Thursday 22nd of February 2024

forgetting the past, in order to fuck up the future.....

20 years ago, on 20 March 2003, the US, the UK, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq in an illegal act of aggression. As with all wars, we were told this one would be quick. The pretext for the invasion was – despite authoritative doubts raised at the time – claims about the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction. There were no such weapons in Iraq, although plenty of them in two of the invading nations. After on-again off-again ADF deployments, the last Australian troops finally left the country in June 2020.

 

By Sue Wareham

 

For the Iraqis, the war brought widespread violence, a breakdown of law and order, a virtual collapse of the health care system, a flood of forced displacements, human rights abuses by the occupying forces, a death toll at least in the hundreds of thousands, and an unknown but far higher number of people physically injured or psychologically traumatised.

The catastrophe that unfolded in Iraq was not the result of things suddenly going wrong. Virtually all of it was predicted beforehand by authoritative bodies. Millions of people on the streets globally, in unprecedented protests against the coming war, were right.

Twenty years on, the invading nations behave as if the war never happened. There has been no accountability for those that staged an illegal invasion, lied to the public, failed to protect Iraqi civilians, or committed crimes of war. Frequent ministerial references to the threat to the ‘global rules-based order’ rewrite history by implying that this threat is created only by others.

All its victims, along with Australia’s role in the invasion, have been erased from our official memory. The only mention of civilian casualties from the war on the Defence Department’s website is in relation to the battle for West Mosul in 2016-17, where the site refers to ‘potential involvement’ of the ADF in the deaths of between six and eighteen civilians. Associated Press estimated that 9,000 to 11,000 civilians died in that battle, an estimate nearly 10 times higher than that of official reports.

Nor has there been any official interest in reforming the dangerous process by which one person, the Prime Minister, takes our country to war, as PM Howard did in 2003. In 2012, when the Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry was launched, both Labor and the Coalition quickly rejected the proposal. Even now, as a Labor-initiated parliamentary inquiry into our decision-making process for joining overseas wars continues, both Defence Minister Marles and Foreign Minister Wong have warned against any change. The submission from the Defence Department, which advised against any change, did not even mention the disastrous Vietnam and Iraq wars, and its only mention of the Afghanistan war was to commend how quickly we got out of it in 2021. Only by ignoring history can we pretend that the current process is robust.

But the need for change goes far beyond reforming how we decide to join wars of choice. We must prioritise peace, in action rather than just rhetoric. Instead, less than twenty years after the unmentionable Iraq invasion, three ‘coalition of the willing’ nations are already gearing up for war on a far grander scale, this time against China. AUKUS – Australia, the UK and the US – is the 2003 ‘coalition of the willing’ rebranded.

A virtual blank cheque has been written for new military hardware, nuclear submarines alone receiving funding and focus that health and other essential government services could only dream of. The government’s love of war-fighting technology was on fuIl display at the recent Avalon defence trade fair, where Minister Marles referred to air forces as ‘the coolest part of any military’, giving the Hollywood action drama Top Gun Maverick a boys-own special mention. The arms trade has become thoroughly normalised, just as it was in the lead up to World War 1, with the familiar lie about ‘deterring‘. Weapons industry brand names and funding are promoted in schools, universities, charities and even in our war commemoration.

However Marles also gave his final two sentences to diplomacy, stating ‘this will be our abiding focus, for it is through diplomacy that we can create pathways for peace.’ Labor has, commendably, increased funding for diplomacy, but such funding had been slashed over the past two decades and still pales by comparison to that of our war preparations. And it is critical that our diplomacy promotes genuine peace, which means addressing the security concerns of all nations, friend and foe alike, rather than simply strengthening military alliances.

In addition, the long-suffering people of Iraq deserve some accountability, not a terrible silence from the nations that invaded their country. Before the AUKUS coalition of the willing becomes any more willing to engage in yet more wars, we desperately need to look at the messes we’ve left behind elsewhere. Lest we forget Iraq.

 

READ MORE:

https://johnmenadue.com/twenty-years-on-coalition-of-the-willing-rebranded/

 

SEE ALSO: the butchers of baghdad....

 

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a bridge......

The first pile foundation for the Hangzhou Bay Railway Bridge, an integral part of the Nantong-Suzhou-Jiaxing-Ningbo High-speed Railway, was drilled in Haiyan county, Zhejiang province, on Friday, marking the start of offshore construction on the world's longest cross-sea high-speed railway bridge.

The Nantong-Suzhou-Jiaxing-Ningbo High-speed Railway is an important part of the medium- and long-term plans for China's high-speed rail network. It connects Nantong and Suzhou in Jiangsu province with Jiaxing and Ningbo in Zhejiang province from north to south.

As an important part of the Nantong-Suzhou-Jiaxing-Ningbo High-speed Railway, the Hangzhou Bay Railway Bridge is designed for a speed of 350 kilometers per hour and has a total length of 29.2 km.

The mega project involves large-scale mechanical equipment and marine engineering ships, and there are many difficulties and risks for construction, said Xu Bingfa, Party chief of the bridge project department of China Railway Major Bridge Engineering Group Company.

In addition, the bridge will pass through the marine ecological protection area of the Qiantang River estuary, so the construction requires the use of high technology to protect the local ecology and environment, Xu added.

The bridge will span Hangzhou Bay, from Haiyan county in Jiaxing to Qianwan New Area of Ningbo, connecting the urban circle of Shanghai, Hangzhou and Ningbo in the core area of the Yangtze River Delta. "The railway makes Haiyan an important bridgehead on the north shore of Hangzhou Bay, connecting surrounding cities, improving the county's comprehensive competitiveness, and promoting the integration and sharing of resources among cities," said Li Chao, a member of the standing committee of Haiyan county's Party committee, during a news conference on Friday.

By the end of 2027, the Nantong-Suzhou-Jiaxing-Ningbo High-speed Railway is expected to be completed and put into operation.

After that, travel time between Jiaxing and Suzhou and Ningbo via the high-speed railway will be shortened to 30 minutes and 35 minutes, respectively, which will improve the road network of the Yangtze River Delta region, increase travel efficiency and better integrate Jiaxing into the development of the Yangtze River Delta.

In addition, the railway will help Zhejiang take advantage of its favorable location, participate more in cooperation and exchanges in the Yangtze River Delta region, and open up more to the outside world.

 

READ MORE:

https://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202303/15/WS64111e28a31057c47ebb485f.html

 

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burying the hegemony of the west......

 

 

BY Pepe Escobar

 

In Moscow, Xi and Putin bury Pax Americana

 

In Moscow this week, the Chinese and Russian leaders revealed their joint commitment to redesign the global order, an undertaking that has 'not been seen in 100 years.'

 

What has just taken place in Moscow is nothing less than a new Yalta, which, incidentally, is in Crimea. But unlike the momentous meeting of US President Franklin Roosevelt, Soviet Leader Joseph Stalin, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in USSR-run Crimea in 1945, this is the first time in arguably five centuries that no political leader from the west is setting the global agenda.

It’s Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin that are now running the multilateral, multipolar show. Western exceptionalists may deploy their crybaby routines as much as they want: nothing will change the spectacular optics, and the underlying substance of this developing world order, especially for the Global South.

What Xi and Putin are setting out to do was explained in detail before their summit, in two Op-Eds penned by the presidents themselves. Like a highly-synchronized Russian ballet, Putin’s vision was laid out in the People’s Daily in China, focusing on a “future-bound partnership,” while Xi’s was published in the Russian Gazette and the RIA Novosti website, focusing on a new chapter in cooperation and common development.

Right from the start of the summit, the speeches by both Xi and Putin drove the NATO crowd into a hysterical frenzy of anger and envy: Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova perfectly captured the mood when she remarked that the west was “foaming at the mouth.”

The front page of the Russian Gazette on Monday was iconic: Putin touring Nazi-free Mariupol, chatting with residents, side by side with Xi’s Op-Ed. That was, in a nutshell, Moscow’s terse response to Washington’s MQ-9 Reaper stunt and the International Criminal Court (ICC) kangaroo court shenanigans. “Foam at the mouth” as much as you like; NATO is in the process of being thoroughly humiliated in Ukraine.

During their first “informal” meeting, Xi and Putin talked for no less than four and a half hours. At the end, Putin personally escorted Xi to his limo. This conversation was the real deal: mapping out the lineaments of multipolarity – which starts with a solution for Ukraine.

Predictably, there were very few leaks from the sherpas, but there was quite a significant one on their “in-depth exchange” on Ukraine. Putin politely stressed he respects China’s position – expressed in Beijing’s 12-point conflict resolution plan, which has been completely rejected by Washington. But the Russian position remains ironclad: demilitarization, Ukrainian neutrality, and enshrining the new facts on the ground.

In parallel, the Russian Foreign Ministry completely ruled out a role for the US, UK, France, and Germany in future Ukraine negotiations: they are not considered neutral mediators.

A multipolar patchwork quilt

The next day was all about business: everything from energy and  “military-technical” cooperation to improving the efficacy of trade and economic corridors running through Eurasia.

Russia already ranks first as a natural gas supplier to China – surpassing Turkmenistan and Qatar – most of it via the 3,000 km Power of Siberia pipeline that runs from Siberia to China’s northeastern Heilongjiang province, launched in December 2019. Negotiations on the Power of Siberia II pipeline via Mongolia are advancing fast.

Sino-Russian cooperation in high-tech will go through the roof: 79 projects at over $165 billion. Everything from liquified natural gas (LNG) to aircraft construction, machine tool construction, space research, agro-industry, and upgraded economic corridors.

The Chinese president explicitly said he wants to link the New Silk Road projects to the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU). This BRI-EAEU interpolation is a natural evolution. China has already signed an economic cooperation deal with the EAEU. Russian macroeconomic uber-strategist Sergey Glazyev’s ideas are finally bearing fruit.

And last but not least, there will be a new drive towards mutual settlements in national currencies – and between Asia and Africa, and Latin America. For all practical purposes, Putin endorsed the role of the Chinese yuan as the new trade currency of choice while the complex discussions on a new reserve currency backed by gold and/or commodities proceed.

This joint economic/business offensive ties in with the concerted Russia-China diplomatic offensive to remake vast swathes of West Asia and Africa.

Chinese diplomacy works like the matryoshka (Russian stacking dolls) in terms of delivering subtle messages. It’s far from coincidental that Xi’s trip to Moscow exactly coincides with the 20th anniversary of American ‘Shock and Awe’ and the illegal invasion, occupation, and destruction of Iraq.

In parallel, over 40 delegations from Africa arrived in Moscow a day before Xi to take part in a “Russia-Africa in the Multipolar World” parliamentary conference – a run-up to the second Russia-Africa summit next July.

The area surrounding the Duma looked just like the old Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) days when most of Africa kept very close anti-imperialist relations with the USSR.

Putin chose this exact moment to write off more than $20 billion in African debt.

In West Asia, Russia-China are acting totally in synch. West Asia. The Saudi-Iran rapprochement was actually jump-started by Russia in Baghdad and Oman: it was these negotiations that led to the signing of the deal in Beijing. Moscow is also coordinating the Syria-Turkiye rapprochement discussions. Russian diplomacy with Iran – now under strategic partnership status – is kept on a separate track.

Diplomatic sources confirm that Chinese intelligence, via its own investigations, is now fully assured of Putin’s vast popularity across Russia, and even within the country’s political elites. That means conspiracies of the regime-change variety are out of the question. This was fundamental for Xi and the Zhongnanhai’s (China’s central HQ for party and state officials) decision to “bet” on Putin as a trusted partner in the coming years, considering he may run and win the next presidential elections. China is always about continuity.

So the Xi-Putin summit definitively sealed China-Russia as comprehensive strategic partners for the long haul, committed to developing serious geopolitical and geoeconomic competition with declining western hegemons.

This is the new world born in Moscow this week. Putin previously defined it as a new anti-colonial policy. It’s now laid out as a multipolar patchwork quilt. There’s no turning back on the demolition of the remnants of Pax Americana.

‘Changes that haven’t happened in 100 years’

In Before European Hegemony: The World System A.D. 1250-1350, Janet Abu-Lughod built a carefully constructed narrative showing the prevailing multipolar order when the West “lagged behind the ‘Orient.’” Later, the West only “pulled ahead because the ‘Orient’ was temporarily in disarray.”

We may be witnessing a similarly historic shift in the making, trespassed by a revival of Confucianism (respect for authority, emphasis on social harmony), the equilibrium inherent to the Tao, and the spiritual power of Eastern Orthodoxy. This is, indeed, a civilizational fight.

Moscow, finally welcoming the first sunny days of Spring, provided this week a larger-than-life illustration of “weeks where decades happen” compared to “decades where nothing happens.”

The two presidents bid farewell in a poignant manner.

Xi: “Now, there are changes that haven’t happened in 100 years. When we are together, we drive these changes.”

Putin: “I agree.”

Xi: “Take care, dear friend.”

Putin: “Have a safe trip.”

Here’s to a new day dawning, from the lands of the Rising Sun to the Eurasian steppes.

 

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

 

 

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https://thecradle.co/article-view/22818/columns

 

 

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meanwhile in m'ville.....

...

 

But those genuinely seeking to fight war would have left the meeting scratching their heads. The event had nothing to do with the struggle against war, imperialism or its source, the crisis-ridden capitalist system. Instead, the platform, while expressing tactical differences with AUKUS, featured right-wing militarists, including one centrally involved in the illegal 2003 US invasion of Iraq.

Their positions dovetailed with those of a minority wing of the Australian ruling class. It has expressed concern over the consequences of Australian involvement in a full-blown war with China, from the standpoint of its impact on trade and the economic interests of big business.

This wing, moreover, is fearful that war will provoke major opposition from the working class, intersecting with intense social anger over the cost-of-living crisis and a deepening austerity offensive against social spending. To head off this development, it is peddling the delusion that Australia can adopt an “independent” foreign policy, and even sit out a US war with China.

The Marrickville meeting had the character of a launch event for a fake anti-war movement based on this political line. It was endorsed by the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN), which has been at the forefront of calls for a more “independent” Australian policy and an even greater military build-up to prosecute Australian imperialism’s interests elsewhere.

The meeting was attended by around 350 people. They included substantial contingents of the trade union bureaucracy, Labor and Greens members, old Stalinists and representatives of the various pseudo-left parties, such as Socialist Alliance and Solidarity.

All of these organisations have given their support to the US-NATO proxy war against Russia in Ukraine. That is of particular note, because for American imperialism, the war in Eastern Europe, aimed at imposing a crippling defeat on the Russian military, is viewed as a prelude to war against China, the chief economic threat to the US.

The reactionary program advanced at the meeting was reflected in the speakers.

Advertising for the event noted that it was also being held to mark 20 years since the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. However, the organisers selected an individual who would have to be among the least appropriate in the entire world to address any anti-war gathering.

The event began with a near-35 minute presentation by retired US Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson. In 2003, Wilkerson was chief of staff to then US Secretary of State Colin Powell. In that capacity, Wilkerson drew up the infamous speech Powell delivered to the United Nations, alleging that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction as well as links to Al Qaeda. That address was the direct prelude to, and justification for, the criminal US invasion.

Wilkerson’s remarks were in the form of an interview with the MC, Mary Kostakidis, a former television newsreader.

Wilkerson has gained an entré into the world of middle-class liberal and “left” politics by making limited criticisms of the Iraq War. Seeking to smooth over the bizarre incongruity of one of the Bush administration’s propagandists for the Iraq invasion speaking at a supposedly anti-war meeting, Kostakidis felt obliged to ask Wilkerson about his record.

 

READ MORE:

https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2023/03/21/dakg-m21.html

 

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deflections.....

 

By Jerry Grey

 

China is the victim of the largest and greatest propaganda campaign in human history. Whether this is a sign of things to come or an aberration based around a particular point in time remains to be seen but propaganda it is.

Apparently, in 2017, China incarcerated between 1 and 5 million Xinjiang residents, except there’s no logistics to provide for the movement and incarceration of this many people, so that was impossible.

When those claims were discredited, they softened the allegations, yet 150 million tourists a year went to engage with local culture, eat local foods and they saw local language and the religion of Islam were widely practiced so, it wasn’t “cultural genocide”.

The claims were diluted to “forced labour”, except some of the world’s biggest companies work there: Germany’s Volkswagen; USA’s Skechers; Japan’s Uniqlo; France’s SMCP; and Spain’s Inditex which owns Zara, have all investigated – and some have been investigated but no evidence has been found. One of the world’s largest apparel companies, HK based Esquel have taken this matter to the US Supreme Court. Hilton and Marriott Hotels, KFC, McDonalds and many more US brands operate without any issue and employ people in accordance with their own standards and local laws. The world’s biggest agricultural machinery company, John Deere, company, not only operates there, business is so good it started a JV in China in 2020 in order to “capitalize on this important and rapidly expanding marketplace”.

So, the story was changed again, from forced labour in Xinjiang to wider distribution of forced labour in other provinces. And, once again, that was investigated; it was found to be a normal migrant worker program benefitting Xinjiang by providing better paid jobs in Eastern regions so money could be sent home. The Cowestpro Papers did an excellent job of debunking this.

These allegations are so widely reported that it doesn’t matter what the Supreme Court says, it doesn’t matter that the evidence has been debunked, it doesn’t matter when diplomats from 21 countries visit in 2021, or religious and political leaders from 32 Muslim countries visit in 2022, or even 8 African countries in 2023 and say they’ve seen no evidence. Because it’s on every news channel, it must be true – except, as they all know, it isn’t.

Nor is it true that Xi Jinping threatened to invade Taiwan, he’s never said anything of the sort. What he has said, and the United Nations agrees with him, is that Taiwan is a part of China, China will defend its property. He said, China won’t accept another period of humiliation like the Qing Dynasty, when Hong Kong was taken by the British and more than 40 foreign concessions were taken by nine different countries.

Talking of Hong Kong, we were widely and credibly informed that China would send troops there in 2019, but they didn’t. We were told the “freedoms and democracy” were taken from Hong Kong; except they weren’t. China has broken the Joint Declaration media reported, but they haven’t according to British Barrister and Hong Kong’s former top lawyer, who wrote an open letter to the then PM Johnson to let him know how widely misinformed he and his advisors were.

I urge everyone who has any interest in the well-being of HK to read this letter to understand how misinformed they are about the true situation in HK where more democracy now exists than at any time in their history. The success is so widely recognised in both HK, by the vast majority of Hong Kongers, and the Mainland that Xi Jinping suggested on the 25th anniversary that “One Country Two Systems” would endure beyond the 50 agreed years.

So, if China isn’t persecuting Uyghurs, nor is it threatening Taiwan, hasn’t removed any of the rights or freedoms from Hong Kong’s residents; what is it actually doing wrong?

It may be sending balloons the size of circus tents over America but, let’s be honest, if it was doing that to spy then it’s the stuff of a Marx Brothers comedy skit. And, there are probably millions of Americans who believe it; many of them were encouraged out of the basement to shoot at it.

What China is doing, is growing. Growing in influence, growing in trade, growing in economy, growing in wealth, growing in every aspect of technology, medicine, education and lifestyle and yes, in order to protect these improvements, it has grown in military power too – a defensive military power.

It may have militarised some atolls in the South China Sea but, unlike the USA, it doesn’t have 7000 troops and occupy 30% of the land in Guam. China doesn’t have nearly 30,000 troops in any of its neighbouring countries, as USA has in South Korea. Nor has it colonised any Asian country with 80,000 troops and 125 active bases like the US bases in Japan.

This is another of the great disinformation campaigns: the military expansion of China. A country which hasn’t invaded in a generation and works closely with the USA in Djibouti, the only overseas base China actually has.

China isn’t fortifying Gwadar Port in Pakistan, as alleged by some media, nor is it, as suggested in think tank reports, providing military aid to the Solomon Islands, in fact the agreement with the Solomon Islands specifically excludes military aid.

What China is doing is building world-class infrastructure. 42,000 kilometres of high-speed rail with 1,100 stations criss-cross the country. China has lifted 800 million out of poverty in the last 40 years. China has improved the air and water quality to the point where there was once smog, there are now blue skies, where people once said it was hard to find wild animals in China they now abound, from the protected and rarely seen wetland birds in Jiangsu, to rare whales off Guangdong, to Asian elephants wreaking havoc in Yunnan, from leopards in Shenzhen to Tigers in Heilongjiang. These ecological changes say more about a country than teams of Western economists can.

For the real perspective of China, try Chinese media and then watch what China does. In every case so far, what China said it would do, is what they actually did. Another rule of thumb I adopt is to look at what Western media says is happening in China and then assume it’s a deflection from what really happens somewhere else, it usually is.

 

 

READ MORE:

https://johnmenadue.com/the-greatest-propaganda-campaign-in-human-history/

 

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