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 than 90 per cent 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 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, its 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 shoa (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 untermenchen — 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.

John Pilger is an internationally renowned investigative journalist and documentary filmmaker. His latest film is The War on Democracy. His most recent book is Freedom Next Time: Resisting the Empire (2006). Read other articles by John, or visit John's website.

15 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozh said on January 22nd, 2009 at 1:07pm #

    i am not sure that the word “refugee” for a kosovar is adequate or accurate.
    repression of kosovars dates from mid-19th century and after serbs drove turks out. most kosovars and bosnians (some serbs, too) accepted islam. in serb and croat eyes that was criminal act.

    after tito’s death, serbia unilaterally abrogates kosovo autonomy in ?’87.
    they were accused of wanting independence; which is not a crime in my eyes.
    oppression and repression intensified after that. in addition, when one abrogates another people’s autonomy, it in my mind, represents casus belli.
    kosovars have in ’99 fled fearing possible/probable massacres; similar to what happened to croats of croatia and bosnia and bosniaks, the muslims.
    a better word to use for kosovar exodus wld be fleeing for life or being expelled by some serb terrorists groups such as white eagles and other gangs similar to ashkenazic gangs in expalestine.thnx

  2. bozh said on January 22nd, 2009 at 1:19pm #

    generally, speaking many leftists do not know much of croatian and serb histories.
    one profound fact that they, as far as i know, always omit is the fact that some croats and serbs were strongly imperialistic.
    so, since serbia to them had not been imperialistic, it must have always defended self.
    and all imperialism is evil. nato invasion of serbia may have been occluded had serbs restored kosovar autonomy; and one such as in s.tyrol in n. italy.
    but serb hatred for muslims, et al, blinded them to even think of other solutions. thnx

  3. John Hatch said on January 22nd, 2009 at 2:15pm #

    Yes, there is CNN and Fox and Time magazine and the Washington Post, but there is also John Pilger. Thank goodness!

  4. Adnan said on January 22nd, 2009 at 2:40pm #


    Serbs never drove out anybody, Turks included.
    After 500 years of Muslim rule would you not expect that some people accept religion of rulers? If Turks (Muslims) were ruling occupied territories in a way Europeans ruled North and South America there would not be any Serbs, Croats, Greeks, Bulgarians, Spaniards …. left.
    This might be reason why European Governments are supporting Israel, it is following their lead.

  5. bozh said on January 22nd, 2009 at 3:50pm #

    serbia was liberated from 400-year ottoman rule in early 1800s by an uprisinng.
    however, only after austrians, hungarians, poles, ukrainians, wallachians, slovaks, czechs, germans, bulgarians, slovenes, croats, moldavians, albanians, and rumanians drove out ottomans from their lands.
    serbs have expelled croats from croatia and bosnia. serbs have also expelled/slaughtered bosniaks.

    only a small number of serbs have accepted islam. some serb and croat nobles have accepted islam, but it did not take 500 years. it seems it took less than a 100 years for about 50% of the bosnian pop to take up islam .

  6. giorgio said on January 23rd, 2009 at 6:54am #

    “On 13 January, George W. Bush presented “presidential freedom medals,” …….Among the recipients were Tony Blair, the epic liar
    …..John Howard, the former prime minister of Australia and minor American vassal…. and Alvaro Uribe, the president of Colombia”

    How impressive! How about some Purple Stars wrapped up in killed Iraqis’ shoes and shoved up their arses?
    This coming administration should seriously consider instituting such a ceremony in future….

  7. Brian Koontz said on January 23rd, 2009 at 9:55am #

    Backers of Israel are preparing for an expected future reality in which Israel is powerful and the Palestinians are gone. Corpses leave few objections.

    War is a method of controlling future reality. Native Americans not only lost their society, their people, and their culture, they lost future existence. For example, how many more leftists care about the Palestinian/Israeli issue than the Native American situation? The argument for such a judgment is that the Palestinian/Israeli issue is “active”, it’s something which we can have effect on, while the Native American situation is “history”.

    But everything becomes history – so if the Zionists have their way the Palestinians will simply become the Native Americans – caged, controlled, a zoological exhibit, a museum artifact. And the leftists will move on to other “active” issues.

    Let us not forget that so many leftists are pacifists. So what can they say in the face of the extermination of the Native Americans? They surely can’t say that *punishment* should be forced upon the usurpers. Surely they can’t say that *revenge* should be taken. Even now the left speaks of mere “reparations”, as if reparations can possibly make up for what has been done!

    What does a Palestinian think, in his examination of his role in the world relative to the Native Americans? Does he think that one day maybe he too can plead for reparations on behalf of his destroyed community?

    The left is so pacifistic indeed that they condemn the rockets sent by Hamas into Israel – rockets fired against “civilians” – nevermind that these “civilians” overwhelmingly support the extermination or driving out of the native population. Remember, the left are the “good guys”. With friends like this, who needs enemies?

    What if I came to your house, killed your family, destroyed your possessions, and then after a long struggle in which I fervently resisted cut you a check as “reparations”. What do you think of that?

    And why, why, why, when you would obviously call for MY HEAD ON A PLATE if I did such a thing, do you DARE to condemn the rockets sent by Hamas into Israel?

    There are only two good outcomes for horrific criminals such as the Zionist state and all who support them – imprisonment or death. Everyone who achieves either imprisonment or death for them is a hero. Everyone who believes that not firing rockets against Israel will make them feel secure and get them to stop their genocide against Palestinians is an utter fool.

    Do we condemn any concentration camp Jew for violence committed against the Nazis while in the concentration camp? Of course not! Why is there so much Anti-Palestinian sentiment on the left?

  8. DanE said on January 23rd, 2009 at 12:23pm #

    Brian K, you’re OK. If not “PC”:)

    My personal opinion is that any Israeli who fully understands what the Zionazi State amounts to will vote with his/her feet ASAP, get the hell out & sever all connection.

    Here in the USA, we have the “progressive Democrats”, a few of whom are likely sincere. But the more sincere they are, and the better the political positions they advocate, the better they serve the purpose of the overall Demock-rat strategy, by providing cover for the out & out fascists like Obama, Clinton et al. Such figures as D Kucinich blur the lines between the world of antiwar activism and the world of Obamism — you did see Dennis right there on the platform at the Coronation, near enough to Obama to reach out & touch, grinning like a fool?
    If Dennis K wasn’t consciously Part of the Scam himself no way he’d have allowed himself to be televised with that sycophant grin on his face congratulating the worst political disaster to befall the planet since Napoleon. (Bertram Gross’ “Friendly Fascism” has been superseded by Cool Fascism).
    But I disgress. The point is that people need to make it clear where they stand. “Israel” is a phenomenon that must be made to vanish, dismantled root and branch. It’s not just the institutional structures, but a collective pathology that must be eradicated. So by staying there, and participating in their well-meant “peacenik” activities, even the most progressive “Israelis” wind up enhancing the illusion that “Israel” is a country like other countries, when in reality it’s an abomination in the same class as the Third Reich and the Confederate States of America.
    “Israel Delendi Est”. And take your puppet “Democratic Party” with you.

  9. giorgio said on January 23rd, 2009 at 12:39pm #

    Brian Koontz,

    That was neat and eloquently put!
    I agree, the ‘Left’ is just too ‘polite’ to raise their voices against such psychopathic killers… as if politeness will make them see reason, but instead just encourages them to be even more brutal…

  10. Ramsefall said on January 23rd, 2009 at 2:05pm #

    Brian K,

    your analogy of Palestine/N.Amer indigenous people couldn’t have been made any more effectively.

    I just explained it in more or less the same way with the father of one of my Swiss students who asked me what I think about the ni**er president. I told him first of all that the derogatory statement was out of line, and that the Palestinians are justifiably defending their land, people and democratically elected govt against the irrational invaders who stand on the same principles as did the European invaders with the Indians. We failed to make headway on the issue.

    You have many rational proposals which you post on your site and discussion board here, why aren’t you submitting articles here on DV? They would be welcome. Something to think about.

    Thanks for your analysis and contribution.

    Best to you.

  11. Brian Koontz said on January 23rd, 2009 at 5:37pm #

    “You have many rational proposals which you post on your site and discussion board here, why aren’t you submitting articles here on DV? They would be welcome. Something to think about.”

    Institutions shape the people who are in them, who must act in a certain way in order to remain in the institution, much less thrive in it. To analyze an institution analyze the output and ultimately analyze the effect that output has on the world. What is Dissident Voice, exactly?

    A logical analysis, according to me, is that Western institutions won’t be the ones to save the world. I don’t believe the role of the Western left is to help the world, but serve the imperial interests of the West – to serve as the “face of compassion” to the world. The use of “pacifism” as an excuse to not fight against imperial domination is just one example of the charade.

    The problem for me personally, is that I’m in on the charade. I enjoy my material comforts, and am self-limited in helping the world because I don’t want to risk losing those comforts. I would rather eat well than have some people in the world eat at all.

    So if Western institutions, however high-minded, are corrupt, what then? Shouldn’t I move somewhere that I believe *can* save the world? Many of us on the left, myself included, consider South America to be one such possibility.

    I’m 34 years old. I’m a philosopher. I was apolitical prior to 2002, and politics didn’t become my primary focus until 2006. I know very little Spanish. I know little about South America. I know a lot about the English language however, and I know the United States pretty well. So what should I do? I’m poor (by American standards), so a move to South America would probably be my last. Would I be more beneficial somewhere in South America?

    While many Americans consider the possibility of an economic collapse in America a terrible thing, I believe it’s a good thing, since it will accompany the end of the American Empire. America can either transition into a regular member of the imperial West, like Britain following the collapse of it’s empire, or it can fall from the West entirely. In either case, that gives leftists in the US hope that American society will finally become decent. As imperialism corrupts, the end of imperialism cleanses.

    With that hope along with the possible rise of anarchism in America, these “dark” times actually are the first times in my lifetime that I feel good about the future. The Bush Administration was terrible for the American Empire and *therefore* great for the American left – maybe the greatest executive office in American history. The Neoconservatives are right about one thing – they are truly misunderstood. Nixon marked the beginning of the downfall of the American Empire – the Neocons continued in that spirit. There’s a term for the Bush Administration that is never used by the corrupt Western left – “self-destructive”. Self-destruction is a desire for the self to not exist. This is a noble course of action for the corrupt.

    So it seems as if the right move is for me to remain in the United States, fight against my own corruption, join in any anarchist movement I can, continue to learn about the world, live this crazy thing called life, and hope that in the final analysis I’m something better than a monster.

  12. Brian Koontz said on January 23rd, 2009 at 5:43pm #

    Clarification: by “the self to not exist” I mean the transformation of the self into a new identity.

  13. Ramsefall said on January 23rd, 2009 at 9:26pm #


    since the impetus of our communications, I have wondered what the connection is…no longer is that the case.

    If only you, and even myself, could fully appreciate the reasons for why things are and why things happen. I’ve recognized how you wield the English language like that of very few others I encounter in life since our first debate several moons back; and your admittance to being a philosopher is no surprise based on the discourse which you and I have directed. That talent with the language which you possess can be put to use for the benefit of others, and for yours as well, I can see to that easily if that interests you.

    If you would, please contact me at moc.liamgnull@ognirgtapxe so that you and I are able to continue this desire of yours to “learn about the world”, as you expressed. The best way to learn about it, is to immerse yourself in it.

    As you give, so do I. A bit of a bio for you in order to effectively persuade your willingness to take a risk…not that you haven’t already taken a number of them already in your life which I wouldn’t presume.

    At 36, with only a backpack, less than $1,500 in a checking account, a round-trip ticket to Bogota, Colombia, language skills, and 2+ decades of accumulated thirst to not just travel, but LIVE in the world that captivated me, I jumped off the edge of the abyss with no job lined up, no place to live, and no personal contacts, with the commitment of 1-2 years. In short, I just passed 3 years in Nov and while always being pulled back to the Heartland, my new cultural identification can’t be abandoned so easily.

    Friendly advice regarding material comforts: quit beating yourself over the head. If you can’t, then what can you do to do something about it? You’re an intelligent being, what are the resources needed to go beyond it? You can go beyond self-limited to empowered in helping the world, without giving up comforts, and yet minimizing energy consumption. I can arrange that if you’re interested, and you have the capacity to teach the language in which you are obviously quite proficient.

    I’m pleased to see your response, I’ll leave the rest up to you.

    The best to you, Brian.

  14. Brian Koontz said on January 26th, 2009 at 11:32am #

    “Friendly advice regarding material comforts: quit beating yourself over the head. If you can’t, then what can you do to do something about it? You’re an intelligent being, what are the resources needed to go beyond it? You can go beyond self-limited to empowered in helping the world, without giving up comforts, and yet minimizing energy consumption. I can arrange that if you’re interested, and you have the capacity to teach the language in which you are obviously quite proficient.”

    Energy consumption isn’t very relevant on the individual level. The world will either be saved or not saved on the level of high capital, or more likely through a political revolution to democratically distribute control of capital. The world will merely be extended by a few years by individuals without much political power being “energy conscious”.

    There are a vast array of issues regarding “material comfort” and control of resources. Being poor AND being rich (rich clearly includes the “middle class” in Western countries) are both Faustian bargains – being poor allows for personal morality at the mere cost of virtually any ability to implement that morality in the world (both for structural and personal reasons). Being rich on the other hand ensures a dark identity of arrogance, greed, deceit, and tremendous violence. (Poor Americans are part of the global middle class).

    One of the prime questions for me is how one can simultaneously pursue power AND pursue morality. This marriage is perhaps the only thing that can save the world. Certain individuals have arguably achieved some degree of this, but that individual achievement has stopped there – no powerful institution in the world is moral.

    I’ll talk to you privately shortly, though Colombia would be a strange and dangerous place for me, perhaps my last choice on the continent. Colombian paramilitaries make bloody ends of anything decent in the country. Terms like “morality”, “decency”, and “humanity”, at least when used honestly, are dirty words with respect to the power contingent in that country. The whole point of the Colombian state, as far as I can tell, is to remain in power by any means necessary and to do whatever actions it takes to maximize the flow of “foreign aid” from the American state to themselves.

  15. Ramsefall said on January 27th, 2009 at 7:43am #

    Not to worry, Brian, I could likely hook you up with a teaching job in Santiago, Chile as well, provided you have qualifications.

    We’ll discuss the rest shortly.

    Best to you.