Cartoonist Garry Trudeau attacked for criticizing Islamophobic cartoons


This video from the USA says about itself:

23 December 2010

It’s been 40 years since Garry Trudeau first drew the popular comic strip “Doonesbury.” The Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist speaks with Jeffrey Brown about a new book chronicling his decades of work

By Patrick Martin in the USA:

Doonesbury cartoonist attacked for criticizing Charlie Hebdo

27 April 2015

Garry Trudeau, the creator of the Doonesbury comic strip, has come under attack from right-wing editorialists and media pundits for publicly criticizing anti-Muslim cartoons appearing in the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, calling them a form of hate speech.

Trudeau’s brief remarks were delivered at Long Island University April 10, where he received the George Polk Career Award for his more than four decades of work as a cartoonist, in the course of which he has frequently had to battle censorship of his outspoken liberal views. Only three years ago, 50 newspapers refused to carry his strip during a week when he bitingly attacked Republican politicians who oppose abortion rights even in the case of rape or incest.

The central point made by Trudeau is that Charlie Hebdo was engaged, not in satirizing the powerful, but in vilifying the most oppressed section of the French population, Muslim immigrants, who face the highest levels of unemployment, poverty, police harassment and imprisonment.

Trudeau was of course horrified by the bloody massacre in January at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, when an attack by two Islamist gunmen left 12 people dead, include most of the magazine’s senior cartoonists. He contributed to an online tribute to the murdered cartoonists. His refusal to go along with the retrospective glorification of the content of the cartoons, despite the enormous wave of media propaganda that has followed, is an act of intellectual and moral courage.

For that very reason, his statement has been vilified as an attack on the victims of terrorism, in a series of columns by right-wing pundits, including David Frum of The Atlantic, Cathy Young of Reason magazine, and Ross Douthat of the New York Times.

Frum made the most sweeping attack, citing the killings at Charlie Hebdo, the related attack on a kosher bakery in Paris, and a subsequent attack in Copenhagen, Denmark, and declaring, “For this long record of death and destruction—and for many other deaths as well—Garry Trudeau blamed the people who drew and published the offending cartoons.”

The right-wing pundit claims that Trudeau applied “privilege theory” to the Charlie Hebdo massacre, justifying it because the victims were from the white elite, while the gunmen were from the immigrant Muslim underclass. “To fix the blame for the killing on the murdered journalists, rather than the gunmen, Trudeau invoked the underdog status of the latter,” Frum writes.

He goes on to claim that news organizations in the United States that reported on the anti-Islam cartoons in Charlie Hebdo did not reprint them because they were afraid of terrorist attack, drawing the conclusion, “Violence does work.”

Trudeau offered a different explanation for the non-publication of the anti-Muslim cartoons in an interview Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” where he addressed the right-wing attack on his Long Island University remarks. US editors did not reprint the cartoons because they were demeaning and racist, he maintained. If similar cartoons had targeted African-Americans, they would be universally denounced and repudiated.

Douthat and Young both cite Frum’s column approvingly in their own shorter diatribes, echoing his claim that Trudeau had based his remarks on an extreme version of identity politics. These criticisms are baseless slanders, as can be easily demonstrated by looking at what Trudeau actually said. The cartoonist cited the example of the great satirists of the French Enlightenment.

“Traditionally, satire has comforted the afflicted while afflicting the comfortable. Satire punches up, against authority of all kinds, the little guy against the powerful. Great French satirists such as Molière and Daumier always punched up, holding up the self-satisfied and hypocritical to ridicule. Ridiculing the non-privileged is almost never funny—it’s just mean.

“By punching downward, by attacking a powerless, disenfranchised minority with crude, vulgar drawings closer to graffiti than cartoons, Charlie wandered into the realm of hate speech…”

The same issue was raised in a perspective published on the World Socialist Web Site immediately after the attack on Charlie Hebdo. WSWS Chairman David North rejected the claim by British historian Simon Schama that the French magazine was in the tradition of the great satirists of the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries, writing:

Schama places Charlie Hebdo in a tradition to which it does not belong. All the great satirists to whom Schama refers were representatives of a democratic Enlightenment who directed their scorn against the powerful and corrupt defenders of aristocratic privilege. In its relentlessly degrading portrayals of Muslims, Charlie Hebdo has mocked the poor and the powerless.

North explained that the orgy of praise for Charlie Hebdo, summed up in the slogan “I am Charlie,” raised at demonstrations in Paris, was an effort to provide an ideological justification for US and French imperialism:

The killing of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists and editors is being proclaimed an assault on the principles of free speech that are, supposedly, held so dear in Europe and the United States. The attack on Charlie Hebdo is, thus, presented as another outrage by Muslims who cannot tolerate Western “freedoms.” From this the conclusion must be drawn that the “war on terror”—i.e., the imperialist onslaught on the Middle East, Central Asia and North and Central Africa—is an unavoidable necessity.

These efforts are doubly hypocritical, given the onslaught on democratic rights, including freedom of the press, in all the Western countries, especially the United States. The Obama administration has targeted more journalists for surveillance and more whistleblowers for prosecution than any other in US history, singling out those who have played major roles in exposing the crimes of the US government, like Bradley (Chelsea) Manning, Edward Snowden, and Julian Assange.

Trudeau is not an avowed opponent of imperialism, but rather a liberal who apparently supports the Obama administration, albeit with some disappointment. That does not detract from the principled character of his public repudiation of the right-wing efforts to whip up anti-Muslim prejudice.

The author also recommends:

“Free speech” hypocrisy in the aftermath of the attack on Charlie Hebdo
[9 January 2015]

Militarism and anti-militarism in Britain


This 2012 video from the USA is called Network XMilitarism in the Schools: Counter-Recruitment Conference. It says about itself:

Network X – 02/03/00 – Guests – Mario Hardy, Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors, Asif Ullah, War Resisters League, Michaelle Jacobson, Seattle Teacher and Activist.

By Ian Sinclair in Britain:

Timely antidote to pro-war propaganda

Monday 27th April 2015

Spectacle, Reality, Resistance: Confronting a Culture of Militarism by David Gee (Forces Watch, £7)

ARMED Forces Day. Help for Heroes. The government’s Troops to Teachers programme. The media frenzy around the military funeral repatriations in Wootton Bassett. Girl band The Saturdays opening the Poppy Appeal.

It’s clear that we are in the midst of a resurgence of militarism in Britain.

The government presents these pro-military schemes as an attempt to encourage understanding and appreciation for the armed forces. But, with a 2008 Mori poll finding 81 per cent of the British public already view the military favourably, David Gee, co-founder of the activist organisation Forces Watch, is unconvinced.

Rather, he argues these recent policy initiatives are a direct response to the public’s increasing opposition to an aggressive foreign policy, in particular the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 2009 the Chief of Defence Staff Jock Stirrup claimed that the Taliban’s roadside bombs were less of a threat to troops’ morale than the “declining will” among the public to support the war.

Tellingly, Stirrup added: “Support for our service men and women is indivisible from support for this mission.”

Unusually for a peace activist, Gee spends time looking at the role of popular culture, quoting cultural theorists like Guy Debord, Levi-Strauss and Slavoj Zizek.

He has a particular interest in Hollywood and how films with “violent romance quests” at their heart encourage audiences to form a positive view of the military and regenerative violence.

But while he notes that research shows war films as a key influence on British infantry recruits’ decision to enlist, he also explains how films like Avatar and The Hunger Games provide dissenting narratives.

Formed in 2011, Veterans for Peace UK is also working to counter pro-war propaganda, sending former soldiers into schools to teach children about the reality of war. “Simply put, we ought to know what war is, at the very least, before deciding whether or not to lend its support,” argues Gee.

While the parliamentary defeat for the government on their proposed attack on Syria was a huge victory for the anti-war movement, Gee is fully aware of the power disparity between the resistance and the Establishment.

“It might have failed to win our support for its recent wars but the government’s power to elicit public compliance and shape social culture through the education system, the media, and legislation is prodigious,” he notes.

Spectacle, Reality, Resistance is a short book but it’s important in inspiring anyone interested in exploring the increasing militarisation of society and learning about those opposing it.

Saudi war on Yemen means more terrorism, more refugees


This video from London, England says about itself:

Stop the bloodshed in Yemen is theme of protest in London

25 April 2015

Hundreds of Yemenis marched to the Saudi Embassy to protest against Saudi Arabia and US imperialism, and to stop the bloodshed in Yemen. Yemenis [should] choose their own government, not the Saudis or the West.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Patrick Cockburn

Sunday 26 April 2015

Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe’s problem

World View: Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign

Yemen is short of many things, but weapons is not one of them. Yemenis own between 40 and 60 million guns, according to a report by UN experts published earlier this year. This should be enough for Yemen’s 26 million people, although the experts note that demand for grenades that used to cost $5, handguns ($150) and AK-47s ($150) has increased eightfold. Whatever else happens, the war in Yemen is not going to end because any of the participants are short of weaponry.

Yemeni politics is notoriously complicated and exotic, with shifting alliances in which former enemies embrace and old friends make strenuous efforts to kill each other. But this exoticism does not mean that the war in Yemen, where the Saudis started bombing on 26 March, is irrelevant to the rest of the world. Already the turmoil there is a breeding ground for al-Qaeda type attacks such as that on Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

The collapse of the country into a permanent state of warfare will send waves of boat-people towards Western Europe or anywhere else they can find refuge. It is absurd for European leaders to pretend that they are doing something about “terrorism” or the refugees drowning in the Mediterranean when they ignore the wars that are the root causes of these events.

Yemen war has been left to the Saudis and the Gulf monarchies, with the US ineffectually trying to end it. The reality of what is happening is very different from the way it is presented. The Saudis allege that they are crushing a takeover of Yemen by the Houthi Shia militia backed by Iran and intend to return the legitimate president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, to power. In fact, the Houthis’ seizure of so much of Yemen over the past year has little to do with Iran. It has much more to do with their alliance with their old enemy, former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who still controls much of the Yemeni army. This enabled the Houthis, whose strongholds are in the north of the country, to capture Sanaa easily last September, though UN experts note that the capital “was guarded by no less than 100,000 Republican Guards and Reserve Forces, most of them loyal to the former president”.

The Saudi air campaign is geared more to inflicting severe damage on the units of the Yemeni army loyal to Saleh than it is to weakening the Houthis. The Houthi militiamen are experienced fighters, their military skills and ability to withstand air attack honed between 2004 and 2010, when they fought off six offensives launched by Saleh, who was then in power and closely allied to Saudi Arabia. It was only after he was ousted from office in 2012 that he reconciled with the Houthis.

The Saudi war aim is to break this alliance between the Houthis and the Saleh-controlled military units by destroying the army’s bases and heavy weapons. The more lightly armed Houthis are less likely to be hard-hit by air strikes, but without the support or neutrality of the regular army they will be over-stretched in the provinces south of Sanaa. In Aden, they are fighting not so much Hadi-supporters, but southern separatists who want to reverse the unification agreed in 1990.

The problem with the Saudi strategy is the same as that with most military plans. The 19th-century German chief of staff, General Helmuth von Moltke, said that in war “no plan survives contact with the enemy”. The same warning was pithily restated more recently by the American boxer Mike Tyson, who said that “everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”.

The danger for Saudi Arabia is that wars build up an uncontrollable momentum that transforms the political landscape in which they are conceived. Had the Saudis not intervened in Yemen, it is unlikely that in the long term the Houthis would have been able to dominate the country because they are opposed by so many regions, parties and tribes. Yemen is too divided for any single faction to win an outright victory. But the air war has been justified by Saudi Arabia to their own citizens and the Sunni world as a counterattack against Iranian and Shia aggression. It will not be easy for Riyadh to back off from these exaggerated claims to reach the sort of compromises required if Yemen is to return to peace. A further danger is that demonising the Houthis as Iranian puppets may well prove self-fulfilling, if the Houthis are compelled to look for allies wherever they can find them.

Yemenis insist that their society has not traditionally been divided along sectarian lines between the Zaidi Shia, a third of the population, and the two-thirds of Yemenis who are Sunni. But this could change very quickly as the Yemen conflict gets plugged into the wider and increasingly warlike regional confrontation between a Sunni coalition led by Saudi Arabia and a Shia counterpart led by Iran.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has been one of the main beneficiaries of the militarisation of Yemeni politics, because it can present itself as the shock troops of the Sunni community and its fighters are no longer under pressure from the regular army. As many Iraqis, Syrians and Afghans have discovered to their cost, Sunni-Shia sectarian hatred and fear is often only one massacre away.

The Saudis and the Gulf monarchies worry so much about Yemen because it is very much their backyard. But there is every reason for the rest of the world to worry too, because Yemen is joining Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya and Somalia as places where warlords rule in conditions of anarchy. They are places where life has become unlivable for much of the population, who will take any risk to escape.

This is the sort of national calamity that is filling the boats and rafts crowded with desperate emigrants that are heading across the Mediterranean for Europe.

And this calamity is particularly bad in Yemen, because the country was in crisis even before the present conflict. According to UN agencies, malnutrition in Yemen is about the same as in much of sub-Saharan Africa and only half the population has access to clean water. The country imports 90 per cent of the grains used for food, but no ships are coming in because its ports are blockaded by the Saudis or caught up in the fighting. In any case it is difficult to move food supplies because of a chronic shortage of fuel. Lack of electricity means that essential medicines in hospitals cannot be stored.

This is not a short-term problem, Yemen is finally falling apart, but it may take a long time doing so, which means that there will be a vacuum of power. AQAP and other jihadi groups are already taking advantage of this. America’s much vaunted drone war against AQAP has not prevented the organisation taking over whole provinces.

The Sunni-Shia confrontation has a fresh injection of venom. Yemen has endured many wars that the rest of the world has ignored, but this one may well prove uncontainable.

The Saudi royal air force bombed Sanaa, capital of Yemen, again today: here.

SAUDI coalition warplanes launched dozens of air strikes on Yemen’s southern port city of Aden on Saturday: here.

Why Pakistan said no to King Salman. Pakistan’s unanimous decision to stay out of the conflict brewing in Yemen, and to push for a political resolution rather than a military one, puts significant strain on bilateral relations, complicating Saudi-Pakistani diplomatic relations: here.

How the U.S. contributed to Yemen’s crisis. Washington’s support for Yemen’s former dictatorship — and of Saudi efforts to sideline the country’s nonviolent pro-democracy movement — helped create the current crisis: here.

British government loves wars, hates refugees from those wars


This video from London, England says about itself:

Libya: Stop the War Coaliton protest at Downing Street 19.04.11

As Cameron, Sarkozy and Obama escalated the attack on Libya to a regime-change war, Stop the War Coalition joined with CND and War on Want to protest at Downing Street, London, calling on the British government to end its bombing campaign. Video by Anupam Pradhan and Keith Halstead.

From weekly The Observer in Britain:

Bishop says Britain has a moral duty to accept refugees from its wars

Rt Rev David Walker, bishop of Manchester, says it is ‘unworthy’ for politicians to label displaced migrants as criminals, and country should take in ‘fair share’

Mark Townsend

Saturday 25 April 2015 20.33 BST

One of the country’s most senior bishops has said that Britain has a moral imperative to accept refugees from conflicts in which it has participated.

After a week in which the death toll of migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean into Europe grew to 1,700 so far this year, the bishop of Manchester, David Walker, said there was a duty to treat the survivors with compassion.

In a piece for the Observer published online, he writes: “They are pushed, not pulled, towards the EU, forced out of their homelands by war, terrorism and the persecution of minorities. A political rhetoric that characterises them as wilful criminals rather than helpless victims is as unworthy as it is untrue.”

The UK’s pivotal role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq prompted a sectarian war that the UN said had forced two million Iraqis to flee the country, an involvement that ran alongside the 13-year Afghanistan war and was followed by the 2011 attacks on Libya, both of which precipitated significant regional instability and migration.

According to the UN Refugee Agency in 2013, one in four refugees was Afghan, although most were in neighbouring countries, while the ongoing instability in Libya was credited with making the north African state a haven for people smugglers.

Walker writes: “The moral cost of our continual overseas interventions has to include accepting a fair share of the victims of the wars to which we have contributed as legitimate refugees in our own land.

“I want my country to be governed by those who are prepared to look at the faces of the desperate, be it the desperation of the asylum seeker or of the food bank client, and to look at them with compassion.”

He also criticised the language of mainstream parties on issues such as immigration and suggested that politics needed a new moral compass in the context of the growing number of deaths in the Mediterranean. “I want my political representatives to show they have values beyond expediency and appeal to the muddled middle. Only such politicians will I trust with the wellbeing of my family, my community and my nation.”

Despite the huge numbers of migrants heading north, only 5,000 resettlement places across Europe have been offered to refugees under an emergency summit crisis package agreed by EU leaders, with the rest sent back as irregular migrants under a new rapid-return programme coordinated by the EU’s border agency, Frontex.

“Welcome though it was that European leaders sat down to talk about the situation this week, their conclusions seem more directed at making the symptoms less visible than at tackling the disease,” said Walker.

EU ‘humanitarian’ response to hundreds of migrants drowning – a war on migrants: here.

Militarisation of Australian and New Zealand schoolboys and World War I


This video says about itself:

World News: Somalia‘s Child Soldiers | The New York Times

14 June 2010

More and more children are being recruited to become soldiers by Somalia’s transitional government, which is partially funded by the U.S. taxpayer. Some of them are as young as nine years old.

By Margaret Rees and Linda Levin:

The role of Australian schools in World War I

25 April 2015

Soldier Boys: The Militarisation of Australian and New Zealand Schools for World War I by Maxwell N. Waugh, Melbourne Books, 2014

During the past year—and until November 11, 2018, the centenary of the end of the mass slaughter that was World War I—Australian involvement in the war is being celebrated by an outpouring of propaganda and myth-making, reaching frenzied proportions in the lead up to Anzac Day, April 25, the centenary of the Allied landing at Gallipoli. No section of the population is being spared, including, or, more accurately, especially school children. They are being bombarded with curriculum material and activities all serving to glorify war.

Soldier Boys book

Soldier Boys: The Militarisation of Australian and New Zealand Schools for World War I, published in 2014, demonstrates that the precedent for the indoctrination and priming of a generation of youth for war was initially established by the forebears of the current Australian political establishment in the years prior to World War I.

Written by Dr Maxwell Waugh, a retired former teacher, school principal, and lecturer in the History of Education at Deakin and Monash Universities, Soldier Boys is a valuable book that punctures the prevailing myths. It demonstrates that, by 1911, Australia had become a veritable military training camp for the British Empire. It corrects the conception, long promoted by government, media and the film industry, that the boys and young men who enlisted to fight, did so spontaneously and voluntarily as raw, untrained recruits.

In reality, the vast majority who joined the Australian Imperial Force (AIF), including the “Anzacs,” were the product of a harsh and punitive system of compulsory military training, in both public and private schools, and in the Citizen Military Forces (CMF), aimed at preparing young boys “to be used as ‘cannon fodder’ in the killing fields of Gallipoli and on the Western Front, where 60,000 were killed in action or died of wounds, 150,000 were wounded, and countless survivors of the horrors of trench warfare were left to wrestle with their ‘personal demons’ for the rest of their lives.”

Reviewing his motivations for researching and writing the book, Waugh recalls in the introduction his sense of shock as a teenager in Melbourne upon seeing the powerful 1930 anti-war movie, All Quiet on the Western Front, and then reading the book of the same name by Erich Maria Remarque. Most of all, he recalls “the repugnance I felt that the German education system had been used so blatantly to recruit the cream of their youth to fight in such a needless war.”

Later, as a teacher, Waugh writes, “I would discover that many thousands of Australian and New Zealand lads had been coerced into enlisting in this brutal conflict, through the respective state education departments and the private school system, in much the same way as their German counterparts.”

“It’s no wonder,” Waugh continues, “that many thousands of young Australian recruits responded so readily to ‘Mother England’s call’, for here was a ready-made army in waiting. They were an army of fit and disciplined patriots, thanks largely to the schools that helped prepare them for the terrifying, bloody and mindless conflict that was the Great War.” No such system of compulsory military training existed in Britain or any other countries of the British Empire, except New Zealand, in the period leading up to or during the war.

Pulteney Grammar School, South Australia, cadet unit training, circa 1911

Soldier Boys’ author explains that the major force behind the establishment of the mandatory cadet system was the Australian Labor Party. Prominent Laborite William Morris (Billy) Hughes, who was to become wartime prime minister, had been agitating for a form of military conscription as early as 1901, and members of the Labor Party were prime movers in an unsuccessful attempt in 1903 to establish the compulsory military training of all boys aged 14 to 17.

Following Japan’s victory in the Russo-Japanese War, elements from both Labor and the conservative parties joined together to form the Australian National Defence League, in order “to demand stronger defence alliances with Britain and closer co-operation with other British Empire colonies, such as New Zealand.” While Japanese warships had rapidly become the most powerful fleet in the Pacific, regarded by the burgeoning Australian ruling elite as a potential existential threat, Britain was preoccupied with the growing industrial and military challenge posed by Germany.

In September 1905, as a founding member of the League, Hughes seconded a motion establishing its charter, which called for “Universal compulsory training (military or naval) of the boyhood and manhood of Australia for the purposes of National Defence …” He continued to agitate for a compulsory cadet service in Australian schools, and in 1908 the federal Labor Party adopted this as party policy.

In 1909, the short-lived first Labor government of Prime Minister Andrew (November 1908–June 1909) demanded “the 10 to 18 year old component of the Swiss model” of compulsory military training. Later that year, the Labor Party gave its full support to the conservative Deakin government’s enactment of the 1909 Defence Act, which, for the first time in an English-speaking country, required the compulsory military training of all boys between 12 and 18 years of age.

The Australian government had invited the British field marshal, Lord Kitchener, to “advise” on the country’s military preparedness and unsurprisingly, after a two month tour, Kitchener’s report declared that Australia was “inadequate in numbers, training, organisation and the munitions in war.” He came to a similar conclusion about the situation in New Zealand.

The Defence Act, which came into operation in July 1911, mandated military training of Junior Cadets (12–14 years old) and Senior Cadets (14–18 years old) in every state. It also required compulsory membership for all 18–25 year olds in the CMF. Under the New Zealand Defence Amendment Act of 1910, (amending the 1909 Act following Kitchener’s tour of New Zealand in March 1910 and his subsequent recommendations) nearly identical conditions applied. In the first year, 92,000 boys had commenced training in Australia. In New Zealand, the numbers in 1911 were around 30,000 Senior Cadets and 22,000 “Territorials” (aged 18–25).

Beechworth State School cadets. Photo courtesy Beechworth Primary School and Max Waugh

Waugh explains that the second Fisher Labor government (April 1910–June 1913) decided to escalate its war preparations following a briefing by Britain’s foreign secretary, Sir Edward Grey, in the wake of the 1911 Imperial Conference in London. The Labor government delegation, comprising Prime Minister Fisher and his defence and external Affairs ministers, concluded that by 1915 Europe would be at war with Germany.

Waugh describes the ideological campaign developed throughout the school system to promote the British Empire and militarism as compulsory military training was being introduced. “Perhaps the most effective means of inspiring a sense of pride in the Empire to school children,” he writes, “was through the monthly school magazines, such as The School Paper in Victoria, the Children’s Hour in South Australia and New Zealand’s the School Journal, among others.”

As well as “patriotic narratives, poems and songs,” included in the “Empire Day” edition of The School Paper in May 1910, was “An Empire Catechism,” which children had to learn by rote, with questions and answers including:

Query: What do you mean by the British Empire?

Answer: That portion of the earth’s land surface, which is under the authority of King Edward the Seventh.

Query: What proportion of the earth’s surface does the British Empire cover?

Answer: About one-fifth or 21 percent.

Query: What proportion of the inhabitants of the earth are the subjects of King Edward?

Answer: About one-fifth, or about 22 percent.

Central to mandatory training was the disciplining of Australian youth. To become a cadet, a boy had to be at least 4 feet 6 inches in height and undergo a compulsory military examination. Junior cadets had to undergo 96 hours of training each year for two years and senior cadets, 90 hours per year, for four years, followed by another seven years in the CMF. Training included physical training on each school day, and marching drill.

Boys over 14 who had left school, or those unable to attend a school with authorised prescribed cadet training, “were required to attend training under military instructors at designated places and times” including during evenings, weekends and holidays.

Schools were granted allowances to establish miniature rifle ranges, and cadets were required to become proficient at loading and shooting their rifles. Senior cadets had to wear supplied uniforms on parade and were “subjected to an Annual Inspection by a regular army officer.” Each boy was allotted to a military district upon leaving school, or encouraged to apply to join the naval training scheme, for which the minimum height was 5 feet 2 inches.

Volunteer senior cadets in camp Langwarrin, Victoria, 1910. Photo Australian War Memorial (P00151.011)

Penalties for evading service could range between £5 and £100 (a huge amount, equivalent to between three weeks and more than a year’s wage) or imprisonment.

One of the strengths of Soldier Boys is the emphasis Waugh places on the extent of non-compliance with the system of mandatory military training for youth. Even before the outbreak of the war, 27,749 prosecutions were handed down under the Act, resulting in the detention or imprisonment of 5,732 boys. In 1912–13, 265 per week were prosecuted, rising to 269 per week in 1913–14.

One of the reasons, as Soldier Boys points out, was the far more onerous requirements imposed by the system on working-class boys, who had to work and then attend training and drills, whereas their counterparts in the elite private schools could simply extend their school day.

Waugh cites the court transcript of one typically heart-rending case in Chatswood, Sydney in 1912 before the Police Court magistrate. Charles Osborne, a Senior Cadet, pleaded for exemption:

Osborne: I would sooner go to jail than do the drills.

Magistrate: It is very unwise to speak like that.

O: I mean it. I have a good character from my employer. I do my work faithfully, and I have long hours. My father is dead. My mother died only four months ago. I and my brother are the sole support of the family… I have eight brothers and sisters, all under 16, to look after.

M: It may be hard but I have to administer the Act.

O: I am trying to better myself, and I wouldn’t be able to carry out my studies if I had to drill. If the court orders me to do the drills, I won’t do so. I will put up with the consequences.

M: That is a matter for yourself. You are ordered to make up the 28 hours deficiency, and I will give you three months to do it. You will also have 24 hours in which to pay the 6/- costs.

O: I can’t pay them.

M: I won’t discuss the matter.

Another critical aspect of the book is its sympathetic treatment of the various individuals, groups and organisations that opposed compulsory military training on the basis of their hostility to militarism and war. These included religious groups, but the majority were secular and socialist organisations.

By the time war was declared in August 1914, for example, the anti-conscription Australian Freedom League, founded by two Quakers in South Australia in 1910, had some 55,000 members.

Opposition was particularly strong among left-wing opponents of the Labor Party, including the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), which was to win growing support in the working class against Laborism, militarism and conscription during the war, before being brutally repressed by the Hughes Labor government.

Waugh quotes the Socialist, the newspaper of the Victorian Socialist Party, which denounced the training of boys so that “they may know how to fight as soldiers, and shoot down or bayonet the lads of other countries… Now is the time to protest against the folly of this compulsory training in organised murder. Now is the time to make up your minds NEVER TO TAKE THE MILITARY OATH which deprives you of your will and conscience.”

As the prosecutions intensified, the Socialist began supporting individuals and groups of defaulters. Broken Hill, the mining town with long-standing militant union traditions, became a centre of much opposition to the Defence Act. The father of one boy, Alfred Giles, was prosecuted for refusing to let his son register as a cadet. Alfred was imprisoned for two weeks. On his release, the Amalgamated Miners Association presented the boy with a gold medal to commemorate his principled stand.

In New Zealand, opposition among the youth themselves was even more vocal. A number of young men of military age formed a group calling itself the “We Won’ts,” which became known as the “Passive Resisters Union.” With a membership of socialist leanings, it published Repeal, a monthly paper, and so widespread became the opposition, that, according to Waugh, only the outbreak of World War I saved the mandatory military training system from abolition.

In the 1914 federal election campaign, held as the war began, Australian Labor Party leader Fisher campaigned for the defence of the British Empire “to the last man and the last shilling.” When war broke out, a contingent of over 20,000 was offered up as the first cannon fodder.

Waugh makes clear just how central the schools were in propagating the avalanche of political propaganda that was manufactured by the government in support of World War I. The school syllabus was modified for the duration of the war, with teachers placed under relentless pressure to inculcate the pro-imperialist, pro-war message.

Every issue of Victoria’s monthly The School Paper for senior grades was devoted to war material designed to indoctrinate students in patriotism and the glories of the British Empire. It became “a major source of war articles, stories, poems and patriotic songs, all designed to brainwash young minds and encourage recruitment into the armed forces.”

The September 1914 issue, the first after the war had broken out, began with a banner headline “Britain at War,” followed by an extract from King George V’s speech declaring war on Germany.

In the following editions, the ongoing reports on military confrontations listed German losses, but make no mention of any of the Allied casualties. Soldier Boys carries photographs of some of the pages of the magazine, with illustrated articles such as “Brave Deeds at Gallipoli”, “How a Victorian won the Victoria Cross”, “Simpson and his Donkey at Gallipoli” and others. The New Zealand School Journal featured similar material.

Many of the boys who “voluntarily” enlisted, were products of this compulsory military training scheme and the propaganda that went with it. Groups of private school students featured prominently, and, while there were still very few public secondary schools, those that did exist matched the private schools in enlistments and, subsequently, in the growing number of casualties.

Military recruitment in Melbourne

Given the level of pro-war indoctrination in the schools, it is unsurprising that hundreds of under-aged Australian boys enlisted illegally in the AIF, some of them as young as 14.

Nevertheless, by 1916 the euphoria had dissipated as the reality of the extent of the catastrophes at Gallipoli and on the Western Front had begun to emerge. Opposition to both the war and the Hughes Labor government started to grow, expressed in the defeat of two referenda on conscription—one in October 1916 and the other in December 1917—promoted by Prime Minister Billy Hughes.

In an important section on the destruction of democratic rights during the war, Soldier Boys details the victimisation of German-Australians and their schools, especially in South Australia, where many families of ethnic German background lived and their children often attended Lutheran schools. South Australian legislation requiring the closing down of these schools was passed in late 1916. All the teachers and principals were dismissed, and found it impossible to obtain other employment. And there were many cases of internment. The Queensland state government also closed down its Lutheran schools, as did the government of New Zealand. Like all other schools in Australia, however, the Lutherans had been obligated to conduct compulsory cadet training.

Soldier Boys dispels the myth that it was the spontaneous rapture for adventure that led so many young Australians to sign up in 1914. It irrefutably demonstrates how Australian and New Zealand governments in the lead up to the war consciously worked to prepare through the schools, a compliant, trained and indoctrinated young population and then assemble the military force pledged by Labor leader Fisher in his notorious election commitment to Britain.

On the hundredth anniversary of the Gallipoli disaster, today’s powers-that-be are utilising similar methods, centred once again in the school system, to prepare and condition a new generation of Australian youth to sign up for war.

Author Maxwell Waugh is not a Marxist, and his deeply felt opposition to World War I remains at the level of moral outrage and indignation at the terrible waste of young lives. But his historical research provides a significant and compelling addition to the historical record of Australia’s role in the war, providing information that has not been readily available before. Soldier Boys is a book well worth reading.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Australian sports reporter Scott McIntyre sacked by SBS over ‘despicable’ Anzac Day tweets …

Australian broadcaster Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) have dismissed sports reporter Scott McIntyre after he made “despicable” comments about Anzac Day on Twitter.

Marking the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War, the day commemorates those who lost their lives in the conflict.

McIntyre greeted the centenary of the Gallipoli landings by criticising what he said was the ‘cultification [sic] of an imperialist invasion’.

In a flagrant attack on freedom of speech, the state-owned Special Broadcasting Corporation (SBS) has sacked sports journalist Scott McIntyre for making twitter comments critical of the April 25 Anzac Day commemorations. McIntyre is a respected reporter on international football and has covered two Fifa World Cups and four Asian Cups. His tweets are followed by some 33,000 people: here.

Important layers of workers and young people attended the Socialist Equality Party’s anti-war meetings yesterday in Sydney, Melbourne and Wellington in New Zealand in defiance of the barrage of militarist propaganda throughout the media and political establishment surrounding Anzac Day: here.

Bahrain dictatorship and the European Union


This video is called ‘Night raids, torture, sham trials a daily reality in Bahrain‘ – human rights activist.

From EurActiv.com:

The EU cannot overlook its Human Rights commitments in the East

24/04/2015 – 13:21

The EU has significantly increased its foreign policy activity since the Treaty of Lisbon, establishing itself a power with global influence, write Isabel Cerdá Marcos, Husain Adbulla and Karim Lahidji.

Isabel Cerdá Marcos is an Advocacy Associate at the European Centre for Human Rights. Husain Adbulla is President of Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain. Karim Lahidji is President of the International Federation of Human Rights.

The recent Iran talks have proved the EU’s importance as a global player in world politics. As enshrined in the Treaties, the EU is committed to defending and promoting the rule of law, human rights and democracy. This task is particularly necessary in the Middle East region, where many countries are strategic allies for trade and energy, but tend to have a very poor human rights record. Particularly striking is the situation in the Kingdom of Bahrain, a major ally for the UK and the US, hosting the US Fifth Naval Fleet in the Gulf Region. This small island, strategically placed between Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, underwent one of the worst “Arab Spring” revolutions in February 2011 with hundreds killed, imprisoned and tortured by the Bahraini authorities.

Well-known is the case of Nabeel Rajab, a Bahraini human rights defender and president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. On 2 April 2015, Bahraini security forces and police arrested him at his home for peacefully speaking his mind about the human rights situation in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Nabeel Rajab has been accused of insulting a statutory body (by denouncing acts of torture in Jaw Prison in a piece he published last week) and spreading rumours during wartime (by criticising Bahrain’s involvement in the current conflict in Yemen and the civilian casualties related to the conflict). Nabeel remains under solitary confinement, and for these two charges, Nabeel Rajab faces up to 10 years in prison.

This is not the first time that the government has punished Rajab for exercising his internationally-guaranteed right to free expression. In May 2014, he completed a two-year prison sentence after taking part in peaceful assemblies and protests criminalised by the government. Mr Rajab is currently facing another trial for a previous tweet he wrote in September 2014. His appeal for this 6 months sentence was scheduled for 15 April. However, it took place on 5 April and was then delayed until 4 May, the prosecutor arguing the existence of new evidence under this case. Further, Nabeel’s home was raided that same day and all the electronics in his home (whether his own or not) were seized for evidence.

Nabeel has previously reached out to the EU to seek support for his case and long standing battle for Human Rights in Bahrain. On past occasions, the European External Action Service and the European Parliament have issued formal statements demanding his immediate release, as well as that of others fellow human rights defenders and Bahraini citizens labelled criminals by the Government for peacefully speaking their mind about the human rights violations and democratic deficit in Bahrain. Despite these gross human rights abuses and the blatant injustice they suffer, the EU institutions have not used their full leverage on the matter.

The European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (representing the Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, The Bahrain Center for Democracy and Human Rights and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy), together with the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of FIDH and OMCT have issued a joint statement on the matter. We have also reached out to Ms Mogherini’s office with an official joint letter, to ask for support in our advocacy campaign to free Nabeel and for the EU to officially position itself on the issue, as political leverage from EU institutions is crucial on the matter. ECDHR and FIDH have also jointly reached out to the President of the European Parliament, Mr Schulz, as well as members of the Foreign Affairs committee, the Human Rights subcommittee and the Delegation for Relations with the Arab Peninsula.

Nabeel’s case is just an example of the many injustices committed in Bahrain and in the Gulf Region daily, because they dare to speak out and to defend basic human rights and ideals. Injustice does not stop there; the treatment detainees receive in prisons is inhuman and degrading, and even amounts to grave torture, putting their physical and mental health, as well as the health and security of their relatives, at serious risk.

The European Union can exercise unique political and international pressure on Bahrain and other countries of the Gulf region where human rights are disregarded on a daily basis. The EU’s support is much needed. The Union should step up to its International commitments and keep waving the human rights flag higher and louder.

Bahraini authorities sentenced an Iraqi man to three years in prison on charges including rioting and joining an “unauthorised” protest in the capital Manama, official media reported: here.