Demasking the Torture of Julian Assange — Desultory Heroics

By Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Source: Medium I know, you may think I am deluded. How could life in an Embassy with a cat and a skateboard ever amount to torture? That’s exactly what I thought, too, when Assange first appealed to my office for protection. Like most of the public, I […]

via Demasking the Torture of Julian Assange — Desultory Heroics

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More Police Raids As War On Journalism Escalates Worldwide — Desultory Heroics

By Caitlin Johnstone Source: CaitlinJohnstone.com The Australian Federal Police have conducted two raids on journalists and seized documents in purportedly unrelated incidents in the span of just two days. Yesterday the AFP raided the home of News Corp Australia journalist Annika Smethurst, seeking information related to her investigative report last year which exposed the fact that the […]

via More Police Raids As War On Journalism Escalates Worldwide — Desultory Heroics

THIS is the REAL Australia – no ‘laid-back’ bullshit but deeply authoritarian and deeply servile. The Australian Federal Police are and always were, from their inception, the Australian Political Police.

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As I predicted…with a lot more of this to come

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Assange makes a statement outside the High Court in London in February 2016, when he had already spent three years holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy.

Suelette Dreyfus, ‘EU hails Assange while Australia does nothing’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 18.04.19

The European Parliament passed a law this week to protect whistleblowers across 28 countries, with support from 591 MEPs to just 29 against, while some abstained and some were absent. This new EU “directive” may have been inspired in part by WikiLeaks’ reporting, but it will not help its founder, Julian Assange, who is already sitting in a British high-security prison, Belmarsh, under harsh conditions.

Assange faces a UK charge of skipping bail. He always said he skipped bail because the US government wanted to put him in a US prison. He was correct.

Now the US is attempting to extradite Assange to face criminal proceedings. Its single charge against him is about an event that happened nearly a decade ago – and it is a serious threat to media freedom.

This was the view of many in the meeting rooms at the European Parliament in Strasbourg this week. On Monday night the Parliament’s plenary passed a motion to discuss Assange’s plight. A stream of MEPs from different countries told the chamber of their worry for his safety, proposed giving him asylum in Europe, and insisted he not be extradited to the US.

A few journalists have claimed US criminal proceedings are not a threat to press freedom because “Assange isn’t a journalist”. Why? Because he “just dumped” US military documents, the “War Logs”, in an unredacted form. This is inaccurate.

When WikiLeaks published the Afghanistan War Logs, it withheld more than 15,000 records. Its next major publication, the Iraq War Logs, was more heavily redacted – so much so that other media outlets complained.

Assange is both a journalist and a publisher; he has led fearless news reporting over more than a decade. His digital media outlet has worked like a wire service: it publishes straight, fact-based news pieces, supported by data sets of redacted original material. Media around the globe have taken these news pieces and expanded them by enhancing the stories with local content, as they might with an AP news story.

Traditional media outlets have now copied many innovations by Assange. These include installing anonymous digital drop boxes, publishing large redacted data sets in support of investigative news stories, hiring data science journalists, and encouraging reporters to improve their cybersecurity to protect sources.

I previously worked with Assange, writing the book Underground, and other journalism. What I witnessed was an investigative journalist at work. He had a strong news sense, sought to report the facts accurately, was a good writer, and believed in reporting news in the public interest. Since 2007, he has been a member of the journalists’ trade union, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance.

That the EU Parliament is moving to protect whistleblowers, and many of its members are so concerned about Assange, begs the question: why isn’t the Australian government using its special relationship with Britain to ask for its own citizen to be sent safely home? Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s throw-away lines about Assange’s case raises questions about whether he is a leader who will look after Australians in strife overseas. This is one of the roles of a government.

Labor leader Bill Shorten could easily follow the lead of his British Labour counterpart, Jeremy Corbin, who stated he does not think Assange should be extradited to the US. But he hasn’t yet.

The US criminal charge puts at risk the public interest chain of investigative journalism: the information path of whistleblower from journalist to publisher to the public. This chain depends on technology, particularly for security and anonymity protections. An attack on any part of this chain will weaken this corrective mechanism that exposes corruption in our society.

Whether you agree or disagree with Assange, he has transformed journalism, and turned whistleblowing from a corruption issue into a freedom-of-expression issue. If this extradition goes forward, expect the chill of a coming winter in media freedom.

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Two letters to the editor: on the servility and racism of a fearful nation

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Prime Minister Harold Holt and President Johnson

Two letters to the editor, The Sydney Morning Herald, 27.03.19

Memorial a sham that glorifies wars fought for other countries

I’m looking for a letter which says “don’t extend the Australian War Memorial, demolish it”.

None of the Australian personnel who served, suffered and died in World War I, and subsequent wars, made their sacrifice for Australia.

It was all for the Mother Country, or to keep sweet with the US.

Everybody remembers Menzies saying: “It is my melancholy duty to inform you officially that, in consequence of the persistence of Germany in her invasion of Poland, Great Britain has declared war upon her, and that, as a result, Australia is also at war”.

Everybody remembers Holt’s “all the way with LBJ”.

Everybody remembers Hasluck pressuring the Americans to request an Australian battalion to join US combat troops in South Vietnam.

I except the 624 regular army and Citizen Military Forces members killed on the Kokoda track while defending Australia against the Japanese.

I also except the tens of thousands of unknown partisans who were hunted and shot down defending their homeland in the bitter guerrilla war fought on Australian soil from 1788 to 1928.

The present war glorification park is a joke.

It is a sham hatched by John Howard and Professor Geoffrey Blainey and about to be brought to fruition by Dr Brendan Nelson.

Kenneth Griffiths, O’Connor

Face up to early conflict

Brendan Nelson (“Indigenous gargoyles to stay at Australian War Memorial”, canberratimes.com.au, June 4, 2015) said the AWM did not have the resources to deal with the armed conflict between Indigenous and white Australians.

However, $350 million was spent on the Anzac Centenary and $485 million allocated for memorial expansion.

There are still no plans to memorialise the Frontier Wars. The director’s argument is surely not sustainable.

The AWM, or the director, have also argued from time to time that war was never declared against Indigenous Australia, nor were the Frontier Wars fought overseas.

Once again these are weak arguments as we never declared war on North Vietnam but we rightly memorialise the conflict.

The AWM seems also to have overlooked that significant armed conflict occurred on Australian soil in Darwin in World War II. This is dealt with appropriately in the galleries.

One can conclude that our past is just too grim and we haven’t matured enough to acknowledge these wars.

But we must.

Germany has been able to face its Nazi past and emerged stronger as it faces the future.

We cannot grow as a nation until we have come to grips with the blood that was spilt in the Frontier Wars; wars that may have taken more Australian lives than World Wars I and II combined, and wars that shaped our nation.

Digby Habel, Cook

***

To illustrate the depth of Australian servility to their latest anglophone bully-boy-on-the-block-master, I add a quotation from the Australian War Memorial website which addresses the ‘award’ as a ‘battle honour’ of an American word to the name for the Track on which approximately 625 Australian soldiers died and on which no American soldiers fought (If you search the War Memorial website for ‘Kokoda Track’ up will come links to ‘Kokoda Trail’. Do you think the Americans would re-name any of their trails ‘track’, let alone one on which so many of their citizens had died fighting for their country?):

From: http://www.awm.gov.au/units/event_291.asp

“Kokoda Trail” and “Kokoda Track” have been used interchangeably since the Second World War and the former was adopted by the Battles Nomenclature Committee as the official British Commonwealth battle honour in October 1957.

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Ozzies find their meaning and worth in acting for their masters

Australia, the 51st state

Jennifer Duke, ‘Huawei executive hits out at Turnbull’ The Sydney Morning Herald 14.03.19

‘A senior Australian Huawei executive has hit back at former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull for urging the UK to ban the Chinese telecommunications equipment giant for its future mobile networks.

Last week, Mr Turnbull told prominent British MPs at a London think tank event that a recent hack of Australian political parties proved agile responses were need to counter growing cyber threats and urged them not to allow companies like Huawei to participate in building the ultra-fast 5G mobile networks.

The Australian government imposed a ban on Huawei’s involvement in 5G in August on security grounds, shortly before Mr Turnbull was replaced as prime minister by Scott Morrison.

In a lengthy response provided to this masthead before publication on the Huawei website, the telco’s director of corporate affairs, Jeremy Mitchell, under the title “Australia pays for Malcolm’s 5G muddle”, criticised the former PM for swallowing “hook, line and sinker” a “myth” there was bigger security risk in a 5G network.

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The Mongolian Octopus: his grip on Australia 1886

He said the “myth was born after [Mr Turnbull’s] visit to the US in February 2018” and said Huawei knew “more about 5G networks than any agency would, or could”.

Mr Mitchell argued Huawei was willing to share information and work with governments to ensure privacy and security but”[u]nfortunately, under Mr Turnbull’s watch this didn’t happen”.

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“Now that Huawei is excluded from the Australian 5G mix, telco operators will be paying around 30 per cent more for the second-best technology,” he said.

…Mr Turnbull was approached for comment.’

Australian servility 4

Ex- prime minister Julia Gillard, The Sydney Morning Herald n.d.

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Australia Day 2016 – a servile, shame-based culture

Cringe on the beach

Whoever made this image has a feeling for dialectics.

A castle on the beach (white Australia’s holy of holies), topped by the white Australian flag, itself topped by the flag of its parent nation and first master.

A vertical red strip from the cross of England’s patron saint balances on a white Antipodean star. The emphatic rays of the former drown those twinkling from the latter.

A block of monochrome certainty, a fortress sans entrance floats on a pale yellow expanse, equally uncertain.

The ideal sands of laid-back, nature-loving egalitarianism? Or indistinguishable hovering hordes eyeing paradise at the arse-end of the earth?

The castle, clearly a symbol in its simplified starkness appears to utterly contrast with its ground, yet it is built from it. Moisture maintains its fragile form.

What appears most certain is threatened, even in its building, with uncertainty and destruction.

Will it be kicked down and disappear, or will the next tide (of whom? from where?) wash it away?

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Image: The Sydney Morning Herald 26.01.16

Shame and the need to shame – a nation of little spirits

In the mid-1990s, Ansett painted a Waltzing Matilda mural on the side of one of its Boeing 737-300s

In the mid-1990s, Ansett painted a Waltzing Matilda mural on the side of one of its Boeing 737-300s

*   *   *

Email sent to Phillip Adams 02.12.04

Dear Mr. Adams,

I listened to your interview of Peter Conrad a couple of weeks ago with interest. I particularly appreciated not only his dismissal of ‘Gerald’ Henderson, but the way in which he did it, making it perfectly clear that for Conrad, Henderson’s sufficient descriptor is ‘pompous non-entity’ – and I would add, ‘in a provincial pond’. That Henderson should be given regular airings in the Herald and particularly on the ABC’s Radio National is sad evidence for the second part of my assertion.

I have also read the text of Conrad’s first three Boyer lectures. And they are, as I expected from an academic in the humanities, very frustrating. They barely move beyond a cascading display of learning, a preening of feathers, facilitated by a telling of tales, through the soft-focus of history. Charming and informative anecdotes follow upon each other. Bitterness – yes, material to work with – yes, but Conrad has so far given no indication of engaging with the depth of meaning and content that exists in the subject. His lectures sketch an interesting stream leading to our provincial pond, but the exposure and analysis of the destructiveness of the pond and how that destructiveness functions runs very weakly.

Nothing that Conrad has said so far can explain, e.g., the depth of cultural sickness in this country as displayed in that part of the closing ceremony of the 2000 Olympics when a song ‘celebrating’ the suicide by drowning of a failed petty thief, as he ran from authority, was sung by ‘candlelight’ by a packed stadium – as a hymn. Contrast this song with that of ‘John Brown’s Body’, a song of the U.S. Civil War which justifiably celebrates the courage of a man who stood against both authority and prejudice in the defence of black rights and was hung.

When one speaks of ‘Australia’ rhyming with ‘failure’ one speaks, essentially, not of what others have done to us and have told us about ourselves, but of what we have done and continue to do to ourselves and to each other. Although progress has been made and is being made, particularly as a result of immigration, Australian culture has shame and therefore the need to shame – this is where ‘tall poppy syndrome’, ‘nation of knockers’ come in – at its heart and coursing through its veins.

Our culture is built around the ‘celebration’ of (‘nobility’ in the face of) loss, failure and defeat. You are one of the very few people I have heard raise this and show interest in examples: Burke and Wills, Kelly, Breaker Morant, Dad and Dave, the heroes of Paterson and Lawson, Lasseter, Phar Lap, Les Darcy, Haines and Whitlam. Roy and HG’s savagely titled ‘The Dream’ (as Doyle said ‘If it rises above a blade of grass, cut it down.), the ABC’s Australian Story…

And in particular, Gallipoli. In 1990, when the inevitable letters from Private Jones to his mother began appearing in the papers, ex-pat Phillip Knightley argued that if we, as Australians, are going to ‘celebrate’ our involvement in the First World War (the first capitalist world war over areas of exploitation), rather than celebrating a defeat experienced on behalf of a dominant power, we should celebrate the victories of the Australian troops, e.g. on the Western Front. The ABC’s Richard Glover responded with a most bizarre article in the Sydney Morning Herald ‘Bruce Ruxton is right: we should embrace the legends of defeat’, (SMH 20.04.90 – I emailed him about this) arguing that we celebrate Gallipoli, as with our other failures, precisely because it was a defeat.

What is the sickness that runs through the above? More than that they focus on defeats and failures, it is that these are made a cause for celebration. The message in these ‘celebrations’ is the dark side of the myth of Australian egalitarianism, a myth cultivated in affluence and sunlight – the cultural imperatives ‘Thou shalt be laid back!’ and ‘Thus far and no further!’ Dream to (or worse) go beyond the cultural limits and you will be broken.

And the cultural limits are those of capital (I understand the words of Waltzing Matilda were shaped by the requirements of advertising) – you can dream, but only the small dreams of consumption – 1/4 acre block, $60,000 + p.a., 2 and 1/2 kids etc. The celebration of defeat is still not the fundamental issue, it is the celebration of a lesson. Will Conrad address this basic issue of shame as a means of class control. I doubt it increasingly as his lectures progress. He is too much the comfortable gentleman.

On the global stage we relate shame-based – both servile to a dominant power – first England, now the US (cultural imperialism only partially explains our dilemma) – and bullying in our region (Asia and the Pacific). That the ‘Deputy sheriff’ won’t sign a non-aggression pact with ASEAN is entirely consistent. What is not licked should be kicked. Our need for approval has led us into a closeness of relationship with the US as a result of which, I believe, serious consequences for this country are yet to happen.

The same need for approval (this time, awarded by ourselves) has been used by the government to cover its purpose for ‘going to the aid of’ the East Timorese – after 25 years of silence by Liberal and Labor governments and the deaths of 400,000. What else could explain such sickening, back-slapping hypocrisy, so many white, beaming faces, such an absence of geopolitical and economic analysis? The on-going corporate attempt to rape this poorest nation, even as it was declared a nation is the clearest pointer to the reality of Australia’s ‘rescue’ of East Timor.

Our self-loathing lies at the heart of the kicking Hanson got, and continues to get, even after she departed from politics. That those competing to sink the boot into Hanson the hardest were, without exception, the ‘educated’ middle-classes indicates how deeply shame and self-loathing run in our culture. Hanson was a test of how successfully we have dealt with our shame and the need to shame – and we failed that test – spectacularly. Her treatment by our ‘intelligentsia’ shows how deep and powerfully the current I write about flows. It is to her credit that Kingston showed Hanson some understanding.

That this nation has failed the test of national confidence, both internally and internationally is proven by Howard. He is in no way an aberration. He has risen from the heart of our culture and understands its meanness, shame and therefore the need to shame, intimately and instinctively. He has exploited this with absolute consistency to win four elections in a row. There could never be a clearer pointer, despite all assertions to the opposite, to how little this country has progressed in dealing with its cringe than this man and his government. Even Bush bases his meanness and aggression on his perception of the greatness of his nation, on its ‘right’ to impose itself on the world.

The greater one’s perceived capacity to achieve intellectual excellence and particularly one’s commitment to intellectual excellence, the greater the determination in our society that you should be broken, the more subtle, insidious and poisonous will be the range of devices employed against you – by family and friends. Ian Thorpe, recognising this, has assiduously (and successfully) cultivated a persona that bows to this Australian viciousness.

White, too, saw this nastiness and destructiveness – and to disguise the hurt of one who both loved and loathed what he saw and experienced, specialised in paying that nastiness back in kind. I don’t think he ever rose above that fundamental tension.

Australia will always be a servile nation until the shame – and the need to shame – that lie at its heart are named, focussed on and rooted out.

Phil Stanfield

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Which is more dangerous to servile Australians – a peppercorn or $3 million?

Huang Xiangmo

Chinese political donor Huang Xiangmo on the balcony of his Mosman mansion last year. (sic)

The Australian media is currently awash with yet another story on those wily, dangerous Chinese (ring any historical bells?) – more likely than not, fronts for their wily, dangerous (to capitalism, that is) Communist Party. Simply say ‘Beijing’ and we’ve got the terrifying picture. An example:

Nick McKenzie and Chris Uhlmann, ’Canberra strands Beijing’s man offshore, denies passport’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 05.02.19

‘Billionaire political donor and Beijing’s former top lobbyist in Australia, Huang Xiangmo, has been stranded overseas after Australian officials declared him unfit to hold an Australian passport and cancelled his permanent residency.

The Age and Sydney Morning Herald have confirmed Mr Huang is fighting to return to his $13 million Sydney mansion after being notified by Australian officials while out of the country that his long-stalled application to become an Australian citizen has been turned down.

The decision is the first enforcement action to be made by Canberra against a suspected Chinese Communist Party influence agent after the Coalition launched a counter-interference campaign against Beijing in 2018.

The blocking of Mr Huang’s citizenship raises questions about whether Labor and the Coalition should return the almost $2.7 million he has made in political donations over five years. …’

North West Cape spy base

Yet in 1967 there was a ceremony at which the then U.S. ambassador Ed Clark symbolically and laughingly gave the then Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt one peppercorn as payment for one year’s rent for what was to become the major U.S. spy base North West Cape in Western Australia (the footage has been removed from youtube) with the words ‘Here then, Mr Prime Minister, I want to present you with one peppercorn payment in full for the first year’s rent.’ Holt stood there grinning like the idiot he was.

Holt had said in 1966 that Australia would go ‘all the way with LBJ’ [then U.S. President Lyndon Baines Johnson]. 521 Australians lost their lives and 3,000 were wounded in the Vietnam War.

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Remembrance Day in a fearful, servile culture

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…The historian Peter Cochrane recently reminded us in his book Best We Forget that prime minister Billy Hughes spelled it out explicitly. “I bid you go and fight for White Australia in France,” he told Australians in 1916.

It underlined a complicated truth: one of Australia’s central reasons for entering World War I was not as simple as standing with the “mother country”. It was to seal in blood a relationship to ensure Britain would protect White Australia against the feared future expansionist ambitions of Japan, even though Japan was an ally in World War I.

White Australia remained an article of domestic faith and international condemnation until the policy was dismantled in the 1960s and replaced with multiculturalism in 1972.

Yet, a century on, echoes remain. Australians and their parliamentarians in 2018 are restive about immigration, express anxiety about the expansionist ambitions of Asians to our north – it’s China now – and recently, senators even tied themselves in knots over the question of whether it was “OK to be white”.

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The Mongolian Octopus: his grip on Australia 1886

White Australia began dealing with those it deemed “undesirable” or a threat at home during the Great War by detaining and deporting thousands of mainly German-Australians, including naturalised Australians.

More than 7000 were detained in what were called “concentration camps”, and more than 5000 were deported. Scores of German-sounding towns were renamed — 69 of them in South Australia alone under an Act of Parliament known as the Nomenclature Committee’s Report On Enemy Place Names.

australians-arise-poster-circa-1916

A century later, Australia still detains and deports those it doesn’t want on its shores. And today’s Australia – which long ago switched its hopes of protection to the United States, marching and sailing off to American-led wars from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan – remains a constitutional monarchy, its head of state the Queen.

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Old ties, sealed in blood, die hard. …

Tony Wright, ‘The long reach of old war ties, sealed in blood’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 09.11.18

***

It is proved in the pamphlet that the war of 1914-18 was imperialist (that is, an annexationist, predatory, war of plunder) on the part of both sides; it was a war for the division of the world, for the partition and repartition of colonies and spheres of influence of finance capital, etc.

Proof of what was the true social, or rather, the true class character of the war is naturally to be found, not in the diplomatic history of the war, but in an analysis of the objective position of the ruling classes in all the belligerent countries. In order to depict this objective position one must not take examples or isolated data (in view of the extreme complexity of the phenomena of social life it is always possible to select any number of examples or separate data to prove any proposition), but all the data on the basis of economic life in all the belligerent countries and the whole world.

It is precisely irrefutable summarised data of this kind that I quoted in describing the partition of the world in 1876 and 1914 (in Chapter VI) and the division of the world’s railways in 1890 and 1913 (in Chapter VII). Railways are a summation of the basic capitalist industries, coal, iron and steel; a summation and the most striking index of the development of world trade and bourgeois-democratic civilisation. How the railways are linked up with large-scale industry, with monopolies, syndicates, cartels, trusts, banks and the financial oligarchy is shown in the preceding chapters of the book. The uneven distribution of the railways, their uneven development—sums up, as it were, modern monopolist capitalism on a world-wide scale. And this summary proves that imperialist wars are absolutely inevitable under such an economic system, as long as private property in the means of production exists.

The building of railways seems to be a simple, natural, democratic, cultural and civilising enterprise; that is what it is in the opinion of the bourgeois professors who are paid to depict capitalist slavery in bright colours, and in the opinion of petty-bourgeois philistines. But as a matter of fact the capitalist threads, which in thousands of different intercrossings bind these enterprises with private property in the means of production in general, have converted this railway construction into an instrument for oppressing a thousand million people (in the colonies and semicolonies), that is, more than half the population of the globe that inhabits the dependent countries, as well as the wage-slaves of capital in the “civilised” countries.

Private property based on the labour of the small proprietor, free competition, democracy, all the catchwords with which the capitalists and their press deceive the workers and the peasants are things of the distant past. Capitalism has grown into a world system of colonial oppression and of the financial strangulation of the overwhelming majority of the population of the world by a handful of “advanced” countries. And this “booty” is shared between two or three powerful world plunderers armed to the teeth (America, Great Britain, Japan), who are drawing the whole world into their war over the division of their booty. …

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Private Alfred Jackson Coombs was one of at least 1000 Indigenous Australians who fought in WWI (and who were pushed aside on their return).

…The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk dictated by monarchist Germany, and the subsequent much more brutal and despicable Treaty of Versailles dictated by the “democratic” republics of America and France and also by “free” Britain, have rendered a most useful service to humanity by exposing both imperialism’s hired coolies of the pen and petty-bourgeois reactionaries who, although they call themselves pacifists and socialists, sang praises to “Wilsonism”, and insisted that peace and reforms were possible under imperialism.

before-after

This man was not named. The only information with this image: ‘Australian War Memorial PO6131.006, PO6131.004’

The tens of millions of dead and maimed left by the war—a war to decide whether the British or German group of financial plunderers is to receive the most booty—and those two “peace treaties”, are with unprecedented rapidity opening the eyes of the millions and tens of millions of people who are downtrodden, oppressed, deceived and duped by the bourgeoisie. Thus, out of the universal ruin caused by the war a world-wide revolutionary crisis is arising which, however prolonged and arduous its stages may be, cannot end otherwise than in a proletarian revolution and in its victory.

V.I.Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, 1917, Preface to the French and German Editions

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Aussie pride in servility – we need to be servile for our self-esteem

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David Wroe, ‘PM set to follow Trump on Israel’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 16.10.18

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is considering recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in a historic change of policy that would align Australia with US President Donald Trump’s controversial shift but jar with much of the Western world and risk angering Arab and Muslim nations.

Mr Morrison will announce today that he will also initiate a review of Australia’s support for the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal and have Australia vote against Palestine’s leadership of a large United Nations voting bloc of developing nations – also both key Trump policies and top priorities of Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Jerusalem announcement is likely to reverberate around the world as Australia would become only the second country after the US to shift its position on the contentious issue that goes to the heart of the decades-long Israeli-Palestine conflict that cost hundreds of thousands of lives. …

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