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Posts by John Pilger

War Comes Home to Britain


Freedom is being lost in Britain. The land of Magna Carta is now the land of secret gagging orders, secret trials and imprisonment. The government will soon know about every phone call, every email, every text message. Police can willfully shoot to death an innocent man, lie and expect to get away with it. Whole communities now fear the state. The foreign secretary routinely covers up allegations of torture; the justice secretary routinely prevents the release of critical cabinet minutes taken when Iraq was illegally invaded. The litany is cursory; there is much more.

Indeed, there is so much more that the erosion of liberal freedoms is symptomatic of an evolved criminal state. The haven for Russian oligarchs, together with corruption of the tax and banking systems and of once-admired public services such as the Post Office, is one side of the coin; the other is the invisible carnage of failed colonial wars. Historically, the pattern is familiar. As the colonial crimes in Algeria, Vietnam and Afghanistan blew back to their perpetrators, France, the United States and the Soviet Union, so the cancerous effects of Britain's cynicism in Iraq and Afghanistan have come home.

The most obvious example is the bombing atrocities in London on 7 July 2005; no one in the British intelligence mandarinate doubts these were a gift of Blair. "Terrorism" describes only the few acts of individuals and groups, not the constant, industrial violence of great powers. Suppressing this truth is left to the credible media. On 27 February, the Guardian's Washington correspondent, Ewen MacAskill, in reporting President Obama's statement that America was finally leaving Iraq, as if it were fact, wrote: "For Iraq, the death toll is unknown, in the tens of thousands, victims of the war, a nationalist uprising, sectarian infighting and jihadists attracted by the US presence." Thus, the Anglo-American invaders are merely a "presence" and not directly responsible for the "unknown" number of Iraqi deaths. Such contortion of intellect is impressive.

In January last year, a report by the respected Opinion Research Business (ORB) revised an earlier assessment of deaths in Iraq to 1,033,000. This followed an exhaustive, peer-reviewed study in 2006 by the world-renowned John Hopkins School of Public Health in the US, published in The Lancet, which found that 655,000 Iraqis had died as a result of the invasion. US and British officials immediately dismissed the report as "flawed" – a deliberate deception. Foreign Office papers obtained under Freedom of Information disclose a memo written by the government's chief scientific adviser, Sir Roy Anderson, in which he praised The Lancet report, describing it as "robust and employs methods that are regarded as close to 'best practice' given [the conditions] in Iraq." An adviser to the prime minister commented: "The survey methodology used here cannot be rubbished, it is a tried and tested way of measuring mortality in conflict zones." Speaking a few days later, a Foreign Office minister, Lord Triesman, said, "The way in which data are extrapolated from samples to a general outcome is a matter of deep concern."

The episode exemplifies the scale and deception of this state crime. Les Roberts, co-author of the Lancet study, has since argued that Britain and America might have caused in Iraq "an episode more deadly than the Rwandan genocide." This is not news. Neither is it a critical reference in the freedoms campaign organized by the Observer columnist Henry Porter. At a conference in London on 28 February, Lord Goldsmith, Blair's attorney-general, who notoriously changed his mind and advised the government the invasion was legal, when it wasn't, was a speaker for freedom. So was Timothy Garton Ash, a "liberal interventionist." On 9 April, 2003, shortly after the slaughter had begun in Iraq, a euphoric Garton Ash wrote in the Guardian: "America has never been the Great Satan. It has sometimes been the Great Gatsby: 'They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things ….'" One of Britain's jobs "is to keep reminding Tom and Daisy that they now have promises to keep." Less frivolously, he lauded Blair for his "strong Gladstonian instincts for humanitarian intervention" and repeated the government's propaganda about Saddam Hussein. In 2006, he wrote: "Now we face the next big test of the west after Iraq: Iran." (I have italicized we). This also adheres precisely to the propaganda; David Milliband has declared Iran a "threat" in preparation for possibly the next war.

Like so many of New Labour's Tonier-than-thou squad, Henry Porter celebrated Blair as an almost mystical politician who "presents himself as a harmonizer for all the opposing interests in British life, a conciliator of class differences and tribal antipathies, synthesizer of opposing beliefs." Porter dismissed as "demonic nonsense" all analysis of the 9/11 attacks that suggested there were specific causes: the consequences of violent actions taken by the powerful in the Middle East. Such thinking, he wrote, "exactly matches the views of Osama bin Laden … with America's haters, that's all there is – hatred." This, of course, was Blair's view.

Freedoms are being lost in Britain because of the rapid growth of the "national security state." This form of militarism was imported from the United States by New Labour. Totalitarian in essence, it relies upon fear mongering to entrench the executive with venal legal mechanisms that progressively diminish democracy and justice. "Security" is all, as is propaganda promoting rapacious colonial wars, even as honest mistakes. Take away this propaganda, and the wars are exposed for what they are, and fear evaporates. Take away the obeisance of many in Britain's liberal elite to American power and you demote a profound colonial and crusader mentality that covers for epic criminals like Blair. Prosecute these criminals and change the system that breeds them and you have freedom.

Cambodia's Missing Accused


At my hotel in Phnom Penh, the women and children sat on one side of the room, palais-style, the men on the other. It was a disco night and a lot of fun; then suddenly people walked to the windows and wept. The DJ had played a song by the much-loved Khmer singer Sin Sisamouth, who had been forced to dig his own grave and to sing the Khmer Rouge anthem before he was beaten to death. I experienced many such reminders in the years following Pol Pot's fall.

There was another kind of reminder. In the village of Neak Long, a Mekong River town, I walked with a distraught man through a necklace of bomb craters. His entire family of 13 had been blown to pieces by an American B-52. That had happened almost two years before Pol Pot came to power in 1975. It is estimated more than 600,000 Cambodians were slaughtered that way.

The problem with the United Nations-backed trial of the remaining Khmer Rouge leaders, which has just begun in Phnom Penh, is that it is dealing only with the killers of Sin Sisamouth and not with the killers of the family in Neak Long, and not with their collaborators. There were three stages of Cambodia's holocaust. Pol Pot's genocide was but one of them, yet only it has a place in the official memory. It is highly unlikely Pot Pot would have come to power had President Richard Nixon and his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, not attacked neutral Cambodia. In 1973, B-52s dropped more bombs on Cambodia's populated heartland than were dropped on Japan during all of the Second World War: the equivalent of five Hiroshimas. Declassified files reveal that the CIA was in little doubt of the effect. "[The Khmer Rouge] are using damage caused by B-52 strikes as the main theme of their propaganda," reported the director of operations on May 2, 1973. "This approach has resulted in the successful recruitment of a number of young men [and] has been effective with refugees." Prior to the bombing, the Khmer Rouge had been a Maoist cult without a popular base. The bombing delivered a catalyst. What Nixon and Kissinger began, Pol Pot completed.

Kissinger will not be in the dock in Phnom Penh. He is advising President Obama on geo-politics. Neither will Margaret Thatcher, nor a number of her comfortably retired senior ministers and officials who, in secretly supporting the Khmer Rouge after the Vietnamese had expelled them, contributed directly to the third stage of Cambodia's holocaust. In 1979, the US and British governments imposed a devastating embargo on stricken Cambodia because its liberators, Vietnam, had come from the wrong side of the Cold War. Few Foreign Office campaigns have been as cynical or as brutal. At the UN, the British demanded that the now defunct Pol Pot regime retain the "right" to represent its victims at the UN and voted with Pol Pot in the agencies of the UN, including the World Health Organization, thereby preventing it from working inside Cambodia.

To disguise this outrage, Britain, the U.S., and China, Pol Pot's principal backer, invented a "non-communist" coalition in exile that was, in fact, dominated by the Khmer Rouge. In Thailand, the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency formed direct links with the Khmer Rouge. In 1983, the Thatcher government sent the SAS to train the "coalition" in land-mine technology – in a country more seeded with mines than anywhere on earth except Afghanistan. "I confirm," Thatcher wrote to opposition leader Neil Kinnock, "that there is no British government involvement of any kind in training, equipping, or cooperating with Khmer Rouge forces or those allied to them." The lie was breathtaking. On June 25, 1991, the Major government was forced to admit to parliament that the SAS had been secretly training the "coalition." Unless international justice is a farce, those who sided with Pol Pot's mass murderers ought to be summoned to the court in Phnom Penh: at the very least their names read into infamy's register.

Hollywood's New Censors


When I returned from the war in Vietnam, I wrote a film script as an antidote to the myth that the war had been an ill-fated noble cause. The producer David Puttnam took the draft to Hollywood and offered it to the major studios, whose responses were favorable – well, almost. Each issued a report card in which the final category, "politics," included comments such as: "This is real, but are the American people ready for it? Maybe they'll never be."

By the late 1970s, Hollywood judged Americans ready for a different kind of Vietnam movie. The first was The Deer Hunter which, according to Time, "articulates the new patriotism." The film celebrated immigrant America, with Robert de Niro as a working class hero ("liberal by instinct") and the Vietnamese as sub-human Oriental barbarians and idiots, or "gooks." The dramatic peak was reached during recurring orgiastic scenes in which GIs were forced to play Russian roulette by their Vietnamese captors. This was made up by the director Michael Cimino, who also made up a story that he had served in Vietnam. "I have this insane feeling that I was there," he said. "Somehow... the line between reality and fiction has become blurred." 

The Deer Hunter was regarded virtually as documentary by ecstatic critics. "The film that could purge a nation's guilt!" said the Daily Mail. President Jimmy Carter was reportedly moved by its "genuine American message." Catharsis was at hand. The Vietnam movies became a revisionist popular history of the great crime in Indo-China. That more than four million people had died terribly and unnecessarily and their homeland poisoned to a wasteland was not the concern of these films. Rather, Vietnam was an "American tragedy," in which the invader was to be pitied in a blend of false bravado-and-angst: sometimes crude (the Rambo films) and sometimes subtle (Oliver Stone's Platoon). What mattered was the strength of the purgative.

None of this, of course, was new; it was how Hollywood created the myth of the Wild West, which was harmless enough unless you happened to be a Native American; and how the Second World War has been relentlessly glorified, which may be harmless enough unless you happen to be one of countless innocent human beings, from Serbia to Iraq, whose deaths or dispossession are justified by moralizing references to 1939-45. Hollywood's gooks, its  Untermenschen, are essential to this crusade – the dispatched Somalis in Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down and the sinister Arabs in movies like Rendition, in which the torturing CIA is absolved by Jake Gyllenhal's good egg. As Robbie Graham and Mark Alford pointed out in their New Statesman enquiry into corporate control of the cinema (2 February), in 167 minutes of Steven Spielberg's Munich, the Palestinian cause is restricted to just two and a half minutes. "Far from being an 'even-handed cry for peace', as one critic claimed," they wrote, "Munich is more easily interpreted as a corporate-backed endorsement of Israeli policy."

With honorable exceptions, film critics rarely question this and identify the true power behind the screen. Obsessed with celebrity actors and vacuous narratives, they are the cinema's lobby correspondents, its dutiful press corps. Emitting safe snipes and sneers, they promote a deeply political system that dominates most of what we pay to see, knowing not what we are denied. Brian de Palma's 2007 film Redacted shows an Iraq the media does not report. He depicts the homicides and gang-rapes that are never prosecuted and are the essence of any colonial conquest. In the New York Village Voice, the critic Anthony Kaufman, in abusing the "divisive" De Palma for his "perverse tales of voyeurism and violence," did his best to taint the film as a kind of heresy and to bury it.

In this way, the "war on terror" – the conquest and subversion of resource rich regions of the world, whose ramifications and oppressions touch all our lives – is almost excluded from the popular cinema. Michael Moore's outstanding Fahrenheit 911 was a freak; the notoriety of its distribution ban by the Walt Disney Company helped to force its way into cinemas. My own 2007 film The War on Democracy, which inverted the "war on terror" in Latin America, was distributed in Britain, Australia and other countries but not in the United States. "You will need to make structural and political changes," said a major New York distributor. "Maybe get a star like Sean Penn to host it – he likes liberal causes – and tame those anti-Bush sequences." 

During the cold war, Hollywood's state propaganda was unabashed. The classic 1957 dance movie, Silk Stockings, was an anti-Soviet diatribe interrupted by the fabulous footwork of Cyd Charisse and Fred Astaire. These days, there are two types of censorship. The first is censorship by introspective dross. Betraying its long tradition of producing gems, escapist Hollywood is consumed by the corporate formula: just make 'em long and asinine and hope the hype will pay off. Ricky Gervais is his clever comic self in Ghost Town, while around him stale, formulaic characters sentimentalize the humor to death.

These are extraordinary times. Vicious colonial wars and political, economic and environmental corruption cry out for a place on the big screen. Yet, try to name one recent film that has dealt with these, honestly and powerfully, let alone satirically. Censorship by omission is virulent. We need another Wall Street, another Last Hurrah, another Dr. Strangelove. The partisans who tunnel out of their prison in Gaza, bringing in food, clothes, medicines and weapons with which to defend themselves, are no less heroic than the celluloid-honored POWs and partisans of the 1940s. They and the rest of us deserve the respect of the greatest popular medium.

Obama and the Politics of Bollocks


Growing up in an Antipodean society proud of its rich variety of expletives, I never heard the word bollocks. It was only on arrival in England that I understood its magisterial power. All classes used it. Judges grunted it; an editor of the Daily Mirror used it as noun, adjective and verb. Certainly, the resonance of a double vowel saw off its closest American contender. It had authority. 

A high official with the Gilbertian title of Lord West of Spithead used it to great effect on 27 January. The former admiral, who is security adviser to Gordon Brown, was referring to Tony Blair's famous assertion that invading countries and killing innocent people did not increase the threat of terrorism at home.  

"That was clearly bollocks," said his lordship, who warned of the perceived "linkage between the US, Israel and the UK" in the horrors inflicted on Gaza and the effect on the recruitment of terrorists in Britain. In other words, he was stating the obvious: that state terrorism begets individual or group terrorism at source. Just as Blair was the prime mover of the London bombings of 7 July 2005, so Brown, having pursued the same cynical crusades in Muslim countries and having armed and disported himself before the criminal regime in Tel Aviv, will share responsibility for related atrocities at home.  

There is a lot of bollocks about at the moment.

The BBC's explanation for banning an appeal on behalf of the stricken people of Gaza is a vivid example. Mark Thompson, the director general, cited the BBC's legal requirement to be "impartial … because Gaza is a major ongoing news story in which humanitarian issues … are both at the heart of the story and contentious." 

In a letter to Thomson, David Bracewell, illuminated the deceit behind this. He pointed to previous BBC appeals for the Disasters Emergency Committee that were not only made in the midst of "an ongoing news story" in which humanitarian issues were "contentious," but demonstrated how the BBC took sides. In 1999, at the height of the illegal NATO bombing of Serbia and Kosovo, the TV presenter Jill Dando made an appeal on behalf of Kosovar refugees. The BBC web page for that appeal was linked to numerous articles meant to support the gravity of the humanitarian issue. These included quotations from Blair himself, such as "This will be a daily pounding until [Slobodan Milosevic] comes into line with the terms that NATO has laid down." There was no significant balance of view from the Yugoslav side, and not a single mention that the flight of Kosovar refugees began only after NATO had started bombing. Similarly, in an appeal for the victims of the civil war in the Congo, the BBC favored the regime of Joseph Kabila without referring to the Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and other reports accusing his forces of atrocities. In contrast, the rebel leader Nkunda was "accused of committing atrocities" and was ordained the BBC's bad guy. Kabila, who represented western interests, was clearly the good guy – just like NATO in the Balkans and Israel in the Middle East.  

While Mark Thompson and his satraps richly deserve the Lord West of Spithead Bollocks Blue Ribbon, that honor goes to the cheer squad of President Barack Obama, whose cult-like obeisance goes on and on. 

On 23 January, the Guardian's front page declared, "Obama shuts network of CIA 'ghost prisons.' " The "wholesale deconstruction [sic] of George Bush's war on terror," said the report, had been ordered by the new president who would be "shutting down the CIA's secret prison network, banning torture and rendition …." 

The bollocks quotient on this was so high that it read like the press release it was, citing "officials briefing reporters at the White House yesterday." Obama's orders, according to a group of 16 retired generals and admirals who attended a presidential signing ceremony, "would restore America's moral standing in the world." What moral standing? It never ceases to astonish that experienced reporters can transmit PR stunts like this, bearing in mind the moving belt of lies from the same source under only nominally different management. 

Far from "deconstructing [sic] the war on terror," Obama is clearly pursuing it with the same vigor, ideological backing and deception as the previous administration. George W. Bush's first war, in Afghanistan, and last war, in Pakistan, are now Obama's wars – with thousands more US troops to be deployed, more bombing and more slaughter of civilians. On 22 January, the day he described Afghanistan and Pakistan as "the central front in our enduring struggle against terrorism and extremism," 22 Afghan civilians died beneath Obama's bombs in a hamlet populated mainly by shepherds and which, by all accounts, had not laid eyes on the Taliban. Women and children were among the dead, which is normal.  

Far from "shutting down the CIA's secret prison network," Obama's executive orders actually give the CIA authority to carry out renditions, abductions and transfers of prisoners in secret without the threat of legal obstruction. As the Los Angeles Times disclosed, "current and former intelligence officials said the rendition program might be poised to play an expanded role." A semantic sleight of hand is that "long term prisons" are changed to "short term prisons"; and while Americans are now banned from directly torturing people, foreigners working for the US are not. This means that America's numerous "covert actions" will operate as they did under previous presidents, with proxy regimes, such as Augusto Pinochet's in Chile, doing the dirtiest work.  

Bush's open support for torture, and Donald Rumsfeld's extraordinary personal overseeing of certain torture techniques, upset many in America's "secret army" of subversive military and intelligence operators as it exposed how the system worked. Obama's nominee for director of national intelligence, Admiral Dennis Blair, has said the Army Field Manual may include new forms of "harsh interrogation," which will be kept secret.  

Obama has chosen not to stop any of this. Neither do his ballyhooed executive orders put an end to Bush's assault on constitutional and international law. He has retained Bush's "right" to imprison anyone, without trial or charges. No "ghost prisoners" are being released or are due to be tried before a civilian court. His nominee for attorney general, Eric Holder, has endorsed an extension of Bush's totalitarian USA PATRIOT Act, which allows federal agents to demand Americans' library and bookshop records. The man of "change," is changing little. That ought to be front page news from Washington.  

The Lord West of Spithead Bollocks Prize (Runner-up) is shared. On 28 January, a national Greenpeace advertisement opposing a third runway at London's Heathrow airport summed up the almost willful naivety that has obstructed informed analysis of the Obama administration. "Fortunately," declared Greenpeace beneath a God-like picture of Obama, "the White House has a new occupant, and he has asked us all to roll back the specter of a warming planet." This was followed by Obama's rhetorical flourish about "putting off unpleasant decisions." In fact, Obama has made no commitment to curtail America's infamous responsibility for the causes of global warming. As with Bush and most modern era presidents, it is oil, not stemming carbon emissions, that informs the new administration. Obama's national security adviser, General Jim Jones, a former NATO supreme commander, made his name planning US military control over the exploitation of oil and gas reserves from the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea to the Gulf of Guinea in Africa. 

Sharing the Bollocks Runner-up Prize is the Observer, which on 25 January published a major news report headlined, "How Obama set the tone for a new US revolution." This was reminiscent of the Observer almost a dozen years ago when liberalism's other great white hope, Tony Blair, came to power. "Goodbye Xenophobia" was the Observer's post-election front page in 1997 and "The Foreign Office says Hello World, remember us." The government, said the breathless text, would push for "new worldwide rules on human rights and the environment" and implement "tough new limits" on arms sales. The opposite happened. Last year, Britain was the biggest arms dealer in the world; currently it is second only to the United States.  

In the Blair mold, the Obama White House "sprang into action" with its "radical plans." The new president's first phone call was to that Palestinian quisling, the unelected and deeply unpopular Mohammed Abbas. There was a "hot pace" and a "new era," in which a notorious name from an ancien regime, Richard Holbrooke, was dispatched to Pakistan. In 1978, Holbrooke betrayed a promise to normalize relations with the Vietnamese on the eve of a vicious embargo that ruined the lives of countless Vietnamese children. Under Obama, the "sense of a new era abroad," declared the Observer, "was reinforced by the confirmation of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state."

Clinton has threatened to "entirely obliterate Iran" on behalf of Israel.  

What the childish fawning over Obama obscures is the dark power assembled under cover of America's first "post-racial president." Apart from the US, the world's most dangerous state is demonstrably Israel, having recently killed and maimed some 4,000 people in Gaza with impunity. On 10 February, a bellicose Israeli electorate is likely to put Binyamin Netanyahu into power. Netanyahu is a fanatic's fanatic who has made clear his intention of attacking Iran. In the Wall Street Journal on 24 January, he described Iran as the "terrorist mother base" and justified the murder of civilians in Gaza because "Israel cannot accept an Iranian terror base (Gaza) next to its major cities." On 31 January, unaware he was being filmed, Israel's ambassador in Australia described the massacres in Gaza as a "pre-introduction" – dress rehearsal – for an attack on Iran.  

For Netanyahu, the reassuring news is that Obama's administration is the most Zionist in living memory – a truth that has struggled to be told from beneath the soggy layers of Obama-love. Not a single member of Obama's team demurred from Obama's support for Israel's barbaric actions in Gaza. Obama himself likened the safety of his two young daughters with that of Israeli children while making not a single reference to the thousands of Palestinian children killed with American weapons – a violation of both international and US law. He did, however, demand that the people of Gaza be denied "smuggled" small arms with which to defend themselves against the world's fourth largest military power. And he paid tribute to the Arab dictatorships, such as Egypt, which are bribed by the US Treasury to help the US and Israel enforce policies described by the United Nations Rapporteur, Richard Falk, a Jew, as "genocidal." 

It is time the Obama lovers grew up. It is time those paid to keep the record straight gave us the opportunity to debate informatively. In the 21st century, people power remains a huge and exciting and largely untapped force for change, but it is nothing without truth. "In the time of universal deceit," wrote George Orwell, "telling the truth is a revolutionary act." 

Come On Down for Your Freedom Medals


On 13 January, George W. Bush presented "presidential freedom medals," said to be America's highest recognition of devotion to freedom and peace. Among the recipients were Tony Blair, the epic liar who, with Bush, bears responsibility for the physical, social and cultural destruction of an entire nation; John Howard, the former prime minister of Australia and minor American vassal who led the most openly racist government in his country's modern era; and Alvaro Uribe, the president of Colombia, whose government, according the latest study of that murderous state, is "responsible for more than 90 percent of all cases of torture."

As satire was made redundant when Henry Kissinger and Rupert Murdoch were honored for their contributions to the betterment of humanity, Bush's ceremony was, at least, telling of a system of which he and his freshly-minted successor are products. Although more spectacular in its choreographed histrionics, Barack Obama's inauguration carried the same Orwellian message of inverted truth: of ruthlessness of criminal power, if not unending war. The continuity between the two administrations has been as seamless as the transfer of the odious Bono's allegiance, symbolized by President Obama's oath-taking on the steps of Congress – where, only days earlier, the House of Representatives, dominated by the new president's party, the Democrats, voted 390-5 to back Israel's massacres in Gaza. The supply of American weapons used in the massacres was authorized previously by such a margin. These included the Hellfire missile which sucks the air out of lungs, ruptures livers and amputates arms and legs without the necessity of shrapnel: a "major advance," according to the specialist literature. As a senator, then president-elect, Obama raised no objection to these state-of-the-art [sic] weapons being rushed to Israel – worth $22 billion in 2008 – in time for the long-planned assault on Gaza's fenced and helpless population. This is understandable; it is how the system works. On no other issue does Congress and the president, Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals, give such absolute support. By comparison, the German Reichstag in the 1930s was a treasure of democratic and principled debate.

This is not to say presidents and members of Congress fail to recognize the Israel "lobbyists" in their midst as thugs and political blackmailers, though they never say in public, and indeed disport themselves at Zionist fund-raisers and on paid-for trips to the object of their ardor. But they fear them. As eyes welled on 20 January for the first African-American president, who remembered Cynthia McKinney, the courageous African-American Congresswoman, the first to be elected from Georgia, who spoke out for the Palestinians and was duly driven from office by a Zionist smear campaign? For their part, the Israelis' current, phony "unilateral ceasefire" in Gaza is designed not to embarrass, not yet, their new man in the White House, whose single acknowledgment of the "suffering" of the Palestinians has been long eclipsed by his loyalty oaths to Tel Aviv (even promising Jerusalem as Israel's capital, which not even Bush did) and his appointment of probably the most pro-Zionist administration for a generation.

As deserving as Blair, Howard and Uribe are of the Bush Freedom Medal, others cry out for a place in their company. With the assault on Gaza a defining moment of truth and lies, principle and cowardice, peace and war, justice and injustice, I have two nominees. My first is the government and society of Israel. (I checked; the Freedom Medal can be awarded collectively). "Few of us," wrote Arthur Miller, "can easily surrender our belief that society must somehow make sense. The thought 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."

The bleak irony of this should be clear to all in Israel, yet its denial has emboldened a militarist, racist cult that uses every epithet against the Palestinians that was once directed at Jews, with the exception of extermination – and even that is not entirely excluded, as the deputy defense minister, Matan Vilinai, noted last year with his threat of a shoah (holocaust).

In 1948, the year Israel's right to exist was granted and Palestine's annulled, Albert Einstein, Hannah Arendt and other leading Jews in the United States warned the administration not to get involved with fascists like Menachem Begin who described the Palestinians in the way the Nazis used untermenschen – as "animals on two legs." He became prime minister of Israel. This fascism, which was not often flouted openly, was the harbinger of Likud and Kadima. These are today "mainstream" political parties, whose influence, in the treatment of the Palestinians, covers a national "consensus" that is the source of the terror in Palestine: the brutal dispossessions and perfidious controls, the humiliation and cruelty by statute. The mirror of this is domestic violence at home. Conscripted soldiers return from their "war" on Palestinian women and children and make war on their own. Young whites drafted into South Africa's apartheid army did the same. Inhumanity on such a scale cannot be buried indefinitely. When Desmond Tutu described his experience in Palestine and Israel as "worse than apartheid," he pointed out that not even in white supremacist South Africa were there the equivalent of "Jews only" roads. Uri Avnery, one of Israel's bravest dissidents, says his country's leaders suffer from "moral insanity": a prerequisite, I should add, for the award of a Bush Freedom Medal.

My other nominee for a Bush Freedom Medal is that amorphous group known as western journalism, which has always made much of its freedom and impartiality. Listen to the way Israeli "spokespersons" and ambassadors are interviewed. How respectfully their official lies are received; how minimally they are challenged. They are one of us, you see: calm and western-sounding, even blonde, female and attractive. The frightened, jabbering voice on the line from Gaza is not one of us. That is the subliminal message. Listen to newsreaders use only the pejoratives for the Palestinians: words like "militants" for resisters to invasion, many of them heroes, a word never used, and "conflict" for massacre. Mark the timeless propaganda that suggests there are two equal powers fighting a "war," not a stricken people, attacked and starved by the world's fourth largest military power which ensures they have no places of refuge. And note the omissions – the BBC does not preface its reports with the warning that a foreign power controls its reporters' movements, as it did in Serbia and Argentina, neither does it explain why it shows but glimpses of the extraordinary coverage of al-Jazeera from within Gaza.

There are the ubiquitous myths, too: that Israel has suffered terribly from thousands of missiles fired from Gaza. In truth, the first homemade Qassam rocket was fired across the Israeli border in October 2001, and the first fatality occurred in June 2004. Some 24 Israelis had been killed in this way, compared with 5000 Palestinians killed, more than half of them in Gaza, at least a third of them children. Now imagine if the 1.5 million Gazans had been Jewish, or Kosovar refugees. "The only honorable course for Europe and America is to use military force to try to try to protect the people of Kosovo …," declared the Guardian on 23 March, 1999. Inexplicably, the Guardian has yet to call for such "an honorable course" to protect the people of Gaza.

Such is the rule of acceptable victims and unacceptable victims. When reporters break this rule they are accused of "anti-Israel bias" and worse, and their life is made a misery by a hyperactive cyber-army that drafts complaints, provides generic material and coaches people all over the world on how to smear as "anti-Jewish" work they have not seen. These vociferous campaigns are complemented by anonymous death threats, which I and others have experienced. Their latest tactic is malicious hacking into websites. But that is desperate, since the times are changing.

Across the world, people once indifferent to the arcane "conflict" in the Middle East, now ask the question the BBC and CNN rarely ask: Why does Israel have a right to exist, but Palestine does not? They ask, too, why do the lawless enjoy such immunity in the pristine world of balance and objectivity? The perfectly-spoken Israeli "spokesman" represents the most lawless regime on earth, exotic tyrannies included, according to a tally of United Nations resolutions defied and Geneva Conventions defiled. In France, 80 organizations are working to bring war crimes indictments against Israel's leaders. On 15 January, the fine Israeli reporter, Gideon Levy, wrote in Ha'aretz that Israeli generals "will not be the only ones to hide in El Al planes lest they are arrested [overseas]."

One day, other journalists and their editors and producers may be called upon to not only explain why they did not tell the truth about these criminals but even to stand in the dock with them. No Bush Freedom Medal is worth that.