Australia likes the role of regional bully rather well

Posted: 05 Dec 2010 03:09 PM PST

No wonder Australia is so upset over Wikileaks; released cables show a government keen to keep military options (aka US fire-power) on the table. And Canberra’s enthusiasm for special forces in Pakistan is another worrying sign that “fighting terrorism” knows no limits, legalities or bounds:

Kevin Rudd warned Hillary Clinton to be prepared to use force against China ”if everything goes wrong”, an explosive WikiLeaks cable has revealed.
Mr Rudd also told Mrs Clinton during a meeting in Washington on March 24 last year that China was ”paranoid” about Taiwan and Tibet and that his ambitious plan for an Asia-Pacific community was intended to blunt Chinese influence.
It also reveals Mr Rudd offered Australian special forces to fight inside Pakistan once an agreement could be struck with Islamabad.
The cable details a 75-minute lunch Mr Rudd held as prime minister with Mrs Clinton soon after she was appointed US Secretary of State.
Signed ”Clinton” and classified ”confidential”, it is the first of the WikiLeaks cables that includes a substantive report on Australia.
The unprecedented disclosure of such a frank exchange between political leaders is bound to complicate Australia’s ties in the region, especially with Beijing.
At the lunch Mrs Clinton confided to Mr Rudd America’s fears about China’s rapid rise and Beijing’s multibillion-dollar store of US debt. She asked: ”How do you deal toughly with your banker?”
In a wide-ranging conversation Mr Rudd:
Described himself as ”a brutal realist on China” and said Australian intelligence agencies closely watched its military expansion.
Said the goal must be to integrate China into the international community, ”while also preparing to deploy force if everything goes wrong”.
Characterised Chinese leaders as ”sub-rational and deeply emotional” about Taiwan.
Said the planned build-up of Australia’s navy was ”a response to China’s growing ability to project force”.
Sought Mrs Clinton’s advice on dealing with the Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, and Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, whom she labelled the ”behind-the-scenes puppeteer”.
Mr Rudd agreed any success in Afghanistan would unravel if Pakistan fell apart – and that Islamabad must be turned away from its ”obsessive focus” on India. He also discussed ways to bring China to the table in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The disclosures in the cable, posted online by the British newspaper The Guardian, will complicate Mr Rudd’s already testy personal links with China after his reported reference to Chinese negotiators as ”rat f—ers” during the Copenhagen climate change conference.
Mr Rudd gave Mrs Clinton a candid assessment of the Chinese leadership, drawing a disparaging contrast between the President, Hu Jintao, with his predecessor, saying Mr Hu ”is no Jiang Zemin”.
Mr Rudd said no one person dominated China’s opaque leadership circle but the Vice-President, Xi Jinping, might use family ties to the military to rise to the top.
Mr Rudd said he had urged China to strike a deal with the Dalai Lama for autonomy in Tibet and while he saw little prospect of success, he asked Mrs Clinton to have ”a quiet conversation” to push the idea with Beijing’s leaders.
On his plan for an ”Asia-Pacific community”, Mr Rudd said the goal was to curb China’s dominance. He wanted to ensure this did not result in ”an Asia without the United States”.
Mrs Clinton has since publicly praised Mr Rudd for his advice on China and credited him for the US decision this year to join the East Asia Summit.
Mr Rudd is in the Middle East and a spokeswoman said he did not have any comment on the release of the cable.
The Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, declined to answer questions on any damage to Australia’s ties with China or the role of Australian special forces in Pakistan arising from the revelations in the cable.
In a statement issued by a spokesman he said: ”The government has made it clear it has no intention to provide commentary on the content of US classified documents.”
In the cable, Mr Rudd appears eager to impress on Mrs Clinton his knowledge of international affairs, promising to send her copies of his speech in April 2008 at Peking University and a draft journal article on his Asia-Pacific community plan.
The thoughts of chairman Rudd
Kevin Rudd’s China strategy
‘‘Multilateral engagement with bilateral vigour’’ — while also preparing to deploy force if everything goes wrong.
Rudd on China’s military modernisation
Australian intelligence keeping a close watch, and Australia responding with increased naval capability.
On the Chinese leadership
President Hu Jintao ‘‘is no Jiang Zemin’’. No one person dominated, although Hu’s likely replacement Xi Jinping could rise above his colleagues.
On China’s attitude to Taiwan and Tibet
Chinese leaders paranoid about both. Reaction to Taiwan sub-rational and deeply emotional. Hardline Tibet policies crafted to send message to other ethnic minorities.


Australia shows true colours over Wikileaks (and the look is bad)

Posted: 04 Dec 2010 09:06 PM PST

If the Australian government thinks it can simply do Washinton’s bidding and not pay a price they have another thing coming. Public campaign on its way. So much for a “progressive” Labor regime:

Julian Assange is being investigated by Australian police to establish whether he has broken any of the country’s laws and is liable to prosecution there, foreign minister Kevin Rudd said today.
Washington is furious about WikiLeaks‘ release of hundreds of its confidential diplomatic cables, which have given unvarnished and sometimes embarrassing insights into the foreign policy of the United States and its allies.
“The federal police was asked by the Australian attorney general some days ago to investigate whether or not Assange has breached any element of the Australian criminal law,” Rudd told reporters at a security conference in Bahrain.
If Assange – the Australian founder of WikiLeaks – has broken any Australian laws, his case will be referred to the public prosecutor, Rudd said.
“The Australian government unequivocally condemns the action by any of those responsible for the unauthorised release of classified and confidential information and diplomatic communications between states,” he said.
Assange, who is reported to be somewhere in southern England, said on Friday he and colleagues were taking steps to protect themselves after receiving death threats.
One of Assange’s lawyers has also said he would fight any attempt to extradite his client to Sweden to face questions over alleged sexual misconduct.
Asked if the Australian authorities were considering withdrawing Assange’s passport, Rudd said: “Any action on his passport would be entirely contingent on the recommendations provided by the Australian federal police.”



The deep love between Canada and Israel

Posted: 04 Dec 2010 08:53 PM PST

Fascinating Al-Jazeera/Avi Lewis documentary on the incestuous relationship between Israel and Canada. Australia take note. Defending every Israeli action – war, occupation, humiliation – simply makes you look like a clueless idiot with no principle. But at least Washington will love you:


Scahill faces threats from deep inside the Empire

Posted: 04 Dec 2010 08:03 PM PST

A revealing comment from Jeremy Scahill on Democracy Now! last week that highlights the establishment fear of fearless reporters doing their job:

I wanted to also say, Amy, that after I did the story for The Nation in November 2009 talking about JSOC’s operations inside of Pakistan and the involvement of Blackwater, elite soldiers from a Blackwater unit called Blackwater Select, I couldn’t get the Pentagon or anyone else to comment. I receive a call, unprompted, from a Captain [John] Kirby, who was the spokesperson for Admiral Mike Mullen, calls me on my cell phone, wouldn’t tell me how he got my cell phone number, wouldn’t tell me who told him about the story—this is hours from publication—and told me that if we published the story inThe Nation, that I would be, quote, “on thin ice.” That was a direct quote from Admiral Mullen’s spokesperson, Captain John Kirby. Called me up. And I said, “Well, I want to know how you heard about the story, and I want to know how you got my number.” And he said, “Let’s just say that I heard about it.”
And so, then what happened is that the military did a—went over—and I learned this from a member of Congress. The U.S. military orders an investigation on the ground inside of Pakistan. They apologize to General Kayani after my story came out. And they did a report essentially characterizing me and Sy Hersh as being crazy people who are making—
AMY GOODMAN: Seymour Hersh, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Seymour Hersh, right, who’s done a lot of reporting on the—and this is the first time that I’ve talked about this publicly. My understanding is that there’s a classified report that smears me and Sy Hersh, and it was distributed to members of Congress after my story came out—and Hersh had a story a little bit before it about Pakistan’s nukes—essentially accusing us of making things up and not actually having sources for these stories.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, since you had a spokesperson on the phone for Admiral Mullen, did you ask him to confirm the story?
JEREMY SCAHILL: And he wouldn’t. I mean, this is how it works in Washington. Juan, I’m sure you know this well. You know, you say to them, “OK, well, if it’s not true, if none of it’s true, let me just say, ‘Captain Kirby says this.’” No, he doesn’t want to put his name to it. And I said, “Well, can I have another official that’s willing to talk on the record.” I don’t want some background thing where somebody says it’s not true. I want a name to someone who’s going to say this story is not true, because that’s accountability. That’s what journalists should be demanding, not anonymous sources when it comes to officialdom. No, we want to know what person in the military is going to put their name on it. And they wouldn’t do it.
Geoff Morrell says, well, the State Department has put out a statement saying that this is—that the allegations in the story are totally false. That’s not true. When the State Department was asked about it that day, they said, “Oh, you’ll have to ask the U.S. embassy in Islamabad.” Then the U.S. embassy in Islamabad puts out a statement, unsigned, saying that the story was totally false. So now, all of a sudden, you have the U.S. embassy, not a named official, being somehow the spokesperson for the most clandestine unit of the U.S. military? I mean, you know, the first rule of journalism in these things is, you know, never believe any story until it’s officially denied. And it took a long time, but they officially denied it. And lo and behold, because of these cables, we find out, of course, it’s true. Of course it’s true.


Rajapaksa learns something about how he’s seen in civilised society

Posted: 04 Dec 2010 07:22 PM PST

So close and yet:

Tamil campaigners were stopped from serving a war crimes arrest warrant on a Sri Lankan general by his premature departure from Britain. An application was lodged at Horseferry Road magistrates court, central London, but inquiries by Scotland Yard established that he had left on Thursday night. Tamil groups blame the president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, and his senior officers for the deaths of 40,000 civilians in the final stages of the civil war last year. The Oxford Union withdrew an invitation for Rajapaksa to speak this week citing threats of mass protests.

A Rajapaksa-aligned journalist in Sri Lanka wrote this embarrassing defense of his dear leader (indeed, truly independent and critical voices inside Sri Lanka are rare these days):

The Sri Lankan leader had arrived in Britain with a large entourage for the main purpose of addressing Oxford’s prestigious Oxford Union. Now the union had cancelled it unilaterally at very short notice.
It was definitely a political snub for the man who had successfully defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militarily in Sri Lanka. In an ironic twist supporters of the LTTE in Britain had struck back by compelling the Oxford union to backtrack on an extended invitation.
The unilateral cancellation was indeed a political embarrassment for President Rajapaksa. He had been riding the crest of a victorious wave in recent times. Now he was being forced to eat humble “kola kenda” by the Oxford union which had unilaterally cancelled the scheduled speech
Shabby treatment was being meted out to Sri Lanka’s popular head of state who had come all the way to Britain to address the Oxford union. Apart from the insulting conduct of the union the issue was also a denial of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s freedom of expression.

And here’s one Sri Lankan who thanks former British Foreign Secretary David Miliband for standing up for Tamils last year (even if the reasons were less than pure):

On Thursday morning I opened the newspaper to a photograph I have seen before. One lone, damaged coconut palm and a handsome Singhalese soldier against an explosive-blackened sky. Beneath was the story of a diplomatic scandal. Nothing unusual, only this time it was, to my surprise, about a country that I love. So, thank you David Miliband for bringing Sri Lanka back into the news. While some may be outraged at your seemingly artful ploy to win Tamil votes, I, as a Sri Lankan, am delighted.
Incredible though it may seem, any mention of my island home (no matter what British political scandal it may involves), is most welcome. For here is a chance for the world to stop its hurried turning, pause a moment, and remember that savage kingdom in the Indian Ocean. To read once more of the 100,000 Tamils thought to have died in a few balmy days last May.
So David Miliband, maybe you did see a window of an opportunity and try, by focusing on the humanitarian plight of the Tamils in Sri Lanka, to affect the marginal seats in the last British election. I am quite prepared to believe that maybe your motives were less than saintly. But one thing is clear, you have brought the place I still call home back into the public eye. Sri Lanka is a country that plays games with itself. Now there is a war, now there isn’t. Look, here are honeymoon resorts, boutique hotels, marvellous beaches. In the midst of the economic gloom in Britain, who can resist taking the simple view and forgetting what lies beneath such affluence? As for the 300,000 Tamils in Britain, trying and failing to have a voice, weren’t they all terrorists, anyway?


Why not bomb Syria?
Posted: 04 Dec 2010 07:06 PM PST

This is mainstream media reporting. Anonymous voices advocating war and chaos in the Middle East, courtesy of Israel and the US:

Syria’s fresh interference in Lebanon and its increasingly sophisticated weapons shipments to Hezbollah have alarmed American officials and prompted Israel’s military to consider a strike against a Syrian weapons depot that supplies the Lebanese militia group, U.S. and Israeli officials say.


PayPal takes the gutless option

Posted: 04 Dec 2010 07:01 PM PST

First Amazon, now PayPal:

PayPal has frozen WikiLeaks‘ account in the latest action against the whistleblower website, which has been posting leaked US embassy cables online.
The decision by the online payment site – which WikiLeaks had used to raise funds for web hosting and other costs – has been announced with a posting on PayPal’s blog.
PayPal, owned by the auction website eBay, said the account had been frozen because it was being used for “illegal” activity.
This week Amazon withdrew its cloud hosting of WikiLeaks’ cables site and the WikiLeaks.org domain was taken offline. It has since moved to other domains based outside America.
PayPal said: “PayPal has permanently restricted the account used by WikiLeaks due to a violation of the PayPal acceptable use policy, which states that our payment service cannot be used for any activities that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity. We’ve notified the account holder of this action.”


Monsters, the kind of political sci-fi film with passion

Posted: 04 Dec 2010 06:51 PM PST

More here.


Wikileaks has allies, many of them

Posted: 04 Dec 2010 06:43 PM PST

Julian Assange on the futility of trying to shut Wikileaks down:

The Cable Gate archive has been spread, along with significant material from the U.S. and other countries to over 100,000 people in encrypted form.

And the fight goes on:

In a bid to stay one step ahead of the governments, companiesfreelance hackers trying to shut down its operations, WikiLeaks mobilized its vast base of online support Saturday by asking its Twitter followers to create copies of its growing archive of hundreds of classified State Department cables.
By late afternoon Eastern time, more than 200 had answered the call, setting up “mirror” sites, many of them with the name “wikileaks” appended to their Web addresses. They organized themselves organically using the Twitter hashtag#imwikileaks, in a virtual show of solidarity reminiscent of the movie V is for Vendetta. In that 2005 film, a Guy-Fawkes masked vigilantee inspires thousands of Londoners to march on the Parliament similarly disguised — while it blows up in front of their eyes. Presumably, many of these people believe they are facing the same sort of tyranny that V, the film’s protagonist, fought against.


Does the Australian government work for its own citizens?

Posted: 04 Dec 2010 06:36 PM PST

There is a battle looming between a subservient Australian government and its American benefactor:

Prominent human rights lawyer Julian Burnside told The Sunday Age Mr Assange’s reference to Mr Hicks was apt, given the government’s apparent enthusiasm to assist the US rather than an Australian citizen.
But he said he ”wouldn’t be surprised” if Mr Assange had committed an offence, given he almost certainly knowingly assisted with the publication of classified documents when the first wave of 250,000 sensitive US diplomatic cables was posted on WikiLeaks last Monday.
Ms Gillard has asserted that Mr Assange’s actions were illegal. A taskforce of Australian soliders, intelligence officers and officials is investigating whether he has breached any Australian laws.
Mr McClelland yesterday said Mr Assange might not be welcome back in Australia if he is convicted over the leaks. He confirmed Australia was providing ”every assistance” to US authorities in their investigation.
”Some of these documents [have] … the potential to put an individual’s safety or national security at risk,” Mr McClelland told The Sunday Age. Should Mr Assange be arrested, he will be offered consular assistance.

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