Hegel’s cultural supremacism and the myth of Western ‘Reason’

The rose in the Rosicrucian cross is a concentration of mystical meanings including that of unfolding Mind. ‘To recognise reason as the rose in the cross of the present and thereby to enjoy the present, this is the rational insight which reconciles us to the actual…’ Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Preface.

‘(The Oriental spirit) remains impoverished, arid, and just a matter for the understanding. For this reason we find, on the part of Orientals, only reflections, only arid understanding, a completely external enumeration of elements, something utterly deplorable, empty, pedantic, and devoid of spirit, an elaboration of logic similar to the old Wolffian logic. It is the same with Oriental ceremonies.

This is the general character of Oriental religious representations and philosophy. There is, as in their cultus, on the one hand an immersion in devotion, in substance, and so the pedantic detail of the cultus – a vast array of the most tasteless ceremonies and religious activities – and on the other hand, the sublimity and boundlessness in which everything perishes.

There are two Oriental peoples whom I wish to mention, the Chinese and the Indians.’

G.W.F.Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy 1825-6 Volume I: Introduction and Oriental Philosophy, Together With the Introductions from the Other Series of These Lectures, Trans. Robert F. Brown and J.M. Stewart, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 2009, 106

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MSM Adamantly Avoids The Word “Coup” In Bolivia Reporting — Desultory Heroics

By Caitlin Johnstone Source: CaitlinJohnstone.com There has been a military coup in Bolivia backed by violent right-wing rioters and the US government, but you’d hardly know this from any of the mainstream media headlines. “Bolivian President Evo Morales steps down following accusations of election fraud” proclaims CNN. “Bolivia’s Morales resigns amid scathing election report, rising […]

via MSM Adamantly Avoids The Word “Coup” In Bolivia Reporting — Desultory Heroics

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John Pilger’s film ‘The Coming War on China’

The_Coming_War_On_China

I highly recommend John Pilger’s film ‘The Coming War on China’. The experimentation by the US capitalist class on the Marshall Islanders, initiated by the former’s atomic tests between 1946 and 1958 on Bikini Atoll and the mockery, documented in the film, they made of the Islanders’ suffering, as with the same experimentation the US capitalist class made on the Japanese they bombed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, itself makes the greatest mockery of the unjustified posturing and war crime charges against Bashar al-Assad by their agents and other representatives of Western capital regarding the recent gassing in Syria.

A criticism of Pilger’s documentary: he fails to address (as pointed out by one of his interviewees) the incompatibility and contradiction between the economic and political structures of China and the capitalist West. In particular, the economic (and hence, political) developments within China (of necessity) are and will be the voice of the future while the economic and political structures of the capitalist West, in the violent process of capitalism’s passing, as did feudalism, of the past.

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Comment to Late Night Live on the rise of China

President Xi Jinping

President Xi Jinping

Hi Phillip,

I listened to your interview of the professor from Defence Studies at the ANU with regard to China.

I wonder if he referred to the many pigs at the trough (the most responsible, unpunished) when the latest crisis of capitalist dynamics – the ‘GFC’ (which came within an ace of bringing down capitalism and has not gone away) broke out? I strongly doubt it.

The Chinese are way ahead of the West for three reasons:

> they have had their socialist revolution which the Western nations are yet to have – for the fundamental reason not that I wish it or to provoke your guest but as Marx identified (I am not a Marxist) – that of the level of development of the productive forces, the uncontrolled ramifications of which can be seen everywhere in the West

> they have the potential of the one-party state (cf. the obligatory myopic street-theatre of Republican/Democrat, Liberal/Labor etc.) which, since Deng Xiaoping, has shown a crucial capacity to release the engine of reward for individual initiative within a socialist framework – something the Soviet Communist Party was never able to do (Lenin first unsuccessfully attempted this with his NEP in 1921)

> bearing on this is the consequential rapid rise into the middle class of hundreds of millions of Chinese – a class historically associated with ‘democracy’ – i.e. ‘a voice’ and power. There will be an increasing tension between the Chinese one-party state and their rising middle-class and I think that the Chinese will continue to successfully address this and other matters and lead the world with forms of political and economic organisation that will be models for it.

Worth considering are Engels’ words from a letter to America  in 1894:

‘The war in China has given the death-blow to the old China. Isolation has become impossible; the introduction of railways, steam-engines, electricity, and modern large-scale industry has become a necessity, if only for reasons of military defence. But with it the old economic system of small peasant agriculture, where the family also made its industrial products itself, falls to pieces too, and with it the whole old social system which made relatively dense population possible. Millions will be turned out and forced to emigrate; and these millions will find their way even to Europe, and en masse. But as soon as Chinese competition sets in on a mass scale, it will rapidly bring things to a head in your country and over here, and thus the conquest of China by capitalism will at the same time furnish the impulse for the overthrow of capitalism in Europe and America…’

Philip Stanfield

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ABC Radio National/Late Night Live 25.08.15/China crash

Will capitalist nations go to war with China?

SHANE MCLEOD: China’s role in Australia’s economy continues to grow – it’s now our biggest trading partner and vies with Japan as our biggest export destination.

But there are some who believe that China’s growing economic power will bring with it rising military power and conflict with the West.

That’s the theory of Professor John Mearsheimer from the University of Chicago.



He says China will want to become the region’s dominant power and it won’t want to have the United States continuing to play a role in military defence in the region in countries like Japan and South Korea.

Professor Mearsheimer is in Australia this week as a guest of the University of Sydney, and in coming days he’ll be giving a lecture about China’s rise.

I caught up with him earlier today and asked him why he thinks that rise won’t be peaceful.



JOHN MEARSHEIMER: Well, I think that as China gets economically more powerful than it is today, it will translate that economic might into military might and it will try to dominate the Asia Pacific region just the way the United States dominates the western hemisphere.



Great powers like to be all powerful in their own neighbourhood. They don’t like neighbours that can threaten them and they don’t like distant great powers coming into their backyard just the way the United States has this Monroe-doctrine which effectively tells the European and Asian great powers to stay out of the western hemisphere.



I believe that as China gets more powerful it will do everything it can to push the United States away from its borders and ultimately out of the Asia Pacific region.

SHANE MCLEOD: Is there not a benefit for China though in the status quo as it currently stands? That the US is a major balancing power, it is a defence ally of countries like Japan, South Korea that could be potential threats to Chinese power in the region. Isn’t there a benefit for China in keeping the US involved?



JOHN MEARSHEIMER: Well, I don’t think that the Chinese is to get more powerful and even now view the United States as quite the benevolent force that you describe them to be. (sic) We have just had a controversy where the United States and the South Koreans decided that they were going to run naval exercises in the Yellow Sea to protest North Korean sinking of a South Korean ship.



This made the Chinese very upset because they view the American navy as threatening just as the United States would view a Chinese navy or a German navy or a Soviet navy on its doorstep as threatening.

So from a Chinese point of view, the best of all possible worlds would to have the Americans far away and for China, not the United States to provide the stabilising factor in the region.

SHANE MCLEOD: But if you take say the United States out of Japan then you have a country that has a constitution imposed by the US after World War II limiting its defence build up, its defence capability. Wouldn’t a country like Japan for example, in a region without the United States there ramp up its own capabilities?

It wouldn’t take much for Japan to become a nuclear power for example.

JOHN MEARSHEIMER: I think that is true but if you look at the balance of power over time between China and Japan, the gap which is now quite large is going to increase significantly, in large part for demographic reasons.



Japan has the most rapidly aging population in the world. It is going to get smaller and weaker over time.



China is going to get more powerful over time. In an ideal situation from China’s point of view is one where the power gap between it and Japan is large and China has the ability to dominate Japan because that is the best way to ensure your security in a dangerous world.

SHANE MCLEOD: Does this happen by force or could China become the regional power through soft power, through coercion by showing itself to be the leader in the region? Would it be such a problem for countries like Japan, Korea, Vietnam, to look to China as the natural power in the region?



JOHN MEARSHEIMER: I think one can make an argument that China, if it continues to grow at the spectacular pace that it has been growing at over the past 30 years for the next 30 years then it will become so big and so powerful that it won’t have to even countenance using force to dominate the region.

It will just be so powerful that countries like South Korea and Japan will have no choice but to in effect dance to China’s tune. But there is a serious possibility along the way of conflict.



If you read the Australian White Paper from last year, it is quite clear from that White Paper that the Australian Government is nervous about the possibility and I want to underline the word possibility of conflict between China and other powers in the region as China continues to rise.

SHANE MCLEOD: How do you see Australia’s role evolving in the region alongside a powerful China and what about the relationship with Australia’s traditional allies, the United States?

JOHN MEARSHEIMER: Well, I think that as China continues to rise that a balancing coalition will form in this region. It will be aimed at containing China much the way we had balancing coalitions in Europe and Asia during the Cold War.

SHANE MCLEOD: They could never say that though could they?

JOHN MEARSHEIMER: No, no it is very hard to say that but I think behind closed doors that is how people are talking and I think that you see all sorts of evidence that the balancing coalition is beginning to form.



If you look at the close relations that now exist between India and the United States, if you look at relations between Vietnam and the United States, Singapore’s approach to dealing with the United States these days.



It is just all sorts of evidence that countries in the region are worried about China as is the United States and this will cause them to eventually come together and form a balancing coalition and I would be shocked if Australia is not part of that balancing coalition as it was part of the balancing coalition against Japan in the 1940s.

SHANE MCLEOD: You made reference to it but the economic ties, will they have a calming effect do you think? If countries in this region like Australia are so strongly tied to China economically, will that offset the potential tensions in the strategic relationship?



JOHN MEARSHEIMER: Well, first of all it is possible that those economic ties could cause trouble. If you had a serious recession or a depression, it could be the case that those ties didn’t work to cause peace – they in fact work to cause conflict between the relevant powers. So economic ties don’t always produce peaceful outcomes.

But let’s assume that they do. The historical record shows very clearly that before World War I, you had economic ties in Europe that should have produced peace yet you had World War I so I don’t think it is impossible that in a world where you have a great deal of economic interdependence and where all the players are doing quite well economically, to still have a conflict between the opposing powers and that is a large part because when push comes to shove, politics dominates economics.



SHANE MCLEOD: That is Professor John Mearsheimer from the University of Chicago and there will be a longer version of that interview available on our website later today.

ABC Radio National/The World Today/02.08.10

http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2010/s2970768.htm

Two courageous Australians

Although John Pilger and Julian Assange lack class analysis they are two fine Australians. No aping of the US accent here, no Texan pronunciation of ‘Iraq’ nor beginning every response with ‘So…’.

Principles and no servility, unlike that of their culture and government which can’t wait to abandon Assange to the enraged US capitalist class and their agents (that the ‘Christian’ Prime Minister Morrison said that Assange ‘won’t get any special treatment’ by the Australian government to represent him is an early indicator), just as they did Mamdouh Habib and the token white Taliban David Hicks, even while every other country, including Britain, was demanding the return of their citizens from Guantanamo Bay).

I highly recommend this video.

Watch developments as the Australian government (either Liberal or Labor – note the American spelling – post the upcoming federal election), so big and tough in relation to China (but not too much – as ex-PM Abbott said, ‘fear and greed’ are the drivers in Australia’s myopic relations with China), abandons a fine Australian to his fate.

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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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Migration and State Interest: the Chinese in Gold Rush California — A R T L▼R K

On the 2nd of February 1848, less than two weeks after the discovery of gold in California, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed, which secured peace at the end of the two-year American-Mexican War. This was important for the United States, which obtained several bordering states and, essentially, the ownership of California. The latter was […]

via Migration and State Interest: the Chinese in Gold Rush California — A R T L▼R K

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First there were the gold rushes in the U.S. and Australia (where the Chinese were also victimised for basically the same reasons as in the U.S.), now there’s Huawei. You can see what this is developing into and what may be the ideological basis for the next big war – lovers of ‘freedom’ (the freedom to consume) and ‘democracy’ (if anything threatened change, it wouldn’t be allowed) versus a ‘Communist surveillance state’, just as an earlier generation fought for ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ against a Nazi fascist state (Trotsky correctly described fascism as capitalism in extremis, capitalism without pretence).

Where world wars I and II reflected the dynamics of capitalism, the next (at least possible) big war will be between the proponents and dupes of capitalism fighting the inevitable rise of socialism.

Just as it was necessary that capitalism rose from feudalism, so it will be necessary that socialism continues to rise from capitalism – not because I subscribe to socialism, but because matter (objective reality) has precedence over consciousness. The professors who teach Marx know this but then behave as though this knowledge had never penetrated their deeply furrowed brows.

In society, the basis for development is ultimately the level of development of the productive forces.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-02-02/china-research-artificial-intelligence-bigger-threat-than-huawei/10685420

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A diabolic false flag empire — Desultory Heroics

A review of David Ray Griffin’s “The American Trajectory: Divine or Demonic?” By Edward Curtin Source: Intrepid Report The past is not dead; it is people who are sleeping. The current night and daymares that we are having arise out of murders lodged deep in our past that have continued into the present. No amount […]

via A diabolic false flag empire — Desultory Heroics

An excellent article which I will share on my blog. My criticism of it is the use of the term ‘demonic’ which I think excessively colours the article’s presentation of facts – they speak best when allowed to do so for themselves – and blurs the nature of what has always been done till now (the brutality employed only limited by the degree of technological development) in the rise and maintenance of empire and global domination.

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‘Civilisation’ pushes back the hordes of its own creating

Omid Masoumali

Iranian refugee Omid Masoumali died having set himself on fire after UNHCR told him he would remain on Nauru. He had been on the island for three years and was requesting to be sent to a third country.

Antony Loewenstein, ‘Australia’s brutal refugee policy is inspiring the far right in the EU and beyond’, The Nation, 30.06.18

In an age of refugee demonisation, Australia was well ahead of the curve.

Soon after President Trump assumed office in January 2017, he had a phone call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. The transcript of the conversation, leaked in August, revealed that the new US president admired his Australian counterpart because Turnbull was “worse than I am” on asylum seekers. Turnbull had proudly stated, “If you try to come to Australia by boat, even if we think you are the best person in the world, even if you are a Nobel Prize–winning genius, we will not let you in.”

In their phone call, the prime minister begged the US leader to adhere to a deal struck by Turnbull and former President Barack Obama the year before, in which the United States had agreed take up to 1,250 refugees imprisoned by Australia for years on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Nauru in the Pacific. In exchange, Australia would take refugees from Central America.

Trump didn’t understand why Australia couldn’t take the PNG and Nauru refugees in. Turnbull responded, “It is not because [the refugees] are bad people. It is because in order to stop people smugglers we had to deprive them of the product.” Trump liked what he heard. “That is a good idea,” he said. “We should do that too.”

Turnbull was proudly explaining the complex system established by Australia many years earlier: Refugees are imprisoned in privatised remote detention centres on the Australian mainland and on Pacific islands. Trump isn’t the only one who is impressed; many Western leaders have not only expressed admiration for Australia’s draconian refugee policies but have initiated ways to implement them in their own nations to contend with the recent surge of people fleeing Africa and the Middle East.

The mainstreaming of xenophobia regarding refugees was perfected by Australian politicians more than 20 years ago. Along with a media-savvy mix of dog-whistling against ethnic groups with little social power, refugees have been accused of being dirty, suspicious, lazy, welfare-hungry, and potential terrorists—and they’ve been accused of refusing to assimilate, despite the country’s largely successful multicultural reality.

Australia hasn’t been shy in offering advice to European nations struggling with an influx of refugees. Former prime minister Tony Abbott warned his European counterparts in 2016 that they were facing a “peaceful invasion” and risked “losing control” of their sovereignty unless they embraced Australian-style policies.

“Effective border protection is not for the squeamish,” he claimed, after pushing the concept of turning back refugee boats at sea and returning people to their country of origin, “but it is absolutely necessary to save lives and to preserve nations.” Abbott refused my requests for comment.

Australia has accepted about 190,000 people annually in its permanent migration program in recent years. This year, however, the migrant intake will be the lowest in seven years. There’s an inherent contradiction in Australia’s migration policy: The country quietly accepts many refugees who come by plane, but treats those arriving by boat with contempt and abuse. Between 1976 and 2015, more than 69,600 people seeking asylum—mostly from Afghanistan, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East—have arrived in Australia by boat.

Unlike some European nations, such as Britain, Spain, and Italy, where about 65 percent of people oppose immigration, authoritative polling by Australia’s Scanlon Foundation found that a majority of citizens back new arrivals: 80 percent of respondents rejected selecting immigrants by race, and 74 percent opposed the idea of selecting immigrants by religion—and yet growing numbers of people expressed opposition to or suspicion of Islam. And calling for a large cut in immigration has entered the Australian mainstream. The latest polling from the Lowy Institute in 2018 found that a majority of Australians now back a curb in migration. Many of those pushing this argument claim that caring for immigrants is too costly and that priority should be given to improving the infrastructure and environment. It’s possible, of course, for such a rich country to do both.

The internationalisation of Australia’s refugee stance has, unfortunately, coincided with Europe’s right-wing populist surge. Europe has recently faced millions of asylum seekers arriving on its shores. Many want them stopped and turned back. It’s a view shared by some of the continent’s most extreme political parties; Italy’s new right-wing government is already turning refugee boats away. Some far-right Danish politicians tried but failed to visit Nauru in 2016 to see how it was housing refugees. Punitive attitudes are moving from the fringes to the mainstream, so it’s not surprising they want to see how Australia does it. If this democratic country can warehouse refugees for years, with little tangible international sanction—apart from increasingly scathing UN reports on its migration program—why not European states, with far more people crossing their borders?

I heard this argument regularly when talking to European fans of Australia. Jens Baur, chairman of the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party of Germany’s Saxony region, told The Nation that he praised Australian “success” against refugees because it was an effective “deterrent.” For Baur, Europe used “ships of the navies of European states as a ‘tug-taxi,’ bringing refugees from the North African coast to Europe.” He wanted Europe to follow the examples of Australia and anti-refugee Hungary.

A more influential European politician, Kenneth Kristensen Berth of the ultranationalist Danish People’s Party, Denmark’s leading opposition party, has increasingly copied Australia’s hard-line position as his party has grown in popularity. Berth said that he liked the “efficiency” of Australia’s system and had no sympathy for refugees trapped on Pacific islands.

“It is their own choice,” Berth told me. “They have been warned by Australian officials that they will never be able to call Australia their home if they tried to reach Australia illegally. As long as they are not manhandled in these detention centres, I do not find any fault at the Australian side.” (In fact, countless refugees have been assaulted.)

One of the key architects of Brexit, former far-right UKIP leader Nigel Farage, praised what a fellow UKIP MP called Australia’s “innovative” refugee approach and wanted the European Union to follow. Farage ignored my repeated requests for comment.

The ideological underpinning of Europe’s far-right support should be understood as a politically savvy mix of racism, a kind of nationalist socialism, and isolationism. Sasha Polakow-Suransky, author of the recently published book Go Back to Where You Came From: The Backlash Against Immigration and the Fate of Western Democracy, explains that many far-right leaders are “defenders of a nativist nanny state.” He told me, “They are not neoliberal dismantlers of the welfare state but defenders of social benefits for only the native born. This is a populist pitch that has been extremely effective at drawing ex-Communists and social democrats into their ranks. These politicians are seeking ways to protect their comprehensive social safety nets and avoid sharing with newcomers.”

Polakow-Suransky finds that in this worldview, Australia’s generous social benefits to its citizens should be copied in Europe but not for “what they perceive as the grasping hands of undeserving new arrivals who are seeking to leech off their welfare state.”

The Australian methods are ruthlessly effective; waves of refugees have attempted to arrive by boat since the early 1990s. Thousands have been physically and psychologically traumatised after being locked up, and one was even killed in detention by local guards (a subsequent Senate inquiry found that Australian authorities failed to adequately protect him). They’re often refused necessary medical care, and sometimes returned to danger in countries such as Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. A fundamental element of international law, which Australia routinely breaks, is the concept of non-refoulement, the principle that refugees should not be sent back to a place where they will be in danger.

Australia’s refugee policy has been condemned in reports by the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International, as well as in eyewitness accounts by activists and journalists. I’ve visited many of the most extreme facilities myself—such as Christmas Island, in the Indian Ocean—and have heard horror stories from asylum seekers and guards. Successive Australian governments have paid tens of millions of dollars in compensation to many of these refugees, and yet the policy continues, with strong public support. In an age of refugee demonisation, Australia was well ahead of the curve.

These policies were developed before the September 11 terror attacks, but they gained greater currency after that infamous day. After that trauma, it was easier to brand boat arrivals as potential terrorists and Islamist extremists; there’s been almost complete bipartisan political support for this view ever since.

Australia’s anti-refugee campaigns are targeted at a scared white population, of course, but their appeal is broader than that. According to the 2016 Census, nearly half of citizens were born to first- or second-generation migrants—and there are plenty of conservative former migrants who have little sympathy for more recent arrivals by boat. As journalist James Button wrote recently in the Australian magazine The Monthly, “Most Australians, including migrants, accept the brutal bargain: you have to be invited, there’s a right way and a wrong way.” The “wrong way” apparently deserves no sympathy. It doesn’t help that there are still very few nonwhite mainstream journalists in Australia, which means the perspectives of the growing number of non-Anglo residents are not getting the media attention they deserve.

Australia-refugees-ap-img

Australian activists opposed to these policies have spent decades campaigning against them, including attempts to refer Australia to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity over the country’s abuse of refugees in detention. Human-rights lawyer Madeline Gleeson, a lecturer at the University of New South Wales Law School in Sydney, told me that there were “persuasive grounds for arguing that certain conduct of Australian officers could engage their individual criminal responsibility,” but prosecution in an international court faces major obstacles, such as whether such a court could even be convinced to hear a case about abuses committed by a Western, democratic nation.

It’s now impossible to deny that Australian refugee policy is inspiring some of the most draconian asylum directives in the EU and beyond. How did a nation with such a positive international reputation become a global leader in harming asylum seekers?

For most of its existence as a settler-colonial nation, Australia had an official White Australia policy, preferring migrants with a British background. This began to change in the 1950s, and by the late 1970s, Australia was welcoming tens of thousands of refugees fleeing the chaos in Southeast Asia after the Vietnam War. But in the early 1990s, the Labor government introduced mandatory detention for asylum seekers, who mostly came from Cambodia at the time (survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime, the numbers were modest; they didn’t surge until the early 2000s, partly due to the “war on terror” under more conservative Prime Minister John Howard). The prime minister at the time, Paul Keating, said recently, “To be honest, it was not a great human rights issue for [the] cabinet at the time”—because they feared an avalanche of asylum claims from global conflict zones and troubled countries in the region, including China. It was the beginning of a process that has become increasingly harsh.

The scale of Australia’s detention network is difficult to fathom. With a population of around 25 million, and a land mass not much smaller than that of the United States, Australia has room for many more refugees and a need for skilled newcomers. But the country has long had a fear of the outsider (this sentiment may be partially rooted in the fact that Australia, established as a British colony in 1788, committed genocide against its first inhabitants, the Aborigines). Whereas once it was the Chinese and Vietnamese arrivals who were viewed with suspicion, today many Australians are convinced that brown, black, and Muslim refugees deserve the harshest treatment imaginable.

The cost of maintaining Australia’s detention camps is astronomical. The latest figures, released in early 2018, show that in the 2016-17 fiscal year, Australia spent $4.06 billion on “border protection.” This included “offshore management” of over $1 billion. The annual cost for each refugee housed in detention was $346,178.

Australia spent $10 million in the 2015-16 fiscal year (and millions more on other, similar projects) on overseas advertising directed at citizens in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia. The message was clear: Do not come to Australia by boat, because the path is completely blocked. The world’s surging refugee population—the largest since World War II, at more than 68 million—has done nothing to soften Australia’s resolve (aside from a small effort to welcome 12,000 refugees from war-torn Syria and Iraq). On the other hand, when white South African farmers faced threats earlier this year, the Australian government said they “deserve special treatment” and could be fast-tracked into the country.

In 2013, the Australian Parliament passed legislation removing the country’s mainland from its migration zone, allowing the government to send all arriving asylum seekers to PNG and Nauru. The point of offshoring refugees was that the Australian government could claim that any abuses or problems there were the responsibility of the countries in which they occurred, client states such as PNG and Nauru. It was a blatant lie, but it allowed multinationals that run those facilities to make a fortune (I attempted unsuccessfully to get a response from the company currently running the Manus Island facility, Paladin Solutions PNG). The offshoring in these poor and corrupt countries consigns the people imprisoned there to a legal black hole, in locations akin to Guantánamo Bay or even so-called “black sites” where journalists are rarely allowed access.

Operation Sovereign Borders was the name given in 2013 to the Australian government’s program to deter refugees at sea; it included paying Indonesian people-smugglers to turn boats around. Since 2013, the Australian Navy has turned back at least 31 boats carrying 771 people. Despite the fact that many asylum seekers were found by Australia to have legitimate claims, this had little effect on their treatment at the hands of officials, who often delayed decisions about their fate for years. The Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection ignored my repeated requests for comment.

European support for Australia’s refugee policies goes way beyond rhetoric. I’ve spent years investigating this issue and found evidence that officials from both individual European nations as well as the EU are secretly meeting senior Australian officials to understand how to adopt Australia’s policies on a continent-wide scale.

A former senior official at the UN, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed to me that in 2016 Australia’s Ambassador for People Smuggling and Human Trafficking, Andrew Goledzinowski, undertook a tour of Europe, trying to convince governments and the UN of the virtues of Australia’s offshore processing model. Goledzinowski is now Australia’s High Commissioner to Malaysia. The Australian government refused to comment on the inner workings of its refugee strategy.

“I am certain that this tour was part of a much broader and longer-term Australian effort to export and legitimise its approach to the refugee issue,” the UN official said. “In that respect, looking at the trajectory of EU asylum policy, it has been pretty successful. The interceptions by Libyan coast guards [of refugees fleeing to Europe who are then sent back to horrific conditions in Libya] are essentially an arms-length version of Operation Sovereign Borders.”

In early 2017, Australian media reported that at least six European countries were asking Australia for advice in managing the refugee crisis. A spokesperson for Peter Dutton, who was then Australia’s immigration minister (he’s now home affairs minister), told the press then that “a number of European nations and the European Union have sought advice from the Australian Government on Operation Sovereign Borders. The minister has personally had discussions with several of his European counterparts.”

Last year the EU openly embraced Australian-style border-protection policies, while still denying it was doing so. When Italy announced it was sending its Mediterranean navy into Libyan waters to intercept refugees and send them back to Libya, along with plans to train the Libyan coast guard to manage the job on its own within three years, refugee rights were ignored.

The Libyan coast guard is underfunded and has been accused of abuses, including firing on refugee boats, but the EU and Italy are committed to boosting Libya’s role as gatekeeper of new arrivals, even though the country is engulfed in civil war and asylum seekers have experienced rape, torture, and enslavement. Amnesty International has accused the EU of complicity in mistreatment—including torture—of refugees by paying Libyan officials to work with people-smugglers and militia groups.

Despite these problems, Italy and the EU plan to spend 44 million euros between now and 2020 to help Libya build a vast search-and-rescue enterprise at sea, according to documents obtained by Reuters in late 2017. And French President Emmanuel Macron said last year he wanted to build refugee-processing centres in Libya to assess applicants before they come to Europe (France currently processes some refugees in a small outpost in Niger).

The EU already gives huge amounts of money and aid to Libya and Niger—two nations that have been cited by Amnesty International and other human-rights groups for numerous violations in their treatment of refugees—to effectively keep Europe-bound refugees in Africa. The EU, which has for years been quietly militarising its response to border security, plans to spend billions to create an EU army.

When I asked the European Commission about contacts with Australia on its immigration policies, it claimed there had been none. But commission officials also told me that they had “enormous concerns” about security in Libya and were therefore focused on “strengthening our cooperation with neighbouring countries to intervene before migrants embark on perilous journeys to Europe and to prevent deaths at sea by ensuring that migrants find a refuge in partner countries and by opening legal ways to Europe through resettlement.”

Critics of European policies have been increasingly marginalised. Jeff Crisp, former head of policy development and evaluation at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, told me that the EU strategy was “smarter than that of Australia. While Canberra employs its own military personnel to implement Operation Sovereign Borders, the EU has contracted out the dirty work to the Libyan coast guard and associated militia groups. And while the Libyan slavery scandal threatened to expose the failings of EU refugee policy, it is now being used by Brussels to suggest that the best solution to the refugee issue is to send them all back to their countries of origin.”

It was perhaps imaginable that Australia would become an inspiration for all the wrong reasons. And with Trump in the White House, Washington could follow suit. Author Polakow-Suransky argues that the Trump administration could “attempt an Australian-style policy on a mass scale and pay off poor Central American countries to stop the flow of migrants or detain them.” In fact, Washington is already paying Mexico to keep migrants away from the US border and has helped militarise the Mexican-Guatemalan border to stop the refugee flow. Private contractors are currently reaping financial rewards from the Trump era’s harsh border policies.

Australia is one of the most successful multicultural nations on earth, and yet its legacy is now tainted by extreme efforts to dehumanise the most desperate people alive. The world is watching and learning.

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Images: first/second