Saving Syria’s Children: How the BBC are embedding their journalists with Jihadist groups in Syria

By Daniel Margrain

For many years I have been following Robert Stuart’s exhaustive and detailed exposition of the BBC Panorama documentary Saving Syria’s Children that highlighted the aftermath of an alleged incendiary bomb attack on the playground of the Urm al-Kubra school near Aleppo in Syria.

The BBC team comprising reporter, Ian Pannell and cameraman, Darren Conway (who coincidentally were inside Syria when the alleged attack happened), reported on, and filmed, the incoming casualties arriving at the Atareb hospital on 26 August 2013. The footage formed the basis of the documentary.


Stuart contends that the filmed sequences were largely, if not entirely, staged. Scenes from the documentary were shown as part of a brief BBC News at Ten broadcast report by Pannell and Conway which contained harrowing scenes of teenage boys and young men, their skin apparently in tatters, racing into what the report describes as “a basic hospital funded by handouts” to be treated for burns.

In one particularly disturbing scene a tableau of young men writhe, drool and groan, seemingly in great distress. What is particularly striking about the scene, are the actions of the central figure, Mohammed Asi, who looks directly into the camera for several moments before raising his arm, at which point the group around him instantly became animated before moaning in unison.

Other anomalies include:

  • Conflicting and contradictory claims.
  • A “victim” who appeared to be grinning.
  • Implausible demeanours of alleged victims.
  • Questionable authenticity of the alleged burns to victims by experienced doctors.
  • Apparent choreographed behaviour.
  • Unconvincing injuries.
  • Testimonies that challenge the BBC version of events.

All of the anomalies and contradictions highlighted call into question the authenticity of the entire alleged attack.

Doctors & weapons

Saving Syria’s Children also referenced to two British female doctors, Rola Hallam a ‘volunteer’ executive for the ‘charity’ Hand-in-Hand-for Syria (recently rebranded as Hand in Hand for Aid and Development) and (former?) BBC TV presenter, Saleyha Ahsan, an ex-captain in the British Army Medical Corps. The former’s father, Dr Mousa al-Kurdi, is a senior Syrian opposition member.

Atareb Hospital’s self-proclaimed, Medical Director, Abdulrahman Obied, was filmed alongside Dr Rola Hallam. In a blog article, Stuart showed that Abdulrahman’s younger brother, Iessa Obied, posted on Facebook numerous images of himself posing with an array of weapons.

All of this information was hidden from the public by the BBC.

Safe passage

More recently, Stuart has alleged, convincingly, that BBC licence fee money was used to ensure the safe passage of Pannell and Conway and that the film-makers were given protection by the ISIS-affiliated Salafist terror group, Ahrar al-Sham.

According to Stuart:

“The award-winning team of reporter Ian Pannell and cameraman Darren Conway OBE were embedded with jihadi group Ahrar al-Sham which, according to Human Rights Watch, had three weeks earlier worked alongside Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra as one of the key fundraisers, organizers, planners, and executors of an attack in which at least 190 civilians were killed and over 200 were kidnapped.”

Furthermore, in the midst of the crisis, Stuart produced evidence that “Conway filmed, at close quarters, an ambulance plainly bearing the ISIS logo, along with its militarily attired and armed occupants.”


This prompted Stuart to report  Pannell and Conway’s flagrant abuse of their positions as professional BBC journalists to the National Counter Terrorism Security Office on the grounds that:

“the named individuals apparently established a business relationship with members of a jihadi group with links to al-Qaeda and ISIS in Syria in August 2013.”

In a January 2018 blog piece, Stuart mooted the possibility of a connection between the alleged incendiary attack and the then incipient White Helmets. The researcher confirmed the veracity of this assertion in a follow-up article where he demonstrated that senior White Helmets members were present at Atareb Hospital on this date.

Stuart outlined the above issues to his constituency MP, Shadow Defense Secretary, Emily Thornberry, and opposition leader, Jeremy Corbyn but neither have addressed any of his legitimate concerns.


The researcher has also presented his findings in open public forums on numerous occasions and the BBC have been informed of an award-winning U.S online magazine’s description of Saving Syria’s Children as “a sham.”

Despite this, neither Stuart nor the said U.S online magazine, have been threatened by the BBC with any injunctions which would almost certainly have been the case had the allegations or claims been false.

The controversy that surrounds Saving Syria’s Children and the BBCs connections to Islamist terrorist groups, including the White Helmets, adds fuel to the fire of those independent researchers and journalists who posit that mainstream coverage of the current turmoil in Syria is emblematic of the corporate media’s systematic war propaganda against the Syrian government of Bashar-al-Assad.

It is clear that the BBC not only colluded in the production of false UK government propaganda intended to influence a vote in parliament to commit British troops to Syria in yet another illegal war, but that they did so by engaging in a sophisticated and well-planned series of events. This involved the active participation, not only of Islamist terrorists and their sympathizers, but the embedding of its journalists.


As the decline in traditional forms of media begins to take hold, the notion of the documentary as a sophisticated form of war propaganda, is increasingly being sold as a the new form of communication to the public. Indeed, Saving Syria’s Children must be seen in the context of the 2018 Oscar-nominated, emotionally charged propaganda documentary Last Men in Aleppo.

The willingness of the BBC to overtly fund and directly produce war propaganda would appear to be a first for the corporation. Their actions are not only inexcusable, but they have the potential to pose a serious risk to national security and to further undermine what little remains of the trust the public has in the corporation’s ability to report accurately and objectively on issues of national importance.

Robert Stuart contacted Jeremy Corbyn, requesting the need for a public investigation into Saving Syria’s Children. That time has now come.

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The scandal of a royal benefit sponger

Princess Beatrice and Boyfriend at the Beach - Zimbio

For many years the media have portrayed the lifestyles of ‘the undeserving rich’ who inhabit Britain’s Benefit Malls, as feckless wasters and a burden on the tax-paying public. There have been signs over recent months that their attacks on this largely invisible minority in society are beginning to take their toll.

So extreme have these attacks on some of Britain’s most privileged elite been, that many within the gold-vaulted communities of Knightsbridge, Mayfair and Kensington, often under the cloak of anonymity, have decided to fight back. One of these individuals is a young woman called Beatrice Ferguson, 28, whose close neighbours in Belgravia have alleged is a princess.

Claiming that her lifestyle has been unjustly vilified in the media, and following in the footsteps of her father, Beatrice has recently starred in the Channel Five reality show, Benefit Mall where, among other unsociable activities, she has been filmed drinking copious amounts of gin and tonics, abusing fellow customers and falling over drunk in her local public house, the Duke of York, named after him.


Recent allegations that Ms Ferguson has consistently taken advantage of Britain’s benefit system, continue to be stringently denied by the alleged princess. One of the most serious accusations relates to the claim that Beatrice set herself up as a business matchmaker after having secured a high-profile client in the shape of would-be stock market debutant Afiniti.

It has been reported that a member of the Zia Chishti entourage, who is said to have accompanied Ferguson to meetings and parties at the World Economic Forum in Davos, including to a lunch for many of the most senior figures in British business, phoned the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) hot-line in the UK anonymously in order to inform on her activities.


When challenged by undercover journalists about this, Beatrice reportedly said that she informed her local Job Centre Plus in London’s Bayswater Road of her intention to take a week’s holiday abroad to which she claims she was entitled:

“I phoned the DWP three days in advance informing them that I would be taking a foreign holiday for a week which was agreed at the time by my work coach. This was not a working holiday”, she said.

But this version of events was contradicted by her alleged clients, the advisory board members of the company that is headquartered in Washington DC, comprising no fewer than 21 senior figures. An account relayed to investigators by one of these individuals, BP chief executive Lord Browne, however, appears to support the benefit claimants version of events:

“The notion this young lady is connected to a company called Afiniti, or that I am one of her clients, is absurd. I recall that she was at a party I attended as a guest. The fact that Mr Chishti, who previously co-founded and brought to market a company that makes transparent braces for teeth straightening, is merely coincidental”, Browne said.


Beatrice, who some in the media have dubbed Britain’s version of a Kardashian, has in previous years, been spotted taking to the water on Roman Abramovich’s £1 billion super yacht, Eclipse, which is docked off the Spanish coast near Ibiza.

Asked by reporters how the alleged penniless royal could afford to rack up seventeen holidays in nine months on a weekly Job Seeker’s Allowance of £73.40 since giving up her 20k a year role at Sony, Beatrice claimed the trips were paid for using savings accumulated in her Barclays Instant Saver account.

Responding to accusations that her lifestyle is excessive, Beatrice snapped back at reporters by saying that the Benefits Mall programme was a cheap attempt at smearing benefit recipients like her. “If I knew then, what I know now”, she said, “I would never have agreed to do this show.”

Beatrice claims that chalking up three skiing holidays on top of multiple hot weather breaks and repeated trips to New York, “is my human right”. She continued: “People are jealous that I have saved up some money that funds a lifestyle to which I’m entitled. When I visited New York, it was to see my sister, Eugenie”, said the streetwise hustler from downtown Belgravia.

In November 2016, the DWP cited an on-line article which claimed that Beatrice visited the United Arab Emirates for a “business engagement” with her father, the Duke of York and also that she subsequently attended a lavish party on board a Polynesian themed party yacht. Beatrice categorically denies both claims.

Private jet

Later that week, Beatrice admitted to investigators she flew on a private jet with her mother, Sarah Ferguson, to Beijing for a wedding, paid for by her father which she claims didn’t break DWP rules since she was able to sign-on the following week.

Moreover, she claimed she was able to prove to her job coach that she had spent the required amount of time actively seeking work. The alleged princess put her late attendance that day down to heavy traffic along the Bayswater Road and that the number 148 bus she was travelling on had broken down.

Serious questions, however, remain with regards to Beatrice’s whereabouts during the Christmas period. Having failed to have turned up to a 2pm appointment previously arranged with her work coach who had planned to run through her CV with her, Beatrice claimed she phoned Job Centre Plus saying that she was too sick to attend.

But a tip-off from a member of Beatrice’s entourage later alleged that after enjoying Christmas lunch with the Queen at Sandringham, the Benefit Mall star jetted off to Verbier to stay at her parents £13m ski chalet. My source then alleges she flew to the Caribbean where she saw in the new year relaxing on a yacht belonging to billionaire Lakshmi Mittal.

Jimmy Carr

Having made a quick trip back to London to sign on, it is claimed Beatrice spent time on another yacht in the company of, among others, comedian, Jimmy Carr. After a double holiday in the Caribbean, she is then said to have taken a trip to New York.

With the authorities becoming suspicious of her increasingly erratic lifestyle depicted in Benefit Mall, the DWP finally made the decision to suspend the reality TV stars Job Seekers Allowance. The suspension of her housing and council tax benefits swiftly followed.

After complaining vociferously to TV executives at Channel Five about the manner in which the programme-makers had characterized her and her class in Benefit Mall, Beatrice flew back to her parents place in Verbier.

With her stress levels now at breaking point, Beatrice then flew out to Florida for her twelfth holiday in five months before moving on to the Gulf State of Bahrain as a guest of it’s Prince whose father helped put down pro-democracy protests.

Great Guana Cay

In September, Beatrice flew to Florence before jetting off for her third Caribbean jaunt where she was photographed lounging on a beach in Great Guana Cay, home to just 150 people, and blessed with a five and a half mile stretch of sandy white beach, virgin forest and pristine coral reefs.

With Ms Ferguson having apparently set up home in Great Guana Cay, the authorities back in London have been keen to interview the reality TV star regarding unanswered questions that reportedly involve her failure to report a change in her circumstances.

Some other independent journalists are also seeking answers to similar questions about the activities of other alleged royal benefit scroungers. In a recent column for the Daily Mail, renowned independent investigative journalist, Richard Littlejohn, asked how her father, who has a modest naval pension, could afford a £13m property and pay for regular private jet flights?

“The Royal Family is still guarding secrets that we the people should know about”, said the Guardian.

Conservative MP, Amber Rudd, has reportedly taken an interest in the Beatrice Ferguson case. She has also promised to look into the other alleged incidences of royal benefit fraud highlighted in Benefit Mall. Rudd stated that in the event of any more information coming to light, members of the public could contact her anonymously, c/o the Palm Fringe Savoy Hotel, Bahamas.

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Fantasy Island

Best Episodes of Fantasy Island | List of Top Fantasy ...

I haven’t written anything on this site for a while now.  It’s actually rather difficult to know what to write when confronted with the astonishing spectacle of national self-destruction that is unfolding in front of our eyes.  Nowadays hardly a day passes without another  reminder that the UK has entered a new political dimension in which delusions of grandeur, magical thinking and ideological fantasy have replaced anything that we once thought had any connection to the real world.

These tendencies reach across the political spectrum.  You can find them in George Galloway, doing the full UKIP/Churchill thing on Arron Banks’s Westmonster website (sorry not linking to this) and reminding Europeans that WE saved them during WWII and that ‘If not for us not a single European politician would hold office anywhere unless as a Quisling collaborator of the German Reich.’  For the Churchillian war-child Galloway this means that ‘ when I hear a “Schnell” or an “Achtung” from the Junkers (sic) of this world I don’t consider it music in my ears.’

Let no one spoil this demagogic rant by telling Galloway that Jean-Claude Juncker comes from Luxembourg not Germany. He already knows that.  But for Galloway, anyone who has anything to do with the EU is close enough to Nazis to make no difference, and anyone who says otherwise, like Churchill’s opponents, belong to what he calls ‘the gang of appeasers and fifth columnists within the British elite.’

Such idiocy, as we have seen for some time now, is not confined to the fringes.  Take Boris Johnson’s latest fatuous suggestion comparing the border between  Northern Ireland and Ireland to a congestion zone between Westminster and Camden.  Never one to resist blowing his own trumpet, Johnson reminded Radio 4 listeners ‘ when I was mayor of London we anesthetically and invisibly took hundreds of millions of pounds from the accounts of people traveling between those two boroughs without any need for border checks.’

Many people have pointed out that it may not be so easy to ‘anesthetically and invisibly’ bypass Irish history or a conflict that cost 3,000 lives.  It’s a bleak testament to the current state of things that such points even need to be made, or that a self-aggrandising buffoon like Johnson has any influence on anything at all.  But his continued presence in the corridors of power is a symptom of a detachment from reality that only seems to grow wider as the Brexit process slouches incoherently  towards political Neverland.

For eighteen months the May government has been asking for things it cannot have, promising things it cannot deliver, bluffing, posturing, and pursuing things that cannot be achieved, even as its own impact assessments predict that the country will be worse off in every single Brexit scenario.   Yet when civil servants point out the potential damage that the country is likely to inflict on itself, they are dismissed as traitors, quislings, closet Eurocrats or members of the ‘pro-European elite’.

Humankind cannot bear very much reality, wrote TS Eliot, and Brexiters cannot bear any reality at all that conflicts with their fantasy of a global buccaneering Britain, freed of EU red tape and the unwanted immigrants that the country depends on, able to smoke in pubs as we surge toward a brave new world that we now know will not be a ‘Mad Max-style’ dystopia.

In fact a country that allows its politics to be driven by ideological fantasies and straw man constructs is likely to find itself inhabiting a reality that is more dystopian than its opposite, and the right aren’t the only dreamers in Brexittown.  On Monday, Jeremy Corbyn once again demonstrated that the left is no less prone to magical thinking than the Rees-Mogg/Nadine Dorries crowd.

Corbyn’s speech was hailed by his fans as a ‘ bold Brexit vision’, because his fan base will never say anything different about anything he says.  But despite – or perhaps because of – its attempt to be everything to everyone, his speech was littered with little reminders of why His Majesty’s Opposition have presented very little opposition whatsoever to the Brexit process,  and has largely fallen over itself in its desire to wave it through.

There was a leftwing version of the ‘£350 million for the NHS’ pledge in Corbyn’s promise to ‘use funds returned from Brussels after Brexit to invest in our public services and the jobs of the future, not tax cuts for the richest.’  While insisting that there should be ‘no scapegoating of migrants’, Corbyn once again promised that ‘Our immigration system will change and freedom of movement will as a statement of fact end when we leave the European Union.’

So migrants won’t be scapegoated, but freedom of movement – one of the great progressive achievements of the European Union – will end  in order ‘ To stop employers being able to import cheap agency labour to undercut existing pay and conditions’.

When Corbyn last mentioned this ‘importation’, it was in relation to the construction industry, which has a skills shortage and where wages are actually rising.   But Corbyn clearly believes that immigration is a ‘bosses club’ ploy and in Brexit Britain believing is everything.   Corbyn won’t accept a ‘ deal that left Britain as a passive recipient of rules decided elsewhere by others’ even though the EU has made it quite clear that it will not accept cherry-picking deals that allow the UK to continue to enjoy a privileged position without any obligations.   Then there is this:

‘There will be some who will tell you that Brexit is a disaster for this country and some who will tell you that Brexit will create a land of milk and honey. The truth is more down to earth and it’s in our hands. Brexit is what we make of it together, the priorities and choices we make in the negotiations.’

Not really.  Because whatever priorities and choices we decide upon, the UK is negotiating within a very limited set of parameters and is almost certain to find itself worse-off than it was before, no matter what is ultimately decided.  The tragedy is that neither the government nor the opposition want to admit this. Mesmerised by their own narrow party or personal interests, wide-eyed and prostrate before ‘the will of the people’, they offer fantasies and pipedreams and demand the impossible in an attempt to square circles that cannot be connected.

Sooner or later the consequences of this political cowardice and dereliction of duty will become impossible to ignore, and when that happens things may get even uglier than many of us imagine.  Because there are historic mistakes that cannot easily be undone, and Brexit is one of them.

For now, it seems, the millions of us who are unwilling passengers on this runaway train can merely sit while it heads towards the buffers, hostages to a political nightmare that we seem incapable of waking up from, shouting out warnings that those who are driving this process seem unable or unwilling to hear, and from the point of view of a writer – and a citizen – that is not a comfortable position to be in at all.

The above article was written by Matt Carr and originally published on his excellent blog, Matt Carr’s Infernal Machine at:


Pizzicato on the double bass, Spike Milligan and Goldsmiths

Advanced Music Class Goldsmiths College 1929-31. This animated and lively group photo features two mischievous double bass players at either end – the instrument that Spike Milligan took with him on the tram to his evening orchestral music class in the middle 1930s. Image: Goldsmiths, University of London.

Spike Milligan (1918-2002) is credited with revolutionising British comedy through his chaotic, surrealist, and subversive imagination.

He created the seminal radio comedy The Goon Show (1951-60), and wrote more than 50 books including six on his Second World War experiences.

To say he was larger and crazier than life itself would be an understatement.

And he was also a student of Goldsmiths College.

He attended a one term music orchestration course in the middle 1930s at the college’s evening department of Adult Education.

It seems this experience represented an important part of what he saw as his development as a musician and composer.

It is emphasised by Ned Sherrin who wrote his entry (2006) for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography:

While working as an assistant storeman at Keith Prowse in Bond Street, Terence Milligan bluffed his way into a part-time evening course in orchestral practice at Goldsmiths’ College, Lewisham, and subsequently joined a local band, Tommy Brettel’s New Ritz Revels, playing drums, guitar, and trumpet, and occasionally providing vocals.

And it is also variously mentioned by his three biographers Pauline Scudamore, Dominic Beehan and Humphrey Carpenter.

John Cleese recognised his influence on Monty Python’s Flying Circus when he said: ‘Milligan is the great god of us all.’

This television comedy sketch of a tramp picking up his baguette in a café only to find that it produces a clarinet solo by Gershwin is a superb example of how Milligan’s surrealist imagination was also centred in sound and music.

Terence (Spike) Alan Milligan was actually brought up in India because his father Leo Alphonso Milligan was in the British Indian Army. Spike was born near Bombay in 1918.

For a while the Milligan family lived in Brigade House in Rangoon, Burma and remembered being visited by the famous author George Orwell when he was a police officer in his original identity of Eric Arthur Blair.

But in 1932 after the world-wide recession, cutbacks in military expenditure meant that Spike’s father was pensioned off at the age of 42.

The family, including his mother Florence and younger brother Desmond, left the splendour of colonial life with servants to face the hardships of unemployment and despair in a two room attic flat in Catford at 23 Riseldine Road, SE23.

Spike was fifteen years old, disaffected, and further disillusioned when he was turned down by the RAF.

He had a series of dead-end jobs including laundryman, and packer for a tobacco firm.

That is where he began to steal cigarettes to raise funds to buy his first trumpet.

It was the eloquent speech of mitigation by his father Leo at his trial that persuaded the magistrate to give him an absolute discharge on the grounds that his son’s genius as the world’s greatest future trumpet player deserved urgent consideration.

Spike liked to reminisce about his father’s blarney particularly when as a child he had woken him up in the middle of the night to confess that he had not shot any tigers.

When asked for an explanation Leo replied: ‘What would you prefer the boring truth or an exciting lie?’

Spike’s poem ‘Catford 1933’ captured the family’s fall from grace:

My father places his unemployment cards

in his wallet –  there’s plenty of room for them.

In greaseproof paper my mother wraps my

banana sandwiches.

It’s 5.40. Ten minutes to catch that

last workman’s tram.

The tram from Catford to Lewisham Way and Goldsmiths’ College would be the way Spike struggled with his double bass to attend the evening course in orchestral practice.

Humphrey Carpenter speculated that it is likely Spike had to deal with the conductors spinning the time-honoured joke that has irritated classical bass players since the instrument was invented:

How do you get it under your chin?

Answer: By keeping your big mouth shut.

Biographer Pauline Scudamore wrote: ‘He was not really of the standard required, but he bluffed his way into the class and it says much for both Goldsmiths’ insight and the immediacy of Milligan’s responses that he survived the course.’

When arriving for the first lesson he discovered that all the other string instrumentalists were rubbing resin into their bows; something Spike and his double bass lacked completely.

He pretended that he had left his non-existent bow at home. The music teacher said he could play pizzicato little knowing that at the time that was the only way Spike could play it.

Scudamore says Goldsmiths taught him the rudiments of harmony and counterpoint, the discipline of formal music and sight-reading.

Milligan said:

Well, Goldsmiths was the nearest I ever had to a musical education. I suppose I wanted to show off a bit. To show that I didn’t only strum, and that I could play with a bow if I wanted to, and that I took music seriously.

The college was a thriving centre for music in all its dimensions.  It had its own music society known as the Clef Club.

These were the years when the Goldsmiths’s Choral Union and Goldsmiths’ Symphony Orchestra trained by Frederick Haggis were formed, and a String Orchestra conducted by Miss Kitty Kennedy became prominent in local music festivals.

Reginald Jevons was famous for taking group piano lessons with dummy keyboards when there were not enough pianos to go round.

In 1935 there were 300 musicians attending the Adult Evening Department – one third of the overall total of students.

Jevons wrote optimistically in the Anvil, the Evening Students’ Association magazine:

Of the future surely there can be no mistake. We have to thank those whose foresight led us along this path of stimulating the love of good music, and in our own Department we rejoice to see the ideals being set before us, which gave opportunity for self-expression, and a sense of well-being which accompanies the rational expression of the faculties.

Such pompous classicism did not appeal to Spike Milligan.

He told another of his biographers, Dominic Beehan, he didn’t like Goldsmiths’ because it was ‘all classical music’ and at the time he only wanted to play jazz.

There is no doubt that having creative control and confidence over musical notation, arrangement and orchestration had an impact.

It all underpins the brilliance of such anarchic and in its own way, progressive and experimental musical pieces such as the Ying Tong Song first released by Decca in 1956.

Milligan says he wrote the Ying Tong Song in ten minutes during a journey on the London Underground.

The ‘I’m Walking Backwards for Christmas’ song was also written in 1956 and has remained another iconic sound track for what Dominic Beehan described as the Goons’ auditory surrealism.

Spike was not the only Milligan to attend Goldsmiths.

In 1948 his younger brother Desmond was eligible for a post World War Two education grant to study the three year Art Diploma course.

In the early 1950s Desmond, and his father Leo and mother Florence emigrated to Australia while Spike teamed up with Michael Bentine, Harry Secombe and Peter Sellars to form the famous Goons and as has often been said, the rest was history.

Another Goldsmiths’ connection exists through one of his sons, James Turlough, whose mother, the artist Margaret Maughan also went to Goldsmiths’ College.

When Spike Milligan died in 2002 the intense media coverage indicated that a national figure of great cultural significance had passed away.

However, a dispute over his passport application in 1962 led to his adopting Irish citizenship.

And the line he wanted on his gravestone ‘I told you I was ill’ is inscribed in Irish Gaelic as Dúirt mé leat go raibh mé breoite.

Ned Sherrin said Spike Milligan ‘opened new doors of irreverence and absurdity in his mission to entertain.’

He described him as ‘a troubled, gifted man with a unique mind, an affinity for children, and a puzzled pity for humanity and the animal world.’

These are all qualities that could be said to perfectly qualify him for the honour of being one of the Goldsmiths’ alumni.




How the Western imperial powers are using the Caroline Principle to circumvent international law

By Daniel Margrain

On September 28, 2015, in a speech to the U.N General Assembly in New York, President Obama alluded to the ‘responsibility to protect’ (R2P) doctrine as the justification for regime change in Syria. Earlier that day at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton, the Blairite, Hilary Benn, was more explicit by actually citing the R2P doctrine by name as the justification to attack Syria.

Formulated at the 2005 UN World Summit, the version of R2P currently in vogue and proposed by the [Gareth] Evans Commission, authorises “regional or sub-regional organisations” such as NATO to determine their “area of jurisdiction” and to act in cases where “the Security Council rejects a proposal or fails to deal with it in a reasonable time”.

Having long been considered a norm in international affairs, R2P has – with the accompaniment of lofty rhetoric about the solemn responsibility to protect suffering populations – been used to illegally overthrow a series of sovereign states, most recently in Libya. The version of the R2P doctrine formulated at the UN World Summit will almost certainly be used to justify the illegal dismembering of Syria.

From the Iraq debacle onward, there has been an attempt by the Western powers to circumvent the consensus view of what constitutes illegality among the world’s leading international lawyers. But it has been post-Iraq that the justification to reject the consensus legal view has become codified.

The Caroline Principle

What has been termed the Caroline Principle has been used to establish the concept “anticipatory self-defense“. This sets an extremely dangerous legal precedent. The rejection of the consensus view of the world’s leading international lawyers, was initially outlined in a memorandum written by lawyer Daniel Benjamin, dated 7 June 2004.

It was from this memorandum that the concept of the Caroline Principle was developed and then absorbed into the UN Charter. Significantly, it is the conceptual re-evaluation of international law that’s posited by Benjamin in his memorandum that has come to dominate Western political discourse. A key part of the memo states:

“It must be right that states are able to act in self-defence in circumstances where there is evidence of further imminent attacks by terrorist groups, even if there is no specific evidence of where such an attack will take place or of the precise nature of the attack.”

It is this minority legal opinion that was used to justify the attack on Iraq after the event predicated on – as one administration official put it –  “pre-emptive retaliation.” This, in short, is what defined the Bush Doctrine (enshrined in the National Security Strategy), and provided the catalyst for both G.W. Bush’s and Barack Obama’s geo-strategic ambitions. This became clear when the former announced what the Financial Times called “an entirely fresh doctrine of pre-emptive action” in a speech at West Point on 1 June 2002.

Acting pre-emptively, as a form of defense, is the cornerstone of the Caroline Principle in which a U.S ‘rule based’ policy (with the help of the ‘international community’), is intended to reshape the Middle East. As early as 2000, adviser to G.W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice, began to highlight ‘rogue states’ such as Iraq, Libya and Syria for regime change which essentially confirmed the alignment of the strategic interests of Israel with those of the United States.

The theory is that by working closely with Turkey and Jordan in order to foment the destabilization, principally, of Iraq and Syria, the United States and Israel will be able to ensure the balance of power in the region is maintained.

The regime change narrative is an agenda that allows Israel an element of autonomy – a clean break – achieved by means of a “strategic retreat by re-establishing the principle of pre-emption, rather than retaliation alone and by ceasing to absorb blows [to Israel] without response.”

The clean break strategy was at odds with Bill Clinton’s containment approach, which in terms of isolating Saddam had, by 1998, been a success, as weapons inspector Scott Ritter of UNSCOM confirmed. However, in January 1998, the Project for a New American Century sponsored a letter to Clinton denouncing the ‘failure’ of the policy of containing Iraq.

It declared:

“The only acceptable strategy is one that eliminates the possibility that Iraq will be able to use or to threaten to use, weapons of mass destruction. In the near term this means a willingness to undertake military action as diplomacy is clearly failing. In the long term, it means removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power.”

The signatories read like a roll call of the Bush administration that would take office three years later.

The PNAC, in other words, marked the beginning in the shift of U.S strategy that ushered in the the conceptual reconfiguration of international law that was the precursor to the Caroline Principle outlined in the memorandum written by lawyer Daniel Benjamin dated 7 June 2004 outlined above.

Israel & energy independence

By facilitating the broader strategy to dismember Syria, the Caroline Principle will help usher in the granting of oil exploration rights inside Syria, by Israel, in the occupied Golan Heights, to the multinational corporation, Genie Energy.

Major shareholders of the company – which also has interests in shale gas in the United States and shale oil in Israel – include Rupert Murdoch and Lord Jacob Rothschild. Other players involved include the Israeli subsidiary, Afek Oil and Gas, American Shale, French Total and BP.

Thus, there exists a broad and powerful nexus of U.S, British, French and Israeli interests at the forefront of pushing for the break-up of Syria and the control of what is believed to be potentially vast untapped oil and gas resources in the country.

Against this are the competing agendas of the various belligerent gas-exporting foreign factions, that according to Orstein and Romer, have interests in one of the two gas pipeline projects that seek to cross Syrian territory to deliver either Qatari or Iranian gas to Europe.

As Orenstein explained:

“In 2009, Qatar proposed to build a pipeline to send its gas northwest via Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Syria to Turkey… However, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad refused to sign the plan; Russia, which did not want to see its position in European gas markets undermined, put him under intense pressure not to”.

Russia’s Gazprom sells 80 per cent of its gas to Europe. So in 2010, Russia put its weight behind “an alternative Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline that would pump Iranian gas from the same field out via Syrian ports such as Latakia and under the Mediterranean.” The project would allow Moscow “to control gas imports to Europe from Iran, the Caspian Sea region, and Central Asia.”

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, major defense contractors Raytheon, Oshkosh, and Lockheed Martin assured investors that they stand to gain from the escalating conflicts in the Middle East. Lockheed Martin Executive Vice President Bruce Tanner said his company will see “indirect benefits” from the war in Syria.

In addition, a deal that authorized $607 billion in defense spending brokered by the U.S Congress, was described as a “treat” for the industry. What better way to benefit from this ‘treat’ than for the major powers to secure the hydrocarbon potential of Syria’s offshore resources with the aim of reducing European dependence on Russian gas and boosting the potential for energy independence?

The overriding of the consensus legal opinion in international law is intended to provide the legal justification for more conflict and instability in Syria and throughout the Middle East region. The long-term aim of the Western Israeli-Gulf axis is the overthrow of the Assad government in Syria which will provide the imperial powers with a gateway to Iran. Daniel Benjamin has assisted greatly in the metaphorical building of the road.

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Hell of a state: What the tragic story of Don Lane tells us about Tory Britain

By Daniel Margrain

Don Lane

Don Lane, who suffered from diabetes, earned his living by delivering parcels to peoples’s homes and businesses throughout the country. Although Mr Lane was paid a salary by the giant courier company he worked for, according to the law, he was “self-employed”.

The amount he was paid depended on how many parcels he delivered. Mr Lane received no holiday or sick pay and was under constant pressure to meet targets. Drivers for the company get fined by them for rounds they miss. Mr Lane was recently fined for attending a medical appointment to treat his diabetes where tragically he collapsed and died.

The scandal that underlies the story is one which the bosses and shareholders of giant multinational companies like the one Don Lane worked “self-employed” for, have seen their dividends and pay go through the roof, while workers at the bottom, have experienced a real terms drop in their income over many years. The ideology that drives this “gushing up” of wealth towards the top, is called neoliberalism.

Before its onset four decades ago, the UK was a much more equal society than it is at present. The available data shows that the share of income going to the top 10 per cent of the population fell over the 40 years to 1979, from 34.6 per cent in 1938 to 21 per cent, while the share going to the bottom 10 per cent rose slightly.

As measured by the Gini Coefficient (see below), the redistribution of wealth from the poorest to the richest, rose sharply under the Thatcher government in 1979. The trend continued, albeit less drastically, under successive Tory and Labour governments where it reached a peak in 2009-10.

Figures show that GDP, adjusted for inflation, has grown over the last 60 years from £432bn in 1955 to £1,864bn in 2016. This increase in wealth, however, has become increasingly concentrated in fewer hands.


SourceIFS 2016

Impact of inequality

report by Oxfam highlights the significant role neoliberalism plays in perpetuating inequality and suggests that the societies most affected are more prone to conflict or instability. The report also points out that extremes of inequality are bad for economic growth, as well as being related to a range of health and social problems including mental illness and violent crime.

Moreover, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, authors of the book, The Spirit Level. argue that other impacts of inequality include drug addiction, obesity, loss of community life, imprisonment, unequal opportunities and poorer well-being for children.

Left Foot Forward has cited studies that illustrate the close correlation between inequality and unhappiness. The tendency to equate outward wealth with inner worth means that inequality colours our social perceptions. It invokes feelings of superiority and inferiority, dominance and subordination – which affect the way we relate to, and treat, each other.

But rather than introducing socioeconomic policies that help reduce inequality, the Conservative government under Theresa May, has deliberately and consciously continued with the failed high borrowing-low investment/high debt economic neoliberal model that gives rise to it. Under the guise of austerity, the government have instead turned on workers, the sick and the disabled. The result has been increasing rates of depression, anxiety and suicides.


The existence of fragmented and atomised communities outside the confines of the workplace, the reduction in organised labour within it (illustrated by the long-term decline in trade union membership) and the lack of any safety net, means that ordinary people are increasingly vulnerable to the vagaries of “market forces”.

The ideology that underpins the neoliberal assault is the pseudo-science concept known as biological determinism, the legitimacy of which rests on the assertion that the social order is a consequence of unchanging human biology, as opposed to the result of inherited economic privilege or luck.

Thus, biological determinism reinforces the notion that inequality, injustice and the existence of entrenched hierarchical social structures of government, media and commerce are “natural”.

But it also highlights the artificial limits that a system driven by profit imposes. Any rejection of biological determinism and the rigged market system that reinforces it, is regarded by its promoters as being the fault of the individual, not the social institutions or the way society is structured.

Thus, according to evolutionary psychologists, sociobiologists and those within the elite political and media establishment, the solution to overcoming inequality and injustice is not to challenge existing social structures upon which “reality” is based, but rather to alter the chemical composition of the human brain to accommodate it to this reality.

In extreme circumstances it has been used to justify the elimination of individuals altogether who challenge the prevailing orthodoxy and/or whose values are perceived to be a “drain on the taxpayer”.

Social Darwinism

Years before moving towards explicit racial genocide, the Nazis developed the notion of ‘useless mouths’ or ‘life unworthy of life’ to justify its killing of ‘undesirables’ or ‘low hanging fruit’. These ideas are a variant of nineteenth century ‘Social Darwinism’ and eugenicist theories.

The said theories adapted Darwin’s notion of the survival of the fittest to describe relationships within society or between nations and races as a perpetual evolutionary struggle in which the supposedly weaker or defective elements were weeded out by the strongest and the ‘fittest’ by natural selection.

Intellectual challenges to neoliberalism and evolutionary psychology help undermine the notion that rigid social stratification, inequality and injustice used to justify them, are inevitable. Indeed, prominent economists such as Joseph Stiglitz, Paul Krugman, Dani Rodrik and Jeffrey Sachs have for a long time been raising their voices against the neoliberal experiment.

What is self-evidently clear is that the current rigged economic system in which power is increasingly concentrated at the top, is not sustainable. The only thing preventing our ability to tackle extreme inequality is political will.

At the next election voters will be faced with a clear choice – either to maintain the status quo by returning the Conservatives to power or, alternatively, to engender a paradigm shift by electing a Labour government. If future Don Lane’s are to be avoided, then we have no alternative other than to ensure a Corbyn victory.

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The on-going stitch-up against Julian Assange

By Daniel Margrain

Two years ago this month, the UN ruled that the deprivation of Julian Assange’s liberty was unlawful. The ruling stated that Assange is being “unlawfully and arbitrarily detained by UK authorities—and must be released & compensated—under international law and treaties the UK has signed.”

The decision was a legally binding vindication of all the activists who have supported the quest of the Wikileaks founder to bring into the public domain the illegalities of Western power in the name of democracy and freedom.

What was shocking was the then UK Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond’s reaction to the decision. In the view of the former UK diplomat, Craig Murray, Hammond’s lies were “utterly astonishing”. The official statement by Hammond reads:

“I reject the decision of this working group. It is a group made up of lay people and not lawyers. Julian Assange is a fugitive from justice. He is hiding from justice in the Ecuadorian embassy.”

Hammond’s statement belies the fact that every single one of the UN panel is a distinguished lawyer and was clearly made in order to undermine the UN ruling.

Even Iran puts the UK to shame

Previous rulings by the panel have gone against countries with some of the world’s worst human rights records, such as Saudi Arabia, Myanmar and Egypt. High profile cases where the UN has ruled in circumstances in which individuals have similarly been detained and subsequently released, include the Washington Post journalist, Jason Rezaian in Iran in December, 2014..

Given that countries like Egypt and Iran have released detainees based on the decisions of the UN, the latest court judgement (6 February 2018) in London that re-affirmed the arrest warrant against Assange, is therefore surprising to say the least. The decision of senior district judge Emma Arbuthnot would appear to fly in the face of international norms.

Speaking outside Westminster magistrates court, following the judges decision, Assange’s lawyer stated:

“Mr Assange remains willing to answer to British justice” – but “not at the risk of injustice in America. This case has, and will always be, about the risk of extradition to the United States and that risk remains real. Nobody can credibly deny that risk.”

The judgement effectively means that the UK authorities still have the right to seize Assange for jumping bail and taking refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London back in 2012, despite the fact that the statute of limitation ran out on the Swedish sex assault case against him.

Responding to judge Arbuthnot’s decision, Craig Murray tweeted:

“I have grown tired of the polite fictions of British society where we pretend Justice Arbuthnot is in any sense acting independently of government and particularly the security services. I saw the inside of the system.”


The UN findings confirmed that Assange’s detention has been unlawful since his very first arrest in the United Kingdom in 2010 and that there has never been any genuine attempt by the Swedish authorities to investigate the allegations of rape made against him which were merely the Casus Belli.

This was given credible weight early on by Naomi Wolf, a prominent American writer, feminist and social commentator. Wolf argued that the allegations against Assange bore all the hallmarks of a set-up. This was further elaborated on by Craig Murray who thoroughly demolished the case against Assange.

As John Pilger outlined, the reality is, there was no genuine judicial process in train against Assange in Sweden, a point that was advanced by Assange’s lawyers before the UK supreme court.

All Assange has ever requested from the outset, is a guarantee from the Swedish authorities that if he agrees to travel to Sweden to answer the rape allegations made against him, he won’t be extradited to the United States.

Assange’s request for this assurance from Sweden is supported by Amnesty International. However, the Swedish authorities have consistently failed to give Assange such an assurance despite the fact that he has not been charged with any offence.

Justified fears

Assange’s fears of being extradited to the U.S and subsequently imprisoned their are justified. Chelsea Manning was imprisoned for 35 years in 2013 for leaking information to WikiLeaks. Moreover, according to Edward Snowden, Assange is on a US “manhunt target list” . The Independent revealed that both the Swedish and American governments have already discussed Assange’s onward extradition.

The reality is that under the ‘liberal-progressive’ presidency of Barrack Obama, the United States had imprisoned more whistle blowers than all US presidents combined. What also needs to be emphasized is Sweden’s damning record of extraditing people to other countries and its cooperation with the US in extraordinary renditions.

Then there is Assange’s justified fear of a complicit corporate mainstream media. Recently on Twitter, for example, Assange revealed a series of fake news stories against him. Much of the vitriol stems, not from the traditional right-wing of the media terrain, but from the liberal-left. Owen Jones, for example, inferred that diplomatic immunity is a feature of the Assange case.

Red herring

But this is a red-herring since neither Assange, his supporters, legal team or anybody else outside the media bubble, have ever suggested that his case is predicated on a claim of immunity. The lie was repeated by the Guardian’s legal expert, Joshua Rozenberg, presumably in an attempt to add a certain degree of gravitas to the claim.

Jonathan Cook sums up just how far down the perilous road towards fascism our governments’ and their accomplices in the media are prepared to go in order to augment the interests of the powerful:

“The degraded discourse about the UN group’s decision does not just threaten Assange, but endangers vulnerable political dissidents around the world. The very fact that…[liberal media commentators]… are so ready to sacrifice these people’s rights in their bid to tar and feather Assange should be warning enough that there is even more at stake here than meets the eye.”

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