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Forgotten

March 13, 2011 1 comment

It was recently announced that Wikileaks has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.  Julian Assange continues to struggle with the wrath of the US government, the international media and Swedish prosecutors in his pursuit of what John Pilger calls ‘the insurrection of knowledge’.  Debates rage around the world about the nature of individual freedom, free speech, the right of the people to know what our governments are doing, the role of the internet in exposing injustice and state excesses.

In the mean time 23 year old US Soldier Bradley Manning who is accused of leaking secrets to Wikileaks, is in a high security military prison in Virginia in the US.  He doesn’t have the celebrity support, bail money or media attention that Assange has and is facing up to 52 years in prison.  he is being kept in solitary confinement and his physical and mental health are deteriorating.

This is from an article about Bradley Manning in the New Statesman:

Manning is under a Prevention of Injury (POI) order, which limits his social contact, exercise, sleep and access to external stimuli such as newspapers or  television (Manning had no idea of the impact the WikiLeaks release was having until House told him). He spends 23 hours a day alone in his cell. The hour he is allowed out, he is taken to an empty room and walks in circles. If he is caught exercising in his cell, he is forced to stop. At night, Manning is stripped to his underwear and has to sleep under blankets that he says give him carpet burn. He is usually woken several times throughout the night by guards. POI orders are usually issued when prisoners present a risk to themselves or others and are supposed to be temporary. Manning has been under the order since he arrived at the Brig in July.  (http://www.newstatesman.com/north-america/2011/03/manning-house-held-base-iraq)

Bradley Manning does not know when his situation will change, if things will get better for him, or worse.  He is in prison because he did what he thought was the right thing.  It seems he understood the impact of his actions, but he went ahead and did what he felt he had to do.

There is nothing I feel I can say about this situation, except the Manning is one of many people, forgotten and not forgotten, suffering the most inhuman treatment while we – myself included – stand by and do nothing.

Perhaps two very heroic men can say more about it than me. So I will leave it to them:

The True Prison

It is not the leaking roof
Nor the singing mosquitoes
In the damp, wretched cell.
It is not the clank of the key
As the warder locks you in.
It is not the measly rations
Unfit for man or beast
Nor yet the emptiness of day
Dipping into the blankness of night
It is not
It is not
It is not
It is the lies that have been drummed
Into your ears for one generation’
It is the security agent running amok
Executing callous calamitous orders
In exchange for a wretched meal a day
The magistrate writing in her book
Punishment she knows is undeserved
The moral ineptitude
Mental decreptitude
Lending dictatorship spurious legitimacy
Cowardice asked as obedience.
Lurking in our denigrated souls
It is fear damping trousers
We dare not wash off our urine
It is this
It is this
It is this
Dear friend, turns our free world
Into a dreary prison.

Ken Saro Wiwa (1941 – 1995) Nigerian Poet, TV Producer and Environmental campaigner, executed by the Nigerian Government after a military tribunal for campaigning against Oil companies and for the rights of the Ogoni people in the Niger Delta.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


**

It’s Also Fine

It’s also fine to die in our beds

on a clean pillow

and among our friends.

It’s fine to die, once,

our hands crossed on our chests

empty and pale

with no scratches, no chains, no banners,

and no petitions.

It’s fine to have an undusty death,

no holes in our shirts,

and no evidence in our ribs.

It’s fine to die

with a white pillow, not the pavement, under our cheeks,

our hands resting in those of our loved ones,

surrounded by desperate doctors and nurses,

with nothing left but a graceful farewell,

paying no attention to history,

leaving this world as it is,

hoping that, someday, someone else

will change it.

Mourid Barghouti (b. 1944) Palestinian Poet and Writer

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Complicity

September 13, 2010 1 comment

Sometimes things are so complicated that we forget that they don’t need to be.  There are certain things that are just wrong, and we do the right thing when we make it clear that we think it is wrong.  The ‘Israel-Palestine conflict’ is a case in point.  Although both Israelis and Palestinians have suffered in ways we elsewhere cannot even begin to imagine, and although the whole thing is horrendously complicated, there is nevertheless a truth that I believe cannot be denied.  Take, for example, what has been going on in Gaza over the last few years.  One of the most sophisticated militaries in the world (I would argue that Israel – from what I can tell – is pretty much a militarised society in that over there the military is part of the everyday) is imprisoning, controlling, slowly suffocating Gazans, who literally have no way to defend themselves other than to attack with rickety old rockets from Hizbullah in the North, or stones, or by blowing themselves up. By all accounts, people aren’t blowing themselves up as much as they were because the illegal wall between Palestine and Israel has been built, so not only have lives been saved, but the only potent weapon of the Palestinians has been rendered useless.  The desperation of Palestinian people is illustrated by the fact that many of them were prepared to blow themselves up.  We in Western Europe should note that this is not necessarily a religious thing, but a political one, an existential one even – it is the ultimate act of desperation, the ultimate cry of pain, and the final scream in the face of an oppressor that will not recognise your pain, will not acknowledge that you have no future. The only weapon they have is their life.  It is claiming one’s right to exist by ending one’s own existence http://press.princeton.edu/titles/7699.html  Of course, like in so much of life, the innocent are exploited by others who organise – in this case  the bombings – but of course don’t do the job themselves.

There are many arguments to be had about the conflict between Israel and Palestine:  why, how, what for and so on, but the basic truth is that Gaza is now pretty much a very large prison camp.  And if this was happening almost anywhere else in the world, it probably wouldn’t be ‘allowed’ to happen.  I don’t want to get into why this is allowed to happen, but the Israelis are very good at keeping US politicians who want to win elections on side.  I remember wondering how Obama would deal with this issue before he ran for the presidential candidacy. I remember being so disappointed in him but understanding why he chose not to criticise Israel.

http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article6619.shtml

Whatever one’s politics may be, whether one is pro-this or anti-that, fundamentally it is morally inexcusable that this is being allowed to happen.  This is not only for peace and freedom in Palestine of course. Currently Israel is isolationist, it’s rhetoric is pretty radical and it continues to build illegally on Palestinian land.  It is morally corrupting itself. Peace and freedom for the Palestinians would mean that Israel would also be free, from its prison of moral corruption and from it’s fear of attack.   However at present, Israel continues to be in breach of international law and it knows that it will never be held to account.  And, Israel’s leaders justify its actions in a discourse of fear:  the ongoing vulnerability of a Jewish state surrounded by Arab countries / Iran who, it is claimed, question it’s right to exist http://www.enduringamerica.com/march-2010/2010/3/23/full-video-transcript-benjamin-netanyahus-speech-to-aipac-co.html

Anyway, as I see it there is a simple truth.  The simple truth is that what is happening is wrong in the eyes of international law, and wrong on humanitarian and ethical levels.  Perhaps the right thing to do is to acknowledge  this simple truth, whilst recognising the pain that both communities have suffered.  However, this basic fact can easily lost in the complexities of a long and bloody battle.

As we live in a 24 hour media age, the conflict is of course being fought in the media.  The propaganda war is key to success in any war, and in this particular ‘conflict’, the true story rarely gets out, mainly because the media is lazy and expects us, the audience, to be too (we can’t explain why this is happening as it’s too complex so let’s just use stereotypes to explain).Often in a propaganda war, the perceived complexities are reduced down to the lowest common denominator  – namely whatever sells, whatever ‘angle’ is deemed suitable for the public’s current tastes – and the basic ethical truth is lost.  In this process, the media becomes complicit.  It’s complicity is complex but it is, nonetheless complicit. And we are used to it now.  We accept it.  Why? Why doesn’t anyone speak out?  Maybe they do, but of course the media never reports it.  We could do with a few more George Orwells, Robert Fisks or John Pilgers.

As I don’t watch the Fox news channel, it is quite rare that I am gobsmacked by brutally insensitive, incompetently researched and, basically, stupid journalism.   However, a recent BBC programme has really sunk the corporation to new depths.  The BBC is often (I really don’t know why) accused of being biased, but this is generally because it is criticised as too ‘left-wing’ (I think critics of the BBC think it is too close to the state, which funds it, but then it’s hardly likely to be ‘left-wing’), but there is a programme it showed recently which was very biased.  In fact, because of this programme I would argue that the BBC is complicit in the suffering of the Palestinians and the Israelis.  This is because of it’s stupid, ill-researched journalism, it’s lowest-common-denominator, sensationalist approach and it’s extraordinary bias, most viewers will believe the lies in this programme to be true, thus the status quo in this situation is perpetuated, thus nothing changes and the horror continues. An opportunity to tell the truth has been missed.  Again.

Panorama is rarely a seriously critical / journalistic 30 min of TV – although it is the BBC’s main investigative Journalism programme –  but this episode actually made me laugh. The programme was about the storming of the Mari Mara ship by Israeli Commandoes and the subsequent killing of a number of peace activists on board.   It makes a series of statements which argue essentially that the people on board the Mari Mara, and behind the whole peace convoy were ‘Islamic extremists’ (whatever that means), that the activists were preparing a violent clash with the Israelis, and that the Commandos themselves were the victims on the whole shambles.  There are constant claims and insinuations that are unfounded, and never explained, so any casual viewer would go away thinking that the claims in the film are true.  What little context there is, is essentially lip service.

You can watch it here and decide for yourself what you think: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6yEi1B5xb_E

I have already bored my loved ones about this issue and I finally found someone who agrees with me, and not just to shut me up.  He has done a short study of the programme and it’s appalling journalism.

http://www.counterfire.org/index.php/features/46-video/6612-bbc-bias-the-gaza-freedom-flotilla-

Here are some more people that agree: http://www.demotix.com/photo/417278/bbc-panorama-death-med-protest

And more: http://bpc-world.co.uk/2010/08/bbc-panorama-an-exemplary-work-of-clumsy-journalism/

Here is the BBC’s response to BPC world: http://bpc-world.co.uk/2010/08/death-in-the-med-panorama-response/

Anthony Lawson who made the film calls for an inquiry into ‘who is really in charge’ of the BBC. I would argue that it’s not really about conspiracies, or who is in charge of the BBC. Essentially the inquiry should be about why we find it acceptable that institutions can be complicit in propagating our lack of understanding about – and therefore the suffering of those involved in –  some of the worst things that people do to each other.  And why this is allowed to continue.  And why we don’t care.  And why if we do care, we feel powerless to change it. It’s not just about the media either.  In various ways, we are all complicit, in our own and each others’ various repressions and supressions, and our suffering.