My guest today is Virginia Balmain who is the President of the United Nations Association of Australia (QLD) and the Vice-President of the UNAA in Australia. We chat about Australia’s role in the UN, our obligations as a Member Nation, and some of the contentious issues surrounding the UN – the veto power of the permanent members of the Security Council, the rise of the “Islamic Bloc”, how it is funded and whether or not it is a “toothless tiger”.
I have plenty of concerns about the Bin Laden assassination this week, both in terms of what actually happened and how it is being reported. How could the US President make so many mistakes in his explanation of events? Is it legal to assassinate someone who hasn’t had a trial to determine guilt? Does questioning a government’s version of events automatically make you a crazy conspiracy theorist?
These are some of the questions I explore in today’s show. Would love to know your thoughts.
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My guest today is Australian author, journalist, blogger and Middle East specialist, Antony Loewenstein.
Links for today’s show:
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Dear Prime Minister,
I am writing to express my disgust at your government’s treatment of an honourable Australian citizen, namely, Julian Assange.
Here is a man who represents the embodiment of what we consider the Australian ethos – a “fair go” for everyone. By exposing the lies, deceit and hypocrisy of United States’ diplomats and elected officials, he is helping bring about a more honest and transparent geo-political landscape.
Your lack of political, legal and moral support for Assange and your Howardesque pandering to the United States will be the downfall of your political career and your historical legacy. It’s such a shame to see Australia’s first female Prime Minister, an atheist no less, turn out to be as reprehensible and reprobate as the former Howard government.
It further reduces my trust in Australian politicians.
Everton Park, QLD.
You can email the PM here.
Afghanistan as a whole supplies 92% of the world’s opiates. The Head of the Taliban’s Supreme Council, Mullah Mohammed Omar, declared it “un-Islamic” to process heroin in July 2001 and production for that year fell by 91%. Two months later, the 9/11 attacks happened in the United States and were immediately blamed on Al Qaeda operating out of Afghanistan. The War in Afghanistan began on October 7, 2001. NATO forces, lead by the U.S.A., removed the Taliban’s control of Afghanistan. Since then, opium production in Afghanistan has reached all-time historical highs. Recent estimates by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimate that 52% of the nation’s GDP, amounting to $2.7 billion annually, is generated by the drug trade and some 3.3 million Afghans are involved in producing opium. There are currently around 437,000 troops making up the NATO / Afghan / USA non-NATO force in Afghanistan. As the CIA has a history of dealing with drug traffickers (i.e. the Contras), we have to wonder what’s going on in Afghanistan. How is the product leaving the country when it has 430,000 foreign troops spread out all over it? One argument is that opium is such a huge part of the Afghan economy, that NATO troops can’t destroy it without creating huge financial burdens on the farmers. Yet the $2.5 Billion that opium production provides the Afghan economy each year is a pittance compared to the cost of the war, which is already well over $369 Billion for the USA alone. Another $2.5 Billion to destroy 90% of the world’s opium seems like a easy decision. Why hasn’t it been made yet? Is it possible that the NATO forces are supporting the world’s heroin trade?
How many news orgs, in their coverage of the rape allegations against Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange, mention the whole story, i.e that both the Prosecution and the Defense claims that the sex was consensual but then “condom mishaps” occurred (as explained in this Wired article)? I think this little fact is very important to how people read the story – but how many news orgs are bothering to include it? And how many reference the fact that Assange’s lawyers they have been asking for, but haven’t received, details of the claims?
News.com.au – no mention.
Press TV – no mention.
NY Daily News – condom mishap mentioned.
CNN – no mention.
Australian Broadcasting Corporation – no mention.
The Telegraph – no mention.
LA Times – no mention.
Bloomberg – no mention.
Wall Street Journal – no mention.
Sydney Morning Herald – no mention.
As the Australian parliament begins a long-overdue debate about our involvement in Afghanistan, expect to hear a lot of hot air about what a nasty piece of work the Taliban are and how we are there to put an end to their nastiness. You’ll hear about their theocracy, their imprisonment of women in burqas and nose-slitting for the disobedient.
Expect to hear statements, such as the one Foreign Minister Stephen Smith recently made, about Afghanistan being “current hotbeds or danger points” for international terrorism.
I have several issues with these arguments.
1. They Cut Both Ways
To begin with – as much as I dislike theocracies and religion in any form, from a diplomatic perspective, we have to realise that if disliking a country’s politics or religion gives us moral grounds to invade that country, then we are acknowledging that that country also has moral grounds to invade OUR country if they dislike OUR politics or religion. The USA didn’t like it very much the last time a handful of Saudis decided they didn’t like American politics. In fact, they used the attack that stemmed from that dislike as an excuse for invading a couple of countries. We have to be extremely careful what precedents we set interceding in international affairs.
2. They Are Hypocritical
The second issue, about being a “hotbed” for terrorism, is troubling for the same reason. It is a record of fact that the CIA has been a supporter of terrorists and dictators for many decades. Terrorists and dictators with names such as Saddam, Noriega, Pinochet, Suharto, Mobutu and “Papa Doc” Duvalier all received either direct or indirect support from the CIA. (Australia also was a direct supporter of at least one of these men – General Suharto.)
Of course it is also a matter of record that the CIA has been and is currently involved in supporting other terrorist organisations such as Israel’s MOSSAD and Pakistan’s ISI. If we argue that supporting terrorists makes a country open to invasion, we have to then acknowledge that it is equally acceptable for other people to invade our countries with the same justification.
So keep an eye out for any such hypocritical justifications during the government debates.
Of course, the typical politician will claim that our country (and our friends such as the USA) are justified in our/their support of terrorism or our politics. It’s one of the accepted truths of domestic politics that our position is right because it is our position. Capitalism is right and communism is wrong because we are capitalists. Christianity is right and Islam is wrong because the majority of our population is Christian.
We are right because it is unthinkable that we could possibly be wrong.
Australia’s most impressive media entrepreneur, Julian Assange, explains how Wikileaks works and provides some insight into recent events, in this recent interview with Wired’s Chris Anderson at TED.
Assange is trying to use the internet to change the world. He is what Peter Ellyard would call a “Future Maker”. I’m constantly motived and inspired by Julian’s quietly bold approach to tackle world governments and corporations. He’s spot on in this interview when he says a good approach to figuring out what the most important news is, is to discover what corporations and governments are spending a lot of effort and money to keep secret.
Recently I’ve been reading ridiculous suggestions that Wikileaks is a “honey trap” for whistleblowers. The idea seems to be that Wikileaks gets potential whistleblowers to come forward, and then they are arrested, Manning’s recent arrest is taken as being a sign that something is rotten in Denmark. The only problem with this scenario is that stuff is being leaked. It would be seem a bit of a stretch to think the establishment are allowing their dirty laundry to get exposed in an effort to create a temptation for potential whistleblowers to come forwards. As Julian says at the beginning of the video, Wikileaks has released more leaks in the last couple of years than the rest of the world media COMBINED.
Remember the Mumbai attacks from 26/11/2008? Apparently, it was allegedly planned by an American-Pakistani man called David Headley (born in Washington DC, raised in Pakistan until age 17, then lived in the USA with his mother). He was arrested last October in Chicago and since then the Indian government has been refused direct access to him.
Guess what? He was an undercover DEA agent.
Guess what else? His half-brother is spokesman for the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Yousef Raza Gillani… who himself escaped an assassination attempt on 3 September 2008…. 23 days before the Mumbai attacks.
Guess what else? The US won’t extradite Headley (whose real name is Dadood Gilani) to India for trial.
Guess what else?? The Indian opposition thinks he might be a CIA double agent working inside LeT, the Pakistani militant organisation.
Hmmm… DEA…. Pakistan’s Prime Minister… CIA…. India…. it’s all smells very fishy, don’t you think?