s Fund, Unicef, found that between 1991 and 1998, the height of the blockade, there were 500,000 “excess” deaths of Iraqi infants under the age of five. An American TV reporter put this to Madeleine Albright, US Ambassador to the United Nations, asking her, “Is the price worth it?” Albright replied, “We think the price is worth it.”

In 2007, the senior British official responsible for the sanctions, Carne Ross, known as “Mr. Iraq”, told a parliamentary selection committee, “[The US and UK governments] effectively denied the entire population a means to live.” When I interviewed Carne Ross three years later, he was consumed by regret and contrition. “I feel ashamed,” he said. He is today a rare truth-teller of how governments deceive and how a compliant media plays a critical role in disseminating and maintaining the deception. “We would feed [journalists] factoids of sanitised intelligence,” he said, “or we’d freeze them out.”

On 25 September, a headline in the Guardian read: “Faced with the horror of Isis we must act.” The “we must act” is a ghost risen, a warning of the suppression of informed memory, facts, lessons learned and regrets or shame. The author of the article was Peter Hain, the former Foreign Office minister responsible for Iraq under Blair. In 1998, when Denis Halliday revealed the extent of the suffering in Iraq for which the Blair Government shared primary responsibility, Hain abused him on the BBC’s Newsnight as an “apologist for Saddam”. In 2003, Hain backed Blair’s invasion of stricken Iraq on the basis of transparent lies. At a subsequent Labour Party conference, he dismissed the invasion as a “fringe issue”.

Now Hain is demanding “air strikes, drones, military equipment and other support” for those “facing genocide” in Iraq and Syria. This will further “the imperative of a political solution”. Obama has the same in mind as he lifts what he calls the “restrictions” on US bombing and drone attacks. This means that missiles and 500-pound bombs can smash the homes of peasant people, as they are doing without restriction in Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia – as they did in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. On 23 September, a Tomahawk cruise missile hit a village in Idlib Province in Syria, killing as many as a dozen civilians, including women and children. None waved a black flag.

HansThe day Hain’s article appeared, Denis Halliday and Hans Von Sponeck happened to be in London and came to visit me. They were not shocked by the lethal hypocrisy of a politician, but lamented the enduring, almost inexplicable absence of intelligent diplomacy in negotiating a semblance of truce. Across the world, from Northern Ireland to Nepal, those regarding each other as terrorists and heretics have faced each other across a table. Why not now in Iraq and Syria.

Like Ebola from West Africa, a bacteria called “perpetual war” has crossed the Atlantic. Lord Richards, until recently head of the British military, wants “boots on the ground” now. There is a vapid, almost sociopathic verboseness from Cameron, Obama and their “coalition of the willing” – notably Australia’s aggressively weird Tony Abbott – as they prescribe more violence delivered from 30,000 feet on places where the blood of previous adventures never dried. They have never seen bombing and they apparently love it so much they want it to overthrow their one potentially valuable ally, Syria. This is nothing new, as the following leaked UK-US intelligence file illustrates:

“In order to facilitate the action of liberative [sic] forces … a special effort should be made to eliminate certain key individuals [and] to proceed with internal disturbances in Syria. CIA is prepared, and SIS (MI6) will attempt to mount minor sabotage and coup de main [sic] incidents within Syria, working through contacts with individuals… a necessary degree of fear… frontier and [staged] border clashes [will] provide a pretext for intervention… the CIA and SIS should use… capabilities in both psychological and action fields to augment tension.”

That was written in 1957, though it could have been written yesterday. In the imperial world, nothing essentially changes. Last year, the former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas revealed that “two years before the Arab spring”, he was told in London that a war on Syria was planned. “I am going to tell you something,” he said in an interview with the French TV channel LPC, “I was in England two years before the violence in Syria on other business. I met top British officials, who confessed to me that they were preparing something in Syria … Britain was organising an invasion of rebels into Syria. They even asked me, although I was no longer Minister for Foreign Affairs, if I would like to participate … This operation goes way back. It was prepared, preconceived and planned.”

The only effective opponents of ISIS are accredited demons of the west – Syria, Iran, Hezbollah. The obstacle is Turkey, an “ally” and a member of NATO, which has conspired with the CIA, MI6 and the Gulf medievalists to channel support to the Syrian “rebels”, including those now calling themselves ISIS. Supporting Turkey in its long-held ambition for regional dominance by overthrowing the Assad government beckons a major conventional war and the horrific dismemberment of the most ethnically diverse state in the Middle East.

A truce – however difficult to achieve – is the only way out of this imperial maze; otherwise, the beheadings will continue. That genuine negotiations with Syria should be seen as “morally questionable” (the Guardian) suggests that the assumptions of moral superiority among those who supported the war criminal Blair remain not only absurd, but dangerous.

Together with a truce, there should be an immediate cessation of all shipments of war materials to Israel and recognition of the State of Palestine. The issue of Palestine is the region’s most festering open wound, and the oft-stated justification for the rise of Islamic extremism. Osama bin Laden made that clear. Palestine also offers hope. Give justice to the Palestinians and you begin to change the world around them.

More than 40 years ago, the Nixon-Kissinger bombing of Cambodia unleashed aBlair and Bush torrent of suffering from which that country has never recovered. The same is true of the Blair-Bush crime in Iraq. With impeccable timing, Henry Kissinger’s latest self-serving tome has just been released with its satirical title, “World Order”. In one fawning review, Kissinger is described as a “key shaper of a world order that remained stable for a quarter of a century”. Tell that to the people of Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Chile, East Timor and all the other victims of his “statecraft”. Only when “we” recognise the war criminals in our midst will the blood begin to dry.

Posted with permission www.johnpilger.com

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/World/WOR-01-091014.html