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THE DREAD OF BEING A BYSTANDER

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Because of the defilement of our political culture in the aftermath of 9/11, it is now acceptable for a Pentagon General to describe the suicide of three Guantanamo inmates as "an act of war " and not be laughed out of Washington. Because of the timidity of academia, it is now acceptable for Dr James Carafano of the US Heritage Foundation, currently a visiting professor at the National Defense University, to publicly state that the Iraq people were really the ones who organised the killing of al Zarqawi, and that all the US army did was "drop the bombs ". In another age, he would have been laughed off campus.

All reports relating to Zarqawi 's life and death should be treated with caution. It takes a bit of digging to learn that two women and a child perished in the farmhouse along with the Psy-Ops embellished villain. In a previous era, the targeting of a toddler might have been a matter of regret. Today it is barely a matter worth mentioning. The war against terror is marketed as a defence of civilisation, but from its opening aerial assault on the mud huts of Afghanis, it has been a betrayal of civilisation.

While the Pentagon can sometimes shoot straight, often at civilians, it can never talk straight. It was inevitable that within hours of Zaqarwi 's reported death by bombing, the official story was revised. He was found to be still alive when the Iraqis arrived and remained so while he was loaded into an ambulance. Next to appear were US soldiers, who "took him off ", according to Gen. George Casey on Fox News, where he was "rendered first aid, and he expired ". Not a surprising outcome.

MILITARY MEDICARE

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According to Associated Press, a neighbour turned up, Mr. Ahmed Mohammed, who offered this insight into military medicare. "When the Americans arrived they took him out of the ambulance, they beat him on his stomach and wrapped his head with his dishdasha [robe], then they stomped on his stomach and his chest until he died and blood came out of his nose". The advantage of this assisted expiration, if Ahmed Mohammed is to be believed, is that the former "leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq " will be unable to challenge the Pentagon 's version of his career. A version that has been subject to constant revision,

According to one military commander, Col. Derek Harvey, Zarqawi 's input was a "very small part " of the actual carnage in Iraq. "Our own focus on Zarqawi has enlarged his caricature, if you will -- made him more important than he really is. " The Bush administration considered Zarqawi a useful source of propaganda. "Magnification of his role and of the threat he posed grew to the point ", suggested the Washington Post, "that some senior intelligence officers believed it was counterproductive ". This problem has now been solved.

Okay, let 's step back a bit. No matter how disgusting and self defeating this terror war becomes, its prime instigators insist it 's on track, that freedom is on the march, that even if 82% of Iraqis and Afghanis want the occupiers out, we must stay the course, knee deep in blood. So what 's really going on? In the process of brutally overthrowing two nasty regimes (with logistic help from other nasty regimes), we watch our Government - in Britain, in the US, in Australia - become ever more unscrupulous. We apparently live in a democracy, but it no longer feels like a democracy. British cops shoot before searching. Tony Blair sells seats in the House of Lords and puts his own Lord before his obligations to Parliament. In Australia, we harass refugees, bolster the secret police and turn a blind eye to US war crimes, even to the torture of our own citizens. As for America, it seems to be re-engineering itself into a global monster, albeit with a pin head.

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FREEDOM NEXT TIME

Time for a flashback. Try to imagine you have survived a ten day trip on a cattle train from Yugoslavia to Lower Saxony, Germany, in 1944, with people dying all around you. From the station, you 're about to be marched off to Bergen Belsen. The local women have turned up to watch the show, and you watch them watching you, as though you were a cockroach. Unlike Anne Frank, you somehow manage to survive the death camp and make your way to brave new Israel, carting along your emotional baggage an ingrained contempt for the dead eyed bystanders, the ones 'who look from the side ' and, unlike Ahmed Mohammed, never get involved. This revulsion is passed on to your daughter, the Israeli journalist Amira Hass. In 1993, Amira decided to live and report from among the oppressed residents of the Gaza Strip.

How do I know this? Because it is recounted by John Pilger in his horrifying and illuminating new book, Freedom Next Time, a book that is likely to be blacklisted by the media. In a chapter on 'The Last Taboo ', Pilger interviews Amira Hass about the confluence of Jewish history with the plight of the Palestinians. The everyday humiliations and brutalities inflicted on these citizens, as witnessed by Hass, are as Nazi-like as it gets, short of swastika armbands. Amira says that her decision to live in Gaza, "stemmed from the dread of being a bystander ". This remark hits like a thunderbolt, because it strikes at the heart of what we in the war-on-terror West have become: oblivious to our own complicity.

STRANGE FRUIT

But how can that be? You didn 't vote for the hawks at the helm. You marched in protest against the attack in Iraq. You sent radical weblinks to friends, letters to editors, a plea to priests. You 've kept abreast of the string of horrors, from the "precision " bombs shredding crowded markets, the serial checkpoint murders, the illegal weapons, the porno tortures, the razing of cities, the massacres .... on and on, ad infinitum. All for what?

The conspirators have not yet been bundled off to The Hague. The US military bases spread like the plague. In Iraq, the gold plated US embassy rises higher, ever higher, from the rubble of wrecked infrastructure and broken dreams. Fresh talks of oil pipes rolling across Afghanistan, even as we bomb a religious school in Kandahar, the liquid black gold destined for tankers, and for our gas tanks, to be discharged into the noxious sky. The show must go on; the never ending spectacle of distraction in our heads, on our screens, supported by the never ending tragedy of disempowerment out of view. Three bodies swinging in their isolation cells. Strange Fruit. Don 't mention Geneva. What is our society in danger of becoming? Hypnotised with apathy. The German women lining the road to Belsen at least got out of their houses to gawk. Today, too many just cruise the cables; bystanders with a remote control.

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POST SCRIPT. ALL IS NOT LOST.

The minute I finished the above, I checked the links at http://www.whatreallyhappened.com and came across a site that renews hope for the future. Congratulations to everyone involved: http://www.worldonfire.ca

And for this as well, the unstoppable truth:

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Richard Neville has been a practicing futurist since 1963, when he launched the countercultural magazine, Oz, which widened the boundaries of free speech on two continents. He has written several books, including Playpower (71), the bio of a global (more...)
 

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