Category Archives: around the world

as the empire strikes back in Venezuela, our news media does its bidding (again)

Background

A 2003 documentary entitled The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (Spanish: La revolución no será transmitida) provides a fascinating insight and behind the scenes account of the US-backed but failed Venezuelan coup of April 2002. Irish filmmakers Kim Bartley and Donnacha Ó Briain, who had been given direct access to Hugo Chavez with the intention only of making a fly-on-the-wall biography, suddenly finding themselves trapped in the midst of quite extraordinary political turmoil and turnaround:

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If at first you don’t succeed…

NEUMANN: Thank you very much. Vanessa Neumann, Asymmetrica. I am a dual America and Venezuelan citizen. So here goes my question, because we’re not covering anything about Western Hemisphere in this forum. Obviously Maduro in Venezuela regime change looks to be, we hope imminent or spiraling down until we either become Cuba in two weeks time or – and die forever or there’s a change in 60 to 90 days. I’m interested in your open assessment on American interests in or threats from Venezuela and which of course has Russian, Iranian et cetera interests and – for the region. Thank you, sir.

POMPEO: So I appreciate the question. At any time you have a country as large and with the economic capacity of a country like Venezuela, America has a deep interest in making sure that it is stable, as democratic as possible. And so, we’re working hard to do that,

I am always careful when we talk about South and Central America and the CIA, there’s a lot of stories.

(Laughter)

POMPEO: So I want to be careful with what I say but suffice to say, we are very hopeful that there can be a transition in Venezuela and we the CIA is doing its best to understand the dynamic there, so that we can communicate to our State Department and to others. The Colombians, I was just down in Mexico City and in Bogota a week before last talking about this very issue trying to help them understand the things they might do so that they can get a better outcome for their part of the world and our part of the world.1

This exchange between Mike Pompeo, Head of the CIA, and businesswoman Vanessa Neumann took place during a Q&A session at a security forum organised by the foundation funded Aspen Institute ‘think tank’. It is an admission that the US is once again covertly engaged in a regime change operation in “America’s backyard”.

Click here to read more in an article entitled “CIA chief hints agency is working to change Venezuela government” published by The Independent on July 25th.

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Whenever the media fixates on street protests in far-flung corners of the world (especially regions that it ordinarily overlooks) it is advisable to be on your guard. Check the vocabulary and consider honestly whether the coverage betrays an unspoken allegiance of any kind. Ask the obvious question: is there a colour revolution taking place?

Consider, for instance, how comparable events at home would be described, or happening elsewhere in the western world, say on the streets of other allied powers, and if, for instance, ‘protesters’ began torching barricades or hurling Molotov cocktails at those police lines? At what point would levels of violence in Britain, Europe and America be condemned and police retaliation deemed proportionate and necessary? Now consider this:

A police helicopter launched grenades at Venezuela’s supreme court building on Tuesday evening following months of protests against the country’s president, Nicolás Maduro.

Maduro said “terrorists” had lobbed two grenades that failed to detonate. Some reports put the number of grenades higher. Local media suggested a former police intelligence officer had carried out the attack.

This is how Guardian journalist Virginia López decided to report an armed assault against Venezuela’s Interior Ministry and Supreme Court little more than a month ago on June 28th. So imagine for a moment if a similar attack were carried anywhere inside Europe, America, Canada, Australia, Israel, or even inside one of our despotic client Gulf States – would apostrophes be inserted around the word “terrorists” or Maduro’s reference to the incident as an “act of terrorism”? By any definition, the unlawful use of violence in the pursuit of political aims is an act of terrorism.

Shortly afterwards, video was released (embedded above) featuring former captain in the CICPC, Venezuela’s intelligence and investigative body, Oscar Pérez, the alleged pilot of the helicopter. Flanked by masked men with assault rifles, Pérez read out a statement: “We are nationalists, patriots, and institutionalists. This fight is not with the rest of the state forces, it is against the tyranny of this government”. Details are given in the Guardian piece and commented upon as follows:

Later, information minister Ernesto Villegas read a statement accusing the helicopter of firing 15 shots against the interior ministry as a reception was taking place for 80 people. It then flew a short distance to the government-stacked supreme court, which was in session, and launched what he said were four Israeli-made grenades of “Colombian origin”, two of them against national guardsmen protecting the building.

The president of the high court said there were no injuries from the attack and that the area was still being surveyed for damages. Villegas said security forces were being deployed to apprehend Pérez, who the government accused – without giving evidence – of working under the instructions of the CIA and the US embassy in Caracas, as well as to recover the helicopter.

Many of Maduro’s opponents accused the president on social media of orchestrating an elaborate ruse to justify a crackdown against Venezuelans seeking to block his plans to rewrite the constitution.2

Thus, official government accusations of CIA involvement are presented as “without evidence”, whereas opposition accusations on social media rumouring that Maduro was “orchestrating an elaborate ruse” go unchallenged. In this fashion, the Guardian is rather quick to divert attention from US meddling for which there is a great deal of historical precedence, and perfectly happy to accuse the Venezuelans of orchestrating a ‘false flag’ attack without any supporting evidence. In fact, in a follow up article later the same day, López writes:

But on Wednesday, speculation was growing that the incident may have been staged by a government eager to divert attention from three months of protests, fueled by mounting anger at the country’s chronic lack of basic foods and medicines.

Julio Borges, president of the opposition-led assembly, said that he and other opponents of Maduro were still analysing the events.

“It seems like a movie,” he said. “Some people say it is a set-up, some that it is real … but I summarize it like this: a government is decaying and rotting, while a nation is fighting for dignity,” he added.

It soon emerged that Perez had an active Instagram account with images of him posing in fatigues with a German shepherd dog, horse riding, and scuba diving while clutching a rifle. The account has since been deleted.

He also has an eclectic CV which included a starring role in a 2015 action movie called Suspended Death in which he played an investigator rescuing a kidnap victim.

Beneath the strapline “some speculate that Oscar Perez’s actions were an orchestrated distraction from the Maduro regime’s further consolidation of power”, the same piece continues:

But skeptics questioned how an aircraft was allowed to circle above such sensitive government buildings in a city where even drones are illegal.

No other members of the police or armed forces have joined or expressed support for Perez.

“If the incident of the helicopter is a hoax, it means the regime is desperate, and if it was a coup attempt and no one defended it, then it’s even worse,” said one Twitter user.

Adding:

And the attack came hours after one of the worst outbreaks of looting since protests erupted in April. For most of Monday night and Tuesday the city of Maracay – which is home to one of the country’s most important military bases – was wracked by a wave of unrest in which at least 64 shops were sacked. It is unclear why the National Guard was unable to contain the rioting.

Before finally concluding:

“Regardless of whether this was a hoax or an act by a lunatic, the impact is the same: it suggests that the government is entering a new stage and willing to escalate violence,” said Phil Gunson, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group.

“It seems the government is trying to find the right level of repression that can put the ‘genie back in the bottle’.” 3

Apparently then – according to the Guardian as it quotes directly from Soros funded International Crisis Group 4– it doesn’t actually matter whether this attack with grenades against the government and the Supreme Court was a hoax or not because “the impact is the same”. Either way, Maduro and his ‘regime’ is to blame!

In February 2014, Abby Martin spoke on RT’s “Breaking the Set” with Eva Golinger, author of the “Chavez Code”, about the Western backed ‘resistance groups’ and how there is a coup already underway in Venezuela:

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It’s the economic war, stupid!

The political and economic crisis facing Venezuela is being endlessly pointed to as proof of the superiority of the free market.

Images and portrayals of Venezuelans rioting in the streets over high food costs, empty grocery stores, medicine shortages, and overflowing garbage bins are the headlines, and the reporting points to socialism as the cause.

The Chicago Tribune published a Commentary piece titled: “A socialist revolution can ruin almost any country.” A headline on Reason’s Hit and Run blog proclaims: “Venezuelan socialism still a complete disaster.” The Week’s U.S. edition says: “Authoritarian socialism caused Venezuela’s collapse.”

So begins an article by Caleb T. Maupin published a year ago. Maupin continues:

In reality, millions of Venezuelans have seen their living conditions vastly improved through the Bolivarian process. The problems plaguing the Venezuelan economy are not due to some inherent fault in socialism, but to artificially low oil prices and sabotage by forces hostile to the revolution.

Starting in 2014, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia flooded the market with cheap oil. This is not a mere business decision, but a calculated move coordinated with U.S. and Israeli foreign policy goals. Despite not just losing money, but even falling deep into debt, the Saudi monarchy continues to expand its oil production apparatus. The result has been driving the price of oil down from $110 per barrel, to $28 in the early months of this year. The goal is to weaken these opponents of Wall Street, London, and Tel Aviv, whose economies are centered around oil and natural gas exports.

Venezuela remains a deeply divided country and there is no doubt that the government under Maduro is at fault in part for the current economic crisis, but as Maupin points out, the opposition is extremely fractured and many do not wish to see a return to the rampant neo-liberalism of the pre-Chavez era:

The artificially low oil prices have left the Venezuelan state cash-starved, prompting a crisis in the funding of the social programs that were key to strengthening the United Socialist Party.

It is odd that the mainstream press blames “socialism” for the food problems in Venezuela, when the food distributors remain in the hands of private corporations. As Venezuelan political analyst Jesus Silva told me recently: “Most food in Venezuela is imported by private companies, they ask for dollars subsidized by the government oil sales to do that; they rarely produce anything or invest their own money.”

According to Silva, the economic sanctions imposed on Venezuela by the U.S., in addition to the oil crisis, have made it more difficult for the Venezuelan government to pay the private food importing companies in U.S. dollars. In response, the food companies are “running general sabotage.”

“Venezuela’s economy depends on oil sales. Now that oil prices are dropping down, the challenge is to get other sources of economic income,” he explained. “Meanwhile, the opposition is garnering electoral support due to the current economic crisis.” […]

While a clear majority cast a voto castigo (“punishment vote”) in December, punishing the government for mismanaging the crisis, the Maduro administration has a solid core of socialist activists who remain loyal to the Bolivarian project. Across Venezuela, communes have been established. Leftist activists live together and work in cooperatives. Many of them are armed and organized in “Bolivarian Militias” to defend the revolution.

Even some of the loudest critics of the Venezuelan government admit that it has greatly improved the situation in the country, despite the current hardships.

In December, I spoke to Glen Martinez, a radio host in Caracas who voted for the opposition. He dismissed the notion that free market capitalism would ever return to Venezuela. As he explained, most of the people who voted against the United Socialist Party — himself included — are frustrated with the way the current crisis is being handled, but do not want a return to the neoliberal economic model of the 1999s.

He said the economic reforms established during the Chavez administration would never be reversed. “We are not the same people we were before 1999,” Martinez insisted.5

Click here to read the full article entitled “US-Led Economic War, Not Socialism, Is Tearing Venezuela Apart”

Last November Al Jazeera invited Economist and former Venezuelan Planning Minister Ricardo Hausmann to debate with former Hugo Chavez adviser Temir Porras on “UpFront”:

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The Empire never gives up

‘Dictator’ is the epithet of choice the corporate media dishes out whenever it wishes to denigrate foreign leaders not fully subordinate to western interests. Likewise, ‘regime’ operates as a preferred synonym to denounce the members of every government hostile to Anglo-American imperialism. Hugo Chavez was routinely branded a ‘dictator’ even though he fought and won more elections than any other contemporary world leader. Like Chavez before him, Nicolás Maduro is the elected head of a democratic state.

Conversely, the media has its blinkers firmly attached whenever exalting those in opposition to a targeted ‘regime’. ‘Rioters’ become more benign ‘protesters’, and ‘insurgents’, ‘separatists’ or ‘terrorists’ are elevated to the level of ‘freedom fighters’. Thus in Libya, the murderous salafist gangs who lynched black Africans were portrayed as the valiant ‘rebels’. In Ukraine the brown-shirted brigades that gathered under wolfsangels and swastikas were heralded as Europhile crusaders for democracy – at one point the BBC actually embedded one of its journalists within the ranks of the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion. And in Syria, the al-Qaeda affiliated ‘rescue workers’ known as the White Helmets became the ‘indomitable first responders’ of an Oscar-winning documentary – they have also been promoted by human rights organisations including Amnesty International. Indeed, with the arrival of ISIS, some purportedly less savage though self-proclaimed al-Qaeda militia have come in for more favourable mainstream coverage – take for instance this BBC Newsnight report.

Yet the propaganda coverage of the crisis suddenly engulfing Venezuela is arguably more egregious again. For unlike each of the cases cited above, the West is not (at least not officially) engaged in any conflict inside Venezuela. Indeed, the fog of war offers no excuse for comparable lapses in journalistic integrity. Furthermore, recent history ought to make all journalists extremely cautious when it comes to covert US-led intervention in Latin America and suspicious of opposition claims in Venezuela especially given what we know about the last failed coup. Here is a New York Times editorial the day after Hugo Chavez was kidnapped and military junta briefly installed in April 2002:

UPRISING IN VENEZUELA: THE GOVERNMENT; VENEZUELA’S CHIEF FORCED TO RESIGN; CIVILIAN INSTALLED

By JUAN FORERO APRIL 13, 2002

A transitional government headed by a leading businessman replaced President Hugo Chavez today, hours after military officers forced him to resign. It was a sudden end to the turbulent three-year reign of a mercurial strongman elected on promises to distance his country from the United States while uprooting Venezuela’s old social order —

Pedro Carmona Estanga, the head of Venezuela’s most important business association, was installed as interim president at a ceremony at 6 p.m. He promised that the new government would adhere to “a pluralistic vision, democratic, civil and ensuring the implementation of the law, the state of law.”

Elections will be held within a year, officials said. The Bush administration laid the blame for Mr. Chavez’s overthrow firmly with the ousted leader. Officials portrayed the ouster as a victory for democracy —

And here is the New York Times offering a retraction (of sorts) the following day:

Popular Uprising Allows Chavez to Reclaim Venezuelan Presidency

By GINGER THOMPSON and JUAN FORERO APRIL 14, 2002

Two days after one huge political movement forced President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela out of power, a countervailing uprising that swept like wildfire through the slums surrounding the capital carried the populist leader back to the presidency today.

Once in power, the short-lived interim government, led by a prominent businessman, Pedro Carmona Estanga, dismantled the National Assembly, fired the ministers of the Supreme Court, arrested high-level members of the Chavez government and sent others into hiding.

The new government announced that Mr. Chavez had resigned from power. But word began to spread mostly through international television news reports that Mr. Chavez had not resigned. His followers in slums and poor towns across the country began to worry for his safety. They took to the streets to demand that Mr. Chavez be freed. And they won.

The extracts above are drawn from a well-sourced and recent article entitled “Venezuela Regime Change Project Revealed” written by David William Pear and published on August 6th. Note that even after the coup which admittedly “dismantled the National Assembly, fired the ministers of the Supreme Court, arrested high-level members of the Chavez government and sent others into hiding” has failed, the NYT continues to describe the criminals behind the coup as a “short-lived interim government”.

As Pear says:

The Bush Administration, the New York Times and the mainstream media showed no remorse or shame—the U.S. government continued to watch and undermine the Chavista movement, Venezuela’s Bolivarian Socialism, in any way that it can. The U.S. continues to be involved and fund a long-term regime change project. The Empire never gives up. 6

Click here to read a post entitled “the Latin American Spring they never mention” published to mark the death of Hugo Chavez in March 2013.

On May 11th political activist and analyst, Tariq Ali, discussed the worsening situation in Venezuela on TeleSUR:

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1 From official transcript of “Aspen Security Forum 2017: The View From Langley” on July 20, 2017, published by The Aspen Institute. http://aspensecurityforum.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/The-View-from-Langley.pdf

2 From an article entitled “Venezuela: police helicopter attacks supreme court with grenades” written by Virginia López, published in the Guardian on June 28, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/28/venezuela-supreme-court-grenade-police-helicopter

3 From an article entitled “Patriot, or government plant? Rumors fly over Venezuela helicopter attack” written by Virginia López, published in the Guardian on June 28, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/28/venezuela-helicopter-attack-oscar-perez-rumors

4 Board Members of ICG include Zbigniew Brzezinski, Wesley Clark and George Soros. Soros, Chairman of the Open Society Institute (listed in the donors below), also sits on the ICG Executive Committee.

Foundation and private sector donors include The Atlantic Philanthropies; Carnegie Corporation of New York; Ford Foundation; Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Flora Hewlett Foundation; Henry Luce Foundation; John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; John Merck Fund; Charles Stewart Mott Foundation; Open Society Institute; Ploughshares Fund; Sigrid Rausing Trust; Sasakawa Peace Foundation; Sarlo Foundation of the Jewish Community Endowment Fund; United States Institute of Peace; and Fundacão Oriente.

From Sourcewatchhttp://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/International_Crisis_Group#Foundation_and_private_sector_donors_include

5 From an article entitled “US-Led Economic War, Not Socialism, Is Tearing Venezuela Apart” written by Caleb T. Maupin, published in Mint Press News on July 12, 2016. http://www.mintpressnews.com/us-led-economic-war-not-socialism-tearing-venezuela-apart/218335/

6 From an article entitled “Venezuela Regime Change Project Revealed” written by David William Pear, published in Off-Guardian on August 6, 2017. https://off-guardian.org/2017/08/06/venezuela-regime-change-project-revealed/

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Ben Dean’s legal challenge to fracking and how to support him

On the 22 June 2017, the Planning Court at the Royal Courts of Justice in London heard my substantive Judicial Review challenge claiming that the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Stratetegy decision to extend the Petroleum, Exploration and Development Licence (“PEDL”) where I live in Tarvin, Cheshire for two years from the 1 July 2016 was unlawful.

A favourable result will see PEDL189 quashed and such a decision may impact on the lawful status of many other PEDLs in Scotland, Wales and England.

At my permissive hearing on the 15 December 2016 to enable the case to be heard I was awarded Aarhus protection meaning should I lose, a claim for costs by the Government against me is limited to £5,000. I am also liable for Court Application Fees totalling £924. Mr. David Wolfe QC of Matrix Chambers is acting for me on a conditional basis. My instructing Intermediary’s, Friends of the Earth Rights and Justice are acting on a pro bono basis.

Embedded below is an interview with Ben Dean on Ian Crane’s Fracking Nightmare broadcast on July 14th [from 9:00 mins]:

Details of the 22 June 2017 hearing may be read on this link:

https://drillordrop.com/2017/06/22/governments-extension-of-gas-exploration-licence-was-unlawful-court-told/

And the 15 December hearing here:

https://drillordrop.com/2016/12/15/government-to-be-challenged-over-unlawful-extension-of-oil-and-gas-licences-full-report/

The Reserved Decision may take some weeks.

If I receive a favourable decision then contributions received will be held pending an appeal challenge from the Government. If I am ultimately succesfull then what is in the “pot” will be donated to other legal challenges against fracking.

I did not fund raise prior to the hearing as I wished to be totally focused on the case.

Click here to visit Ben Dean’s GoFundMe page.

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Filed under Britain, campaigns & events, fracking (shale & coal seam gas)

taking stock of Corbyn’s heroic election campaign — what’s the opposite to a Pyrrhic victory?

A screenshot of the wikipedia page on ‘moral victory’

The image above is a screenshot of the wikipedia entry for “moral victory” as it appears at present. As you can see, presented as examples of “the opposite of a Pyrrhic victory” it lists just three: The Alamo, the Battle of Thermopylae and the United Kingdom 2017 General Election!

Jeremy Corbyn speaking at the #ToriesOut post-election rally organised by the People’s Assembly:

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Before reading on, I encourage readers to reflect on a short but detailed article by independent journalist Jonathan Cook entitled “The facts proving Corbyn’s election triumph” in which he scrutinises Corbyn’s results compared with those of his predecessors. Based on the evidence, he writes:

He won many more votes than Ed Miliband, Gordon Brown and Neil Kinnock, who were among those that, sometimes noisily, opposed his leadership of the party. They lost their elections. […]

In short, Corbyn has proved himself the most popular Labour leader with the electorate in more than 40 years, apart from Blair’s landslide victory in 1997.

And concludes:

Here is a graph that offers another measure of the extent of Corbyn’s achievement last night.

It shows that he has just won the largest increase in the share of the Labour vote over the party’s previous general election performance since Clement Attlee in 1945. In short, he’s turned around the electoral fortunes of the Labour party more than any other party leader in 70 years.

And unlike Blair, he’s done it without making back-room deals with big business to eviscerate his party’s economic and social programmes.

Click here to read Jonathan Cook’s full article.

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A tale of two leaders

When May called the snap General Election on April 18th, she and her Conservative Party were riding high in the polls with a twenty point lead. In office for just nine months, she had been hastily crowned Prime Minister after Cameron fell on his sword in the wake of his own humiliating EU referendum defeat, but quite wisely afterwards had kept a mostly low profile. In this way, and with her oft-repeated pledge to honour the pro-Brexit result, May cultivated the appearance of reliability and toughness – she was Thatcher 2.0 but with a more daring wardrobe.

“Brexit means Brexit” is almost as nebulous as it is defiant, but the Tory’s tiresome mantra was also serving May’s purposes well. Her image as a “bloody difficult woman” given an extra boost thanks to Jean-Claude Junker’s odd cameo at Downing Street right on cue as the campaign got underway: their reportedly “frosty dinner” doing little to dent the popular belief that May was a safe pair of hands.

In short, the Tories were bound to win last month’s General Election and everyone was simply waiting to find out how historic their historic landslide would finally be. Indeed, given the dire circumstances, some on the left openly expressed the opinion that Corbyn ought to have blocked her opportunistic move by rallying support against the Commons’ vote, even if this meant giving the Tories a free pass until 2020. (The horns of Corbyn’s dilemma clearly point to inherent shortcomings in our new Fixed-Term Parliaments Act – five-year terms that are prescheduled up until the moment any government decrees otherwise.)

On the other hand, May’s call for a needless election did open up a small chink in her otherwise shining armour. For having repeatedly assured the nation she would do no such thing, this act was literally the only moment she’d dropped her guard since becoming PM.

Her campaign underway, May now resolved to basically disappear from sight. Shirking the TV debates, placing unprecedented restraints on press access, and avoiding all but the most fleeting encounters with the hoi polloi, her strategy was one of total control. Although this quiet contempt for democracy was not going to pass unnoticed.

By contrast, the Labour Party was forced into the campaign when already in complete disarray. Seldom mentioned, the polls had in fact narrowed considerably twelve months earlier during the run up to the referendum vote, and also immediately after Cameron’s defeat (see above), yet the Blairites wasted no time undermining Corbyn on the grounds of his lacklustre performance stumping for the “remain” campaign. Since it suited their purpose, they simply ignored what the polls were actually telling them, and seized on this flimsiest of excuses to stir the pot a whole lot more in the hope of finally deposing the leadership.

Former leader Neil Kinnock was perhaps first up, delivering what the Guardian soon afterwards reported as “a remarkable speech” to the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP).

(Strictly in private) Kinnock said this:

I quote one person, just one, out of hundreds in Cardiff three weeks ago. Well, he complained about Jeremy and I said, ‘Honestly, his heart’s in the right place, he wants to help people, he wants to help people like you.’ He’s a working-class guy, a fitter on what remains of the docks. And he said: ‘I know he’s saying it, because he thinks we’re easy. We’re not bloody easy. We’re not listening, especially since he’s weird.’

Now that is unfortunate. But you know. Everybody in this room knows, canvassing in the Welsh elections, in the Scottish elections, in the local elections, in the referendum – you know that is what you’re getting from people who yearn to vote Labour but are inhibited by the fact that Jeremy is still our leader.

Reprinted in full, Kinnock’s “remarkable speech” is really just a tub-thumping (quite literally) rant. But then Kinnock didn’t need to try too hard because he was preaching to the converted, one of whom evidently saw fit to leak the recording of this beer hall putsch to the press:

PLP meetings are private, but Kinnock’s speech was recorded by someone in the room and it was passed to Ben Ferguson, a freelance filmmaker who recently made a fly-on-the-wall documentary about Corbyn for Vice News 1

Neil Kinnock is famously unelectable, of course, so I suppose we ought to marvel at the sheer brass neck of the man. His “we’re all right” Sheffield debacle was the single most excruciating misjudgement made by any Labour leader since Jim Callaghan’s “Waiting at the Church” moment of hubris.

However, Lord Kinnock has certainly done all right – at least for himself – since those formative hiccoughs: appointed to the European Commission in 1995, then rapidly promoted to Vice-President in 1999, and awarded a life peerage in 2005. Wife Glenys ploughed a similar furrow, becoming an MEP in 1994 and receiving her own life peerage in 2009, whilst son, Stephen, a current Labour MP and another uninhibited Corbyn critic, is married to Helle Thorning-Schmidt, a former MEP herself before becoming Danish PM. The Kinnocks have built a tidy little empire for themselves.

Although a year ago, the self-serving Kinnocks took time off from feathering their own nests to help spearhead the growing PLP demands for Corbyn’s resignation. Popularity within the rank and file of the membership (who have twice elected Corbyn leader of course) must not be put ahead of party unity, “electability” and that kind of thing – to paraphrase his Lordship, this time speaking to Andrew Marr on the BBC:

Meanwhile, in light of the PLP’s motion of no confidence in Corbyn (more below), son Stephen penned the following rationalisation for the relentless backstabbing and published it as an opinion piece also in the Guardian:

The referendum campaign was a sorry affair and it’s clear that it was not the Labour party’s finest hour. Every pro-Remain member will be feeling the same deep sense of disappointment and regret that I am feeling this weekend, as we have failed, collectively, to save the UK from a reckless leap into the unknown, and we fear it is the people we came into politics to represent who will be hurt first and worst.

Looking back, it’s clear that once the Scottish, Welsh and local elections were out of the way on 6 May [2016], then we should have treated the period through to 23 June as if it were the short campaign period leading up to a general election. Judged against that benchmark, it is equally clear that our leader fought a lacklustre and half-hearted campaign. He spoke at a total of 10 rallies between 6 May and polling day, whereas the party leader would normally expect to achieve that level of activity in a week, when in full campaigning mode.

We must, therefore, have a full and frank discussion when the parliamentary Labour party meets on Monday, to look at what went wrong, and what we should learn. Our leader must be held accountable for the failure of the “Labour In For Britain” campaign, as must we all.

Following which, Kinnock Jr. takes aim at Corbyn’s purported lack of skill as a future Brexit negotiator, which is curious given that no members of the opposition have ever been invited to the talks:

There is no doubt that Jeremy is a great campaigner, but this is not a time for campaigners. This is a time for hard-headed negotiators. And it is also a time for people who have more than a passing knowledge of, and interest in, the EU. […]

We may have no say over who the Tories send to the negotiating table, but we do have a say about who Labour sends. Jeremy Corbyn is a seasoned and highly effective campaigner, and he was elected to lead our party on the basis of a thumping mandate. But that was then and this is now.

Now should not be about the past. The British people have spoken, the decision is made, and we must look forward. British politics is going to be dominated by these Brexit negotiations for the foreseeable future. It is vital that Labour has a seat at the top table, and critical that we have a leader who has the right experience and skills for the task at hand.

And it is for that reason that I am supporting this motion of no confidence. 2

Titled “Jeremy Corbyn is a great campaigner – but we need a hard-headed negotiator”, Kinnock might have borrowed ammunition for his snide hit piece directly from the arsenals of Tory HQ. He’s just not “strong and stable enough”… a claim that belies the truth if we listen to the judgement instead of Conservative MP and current Brexit Secretary David Davis. Together with Corbyn, Davis had negotiated the release of the last British prisoner, Shaker Aamer, from Guantánamo, and shortly after Corbyn was voted party leader, Davis was interviewed on Sky News. This is what he said:

“I think that the odds of our winning the next election after yesterday are higher, but I don’t think it’s an open and shut case by any means. I think complacency would be absolutely the daftest thing to go in for now…

You’ve just had Frank Field on, talking about how Jeremy in other circumstances is able to work with other people… he is very polite, very courteous, listens to arguments. So we want to be a bit careful. We certainly don’t want to go in for ad hominem attacks – that would be a disaster.”

But the Tory attacks could wait. During the notorious post-referendum ‘chicken coup’, no less than 44 frontbench Labour MPs resigned their positions in as many hours.3 Alongside Stephen Kinnock, leading lights of this suicidal insurrection included Deputy Leader Tom Watson, Angela Eagle, about-to-be leadership challenger Owen Smith, and then-Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn – reluctantly sacked by Corbyn before he had chance to resign. Each of the above publicly declared their loss of confidence in the leadership: a transparently lame excuse given how the self-same “rebels” had shown no loyalty whatsoever during any earlier stage of Corbyn’s brief tenure.

When the PLP balloted for a vote of no confidence a few hours later, it was passed by a truly astounding 172–40: but it remained a vote which as Corbyn correctly asserted had “no constitutional legitimacy”. Nevertheless, the stage was set, and for the next three months the party tore into itself as it entered the throes of a hugely divisive and unwarranted leadership election.

Inevitably, this infighting took its toll. Labour support tumbled in the polls, as did support for Corbyn’s leadership. Unsurprisingly, salt was liberally rubbed into these same gaping and self-inflicted wounds by both the Tories and the media alike, who cultivated the opinion already expressed by 80% of Labour MPs, that Corbyn – freshly re-elected as party leader – was in fact “unelectable”.

Ken Loach interviewed on BBC Radio 5 shortly after the General Election: “Just think, if the MPs had been arguing for those policies for two years, if they hadn’t been feeding stories to the press, if you hadn’t had Peter Mandelson being quoted saying ‘I get up every morning to undermine him,’ and interviewed on that agenda on a number of occasions. Just think if he’d had that support – I think he would have won.”

Click here to watch a montage put together by Channel 4 News featuring senior Labour MPs (including Stephen Kinnock again) who publicly excoriated Jeremy Corbyn as party leader.

Update:

For some reason the interview featuring Ken Loach has been taken down, so here’s an earlier one broadcast on BBC news:

*

Even with the general election campaign underway, prominent Blairites and faux progressive commentators continued to put the knife into Corbyn. On May 5th, on the back of disappointing local and mayoral election results, Jonathan Freedland wrote this:

What more evidence do they need? What more proof do the Labour leadership and its supporters require? This was not an opinion poll. This was not a judgment delivered by the hated mainstream media. This was the verdict of the electorate, expressed through the ballot box, and it could scarcely have been clearer – or more damning.

The headline figure is a projected national share of 27%, the worst recorded by an opposition since the BBC started making such calculations in 1981. The Tory lead of 11 percentage points is larger than the one Margaret Thatcher enjoyed as she headed into the elections of 1983 or 1987, when she won triple-figure landslides.

“Why has this happened?” barked a furious Freedland, answering to his own smug satisfaction:

The good news for Labour is that what I saw in the focus groups were people unimpressed by the Tories, desperate for an opposition and itching to vote Labour again if only Corbyn would get out of the way. It suggests a new leader could take the fight to Theresa May very rapidly. The bad news is that once people have broken a lifelong Labour habit – and shattered a taboo by voting Tory – they may never come back.

According to Freedland, it was just wrongheaded of “the Corbynistas” to try to blame disloyal MPs or, heaven forfend, the “metropolitan pundits who [they] can slam as red Tories” for what he described hyperbolically as “the disaster” and “this meltdown”:

Blaming others won’t do. Instead, how refreshing it would be, just this once, if Corbyn and McDonnell put their hands up and took even a small measure of responsibility for this calamitous result. 4

And a month on, after it transpires that news of the Labour Party meltdown was exaggerated, has Freedland eaten his words? Well, here’s what he wrote on June 10th:

[P]oliticians and pollsters alike did not see this coming. But nor did most pundits – including me. I opposed Jeremy Corbyn when he first stood for the Labour leadership in 2015, and thereafter, and I did so on two grounds. First, on principle: I was troubled by his foreign policy worldview, with its indulgence of assorted authoritarian regimes, and by what I perceived as his willingness to look past antisemitism on the left. But more immediate was an assessment of his basic electability. I wanted the Tories gone, and simply did not believe Labour could pose a serious electoral threat under Corbyn.

My principled objections have not faded, but Thursday’s results make clear that on the electability issue, I was wrong. 5

Freedland’s “principled objections” are in fact bogus (read earlier posts here and here) and his apology is long overdue. Surely the big question, however, is why anyone still takes the opinions of liberal gatekeepers like Freedland at all seriously. In the space of a month he had managed to eloquently flip-flop from “Jeremy Corbyn is to blame for this meltdown” to “Corbyn successfully framed voting Labour as the only way to say enough is enough” and “He’s rewritten the rules.” Hallelujah! (I suppose.)

So please allow me to briefly digress, because today’s media, so narcissistically in love with its own reflection, has become the very definition of an echo chamber: newspaper headlines are a mainstay of TV debate and what is broadcast on TV and radio then siphons back into the newspapers. Additionally, there is increasing reliance on so-called vox pops: phoney snapshots of public opinion, meticulously edited into tidy bundles of required thought. Cheap to produce, they maintain the delusion that media is representative of what people like you and me actually think. In reality, of course, ordinary Joes and Joannas are commandeered to provide off-beam refractions simply to bolster a prefabricated message: Obama is cool; May is serious; Trump is an idiot; and Corbyn is hopeless.

For months on end, the mention of Corbyn elicited titters from the commentariat alongside the required level of derision from the (assiduously selected) ‘man on the street’. Likewise, without fail, each week an audience member on the BBC Question Time would prime the panel with one of those tired old questions about his “unelectability” or the purported “lack of any effective opposition”. Thus, Corbyn was roasted on all sides: by media hacks and politicians from every camp, including nominally his own colleagues.

But then, with the election called, this changed. Legal requirements would ensure some better measure of balance in the debate. Thus, with the playing field abruptly if only partially levelled (our right-wing newspapers are free from such constraints), Corbyn got the chance he’d been waiting for: able at last to make the case for a fairer and more caring society and not to be instantly drowned out by the clamour of critics.

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Project Fear

“Hope always wins over fear” – John McDonnell (post-election interview 6)

“I am a treat” my friend said as I pointed out the large black billboard ahead. His unconscious was momentarily getting the better of him and suggestively reworking the slogan to ensure it was functioning as ads generally do: as promotions for a product. But instead, this image, one I had walked past daily for almost a week, with its Big Sister portrait of May – former Home Secretary behind the Snooper’s Charter – sternly peering out like a stony-hearted headmistress, was issuing the country an exceedingly stark but fair warning.

Put together by anti-austerity campaign group the People’s Assembly, its message was bleak yet factual and accurate. It branded May a threat to our hospitals, our schools, our job security, our pensions and our peace and security. And who could deny any of it?

Sam Fairbairn, People’s Assembly National Secretary described the poster as a response to the Tories’ “manifesto of misery”, adding “she is a threat to everything we rely on from cradle to grave”:

“The crisis in the NHS was created by the Conservative government and they’re doing nothing to address it. She’s snatching free school lunches off infants while her plans to restructure our education system will leave schools without proper funding. University students are being strapped with lifelong debt.” 7

In fact this portent of doom had only recently replaced another. The face of Donald Trump and around it the words “Advertising works… look what it did for me”, but now with a toothbrush moustache inked above those all-too familiar pouting, foul-mouthed lips. Soon afterwards the same billboard had been further subverted when someone had the wherewithal to scrub over ‘advertising’ and substitute a far more appropriate four-lettered word: ‘HATE’ in block capitals. Yes, I mused philosophically, as I passed under it each day… hate does indeed ‘work’ in a political sense.

In our own election hate had mostly remained on the backburner. Instead, the campaign was framed about Brexit, and with emphasis not on immigration this time around. Instead it was supposedly all about leadership. About “strong and stable” government. The hate could wait…

The Sun has since issued a statement to the effect that this headline was not released immediately after the Manchester atrocity but shortly before it occurred. Evidently its editor did not, however, find the conscience to remove it or issue an apology for it remaining published online. Nor did The Sun and other press outlets refrain from issuing follow-up smears against Corbyn, McDonnell and Diane Abbott in the wake of the London Bridge attacks. In fact, on the eve of the vote, The Sun ran with the absolutely disgusting headline “Jezza’s Jihadi Comrades” while the Daily Mail devoted no less than 13 pages to pillorying those same “Apologists for Terror”:

Did the hate work? Below is a screenshot of The Independent on the morning after the London Bridge attacks – the polls were again narrowing and rather rapidly:

Also take a close look at the graph above and see how the convergence between the Labour and Conservative polling slows directly after the Manchester atrocity on May 22nd. Given that campaigning was suspended this is hardly surprising. Nor is it surprising that in a state of shock and heightened anxiety, voters will tend to be more inclined to support an incumbent government or, still more, to turn toward the party most traditionally trusted on law and order. Yet the surge for Labour was only partially held back, and the pollsters were found wanting all over again – except for the exit poll, that is.

There was also the honourable exception of polling company Survation who had bravely forecast a hung parliament and were ridiculed for sticking to their guns…

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The real unelectables

The night before the election, with the polls which had certainly tightened still remaining wildly divergent, I decided to check out the odds at the bookies, given how bookies obviously have a vested interest in getting their numbers right. And a Tory majority then remained odds on, with many punters betting on who might be the next Labour leader. Although May’s position had become shaky too, the smart money was very much backing an increased Tory majority with gains of up to a hundred seats. My heart sank, just as it did immediately upon hearing May’s election announcement. Like many Labour supporters, I was still braced for a trouncing.

Most polls are unreliable, but exit polls are different. They have a special legitimacy and have in some cases been applied as a standard of verification for elections across the world.

Two years ago the exit poll had been a shattering blow. In the weeks leading up to the vote the opinion polls consistently pointed to a hung parliament, whereas the exit poll had quite correctly forecast a Tory majority. On this occasion I was anticipating the worst. Given the unbridgeable six point gap (and an enormous spread of polls between 1% and 15%) combined with the traditional last minute shift in favour of the Conservatives (the shy Tories emerging from their closets), damage limitation was all any Labour supporter could conceivably wish for.

“And what we’re saying is, the Conservatives are the largest party”, David Dimbleby announced to the nation shortly after the polls closed at ten, continuing “but note they don’t have an overall majority at this stage…” soon afterwards conceding, “we’ll be hung, drawn and quartered” if our exit polls are wrong. Although defeated, Corbyn’s many supporters, myself included, were tasting something closer to victory:

Not only the Tories, but every other mainland political party were about to be humiliated in their own special way. Ukip were rather predictably annihilated. Yet to think how a mere four months earlier, so many pundits had been licking their lips at the prospect of leader Paul Nuttall stealing Stoke-on-Trent Central in a by-election, and running Labour and Corbyn out of town. Now Nuttall was ruined instead.

Meanwhile, the Lib Dems whose entire campaign was devoted to their bizarre since unrealisable promise of an EU referendum rerun, gained a measly four seats to prop up the meagre eight they already held. Former leader Nick Clegg who had helped the Tories remain in power during the miserable days of the Con-Dem Coalition lost his seat just up the road from me in Sheffield Hallam; like many across the country, I cheered his just demise. A few hours later, hopeless leader Tim Farron did the honourable thing.

In my own constituency of Sheffield Central, former leader of the Greens, Natalie Bennett, came to contest what is a comparatively safe Labour seat, rather than more profitably fighting her corner in a Conservative marginal – so much for forming a “progressive alliance” against the government. Once again, justice was served and Bennett lost, finishing an embarrassing third behind the Tories, with incumbent Paul Blomfield swept back into parliament with a hugely increased majority now approaching 28,000.

North of the border, the political landscape was being even more dramatically reshaped. After the Brexit vote, the SNP had been calling for a new independence referendum – a replay of that “once in a lifetime decision” barely more than two years on. But this divisive move soon became an albatross, and as the SNP tried to backslide on their promises and downplay calls for Indyref2, the Scottish Conservatives no less opportunistically cranked up the pro-unionist rhetoric (a flavour of things to come). It proved a winning tactic with many disaffected Scottish voters.

Even so, not all the angry Scots were turning back to the Conservative and Unionist Party. Studiously under-reported in the media, a great many were evidently returning to Corbyn’s Labour too – Labour regaining six of the seats lost during their humiliating wipe-out in 2015. Either way, the outcome had been a disastrous one for the SNP, losing more than a third of their seats as the vote collapsed by over 13%. By the end of the night, the SNP’s leader in Westminster Angus Robertson lost his seat in Moray, and, most memorably, Scotland’s former First Minister and long-time talismanic party leader Alex Salmond was defeated in Banff & Buchan. More cheers! (I speak for myself obviously.)

Then we must come to the forlorn figure of Theresa May. Has any winner of any general election ever appeared so dejected? She would try to paint some gloss on it later, naturally enough, but there is simply no convincing way to disguise the fact that her anticipated triumph had crumbled to unmitigated disaster. Indeed, only one leader would be able to claim any sort of victory on the night: the “unelectable” Jeremy Corbyn. The rest of the field, slipping backwards in their different manners, were evidently just too electable by far! Astonishingly, May and her Conservative government were left clinging to power only by the tassels of an orange sash. 8

*

 ‘Theresa May and the Holy Grail’: having lost her majority, and with complicated Brexit negotiations and fields of wheat on her doorstep, Theresa May is determined to ‘get on with the job of government’ (and to seek the Holy Grail). Click here to watch the original upload at Australia’s ABC.

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A moral victory

A week prior to the general election I had a dream and woke with a vision of Jeremy Corbyn walking into Downing Street as Prime Minister. The dream genuinely happened, but then dreams are rarely prognostic. Instead, the Tories clung on as the main party of government, which is the very best they can say for themselves. May’s re-election was the very epitome of a Pyrrhic victory.

Instead of the envisaged landslide, her government is suddenly in retreat, and clinging to power by its political fingertips, made all the grubbier by that desperate £1.5 billion deal with the political arm of Ulster’s loyalist paramilitaries. How long this weak and wobbly ‘coalition of chaos’ can hobble along together is anyone’s guess.

Regarding my dream again, it obviously owed much to my own psychological investment in the election. Like many thousands of others who had never before been actively involved in campaigning, for six weeks I was out and about leafleting, running street stalls, and door-to-door canvassing. I remain very much committed to the cause. Although the Tories won the battle, suddenly they are losing the war: Corbyn may yet walk into Downing Street…

More speculatively then, the dream seems to me prophetic in a truer sense of the word: that intuitively I was picking up on quite seismic upheavals that were very hard to comprehend, or even to register, during my various interactions on the doorstep. Thus, routinely faced with antipathy and aversion toward Corbyn’s leadership, a common reaction coming from many one-time Labour voters, it became easy to overlook the surge in Labour support from less expected quarters.

This groundswell, as we now know, involved more than just an increased turnout of first-time voters, since it mostly comprised disaffected Lib Dems, wavering Greens, and, more interestingly, some half of former Ukip supporters, plus thousands returning from the SNP, and most surprising of all, a significant proportion of affluent middle-class who are traditionally Conservative supporters. In short, my dream had detected a sea change taking place in our society; shifts in outlook that Corbyn and others in the Labour leadership were directly responding to.

Very skilfully, they had steered the whole debate away from Brexit (May’s original pretext for calling the election) and away from personality too (May’s team had embarked on a presidential-style campaign) by redirecting attention firmly back on to policy instead. In the manner of a musical maestro who responds to applause from his audience by holding up the score, Corbyn consistently drew the public gaze back to Labour’s bold and very thoughtfully composed manifesto: “For the many, not the few”. A manifesto launched not once but twice – funny that! Fully-costed, anti-austerity populism; this was certainly a masterstroke.

Corbyn and McDonnell survived the election against all the odds, and having thus achieved a result beyond common expectation, they have managed to reunite the party behind a commitment to democratic socialist policies. These policies have become Labour’s main strength again. So although Corbyn didn’t win the vote, the Labour manifesto actually did, and as a direct consequence, temporarily at least, it has produced a measureable shift leftwards in the mythical ‘centre ground’ of politics. Those of us determined to say “enough is enough” now have a place to turn and a leader they can get behind.

Jeremy Corbyn gives an impromptu but impassioned speech to the ‘Left Field’ fringe event at this year’s Glastonbury Festival:

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Update:

The latest poll of polls (Friday 7th) now puts Labour eight points ahead of the Tories with a record high of 46%. Meanwhile in Scotland, the poll puts Labour ahead of the SNP by 36% to 31%:

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1 From an article entitled “Secret recording of Kinnock’s anti-Corbyn speech to MPs – in full” written by Andrew Sparrow and Harrison Jones, published in the Guardian on July 8, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jul/08/secret-recording-neil-kinnock-jeremy-corbyn-step-down-speech-to-mps-in-full

2 From an article entitled “Jeremy Corbyn is a great campaigner – but we need a hard-headed negotiator” written by Stephen Kinnock, published in the Guardian on June 25, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jun/25/jeremy-corbyn-leadership-challenge-no-confidence-motion

3

Remember those few days in June when Labour MPs couldn’t stop resigning? That long Sunday after the country had voted for Brexit, when every time you turned on the radio another shadow cabinet minister had stood down, calling for Jeremy Corbyn to do likewise? Or the next day, when the only thing you wanted to quit was the non-stop news, just for a few hours, but there was Angela Eagle in tears at her own resignation? Before June, the mass resignation of 44 frontbench politicians in as many hours, all citing a loss of confidence in their leader, would have led to said leader being turfed out of office. But we didn’t count on Corbyn.

From an article entitled “The fate of the MPs who plotted a coup against Corbyn” written by Jane Merrick, published in the Guardian on December 20, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/dec/20/mps-plotted-coup-jeremy-corbyn-coup-where-are-they-now

4 From an article entitled “No more excuses: Jeremy Corbyn is to blame for this meltdown” written by Jonathan Freedland, published in the Guardian on May 5, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/may/05/jeremy-corbyn-blame-meltdown-labour-leader

5 From an article entitled “Jeremy Corbyn didn’t win – but he has rewritten all the rules” written by Jonathan Freedland, published in the Guardian on June 10, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jun/10/jeremy-corbyn-general-election–labour-rewrites-rules

6 Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and financial journalist Paul Mason discuss the election result with the Artist Taxi Driver (viewer discretion advised):

7 From an article entitled “Theresa May branded a ‘threat’ to peace, hospitals and schools in nationwide billboard campaign” written by Dan Bloom, published in the Daily Mirror on May 22, 2017. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/theresa-branded-threat-peace-hospitals-10474044

8 Quip stolen from George Galloway.

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Filed under analysis & opinion, Britain

Seymour Hersh conclusively debunks “Trump’s Red Line” – the gas attack was no such thing

Seymour Hersh is perhaps most highly respected investigative journalist alive today. He earned his reputation as the first to bring the world’s attention to the My Lai massacre in Vietnam.

During the Syrian War, Hersh has twice investigated claims that Assad crossed chemical “red lines”, first in Ghouta in August 2013, and more recently in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun last April. The evidence he has uncovered disproves the official narrative of both incidents. Faced with such inconvenient truth, however, the mainstream media simply ignores him.

Here are extracts from his latest piece on the alleged sarin atrocity at Khan Sheikhoun, although I very much encourage all readers to follow the links to read the full article published in yesterday’s Sunday edition of Die Welt:

Within hours of the April 4 bombing [and alleged chemical attack], the world’s media was saturated with photographs and videos from Khan Sheikhoun. Pictures of dead and dying victims, allegedly suffering from the symptoms of nerve gas poisoning, were uploaded to social media by local activists, including the White Helmets, a first responder group known for its close association with the Syrian opposition.

The provenance of the photos was not clear and no international observers have yet inspected the site, but the immediate popular assumption worldwide was that this was a deliberate use of the nerve agent sarin, authorized by President Bashar Assad of Syria. Trump endorsed that assumption by issuing a statement within hours of the attack, describing Assad’s “heinous actions” as being a consequence of the Obama administration’s “weakness and irresolution” in addressing what he said was Syria’s past use of chemical weapons. […]

Hersh says that his sources provided him with evidence “in the form of transcripts of real-time communications, immediately following the Syrian attack on April 4”. These were part of “an important pre-strike process known as deconfliction [in which] U.S. and Russian officers routinely supply one another with advance details of planned flight paths and target coordinates, to ensure that there is no risk of collision or accidental encounter”:

Russian and Syrian Air Force officers gave details of the carefully planned flight path to and from Khan Shiekhoun on April 4 directly, in English, to the deconfliction monitors aboard the AWACS plane, which was on patrol near the Turkish border, 60 miles or more to the north.

The Syrian target at Khan Sheikhoun, as shared with the Americans at Doha, was depicted as a two-story cinder-block building in the northern part of town. Russian intelligence, which is shared when necessary with Syria and the U.S. as part of their joint fight against jihadist groups, had established that a high-level meeting of jihadist leaders was to take place in the building, including representatives of Ahrar al-Sham and the al-Qaida-affiliated group formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra. The two groups had recently joined forces, and controlled the town and surrounding area. […]

The meeting place – a regional headquarters – was on the floor above. “It was an established meeting place,” the senior adviser said. “A long-time facility that would have had security, weapons, communications, files and a map center.” The Russians were intent on confirming their intelligence and deployed a drone for days above the site to monitor communications and develop what is known in the intelligence community as a POL – a pattern of life. The goal was to take note of those going in and out of the building, and to track weapons being moved back and forth, including rockets and ammunition. […]

The Russians gave the Syrian Air Force a guided bomb and that was a rarity. They’re skimpy with their guided bombs and rarely share them with the Syrian Air Force. And the Syrians assigned their best pilot to the mission, with the best wingman.” The advance intelligence on the target, as supplied by the Russians, was given the highest possible score inside the American community.

Seymour Hersh was also able to speak at length with a senior adviser to the American intelligence community, who has served in senior positions in the Defense Department and the CIA:

“This was not a chemical weapons strike,” the adviser said. “That’s a fairy tale. If so, everyone involved in transferring, loading and arming the weapon – you’ve got to make it appear like a regular 500-pound conventional bomb – would be wearing Hazmat protective clothing in case of a leak. There would be very little chance of survival without such gear. Military grade sarin includes additives designed to increase toxicity and lethality. Every batch that comes out is maximized for death. That is why it is made. It is odorless and invisible and death can come within a minute. No cloud. Why produce a weapon that people can run away from?”

The target was struck at 6:55 a.m. on April 4, just before midnight in Washington. A Bomb Damage Assessment (BDA) by the U.S. military later determined that the heat and force of the 500-pound Syrian bomb triggered  a series of secondary explosions that could have generated a huge toxic cloud that began to spread over the town, formed by the release of the fertilizers, disinfectants and other goods stored in the basement, its effect magnified by the dense morning air, which trapped the fumes close to the ground. According to intelligence estimates, the senior adviser said, the strike itself killed up to four jihadist leaders, and an unknown number of drivers and security aides. […]

Within hours of viewing the photos, the adviser said, Trump instructed the national defense apparatus to plan for retaliation against Syria. “He did this before he talked to anybody about it. The planners then asked the CIA and DIA if there was any evidence that Syria had sarin stored at a nearby airport or somewhere in the area. Their military had to have it somewhere in the area in order to bomb with it.” “The answer was, ‘We have no evidence that Syria had sarin or used it,’” the adviser said. “The CIA also told them that there was no residual delivery for sarin at Sheyrat [the airfield from which the Syrian SU-24 bombers had taken off on April 4] and Assad had no motive to commit political suicide.” Everyone involved, except perhaps the president, also understood that a highly skilled United Nations team had spent more than a year in the aftermath of an alleged sarin attack in 2013 by Syria, removing what was said to be all chemical weapons from a dozen Syrian chemical weapons depots.

At this point, the adviser said, the president’s national security planners were more than a little rattled: “No one knew the provenance of the photographs. We didn’t know who the children were or how they got hurt. Sarin actually is very easy to detect because it penetrates paint, and all one would have to do is get a paint sample. We knew there was a cloud and we knew it hurt people. But you cannot jump from there to certainty that Assad had hidden sarin from the UN because he wanted to use it in Khan Sheikhoun.” The intelligence made clear that a Syrian Air Force SU-24 fighter bomber had used a conventional weapon to hit its target: There had been no chemical warhead.

Regarding the potential fallout of Trump’s knee-jerk response, these are Hersh’s closing remarks:

The crisis slid into the background by the end of April, as Russia, Syria and the United States remained focused on annihilating ISIS and the militias of al-Qaida. Some of those who had worked through the crisis, however, were left with lingering concerns. “The Salafists and jihadists got everything they wanted out of their hyped-up Syrian nerve gas ploy,” the senior adviser to the U.S. intelligence community told me, referring to the flare up of tensions between Syria, Russia and America. “The issue is, what if there’s another false flag sarin attack credited to hated Syria? Trump has upped the ante and painted himself into a corner with his decision to bomb. And do not think these guys are not planning the next faked attack. Trump will have no choice but to bomb again, and harder. He’s incapable of saying he made a mistake.”

Click here to read Seymour Hersh’s full article entitled “Trump’s Red Line”.

And here to read an earlier post on the Khan Sheikhoun chemical incident entitled “illegal bombing in the name of justice: Syria, Trump and the latest WMD accusations”, published April 10th.

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Update:

If you wish to understand the degree to which a supposedly free western media are constructing a world of half-truths and deceptions to manipulate their audiences, keeping us uninformed and pliant, then there could hardly be a better case study than their treatment of Pulitzer prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh.

All of these highly competitive, for-profit, scoop-seeking media outlets separately took identical decisions: first to reject Hersh’s latest investigative report, and then to studiously ignore it once it was published in Germany last Sunday. They have continued to maintain an absolute radio silence on his revelations, even as over the past few days they have given a great deal of attention to two stories on the very issue Hersh’s investigation addresses.

writes independent reporter and investigative journalist Jonathan Cook, who continues:

His story has spawned two clear “spoiler” responses from those desperate to uphold the official narrative. Hersh’s revelations may have been entirely uninteresting to the western media, but strangely they have sent Washington into crisis mode. Of course, no US official has addressed Hersh’s investigation directly, which might have drawn attention to it and forced western media to reference it. Instead Washington has sought to deflect attention from Hersh’s alternative narrative and shore up the official one through misdirection. That alone should raise the alarm that we are being manipulated, not informed.

The first of the “spoilers” was reported in the Guardian last Wednesday [June 28th ] as follows:

The US said on Tuesday that it had observed preparations for a possible chemical weapons attack at a Syrian air base allegedly involved in a sarin attack in April following a warning from the White House that the Syrian regime would “pay a heavy price” for further use of the weapons. […]

The unusual public warning on Monday night appeared to be intended to deter the regime from repeating its use of chemical weapons against rebel-held cities and towns.

It may also have been aimed at the regime’s backers in Moscow and Tehran, who have resolutely backed Assad and denied the regime’s responsibility for chemical weapons use.

Click here to read the full report written by Julian Borger.

The second involves a rehash of earlier claims made by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) which was reported by BBC news on Friday [June 30th] as follows:

The fact-finding mission for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which is based in The Hague, concluded that, after interviewing witnesses and examining samples, “a large number of people, some of whom died, were exposed to Sarin or a Sarin-like substance”. […]

The new report has been circulated among OPCW members but has not been made public.

A joint UN and OPCW investigation will now investigate who was to blame for the attack.

Click here to read the full BBC news report.

Jonathan Cook reminds us:

There are obvious reasons to be mightily suspicious of these stories. The findings of the OPCW were already known and had been discussed for some time – there was absolutely nothing newsworthy about them.

There are also well-known problems with the findings. There was no “chain of custody” – neutral oversight – of the bodies that were presented to the organisation in Turkey, as Scott Ritter, a former weapons inspector in Iraq, has noted. Any number of interested parties could have contaminated the bodies before they reached the OPCW. For that reason, the OPCW has not concluded that the Assad regime was responsible for the traces of sarin. In the world of real news, only such a finding – that Assad was responsible – should have made the OPCW report interesting again to the media.

As Cook correctly concludes:

[B]y going public with their threats against Assad, the Pentagon and White House did not increase the deterrence on Assad, making it less likely he would use gas in the future. That could have been achieved much more effectively with private warnings to the Russians, who have massive leverage over Assad. These new warnings were meant not for Assad but for western publics, to bolster the official narrative that Hersh’s investigation had thrown into doubt.

In fact, the US threats increase, rather than reduce, the chances of a new chemical weapons attack. Other, anti-Assad actors now have a strong incentive to use chemical weapons in false-flag operation to implicate Assad, knowing that the US has committed itself to intervention. On any reading, the US statements were reckless – or malicious – in the extreme and likely to bring about the exact opposite of what they were supposed to achieve.

In light of the White House statement, Caleb Maupin of RT asked spokesperson for the US State Department, Heather Nauert: “Are you concerned that that could have created an opening for the terrorist groups to carry out a chemical attack… [adding] you’re not concerned even though al-Nusra, al-Qaeda groups have been using chemical weapons in Syria – that’s documented”. But Nauert prefers to answer her own question:

But beyond this, there was something even more troubling about these two stories. That these official claims were published so unthinkingly in major outlets is bad enough. But what is unconscionable is the media’s continuing blackout of Hersh’s investigation when it speaks directly to the two latest news reports.

No serious journalist could write up either story, according to any accepted norms of journalistic practice, and not make reference to Hersh’s claims. They are absolutely relevant to these stories. In fact, more than that, the intelligence sources he cites are are not only relevant but are the reason these two stories have been suddenly propelled to the top of the news agenda.

Any publication that has covered either the White House-Pentagon threats or the rehashing of the OPCW report and has not mentioned Hersh’s revelations is writing nothing less than propaganda in service of a western foreign policy agenda trying to bring about the illegal overthrow the Syrian government. And so far that appears to include every single US and UK mainstream newspaper and TV station.

Click here to read the full article entitled “After Hersh Investigation, Media Connive in Propaganda War on Syria”.

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As a side note, I must draw attention to the seldom mentioned fact that Ahmet Üzümcü, Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), attended the Bilderberg conference in Telfs-Buchen, Austria as recently as June 2015. There is a clear conflict of interests when the head of an independent intergovernmental organisation for disarmament ‘privately’ attends a meeting which includes Nato top brass as well as the heads of major arms manufacturers. It raises serious questions over the impartiality of the OPCW.

You can also read full attendance list here.

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Caleb Maupin: I mean they could carry out a terrorist attack and then the White House saying, ‘oh Assad was going to do it’, that would create a cover for them to do such a thing.

Heather Nauert: Do I have to do this again? We know that Assad has used chemicals weapons on his own people, and he’s done that repeatedly, including women and children, and we have all seen the video and there is no debate about that.

CM: Didn’t Assad give up his chemical weapons in 2013?

HN: No.

CM: Are you saying that al-Qaeda has not used chemical weapons?

HN: I’m not going to get into this conversation with you about this – you want to have a debate, okay, about a hypothetical… and I’m not going to get into a debate about a hypothetical.

CM: Since you’ve announced that then they could carry out an attack and make it look like the [Syrian] government did it. Isn’t that a real possibility?

HN: If you want to try to make excuses for the Assad regime, go right ahead.

CM: I’m not talking about the Assad, I’m talking about terrorist groups – I’m talking about al-Qaeda.

HN: I’m not going to spend all our folks’ time having that conversation. We all know here in the room that Bashar al-Assad is responsible for chemical attacks on his own people, including women and children. We are not going to debate it beyond that. Al-Qaeda are horrible too but what we’re talking about right now is Assad and Syria. Next question…

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John Pilger asks what the PM knew in the lead up to the Manchester atrocity

Prologue:

1. Suppression of ‘sensitive’ government report

An investigation into the foreign funding of extremist Islamist groups may never be published, the Home Office has admitted.

The inquiry commissioned by David Cameron, was launched as part of a deal with the Liberal Democrats in December 2015, in exchange for the party supporting the extension of British airstrikes against Isis into Syria.

But although it was due to be published in the spring of 2016, it has not been completed and may never be made public due to its “sensitive” contents.[…]

It comes after Home Secretary Amber Rudd suggested during a leadership debate, that UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia are good for industry.

The Government has recently approved £3.5bn worth of arms export licences to Saudi Arabia and a stream of British ministers have visited the kingdom to solicit trade, despite its ongoing involvement in the bombing campaign in Yemen.

Click here to read the full article published by The Independent entitled “Home Office may not publish terrorist funding report amid claims it focuses on Saudi Arabia” on June 1st.

And here to read more in a related article published by the Guardian.

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2. Nicholas Wilson tries to speak about arms sales to Saudi Arabia

At a hustings in Rye on 3 June, where I am standing as an independent anti-corruption parliamentary candidate, a question was asked about law & order. Home Secretary Amber Rudd, in answering it referred to the Manchester terrorist attack. I took up the theme and referred to UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia & HSBC business there. She spoke to and handed a note to the chairman who removed the mic from me.

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The following are extended extracts drawn from the opening and closing sections of an article published on June 1st by investigative journalist John Pilger – I very much encourage readers to follow links to the full article.

Pilger begins:

The unsayable in Britain’s general election campaign is this. The causes of the Manchester atrocity, in which 22 mostly young people were murdered by a jihadist, are being suppressed to protect the secrets of British foreign policy.

Critical questions – such as why the security service MI5 maintained terrorist “assets” in Manchester and why the government did not warn the public of the threat in their midst – remain unanswered, deflected by the promise of an internal “review”.

The alleged suicide bomber, Salman Abedi, was part of an extremist group, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, that thrived in Manchester and was cultivated and used by MI5 for more than 20 years.

The LIFG is proscribed by Britain as a terrorist organisation which seeks a “hardline Islamic state” in Libya and “is part of the wider global Islamist extremist movement, as inspired by al-Qaida”.

The “smoking gun” is that when Theresa May was Home Secretary, LIFG jihadists were allowed to travel unhindered across Europe and encouraged to engage in “battle”: first to remove Mu’ammar Gadaffi in Libya, then to join al-Qaida affiliated groups in Syria.

Last year, the FBI reportedly placed Abedi on a “terrorist watch list” and warned MI5 that his group was looking for a “political target” in Britain. Why wasn’t he apprehended and the network around him prevented from planning and executing the atrocity on 22 May?

These questions arise because of an FBI leak that demolished the “lone wolf” spin in the wake of the 22 May attack – thus, the panicky, uncharacteristic outrage directed at Washington from London and Donald Trump’s apology. […]

In 2011, according to Middle East Eye, the LIFG in Manchester were known as the “Manchester boys”.  Implacably opposed to Mu’ammar Gadaffi, they were considered high risk and a number were under Home Office control orders – house arrest – when anti-Gadaffi demonstrations broke out in Libya, a country forged from myriad tribal enmities.

Suddenly the control orders were lifted. “I was allowed to go, no questions asked,” said one LIFG member. MI5 returned their passports and counter-terrorism police at Heathrow airport were told to let them board their flights.

On Saturday 3rd, John Pilger discussed with Afshin Rattansi on RT’s ‘Going Underground’ the close ties between British intelligence and the LIFG jihadists, and how the Manchester atrocity was an avoidable product of UK foreign policy:

Pilger concludes:

The Manchester atrocity on 22 May was the product of such unrelenting state violence in faraway places, much of it British sponsored. The lives and names of the victims are almost never known to us.

This truth struggles to be heard, just as it struggled to be heard when the London Underground was bombed on July 7, 2005. Occasionally, a member of the public would break the silence, such as the east Londoner who walked in front of a CNN camera crew and reporter in mid-platitude. “Iraq!” he said. “We invaded Iraq. What did we expect? Go on, say it.”

At a large media gathering I attended, many of the important guests uttered “Iraq” and “Blair” as a kind of catharsis for that which they dared not say professionally and publicly.

Yet, before he invaded Iraq, Blair was warned by the Joint Intelligence Committee that “the threat from al-Qaida will increase at the onset of any military action against Iraq… The worldwide threat from other Islamist terrorist groups and individuals will increase significantly”.

Just as Blair brought home to Britain the violence of his and George W Bush’s blood-soaked “shit show” [Barack Obama’s description of Cameron’s role in Libya], so David Cameron, supported by Theresa May, compounded his crime in Libya and its horrific aftermath, including those killed and maimed in Manchester Arena on 22 May.

The spin is back, not surprisingly. Salman Abedi acted alone. He was a petty criminal, no more. The extensive network revealed last week by the American leak has vanished. But the questions have not.

Why was Abedi able to travel freely through Europe to Libya and back to Manchester only days before he committed his terrible crime? Was Theresa May told by MI5 that the FBI had tracked him as part of an Islamic cell planning to attack a “political target” in Britain?

In the current election campaign, the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has made a guarded reference to a “war on terror that has failed”. As he knows, it was never a war on terror but a war of conquest and subjugation. Palestine. Afghanistan. Iraq. Libya. Syria. Iran is said to be next. Before there is another Manchester, who will have the courage to say that?

The same article was republished by Counterpunch here.

John Pilger had also appeared on ‘Going Underground’ on May 24th when he spoke about the Manchester bombing, Saudi Arabia, Trump and wikileaks:

For further links and information, I also recommend an article written by Max Blumenthal published in Alternet subtitled “How the U.S. and the U.K. helped bring jihadists like Salem Abedi to Libya and Syria”.

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Bilderberg 2017: what’s being cooked up at Chantilly, Virginia?

This post is a little more rushed than usual so apologies in advance for typos, grammatical errors, issues of style, etc – I will most probably update this article after Sunday’s close with additional observations, videos, and so forth. Meanwhile, here are some prompt sketches based upon on-the-ground reports plus limited mainstream coverage of the event so far…

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Starters with frothy cream

Named after an obscure association with the French town, chateau and dessert topping, this “census-designated place” of 25,000 people in Fairfax County on the fringes of Washington DC is about to welcome a more controversial kind of cream: the secretive annual meeting of world leaders, CEOs, financiers and power brokers known as the Bilderberg Group.

“… a more controversial kind of cream” Ooh er missus!

This ham-fisted flattery heads an “article” (even within quotes “article” is generous) written by the obsequious Phil Hoad and shamelessly published in the Guardian on the eve of this year’s Bilderberg meeting. Titled “Chantilly in the spotlight: inside the secretive Bilderberg’s ‘home from home’” author Mr Toady continues:

In fact, Chantilly’s Westfields Marriott hotel, hosting this year’s meeting from 1-4 June, has become the Bilderberg’s home from home in recent times, having also served as the conference’s venue in 2002, 2008 and 2012. Sure to be in attendance are the scrum of protesters, alt-media, conspiracy theorists, Illuminati watchers and anyone else keen to see the world elite turn into lizards after supping blood out of the Holy Grail at midnight…

A glance left reveals how “the content” (scant as it is) “is supported by the Rockefeller Foundation”, although the piece itself makes no direct mention of David Rockefeller, a founder member of Bilderberg and, prior to his death in March, the most notorious of all the boring old patriarchs of the club. But then this “article” makes no mention of anyone connected to Bilderberg, and nor does it provide serious journalistic speculation on what this “critical mass of movers and shakers” might be doing other than:

… either benignly spitballing global policy or carving up the future between themselves (depending on your paranoia levels) …

Which is NOT journalism. It’s not even ‘fake news’, but totally fatuous and content-free dross. At one level, the whole “article” is brochure-speak: frothy and bland. On another, it is a snide if clumsy assault on what the author tacitly rejects: free and unrestricted investigative reporting. It doesn’t matter how or why “Bilderberg flies beneath the radar in Chantilly”; it just does – and more power to them! Whilst those who aren’t enamoured by the thought of this billionaire club mixing it (“in private”) with our senior politicians are evidently crazy, tinfoil hat wearing conspiracy theorist nutjobs who believe in alien lizards… so there!!!

Click here if you really want to read any more of this vacuous and execrable flimflam – but you are only encouraging more of it.

Alternatively, and for more considered thoughts on this whole alien lizard schtick, click here to read my extended review of last year’s meeting in Dresden.

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Appetiser: lightly grilled Bilderberger

One notable change at this year’s confab is the record number of attendees from inside our press and media ranks. During previous years there have always been a handful of house-trained “journalists” but the quota on this occasion exceeds 10% of the total cohort and includes…

Yet by observing the strict Chatham House Rules, none has actually gone to report on the inside scoop. And none of their excluded pressroom colleagues is there reporting from outside either. Charlie Skelton is again the lone mainstream maverick, and though Al Jazeera did send a small team, the real investigative work is being carried by a few freelance citizen journalists and alternative media outlets:

Indeed, as the Bilderbergers landed at nearby Washington Dulles International Airport, Luke Rudkowski of WeAreChange and Dan Dicks of Press For Truth were amongst the first on hand to greet them. And wisely, they had applied for passes granting permission to film, although notwithstanding such assiduous preparations, were soon detained by police in any case – repeatedly detained and released in fact. In between bouts of police harassment, they did manage to capture some interesting footage. Here’s what a few of the attendees had to say for themselves – they certainly love to talk about the weather:

Others preferred to keep tight-lipped:

Larry Summers was especially taciturn:

Whereas Canadian Finance Minister, Bill Morneau, did provide some comment:

A few were more talkative still – a video compilation is included in a later section.

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Main course with vampire squid

One of the lamest arguments for failing to scrutinise Bilderberg is that since everything takes place behind closed doors there’s nothing of real interest that is open for discussion. Aside from the self-defeating nature of this position, it is also inherently false. Indeed, as the public is increasingly becoming aware, there is a great deal that can be sieved and usefully filtered from anyone’s metadata. In this instance we might glean valuable information from who turns up, their associations with fellow attendees, not to mention any extant commitments to Bilderberg’s slimline though published agenda of “key topics”.

Here, for example, are a few connections quickly traced by Charlie Skelton that link up with aforementioned Canadian Finance Minister, Bill Morneau:

And, as Charlie Skelton points up, this year’s mix includes an even heftier dollop of executives from Goldman Sachs than usual:

In the same spirit, it is certainly worthwhile to peruse Bilderberg’s official press release – this year it begins:

The 65th Bilderberg Meeting will take place from 1-4 June 2017 in Chantilly, Virginia, USA. As of today, 130 participants from 21 countries have confirmed their attendance. As ever, a diverse group of political leaders and experts from industry, finance, academia and the media has been invited. The list of participants is available here

The key topics for discussion this year include:

1. The Trump Administration: A progress report
2. Trans-Atlantic relations: options and scenarios
3. The Trans-Atlantic defence alliance: bullets, bytes and bucks
4. The direction of the EU
5. Can globalisation be slowed down? [their concern is it can!]
6. Jobs, income and unrealised expectations
7. The war on information
8. Why is populism growing?
9. Russia in the international order
10. The Near East
11. Nuclear proliferation
12. China
13. Current events

More jaunty than usual, and, when boiled down, there are about half a dozen strands of immediate interest. In fact, I strongly advise reading adjacent items as correlated pairs as follows:

i) Trump and Trans-Atlantic relations – as Charlie Skelton notes:

The White House is taking no chances, sending along some big hitters from Team Trump to defend their boss: the national security adviser, HR McMaster; the commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross; and Trump’s new strategist, Chris Liddell. Could the president himself show up to receive his report card in person?

Skelton continues:

Henry Kissinger, the gravel-throated kingpin of Bilderberg, visited Trump at the White House a few weeks ago to discuss “Russia and other things”, and certainly, the Bilderberg conference would be the perfect opportunity for the most powerful man in the world to discuss important global issues with Trump. 1

ii) “Trans-Atlantic defence alliance” aka Nato and “the direction of the EU” – this is an ever-tightening relationship, as I have previously discussed (see here).

iii) Globalisation and jobs – there can be no mistaking which side Bilderberg is on!

iv) “Information war” and worries about that new bugbear “populism” – we might categorise these twin items as cause and effect under the separate heading ‘fake news’ (itself a manufactured trope)

v) Russia and “The Near East” which is, of course, more commonly termed the Middle East – think Syria, think Iran… an issue that is now perennial amongst Bilderberg’s biggest obsessions.

vi) Nuclear proliferation and China – here I simply refer readers to John Pilger’s excellent “The Coming War with China

The last item, “Current events”, is obviously a catch-all – although one can’t help thinking it’s included purely to extend their list to a fuller complement of thirteen (lucky for some!)

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Below is a compilation of those attendees who did speak on camera:

And on Friday 2nd, investigative reporter Tony Gosling interviewed Charlie Skelton and Luke Rudkowski. Their discussion covered a lot of ground:

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Side dish: curried favour à la Bilderberg

Say what you like about Bilderberg, but they’ve got a sense of humour. The agenda for this year’s secretive summit of the global elite is full of in-jokes. They get big laughs straight off the bat by describing themselves as “a diverse group of political leaders and experts”.

Writes Charlie Skelton in this year’s second report from his annual Bilderblog, adding:

Perhaps by “diverse” they mean that some of the participants own hedge funds, whereas others own vast industrial conglomerates. Some are on the board of HSBC, others are on the board of BP. Some are lobbyists, others are being lobbied. That sort of thing.

And Skelton’s “favourite joke” is, as he puts it:

“The war on information”. Bilderberg is concerned about fake news? The world’s most secretive conference, which is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars keeping the press away from its sacred discussions, which has spent decades lying and obfuscating about itself, wants to ensure the spread of truth?

As an illustration of their temerity, Skelton then points to the flagrant denial of the attendance of World Bank executive director, Fernando Jiménez Latorre, who was spotted on the backseat of a limo with Spanish Finance Minister, Luis de Guindos, although not listed amongst the attendees:

As Skelton says:

If Bilderberg wants an answer to “Why is populism growing?” – another question on the agenda – they might take a look in the mirror. It’s almost as if people aren’t all that comfortable with unaccountable technocratic elites and billionaire globalists lobbying their ministers and party leaders behind closed doors.

The optics are awful. To see Spain’s minister of the economy being locked away for three days with Ana Botín, the head of Banco Santander, Spain’s largest bank, while around them swirl Goldman Sachs executives, hedge fund owners and the secretary general of Nato, and then not see a press conference at the end of it … this might be part of the problem. 2

Click here to read Charlie Skelton’s full article entitled “Bilderberg: the world’s most secretive conference is as out of touch as ever”.

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Just desserts?

Surely the most eye-popping sentence in this year’s official press release is this one:

Founded in 1954 and chaired for the first twenty years by a former SS officer, the Bilderberg Meeting is an annual conference designed to foster dialogue between Europe and North America.

Just why, all of a sudden, did Bilderberg choose to remind the world of their own unsavoury origins? Candour is not the Bilderberg style, and neither is bravado. Yet this statement looks deliberately crafted to signify a new defiance. Dropping in a reference to their own Nazi connections and then immediately switching focus as if the whole matter is of no importance, serves as a sort of two-fingered salute to the rest of us.

But conceivably, this odd sort of swagger may be indicative of growing paranoia within the club: a boastfulness to cover the cracks as “the secret of rulers of the world” (according to Jon Ronson, many like to imagine themselves this way) are losing “the war on information” and with it their tight grip on public perception.

It could very well be that at the rotten heart of Bilderberg, the same “elites” who steered the political course of our post-war western societies, are now suddenly feeling the strain as a direct consequence their own dire socio-economic mismanagement. So are we witnessing signs of desperation just as the wheels of our financial-military-industrial complex, already creaking rather badly, start coming off altogether?

Or is this merely wishful thinking? Perhaps. The undoing of our horribly corrupt global corporatocracy, so painstakingly erected, is an urgent matter. For what has been christened a “new world order” by some within this same Atlanticist set is nothing but a twisted and ruinous simulacrum of true internationalism.

We are already in perilous times. Western democracy was hard won, and will be far harder to recover if we allow it to be stolen away again. At Bilderberg that theft is ongoing, as year on year the oligarchs and plutocrats gather to feast with their political counterparts, all greedy for power and influence. And every year there is less and less on our own plates. Is this what we deserve?

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Comments to Guardian “awaiting moderation”

A friend added the following comment to Phil Hoad’s pathetic puff piece:

Has no one noticed this Cities section is actually sponsored by The Rockefeller Foundation. I think that should tell you all you need to know about this article. One should question the author’s intent/collusion, and ask who paid for this article to be written?

And then this one:

Considering Rockefeller is a name integrally interwoven with the history of Bilderberg, it seems ironic that The Rockefeller Foundation actually sponsored this Cities section in which this article appears! Is this just a coincidence no one else has spotted?

Neither passed the scrutiny of the moderator. So much for “comment is free”.

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1 From an article entitled “Bilderberg 2017: secret meeting of global leaders could prove a problem for Trump” written by Charlie Skelton, published in the Guardian on June 1, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jun/01/bilderberg-trump-administration-secret-meeting

2 From an article entitled Bilderberg: The world’s most secretive conference is as out of touch as ever” written by Charlie Skelton, published in the Guardian on June 2, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/02/bilderberg-secretive-conference-eric-schmidt

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Chantilly, Virginia 2017: Bilderberg returns, and the silence is more deafening than ever

The 2017 Bilderberg Meeting takes place from 1–4 June in Chantilly VA, USA. A press release including the list of topics and participants will be published a few days in advance.

From the official Bilderberg website (as it appeared moments ago).

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This year’s announcement is a late one – the notice above published just days ago – and as of now, 48 hours before commencement, Bilderberg is holding back its token release of the list of attendees (reliably incomplete) and its other ritual tease in the form of a bullet-point “agenda”.

Of course, Bilderberg kept itself fully in the shadows for nearly fifty years, and only thanks to Jon Ronson’s exposé on Channel 4 in 2001 was an impenetrable press silence finally breached at all. Charlie Skelton has subsequently picked up where Ronson left off, posting accounts of his yearly stake-out in the form of ‘Bilderblog’ updates in the Guardian, but the rest is (almost total) silence: spasmodic and apathetic coverage of what is, after all, a sui generis event.

Indeed, the dependable lack of mainstream curiosity in Bilderberg is a wonder to behold. For had they been paying just the slightest attention, one clear and unsavoury trend would surely have been brought to our attention – a pattern repeated again in the recent French elections. Thatcher, Clinton, Blair (amongst others – see my fuller list below) and, a fortnight ago, Emmanuel Macron; all attended Bilderberg at least once in the years preceding their rise to power. So can anyone doubt the role of Bilderberg as kingmakers? And why should this surprise us given how even the most perfunctory investigation uncovers a club of inestimable power and influence?

At this very minute, Kenneth Clarke is meeting in secret with Peter Mandelson. The de facto head honchos of our two main political parties are rubbing shoulders right alongside Richard Perle, Robert Rubin, Henry Kissinger, and Garry Kasparov… yes, that’s right, the Russian chess master. They are also putting their heads together with chiefs from many of the world’s corporate giants including BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Fiat, Airbus, Dow Chemicals, Unilever, AXA, Barclays, Siemens, Citigroup, Microsoft, Google, Vodaphone, to name but a few, and not forgetting, Peter Sutherland, the Chairman of Goldman Sachs.

So begins an earlier post during the last visitation to the Westfield Marriott hotel in Chantilly, Virginia by the Bilderbergers in 2012. It continues:

Bilderberg…? What’s that, I hear some mumbles. Well, it’s this meeting I’ve been talking about. The meeting between Ken Clarke and Pete Mandelson and the hundred or so other hangers-on such as H.R.H Prince Philippe of Belgium and H.M. the Queen of the Netherlands.

Look, if this strikes you as odd then please rest assured that it isn’t. A Bilderberg meeting takes place in a different five-star hotel every year around this time. It’s like clockwork, and has been happening now for more than half a century. Although if you’d never before heard about these Bilderberg meetings, then it’s in part because the heads of the mainstream media outlets have also been in regular attendance – this year’s crop including representatives from Le Monde, El País, Die Zeit, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, The Financial Times, The Economist, as well as talkshow host Charlie Rose. Rest assured that they won’t be spilling the beans later – they did not come to report on the meeting!

Back in 2012, a protest movement against Bilderberg was still in its early stages. During the weekend, more than a hundred concerned individuals gathered outside the gates of the Westfield Marriott to shadow the limousines and vent collective outrage against this secretive elitist gathering. Subsequent meetings have seen the numbers of protesters wax and wane – at Watford in 2013, the protests swelled to an estimated three thousand.

Charlie Skelton and the late Michael Meacher (Labour MP) at the Bilderberg protests in Watford addressing the crowds on Saturday 8th June 2013:

A mere five years on, however, and with the public announcement of this year’s event so long withheld, it is evident that the spectral hounds of Bilderberg have gone to ground again. But then, it is extremely burdensome task to maintain pressure and force into the light any organisation which the media so determinedly ignores.

Our press is again dutifully shtum this time around, and will be trusted to hold their tongues throughout the course of next weekend, respecting and endorsing the authorised line: “move along please – nothing to see here…” In turn, and as always, I encourage whoever is able to join the protests, just as I did when, in 2013, Bilderberg hid behind the high and distant fences at Watford.

I shall also endeavour to produce a review of events as I have for each and every meeting since I started this blog in 2011 – although last year, due to complications, I held back my main post about the meeting in Dresden. Belatedly, I am publishing last year’s report on the eve of this year’s conference (the post is up already in fact). It covers a lot of ground: and all the issues are more relevant today than when I produced the article twelve months ago.

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Here is a list of western leaders groomed by Bilderberg prior to their election:

Gerald Ford attended Bilderberg 1964, 1966 appointed as US President 1974

Margaret Thatcher attended Bilderberg (at least 1975, 1977, 1986) became Prime Minister 1979

Bill Clinton attended Bilderberg 1991 became US President 1993

Tony Blair attended Bilderberg 1993 became Prime Minister 1997

Paul Martin attended Bilderberg 1996 became Prime Minister of Canada 2003

Stephen Harper attended Bilderberg 2003 became Prime Minister of Canada 2006

Angela Merkel attended Bilderberg 2005 became Chancellor of Germany (Nov) 2005

Emmanuel Macron attended Bilderberg 2014 became President 2017 *

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The original version has been very slightly updated with inclusion of reference to the following article: https://news.vice.com/story/the-u-s-is-waging-a-massive-shadow-war-in-africa-exclusive-documents-reveal

No other substantive alterations have been made to the article since last June.

* All dates published by wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Bilderberg_participants#United_Kingdom

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Slaughterhouse ’16: Bilderbergers sighted over Dresden (last June)

Last year’s Bilderberg Conference took place during the extended weekend of June 9–12 in Dresden, Germany. The information we know for sure is contained in the official guest list and a list of topics under discussion – make of these what you will (I highlight just one in red):

  1. Current events [that’s good for starters!]
  2. China
  3. Europe: migration, growth, reform, vision, unity
  4. Middle East
  5. Russia
  6. U.S. political landscape, economy: growth, debt, reform
  7. Cybersecurity
  8. Geo-politics of energy and commodity prices
  9. Precariat and middle class
  10. Technological innovation

The rest must inevitably be more speculative… belated speculation at that (apologies for the delay).

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there is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre

I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world. And yet, I ask you, is not an alien force already among us? What could be more alien to the universal aspirations of our peoples than war and the threat of war?

– Ronald Reagan addressing the 42nd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. 1

More than a year ago on March 7th 2016, combined airstrikes by drones and manned aircraft killed 150 people in a single day… in Somalia. 2 The news made little impression because America is officially not at war with Somalia. Yet, the attacks were just part of Operation Enduring Freedom – Horn of Africa (OEF-HAO), a spill-over of our “Global War on Terror”.

A little way along Africa’s dusty tracks, and Operation Enduring Freedom – Horn of Africa redeploys itself as Operation Enduring Freedom – Trans Sahara (OEF-TS) which is currently operational across a further ten African countries: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia. OEF-TS doesn’t make the news either, because America is not officially at war with Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal or Tunisia.

In 2006, just 1 percent of all U.S. commandos deployed overseas were in Africa. In 2010, it was 3 percent. By 2016, that number had jumped to more than 17 percent. In fact, according to data supplied by U.S. Special Operations Command, there are now more special operations personnel devoted to Africa than anywhere except the Middle East — 1,700 people spread out across 20 countries dedicated to assisting the U.S. military’s African partners in their fight against terrorism and extremism. 3

From an article entitled “The war you’ve never heard of” written by Nick Turse.

Just across the narrow channel of the Gulf of Aden, the US is also flying its fleets of drones above the impoverished nation of Yemen. They have been doing so since 2002, as well as launching more conventional airstrikes, and now, following Operation Decisive Storm of March 2015, they are sharing the same skies so as to coordinate the killing with our allies the Saudis and their arsenal of cluster bombs.

Meanwhile, in neighbouring Libya, Nato’s Operation Unified Protector and its “no-fly zone” of 2011 has sent the country spiralling into civil war with an immediate cost of an estimated 30,000 lives. After six months of sustained aerial bombardment, the territory, ever since swarming with Islamist terrorists, has since been divvied up between competing warlords.

This repeats a pattern begun under the original franchise of Operation Enduring Freedom when America and Britain teamed up with warlords of the Northern Alliance to see off the Taliban. Operation Enduring Freedom – Afghanistan has also cost the lives of hundreds of thousands (plus others killed in Pakistan after the conflict was broadened under Obama’s administration) and peaked with Operation Iraqi Freedom (the first “spill-over” of OEF), after America’s “coalition of the willing” instigated the slaughter of hundreds of thousands in Iraq (fatalities perhaps touching a million but never counted) and tore a second country to pieces. 4

Our  “Global War on Terror” has now entered the middle of its second decade and in its wake there have never been greater numbers of refugees desperate to escape its ravages. Packed aboard any vessel that floats, they travel with the hope of deliverance from poverty and untold suffering, scrambling for their lives to a continent that has ample reserves available, but whose surplus reserves are instead spent on the procurement of more weapons to sustain the very wars our victims are escaping from.

And there have never been more terrorists to kill, nor greater profits from selling the weapons needed to kill them (once we have ceased supporting them that is) It’s boom time in the business of warring…

… and crunch time for everyone else: with a shrinking pot of funds to sustain vital public services like healthcare, education, welfare and pensions.

So here’s a question: did anyone actually vote for this? Because I don’t recall any democratic process like a referendum when it came to deciding upon regime change in Afghanistan, or Iraq, or Libya, or Syria… or for Operation Enduring Freedom. And if this catastrophic and nonsensical (at face value) “Global War on Terror” was not the choice of the people, then who actually did force the decisions? Do we have any clues… anywhere… at all? I mean – and this is a pretty wild thought – but perhaps that old buffoon Ronald Reagan was actually on to something after all. Could it be there really is “an alien force already among us”?

*

in a democracy, the government is the people

“Frankly, I’d like to see the government get out of war altogether and leave the whole field to private industry.”

– war profiteer Milo Minderbinder (Joseph Heller’s character in the novel Catch-22). 5

Seventy-two years ago, on the night of February 13th, the first sorties of some thousand RAF and USAAF bombers were opening their bomb bay hatches as they prepared to drop approximately four thousand tons of high explosives and incendiary devices that would pulverise the city of Dresden and incinerate some 25,000 of its inhabitants. Incarcerated in an underground meat locker, Kurt Vonnegut, then an American PoW, was extremely lucky to escape with his life. His reprieve amongst the hanging cadavers would be the central irony of a life devoted to irony: the number of his accidental refuge commemorated in the title of his most celebrated novel: Slaughterhouse-Five.

Today Dresden is synonymous with the intense firestorms during the last days of the war, and in consequence, synonymous too with Vonnegut’s semi-autobiographical treatment of the horrors he encountered once back above ground again. A witness to the mass murder of defenceless civilians in an attack that, like Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Guernica, carpet-bombed by the Nazi Luftwaffe a mere eight years earlier, have also become synonymous with the vilest of war’s barbarisms:

A reproduction of Picasso’s anti-war masterpiece “Guernica” hangs within the UN Security Council, although when Colin Powell presented the case for war against Iraq back in February 2003, it was hidden beneath a blue cover. 6

So when Bilderberg turns up in Dresden, the plangency is of an eerily sepulchral tone. Those hollow-eyed salesmen who tout for the military-industrial complex chewing the fat with the usual menagerie of heads of state and other intermediaries who oversee our casino economies, mixed in with a few high-level spooks and a handful of five-star generals, a spattering of obsequious journalists, with the occasional royal sprinkled on top: but mostly neo-cons slapping the backs of their neo-liberal counterparts. Basically, the bringers of war are back in town.

Marta [Dassù] has just the kind of twinkly smile you’d expect from the director of a gigantic defence contractor. You realise that with Finmeccanica and Honeywell present at an Airbus-organised conference, which has the CIA-backed Palantir’s Alex Karp on the steering committee alongside Jacob Wallenberg (the Wallenberg’s are major stakeholders in Saab), you could have yourself a nice little arms company breakout session. But this is hardly the public perception Bilderberg wants (insofar as it wants a public perception at all, which obviously it doesn’t). 7

Observed Charlie Skelton, as delegates attending the annual Bilderberg confab began gathering at the historic Hotel Taschenbergpalais Kempinski on Friday June 10th of last summer. His commentary running over from the previous Wednesday’s article in which he wrote:

[Alex] Karp and [Peter] Thiel are busy men. Karp has a $15bn CIA-funded company to run. Thiel has speculations to make and Silicon Valley startups to incubate. So the question has to be asked: what on earth are they doing in Dresden? What’s dragging them across the Atlantic to sit for three days in alphabetical rows in a windowless, subterranean conference room? What’s prompting companies like Barclays and Airbus to fund and help run this conference? They’ve got shareholders to answer to: they can’t just say “it bought us a nice chinwag”. 8

Skelton’s sarcasm is just as thick as the proverbial smoke in the proverbial smoke-filled rooms that our powers-that-shouldn’t-be, thanks to health and safety, presumably no longer occupy. We really ought to shudder at the prospect, so we laugh instead: it’s often a better way to cope.

And the prominence of so many happy defence contractors at last year’s clandestine shindig appears all the more unsettling when considered within the broader mix: Gen. David H. Petraeus, (USA) Chairman, KKR Global Institute; his even scarier boss, Henry R. Kravis (USA), Co-Chairman and Co-CEO, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. and the boss’s wife Marie-Josée Kravis, (USA) Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute were all present again, as was that other perennial warmonger and Bilderberg grandee, Henry A. Kissinger. But then, the skin crawls all the more when we pass across the names of defence ministers Ursula von der Leyen (Germany) and Thomas Ahrenkiel (Denmark) and come to the aptly named Russia-baiting neo-con Gen. Philip M. Breedlove 9, (INT) Former Supreme Allied Commander Europe. (And what of Emmanuelle Charpentier, (France) Director, Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology… why would his appearance at Bilderberg bother anyone?)

Not that without the Bilderbergers around to push the latest armaments and beat the drum, all wars would be abruptly and indefinitely finished. Just that a lot less might begin. Because war is certainly a racket and what other event accommodates so many of its ablest racketeers?

*

the way it happens in the world, and quite right…

“When people say this is a secret government of the world I say that if we were a secret government of the world we should be bloody ashamed of ourselves.”

– Chairman of “the secretive – he prefers the word private – Bilderberg Group”, Viscount Etienne Davignon, who is also a corporate director and former European Commissioner. 10

You scratch my back is connivance, if not automatically of an illegal kind. That said, such high-level back-scratching opens the way to a more treacherous conspiracy by miles than most conspiracies our courts prosecute under the regular legal definition. And Bilderberg is much more than a tremendously powerful lobbying group – the most well-connected and powerful of all (we might also presume) – even when this lesser (if serious) charge is another that Bilderbergers themselves are eager to spurn. The soft-soap and the hard sells, the considerations and inducements, the sweeteners and the sweetheart deals; none of this takes place. Honest, Gov!

For newbies, in any case, the name of the game is different. So we need another dirty word to clearly identify it: the word I’m groping for is ‘grooming’. A word that makes the skin crawl all the more.

Have a cigar, old chap, and a glass of brandy and a delicate word whispered in your delicate shell-like. The tantalising, nearly irresistible, promises of a high seat close to the high table and a destiny amongst the stars – those self-anointed “masters of the universe” and not mere B-listers constantly on their flickering blue screens who lesser mortals habitually mistake as the gods.

Bilderberg functions to foster and concentrate networks of political influence. Sister organs the Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations serve as additional hubs within the same Atlanticist network. This entire plutocratic network is self-sustaining. The rewards of membership, aside from being a member of such an exclusive club, can trickle down in many ways. But this network is in the grip of its own groupthink.

“That is the way it happens in the world, and quite right,” 11 said former Steering Committee member and proto-Blairite, the late Lord Denis Healey, to impudent reporter, Jon Ronson, responding to a question about whether the Bilderbergers do indeed secretly rule the world. And obviously from the perspective of the in-crowd, there can be no conspiracy in just thinking as everyone else does.

*

all this happens, more or less…

 [T]hey were two feet high, and green, and shaped like plumber’s friends. Their suction cups were on the ground, and their shafts, which were extremely flexible, usually pointed to the sky. At the top of each shaft was a little hand with a green eye in its palm. The creatures were friendly, and they could see in four dimensions. They pitied Earthlings for being able to see only three. They had many wonderful things to teach Earthlings about time.

– the central protagonist of Slaughterhouse-Five, Billy Pilgrim, describes his alien captors. 12

If I mention Bilderberg to some people, they look at me askance. Which belies the fact, of course, that they know the name of this body, and recognise too that I am about to venture into discussion on a closed topic: not at all appropriate for polite conversation. Strictly out of bounds!

Perhaps I am a loony after all, they might think (if they haven’t thought it already). But what makes interrogation of such matters so taboo? After all, the Bilderberg group is itself an anathema to every precept our civilisation proclaims most dear (indeed prides itself on) – our sacred values of democracy and equality, to say nothing of transparency – so what puts dissent against it effectively out of bounds?

During half a century of its existence, our ‘free press’ very studiously avoided all mention of the Bilderbergers’ extraordinary existence. A conspiracy of silence sustained and occasionally bolstered by outbursts of ridicule if some ambitious maverick strayed beyond the fold and begin spreading rumours. So the press paved the way for this sustained taboo. Think about it: if the press had done their job by enquiring into Bilderberg fifty years ago, then it would be no different today than enquiring into a session of the House of Commons. Less significant in fact, if the Bilderbergers are telling the truth when they insist no policy is ever brokered there.

The difference between Bilderberg and Area 51 goes like this, the press once voiced in close harmony: whereas there is a place called Area 51, everything about Bilderberg is the product of a few paranoid and fevered imaginations! It stands to common sense, ran the closed logical loop, that such gathering could not take place anywhere or anytime, let alone yearly and in five-star hotels, without someone spilling the beans. Concluding emphatically: and given how only those with a screw loose say it exists (which also contains an inherently circular logic all of its own), it follows that the whole matter is a fiction.

So begins the alien schtick which turns out to be handy cover for the plutocrats themselves. As any good conjuror will tell you, successful deception relies mostly on methods of misdirection. And conflating Bilderberg with ‘shape-shifting reptilians’ functions as a cordon sanitaire: cross it you might fall prey to madness too.

On a parallel note, I don’t think it is too much of a plot spoiler to say that the Tralfamadorians who hold Billy Pilgrim captive as an exhibit in their zoo aren’t ‘real’ aliens either. They are in fact delusory refractions of Pilgrim’s shattered mind. A symptom of his PTSD and an unconscious compensatory strategy for coping.

Kurt Vonnegut doesn’t mention any of this directly, by the way, he is too skilled an author, but leaves us to read between the lines of his all-too clinical account. The pain he shares with Billy Pilgrim (following his own traumatic experience in Dresden) vividly yet bloodlessly exhibited like the eviscerated entrails of a very surgically dissected cadaver.

Although Billy’s delusion is markedly different from our own. His benign captors, the Tralfamadorians, in reality protect him from his own recurrent terrors. We, on the other hand, are barely able to detect the Bilderbergers and their extended globalist network at all, even when once in a while news of just such an event pops up right under our noses.

The reliably low-level media coverage and commentary supplies an invisibility cloak, and by staying invisible, it becomes rather easy to suppose that we are free from any influence. Not to suppose at all, in fact, as there is nothing whatever to suppose about. Out of sight, out of mind. And as we do come notice these networks, there is also that uncanny sense of co-dependency.

After all, “That is the way it happens in the world…”, as Healey said, and as minions, the compulsion becomes ‘to get with the programme.’ In the final analysis, angst is always the safeguard that preserves the ruling establishment. Better the devils you know.

picture of a Tralfamadorian looking sad

Our  ‘free press’ is entirely bought and paid for, yet even if it were not, those minions who man its presses would stay reliably house-trained for reasons stated above. Doorstepping disgraced celebrities and politicians is one thing, but exposing the powers-that-shouldn’t-be – “the elite” as they prefer to be known, or “the movers and shakers”, or else “the great and the good”, or even the so-called “wealth-creators” (we really ought to laugh) – might whip up an uncontrollable storm. Far safer to rock the establishment boat more gently, and hope to lull everyone back to sleep. Either that or retreat behind the barricades!

In this regard, the Bilderberg taboo is especially instructive; the blackout symptomatic of our detached, post-modern relationship to real power. The discomfort we are given to feel when it comes to merely pointing and shaming our overlords with their chosen name, a sign of how compliant we have become. Afraid to peer behind the curtain of our democracies, we instead feign prior knowledge. Pretend there’s nothing hidden to discover – the more so, once we get the inkling there is. Hiding our eyes under the duvet is how we chase the intruders away. Collectively, we choose to remain in denial.

The perpetual wars, the murderous drones, the torture camps and the tightening noose of mass surveillance – it’s true we didn’t vote for any of it, but it all would have happened anyway, most probably.

Now where did I put the remote control? There’s a programme about aliens on later… apparently, they built the pyramids!

*

The original version has been very slightly updated with inclusion of reference to the following article: https://news.vice.com/story/the-u-s-is-waging-a-massive-shadow-war-in-africa-exclusive-documents-reveal

No other substantive alterations have been made to the article since last June.

1 From Ronald Reagan’s address to the 42nd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York in the last years of the Cold War on September 21, 1987. https://reaganlibrary.archives.gov/archives/speeches/1987/092187b.htm

In fuller context Reagan says:

“Can we and all nations not live in peace? In our obsession with antagonisms of the moment, we often forget how much unites all the members of humanity. Perhaps we need some outside, universal threat to make us recognize this common bond. I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world. And yet, I ask you, is not an alien force already among us? What could be more alien to the universal aspirations of our peoples than war and the threat of war?”

2

A US air strike has killed more than 150 al-Shabab militants in Somalia, the Pentagon says.

Spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said the strike hit a training camp where a “large-scale” attack was being planned.

From a BBC news article entitled “US air strike ‘kills 150 Somali militants’” published on March 7, 2016. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-35748986

3

Today, according to U.S. military documents obtained by VICE News, special operators are carrying out nearly 100 missions at any given time — in Africa alone. It’s the latest sign of the military’s quiet but ever-expanding presence on the continent, one that represents the most dramatic growth in the deployment of America’s elite troops to any region of the globe.

From an article entitled “The war you’ve never heard of” written by Nick Turse, published in Vice News on May 18, 2017. https://news.vice.com/story/the-u-s-is-waging-a-massive-shadow-war-in-africa-exclusive-documents-reveal

4

Research on recent wars from the 1990s to the present, have yielded an extremely crude rule of thumb: “between three and 15 times as many people die indirectly for every person who dies violently.” The question is how to tell which conflicts are associated with which scale of indirect death. Further, the fact is that Afghanistan and Pakistan have long been sites of military conflict, which means that the indirect health effects of the war are in addition to the already existing indirect health effects of conflict. There is no peacetime baseline for Afghanistan. The Geneva Declaration Secretariat, which closely examined data from armed conflicts occurring in the period of 2004-2007, suggests that, “a reasonable average estimate would be a ratio of four indirect deaths to one direct death in contemporary conflicts.” If we use this ratio, the ongoing war in Afghanistan is perhaps responsible for as many as an additional 360,000 indirect deaths.

Crawford, Neta (22 May 2015). “War-related Death, Injury, and Displacement in Afghanistan and Pakistan 2001-2014”. Costs of War (Brown University). Retrieved 23 June 2015 by wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilian_casualties_in_the_war_in_Afghanistan_%282001%E2%80%93present%29#cite_note-crawford2015-1

5

“In a democracy, the government is the people,” Milo explained. “We’re people, aren’t we? So we might just as well keep the money and eliminate the middleman. Frankly, I’d like to see the government get out of war altogether and leave the whole field to private industry.”

Full quote taken from Ch. 24 of Catch-22 by Joseph Heller.

6

Too much of a mixed message, diplomats say. As final preparations for the secretary’s presentation were being made last night, a U.N. spokesman explained, ”Tomorrow it will be covered and we will put the Security Council flags in front of it.”

Mr. Powell can’t very well seduce the world into bombing Iraq surrounded on camera by shrieking and mutilated women, men, children, bulls and horses.

From an article entitled “Powell Without Picasso” written by Maureen Dowd, published in The New York Times on February 5, 2003. http://www.nytimes.com/2003/02/05/opinion/powell-without-picasso.html

7 From an article entitled “Bilderberg in Dresden: an innocent conference or conflict of interests?” written by Charlie Skelton, published in the Guardian on June 10, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jun/10/bilderberg-conference-charlie-skelton-blog-academic

8 From an article entitled “Bilderberg staff make last nervy tweaks before arrival of the rich and powerful” written by Charlie Skelton, published in the Guardian on June 8, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jun/08/bilderberg-staff-last-nervy-tweaks-arrival-rich-and-powerful

9

Russia has “chosen to be an adversary and poses a long-term existential threat” to the United States and U.S. allies and partners in Europe, he told lawmakers.

Russia wants to “rewrite” the agreed rules of the international order, he said.

“To counter Russia, Eucom, working with allies and partners, is deterring Russia now and preparing to fight and win if necessary,” he said.

From an article entitled “Breedlove: Russia, Instability Threaten U.S., European Security Interests” written by Lisa Ferdinando, published by U.S. Department of Defense News on February 25, 2016. http://www.defense.gov/News-Article-View/Article/673338/breedlove-russia-instability-threaten-us-european-security-interests

10 From an article entitled “Inside the secretive Bilderberg Group”, written by Bill Hayton, published by BBC news on September 29, 2005. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/4290944.stm

11

12 Protagonist Billy Pilgrim’s description of the Tralfamadorians in Kurt Vonnegut’s semi-autobiographical  fantasy satire Slaughterhouse-Five. Note: ‘Plumber’s friends’ is another name for ‘sink plungers’.

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go to hell Rupert Murdoch!

The following is reprinted in full from Craig Murray’s excellent blog. His post was originally entitled “Murdoch is Even Viler than We Knew”.

*

This article was published on the Sun’s website at 2.50am, that is hours after the Manchester bombing.

It was updated at 09.50am, long after the decision to suspend electioneering. I am not going to link to the article, but the comments below it from the public are unanimous.

I pray that the vile people at the Sun have miscalculated, and in future the Sun will be as welcome in Manchester as in Liverpool.

*

The following comment is my own (posted on Murray’s blog):

Did you see an interview broadcast on Sky News on Sunday night? Halfway through and completely out of the blue, the interviewer [Sophy Ridge] raised some spurious issue about an article published decades earlier in a Labour magazine which she says wasn’t sufficiently condemnatory of the IRA. Furthering the accusation, she then stated that Corbyn was an editor of the magazine – a claim he immediately dismissed, having first expressed his own disapproval toward the quoted article. Then for over 5 mins the interviewer repeatedly insinuated that Corbyn had been in league with the IRA.

I happened to see Murdoch-ridden Sky News promoting their hit piece on Sunday night and declaring that (unfortunately, I have to paraphrase here) “In an interview Jeremy Corbyn refused to condemn bombings by the IRA”. In truth, as you can hear, he condemns “all bombings” but apparently this isn’t sectarian enough. Here’s the same interview embedded (hopefully beginning at 7:30 mins) from where the attempted entrapment begins:

The timing of all this is deeply troubling.

Thanks Craig, for some very prompt and thoughtful analysis on this dreadful atrocity.

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spot the difference – BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg caught reading from the Tory script

 

Above: Laura Kuenssberg’s review of the Labour manifesto published by the (impartial) BBC.

Below: Conservative poster from the last election campaign.

Screenshots courtesy of The Canary, which adds:

Sadly, the evidence suggests that Kuenssberg is a symptom of conservative bias at the BBC, rather than cause.

Beyond Harding [Director of BBC news] and Kuenssberg, multiple studies have supported the assertion that this bias exists. A 2013 content analysis of the BBC by Cardiff University found that:

  • The BBC consistently grants more airtime to the Conservatives, whichever party is in power.
  • On BBC News at Six, business representatives outnumbered trade union spokespeople by more than 5:1 in 2007 and by 19:1 in 2012.
  • BBC coverage of the 2008 financial crisis was dominated by stockbrokers, investment bankers, hedge fund managers and other City voices. Civil society voices or commentators critical of the finance sector were almost completely absent from coverage.

Studies by the London School of Economics and the Media Reform Coalition have since found serious imbalance in reporting of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

This tweet sums it up nicely:

 

Clarification: Although The Canary states that amongst the findings of the Cardiff University report, “The BBC consistently grants more airtime to the Conservatives, whichever party is in power”; this is not strictly accurate. If you follow the link you will find the following:

Among political sources, Labour and Conservatives dominate coverage accounting for 86% of source appearances in 2007 and 79.7% in 2012. Our data also show that Conservatives get more airtime than Labour. Bearing in mind that incumbents always receive more coverage than opposition politicians, the ratio was much more pronounced when the Conservatives were in power in 2012.

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