Saturday, November 21, 2015

Global opinion is against Australia. Do we know how far we've fallen?

Paola Totaro The Guardian November 19, 2015

A change of leadership has calmed things down at home, but abroad Australia is still seen as the lucky, rich, cruel country. Perhaps it’s time to revisit our history

There was a time, not so long ago, when being Australian brought with it a frisson of pride and, dare I say it, quiet superiority.

Young, modern, proudly multicultural, we saw ourselves as a nation of free thinkers, open minded and open hearted about sexual orientation and race.

As travelers to Europe and the UK, there was a sense of great freedom and smugness being an Aussie: class differences? Pfft, not us. And have you seen the size of Sydney’s Mardi Gras? Migrants brought the best food and coffee in the world – from Italy to Vietnam, Greece to Iran. You name it, we’ve got it. (OK, sport hasn’t always been a source of national pride.)

If you were an immigrant kid growing up in Australia, life wasn’t exactly a bed of roses but you could be sure that someone would quickly take your place as the underdog in the playground. First it was the Chinese then the Italians and Greeks, then came the Vietnamese and Cambodians who were followed by the Lebanese and Pacific Islanders who were followed by … well, you get the picture.

A nation built on wave after wave of immigration, Australia was quick to acknowledge and respond to the roadblocks of systemic discrimination. It’s easy to forget that in 1978, the New South Wales became the first state to launch a Commission of Inquiry (disclaimer – led by my dad) to root out built-in obstacles and replace them with policies to promote harmony and diversity…………

Australia’s human rights policies were last week singled out for criticism by no fewer than 100 countries, 61 of them focusing on Australia’s treatment of people seeking asylum. Among them are key allies including the US, the UK, Germany and France…….

Perhaps it is time not only to remind ourselves of the stultifying effects of our geographic isolation but to demand an end to the kind of expedient foreign and immigration policy that allows both sides of politics to wreak such damage on society itself.

In 2015, the inescapable fact is that there are close to 60 million displaced men, women and children seeking a home. Of course as Australians, it matters how we are perceived by the rest of the world. But what we choose to do matters much, much more.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Dom Christian's Testament A French monk on his murder by terrorists

James Martin, SJ America November 14, 2015

Dom Christian de Chergé was one of the Trappist monks killed by extremists at the Monastery of Notre Dame of Atlas in Tibhirine, Algeria, in 1996, by terrorists identifying themselves as the ‘Armed Islamic Groups.’ (Their story was told in the film ‘Of Gods and Men.’) Dom Christian and the other Trappist martyrs knew that by remaining in Tibhirine, in solidarity with their brothers and sisters in the country who also faced terrorism and violence, they might be called upon to offer their lives. This is in stark contrast to the terrible plight of those who died in Paris yesterday, whose lives were taken from them forcibly……….

Testament of Dom Christian de Chergé (Opened on Pentecost Sunday, May 26, 1996)

Facing a GOODBYE ...

If it should happen one day—and it could be today—that I become a victim of the terrorism which now seems ready to engulf all the foreigners living in Algeria, I would like my community, my Church and my family to remember that my life was GIVEN to God and to this country………

I ask them to associate this death with so many other equally violent ones which are forgotten through indifference or anonymity.

My life has no more value than any other. Nor any less value. In any case, it has not the innocence of childhood.

I have lived long enough to know that I am an accomplice in the evil which seems to prevail so terribly in the world, even in the evil which might blindly strike me down……….

I do not see, in fact, how I could rejoice if the people I love were indiscriminately accused of my murder…………..

I am aware of the scorn which can be heaped on the Algerians indiscriminately.

I am also aware of the caricatures of Islam which a certain Islamism fosters.

It is too easy to soothe one's conscience by identifying this religious way with the fundamentalist ideology of its extremists…………….

May we meet again as happy thieves in Paradise, if it please God, the Father of us both.


Algiers, 1st December 1993
Tibhirine, 1st January 1994

Christian +

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Saturday, November 7, 2015

Henry A. Giroux Teachers as Intellectuals: Toward a Critical Pedagogy of Learning

‘Within the last thirty years, the United States under the reign of market fundamentalism has been transformed into a society that is more about forgetting than learning, more about consuming than producing, more about asserting private interests than democratic rights.’
Henry A. Giroux Neoliberalism's War on Higher Education

‘In an alleged democracy, the image of the public sphere with its appeal to dialogue and shared responsibility has given way to the spectacle of unbridled intolerance, ignorance, seething private fears, unchecked anger, along with the decoupling of reason from freedom. … What this decline in civility, the emergence of mob behavior …suggests is that we have become one of the most illiterate nations on the planet. I don't mean illiterate in the sense of not being able to read … The new illiteracy is about more than learning how to read the book or the word; it is about learning how not to read the world. … As a result of this widespread illiteracy that has come to dominate American culture we have moved from a culture of questioning to a culture of shouting, and in doing so have restaged politics and power in both unproductive and anti-democratic ways.’
Henry A. Giroux

‘We live in a time that demands a discourse of both critique and possibility, one that recognizes that without an informed citizenry, collective struggle, and viable social movements, democracy will slip out of our reach and we will arrive at a new stage of history marked by the birth of an authoritarianism that not only disdains all vestiges of democracy but is more than willing to relegate it to a distant memory.’
Henry A. Giroux Zombie Politics and Culture in the Age of Casino Capitalism

‘Children have fewer rights than almost any other group and fewer institutions protecting these rights. Consequently, their voices and needs are almost completely absent from the debates, policies, and legislative practices that are constructed in terms of their needs.’

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Why Aboriginal people with disabilities crowd Australia’s prisons

Eileen Baldry, Elizabeth McEntyre, Ruth McCausland The Conversation November 2, 2015

Research released today shows Aboriginal people with mental and cognitive disability are ‘managed’ by police, courts and prisons due to a lack of appropriate community-based services.

Australia imprisons thousands of Aboriginal people with mental and cognitive disability each year. A widespread lack of understanding – and action – underpins this shameful breach of human rights.

The number of people in Australian prisons recently reached an all time high of 33,791, with 27% or 9,264 of those prisoners identifying as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. People with mental and cognitive disability who are poor, disadvantaged, and Aboriginal are overrepresented in this increase.

To clarify, mental disabilities include disorders such as depression, schizophrenia, anxiety, personality disorders and psychosis. People can experience these for a short time or throughout their lives. While cognitive disability covers impairments such as intellectual disability, acquired brain injury, dementia and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). These are ongoing impairments in comprehension, reason, judgement, learning or memory.

A predictable path

A study we released today shows how Aboriginal people with mental and cognitive disability are being ‘managed’ by police, courts and prisons due to a dire lack of appropriate community-based services and support.

The Indigenous Australians with Mental Health Disorders and Cognitive Disability in the Criminal Justice System (IAMHDCD) Project draws on a unique data set of 2,731 people who’ve been imprisoned in New South Wales, which holds more than a third of Australia’s prison population. A quarter of people in the data set are Indigenous……………

We found Aboriginal people with mental and cognitive disability are forced into the criminal justice system early in life. Coming from poor and disadvantaged backgrounds, they receive little support from community and disability services or the education system.

These people are often seen as badly behaved or too hard to control, and left to police to manage. While this also applies to non-Indigenous people with disability from disadvantaged backgrounds, we found it’s much more serious for Indigenous people.

Indigenous people in the group we studied were 2.6 times more likely to have been in out-of-home care as children……………….

Four key drivers

Our research shows four major issues underlie these shocking statistics:

1. People don’t understand what cognitive disability is…………..

2. High levels of stress in some Aboriginal communities ………….

3. Many Aboriginal people in the criminal justice system have ‘complex support needs’………..

4. A lack of appropriate support for Aboriginal people with mental and cognitive disability……………

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Pope Francis says Oscar Romero faced ‘slander’ from clergy

Pilgrims carry a portrait of Roman Catholic Archbishop Oscar Romero to Romero's beatification ceremony in San Salvador, El Salvador, in May. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

By Inés San Martín CRUX October 30, 2015

In a signal that sainthood for Latin America’s most famous contemporary martyr may not be far off, Pope Francis on Friday praised El Salvador’s Archbishop Oscar Romero and said his suffering continued after his 1980 assassination in the form of unjustified ‘slander.’

‘He was defamed, slandered, his memory despoiled, and his martyrdom was continued, even by his own brothers in the priesthood and the episcopacy,’ Francis said, in unusually blunt remarks to a delegation from El Salvador visiting Rome.

Romero was shot to death in 1980 while celebrating Mass, during a period of social revolt fueled by poverty and abuses of power. He was beatified in May 2015 in San Salvador, in one of the largest religious gatherings in the history of Central America.

Romero’s death helped trigger a bloody civil war that went on from 1980 to 1992, with fighting between Communist guerrillas and a US-backed right-wing military government, reaching a death toll of more than 75,000 people.

In the years since his death, many critics, including some senior Latin American prelates and Vatican officials, argued that Romero wasn’t killed for his faith but for political reasons, pointing to his opposition to a right-wing Salvadorian government accused of widespread human rights abuses……. ‘It’s nice to also remember him like this: a man who continues his martyrdom,’ Francis said, straying from his prepared remarks. ‘[Romero is] a man who, after having given his life, [was] continuously whipped by incomprehension and calumnies.’

‘How many times those who have given their lives continue being struck with the hardest stone there is: The tongue!’ the pope said, before leading the group in a prayer.

No one has ever been prosecuted for Romero’s assassination, but in 1993 a United Nations investigation concluded a right-wing politician with links to El Salvador’s military orchestrated the attack………………

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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Israel Terrorizes Palestinians After Two Settlers Shot

Stephen Lendman Global Research October 3 2015
Here’s how Israeli justice works. Extremist settlers set a Palestinian family’s home ablaze, immolate three of its members in cold blood, seriously burn a fourth, and remain free to kill again because they’re not arrested – despite Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon admitting authorities know who’s responsible.
Settlers terrorize Palestinians daily, commit violence and vandalism, desecrate Islam’s third holiest site (the Al Aqsa Mosque) at their discretion, aided by rampaging soldiers and police, and remain free to commit more criminal acts.
Palestinian children throwing stones in self-defense, responding to Israeli security forces or settlers’ violence, face up to 20 years in prison, their families subject to stiff fines they can’t afford to pay.
On Thursday, a shooting incident killed two settlers, a husband and wife in their car. Their children with them at the time weren’t harmed. They’re orphaned like countless nameless, faceless Palestinian children no one gives a damn about, many of them maimed by Israeli aggression.
One or more assailants responsible for Thursdays incident remain unknown – Palestinians automatically blamed despite no evidence proving it or the precise motive for the attack.
Was it a random crime? Were both parents targeted? If so, why? Whenever an incident like this happens, Israeli hysteria follows. Security forces rampage through Palestinian communities violently, making random arrests, imposing curfews and lockdowns, terrorizing thousands of innocent people……
Following the incident, dozens of extremist settlers attacked Palestinian homes in areas south of Nablus. Some shouted Death to Arabs.’…………
Witch hunt searches are well underway – continuing at least until someone is blamed, guilty or innocent. Once charged, it’s too late. Guilt by accusation suffices. Israeli justice for Palestinians works this way.
Meanwhile, they’re being attacked, unprotected against Arab-hating settlers and soldiers. After promising no longer to observe Oslo principles, Mahmoud Abbas remains silent, doing nothing to protect Palestinians from abuse…………
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Monday, October 5, 2015

The Brave, New World of Armed Drones and UAVs. Thank God I Am Not A Child Born Today!

Anthony Bellchambers Global Research October 3 2015
As American planes bomb a hospital operated by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in the Afghan town of Kunduz, killing patients and medical staff, this terrible horror follows previous incidents around the world that replicate the example of claimed ‘collateral damage’ inflicted upon hospitals and civilian installations, in Gaza, by its attackers in 2014 and earlier.
This precedent established by Israeli-invented drones and condoned by much of the world, in accepting the shocking killing of innocent civilians, as ‘collateral damage’ in the pursuit of the liquidation of its enemies, turns accepted international law upon its head.
It is not difficult to foresee a world, in maybe only ten years’ time, in 2025, where not only Israeli and American drones, but also British, French, Turkish, Indian or Pakistani armed, unmanned aerial vehicles will suddenly appear in the skies above our homes, anywhere, in Manchester, London, Munich or Marseilles, to kill political activists or protestors, at will. No judicial process, just summary execution of perceived enemies, unwanted critics and the collateral killing of innocent bystanders.
Welcome to the brave, new world of UAV warfare that will in the very near future determine all our lives, and our deaths, controlled by anonymous operatives sitting at computer consoles, and drinking coffee, in rooms thousands of miles distant in Tel Aviv or Arlington County, Virginia.
Thank the Lord I am not a child born today.
Copyright © Anthony Bellchambers, Global Research, 2015
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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Question from Afghanistan, ‘Can We Abolish War?’

Dr. Hakim Common Dreams September 19, 2015

Habib says #Enough! (Photos: Dr. Hakim)
Hadisa, a bright 18 year old Afghan girl, ranks as the top student in her 12th grade class. ‘The question is,’ she wondered, ‘are human beings capable of abolishing war?’
Like Hadisa, I had my doubts about whether human nature could have the capacity to abolish war. For years, I had presumed that war is sometimes necessary to control ‘terrorists’, and based on that presumption, it didn’t make sense to abolish it. Yet my heart went out to Hadisa when I imagined her in a future riddled with intractable violence…………
Hadisa, like 99% of human beings, and the more than 60 million refugees fleeing from military and economic wars, usually chooses peaceful, constructive action rather than violence……….
………In another two days, on the 21st of September, the International day of Peace, she will be one of 100 street kids who will serve a lunch meal to 100 Afghan labourers.
‘In place of war,’ Fatima learnt, ‘we will do acts of kindness.’
This action will launch #Enough!, a long-term campaign and movement initiated by the Afghan Peace Volunteers to abolish war…………..
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Sunday, September 20, 2015

From Noam Chomsky’s 1967 essay, ‘The Responsibilities of Intellectuals’

‘Intellectuals are in a position to expose the lies of governments, to analyze actions according to their causes and motives and often hidden intentions … they have the power that comes from political liberty, from access to information and freedom of expression. For a privileged minority, Western democracy provides the leisure, the facilities, and the training to seek the truth lying hidden behind the veil of distortion and misrepresentation, ideology and class interest, through which the events of current history are presented to us.’
From Noam Chomsky’s 1967 essay, ‘The Responsibilities of Intellectuals’ The New York Review of Books, February 23, 1967

Thursday, September 17, 2015

What Causes Migrants to Leave and What is to be Done

W. T. Whitney CounterPunch September 15, 2015

Migrants are abandoning the Middle East and Africa and flooding Europe. Others leave Central America and Mexico for the United States. Humanitarian crises are at U. S. and European doorsteps. Panic reigns in Europe at the hordes of strangers in their midst. Volunteers and the United Nations have mobilized. Some European governments provide social services, transportation, housing, and food. For migrants, deportation and detention loom as dangers. The dominant media concentrate on refugees’ immediate problems, barriers in their way, and governments’ difficulties in coping. And migrants keep on coming……….
Life at risk in the three regions is a much-told and shifting story, especially as the responsible parties are named. The tale is simple enough, however, and really needs only a few words in the telling. Artists do the trick with word nuggets. The late Portuguese Nobel-winning novelist José Saramago is a case in point.
With Africa in mind, he maintains that, ‘Displacement from south to north is inevitable. Neither barbed – wire fences, walls, nor deportations will be worth anything; they will come by the millions. Europe will be taken over by the hungry. They come looking for those who robbed them. There’ll be no return for them because they are leaving behind a famine of centuries, and they come tracking the scent of their daily rations. Distribution is getting closer and closer. Trumpets have begun to sound. Hatred is being served and we’ll need politicians who know how to rise above the circumstances.’………….
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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

We can take more refugees: Refugee Council of Australia

Lindy Kerin AM on ABC Radio National September 7, 2015 08:30:00
………..The president of the Refugee Council of Australia Phil Glendenning says Australia could and should do more.
PHIL GLENDENNING: It's quite clearly unsatisfactory given the level of crisis that we're seeing around the world at the moment.
Look, it is, you know, it is good that if the Prime Minister is prepared to take more people from Syria but they should not be at the expense of other people that we have obliged to take also.
We'd need to see extra places made available not to shuffle around with the fairly small numbers we take anyway. …………. We've got countries like Germany taking upwards of 800,000.
The Europeans are certainly showing a much clearer way in exercising not just compassion but their international obligations.
And I think moreover, Australia was a party to a lot of the wars that have gone on in places like Iraq and Afghanistan that have indirectly contributed to the crisis that we now see in Syria and I think we have a very strong obligation to be involved with protecting the very people who are fleeing from the dangers that we've had a hand in creating…………
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Friday, September 4, 2015

Australia’s Brutal Treatment of Migrants …….a scathing criticism of our country

Editorial The New York Times September 3, 2015
Some European officials may be tempted to adopt the hard-line approach Australia has used to stem a similar tide of migrants. That would be unconscionable.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has overseen a ruthlessly effective effort to stop boats packed with migrants, many of them refugees, from reaching Australia’s shores. His policies have been inhumane, of dubious legality and strikingly at odds with the country’s tradition of welcoming people fleeing persecution and war.
Since 2013, Australia has deployed its navy to turn back boats with migrants, including asylum seekers, before they could get close to its shores. Military personnel force vessels carrying people from Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Eritrea and other conflict-roiled nations toward Indonesia, where most of the journeys begin. A boat captain recently reported that Australian authorities paid him $30,000 to turn back. If true, that account, which the Australian government has not disputed, would represent a violation of international laws designed to prevent human smuggling and protect asylum seekers.
Those who have not been turned back are held at detention centers run by private contractors on nearby islands, including the tiny nation of Nauru. A report this week by an Australian Senate committee portrayed the Nauru center as a purgatory where children are sexually abused, guards give detainees marijuana in exchange for sex and some asylum seekers are so desperate that they stitch their lips shut in an act of protest. Instead of stopping the abuses, the Australian government has sought to hide them from the world………………
The world’s war zones are all but certain to continue to churn out an extraordinary number of refugees and economic migrants in the years ahead. Those people understandably will head to the most prosperous nations, hoping to rebuild their lives. It is inexcusable that some find themselves today in situations that are more hopeless and degrading than the ones that prompted them to flee.
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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Shut it down Australia’s offshore immigration detention system is intolerable

Michael Lucy The Monthly September 1, 2015

Politics rolls along as usual today: politicians attack newspapers, newspapers attack politicians; unions attack the royal commission, the royal commission attacks unions; the government attacks itself, the government defends itself from its own attacks. Meanwhile, a human catastrophe of our making slowly grinds on to our north.
Late yesterday afternoon, a Senate committee delivered its report into conditions at Australia’s ‘regional processing centre’ in Nauru. The headline recommendation was that all children should be removed from the centre immediately. The report also repeats many of the claims about the centre that we have heard in recent months – that women and children live in fear of sexual assault by guards and other inmates, that self-harm and suicide attempts are common, that disease is rampant and medical treatment poor.
Perhaps the worst thing about it is that the conditions the report describes have come to seem hardly noteworthy. We know, more or less, what it’s like on Nauru: very bad. (This is not to say that we don’t need more transparency and detail about actual incidents and conditions.) A lack of information is not the problem………….
The report will not lead to any changes, because all the report does is show that the centre is working as planned. The logic is fairly straightforward (if repugnant): in order to deter refugees, the camps need to be worse than what the refugees are running from. As long as we are committed to this model of offshore detention, there will be no such thing as too much maltreatment or abuse of the inmates.
Governments Labor and Liberal have created and maintained this system, and have created a legal apparatus – outsourcing to the dysfunctional government of Nauru, and the amoral corporates at Wilson Security and Transfield Services – whereby they can absolve themselves of responsibility when abuses occur……………
At some point the justification for the existence of the system becomes irrelevant, because the system is intolerably bad in itself. We’re well past that point. We, as a country, are effectively running overseas prison camps filled with people who have committed no crime, camps where abuse and neglect and maltreatment are routine, where the exercise of power is arbitrary and accountability is non-existent. It’s time to shut them down, and do our best to make amends. In a just world those responsible would be held to account, but clearly that is some other world.
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Thursday, August 27, 2015

The politics of climate change: towards the Paris climate conference 2015

The Politics of Climate Change - towards the Paris Climate Change Conference 2015

Did you miss Tuesday night's CityTalk? Watch the video now.

Connie Hedegaard, former European Commissioner for Climate Action, reignited a national conversation between Australia’s political leaders on key climate change targets, and Australia’s role in addressing them.

Panel speakers included:

Connie Hedegaard former EU Commissioner for Climate Action
Mark Butler MP Shadow Minister for the Environment
Senator Larissa Waters Co-Deputy Leader, Australian Greens
Dr John Hewson AM former Leader of the Liberal Party Australia

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Nauru rapes: ‘There is a war on women’

Martin McKenzie-Murray The Saturday Paper August 22, 2015
One woman lies catatonic in hospital after being raped and beaten. Another was raped and immolated. This is the world awaiting refugees released from detention on Nauru.

Supplied. Nazanin, an asylum seeker who was raped and beaten on Nauru.
They say God never gives you anything you can’t handle, but Dabal is not so sure. When I call him, he’s just returning from the Nauruan hospital where his 23-year-old sister lies catatonic, entering her second week being sustained only by nutrients pumped intravenously into her. Her kidneys are shutting down; her body has shrunk.
In May, Nazanin left the Nauru refugee camp one morning on a day pass, happy to be visiting some friends who had been settled on the island – she and her family had been in detention for 26 months. ‘She used a bus, and I called a friend and he said she was there,’ Dabal tells me. ‘My sister was happy to leave this camp for a day.’
She never returned. At 6 o’clock that evening, Dabal and his mother reported her absence to security guards. Something wasn’t right. In response, the guards floated theories of missed buses or an innocent loss of time, benign explanations for what the family felt was a sinister disappearance. By 7pm, several hours past Nazanin’s curfew, the camp authorities began to wonder, too. ‘They realise it was bigger than the things they thought,’ Dabal says.
Dabal joined two security guards as they drove to Nazanin’s friends’ house. The friends confirmed she had been there, but that she had left some time earlier to return to the camp before curfew. At this point, no one knew where she was. Dabal felt sick. This wasn’t like his sister……………
To this day, no convictions have been recorded for assaults on refugees.
Police found Nazanin naked, bruised and disoriented, about 9pm that night. She was alive, but badly beaten and numb with trauma. She couldn’t speak much……..
Much of the reporting of Nauru focuses on the camps, or regional processing centres. But there is another reality lived outside it, once refugees are settled. For many months now, hostility towards refugees has grown among Nauruans……….
Refugee women say the local men know where the vulnerable ones live, and speak about the ‘50 dollar man’ – a man who serially molests women in their homes, then drops a $50 note on them afterwards. ‘There is a war on women there,’ a source tells me……….
In Australia, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, and the minister’s office, did not respond to detailed questions about the sexual assaults reported in this piece and conditions on Nauru for settled refugees…………..

Monday, August 17, 2015

Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Gratuitous Mass Murder

Stephen Lendman CounterPunch August 7, 2015
The atomic age began on August 6, 1945 in real time – after its July 16 pre-dawn open-air birth in successful Alamogordo, NM testing.
At the time, perhaps prophetically General Thomas Farrell said ‘(w)e were reaching into the unknown, and we did not know what might come of it.’………..
At least 200,000 died, many others scarred for life, future generations to this day harmed by radiologically caused birth defects and other serious health problems.
Big Lies still claim bombing both cities hastened war’s end and saved many lives. Truman informed the public deceitfully saying bombing Hiroshima ‘destroyed its usefulness to the enemy.’
………Nuclear bombing both cities were two of numerous American genocides – beginning with a conquering the new world from sea to shining sea, ravaging and destroying one country after another ever since, endless wars of aggression continuing today.
Japan was defeated ready to surrender when Truman authorized testing America’s new toy in real time – twice, not once. Not to win a war already won. To show Soviet Russia America’s new might, what its leadership already knew, what might follow against its cities if Washington decided to attack its wartime ally.
US leaders always considered human lives expendable. Many thousands of Japanese victims were considered a small price to pay.
Terror bombing is an international high crime………
On February 24, 1945, Japan wanted surrender, asking only to retain its emperor. Roosevelt wanted war continued. So did Truman after his April 1945 death.
The late Howard Zinn said ‘(t)he bombing of Hiroshima remains sacred to the American Establishment and to a very large part of the population in this country.’
It’s been falsely portrayed as an expeditious way to end war and save lives – a myth believed to this day by most Americans, ignoring appalling gratuitous mass murder by any standard…………..
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Sunday, August 9, 2015

If black lives really matter in Australia, it's time we owned up to our history

Jeff Sparrow The Guardian August 7, 2015
Australia’s frontier had cruelty to rival the US south.
‘White Australians might think nothing of being called an ‘ape’. But Goodes’ response to the taunt arises from a history that shares far more with the US south than we’d like to think.’
In the US, the Black Lives Matter campaign is forcing a long-overdue reckoning with that country’s history, with (in the wake of the Charleston massacre, in particular), activists launching a new conversation about the Civil War iconography that litters much of the South……….
…….in his new book Australian Confederates, journalist Terry Smyth draws out some fascinating connections between Australia and the American South.
Smyth focuses, in particular, on the 42 Australians who, in 1865, secretly enlisted to fight for the slave-owning states when the Confederate ship Shenandoah docked in Port Phillip Bay. In passing, however, he acknowledges the broader significance of the Civil War, which opened sudden opportunities for another nations to export agricultural crops.
As historian Kay Saunders has said, the Northern blockade of Confederate cotton and sugar meant that ‘Queensland was regarded potentially as a second Louisiana’.
Aspiring local planters tried to seize the moment, inducing British mill workers to immigrate and establish a local cotton industry. But they quickly discovered that men from England’s industrial towns would not accept the conditions prevailing on plantations in the Australian rural north………
But a grassroots campaign to identify and commemorate particular histories would take on a different dynamic. It would necessitate an engagement with the community, for a start: a serious public debate about historical injustice. It would also link the past with the present, inevitably posing questions that go beyond the treatment of Adam Goodes into the shocking statistics about, for instance, indigenous unemployment and incarceration.
Australian history and American history are not the same. But it’s very hard to read, say, Amy McQuire’s account of the death last year of Julieka Dhu in police custody without asking the questions currently being posed in the US: do black lives matter or not?
Read more
In case you missed this very good article: I can tell you how Adam Goodes feels. Every Indigenous person has felt it by Stan Grant

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

How to fix homelessness: give the homeless a home?

Michael Short
The Age August 3, 2015
Should we give homeless people, well, a home? Is this simple idea perhaps the best solution to homelessness?
…….Giving homes to the homeless might sound radical. It might initially inflame those who believe in small government, in limiting the role of the state. But, in fact, it would appear to be the most effective and economical way of solving chronic homelessness, particularly in a wealthy nation like Australia, where more than 100,000 people are without a home on any given night - and many, like this person outside St Paul's Cathedral in central Melbourne, are forced to sleep outdoors………
In other words, giving the homeless a safe, secure home is a real solution that should appeal to fiscal conservatives as much as to those who are socially progressive. Surely all of us should be concerned about the plight of the most vulnerable and needy in our communities. As this is Homelessness Prevention Week, it's not a bad time to talk about it………
It's an idea captured by Michael Leunig in this illustration.
Here in Australia, a recent study by Melbourne-based Sacred Heart Mission provides hope that the Housing First model might spread. After a four-year pilot program where long-term homeless people were given stable, safe accommodation and then back-up services and counselling, the Journey to Social Inclusion report found:
• As many as three-in-four participants were still in stable housing a year after the program ended, compared with fewer than 60 per cent of the control group that received existing services under the old model.
• There was a fall of 80 per cent in the need of the participant group for emergency health services during the four years, while the needs of the control group increased by a fifth.
• The savings to taxpayers were more than $17,000 a year per participant.
Read more and view many photos

Friday, July 31, 2015

Transfiguration August 6th Hiroshima August 6th Reflection

As one priest said to me last week, “In the Transfiguration for a moment we see Heaven and Earth in the same space.”
Jesus is the true meeting-place of heaven and earth.
When we worship in Jesus, in Holy Spirit, heaven is therefore open to us.
There is Communion. “Holy, Holy, Holy” – as we sing in the Sanctus.
Prefiguring His Resurrected glory, in the Transfiguration, we see the glory of God in the face of Jesus.
No wonder the disciples wanted to hold on to the moment. As we all do in moments of profound insight. Especially moment of insight into the glory of God.
After a Confirmation last week, one of our priests, the Revd Kim Beale and I were talking about how the Lord’s anointing was vivid as we prayed … “Strengthen your servant with your Holy Spirit ..”
Kim is young and humble. A beautiful combination. Rare in any day. Old and humble is also rare most days.
He asked me how long it’s taken me to learn to take time over such matters. I said I couldn’t remember.
I said I am sometimes very aware of the Spirit moving through me. Sometimes not so much.
I just wait until it seems time to speak, meanwhile praying “Jesus have mercy”.
I said what I do know is that I have barely touched the edge of the divine glory.
Afterwards, I was surprised I’d said that. It was a word given to me to keep me attentive … humbler.
The grace of Jesus does transfigure our perceptions.
It’s all a question of how much glory we can bear, before we pray with Isaiah, Peter, others before us “Depart from me, I am a person of unclean lips …” (Luke 5:8)
Transfigured Perceptions or Disfigured perceptions. That is humankind’s choice.
As we know Jesus went down the Mountain into chaos and disease. (Mark 9: 14-29)
Poignantly, the Feast of Transfiguration August 6th also coincides with the date of the Hiroshima bomb.. The awful disfiguring of a nuclear bomb dropped on families at breakfast, children preparing for school.
People still die from the genetic damage caused by that bomb.
In the latest TMA (page 2), our Archbishop writes wisely about this disfiguring moment, 70 years ago in Hiroshima, then also Nagasaki. He urges the elimination of nuclear weapons.
As we know, the Disfiguring of Hiroshima reflects hearts disfigured, enmities and violent urges in the one human family on our precious earth in a vast universe.

The Transfigured Jesus, portrayed by the light touch of Fra Angelico, calls us to Peace … and to be Peacemakers in our homes, communities, everywhere.
Bishop Philip Huggins

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Paradoxical Commandments Dr. Kent M. Keith

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Report on The Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict in Iraq

The latest report issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, on “The Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict in Iraq,” catalogues the human rights atrocities committed by ISIS, making it abundantly clear that this group is evil. They include:

attacks directly targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure,
executions and other targeted killings of civilians,
abductions, rape and other forms of sexual and gender based violence perpetrated against women and children,
slavery and trafficking of women and children,
forced recruitment of children,
destruction or desecration of places of religious or cultural significance,
wanton destruction and looting of property, and denial of fundamental freedoms.
The report goes on to identify the targeting of ethnic and religious groups — such as Christians, Yazidis, Shi’ite Muslims, and many others — and subjecting them to “gross human rights abuses, in what appears as a deliberate policy aimed at destroying, suppressing or expelling these communities permanently from areas under their control.” The report describes the actions as possible “war crimes, crimes against humanity, and possibly genocide.”

In light of these sober findings, the faith community must remind the world that evil can be overcome, and that individuals involved in evil systems and practices can be redeemed. But how to overcome evil is a very complicated theological question, which requires much self-reflection. In trying to figure out how to overcome evil, it is often helpful to first decide how not to. Here is a good example of how not to respond to the reality of evil.

Bill O’Reilly, Fox News’ top-rated political pundit and talk show host has devoted a great deal of attention to ISIS atrocities and what he believes the Western response should be. Unfortunately, while O’Reilly rightly condemns ISIS as evil, he frames the conflict as a “holy war” that ISIS is waging against the West, Christians, and anyone else who does not share ISIS’ extreme views. O’Reilly defined his “talking points” as “Judeo/Christian philosophy versus the Jihad.” According to O’Reilly, “this is now a so-called holy war between radical jihadists and everybody else including peaceful Muslims … The holy war is here. And unfortunately it seems the President of United States will be the last one to acknowledge it.” While it’s a common Fox practice to turn everything into a partisan issue against President Obama, O’Reilly is also spreading a very dangerous theology.

O’Reilly has also said that it is “appropriate to define the worldwide conflict between Muslim fanatics and nearly everybody else.” They “want to kill us, he says, “And there are millions of them — period.” So O’Reilly has urged congregations to act, saying, “Americans of faith and goodwill must demand our federal government begin to take the holy war seriously.” Because, he says, America is the only country that has the power to lead this fight.

Here is the problem. The idea of a “holy war” is indeed what ISIS most wants. It’s what ISIS is clamoring for and is deliberately trying to provoke with their sadistic and brutal cruelty. Their highly publicized barbarity is an attempt to provoke a “holy war” with us as their primary enemy, which would give credence to their complete perversion of the religion they claim — a fundamentalist and apocalyptic interpretation of Islam. ISIS would like to be seen as the sole defender of true Islam in an existential battle against people of other faiths and other Muslims who do not share their extreme beliefs. Dignifying them by accepting their language of holy war only helps legitimize ISIS and makes it easier for them to recruit more followers.

Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski made some excellent points in a recent discussion on MSNBC’s Morning Joe:

The worst thing we can do is to become the sole combatant against the forces of evil that are operating in that region. We have to avoid any direct collision with the world of Islam, we mustn't label the enemy as Islamist, but we must work with those governments in the region that are prepared to defend themselves. … The key point I have in mind is that strategically we are not the chief protagonist in the region, because if we are, we become the inheritor of the colonial era, and we even become more hated in the region than is the case today.

He also said that we should help those in the region who are prepared to deal with the problem, “and also in extreme circumstances to take care of those who kill our people, but beyond that I think we ought to abstain.”

Only when we learn from past mistakes will we find better direction. And because the ISIS crisis has to do with the relationship between religion, politics, and violence, our response must have a religious component as well. Here is what we must keep in mind:

1. There are no “holy wars.” War is always the result of a failure to resolve human conflicts without violence. War is a consequence of our sins. Even when theology is used to justify the use of force, or “just war,” it is still a failed and sinful response to other sins. There is no glory or righteousness in war. And those who argue for the use of force should be repentant and humble when they do so. All faith traditions and leaders, whether they accept the concept of “just war” or not, must never call war “holy.” The beginning of our response to ISIS must be for all of our faith traditions, leaders, and members to completely reject the concept and language of holy war. Since Bill O’Reilly claims to be reaching out to faith congregations — asking us to press our American government to fight against a “holy war” — we should reach back to O’Reilly to help him understand why this rhetoric is so wrong and dangerous.

2. We must admit that our primarily military response to terrorism since 9/11 has not worked; it has made things worse. The world and our lives are less secure now because of previously failed military responses. In particular, the war in Iraq, based on false pretenses and carried out in wrong ways, is a primary cause of ISIS. The Iraq war destabilized that country and the region, re-fueled the Sunni/Shia sectarian conflict (just as many people in the international religious community warned), revealed American practices and policies like torture and supporting oppressive regimes — all of which have accelerated deep grievances that are at the core of the ISIS ideology. We cannot just keep doing what has failed. Protecting people from murderous assaults is a legitimate and necessary task that will require a serious strategy. But a primarily American military strategy cannot defeat ISIS, and even if an overwhelming American force were to enter Iraq and Syria to destroy the present ISIS army, they or something like them would rise up again. American forces permanently occupying the Middle East is not sustainable strategy for peace, but a formula for endless worldwide terrorism.

3. Only new political and economic solutions in the Middle East will finally transform the current state of affairs. While some, including Fox News hosts like O’Reilly, continually disparage “political solutions,” it is an obvious piece of the puzzle. A lasting solution will require the often-divided Middle East states themselves to take responsibility for their own region and for their own failures of governance — together. The United States must only assist them if they take responsibility for reasonable governance. We must be honest that the injustice and corruption of autocratic states in Muslim countries is a direct cause of ISIS, and our uncritical support for these governments must change. Beheadings in Saudi Arabia must be opposed as much as ISIS beheadings. Our Saudi hypocrisies, along with other Arab regimes, exist because of our thirst and addiction to oil, and are part of what leads to an ISIS. Theologically, sin does beget sin, and accountability is necessary to a more peaceful future.

4. Fundamentalism, in all our faith traditions, is a politicized use of religion based on fear and power, and it is best defeated from the inside, not the outside. Fundamentalism cannot be bombed away from without, which just gives them new recruits. Religious fundamentalism is best defeated from within its own tradition. A global alliance between faith leaders and communities must be built to support responsible and courageous Muslim leaders whose teaching and practice must ultimately undermine the lethal ISIS fundamentalism. A religious component is a necessary part of defeating ISIS.

5. Understanding and addressing the roots of terror to build a strategy to defeat it does not dismiss terror’s evil, barbaric behavior. Whatever ISIS’ beliefs may be, and whatever grievances they might have against the Iraqi and Syrian governments, the West, and others, evil is never justified. But it’s also true that terrorism is always built on grievances — real and perceived — that are used to recruit for and perpetuate its ideology and violence. So addressing those grievances and correcting course along the way is essential to defeating terrorism. Truthfulness, consistency, accountability, and reversing past mistakes are moral and even religious issues that must be addressed if we are to defeat terrorists like ISIS.

Jim Wallis is president of Sojourners. His book, The (Un)Common Good: How the Gospel Brings Hope to a World Divided, the updated and revised paperback version of On God’s Side, is available now. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Time to tell the truth before I'm gagged:

Australia's detention centres ruin lives
This insider’s account of the devastating treatment of asylum-seekers on Nauru and Manus will be illegal from 1 July under the Border Force Act
Ryan Essex The Guardian June 30, 2015
Detention doctors and nurses rally in opposition to asylum seeker disclosure laws
Having worked as a counsellor in immigration detention for several years, for contractor International Health and Medical Services (IHMS), any discussions surrounding my former place of employment could very well be illegal after Wednesday. This is because of the secrecy provision in the Border Force Act, a disturbing piece of legislation which is about to become law and is likely to have far-reaching consequences.
Under this legislation it is a criminal offence, punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment, for anyone who works in, or has previously worked in immigration detention to ‘make a record of or disclose’ information regarding their employment. There are a number of things that need to be said before this somewhat modest piece of dissent could put me in front of a judge.
So now, fortunately, I can still discuss the damage that I have seen first-hand in immigration detention. The damage that has been done to men, women and children. The families I have seen arbitrarily separated. Asylum seekers whose healthcare needs have been subverted and neglected, as they did not align with the immigration department’s goals………….
I have seen the damage Nauru and Manus have done; sending psychotic people, broken and defeated to Villawood after all options were exhausted offshore. I could tell you about the self-harm I have seen and I should put this on record one more time, as it may be the last, that immigration detention has a devastating and long-lasting impact on mental health…………
The fact that speaking out may now be illegal shows just how much there is to hide……….
Read more

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Migrants only want what you want. Why is that so frightening?

Chibundu Onuzo The Guardian June 26, 2015
My cousin aspires to a better life. He doesn’t have the privilege of a western passport, but there are no oceans wide enough to stop us from dreaming
I have a cousin who walked across the Sahara desert to get to Europe. In another age and with another skin, he might have been a celebrated explorer: a Mungo Park or a Mary Kingsley or even a David Livingstone. In the 21st century he was just another black immigrant trying to make it over the fence.
There was swashbuckling danger, treachery in the sand dunes and comrades buried just before they sighted the straits of Gibraltar. It was a yarn worthy of Robert Louis Stevenson, an epic befitting of Homer, but the Italian immigration officer who deported him had no interest in the tale. He was sent back to Nigeria, flying over the desert he had crossed on foot, a journey of weeks reduced to hours.
When I met my cousin, he was planning to do the trip again. He was neatly dressed; in possession of a mobile phone and polished leather shoes. He was not an African who could be used for any charity appeals. His cheeks and clothing were too prosperous to elicit pity. My cousin was not fleeing from a war or persecution. Neither was he a displaced person nor was he starving. There are many who flee to Europe for these reasons but these were not my cousin’s problems………

European leaders scrap plans for migrant quota system
There has been a lot of speculation about the man who fell from the sky a few days ago, his corpse plummeting through the clouds and crashing on to a suburban London rooftop. Maybe he was running from a war. Maybe he wasn’t. Maybe he was fleeing religious persecution. Maybe he wasn’t. For centuries, it’s been a part of life. If you don’t like where you live, you don’t like your neighbours, if you’re bored of your small town and desperate for adventure; you want the gold of Eldorado or the tea in China or the spices of India or the humans of West Africa; or you’ve just always wanted to know the source of the Nile, you roll up your backpack, step out of your kraal, your arrondissement or your burgh and you set off into the unknown.
There are no fences high enough to stop humans from aspiring……………..
Read more

Thursday, June 11, 2015

War Memorial Boss Fudges Answer On Enduring Silence About Frontier Wars

Dr Brendan Nelson has provided a novel - and thoroughly unconvincing - argument against acknowleding the Frontier Wars in our official memorial.
Amy McQuire New Matilda June 9, 2015
The head of the Australian War Memorial has again claimed there was no declared war between Aboriginal tribes and settlers on the colonial frontier, and says if the institution were to acknowledge the ‘frontier wars’ it would also have to present the conflicts between Aboriginal people before invasion.
But that’s been debunked by a leading scholar on the frontier wars, who says the only time Australia declared war was during the Second World War……………
……….. Brendan Nelson…….. was recently questioned by Senator Nick Xenophon during a senate estimates hearing. Xenophon was probing the national institution’s continual refusal to represent the first wars of this country, where thousands of Aboriginal people died defending their lands against colonialists stretching over nearly 150 years.
There have been continual calls from Aboriginal groups for recognition of the nation’s first wars at the Australian War Memorial. A recent Frontier Wars march to shadow the official ANZAC Day commemorations and lay a wreath to remember the thousands of stolen Aboriginal lives, was held up this year by police, with Aboriginal attendees threatened with arrest………..
The only Aboriginal recognition comes in the form of two gargoyles of Aboriginal men, which are placed alongside gargoyles of flora and fauna overlooking the ‘Pool of Remembrance’.

………..the myth there was no declared war during the Frontier Wars was debunked by renowned historian Henry Reynolds in his recent work the Forgotten War………..
Read more

Saturday, May 30, 2015

That sinking feeling in Kiribati

Michael Field Nikkei Asian Review May 28, 2015

A fisherman wades along the shoreline in the central Pacific island nation of Kiribati. © Reuters
No one knows with any scientific certainty whether the central Pacific nation of Kiribati will sink beneath a rising sea, but its leadership is not taking any chances. The talk now is about ‘migration with dignity.’
Kiribati's 102,000 people -- known collectively as i-Kiribati -- are busily arming themselves with skills to help them forge new lives elsewhere. For some, this means learning lucrative ways of catching tuna, for others, it involves being taught how to provide nursing care for elderly Westerners.
The country's president, Anote Tong, a 62-year-old London School of Economics graduate, wants his people to be desirable migrants ‘when our islands can no longer sustain human life.’
Kiribati and its neighbor, Tuvalu -- together once known as the Gilbert and Ellice Islands, a British protectorate -- are poster nations for countries threatened by rising sea levels as a result of global warming.
In March, their survival came into focus when particularly high tides and a weather system that eventually became Cyclone Pam caused big waves to slam into Kiribati's capital, Tarawa, an atoll that is never more than 5 meters above sea level.
The tempest badly damaged a hospital, drove boats aground, wrecked homes, swamped vegetable gardens and killed breadfruit trees. Roads and causeways, including the 3.4km Japanese-built Dai Nippon causeway, were torn up.
Michael Foon, Kiribati's disaster official, said 3-meter waves, once rare, are now common. ’This is the first time that we've seen this sort of extensive flooding,’ he said. It was the same in Tuvalu, home to 10,500 people.
Cyclone Pam went on to kill 24 people in Vanuatu, an island nation to the south.
Around half of Kiribati's people live in slumlike conditions on South Tarawa, a strip of land about 20km long and never more than a kilometer wide. It is one of the most crowded places in the Pacific. A United Nations Environment Program report says sea levels in the Western Pacific, which includes Tuvalu and Kiribati, rose 12mm a year between 1993 and 2009, four times the global average.
Tong, Kiribati's president, believes parts of his country will be submerged by around 2030. ‘The science is telling us it is already too late for us.’
Kiribati's climate unit, which is affiliated with the president's office, says extensive coastal erosion has forced people to evacuate land that has been inhabited since the early 1900s…………..
Read more

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Cost of War in Iraq & Afghanistan Total Cost of Wars Since 2001 $1,626,576,740,510

Thousands of desperate, persecuted people on rickety ships on the open ocean, turned away again and again by nation after nation. Three points.
1. Have we learned nothing? These are not Jews fleeing Nazi Germany yet turned away by 'civilised' first world nations - do we even remember that atrocity? - they are Rohingya Muslims - do we care?? 2. From whom did the nations who are turning them away learn this evil strategy? From the Australian Government, that bastion of human rights, that rich first world nation who has pioneered this strategy in the Asia pacific region.
3. If these boats sink or fall apart and some 8,000 desperate people - among the most persecuted groups on earth - all drown - just WAIT for the outpouring of sympathy and grief from countries like ours - how, oh how, could the world have allowed this to happen?? How can we learn from this TERRIBLE tragedy??? Well, they are on the water NOW??!!
The world - we - must do something while they are still alive ! So much easier when they're dead. And the churches in our rich country? Where are they? Where is their moral leadership? Where are the Roman Catholic bishops calling for our country's leaders - our 'captain Catholic' Tony Abbott - to intervene to save these least of our sisters and brothers? So many many empty words. So much guilty silence. So many lives lost. Have we learned nothing ?
Michael Bernard Kelly (Comment on my Facebook this morning)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Why should the original people of a country have to buy land? Especially those who stole it from the original people!

Fleeting governments' policies have permanent consequences for Aboriginal homelands
Susan Chenery Sydney Morning Herald May 8, 2015
150 communities are threatened with closure by the federal government's decision to cut $30 million in funding, with disturbing consequences for Indigenous clans and their culture.
'Back in the 1970s there was movement on the land./Yolgnu people went back to their promised lands.' Yothu Yindi, Homeland Movement.
As a young man Djambawa Marawili returned with his father to their tribal land at Yilpara, three hours south of Nhulunbuy, Arnhemland. They had come from the Rose River Mission at Numbulwar as part of the homeland movement, in which clans seeking self-determination and a revival of their traditional culture went back to their ancestral country.
The land has everything it needs but it cannot speak. We exist to paint and sing and dance and express its true identity.
Djambawa Marawili
At Yilpara they built their own houses and have conducted their lives according to their own Yolnu [Aboriginal] law and customs.

Djambawa Marawili, artist and elder, with local Indigenous rangers and children from the Yilpara Homelands School,Arnhemland. Photo: Supplied
Marawili………spoke to The Herald to explain what the land means to him, and how the federal government's decision to discontinue $30 million in annual funding for essential services may lead to the closure of 150 communities.
He is the caretaker for the spiritual well-being of his people, an activist who has been involved in the Royal Commission into Black Deaths in Custody and the formation of ATSIC, and is chairman of the Association of Northern, Kimberley and Arnhem Aboriginal Arts (ANKAA). He has served on numerous committees and boards and sits on the board of the Laynhapuy Homelands and the Northern Land Council, and is on the Prime Minister's Indigenous Advisory Council.
Art is at the centre of Marawili's advocacy, his seeking justice for his people. He draws on his culture not only for his art and its sacred designs, but to educate the wider public about the country we all live in and which has the oldest living culture on earth…………..
A major concern for Marawili in moving people away from their own communities and clans which have their own structure and leaders is that they will then be on another clan's country under other leadership and rules………….
On their own country they know who they are, where they belong and how to behave towards others. The elders are a source of knowledge that is handed down through the generations. When they are moved the structure can break down and a person's identity can be lost. In another person's country there is confusion and that can lead to trouble…………..
Even on his remote country, far away from the metropolises of the world, Marawili can see a bigger picture and an aerial view of the globe…………….
Read more

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

TEACHER OF PEACE: Happy 94th Birthday Dan Berrigan!

Pax Christi USA May 9, 2015

Today is Dan Berrigan’s 94th birthday! If you’re not familiar with Dan, here’s the Wikipedia page article on him with links to more. Dan is one of the truly extraordinary prophets of our time, an author, activist and poet, and a Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace.
Rev. John Dear wrote of Dan in his introduction to our booklet Words of Peace: Selections from the Writings of Daniel Berrigan, SJ:
‘Daniel Berrigan has been a sign of Christian hope for. . . decades. He has inspired and challenged us, consoled and confronted us, told us the truth and done so with great love, and always opened up before us the possibility in faith of a world without war, the reign of God in our midst. For many people today, Daniel Berrigan remains a true image of the Christian disciple. . . .’
All of us at Pax Christi USA wish Dan a very Happy Birthday!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

RealAustraliansSayWelcome: Artist Peter Drew takes poster project supporting asylum seekers across country

Jason OmLateline ABC May 5, 2015
Video: Artist takes Real Australians Say Welcome project on the road (Lateline)
Photo: Peter Drew has taken his campaign to Sydney (above), Melbourne, Adelaide and parts of the NT. (Lateline: Jason Om)
He has been verballed, yelled at and chased down the street, but the artist behind a poster project supporting asylum seekers says that is part of the fun.
Peter Drew has embarked on a three-month road trip around Australia, putting up 1,000 posters declaring ‘Real Australians Say Welcome’.
‘It is slightly tongue-in-cheek. I think what is a real Australian is completely up for discussion,’ Mr Drew told Lateline.
He said the message was inspired by the second verse of the Australian anthem: ‘With courage let us all combine to Advance Australia Fair.’
‘That's what I mean [by] being a real Australian, is having that courage,’ Mr Drew said.
While pasting the posters on buildings, walls and hoardings, Mr Drew has experienced the highly charged nature of the debate directly from passers-by.

Photo: Mr Drew has experienced the highly charged nature of the debate surrounding asylum seekers during his talks with passers-by. (Lateline: Jason Om)
‘The conflict scares me because some people are really angry,’ he said.
Mr Drew said he usually tries to reason with people but it does not always work.
‘There was one man on the very first day who began the conversation by shouting at me. I started to walk away and he started to chase me,’ he said.
The posters began appearing, coincidentally, a week after the anti-Islam protests by Reclaim Australia.
When asked whether he thought people who disagreed with his message were not real Australians or un-Australian, Mr Drew said the project was deliberately provocative.
‘Because that's the argument put forward by the other side, by the ultra-nationalists, and I wanted to make them see how it feels,’ he said.
The posters were crowdfunded by donations and have already been pasted on buildings in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and parts of the Northern Territory.
Mr Drew is currently in Perth and will travel to Brisbane, Hobart, Launceston and finally Canberra.
Subscribe to get ABC News delivered to your email, including top arts coverage, plus the day's top news and analysis and alerts on major breaking stories.
Other artists and ordinary Australians have reacted to Mr Drew's project with their own versions of his message on social media.
Lucy Feagins from the Design Files website was inspired by the posters and asked the site's 127,000 Instagram followers to respond.
She was overwhelmed by the contributions.
‘I just couldn't keep up,’ she said.
‘We started reposting every single one but it ended up being what I thought was the most interesting.’
Watch the story on Lateline tonight at 9:30pm (AEST) on ABC News 24 and 10:30pm (local time) on ABC TV.
Read more, view artwork and watch video

Saturday, May 2, 2015

"The $40 billion submarine pathway to Australian strategic confusion",

Recommended Citation
Richard Tanter, NAPSNet Policy Forum, April 20, 2015,
by Richard Tanter

20 April 2015

Richard Tanter writes “Almost everything about the Abbott government’s project to spend up to $40 billion on twelve new submarines is breathtakingly wrongheaded, hazardous strategically and profligate financially.

“The Abbott government’s determination to tighten Australia’s military bonds with a truculent nationalist government in Japan, including through a massive, opaque, multi-decade weapons-building enterprise, amounts to a grand and dangerous folie à deux. American hopes for an operationally integrated alliance of democracies may be a matter of being careful what you wish for.”

An earlier version of this Policy Forum was published in Arena Magazine, 135, April 2015.

Richard Tanter works for the Nautilus Institute and teaches at the University of Melbourne. He is the author of About Face: Japan’s Remilitarisation and (with Desmond Ball) The Tools of Owatatsumi: Japan’s Ocean Surveillance and Coastal Defence Capabilities. (ANU Press, 2015). Email:

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Nautilus Institute. Readers should note that Nautilus seeks a diversity of views and opinions on contentious topics in order to identify common ground.

The $40 billion submarine pathway to Australian strategic confusion

Submarine builders are busy in Asia. India is building six new nuclear attack submarines, and China is selling Pakistan eight diesel/electric submarines. . South Korea has established a consolidated submarine command to manage its Harpoon-equipped missile diesel-electric fleet of nine German-designed Type 209 submarines, and will have five more by 2019. Russian builders handed over a Yasen-class nuclear attack sub and a Borey-class SSBN last year, and four more nuclear boats have been laid down in Archangelsk’s shipyards, some of which will go into the modernization of the Pacific fleet. And China’s nuclear attack submarines now pass through the Malacca Straits to Indian Ocean patrols. India, meanwhile, in addition to its expanding nuclear fleet, has approached Japan to buy six of its big, 4,600 tonne Soryu-class diesel-electric submarines with its air independent propulsion system.[1]

Consequently, anti-submarine warfare planners are busier still, particularly those in China, and in America’s East and Southeast Asian allied countries. Like Soviet submarines before them, Chinese submarines attempting to reach the protection of the deep waters of the mid-Pacific must run the gauntlets of the American-dominated choke points between the island chains that reach from the Kurils through Japan and the Ryukyus and the Philippines and Indonesia. In a complex set of regional maritime environments for the perennial contest between submarines and their surface, air and undersea hunters, the current clear US and allied naval dominance, including in anti-submarine warfare, will be increasingly tested in coming decades, with consequent implications for long-term submarine-building plans.[2]

In this rapidly developing strategic environment the plans of successive Australian governments to replace its aging and largely moribund fleet of six Swedish-designed and Australian-built Collins-class submarines are a matter of concern to the United States in its drive for interoperability and alliance operational integration. Early public suggestions from the US that Australia might make a quantum leap in undersea warfare capacity by buying 9,000 tonne US nuclear-powered Virginia-class came to nothing, with even strong alliance advocates concerned about Australia’s weak nuclear technology base and the technological dependence that would ensue.[3] Domestically, the conservative Abbott government sparked broad controversy when, after talking up an Australian build during a bitter 2013 election campaign, did a volte face in office, and ruled out building in Australia, with the then Defence Minister saying of the Australian Submarine Corporation, the builders of the unhappy Collins-class boat, that “I wouldn’t trust them to build a canoe”.[4]

Against this background (and even with a new Defence Minister) almost everything about the Abbott government’s project to spend up to $40 billion on twelve new submarines is breathtakingly wrongheaded, hazardous strategically and profligate financially. The process of deciding which country and company will be lead builder has been a zigzag without logic, born of prime-ministerial survival tactics, secret undertakings given domestically and abroad, and intense lobbying in the shadows by corporations, embassies and different factions of the defence bureaucracy. The process has been held hostage by a typically Australian junior-alliance-partner amalgam of US pressure, ‘unforced’ Canberra policy preference for maximum weight to be given to alliance maintenance, and an expected—indeed, hoped for—Australian niche role in US–Japanese conflict with China.[5]

The strategic rationale for buying the submarines, the purposes for which they are intended and hence the capacities they are required to have remain hopelessly unclear, with the favoured options bringing serious strategic risks. Furthermore, the Australian government has colluded with the most nationalist government in Japan since the end of the Second World War to break that country’s longstanding bipartisan policy of not exporting major weapons systems, thereby encouraging a steep escalation of Japanese remilitarisation under Prime Minister Abe.

For Australia, the most enduring strategic consequence, though, will be the effect on Indonesia’s views of Australia’s intentions towards it. Will Australia use its submarines to control the maritime highways through Indonesian waters? This will encourage both extreme and mainstream views on Indonesia’s need to match Australian military capacities and remain wary of Australian intentions.

Amidst this policy chaos, the first thing to clarify is the apparently minor, if not absurd, matter of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s dogmatic insistence that the promise he gave a wavering South Australian colleague while fighting for his political life during the February Liberal Party leadership crisis involved a ‘a competitive evaluation process’ to select the builder of Australia’s new submarines, rather than an ‘open tender’.

At first sight this seemed to be either another Abbott misstep, another expression of the Coalition’s preference for deindustrialization, or simply antagonism to the Australian Submarine Corporation.[6] But the explanation of Abbott’s insistence was hidden in plain sight in Japan. Reuters reported the consternation of Japanese government officials when they heard of the Abbott promise to his South Australian colleague. They thought that Abbott had understood that domestic sensitivities would prevent Japan from making a bid in an open tender: ‘If we are asked that’s not a problem, but we can’t really be seen to be going out and actively pursuing a deal’.[7]

The second thing to talk about is money. The ominously imprecise estimates spoken of in Defence circles of between $A25 billion and $A40 billion—always likely to rise—need to be put in a budget context. The 2014–15 budget for all of Australia’s defence activities, including other major capital expenditures and ongoing operations in Afghanistan – and now, Iraq – is $A29 billion [8]

Chief of the Defence Force Mark Binskin dismissed the objections of critics of the government as ‘emotive’.[9] Granted, Binskin was particularly referring to advocates of building the submarines mainly in Australia—either to keep the South Australian economy alive or to maintain an Australian strategic defence industrial capacity. While there are reasonable arguments for and against such positions, there is nothing irrational about them. Moreover, a single weapons platform of opaque strategic benefit costing 125 per cent of the total annual spending for defence is a perfectly reasonable thing for all Australian taxpayers to get very vocal about.

The third issue is the basic one: for what purpose are these weapons platforms to be used? Where do they fit strategically? Does the thinking behind the proposal address Australia’s real needs, or does it make the country’s situation worse by locking Australia into US-orchestrated conflict with China?

Two of the most developed public arguments for how Australia should use submarines emerged from former Deputy Defence Secretary Hugh White in his 2009 alternative white paper A Focussed Force, and from commentaries by Andrew Davies from the Defence Department think tank the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI).[10]

White emphasized the profound changes in Australia’s Asian environment, in terms of the relative capacities of the United States and China and in terms of the wider regional arms race that has been under way for some time. To summarise brutally, White argued that:

the overriding aim of our naval forces should be to help deny the sea approaches to Australia and our close neighbours to hostile forces, and to contribute to larger coalition sea-denial operations further afield in the Asia-Pacific.

White argued that, despite their expense, despite the difficulty in maintaining, staffing and operating the current submarines, and despite the limitations on what submarines can actually do (principally, in White’s view, sink ships), this means:

a decisive shift away from a navy focused on surface warships to one which gives a strong priority to submarines.[11]

This led White to call for eighteen submarines, three times the number in Australia’s current submarine fleet. However, he said little about the implications of the two quite different proposed missions for the types and capacities of the submarines, particularly in terms of range and hence size.

Moreover, in recent years White has been raising important questions about Australia’s military relationship to a declining American regional presence and an expanded Chinese one in East and Southeast Asia. At times, White has appeared to be following the line of thought opened up by David Martin in his path-breaking 1984 book Armed Neutrality for Australia. While White has not spelled out this side of his thinking, and leaving aside the ways in which the passing of the Cold War requires some rethinking of the idea of neutrality, the idea of investing in a submarine fleet for ‘coalition sea-denial operations further afield in the Asia-Pacific’ is a very different matter from White’s larger concerns for a geographically focussed defence outlook.

Less definite than White, Andrew Davies envisaged three possible applications for an Australian submarine force, and was deeply sceptical about two of them. One would involve a war against another middle power, and another a war against a major power without the involvement of the United States. While these, argued Davies, ‘are…in the category of “unlikely but not completely incredible”’, he dismissed both. A putative sea-denial role for submarines against ‘a major (and nuclear armed power)’—i.e. China—without the United States is, for him, close to absurd to think about.[12]

Davies’ eloquent dismissal of the perennially invoked Australian prospect of war with a regional middle power (the usual candidate being Indonesia) is memorable:

We have no abiding enmities, no simmering territorial disputes and no pissing contests worth mentioning. In fact, our part of the world looks more coherent today than it has for a long time. If anything, our collective interests are converging rather than diverging. And even with the ADF [Australia Defence Force] we have today, we have enough denial capability to make the power projection task of any would-be hostile middle power formidably difficult. In short, there’s no reason for any middle power to want to fight us, and no obvious way for them to do so in any case.[13]

For Davies the most important possible role for a submarine fleet was the one envisaged by the Rudd Labor government in its 2009 White Paper, and the one urged on Australia publicly by US diplomats—a symbolic political contribution to maintaining alliance credit through a niche role in US naval operations against China:

If it’s uncomfortable to be talking about war with China, it should be. It’s a horrendous proposition and one we’d much prefer to avoid for many reasons. But it’s something the United States is thinking about.[14]

In the view of the current government, US-led coalition war against China is precisely the context for a niche role being considered for Australian forces and for submarines in particular. As Davies says, this “horrendous proposition” is being spoken of in Washington and Tokyo, and increasingly in Canberra, on occasion with a degree of insouciance that should be condemned and attacked. Besides the obvious fundamental objections to such an Australian role, by the time most of the submarines are built twenty years or more from now, the undersea balance in waters close to China will likely have either reversed from the present US–Japan dominance or become so favourable to Chinese anti-submarine warfare as to designate a niche Australian submarine role as somewhere between insignificant and suicidal.[15]

While there are important parts of White’s developing argument that to disagree with, he is absolutely correct to say that in the medium term Australians – and the same is true for Americans – are going to live in a strategic and cultural world that reverses the assumptions on which post-invasion Australia was constructed—a time that coincided almost exactly with the historically anomalous period in which China was not the most important country in the world.[16] Rethinking the default alliance setting of this massively costly and technically difficult multi-decade submarine project should be front and centre in such concerns.

Leaving aside whether the big Japanese Soryu-class submarines actually meet Australia’s strategic needs, the government’s headlong rush to a Japanese build carries an important but largely undebated strategic significance.[17] By holding out the chance of a massive submarine export sale, Australia is dramatically accelerating the process of Japanese remilitarisation that began as the Cold War was ending.[18]

Japanese arms manufacturers such as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Kawasaki Shipbuilding, lead contractors for the Soryu-class submarines, have long been working with the nationalist wing of the Liberal Democratic Party to remove the arms export ban.[19] While they were successful in having the policy removed last year, nothing like the prospective Australian submarine sale has been conceivable in almost seven decades.[20]

Post-war conservative Japanese leaders restricted the size of the Self Defence Force, declined US suggestions of dispatching troops to fight overseas, refused to export major armaments, and developed a unique and successful doctrine of defensive defence, eschewing weapons that could be used for offensive operations: no aircraft carriers, no amphibious forces, and no aerial refuelling aircraft.

Under American pressure and with the strengthening of the nationalist streams in the political and bureaucratic worlds, Japan has been shifting away from these self-imposed limitations. Japan’s Ground, Air, and Maritime Self Defence Forces are now the most advanced and professional army, navy and air force in East Asia. There are now few restrictions on foreign SDF operations.[21]

Remilitarisation over the past two decades has already reached the point where the change Mr Abe seeks to Article 9 of the constitution would be mainly a symbolic one. Yet in a region where the most powerful strategic fact of life is the almost complete failure of historical reconciliation between Japan and the countries it colonised and invaded in the first half of the century, abandoning Article 9 would be an almost literally explosive symbol for neighbouring China and South Korea. An Australian submarine order would be immensely helpful to Mr Abe’s campaign.

The Abe government is now quietly using the term ‘quasi-ally’ (準同盟国) to describe its relationship with Australia.[22] Most Australians think well of Japan and would be happy to support its defence in general terms. But it is another matter to actively encourage the remilitarisation of a country led by a government that refuses to acknowledge the crimes of wartime Japan, and that wants to rewrite history to whitewash those crimes. Shared values should temper interests in foreign policy, and when they are not shared, there should be caution, especially when the Australian government’s dealings are not transparent.

Yet this project involves deeper hazards still. Following the recent publication of Desmond Ball’s and my study The Tools of Owatatsumi: Japan’s Ocean Surveillance and Defence, Ball and Robert Ayson closely examined the question ‘Can a Sino-Japanese war be controlled?’, reviewing the widespread, indeed barely questioned, assumption that such a conflict, for example over the East China Sea territorial disputes, can be contained to a ‘limited war’.[23]

Examining in detail both technical and political aspects of such a confrontation, including the vulnerability to attack of Japan’s potent undersea surveillance capacities that we documented, Ball and Ayson concluded that in the relationship between Japan and China:

there seems to be minimal political understanding of, or commitment to, avoiding escalation…These political obstacles increase the pressure created by military considerations that encourage swift escalation, to the point at which even nuclear options seem attractive…The subsequent involvement of the United States could lead to Asia’s first serious war involving nuclear-armed states. And we have no precedent to suggest how dangerous that would become.

In a strategic context like this, the Abbott government’s determination to tighten Australia’s military bonds with a truculent nationalist government in Japan, including through a massive, opaque, multi-decade weapons-building enterprise, amounts to a grand and dangerous folie à deux. American hopes for an operationally integrated alliance of democracies may be a matter of being careful what you wish for.

Image source: Richard Gale

[1] Jeremy Page, “China’s Submarines Add Nuclear-Strike Capability, Altering Strategic Balance”, Deep Threat, Wall Street Journal, 24 October 2014, at; David Tweed, “Xi’s submarine sale raises Indian Ocean nuclear clash”, Bloomberg, 17 April 2015, at; Trude Pettersen, “Four nuclear submarines under construction in Russia’s Far North”, Barents Observer, Alaska Dispatch News, 18 February 2015, at; Zachary Keck, “China’s Worst Nightmare? Japan May Sell India Six Stealth Submarines”, The Buzz, The National Interest, 29 January 2015, at; Akhilesh Pillalamarri, “Watch out, China: India is building 6 nuclear attack submarines”, The Buzz, The National Interest, 18 February 2015, at; Zachary Keck, “Silent but Deadly: Korea’s Scary Submarine Arms Race”, The Buzz, The National Interest, 13 February 2015, at; and Yoo Kyong Chang and Erik Slavin , “South Korea Establishes Submarine Command”, Stars and Stripes, 23 February 2015, at

[2] Owen R. Cote Jr., “Assessing the undersea balance between the U.S. and China”, MIT Security Studies Program, SSP Working Papers, February, 2011, at; Paul Dibb, “Maneuvers make waves but in truth Chinese navy is a paper tiger”, The Australian, 7 March 2014, at; and Desmond Ball and Richard Tanter, The Tools of Owatatsumi: Japan’s Ocean Surveillance and Defence, ANU Press, 2015, at

[3] Paul Dibb and Richard Brabin-Smith, “We need submarines, not subservience to the U.S.”, The Australian, 19 January 2012, at; and Richard Tanter, “Another hinge for the Pacific Pivot: Australia’s nuclear navy?”, Nautilus Institute, NAPSNet Policy Forum, 15 November 2012, at

[4] Julian Kerr, “Australia’s Johnston says he wouldn’t trust ASC ‘to build a canoe'”, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, 24 November 2014, at

[5] Richard Tanter, “Home Base”, Australian Financial Review, 23 January 2015, at

[6] Julian Kerr, “Australia’s Johnston says he wouldn’t trust ASC ‘to build a canoe'”, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, 24 November 2014, at

[7] Matt Siegel, “Skepticism, confusion over Australia submarine tender pledge”, Reuters, 9 February 2015, at

[8] Minister for Defence – Budget 2014-15 – Defence Budget Overview, 13 May 2014, at

[9] Sid Maher, “Submarine build argument ‘emotive'”, The Australian, 17 February 2015, at

[10] Hugh White, A focused force: Australia’s defence priorities in the Asian century, Lowy Institute Paper 26, 2009, at,_A_focused_force.pdf; and Andrew Davies, Presentation to the Submarine Institute of Australia, November 2012, at; Andrew Davies and Benjamin Schreer, “The strategic dimension of ‘Option J’: Australia’s submarine choice and its security relations with Japan”, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Strategic Insights 85, March 2015, at; Andrew Davies, “The who, what, where, and why of the future submarine”, The Strategist, 14 March 2015, at; Andrew Davies, “Submarines—what are they good for?”, The Strategist, 11 February 2013, at

[11] White, op.cit., p.49.

[12] Davies, Presentation, op.cit.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Davies, “The who, what, where, and why of the future submarine”, op.cit.

[15] Owen R. Cote Jr., “Assessing the undersea balance between the U.S. and China”, MIT Security Studies Program, SSP Working Papers, February, 2011, at

[16] Hugh White, The China Choice: Why America Should Share Power, Penguin, 2013; and amongst many others, Martin Jacques, When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order, Penguin, 2012.

[17] “SS Soryu Class Submarines, Japan”,, at; and Kyle Mizokami, “Australia’s Submarine Play: Run Silent, Run Japanese?”, The National Interest, 14 September 2014, at

[18] Christopher Hughes, Japan’s Remilitarisation, The Adelphi Papers, special issue, Volume 48, Issue 403, 2008; and Richard Tanter, About face: Japan’s remilitarisation, Nautilus Institute, Austral Special Report 09-02S, 19 March 2009 [original publication by CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets, Tokyo, November 2006; released for general circulation, courtesy CLSA.] at

[19] Hughes, op.cit., chapter four; Saadia M. Pekkanen and Paul Kallender-Umezu, In Defense of Japan: From the Market to the Military in Space Policy, Stanford U.P. 2010; and Richard J. Samuels, Securing Japan: Tokyo’s Grand Strategy and the Future of East Asia, Cornell U.P., 2007.

[20] David McNeill, “Tooling up for war: Can Japan benefit from lifting the arms export ban?”, Japan Times, 28 June 2014, at

[21] Hughes, op.cit; and Samuels, op.cit.

[22] Yusuke Fukui, “Japan moves to make Australia ‘quasi-ally’ in national security”, Asia & Japan Watch, Asahi Shimbun, 10 November 2014, at

[23] Desmond Ball and Richard Tanter, The Tools of Owatatsumi: Japan’s Ocean Surveillance and Defence, ANU Press, 2015, at; and Robert Ayson and Desmond Ball, “Can a Sino-Japanese War Be Controlled?”, Survival: Global Politics and Strategy, (2014) Vol. 56, No. 6, pp. 135-166.

nautilus-logo-smallThe NAPSNet Policy Forum provides expert analysis of contemporary peace and security issues in Northeast Asia. As always, we invite your responses to this report and hope you will take the opportunity to participate in discussion of the analysis.