Pentagon admits killing Iraqi civilians


This video says about itself:

23 March 2017

Over 130 people trying to take shelter from the fighting in Mosul have been buried under the rubble of a building hit by a coalition airstrike, witnesses say in a video released by Associated Press.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Iraq: US admits to deadly civilian air strike

Monday 27th March 2017

THE US-led bombing coalition admitted on Saturday that it had carried out an air strike on the Iraqi city of Mosul that witnesses said killed hundreds. …

It said it had opened an investigation to determine whether reports of more than 200 casualties caused by the raid earlier this month were true. …

Rescue workers said the raid hit two houses where more than 200 people were sheltering from fierce fighting and artillery fire …

Monitoring website Airwars.org said more than 1,000 Iraqi civilians had been killed by the US-led coalition this month.

US mass murder in western Mosul is aiding, abetting and strengthening ISIS – and not defeating it: here.

The US-led “coalition” has admitted that its forces carried out the March 17 air strike in Mosul—ostensibly against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters—that slaughtered as many as 200 civilians, including numerous children. The admission was only made in the face of evidence provided by survivors to Iraqi journalists, whose accounts were reported by sections of the Western press: here.

Anti-nazi demonstration in Scotland


This video from Scotland says about itself:

25 March 2017

Hundreds of people turned out to protest a “White Pride” demonstration staged by the far-right National Front group in Edinburgh, Saturday.

The counter protesters carried banners with slogans like “Scotland says nae to Nazis” and chanted “Nazi Scum” as they marched through central Edinburgh.

Unite Against Fascism (UAF) who organised the counter protest said “We won’t stand for their racism, their Islamophobia, their scapegoating of migrants and refugees.”

The White Pride demonstration was scheduled to coincide with the Sikh religious festival of Nagar Kirtan in city which involves a procession and traditional display of martial arts and music.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Edinburgh anti-fascists drown out neonazi noise

Monday 27th March 2017

OVER 400 anti-fascists faced down a pathetic motley crew of 29 neonazi thugs in Edinburgh on Saturday.

The Scottish Defence League and the National Front staged a “white pride” march in the city.

Many wore balaclavas or masks to hide their identity. They were able to march only with heavy police protection.

The 400 counter-protesters carried placards stating: “Nae Nazis, Refugees Welcome here,” and the simple message to the racists: “F… Off,” while chanting: “Master race — ha ha ha!”

Unite Against Fascism organised the counter-demonstration, which was fenced off from the white pride marchers by metal barriers. There were sieg heil salutes from the pitifully small band of right-wing extremists.

UAF Scotland’s Margaret Woods said: “We are delighted at today’s brilliant turnout for the UAF demonstration against the nazi National Front.

“There is no place in our society for fascists and we will always oppose any attempts they make to assemble or march.”

Big Yemeni demonstration against Saudi war


This video says about itself:

Thousands rally in Sanaa, Yemen against Saudi-led airstrikes

26 March 2017

Massive crowds have hit the streets of Yemen’s capital, Sanaa in protest of the Saudi-led bombing campaign.

From Reuters news agency, 26 March 2017:

Thousands In Yemen Rally On Second Anniversary Of Civil War

Many waved national colors and denounced the U.S. and Saudi Arabia over the conflict.

SANAA (Reuters) – Thousands of Yemenis packed a square in the capital Sanaa on Sunday on the second anniversary of a war that has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people and pushed the impoverished country to the brink of famine.

It was the biggest gathering since a Saudi-led coalition of Arab states entered the conflict in 2015 to try to restore [Saudi appointed] President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to power after he was ousted from Sanaa. …

“This is a message to the world to tell everyone that despite two years of war, the Yemeni people are still victorious, still alive and still love peace,” said Essam al-Abed.

U.S. WEIGHING GREATER INVOLVEMENT IN YEMEN WAR “U.S. military activity in Yemen until now has been confined mainly to counterterrorism operations against al-Qaeda’s affiliate there, with limited indirect backing for gulf state efforts in a two-year-old war that has yielded significant civilian casualties.” [WaPo]

United States Donald Trump news


This video from the USA says about itself:

25 March 2017

According to a report by The Washington Post, the White House is installing “senior aides” in Donald Trump’s cabinet agencies to serve as the president’s “eyes and ears” among his employees. To put it in simpler terms, they want to make sure that everyone is loyal to Dear Leader and doesn’t question his motives or sanity. Yes, these people are being spied on. Ring of Fire’s Farron Cousins discusses this.

This video from the USA says about itself:

Why is Trump White House Filled with Ex-Goldman Sachs Cronies?

25 March 2017

If they won’t Drain the Swamp, we will.

This video from the USA says about itself:

26 March 2017

Donald Trump has already spent enough on trips to Mar-A-Lago this year to pay for nearly 6,000 people to get Meals on Wheels for an entire year. Each weekend, that number jumps higher, and by the end of the year, he will have spent more on personal trips to Trump-owned properties than we spend on the Meals on Wheels program each year. Ring of Fire’s Farron Cousins discusses this.

This video from the USA says about itself:

25 March 2017

The Trump administration has officially rolled back protections for people who have defaulted on student loans. The protections effected around 7 million borrowers.

Read more here.

New Zealand taxpayer-paid war propaganda for children


ANZAC heroes book cover

By Sam Price and Tom Peters in New Zealand:

ANZAC Heroes: Promoting war to children

24 March 2017

ANZAC Heroes, written by Maria Gill and illustrated by Marco Ivancic, is a glorification of war and nationalism aimed at children. Published by Scholastic in March 2016, and designed to be used in schools, it profiles 30 men and women who were in the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzac) during World War I and II, including soldiers, air force pilots, navy officers, and nurses.

Gill received $41,033 to write the book from the New Zealand government agency Creative NZ, which had a special $1.5 million fund for projects promoting the centenary of World War I. Wellington and Canberra have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on pro-war exhibitions, books and movies over the last three years, mainly aimed at young people, to encourage patriotism and respect for the military.

ANZAC Heroes received the 2016 Margaret Mahy Book of the Year, the national award for New Zealand children’s books. According to the awards’ web site, they are given to works that build “national identity and cultural heritage” and are funded by Creative NZ and the Wellington City Council. The judges described Gill’s book as “personal, engaging, inspiring and sad” and “incredibly well-researched.”

In fact, the book is not an objective work of history. As with other centenary-related productions, it is full of distortions and falsifications. While several of the people profiled were undoubtedly interesting and brave, their stories, filtered through the prism of nationalism, come across as lifeless and formulaic.

The primary purpose of the book is to glorify participation in imperialist wars. According to the introduction, the author aimed to “show what [the Anzacs] endured and how their incredible spirit saw them rise to the challenge.” It notes that every year their “sacrifice” is remembered on April 25, Anzac Day, in Australia and New Zealand. This holiday features nationalist parades and other patriotic ceremonies dedicated to the military.

Gill falsely characterises the entry of Australia and New Zealand into WWI as defensive. “When Britain went to war, they committed themselves to defending the Empire. Politicians worried that the war would spread to their shores and wanted to support the Empire’s effort to prevent that from happening,” she states.

In reality, both countries are minor imperialist powers that entered the war to expand their colonial possessions. Soon after war was declared in 1914, Australia invaded German Papua New Guinea and New Zealand troops seized German Samoa. These territories, along with Nauru, were brutally exploited by Australian and New Zealand capitalists for decades. The Anzacs took part in World War II not to fight for “democracy” but for predatory colonial interests.

Gill gives little sense of the immense scale of the destruction in both World Wars. The fact that tens of millions of people were slaughtered is not even mentioned, only the large death tolls for Australian and New Zealand troops: in WWI they were 60,000 and 18,000 respectively; in WWII, 27,073 and 11,928.

The book’s “heroes” are generally described as excited and eager to go to war. For instance: “At 17 years old, Cyril [Bassett] couldn’t wait to join the Territorial Force;” “Like many teenagers of that era, Robert [Little] dreamed of being a pilot;” “William Sanders always wanted a seafaring life after growing up hearing tales of his grandfather Captain Wilson’s sailing adventures;” “Edward (‘Weary’) Dunlop wanted to be like the heroes in the books and comics he read” … and so on.

There was in 1914–1915 an initial period of “war fever” in which thousands of Australians and New Zealanders rushed to enlist to fight. Responsibility for the lack of organised opposition rests primarily with the trade union and Labour Party leaders in both countries, which, like their counterparts in Europe, enthusiastically supported the war and joined with the bourgeoisie in whipping up patriotism.

Following the reports of thousands of deaths, particularly at the battle of Gallipoli in 1915, enlistments began to fall sharply and anti-war sentiment spread rapidly throughout the working class. The Australian Labor government of Billy Hughes attempted to introduce conscription, but was defeated in two referenda. New Zealand’s conservative government led by William Massey imposed conscription without a referendum in 1916. In New Zealand the Labour Party was established in 1916 to contain the anti-war opposition in the working class.

There is no reference to this mass opposition in Gill’s book. Nor is there any profile of anyone who was conscripted or otherwise forced to go and fight.

Gill recounts the military exploits of each soldier, with particular emphasis on the number of “enemies” killed and the recognition and medals received. A typical passage describes how Australian soldier Albert Jacka “killed many Germans” in WWI and earned a Victoria Cross after he leapt into an Ottoman trench, “shot five and bayoneted two,” afterwards telling his commanding officer: “Well, I managed to get the beggars, sir!”

Australian pilot Hughie Edwards is praised for earning the Victoria Cross in July, 1941, after “blowing up two factories and a warehouse.” Edwards took part in the bombing of Berlin in 1943, which killed thousands of civilians.

Victims of a bombing raid in Berlin laid out for identification

The book notes that several Anzacs suffered disfiguring wounds and psychological disorders. There are also descriptions of the horrific conditions endured by prisoners of war during WWII. Australian Arthur Blackburn is said to have “fought for the rights of POWs, striving to get them better living conditions, and suffered beatings for it.” A thousand men, under the command of prisoner Edward Dunlop, were forced to work 18-hour days in a Japanese prison camp while suffering from diseases like malaria and cholera.

Gill shows no sympathy for German, Ottoman or Japanese soldiers, who are dehumanised as “the enemy” throughout the book. Nor is there any acknowledgement of war crimes committed by the British Empire, the US or their allies. In Cowra, Australia in 1944, 231 Japanese POWs were slaughtered following a breakout, while in New Zealand in 1943, 48 Japanese prisoners were massacred by machine-gun during a riot. These atrocities are not widely known, particularly among younger people.

Several profiles of women and indigenous soldiers have been included to depict WWI and WWII as central to the development of a “progressive” and egalitarian national identity.

Gill writes that Australian ambulance driver Olive King “craved adventure” and when she initially volunteered “they told her war was no place for women, but Olive didn’t let that stop her.” The profile for New Zealand doctor Jessie Scott attempts to draw a direct line between New Zealand women winning the right to vote in 1893 and Scott’s decision to become a doctor and join a military hospital in Serbia.

Working class women, however, played a major role in the anti-war movement in both countries. In Melbourne on October 21, 1916, an anti-conscription demonstration led by around 4,000 women attracted a crowd of 80,000 people. In the New Zealand city of Christchurch in 1918, a group of 2,000 women started what was reported as a riot to prevent their men being conscripted.

The statement in ANZAC Heroes that “Maori volunteered to join [WWI] as soon as the war was declared” is a gross distortion. In fact, Maori were among the bitterest opponents of war. A Native Contingent Committee was formed to co-ordinate the recruitment of Maori and included Maori parliamentarians such as Apirana Ngata. Yet only a third of the second and third drafts were actually Maori, with Pacific Islanders enlisted to meet the minimum quota.

Objectors were brutally repressed. In 1916, two were killed by police during the attempted arrest of Rua Kenana, a religious leader who discouraged Maori from recruitment. Hundreds were imprisoned and sentenced to two years of hard labour for resisting conscription.

Gill’s assertions that “Aboriginal men were keen to enlist” and “were treated equally” in the Australian army are also misleading. Laws banning Aboriginals from the armed forces were relaxed to allow enlistment by those with one parent of European descent in 1917, as a desperate measure to increase recruitment, especially after conscription was defeated in two referenda in 1916 and 1917.

Although they were paid the same as other troops, Aboriginal soldiers were kept in the lowest ranks. After the war, they were officially shunned, refused returned soldiers’ land grants and often denied war pensions and back pay. Indigenous people were among the most brutally repressed sections of Australian society, denied basic rights such as citizenship, the right to vote, to buy land or marry non-indigenous partners.

The book contains only one brief mention of opposition to war, in the profile of Australian Hugo Throssell. After recounting Throssell’s experiences in battle during WWI, Gill writes: “Over the next ten years and through the Great Depression, Hugo had numerous jobs and became an anti-war socialist. His wounds healed but his mental health grew worse.” With “mounting debts,” Throssell committed suicide in 1933.

This wording falsely implies that Throssell became a socialist during the Depression of the 1930s and that his decision was bound up with deteriorating mental health.
Hugo Throssell

Speaking to a gathering of 1,500 people in Northam, Western Australia, on July 19, 1919, Throssell said: “The war has made me a Socialist. It has made me think and inquire what are the causes of wars. And my thinking and reading have led me to the conclusion that we shall never be free of wars under a system of production for profit, with its consequent over-production, periodic crimes, unemployment and the struggle for markets….

“[I]f we want to do the things which will make for a permanent peace, we must do away with the system of production for profit, and reorganise our life in common on the lines of production for use and for the well-being of the community as a whole.”

In 1919 Throssell married the socialist writer Katherine Prichard, a founding member of the Communist Party of Australia in 1920. Both were inspired by the Russian Revolution of October, 1917, an earth-shaking event that took Russia out of the war and pointed the way forward for workers in every country. The threat of revolution throughout Europe forced the imperialist powers to agree to an armistice.

The fact that ANZAC Heroes has received such wide acclaim and won a national prize must be taken as a warning. As in the lead-up to World War I, xenophobia, militarism and extreme nationalism are being cultivated in every country. The world stands on the brink of a catastrophic war involving nuclear powers, as the US escalates its threats against Russia and China. New Zealand and Australia, both allies of the US, would inevitably be dragged into such a war.

Gill’s book is part of the strenuous efforts being made by governments, with the help of well-paid academics and hack writers, to overcome the deeply ingrained anti-war sentiment among young people.

The author also recommends:

The role of Australian schools in World War I
[25 April 2015]

New Zealand: WWI Home Front exhibition buries mass opposition to war
[22 August 2016]

Government-produced book describes WWI as “successful and profitable”
[24 April 2014]

Jewish Dutch poet Jacob Israël de Haan, theatre play


This February 2017 video is the trailer of the Dutch theatre play Salaam Jeruzalem, by theatre organisation De Nieuw Amsterdam, about Jewish Dutch author Jacob Israël de Haan.

On 25 March 2017 I went to see this play in Leiden.

Jacob Israël de Haan (1881-1924) was from an Orthodox Jewish family. He broke with that religion and became a socialist journalist. In 1903, he collected money for the children of railway workers who had been sacked because they had gone on strike. He was also a gay rights pioneer, writing novels like Pijpelijntjes. He is seen as a predecessor of Amnesty International. Because of his activity, inspired by a meeting with exiled Russian anarchist Kropotkin, against human rights abuses in pre-World War I czarist Russian prisons; jointly with socialist poetess Henriette Roland Holst.

De Haan himself wrote poetry as well.

This video shows some of his 1919-1924 poems.

He had contacts in the Dutch literary avant-garde around De Nieuwe Gids magazine. And he wrote works about laws; he was a Legum Doctor.

De Haan’s experiences in czarist Russia made him aware of the evils of anti-Semitism. That contributed to De Haan’s re-conversion to Judaism. He also became a Zionist. In 1919 he emigrated to Palestine, then a British colony.

In the video at the top of this blog post, one of De Haan’s poems, written in Palestine, is recited. It is (my translation):

Unrest

Who in Amsterdam often said, “Jerusalem”
And was driven to Jerusalem,
He now says with a dreamy voice:
“Amsterdam. Amsterdam.”

As the poem shows, De Haan had become ambivalent about emigrating from Amsterdam. Zionism as practiced in Palestine turned out to be different from De Haan’s lofty ideals when he had been in Amsterdam. De Haan became an advocate of negotiating with Palestinian Arabs so that Jews and Arabs might live together peacefully.

That made him an enemy of the Zionist paramilitary organisation Haganah. On 13 June 1924, Haganah fighter Avraham Tehomi murdered De Haan, as ordered by Haganah commander Itzhak Ben-Zvi (later the second president of the state of Israel). A crowd of 5,000 people attended De Haan’s funeral in Jerusalem.

Left Zionist Moshe Beilinson reacted to the murder:

The flag of our movement must not be tarnished. Neither by the blood of the innocent, nor by the blood of the guilty. Otherwise – our movement will be bad, because blood draws other bloods. Blood always takes revenge and if you walk down this path once, you do not know where it would lead you.

A line from a De Haan poem is inscribed in the monument in Amsterdam for LGBTQ people murdered by the 1940-1945 German nazi occupiers of the Netherlands. The line is ‘Naar vriendschap zulk een mateloos verlangen’; ‘Such a boundless desire for friendship’.

A review of the play is here. Another review is here. And here.

There are five actors in the play. Two of them play Arab music. Egyptian Dutch actor Sabri Saad El Hamus plays both De Haan and, at the end, an Arab singer. Ludo van der Winkel plays the cynical antagonists of De Haan; like Arnold Aletrino (named in the play only by his pseudonym Sam from De Haan’s gay novel Pijpelijntjes), the older fellow author who betrayed Jacob Israel when Pijpelijntjes caused a scandal in homophobic public opinion. And P.L. Tak (named in the play), newspaper chief who sacked De Haan because of Pijpelijntjes.

Randy Fokke plays both De Haan’s wife and Carry van Bruggen, De Haan’s sister and also a famous Dutch author. Carry van Bruggen never got over the murder of her one year younger brother.

This English language video is about De Haan.

In the play, by Dutch playwright and director Gerardjan Rijnders, there are several allusions to happenings after the death of De Haan; including recent ones. When talking about De Haan joining the marxist Dutch Social Democratic Workers’ Party, actors say: ‘the predecessor of the Dutch PvdA labour party … or what is left of it’. In the recent 15 March 2017 Dutch elections, the PvdA went from 38 to 9 MPs because they had been junior partners in a right-wing coalition government. The play also mentions French playwright Jean Genet’s solidarity with Palestinians in the 1980s. This is followed by a xenophobic, Geert Wilders-like rant by Ludo van der Winkel.

The play includes a theory about right and left halves of the human brain, supposedly linked to the origins of religions. It is unclear what this has to do with De Haan. I think it is one of the weak sides of this interesting play about an interesting person.

Cambodian elephants saved from Pentagon bomb crater


The Cambodian elephants in the bomb crater, AFP photo

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

Herd of elephants rescued from Cambodian bomb crater

Today, 16:18

A rescue team has saved a herd of elephants after four days in an old bomb crater. The endangered animals would have been killed by hunger if villagers would not have discovered them.

The eleven animals, including a youngster, got stuck when they tried to drink from the 3 meter deep crater. The pit was made many years ago [during the Vietnam war] by a United States bombing in the country.

The elephants were freed by digging a path from the pit. Meanwhile, water was also sprayed into the hole to dilute the mud. After their rescue, the animals walked back into the woods.

The rescue of 11 Asian Elephants (Elephas maximus) from a mud hole inside the Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary, Mondulkiri Province, Cambodia, on 24th March 2017 avoided a tragedy for wildlife conservation in Cambodia: here.