John Pilger: We are Spartacus

November 9, 2023

There has rarely been a moment in this millenium where the world and societies were so clearly divided. How those who claimed to be fighting the axis of evil have become so themselves.

John Pilger is an award-winning journalist, filmmaker, and author. Read his full biography on his website here, and follow him on Twitter: @JohnPilger

From Consortium News


Spartacus was a 1960 Hollywood film based on a book written secretly
by the blacklisted novelist Howard Fast, and adapted by the screenplay
writer Dalton Trumbo, one of the ‘Hollywood 10’ who were banned for
their ‘un-American’ politics. It is a parable of resistance and
heroism that speaks unreservedly to our own times.

Both writers were Communists and victims of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s
House of Un-American Activities which, during the Cold War, destroyed
the careers and often the lives of those principled and courageous
enough to stand up to a homegrown fascism in America.

‘This is a sharp time, now, a precise time …’ wrote Arthur Miller in
The Crucible, ‘We live no longer in the dusky afternoon when evil
mixed itself with good and befuddled the world.’

There is one ‘precise’ provocateur now; it is clear to see for those
who want to see it and foretell its actions. It is a gang of states
led by the United States whose stated objective is ‘full spectrum
dominance’. Russia is still the hated one, Red China the feared one.
From Washington and London, the virulence has no limit. Israel, the
colonial anachronism and unleashed attack dog, is armed to the teeth
and granted historical impunity so that ‘we’ the West ensure the blood
and tears never dry in Palestine. Members of the UK Parliament who dare call for a
ceasefire in Gaza are banished, the iron door of two-party politics
closed to them by a Labour leader who would withhold water and food
from the children of Palestine.

In McCarthy’s time, there were bolt holes of truth. Mavericks welcomed
then are heretics now; an underground of journalism exists (such as
this site) in a landscape of mendacious conformity. Dissenting
journalists have been defenestrated from the ‘mainstream’ (as the
great editor David Bowman wrote); the media’s task is to invert the
truth and support the illusions of democracy, including a ‘free

Social Democracy has shrunk to the width of a cigarette paper that
separates the principal policies of major parties. Their one
subscription is to a capitalist cult, neoliberalism, and an imposed
poverty described by a UN special rapporteur as ‘the immiseration of a
significant part of the British population.’

War today is an unmoving shadow; ‘forever’ imperial wars are
designated normal. Iraq, the model, is destroyed at a cost of a
million lives and three million dispossessed. The destroyer, Blair, is
personally enriched and fawned over at his party’s conference as an
electoral winner. Blair and his moral counter, Julian Assange, live 14
miles apart, one in a Regency mansion, the other in a cell awaiting
extradition to hell.

According to a Brown University study, since 9/11, almost six million
men, women and children have been killed by America and its acolytes
in the ‘Global War on Terror’. A monument is to be built in Washington
in ‘celebration’ of this mass murder; its committee is chaired by the
former president, George W Bush, Blair’s mentor. Afghanistan, where it
started, was finally laid to waste when President Biden shop-lifted
its national bank reserves

There have been many Afghanistans. The forensic William Blum devoted
himself to making sense of a state terrorism that seldom spoke its
name and so requires repetition:

In my lifetime, the United States has overthrown or attempted to
overthrow more than 50 governments, most democracies. It has
interfered in democratic elections in 30 countries. It has dropped
bombs on the people of 30 countries, most of them poor and
defenceless. It has fought to suppress liberation movements in 20
countries. It has attempted to murder countless leaders.

Perhaps I hear some of you saying: that is enough. As the Final
Solution of Gaza is broadcast live to millions, the small faces of its
victims etched in bombed rubble, framed between TV commercials for
cars and pizza, yes, that is surely enough. How profane is that word

Afghanistan was where the West sent young men weighed down with the
ritual of ‘warriors’ to kill people and enjoy it. We know some of them
enjoyed it from the evidence of Australian SAS sociopaths, including a
photograph of them drinking from an Afghan man’s prosthetic.

Not one sociopath has been charged for this and crimes such as kicking
a man over a cliff, gunning down children point-blank, slitting
throats: none of it ‘in battle’. David McBride, a former Australian
military lawyer who served twice in Afghanistan, was a ‘true
believer’ in the system as moral and honourable, He also has an
abiding belief in truth, and loyalty. He can define them as few can.
On 13 November he is in court in Canberra as an alleged criminal.

‘An Australian whistleblower,’ reports Kieran Pender, a senior lawyer
at the Australian Human Rights Law Centre, ‘ [will face] trial for
blowing the whistle on horrendous wrongdoing. It is profoundly unjust
that the first person on trial for war crimes in Afghanistan is the
whistleblower and not an alleged war criminal.’

McBride can receive a sentence of up to 100 years for revealing the
cover-up of the great crime of Afghanistan. He tried to exercise his
legal right as a whistleblower under the Public Interest Disclosure
Act, which the current Attorney General, Mark Dreyfus, says ‘delivers
on our promise to strengthen protections for public sector
whistleblowers’. Yet it is Dreyfus, a Labor minister, who signed off
on the McBride trial following a punitive wait of four years and eight
months since his arrest at Sydney airport: a wait that shredded his
health and family.

Those who know David and know of the hideous injustice done to him
fill his street in Bondi near the beach in Sydney to wave their
encouragement to this good and decent man. To them, and me, he is a

McBride was affronted by what he found in the files he was ordered to
inspect. Here was evidence of crimes and their cover-up. He passed
hundreds of secret documents to the Australian Broadcasting
Corporation and the Sydney Morning Herald. Police raided the ABC’s
offices in Sydney while reporters and producers watched, shocked, as
their computers were confiscated by the Federal Police.

Attorney-General Dreyfus, self-declared liberal reformer and friend of
whistleblowers, has the singular power to stop the McBride trial. A
Freedom of Information search of his actions in this direction
suggests an indifference to whether or not an innocent man rots.

You can’t run a fully-fledged democracy and a colonial war; one
aspires to decency, the other is a form of fascism, regardless of its
pretensions. Mark the killing fields of Gaza, bombed to dust by
apartheid Israel. It is no coincidence that in rich, yet impoverished
Britain an ‘inquiry’ is currently being held into the gunning down by
British SAS soldiers of 80 Afghans, all civilians, including a couple
in bed.

The grotesque injustice meted out to David McBride is minted from the
injustice consuming his compatriot, Julian Assange. Both are friends
of mine. Whenever I see them, I am optimistic. ‘You cheer me,’ I tell
Julian as he raises a defiant fist at the end of our visiting period.
‘You make me feel proud,’ I tell David at our favourite coffee shop in
Sydney. Their bravery has allowed many of us, who might despair, to
understand the real meaning of a resistance we all share if we want to
prevent the conquest of us, our conscience, our self respect, if we
prefer freedom and decency to compliance and collusion. In this, we
are all Spartacus.

Spartacus was the rebellious leader of Rome’s slaves in 71-73 BC.
There is a thrilling moment in the Kirk Douglas movie Spartacus when
the Romans call on Spartacus’s men to identify their leader and so be
pardoned. Instead hundreds of his comrades stand and raise their fists
in solidarity and shout, ‘I am Spartacus!’ The rebellion is under way.

Julian and David are Spartacus. The Palestinians are Spartacus. People
who fill the streets with flags and principle and solidarity are
Spartacus. We are all Spartacus if we want to be.