THE HANDSTAND

june 2005





For some reason that is thought to be politically advantageous, 60 year anniversaries of past events are being celebrated all over the world. Why? What does 60 years signify, that 59 were not good for? Or even one, or two ?

May 25, 2004: Maxime Rodinson, a specialist on the Arab world and an anti-Zionist thinker, died at 89 in Marseille. The author of numerous works on the history of Islam, Rodinson, who was Jewish, also published major anti-Zionist polemics, including “Israel and the Arab Refusal,” “Israel: A Colonial Settler State” and “Jewish People or Jewish Problem.” Rodinson was born in Paris and, apart from a short period as a teacher in Lebanon, spent his life in France.  

May 31, 2001: Faisal Husseini, a top PLO official who had a leading role in the launching of the peace process with Israel and was a longtime campaigner for Palestinian claims in Jerusalem, died Thursday of a heart attack. He was 60. He died in a hotel room in Kuwait. He was considered by many as the best man to be the new president of Palestine.


My experience of English speaking people, of which I am one, has informed me that they are never happier than looking back into space and populating it with their memories and renovations of moral purpose.

Two years ago, was it, the governments started apologising for massacres and historical crimes, now we are supposed to have entered a new moral juncture where the victim has to be thrust into the past under the heaviest weights that can be found. Now not only it seems possible that insecure humans can never satisfy their shame and guilt without making themselves more and more ridiculous, but they also hunger for new victims, new crimes.At the present time during this prolonged period of crisis extending, amid different violations of human life on this planet; war is unleashed by governments in the interest, not only of an imaginary rational,"War on Terror", but we have to realise there is also a demographic war. The rich in their hideouts believe that the world's huge population is a terrible threat to their existence.

Any responsible government's incompetence to solve social problems is perhaps occurring because there are too many of us and too few of them ?! In addition there are people everywhere refusing to accept the nomad, the refugee; and just as the British once hounded their government to stop the Irish immigrant workforce who constructed both road and railtracks in that country, they are at it again against the legal immigration of European workforces. These people have a craven court of propagandists, the BBC and the media.

Anarchists Against the Wall in PalestineBefore his arrest Johan Persson from Sweden explained why he was  in a barrel on the route of the annexation wall " It is the responsibility of the international community to enforce international law. Since our governments and the UN are allowing Israel to continue committing war crimes with impunity it has become the responsibility of citizens like myself to do what we can to stop them"

On another tack altogether, I ask is there a considerable and growing population aware and alert to the fact that as Europeans we now deserve to have access to the best in European news, literature and film, art and philosophy. Infact it appears that the governments of England and Ireland are utterly devoid of any intelligent responsibility toward their citizens, and that they have something to hide, and something to push : - a political agenda.

In early May the Guardian published the facts about a huge radioactive leak at Sellafield that happened at the end of April - The Handstand added this instantly to its STOPPRESS page. Looking through the news media of several kinds there was no other information on this matter, and none from the BBC. In addition the information in the Handstand navigation column was removed by outside interference. The news on the relevant page overwhelmed the nuclear paragraphs, and someone with the power to interfere sat back content.

Below is one of John Pilger's finest pieces on Media Ommissions, Propaganda, and other devices for mis-information.And below that I repeat the Guardian article in reference to Sellafield. In addition I am pleased to have new material of interest, several excessively long drafts which I hope readers will print out to read and keep. A Philosophy page on Judaism by Professor Ariella Atzmon and the massive page on the evolution of Democracy that occurred under Robespierre and St.Just during the French Revolution, (excerpts from a book that warns us of the tangled knot that "democracy" can never hope to undo, the corruption that is inevitable despite the reins of justice.) Warnings that have been born out in present time because money income has become the only real ambition or motivation and the constand anxiety of mankind. We must now, subject to commercial interests live in this New Age as a simulcra of the parasites, without our centuries' old self- resources and independence, everyone in "Western" society and the world, that is expected to imitate us, from the laughably "sovereign" kings and queens, (of whom all but the Irish in the EU are the subjects) to the poor man or woman begging on the street.
Jocelyn Braddell, editor

Let's face it - the state has lost its mind

The media coverage of this past election was a pastiche. Our right to know what our rulers are doing to people the world over is being lost in the new propaganda consensus.

By John Pilger

05/12/05 "
New Statesman" - - In 1987, the sociologist Alex Carey, a second Orwell in his prophesies, wrote "Managing Public Opinion: the corporate offensive". He described how in the United States "great progress [had been] made towards the ideal of a propaganda-managed democracy", whose principal aim was to identify a rapacious business state "with every cherished human value". The power and meaning of true democracy, of the franchise itself, would be "transferred" to the propaganda of advertising, public relations and corporate-run news. This "model of ideological control", he predicted, would be adopted by other countries, such as Britain.

To many who work conscientiously in the media, this will sound alarmist; it is not like that in Britain, they will say. Ask them about censorship by omission or the promotion of business ideology and war propaganda as news, a promotion both subtle and crude, and their defensive response will be that no one ever instructed them to follow any line: no one ever said not to question the Prime Minister about the horror he had helped to inflict on Iraq: his epic criminality. "Blair always enjoys his interviews with Paxo," says Roger Mosey, the head of BBC Television News, without a hint of irony.

Blair should enjoy them; he is always spared the imperious bombast that is now a pastiche and kept mostly for official demons. "Watch George Galloway clash with Jeremy Paxman," says the BBC News homepage like a circus barker. Once under the big top of Newsnight, you get the usual set-up: a nonsensical question about whether or not Galloway was "proud of having got rid of one of the few black women in parliament", followed by mockery of the very idea that his opponent, an unabashed Blairite warmonger, should account for the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people.

Seven years ago, when Denis Halliday, one of the United Nations' most respected humanitarian aid directors, resigned from his post in Iraq in protest at the Anglo-American-led embargo, calling it "an act of genocide", he was given the Paxo treatment. "Aren't you just an apologist for Saddam Hussein?" he was mock-asked. The following year, Unicef revealed that the embargo had killed half a million Iraqi children. As for East Timor, a triumph of the British arms trade and Robin Cook's "ethical" foreign policy, the presence of British Hawk jets was "not proved", declared Paxo, parroting a Foreign Office lie. (A few months later, Cook came clean.) Today, napalm is used in Iraq, but the armed forces minister is allowed to pretend that it isn't. Israel's weapons of mass destruction are "dangerous in the extreme", says the former head of the US Strategic Command, but that is a permanent taboo.

In the Guardian of 9 May, famous journalists and their executives were asked to reflect on the election campaign. Almost all agreed that it had been "boring" and "lacked passion" and "never really caught fire". Mosey complained that it had been "very hard to reach out to people who are disengaged". Again, irony was absent, as if the BBC's obsequiousness to the "consensus of propaganda", as Alex Carey called it, had nothing to do with people's disengagement or with the duty of journalists to engage the public, let alone tell them things they had a right to know.

AN INTERESTING LETTER TO THE PRESS: The article "British election may serve to redefine war options "(May5) is entirely right to draw attention to the broader government implications of the decision to embark on a war in Iraq, because central to the process by which the British came to find themselves committed to the war was a ROYAL PREROGATIVE, and the abuse of it by an Executive in England. This is the power that for centuries has enabled kings and queens of England to wage war without the full and proper authority of a British Parliament, and all that has happened in recent years is that the potential for abuse that the prerogative presents has passed from one address in London to another. Ricard Ede,Liverpool


It is this right-to-know that is being lost behind a wilful illusion. Since the cry "freedom of the press" was first heard roughly 500 years ago, when Wynkyn de Worde set up Caxton's old printing press in the yard of St Bride's Church, off Fleet Street, there has never been more information or media in the "mainstream", yet most of it is now repetitive and profoundly ideological, captive to the insidious system that Carey described.

Omission is how it works. Between 1 and 15 April, the Media Tenor Institute analysed the content of television evening news. Foreign politics, including Iraq, accounted for less than 2 per cent. Search the post-election comments of the most important people in journalism for anything about the greatest political scandal in memory - the unprovoked bloodbath in Iraq - and you will find nothing. The Goldsmith affair was an aberration, forced on to the election agenda not by a journalist but by an insider; and no connection was then made with the suffering and grief in Iraq.

In the middle of the election campaign, Dr Les Roberts gave a special lecture at the School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in London. It was all but ignored. Yet this is the extraordinary man who led an US-Iraqi research team in the first comprehensive investigation of civilian deaths in Iraq. Published in the Lancet, the most highly regarded medical journal in the world, with the tightest peer-review procedures, the study found that "at least" 100,000 civilians had died violently, the great majority of them at the hands of the "coalition": women, children, the elderly. He also described how American military doctors had found that 14 per cent of soldiers and 28 per cent of marines had killed a civilian: a huge, unreported massacre.

This great crime, together with the destruction of the city of Fallujah and the 40 known victims of torture and unlawful killing at the hands of the British army, as well as the biggest demonstration by Iraqis demanding the invaders get out, was not allowed to intrude on a campaign that "never really caught fire". The airbrushing requires no conspiracy. "The thought," wrote Arthur Miller, "that the state has lost its mind and is punishing so many innocent people is intolerable. And so the evidence has to be internally denied."

In its ideological crusade, the Blair regime has bombed and killed and abused human rights directly or by proxy, from Iraq to Colombia, from tsunami-stricken Aceh to the 14 most impoverished countries in Africa, where the sale of British weapons has fanned internal conflict. When I asked a television executive why none of this had been glimpsed in the election "coverage", he seemed nonplussed. "It was not relevant to the news," he said. What is relevant in the wake of the election is a propaganda consensus promoting the "potential greatness" of Gordon Brown, as the greatness of the now embarrassing Blair was once promoted. ("My God, he will be a hard act to follow. My God, Labour will miss him when he has gone," wrote Blair's most devoted promoter, Martin Kettle, in the Guardian, skipping over his crimes.)

That Brown is the same ideologue as Blair is of no concern. Neither is his commitment, not to ending poverty in the world, but to the rehabilitation of imperialism. "We should be proud . . . of the empire," he said last September. "The days of Britain having to apologise for its colonial history are over," he told the Daily Mail. These views touch the nostalgic heart of the British establishment, which, under Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, has recovered from its long disorientation after Hitler gave all imperial plunderers a bad name. This and the appeasement of British imperialists is rarely mentioned in the endless anniversaries of the Second World War, whose triumphalism in politics and popular culture has bred imperial wars, such as Iraq.

Thus, Blair's foreign policy adviser Robert Cooper caused little controversy when he wrote a pamphlet calling for "a new kind kind of imperialism, one acceptable to a world of human rights and cosmopolitan views". This is conquest redefined as liberation, evoking the same moral claims that were not questioned until Hitler. "Imperialism and the global expansion of the western powers," wrote Frank Furedi in The New Ideology of Imperialism, "were represented in unambiguously positive terms as a major contributor to human civilisation." That imperialism was and is racist, violent and the cause of suffering across the world - witness the ruthless expulsion of the people of Diego Garcia as recently as the 1970s - is "not relevant to the news". Observe instead the BBC swoon at Gordon Brown's 19th-century speeches about ending African poverty on condition that business can exploit and arm Africa's poorest.

All this chimes in Washington, where Bush's drivel of "democracy and liberty on the march" is swallowed by leading journalists. On both sides of the Atlantic, a vintage imperialist campaign is under way against strategic and resource-rich Arab nations: indeed, against all Muslim peoples. It is the "clash of civilisations" of Samuel Huntington's delusions. The Arabs being Semites, it is one of the west's greatest anti-Semitic crusades.

That, you might say, is well discussed. Perhaps. What is not discussed is a worldwide threat similar to that of Germany in the 1930s, certainly the greatest threat in the lifetime of most people. This is not news. Consider the unreported demise of the "war on terror". In his inaugural speech in January, Bush pointedly said not a word about that which he had made his signature. No terrorism. No Osama. No Iraq. No axis of evil. Instead, he warned that America's new targets were those living in "whole regions of the world" which "simmer in resentment and tyranny" and where "violence will gather, and multiply in destructive power, and cross the most defended borders, and raise a mortal threat".

The monumental paranoia is almost beside the point. Bush was lowering the threshold. The American military can go anywhere, attack anything, use any kind of weapon in pursuit of its latest, most dangerous illusion: the "simmering resentment" and the "gathering violence". Unreported is the military coup that has taken place in America: the Pentagon and its civilian militarists now control "policy". Diplomacy is "finished . . . dead", as one of them put it. Andrew Bacevich, soldier, conservative and professor of American military strategy at Boston University, says that Bush has "committed the United States to waging an open-ended war on a global scale".

Britain, with its profound understanding of imperialism, is a pioneer of this new danger. In 1998, the Blair government's Strategic Defence Review stated that the country's military priority would be "force projection" and that "in the post-cold war world we must be prepared to go to the crisis rather than have the crisis come to us". In 2002, Geoff Hoon became the first defence secretary to declare that British nuclear weapons could be used against non-nuclear nations. In December 2003, a defence white paper, Delivering Security in a Changing World, called for "expeditionary operations" in "a range of environments across the world". Military force was no longer "a separate element in crisis resolution". Almost a third of public spending on research now goes to the military - far more than is spent on the National Health Service.

On 6 August, it will be the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima which, with the destruction of Nagasaki, stands as one of the greatest crimes. There is now a nuclear renaissance, led by the nuclear "haves", with America and Britain upgrading their "battlefield" nuclear weapons. The very real danger is, or should be, clear to all of us. The Guardian says Blair, having won his "historic" third term, ought to be "humble". It is truly humbling that only 20 per cent of eligible voters voted for him, the lowest figure in modern times, and that he has no true mandate. No, it is journalists who ought to be humble and do their job. 

This article first appeared in the New Statesman. For the latest in current and cultural affairs subscribe to the New Statesman print edition.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

Huge radioactive leak closes Thorp nuclear plant

Paul Brown, environment correspondent
Monday May 9, 2005
The Guardian.

A leak of highly radioactive nuclear fuel dissolved in concentrated nitric acid, enough to half fill an Olympic-size swimming pool, has forced the closure of Sellafield's Thorp reprocessing plant. The highly dangerous mixture, containing about 20 tonnes of uranium and plutonium fuel, has leaked through a fractured pipe into a huge stainless steel chamber which is so radioactive that it is impossible to enter. Recovering the liquids and fixing the pipes will take months and may require special robots to be built and sophisticated engineering techniques devised to repair the 2.1bn plant.


The leak is not a danger(???) to the public but is likely to be a financial disaster for the taxpayer since income from the Thorp plant, calculated to be more than 1m a day, is supposed to pay for the cleanup of redundant nuclear facilities. A problem at the plant was first noticed on April 19 when operators could not account for all the spent fuel that had been dissolved in nitric acid. It was supposed to be travelling through the plant to be measured and separated into uranium, plutonium and waste products in a series of centrifuges. Remote cameras scanning the interior of the plant found the leak.

Although most of the material is uranium, the fuel contains about 200kg (440lb) of plutonium,(nearly the entire yearly production of plutonium at the plant) enough to make 20 nuclear weapons, and must be recovered and accounted for to conform to international safeguards aimed at preventing nuclear materials falling into the wrong hands.

  • Plutonium 239, one of the most dangerous elements known to humans, is so toxic that one-millionth of a gram is carcinogenic. More than 200kg is made annually in each 1000-megawatt nuclear power plant. Plutonium is handled like iron in the body, and is therefore stored in the liver, where it causes liver cancer, and in the bone, where it can induce bone cancer and blood malignancies. On inhalation it causes lung cancer. It also crosses the placenta, where, like the drug thalidomide, it can cause severe congenital deformities. Plutonium has a predisposition for the testicle, where it can cause testicular cancer and induce genetic diseases in future generations. Plutonium lasts for 500,000 years, living on to induce cancer and genetic diseases in future generations of plants, animals and humans.

Plutonium is also the fuel for nuclear weapons -- only 5kg is necessary to make a bomb and each reactor makes more than 200kg per year. Therefore any country with a nuclear power plant can theoretically manufacture 40 bombs a year.
Helen Caldicott

The liquid will have to be siphoned off and stored until the works can be repaired, but a method of doing this has yet to be devised.

On Friday the British Nuclear Group, a management company formed to run the Sellafield site on behalf of the NDA, held a meeting with the government safety regulator, the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII), to discuss how to mop up the leak and repair the pipe. The company has to get the inspectors' approval before proceeding.

Martin Forwood, of Cumbrians Opposed to Radioactive Environment, said the NDA had been "naive" in placing trust on income from Thorp, given its track record. "Reprocessing is blatantly incompatible with the official cleanup remit of the NDA, which will now find itself out of pocket as a result of the latest Thorp accident. The new owners would do the taxpayer the greatest service by putting Thorp out of its misery and closing it once and for all." The managing director of British Nuclear Group, Sellafield, Barry Snelson, who ordered the plant to be closed down, said: "Let me reassure people that the plant is in a safe and stable state."


The Irish Times:Sat 14th May. A recent leak at the Sellafiel nuclear plant was reclassified to a category three incident.The leak at the Thorp facility is now being described as a serious incident. (There is a 7 Point Nuclear Event Scale)Minister Dick Roche said that the "timely notification of this matter by the UK authorities was a matter of some satisfaction"!!!