Category Archives: Europe

Ukraine turns Donetsk into a minefield using banned ‘butterfly’ mines

The use of PFM-1 ‘butterfly’ mines against civilians is prohibited by the Geneva conventions – but this evidently isn’t stopping Ukraine.

Saturday night, just after 9 pm, thunderous explosions rocked central Donetsk. Shortly after, there were announcements that air defence had shot down Ukrainian-fired missiles containing “Butterfly” (or “Petal”) mines.

Warning: The report below contains a blurred out but otherwise graphic image of an injury caused by one of these munitions [at 30 secs].

Given that over 300 of these mines are packed into each of the Ukrainian-fired rockets, central Donetsk would literally be a minefield. While Ukraine has been using these mines on the Donbass for many months, in recent days they have intensely bombarded Gorlovka and Donetsk neighbourhoods with them. Initially targeted were the hard-hit districts of Kievskiy in the north, Kirovsky in the southwest, and Kuibyshevkiy in the west.

But as of Saturday night, Ukraine hammered central Donetsk with them. And now, walking in the city centre is a nightmare, one I had to endure to document how widespread these mines are here: in central streets and walkways, near apartments, in parks…

Reporting from the ground, independent journalist Eva Bartlett continues:

On July 30th, in a densely inhabited working-class district of western Donetsk, in a field with garden plots for nearby apartment residents, I saw the nefarious “petal” or “butterfly” mines which Ukraine the following day dropped on the central of Donetsk.

In the large courtyard of an apartment complex, I watched from a safe distance as Emergency Services timer-detonated eight mines they had found around the grounds. The day prior, they destroyed 26. Another 150 were located and destroyed using a radio-controlled minesweeper. But there remains much work to restore the streets and courtyards to safety.

Some types of these anti-personnel mines have a self-destruct timer. Others, including the ones Ukraine is firing, have a years-long shelf life. They do pretty much no damage to military vehicles, and as such their use in Donbass is insidious – deliberately targeting civilians, to leave them maimed.

Out of the 6 million such mines Ukraine initially declared in its possession, only 2 million have been reportedly destroyed as of 2018.

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Additional notes:

The Ottawa Treaty (also known as the Mine Ban Treaty), which outlaws anti-personnel mines, was opened for signature on December 3, 1997. Ukraine signed the Ottawa Treaty on February 24th, 1999. The Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) is an international treaty that prohibits all use, transfer, production, and stockpiling of cluster bombs, a type of explosive weapon which scatters submunitions (“bomblets”) over an area. Ukraine has not signed the CCM Treaty.

 

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Jonathan Cook on revelations of Paul Mason and Carole Cadwalladr’s deep collusion with western intelligence agencies and the broader implications

Reprinted below is a two-part investigative piece by independent journalist Jonathan Cook on the recently disclosed involvement of “celebrated” liberal media journalists – in particular Paul Mason and Carole Cadwalladr – working in undercover collusion with the British security state. In the second part, Cook then documents and collates evidence of more extensive penetration of the mainstream media by western intelligence services.

To those who are doubtful about widespread recruitment of journalists by British intelligence services, Cook cites the case of Channel 4’s Jon Snow, who rejected approaches to spy on his own colleagues. Asked at first to supply information about the Communist Party, Snow was later asked to spy on certain “left-wing people” working in television. He revealed (in 2015) that in return he would have received secret monthly and tax-free payments into his bank account matching his then salary.

Cook adds only: “Most journalists are not likely to talk of such approaches, either because they have accepted them or because disclosure might harm their careers. Snow left it until very late in his own career before mentioning the incident. But there is no reason to imagine such approaches do not continue to be made on a regular basis.”

In the reprinted articles below, all links, images, tweets, etc. have been retained throughout.

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Events of the past few days suggest British journalism – the so-called Fourth Estate – is not what it purports to be: a watchdog monitoring the centers of state power. It is quite the opposite.

The pretensions of the establishment media took a severe battering this month as the defamation trial of Guardian columnist Carole Cadwalladr reached its conclusion and the hacked emails of Paul Mason, a long-time stalwart of the BBC, Channel 4 and the Guardian, were published online.

Both of these celebrated journalists have found themselves outed as recruits – in their differing ways – to a covert information war being waged by Western intelligence agencies.

Had they been honest about it, that collusion might not matter so much. After all, few journalists are as neutral or as dispassionate as the profession likes to pretend. But as have many of their colleagues, Cadwalladr and Mason have broken what should be a core principle of journalism: transparency.

The role of serious journalists is to bring matters of import into the public space for debate and scrutiny. Journalists thinking critically aspire to hold those who wield power – primarily state agencies – to account on the principle that, without scrutiny, power quickly corrupts.

The purpose of real journalism – as opposed to the gossip, entertainment and national-security stenography that usually passes for journalism – is to hit up, not down.

And yet, each of these journalists, we now know, was actively colluding, or seeking to collude, with state actors who prefer to operate in the shadows, out of sight. Both journalists were coopted to advance the aims of the intelligence services.

And worse, each of them either sought to become a conduit for, or actively assist in, covert smear campaigns run by Western intelligence services against other journalists.

What they were doing – along with so many other establishment journalists – is the very antithesis of journalism. They were helping to conceal the operation of power to make it harder to scrutinize. And not only that. In the process, they were trying to weaken already marginalized journalists fighting to hold state power to account.

Russian collusion?

Cadwalladr’s cooperation with the intelligence services has been highlighted only because of a court case. She was sued for defamation by Arron Banks, a businessman and major donor to the successful Brexit campaign for Britain to leave the European Union.

In a kind of transatlantic extension of the Russiagate hysteria in the United States following Donald Trump’s election as president in 2016, Cadwalladr accused Banks of lying about his ties to the Russian state. According to the court, she also suggested he broke election funding laws by receiving Russian money in the run-up to the Brexit vote, also in 2016.

That year serves as a kind of ground zero for liberals fearful about the future of “Western democracy” – supposedly under threat from modern “barbarians at the gate,” such as Russia and China – and the ability of Western states to defend their primacy through neo-colonial wars of aggression around the globe.

The implication is Russia masterminded a double subversion in 2016: on one side of the Atlantic, Trump was elected U.S. president; and, on the other, Britons were gulled into shooting themselves in the foot – and undermining Europe – by voting to leave the EU.

Faced with the court case, Cadwalladr could not support her allegations against Banks as true. Nonetheless, the judge ruled against Banks’ libel action – on the basis that the claims had not sufficiently harmed his reputation.

The judge also decided, perversely in a British defamation action, that Cadwalladr had “reasonable grounds” to publish claims that Banks received “sweetheart deals” from Russia, even though “she had seen no evidence he had entered into any such deals.” An investigation by the National Crime Agency ultimately found no evidence either.

So given those circumstances, what was the basis for her accusations against Banks?

Cadwalladr’s journalistic modus operandi, in her long-running efforts to suggest widespread Russian meddling in British politics, is highlighted in her witness statement to the court.

In it, she refers to another of her Russiagate-style stories: one from 2017 that tried to connect the Kremlin with Nigel Farage, a former pro-Brexit politician with the UKIP Party and close associate of Banks, and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been a political prisoner in the U.K. for more than a decade.

At that time, Assange was confined to a single room in the Ecuadorian Embassy after its government offered him political asylum. He had sought sanctuary there, fearing he would be extradited to the U.S. following publication by WikiLeaks of revelations that the U.S. and U.K. had committed war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

WikiLeaks had also deeply embarrassed the CIA by following up with the publication of leaked documents, known as Vault 7, exposing the agency’s own crimes.

Last week the U.K.’s Home Secretary, Priti Patel, approved the very extradition to the U.S. that Assange feared and that drove him into the Ecuadorian embassy. Once in the U.S., he faces up to 175 years in complete isolation in a supermax jail.

Assassination plot

We now know, courtesy of a Yahoo News investigation, that through 2017 the CIA hatched various schemes to either assassinate Assange or kidnap him in one of its illegal “extraordinary rendition” operations, so he could be permanently locked up in the U.S., out of public view.

We can surmise that the CIA also believed it needed to prepare the ground for such a rogue operation by bringing the public on board. According to Yahoo’s investigation, the CIA believed Assange’s seizure might require a gun battle on the streets of London.

It was at this point, it seems, that Cadwalladr and the Guardian were encouraged to add their own weight to the cause of further turning public opinion against Assange.

According to her witness statement, “a confidential source in [the] U.S.” suggested – at the very time the CIA was mulling over these various plots – that she write about a supposed visit by Farage to Assange in the embassy. The story ran in the Guardian under the headline “When Nigel Farage met Julian Assange.”

In the article, Cadwalladr offers a strong hint as to who had been treating her as a confidant: the one source mentioned in the piece is “a highly placed contact with links to U.S. intelligence.” In other words, the CIA almost certainly fed her the agency’s angle on the story.

In the piece, Cadwalladr threads together her and the CIA’s claims of “a political alignment between WikiLeaks’ ideology, UKIP’s ideology and Trump’s ideology.” Behind the scenes, she suggests, was the hidden hand of the Kremlin, guiding them all in a malign plot to fatally undermine British democracy.

She quotes her “highly placed contact” claiming that Farage and Assange’s alleged face-to-face meeting was necessary to pass information of their nefarious plot “in ways and places that cannot be monitored.”

Except of course, as her “highly placed contact” knew – and as we now know, thanks to exposes by the Grayzone website – that was a lie. In tandem with its plot to kill or kidnap Assange, the CIA illegally installed cameras inside, as well as outside, the embassy. His every move in the embassy was monitored – even in the toilet block.

The reality was that the CIA was bugging and videoing Assange’s every conversation in the embassy, even the face-to-face ones. If the CIA actually had a recording of Assange and Farage meeting and discussing a Kremlin-inspired plot, it would have found a way to make it public by now.

Far more plausible is what Farage and WikiLeaks say: that such a meeting never happened. Farage visited the embassy to try to interview Assange for his LBC radio show but was denied access. That can be easily confirmed because by then the Ecuadorian embassy was allying with the U.S. and refusing Assange any contact with visitors apart from his lawyers.

Nonetheless, Cadwalladr concludes: “In the perfect storm of fake news, disinformation and social media in which we now live, WikiLeaks is, in many ways, the swirling vortex at the centre of everything.”

‘Swirling vortex’

The Farage-Assange meeting story shows how the CIA and Cadwalladr’s agendas perfectly coincided in their very own “swirling vortex” of fake news and disinformation.

She wanted to tie the Brexit campaign to Russia and suggest that anyone who wished to challenge the liberal pieties that provide cover for the crimes committed by Western states must necessarily belong to a network of conspirators, on the left and the right, masterminded from Moscow.

The CIA and other Western intelligence agencies, meanwhile, wanted to deepen the public’s impression that Assange was a Kremlin agent – and that WikiLeaks’ exposure of the crimes committed by those same agencies was not in the public interest but actually an assault on Western democracy.

Assange’s character assassination had already been largely achieved with the American public in the Russiagate campaign in the U.S. The intelligence services, along with the Democratic Party leadership, had crafted a narrative designed to obscure WikiLeaks’ revelations of election-fixing by Hillary Clinton’s camp in 2016 to prevent Bernie Sanders from winning the party’s presidential nomination. Instead they refocused the public’s attention on evidence-free claims that Russia had “hacked” the emails.

For Cadwalladr and the CIA, the fake-news story of Farage meeting Assange could be spun as further proof that both the “far left” and “far right” were colluding with Russia. Their message was clear: only centrists – and the national security state – could be trusted to defend democracy.

Fabricated story

Cadwalladr’s smear of Assange is entirely of a piece with the vilification campaign of WikiLeaks led by liberal media outlets to which she belongs. Her paper, the Guardian, has had Assange in its sights since its falling out with him over their joint publication of the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs in 2010.

A year after Cadwalladr’s smear piece, the Guardian would continue its cooperation with the intelligence services’ demonization of Assange by running an equally fabricated story – this time about a senior aide of Trump’s, Paul Manafort, and various unidentified “Russians” secretly meeting Assange in the embassy.

The story was so improbable it was ridiculed even at the time of publication. Again, the CIA’s illegal spying operation inside and outside the embassy meant there was no way Manafort or any “Russians” could have secretly visited Assange without those meetings being recorded. Nonetheless, the Guardian has never retracted the smear.

One of the authors of the article, Luke Harding, has been at the forefront of both the Guardian’s Russiagate claims and its efforts to defame Assange. In doing so, he appears to have relied heavily on Western intelligence services for his stories and has proven incapable of defending them when challenged.

Harding, like the Guardian, has an added investment in discrediting Assange. He and a Guardian colleague, David Leigh, published a Guardian-imprint book that included a secret password to a WikiLeaks’ cache of leaked documents, thereby providing security services around the world with access to the material.

The CIA’s claim that the release of those documents endangered its informants – a claim that even U.S. officials have been forced to concede is not true – has been laid at Assange’s door to vilify him and justify his imprisonment. But if anyone is to blame, it is not Assange but Harding, Leigh and the Guardian.

Effort to deplatform

The case of Paul Mason, who worked for many years as a senior BBC journalist, is even more revealing. Emails passed to the Grayzone website show the veteran, self-described “left-wing” journalist secretly conspiring with figures aligned with British intelligence services to build a network of journalists and academics to smear and censor independent media outlets that challenge the narratives of the Western intelligence agencies.

Mason’s concerns about left-wing influence on public opinion have intensified the more he has faced criticism from the left over his demands for fervent, uncritical support of NATO and as he has lobbied for greater Western interference in Ukraine. Both are aims he shares with Western intelligence services.

Along with the establishment media, Mason has called for sending advanced weaponry to Kyiv, likely to raise the death toll on both sides of the war and risk a nuclear confrontation between the West and Russia.

In the published emails, Mason suggests the harming and “relentless deplatforming” of independent investigative media sites – such as the Grayzone, Consortium News and Mint Press – that host non-establishment journalists. He and his correspondents also debate whether to include Declassified UK and OpenDemocracy. One of his co-conspirators suggests a “full nuclear legal to squeeze them financially.”

Mason himself proposes starving these websites of income by secretly pressuring Paypal to stop readers from being able to make donations to support their work.

It should be noted that, in the wake of Mason’s correspondence,  PayPal did indeed launch just such a crackdown, including against Consortium News and MintPress, after earlier targeting WikiLeaks.

Mason’s email correspondents include two figures intimately tied to British intelligence: Amil Khan is described by the Grayzone as “a shadowy intelligence contractor” with ties to the U.K.’s National Security Council. He founded Valent Projects, establishing his credentials in a dirty propaganda war in support of head-chopping jihadist groups trying to bring down the Russian-supported Syrian government.

Clandestine ‘clusters’

The other intelligence operative is someone Mason refers to as a “friend”: Andy Pryce, the head of the Foreign Office’s shadowy Counter Disinformation and Media Development (CDMD) unit, founded in 2016 to “counter-strike against Russian propaganda.” Mason and Pryce spend much of their correspondence discussing when to meet up in London pubs for a drink, according to the Grayzone.

The Foreign Office managed to keep the CDMD unit’s existence secret for two years. The U.K. government has refused to disclose basic information about the CDMD on grounds of national security, although it is now known that it is overseen by the National Security Council.

The CDMD’s existence came to light because of leaks about another covert information warfare operation, the Integrity Initiative.

Notably, the Integrity Initiative was run on the basis of clandestine “clusters,” in North America and Europe, of journalists, academics, politicians and security officials advancing narratives shared with Western intelligence agencies to discredit Russia, China, Julian Assange, and Jeremy Corbyn, the former, left-wing leader of the Labour Party.

Cadwalladr was named in the British cluster, along with other prominent journalists: David Aaronovitch and Dominic Kennedy of the Times; the Guardian’s Natalie Nougayrede and Paul Canning; Jonathan Marcus of the BBC; the Financial Times’ Neil Buckley; the Economist’s Edward Lucas; and Sky News’ Deborah Haynes.

In his emails, Mason appears to want to renew this type of work but to direct its energies more specifically at damaging independent, dissident media – with his number one target the Grayzone, which played a critical role in exposing the Integrity Initiative.

Mason’s “friend” – the CDMD’s head, Andy Pryce – “featured prominently” in documents relating to the Integrity Initiative, the Grayzone observes.

This background is not lost on Mason. He notes in his correspondence the danger that his plot to “deplatform” independent media could “end up with the same problem as Statecraft” – a reference to the Institute of Statecraft, the Integrity Initiative’s parent charity, which the Grayzone and others exposed. He cautions: “The opposition are not stupid, they can spot an info op – so the more this is designed to be organic the better.”

Pryce and Mason discuss creating an astroturf civil-society organization that would lead their “information war” as part of an operation they brand the “International Information Brigade”.

Mason suggests the suspension of the libel laws for what he calls “foreign agents” – presumably meaning that the Information Brigade would be able to defame independent journalists as Russian agents, echoing the establishment media’s treatment of Assange, without fear of legal action that would show these were evidence-free smears.

‘Putin infosphere’

Another correspondent, Emma Briant, an academic who claims to specialize in Russian disinformation, offers an insight into how she defines the presumed enemy within: those “close to WikiLeaks,” anyone “trolling Carole [Cadwalladr],” and outlets “discouraging people from reading the Guardian.”

Mason himself produces an eye-popping, self-drawn, spider’s web chart [see below] of the supposedly “pro-Putin infosphere” in the U.K., embracing much of the left, including Corbyn, the Stop the War movement, as well as the Black and Muslim communities. Several media sites are mentioned, including Mint Press and Novara Media, an independent British website sympathetic to Corbyn.

network-of-influence

Khan and Mason consider how they can help trigger a British government investigation of independent outlets so that they can be labeled as “Russian-state affiliated media” to further remove them from visibility on social media.

Mason states that the goal is to prevent the emergence of a “left anti-imperialist identity,” which, he fears, “will be attractive because liberalism doesn’t know how to counter it” – a telling admission that he believes genuine left-wing critiques of Western foreign policy cannot be dealt with through public refutation but only through secret disinformation campaigns.

He urges efforts to crack down not only on independent media and “rogue” academics but on left-wing political activism. He identifies as a particular threat Corbyn, who was earlier harmed through a series of disinformation campaigns, including entirely evidence-free claims that the Labour Party during his tenure became a hotbed of antisemitism. Mason fears Corbyn might set up a new, independent left-wing party. It is important, Mason notes, to “quarantine” and “stigmatize” any such ideology.

In short, rather than use journalism to win the argument and the battle for public opinion, Mason wishes to use the dark arts of the security state to damage independent media, as well as dissident academics and left-wing political activism. He wants no influences on the public that are not tightly aligned with the core foreign policy goals of the national security state.

Mason’s correspondence hints at the reality behind Cadwalladr’s claim that Assange was the “swirling vortex at the centre of everything.” Assange symbolizes that “swirling vortex” to intelligence-aligned establishment journalists only because WikiLeaks has published plenty of insider information that exposes Western claims to global moral leadership as a complete charade – and the journalists who amplify those claims as utter charlatans.

In part two, we will examine why journalists like Mason and Cadwalladr prosper in the establishment media; the long history of collusion between Western intelligence agencies and the establishment media; and how that mutually beneficial collusion is becoming ever more important to each of them.

Click here to read the original article entitled “British ‘Watchdog’ Journalists Unmasked as Lap Dogs for the Security State” written by Jonathan Cook, published in Mint Press News on June 21st.

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Earlier this month, Russia banned 29 British journalists, including several from the BBC and The Guardian, on the grounds that they were “associated with the defense complex”. That claim was not, at least in all cases, quite as preposterous as was widely assumed.

In part one of this two-part series, we saw how the Guardian’s Luke Harding – one of the journalists banned by Russia – has promoted entirely unsubstantiated smear stories that have hewn closely to the agenda of Western intelligence services. Harding even wrote a prominent Russiagate book and could not defend its basic claims when challenged by independent journalist Aaron Maté.

Although Russia’s ban provoked a predictable, self-righteous backlash from the U.K. media – and was adduced as further evidence of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian tendencies – Moscow was, in fact, mirroring earlier bans by the British authorities and the European Union on Russian state-sponsored media. None of the British journalists now barred from Russia raised their voices in protest at the banning of the English-language broadcasts and the websites of RT and Sputnik.

In popular imagination, cultivated jointly by Western establishment media and Western intelligence agencies, both outlets are staffed by Russian spooks strong-arming a few impressionable Westerners with Stalinist tendencies. The reality is very different. RT wants to have influence in the West, and the only way to achieve that is by recruiting credible Western journalists who have trenchant criticisms of the Western national-security state and its war industries but cannot – for that very reason – find a platform in the establishment media at home. RT might not be the best place to get a neutral view of what Russia is up to, but it had attracted a growing audience in the West by providing an outlet for disillusioned Western journalists who are ready to paint a realistic picture of the failings of their own states.

One of RT’s journalists, for example, was Chris Hedges, a former foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He has had a long and distinguished journalistic career and has won major journalism awards. Nonetheless, six years of his Emmy-nominated “On Contact” programme for RT America – interviewing major public figures – was erased from Youtube’s channel overnight.

In part one, we considered the cases of two celebrated British journalists – Paul Mason and Carole Cadwalladr – who were revealed to be covertly colluding with Western intelligence services. Not only that, but they had used those contacts to try to harm other journalists who have been taking on the British and U.S. security states. They had been effectively recruited – or in Mason’s case, possibly recruited himself – to a covert, and dirty, information war. The paradox is that, while Cadwalladr and Mason have been accusing – without evidence – journalists in the West of colluding with foreign intelligence agencies, they themselves have been colluding with their own intelligence services to smear other reporters. If Russian intelligence needs a troll farm to spread disinformation, Western intelligence can rely, it seems, on compliant celebrity journalists in British mainstream outlets to do the same work.

Circling the wagons

Neither Cadwalladr nor Mason is likely to pay a price for their actions. In fact, they can expect to be rewarded – a sign that this kind of covert collusion is desired by establishment media, not least liberal outlets like the Guardian that try to create the misleading impression that they are somehow oppositional to the security state.

That should come as no surprise – and not just because these types of collusion work to the joint benefit of the establishment media and the intelligence services. The media outlet gets an exclusive – often one rooted in a smear operation by the state, as with Cadwalladr’s story of Farage meeting Wikileaks founder Julian Assange (documented in part one) – which they do not need to stand up beyond the simple attribution to a “well-placed”, anonymous “source”.

Meanwhile, the intelligence services set the news agenda, including with smears that target those trying to hold them to account, but cannot be scrutinized over such claims because they can shield behind anonymity. In such cases, the so-called Fourth Estate serves as simply a stenographer for the state. It amplifies the state’s self-serving allegations but adds a veneer of legitimacy through its own supposed verification via publication.

The media’s collusion, however, is not just servile. With the advent of the internet and social media, the establishment press and the intelligence services have found their interests more in tune than ever before. Independent media of the kind that seeks to hold state power to account – such as, for example, MintPress News or the Grayzone, about which Mason was so keen to spread disinformation (again, documented in part one) – or foreign channels like RT that give a platform to independent Western journalists, are treated as a threat by both the intelligence services and the establishment media.

But whereas foreign channels like RT can be easily vilified because of their ties to “enemy” states, and shut down on those grounds alone, it is more difficult to make the case for censoring independent media. It requires first a concerted campaign of Western disinformation and smears to undermine independent journalism – as we shall examine later in this article.

The powerful see such smear campaigns as vitally important. Because it is free to report stories of state crimes the establishment media mostly avoids, independent media exposes the establishment media for what it really is: the public relations arm of the state. It shows the extent to which serious, critical journalism is absent from the mainstream. And as a rival source of news, independent media leaves readers more aware of what the establishment media is choosing not to cover – and hints at why.

Paradoxically, the more effective independent media has become, the more the establishment media has circled the wagons to protect itself from this upstart media, labeling its competitors’ coverage “fake news” and “Russian disinformation”. Meanwhile, the new establishment media monopolies emerging from the digital revolution – Silicon Valley platforms like Facebook/Meta, Google/Youtube and Twitter – have gradually joined this assault, changing their algorithms to make it ever harder for people to read independent media.

Recruited to spy

If the suggestion of widespread collusion with the intelligence services by our most celebrated journalists and the establishment outlets they work for sounds improbable, consider this:

Jon Snow, who gained national treasure status in the U.K. after serving as Channel 4 News’ front man for many years, revealed in 2015 that the British intelligence services had tried to recruit him 40 years earlier, when he was an up-and-coming broadcast journalist. He was asked to spy on “left-wing” television colleagues, in return for a secret, tax-free salary that would match what he was already being paid by his employer.

Most journalists are not likely to talk of such approaches, either because they have accepted them or because disclosure might harm their careers. Snow left it until very late in his own career before mentioning the incident. But there is no reason to imagine such approaches do not continue to be made on a regular basis.

I have never written of it before – it seemed too self-aggrandising, and until now not particularly pertinent to any piece I was writing – but a decade or so ago, I was quietly “sounded out” by a British diplomat. He wanted to see if I would supply the Foreign Office with off-the-record information on my specialist subject: the Palestinian minority in Israel. I refused, and the official dropped contact.

Given that I am a left-wing, freelance journalist far from the center of power, I was left wondering how common it is for better-placed, more mainstream journalists, ones who mix regularly with British officials, to be on the receiving end of such offers. Presumably an initial, low-key approach like the one made to me is intended to see how amenable a journalist might be to becoming more involved with the intelligence services. Mutual trust is gradually built.

On the CIA payroll

Back in 1977, Carl Bernstein, who was, alongside Bob Woodward, one of the world’s most famous journalists thanks to their reporting of the Watergate scandal, turned his attention to the extent of collusion between the U.S. media and the CIA. His engagement with this contentious subject likely damaged his career – at least compared to Woodward, who spent his later years continuing to make a name for himself hanging around the Oval Office relaying insider gossip.

Bernstein’s interest in the relationship between the intelligence services and journalists probably derived from his own Watergate experiences. Ultimately, he and Woodward got their scoop – later turned into a book, then a film called “All the President’s Men” – not only through hard graft but because they were used as pawns in a high-level power battle.

As would become public knowledge in 2005, Deep Throat, the insider who gave them the leads they needed to bring down President Richard Nixon, was Mark Felt, then the FBI’s associate director and a loyalist of longtime FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. Felt had a score to settle with Nixon after he was passed over for the top job at the bureau when Hoover died.

Woodward knew Felt from his navy days, and had cultivated a relationship with his man in the FBI long before Watergate. Those long-term ties had presumably assisted them both: Felt because he could release stories that helped the bureau secretly shape the public narrative, and Woodward because he had access to information that gave him an edge over rival journalists.

Bernstein’s mammoth investigation in 1977 for Rolling Stone exposed the collusion between the CIA and journalists – collusion that had parallels with that between Woodward and Felt. Bernstein found evidence in the agency’s files that at least 400 U.S. journalists had “secretly carried out assignments for the Central Intelligence Agency”.

Bernstein observed:

“Reporters shared their notebooks with the CIA. Editors shared their staffs. Some of the journalists were Pulitzer Prize winners, distinguished reporters who considered themselves ambassadors without‑portfolio for their country. Most were less exalted: foreign correspondents who found that their association with the Agency helped their work; stringers and freelancers who were as interested in the derring‑do of the spy business as in filing articles; and, the smallest category, full‑time CIA employees masquerading as journalists abroad.”

CIA documents also showed, as Bernstein reported, that “journalists were engaged to perform tasks for the CIA with the consent of the managements of America’s leading news organizations.”

The agency particularly valued its relationship with more liberal U.S. outlets like The New York Times, Time magazine and CBS News, who were seen as more credible as vehicles for its information war. The CIA-recruited journalists signed secrecy agreements, pledging never to divulge their relationship to the agency. But in fact, as Bernstein makes clear, the existence of these CIA-journalists was an open secret in most newsrooms.

Bernstein suggests it was easy for the CIA to recruit journalists to carry out its covert work, and get editors to cooperate or turn a blind eye, because of the paranoid political climate produced by the Cold War. Journalists did not feel they were taking a side; they were supposedly involved in an existential fight to defend the right of people to live in freedom.

One has to wonder how much has changed in a world where the aggressively promoted threats of Islamist extremism, Russian “imperialism” and a more nebulous “clash of civilizations” obsess the West’s political class. Journalists are as susceptible to those fears as their predecessors were to the Cold War, and doubtless as easily manipulated.

In the shadows

Investigative journalist Nick Davies dedicated a chapter of his 2009 book “Flat Earth News” to assess how deeply the Western intelligence services had penetrated the media, at home and abroad. Ultimately, Davies concedes, it is almost impossible to know, given that such collusion necessarily happens in the shadows.

Back in the mid-1970s, around the same time as Bernstein’s work, two Congressional committees – led by Senator Frank Church and House Representative Otis Pike – had set out to investigate the matter. This was the period, we should note, when Snow was being incentivised to spy on colleagues in the U.K.

As Bernstein points out, the Church Committee mostly covered up what it found; refused to question any of the journalists involved; accepted highly redacted, or “sanitized”, documents; and was heavily swayed by senior figures from the CIA, such as William Colby and George H. W. Bush. The Pike Committee fared little better, and publication of its findings were suppressed in the U.S.

Both Congressional investigations had been triggered by concerns, post-Watergate, about the dangers of presidential abuse of the CIA’s powers and the need for greater Congressional oversight.

Under this pressure, the CIA promised to wind down its activities and banned direct payments to journalists. But the powerlessness of Congress to truly get to grips with what the CIA was up to suggests that the agency likely refashioned the program in new ways.

In any case, the agency’s ability to control media coverage probably grew easier over time with the concentration of media ownership. The handful of giant corporations that now control almost all mainstream media in the U.S. share most of the security establishment’s concerns, just as ordinary journalists did during the Cold War.

A paper in every capital

Nonetheless, in his book, Davies pieced together what he could from the available documents. They showed that in the post-war period the CIA had employed at least 800 covert journalist “assets” – reporters, editors, media owners – around the world, pumping out its disinformation. The figures included only those on the agency’s payroll, not those who cooperated with it, shared its aims, or were influenced by its briefings.

These journalists were likely operating as part of a wider CIA covert information war known as “Operation Mockingbird”. The aim was to conceal the agency’s covert or illegal foreign operations, such as its overthrow of democratic governments in Iran in 1953 and Guatemala in 1954, and control the media’s coverage of foreign policy fiascos such as the failed U.S.-directed invasion of Cuba’s Bay of Pigs in 1961.

To achieve these deceptions, as one CIA official admitted to the New York Times, the agency had investments in a large number of newspapers and TV stations around the world, and even covertly set up its own media outlets. “We had at least one newspaper in every foreign capital at any given time,” he said.

Operating outlets abroad meant the CIA could manipulate more convincingly the domestic news agenda. Once it had placed a false or skewed local story in an outlet it secretly owned – such as The Tokyo Evening News or Chile’s South Pacific Mail – news agencies like Reuters and Associated Press, as well as major U.S. TV stations and newspapers, could be relied on to pick it up and spread the CIA’s disinformation around the world. The agency could quickly turn the world’s media into its own echo chamber on any major topic. Thus, just as mockingbirds mimic the songs of other birds, so the media came to repeat CIA talking points.

In 1983 John Stockwell, a former head of the CIA’s Angola task force, explained on camera the ease with which the CIA channeled its propaganda through witting and unwitting journalists. “I had propagandists all over the world,” he observed. Referring to his involvement in a disinformation campaign against Cuba, he said:

“We pumped dozens of stories about Cuban atrocities, Cuban rapists [to the media]… We ran [faked] photographs that made almost every newspaper in the country… We didn’t know of one single atrocity committed by the Cubans. It was pure, raw, false propaganda to create an illusion of communists eating babies for breakfast.”

According to Stockwell, the CIA secretly sponsored the publication of thousands of propaganda books promoting its preferred angles on Vietnam, communism and U.S. foreign policy. Some of the authors, noted Stockwell, “are now distinguished scholars and journalists”.

The Pike Committee estimated conservatively from the limited documents it gained access to that almost a third of the CIA’s budget was spent on propaganda operations. It noted that the figure might be much higher. Even so, the sum was more than the combined budgets of the world’s three largest news agencies: Associated Press, UPI and Reuters.

The CIA and its British counterpart, MI6, could boast numerous agents in the foreign bureaux of all three international news agencies. The CIA even created its own news agency, sending stories to 140 newspapers around the globe.

CIA agents were also found to have been working in the most prestigious U.S. media outlets. The New York Times employed at least 10 of them. At various times, Newsweek’s editor, foreign editor, Washington bureau chief and a host of reporters were on the CIA’s books. Time magazine, Reader’s Digest and the Christian Science Monitor all cooperated closely with the agency. American television networks routinely allowed the CIA to monitor their newsrooms.

Davies cites a report in the Guardian from 1991 that the CIA was found to have made payments to 90 British journalists. MI6 presumably had a separate, and at least as large, cadre of senior U.K. journalists on the payroll.

During that period, Britain ran its own propaganda unit, the Information Research Department (IRD), which cultivated journalists in similar ways to the CIA. Its task, according to Declassified U.K., was “to discredit human rights figures, undermine political opponents overseas, help overthrow governments, and promote U.K. influence and commercial interests around the world.” The British government also used the IRD to damage anyone perceived to be a domestic opponent.

Earlier this month, Declassified U.K. revealed that, in 1971, the Australian government set up its own unit modeled on Britain’s IRD and recruited senior Australian journalists to collaborate with it.

Credulous reporting

It would be foolish to imagine that, in this more complex information age, the U.S. and U.K. intelligence services’ influence over journalists has diminished. Both Cadwalladr and Mason’s cases illustrate how intimate those ties still are.

The New York Timeslet go” one of its star reporters, Judith Miller, in 2005. Her reports of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction – coverage that was critical to rationalizing the 2003 invasion of Iraq in violation of international law – were utterly discredited by later developments. There were no WMDs in Iraq. Western inspectors had consistently said this, but their voices were drowned out by pro-war media. Miller, who claimed she was given special Pentagon security clearance, had been fed stories by U.S. intelligence agencies. She had acted as an uncritical conduit for CIA disinformation that was then repeated by other major outlets.

She was far from alone in channeling fake news from intelligence agencies in the lead-up to the Iraq invasion. The New York Times apologized for its mistakes, promising it would learn from the episode. But it has been just as credulous in regurgitating the intelligence services’ claims in recent U.S. proxy wars and regime change attempts – in Libya, Syria, Yemen, Iran, Venezuela and elsewhere. Miller was not sacked because she served as a willing channel for Western disinformation. Rather, real-world events required the New York Times to make someone a sacrificial victim for its all-too-obvious failings over Iraq. She was the ideal scapegoat.

Institutional collusion with the intelligence services has also become all too evident at the Guardian, the New York Times’ U.K. counterpart. Declassified U.K. has documented how the the Guardian has been increasingly co-opted by the British intelligence services after its publication in 2013 of the Edward Snowden leaks. Among other things, those leaks revealed that the U.S. and U.K. were operating secret and illegal mass surveillance programmes.

At that time, the Guardian, unlike other British media outlets, had a well-publicized opposition to taking part in the supposedly voluntary D-notice system, run by the Ministry of Defense, to regulate information that might threaten national security. After the initial Snowden revelations from the Guardian, the D-Notice Committee issued a notice against further publication of information released by Snowden. Most British outlets either ignored the leaks or offered minimal coverage. The Guardian, however, defied the government’s advice.

Shortly afterwards, officials from GCHQ, Britain’s equivalent of the National Security Agency, arrived at the paper and ordered it to destroy the laptops containing the Snowden material. The paper complied, with deputy editor Paul Johnson overseeing the destruction. Soon, the D-Notice Committee was able to report that “engagement” with the Guardian was strengthening and there was “regular dialogue” with its staff. The “culmination”, as the committee referred to it, was Paul Johnson’s agreement to sit on the committee itself.

When in 2015 the Guardian appointed a new editor, Katharine Viner, whose background was in fashion journalism, the security services appeared to seize the chance to lure the newspaper into greater cooperation. A year later the paper boasted that it secured the “first newspaper interview given by an incumbent MI5 chief in the service’s 107-year history” – MI5 being Britain’s domestic intelligence service. The article was co-written by Johnson and headlined on Russia – what else – as a “growing threat” to the U.K. The Guardian would follow up with exclusive interviews with the heads of MI6 and with the U.K.’s most senior counter-terrorism officer. All were softball interviews in which the British security state was allowed to set the agenda.

Under Viner, a host of investigative journalists with experience of covering national security issues departed. A former Guardian journalist told Declassified U.K.,

“Effective scrutiny of the security and intelligence agencies – epitomized by the Snowden scoops but also many other stories – appears to have been abandoned… [It] sometimes seems the Guardian is worried about upsetting the spooks.”

Instead, the paper has focused on targeting those who are in the crosshairs of the intelligence services – most obviously Julian Assange, whose publication of leaked official documents in 2010 exposed U.S. and U.K. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. In recent years, as the U.S. has sought Assange’s extradition so it can lock him out of sight for up to 175 years, the Guardian has run a series of barely credible stories that appear to have been supplied to it by the intelligence services and clearly serve its interests. Those hit-pieces include articles written by Carole Cadwalladr and Luke Harding, and were discussed in part one.

As Declassified U.K. noted, the Guardian was also key to injecting credibility into a relentless media campaign to smear the then left-wing leader of Britain’s Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn. He was variously portrayed as a national security threat, a traitor and an antisemite. Again, the fingerprints of the security services were all over these stories. They had begun with an anonymous army general, interviewed by The Sunday Times, warning that the military “would use whatever means possible, fair or foul, to prevent” Corbyn becoming prime minister. The Guardian’s uncritical echoing of evidence-free claims of an antisemitism problem in Labour under Corbyn was particularly damaging because so many of the paper’s readers were traditional Labour voters.

Disappearing neo-Nazis

The intelligence services’ cultivation of ties with journalists in an increasingly digital, more defused media environment is likely to be as covert as ever. But there are occasional, brief glimpses of what they may be up to. As mentioned in part one, it emerged in 2018 that national clusters of journalists, along with academics and politicians, were working with the opaque Integrity Initiative, a covert operation supposedly against “Russian disinformation” supported by the British Foreign Office and Defense Ministry. The Initiative’s registered address in Scotland turned out to be an abandoned, semi-derelict mill. Its real offices were eventually tracked down to a plush part of central London.

The Integrity Initiative’s British cluster included some well-known names in British journalism. Its real aim was – once again – to paint independent media and left-wing politicians critical of Western wars as in the pocket of Russia and Vladimir Putin. The Initiative was also found to have been involved in efforts to bring down Corbyn.

The media’s memory-holing of the Snowden revelations and its silence on Assange’s persecution – despite the very obvious threat posed to a free press – are themselves an indication of the degree to which the establishment media share the aims of the security state and are complicit in its narrative manipulations.

Coverage of the West’s recent proxy wars have provided further clues as to the extent of that collusion. It has been hard to ignore the establishment media’s uncritical promotion of narratives in Syria and Ukraine that look suspiciously like they were crafted by Western intelligence agencies. That has involved some stunning about-turns in their coverage that should set alarm bells ringing with observers.

In Ukraine, that has been evident in the media’s frantic efforts to obscure its own recent concerns about neo-Nazi groups like the Azov Battalion being integrated into the Ukrainian military, and portray any attempt to remind us of that earlier coverage as Russian disinformation.

Those maneuvers echo similarly desperate moves by the establishment media to obscure the fact that groups allied to al-Qaeda and Islamic State ended up comprising the bulk of the “rebel” forces in Syria. Only a short time earlier, both had been regarded as the West’s most fearsome foes.

Russia was revived as the West’s number one enemy about the time the media – and the intelligence services – found themselves unable to continue fearmongering about Islamist extremists because those groups needed to be transformed into our allies in Syria.

In both conflicts, it has been hard not to notice too how easily the establishment media has been swayed not by facts on the ground but by what look more like branding exercises guided by Western marketing firms.

Ukraine’s president, Volodomyr Zelensky, reportedly took time out of his schedule last week to brainstorm with “marketing professionals” at Cannes about how to use “creative ingenuity” to keep the war in the spotlight, after earlier opening the film festival. Last week too, he made an appearance on a giant video screen at the popular Glastonbury music festival in the U.K. On each occasion, wore his now-signature designer wartime outfits.

White Helmets ringfenced

Similarly, the White Helmets have received unquestioning adulation from the Western media. A hagiographic documentary on their work was even awarded an Oscar. Yet the mysterious emergency rescue outfit appears only to work in areas of Syria controlled by jihadist groups the West has previously opposed for their human rights abuses and mistreatment of women and girls.

Liberal media has gone all-out to ringfence the White Helmets – and their jihadist allies – from journalistic and academic scrutiny. Independent journalists brave, or foolish, enough to try to break through this cordon sanitaire have found themselves smeared, and accused of spreading disinformation on Russia’s behalf. Western intelligence agencies have every incentive to malign these critics because the White Helmets are a central pillar upholding claims that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, assisted by Russia, used chemical weapons against his own people in rebel-held areas.

If the White Helmets are a credible, neutral humanitarian movement – a Syrian version of the Red Cross – then the media might be justified in treating their claims of atrocities by Assad uncritically. But if they are really a partisan rescue service involved in rebranding Islamist extremism to promote the goal of Western-sponsored regime change in Syria, then the media needs to be skeptical and scrutinize their every assertion. The establishment media has adopted the first approach, ignoring any indication that the White Helmets might not be quite what they seem.

That failure has been thrown into especially stark relief by the media’s extraordinary refusal to publicize the testimonies of whistleblowing inspectors at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Those whistleblowers say their findings at one site of an alleged chemical attack, at Douma in 2018, were rewritten by their own management under threats from the U.S.

The media’s silence is all the more astounding given that Jose Bustani, a former head of the OPCW, and Hans von Sponeck, the U.N.’s former chief weapons inspector in Iraq, have found the whistleblowers’ allegations credible and urged that they be investigated.

The story, if confirmed, has the potential to unravel much of the narrative in Syria jointly promoted by the Western intelligence services and the establishment media. Which is why any effort to examine it more closely is being crushed. If Douma was a staged attack rather than one carried out by Assad’s forces, as the whistleblowing inspectors’ evidence suggests, it would implicate the White Helmets in the deception – and possibly the murder of the civilians alleged to have been gassed in Douma. It could also mean that other chemical attacks assigned to Assad might have been the responsibility of jihadists.

That is why the stakes are so high. It may also explain why there has been an incessant stream of stories in liberal media outlets shoring up the Western narrative by smearing once again as a Russian asset any journalist tackling the subject in a critical manner.

The media’s defamation campaigns have been assisted by various, “expert” bodies, seemingly cut-outs covertly funded by Western governments, such as Bellingcat, the Institute for Strategic Studies (the parent “charity” of the Integrity Initiative) and, most recently, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue. These organizations produce smear-laden reports on which the establishment media builds its hollow case against independent media.

This month, the Guardian ran the latest of its evidence-free smear pieces designed to silence independent journalists and protect the White Helmets. The article accuses independent journalists of being part of a supposedly Russian-backed disinformation “network”. The piece implicitly discredits the OPCW whistleblowers by ignoring their existence and instead attributing their claims to “a core of 28 conspiracy theorists”.

Despite its grand claims, the paper provides no evidence of any collusion between Russia and the named independent journalists, or even between the journalists themselves, that might justify labeling them a network, let alone a Russian-backed one. Nor does the article provide any examples of what disinformation these journalists are supposedly spreading – apart from their questioning of the actions of Western states.

Aaron Maté, who is named, has been one of the main channels by which the OPCW whistleblowers have been able to make public their concerns about the organization’s tampering with their findings in its final report. And yet the Guardian makes no mention that Maté’s supposed “disinformation” is actually sourced directly from OPCW inspectors themselves. The Guardian article is, in fact, exactly what it accuses independent media of being: pure disinformation (from Western intelligence agencies).

The BBC has been ready with the smears too. It ran an extraordinarily lengthy, though flimsy, podcast series trying to shore up the humanitarian credentials of James Le Mesurier, a former U.K. military intelligence officer who founded the White Helmets in 2014. Shortly after he had been accused of embezzling donor money, Le Mesurier fell to his death from an apartment in an Istanbul building, in what was judged to be a suicide.

The BBC series, “Mayday”, however, spent an inordinate amount of time trying to deflect attention from these facts. Instead, it sanitized Le Mesurier and the White Helmets’ reputation, implied independent journalists and academics had tipped Le Mesurier into suicide through their criticisms, and, like the Guardian, sought to discredit the OPCW whistleblowers.

MI6 could not have done a better job. When Maté posed a series of questions over the programme’s “smears, gaping omissions, leaps of logic, and factual errors”, Mayday’s producers went to the ground. The BBC journalist who fronted Mayday, Chloe Hadjimatheou, repeated the formula last month for BBC Radio 4 with “Ukraine: The Disinformation War”, covering much the same ground and defaming many of the same targets. Once again, Hadjimatheou has failed to respond to criticisms.

Real-world Marvel Universe

There are a whole raft of reasons why journalists working for the establishment media end up parroting the narratives of Western intelligence agencies engaged in an information war against critics that very much include independent media.

It would be naïve in the extreme to imagine that the establishment media severed its well-documented connections with the intelligence services back in the 1970s. Some journalists are doubtless still on the payroll and operating covertly, even if that number is probably small. Most, however, don’t need payment. By temperament and circumstance, they are extremely susceptible to the West’s sophisticated influence campaigns.

The tools at the disposal of Western security services, so ready to accuse Russia of using troll farms, grow all the time. The West has its own troll armies, enthusiastically spreading the work of intelligence cut-outs like Bellingcat and the Institute for Strategic Studies.

Last year, Newsweek revealed an undercover army of at least 60,000 operatives run by the Pentagon that used “masked identities” to exert influence on the digital world: “The explosion of Pentagon cyber warfare, moreover, has led to thousands of spies who carry out their day-to-day work in various made-up personas, the very type of nefarious operations the United States decries when Russian and Chinese spies do the same.”

There are a variety of reasons why journalists working for establishment media outlets so readily follow scripts written for them by Western intelligence agencies. In part, journalists successful in establishment media are products of lengthy selection processes effected through their upbringing, social class and education. Those who reach influential media positions are sympathetic to, and easily swayed by, the kinds of narratives that present Western states as the good guys fighting evil foes and Western crimes as unfortunate mistakes that cannot be compared to the atrocities committed by enemies. Like the public, Western journalists are socialized to interpret events as though we inhabit a real-world Marvel universe where our side is a mix of Captain America and Iron Man. As Noam Chomsky once observed to the BBC’s Andrew Marr during an interview:

“I’m not saying you’re self-censoring. I’m sure you believe everything you’re saying. But what I’m saying is that, if you believed something different, you wouldn’t be sitting where you’re sitting.”

In any case, Western journalists work inside large media corporations where they will not survive long unless they submit – mostly unconsciously – to the dominant corporate culture. Further proving Chomsky’s point, Marr claimed on another occasion that his “Organs of Opinion were formally removed” when he began working at the BBC. It was an extreme, fundamentalist view that suggested Marr believed he and the BBC – funded by, and accountable to, the British state – were able to divine absolute, eternal truths that they then disinterestedly passed on to viewers.

In fact, as the consolidation of corporate America continues, the situation for critically-minded journalists working in the establishment media grows ever worse. Media corporations have diversified their interests in ways that entrench them even more deeply in a neocolonial ideology that seeks both absolute control over global resources and their exploitation, and profits from the war, surveillance and security industries that enforce that control.

It is no accident that media corporations produce Hollywood fare that encourages the Western public to identify with superheroes and reduces the world to black-and-white struggles. Independent journalists trying to question this simple-minded narrative are easily cast as Thanos.

Read More:

https://www.mintpressnews.com/pentagon-leaned-hollywood-sell-war-afghanistan/278568/

On top of that, any journalist trying to look into the darkest corners of Western foreign policy can be herded back into the fold through threats – if not from their editors, then from the security services, as the Guardian’s Paul Johnson experienced at first hand. The security state has plenty of tricks up its sleeve. Complicit social media can punish independent-minded reporters through its algorithms, starving them of readers. Complicit online financial services like PayPal can punish independent journalists by starving them of income, as happened to MintPress and Consortium News. And if all that fails, there is always the example of Julian Assange, whose head has been displayed on a pike in London over the past decade – as was once the norm in Medieval times for those who angered the king – initially outside the Ecuadorian embassy and now outside Belmarsh high-security prison.

In the circumstances, it is surprising that there are any journalists left who are not simply regurgitating what the intelligence services tell them. The rapid rise of independent media may soon look like a brief, digital aberration in our media landscape – unless we dig in and fight the security state to keep the spirit of critical journalism alive.

Click here to read the second part of Jonathan Cook’s investigative series entitled “How Spooks and Establishment Journalists are Circling the Wagons” as it was originally published by Mint Press News on June 30th.

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Jonathan Cook is a MintPress contributor. Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). His website is www.jonathan-cook.net.

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‘a very British coup’: Jeremy Corbyn opens up about the role of the British establishment, intelligence services and the liberal media in ensuring his political downfall

Independent journalist at Declassified, Matt Kennard, recently sat down with former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn to talk about the central role played by the British military and intelligence services, the liberal media – in particular the Guardian and BBC – and the Israel lobby in the undermining his tenure through a coordinated smear campaign.

Jeremy Corbyn also speaks candidly about his successor Keir Starmer, the pushback he received to halting Saudi arms sales, and the ongoing state persecution of Julian Assange.

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A full transcript of the interview with relevant links is provided below.

Jeremy Corbyn: Thanks for coming Matt. You like the gaff here?

Matt Kennard: It’s great. It’s lovely. I grew up here incidentally so I know Finsbury Park very well.

First question is about the role of the British security services and the military establishment. The role they played while you were Labour leader from 2015 to 2020. I went through in article written in 2019, all the different instances that they were briefing to the media.

Some very sort of shocking articles to read in hindsight. One, soon after you became leader, was a serving military general saying that the army would take direct action to stop you becoming Prime Minister. Were you aware of all this action by the intelligence and military establishment while you’re a leader, and what do you think it tells you about British democracy?

JC: I was obviously aware of the articles, and we had a daily press briefing from our office which summarised all the articles that were important to us. And I also noticed that it was particularly the Daily Telegraph that often carried leading stories apparently from “sources in the intelligence services” which I was attacked or undermined from. When that story came out shortly after I was elected leader in 2015 – from apparently a serving military officer – we obviously challenged it straight away, and they said it was a rogue element: it didn’t speak for anybody else etc, etc, etc. But I thought it was a sort of shot across the bow as a warning to me saying ‘look, you might have a different view of the world’ – when I’d laid out an international strategy based on peace, based on human rights, based on democracy, based on fair trade rather than the very pro-American defence and foreign policy we’d adopted. So I knew this was going to lead to attacks and it certainly did.

It also served as a warning to a lot of our supporters just what we were up against in challenging the foreign policy establishment, and the up-till-then cosy agreement between both front benches in parliament to support the same foreign policy. So yes, was I shocked? Yes. Was I surprised? No. And I tell you what was going through my mind was Harry Perkins in [A Very] British Coup. [available to watch on Channel 4]

MK: Just to ask specifically about MI5 and MI6 as well, because there was a meeting with each institution that you had – both were leaked. The evidence about the meetings was leaked to the press. Can you talk about those meetings, and talk about the leaks? And did you feel that those two institutions were also trying to undermine your leadership of the Labour Party?

JC: I’ve had some issues with them in the past on, for example, the ‘spy cops’ inquiry that’s going on at the moment. A number of MPs were clearly under police surveillance through the ’70s and ’80s. I wasn’t an MP in the ’70s, but I was clearly under some form of surveillance throughout that time. The ‘spy cops’ inquiry is still going on. Peter Hain was labelled as well because of his activities in the anti-apartheid movement and others.

And at one stage I was offered my police file if I accepted it in its redacted or limited form. They said you can have all the information that we think you should have, but you’ve got to accept that’s all you’re going to get if you receive the file.

MK: When would this be?

JC: This would be long before I became leader. This was when the issue came up of the surveillance that MPs had been put under. I refused. I said I want the whole file or nothing. I’m not prepared to accept your idea that you can edit out what information you’ve got on me.

And the ‘spy cops’ inquiry is still going on and I have a volunteer legal representative at the inquiry on my behalf who’s following everything. And that’s the policing – that’s the police ‘spy cops’ inquiry. Which, is it the same as MI5/MI6? Not exactly, but there’s clearly a link within it.

On the meetings we had, they were obviously private meetings. We obviously prepared for them and went there. We absolutely did not inform or leak about the meeting at all to anybody. And I instructed my office that this meeting had to be treated as completely confidential and it was. It was leaked by them. And it was leaked in a way to undermine that somehow or other I’d been summoned, and given a dressing down. That was not the nature of the meeting at all.

The meeting was a discussion in which they discussed various parts of the world and various issues: none of which was new to me, none of which was a surprise to me. It was about the role of ISIS. It was about the war in Syria. It was about post-Iraq war, Afghanistan and so on. They were well aware of my views on those conflicts and very well aware of what I’d said and acted about it at the time. They acknowledged I had a different view from themselves and the government and the meetings were yeah – they were pretty frank. Were they aggressive? No.

It was an intelligent discussion. Obviously it was all recorded. Obviously it was all then leaked out as a way to be deliberately undermining of me.

The same thing happened with some senior civil servants as well. There was apparently a conference of civil servants of some sort, which a briefing was given to the media by somebody that I was mentally unstable and not fit to hold a senior office. Bear in mind I’ve been an MP for 39 years. It’s abusive. It is nasty. It is obviously completely wrong.

Jon Trickett and I then raised that with the Cabinet Secretary – he [Jon Trickett] was the shadow Cabinet Office Minister – and we had a quite long and very frank discussion with the Cabinet Secretary at the time in which he apologized on behalf of the civil service; said it was nonsense, it was wrong and I was clearly not in any bad state whatsoever, and that they would leave no stone unturned in finding out who had made these comments.

Well there’s obviously a lot of stones! And these stones are still being slowly turned over and no more has been heard of it ever since then.

And so we did challenge all of this stuff, all the time, but I have to say within the totality of political argument and debate this was dramatic, of course, but it wasn’t the only thing because any studies of the print media and the broadcast media from 2015 onwards would show a steady stream of abuse against me, against my family, against the Labour Party, against people in my constituency, and so on. And we obviously challenged as much as we could all the issues that were thrown at us. That’s what we do. But you can spend your whole life rebutting what are actually ludicrous stories.

And, you know, some of my team (Seamus Milne, James Schneider and others) would often spend a whole day rebutting one crazy story about me, after another, after another. And so I always felt that we had to hit back by going round them, hence we developed a very strong social media platform. I have 2.5 million followers on Twitter. We did that through Twitter, through Facebook, through all the other social media outlets.

But it’s also designed to sap the confidence of people who were Labour supporters. And remember, that despite all this Labour Party membership went up from two hundred thousand ultimately to six hundred thousand.

And I made it my business to be travelling the country the whole time. To be putting an alternative point of view. I didn’t make an awful lot of speeches about foreign policy. Most of my work was on social justice, economic issues and environmental issues, and I attended hundreds of events all over the country all the time, as a way of enthusing and keeping our supporters together.

Now, if I may say so, this actually had a very important effect. At the start of the surprise 2017 election. It was a surprise when it was called. I mean anybody who says they knew it was coming is the talking nonsense. Nobody knew was coming. I’m not even sure Theresa May knew it was coming till the day before she announced it. That [meant] we went from 24% in the polls to 41% in the polls during a campaign.

Why? Because of broadcasting rules which meant I had to at least have my voice heard on the media, rather than the media describing what I’d said, or hadn’t said. And we were able to enthuse and mobilise our supporters.

The worst time wasn’t when I was a newly elected leader in 2015. The worst time was the latter part of 2017–2018 when the abuse on me piled on big time. After our unfortunately not quite winning the 2017 election, and then I spoke at Glastonbury, and we had a summer in which I said to the party: ‘you’ve got to be ready for an election [because] we’re demanding an election as soon as possible; the government doesn’t have majority [and] can’t govern’. And I did a whole summer of events all over the country, straight on the back of the 2017 election. It was after that that the abuse piled on and on and on. And the abuse was echoed by some elements within the Parliamentary Labour Party [PLP}.

MK: And also within the military and intelligence establishment. In that article I saw that there was a massive pick up in attacks.

I just wanted to ask one final question on that. You said, you were aware of it – you knew these leaks were happening. What does it say about British democracy that a democratically elected leader of the major opposition party is having MI5, MI6 and the military briefing against him in the media? And that’s what we know about, there might have been other things going on. How worried should we be about the implications of that for British democracy?

JC: We should be very worried about it. First of all, I’m not the only leader that’s ever been briefed against by the intelligence services. Harold Wilson, who had different politics to me in many ways, but nevertheless was under the greatest suspicion by the intelligence services, and I very well remember the open talk about a coup against Harold Wilson in the late 1960s when he was prime minister. It’s recorded both in his book The Governance of Britain and also particularly in the diaries of Tony Benn and Barbara Castle. It’s worth looking at those things. And then Wilson was very different to me. He supported the Americans in Vietnam, probably very reluctantly, but he did, and he kept nuclear weapons, and so on.

The question of the accountability of a security services is always an interesting one. So when the Select Committee system was set up in Britain in 1970, there was a Parliamentary Select Committee appointed for all government departments, and then there was the Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliament. Now all other Select Committees, in those days members were appointed on the basis of party alignment – so there was a mirror of the strength of parties in parliament on each Select Committee – and the Chair of the Select Committee was elected by the members and obviously a Select Committee is quite powerful because it can summon any witnesses; it has quasi-legal powers in doing that, except the Intelligence Committee, which is appointed by the Prime Minister and is chaired by an appointee of the Prime Minister and still is. It’s been excluded from all the democratic processes.

Now I used to do lecturing for the civil service college on parliamentary structures, parliamentary accountability. And I enjoyed doing those lectures because it was very interesting having a discussion, usually with younger newly recruited civil servants, about the concept of democratic accountability, of public services, and where parliament fits into all this. And I’ve made a lot of statements, contributions, and so on, both at those lectures and in debates in parliament and so on, about the need for accountability of the services.

And then the question came up later of a War Powers Act, which – we drafted a War Powers Bill – Shami Chakrabarti wrote it. [It’s] very good. And the immediate question was: would this include special operations? In other words, I was saying that there had to be parliamentary approval for overseas operations by the British military, which is actually pretty normal in most democratic societies; even the USA has a as a War Powers Act. And they said, ‘well would this include special operations?’ I said, ‘yeah, of course, it would.’

Emily Thornbury supported me on that, and she raised the same question. The message I was being given was you’re overstepping the mark: you are an elected politician, but there’s a whole area of the state that you really should not be in charge of and should not be questioning. And I did ask for my own file. I’m still waiting.

MK: It wasn’t just the UK intelligence and military and political establishment that was that was working to stop you becoming Prime Minister. You must have been aware that when Mike Pompeo came in 2019 (US Secretary of State, then formerly the CIA director), he was recorded in a private meeting saying, he would do, or the US would do their quote “level best” to stop you becoming Prime Minister. What did you think when you read that? I mean that is such blatant interference in the democratic process in Britain. Not only that, it was barely covered in the media, compared to interference from other countries.

JC: We have a supine media in this country. The British self-confidence of saying we’ve got the best media in the world, the best broadcasting in the world, the best democracy in the world, is nonsense. Utter complete nonsense.

We have a media that’s supine. That self-censors. That accepts D-notices. Doesn’t challenge them. And, for the vast majority of the mainstream media, haven’t lifted so much as a little finger in support or defence of Julian Assange. And so the idea that we’ve got this brave British media; they’re always exposing the truth: it’s utter nonsense.

Even the liberal supposedly left-leading papers like the Guardian; where are they in all of this? Nowhere. Where were they kicking off about Pompeo’s remarks? Nowhere. We obviously kicked off about it, protested and so on and so on, and we’re just told it was private briefing, etc, etc, etc. It wasn’t. It was a quite deliberate message.

As one that has been a very avid student of political developments around the world – I’ve lived to see Allende elected, I’ve lived to see Allende killed, I’ve lived to see the coup in Chile, but I’ve also lived to see democracy return to Chile thanks to the bravery of the Chilean people.

And so he wasn’t alone – Pompeo in these remarks – Benjamin Netanyahu also waded in on this, and said that I must not become Prime Minister. Sorry, who has been in Benjamin Netanyahu to decide who the British Prime Minister should be?

It’s not for me to decide who the Israeli Prime Minister should be, or the American President, or anybody else for that matter. So who is he to make that kind of comment? Again, the British media just lapped it up.

Frankly many of the so-called investigative reporters in the British media are just pathetic.

MK: I agree with that.

I wanted to just [ask] this final question about this military, intelligence, Pompeo, Netanyahu theme – you mentioned Allende, and that was a CIA-backed coup which overthrew Chilean democracy in 1973. You have examples of the US-Israel killing people around the world that they don’t like.

Were you at any times worried for your safety? You were you were a kind of historic problem for the establishment.

JC: That’s past tense!

MK: [laughing] Yeah, well you obviously still are, but I mean when you were a leader, and especially after 2017 when it became a lot more real for these different interests, you were a threat; a real threat; a historic threat. Were you were you ever worried about your safety and did you have any sort of conversations about that kind of that kind of stuff?

JC: I’m probably a very difficult person to work with, because I hate being put in a silo and been cut off, And so the arguments in my office were constant about my safety.

I was more worried about the safety of my sons, my family, and so on, and my team, than anything else, and I always made sure that they were very well looked after and protected. I think it’s very easy for any public representative to cocoon themselves and cut themselves off from the people that have elected them in the first place. Very easy. You can always say security. I remember Bill Clinton once saying if I listen to all the security advice I’d never get up in the morning. I’d never do anything.

And so I continued with all the travelling and so on that I did, and most of it was by public transport; very few long car journeys, mostly quite short car journeys; and I’d walk around my constituency in the normal way. People in the local Labour Party and others got alarmed if they saw me walking around on my own, so they would spot me and then join me to look after me. Nice solidarity. And then on journeys obviously I had somebody with me. Did I feel for my own safety? Not really because I think if you start deciding that every corner you walk around somebody’s going to attack you, then you know you’re never going to do anything.

Did I receive some physical attacks? Yeah, and there’s been two court cases taken against the individuals. And is it a danger to be in public life? Yeah, I mean you’ve seen the MPs that have been killed, and you’ve seen the dangers that people face. But you cannot just become obsessed with your own safety and security. You’ve got to be out there with people. And so I was never prepared to be cocooned and that was it. I understand the tensions this created for my team around me because they were genuinely very worried for me. They were more worried for me then I was worried for myself, and they kept telling me that. But I’d rather be with ordinary people; chatting to people on the streets, cafes, etc.

I don’t go to pubs because I’m not a drinker, so I’m the world’s worst drinker. I don’t drink so no point. But do I feel under threat? Actually, you’re going around the country the number of people that say hostile comments or abuse is very, very few. On trains we used to sit together at one end of the train, all of us, because we – a small team, would be accompanying me when we’re travelling around the country – and actually there would be a sort of steady stream of people coming up the train saying, ‘can I have a word about this, that, the other’. So train journeys weren’t the least bit relaxing, but it was a nice way of meeting people.

MK: I just wanted to move on now to talk about Israel, because you were the first pro-Palestinian leader of a major party for a long, long time, which was controversial.

JC: Not sure I was the first one.

MK: Actually that’s a good question. Was Michael Foot noticeably…?

JC: I don’t recall Michael Foot ever saying very much about it, so I’m not sure on that one. Harold Wilson was certainly pro-Israel in the sense of supporting Israel in Six Day War and so on. And all others have been that.

My view is that I support the Palestinian people and to end the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. And what we had in our manifestos was full recognition of an independent State of Palestine.

MK: But in 2017, Al Jazeera released an undercover documentary which was quite revelatory about Labour Friends of Israel [LFI] particularly. They’d recorded a senior official in Labour Friends of Israel outside a pub saying that when Israel gets bad press they send us lines to take publicly. So effectively, I mean, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that it’s acting as a front for the Israeli embassy in some ways.

You, your party, the Labour Party took no action against LFI in the aftermath of that. There was action taken against an Israeli diplomat [Shai Masot] who said that he wanted to take down Alan Duncan: he was expelled from the country. Now the Labour Party took no action. Why was that, and do you regret that? And what do you think about the existence of something like LFI within a nominally progressive party?

JC: I’m not opposed to there being ‘friends’ of particular countries, or places all around the world within the party. I think that’s a fair part of the mosaic of democratic politics. What I am concerned about is the funding that goes with it, and the apparently very generous funding that Labour Friends of Israel gets from the, I presume, the Israeli government.

We did actually protest about the contents of the revelations by the Al Jazeera documentary. We did raise this. Interestingly, many of these allegations were then parroted against me by people in the Parliamentary Labour Party and the Friends of Israel group within the Parliamentary Labour Party.

But I also got a lot of support from obviously the Palestinian people. One would assume they would support on this and I had meetings with the Palestinian ambassador and so on, as I also met the Israeli ambassador on a number of occasions. And we then kick back against it – but I also got interestingly a lot of support from people in Israel, on the left in Israel, from the peace movement and human rights groups in Israel.

Should the party have taken more robust action against Labour Friends of Israel for its behaviour? Yes. Remember, this was at a time when many of the senior bureaucracy of the Labour Party were actively undermining me, and we now discover through the leaked documents which have been presented to the Forde Inquiry exactly what the extent of that was. And so did we underestimate this before I became leader? Yes, we did. We did underestimate it, and that is obviously something that I think any democratic party needs to think about. If you have officialdom in a party, you expect at the very least the best of civil servant standards in their behaviour. We didn’t get that.

MK: I just wanted to ask one question about the anti-semitism crisis within the Labour Party during your leadership, which was one of the most intense media campaigns I’ve ever witnessed and I’m nearly 40. So I think that probably goes for people who are older than me. How – this is a difficult question – but how much do you think that anti-semitism crisis was a result of your pro-Palestinian political position?

JC: Very largely that is the case.

I have spent my life fighting racism in any form, in any place whatsoever. My parents spent their formative years fighting the rise of Nazism in Britain and that is what I’ve been brought up doing. And when in the 1970s the National Front were on the march in Britain, I was one of the organisers of the big Wood Green demonstration to try to stop the National Front marching through. And I was part of the campaign against racism at the time of the rise the anti-Nazi league and everybody else, and we worked with AJEX, Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women. We worked with the Jewish community on that, as we worked with all the other communities: Bengali community, Afro-Caribbean community, all of them on this. We saw the fight against racism as one that affects all communities.

And somehow or other, I was accused of being anti-semitic. The allegations against me were foul, dishonest and utterly disgusting, and appalling from people who should know better and do know better. People that have known me for 40 years never once complained about anything I’d ever said or done in terms of anti-racism until I became leader of the Labour Party; interesting coincidence of timing. Disgusting allegations, which obviously we sought to rebut at all times, and I’ll be forever grateful for the support given by Jewish socialists and many Jewish members of the Labour Party all over the country, and of course, the local Jewish community in my constituency. It was personal. It was vile. It was disgusting, and it remains so. I will always spend my life defending people against racist attacks.

Look, anti-semitism was used historically against the Jewish people: Jewish people expelled from Europe; expelled from Britain; returned during the Cromwellian period; and then the anti-semitism that was written large into literature, into history, into culture, into life in Britain, was then exploited big time in France in Germany, and in Britain, and then in Germany in the worst case, and that ended up with the Holocaust. So we’ve got to be very well aware of where racism leads people to and I am very well aware of that.

MK: I agree, which makes it even more depraved how it’s been instrumentalised as an issue to destroy critics of the Israeli state. And can I just ask you quickly about that, because it was a particularly extreme in your case, but you see it again and again with people who are supporting the Palestinians. That this is a weapon which is used. They’re accused of being anti-semitic and it’s a very hard thing to fight back from because it’s used as a slur. Can you just talk a little bit about that, the tactic…?

JC: The tactic is that you say that somebody is intrinsically anti-semitic and it sticks, and then the media parrot it and repeat it the whole time, and then the abuse appears on social media, the abusive letters appear, the abusive phone calls appear, and all of that. And it’s very horrible and very nasty and is designed to be very isolating, and designed to also take up all of your energies in rebutting these vile allegations, which obviously we did. But it tends to distract away from the fundamental message about peace, about justice, about social justice, about economy, and all of that.

And I have been nine times to Israel and Palestine in my life. I’ve met many people in Israel. I supported Mordecai Vanunu who was put in prison after he’d revealed Israel was making nuclear weapons. And I have many meetings with people in human rights groups, and so on, in Israel.

Am I critical of Israel’s occupation the West Bank? Absolutely. Am I critical of the encirclement of Gaza? Absolutely. Of the settlement policy. And I will continue to hold that position and so some of the allegations then become amazing. I mean I was accused of condoning anti-semitic behaviour because I wrote a forward to the re-publication of a book on imperialism that was first published in 1903.

MK: I think it surprised a lot of people that within the media, the Guardian was at the forefront of the attacks on you. Did that surprise you, and what does it tell us about the Guardian’s role in British society and the British media?

JC: I have absolutely no illusions in the Guardian. None whatsoever. My mum brought me up to read the Guardian. She said it’s a good paper you can trust. You can’t.

After their treatment of me, I do not trust a Guardian. There are good people who work in the Guardian. There are some brilliant writers in the Guardian, but as a paper it is a tool of the British establishment. It’s a mainstream establishment paper. So as long as everyone in the left gets it clear: when you buy the Guardian you’re buying an establishment paper; when you buy the Telegraph you’re buying an establishment paper; Mail and so on. So once you’ve got past that hurdle, you can then develop a critical thinking about anything. There are many articles in the Guardian I like, and agree with, and support, but as a paper I’m not very surprised.

I had a meeting with the Guardian editorial team during the 2015 leadership campaign. It was very interesting. I was invited to the Guardian which has a sort of daily meeting (I think it’s daily may be weekly) of all the staff, who talk about news agendas and what’s going on, and so on; and then a smaller meeting of the senior editorial team. And so the meeting with the entirety of the staff was fine – a lot of young people were there. It was interesting. It was funny. It was zany, very pleasant. I was very well received, and they said, ‘okay what’s your pitch to be leader of the Labour Party?’ and I set out: anti-austerity and social justice and challenging economic inequality, and environmental politics, and international peace, and justice and so on. Some of the questions were quite tough. Fine, that’s okay. It was very respectful. It was very nice meeting.

We then had a meeting with the editorial team – a bit different. It was like I was being warned. Like I was being warned by this team of actually incredibly self-important people. It was a bit like the Today programme, which at its worst thinks it’s running the whole world; at its best is a very investigative programme. Guardian is a bit the same. And so was I surprised? No, and I’ve had to live with the behaviour of the Guardian ever since.

But the Guardian is in a unique position, because it is the paper most read by Labour Party members, is the most important in forming opinion on the centre and left in British politics and they are very well aware of that, which is why I think an analysis of the Guardian’s treatment of the time that I was leader of the party needs to be made. Because they, and the BBC had more unsourced reporting of anti-semitic criticisms surrounding me than any other paper, including the Mail, the Telegraph and The Sun.

The only paper that gave what can really call moderately fair coverage was the Daily Mirror actually. The Daily Mirror didn’t always agree with me, and said so, and would make public criticisms, but also did accept articles from me, and did accept the stuff that we sent them, and they were quite good at reporting the sort of social justice campaigns that that we put forward.

The Daily Express, which is in the same stable as the Mirror now – but I had one let’s just finish on this point – a fascinating evening: I was invited to a randomly-selected invitation-only event of readers of the Express and the Mirror in a room together, where I would take questions from them. Anyway, you could sort of very quickly tell who read the Express and who read the Mirror from the questions that came up. They weren’t seated separately, or anything like that, you could pick it up straight away. But it was actually quite good meeting. It was quite robust. I mean some of the Express questions were a bit, well, I thought slightly off-the-wall actually. But you know it was okay. I don’t mind that kind of – I enjoy that kind of political debate. I’ll take that. That’s okay. I mean MPs should be challenged. Political leaders should be challenged. Accountability is important. You can’t cut yourself off.

MK: I just wanted to ask about Julian Assange, because that also relates to the Guardian. Because obviously he was an early collaborator with the Guardian and then they’ve now turned on him massively – they’ve run a campaign against him effectively for many years now.

Can you just talk about the significance of Julian Assange being in Belmarsh maximum security prison for three years now? We’re on the eve probably of Priti Patel’s decision on whether to extradite him to the US to spend his life in a supermax prison in the desert there. What do you think Julian Assange has given to the world, and why do you think the establishment here, and the establishment in the US, is so keen to silence him forever, or leave him dead?

JC: Nelson Mandela was put into maximum security life imprisonment after Rivonia treason trial of 1964. All through the 60s and the 70s, into much later on – 80s even – Nelson Mandela was a lonely figure supported by a few people around Africa and around the world. He was not a popular iconic figure at all. He became so later on. He became the iconic figure in the fight against apartheid, and when he was released and came to British parliament, there were some amazing speeches from people who had apparently been incredibly active in the apartheid movement, but somehow or other I’d missed their participation in all the anti-apartheid activities I’ve been to. You know how it goes. That’s all right.

Julian Assange. What’s his crime? What is his crime? Julian Assange managed to collect information on what the US was doing; US foreign policy was doing; its illegal activities in Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, and much else. In the great traditions of a journalist who never reveals their sources – very important – and he was pursued because of this. And as we know, eventually sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy, but was unable to get out of it.

We then discovered that all that time in the Ecuadorian embassy, there were the charges against him from Sweden, which were eventually dropped, and there was the surveillance of him by apparently an independent security company, but in reality, it was working for the Americans.

And he was initially welcomed by the Guardian, supported by the Guardian. The Guardian published all of his stuff, and then dropped him. And have continued to drop him. And I have been on many of the demonstrations outside the courts in Britain over the last few months while he’s been his case has been brought up again and again and again about removal to the USA or not. And there’s huge numbers of media there from all over the world. One day I did interviews for about 15 broadcast medias all over the world. Where were the British? None. Not one, apart from social media. Not one.

So what is it about the British media that they cannot bring themselves to the biggest story about freedom-to-know in the world today, on their very doorstep. They could walk from their offices to the high court and get the story. No. And it says everything about the supine nature of the mainstream media in Britain.

It’s not surprising that mistrust of the print media is the highest in Europe in Britain. That the sales of all newspapers are falling very rapidly, and people make their own news through social media, which has its pitfalls and has its dangers.

And so Julian Assange is now in a maximum security prison. He’s not convicted of anything. There is no unspent conviction that he’s got to serve time in prison for. And in Belmarsh – I’ve been there to see prisoners in the past – is a horrible, horrible place, and he’s there with all the dangers to his health that goes with that. And so, yes, I do support Julian Assange, and I was very pleased when JeanLuc Mélenchon made a very interesting statement yesterday that should the left candidates win a majority in the French national assembly he’d be welcome there.

Also Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the President of Mexico, raised the voice in support of him. Did try and persuade President Trump, just before he left office, to drop the case against Assange. And when I was in Mexico in January of this year, I took part in the mañaneras, the daily press conference that the President holds, which is quite dramatic affair, it lasts about two hours and there’s videos and films, and chat, and discussion, and so on: it’s a different form of government – and he raised the question again of Julian Assange, and made a very passionate appeal saying that Mexico would welcome Julian Assange, and would give him citizenship if he required it.

MK: Sir Keir Starmer was in your shadow cabinet and then quit during the what’s been called dubs ‘the chicken coup’. He was then reappointed.

JC: He wasn’t in the shadow cabinet at the time of the coup, he came later.

MK: I thought he was.

JC: He was a spokesperson on immigration issues, and then joined later on.

MK: So he was your shadow Brexit Secretary, which was a senior role within your shadow cabinet. Were you aware of his politics which have been evinced since he became leader in 2020, and has his move of the Labour Party to the right shocked you?

JC: I appointed Keir Starmer to the shadow cabinet after my re-election as leader of the party in 2016. Remember I was first elected with 248 thousand votes. I was re-elected less than a year later with over 300 000 votes. And I explained to the Parliamentary Labour Party – not that they wanted to hear it – that I actually had a mandate from the party members. Most of the Parliamentary Labour Party believed the leader of the party should be selected by the Parliamentary Labour Party, as historically it was the case.

I wanted to reach out within the parliamentary party, so I appointed what I believe to be a balanced shadow cabinet, and expected everybody to work together within that shadow cabinet, and to behave in a proper manner. I appointed Keir Starmer to the shadow of Brexit position because of his legal knowledge and skills, and the importance of saying to the parliamentary labour party, ‘look, I understand the makeup of the PLP, this is why I’ve appointed this broad and diverse shadow cabinet.’ Did it make it easy to manage? No. Was there lots of debates within the shadow cabinet? You bet there were.

I didn’t stop those debates. I encouraged those debates and said look we’ve got to move forward on this – and come back to your early question in a second – but I have to say as we developed this very difficult position over Brexit, where we had a 60:40 split of party supporters voting remain to leave, and we had the view that we had to somehow or other bring people together – I tried to unite people around the social and economic message saying if you’re poor and up against it, however you voted, you need a Labour government that’s going to redistribute wealth and power.

Was I close to Keir Starmer? No, I’d never met him before he became a member of parliament. I obviously knew who he was. He’s a neighbouring MP. Had we had much contact? No, not really, and our conversations when he was in the shadow cabinet were largely about the minutiae of Brexit various agreements, and the many meetings that we had in Brussels with officials there including Michel Barnier. We met him on a number of occasions. So beyond that, apart from occasional chats about Arsenal football club, that was about it.

Was I aware of everything about his past? No, not really. Should I have been? Yeah, but then there are so many things one could and should be aware of that one isn’t. I noticed it when he stood for election for leader of the party, he was very clear that he accepted the 2019 manifesto and its contents, and put forward his 10 points there. Those seem to have been parked now, shall we say.

And then, the response to the HRC report, which I gave which I thought was reasonable and balanced, was met with the immediate suspension of my membership, which the media were told before I was. First I heard about it was when a journalist stopped me in the street as I was leaving the Brickworks Community Centre (it’s a community centre just near here) which I’m a trustee of, and I was told my membership been suspended, and I thought the journalist [was playing] a joke; he was winding me up. I said, ‘what?’ He said, ‘no you’ve been suspended.’ I said, ‘No, no, what are you talking about.’ But it was true.

Anyway, I obviously appealed against that and won that appeal unanimously, reinstated unanimously, endorsed by the NEC [Labour’s National Executive Committee] unanimously, and then my membership of the parliamentary party was suspended, and there’s been no process taken against me by the parliamentary party.

It makes my constituents very angry. They say look Jeremy we voted for you as our Labour MP so why…? We’ve got confidence in you. We have no problem with you. We don’t think you’ve done anything wrong, and we welcome your work as our local MP. And I’m very proud to represent the people of this community.

So was I angry about it. Yeah, of course, but I have always in politics tried to keep off the personal attack and so on and so on. It’s very tempting, but I remember saying this during the 2019 election. I said look it’s really tempting for me to have a go at Boris Johnson personally, he had a go at me personally, and it can be quite funny, it can be quite witty for the first time. Second time I think, oh god, here we go again. Third time, nobody’s listening, nobody’s interested. Politicians having to go to each other, calling each other names: it doesn’t get anybody anywhere. It don’t put bread on the table. And so it is important that we campaign on political points and political principles.

MK: Will you stand as an independent at the next election if it doesn’t get resolved?

JC: Look, I am focused on getting the whip back at the present time.

MK: So what should be the major issue in terms of UK foreign policy right now is the critical support we provide to Saudi Arabia as it launches – what it has launched since 2015 – one of the most brutal wars in modern times, which has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. It’s a brutal air war, full of war crimes including attacks on hospitals, schools, but also a naval blockade which has strangled the country and pushed millions of children to the brink of starvation.

Interestingly there was a vote in parliament, which was brought by your leadership in 2016, where a hundred of your own MPs either voted against it or abstained in calling for the withdrawal of UK support for Saudi Arabia. So could you just talk a bit about why you think there’s such a consensus across the establishment – and I’m including parts of the Labour Party in that – of support for Saudi Arabia, which is indefensible, not only because of the immediate war, but also it’s an extremist Wahhabi dictatorship which exports terrorism around the world and extremism. Why is there this consensus in the British establishment that we must support Saudi Arabia?

JC: Saudi Arabia and Britain have a very close economic, political and military relationship. It’s not new, it goes right back to the establishment of Saudi Arabia, which was a British invention in the beginning. I mean you need to read the whole history of the whole of the Middle East to realise the malevolent influence of British colonial policies within the whole region. That is well documented, but needs to be better understood. And I might just say, as an aside, one of my passions is to improve history teaching in the totality of our education system to understand the brutality of colonialism and imperialism.

Saudi Arabia is a big recipient of arms from western countries: USA, Britain, France and so on. Massive. Obviously, incredibly wealthy because of historically high oil prices going back to the 70s, and indeed their big time wealth grew over the big hike in oil prices in 73–74; the world oil crisis at that time. Major buyer of British arms. The contract that Tony Blair signed with them was massive. 2 billion, I think is the figure that was total at that time, which was massive at that time and it’s continued ever since.

Some of us have been very concerned about human rights in Saudi Arabia, and as a officer of the all-party human rights group, we’ve had many discussions about Saudi Arabia; about the executions; about discrimination; about treatment of migrant workers; about its export of terrorism around the world; and in particular the war on Yemen. And we are fuelling the war on Yemen, and indeed there are employees of British companies working in Saudi Arabia that are directing the bombing of Yemen. And Yemen is now, along with Afghanistan, the world’s worst humanitarian disaster: cholera, typhus, etc, etc. All these wholly preventable conditions [are] now rife amongst children and people in the Yemen.

And so I thought we had to have a much stronger policy on this, and so I pushed that we as a party make a declaration that we would cease all arms trade to Saudi Arabia, and I intervened to make sure that the Saudi delegation would not be welcomed as observers of the Labour Party conference. There was big pushback against that by a lot of people, and I said, ‘no, whilst they are bombing Yemen and we’re opposed to arms sales to Saudi Arabia, that stands.’

I then propose that we have an opposition day debate, where the opposition gets to choose the subject for debate and on a votable motion. It cannot be binding on a government, because it’s an opposition day motion, but it nevertheless is an important way of MPs being able to express an opinion. So I put this motion forward, which would be to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and I met with the most extraordinary levels of lobbying and opposition from Labour MPs who said, ‘it’s damaging jobs, it’s damaging major British companies: British Aerospace and others, and you cannot go ahead with this, this will cause consternation and damage within our communities and constituencies.’

I said, ‘look, I fully understand the employment implications over a long period on this, but if we’re serious about human rights, and we are, and you all are apparently, then this has to be the policy: we suspend arms sales and we protect those jobs in order to convert those industries something else.’ It does require a very big public intervention, and I made that clear to the unions, to Unite, GMB and others on that – I have to say I got a better reception in Unite than the other unions on this, but nevertheless there were obvious concerns, unions have got to represent their members. I get that. But, I also get that we are killing children in the Yemen, and so I put this policy forward on an opposition day and it was the biggest rebellion ever against my time as leader of the party.

I was appalled, saddened, disappointed by that, and it just shows how deep the pressure is of the arms trade, both on British politics, and it’s the motor force behind it all: the motor force of foreign policy is often driven by the interests of those that export arms. Look at who funds the think tanks; look at who sets up the seminars; look at who places the articles in papers saying there’s a big tension building up here. Yeah, there is a big tension in Yemen. Yes, there is a whole political history in Yemen: South Yemen, etc, Aden and so on. There’s all that there. Is there a tension with Iran? Yes, there is. We all understand that.

How do you resolve these tensions? Do you throw arms at it? Do you start another war somewhere? Do you then promote terrorism around the region knowing full well all that money spent on those arms by any one country is money not spent on schools, not spent on hospitals, not spent on housing, not spent on feeding people? The power of the arms lobby is absolutely massive in this country, in the United States, France, and in Russia, and in China, and so we have to think what kind of world would like to create.

I would have thought covid would have taught us that the danger to all of us is contagious diseases, poverty and hunger, and environmental disaster. That’s what the danger is. So why don’t we wind down the rhetoric, wind up the peace, and start supporting peace initiatives, and peace processes. All wars end in a conference. All wars end in some kind of agreement. Why don’t we cut out the middle phase and go to the end?

MK: We started Declassified in 2019 because we felt there was a lack of serious, rigorous reporting on UK foreign policy. Can you talk about the significance of the burgeoning independent media sector in Britain, and how important this is for the future of progressive politics?

JC: Declassified is very important because what you’re doing is exposing the truths. Exposing the truths about stuff that people don’t want us to know. And I think it’s important that we do that. It’s also important to challenge the way in which the mainstream media form our thinking, and it’s the growth of the technology of independent media that is so valuable to all of us that are more radical, more free-thinking, around the world.

As a young man, I was very politically active; indeed have been all my life. And I would labour the whole night through to hand print on a duplicator maybe 5 000 leaflets, and give them out the next day, and we thought, ‘wow we’re making impact!’ Social media lets you get a message to millions within seconds, or tens of millions within seconds, so everybody becomes a journalist, everybody becomes a reporter. So you then have to sift through the values or otherwise behind that, and some of it can be nonsense, some of it can be abusive and so on. But having an alternative media is very important.

So through the Peace and Justice Project we’ve set up some news clubs around the country, and these news clubs are people coming together who, yeah, they’re sceptical of both their local media regional media and national and international media, and setting up the dynamic of an alternative media. So we now have a lot of actually quite effective, robust independent media sources out on social media. They’re good, interesting. They need to cooperate together as much as they can. So that when we have big events on, we all share the same platform.

And I think it’s the development of this independent media that is so important and so critical because they can mobilise people. They can bring people together at very short notice. And I think had the independent media been as big and successful as it is now in 2003, on the eve of the outbreak of the Iraq War, we would have had even more people on those huge demonstrations. We would have been able to mobilise people in more countries, in a more effective way, particularly in the United States.

Having grown up observing the politics of the USA and this country, and being very much a part of it all, I never thought I’d see the day when somebody who calls himself a socialist would come within a whisker of winning the democrat nomination to the presidency in Bernie Sanders. How did that happen? Activism, social media and a rebirth of the whole idea of socialism.

So if I make just one last word, many people around the world call themselves socialists, and think about it and act in that kind of way. Many people around the world don’t realise they’re socialists and activists in the same way, and so through our project I don’t want us just to be defensive in saving, preventing damage, and so on and so on, to various very important services. I want us to be proactive. So we’re writing a book called Why We Are Socialists and we’re inviting anyone to contribute to it in no more than 500 words. 500 words maximum. Absolutely. 501 words don’t get printed. 500 yes. 499 definitely. And we’ve had hundreds of submissions. They’re really interesting.

People that come at it from their own personal experience. Come at it through industrial disputes, environmental campaigns, international peace campaigns, or come at it from studying history, and a more intellectual way of doing things about a sustainable world, and so on. It’s absolutely fascinating and we’re putting this book together. We’ll publish it later this year and that is, I think, the way forward. Get people to think critically for themselves. We’ve never been in an era but it’s easier to find things out. We’ve never been in an era but it’s harder to know.

Click here to read Matt Kennard’s article based around the same interview and published by Declassified on June 22nd.

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‘Lviv is awash with fascists and mercenaries’ – interview with Steve Sweeney

Independent journalist Vanessa Beeley recently interviewed Steve Sweeney, international editor of The Morning Star. An anti-imperialist who founded Media Workers for Palestine, Sweeney is widely travelled and prefers to report on events directly from the ground. Here he speaks about his recent experiences during his time in Lviv which has been Nato’s hub for military training, the main route for western arms shipments and is the historical home of the most extreme “ultranationalist” factions in Ukraine [audio improves at about 15 mins].

Sweeney relates that: “My friend joked with me before I came in – he’s an American journalist and he’s based in Berlin and he laughed and told me, ‘Steve, you know your body is illegal in Ukraine!’ My body’s been many things, but illegal? That’s not one of them!

“I didn’t think about this at the time, but he said, ‘Well, you’ve got a tattoo.’ And well I didn’t think about this. You know I’m a communist so I have a tattoo of Marx, Engels and Lenin on my arm. I mean this is illegal because, you know, all communists been banned across Ukraine, and we know the communist party has been banned. And all this you know: the communists and the left and any sort of political opponents [are banned].

“So they knew that I was a communist and they said, ‘We know why you’re here’ and I said, ‘Okay why am I?’ They said, ‘You’re a spy.’ And you know I’m not a spy – I’d be a pretty useless spy I think – but no, I mean I’m not a spy. And they said, ‘You will be tortured. You will be arrested.’ And indicated that I would be executed. And they told me that I would never make it out of the country.

“Now obviously I did because I’m here speaking to you, but I think I was incredibly lucky to get out, and I got out in amongst a group of refugees actually. And I just decided not to speak. I took a package of food and water and walked through, and managed to get out. Then I escaped across the border and made it – I made it eventually to Berlin although there was a hairy moment when the armed police came on the train before we crossed into [Poland], but they seemed a little bit interested in me for a minute, but…

“But I mean my kind of treatment is nothing compared to the many thousands of leftists and journalists operating in the country at great risk, who are being disappeared or killed – placed on list like Eva [Bartlett]. So my situation doesn’t compare. But what I did find in the country when speaking to people – I mean what they were very clear about – I spoke to a woman called Maria from Mariupol (or just outside Mariupol) and she spoke to me in kind of broken English and… the first thing she did was she showed me a picture of what was her apartment block [now] completely obliterated. She was distraught, but she pointed and she said ‘Azov.’

“She told me then who was responsible for destroying her home. And she managed to get out of Mariupol with her daughter. Her son and her husband had remained in the city. I’m hoping that everything is okay with them, because you know the situation is very bad. But she explained that the people living in Mariupol were not afraid of the Russians – she said Russian soldiers gave them food, gave them water and helped them. They brought medicine, you know. I don’t think they had much of it, but they gave them. They felt safe. And, as she said, it was the Ukrainians they were terrified [of]. I mean you could see the fear and you could hear it in her voice.

“And she said that they tried to leave much earlier than they did when they got out, but they were threatened that they would be shot dead if they tried to leave by Ukrainians not by Russians. She told me that most people in that part of the country are fleeing to Russia because they feel safe, and she didn’t feel safe in Lviv because she’s a Russian speaker – she knows, I mean this is her country: she knows very well, but she was very clear that in Mariupol they’ve been terrorised for eight years by Nazis.” [from 19:00 mins]

Click here to watch the same interview as it appears in the original post on Vanessa Beeley’s The Wall Will Fall website.

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Build Back Bilderberg-style! ‘continuity of government’ central concern for plutocrats gathered in Washington DC

I am very sorry to announce that Bilderberg is back on the globalist schedule. Following a three year time-out since its previous meet up during June 2019 in Montreux, Switzerland – an event I covered in extensive detail over a series of seven articles – and on the back of last month’s reconvened WEF Davos conference, Bilderberg gathered for a 66th year; its newest location, the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Washington D.C.

Encamped about a mile to the south of the White House, a short ride from CIA HQ in Langley, Virginia and a just hop across the Potomac River from The Pentagon, this more shadowy sister summit to Davos had arrived in the capital with plenty to discuss. And with so much going on around the world, Bilderberg conspicuously extended its regular list of ‘key topics’ from the usual ten to a far more impressive fourteen. Although in truth there are basically just three major issues preoccupying the transatlanticist ruling class and all involve wars of one kind or another.

Bilderberg agenda 2022 as Venn Diagram

The schematic above is my reinterpretation of this year’s official Bilderberg agenda in the form of a Venn diagram.

With the faltering collapse of US global hegemony, top of their published list are the interrelated concerns over what to do to halt the re-emergence of competing superpowers Russia and China. I wrote an extended article on the subject of escalation against both China and Russia last December entitled “the coming wars with Russia, China and Iran – why the stakes are raised in the last days of the unipolar order” in which I made the following concluding points:

America’s long-term geostrategic repositioning through the stealth expansion of Nato directly up to the borders of Russia and China is now combined with its ever more bellicose political posturing. Repeatedly under the threat of attack, loose defensive alliances have tightened between Russia, China and Iran, so a coordinated response becomes all the more likely. Should the West or Israel (with US consent) take the decision to declare “pre-emptive” war against any one of the three sovereign powers, the realistic expectation is wider war. Given the probable magnitude of a three-pronged retaliation and the genuine potential for a thermonuclear exchange, the prospect of wars against Russia, China and Iran is therefore absolutely unthinkable.

A century ago a detached and callous ruling class led a largely innocent and unwitting generation into the bloody technological hellhole of no-man’s land to slaughter one another for the glory of king and country and, importantly, for the sake of empire. Back then and ever since, we have rightly talked of “lions led by donkeys”. Astonishingly, the donkeys are back in charge again, except that this time around besides an imbecilic and unprincipled political class, we also have an atrophied antiwar opposition, a moribund fourth estate and an endlessly diverted populous, so the worry is that we may be dealing with donkeys virtually all the way down.

So forgive me when I hammer this point: war is in the air again, and not just any old war. WAR with Russia! WAR with Iran! WAR with China! WAR with all three simultaneously!

I make no apologies for my vulgar use of capitals. We all need to shout about this. What’s the alternative?

When Russia illegally invaded Ukraine in February, the stakes were immediately raised of course. In the months that have followed and with the imposition of tough sanctions we have also seen the schism between the West and the rest of the world widen and widen. Furthermore, as the sanctions predictably backfired, the situation for the West (and Europe especially) looks increasingly shambolic with already raging inflation and the likely prospect of fuel shortages. In fact to ameliorate the self-imposed economic damage being caused by its sanctions regime, Europe has quietly sought ways to circumvent their own blockade – this would be laughable were it not for the seriousness.

During this same period events on the ground have also been going badly for Ukraine as the mainstream media is finally starting to confirm, and in response, we are now seeing moves to switch attention and geostrategic policy away from Russia and back on to China; the White House once again stirring up tensions over its longstanding dispute with Taiwan – something I also addressed in greater depth in December’s post.

We must keep in mind that the US is the most militarised power on Earth. It spends more on “defence” than the next ten nations combined! (Far more than both Russia and China together.) Having very recently pulled an occupying force out of Afghanistan, at the present time it remains deeply embroiled in the Saudi war against Yemen, in Somalia and, by proxy, in aiding Ukraine with weapons supplies, training and intelligence. The US also illegally occupies approximately a third of the oil-rich north-eastern territory of Syria. Worldwide there are at least 750 US military bases occupying zones in over 80 countries: a network spanning the Indian and Pacific Ocean and extending into South Korea, Japan and the Philippines.

US bases worldwide

In 2016, investigative reporter and independent filmmaker John Pilger released a new documentary entitled The Coming War on China saying “The aim of this film is to break a silence: the United States and China may well be on the road to war, and nuclear war is no longer unthinkable”:

In notes attached to the film, Pilger writes:

When I first went to Hiroshima in 1967, the shadow on the steps was still there. It was an almost perfect impression of a human being at ease: legs splayed, back bent, one hand by her side as she sat waiting for a bank to open. At a quarter past eight on the morning of 6 August, 1945, she and her silhouette were burned into the granite. I stared at the shadow for an hour or more, unforgettably. When I returned many years later, it was gone: taken away, ‘disappeared’, a political embarrassment.

Another shadow now looms over all of us. This film, The Coming War on China, is a warning that nuclear war is not only imaginable, but a ‘contingency’, says the Pentagon. The greatest build-up of Nato military forces since the Second World War is under way on the western borders of Russia. On the other side of the world, the rise of China as the world’s second economic power is viewed in Washington as another ‘threat’ to American dominance.

To counter this, in 2011, President Obama announced a ‘pivot to Asia’, which meant that almost two-thirds of all US naval forces would be transferred to Asia and the Pacific, their weapons aimed at China.

Today, some 400 American military bases encircle China with missiles, bombers, warships and nuclear weapons. They form an arc from Australia north through the Pacific to Japan, Korea and across Eurasia to Afghanistan and India. It is, says one US strategist, ‘the perfect noose’.

As the crisis in Ukraine consumes public attention, geopolitical analyst and East Asian specialist Brian Berletic highlights other events unfolding in the background that are potentially leading to a much worse crisis:

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Meantime, the ruling class has opened up its third front on the domestic populations of the West under the guise of the most open of open ‘conspiracy theories’ – a conspiracy that proudly announces itself on an official WEF website and that brazenly dares to speak its own name: “The Great Reset”.

This blueprint for a hi-tech future that ensures perpetual austerity and mass surveillance is today proselytised and peddled on the basis of ‘fairness’ and ‘sustainability’. As independent researcher and activist Alison McDowell writes:

We’re living in tumultuous times with polarizing political theater and pandemic providing ample cover for the roll out of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. From the World Economic Forum’s outpost at San Francisco’s Presidio, the tentacles of dispossession triggered by Klaus Schwab’s “Great Reset” are rapidly encircling the globe.

We are witnessing the culmination of a century of machinations by western social engineers. We see predatory philanthropy using such euphemistic framing as “Living Cities,” “Healthy Cities,” “Resilient Cities,” and “Build Back Better” to package the profoundly anti-human and anti-life initiatives coming out of Davos as aspirational goals for “smart” living.

The oligarch class asks us to play along and overlook the fact that all of this smartness rests on a foundation of continued growth, fossil-fuel expansion, child labor, toxic waste, and space pollution. They demand we overlook the insatiable energy requirements needed to run the augmented reality Internet of Things illusion. That we put out of our minds the existence of vast data centers cooled 24/7 with the water of a thirsty, poisoned world.

They’ve outdone themselves propagandizing youth to cheer on transnational global capital’s plans to implement a final “green” solution. Though my hope is after months of digital alienation people’s spirits will stir in time to derail the intentions of this cruel biocapitalist regime to push us away from our rightful connection to natural systems and one another and into isolated virtual realms. The spell of faux ICT sustainability must be broken.

Alison McDowell’s presentation embedded above was part of an online forum, “Politics In And Out Of Europe”, hosted by Rutgers University’s Center for European Studies on Monday October 26th 2020. There were two panels followed by an hour of discussion. Alison McDowell was the second presenter, and framing remarks and response was provided by Naomi Klein.

Click here to read the same article interspersed with slides from the full presentation and comments published on Alison Hawver McDowell’s official website Wrench in the Gears on October 27th 2020.

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At Montreux three years ago, China and Russia were already in the Bilderberg crosshairs (listed third and fourth respectively of the ten ‘key topics’), but away from the Alps this year’s backdrop has significantly darkened. From 2019’s rather optimistic tone of “A Stable Strategic Order” and “What Next for Europe?” we move instead to talk of “Geopolitical Realignments”, “Disruption of the Global Financial System” and “NATO Challenges” for which we are impelled to read more straightforwardly “sanctions and war”. This is what happens when empires fall, the Anglo-American oligarchs now desperate to prop up theirs by any means necessary.

As spectacular evidence of the rapid decline in US regional power, this week leaders across Latin America boycotted the ninth Summit of the Americas that was held in Los Angeles. Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, said the move was in solidarity with Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua who were not invited to attend:

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Yet arguably the most striking item in this year’s ‘key topics’ is literally tucked away at the very heart of their list: number 7: “Continuity of Government and the Economy”. For those unfamiliar with the term ‘continuity of government’ (COG) I have supplied a description below which is actually the opening paragraph to the current Wikipedia entry on the subject:

Continuity of government (COG) is the principle of establishing defined procedures that allow a government to continue its essential operations in case of a catastrophic event such as nuclear war. [highlight retained]

It seems Bilderberg are surreptitiously warning that the lights are blinking red. And sooner than we might suppose, as the crises start to pile up, and people across the entire world (including the most prosperous regions in Europe and North America) are made desperate for food and energy, drastic contingency measures will need to be instituted. States of emergency. Martial law. Or worse. How else do we translate this most central item on last weekend’s Bilderberg agenda?

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A council of war

This year’s press release is characteristically terse and last minute (doubtless to keep the crowds at bay) and reliably the corporate media with so many close ties to Bilderberg have mostly failed to mention any of it. In fact this year’s British media cohort included Bilderberg stalwart Zanny Minton Beddoes, editor-in-chief of The Economist accompanied by colleague and defence editor, Shashank Joshi as well as Gideon Rachman, the chief foreign affairs commentator at The Financial Times. One reliable exception to the general rule of media silence was maverick journalist Charlie Skelton, and he trotted out a brief report smuggled inside the Guardian. Writing on Saturday [June 4th] as the meeting kicked off, Skelton begins:

Bilderberg is back with a vengeance. After a pandemic gap of two years, the elite global summit is being rebooted in a security-drenched hotel in Washington DC, with a high-powered guest list that includes the heads of Nato, the CIA, GCHQ, the US national security council, two European prime ministers, a healthy sprinkle of tech billionaires, and Henry Kissinger.

Skelton’s tidy overview of this year’s list of participants is worth fleshing out a little bit more. For instance, the two aforementioned European PMs were Mark Rutte of the Netherlands (a perennial Bilderberg attendee) and, more noteworthy, Sanna Marin of Finland. Strictly off-the-record, devoid of public oversight or media scrutiny, Marin was doubtless engaged in frequent discussions with head of Nato, Jens Stoltenberg about the terms and conditions for membership (generally about 3% of GDP channelled into weapons procurement). This is how open democracy functions today in Finland as in the rest of the western world.

Skelton writes:

The summit is heaving with experts in Russia and Ukraine, including the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, Celeste Wallander, and ex-deputy national security adviser Nadia Schadlow, who has a seat on the elite steering committee of Bilderberg.

The conference room is rigged up with video screens for shy dignitaries to make a virtual attendance, and it’s highly likely that Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy will Zoom in for a T-shirted contribution to the talks. Just a few days beforehand, Zelenskiy met with a Bilderberg and US intelligence representative Alex Karp, who runs Palantir, the infamous CIA-funded surveillance and data analysis company.

Palantir, which was set up by billionaire Bilderberg insider Peter Thiel, has agreed to give “digital support” to the Ukrainian army, according to a tweet by the country’s deputy prime minister.

The participant list is rife with military advisers, one of which is a former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, and some hefty cogs from the Washington war machine. Among the heftiest is James Baker, head of the ominous sounding office of net assessment.

Another very high profile politician on the list is Canadian Deputy PM Chrystia Freeland, a member of the WEF’s Board of Trustees and a person many see as the power behind the throne of the Trudeau government. The granddaughter of a prominent Ukrainian Nazi collaborator, Freeland was banned by Moscow in 2014. Given her background it isn’t very hard to understand Freeland’s virulent Russophobia or why she was behind the organisation of the so-called Lima Group with its goal of overthrowing Venezuela’s socialist president Nicolas Maduro. At Bilderberg she came to rub elbows with Ukrainian ambassador to the US, Oksana Markarova, and the CEO of Naftogaz, the state-owned Ukrainian oil and gas company.

The Grayzone’s Max Blumenthal spoke with comedian Jimmy Dore about his own attempt to investigate last weekend’s meeting in Washington DC:

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Within the ranks of this year’s participants there were also three senior politicians from the UK. With Boris Johnson days numbered (as I predicted as far back as December 2020!), and Bilderberg’s prodigious historic record as kingmakers (something I have previously documented – a summary also provided below), could it be that Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, Tom Tugendhat who marks his second appearance at Bilderberg is finally being groomed for higher office? It is also curious that Michael Gove made a Bilderberg debut. Gove memorably stabbed Boris Johnson in the back in a bid for power during the 2016 Tory leadership contest that he eventually lost to Theresa May. So are we about to see him throw his hat into the ring once again?

Less high profile was the attendance of Labour’s David Lammy. Nominally on the left of the party, his Bilderberg appearance coincides with an invitation of the no less outwardly progressive Democrat Senator, Kyrsten Sinema as well as the reappearance of Mary Kay Henry, who by day is the international president of Service Employees International Union.

We must be aware that Bilderberg (and Davos too) functions along cross-party lines, seeking constantly to straddle some kind of dreamed up political ‘centre’. The ruling class is able to do this by being reactionary and progressive at one and the same time: reactionary in promoting their special interests and protecting the status quo, yet genuinely progressive not only by adapting to the times but in quite deliberately shaping our collective future.

For this secondary reason, a burgeoning contingent go there as representatives of the ever-more powerful tech sector; this year’s roll call featured Bilderberg everpresents Eric Schmidt (chairman of Google), Reid Hoffman (co-founder of Inflection AI and partner of Greylock), and Peter Thiel (co-founder of PayPal and Palantir Technologies), who were also joined by Yann LeCun (vice-president and chief AI scientist at Facebook); Demis Hassabis (CEO and founder of DeepMind) and Kevin Scott (chief technology officer at Microsoft Corporation)

Of course, the crises we face are a direct consequence of comparatively recent policies. The stagflation was caused by economic mismanagement that stems from the bailouts and misguided policy of QE that was used to tackle the 2008 financial collapse and then pursued more vigorously since the lockdowns and additional bailouts following the covid pandemic. However neoliberal failures can actually be traced further back to the deindustrialisation of western societies.

Meanwhile, the looming prospect of energy and (potentially) food shortages is mostly due to the geopolitical boomerang of sanctions that were intended to cause a regime change in Moscow – sanctions that have evidently failed in every regard. Leaving such details aside, however, late-stage capitalism has been in crisis for at least three decades and the plutocrats at Davos and Bilderberg are perfectly well aware of this fact. So the underlying purpose of WEF’s “Great Reset” is to manage the technologically-driven socioeconomic changes, accepting that change is unavoidable, in order to ensure maximal benefit for the corporations and the oligarchs who own them.

Reminding us of the close ties between Bilderberg and Davos, Skelton points to this matter succinctly:

Bilderberg is sometimes dismissed as a talking shop or crazed imagining of conspiracy theorists. But in reality it is a major diplomatic summit, attended this year as ever by extremely senior transatlantic politicians, from the US commerce secretary to the president of the European Council.

Many consider it an older, less flashy Davos, staged annually by the World Economic Fund. The two events have a good bit in common: namely, three WEF trustees at this year’s conference, and Klaus Schwab, the grisly head of Davos, is a former member of Bilderberg’s steering committee. His “Great Reset” looms large over the Washington conference, with “Disruption of the Global Financial System” at the heart of the agenda.

Concluding his article:

[H]olding court at the hotel bar will be Klaus Schwab’s mentor, Henry Kissinger.

Incredibly, Kissinger, 99, has been attending Bilderbergs since 1957.

The prince of realpolitik has been the ideological godfather of Bilderberg for as long as anyone can remember. And he’s recently co-authored a book, The Age of AI, with Bilderberg steering committee member Eric Schmidt, the former head of Google, and this year’s Washington conference is noticeably rammed with AI luminaries, from Facebook’s Yann LeCun to DeepMind’s Demis Hassabis.

Bilderberg knows that however the global realignments play out, and whatever a reset global financial system looks like, the shape of the world will be determined by big tech. And if the endgame is “Continuity of Government”, as the agenda suggests, that continuity will be powered by AI.

Whatever billionaire ends up making the software that runs the world, Bilderberg aims to make damned sure that it has its hand on the mouse.

Click here to read Charlie Skelton’s full article entitled “Bilderberg reconvenes in person after two-year pandemic gap: The Washington conference, a high-level council of war, will be headlined by Jen Stoltenberg, Nato’s secretary general” published in the Guardian on June 4th.

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As a further insight into the comings and goings at this year’s meeting, here is my categorised guide to the more mentionable delegates:

First, the three intelligence chiefs alluded to in Skelton’s article are Jake Sullivan, director of National Security Council; William Burns, director of CIA; and Jeremy Fleming, director of GCHQ. They were joined by the director of France’s external intelligence agency, General Directorate for External Security (DGSE), Bernard Émié; Jen Easterly, the director of US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and seasoned Bilderberger, the former chief of MI6 (2009–2014), John Sawers.

Beside the Prime Ministers of Finland and the Netherlands, the political contingent also included Dutch minister of foreign affairs, Wopke Hoekstra; Belgian minister for energy, Tinne Van der Straeten, alongside Polish MEP, Radoslaw Sikorski, the husband of fellow attendee, Anne Applebaum, member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and a rabid neo-con commentator who routinely calls for war on Russia in her columns for the Washington Post and The Atlantic magazine. In addition there were two top level EU representatives: vice-president of European Commission, Margaritis Schinas and president of European Council, Charles Michel, who is Bilderberg returnee – first invited in 2018 when he was Belgian Prime Minister.

Lastly, a mention to a handful of the usual suspects in attendance: Henry and Marie-Josée Kravis and their close associate David Petraeus (chairman of KKR Global Institute); the chairman of Goldman Sachs International, José Manuel Barroso (no globalist shindig runs without top-level representation from ‘the squid’)… oh, and also just along for the craic, the one and only (presumably) King of the Netherlands!

Click here to read the reliably incomplete official list of participants as published on the Bilderberg website.

Correction:

In the original version it was incorrectly stated that the CIA HQ is at Arlington, Virginia when the correct location is a few miles north at Langley, Virginia.

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List of western leaders previously groomed by Bilderberg:

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 *

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

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no knighthood for Tony Blair: join the Windsor protest on June 13th

no knighthood for Blair

Message from Stop the War Coalition:

Tony Blair can never wash all the blood off his hands after his lies which took the UK into the war in Iraq. Despite this, in a few days Tony Blair will be given the red-carpet treatment and granted the highest honour the Queen can bestow, a Knighthood. Clearly the UK’s honours system is anything but honourable.

Tony Blair should be heading to The Hague. That’s why we’ll be outside Windsor Castle on Monday to let the world know there is only one court that Blair should be attending, and it’s not the royal one!

We’re assembling at 1pm at the Queen Victoria Statue on Castle Hill, Windsor, SL4 1PD to say ‘Jail Blair! No knighthoods for war criminals’.

For those travelling from London we will be meeting by Cafe Nero in the main concourse of Paddington Station at midday for the 12:20 train. Changing at Slough at 12:36.

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Guardian gets in on the act of whitewashing Ukraine’s neo-Nazis

Denys Prokopenko is the commander of the “Azov Regiment” – the freshly but only partially rebranded neo-Nazi militia formerly known as the Azov Battalion with its badge that still proudly sports the Nazi wolfsangel insignia (a variation of the swastika) formerly worn by divisions of the Waffen-SS during World War II. The Azov Battalion also adopted the Nazi’s “black sun” emblem.

Prokopenko first enlisted with the Avoz Battalion at the start of the war in Donbass in 2014 around the time of its formation. In September 2007 he then took full command.

There is no reason whatsoever to doubt that Prokopenko shares the same Nazi ideology as Azov’s founder and original commander Andriy Biletsky. A former history student and amateur boxer, Biletsky once declared: “The historic mission of our nation in this critical moment is to lead the White Races of the world in a final crusade for their survival… A crusade against the Semite-led Untermenschen.”

Back in February 2015, I posted an article that highlighted a BBC news report in which correspondent Rupert Wingfield-Hayes had been embedded inside the Avoz Battalion while studiously he and the BBC kept silent about the group’s origins and its grotesque ideology. However, since the Russian invasion in February, the whitewashing of the Azov Regiment has become totally mainstream.

Here for instance is a CNN report from March featuring “a Ukrainian military commander”, who happens to be Denys Prokopenko:

And now the Guardian too is shameless in its promotion of the neo-Nazis of the Avoz Regiment. Published only last weekend, here is its latest puff piece which hopes to win our affection for “Mariupol’s defenders.” If you can’t read the caption, once again the square-jawed chap is Denys Prokopenko next to his doting wife Kateryna:

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voices of reason at a time of war: Michael Tracey, Noam Chomsky & Vijay Prashad

There’s a chap called Tobias Ellwood who’s spent the past week doggedly promoting his latest idea to save Western civilization. “From a military perspective,” Ellwood explained during a recent speaking engagement, it’s never been more urgent to impose a “humanitarian sea corridor” off the coast of Ukraine. This would involve an outright naval intervention by NATO in the Black Sea — with the objective being to prevent Russia from seizing control of the strategically important city of Odesa. Perhaps upon commencement of this mission, Ellwood suggested, listless denizens of “The West” will finally come to appreciate the existential stakes of the conflict now before us, and “accept that we are actually in a 1938 period, but actually worse.” The double “actually” was presumably included for maximum emphasis.

Notably, Ellwood is not some random crank. He is “actually” a Member of Parliament in the United Kingdom, and the chairman of the impressively-titled Defence Select Committee. In that latter capacity, he seeks to exert influence over the Defence policy of Her Majesty’s Government, which is currently led by his Conservative Party colleague Boris Johnson.

This is the opening paragraph of an alarming report by American independent journalist Michael Tracey who managed to receive an invite to a private event recently hosted by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), which describes itself as “the world’s oldest and the UK’s leading defence and security think tank”. The same piece continues:

During the private event, hosted by a Think Tank which unilaterally and hilariously decreed his comments “off the record,” Ellwood described the plan he envisaged for how this new phase of military intervention in Ukraine would unfold. It should be up to the UK to “create a coalition of the willing,” he declared — borrowing the terminology once used for countries that participated in the US invasion of Iraq, which memorably included the UK. Ellwood evidently detected no ignominy at all in this historical association.

On the subject of Ukraine, Ellwood’s view is that the UK and Europe must stop waiting around for the US to get its act together, and instead proactively initiate the kind of muscular, unapologetic military action that is currently needed against Russia. The lesson of last year’s Afghanistan withdrawal, Ellwood charged — as well as Joe Biden’s purported Ukraine-related dithering — has been to “expose America to be very, very hesitant indeed.” He explained: “I see the United States almost catching up with where, from a military perspective, a vanguard may actually go.”

Note that Ellwood’s plan certainly does not assume that the US would somehow just sit out whatever forthcoming war the UK may instigate. With the US as the real firepower behind NATO, that’s obviously not feasible. Instead, his idea would simply be for the UK to place itself at the “vanguard” of precipitating the new military action, after which the US would inevitably be engulfed as well. Time is of the essence, Ellwood contends, because China has ominously joined with Russia to set about “dismantling the liberal world order” — a development Ellwood believes will elevate the conflict to a magnitude on par with the Peloponnesian War of Greek antiquity. “China will exploit the war in Ukraine to hasten America’s inevitable decline,” he warned.

Out of these ashes, at least according to Ellwood’s apparent calculus, will rise the UK: “If we want Putin to fail,” Ellwood declared, “then we need to conclude this in months. We need to vow to press forward.” He added, “I underline how critical it is: if Odesa falls, then I’m afraid it’s going to be very, very difficult for us to turn this around.” (Note his use of the pronoun “us,” as though it should be understood that the UK is already an official combatant.)

Click here to read Michael Tracey’s full report entitled “The UK is Trying to Drag the US into World War III” published on April 14th on substack.

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Michael Tracey is certainly not alone in raising concerns over the looming threat of what was until now considered absolutely unthinkable – the prospect of World War III and nuclear annihilation. Noam Chomsky recently gave two interviews and in the first he also addresses the matter head-on:

Right at this moment, you hear heroic statements by people in Congress or foreign policy specialists saying we should set up a no-fly zone, for example, to defend Ukraine. Fortunately, there’s one peacekeeping force in the government. It’s called the Pentagon. They are so far vetoing the heroic statements by congressmen showing off for their constituents about how brave they are, pointing out that a no-fly zone not only means shooting down Russian planes, but it means attacking Russian anti-aircraft installations inside Russia. Then what happens? Well, actually, the latest polls show about 35 percent of Americans are listening to the heroic speeches from Congress and advisors. Thirty-five percent say they think we should enter into the war in Ukraine, even if it threatens to lead to a nuclear war. The end of everything. The country that launches the first strike will be destroyed.

Continuing:

I don’t know if you saw it. But a couple of days ago, there was a very important interview by one of the most astute and respected figures in current U.S. diplomatic circles, Ambassador Chas Freeman. A very important interview [which is also embedded below]. He pointed out that the current U.S. policy, which he bitterly criticized, is to “fight Russia to the last Ukrainian,” and he gave us an example: President Biden’s heroic statement about the war criminal Putin—[Biden’]s counterpart as a war criminal. And Freeman pointed out the obvious: the U.S. is setting things up so as to destroy Ukraine and to lead to a terminal war.

In this world, there are two options with regard to Ukraine. As we know, one option is a negotiated settlement, which will offer Putin an escape, an ugly settlement. Is it within reach? We don’t know; you can only find out by trying and we’re refusing to try. But that’s one option. The other option is to make it explicit and clear to Putin and the small circle of men around him that you have no escape, you’re going to go to a war crimes trial no matter what you do. Boris Johnson just reiterated this: sanctions will go on no matter what you do. What does that mean? It means go ahead and obliterate Ukraine and go on to lay the basis for a terminal war.

Those are the two options: and we’re picking the second and praising ourselves for heroism and doing it: fighting Russia to the last Ukrainian.

Click here to read the full article entitled “Noam Chomsky on How To Prevent World War III” published by Current Affairs magazine on April 13th based on an interview with editor-in-chief Nathan J. Robinson.

Here is ‘The Grayzone’ interview with retired senior diplomat Chas Freeman released on March 22nd that Noam Chomsky references above:

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The following day, Chomsky was interviewed by The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill who asked whether there is any aspect of the response by the US, Nato or the European Union that he believes is appropriate. Chomsky replied:

I think that support for Ukraine’s effort to defend itself is legitimate. If it is, of course, it has to be carefully scaled, so that it actually improves their situation and doesn’t escalate the conflict, to lead to destruction of Ukraine and possibly beyond sanctions against the aggressor, or appropriate just as sanctions against Washington would have been appropriate when it invaded Iraq, or Afghanistan, or many other cases. Of course, that’s unthinkable given U.S. power and, in fact, the first few times it has been done — the one time it has been done — the U.S. simply shrugged its shoulders and escalated the conflict. That was in Nicaragua when the U.S. was brought to the World Court, condemned for unlawful use of force or to pay reparations, responded by escalating the conflict. So it’s unthinkable in the case of the U.S., but it would be appropriate.

However, I still think it’s not quite the right question. The right question is: What is the best thing to do to save Ukraine from a grim fate, from further destruction? And that’s to move towards a negotiated settlement.

There are some simple facts that aren’t really controversial. There are two ways for a war to end: One way is for one side or the other to be basically destroyed. And the Russians are not going to be destroyed. So that means one way is for Ukraine to be destroyed.

The other way is some negotiated settlement. If there’s a third way, no one’s ever figured it out. So what we should be doing is devoting all the things you mentioned, if properly shaped, but primarily moving towards a possible negotiated settlement that will save Ukrainians from further disaster. That should be the prime focus.

Chomsky continued:

We can’t look into the minds of Vladimir Putin and the small clique around him; we can speculate, but can’t do much about it. We can, however, look at the United States and we can see that our explicit policy — explicit — is rejection of any form of negotiations. The explicit policy goes way back, but it was given a definitive form in September 2021 in the September 1st joint policy statement that was then reiterated and expanded in the November 10th charter of agreement.

And if you look at what it says, it basically says no negotiations. What it says is it calls for Ukraine to move towards what they called an enhanced program for entering NATO, which kills negotiations; — this is before the invasion notice — an increase in the dispatch of advanced weapons to Ukraine, more military training, the joint military exercises, [and] weapons placed on the border. We can’t be sure, but it’s possible that these strong statements may have been a factor in leading Putin and his circle to move from warning to direct invasion. We don’t know. But as long as that policy is guiding the United States, it’s basically saying, to quote Ambassador Chas Freeman, — it’s saying: Let’s fight to the last Ukrainian. [That’s] basically, what it amounts to.

So the questions you raised are important, interesting, just what is the appropriate kind of military aid to give Ukrainians defending themselves enough to defend themselves, but not to lead to an escalation that will just simply lead to massive destruction? And what kinds of sanctions or other actions could be effective in deterring the aggressors? Those are all important, but they pale into insignificance in comparison with the primary need to move towards a negotiated settlement, which is the only alternative to destruction of Ukraine, which of course, Russia is capable of carrying out.

Click here to watch the same interview and read the full transcript at The Intercept website.

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On Good Friday (April 15th) as the Russian invasion of Ukraine entered Day 50, Democracy Now! spoke with Vijay Prashad, author and director of the Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research and co-author with Chomsky of a forthcoming book The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power. Here is one excerpt from that interview, which is also embedded below:

Of course I criticize Putin for invading Ukraine, Amy. That goes without saying, because he has violated the U.N. Charter. It is a brutal war, as I said when I first started speaking. But I think that’s hardly the question, whether I condemn Mr. Putin or not. The issue is that we’re living in a world where, for a lot of people, it looks like it’s an upside-down world.

It’s not just the question of the treaties you mentioned. The United States government has not signed the international laws of the seas, and yet it prosecutes so-called freedom of navigation missions against not only China in the South China Sea, using this U.N. Charter, which it’s not a signatory of, but it has been provoking clashes with Russia in the Black Sea, in the Baltic Sea and in the Arctic Sea, again, using these so-called freedom of navigation missions.

Let’s take the question of the International Criminal Court. When special prosecutor Fatou Bensouda opened a file to investigate war crimes in Afghanistan — and, by the way, she was really clear: She said war crimes conducted by everybody — by the Taliban, by the Afghan National Army, by the United States, by other NATO countries, and so on. When she did that, the United States government threatened her, told her that neither she nor her family would ever get a visa to come to the United States, and so on. The U.S. put enormous pressure on the International Criminal Court to shut down that investigation. That’s incredible. This is an investigation of war crimes which are detailed in the U.S. government’s own documents, which have been released by the WikiLeaks foundation, whose founder, Julian Assange, is sitting in Belmarsh prison, is being treated as a criminal, whereas the war criminals in Afghanistan are going free and threatening, with Mafia-like tactics, the special prosecutor at the ICC.

Meanwhile, again, in an afternoon — to quote the Indian high official, in an afternoon, the United States is able to get these bodies, established by international law, which the United States is not a signatory to — the U.S., in an afternoon, is able to get them to open a file and start talking about war crimes. Over a million people killed in Iraq, and no investigation of war crimes. None. Over a million people. Half a million children killed in Iraq during the 1990s sanctions regime, not even the word “genocide.” The West is walking all over the word “genocide,” is reducing the power of an important category of an important convention, the 1951 Convention Against Genocide. This extraordinary, casual weaponization of human rights and the word “genocide” by the West is going to be something that we are going to face in the times ahead, when other countries are going to say, “Well, we can do anything if we are backed by Washington, D.C.” This is extraordinarily perilous.

And I hope people open their eyes to the very cynical way in which Washington, D.C., is approaching this terrible war taking place in Ukraine, a war that has to end with a ceasefire and negotiations. And you’re not going to easily get a ceasefire and negotiations if you’re going to loosely, as Mr. Biden did in Poland at Warsaw castle, loosely call for regime change in Russia. That is not going to help you bring people to the table, whether it’s in Belarus or it’s in Antalya, Turkey. It’s not going to bring Ukraine and Russia to the table. It’s not going to stop Russia’s war. If the Russians think that the United States has a total agenda to annihilate the Russian government, I’m afraid they are not going to get a ceasefire. You’re going to just get more atrocities in Ukraine. And that’s something that the people of the world should not stand for.

Click here to watch the same interview and to read the full transcript at the Democracy Now! website.

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Returning to Michael Tracey’s excellent piece, I find it truly astonishing how many of the formerly anti-war liberals and anti-war left are now cheerleading for Nato intervention in Ukraine and apparently unaware of the incredible threat posed by an escalating conflict between the world’s two largest nuclear powers. At a recent rally in London a representative of Unison, one of the UK’s largest trade unions, read aloud a message she’d received from the head of the Federation of Trade Unions in Ukraine which included a demand to “secure our Ukrainian sky.”

Similar calls for ‘No Fly Zone’s have been a common feature of liberal demands for “humanitarian interventions” and were used to legitimise Nato’s attack on Libya. In this instance, Nato intervention means nothing less than World War III, and yet elements within the trade union movement, across the ‘liberal media’ and the realigned Labour Party under Keir Starmer seem totally oblivious to these incalculable dangers.

Tracey writes:

Addressing a pro-war rally in London last weekend was Alex Sobel, a Labour Party MP who serves in the Shadow Cabinet of Keir Starmer, the current Opposition Leader. When I asked Sobel to clarify his policy grievance against Boris Johnson, he told me: “There’s been a lack of military assistance. And there’s been a lack of support within NATO more broadly, in terms of military assistance.” This can be translated as: Boris Johnson, NATO, and the US have not been militarily aggressive enough in Ukraine! That’s the criticism!

Expressing his reluctance to countenance any kind of negotiated resolution to the war, Sobel told me: “The Russians only understand force, they do not understand peace.” This is a weirdly common allusion to a supposed genetic predisposition of Russians that makes them inherently… warlike? Sounds very similar to when James Clapper, the top Intelligence Official in the Obama Administration, would go around intoning that Russians were “almost genetically-driven to co-opt” and “penetrate.”

Much of the UK media shares the view that Boris Johnson has exhibited insufficient “force” in his dealings with Russia. This includes The Observer newspaper — understood to be the UK’s leading bastion of respectable left/liberal opinion — which threw caution to the wind last weekend and published an official unsigned editorial institutionally endorsing “direct intervention” in Ukraine by NATO. In particular, the editorial promoted the very same naval blockade plan touted by Tobias Ellwood — the aforementioned Conservative MP who might otherwise be considered the newspaper’s ideological foe. “Declare the unoccupied city of Odesa off-limits,” the Observer editorial demands of Johnson, “and warn Russia to cease coastal bombardments or face serious, unspecified consequences.” Wariness to start World War III has now turned into a timid “excuse” for inaction, the editorial writers allege.

Continuing:

[B]ehold the recent activism of Owen Jones, the noted left-wing journalist whose “beat” appears to be a never-ending series of exhortatory instructions to some amorphous assemblage he calls “The Left.” Jones is now of the view, amazingly, that supporting the “armed struggle” of Ukraine is the only proper “anti-war” position. So here we have another “anti-war” leftist who happens to be in favor of provisioning tanks, fighter jets, missiles, and grenades into an active warzone, for the purpose of facilitating warfare. As is also the case in the US, these UK left/liberals often find it unpleasant to straightforwardly label themselves “pro-war” — so they have been forced to play word-games galore to avoid acknowledging reality. And the reality is that the policy action they’re advocating must necessarily be enacted by some combination of Boris Johnson, the US military-industrial complex, and NATO — all of whom have now been enlisted to carry out these leftists’ desired war aims.

The most vivid manifestation of this increasingly incoherent left-wing viewpoint could be observed a few days ago at the pro-war march and rally in Whitehall, the governmental corridor of Central London. I found out about the rally because it was endorsed and promoted by Owen Jones on Twitter. Upon arrival, I discovered that leading the march was another left-wing journalist, Paul Mason, who organized the action in concert with a strange Trotyskist faction called the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty. “We support Ukraine’s war and demand the West provides weapons,” the group’s pamphlet declares, along with a bitter condemnation of NATO for “steadfastly refusing to fight.”

Mason had many magical moments as rally leader, but his most comical interlude was when he stopped along the march route to bellow, via bullhorn, in the general direction of the UK Ministry of Defence — shouting for the workers inside to come out and join. I asked Mason if he reckoned this was the first “anti-war” and/or “left-wing” rally in British history for which the Ministry of Defence (of a Conservative government!) was considered a natural ally — but he caustically refused to talk, instead denouncing me as a “Putin shill.” (Direct quote.) Clever guy, that Paul. Supremely confident in his convictions, surely, and quick with the novel insult.

A former employee of the BBC and Channel 4, Mason offered up an inventive rationalization for his pro-war advocacy when it was his turn to clasp the microphone that afternoon. “In a war like this, our natural demand for peace — our natural fear of military action — has to take second place,” he proclaimed. Because don’t you know, according to Mason, this particular war is actually being waged on behalf of the vaunted “Working Class”!

“It is in the interest of working class people to support Ukraine in this war,” Mason beseeched from the rally pulpit, expressing his hope to mobilize the whole of the British Labour Movement behind the pro-war cause. “I know how hard that is for many of us, who’ve stood outside here in so many other wars and said — you know, screw your hypocrisy over Iraq, and Afghanistan, and the rest,” Mason acknowledged. “It’s hard. But the only way to get arms into the hands of the Ukrainian people right now… is to keep the pressure on the government.”

So there you have it, clear as day: the object of this left-wing “anti-war” rally was to “keep the pressure” on the ruling Conservative Government… to continue ramping up weapons shipments to Ukraine. For use in… intensifying warfare. As Mason barreled forward with his speech, the Ukraine flag shimmered triumphantly in the sunlight atop Boris Johnson’s Cabinet Office, located right across the street at 70 Whitehall — a moving symbol of cross-ideological unity.

I found that a very simple line of questioning posed to the assembled leftist demonstrators — merely asking them whether they viewed the event they were partaking in as a “pro-war” rally, or an “anti-war” rally — tended to elicit spells of bewildered anger. When asked this question, a number of the pamphleteers insisted to me that the rally was in fact “anti-war” in nature, even though they were distributing placards featuring the injunction to “Arm Ukraine” — a task which would necessarily have accomplished by the US, UK, and other governments, in conjunction with NATO. One of the chants fervently screamed on the march went as follows: “Put an end to Putin’s reign! Arm, arm, arm, Ukraine!” That’s the new mantra of the British anti-war movement! If nothing else, one has to appreciate this audacious innovation in the fluidity of language.

Click here to read Michael Tracey’s full report entitled “The UK is Trying to Drag the US into World War III” published on April 14th on substack.

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Gonzalo Lira has gone missing in Ukraine – this is how you may help

Important update:

Gonzalo Lira López, a 54-year-old Chilean-American who has been reporting from Kharkov since the start of the war, went missing on Friday (April 15th 2022) – read my original post below.

As concerns grew for Gonzalo’s safety, a flood of messages were sent to embassies and other relevant authorities across the world. Messages also spread through the #WhereisGonzaloLira social media campaign.

I am delighted to report that seven days later (on Friday 22nd) Gonzalo reappeared and gave a brief statement to his friend Alex Christoforou:

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Gonzalo Lira López, a 54-year-old Chilean-American who was reporting from Kharkov since the start of the war, has not been heard from since Friday (April 15th 2022).

You may help him by contacting the Foreign Ministry of Chile: https://twitter.com/ChileMFA

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Update:

On Tuesday 19th, Alex Christoforou of The Duran put out the following message calling on people to contact their regional Chilean embassy with the simple message to the effect that:

Gonzalo Lira is a Chilean citizen who was reporting from Kharkov in Ukraine. He has now been missing for three days and there is growing concern for his wellbeing. Can you please look into what has happened to this citizen of your country?

Links to relevant embassies are provided below:

Embassy of Chile in Washington, DC. echile.eeuu@minrel.gob.cl.

Chilean Embassy in Warsaw embachile@onet.pl

https://chile.gob.cl/polonia/en/about…

Embassy of Chile in Greece and Cyprus: egrecia.chile@minrel.gob.cl http://chileabroad.gov.cl/grecia/

Embassy of Chile in London londres@consulado.gob.cl

37-41 Old Queen Street, London, SW1H 9JA

https://chile.gob.cl/londres/en/

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Note that:

The tweet above which was posted on March 26th and is currently pinned to the top of Gonzalo Lira’s account reads as follows (with links provided where available):

You want to learn the truth about the Zelensky regime? Google these names:

Vlodymyr Struk

Denis Kireev

Mikhail & Aleksander Kononovich

Nestor Shufrych

Yan Taksyur

Dmitri Djangirov

Elena Berezhnaya

If you haven’t heard from me in 12 hours or more, put my name on this list.

GL

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Scott Ritter speaks to Richard Medhurst about being banned by Twitter and related issues

“If Twitter had existed in 2002, oh boy I would have been banned for taking the position I did about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Think about that for a second. I’m not saying that I’m right today, I mean I believe I’m right, but my point is if Twitter applied the same standard that they’re using today to silence voices of dissent regarding the war in Ukraine then I would have been banned for telling the truth about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. And if anything should send the shockwave through people about how stupid and counterproductive this Twitter policy is, it’s that they would have banned the only guy – not the only, but one of the few people out there telling the truth. Is that really the policy you want, Twitter? Is that really the policy you want? I think the answer is no. It should be no.” [from 34:50 mins]

Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter puts into clearer perspective the dangers posed by the massive ongoing clampdown by social media platforms on freedom of speech after he was temporarily banned on Wednesday from Twitter on the spurious charge of “harassment” – reinstated within 24 hours in response to an anti-censorship outcry and immediate calls for the lifting of his suspension.

The circumstances behind his own ban, Ritter explains below in an extended interview speaking with independent journalist Richard Medhurst. The relevant section is transcribed beneath the embedded video (providing a permanent record in the event that Youtube subsequently removes the content.)

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Curiously, on the same day as Ritter’s ban, NBC published a story that candidly admitted “Biden administration’s breaking with recent precedent by deploying intelligence as part of an information war against Russia… even when the intelligence wasn’t rock solid”. Specifically, the article reveals:

It was an attention-grabbing assertion that made headlines around the world: U.S. officials said they had indications suggesting Russia might be preparing to use chemical agents in Ukraine.

President Joe Biden later said it publicly. But three U.S. officials told NBC News this week there is no evidence Russia has brought any chemical weapons near Ukraine. They said the U.S. released the information to deter Russia from using the banned munitions.

The fact that the chemical weapons story was unadulterated bunkum should not have surprised anyone who has been following world events during recent decades. Indeed, the entire “war on terror” was ignited by almost precisely this same lie. Moreover, the asinine, since entirely baseless, ‘intelligence claims’ of forthcoming Russian false flags is something I promptly debunked on this site.

Meanwhile, this peculiar piece of US State Department propaganda scantily dressed up as “journalism” tells us that all of the disinformation, the ‘fake news’, and the straight up mainstream lies are perfectly fine:

Observers of all stripes have called it a bold and so far successful strategy — although not one without risks.

If we had a free and independent press, of course, then there would be huge political risks in perpetrating such glaring lies; ones that come with democratic accountability. But as we see from the lack of widespread media reaction to these quite startling admissions, the truth as such has become largely irrelevant – something Scott Ritter returns to in his interview pointing out that:

“They don’t want the truth. They’re trying to shape perception. They’re trying to manipulate information to create a perception that is being manipulated to achieve a policy objective. So the truth, or the search for truth, becomes the enemy, and therefore it must be shut down.”

Twitter won’t be taking down any accounts that are linked to those who deliberately propagated the misinformation and/or lies formally acknowledged by the NBC article. Those lies remain accessible and having been validated by the ‘fact-checkers’ will very likely continue to spread in spite of these latest retractions – and so too all future lies. In the meantime, anyone who dissents from the official narrative, irrespective of its own self-confessed unreliability, can expect to be marginalised, shadow-banned and sooner or later deplatformed altogether.

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Here is a transcript of the relevant segments of Scott Ritter’s conversation with Richard Medhurst, beginning with Ritter’s account of the tweet he posted that led to his suspension:

“Even though Twitter is not the centre of the universe, I think it has the potential of being a very good platform for the exchange of ideas at 288 characters per go. I take it seriously, meaning that if I’m going to put a tweet out there with my name on it’s, you know… when you get involved in politics I don’t want to be someone (I have worked too long and too hard to be someone) that if I speak on an issue, on a subject, I want to be taken seriously; I want to be someone that people say, you know, he’s assiduous with his facts. It doesn’t mean I’m always right but it means I always try to be right. You know when you’re engaged in complicated issues it’s not so much about being right, it’s about being motivated to promote the pursuit of truth.

“And sometimes the pursuit of truth is accomplished best when you put out an idea, an interpretation, an assessment that challenges the mainstream media or the mainstream direction and forces people to say ‘hmm, let me think. Let me put on my thinking cap.’ And then they come up with their own opinion. Their opinion may differ from yours, which is a success, because they have empowered themselves with knowledge and information derived from their own work; they’re not parroting something somebody told them. And to me it’s that process of debate, dialogue and discussion that makes democracies viable; makes functional democracies possible. And so I view Twitter as a mechanism that encourages this process.

“So if I’m going to put a tweet out there about a serious non-cat or non-dog issue, I’m going to make sure that I’ve researched it, especially on a topic like Bucha and war crime. I can guarantee you that before I wrote down about the Ukrainian national police being the perpetrators of numerous crimes, that I researched the subject – that I dug into various images and videotapes of the dead people; I assessed it using whatever forensic evaluation that one can on something like this; and I saw, for instance, that many of the bodies had the green dry ration packaging of the Russian ration box. It’s a ration pack: the Russian soldiers can get them, but they’ve also been used extensively to support civilians in need. You see the Russians in their trucks handing them out.

“I also noticed that many of the bodies had the white armbands on that signify people who are not a threat to Russia and that the people that didn’t have the white armbands had their hands bound behind their backs using the material that looked awfully like armbands that are no longer on their on their shoulder. So just the first brush if someone said ‘okay, what is this scene telling you?’ The scene is telling me that these are pro-Russian, or Russian sympathisers, or people who have interacted with Russia; people who have been the benefactors of Russian humanitarian aid, and people who are heading in the direction of Russian troops.

“And so then you have to say ‘okay, who killed them?’ Well, I don’t know by looking at those pictures, but if you’re pro-Russian, or Russian sympathetic, equipped with humanitarian aid provided by Russia, the odds are that the Russians didn’t kill them. Now, that’s not enough now to jump to the Ukrainian national police, though that’s just setting the stage. The initial thought. But now I get the Russian orders – the orders from the Russian high command are to minimise civilian death, minimise damage to civilian infrastructure – so I see the commander’s intent going down to the Russian soldier normally will be translated into actions that reflect that intent. So if I’ve got some pro-Russian people coming at me, I’m not going to kill them. That’s the intent.

“What about the Ukrainians? We have the exact opposite. We have the Ukrainian government calling anybody who collaborates with Russia to include receiving these humanitarian care packages are now classified as collaborators and in the specific instance of Bucha, we have the Ukrainian national police issuing a bulletin speaking of ‘the cleansing of collaborators’ from Bucha on 1st April. We have a senior Ukrainian government official female issuing instructions via social media telling the citizens of Bucha that there is a police action taking place, a cleansing  operation: stay in your [homes], stay indoors, don’t panic, she repeats this over and over and over again. And then we have videotapes that show these Ukrainian national police, including some who are directly affiliated with Azov happily hunting down and shooting people. So now when I look at all this data I have to say it’s more than likely that the Ukrainians are the perpetrators, because we have intent from their commanders saying treat all pro-Russian collaborators as the enemy; we have an instruction from the national police to carry out a cleansing operation; and then we have videotape of the cleansing operation taking place which involves gunfire from a Ukrainian national policeman towards civilians who aren’t wearing the blue armband.

“So if I were compelled to make a decision based upon this albeit incomplete data – because I still (if this was going to go to a court) would need some forensic data to back it up – but the first brush is Ukrainian national police have done this. Now why did I feel compelled to tweet because normally I wouldn’t tweet with incomplete data like this – because, you know, it implies I’m drawing a conclusion that normally I would like to associate a lot more hard facts behind before I put my name on it. But the Ukrainian national police are promulgating a story that says the Russians did it. The Ukrainian government is putting forth a story that said the Russians did it. The western media is putting forward a story that said the Russians did it. And then Joe Biden got out and said the Russians are doing it; they’re war criminals. And so I felt compelled to put a counter narrative out there saying ‘no it’s the Ukrainian national police who have committed these crimes and Biden – and the reason why I picked on Biden soon after he gave that speech (that announcement, the Pentagon came out and said ‘hey buddy, we can’t corroborate anything the Ukrainian government say… we’re not saying it’s false, but we’re saying we can’t say it’s true.’ So the President of the United States is out ahead of its intelligence, meaning he’s speaking – I won’t use the word – it’s coming out from an orphan citizen’s mouth.

“So therefore I felt obliged to say (and again I did the research): these words don’t come lightly. I looked up the Nuremberg tribunal. I looked up what a crime against humanity was. I looked for similar cases that were prosecuted against the Nazis, similar to what I believe the Ukrainian national police did, and they constitute crimes against humanity. So that’s what I said. I also looked up there’s a lot of Nazis that were hung by the neck until dead who never pulled a trigger, who never signed a document ordering death, but they were perpetrators, they were collaborators, they’re co-conspirators, because of the actions they took. And one of the things is to shift blame away, to try and minimise the impact of the crimes, which is exactly what Joe Biden was doing. So I used my words very carefully selected from the Nuremberg tribunal based upon parallel cases that were prosecuted as war crimes and so I didn’t take it lightly. When I said this about Biden, it’s because Biden’s actions mimic those actions that were condemned as war crimes by the Nuremberg tribunal.

“Everything there was carefully researched. I mean literally that tweet took me about 30 minutes to research. I don’t know how many people spend 30 minutes to write a 288 character tweet but I do that all the time. So I’m doubly shocked that they decide to pick that tweet and say you’re violating standards, and in my appeal – and I wrote a lengthy appeal – and I broke it down just as I explained to you. Everything in that thing is fact-based.” [from 19:30 mins]

On Wednesday night’s edition of “On Balance With Leland Vittert”, investigative journalist Aaron Maté was asked to speak about the massacre of civilians in Bucha allegedly by Russian troops and gave reasons for why he believes a fully independent investigation is now needed:

*

“It should be that when the United States says something, the world should say ‘yep believe them 100% because they’ve been right every time before. The United States always tells the truth.’ Right now the United States opens its mouth, if I were a betting man I would bet that they’re lying – you know if Vegas took that bet I’d be a rich man, because all the United States knows how to do is lie. We don’t know how to tell the truth anymore, because it’s all a game of public perception, shaping perception. We’re afraid of reality. Sometimes reality is complex. Sometimes reality is nuanced. Reality isn’t black and white. It’s grey. That’s okay. Just tell the truth. People are smart enough once they receive the information to understand what the right thing to do is. You really don’t have to explain it. You just have to be honest with people; trust them, empower them with the information, and they will, by and large, tend to make the right decision. But we don’t trust anybody. We want to manipulate everything.”

Richard Medhurst: “Do you think that’s why they banned you from Twitter? Why they’re banning others – because you tell the truth and they’re afraid of people finding out?”

“Well, you know I have to be careful by saying ‘I tell the truth.’ I want to tell the truth, but you know this isn’t a situation like Iraqi WMD where I was literally empowered with a near totality of the information, so that when I said something you could take it to the bank. On the issue of Ukraine, I try to research it. I try to think it through. I try to put it through various tests. I want it to be the truth. I’m truthful in the way that I present it. But the last thing I want to leave with people is that when I say something about Ukraine that it carries the same weight as a claim I would make, for instance, about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. With WMD, if I said it you could bank on it. It was right. With Ukraine, it’s an opinion. It’s an assessment. I could be right. I think I’m right. I want to be right. But I could be wrong.

“So I don’t think that they fear the absolute correctness of my analysis, because I’m not in a position to be absolutely correct. What they fear is the consequences of allowing me to present my data and my thinking, and the consequences of allowing you to do what you do. The consequences of allowing George Galloway to do what he does. And Chris Hedges to do what they do. Because it’s not that all of us have, you know, we don’t have absolute say over what truth is. I mean I don’t think you’re arrogant enough to say that everything that comes out of your mouth is 100% accurate and truth. You want to be accurate. You want to be truthful, but you know, you do the best you can, and I think people respect that. And if you stumble, people say ‘okay, stumble, but you didn’t do it with ill intent, you did it because you were trying to pursue the truth.’

“But that’s the problem. Is that you’re trying to pursue the truth. You’re trying to do the right thing. You’re trying to inject integrity. You’re trying to inject honesty into a process, which we know they don’t want that. We know, based upon the quote you put up there in the statement made, they don’t want the truth. They’re trying to shape perception. They’re trying to manipulate information to create a perception that is being manipulated to achieve a policy objective. So the truth, or the search for truth, becomes the enemy, and therefore it must be shut down.

“They’re not shutting me down because I have a corner on the market for absolute 100% accuracy. No, they’re shutting me down because I dare challenge what they’re putting out there, and they fear me because my process is actually one that has far more integrity when it comes to the pursuit of truth than their process. Their process isn’t the pursuit of truth, it’s the pursuit of an outcome based upon the manipulation of data. And frankly speaking, it is the easiest thing to pick apart. I mean proving American lies is very easy if you’re assiduous with the pursuit of fact-based evidence. They fear this and that’s why they shut down my Twitter account. That’s why they’ll go after yours.” [from 1:32:00 mins]

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