Saturday, 11 December 2010

I Have No Enemies

I am posting this man's words without comment - none is needed. Text is from Beinformed (Click on the title for the link).

Chinese dissident, Liu Xiaobo was honored in absentia at Oslo earlier today with this year's Nobel Peace Prize. Since Liu could not attend the function, as he is serving an eleven-year prison sentence in a Chinese prison, actress Liv Ullman, read out selected passages from Liu's last public speech, given last December in a Beijing court at the time of his sentencing. The speech, titled 'I have no enemies: My final statement', is published by the HRIC (Human Rights In China) online. Here is an excerpt from Dr Liu's remarkable speech, which showcases not only his passion for his work, his kindness and his unflinching commitment to fundamental human rights, but also his literary prowess:

"In the course of my life, for more than half a century, June 1989 was the major turning point. Up to that point, I was a member of the first class to enter university when college entrance examinations were reinstated following the Cultural Revolution (Class of ’77). From BA to MA and on to PhD, my academic career was all smooth sailing. Upon receiving my degrees, I stayed on to teach at Beijing Normal University. As a teacher, I was well received by the students. At the same time, I was a public intellectual, writing articles and books that created quite a stir during the 1980s, frequently receiving invitations to give talks around the country, and going abroad as a visiting scholar upon invitation from Europe and America.
What I demanded of myself was this: whether as a person or as a writer, I would lead a life of honesty, responsibility, and dignity. After that, because I had returned from the U.S. to take part in the 1989 Movement, I was thrown into prison for “the crime of counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement.”

I also lost my beloved lectern and could no longer publish essays or give talks in China. Merely for publishing different political views and taking part in a peaceful democracy movement, a teacher lost his lectern, a writer lost his right to publish, and a public intellectual lost the opportunity to give talks publicly. This is a tragedy, both for me personally and for a China that has already seen thirty years of Reform and Opening Up.

 Twenty years have passed, but the ghosts of June Fourth have not yet been laid to rest. Upon release from Qincheng Prison in 1991, I, who had been led onto the path of political dissent by the psychological chains of June Fourth, lost the right to speak publicly in my own country and could only speak through the foreign media. Because of this, I was subjected to year-round monitoring, kept under residential surveillance (May 1995 to January 1996) and sent to Reeducation-Through-Labor (October 1996 to October 1999).

But I still want to say to this regime, which is depriving me of my freedom, that I stand by the convictions I expressed in my “June Second Hunger Strike Declaration” twenty years ago—I have no enemies and no hatred. None of the police who monitored, arrested, and interrogated me, none of the prosecutors who indicted me, and none of the judges who judged me are my enemies. Although there is no way I can accept your monitoring, arrests, indictments, and verdicts, I respect your professions and your integrity, including those of the two prosecutors, Zhang Rongge and Pan Xueqing, who are now bringing charges against me on behalf of the prosecution.

Hatred can rot away at a person’s intelligence and conscience. Enemy mentality will poison the spirit of a nation, incite cruel mortal struggles, destroy a society’s tolerance and humanity, and hinder a nation’s progress toward freedom and democracy. That is why I hope to be able to transcend my personal experiences as I look upon our nation’s development and social change, to counter the regime’s hostility with utmost goodwill, and to dispel hatred with love.
It is precisely because of such convictions and personal experience that I firmly believe that China’s political progress will not stop, and I, filled with optimism, look forward to the advent of a future free China. 

For there is no force that can put an end to the human quest for freedom, and China will in the end become a nation ruled by law, where human rights reign supreme. 
If I may be permitted to say so, the most fortunate experience of these past twenty years has been the selfless love I have received from my wife, Liu Xia. Throughout all these years that I have lived without freedom, our love was full of bitterness imposed by outside circumstances, but as I savor its aftertaste, it remains boundless. I am serving my sentence in a tangible prison, while you wait in the intangible prison of the heart. Your love is the sunlight that leaps over high walls and penetrates the iron bars of my prison window, stroking every inch of my skin, warming every cell of my body, allowing me to always keep peace, openness, and brightness in my heart, and filling every minute of my time in prison with meaning. 

My love for you, on the other hand, is so full of remorse and regret that it at times makes me stagger under its weight. But my love is solid and sharp, capable of piercing through any obstacle. Even if I were crushed into powder, I would still use my ashes to embrace you.

My dear, with your love I can calmly face my impending trial, having no regrets about the choices I’ve made and optimistically awaiting tomorrow. 

I look forward to [the day] when my country is a land with freedom of expression, where the speech of every citizen will be treated equally well; where different values, ideas, beliefs, and political views . . . can both compete with each other and peacefully coexist; where both majority and minority views will be equally guaranteed, and where the political views that differ from those currently in power, in particular, will be fully respected and protected; where all political views will spread out under the sun for people to choose from, where every citizen can state political views without fear, and where no one can under any circumstances suffer political persecution for voicing divergent political views. I hope that I will be the last victim of China’s endless literary inquisitions and that from now on no one will be incriminated because of speech.

Freedom of expression is the foundation of human rights, the source of humanity, and the mother of truth. To strangle freedom of speech is to trample on human rights, stifle humanity, and suppress truth. In order to exercise the right to freedom of speech conferred by the Constitution, one should fulfill the social responsibility of a Chinese citizen. There is nothing criminal in anything I have done. [But] if charges are brought against me because of this, I have no complaints. Thank you, everyone."

Friday, 10 December 2010

The American Psyche

The Wikileaks saga brings into stark relief the phenomenon of American self-image. There is a national conviction that any threat to national prestige must be quickly and ruthlessly eliminated.

This mindset has endured for so long, that it's obviously part of the American psyche.
I wasn't around at the time of Pearl harbour, but listening to the stories my father told, it appears that the blow to American prestige caused by the attack was a major factor in the US response.
Here's an extract from Roosevelt's Day of Infamy speech on December 7th 1941 -
It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.
Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us.
In other words, the fact that America was enormously embarrassed because they were caught unawares was as significant to Roosevelt as the losses of men and ships. He was well known for understanding his country's soul at critical moments.
George W Bush was not in the same league as Roosevelt when it came to leadership, but he was equally conscious of national embarrassment after 9/11. I'm sure we all remember well the Mission Accomplished banner on USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003.
In his speech he said -

In the images of falling statues, we have witnessed the arrival of a new era.

We have not forgotten the victims of September the 11th -- the last phone calls, the cold murder of children, the searches in the rubble. With those attacks, the terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States. And war is what they got. (Applause.)
Paraphrasing, Bush was pushing the imagery (falling statues) and revenge (the victims).
The fact that the war had at least five more years to run and thousands of US soldiers would die in those five years was not foreseen, or apparently its likelihood even considered.

And now, we have an issue about embarrassment over sensitive material leaked (by Americans - it should be noted). The disproportionate response, including hysterical calls for the death penalty, and unsubstantiated claims that it will cost lives, demonstrates clearly the USA's glass jaw.
I have enormous personal respect for American values, especially as they pertain to free choice and individual rights, and I acknowledge their contribution to our security, particularly the history of the Pacific campaign during WW2.
Even during those tumultuous times, however, there were incidents which made clear that many Australians took strong exception to some uniquely American characteristics. During the 26th and 27th November 1942, one Australian was killed, and six wounded during street battles with American MPs in Brisbane. The digger killed was a Ted Webster who came from Milmerran and had enlisted in Toowoomba.

By all accounts, alcohol and boredom were factors, but there was an underlying tension between the allies, and its origin can be traced back to this same American characteristic of arrogance and hubris.
This is never as clearly illustrated as in the contemporary pic I've posted above. Can you imagine how the average Aussie digger of the time would have reacted to the aggressive pose demonstrated. It is obviously designed to intimidate - which may have worked with GIs. I'd suggest that a pose like that would be taken as a challenge by (say) a member of the 7th Division who were in Brisbane at the time.

No wonder there was a stoush or two.

There is a fundamental difference in the way Australians and Americans see themselves, and this is highlighted when they're in uniform. I well recall a number of incidents when I was in Vietnam in 1970.
We didn't have much to do with the Yanks, but there were times when we shared space and time. During R & R I travelled in a bus sitting next to a Yank GI in Bangkok. The journey lasted 20 minutes, so we had time to talk. I'm a petrol head (was then - still am now) and made some passing comment about "Yank tanks", which showed my disdain of large, overpriced, American automotive iron.

He took severe umbrage - to the point where I wondered if he was going to take a swing at me. When he settled down a bit, he gave me a ten-minute lecture on the history of Henry Ford, and how he had (amongst other things) invented the assembly line. All of which was true, of course, but the vehemence with which it was delivered was disproportionate.
One of my Aussie mates sitting behind me was still talking about this incident a week later when we flew back to the Dat. The lesson was simple, you never criticised any American institution or belief to a Yank. They simply couldn't abide it.
On another occasion, when a few mates and I were attempting to souvenir some stray bits of wood and corrugated iron from an abandoned pile of American junk at the Horseshoe, we were confronted by a sweaty and overweight Yank Staff Sergeant. This wouldn't have caused concern, except that he was waving an M16 around which had a magazine attached, which we assumed was loaded.
As we retreated with as much dignity was we could towards our own lines, I remember the remark - "bloody Yanks - why are they so up themselves?'
That same question seems relevant today. 

(Click on the title to find out more about the "Battle of Brisbane"). 
Photo courtesy of Ozatwar.

Monday, 6 December 2010


There's really nothing new under the sun.

An insightful comment from Cav on Kev Gillett's blog has reminded me of this - not that I needed reminding.

I found the book illustrated above at Uralla in a secondhand bookstore in the main street - can't remember its name. (The bookstore, that is - the book's called The Palace File).

I bought it because I'm fascinated by what was going on behind the scenes around about the time I was in Vietnam in 1970 ostensibly fighting for freedom and democracy. The more I research this particular conflict, the more I understand that our participation in it fits into a well-worn historical pattern. Our involvement was driven by lies, deceit and cover-up. As Cav observed, the pattern is evident - Watergate, Climategate and now Wikileaks.

The most recent example is of course, Iraq. Where were those WMDs?

The Palace File  is a collection of letters written during the years 1973 - 1975 when the co-author, Nguyen Tien Hung, was Minister of Economic Development and Planning in Nguyen Van Thieu's government of the Republic of Vietnam.

What they show is the absolute duplicity of the Nixon administration who were telling Thieu that that they would defend South Vietnam to the end, whilst at the same time, clearly deciding that the Republic of South Vietnam was dispensable.

This is an example of a letter from Nixon to Theiu on January 17th, 1973 -

I must repeat what I have said to you in my previous communications:
The freedom and independence of the Republic of Vietnam remains a paramount
objective of American foreign policy. I have been dedicated to this goal
all of my political life, and during the past four years I have risked many grave
domestic and international consequences in its pursuit. It is precisely in order
to safeguard our mutual objectives that I have decided irrevocably on my present
course .... Let me state these assurances once again in this letter:
-First, we recognize your Government as the sole legitimate Government
of South Vietnam.
-Secondly, we do not recognize the right of foreign troops to remain on
South Vietnamese soil.
-Thirdly, the U.S. will react vigorously to violations of the Agreement.

Richard Nixon

I wonder how much of the words -
freedom and independence of the Republic of Vietnam
Nixon and his cronies understood.

But of course, that letter was hidden from the public eye until Hung published it in 1979, four years after the fall of Saigon.  Likewise, the deception around WMDs in Iraq didn't become completely apparent until long after thousands of US soldiers had died on the basis of a lie.

The point of departure for Wikileaks is that the process is happening in real time, which allows scrutiny which will hopefully effect decision-making once those in power - whether in Iran, the USA, or Russia think twice before attempting to continue to lie and deceive. The funny thing is, this level of deception is so ingrained in international relations, that it's doubtful whether those involved know any other behaviour.

It's obvious that Assange's releasing of this information is a game-changer, given the level of vitriol directed at him, and the clumsy attempt to discredit him by trumped-up charges that the Brits are ignoring. They'd have to arrest every third or fourth adventurous male in Britain if they were fair dinkum, on the basis of what the Swedes have produced.

Hugh White - Without America

Hugh White is always provocative, and doesn't pull any punches when it comes to criticising current defence policy. In 1995, he was appo...