Sound bites, political speak, media spin, tabloid sensationalism, propaganda and misinformation are the media's language. How do you see through the lies and discover the truth? Be discerning; critically analyse what you are being told. The media does not have a responsibility to report the news honestly; profit is the purpose of the media corporation. They answer to their shareholders. News and advertising is their product. The viewing public are their consumer. No Conspiracy theories here.
I'm talking about the volumes, the libraries – nay, the very halls of
literature – which the international crimes against humanity of 11 September
2001 have spawned. Many are spavined with pseudo-patriotism and self-regard,
others rotten with the hopeless mythology of CIA/Mossad culprits, a few
(from the Muslim world, alas) even referring to the killers as "boys",
almost all avoiding the one thing which any cop looks for after a street
crime: the motive.
Why so, I ask myself, after 10 years of war, hundreds of thousands of innocent
deaths, lies and hypocrisy and betrayal and sadistic torture by the
Americans – our MI5 chaps just heard, understood, maybe looked, of course no
touchy-touchy nonsense – and the Taliban? Have we managed to silence
ourselves as well as the world with our own fears? Are we still not able to
say those three sentences: The 19 murderers of 9/11 claimed they were
Muslims. They came from a place called the Middle East. Is there a problem
American publishers first went to war in 2001 with massive photo-memorial
volumes. Their titles spoke for themselves: Above Hallowed Ground, So Others
Might Live, Strong of Heart, What We Saw, The Final Frontier, A Fury for
God, The Shadow of Swords... Seeing this stuff piled on newsstands across
America, who could doubt that the US was going to go to war? And long before
the 2003 invasion of Iraq, another pile of tomes arrived to justify the war
after the war. Most prominent among them was ex-CIA spook Kenneth Pollack's
The Threatening Storm – and didn't we all remember Churchill's The Gathering
Storm? – which, needless to say, compared the forthcoming battle against
Saddam with the crisis faced by Britain and France in 1938.
There were two themes to this work by Pollack – "one of the world's
leading experts on Iraq," the blurb told readers, among whom was Fareed
Zakaria ("one of the most important books on American foreign policy in
years," he drivelled) – the first of which was a detailed account of
Saddam's weapons of mass destruction; none of which, as we know, actually
existed. The second theme was the opportunity to sever the "linkage"
between "the Iraq issue and the Arab-Israeli conflict".
The Palestinians, deprived of the support of powerful Iraq, went the
narrative, would be further weakened in their struggle against Israeli
occupation. Pollack referred to the Palestinians' "vicious terrorist
campaign" – but without any criticism of Israel. He wrote of "weekly
terrorist attacks followed by Israeli responses (sic)", the standard
Israeli version of events. America's bias towards Israel was no more than an
Arab "belief". Well, at least the egregious Pollack had worked
out, in however slovenly a fashion, that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
had something to do with 9/11, even if Saddam had not.
In the years since, of course, we've been deluged with a rich literature of
post-9/11 trauma, from the eloquent The Looming Tower of Lawrence Wright to
the Scholars for 9/11 Truth, whose supporters have told us that the plane
wreckage outside the Pentagon was dropped by a C-130, that the jets that hit
the World Trade Centre were remotely guided, that United 93 was shot down by
a US missile, etc. Given the secretive, obtuse and sometimes dishonest
account presented by the White House – not to mention the initial
hoodwinking of the official 9/11 commission staff – I am not surprised that
millions of Americans believe some of this, let alone the biggest government
lie: that Saddam was behind 9/11. Leon Panetta, the CIA's newly appointed
autocrat, repeated this same lie in Baghdad only this year.
There have been movies, too. Flight 93 re-imagined what may (or may not) have
happened aboard the plane which fell into a Pennsylvania wood. Another told
a highly romanticised story, in which the New York authorities oddly managed
to prevent almost all filming on the actual streets of the city. And now
we're being deluged with TV specials, all of which have accepted the lie
that 9/11 did actually change the world – it was the Bush/Blair repetition
of this dangerous notion that allowed their thugs to indulge in murderous
invasions and torture – without for a moment asking why the press and
television went along with the idea. So far, not one of these programmes has
mentioned the word "Israel" – and Brian Lapping's Thursday night
ITV offering mentioned "Iraq" once, without explaining the degree
to which 11 September 2001 provided the excuse for this 2003 war crime. How
many died on 9/11? Almost 3,000. How many died in the Iraq war? Who cares?
Publication of the official 9/11 report – in 2004, but read the new edition of
2011 – is indeed worth study, if only for the realities it does present,
although its opening sentences read more like those of a novel than of a
government inquiry. "Tuesday ... dawned temperate and nearly cloudless
in the eastern United States... For those heading to an airport, weather
conditions could not have been better for a safe and pleasant journey. Among
the travellers were Mohamed Atta..." Were these guys, I ask myself,
interns at Time magazine?
But I'm drawn to Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan whose The Eleventh Day
confronts what the West refused to face in the years that followed 9/11. "All
the evidence ... indicates that Palestine was the factor that united the
conspirators – at every level," they write. One of the organisers
of the attack believed it would make Americans concentrate on "the
atrocities that America is committing by supporting Israel". Palestine,
the authors state, "was certainly the principal political grievance ...
driving the young Arabs (who had lived) in Hamburg".
The motivation for the attacks was "ducked" even by the official
9/11 report, say the authors. The commissioners had disagreed on this "issue"
– cliché code word for "problem" – and its two most
senior officials, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, were later to explain: "This
was sensitive ground ...Commissioners who argued that al-Qa'ida was
motivated by a religious ideology – and not by opposition to American
policies – rejected mentioning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict... In their
view, listing US support for Israel as a root cause of al-Qa'ida's
opposition to the United States indicated that the United States should
reassess that policy." And there you have it.
So what happened? The commissioners, Summers and Swan state, "settled on
vague language that circumvented the issue of motive". There's a hint
in the official report – but only in a footnote which, of course, few read.
In other words, we still haven't told the truth about the crime which – we
are supposed to believe – "changed the world for ever". Mind
you, after watching Obama on his knees before Netanyahu last May, I'm really
When the Israeli Prime Minister gets even the US Congress to grovel to him,
the American people are not going to be told the answer to the most
important and "sensitive" question of 9/11: why?
Noel Gallagher's first official solo
record won't be released in America until November, but there's already a
party for it in August. It's described as a "listening party," so
that's what I expect it to be: six or seven people sitting in an
otherwise quiet room, listening to an album titled Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds.
For those who care about the music of Oasis, anticipation for this
record is greater than for anything Oasis has done in the past 10 years.
This is not only because Noel was the principal songwriter for the
band, although that's certainly part of it; equally significant is the
fact that the finest moments in Oasis' two-decade trajectory have
generally occurred when Noel was singing: "Don't Look Back in Anger,"
the chorus on "Acquiesce," their live cover of Neil Young's "Hey Hey My
My (Into the Black)," and a 1996 episode of MTV Unplugged (when
Noel sang everything while his brother drank beer in the balcony).
Oasis completists are interested in Liam Gallagher's new project, Beady
Eye, the way Smiths fans were interested in Electronic, but Noel's
material is what matters. The potential is real. Considering the
circumstances of the Oasis split, it seems entirely possible that Noel
might make a memorable album purely out of spite.
The so-called listening party is not what I anticipate. It's not six
or seven people, but 60 or 70. It's held in the penthouse of the
Mondrian luxury hotel and sponsored by (or is perhaps just uncommonly
supportive of) UV vodka. The walls are white, the couches are white, the
light is white. Everything is white (except the audience, which is
maybe 4 percent Asian). There are at least two guys who look and talk
like Adam Scott's character from Step Brothers. At 7:35 p.m.,
Mercury Records president David Massey picks up a microphone and
explains how most people in the 1990s incorrectly assumed Oasis would
"just flame out in a drug haze." This is an odd compliment, particularly
since that's precisely what many casual fans believe must have
happened. After his speech, we get to hear six tracks off High Flying Birds.
No one even pretends to listen. The partygoers talk the whole time and
stand in line for free vodka. I'm told that Noel is allegedly coming to
this party later, but I don't stay long enough to find out. As I ride
the elevator down from the 26th floor, I find myself hoping he never
shows up at all, mostly because I suspect he'd really hate it. The next day, I'm scheduled to meet
Gallagher at a similar hotel in a different sector of Manhattan. He is
43 minutes late for our 45-minute interview, so I sit and listen to a
pair of publicists discussing a third hotel that's 2,462 miles away.
It's the Friday before New York will be hit by Hurricane Irene,
presenting the Gallagher camp with a strange problem: Noel is now flying
to Los Angeles a day early, but he can't get into his room because the
King of Tonga (George Tupou V) has supposedly booked an entire floor of
the Sunset Tower Hotel. The King of Tonga rocks harder than anyone you
know. I have a brief conversation with one of the publicists about a
lawsuit Liam recently filed (and then reportedly dropped) against Noel:
During a July 6 press conference, Noel claimed Liam had missed a 2009
festival date because of a hangover. Liam saw this as an attack on his
professionalism and legally charged Noel with slander, which is a little
like Kanye West charging Rickey Henderson with overconfidence. Noel
publicly apologized and the problem seemed to evaporate, although Liam
continues to insist otherwise.1
It will likely drag on indefinitely. Ever since Oasis were propelled
into existence, Noel and Liam have seemed like boyish versions of Andy
Capp who despise each other equally — but this recent schism feels
different. It's less fun, somehow. There will undoubtedly be a day in
the distant future when Oasis reunites, because just about every group
eventually does. But it won't be because these guys suddenly stopped
disliking each other.
When I finally meet Gallagher (he'd been having a long lunch with his
wife), he seems tired. He looks healthy but grouchy. My suspicion is
that he's probably spent his morning talking to other people like me,
most of whom have either asked him leading questions about Liam or tried
to goad him into insulting other bands at random (as this is something
he does not mind doing). He slouches on a couch while we navigate 10
minutes of small talk. We chat about the weather2 and about why he finally married his girlfriend3
after dating for 11 years. For no clear reason, he's wearing a garish
class ring from a high school in Louisiana, purchased in a Japanese
pawnshop 21 years ago. He briefly imagines the backstory of the ring: "I
reckon the previous owner was a G.I. who was stationed in Tokyo and
pawned this ring for prostitutes." I momentarily get the sense this is
never going to become a real interview. But I start to ask a few
questions and Gallagher starts answering them. And everything he says is
hilarious. I don't even know if this can be properly reflected in a
profile, because it's not so much what he says as it is the way he says
it; Gallagher just has a naturally comedic, endlessly profane delivery
that seems unbound by the parameters of normal conversation. He doesn't
even have to try. It just happens. I suppose this might all be
premeditated, but that's not how it seems. Gallagher's dialogue is like
his music: The straightforward virtuosity is a by-product of its
"I've never understood musicians who don't enjoy doing promotional
interviews," he says. "I just can't believe it. I always think, 'Your
life must have been so brilliant before you were in a band.' Because my
life was shit, and this is great. Even after all these years, at 44
years of age, whenever the label asks if I want to go to New York to do
promos, I always say yes immediately. And the label is always
like, 'Are you sure? It's going to require a lot of interviews?' And
I'm like — I don't give a fuck. You're gonna fucking fly me first class
to New York and put me in this amazing hotel? And my wife can go fucking
shopping four hours a day? What is not to like about that? I fucking
love doing press conferences. I don't want to suggest it's all a joke,
but come on — the president holds fucking press conferences. Why am I
here? Why not enjoy it? I've never felt like I had anything important to
say. I can tell a few jokes and we can talk irreverently about fame and
success and sport and bullshit and all the crazy people you meet. But I
have nothing to say."
This is not accurate. When you like a band, you want to hear about the good times. When you love a band, you want to hear about the bad times.
I want to hear about Be Here Now.
"At the time, I was taking a lot of fucking drugs, so I didn't give a
fuck," Gallagher says. "We were taking all the cocaine we could
possibly find. But it wasn't like a seedy situation. We were at work. We
weren't passed out on the floor with a bottle of Jack Daniel's. We were
partying while we were working. And when that record was finished, I
took it back to my house and listened to it when there wasn't a party
happening and I wasn't out of my mind on cocaine. And my reaction was: 'This is fucking long.'
I didn't realize how long it was. It's a long fucking record. And then
I looked at the artwork, and it had all the song titles with all the
times for each track, and none of them seemed to be under six minutes.
So then I was like, 'Fucking hell. What's going on there?' But you know,
those were just the songs I wrote, and we recorded them to the best of
our abilities. When we had recorded (What's the Story) Morning Glory?,
nobody from the label bothered us, and we hatched the Golden Egg. So
the label was like, 'Don't bother those guys. They're geniuses. Just let
them do what they want.' The producer was really just the recording
engineer. There was nobody around to say, 'These songs are too long.' It
was a good wake-up call, to be honest. I really wonder what would have
happened if Be Here Now had sold like Morning Glory.
What would we have done the next time? Just imagine if that album had
sold 30 million copies. I probably would have grown a mustache and
started wearing a fucking cape."
Because of how the music industry has evolved (read: collapsed), there will never be a situation like 1997's Be Here Now
again. There are no more situations in which a rock album that's
impossible to hear in advance is collectively anticipated by the
monoculture. But that's how it was before the release of Be Here Now.
At the time, Oasis were in a weirdly unassailable position: They were
of simultaneous interest to the critical community, the tabloid press,
and the populace at large. They were the first post-grunge band to be
massive in every context. But the 71-minute Be Here Now failed,
even though it supposedly sold 8 million copies in six months. Its
earliest reviews were mostly positive, but the actual reception was
disappointing (and the sales proved top-heavy). It's sometimes viewed as
the record that killed Britpop. And people turned on Oasis when this
happened. The bloated, bass-empty, blow-stretched songs validated
critics who'd claimed their early work was overrated, and the absence of
a ubiquitous single (such as 1995's "Wonderwall") eroded their position
in the culture. From a public-opinion standpoint, they never truly
"At the end of the cycle of Morning Glory, I was hailed as
the greatest songwriter since Lennon and McCartney," Gallagher recalls.
"Now, I know that I'm not, and I knew I wasn't then. But the perception
of everybody since that period has been, 'What the fuck happened to this
guy? Wasn't he supposed to be the next fucking Beatles?' I never said
that I was the greatest thing since Lennon and McCartney … well,
actually, I'm lying. I probably did say that once or twice in
interviews. But regardless, look at it this way: Let's say my career had
gone backwards. Let say this new solo album had been my debut, and it
was my last two records that sold 20 million copies instead of
the first two records. Had this been the case, all the other albums
leading up to those last two would be considered a fucking journey. They
would be perceived as albums that represent the road to greatness. But
just because it started off great doesn't make those other albums any
less of a journey. I'll use an American football analogy since we're in
America: Let's say you're behind with two minutes to go and you come
back to tie the game. It almost feels like you've won. Right? But let's
say you've been ahead the whole game and you allow the opponent to tie
things up in the final two minutes. Then it feels like you've lost. But
the fact of the matter is it's still a fucking tie. The only difference
is perception. And the fact of the matter is that Oasis sold 55 million
records. If people think we were never good after the '90s, that's
The premise of Oasis' career happening in reverse is an interesting
thought experiment and not altogether incorrect (had this inverted
sequence actually transpired, it's easy to imagine the kind of person
who'd argue that "Supersonic" sucks and that the real Oasis music can
only be found on the likes of Heathen Chemistry). But it ignores a key element of artistic endeavor: motivation. The album that followed Be Here Now was the lowest artistic point in the group's career — and that was due to everything that preceded it.
"We should have never made Standing on the Shoulder of Giants,"
Gallagher says of the 2000 release, an album whose worst moments
sometimes sound like an attempt at satirizing the Beatles. "I'd come to
the end. At the time, I had no reason or desire to make music. I had no
drive. We'd sold all these fucking records and there just seemed to be
no point. Liam, to his credit, was the one who was like, 'We're going to
make a record, we're going into the studio next month, and you better
have some fucking songs written.' We should have gone to wherever it is
the Rolling Stones disappear to, wherever the fuck that is. Rent a boat
and sail around the Bahamas or whatever. But I went ahead and did it,
even though I had no inspiration and couldn't find inspiration anywhere.4
I just wrote songs for the sake of making an album. We needed a reason
to go on a tour. But at the time, I wasn't thinking like that. We all
thought the song 'Go Let It Out' was good. I was off [street] drugs,
but to get off those I had to go on prescription drugs, which is fucking
worse because they come from a doctor. It's just uppers and downers
that replace the cocaine and booze. But after that, Gem [Archer]5 and Andy [Bell]6
joined the band, and we started to split up the songwriting duties
because they wanted to write songs, too. I'd slowed down as a writer and
didn't feel like I could keep writing 20 songs every two years."
Gallagher makes a lot of reference to perception
(both his own and other people's), so I try to reframe our
conversation: I tell him that I want to run through various points of
his life and have him try to recall how other people viewed him and how
he viewed himself. He is totally willing to do this, but we never get
"I was living in the center of Manchester, so I was always in clubs
and at shows and kind of living on the periphery of the music business,"
he says. "The people at the center of the music scene would have seen
me as an outsider. The people who were further outside than me, though,
would have thought I was some kind of insider. But I just believed I was
at where I would always be. It never occurred to me to be in a band or
write songs, even though I played guitar. I'd always thought I might be
in the music business, because I loved collecting records and reading
about records and all of that.
But just being in a road crew,7
I thought, 'This is fucking great.' I was making $700 a week to plug in
some other guy's guitar. I loved it. I never felt like I needed to be
onstage. I liked being behind the fucking amplifiers. I had no
ambitions. I got to travel the world — drugs, women. Nobody knew who I
was after I left town. I didn't have to be anywhere or do anything. But
then Liam said, `You should join my band,8
because you know how to write songs.' So I went down there on a few
Sundays to jam, and it was the first time I'd ever heard other people
play my songs. It was amazing to have that happen. And there was another
pivotal moment about two years in,9
before we'd done anything or anyone knew us: I wrote the song
'Columbia.' And the next song I wrote immediately after that was 'Up in
the Sky.' And then right after that, I wrote 'Live Forever.' All of this
happened in a row, very easily. And I just thought, 'These songs are
fucking great.' Especially 'Live Forever.' I remember thinking, 'I know
enough about music to know that this is a good song.' So I took it to
the band and we played it, and I instantly knew that I had written a
bona fide classic song, even though nobody knew who the fuck we were. So
that's when I started to take things quite seriously."
It's hard to tell exactly what "quite seriously" means in this
context, since Gallagher is so adamant about not taking himself
seriously under any circumstances whatsoever. Is his work on High Flying Birds
more "serious" than his work with Oasis? That depends on what you
thought of him before. It's very much in line with the music he's always
made — the first single ("The Death of You and Me") has the most
satisfying hook he's composed in many years, and the track "If I Had a
Gun" would fit comfortably on any Oasis release after Definitely Maybe.
All the lyrics are oblique and there are only two guitar solos on the
entire album. Gallagher also has a companion LP coming out in 2012 that
he made with the British electronic duo the Amorphous Androgynous,
better known in some circles as the Future Sound of London; it still
doesn't have a title, but it's an elongated '70s psychedelic record
Gallagher compares to Dark Side of the Moon. How well these
albums will perform is uncertain, mostly because gauging the success of
modern records has become so difficult to calculate. But I suppose true
success is never easy to quantify. It's not the same as fame, which
Gallagher understands completely. He is not the type of artist who longs
for success while hating the baggage of celebrity.10 In fact, he feels the opposite. He sees success as a much more complicated predicament.
"Fame is something that is bestowed upon you because of
success. Success is something you have to chase," he explains. "And once
you've had success, you have to keep having it in order not to be a
failure. In business, you can have one massive success that earns $50
million overnight, and that's it. You're successful. End of story. But
in the music business, you have to keep on doing it. You have to
constantly chase success. The fame you just get. I enjoy being
famous, because I don't have to do anything. I can just turn up at nice
restaurants and people are like, 'Oh, it's Noel fucking Gallagher.
Brilliant. Sit down.' But success can ruin people, because you have to
chase it, and that can drive you insane. You can get obsessed with the
idea of a formula, and you start wondering, 'Why did I sell 20 fucking
million albums in less than two years during the '90s, but now I can't
sell 20 million albums over the span of 10 years after the turn of the
century?' And it's not like I sit around thinking about that, but it's
always there. And when you start really chasing success, you start to make mistakes, and that's when things spin out of fucking control."
As he says this, I suspect that he's talking about the real reason he
can no longer work with his brother. Here again, the issue is not
reality, but perception. The two brothers were able to maintain a
working relationship for roughly 20 years, through periods of feast and
phases of famine. Yet the perception during that whole time never
changed: Noel was always the talented one and Liam was merely the
charismatic singer. When they were younger, that perception was
tolerable. But now that Liam is 39 — and now that it's so clear that
this perception will always be the defining image of what Oasis was — he
simply could not accept the conditions of the contract.
"I think that's what it was," Gallagher says. "He'd never admit that,
though. In the beginning, when I was writing all the songs and he was
partying until the break of dawn, he didn't give a shit. D'you know what
I mean? He was fine with it. But when he started to write
songs … you know, this is really more of a question for Liam than it is
for me, although you'd never get a straight answer from him. In my
experience, you never see an older brother11
jealous of a younger brother. Maybe he did get cast in the role of the
performing fucking monkey by the press, and maybe I got cast as the man
behind the curtain. Maybe he wanted to be the Wizard of Oz instead of
the monkey. Maybe if I'd been a little more tolerant of his behavior
things would be different. But at some point he had to take
responsibility for the fucking words he was saying. I have a circle of
friends, and he kept saying things that were upsetting to these people.
And for years I ignored it, because I thought the band was more
important. But at some point, I just decided I'd had enough of this. And
when things got violent, I left. There is no point in being in a
fucking violent rock band.12
That's nonsense. We've always had a different view of the band: I
thought the most important part were the songs, and he though the most
important part was the chaos."
As one might expect, Noel also tries to downplay the degree of
antipathy the two brothers share, since this type of breakup is more
complicated than a typical, nonfamilial implosion. Certain issues
between them might still stem from when they shared a bedroom as
truculent teenagers. Sometimes, Noel seems amused by their fighting (I
can tell he's still kind of proud that one of their 1995 arguments was
recorded in the studio and released as a bootleg single in the U.K.).
But sometimes he seems angry in a manner that's impossible to fake.
There was a period when people assumed the animosity in Oasis might have
been a marketing ploy, and perhaps — for a time — it was. But it's not
anymore. Their dislike is at least as genuine as their music.
"We never hung out together outside of the band, ever," he says.
"Now, of course, at some point I'm going to have to sit in a fucking
room with Liam again. Hopefully time will heal some of these wounds. But
if you're asking me if it's going to be this Christmas — not a fucking
chance." As our interview draws to a close, I
notice that Gallagher is sniffling and coughing, so I ask if he's
getting sick. At first he says yes, but then he gets up for a cup of
coffee and says, "To tell you the fucking truth, I'm kind of hungover."
It turns out he did show up at the album release party the night before,
just before it ended. It turns out he hated it a little less than I
"In England, we don't go for that kind of stuff," he says. "You just
put the record out and people buy it or they don't. Over here, things
are a little more corporate. You have to go to parties like that. I find
it always helps to get drunk beforehand — not too drunk, but just a
little. D'you know what I mean? You have to shake a lot of hands. I have
no idea who those people were. My wife was like, 'How can you stand
doing this?' But it wasn't that bad, except that now I'm hungover."
This, it seems, is why Noel is different than Liam (and always will
be). Liam denies his hangovers and sues people for joking about them;
Noel confesses his hangovers and will shake hands with anyone. And when
you've been in a band that's been drunk for 20 years, that difference
tells you everything you need to know.
The shameless actions of News Ltd are a threat to our democracy.
News Ltd owns 70 per cent of the circulation of major
newspapers in Australia. If Rupert Murdoch, the chairman and chief
executive of News Corporation, were an apolitical or a distant figure,
this might not matter, but he has a powerful set of ideological beliefs
and is determined to maintain tight control over the political line of
all his papers on issues that interest him.
Politically engaged citizens have a plethora of
accessible sources of information on the internet, but News Ltd's
capacity to influence the opinions of the vast majority of less engaged
citizens - whose political understanding is shaped directly by the
popular newspapers and indirectly through the commercial radio and
television programs that rely on newspapers for content and, more
deeply, for the way they interpret the world - is unjustifiable.
The company's domination of our newspaper market poses a real and present danger to the health of Australian democracy.
Take, for example, the reported discussion by News Ltd editors and
key journalists earlier this year about the need to do something about
the minority Gillard government and its alliance with the Greens.
Following that meeting, Murdoch tabloids began to campaign in earnest
against the government and in particular against its carbon tax.
This power to distort political debate must be challenged
and broken and the weakening of Murdoch's grip on his global empire
presents a unique opportunity to do so. The question, of course, is
whether the government is willing to take what would undoubtedly be an
extraordinary and perhaps unacceptable risk to regulate media ownership.
The second problem Murdoch poses for this country is embodied in The Australian.
Under Chris Mitchell's editorship, the paper has played the role not so
much of reporter or interpreter but of national enforcer of those
values that lie at the heart of the Murdoch empire: market
fundamentalism and the beneficence of American global hegemony.
Unquestioning support for American foreign policy led the
paper to conduct an extraordinarily strident campaign in favour of an
invasion of Iraq - launched on the basis of false intelligence - which
was responsible for perhaps 400,000 deaths, and for which it has never
uttered a word of apology.
The Australian has conducted a prolonged and
intellectually incoherent campaign against action on climate change and
undermined the hold in public life of the central values of the
Enlightenment, Science and Reason. This has helped make action by any
Australian government on the most serious question of contemporary times
far more difficult than it ought to have been.
The paper has conducted a series of high-volume and
unbalanced campaigns directed against Labor governments, in which its
journalists, rather than investigating a problem with an open mind, have
often sought out evidence in support of a predetermined editorial
conclusion. It has sought systematically to undermine the credibility
of its only broadsheet rivals - The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age
- and, in a relentless campaign, to intimidate and drive towards the
right the only other mainstream source of analysis and opinion in this
country, the ABC.
It has conducted a kind of jihad against the Greens, a
party supported by 1.5 million of the nation's citizens. By its own
admission, it has devoted itself to the task of trying to have that
party destroyed at the ballot box, a statement which in itself
undermines any claim to fairness or to balance. The Australian has turned itself into a player in national politics without there being any means by which its actions can be held to account.
Even though its core value is the magic of the market, it is doubtful The Australian
could survive without hidden financial subsidy from the global empire
of its founding father, Rupert Murdoch, for whom it offers the most
important means for influencing politics and commerce in the country of
There seems to be only one possible solution to the threat to democracy posed by The Australian:
courageous external and internal criticism. The strange passivity of
its two mainstream rivals, the Fairfax press and the ABC - even in the
face of a constant barrage of criticism and lampooning - has left
victims of the paper's attacks vulnerable and friendless. There is an
old joke that suggests that no individual ought to engage in battle with
those who buy their ink by the barrel. But Fairfax and the ABC have
the same arsenal of weapons at their disposal.
In the course of my research I have become aware that considerable unease is felt by journalists at The Australian about the political extremism and frequent irrationalism of the paper for which they work.
The paper employs many of the best journalists in the
country. It only requires a different editor-in-chief and owner for it
to become a truly outstanding newspaper.
This is an edited extract from Robert Manne's Quarterly Essay, ''Murdoch's Australian and the Shaping of the Nation'' (Black Inc), out Monday. Also available as an e-book.
Analysis by Stephen Leahy UXBRIDGE, Canada, Aug 31, 2011 (IPS) - The United States' biggest environmental groups put aside
their differences last week to make an urgent intervention on
the country's addiction to oil. The first step on the long
road to recovery, they say, is to stop the proposed
construction of the Keystone XL pipeline that will "mainline"
the world's dirtiest oil from northern Canada into the U.S.
"This (Keystone) is a terrible project," they wrote in a letter to
President Barack Obama, citing dangers to the climate, the risks of
disastrous spills and leaks, and the economic damage that will come
from continued dependence on fossil fuel.
Oil from the Keystone XL will dump an estimated 150 million tonnes of
carbon dioxide (CO2) annually into the atmosphere - more than most
countries. Scientists warn that approval of the project will further
fuel the extreme weather that has already resulted in over one
billion dollars in damages recorded this year in nine separate
extreme weather events in the U.S.
And that doesn't include the estimated 20 to 45 billion dollars in
costs from Hurricane Irene last weekend, mainly due to extensive
Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuels do not cause
hurricanes, tornados or droughts, but they do trap additional heat
and water vapour that fuels those events, climate scientists have
proven time and time again.
Asked about the impacts of adding another 150 million tonnes of CO2
into the atmosphere, German climate scientist Malte Meinshausen, a
researcher at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, told
IPS that it will warm the planet for hundreds of years and lead to
higher sea levels and "more pronounced droughts and floods".
The green groups asked the president to be strong
and take the first
step by denying permission to build the 2,400-kilometre, seven-
billion-dollar pipeline, which would pump 700,000 to 800,000 barrels
a day of bitumen oil from Canada's tar sands in northern Alberta.
Thousands of people have brought the same message to President
Obama's front door at the White House in the past 10 days. More than
500 have been arrested for protesting on the White House sidewalk,
urging him to take the first step in breaking the country's addiction
to fossil fuels by standing up to the Big Oil lobby.
This is an unusual circumstance, where the president gets to make the
"go, no go" decision all by himself. No need to deal with a
dysfunctional Congress. And environmentalists argue that for a
president whose popularity has plummeted, it would seem to be a
public relations coup to take a stand and finally act on his promises
to fight climate change.
No easy decision
The problem for President Obama is that some of the world's most
powerful oil companies have a problem. Big Oil has made enormous
investments in Canada's tar sands, the second largest oil reserves on
the planet. They need to ship their "product" - and lots of it - to
the lucrative U.S. market for processing, and very likely export it
to Europe or even China.
TransCanada Pipelines is eager to build the Keystone XL to transport
its "product" across the border. The company will charge hundreds of
millions a year for the service, but it's worth it because Big Oil
will use the pipeline to make an estimated 40 to 60 billion dollars a
year, or maybe more, depending on how high they can jack up the
street price of gasoline.
Big Oil has worked hard to ensure the full cooperation and assistance
of the government of Canada and the province of Alberta, where the
tar sands are located. For a piece of the action, the governments of
Canada and Alberta have been slow or failed to enforce their own
Canada has completely ignored its international obligations to reduce
fossil fuel use. Both governments have used public funds to furiously
lobby their counterparts in the U.S. to follow suit.
It was hardly surprising then to see a letter by Canada's ambassador
to the U.S., Gary Doer, published Monday in the New York Times using
arguments promoting the Keystone project that appear to be lifted
from TransCanada's press releases.
The U.S. and Canada clearly have an oil addiction, but green groups
argue that it is oil money that keeps them addicted - and keeps them
from getting into rehab.
During the last election cycle, the oil industry gave members of the
U.S. Congress more than 13.6 million dollars, reports Steve Kretzman
of Oil Change International, an NGO that researches the links between
oil, gas, coal corporations and governments.
These pay-offs are
excellent investments. Top U.S. oil companies
reported 73 billion dollars in profits in just the first six months
of this year. Part of those profits is thanks to at least four
billion dollars in annual subsidies from U.S. taxpayers, noted
Kretzman in a recent report.
Despite the U.S.'s ballooning debt crisis, Big Oil will continue to
receive this public money in what is by far the country's biggest
welfare fraud. Eight of the 12 members of the newly-named Joint
Committee on Deficit Reduction charged with tackling the debt crisis
have voted in the last two years to allow oil companies to keep
pocketing billions in taxpayer subsidies, Kretzman found.
Remarkably, Canada's corporate welfare for Big Oil is far higher at
2.84 billion dollars in 2008 according to International Institute
for Sustainable Development (IISD) based in Winnipeg, Canada. Last
month one of the world's richest corporations, Shell Oil agreed to
accept a 'gift' of 865 million in Canadian taxpayer's dollars to
cover most of the cost of building an experimental carbon capture and
storage (CCS) facility to cut its CO2 pollution in the tar sands.
Study after study show that public subsidies for alternative energy -
not including corn ethanol - which would actually wean the U.S. and
Canada of their oil addiction are a small fraction of what the oil
industry get. Which begs the question: If the U.S. and Canada are
really trying to kick their oil addiction, why do they keep giving
their dealers bonuses?
Unless the river of money flowing into Big Oil's coffers from
subsidies and the biggest corporate profits in history are diverted,
scientists and activists say there is no hope of dealing with climate
change, the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced.
SRINAGAR, Aug 30, 2011 (IPS) - Rights activists say that thousands of unmarked graves newly uncovered along
the Line of Control (LoC) in Indian Kashmir may hold the bodies of ‘disappeared’
people rather than those of militants killed while trying to cross the fortified de
facto border between India and Pakistan.
Leading the demand for DNA tests to identify the bodies is the Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights
Commission (SHRC) which, on Aug. 21, published a report on investigations it carried out resulting in
2,156 unmarked graves being uncovered along the LoC.
"At 38 places visited in north Kashmir, there were 2,156 unidentified dead bodies buried in unmarked
graves," said the SHRC report, based on a three-year investigation.
The Srinagar-based Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), which estimates that some
10,000 people have disappeared in two decades of armed separatist conflict in Indian Kashmir, has
appealed to the Indian government for help in identifying the bodies.
"We appeal to international human rights groups and Indian authorities to identify the people buried,"
said Parveena Ahanger, founder and chairperson of the APDP.
"The discovery by an investigation team of the SHRC vindicates our stand on the issue of unmarked
graves in Kashmir," Khurram Parvez, programme coordinator of the Srinagar-based Coalition of Civil
Society (CCS), told IPS.
The CCS was part of the research team set up by the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights,
an alliance of civil rights activists, which in 2009 released a report ‘Buried Evidences’ that claimed that
there were 8,000 unmarked graves in north Kashmir.
SHRC’s report confirmed that 574 of the graves were of local residents. "There is every probability that
these unidentified graves at 38 places of North Kashmir may contain the bodies of those believed to be
cases of enforced disappearances," the SHRC report observed.
SHRC has urged that in future the bodies of those killed by security forces be properly identified in
order to prevent abuse of laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act that shield men in uniform
from investigations in cases where people have died in custody.
"SHRC’s recommendations should be fully implemented and its investigation team allowed to
investigate more the thousands of graves we believe are scattered across Kashmir," Khurram said.
The Indian army and the state police in Kashmir have consistently maintained at media briefings that
the bodies buried along the LoC are those of those of armed infiltrators, killed in encounters.
On Aug. 20, the Indian army shot dead 12 militants attempting to cross the LoC at Gurez, in the latest
of the armed encounters, which also resulted in the death of Indian army lieutenant Navdeep Singh.
Strategic analysts in New Delhi say graves located along the LoC are likely to contain the bodies of
infiltrators that the Indian government alleges are regularly being pushed over what is essentially a
ceasefire line drawn on territory long disputed between India and Pakistan.
Pakistan denies militarily supporting the militants, saying it only provides moral and diplomatic support
for what it claims is a struggle by Kashmiris for independence from Indian rule.
However, in the background of the armed conflict - which has claimed the lives of 50,000 people - is a
dispute between India and Pakistan over ownership of Kashmir that goes back to the end of British
colonial rule over the sub-continent in 1947 and the creation of India and Pakistan.
Presently, one-third of Muslim-majority Kashmir is held by Pakistan while the rest forms the Indian
state of Jammu and Kashmir. The LoC emerged after several wars between the two South Asian
countries failed to settle ownership of Kashmir.
"The LoC is a live border that is fortified by heavy troop presence on both sides and by electrified
fencing on the Indian side. Anyone trying to cross it risks being shot," said Rajeswari Rajagopal,
strategic analyst with the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi-based think tank.
Rajeswari said that it is hard for security forces to ascertain the identities of armed militants crossing
Rajeswari said Pakistan’s shadowy Inter Services Intelligence is known to run militant training camps for
Kashmiri youth in the portion of Kashmir that is in its control and then push them back across the LoC.
"There is confusion between armed militants killed along the LoC in firefights and those killed in what
are called fake encounters," said Rajeswari. "The authorities should use DNA profiling and other
methods to set speculations at rest."
Reports of fake killings appear frequently in the Indian media.
On Aug. 8, Indian security forces claimed to have killed a top militant commander in a 12-hour-long
gun battle at Surankote in Poonch district. Investigations later revealed the body to be that of a mentally
deranged civilian picked up from the Rajouri area.
"These incidents reveal how serious the trend of killing innocent civilians for medals and promotions (by
the Indian army) has become," Kashmiri separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq told IPS.
Commenting on the SHRC report, Mirwaiz said responsibility for rights violations in Kashmir should be
fixed and the culprits tried in the international court of justice.
Hard line separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani accused the state government of making revelations
through the SHRC in order to avoid international scrutiny.
"International human rights organisations have already taken note of the killings of innocent people by
the Indian army and their burial in unmarked graves," Geelani told IPS.
Jammu and Kashmir’s elected chief minister Omar Abdullah said "there is a need to institute a Truth and
Reconciliation Commission on the lines of the commission in South Africa, after the end of apartheid."
Amnesty International, the London-based human rights watchdog, said in a statement, following the
release of the SHRC report, that urgent action needs to be taken to preserve evidence and also widen
investigations to include reports of fake encounters across Kashmir
Analysis by Gareth Porter* WASHINGTON, Aug 29, 2011 (IPS) - The indictment of four men linked to Hezbollah in the 2005
assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri made
public by the Special Tribunal on Lebanon Aug. 17 is
questionable not because it is based on "circumstantial
evidence", but because that evidence is based on a flawed
The evidence depends on a convoluted theory involving what the
indictment calls "co-location" of personal mobile phones associated
with five distinct networks said to be somehow connected with the
plot to murder Hariri.
The indictment, originally filed Jun. 10, says that, if there are
"many instances" in which a phone is "active at the same location, on
the same date, and within the same time frame as other phones", but
the phones do not contact each other, then it is "reasonable to
conclude from these instances that one person is using multiple
Based on that assumption the indictment asserts that "a person can
ultimately be identified by co-location to be the user of a network
On that reasoning, one of the four accused, Salim Jamil Ayyash, is
said to have participated in a "red" network of phones that was
activated on Jan. 5, 2005, only contacted each other, and ceased
operations two minutes before the blast that killed Hariri. The "red"
network is presumed to have been used by those who carried out
surveillance as well as prepared the logistics for the bombing.
But Ayyash is also linked by "co-location" to a "green" network that
had been initiated in October 2004 and ceased to operate one hour
before the attack, and a "blue" network that was active between
September 2004 and September 2005. The only basis for linking either
of those two sets of mobile phones to the assassination appears to be
the claim of frequent "co-location" of Ayyash's personal cell phone
with one of the phones in those networks and one red phone.
But the idea that "co-location" of phones is evidence of a single
owner is a logical fallacy. It ignores the statistical reality that a
multitude of mobile phones would have been frequently co-located with
any given phone carrying out surveillance on Hariri in Beirut over an
hour or more on the same day during the weeks before the
In the area of Beirut from the parliament to the St. George Hotel,
known as Beirut Central District, where the "red" network is said to
have been active in carrying out its surveillance of Hariri, there
are 11 base stations for mobile phones, each of which had a range
varying from 300 metres to 1,250 metres, according to Riad Bahsoun, a
prominent expert on Lebanon's telecom system. Bahsoun estimates that,
within the range of each of those cell towers, between 20,000 and
50,000 cell phones were operating during a typical working day.
Given that number of mobile phones operating within a relatively
small area, a large number of phones would obviously have registered
in the cell tower area and in the same general time frame -
especially if defined as an hour or more, as appears to be the case -
as at least one of the red network phones on many occasions.
The indictment does not state how many times one of Ayyash's personal
phones was allegedly "co-located" with a "red" network phone.
To prove that Ayyash was in charge of the team using the red phones,
the indictment provides an extraordinarily detailed account of
Ayyash's alleged use of red, green and blue phones on seven days
during the period between Jan. 11 and Feb. 14, the day of the
But according to that information, during the final nine days on
which the red network was active in surveillance of Hariri, including
the day of the bombing itself, Ayyash was in phone contact with the
red and blue networks on only three days – a pattern that appears
inconsistent with the role of coordinating the entire plot attributed
The most senior Hezbollah figure indicted, Mustafa Amine Badreddine,
is accused of involvement only because he is said to have had 59
phone contacts with Ayyash during the Jan. 5-Feb. 14 period. But
those phone contacts are attributed to the two Hezbollah figures
solely on the basis of co-location of their personal mobile phones
with two phones in the "green" network on an unspecified number of
occasions – not from direct evidence that they talked on those
Evidence from the U.N. commission investigating the Hariri
assassination suggests that investigators did not stumble upon the
alleged connections between the four Hezbollah figures and the
different phone networks but used the link analysis software to find
indirect links between phones identified as belonging to Hezbollah
and the "red phones".
In his third report, dated Sep. 26, 2006, then Commissioner Serge
Brammertz said his team was using communications traffic analysis for
"proactive and speculative" studies.
Brammertz referred in his next report in December 2006 to the pursuit
of an "alternative hypothesis" that the motive for killing Hariri was
a "combination of political and sectarian factors". That language
indicates that the "proactive and speculative" use of link analysis
was to test the hypothesis that Shi'a Hezbollah was behind the
This is not the first time that communications link analysis has been
used to link telephones associated with a specific group or entity to
other phones presumed to be part of a major bombing plot.
In the investigation of the Buenos Aires terror bombing of a Jewish
community centre in 1994, the Argentine intelligence service SIDE
used analysis of phone records to link the Iranian cultural attaché,
Mohsen Rabbani, to the bombing, according to the former head of the
U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation's Office on Hezbollah, James
Bernazzani, who was sent by the White House in early 1997 to assist
SIDE in the bombing investigation, told this reporter in a November
2006 interview that SIDE had argued that a series of telephone calls
made between Jul. 1 and Jul. 18, 1994 to a mobile phone in the
Brazilian border city of Foz de Iguazu must have been made by the
"operational group" for the bombing.
SIDE had further argued that a call allegedly made on a mobile phone
belonging to Rabbani to the same number showed that he was linked the
Bernazzani called that use of link analysis by SIDE "speculative" –
the same word that Brammertz used to describe the U.N.
investigation's employment of the same tool. Such speculative use of
link analysis "can be very dangerous", Bernazzani said. "Using that
kind of analysis, you could link my telephone to [Osama] bin
*Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist
specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition
of his latest book, "Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the
Road to War in Vietnam", was published in 2006.
Egyptians rejoice after release. / Karlos Zurutuza/IPS.
ZINTAN, Libya, Aug 27 (IPS) – Thousands have been caught in the
Libyan fighting – people neither with Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s forces, or
with the rebels. Ayman Agamy Abdelgawad, an Egyptian released from
Tripoli’s Abdu Selim prison, shares his experiences with IPS. He
narrates his experience below:
I was arrested on Mar. 16 while I was driving in Brega (east Libya). I
was looking for a telephone signal in order to call my family in Egypt.
On my way back home, I realised that I was being followed by Gaddafi’s
They stopped me on the way and the asked me to lie down once they
knew I was Egyptian. They checked my car and looted everything inside.
Then they started beating and kicking me. I cannot hear from my right
ear since that day.
After that, they took me to the intelligence branch in Brega and
asked me about weapons and fighters. I told them I’m a civil engineer
and that I don’t know anything about all that.
I spent three nights there facing heavy tortures. Then they shifted
me to Sirte (about 450km east of Tripoli). They transported 120 of us
inside a small truck without any light and just a little hole for
ventilation. That journey took another three days.
Our only "crime" was to be Egyptians, we were not involved in any
activity against the regime. I think that Egypt’s support of the no-fly
zone resolution over Libya was behind the hatred against us. They told
us that we were traitors.
Imprisonment conditions were terrible in Sirte. We had to sleep
sitting down, there were 36 of us in a few square metres. Food was very
scarce and we’d have an egg to share between six persons. Lunch, when
served, used to be a bowl of pasta, also for six persons. Dinner was
given to us just a few times. We had half a litre of drinking water for
six persons everyday, so we had to drink salty water.
For the first 25 days I didn’t go to the bathroom. They would give us
a plastic bottle to use. When they finally let us go to the bathroom,
there was a soldier standing by the door who would count up to ten. If
we had not finished by then they would beat us.
During our time in Sirte, they’d pick a few of us everyday and
torture us. This guy here (Tamir Aid Mustafa) was once tortured for 16
hours because they wanted him to confess that he had been involved in
the fighting in Misrata. It took him almost 20 days to recover and be
able to stand up. Another prisoner had to have his right leg amputated
because of mistreatment of his wound. He was in terrible pain, and he
would be beaten every time he screamed.
A lot of people lost their teeth. They were told to bite the barrel
of a gun, and the guard would violently pull it out. During my time in
Sirte I came across people who had been badly tortured for days until
they confessed on TV that they had been involved in the fighting as
mercenaries. Electric shock treatment seemed to be common.
A Libyan I met told me he was being forced to say in front of a
camera that he had pulled out the heart out of a soldier’s body. He was
killed 20 days later because he refused to say such a terrible thing.
His name was Faraj Awidet.
When they finally took us to Abu Salim prison in Tripoli, NATO (North
Atlantic Treaty Organisation) was already targeting Baba Aziziya –
Gaddafi’s compound. We were all handcuffed and our eyes were covered
with a scarf.
On Aug. 20 NATO shelled the place but the soldiers killed a lot of
the prisoners who tried to escape. They say almost 200 political
prisoners were killed that day by the soldiers.
We were released on Aug. 22. The local Libyans among us who had
relatives or friends in Tripoli went to their houses. Us, Egyptians, had
nowhere to go, so we were taken to a mosque until they finally brought
us here to Zintan.
I had not been able to tell my family that I was safe until a few days ago since I "disappeared" in March.
Our main problem now is how to get back to Egypt. We have no
transport, and the war is still going on. They say that we might either
fly from here to Benghazi or be taken back to Tripoli from where we can
jump on a boat bound for Benghazi, and cross to Egypt afterwards.
September 1st is the anniversary of an event little known in the West. Today, twenty years on, the people who deserve to be celebrating it, are instead enduring a war. Yet the achievement changed their lives greatly and merits recognition.
A tap was turned on in Libya. From an enormous ancient aquifer, deep below the Sahara Desert, fresh water began to flow north through 1200 kilometres of pipeline to the coastal areas where 90% of Libyan people live, delivering around one million cubic metres of pure water per day to the cities of Benghazi and Sirte.
Crowds gathered in the desert for the inaugural ceremony. Phase I of the largest civil engineering venture in the world, the Great Man-made River Project, had been completed.
It was during the 1953 search for new oilfields in southern Libya that the ancient water aquifers were first discovered, four huge basins with estimated capacities each ranging between 4,800 and 20,000 cubic kms. Yes, that's cubic kilometres. There is so much water that Libya had recently also offered it to Egypt for their needs.
After the bloodless revolution of 1969, also on September 1, the new government nationalised the oil companies and spent much of the oil revenues to harness the supply of fresh water from the desert aquifers by putting in hundreds of bore wells. Muammar Gaddafi's dream was to provide fresh water for everyone, and to turn the desert green, making Libya self-sufficient in food production. He established large farms and encouraged the people to move to the desert. But many preferred life on the coast and wouldn't go.
So Gaddafi next conceived a
plan to bring the water to the people. Feasibility studies were carried out by the
Libyan government in the seventies and in 1983 the Great Man-made River
Authority was set up. The project began the following year, fully funded by the
Libyan government. The almost $30 billion cost to date has been without the
need of any international loans. Nor has there been any charge on the people,
who do not pay for their reticulated water, which is regarded in Libya to be a
human right and therefore free.
GMMR Project figures are staggering.
The 'rivers' are a 4000-kilometre
network of 4m diameter lined concrete pipes, buried below the desert sands to
prevent evaporation. There are 1300 wells, 500,000 sections of pipe, 3700 kms
of haul roads, and 250 million cubic metres of excavation. All material for the
project was locally manufactured. Large reservoirs provide storage, and pumping
stations control the flow into the cities. The pipeline first reached Tripoli in
1996 and when Phase V is completed, the water will allow about 155,000 hectares
of land to be cultivated.
To achieve all this, construction
work was tendered and many overseas companies, including from US, Korea,
Turkey, Britain, Japan and Germany took up contracts for each Phase, and some have
worked for decades in Libya. The project has not been without problems,
including faulty materials and financial difficulties within some of the
contracting firms. Since the NATO air attacks on Libya began in March, most foreign
nationals have returned home, including those employed on the hydro scheme. The
final phase of the Great Man-made River Project is stalled.
Libyan people put their
hearts into work on the GMMRP from the beginning, and years ago took on most of
the managerial and technical positions as their expert knowledge increased, with
government policy encouraging their education, training and employment. They
proudly call the GMMR "the eighth wonder of the world."
(UN Human Development Index
figures for Libya since the beginning of Gaddafi's influence can be found here.)
The project was so well recognised internationally that
UNESCO in 1999 accepted Libya's offer to fund an award named after it, the Great Man-Made
River International Water Prize , the
purpose of which
is to "reward remarkable scientific research work on water usage in arid areas".
Gaddafi was often ridiculed in
the West for persevering with such an ambitious project. Pejorative terms such
"pipedream", "pet project" and "mad dog" appeared in UK and US media. Despite a
certain amount of awe for the enormity of the construction, the Great Man-made
River was often dismissed as a "vanity project" and then rarely mentioned in
western media. But truth is, it's a world class water delivery system, and often
visited by overseas engineers and planners wanting to learn from Libyan expertise
in water transfer hydro-engineering.
On 22 July this year, four
months into the air strikes to "protect civilians", NATO forces hit the GMMR water
supply pipeline. For good measure the following day, NATO destroyed the factory
near Brega that produces the pipes to repair it, along with killing six guards
NATO air strikes on the electricity
supply, as well as depriving civilians of electricity, mean that water pumping
stations are no longer operating in areas even where the pipelines remain
intact. Water supply for the 70% of the population who depend on the piped supply
has been compromised with this damage to Libya's vital infrastructure.
Oh, and by the way, attacking
essential civilian infrastructure is a war crime.
Today in Sirte, which along
with Benghazi was one of the first two cities to receive the water, there
should be a celebration to mark the twenty years since fresh reticulated water
first came to their city, and Gaddafi's vision should be honoured.
But today Sirte is encircled
by the rebels, and right now is being carpet bombed by NATO. The civilians are
terrorised, and many families have tried to flee. But the rebels block all the exits,
they kill the men, and send the women and children back into the city to be
bombed. In the media the rebels are reported to have given Sirte until Saturday
to surrender before they commence a full attack. But that's not what's
September 1, 2011, will be
remembered in history for NATO's complicity in the massacre of the people of
Back in 1991, at the gala opening
of GMMRP Phase I, and maybe recalling the 1986 bombing of his home (which was
carried out by US military on Reagan's orders), Muammar Gaddafi spoke these
words to the invited international dignitaries and assembled crowd:
"After this achievement,
American threats against Libya will double .... The United States will make
excuses, (but) the real reason is to stop this achievement, to keep the people
of Libya oppressed."
His words were prophetic.