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Tag Archives: History

The HMT Dunera scandal

By Dr George Venturini  

 The HMT Dunera scandal

In the spring of 1940 England was in the grip of a great panic over the possibility of an invasion by Nazi Germany. Enemy troops were just across the English Channel – less than fifty kilometres away.

In England, German, Italian and most European foreigners were feared as potential spies and agents provocateurs, who would join with the enemy if and when the Nazis invaded.

Consequently, the British government ordered all such adult subjects to be rounded up and interned. And that included even German Jewish refugees who had recently escaped from Nazi Germany and who were implacable enemies of the Nazis.

The majority were sent to the Isle of Man, a self-governing British Crown dependency in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Ireland, where they could do little harm, but heavy suspicion fell on those men of military age, from 18 to 65, who were regarded as highly dangerous.

Those were to be sent all the way to Australia.

Those deported to Australia had to be kept under surveillance for the journey, and the British navy was able to supply a suitable troopship, the HMT (Hired Military Transport) Dunera. It was a secure military vessel and had originally been designed and equipped for 1,600 troops, but now was to be filled with 2,542 refugees aged between 16 and 60, besides the crew and the army warders. As a result, everyone was cramped and hugely uncomfortable.

Seventy per cent of the internees were Jewish refugees who had managed to escape from the Nazis and had arrived in England long before the outbreak of the war. The Dunera began loading on 10 July 1940. With 7 officers and over 300 others, a total of 2800 men were to be crammed on to a vessel built to hold 1600. The ship’s crew – 309 poorly trained soldiers – brutally searched and looted the internees’ luggage, some of which quite large, while the ship’s commanders, Lieutenant-Colonel William Scott and First Lieutenant John O’Neill, either stood by indifferently or actively participated. (C. Pearl, The Dunera scandal, Angus & Robertson, Sydney 1983)

The ship left Liverpool at midnight. Callously indifferent to the fate of the men, the British government allowed the Dunera only one destroyer escort. Less than 24 hours out of Liverpool, German submarine U-56 attacked; a but because the waves were heavy, the ship went up just as the torpedo passed underneath.

The 57 days of the voyage were a nightmare of inhuman conditions and brutal mistreatment. The lower decks of the ship were jammed, and men had to sleep on mess tables or on the floor. For weeks hatches were kept down. Neither daylight nor natural air ever reached the decks; the upper parts of the ship, where one would have been in the fresh air, were absolutely out of bounds, being barred by barbed wire and sentries with bayonets. Only ten toilets were available which meant long queues and ‘toilet police’ who would call up people as vacancies arose. Men slept on floors and benches, and if one wanted to go to the toilet at night he had to walk on bodies. Robbed of their luggage, the refugees had but the clothes on their backs; most of them had lost the basics: toothbrush, toothpaste, comb or soap. Later, the guards gave one piece of soap to every 20 men to share for 2 weeks but this was hardly enough to keep clean. If an internee became ill there was a half-hour waiting to see the doctor. Inoculations were non-existent. Food consisted of smoked fish, sausages, potatoes and a spoonful of melon and lemon jam a day; the bread was usually maggoty and the butter rancid.

The crew treated the refugees with extreme cruelty. The internees remained uninformed of their true destination until their own knowledge of geography and navigation by the stars – and arrival in a western coastal port of Africa – made further secrecy impossible. The crew searched the men daily, threatening them with loaded rifles fixed with bayonets. If guards found any vital medications, such as insulin, they threw them overboard. They also threw false teeth away, confiscated  razors and shaving utensils  and threatened men who hid their razors or were clean-shaven with detention in the bunker. Any valuables, hidden food, or Jewish religious vestments, phylacteries and prayer books were confiscated and either kept or thrown overboard. Beatings were daily.

Two internees died during the two-month voyage: Hans Pfeffen was sick when he boarded the Dunera at Liverpool and died in the ship’s hospital; Jacob Weiss suicided. Weiss had hoped to save his family from the Nazis in Europe and after 12 months of work and ultimately attaining immigration documents for himself and his family, he was arrested, interned and forced aboard the Dunera. When the guards on the ship found his immigration papers, they tore them up in front of him. Distraught, Weiss jumped overboard and drowned.

Prior to arrival in Australia, the crew ordered the internees to shave off their beards, providing the 2,542 men with 8 razors to do the task. The ship reached the Port of Fremantle in Western Australia on 27 August  and Port Melbourne on 3 September. At Melbourne, two groups disembarked: the 251 German and Austrian ‘A’ Category internees whom the British government regarded as dangerous or potentially dangerous due to their political affiliations, along with 94 Germans and 200 Italians whose political affiliations were seen as “doubtful” since they were members of the Fascist Party in England. These men were interned at a camp at Tatura, Victoria.

Around 10 o’clock on the morning of  6 September 1940, fifty-seven days out of Liverpool, the Dunera entered Sydney Harbour. The remainder of the internees were sent to camps, at Hay and, later, at Orange in New South Wales.

The atmosphere was tense: on one hand, the press sniffed a sensational story – in its coverage, the Daily Telegraph reported that “among the internees were parachutists, other prisoners of war, and hundreds who had been carrying out subversive work in England.”  On the other hand, the first Australian to board the ship, medical army officer Alan Frost, was appalled by the conditions that greeted him. His report led to the court martial of the officer-in-charge, Lt. Colonel William Scott. For the weary internees, “some in heavy overcoats, hats, others with summer wear having lost everything else, some orthodox Jews in their traditional black garb and hats.” they did not much look like spies as they left the ship. (S. G. Rosenberg, ‘HMT Dunera, the scandal and the salvation’, The Jerusalem Post, 12 December 2015).

The scandal was compounded by an initial tragedy: many of the internees had been living freely in Britain prior to September 1939, some having arrived there as children thanks to the Kindertransport organised by the Movement for the Care of Children from Germany after the Kristallnacht in November 1938. With the outbreak of war, they were under suspicion as potential fifth columnists who might secretly assist a German invasion. Prime Minister Winston Churchill declared had them declared as enemy aliens and swiftly had them shipped off to Canada and Australia.

Between the youngest aged sixteen and the oldest aged sixty-six, were future students or workers at Australian universities after their release from detention, and many became significant academic figures, including physicist Hans Buchdahl, economist Fred Gruen, philosopher Peter Herbst, political scientist Henry Mayer, fine arts scholar Franz Philipp, and mathematician turned oceanographer Rainer Radok – to mention just a few. Treated like dirt by their imprisoners, most of them went on to stellar careers as scientists, lawyers, entrepreneurs, industrialists, public servants and artists.

So it is not entirely surprising to find that Tatura had its own university – Collegium Taturense – which delivered an average of 113 lectures a week attended by nearly 700 students. Concerts, theatre performances and sports matches were another feature of life in the camps, as the internees did their best not only to fill time and combat boredom, but also to retain a sense of dignity and purpose in the face of an indefinite wait for freedom. As the editors of the first edition of the Hay camp newsletter, the Boomerang, put it in February 1941: “Please remember that your mind is not interned, nor is it confined to this camp.”

The injustice of the Dunera internees’ treatment was recognised by Churchill, who came to regret the decision to order the indiscriminate detention of those who had sought Britain’s protection. He apologised and instigated a court martial which documented the abuses the boys endured at sea. The Dunera’s senior officer was severely reprimanded and a regimental sergeant-major was discharged and goaled for theft. A fund of £35,000 was used to compensate the Dunera internees for their lost and stolen property.

Their treatment in Australia began to change too. By mid 1942 at least 1,300 had been set free, hundreds of them returning to England as soon as they could. Fewer than half of the internees remained in Australia; the rest returned to Britain, emigrated to the United States, helped found the state of Israel or ended up in a variety of other counties. A few dozen returned to divided Germany. (P. Mares, ‘Remembering the Dunera’, insidestory.org.au, 13 July 2018, being a review of K. Inglis, S. Spark and J. Winter with C. Bunyan, Dunera Lives: A Visual History, publishing.monash.edu/books, July 2018).

Continued Wednesday – Beyond the ‘Palace Letters’ (part 1)

Previous instalment – The Kimberley Plan

Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some seventy years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reached at George.venturini@bigpond.com.au.

 

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Adjunct imperialist clowns (part 2)

By Dr George Venturini  

In August 1923 the Premier of Victoria, H.S.W. Lawson, was received by Mussolini. It was not really the visit of the average, insular, ignorant Australian. Lawson was a lawyer, a former Attorney-General, Solicitor-General and Minister of Public Instruction. Yet, on his return Lawson praised Mussolini as “the man whom Providence waned to lead Italy.” (The Italo-Australian, 4 August 1923).

One would not be surprised that, in 1924 – after the tragic farce of ‘elections’ in Italy, amidst the Fascist violence – the Premier of New South Wales, Sir George W. Fuller, on his return from Italy, would express his admiration “of the man who saved Italy … from Bolshevism” (A. Moore, The secret army and the Premier – Conservative paramilitary organisations in New South Wales 1930-32, UNSW Press, Sydney 1989 at 49) Fuller, too, was no ignoramus. He had been at the Bar, Member of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales (1889-1904), Member of the House of Representatives (1910-1913), Member for Home Affairs in the third Deakin Government, and then back to the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales (1915-1928).

In December 1924 – six months only after the assassination of Giacomo Matteotti (a distinguished lawyer and socialist politician, who on 30 May 1924 had openly spoken in the Italian Parliament to denounce the fraud and violence the Fascists had committed during the recently held elections, and for that had been kidnapped and killed by Fascists) – Sir Anthony Chamberlain, then Her Britannic Majesty’s Foreign Secretary, referred to Mussolini when on a visit to Rome as “a wonderful man – working for the greatness of his country”. In later years Lady Chamberlain was often to be seen wearing the Fascio badge. (C. Hibbert, Benito Mussolini, Longmans, London, 95).

There is a good reason to speak of a long period of Antipodean Fascism.

The years of the last 1920s and early 1930s were years of preparation for Fascist military coups in Australia. Those were the years  of intense confrontation between the ‘old Labor’ forces of Jack Lang, Frank Anstey and John Curtin, on the one side, and the ‘money power’ of high finance, and their enablers, centred in London  with powerful, aggressive allies inside Australia, on the other.

In Australia, the graziers, the farmers, most of the import-export houses, banks, insurance companies, building companies, mining companies, transport companies, shipping companies – all depended on London. The City had its comprador élite in Australia. The descendants of the ‘free old English gentry’ who squatted upon Australian soil during the early part of the nineteenth century looked upon England as their spiritual ‘home’. Their outlook, their education, their adopted and phoney mannerisms, their social and business relations were as English as those of Lord Bruce, Viscount of Melbourne – born in St Kilda, Victoria!, as they will be of Sir Robert Gordon Menzies, Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, sometime later – born in Jeparit, Victoria!

Why, on 1 July 1963 he allowed Queen Elizabeth II to make him a Knight of Scotland’s Ancient Order the Thistle. The ceremony took place in St. Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh. The Royal Company of Archers provided a guard-of-honour outside the Cathedral, while the heralds lead the procession which included the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, Sir Robert, his wife Dame Pattie and their son. The installation took place in the small, oak-panelled Thistle Chapel, in the presence of several Knights, among them Lord Home, future British Foreign Secretary. Sir Robert, in full regalia, posed for photographers. Later he, wife and son walked to the City Chambers nearby to meet the Lord Provost of Edinburgh. (‘Uk: Scotland: Edinburgh: Sir Robert Menzies Made Knight Of the Thistle’, britishpathe.com, 2 July 1963).

He acted as if he were some great Scottish gentleman. It was pure theatre, even if of the provincial kind.

And one could really say, today, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose!

Churchill would write as late as 10 October 1937 – after the invasion and conquest of Abyssinia, and the Nazi-Fascist aggression on the Spanish Republic – that: “It would be a dangerous folly for the British people to underrate  the enduring position in world-history which Mussolini will hold; or the amazing qualities of courage, compassion, self-control and perseverance which he exemplified.” (R. R. James, Churchill – study in failure, 1900-1939, London, 1970 at 258, see also at 317).

Australian Prime Minister Joseph Aloysius Lyons made an official call on Mussolini on his way to the Imperial Conference in 1937. According to Dame Enid Lyons, her husband reached a more cordial relationship with the Italian dictator than any yet achieved at a diplomatic level in that trying period for Anglo-Italian relations. (E. Lyons, So we take comfort, Heinemann, London, 1965, at 259-60).

In 1939 Sir Henry Gullett, Minister for External Affairs, spoke of the genius, patriotism and superhuman capacity of Mussolini. (E. M. Andrews, A History of Australian Foreign Policy: From Dependence to Independence, Longman Cheshire, Melbourne, at 171-72). In fact Mussolini was a third rate actor playing to a sycophantic audience: he played a versatile and multifaceted role, that of Mussolini, a heroic mixture of  the Renaissance condottiere, old Machiavellian thinker, Lenin-like  leader of a revolutionary  minority, steel-minded dictator, humanitarian despot, Casanova lover, and Nietzschean superman. He added later to his repertoire the Napoleonic genius, with well-know results, and, just before he died, the socialist renovator of society. Of course, he was none of these things. (L. Barzini, The Italians, Atheneum, London, at 146).

There is a thin line connecting Mussolini, Sir Oswald Ernald Mosley, 6th Baronet of Ancoats, the Australian Sir Wilfrid Selwyn Kent Hughes and Menzies: it is the rhetorical appeal to “the forgotten people.”

Menzies, as is well known, was an admirer of Mussolini. It is well accepted that he was endowed with a brilliant, albeit lazy, mind “and a dominating personality … He was a superb orator and parliamentary debater, … His colleagues were forced to realise that his leadership was indispensable to the success of the party, yet few of them felt for him much personal warmth. … For conservative voters he came in the end to possess almost the mana of a tribal god; he was powerful, wise, well bred, witty and above all, sound. Few Labor supporters denied his tremendous ability, but to them he appeared also as unscrupulous, opportunistic, condescending and insufferably arrogant.” (R. Ward, Concise history of Australia, University Press, St. Lucia, Qld., 1965, at 265-66).

He certainly wanted to appear as a ‘decisional man’ – like Il Duce.

But much more serious was Menzies’ admiration for Hitler, the real “bulwark against Communism” as he was fond of saying. It was the same rationale used for the establishment of secret organisations in Australia. Menzies was a determined appeaser. Eight days after the outbreak of the second world war Menzies wrote to former Prime Minister Bruce, then Australia’s High Commissioner in London, confidently expressing his opinion that Hitler “had no desire for a first class war” and would offer peace talk after defeating Poland. In the words of Menzies, “nobody cares a damn about Poland.” (The letter is dated 11 September 1939 and became public in April 2001 as part of the John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library Lecture by Dr. John Edwards. R. Cahill, ‘Il Duce Roberto?’, Workers online (No. 94), 04.05.2001).

In 1935 and 1938 Menzies had visited Nazi Germany for high-level meetings, and was guest of honour at a luncheon sponsored by Hitler’s financial wizard, and Reichbank head, Hjalmar Schacht. By all historical accounts, Schacht was the architect in 1930 of the Bank of International Settlements, which was based in Basel, Switzerland, along with the Governor of the Bank of England’s Montagu Norman. The Menzies-Schacht meeting would clearly have been set up by Menzies financier controllers, likely by Lord Beaverbrook himself, a frequent visitor of Nazi Germany throughout the 1930s. Montagu Norman and Hjalmar Schacht personified the banking underworld, which bankrolled and installed Hitler and the Nazis in power, in pursuit of a larger, universal Fascist scheme. (J and S. Pool, Who financed Hitler – the Secret funding of Hitler’s rise to power, 1919-1933, Pocket Books, London 1979: J. Pool, Hitler and his secret partners – Contributions, loot and rewards, 1933-1945, Pocket Books, New York, 1997).

Nothing might have occurred in Australia similar to the languid, decadent atmosphere of Darlington Hall, and the frequent visits by Nazi leaders, English ‘aristocrats’, including  Mosley’s British Union of Fascists and other Nazi sympathisers, so admirably described in the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, and brilliantly rendered in the film The remains of the day, with James Fox, Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins.

The Lord Darlington figure was typical of a formidable group of British peers who were attracted by Hitler and supported efforts to keep the dictator placated. The peers were all Right-wing and rabid anti-Semitic; their attitudes brought considerable satisfaction to Hitler.

What lay behind their support of appeasement was a fear of Communism.

They all saw an immensely powerful union between Communism and the Jewish people as a world conspiracy that could be thwarted only by Fascism and Nazism.

Both Hitler and his strutting Italian teacher Mussolini offered these bewildered aristocrats a safe world, which would be secure from any Communist takeover. It also confirmed their long-held private prejudice.

What makes such hatred additionally odious is the fact these peers continued to air their views long after Hitler’s persecution of Germany’s Jewish population had become widely known.

Prominent among such peers was Lord Brocket, Arthur Ronald Nall-Cain, 2nd Baron Brocket. He fawned over visiting Nazi officials whom he invited to his home and even attended the celebrations for Hitler’s 50th birthday.

Brocket was said to be “a fundamentally nice but stupid man”; he even deluded himself that he was a valuable link between Hitler and Britain’s leaders. Another pro-Nazi peer was Lord Redesdale, David Bertram Ogilvy Freeman-Mitford, the son of the 1st Baron Redesdale. His daughters, who became famous as the literary Mitford sisters, included Unity who went to Germany and stalked Hitler, having fallen in love with him. Although she did become close to Hitler – he considered her to be a “perfect example of Aryan womanhood” – he told her to return to England as war approached. She shot herself in the head in Munich’s English Garden but survived and was dispatched home.

Another admirer of Hitler was the then Duke of Westminster, a man who believed countless conspiracies among British Jews to subvert the country. He even spent the first year of the war demanding, to whoever would listen, that peace be made with Germany.

One of the most colourful ermine-clad extremists was the 22nd Earl of Erroll, the Casanova of Kenya’s debauched ‘Happy Valley’ set.

Among the most famous names associated with anti-Semitism was the fifth Duke of Wellington. He became a member of the secret ‘Right Club’, which attempted to unify all pre-war Right-wing groups in Britain.

The founder, Archibald Maule Ramsay, said of the organisation: “The main objective was to oppose and expose the activities of organised Jewry. Our first objective was to clear the Conservative Party of Jewish influence, and the character of our membership and meetings were strictly in keeping with this objective.”

Members of the ‘Right Club’ included Ernest Bennett, Margaret Bothamley, Samuel ChapmanA. K. Chesterton, E. H. ColeJames Edmondson, Richard Findlay, the Earl of Galloway, Thomas HunterWilliam Joyce, Charles KerrAubrey Lees, John MacKie, Joan Miller, H. T. Mills, Serrocold Skeels, John Stourton, Mavis TateFrancis Yeats-Brown, and Anna Wolkoff.

Yet another extremist was James Angus, the Marquess of Graham and the future Duke of Montrose.

One Hitler-admiring peer, the Duke of Buccleuch, was even close to King George VI as the Lord ­Steward of the Royal Household. He also accompanied Lord Brocket to celebrate the Führer’s 50th birthday. It was a matter of personal delight to Hitler that the duke, a man who served in the very court of Britain’s Royal Family, was there.

One of the most alarming figures among this cabal was Lord Londonderry – Winston Churchill’s cousin and a member of one of the country’s wealthiest aristocratic families. The king called him “Charlie” and other members of the Royal Family were frequent guests at his London home, as were major political figures.

But towering over all these figures were the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. He had abdicated as King Edward VIII in 1936 in order to marry American divorcée Wallis Simpson. They were later given the ducal titles.

Their admiration for Hitler concerned the government, particularly after they were entertained by him on a visit in 1937.

It is thought that Goering had concluded a deal with the Duke to install him on the throne after Germany had won the war. His court would, no doubt, have comprised many of those peers who had lauded Hitler so lavishly. (L. James, Aristocrats: Power, grace and decadence: Britain’s Great Ruling Classes from 1066 to the Present, Little Brown, New York, 2009).

On 10 November 2018 the Australian Special Broadcasting Service documented the story behind the connections and support Hitler and the Nazi regime enjoyed from the British monarchy and among the British élite. (‘The Royals, British aristocracy and the Nazis’, Special Broadcasting Service, Ch. 3, 10 November 2018).

* * * * *

Three cases of anti-Semitism in Australia just before the opening of the hostilities of the second world war should be mentioned at this point:

1) the Évian Conference of July 1938,

2) the attempt by Dr. Isaac Steinberg to establish a ‘promised land’ in the Kimberley region of Western Australia in June 1939, and

3) the HMT Dunera scandal in July 1940.

Continued Saturday – The Évian Conference

Previous instalment – Adjunct imperialist clowns (part 1)

Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some seventy years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reached at George.venturini@bigpond.com.au.

 

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The wrong side of history

“Whoever does not miss the Soviet Union has no heart. Whoever wants it back has no brain.”

 It’s been three weeks weeks since Vladimir Putin dropped his 50 megaton truth bomb on the United Nations General Assembly, exposing Washington’s mischief in the Middle East and calling for decisive action against any and all terrorists operating in Syria, in full cooperation with the elected government and under charter of international law. In this time Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and the SAA have achieved what the US and its coalition partners had failed to do in 18 months of reckless bombing, wanton destruction, and untold human suffering – ISIS has been all but destroyed. Ground forces are now entering the clean up phase, and word has it Saudi helicopters have begun evacuating rebel fighters, presumably moving their assets on to Yemen.

The bombing of the MSF hospital in Kunduz Afghanistan has done little for US credibility, and after Ban Ki-Moon’s recent shock suggestion that the US presence in Syria is illegitimate and that they should probably go home, one would expect to see Obama running away with his tail between his legs. Adding to the chorus of dissent, US Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has called out Washington’s effort to oust Assad as both “counterproductive” and “illegal.” With no moral ground left to stand on, surely no one would expect an escalation at this point? And yet this seems to be exactly what we are seeing.

While Putin has been wiping the floor with ISIS, the US has been wreaking devastation on Syria’s civil infrastructure, conducting bombing raids on power stations and water treatment plants in scenes eerily reminiscent of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In a move that’s either brazenly audacious or just plain sadistic, the US State Department has accused Russia of bombing up to six hospitals in Syria, but refuses to provide any evidence to support its claims. Meanwhile the US has airdropped 50 tons of weapons to moderate opposition head choppers fighting the ‘Assad regime’.

In what could be the ultimate provocation Obama is now putting boots on the ground in Syria, committing 3000 troops in an advisory capacity to the aforementioned ‘moderate rebels’. A more cynical person might question if these troops were not being deployed as human shields, or for even more nefarious ends, since any American casualty cause by a stray Russian missile would undoubtedly lead to the kind of direct confrontation that the Washington war hawks cheered on by Senator John McCain and cold war policy adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski are openly spoiling for. I guess if this fails there is always the option of shooting down a civilian passenger jet, but let’s not go there, just yet.

With millions of refugees flooding into Europe and people perishing in their thousands attempting the perilous journey across the Mediterranean, Nobel laureate and warmonger-in-chief Barry bin-Hussein O’Bomber can no longer pretend that this war has anything to do with human rights. Without so much as a fig leaf of decency to cover its fetid plans Washington continues to demand Basher al-Assad’s removal as a condition of peace. Meanwhile recent polling suggests that Dr Assad retains the support of 80% of Syrians. US motives have been laid bare. This war has no more to do with liberating the Syrian people from a brutal dictatorship than with ridding the world of the CIAs pet terrorists. Like so many countries before it, Iran, Chile, Guatemala, Haiti, Venezuela, Cuba, The Philippines, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yugoslavia, Somalia, the list goes on and on, Syria is being punished for daring to exercise an independent foreign policy, something which US hegemony does not tolerate.

If there was ever any confusion over sides in this conflict, the battle lines should be now clearly visible. Since Russia has begun flexing its military muscle the Saudi Islamists have made their call to arms, while further north in Erdoganistan, thanks to a well timed terror attack, the Muslim Brotherhood now has majority it needs to continue its military offensive on Syria and genocidal attacks against the Kurds. The Israelis have already sold the drilling rights for oil and gas in the occupied Golan Heights, while Cypress has been signed into the EU just in time to deliver a $300bn water pipeline through Turkey to Israel. Meanwhile the North Atlantic Terror Organization positions its nuclear and biological weapons arsenals ever closer to Russia’s borders.

In his devastating takedown of US foreign policy in front of the UN General Assembly, Putin reminded his colleagues of Russia’s crucial role in the defeat of Nazi Germany, while hinting at a more subtle subtext. Just as the West created Hitler, applying pressure from above and below at a cost of millions of lives, so too the US has created ISIS to do its dirty work in the Middle East. Lest there be any doubt, Putin makes it clear, speaking of both Islamist rebels and the US backed coup which ousted the legitimate government of Ukraine: We know their names, we know who pays them, and we know how much they are paid.

In a recent interview with Kerry O’Brien, Paul Keating observed how the West through its policy toward post-soviet era Russia had created Putin, who has now turned around to bite them on the tail. Apparently that which doesn’t kill a bear makes it stronger. Trade sanctions have forced Russia to mobilise its workforce and increase domestic production while reaching out to other countries which refuse to be bullied by Wall Street and its military, forging stronger ties between the BRICS nations. At the same time we are seeing a shift in economic power as emerging industrial economies prepare to overtake their colonial masters. (China for example now holds the tender to deliver over priced nuclear energy to Britain.)

Recent posturing in the South China Sea suggests that the US is preparing for a war on two fronts, and if history is anything to go by, this will not end well. The US certainly has a gift for overplaying its hand, and in trying to squeeze Germany and Russia at the same time it may have done exactly that. Amid the ongoing refugee crisis which threatens to destabilise Europe, Angela Merkel has called for trade sanctions against Russia to be lifted immediately. While any move to embolden Russia should be welcomed by sane people everywhere as an alternative to US military and corporate domination, it may be cold comfort as we edge ever closer toward the likelihood of nuclear extinction.

 

A Short Aside on Iran and the Nuclear Deal

There’s been much talk around Iran, the United States, and the role of the two in the continuing instability in the Middle East of late, and I felt that perhaps it was time to have a little look into the wider context of the current drama and extricate some key points for consideration.

Iran, like the overwhelming majority of countries in the world including our own, has human rights issues. These are worth noting, as without awareness of them we are liable to form an inaccurate image of the country.

Of course, our images of the country will be inaccurate regardless of how we approach forming them, so we must be careful not to confuse our talking here with the actuality of life in Iran and the wider context of complex political manoeuvring.

Iran’s government is comprised largely of what we would term Islamic extremists, effectively theocrats with extremely conservative moral and social ideological positions. These repressive elements within the judiciary, security and intelligence forces retain much wider powers than equivalent positions in our country. 

In 2014, Iran executed more people than any other nation barring China, and executed the largest number of juvenile offenders. The country is one of the biggest jailers of journalists, bloggers and social media activists in the world. Their treatment of women is despicable in many cases, in keeping with other Islamic theocracies such as Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

While Iran has not directly attacked another nation, the quality and amount of their military equipment has been undergoing a steady increase since the 1960’s. This is likely due to US influence after the coup of ’53, the reason being that after the Shah was overturned in ’79, there was a 60% desertion from the military.

Iran now supports various armed military groups in the region, including Hezbollah in Lebanon and various Kurdish groups. Interestingly enough, Iran had been at loggerheads with the Taliban long before the United States, supporting the Northern Alliance for over a decade against the group and nearly declaring war on them in 1998.

Now, on to the coup. In 1953, the then democratically elected Mohammad Mossadegh was deposed in a plot by the CIA. Mossadegh had sought to audit the books of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now BP, British Petroleum) and to change the terms of the company’s access to Iranian petroleum reserves. As with most acts of socialism by small developing nations, the United States saw its role to step in, as Noam Chomsky puts it, destroying the virus before it can spread. It’s worth noting that the virus is democracy in this case, and in most others.

In August 2013, 60 years after, the CIA admitted that it was involved in both the planning and the execution of the coup, including the bribing of Iranian politicians, security and army high-ranking officials, as well as pro-coup propaganda. The CIA is quoted acknowledging the coup was carried out “under CIA direction” and “as an act of U.S. foreign policy, conceived and approved at the highest levels of government.”

The coup involved assassinations and the use of Nazi and Muslim military groups in the area.

The result of this contemptuous behaviour towards a newly democratic nation coming to grips with what that meant, practically, for its citizenry, was to seed a deep anti-American sentiment in the public mind. It is noted as being instrumental in the 1979 revolution, which replaced the “pro-Western” government with an “anti-Western” Islamic republic.

The current prevalence of human rights abuses in Iran, and the relationship thereof to extreme interpretations of Islam, can be seen as an almost direct result of US foreign policy. It’s almost daft to see it otherwise, when you consider the above factors. To believe that this is more a religious or “Iranian” issue is to greatly exaggerate the power of religious and political life in Iran pre-intervention.

Now why would the United States bother to set up an elaborate coup in the first place? What do they have to gain from the political and social destabilisation of Iran? Well, it seems pretty obvious. Iran had traditionally been one of the strongest and most progressive of the Arab nations, and was increasingly moving towards socialist policy, democratic governance and the kind of nationhood that sees the natural resources of the land as belonging to the people of the nation, rather than foreign moneyed interests.

Iran was in the position, through its actions, to symbolise the independence of the Arab people. If this were allowed to play out unchecked, it’s highly likely that Iran would have pulled trade with many of the foreign owned oil companies harvesting its resources, and that neighbouring nations would follow suit. It’s not unlikely that a unified Middle East, somewhat similar in form to the EU, could have occurred if the democratic and socialist processes at work in Iran were encouraged and allowed to thrive, as opposed to being violently cut short.

I think the nuclear deal with Iran is a positive outcome, especially for the people of Iran and surrounding countries, insofar as it is what it claims to be. If the deal is as it is written, then we should see a slow movement of the Iranian zeitgeist back towards their upstart democratic tendencies. It’s also worth noting that this deal is not, as some have suggested, a United States ultimatum but rather the dissolution of an existing one; namely that the United States was, insofar as I can tell, veto-ing any application to the wider community of nations, by Iran, to embark upon a nuclear program.

We also must distinguish a “nuclear program” from a “nuclear weapons program”, the two are not mutually exclusive and a country can have one without the other. The former is what Iran has been pushing for to meet their energy needs, and like any other sovereign nation, they have a right to work to provide for their people.

One other possibility, and one worth considering, is that the deal is pretext for military intervention in Iran. By allowing Iran to develop nuclear capability, the US can make a pseudo-moral argument based on effectively falsifying some form of panic about what *might* be around the corner now that Iran could arm itself with nuclear weapons.

The history of the the West and Arab nationalism is one fraught with misunderstanding, exploitation and greed, and it has its roots deep in the past. The decline of the Ottomans and the subsequent division of the Middle East along the economic preferences of Russia and Britain were formative developments in the creation of the current forms of radicalised Islam and the theocracies in the region. We can also look to the Grand Area Planning conducted by the US State Department during the war years to give us an outline of the intent of US interaction with the Middle East.

What we won’t find is an individual to bring us through this unscathed. Many are looking to world leaders to mitigate the situation in the Middle East, but I feel this is misguided. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is in an unprecedented position within the United States, having mass grassroots support for a platform of simple, direct socialism, and many see him as being potentially instrumental in reforming the conflict, however he’s just a man. There have been countless great men and women throughout history, reformers and revolutionaries who have changed somewhat the course of history, but the main problems of humanity remain: our callousness, our violence, out hatred, our pettiness.

These are not problems to be fixed by an individual, but symptoms of a crisis in consciousness. We have dulled ourselves, become robotic, conditioned, frivolous, and rarely do we really look within ourselves to clarify the nature of these characteristics, or our relation to them.

So then, to place the responsibility for change onto another we are effectively giving life to stasis, we are creating a resistance to change and binding it to time. How do we extricate ourselves from this following mind, and find the state of being from which genuine change can grow?

I want to put a question from Krishnamurti to you to consider while we discuss this issue:

How is it possible to bring about the creative release of the individual, not only at the beginning of his existence, but throughout life? 

That is, how is the individual to have abundant energy rightly directed so that his life will have expansive and profound significance? 

Heres his answer:

Our thinking at present is merely a reaction, the response of a conditioned mind, and any action based on such thinking is bound to result in catastrophe. 

To discover what is truth, there must be a mind that has understood itself, which means going into the whole problem of self-knowledge. Only then is there the total revolution which alone brings about a creative release, and that creative release is the perception of what is truth.

 


For those interested in further study, Noam Chomsky has many talks on the subject which I’ve drawn the majority of my understanding from. Wikipedia, as always, is invaluable if you follow the sourcing. Jiddu Krishnamurti was an Indian philosopher who contributed perhaps one of the most lucid explorations of human thought in history, and spoke frequently on the problems of violence and inhumanity in the modern era.

As Abbott wants Politics off the Front Page, let’s talk about Kisch.

I suspect that many of you already know the story of Kisch.

He was – after all – one of our most famous illegal immigrants.

Kisch

Photo: Fairfax media

For those of you who don’t know much about him, he jumped ship in 1934 when the Australian Government refused him entry because he was “undesirable as an inhabitant of, or visitor to, the Commonwealth”. He broke his leg in the process, but he was handed over to the custody of the ship’s captain.

A court case led to his temporary release, ruling that the captain was illegally detaining him. Under the White Australia policy, the Immigration Act decreed that  “Any person who when asked to do so by an officer fails to write out at dictation and sign in the presence of the officer a passage of fifty words in length in an European language directed by the officer”. Kisch was fluent in several European languages, including English, so it was only when they hit upon the idea of giving him the test in Scottish Gaelic that he was able to be excluded.

Again those pesky courts decided that this wasn’t within the meaning of the Act. (Probably something to do with the fact that the person administering the test would have also failed it.) Kisch was no longer an “illegal immigrant”.

Menzies had tried to argue that every civilized country had the right to determine who should or should not be allowed in. (Hey, why does that ring a bell??) And that Kisch was a revolutionary and therefore a threat.

But Kisch got in. And he got to speak. He got to deliver his “revolutionary” message, which included:

“I have had three adventurous months since I last saw you. I know the Police Court, the Quarter Sessions Court, the High Court with one judge and the High Court with five judges. But whenever the court let me go I was arrested again. I have learnt to speak English better. Perhaps I do not speak King’s English but it’s Kisch English anyhow. I did not come here to tell there is terrorism in Europe. I come here to tell you how to stop it. I have been an eye-witness. I was arrested the day the Reichstag was burnt down by Göring and his lieutenants. I saw my friend, Erich Mühsam, the poet, whose works I translated, made to walk naked, even in winter, and to lick up the spittle of his captors. All his limbs were broken gradually, and he died.”

Yes, Kisch was trying to warn about the dangers of Hitler. We couldn’t have that, so the Government again declared him an illegal immigrant. He was sentenced to three months hard labour and costs were awarded against him.

But a deal was struck. Kisch had spoken to more people and received more publicity than he imagined, so he agreed to the Government’s offer to remit his sentence and leave.

Now, I wonder if we’ll be learning about this in Christopher Pyne’s new history course. Actually, I can’t even find it in the old “left-wing” curriculum.

Hmm… ?

“When I hear the word culture, I reach for my pun . . . “

Christopher Pyne (image from news.com.au)

Christopher Pyne (image from news.com.au)

“… opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne appeared to re-open the so-called ”history wars” which raged during the Howard years, by attacking the school curriculum for putting Aboriginal and multicultural commemoration days on the same level as Anzac Day.The national curriculum would be reviewed under a Coalition government, he said. ”The Coalition believes that, on balance, Australia’s history is a cause for celebration,” he said.

”It is because of our history that we are a confident and positive nation. We must not allow a confidence-sapping ‘black armband’ view of our history to take hold.

‘That history, while inclusive of indigenous history, must highlight the pivotal role of the political and legal institutions from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.”

In the new curriculum Anzac Day is studied in year 3 as one of a number of days of national significance. The Gallipoli campaign is studied in year 9.

Mr Pyne criticised the fact that Anzac Day is ”locked in with NAIDOC Week, Reconciliation Day and Harmony Day” in the national curriculum.”

From the Sydney Morning Herald 

Ok, the document below isn’t official, but it gives you a taste of what we’ll see under the Coalition.

Draft History Curriculum for Christopher Pyne.

Year 3

Term 1: The foolish foreigners who failed to discover Australia

Term 2: The great and brave British explorer Captain Cook discovers Australia

Term 3: The first Australians – convicts and soldiers.

Term 4: Early attempts to civilise the Aborigines by soldiers

Year 4

Term 1: Gallipoli – the ANZAC tradition is born

Term 2: The first soldier to fall

Term 3: Simpson

Term 4: His donkey

Year 5 

Term 1: The retreat from Gallipoli

Term 2: The importance of Anzac biscuits

Term 3: How Australian soldiers gained the reputation of being the bravest ever

Term 4: Anzac Day is the holiest day of the year.

Year 6 

Term 1: Our great British heritage

Term 2: Why the monarchy rules

Term 3: Learning to recite Kings and Queens of England

Term 4: Great people born in England apart from kings and queens and Tony Abbott

Year 7 – Australia’s Golden Years

Term 1: Howard’s election

Term 2: Howard restores belief in Anzac Day

Term 3: Howard saves Australia from invasion by republicans

Term 4: Howard increasing number of Anzac marchers by invading Afghanistan and Iraq

Year 8

Term 1: Howard creates mining boom

Term 2: Howard’s back to basics in indigenous affairs – let’s use soldiers again.

Term 3: Why the Magna Carta is just an example of the barons’ union bullying a king

Term 4: How ASIO protects us and why we should never question their actions

Year  9

Term 1: How the descendants of convicts formed the Labor Party

Term 2: Why Anzac Day is still important

Term 3: The Gold Rush – how Peter Costello quickly sold of our gold reserves

Term 4: Free Speech – Why we changed the name of Labour Day to honour Andrew Bolt

Year 10 – Other Wars of the 20th Century

Term 1: World War Two – how we stopped the boats

Term 2: Korea – how we stopped the spread of communism

Term 3: Vietnam – how the hippy student movement tried to destroy Anzac Day

Term 4: Culture Wars – how traitors tried to make us hate Australia and turn us into a republic.

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