Tag Archives: Paul Mason

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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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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just imagine… a second Labour coup — on Chuka Umunna and so-called ‘Independent Group’

Act I: the first whiff of a second Labour coup

The following section written in September 2016 has remained unpublished until now.

Just imagine:

On September 24th 2016, Jeremy Corbyn wins reelection. Within hours he moves to consolidate his control of the party. One-by-one, MPs start declaring their independence from their reelected leader; eventually over 150 have done so. Local Labour Parties begin to split along leader-rebels lines. Staffers in Labour’s headquarters formally disregard Mr Corbyn. A True Labour declaration of independence and social democratic principles is promoted by leading MPs and Labour grandees like Mr Kinnock. A majority of Labour MPs rally around it and appoint a True Labour interim leader and shadow cabinet sporting the best of the party’s parliamentary talent (perhaps: Angela Eagle as leader, Rachel Reeves as shadow chancellor, Tom Watson as a continuity deputy leader).

The extract above is taken from an opinion piece published in The Economist by the columnist Bagehot on August 12th. It is an open call for a new splinter party calling itself “True Labour” to emerge from amongst the ranks of the 170+ PLP ‘rebels’ (obviously I apply the term ‘rebel’ loosely) after detaching themselves one by one and then almost surreptitiously reassembling into a new makeshift party. If we look past the unintended comedy – a list of “best of the party’s parliamentary talent” which begins “perhaps: Angela Eagle as leader”, because if that isn’t hilarious, then frankly what is? – this newest plot against Corbyn, and the vast majority of Labour members who support him, is certainly elaborate in its conception:

True Labour obtains recognition from John Bercow as the official opposition. Donors are sought and local branches established. These swallow the moderate segments of Constituency Labour Parties and welcome a flood of new centre-left and centrist members, including many previously unaligned voters politicised by the Brexit vote.

The conception being that:

True Labour’s role would then not be to compete amicably with Mr Corbyn’s “Labour” but to marginalise or, ideally, destroy it by appropriating the Labour mantle through sheer weight, dynamism and persuasiveness. 1

My attention was originally drawn to this piece thanks to former BBC Economics Editor, Paul Mason, who points out that Bagehot isn’t just any old neo-liberal mouthpiece, but the nom de plume of Jeremy Cliffe, “formerly intern at the Party of European Socialists in Brussels, aide to Chuka Umunna and activist in the Ed Miliband for Leader campaign.” A figure Mason flatteringly describes as “one of the best informed UK journalists in the sphere of Labour and European social democracy.”

In the same article, Mason also reminds of the run up to the initial coup against Corbyn, and what has followed since:

During their attempt to stop Corbyn getting on the ballot paper, the right launched Saving Labour  — there’s no information about where it gets its money, who its officers are, what it’s statues [sic] are. It organised a day of street stalls, issued three press releases and went quiet on 28 July.

It’s been superseded by “Labour Tomorrow” — a private company with a reported £250,000 war chest to fight Jeremy Corbyn once he wins. This money will be distributed only to “moderate centre left organisations”. No other other information provided on its website apart from a single blog post by David Blunkett and Cold War union rightwinger Brenda Dean. No explanation of what “centre left” means, again no indication of where the money’s coming from.

Continuing:

Every signal from the Labour right appears to point towards a second coup against Corbyn, once he wins the leadership election, which will make Owen Smith’s current effort look like a sideshow.

The plan was spelled out in the Bagehot column of the Economist two weeks ago: declare yourselves “True Labour” in parliament; claim the legal role of HM Opposition; attempt to take unions and CLPs with you — if necessary by bureaucratic declarations; fight for the party’s name and assets in the courts on the grounds that it is you — the breakaway group — which truly represents Labour’s social democratic heritage. 2

Mason finishes his article with an entreaty to Owen Smith, who he rightly judges a dire candidate but a “willing dupe[s]: like the Auguste clown at the circus, who stands there pretending he doesn’t know the Whiteface clown has a custard pie behind his back”, to curtail his lamentable campaign for leadership in order to save himself and the party. Or, failing that, for Smith to issue a public statement saying he refuses to join with any breakaway faction and will respect the result of the election.

His appeal is, of course, a futile one. You cannot expect a snake to change its spots. On the other hand, party members and all Labour supporters are now in a position to make a difference. To be forewarned is to be forearmed, but that is of little significance if we remain passive. I therefore strongly favour pre-emptive action.

Whether Mason is right or wrong, it does no harm to send a volley of letters to each of our constituency MPs politely asking what they intend to do in the event that “True Labour” is launched (and let’s call it a coup this time before it happens). Will our MPs remain loyal to the party and its members and their leader who has twice received a democratic mandate, or will they jump ship… but, to reiterate, let’s keep this polite.

We have the chance to hold the feet of our elected representatives to the fire and, as Corbyn supporters, to get on to the front foot. My own letter is already dispatched and I will let you know if and when I receive a reply. Meanwhile be encouraged to steal my words (reprinted below), rework them, or else write something far better. What is needed is #stopthecorbyncoupmark2… but snappier. The snappier the better.

Click here to read Paul Mason’s full article

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Act II: Chuka Umunna and the Blairite deserters

That Chuka Umunna and a faction of disaffected Blairite Labour MPs including Chris Leslie, Gavin Shuker and Luciana Berger have been planning to jump ship is surely the worst kept secret in Westminster. As far back as October 2016, The Mail on Sunday was reporting on Umunna’s secret talks with Hillary Clinton’s campaign team “to advise her on how to beat a Democratic rival for the presidency [Bernie Sanders] dubbed the ‘American Jeremy Corbyn’”. A meeting took place in July 2015 and a few months prior to Corbyn’s election as Labour leader in September:

A leaked email from Mrs Clinton’s private server, released by the WikiLeaks website, reveals that a member of Mr Umunna’s team sent a message to John Podesta, chairman of the Clinton campaign, on July 19 last year saying: ‘Chuka Umunna… is in NYC [New York City] on Thursday… he’d love to come by and see you and share his insights on why Labour did so badly in May, and what HRC [Hillary Rodham Clinton] campaign might take away from that.’

Sources close to Mr Umunna confirmed he met Mr Podesta and discussed the rise of Corbynism and the threat posed by Bernie Sanders – her Democratic rival dubbed ‘the US Jeremy Corbyn’ because of his pledge to redistribute the country’s wealth – who at the time was starting to surge in the polls. 3

Then, two years later in June 2017 and the wake of May’s cataclysmic election defeat, rather than getting solidly behind Corbyn, his leadership reinvigorated by Labour’s remarkable election gains, Umunna was instead slinking off to hold secret talks with Conservative MPs in a cross-party alliance to force a ‘soft Brexit’. This betrayal of the party was also in defiance of Labour’s manifesto pledges to honour the referendum decision on which Umunna had been re-elected just days earlier:

A source told the Daily Mail: “Chuka sees himself as the leader of the Remain fight back and is rallying troops on all sides of the House.

“He has got much more in common with open-minded Tory MPs than he does with Corbyn anyway.” 4

Firmer evidence of Umunna’s plot finally came to light last August, when it was disclosed in the Daily Express that a dozen Labour “moderates” (for some reason they have an aversion to being labelled ‘Blairites’) were gathering for weekends together at Fair Oak Farm in Sussex at a cost of £144 per night to hatch plans to “take back control and repair the damage that has been done”:

The group would catch the 7.18pm train from Waterloo East on a Thursday evening to Stonegate before taking a seven-minute taxi ride to the luxury bed and breakfast estate Fair Oak Farm in Sussex. […]

It was claimed attendees at the events included former leadership candidate Liz Kendall, former shadow cabinet members Chuka Umunna and Chris Leslie, and other senior MPs including Gavin Shuker.

Barrow and Furness MP John Woodcock, one of the most outspoken critics of Mr Corbyn, also attended but has recently quit the party to become an independent. 5

The article is headlined in screaming capitals “CORBYN’S CURTAIN CALL: Furious MPs vow to ‘COLLAPSE’ leadership at SECRET MEETINGS”.

It continues:

A source at the meetings told the Daily Express: “We are getting together regularly to discuss how to take back control of the party.

“At some point the Corbyn leadership is going to fail and collapse, we only need to see what is happening with the anti-Semitism problem, and we need to be ready to step in, win the leadership rebuild the party as a credible force and repair the damage that has been done.”

Meetings have taken place with the group at other locations and there is a wider group of rebel MPs numbering more than 20.

The Daily Express has learnt that one proposal put forward was to wait for a Corbyn election victory and then to use the large group of moderate Labour MPs to prevent him from becoming prime minister.

Another attendee at the away days told the Express: “As things stand Labour could win the next election simply because the Tories have made such a mess over Brexit and look so incompetent.

“If that happens we will break away and either form a separate Labour Party within parliament or a new party.

“There are [Remainer] Conservative and Lib Dem MPs who are interested in joining us if we do form a new party because of Brexit.”

The MP added: “The issue would be then whether we would have time to create a proper identity before an election or if there would need to be an election soon after. In that sense it is complicated.”

All of which brings the story up to date. Efforts to topple Corbyn can be traced all the way back to his first leadership election and the weeks leading up to it. As the architect of New Labour, Peter Mandelson, admitted rather too candidly when speaking to editor of The Jewish Chronicle, Stephen Pollard, shortly after Corbyn’s second leadership victory:

“The problem with Jeremy is not that he is a sort of maniac – it’s not as though he is a nasty person. It’s that he literally has no idea in the 21st century how to conduct himself as a leader of a party putting itself forward in a democratic election to become the government of our country.” […]

“Why do you want to just walk away and pass the title deeds of this great party over to someone like Jeremy Corbyn? I don’t want to, I resent it, and I work every single day in some small way to bring forward the end of his tenure in office.

“Something, however small it may be – an email, a phone call or a meeting I convene – every day I try to do something to save the Labour party from his leadership.” 6

Click here to read the full Guardian article entitled “Peter Mandelson: I try to undermine Jeremy Corbyn ‘every single day’”.

Likewise Chuka Umunna, Chris Leslie, Gavin Shuker and the rest of yesterday’s deserters have each dedicated countless days in seeking to undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Not really over the trumped-up allegations of antisemitism – the media outcry over antisemitism inside the Labour Party was for the most part manufactured – and not because they fear that Corbyn is unfit to lead the party, as the lamentable Owen Smith parroted during his laughably inept leadership challenge, but – paraphrasing the source who spoke anonymously to the Daily Mail – because they have more in common with open-minded Tory MPs than with Corbyn anyway.

So while it is true that Corbyn’s conciliatory and democratic stance over Brexit certainly does infuriate them, this is the full limit to their honesty. And such last gasp defections at this critical moment as Britain prepares to leave the EU not only highlights the total contempt these Blairites have for the party and its membership, but for the country as a whole; their unwillingness to resign their seats and fight by-elections, a further indication of their overweening sense of entitlement.

As Novara Media senior editor Ash Sarkar told resigning Blairite, Angela Smith, on yesterday’s BBC2’s Politics Live show:

Not being Jeremy Corbyn, unfortunately, is not a manifesto in itself. People are going to be looking at things like your record on water privatisation. You are like one of the last people left in the country who still believes in it. They will look at the fact you are in the all-party water group, which is mostly paid for by the water industry. And they’ll go: ‘You know what? That stinks of corruption.’ 7

 

Click here to read an excellent piece also published by The Canary that reminds readers of the voting history of the seven defectors who are now calling themselves ‘The Independent Group’.

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Addendum: my open letter to the seven Labour Party defectors

Yesterday I individually emailed all seven of the Labour Party defectors (addressing each singly) under the subject heading “Two questions about The Independent Group” as follows:

Dear,

Firstly, after Douglas Carswell changed political allegiance in August 2014 moving from the Conservative Party to UKIP, he promptly announced his resignation as an MP, thereby necessitating a by-election. In September 2014, Mark Reckless did likewise. Given that you won your parliamentary seat on the back of Labour Party support and finance and on the pledge of honouring Labour’s election manifesto, do you intend follow the same course and observe these dignified precedents?

Secondly, according to your website: “The Independent Group of MPs is supported by Gemini A Ltd a company limited by guarantee.” This is a private company, registered with Companies House on January 16th, which Gavin Shuker controls “75% or more” of the shares. Can you make clear in what way your organisation is not a political party, or if as appears to be the case it is a new party, that it will be subject to Electoral Commission rules that ensure transparency as regards finance and donations?

Kind regards,

James Boswell

The email addresses of all MPs are publicly available but I have included a list of addesses for the seven members of The Independent Group below in the hope of encouraging others to express their opinions directly:

Chuka Umunna: chuka.umunna.mp@parliament.uk

Luciana Berger: luciana.berger.mp@parliament.uk

Ann Coffey: ann.coffey.mp@parliament.uk

Mike Gapes: mike.gapes.mp@parliament.uk

Chris Leslie: chris.leslie@parliament.uk

Angela Smith: officeofangelasmithmp@parliament.uk

Gavin Shuker: gavin.shuker.mp@parliament.uk

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An earlier letter to my constituency MP

Dear Paul Blomfield,

I have read that in the likely event that Jeremy Corbyn is again elected to serve as leader, there may be moves to encourage Labour MPs to disregard the democratic mandate of Labour members, declare independence in parliament, and seek recognition from John Bercow as the official opposition. In such circumstances, can you please assure me that you will actively repudiate any invitation of this, or any similar kind, that betrays the wishes of the members and seeks to create a further division of the party.

James Boswell

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Additional:

Back in 2016, Sharmini Peries of The Real News interviewed Leo Panitch, Professor of Political Economy at Yory University, Toronto and author of many books including The Making of Global Capitalism and The End of Parliamentary Socialism. Panitch provides very insightful analysis on the grassroots origins of “Momentum”, how its emergence helped Corbyn win the first leadership election, and how it has been traduced by both by opponents within the party and the media:

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Update: Craig Murray on the Corrupt Seven and the media response

On February 19th, former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan and whistleblower, Craig Murray, published a lengthy article from which the following is an extended excerpt. Here he is discussing the Corrupt Seven’s (as he calls them) “deeply dishonourable” decision not to stand for re-election, and why Luciana Berger’s complaints of antisemitism cannot be blamed on Corbyn:

Democracy is a strange thing. This episode has revealed that it is apparently a democratic necessity that we have another referendum on Brexit, while being a democratic necessity not to have another referendum on Scottish Independence, while the notion that the MPs, who now have abandoned the party and manifesto on which they stood, might face their electorates again, is so disregarded that none of the fawning MSM journalists are asking about it. In rejecting this option, the Corrupt Seven are managing the incredible feat of being less honorable than Tory MPs defecting to UKIP, who did have the basic decency to resign and fight again on their new prospectus.

Dick Taverne is a more directly relevant precedent, particularly as he was deselected as sitting Labour MP precisely because of his support for the EU. Taverne resigned, and fought and won his seat in a by-election in 1973, before losing it in the second 1974 election. There are also precedents for crossing the floor and not resigning and fighting under your new banner, but then there are also precedents for mugging old ladies. It is deeply dishonorable.

Luciana Berger is a one trick pony and it is worth noting that her complaints about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party date back to at least 2005, while Tony Blair was still Prime Minister. Berger had already by April 2005 spotted anti-Semitism in the National Union of Students, in the Labour Party and in her student union newspaper, those being merely the examples cited in this single Daily Telegraph article. I am extremely sorry and somewhat shocked to hear of the swamp of anti-semitism in which we were all already mired in 2005, but I do find it rather difficult to understand why the fault is therefore that of Jeremy Corbyn. And given that Tony Blair was at that time Prime Minister for eight years, I cannot understand why it is all Corbyn’s fault and responsibility now, but it was not Blair’s fault then.

On the contrary, the Telegraph puff piece states that Berger had met Blair several times and was Euan Blair’s girlfriend. This was of course before the privately educated Londoner was foisted on the unfortunate people of Liverpool Wavetree, doubtless completely unfacilitated by her relationship with Euan Blair.

The kind of abuse Berger has evidently been attracting since at least 2005 is of course a crime. Two people have quite rightly been convicted of it. Joshua Bonehill-Paine and John Nimmo sent a series of truly disgusting tweets and both were jailed. Both are committed long term neo-nazis. Yet I have repeatedly heard media references to the convictions squarely in the context of Labour Party anti-semitism. I have never heard on broadcast media it explained that neither had anything to do with the Labour Party. Like the left wing anti-semitism Berger has been reporting since at least 2005, this Nazi abuse too is all somehow Jeremy Corbyn’s fault.

It is further worth noting that in that 2005 article Berger claims a 47% increase in attacks on Jews, which is highly reminiscent of recent claims from community groups, such as the 44% increase claimed 2015 to 2017 or the 78% increase in violent crimes against Jews in the UK in 2017 alone claimed by the government of Israel.

One antisemitic attack is too many and all anti-semitism is to be deplored and rooted out. But if all these claims repeated again and again over decades of 30, 40, 50, 60 or 70% increases in attacks per year were true, then we would be now talking of at least 12,000 violent attacks on Jews per year, if we take Ms Berger’s 2005 claim as the baseline.

Yet we are not seeing that. The average number of convictions per year for violent, racially motivated attacks on Jewish people in the UK is less than one.

If we add in non-violent crimes, the number of people convicted per year for anti-semitic hate crime still remains under 20. And I am not aware of a single such conviction related in any way to the Labour Party.

Let me be perfectly plain. I want everybody convicted and imprisoned who is involved in anti-semitic hate crime. But the facts given above would cause any honest journalist to treat with more scepticism than they do, the repeated old chestnut claims of huge year on year increases in anti-semitic incidents.

There really are in logic only two choices; either anti-semitism is, contrary to all the hype, thankfully rare, or the entire British police, prosecutorial and judicial system must be systematically protecting the anti-semites. And I hardly see how they could blame Jeremy Corbyn for that.

None of this will stop the relentless promotion of the “Corbyn anti-semitism” theme, as the idea of a leader not completely behind the slow extirpation of the Palestinian people is unthinkable to the mainstream media class. The Corbyn anti-semitism meme is possibly the most remarkable example of evidence free journalism I have ever encountered.

Click here to read Craig Murray’s full post entitled “Democracy and the Corrupt Seven”.

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1 From an article entitled “Why a “True Labour” splinter party could succeed where the SDP failed” written by Bagehot, published in The Economist on August 12, 2016. http://www.economist.com/blogs/bagehot/2016/08/labour-pains

2 From an article entitled “The sound of Blairite silence: Owen Smith has become the willing dupe of the Labour right” written by Paul Mason, published by Medium.com on August 19, 2016.  https://medium.com/mosquito-ridge/the-sound-of-blairite-silence-aed2ef726c8a#.tktnlfuww

3 From an article entitled “Labour’s Chuka held secret talks with Hillary Clinton’s campaign team to advise on how to defeat ‘US Corbyn’ written by Glen Owen, published in The Mail on Sunday on October 23, 2016. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3863494/Labour-s-Chuka-held-secret-talks-Hillary-Clinton-s-campaign-team-advise-defeat-Corbyn.html

4 From an article entitled “Chuka Umunna ‘holds secret talks with Tory MPs plotting to force PM to accept soft Brexit’” written by Aletha Adu, published in the Sunday Express on June 25, 2017. https://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/821016/Chuka-Umunna-Tory-remainers-soft-Brexit-DUP-theresa-may-repeal-bill-Queens-speech

5 From an article entitled “CORBYN’S CURTAIN CALL: Furious MPs vow to ‘COLLAPSE’ leadership at SECRET MEETINGS” written by David Maddox, published in the Daily Express on August 7, 2018. https://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/999804/jeremy-corbyn-labour-leadership-coup-brexit-antisemitism

6 From an article entitled “Peter Mandelson: I try to undermine Jeremy Corbyn ‘every single day’” written by Rowena Mason and Jessica Elgot, published in the Guardian on February 21, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/feb/21/peter-mandelson-i-try-to-undermine-jeremy-corbyn-every-day

7 Quote taken from an article entitled “Ash Sarkar takes down a resigning Blairite MP so brutally, a BBC host intervenes” written by James Wright, published in The Canary on February 18, 2019. https://www.thecanary.co/trending/2019/02/18/ash-sarkar-takes-down-a-resigning-blairite-mp-so-brutally-a-bbc-host-intervenes/

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this is the EU — so take it or leave it… #5. Greece and the tyranny of Brussels

“In the euro area, the countries in the periphery have nothing at all to offset austerity. They are simply being asked to cut total spending without any form of demand to compensate. I think that is a serious problem.

“I never imagined that we would ever again in an industrialised country have a depression deeper than the United States experienced in the 1930s and that’s what’s happened in Greece.

“It is appalling and it has happened almost as a deliberate act of policy which makes it even worse”. [Bold highlight added]

— Lord Mervyn King, former Governor of the Bank of England. 1

“The Greek people have been living through hell during the last six years, and unfortunately they trusted that Tsipras [PM] would put an end to the extreme austerity measures, which are combined with a total undemocratic regime. Unfortunately, instead of putting an end, he put his signature to a third memorandum, which is even worse than the previous two…

“People are back on the streets protesting for their rights and dignity because right now they’re being asked to pay taxes which amount to almost the totality of their revenue. They’re asked to give up their homes… They’re asked to surrender public property, which is privatized at very, very low prices. And, they’re also asked to give up democracy”

— Zoe Konstantopoulou, lawyer and former Speaker of Hellenic Parliament. 2

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On 13th July [2015], the democratic elected Greek government of Alexis Tsipras was brought to its knees by the European Union. The “agreement” of 13th of July is in fact a coup d’état. It was obtained by having the European Central Bank close down the Greek banks and threaten never to allow them to open up again, until the Greek government accepted a new version of a failed program. Why? Because official Europe could not stand the idea that a people suffering from its self-defeating austerity program dared elect a government determined to say “No!”.

So begins the call for “A plan B in Europe” put together by a group of prominent European left-leaning politicians from Parti de Gauche (France), Die Linke (Germany), Red Green Alliance (Denmark), Socialist Party (SP) (Ireland), Bloco de Esquerda (Portugal), and Syriza (Greece). Top of the bill is Yanis Varoufakis (a principle author, I imagine, given some of the polemical flourishes within this signed but otherwise uncredited page-long call to action).

The piece continues:

We must learn from this financial coup. The euro has become the tool of economic and governmental dominance in Europe by a European oligarchy hiding behind the German government, delighted to see Mrs Merkel doing all the « dirty work » other governments are incapable of undertaking. This Europe only generates violence within nations and between them: mass unemployment, fierce social dumping and insults against the European Periphery that are attributed to Germany’s leadership while parroted by all the “elites”, the Periphery’s not excluded. The European Union has thus become an agent of an extreme right wing ethos and a vehicle for annulling democratic control over production and distribution throughout Europe. 3

Click here to read the full statement.

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Now let us go back nine months – back to the eve of the Greek referendum during the dog days of last summer, and just before the extraordinary ‘oxi’ vote which momentarily reverberated across our western hemisphere.

Yanis Varoufakis [3:45 mins in]: Let me tell you something which is probably unknown. Ever since we declared the referendum and we incensed our European partners we had the most interesting proposals coming from Brussels. Perhaps this referendum and the impasse it represents concentrated several minds in Brussels and we’ve had some really good proposals – proposals we would sign on the dotted line for.

Paul Mason: You have a proposal you would sign on the dotted line for?

Varoufakis: Yes, we do.

Mason: Where is it?

Varoufakis: Well, I’m not going to tell you. It’s somewhere in this building. But the crucial part of the story is that before this proposal becomes a genuine negotiating document which we can sign off on Monday, the people have to empower us with a “no”.

From the Channel 4 news interview embedded above broadcast on July 3rd 2015 that is also available here.

You can find the same clip here on Varoufakis’ blog.

Shortly thereafter [July 5th] the people of Greece, perhaps in light of Varoufakis’ advice, went to the polls and voted overwhelming in favour of rejecting the Eurogroup deal with its demands for increasing doses of “austerity” and ‘Washington Consensus’-style ‘conditionalities’ — the enforced privatisation of public services and other forms of so-called ‘deregulation’. To which the response from Brussels was to immediately double down by issuing still harsher neoliberal demands. With this, the mask of European social democracy fell away completely.

Nobel laureate economist, Paul Krugman, was one who helped to promote the hashtag #ThisIsACoup when he wrote in the New York Times:

This Eurogroup list of demands is madness. The trending hashtag #ThisIsACoup is exactly right. This goes beyond harsh into pure vindictiveness, complete destruction of national sovereignty, and no hope of relief. It is, presumably, meant to be an offer Greece can’t accept; but even so, it’s a grotesque betrayal of everything the European project was supposed to stand for.

Left Unity (which has a loose alliance with political parties Syriza and Podemos) also sent a message of support to the Greeks:

The people of Greece have resisted every threat, every piece of establishment propaganda telling them a No vote would mean ruin, and asserted their democratic rights. This will be a No heard around the world.

Now is the time to celebrate – and to step up our solidarity ahead of the Troika’s next move. Come along to what will now be a victory rally at the TUC’s Congress House, organised by Greece Solidarity Campaign.

And the Greeks had indeed empowered their government with a resounding ‘no’, but instead of fighting on, Syriza under Tsipras’ leadership swiftly capitulated in what must be one of the fastest political U-turns of all time. In response, Varoufakis resigned, refusing to criticise his friend Tsipras, and also declining an invitation to join a small breakaway faction who hoped to restore the party’s anti-austerity ticket on which Tsipras and Syriza had stood little more than six months previously.

So there is a mystery here that remains. Varoufakis, who prides himself on openness, has simply never explained what actually happened during those most momentous days in early July. Specifically, what became of that proposal from Brussels he was so keen “to sign on the dotted line”. Surely he owes the Greek people a fuller explanation.

Moreover, while Varoufakis was quick to attribute blame for the Eurogroup failures on the inflexibility of Wolfgang Schäuble and fellow German Karl Lamers, he has to a large extent absolved other key players including, most notably, President of the ECB, Mario Draghi for their part in “the coup” (his words).

I have consistently defended Varoufakis and Tsipras and been scathing of others on the left for being too hurried in passing judgement and unduly hypercritical (as many earlier posts testify). Caught up in the drama, like others hoping Syriza’s election signified the beginning of truly revolutionary reforms, I confess that I became a cheerleader for both.

With the benefit of hindsight it is clear that Syriza and Varoufakis were both tremendously guilty of an over-reliance on the efficacy of “reasonableness” (more here), because ‘reasonableness’ only ever makes headway when it engages with opposition that is principled and reasoned. Against the irrational, it is blunt, and against the unscrupulous it becomes a danger to itself. Yet Syriza and Varoufakis seem incapable of learning this simple lesson. This is what Varoufakis wrote in the abstract to his “Confessions of an Erratic Marxist” [December 2013]:

Should we use this once-in-a-century capitalist crisis as an opportunity to campaign for the dismantling of the European Union, given the latter’s enthusiastic acquiescence to the neoliberal policies and creed? Or should we accept that the Left is not ready for radical change and campaign instead for stabilising European capitalism? This paper argues that, however unappetising the latter proposition may sound in the ears of the radical thinker, it is the Left’s historical duty, at this particular juncture, to stabilise capitalism; to save European capitalism from itself and from the inane handlers of the Eurozone’s inevitable crisis. 4

Throughout the crisis, he and the party he once represented at the Eurogroup meetings have been chewed up and spat out time and again and yet his response has been to remain unruffled and reasonable in his continued fight (hardly the right word) “to save European capitalism from itself”.

Today Varoufakis leads a parallel campaign Democracy In Europe 2025 made up of lecture tours and larger academic-style conferences making speculative calls for a Plan B in Europe. Beyond the well-meaning rhetoric, the movement is entirely bereft of strategy. And my immediate question to Varoufakis is actually this: why must we wait until 2025 to bring democracy (a gift of the ancient Greeks) back to Europe? After all he knows better than most that a week in politics is an exceedingly long time – so a decade might as well be an aeon.

Here then, to redress the balance of earlier posts (at the risk of angering readers and friends alike), I present the condemnatory appraisal courtesy of political commentator James Petras, who in March 2015 (a mere two months after Syriza were elected) wrote the following:

The vast majority of Greeks, who voted for Syriza, expected some immediate relief and reforms.  They are increasingly disenchanted.  They did not expect Tsipras to appoint Yanis Varoufakis, a former economic adviser to the corrupt neo-liberal PASOK leader George Papandreou, as Finance Minister. Nor did many voters abandon PASOK, en masse, over the past five years, only to find the same kleptocrats and unscrupulous opportunists occupying top positions in Syriza, thanks to Alexis Tsipras index finger.

Nor could the electorate expect any fight, resistance and willingness to break with the Troika from Tsipras’ appointments of ex-pat Anglo-Greek professors.  These armchair leftists (‘Marxist seminarians’) neither engaged in mass struggles nor suffered the consequences of the prolonged depression.

Syriza is a party led by affluent upwardly mobile professionals, academics and intellectuals.  They rule over (but in the name of) the impoverished working and salaried lower middle class, but in the interests of the Greek, and especially, German bankers.

They prioritize membership in the EU over an independent national economic policy.  They abide by NATO, by backing the Kiev junta in the Ukraine, EU sanctions on Russia, NATO intervention in Syria/Iraq and maintain a loud silence on US military threats to Venezuela! 5

[bold highlight added]

Click here to read the full article by James Petras.

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By latest estimates total Greek debt is 384 billion euros, or US$440 billion. That’s approaching nearly twice the size of Greece’s annual GDP.  A decade ago, in 2007-08 before the global crash, Greek debt was roughly half of what it is today, in terms of both total debt and as a percent of GDP.  Greek debt was actually less than a number of Eurozone economies.  So Greece’s debt has been primarily caused by the 2008-09 crash, Greece’s six year long economic depression [that] followed, the extreme austerity measures imposed on it by the Troika during this period which has been the primary cause of its long depression, and the Troika’s piling of debt on Greece to repay previously owed debt.

Contrary to European media spin, it’s not been rising Greek wages or excessive government spending that has caused the US$440 billion in Greek debt. Since 2009 Greek annual wages have fallen from 23,580 to less than 18,000 euros. Government spending has fallen from 118 billion euros to 82 billion.

writes Jack Rasmus in an extremely detailed overview of the state of the Greek crisis in light of the recent parliamentary vote (passed by a narrow margin of 153 to 145) to implement the latest demands of “the Troika” in order to ensure another tranche of unpayable loans. “Bailouts” that, as Rasmus explains at length, are then returned directly to the creditors:

As a recent in depth study by the European School of Management and Technology, ‘Where Did the Greek Bailout Money Go?, revealed in impeccably researched detail, Greek debt payments  ultimately go to Euro bankers. For example, of the 216 billion euros, or US$248 billion, in loans provided to Greece by the Troika in just the first two debt deals of May 2010 and March 2012, 64 percent (139 billion euros) was interest paid to banks on existing debt; 17 percent (37 billion euros) to Greek banks (to replace money being taken out by wealthy Greeks and businesses and sent to northern Europe banks), and 14 percent (29 billion euros) to pay off hedge funds and private bankers in the 2012 deal. Per the study, less than 5 percent of the 216 billion euros went to Greece to spend on its own economy. As the study’s authors concluded, “ the vast majority (more than 95 percent) went to existing creditors in the form of debt repayments and interest payments”.  And that’s just the 2010 and 2012 Troika deals. Last August’s third deal is no doubt adding more to the totals. 6

[bold highlight added]

Click here to read Jack Rasmus’ full article published in Counterpunch.

The cycles of debt-repayment might literally be never-ending, because Greece will never be able to fully repay all of its (odious) debts. It is a situation compounded because Greece’s already floundering economy is completely suffocated by the Troika’s imposed “austerity” regime.

But this disastrous situation is no accident. The trap in which Greece finds itself satisfies two neo-liberal objectives. Firstly, Greece becomes so impoverished that it is forced to sell state assets at rock-bottom prices. Secondly, the sustained wealth transfer from the pockets of the ordinary Greeks into the hands of the bankers helps to prop up a failed financial system.

Setting the bizarre academic justifications aside, and overlooking the deeper reasons Greece became so indebted in the first place, what we see is how the Troika – two thirds of which is the EU – has put the sanctity of debt repayment far above the sanctity of human well-being. So whenever Greece comes up gasping for air, the IMF and the EU repeatedly pushes it back under again:

The media persists in calling the looting of Greece a “bailout.”

To call the looting of a country and its people a “bailout” is Orwellian. The brainwashing is so successful that even the media and politicians of looted Greece call the financial imperialism that Greece is suffering a “bailout.”

writes former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and former Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal, Paul Craig Roberts in a recent article entitled “We Have Entered The Looting Stage of Capitalism”. In the piece, Roberts explains the EU’s role and the IMF’s apparent policy shift as follows:

Having successfully used the EU to conquer the Greek people by turning the Greek “leftwing” government into a pawn of Germany’s banks, Germany now finds the IMF in the way of its plan to loot Greece into oblivion.

The IMF’s rules prevent the organization from lending to countries that cannot repay the loan. The IMF has concluded on the basis of facts and analysis that Greece cannot repay. Therefore, the IMF is unwilling to lend Greece the money with which to repay the private banks.

The IMF says that Greece’s creditors, many of whom are not creditors but simply bought up Greek debt at a cheap price in hopes of profiting, must write off some of the Greek debt in order to lower the debt to an amount that the Greek economy can service.

The banks don’t want Greece to be able to service its debt, because the banks intend to use Greece’s inability to service the debt in order to loot Greece of its assets and resources and in order to roll back the social safety net put in place during the 20th century. […]

The way Germany sees it, the IMF is supposed to lend Greece the money with which to repay the private German banks. Then the IMF is to be repaid by forcing Greece to reduce or abolish old age pensions, reduce public services and employment, and use the revenues saved to repay the IMF.

As these amounts will be insufficient, additional austerity measures are imposed that require Greece to sell its national assets, such as public water companies and ports and protected Greek islands to foreign investors, principally the banks themselves or their major clients. […]

In other words, Greece is being destroyed by the EU that it so foolishly joined and trusted. The same thing is happening to Portugal and is also underway in Spain and Italy. The looting has already devoured Ireland and Latvia (and a number of Latin American countries) and is underway in Ukraine.

The current newspaper headlines reporting an agreement being reached between the IMF and Germany about writing down the Greek debt to a level that could be serviced are false. No “creditor” has yet agreed to write off one cent of the debt. All that the IMF has been given by so-called “creditors” is unspecific “pledges” of an unspecified amount of debt writedown two years from now.

The newspaper headlines are nothing but fluff that provide cover for the IMF to succumb to pressure and violate its own rules. The cover lets the IMF say that a (future unspecified) debt writedown will enable Greece to service the remainder of its debt and, therefore, the IMF can lend Greece the money to pay the private banks. […]

We have entered the looting stage of capitalism. Desolation will be the result. 7

Click here to read Paul Craig Roberts’ full article.

The overarching agenda of the EU – a plan rarely mentioned above a murmur – is to fuse its member nations under unelected technocratic governance for the benefit of a few corporations and the oligarchs who own them. So the notion that sticking by the EU is some sense an act of European solidarity is extremely misguided. Having already sold many of its people down the river, however, we are rapidly approaching a critical and perilous moment.

The far-right is now on the rise in many parts of Europe – Greece being an example, although thankfully Golden Dawn remains very much a minority party. And this swing towards ring-wing extremism is a direct consequence of the EU’s savage economic policies combined with its abject failure to save refugees and resolve the so-called “migrant crisis” (more in a later piece). As this alarming political shift occurs, the EU does next to nothing to address it. No debt relief for Greece or the other struggling member states. No let up on enforced “austerity” or privatisation. Neo-liberalism to the bitter end. But then, after Greece was collectively punished for the insolence of its ‘oxi’ vote last summer, only the most dewy-eyed believers can remain in serious doubt of the EU’s callous indifference towards the plight of its poorest citizens.

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1 Quote taken from “Euro depression is ‘deliberate’ EU choice, says former Bank of England chief” written by Mehreen Khan, published in The Telegraph on March 1, 2016. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2016/03/01/europes-depression-is-deliberate-eu-choice-says-former-bank-of-e/ 

2 Quote taken from an article entitled “The Ugly Truth Behind the Greek Bailout” written by Robert Hunziker, published by Counterpunch on May 10, 2016. http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/05/10/the-ugly-truth-behind-the-greek-bailout/ 

3 From a statement entitled “A plan B in Europe” from Plan B for Europe. https://www.euro-planb.eu/?page_id=96&lang=en. The statement continues:

It is a dangerous lie to assert that the euro and the EU serve Europeans and shield them from crisis. It is an illusion to believe that Europe’s interests can be protected within the iron cage of the Eurozone’s governance “rules” and within the current Treaties. President Hollande’s and Prime Minister Renzi’s method of behaving like a “model student”, or in fact a “model prisoner”, is a form of surrender that will not even result in clemency. The President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, said it clearly: « there can be no democratic choice against the European treaties ». This is the neoliberal adaptation of the « limited sovereignty » doctrine invented by the Soviet leader Brezhnev in 1968. Then, the Soviets crushed the Prague Spring with their tanks. This summer, the EU crushed the Athens Spring with its banks.

We are determined to break with this “Europe”. It is the basic condition needed to rebuild cooperation between our peoples and our countries on a new basis. How can we enact policies of redistribution of wealth and of creation of decent jobs, especially for the young, ecological transition and the rebuilding of democracy within the constraints of this EU? We have to escape the inanity and inhumanity of the current European Treaties and remould them in order to shed the straightjacket of neoliberalism, to repeal the Fiscal Compact, and to oppose the TTIP.

We live in extraordinary times. We are facing an emergency. Member-states need to have policy space that allows their democracies to breathe and to put forward sensible policies at the member-state’s level, free of fear of a clamp down from an authoritarian Eurogroup dominated by the interests of the strongest among them and of big business, or from an ECB that is used as a steamroller that threatens to flatten an “uncooperative country”, as it happened with Cyprus or Greece.

4 From “Confessions of an Erratic Marxist in the Midst of a Repugnant European Crisis” written by Yanis Varoufakis, published on December 10, 2013. http://yanisvaroufakis.eu/2013/12/10/confessions-of-an-erratic-marxist-in-the-midst-of-a-repugnant-european-crisis/ 

5 From an article entitled “Lies and Deceptions on the Left: The Politics of Self Destruction” written by James Petras, published by Global Research on March 22, 2015. http://www.globalresearch.ca/lies-and-deceptions-on-the-left-the-politics-of-self-destruction/5438105

6 From an article entitled “Greek Debt Negotiations: Will the IMF Exit the Troika?” written by Jack Rasmus, published in Counterpunch on May 26, 2016. http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/05/26/greek-debt-negotiations-will-the-imf-exit-the-troika/ 

7 From an article entitled “We Have Entered The Looting Stage Of Capitalism” written by Paul Craig Roberts, published on May 25, 2016. http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2016/05/25/we-have-entered-the-looting-stage-of-capitalism-paul-craig-roberts/ 

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Filed under analysis & opinion, austerity measures, Germany, Greece, neo-liberalism

this is the EU – so take it or leave it… #1. a leftist case for Brexit

The question of Brexit contains many interrelated issues that are both complex and far-reaching. I have therefore decided to present a sequence of shorter articles tackling specific topics. This one is a general plea to wavering leftists…

Four weeks today on June 23rd, Britain goes to the polls to decide on whether our collective future lies inside or outside the European Union. Whatever the outcome, our decision will very likely reshape the political landscape, not only inside Britain but also beyond our borders, for decades to come.

I have been trying to construct a short article outlining my own position favouring Brexit for many weeks now. But shortly after I begin, the doubts set in. Not doubts about leaving the EU, but doubts about how best to broach a frank and honest leftist argument in its favour?

At the heart of this difficulty is the nature of the debate itself. A debate – and I use the term loosely – that is necessarily being held at breakneck pace due to Cameron’s call for such a snap referendum and one wholly dominated by the most loudmouthed opinions of his Conservative Party…

In the blue corner “call me Dave” Cameron and in the other blue corner “The Boris” Johnson. Two of Bullingdon’s finest slugging it out for king, country and globalisation. It’s a spat that is about as phoney as any WWE wrestling bout and (for me at least) an even bigger turn-off.

So let’s be clear, neither Cameron, well-remembered for reneging on his “cast iron” Lisbon Treaty referendum pledge back in 2006 1, nor Johnson, who always hedges his bets on Europe, are fighting for what they believe in. They are not men of actual conviction, but political opportunists, and I am very far from alone in believing that Johnson’s lead role in the ‘Leave’ campaign was always part of a “choreographed game” stage-managed by Downing Street 2 (so desperate to maintain a modicum of cohesion within the warring Tory party ranks but also determined to win the vote).

Yet rather than forcing our politicians to face up to a fuller debate, the media mostly lends its considerable powers to keeping it shut down. Deflecting public attention away from the important issues and persuading us instead to fixate on the latest posturing of each side’s leading personalities as well as the nonsense they are endlessly spouting. And since there are deeply divisive and unpleasant characters talking rubbish on both sides, I strongly advise the undecided to ignore all the grimacing and the cacophony of half-truths, outright lies and utterly risible innuendo – al-Baghdadi cares not one jot about your vote and neither does Vladimir Putin!

Which brings me to the next difficulty faced by all left-leaning proponents of Brexit, and this involves recognising and surmounting a peculiar, since unfamiliar, sense of shame. The shame one feels at letting the side down. That we are apparently cheering on the nationalist cause when we ought instead, by rights, to adhere to a more internationalist stance. We even hear the ugly accusation raised against advocates of Brexit that, presumably by virtue of sharing this single opinion with holders of entirely obnoxious political outlooks, we may likewise be adopting an inherently a racist position. Which is another desperate slur intended to suck the air out of any serious debate over the essential and quite legitimate questions about independence and sovereignty.

That said, there is also a genuine concern that needs addressing, although in order to grapple with it sincerely we must first issue a full admission of guilt. So here it is: the left has been duped. It became hooked on a pipedream after mistaking the European project for an antidote to Thatcherism. Having been, for many years, a staunch advocate of “Europe” (the project not the geographical region), regrettably I was one of the many who were duped.

For whereas true internationalism – the internationalism of the old left – is predicated on an political ideal of extending democratic freedom throughout all nations of the world, the EU was deliberately constructed to function as a constraint against those democracies. And it is baloney to claim (as many do) that the EU “pools” our sovereignties, when in truth it erodes them down to nothing. This is the raison d’être of globalism as opposed to internationalism.

“The leftwing case for Brexit is strategic and clear,” writes Paul Mason in a Guardian opinion piece published Monday 16th, adding:

The EU is not – and cannot become – a democracy. Instead, it provides the most hospitable ecosystem in the developed world for rentier monopoly corporations, tax-dodging elites and organised crime.

Mason, the former Economics Editor for BBC’s Newsnight and Channel 4 news, who more recently resigned to become an independent voice, continues:

Its central bank is committed, by treaty, to favour deflation and stagnation over growth. State aid to stricken industries is prohibited. The austerity we deride in Britain as a political choice is, in fact, written into the EU treaty as a non-negotiable obligation. So are the economic principles of the Thatcher era. A Corbyn-led Labour government would have to implement its manifesto in defiance of EU law. 3

I have strongly criticised Paul Mason for fence-sitting on related issues in an earlier article, but here, in three tightly constructed paragraphs, he makes the most succinct and, as he says, “principled leftwing case for Brexit” I have yet to read. And yet, and yet… Mason then swivels on a sixpence to reverse his position, saying:

Now here’s the practical reason to ignore it. In two words: Boris Johnson.

Overall Mason’s article is an impressive one and I very much encourage everyone to read it in full. Like Mason, I too am deeply concerned that a person as slippery as Boris Johnson might soon hold the reins of power in Westminster, but then Johnson has been lined up for succession long before Cameron felt so electorally cornered by UKIP that he bought victory in the General Election at the cost of this unwanted (from his position) EU referendum.

As a self-confessed pro-Brexit leftist, Mason’s broader concern is that leaving the EU now may inadvertently supply ammunition to our enemies. This is a valid point and one that Mason rightly raises, however, I find little reason to dwell on it. Do we cut off our nose to spite our face? Or, more specifically, to dent the prospects of a clownish would-be Tory leader, who seems in any case to be Teflon-coated – and frankly is Johnson actually any more dangerous than Cameron and their other Bullingdon buddy Osborne – a leadership rival – who together head ‘Remain’?.

Interestingly, when Mason concludes his piece saying “the political conditions for a left Brexit are absent today”, he has already somewhat undermined that position in the preceding paragraph:

The EU’s economic failure is fuelling racism and the ultra right. Boris Johnson’s comparison of the EU with the Third Reich was facile. The more accurate comparison is with the Weimar Republic: a flawed democracy whose failures fuelled the rise of fascism. And this swing to the far right prompts the more basic dilemma: do I even want to be part of the same electorate as millions of closet Nazis in mainland Europe?

It is as if he cannot keep a lid on his own frustration – anti-EU passions that he had even greater difficulty holding in check during last week’s [Thurs 21st] appearance on BBC Question Time:

Click here to read Paul Mason’s full article

The trouble is that the left have been caught on the hop. As the EU dropped its liberal veil, a great many of its supporters hesitated and keep a respectful silence. This failure to react opened the way for right-wing forces to gain much of the ground the liberal left once occupied. Two years ago, back in May 2014, I posted an article entitled “the rise of UKIP calls for new strategies from the left”. Unfortunately, such new strategies are still to be properly delineated by the mainstream left, which makes the need more urgent than ever before

It is unlikely that we will have another opportunity to vote on our EU membership in the foreseeable future (and given that the EU appears bent upon its own destruction perhaps we may never get one) and so rather than leaving it to the paleoconservatives and ultra-right to campaign for Brexit, isn’t the better strategy to refrain from playing politics, and stand firm for what we actually believe? If we find ourselves disenfranchised and alienated by the Eurocrats in Brussels then we should speak up and boost the left campaign for Brexit (as Corbyn almost certainly would too, if he hadn’t been muzzled by the PLP 4). If enough of us do, we will steal the thunder of our enemy.

Traditionally, the left in Britain – the democratic socialists and not the social democrat usurpers of “The Third Way” – have consistently and solidly opposed the EU’s monolithic and anti-democratic institutions and their bureaucratic takeover of our society. So what has changed?

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Additional: a background on Brexit

When the UK first joined ‘Europe’ in January 1973, the decision had been a purely executive one; the agreement signed behind our backs by the Conservative government of Edward Heath. But then the European Economic Community or EEC (as the organisation was originally known) was merely a burgeoning association of trading nations, and usually known more simply as the “Common Market”. So this was not a change affecting our rights or our constitution, certainly not to begin with, but apparently little more than an expanded free trade zone – and after all, the UK were already founder members of the European Free Trade Association or EFTA, along with Austria, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, and Switzerland. The United Kingdom along with Denmark only ceased to be EFTA members when both then joined the EEC in 1973.

In these early days of EEC membership, the British public was just as divided on the issue as they are today, and, for the most part, this division in opinion fell along the traditional political fault-line of left against right. Back in the 1970s, however, it was socialists and trades unionists who, concerned by the top-down rule of bureaucrats in Brussels, were the most outspoken opponents. It was then much harder to find opposition within the rank and file of either Conservatives or Liberals (the Liberals being the only party to remain consistently “pro-European”).

A few years on, and with the 1975 referendum, the British electorate were at last given the chance to formally express their support or otherwise for the European project. Not to vote on whether or not to join, of course, since by then it was already a done deal, but on whether or not the UK should leave. So a loaded question obviously, and one further biased due to emphasis on the purportedly grave economic risks of an exit. Thus, with the deck fully stacked in favour of EEC membership, the nation went out to vote, and hardly surprisingly chose to stay put. 67% voting in favour, out of a 65% turnout.

But then something strange happened. Gradually, and throughout the following decade, the political poles were shifted around. The left becoming increasingly comfortable with the idea of forming greater ties with our European partners, whilst the conservative right have grown ever more concerned and disaffected. The reason for these shifts actually aren’t hard to understand at all.

Thatcher loathed Europe, although what she really despised was the worker rights and other guarantees of social justice being snuck in through Europe’s backdoor. As a consequence, her almost rabid hostility towards European federalism (federalism being the big new F-word of the 1980s) being almost sufficient in itself to bring many on the left on board when it came to recognising the virtues of the fledgling union. Surely if this was the only route to achieving social justice then it was better to have more of it. Yet even so, a few on the left held on to their previous mistrust of Brussels. Tony Benn offers perhaps the best example, having remained unflinching in his objection to Europe’s inherent lack of democratic process. And here it is worth remembering that the “No” campaign of the ’75 referendum had been backed not only by Benn by other significant members on the left wing of the Labour Party, including cabinet ministers Michael Foot, Peter Shore and Barbara Castle.

More recently, the EU (which was formally established to replace the EEC after the signing of the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, and again without any national referendum in Britain) has revealed how the organisation’s fundamentally neo-liberal credentials never went away. Barely disguising its own shameful part in the agonies of “austerity” now being foisted on Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Italy, with these measures insisted upon by “the Troika” of which two of its three parts are the EU itself. These actions serve to highlight what many progressives have failed to understand (and for many years, myself included), which is that the EU was never intended as a socialist project at all, or even an inherently ‘liberal’ one. Rather, and primarily, it has been a vehicle for concentrating power to the advantage of an already powerful financial and corporate elite. Which is why some on the left have remained just as strongly opposed to the EU as many on the right.

The following is NOT taken from UKIP’s manifesto:

Membership of the European Community/Union has contributed substantially to the unprecedented decline of industries in Britain, mass long-term unemployment and inability to trade on the world market. Besides huge contributions to the EU budget we have to purchase high priced food, thanks to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Because of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) we no longer have control over the fishing grounds around Britain with consequent loss of most of the fishing industry and fish stocks and pollution of the sea. Membership of the EU has entailed a switch away from taxing income and profit to consumption through the imposition of VAT. The burden of these costs and taxation is mainly carried by ordinary people especially those with low incomes or the unemployed.

The Treaty on European Union, Euro-federalism and EU Constitution will guarantee further decline as a result of which Britain will become an offshore area of a supranational state. The aim of European Union to be consolidated through the EU Constitution is to have its own military forces and be ruled in secret by unelected governors of an unaccountable European Central Bank, an appointed Commission and committees such as the European Council. These bodies consist of a majority of representatives of member states not answerable to our Government, Parliament or electorate and would be taking decisions which may not be in the interests of Britain.

Rather, it is taken from the “Statement of Aims” of a lesser know left-wing organisation called the Campaign Against Euro-federalism or CAEF. A statement that continues as follows:

Corporatism and fascism are also menaces which emanate from the drive to a European Union. Racism has been encouraged by the Schengen agreement which is now part of EU law with parallel legislation on immigration and asylum in Britain.

Yes, not everyone who opposes the EU is automatically against international cooperation. Nor is everyone who opposes the open border Schengen Agreement a rabid nationalist.

In any case, internationalism, as CAEF correctly point out, is quite different to European federalism. Internationalism involves the strengthening ties between sovereign nations, rather than the more aggressive dissolving away of borders between them. And European federalism further undermines the independence of the people of those nations (its member states) by passing executive powers that were held by democratically elected governments into the technocratic hands of an appointed commission. The EU – as it exists, rather than how we might like it to be – is better understood, not as a grand project for furthering international cooperation, but as one of the vital organs of a fully globalised world.

CAEF write:

Internationalism means the right to self determination and national democracy for all nations and nation states of the world which includes close relations with our friends in EU states and co-operating with peoples in all countries of the world.

And hear, hear to that!

The passage above is reprinted from an article posted in May 2014 entitled “the rise of UKIP calls for new strategies from the left”

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1

In an article for the Sun on 26 September 2007, Cameron wrote: “Today, I will give this cast-iron guarantee: If I become PM a Conservative government will hold a referendum on any EU treaty that emerges from these negotiations. No treaty should be ratified without consulting the British people in a referendum.” […]

Barry Legg, co-chair of the Eurosceptic Bruges Group, said: “David Cameron needs to come clean with the British people: why is he breaking his pledge to hold a referendum on the Lisbon treaty?”Lord Mandelson, the business secretary, told Sky News: “It looks as if that cast-iron guarantee has become very rusty indeed. I don’t think he’s being entirely honest with the British people.”

From an article entitled “David Cameron to shed ‘cast iron’ pledge on Lisbon Treaty” written by Nicholas Watt and Patrick Wintour, published in the Guardian on November 3, 2009. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/nov/03/david-cameron-lisbon-treaty-referendum

2

Many of Mr Johnson’s closest allies are shocked that he made the decision to campaign for out.

One close political ally as recently as Wednesday said he believed speculation over Mr Johnson backing “Leave” was a “choreographed game” managed by Downing Street.

Although a committed Eurosceptic since working as Brussels correspondent for this newspaper in his twenties, Mr Johnson has always been known among friends as a Europhile and internationalist.

From an article entitled “How Boris Johnson came down on the side of a Brexit” written by Peter Dominiczak, published in The Telegraph on February 21, 2016. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/boris-johnson/12167603/How-Boris-Johnson-came-down-on-the-side-of-a-Brexit.html

3 From an article entitled “The leftwing case for Brexit (one day)” written by Paul Mason, published in the Guardian on May 16, 2016. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/may/16/brexit-eu-referendum-boris-johnson-greece-tory

4

During the Labour leadership campaign, Corbn said he was ready to join an ‘Out’ campaign if David Cameron trades away workers’ rights, environmental protection and fails to crack down on Brussels-backed tax havens.

Late on Sunday evening Corbyn began assembling his shadow cabinet. The key position of shadow chancellor has been handed to his close ally John McDonnell. Benn was reappointed to the shadow foreign secretary job.

Several senior figures who served under Ed Miliband have either refused to join the team or have not been offered positions. In his resignation letter, Umunna said he would find it “difficult to abide by the collective responsibility that comes with serving in the shadow cabinet”.

He said: “That is why Jeremy and I have agreed I can more effectively support his leadership from the backbenches. In particular, it is my view that we should support the UK remaining a member of the EU, notwithstanding the outcome of any renegotiation by the Prime Minister, and I cannot envisage any circumstances where I would be campaigning alongside those who would argue for us to leave – Jeremy has made it clear to me that he does not wholeheartedly share this view.”

Emma Reynolds, who served Miliband as shadow Europe minister and shadow housing minister, also quit the frontbench citing concern about Corbyn’s position on the EU.

From an article entitled “Jeremy Corbyn Will Campaign To Stay In The EU, Insists Hilary Benn”, written by Ned Simons, published in The Huffington Post UK on September 14, 2015. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/09/14/jeremy-corbyn-will-campaign-to-stay-in-the-eu-insists-hilary-benn_n_8132078.html

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Paul Mason speaks for many on the liberal left, unfortunately…

In a ‘one size fits all’ paroxysm of despair, former BBC business editor and current odd job man at Channel 4 news, Paul Mason writes in Monday’s [Jan 11th] Guardian:

It is impossible to view this global rise of rage, ethnic conflict, victimisation and the curtailment of democratic norms with anything other than alarm. In particular, because it is happening on the cusp of a second global economic downturn. The collapse of growth in those middle-income countries dependent on commodities, combined with mass unemployment in southern Europe and the stagnation of China, may not produce another catastrophic financial event. But it does not need to. The route to a different kind of catastrophe is all too clear, as countries resort to trade embargoes, currency war and overt manipulation of the oil supply as geopolitical tools. The result is likely to be the deglobalisation of the world; the political destabilisation of the emerging economies; more floods of refugees from conflict zones the west cannot be bothered to engage with. 1

I don’t disagree. Not in spirit, at least. But I have trouble with Mason’s worries about ‘deglobalisation’, as if globalisation has been some kind of panacea. Moreover, I have tremendous difficulty swallowing the hook at the end of his line: his forecast that “the deglobalisation of the world” may result in “more floods of refugees from conflict zones the west cannot be bothered to engage with”. The highlight is mine. For such outrageous fairytales deserve to be put up in lights – has Paul Mason been asleep for the last decade or did he simply bang his head on something hard before putting pen to paper?

Back in the land of reality, the RAF had just deployed Hellfire and Brimstone missiles in Syria reportedly to target an oilfield. 2 While in Mosul, the US was dropping two enormous 2,000-pound bombs to destroy a bank because it was allegedly holding “millions” in terrorist funds:

Papers and burnt furniture littered the concrete and steel rubble of several buildings that appeared to have been destroyed by the bombing, the video showed. Debris hung from dust-covered tree limbs, and rescuers pulled an old man’s bloodied body from the remains.

Footage from inside a damaged apartment building suggested civilian areas had also been hit. 3

Perhaps the dropping of the bombs deliberately into the middle of a densely populated urban centre to burn a few banknotes is not an ‘engagement’? Indeed, back in the land of fairytales, we are led to believe that by virtue of meticulous planning by the Pentagon, civilian casualties were minimised. Of course they were: our bombs are good bombs, and the bigger they get the more surgical they become, only ever killing the innocent by accident. In any case, the damage to the terrorist’s collateral was more than worth a bit of minor “collateral damage”.

Then we have Yemen:

Only six of our British military chaps, it seems, are helping the Sunni Saudis kill Shia Yemenis. And they’re not actually in Yemen, merely helping to choose the targets – which have so far included hospitals, markets, a wedding party and a site opposite the Iranian embassy. Not that our boys and girls selected those particular “terrorist” nests for destruction, you understand. They’re just helping their Saudi mates – in the words of our Ministry of Defence – “comply to the rules of war”.

Saudi “rules”, of course, are not necessarily the same as “our” rules – although our drone-executions of UK citizens leave a lot of elbow-room for our British warriors in Riyadh. But I couldn’t help chuckling when I read the condemnation of David Mephan [sic], the Human Rights Watch director. Yes, he told us that the Saudis “are committing multiple violations of the laws of war in Yemen”, and that the British “are working hand in glove with the Saudis, helping them, enhancing their capacity to prosecute this war that has led to the death of so many civilians”. Spot on. But then he added that he thought all this “deeply regrettable and unacceptable”.

“Regrettable” and “unacceptable” represent the double standards we employ when our wealthy Saudi friends put their hands to bloody work. To find something “regrettable” means it causes us sadness. It disappoints us. The implication is that the good old Saudis have let us down, fallen from their previously high moral principles. 4

Click here to read the full article by Robert Fisk.

Leaving aside the US, Britain and Nato, no nation (and certainly no family) engages more vigorously in the “conflict zones” than our best friends the Saudis. But then, of course, our despots are good despots, in part because, the richer they get, the more  of our armaments they procure.

Paul Mason says:

“Our best shot at avoiding chaos comes from reinvigorating the institutions whose neglect lie at the root of the situation: the UN, the International Criminal Court, the Geneva conventions and national democracies encroached upon by arbitrary power and hereditary elites. And principles – such as privacy, the rule of law, restraint and proportionality.”

Which is a fine sentiment, if upside-side. Since before any of these institutions can be “reinvigorated” (I would say ‘rescued’ – if this is even possible), we must tackle the root cause: how to rollback the ‘encroachment’, as Mason meekly describes it, of “arbitrary power and hereditary elites”? Because international bodies like the World Bank, IMF, WTO and our own ECB and EU Commission became vampiric long ago and it is unwise to attempt merely to resuscitate any of them.

And the reality we face is a product of globalisation – that unholy alliance of western governments, transnational corporations and the largest NGOs – and by no means a consequence of its overly exaggerated decline. It is why, for instance, the head of a major human rights organisation, David Mepham, and others like him, only feign impartiality. They all pee in the same pot.

Mason rightly alerts us to the quickening rise of fascism, but he sees it only in its most grotesque displays: the foul-mouthed demagoguery of Donald Trump, the neo-Nazi rallies of Pegida in the homeland of Hitler, and the murderous folly of Erdoğan in his rush to establish a new Ottoman Empire. But this spectre of fascism has been with us ever since 9/11, and its stench is only a more concentrated fug of globalisation: that ‘open conspiracy’ to merger all state and corporate interests – the vision is Mussolini’s.

Our democracies are no longer ‘encroached’ upon by “arbitrary powers” but captured and held hostage to them. In fact, other than in name, our nations have ceased to function as democracies. We live instead under plutocratic governance.

It is this process we must seek to reverse. And we might begin perhaps by calling the criminals out by name. Certainly, we must end any ridiculous pretence that the Middle East somehow caught fire by accident.

Bush and Blair were the chief arsonists in Iraq and Afghanistan; Obama and Cameron then stoked the flames, sent drones to Pakistan and Yemen and – with Saudi help – set Libya and Syria ablaze. They did it for no other reason than to promote the special interests of the plutocrats. Surely no-one in their right mind would put any of these arsonists in charge of extinguishing their own fires. Just as no-one in their right mind truly believes the situation has worsened due to any lack of western “engagement”. There has been no end whatsoever to US, British and Nato “engagement” and there remains no end in sight – that’s the problem. Refusing to acknowledge this is another failure of too many on the liberal left.

Mason ends by saying:

Even as I write that, I realise how meagre these forces have become when ranged against the emotive power of revenge, hatred, racism, and the public celebration of ignorance and irrationality. But they are all we have.

So I ask him this: from whence did it come, this seething cauldron of “hatred, racism, and the public celebration of ignorance and irrationality”? He knows the answer, of course – the media he works for has been stirring it all along. So here’s another thing we urgently need to reverse. I wonder if Paul Mason is prepared to face up to the task.

Click here to read the full article by Paul Mason.

1 From an article entitled “As Mein Kampf returns to Germany, the world is again awash with hatred”, written by Paul Mason, published in the Guardian on January 11, 2016. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jan/11/mein-kampf-returns-to-germany-world-awash-with-hatred

2 http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jan/11/raf-conducts-four-airstrikes-on-isis-in-syria

3 From an article entitled “ISIS video shows destruction from U.S. airstrike on Mosul bank” published by Reuters on January 12, 2016. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-usa-cash-idUSKCN0UQ13V20160112

4 From an article entitled “The Saudi Rules” written by Robert Fisk, published in Counterpunch on January 12, 2016. http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/01/12/the-saudi-rules/

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