Australia’s role in 1973 CIA coup in Chile

Australia’s overseas spy agency, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), actively assisted the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in destabilising the Chilean government ahead of the bloody US-backed military coup on September 11, 1973.

Declassified government documents, released from the National Archives of Australia in June, after a four-year legal battle, show that Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam eventually shut down the ASIS operation in April 1973, just five months before the coup. But that was only out of concern that if the public became aware of it, “he would find it extremely difficult to justify our presence there.”

Although heavily-redacted, the documents reveal that Whitlam’s predecessor, Liberal Prime Minister Billy McMahon, approved an ASIS request in December 1970 to open a base in

— source | Mike Head | 13 Sep 2021

Nullius in verba

The salacious demolition job on Martha Gellhorn

The other day, the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism was awarded in honour of the great American reporter who lived in this country until she died three years ago. Gellhorn adhered to no consensus of the kind that shapes and distorts so much journalism. She regarded governments, indeed all authority, as her professional enemies, and their propaganda as “official drivel”.

Almost 20 years ago, during the miners’ strike, the sprightly 75-year-old reporter got into her car and drove into the Welsh valleys. Most of the media were then concentrating on miners’ violence on the picket line, which echoed Thatcher’s “enemy within”. She phoned me from a call box in Newbridge. “Listen,” she said, “you ought to see what the police are doing here. They’re surrounding villages at night and beating the hell out of people. Why isn’t that being reported?” I suggested she report it. “I’ve done it,” she replied.

That’s why the Martha Gellhorn Prize is different. Too many awards these days go to top-of-the-head windbags; few are won by truly independent reporters who bother to go

— source | john pilger | 16 Apr 2001

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Refugees are incarcerated, insulted and abused

There has been a lot of political partying in Australia this year. First, there was the centenary of Federation, the coming together of the Australian states in 1901 as “a proud independent entity”.

This has required a considerable lapse of historical memory. Pride and independence had nothing to do with it. The Australian states united in order to persuade Mother England to be more protective of her faraway colony which, they pleaded, was threatened by “Asiatic hordes”, Russians, Germans and other demons.

There has also been the centenary of the foundation of the Australian Labor Party. A commemorative book, True Believers, was launched by the party’s famous figures, including three former prime ministers. What was striking about this celebration of Australia’s social-democratic tradition, known as “fair go”, was that all but one of the

— source | john pilger | 11 Jun 2001

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Cowards of Oz

Few care about their subjection to the Queen. But they’re jumpy about the Asiatic hordes.

In November, Australians will vote to keep the Queen as head of state, or become a republic. According to a poll last week, most appear not to give a damn. “There isn’t enough energy in the republican issue,” said the premier of Queensland, with an eloquence long associated with his office, “to change a light bulb.” Perhaps my compatriots smell a dead marsupial. A president of the republic is unlikely to be elected, as most people want, but appointed by the same political elite whose public standing is a fraction higher than that of Serbia.

In any case, the Australian establishment has always been happy with a veiled colonial status. The declaration of a federation in 1901, far from being a bold act of independence, was a desperate cry to Mother England to stay on and defend her most distant colony from the “Asiatic hordes” who, as everybody knew, were about to fall down on them as if by the force of gravity.

— source | john pilger | 27 Jul 1999

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Australia’s Under Side

What is the “international community” really doing in East Timor? After their arrival almost two weeks ago, Australian troops have secured only the capital, Dili, and a few towns.

In West Timor, fewer than a dozen foreign aid workers struggle to guarantee the safety of 230,000 refugees, including 35,000 children, while the power of life and death remains with the Indonesian military.

An explanation is offered in a remarkable interview given by John Howard, the Australian prime minister, in which he described his government as Washington’s deputy sheriff. What mattered was the “stability” of Indonesia, and the protection of western business interests. His honesty, or garrulousness, is to be applauded, along with his historical accuracy. From the Boxer rebellion to Vietnam, Australians have fought the battles of the great imperial powers. In 1989, Australian troops were sent to Bougainville, an island

— source | john pilger | 5 Oct 1999

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A Moral Outrage

It was the public, not politicians, who forced the Australian government to end the betrayal of East Timor.

On October 11, the Guardian published a letter by the Australian high commissioner in London, Philip Flood, objecting to my column about Australia’s complicity in the suffering of the East Timorese. His words shone with moral indignation. His government had been “driven by humanitarian concern for the desperate plight of the East Timorese” and had “acted forthrightly after Indonesia failed to maintain order”. For suggesting otherwise, I was guilty of “denigrating” my homeland.

Could this be the same Philip Flood who was the Australian ambassador to Indonesia at the time of the massacre of hundreds of East Timorese in the Santa Cruz cemetery in 1991? This was the atrocity that was secretly videotaped by a British cameraman, Max Stahl, breaking the long, international silence over East Timor. In my 1994 film, Death Of A Nation, Stahl and I revealed that a second massacre of the wounded had taken place later that day in the Dili morgue and military hospital.

The most vigorous denials of these subsequent murders came from Canberra, where the government of Paul Keating was in the midst of preparing a highly secret “security pact” with

— source | john pilger | 2 Nov 1999

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Fear and silence in the ‘lucky’ country

Australia, once the land of the “fair go”, has collaborated with Guantanamo more closely than any other western government and is guilty of human rights abuses of its own.

National myths are usually partly true. In Australia, the myth of an egalitarian society, or “fair go”, has an extraordinary history. Long before most of the world, Australia had a minimum wage, a 35-hour working week, child benefits and the vote for women. The secret ballot was invented in Australia. By the 1960s, Australians could boast the most equitable spread of personal income in the world.

Today, these are forgotten, subversive truths. As schools are ordered to fly the flag (its Union Jack still mocking from on high), the maudlin story of Australian

— source | john pilger | 7 Feb 2005

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Be proud of what you’ve achieved

Sydney Hyde Park, 20 March 2005:

The other day, the Aboriginal film-maker Richard Frankland said this: “When you’ve got a voice, you’ve got freedom, and when you’ve got freedom, you’ve got responsibility. Negotiating with politicians doesn’t work. You’ve got to change attitudes.” That’s the task for all of us here today. It’s not an easy one. In fact, many good people in Australia and other countries believe their voice cannot possibly be heard: that the forces of bigotry and violence are far too powerful.

And yes, they are powerful. John Howard can lie repeatedly to the Australian people and get away with it – it seems. There is no Labor opposition in federal parliament. They’ve become a bad joke, to the point where Kevin Rudd, the opposition spokesman on foreign affairs, refuses to say anything critical of the government that is not immersed in crude sophistry.

We also know that those who are paid to keep the record straight, who are meant

— source | john pilger | 21 Mar 2005

Nullius in verba