We are beckoned to see the world through a one-way mirror, as if we are threatened and innocent and the rest of humanity is threatening, or wretched, or expendable. Our memory is struggling to rescue the truth that human rights were not handed down as privileges from a parliament, or a boardroom, or an institution, but that peace is only possible with justice and with information that gives us the power to act justly.
Since September 11, the Mirror has reached back to its roots, and decided, it seems, to be something of its old self again. I received a call asking if I would write for it again, which I've done. It's a pleasure to be able to do that. It's become an important antidote to a media that is, most of it, supportive of the establishment, some of it quite rabidly rightwing. The Mirror is breaking ranks, and that's good news.
When the invasion began, the British public was called upon to 'support' troops sent illegally and undemocratically to kill people with whom we had no quarrel. 'The ultimate test of our professionalism' is how Commander McKendrick describes an unprovoked attack on a nation with no submarines, no navy and no air force, and now with no clean water and no electricity and, in many hospitals, no anaesthetic with which to amputate small limbs shredded by shrapnel. I have seen elsewhere how this is done, with a gag in the patient's mouth.
I love irony in pictures. There's one photograph from Vietnam by Philip Jones Griffiths that shows a very large GI having his pocket picked by a tiny Vietnamese woman. It told the whole story of the clash of two cultures and how the invader could never win.
If development was measured not by gross national product, but a society's success in meeting the basic needs of its people, Vietnam would have been a model. That was its real "threat." From the defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 to 1972, primary and secondary school enrollment in the North increased sevenfold, from 700,000 to almost five million. In 1980, UNESCO estimated a literacy rate of 90 percent and school enrollment among the highest in Asia and throughout the Third World.
Whenever a journalist says to me, "Oh, you don't understand, I'm impartial, I'm objective," I know what he's saying. I can decode it immediately. It means he channels the official truth. Almost always. That protestation means he speaks for a consensual view of the establishment. This is internalized.
In Western Australia, minerals are being dug up from Aboriginal land and shipped to China for a profit of a billion dollars a week. In this, the richest, 'booming' state, the prisons bulge with stricken Aboriginal people, including juveniles whose mothers stand at the prison gates, pleading for their release. The incarceration of black Australians here is eight times that of black South Africans during the last decade of apartheid.