Category: corruption

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.

Staged

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.”

Concerns

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.

Sham

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.

Conclusion

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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Britain: the university of corruption

By Daniel Margrain

In May, 2016, Roberto Saviano, an expert on the workings of the mafia, stated that “Britain is the most corrupt country in the world.” Given that the Western media tend to categorize the issue of corruption along geopolitical and racial lines, one would find it difficult to arrive at such a conclusion after having analysed a mainstream broadcaster like the BBC.

Thus, on an edition of last August’s BBC HARDtalk programme, host Stephen Sackur interrogated Nigeria’s Minister for Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola in a way that he wouldn’t had he interviewed a UK minister. During the discussion Sackur repeatedly implied that the Nigerian government was systematically corrupt. At one point the BBC presenter related an ‘off mic’ incident that involved the Nigerian minister and the then UK PM David Cameron. The latter was said to have berated Nigeria after having described the country as one of the two most corrupt countries in the world.

The irony of Cameron’s comment would unlikely have gone unnoticed by Fashola. In 2010 the UK government passed into law the Bribery Act.  Big business in the UK have repeatedly lobbied against this legislation, thereby undermining all attempts at preventing corruption.

The potential impact of the legislation is likely to be felt primarily, but not exclusively by, businesses. Why? Because bribery and corruption is an inherent part of big business deal-making. The notion that the British establishment occupies the moral high ground on matters of corruption is laughable. Instead, viewers to the BBC were conveniently invited to vent their anger towards a black politician in a far away country.

In 2013, Cameron visited one of the most corrupt and authoritarian countries on the planet, Kazakhstan. Its leader showered him with gratitude and praise. Kazakhstan’s former police chief is linked to the ownership of £147m-worth of London properties which forms part of the UKs status as a safe haven for corrupt capital.

This represents the tip of a huge ice-berg of corruption in Britain. Readers might, for example, recall the Straw and Rifkind affair, the MPs expenses fiasco, the on-going PFI saga that’s crippling the NHS, the long-running HSBC scandal and establishments complicit role in the Panama Papers and Paradise Papers.

In addition, the UK government is actively involved in the selling of armaments to the Saudi regime who are raining them down on the Yemeni people. A great deal of the trade in weapons of death takes place at the bi-annual international arms jamboree in London’s Docklands (of which UK royalty is, historically complicit).

Simon Jenkins is one of the few mainstream commentators to have remarked on the hypocrisy of the British establishment:

“The truth is that hypocrisy is the occupational disease of British leaders. They lecture Africans and Asians on the venality of their politics, while blatantly selling seats in their own parliament for cash. I hope some insulted autocrat one day asks a British leader how much his party has garnered from auctioning honours. The government suppresses any inquiry into corrupt arms contracts to the Middle East. And when does lobbying stop and corruption start?”

The point that Jenkins makes, namely that lobbying and corruption form a seamless whole, is a very good one. The widespread perception that Britain ranks 14th among the most corrupt countries in the world, is clearly indicative of the way in which the media misinform the public by ignoring the fact that corruption is embedded in the heart of the British establishment.

In bringing together a wide range of leading commentators and campaigners, David Whyte shows that it is no longer tenable to assume that corruption is something that happens elsewhere. Indeed, as Penny Green of Queen Mary University of London, contends, “the network of egregious state and corporate corruption in Britain rivals any in the developing world”.

This is no accident. The function of the state has shifted from that of ‘direct provider’ to ‘pro-business facilitator’. The ideology that came to embody this change is neoliberalism. Rather than goods and services being administered democratically, the trend has increasingly been for the state to act as a purchaser of these services which have then been provided privately and indirectly. As each separate financial intermediary takes their slice of the financial pie, the temptation for corrupt practices becomes greater and the concentration of capital and deregulation of labour markets more acute.

With the balance of economic power tilted increasingly towards the rich who are able to buy the influence of politician’s, the impact on democracy has been devastating for millions of ordinary people. A hollowed-out system is one in which the 99 per cent increasingly find it difficult to establish some personal and meaningful pattern in a social world dominated by huge and distant monoliths whose power over the livelihood of billions seems absolute.

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Neoliberalism: Manipulation of The Many to Benefit The Few

By Daniel Margrain 

 

Theresa May recently described free-market capitalism as the “greatest agent of collective human progress ever created”. But progress is an ideology linked to advances in technology and science, that since the emergence of industrial capitalism in the mid-19th century, has infected much of intellectual life (see, for example, Chris Harman’s ‘A People’s History of the Worldpp. 384-86).

What the obsession with the prevailing neoliberal socioeconomic orthodoxy of successive governments over the last 40 years illustrates, is that right-wing politicians like May proselytize, not on behalf of genuine free-markets, but an extreme form of crony capitalism in which the publicly owned assets of the state are systematically asset- stripped and the spoils distributed to the elite economic and political class.

Farm subsidies, public sector retrenchment, quantitative easing, share giveaways and housing benefit subsidies, are some of the ways in which neoliberal corporate welfare continues to greatly enrich the wealthiest in society. Figures reported in the Guardian indicate that the richest one per cent in Britain have as much wealth as the poorest 57 per cent combined.

More evenly shared

The growth in inequality during the neoliberal era contrasts with the thirty year “post-war settlement” period in which the wealth created by workers was shared much more evenly. For example, data indicates 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 in 1979, while the share going to the bottom 10 per cent rose slightly. Meanwhile, other figures indicate that economic growth in the UK, adjusted for inflation, has grown over the last 60 years from £432bn in 1955 to £1,864bn in 2016.

The Tory exchequer in 2017, therefore, has roughly four times as much money at its disposal in real terms compared to six decades ago. Moreover, the ratio of national debt to GDP was approximately three times higher in the post-war years compared to 2017. Nevertheless, the then Labour government built hundreds of thousands of “homes fit for heroes” and brought the National Health Service into being.

Many decades later, Theresa May who leads a immeasurably wealthier country than was the case during the post-war period, claimed “there is no magic money tree” to fund public services. Whereas neoliberal fundamentalists envisage the market as an ideological manifestation of a notion of scientific and technological progress, Corbyn’s vision is a return to a more equal society in which improvements to the quality of life for the majority through investing in public infrastructure and social capital play a crucial role.

The evidence Jeremy Corbyn intends to break the neoliberal consensus marking a return to the kind of equitable redistribution of the spoils of growth of the post-war years, is an economic strategy that is worrying a Tory government bereft of ideas. May and her Chancellor, Hammond, continue to advance the notion that the aspirations of those at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder are most effectively met as a result of economic trickle-down emanating from the top – a theory that has – given the subsequent growth in inequality – been comprehensively discredited. Under neoliberalism, wealth doesn’t trickle down. On the contrary, it gushes up.

Mixed economy in the right hands

Potentially, sustained economic growth that capitalism engenders can create the conditions for the mass of humanity to overcome poverty and pestilence and to meet its fundamental needs – but only in the right hands. Paradoxically, the neoliberal model is is likely to lead to the exact opposite: the extinction of our species and probably many others.

The poorest who can’t afford to enjoy the benefits of capitalism are, in the short-term, the most likely to be adversely affected by the climate chaos and wars it engenders. But the rich are not insulated from the process either since the affects of nuclear fallout and global warming are not undemocratic.

Theresa May’s notion that the ideology of progress, manifested in scientific and technological advancement, is indicative of the “greatest agent of collective human progress ever created”, is negated by the chaos wrought by global warming, the spread of wars, the growth in relative poverty and the lack of disposable income for millions of people.

Under neoliberalism, the impoverished and war-torn are unable to engage in the kinds of commercial and cultural activities the rich disproportionately benefit from. It is therefore not “collective” human progress that May is referring to when she espoused the virtues of capitalism.

For neoliberal ideologues, progress is measured in terms of the extent to which people are able to consume what the advancements in technology the market is able to deliver. While it is true that more people than ever have access to “luxury” technologies like flat screen TVs, mobile phones and computers, it’s still the case that the majority of the worlds population don’t.

Moreover, it doesn’t necessarily follow that those who do have access to them are not struggling to feed their families. There is no correlation between poverty and the amount of consumer goods people have access to. Poor and hungry people without money who do have access to consumer goods like mobile phones are not able to console themselves by eating them.

Absolute v relative poverty

The Prime Minister is right to infer that the historical inward tidal flow of capitalist development over time has corresponded to an overall reduction in absolute poverty. But if it were only absolute poverty that resulted in social resistance there would never have been general strikes or revolutions after the first years of industrialization. As John Rees in Imperialism and Resistance (pp. 102-3) remarked:

“Few people in modern Britain wake up in the morning to face a new day and content themselves with the thought that at least they are not living like 19th century weavers. They ask themselves different questions. Is my child’s life going to be harder than mine? Are we, the people, who do the work, getting a fair share of all the wealth that we see around us in this society?”

It is therefore not capitalism’s ability to reduce the level of absolute poverty, but it’s socially relative poverty measured in terms of the level of income inequality that counts. 

At the turn of the century, the Office of National Statistics provided a snapshot of relative poverty in Britain. In interviews with panelists selected from the General Household Survey, it drew up a list of items regarded as “necessities”: a bed, heating, a damp-free house, the ability to visit family and friends in hospital, two meals a day and medical prescriptions.

The study found that four million people do not eat either two meals a day or fresh fruit and vegetables. Nearly 10 million cannot keep their homes warm, damp-free or in a decent state of decoration. Another 10 million cannot afford regular savings of £10 a month. Some 8 million cannot afford one or two essential household goods like a fridge or carpets for their main living area. And 6.5 million are so poor to afford essential clothing. Children are especially vulnerable – 17 percent go without two essential items and 34 percent go without at least one.

With the massive increase in the use of food banks, the rise in zero hours contracts and in-work poverty; the adverse affects of the bedroom tax and cuts to council tax benefit for the poorest over the last decade, these figures almost certainly understate the extent of the current problem.

Wanda Wyporska, Executive Director of The Equality Trust, said:

“The cavernous gap between the richest and the rest of us should be a real source of worry…Extreme inequality is ravaging society…While many people’s incomes have barely risen since the financial crash, a tiny elite has continued to pocket billions. If politicians are serious about building a genuinely shared society, then they urgently need to address this dangerous concentration of power and wealth and tackle our extreme inequality.”#

System of enslavement

A world in which the mass of humanity is getting increasingly poorer while the rich are getting richer, largely as a result of the latter’s collective theft of state assets, is indicative of a form of inherent systemic corruption on a huge scale. This is reflected by the extent to which public enterprises are privatized for profit and private capital debt is socialized through subsidy by the tax-payer. This is the kind of “free-market” capitalism espoused by May – a vision of a system built on the principle of socialism for the rich and enslavement for the rest. 

Although many commentators point out, correctly, that this neoliberal socioeconomic model is not working for the vast majority of people, the point is, it was never intended to be that way. The purpose of neoliberal socioeconomic policy is not to improve the living standards or protect the jobs for the many, but to defend the short-term economic interests of the few.

In Spain, the Rajoy governments use of brute force against the people of Catalonia is an illustration of the extent to which the one percent are prepared to go in order to protect their corrupt neoliberal system of wealth usurpation. In theory the EU, as an institution, can be the catalyst for raising the living standards of the poorest, but under neoliberalism, it too, has become a corrupt extension of the sovereign state.

What Theresa May really means, is not that capitalism is the “greatest agent of collective human progress ever created”, but rather that neoliberalism is the best economic model through which her class is able to financially enrich themselves by manipulating the institutions of society.

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The London Dockland’s Arms Fair: The Royal Merchants of Death

By Daniel Margrain

If not for the protests that have been taking place over the past week at London’s Docklands, what is taking place their might appear to some to be a run of the mill trade show. In fact, one of the world’s greatest cities is hosting representatives of some of the most authoritarian regimes on earth such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and Azerbaijan as part of the biennial Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) exhibition that began yesterday (September 12, 2017).

This summer, Britain demonstrated its support for the Saudi government, the biggest market for UK arms companies, by delivering a consignment of 500lb Paveway IV bombs originally earmarked for the RAF. Saudi Arabia’s fleet of strike aircraft includes British Tornados, Eurofighter Typhoons and US F-15s.

Michael Stephens, of the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi), told the BBC:

“The UK is digging into its own weapons supplies to replenish Saudi stocks.”

Many of the weapons that will be sold to the Saudi’s at the arms fair will be used in airstrikes ostensibly against Houthi rebels in Yemen but in fact are being targeted against civilian infrastructure. This amounts to a violation of the laws of war. More than 1,500 companies are expected to exhibit their weapons of death wares at the event, including the US and UK giants Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon and BAE Systems.

Many of the Saudi bombs raining down on Yemeni civilians are being sold to them by BAE Systems, whose chairman, Sir Roger Carr, is also vice-chair of the BBC Trust. This almost certainly explains why the BBC has been reluctant to highlight Saudi-UK links in their news coverage. 

At past London arms fairs, campaigners have discovered a variety of illegal torture equipment advertised for sale, including electric shock stun guns and batons, leg-irons, and belly, body and gang-chains. There has also been a range of illegal cluster-munition weaponry advertised. Author and activist, Matt Kennard, posted a photograph on Twitter of some of the munitions on sale at the event (see below):

According to the Guardian, Amnesty said it had identified nine companies that had violated UK law at DSEI events between 2005 and 2013.

The royal connection

The British establishment and royalty know that arms are good investments especially shells, bombs and cruise missiles that are tipped with depleted uranium. Air, water and soil are contaminated when DU is used and once contaminated there is no way to de-contaminate it. To contaminate the food chain is a crime against humanity for which the Royal Family is complicit.

Their complicity (with the help of Tiny Rowland), extended to the asset stripping of Africa. Tiny Rowland, who was an unashamed member of Hitler Youth and nicknamed the “Royal Buckaneer”, was chief executive of the Lonrho conglomerate from 1962 to 1994. Angus Ogilvy, the Queen’s nephew, would sit on Rowland’s Board with Royal approval. The Royal shares would thus finance the arming of Africa in the Lonrho resource wars. African lenders who promised Lonrho their strategic minerals were armed to the hilt by Ogilvy and Rowland.

In 1987, the Anti-Slavery Society reported that in Lonrho’s shanty goldmines, 60 boys had to work almost naked in a pool of cyanide at their extractor plant in Ghana. The cyanide, in separating out the gold, enters the body as gas, liquid or acid dust. But for Lonrho and royalty such horror is overlooked if it happens to impinge on profits. With the help and advice of their pet buckaneer, the royal shareholder’s had recolonized Africa by the back door and their uranium holdings are now worth more than 6 billion dollars.

But here’s the catch. No amount of money can deflect from the fact that pollution is democratic. Not only can uranium winds blow back into the faces of their profiteers but thanks to uranium investors, radioactive isotopes are now found in the flesh of worms. Worms are a pillar of ecosystems in as much as they air-ate the soil and aid the nutrient uptake of plants which Prince Charles reportedly likes to talk to.

Depleted uranium that hardens the tips of shells that can pierce concrete is one of the royal ordinance star exports despite the fact that weapons which contain DU violate the Geneva Convention. The DU shell which the Sovereign has shares in, is not only illegal but it is also a highly mobile discriminate killer described as a “permanent terrain contaminant”.

Iraq Birth Defects Depleted UraniumUnlike any hereditary monarchy, however historic, DU stains the environment forever and rewrites DNA codes. The rates of human deformation in Fallujah, the city in Iraq where the West used DU, exceed those in Hiroshima. While the UK government was undertaking its illegal war in Iraq, it increased the value of the Royal investment. The price of uranium increased 500 percent in six years.

The trading in death by royalty continues apace but has shifted from the Continent they fleeced during the Ogilvy/Rowland years to the Arabian Gulf Peninsula. Three year ago BAE systems, sold 72 Typhoon fighter jets to the Saudi Arabian dictatorship. On the eve of the day the deal was signed Prince Charles was in the Saudi capital Riyadh, dressed in traditional robes and joining the Saudi princes in a sword dance.416d25d02296c9098b4b34155971abeb

Andrew Smith from the Campaign Against the Arms Trade said:

“It is clear that Prince Charles has been used by the UK government and BAE Systems as an arms dealer”. This was Charles’ 10th visit to the Saudi regime and was made at the request of the Foreign Office. A previous investigation into UK-Saudi arms deal, Margaret Thatcher’s sale of Tornado fighters in the Al Yamamah deal, was blocked by Tony Blair on “national security grounds”.

Illegal arms deals involving British royalty extends further afield. In South Africa, for example, Hawk Jets are the preferred killing machines.

Former South African MP Andrew Feinstein said:

“The royal family was involved in trying to persuade South Africa to buy BAE’s Hawk jets, despite the air force not wanting the planes that cost two and a half times the price of their preferred aircraft. As an ANC MP at the time, I was told that £116m in bribes had been paid to key decision-makers and the ANC itself. The royal family’s attitude is part of the reason that BAE will never face justice in the UK for its corrupt practices.”

It’s the hereditary concentration of power and accumulation of wealth through weapons profiteering, corruption and death that, in part, is the context that lays behind Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to refuse to sing the national anthem. The monarchy and notions of democracy are irreconcilable concepts.

It was on this principle that the English people fought a civil war, made a revolution and cut off their king’s head in the 17th century. I’m not suggesting anything of the sort be carried out today, but the outward expression of Corbyn’s republican principles, set against Monday’s passing of the Brexit Bill in Westminster, highlight the contradiction at the heart of liberal democratic Britain in the 21st century.

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The Naked Emperor

By Daniel Margrain

Image result for pics of theresa may on a throne

After ten days of Tory-DUP negotiations, Arlene Foster returned to Belfast with a £1.5bn deal in exchange for the 10 votes Theresa May will potentially need to enable her to shore up a discredited minority government. Most of what the British government campaigned for in the election has now been junked.

The Tories, whose election manifesto closely resembled that of the BNP fascists in 2005, have aligned themselves with a similarly extremist political party in the form of the DUP, many of whose senior members are avowed creationists. The party is also linked to the fundamentalist Free Presbyterian Church which campaigns for creationism to be taught in schools and for museums to hold exhibitions on the subject.

In addition, the DUP are officially endorsed by loyalist terrorists; they don’t believe women who have been raped are entitled to abortions, are opposed to same-sex marriage and, if that wasn’t enough, they employed a climate change denier as an environment minister. It is worth noting that the Tory government who are propped up by these homophobes, creationists and terrorist endorsers, smeared the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, as a terrorist sympathizer.

The Tory-DUP deal, which is clearly incompatible with the Barnett Formula, will almost certainly threaten the 1998 peace accord, the Good Friday Agreement. Contained within the text of the agreement (Article 1) – the fundamental principle that lies at its core – is the phrase “rigorous impartiality”. The concept flows from the complex right of self-determination on which the current British-Irish constitutional compromise is based.

This is the notion that the future constitutional status of Northern Ireland should be decided by the people of Ireland alone; subject to the wishes of a majority of people in Northern Ireland (the consent principle). That is a choice that should be freely made and without detriment to anyone. It means that whoever exercises sovereign jurisdiction now (UK) “shall” do so on an impartial basis “on behalf of all the people” and that this:

“shall be founded on the principles of full respect for, and equality of, civil, political, social and cultural rights, of freedom from discrimination for all citizens, and of parity of esteem and of just and equal treatment for the identity, ethos and aspirations of both communities.”

It’s clear that maintaining any semblance of rigorous impartiality cannot be reconciled with the fact that the UK government has effectively favoured one party by giving it £1.5 billion to distribute within the province as it pleases in return for votes. Ireland’s former PM, Enda Kenny, warned about the possible implications of infrastructural investment that favoured one side over the other. He reminded Theresa May about the requirement of rigorous impartiality and questioned the governments ability to adhere to such a commitment.

It would appear that Kenny’s cynicism is justified. The succession of UK governments’ meddling either overtly or covertly in the conflicts of the middle east – notably in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria – indicate the British establishments preference for war over peace. Thus, the Tory governments close ties with the anti-peace party, the DUP, should not come as a surprise to anybody.

Indeed, ideologically and historically the two parties are more closely aligned than is perhaps generally appreciated. Both are staunchly pro-establishment, pro-war and socially and politically regressive. Not only are the DUPs attitudes to the likes of gays and progressives retarded, but from the outset they have actively campaigned against the Good Friday Agreement.

But more than that, as far back as the Sunningdale Agreement of 1973, they have opposed all previous measures intended to promote power-sharing and peace. Their deal with the Tories gives them the justification they need to undermine the Good Friday Agreement and thereby re-assert the establishments hegemony over the province, and hence, the right-wing political status quo that underpins it.

No sooner had the ink dried on the Tory-DUP deal, lawyers in Ireland began to examine ways that it could be challenged. It’s difficult to envisage a situation in which a successful legal challenge on the basis the deal undermines “rigorous impartiality” could not be made.

There appears to be no historical precedent whatsoever for a political settlement that favours one side in Northern Ireland over another based on a scenario in which money has been exchanged for votes in Westminster and whose sole intention is to prop up a minority government.

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The corporate media are protecting the establishment from democracy

By Daniel Margrain

Related image

The fact that Theresa May was only able to cling on to power with the help of the knuckle-dragging DUP because of the gains the Tories made from the SNP in Scotland, is extremely frustrating. Had the SNP fought the election primarily on an independence platform, rather than pretending to be all things to all people, the party would have almost certainly maintained its level of support.

What this illustrates is that the strategy to fight elections on the enemy’s chosen ground, is a flawed one. Offering the electorate competent technocratic managerialism rather than principled and ideologically-based policies, is a strategy of despair as the approach of the Blairites under Milliband aptly illustrated.

Yet, disappointingly this was precisely the retrograde step suggested by Paul Mason while arguing the case on the BBC after it became clear that Theresa May would not achieve an overall parliamentary majority. “Corbyn needs to bring Labour’s ‘hard-hitters’ back into the political fold”, argued Mason. Interestingly, the journalist and economist made his comments sitting next to former Blair spin merchant, Alastair Campbell, who was also quick to suggest that Corbyn should use his success to broaden his cabinet and his policy platform in order to bring the Blairites back onboard.

Concession

This kind of concession based on the false premise it will enable Corbyn to win power, should be avoided like the plague. The election proves that the ‘unelectable’ Corbyn who at 40 per cent gained a higher proportion of the vote than his predecessors (Milliband 2015, 30%, Brown 2010, 29%, Blair 2005, 35%), can win the next election on his own terms. In a rare, honest post-election commentary, Owen Jones wrote:

“Labour is now permanently transformed. Its policy programme is unchallengeable. It is now the party’s consensus. It cannot and will not be taken away. Those who claimed it could not win the support of millions were simply wrong. No, Labour didn’t win, but from where it started, that was never going to happen. That policy programme enabled the party to achieve one of the biggest shifts in support in British history – yes, eclipsing Tony Blair’s swing in 1997…The prospect of a socialist government that can build an economy run in the interests of working people – not the cartel of vested interests who have plunged us into repeated crisis – well, that may have been a prospect many of us thought would never happen in our lifetime. It is now much closer than it has ever been.”

It’s astonishing to this writer that Mason and others apparently fail to recognise that the left is desperate for an alternative to neoliberalism which Corbyn’s policies reflect but which Blairism helps augment. Any concessions towards those who have stabbed the Labour leader in the back over the last two years will totally undermine his alternative anti-austerity vision for the country.

Those who are genuine about the need for radical change, understand how important it is to undermine the hold the Blairites have on the party, not encourage them. The huge increase in turnout and votes of the 18-24 year old demographic up (from 58% under Milliband to 72% under Corbyn) that contributed enormously towards Labour’s 30 seat gain, was predicated on a vision of the country that rejects Blairism.

Hamstrung

Had the media not been biased against Corbyn during the election campaign, had he not been hamstrung by two years of almost constant vilification from the liberal corporate media like the Guardian, and reinforced by Blairites within his own party (the kind of calculating careerist opportunists Mason alluded to), Corbyn would almost certainly have got over the finishing line.

The same media-political establishment who were relentlessly vilifying him in lock-step, now claim they all got it wrong. This is a fallback position in an attempt to obfuscate. The truth is, the media didn’t think he was ‘wrong’, rather they opposed him. As Media Lens posited:

“They were ‘wrong’ about his ability to generate support. They still think they’re right to oppose everything he stands for.”

In other words, the corporate media’s mass failure represents a structural flaw. They have virtually zero credibility. The revelation that the exit polls suggested a hung parliament, prompted Cathy Newman to tweet:

“Ok let’s be honest, until the last few weeks many of us under-estimated Jeremy Corbyn.”

This is disingenuous. The reality is rather different. As opposed to underestimating Corbyn, the truth is the media refused to give him a fair hearing because of what he represents to corporate hacks like Newman.

So-called corporate ‘journalists’ and commentators are, as comedian Dom Jolly argued,

“political PR prostitutes to a handful of billionaires with selfish agendas.”

One such political PR prostitute is Dan Hodges who in July, 2016 tweeted the immortal line:

“If Corbyn beats Owen Smith I don’t see how May doesn’t call an election next year. And that would be political armageddon for Labour.”

Agenda

From the day Corbyn was elected as Labour leader, the agenda of political PR prostitutes like Hodges, Aaranovitch, Rentoul, Cohen and McTernan, has been to get rid of him. All those who are now crying wolf are doing so, not as part of a genuine principled display of collective remorse, but as a damage-limitation exercise in order to save their careers.

Ideally, they would have preferred Corbyn to have lost badly on the premise that the existence of the status quo is better than a Corbyn win which would have engendered career uncertainty. In this sense, the Westminster commentariat’s criticisms of the Labour leader were intended as a self-fulfilling prophecy.

A Tory landslide would have given those within the Westminster bubble like Polly Toynbee and Anne Perkins the opportunity to write their Corbyn obituaries and thus create an opening through which they would effectively have been able to take back control of the Labour party and reconfigure it in their own Blairite image.

Achievement

Corbyn’s sensational electoral achievement illustrates how an increasingly informed and sophisticated public are seeing through the deceptions and lies. Consequently, the attempts by the political-media establishment to exercise their dominance over them, using the Labour party as their tool with which to achieve it, back-fired spectacularly.

Social and political historians will look back at the current period in which a mass social media, controlled by the people, overcame the corporate-media propaganda power of the state, as a watershed moment. The fake apologist tones of the liberal elite who used the pulpit of their employers to try to bring Corbyn and his supporters to their knees, are now trying to persuade the public that their supposed change of heart has nothing to do with reining in their loss of control and, by extension, the reduced revenues of their employers.

We see this, for example, in relation to the Guardian’s associate editor, Michael White, whose public back-tracking strategy on Corbyn days before the election that was intended to halt the decline in his papers readership, was as transparent as Claude Rains in the Invisible Man. This is also reflected in additional sympathetic and supportive Corbyn articles and tweets since it became clear that his pre-election poll ratings had dramatically began to improve.

It’s precisely the kind of cynical attitudes outlined, displayed by the corporate media in general towards its target audience, that creates a space for alternative social media of the likes of the Canary to flourish. The corporate press barons are rapidly losing the public’s respect in no small part due to their biased distorted reportage and crude, fake sensationalist headlines designed to demoralize and disorientate their readership. The tabloid depiction of Corbyn as a Jihadist sympathizer is an obvious case in point.

Political weapon

However, it’s a mistake to think that less overt forms of media propaganda do not also function as a political weapon by the state. As Noam Chomsky put it: “Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.” The kinds of mutually-reinforcing propaganda in the liberal broadsheets are symptomatic of the broader decline in media performance.

Michael Savage, political editor of the Observer, for example, apparently thought nothing of tweeting the views of convicted fraudster and self-serving former MP Denis MacShane. The Blairite, MacShane and the Blairite, Savage were merely reiterating their respective anti-Corbyn views in order to implant in the public’s mind the notion that Corbyn is useless. This is also true of the wider corporate commentariat who reinforce their own prejudices which become a self-fulfilling echo-chamber. Dissenters who challenge this orthodoxy are often ridiculed, smeared or abused.

Investment

The media barons will continue to invest in traditional media propaganda only if at the end of it they can be assured they get the kinds of governments they want. The opportunistic careerist politicians and corporate journalists who operate within the Westminster bubble, know which side their bread is buttered and are only too willing to adjust their views accordingly, particularly if the corporate buck is large enough and the situation demands it.

However, the rise of Corbyn, concomitant to an increasingly politically active citizenship informed by alternative social media and a sincere and incorruptible form of politics, suggests the foundations upon which corporate greed and the establishment view of the world distorts human relations, are shaking.

It’s true the Tories are still the governing party. But their ability to shape domestic policy unhindered, premised on the existence of a corrupt media and democracy, has been greatly diminished. Theresa May is only able to cling to power by her fingertips because she is propped up by the DUP who have close links to loyalist terrorists who murdered 1,016 people between 1969-2001 and who shot someone dead in a car park in an internecine dispute during the election campaign.

The DUP are also climate change deniers, creationists, homophobes and anti-abortionists. There is only so much of this kind of DUP-Tory relationship the public, and even the media, will be willing to endure in the weeks and months ahead.

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This is the main reason why you should vote Labour today

 

By Daniel Margrain

Image result for pics of boris johnson with saudis

Jeremy Corbyn’s landmark stated intention to tackle not just terrorism in isolation, but its causes, is the potential catalyst for a far wider transformation of society that is desperately needed in Britain and, indeed, the world. This is the reality a Labour victory under Corbyn could realistically usher in, in the years ahead.

In the event of a Labour win, the days in which successive UK governments – both Tory and Labour – have perpetuated endless war and counter-terrorism in order to sustain the profits of the arms and weapons companies and to ensure the privileges and concentration of power of the few at the expense of the many are maintained, will almost certainly begin to come to an end.

This is why the deep state, that includes the corporate media, under the said governments, have consistently, in the words of Media Lens, thwarted the attempt by the public “to shape a genuinely democratic choice out of the sham choices of corporate-owned politics.”

The corporate media’s framing of Syria is a case in point. Back in December 2015, the BBC reported on claims made by the Ministry of Defense that RAF Tornado and Typhoon warplanes had destroyed wellheads in the country….“thus cutting off the terrorists’ oil revenue at the very source”. The impression given to the public was that the UK government had actively engaged in degrading the infrastructural and financial capability of ISIS.

However, this was based on a deception. In reality, the target was the precise location that had been hit by Russian and US coalition forces six weeks earlier. This was confirmed by a report in the Express on October 23, 2015, that highlighted the obliteration by both Russian and US coalition forces of an ISIS oilfield and supply routes in the heart of Islamic State territory in Syria. The Express report, therefore, inadvertently contradicted the UK governments own propaganda.

The deception also underlined the subsequent revelation that ISIS had gained access to weapons exported by the UK to the Middle East in the wake of 2003 invasion of Iraq. The ability of ISIS to access weapons is only possible if they have money to purchase them. Tackling the flow and source of criminal money, is the most effective way to drain them of their ability to function. This is precisely the strategy Corbyn has proposed to undertake in order to tackle the causes of jihadist terrorism.

The reason why the establishment are opposed to the Labour leader is because they realize he cannot be bought off on their terms and hence if elected he is likely to potentially undermine their ability to be able to continue pulling the financial strings that determine the control, flow and maintaining of oil revenues.

Briefing

In September, 2014, in a briefing to the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee, EU Ambassador to Iraq Jana Hybaskova, conceded that some European countries have purchased crude from ISIS from the areas in northern Iraq and Syria they have captured. Accepting that the most effective way of countering ISIS is to attack the source of their funding rather than using bombs to kill civilians, appeared to be the rationale behind the then Shadow Foreign Secretary, Hilary Benn’s initial decision to oppose military intervention in Syria.

However, inexplicably, two weeks later, he voted in favour of bombing. Something happened in the two week period up to December 2, 2015, which influenced Benn’s decision to change his mind. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that war is good for boosting the profits of those connected to the military-industrial complex and that he had allegedly been lobbied by BAE Systems who stood to gain financially from any change of heart.

Sure enough, the depression in their share price in late October, 2015 on the back of Benn’s opposition to war, subsequently jumped after the announcement to bomb was made. Being in the pocket of the arms industry is concomitant to the notion of favouring war, which not only explains the BBCs pro-war stance (BBC Trust vice-chair, Roger Carr is chairman of UK arms manufacturer, BAE Systems), but clearly also explained Benn’s careful positioning in his attempt to usurp the anti-war Jeremy Corbyn for the Labour leadership.

The attempt failed. Corbyn went on to secure a second mandate and Benn was sacked from his post as Shadow Foreign Secretary. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, major defense contractors Raytheon, Oshkosh, and Lockheed Martin assured investors that they stood 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, citing the Turkish military’s decision to shoot down a Russian warplane.

Tanner was far from being the only beneficiary of the war in Syria. A deal that authorized $607 billion in defense spending brokered by the U.S Congress, for example, 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 an energy independence.

Broader strategy

The broader strategy to dismember Syria involves the annexation of the Golan Heights, captured by Israel during the 1967 war. This is being aided by one of the most concerted media propaganda offensives since the Iraq debacle. The main reason the Murdoch media, in particular, is pushing for regime change in Syria, is because Israel has granted oil exploration rights to the multinational corporation, Genie Energy. Murdoch is a major shareholder in the company. In a 2010 press release, Claude Pupkin, CEO of Genie Oil and Gas stated:

“Genie’s success will ultimately depend, in part, on access to the expertise of the oil and gas industry and to the financial markets. Jacob Rothschild and Rupert Murdoch are extremely well regarded by and connected to leaders in these sectors. Their guidance and participation will prove invaluable.”

Pupkin continued:

“I am grateful to Howard Jonas and IDT for the opportunity to invest in this important initiative….Rupert Murdoch’s extraordinary achievements speak for themselves and we are very pleased he has agreed to be our partner. Genie Energy is making good technological progress to tap the world’s substantial oil shale deposits which could transform the future prospects of Israel, the Middle East and our allies around the world.”

Other players involved in the plan to extract resources from the Golan, include the Israeli subsidiary, Afek Oil and Gas, American Shale, French Total and BP.  Thus there exists a broad and powerful nexus of US, British, French and Israeli interests, encompassing defense, security, energy and media sectors, 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. The plans, if successful, will also rein-in Russian and Iranian influence in the region.

The foreign and domestic policies of successive British governments have been integral to the perpetuation of this system of cronyism, war and corruption. A class system built on inequality, injustice and deference, depends on these factors for its continued existence. The election of Corbyn as Prime Minister would potentially scupper this unethical and corrupt system which is why the deep state (that includes the BBC and the rest corporate media), have done their utmost to ensure it doesn’t happen. Let’s prove them wrong today by turning out in large numbers and putting our crosses next to our respective Labour candidates..

The extent to which the corruption at the heart of the British establishment, emblematic of endless war, has been allowed to continue, is reflected by the unwillingness of successive governments’ to tackle the issue. This is probably best exemplified by the decision of the former business secretary, Sajid Javid, in July, 2015, to invite companies’ to comment on whether the “tough anti-corruption measures” contained within the governments 2010 Bribery Act are “a problem.”

Letters sent by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills invited industry leaders to comment on whether the act has had an impact on their attempts to export. Needless to say, letters inviting small businesses and employees to comment about regulations that prevent them from making more money at any cost to the environment and working conditions, were not forthcoming.

Corruption

On the August 3, 2015, edition of the BBC HARDtalk programme, host Stephen Sackur interviewed Nigeria’s Minister for Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola. During the interview Sackur repeatedly alluded that the Nigerian government was systematically corrupt. At one point Sackur related an ‘off mic’ incident in which former prime minister, David Cameron, was said to have berated Nigeria, after he described it as one of the two most corrupt countries in the world.

Apparently, it hadn’t occurred to either Sackur or Cameron that big business in the UK lobbied against the Bribery Act which was intended to undermine corruption – the implication being that corporations would rather be scraping around in the sewer if there was some money to be made among the filth. As far as the British establishment are concerned, corrupt practices are something restricted to what dark skinned people in far away countries engage in. By contrast, the former thinks of itself as occupying the moral high ground, despite the fact that the UK was one of the major players heavily implicated in the Panama Papers scandal.

In 2012, Cameron visited one of the most corrupt and authoritarian countries on the planet, Kazakhstan. The leader of that country showered him with gratitude and praise. Kazakhstan’s former police chief is linked to the ownership of £147m-worth of London properties which forms part of the UKs status as a safe haven for corrupt capital. Other corruption scandals to have hit the headlines around that time include the Straw and Rifkind affair, the MPs expenses scandal (ongoing) and the long-running PFI saga that’s crippling the NHS.

Simon Jenkins summarized the malaise and hypocrisy at the heart of the British establishment:

“The truth is that hypocrisy is the occupational disease of British leaders. They lecture Africans and Asians on the venality of their politics, while blatantly selling seats in their own parliament for cash. I hope some insulted autocrat one day asks a British leader how much his party has garnered from auctioning honours. The government suppresses any inquiry into corrupt arms contracts to the Middle East. And when does lobbying stop and corruption start? The Cameron government is the most susceptible to lobbying of any in history.”

In the nearly two years since Jenkins wrote his piece, nothing fundamentally has changed. If anything, corruption is arguably even more endemic under Theresa May than it was under Cameron. Indeed, unethical practices within the British establishment continue to be integral to the workings of the deep state. Take the ongoing seamless links between the Tory establishment, BBC, the intelligence services and HSBC as an example.

The connection between the former and latter go back a long way. David Cameron’s great, great grandfather was the head of HSBC in the UK when they were established in Hong Kong. In November, 2010, a critical report from the Office for Fair Trading (OFT) insisted that the bank refrain from making illegal charges that amounted to some £200m on its customers.

Vindicated

After a successful 13 year-long battle to prove HSBCs guilt, anti-corruption campaigner and whistle blower, Nicholas Wilson, has finally been vindicated. The bank was found guilty and fined a relatively paltry sum of £4m. The background to the case outlined by Wilson in a video on his blog, is a revelation.

During the time of the critical OFT report, the former Prime Minister, David Cameron, decided to make the then head of the bank, Stephen Green, a Lord and to bring him into government as a trade minister. The government state broadcaster, the BBC, buried the story.

But more significantly, HSBC director, Jonathan Evans (formerly head of MI5), supplied – through his company – customer data to every major government department – MI5, MI6, GCHQ, MOD, MOJ. Cameron proceeded to appoint Evans to head the BBC Trust in 2014. He was subsequently made a Lord and, like Green, brought into the government. Another Lord, Lord Janvrin, former chair of HSBC private bank, sits on the committee that oversees the security services.

Another government connection to HSBC concerns the appointment of the head of their Audit Committee, Rhona Fairhead, to the chair of the BBC Trust. According to Wilson, since Fairhead’s appointment at the BBC, there has been no reporting of HSBC criminality which continues to be numerous and has been documented by other journalists around the world as major incidents. This includes a HSBC and Russian- related drug money laundering story.

Wilson points out that journalist Peter Oborne resigned from the Telegraph over its lack of negative coverage of HSBC. In a public letter, Oborne described how the paper had spiked about six negative stories including one by its investigative team over a period of three months because HSBC are “the advertiser you literally cannot afford to offend.”

Wilson has had his attempts to publish his expose of HSBC in the corporate media – Private Eye, the Times, BBC Panorama, Newsnight, Channel 4 News – scuppered by editors who have spiked his version of events. Prior to Cameron’s re-election in 2015, Sunday Times correspondent, Tom Harper, wrote a damning story on HSBC that implicated Cameron in his attempt to cover-up the Stephen Green scandal. But while Harper was investigating, Sunday Times editor, Camilla Cavendish, met with Cameron.

The story was subsequently spiked one day prior to its intended publication. Two months later, it was announced that Cavendish was working at Downing Street in the policy office of Cameron. When he resigned, he gave her a peerage. She is now Baroness Cavendish. That’s the extent of the corruption at the heart of the British establishment. In other words, one of the biggest corporate financial institutions in the UK that illegally stole money from its customers with minimal redress, is embedded within the high echelons of the corporate media and government establishment.

Given the connections HSBC has to many of the High Street chains, the nature of government-corporate corruption is likely to be far more extensive than many people realize. Then there is the extent to which these kinds of manifestations of the deep state are played out in terms of its relationship to the initiation of wars, terrorism and the perpetuation of the arms industry. I discuss these issues (in relation to Syria) here and here.

Jeremy Corbyn’s honest approach to tackling terrorism has brought the topic of corruption sharply into focus and in so doing has exposed the failed war on terror foreign policy strategy of his neoliberal opponents. The fact that Corbyn has wrong-footed the political establishment and the media that back them, is rattling both.

Sophisticated

An increasingly sophisticated electorate are aware that foreign military interventions and the selling of arms to tyrannical regimes like Saudi Arabia, increase the terrorist threat. Craig Murray has cited polls indicating that voters understand the correlation between wars fought abroad and domestic terrorism. Given the establishment themselves admit the connections, the media can no longer smear the left with the terrorist apologist epithet.

That partly explains why the Tories have not gained ground in the polls since Corbyn made his speech. So desperate have the establishment become, that the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, who was former director of two offshore tax avoidance asset management firms in the Bahamas, resorted to censoring Nicholas Wilson at a Hastings and Rye hustings. Rudd instructed the chair to disrupt his speech. Wilson, who is standing as an independent, had his microphone removed from him, after he commented on Rudd’s alleged political and financial links and actions in Saudi Arabia. The whole thing was captured on video here.

Given the inherent corrupt nature of the British state, the fact that the UK is widely perceived to be the world’s 14th least corrupt country in the world is perhaps a testament to the propaganda power of the corporate media. According to journalist Roberto Saviano, who spent more than a decade exposing the criminal dealings of the Italian Mafia, Britain is the most corrupt country in the world. He told an audience at Hay-on-Wye: “If I asked you what is the most corrupt place on Earth you might tell me well it’s Afghanistan, maybe Greece, Nigeria, the South of Italy and I will tell you it’s the UK.”

The disconnect between perception and reality is clearly indicative of the distorted way in which an organisation like the national state broadcaster under-report the subtle forms of ‘hidden’ systemic corruption that is embedded in the very fabric of the British state, camouflaged by legislation and cushioned by ‘gentlemen’s agreements’.

In bringing together a wide range of leading commentators and campaigners, David Whyte shows that it is no longer tenable to assume that corruption is something that happens elsewhere; corrupt practices are revealed across a wide range of venerated institutions, from local government to big business.

As Penny Green of Queen Mary University of London, contends, “the network of egregious state and corporate corruption in Britain rivals any in the developing world”. This is one reason why the electorate throughout the country in today’s contest, should consider very carefully who they give their vote to.

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Panama Papers: Business As Usual

By Daniel Margrain

The Panama Papers : How the rich rob us

Steve Topple’s excellent piece for the Canary which revisited the one year old Panama Papers scandal, was a welcome reminder of the background to the biggest data leak in history. As Topple outlined, the government’s stated intention to tackle the systematic corruption that resulted from the handing over by an anonymous source of massive amounts of data from the Panama-based, German-run law firm Mossack Fonseca which specializes in providing clients with dodgy offshore accounts, was essentially a face-saving exercise intended to give the public the impression that the elites were taking the issue seriously. But a year down the line, it appears to be business as usual.

Due to the specific nature of the leak, it’s clear that the potentially incendiary material is unlikely to see the light of day within the public domain. Given that the leaked material is being managed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) who in turn are supported by some of America’s biggest corporate funders, this was always going to be the case.

As was suggested at the time, had the leaker approached Wikileaks with the 2.6 terabytes of data consisting of 11.5 million documents, rather than Suddeutsche Zeitung – and by extension, the Western media more widely – the impact and potential consequences for those concerned would of been far greater. Instead, the largest data leak that journalists have ever worked with was selectively ‘drip-fed’ with most of the significant amounts implicating Western elites being censored from the public gaze.

Luke Harding

The public had already seen signs of that with the release of Luke Harding’s Guardian piece published exactly one year to the day (April 4, 2016). Predictably, Harding focused on Russian individuals and companies whose wealth represents a minority of the money stashed away. Crucially, he failed to mention that 9,670 UK Companies and over 3,000 US Companies, as well as former PM David Cameron’s father, top Tories and some of the UK’s biggest allies, were implicated and/or named in the Panama Papers.

Did the corporate media vilify David Cameron for some serious high-ranking connections to this mother of all leaks? No, it did not. Did the same media publish any damning report that featured Cameron airbrushed alongside global ‘baddies,’ like former Iranian leader Ahmadinejad? Again, the answer is No.

In the year since the leak, there has been no mention in the corporate media of the fact that the amount of UK companies, banks and accountants complicit in the scandal ranked second highest in an international league table (see below):

Neither has there been any mention of the numerous huge Western multinational corporations or billionaires involved, some of whom sit in the House of Lords. It’s also worth recalling that Harding failed to mention by name the 12 leaders, past and present, identified in the documents. Instead, the Guardian journalist, in line with the methodological approach adopted by Suddeutsche Zeitung, selectively focused on the West’s official enemies – Russia, Syria and North Korea.

There was certainly no impression given in the Guardian article that the global web of corruption and tax avoidance extends to 72 states, heads or former heads of state. Instead, the front cover of the paper at the time sensationally headlined with the words “Exclusive: The Secret $2bn trail of deals that lead all the way to Putin”.

Kowtowing

Neither would one have ascertained the scale of the corruption having watched the UK state broadcaster, the BBC, who chose to mention just five of the 72 – Egypt, Iceland, Gaddafi, Putin and Assad. Central to all this is the pathetic kowtowing to power by our media that’s supposed to be impartial and independent yet they act reflexively on mass by directing their fire at enemies of the state.

Naturally, the media cannot be perceived to be so transparently biased which is why the occasional ‘balanced’ message is required. Step forward the Telegraph. A year ago to the day (April 4, 2016), the paper reported:

“David Cameron’s father ran an offshore fund which avoided paying tax in Britain by hiring Bahamas residents, including a bishop, to sign paperwork…The fund, which was established in the 1980s with help from the Prime Minister’s late father, continues today. The Guardian says it has confirmed that ‘in 30 years Blairmore has never paid a penny of tax in the UK on its profits.”

Nevertheless, the targeting of a dead man is virtually risk free as will be the ‘outing’ of an occasional senile corrupt Lord to be cynically used a sacrificial lamb for the media hacks to peruse over if and when the time is right. Ultimately, the UK Secret Services will never allow the media to publish anything that is likely to damage the ‘reputations’ of leading establishment figures. The Snowden files that the Guardian had in its possession but were requested to be destroyed by M15, are proof of that.

Agenda

On Monday April 4, 2016, I had been watching the UK media all day after the Panama Papers story broke. All of the news bulletins, without exception, prefaced the scandal with either Putin, Cameron’s deceased father or Assad. It’s mainly the first two which are easy and convenient targets intended to deflect away from the crimes that implicate ‘our’ leaders. Almost certainly then, there is a highly motivated political agenda at work here.

This explains why Iceland, who locked up many of its corrupt and criminal bankers, was also named. Following the revelation that the country’s PM was implicated in the scandal, the people of Reykjavik took to the streets in their thousands demanding his resignation which happened shortly afterwards.

The elites on both sides of the Atlantic are concerned about the affect the revealing of widespread and systematic corruption within the high echelons of media and politics will have on the body politic of Europe and North America. They don’t want Reykjavik to spread to London, Paris and Washington. This is another reason why the full scale nature of those implicated is unlikely to be revealed for many years to come, if ever.

What all this highlights is the public is being cynically deceived by the corporate media in order to get their fellow elites off the hook. Craig Murray’s brilliant expose of the BBC Panorama documentary, Tax Havens of the Rich and Powerful Exposed, highlights the extent to which BBC producers and presenters will go to in order to misdirect their audience to this end.

Perhaps less subtle than the overt propaganda pieceSaving Syria’s Children, but no less effective, the BBC related at length the stories of the money laundering companies of the Icelandic PM and Putin’s alleged cellist. As Murray said:

“The impression was definitely given and reinforced that these companies were in Panama. [Presenter] Richard Bilton deliberately suppressed the information that all the companies involved were in fact not Panamanian but in the corrupt British colony of the British Virgin Islands. At no stage did Bilton even mention the British Virgin Islands.”

Murray goes on to say:

“Is it not truly, truly, astonishing the British Virgin Islands were not even mentioned when the BBC broadcast their “investigation” of these documents?”

The BBC, and media in general, are obscuring the key role British money-laundering via its base in the British Virgin Islands plays in these transactions. It can never be stated enough that this corruption scandal mostly concerns the British Virgin Islands. Yes, the corruption is widespread and involves a number of world leaders, some of whom are the UK governments official enemies.

However, in the broader scheme of things, these political figures are essentially peripheral. The level of corruption is widespread and systemic. It’s important that the ruling elites are constantly reminded that the British public haven’t forgotten about the Panama Papers scandal.

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Syria: Unraveling the Propaganda

By Daniel Margrain

One of the key signs of a healthy democracy is the extent to which state and corporate media encourage genuine diversity of opinions and the ability for alternative narratives to flourish. On both counts, the mass Western media have failed in relation to their coverage of the Syrian conflict. The inability to report objectively on Syria is indicative of a structural and systematic media bias. The highly concentrated nature of the corporate media has resulted in a sustained narrative of misinformation, deceptions and outright lies.

The mass media’s propaganda campaign against the government of President Bashar al-Assad began to surface during the events which led up to an intended series of planned demonstrations – the much hyped “Day of Rage” of March 4 and 5, 2011. However, at this early stage the propaganda proved to have been a failure and the planned action never materialized. Time correspondent, Rania Abouzeid conceded that the inability of the protest organizers to draw significant support for the “Day of Rage” was a reflection of the Syrian people’s support for their government and its policies.

Iranian influence

The support for Assad had become rooted as far back as 2007 after Iranian influence in neighbouring Iraq became established and the former’s relationship with the Syrian government strengthened. It was around this time that the American’s began to switch policy from opposing Sunni Jihadist militants embodied in al-Qaeda, to opposing Iran who they regarded as the bigger threat to their wider regional objectives. In Washington this switch became known as “re-direction”. The US attempts to destabilize Syria in order to counter growing Shi-ite predominance in the region was probably best articulated by renowned investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh:

“To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shi-ite”, Hersh wrote, “the Bush administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the middle east. In Lebanon the administration has cooperated with the Saudi Arabian government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezzbollah. The US has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its allies in Syria. The by-product of these activities is the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam – one hostile to America and sympathetic to al-Qaeda.”

False narrative

What former UK ambassador, Craig Murray, described as the active arming, funding and training of anti-Assad groups from 2007 onward, contradicts the “completely untrue narrative” that the conflict in Syria suddenly erupted and that the American’s came in to support democratic forces – a narrative that culminated in the outbreak of violent protests in the Syrian-Jordanian town of Daraa on March 17, 2011, less than two weeks after the failed “Day of Rage” protests outlined above. Echoing Murray, Professor of Economics, Michel Chossudovsky noted that the violence:

“had all the appearances of a staged event involving, in all likelihood, covert support to Islamic terrorists by Mossad and/or Western intelligence. Government sources point to the role of radical Salafist groups (supported by Israel). Other reports have pointed to the role of Saudi Arabia in financing the protest movement.”

Jeremy Salt, associate professor in Middle Eastern History and Politics at Bilkent University, Ankara, wrote:

“The armed groups are well armed and well organised. Large shipments of weapons have been smuggled into Syria from Lebanon and Turkey. They include pump action shotguns, machine guns, Kalashnikovs, RPG launchers, Israeli-made hand grenades and numerous other explosives. It is not clear who is providing these weapons but someone is, and someone is paying for them.”

Reports (suppressed in the Western media) indicating that the number of policemen killed at Daraa (seven) was more than the number of demonstrators killed (four), is hardly indicative of the brutal actions of a government intent on oppressing its own people.

Legitimacy

Time reported that unlike “the ousted pro-American leaders of Tunisia and Egypt, Assad’s hostile foreign policy toward Israel, strident support for Palestinians and the militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah, are in line with popular Syrian sentiment.” Assad, in other words, had legitimacy.

This was confirmed when, twelve days after the Western fomented violence at Daraa, tens of thousands of Syrians gathered at central bank square in Damascus in support of their president. The pro-government rally, which can be viewed here was wrongly portrayed in the Western media as an anti-government demonstration. The Guardian, for instance, reported the rally as a “military crackdown against civilians”

This kind of misinformation prompted Russia and China to veto a European-backed UN security council resolution threatening sanctions against the Syrian regime “if it did not immediately halt its military crackdown against civilians”.

Members of a US Peace Council inferred that the key motivations underpinning the foreign policy objectives of Washington and its allies in relation to Syria, have nothing to do with protecting civilians, nor with democracy but is about inflaming sectarian divisions and thus political instability as the prelude to initiating regime change in the country.

Former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas confirmed in 2013 that Britain had been planning the war on Syria “two years before the Arab spring” which was to involve the organizing of an invasion of rebels into the country. “This operation goes way back. It was prepared, preconceived and planned”, he said.

Regime change: a brief historical summary

Anglo-American plots to overthrow governments who refuse to play imperialist ball, often assisted in the endeavor by Muslim extremists, go back a long way. Craig Murray proffers some invaluable historical detail:

“As early as 1834 David Urquhart, First Secretary at the British Embassy in Constantinople, was organising a committee of “mujahideen” – as he called them – and running guns to Chechnya and Dagestan for the jihadists to fight Russia. In 1917 British troops again invaded Russia, landing at Archangel and Murmansk.”

It’s this kind of historical legacy, in which nations act autonomously from the over-arching reach of the colonial-imperialist state, that drives the Anglo-American war machine on. In relation to Syria, this attitude goes back to the late 1940s when in response to the Baath Parties support of Nasser’s anti-imperial policies and its close ties to Moscow, Britain by 1956 began promoting the idea that Syria people needed to be saved from the egalitarianism of the Syrian state.

Working in conjunction with the U.S, the British agreed that a serious attempt should be made to establish a pro-Western government in Syria by means of an engineered coup that enlisted the use of Turkish, Iraqi and Lebanese forces as well as the Muslim Brotherhood. In December, 1954, the British ambassador in Damascus, Sir John Gardener, told Anthony Eden, then foreign secretary, of ‘monster demonstrations arranged by the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria’, which took place after Egypt’s clampdown against the movement.

However, this strategy proved counterproductive in the long-term with respect to British interests. The coup, known as Operation Straggle, ultimately failed. It was replaced in September, 1957, by another plan. Backed at the highest level in Britain, this plan principally involved the provoking of an internal uprising by the Muslim Brotherhood in Damascus as a prelude to the Syrian government’s overthrow.

Carried out in coordination with the Iraqi, Jordanian and Lebanese intelligence services, the ‘Preferred Plan’ again involved divide and conquer and false flag tactics, the use of Syrian MI6 agents working inside the Baath Party and the CIA to augment tensions in Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon. Syria had to be made to appear as the sponsor of plots, sabotage and violence directed against neighbouring governments.

The Anglo–American plan also involved Prime Minister Harold Macmillan authorising the assassination of key Syrian officials. The head of Syrian military intelligence, the chief of the Syrian general staff and the leader of the Syrian Communist Party, were all approved as targets. Yet in the end, the 1957 plan never went ahead, mainly because Syria’s Arab neighbours could not be persuaded to take action.

The plan was ditched in early October in favour of a strategy of ‘containment plus’, which involved enlisting pro-Western Arab states and exiled opposition groups to maintain pressure against Syria.

From the colonial-imperial wars of the early 19th century when the British aligned themselves with the Islamist extremists through to the 1950s in Syria and the early 1980s in Afghanistan and beyond, the objectives of the Western powers has always been the same – the drive for profits.

Then, as now, wars of aggression, are motivated by the financial imperatives associated with big business. In his book Towards a New Cold War: U.S. Foreign Policy from Vietnam to Reagan, Noam Chomsky argues that:

“If we hope to understand anything about the foreign policy of any state, it is a good idea to begin by investigating the domestic social structure. Who sets foreign policy? What interests do these people represent? What is the domestic source of their power? It is a reasonable surmise that the policy that evolves will reflect the special interests of those who design it.”

 

It’s the concentration of wealth into the executive arm of the state which defines the logic of a capitalist system driven by war that enables this state of affairs to continue. For centuries the powerful have consistently sought to ascribe blame on the powerless in order to justify the initiation of wars against them and the theft of their resources.

Regime change/Ghouta & Houla

Given the context described, it comes as no surprise that much of UK journalism had decided that the Wests current official enemy was responsible for the chemical attacks in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta in 2013. This was the year former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas announced that Britain had been planning the war on Syria “two years before the Arab spring” which was to involve the organizing of an invasion of rebels into the country.

On September 16 of that year, the UN published the evidence in its report on “the alleged use of chemical weapons in the Ghouta area”. The UN did not blame the Syrian president, Assad, for the attack, but instead expressed “grave doubts” that the Syrian government was responsible.

Just one day after the attacks, a Guardian leader claimed there was not “much doubt” who was to blame, as it simultaneously assailed its readers with commentary on the West’s “responsibility to protect” (see below). The media’s response to the May 2012 massacre in Houla, similarly reported the Assad government as having been mainly responsible for the deaths.

On June 27, 2012, a UN Commission of Inquiry delivered its report on the Houla massacre by concluding that they were unable to determine the identity of the perpetrators. However, the gruesome nature of many of the deaths pointed to the kinds of atrocities typical of Al Qaida and their affiliates in the Anbar province of Iraq. Nevertheless, the clear intention of the media was to attempt to cast Syria into the ‘civil war’ of the Wests making. The propaganda offensive continued two months later when Barack Obama announced his “red line.”

On cue, on April, 2013, the White House claimed that US intelligence assessed “with varying degrees of confidence” that “the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin”. This was flatly contradicted by former Swiss attorney-general Carla Del Ponte on May 6, 2013. Speaking for the United Nations independent commission of inquiry on Syria, Del Ponte said, “We have no indication at all that the Syrian government have used chemical weapons.”

September 16, 2013 UN report

Seemingly undeterred, Washington continued with the accusations following the chemical attacks in Ghouta over three months later, long before the UN published the conclusions in its September 16, 2013 report. The reports findings were cautious in terms of blaming the Assad regime for the attack. Nevertheless, as far as the U.S administration was concerned, Assad had crossed the ‘red line’ and was pronounced ‘guilty’. As a result, the U.S president announced on television that he was going to respond with a ‘targeted’ military strike on Syria, despite widespread public opposition to any such attack.

In response to the opposition to mission creep and war, the BBC produced the now infamous documentary, Saving Syria’s Children, arguably the most overt piece of war propaganda ever made. Sequences filmed by BBC personnel and others at Atareb Hospital, Aleppo on 26 August 2013 that purported to show the aftermath of an incendiary bomb attack on a school in Urm Al-Kubra were, in the words of journalist Robert Stuart, “largely, if not entirely, staged.” Broadcast on the day the House of Commons was due to vote for military action in Syria, the documentary was clearly intended to influence the vote which the Cameron government ultimately lost. Stuart’s brilliant and meticulous analytical demolition of the documentary is discussed here.

Qatari government report

Yet another cynical piece of anti-Assad propaganda that passed the corporate mainstream media class by, was the BBCs distorted interpretation of a report commissioned by the Qatari government which claimed that the Syrian government had “systematically tortured and executed about 11,000 detainees since the start of the uprising.” Craig Murray, described the BBCs presentation of the report as “a disgrace” that again, was clearly intended to influence public opinion in favour of war. The media war-drive was averted after Obama agreed to a Russian proposal at the UN to dismantle Syria’s capability for making chemical weapons after having been exposed for his deceptions.

Based on interviews with US intelligence and military insiders, Seymour Hersh, the journalist who revealed the role the United States played in the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, asserted that Obama deceived the world in making a cynical case for war. This claim was supported in April, 2016, by former CIA analyst, Ray McGovern, who argued that the Turkish government, at the behest of Washington, engineered the chemical attacks in Ghouta in order to draw the United States into Syria. McGovern stressed that one of the Turkish journalists who exposed Turkey’s involvement in the alleged false flag attack has (as part of president Erdogan’s crackdown on independent journalism), been imprisoned and charged with treason.

Arms company profits

The prospect of a lengthy war against Syria provided a boost to the profits of the arms and weapons companies while simultaneously reining in Russian and Iranian influence in the region. According to Charles Glass, in order to help achieve this, U.S tax payers’ money “has been used to fund terrorist groups from the very beginning.” The author, journalist and film-maker proffered the U.S rationale for this course of action:

“Iran is president Assad’s only ally in the region, and Assad is the only client state of Russia in the entire Arab war. Remember, there are only twenty-two members of the Arab League, twenty-one of whom are client American states, and Russia wasn’t going to give the one that remains [ie Syria] up. So from the point of view of the U.S, they want to have all twenty-two.”

Glass continued:

“Moreover, they want the Syrian army to be U.S trained, and they want a Qatari pipeline to go through Syria. They want to dominate the whole region and Syria is the missing piece. In addition to which, because Syria supported Hezzbollah in Lebanon, which the Israeli’s have never forgiven them for, they wanted to break the bridge with Tehran. For the outside powers, it’s never been about human rights and democracy inside Syria (emphasis added). That’s not the issue. The issue has always been about Assad’s relationship with Iran.”

Glass’s assertions, which are supported by Craig Murray, have been corroborated by Wikileak cables. But regime change that invokes the imposition of an anti-Russian leader within the power structures of the Syrian state, cannot be achieved without the aid of ISIS on the ground who have gained access to weapons exported by the UK to the Middle East in the wake of the 2003 US-led Iraq invasion.

However, gaining access to weapons is not possible without access to money to purchase them. The main source of ISIS funds is from the sale of oil from nearly a dozen oil fields in northern Iraq and Syria’s Raqqa province. It then passes through Turkey and Iraq’s Kurdistan region. In September 2014, in a briefing to the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee, EU Ambassador to Iraq, Jana Hybaskova, conceded that some European countries have purchased crude from ISIS from the areas in northern Iraq and Syria they have captured. This is all part of the West’s strategy to wreck the relatively secular and stable nature of Syrian civic society.

Black market oil/Arab allies funding ISIS

In 2012, a Pentagon document obtained by Judicial Watch spelled out the fact that the Wests supported terrorist opposition – who have burned down churches and massacred the world’s oldest Christian communities – “are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria.” Two years later (2014), David Cohen, US Treasury under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, claimed that middlemen from Turkey and Iraq’s Kurdistan region buy black market oil from ISIS that earns the terror group some $1 million a day.

If Western governments were serious about obliterating the existential threat they claim ISIS represents, they would not have aligned themselves with 70,000 unidentified ‘moderates’ who, as Patrick Cockburn contends “are weak or barely exist”. On the contrary, they would have aligned themselves with the forces on the ground that are resisting ISIS most effectively. These groups are the Syrian Kurds, the Syrian National Army, Hezzbollah and Iran – all of whom were, and to some extent still are, being backed by Russian air power.

Nafeez Ahmed notes that in his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee in September 2014, General Martin Dempsey, then chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked by Senator Lindsay Graham whether he knew of “any major Arab ally that embraces ISIL”? Dempsey replied: “I know major Arab allies who fund them.” In other words, the most senior US military official at the time had confirmed that ISIS were being funded by the very same “major Arab allies” that had just joined the US-led anti-ISIS coalition. Dempsey’s testimony is consistent with information contained within a leaked US State Department memo, dated 17 August 2014, which states that:

“We need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to Isis and other radical groups in the region.”

The ‘Responsibility to Protect’ Doctrine

The following year (September 28, 2015), in a speech to the U.N General Assembly in New York, Barack Obama alluded to the ‘responsibility to protect’ (R2P) doctrine as the justification for Assad’s overthrow and, in the name of democracy, the bombing of Syrian cities. Earlier that day at the British Labour Party Conference in Brighton, England, the neocon fanatic, 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”.

Often used as a justification to protect suffering populations, in reality the R2P doctrine has been used to overthrow a series of sovereign states, most recently in Libya. The version of R2P formulated at the UN World Summit will, in all probability, be used in an attempt to legally justify the dismembering of Syria. The use of the R2P doctrine in Iraq set a precedent whereby Western powers have been able to circumvent the consensus view of what constitutes illegality among the world’s leading international lawyers.

The Caroline Principle

The rejection of the consensus view of the world’s leading international lawyers, was outlined in a memorandum where the concept of the Caroline Principle was developed. A key part of the memorandum 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” (emphasis added).

In other words, the re-framing of international law based, as one administration official  put it – on “pre-emptive retaliation” – means that the West can make any decision to attack a potential adversary without evidence of any wrongdoing. During a January 11, 2017 speech, the English and Welsh Attorney General (AG) outlined the legal position on the UK’s use of drones stating that it was dependent on a subjective interpretation of “pre-emptive”, specifically on the word, “imminent”.

According to Craig Murray, during the time of the Iraq war in 2003, the entire UK legal department of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advised Jack Straw that it would be illegal for the UK to attack Iraq. In response, Straw was said to have done two things. First, he allegedly asked the Attorney General to sack the person the AG appointed – ie the chief Foreign office legal adviser, Michael Woods, who advised Straw about the illegality of going to war with Iraq.

Secondly, having failed in his attempt to get Woods sacked, Murray alleges that Straw sent the AG for England and Wales, Lord Goldsmith, to the US to consult with G.W Bush’s legal advisers, ostensibly in order to clarify the legal position. The consultation resulted in Goldsmith changing his view from one where he argued the war was illegal to one of legality.

Murray contends that Straw realized that he could no longer depend on the FCOs legal advise to justify war. So, after Woods subsequently left the FCO voluntarily, Straw appointed, for the first time ever, a new chief legal adviser who originated from outside the FCO. This outsider was the international lawyer who developed the Caroline Principle, Daniel Bethlehem.

Prior to his role as legal adviser to the FCO, Bethlehem was legal adviser to Benjamin Netanyahu and had represented Israel before the Mitchell Inquiry into violence against the people of Gaza, arguing that Israel’s actions could be sanctioned on the basis of self-defense using the reconfigured “imminent threat” definition as justification.

Bethlehem also supplied the Government of Israel with a Legal Opinion that the vast Wall they were building in illegally occupied land, surrounding and isolating all the major Palestinian communities and turning them into large prisons, was also legal.

When on January 11, 2017, the AG gave his speech in which he made public the legal advise of Daniel Bethlehem, none of the British media made any critique of it at all. Not a single media outlet inquired about the background of Daniel Bethlehem, his development of the Caroline Principle and the R2P doctrine that underpins it. This doctrine, it is to be recalled, is used to legitimize drone strikes without due legal process and was used as the legal basis for the Iraq war. But arguably, most significant of all in the context of this article, is the mass media have failed in their duty to critique Bethlehem’s possible role as part of the Wests broader strategy to dismember Syria.

Israel & energy independence

This broader strategy involves 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 US, 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.”

Up to this point, US policy toward Assad had been ambivalent – the intention being that “jaw-jaw” rather than “war-war” would more likely pry Assad away from Iran, thus opening up the Syrian economy to US investors, and aligning the Assad government with US-Israeli regional designs. But the signing in July, 2011, of a $10 billion Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline deal put an end to the U.S ‘softly-softly’ approach.

The rebel-terrorist factions whose violence had been fomented by the Western imperial axis at Daraa in March 2011 had, by the end of that year, seen their levels of covert assistance increase substantially. The purpose of this increase in support, was to elicit the “collapse” of the Assad government. This kind of ‘war of attrition’strategy of supporting Islamist terrorists, was intended to draw Russia into Syria in the same way the Carter government in 1979 had supported the mujahideen in Afghanistan in order to draw the Soviet Union, as it was then, into that country as the prelude to its collapse.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, major defense contractors Raytheon, Oshkosh, and Lockheed Martin assured investors that they stood 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?

Concerted

None of the above would have been possible without one of the most concerted media propaganda offensives since the Iraq invasion. At the forefront of this offensive has been the Murdoch printed press with the rest of the pack not far behind. According to the Pew Research Journalism Project, “the No. 1 message” on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and Al Jazeera, is that “the U.S. should “get involved” in the conflict in Syria”. But involvement requires a semblance of public consent and this is often achieved as the result of a singularly defining propaganda image or event.

In terms of the first Gulf conflict, the event in question was the infamous nurse Nayirah affair. In relation to the 2003 Iraq invasion, it was the WMD debacle, and in Libya in 2011 it was the false claims of rape said to have been committed by Libyan government troops. Aside from Saving Syria’s Children, the defining propaganda event in relation to Syria is probably the image of a small boy, Omran Daqneesh, photographed covered in dust sitting on a chair which brought a CNN anchor to tears.

But this incident is one of many. From the media’s use of the term “barrel bombs”, the glorification of White Helmets (who have been exposed as terrorist-enabler’s) – through to the ‘weaponizing’ of children exemplified by the exploitation of seven year old Bana Alabed by an individual whose on-line activities suggest complicity in a criminal disinformation campaign – the propaganda during this latest conflict has arguably been more sophisticated and far-reaching than at any time since WW1.

A major factor in the mass media’s hidden agenda in the selling of fake narratives to large swaths of the public, has been their ability to portray themselves as legitimate and reputable news organisations. During the conflict, Channel 4 News, CNN and Al-Jazeera have all reported overt, and often crude, false anti-Syrian propaganda as a replacement for objective reportage. The latter, for example, produced what was clearly a piece of absurd theatre in which the news anchor struggled not to laugh out loud live on air. This was reminiscent of CNNs interview with the fake “Danny”- clearly a Western-funded propagandist and Islamist extremist enabler.

Interwoven web

More broadly, evidence points to the existence of a complex interwoven web that connects the various government departments, NGOs, opposition groups and activists with the corporate media who facilitate and amplify this kind of propaganda. The evidence, outlined by Barbara McKenzie, is compelling:

“The role played by the British Foreign Office and other government departments in the unremitting propaganda against the Syrian government is unquestionable. The British government is determinedly pursuing its policy of regime change in Syria, and sees gaining public acceptance of that policy through propaganda that demonises the Syrian government and glorifies the armed opposition as essential to achieving that goal.”

Burying Bad News in the Killing Fields of Yemen

By Daniel Margrain

Philip Hammond and Saudi Arabia's Defence Minister Prince Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud

UNICEF reported at least one child is dying every 10 minutes in Yemen and that there has been a 200 percent increase since 2014 in children suffering from severe acute malnutrition, with almost half a million affected. Nearly 2.2 million are acutely malnourished in need of urgent care. An estimated 21 million people – nearly double the number of people who need aid in Syria – require humanitarian assistance in a country where more than 60 per cent of Yemeni’s, according to the UN, are close to starvation. This comes as the country’s health system is on the verge of collapse, in part due to the ongoing US-UK – backed Saudi bombing of the country which began in March 2015.

During the latest wave of 45 airstrikes across the country that began last Sunday (January 22), a school just outside the capital, Sana’a, was hit and 70 people had reportedly been killed in fresh fighting. According to UN figures reported in Reuters, an estimated 10,000 civilians have so far been killed as a direct result of the Saudi-led coalition bombing. However, as the UK government does not keep a record of Yemen’s ‘unpeople’ killed in airstrikes, nor does it have any record of how many “guided missile kits” it has sold to the Saudi regime, the real figure is likely to be much higher. A UN study found that 60 per cent have died from Saudi-led aerial bombardments in the Houthi-controlled north of the country. Journalist Sharif Abdel Kouddous who was based in this region commented:

“Everything has been hit, from homes to schools, restaurants, bridges, roads, a lot of civilian infrastructure. And with that, of course, comes a lot of the suffering.”

The forgotten war

Despite this humanitarian disaster, Yemen has largely been the mass media’s forgotten war having initially been buried a week after Murtaza Hussain revealed the release of previously suppressed documents contained within a 2002 congressional report that emphasized possible links between high-ranking members of the Saudi royal family and the 9/11 hijackers.

Instead, the focus of the mass media has been their demonization of Russia in relation to the proxy-war being fought in Syria. As terrible as the suffering has been for the Syrian people, the humanitarian situation in Yemen is far worse. Not only is it the poorest country in the Middle East whose people suffered widespread malnutrition before the war, but people have no disposable income in order to be able to pay to get themselves out of the country.

Also, Yemen borders the country that is bombing it which severely hinders the ability of people to flee. Even fishermen have been bombed in their boats off the coasts, which rules out the option of going across the sea to get out of the country. The inability of the people to cope with the restriction on imports, in addition to two years of Saudi-led coalition bombing has culminated in a situation in which 18.8 million people are now in need of some form of humanitarian aid.

Breaking international law

Both the UK and US governments are major backers of Saudi Arabia’s bombing campaign. In August last year, the latter approved more than 1bn in military sales to Saudi Arabia, while UK export licenses to the regime were said to be worth more than £1.7 bn up to the first six months of 2015. According to analysis by eminent international law experts commissioned by Amnesty International UK and Saferworld, by continuing to trade with Saudi Arabia in arms in the context of its military intervention and bombing campaign in Yemen, the British government is breaking national, EU and international law.

The lawyers, Professor Philippe Sands QC, Professor Andrew Clapham and Blinne Ní Ghrálaigh of Matrix Chambers, conclude in their comprehensive legal opinion that, on the basis of the information available, the UK Government is acting in breach of its obligations arising under the Arms Trade Treaty, the EU Common Position on Arms Exports and the UK’s Consolidated Criteria on arms exports by continuing to authorise transfers of weapons and related items to Saudi Arabia within the scope of those instruments, capable of being used in Yemen.

They conclude:

“Any authorisation by the UK of the transfer of weapons and related items to Saudi Arabia… in circumstances where such weapons are capable of being used in the conflict in Yemen, including to support its blockade of Yemeni territory, and in circumstances where their end-use is not restricted, would constitute a breach by the UK of its obligations under domestic, European and international law….The UK should halt with immediate effect all authorisations and transfers of relevant weapons pending an inquiry” (emphasis added).

According to Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK:

“This legal opinion confirms our long-held view that the continued sale of arms from the UK to Saudi Arabia is illegal, immoral and indefensible. Thousands of civilians have been killed in Saudi Arabia-led airstrikes, and there’s a real risk that misery was ‘made in Britain’.”

UK complicity & the targeting of civilians

Iona Craig, who won the 2016 Orwell Prize for Journalism, has investigated numerous Saudi-led airstrike sites in Yemen. In an interview on Channel 4 News in December, 2015, Craig asserted that during these strikes, which she said are a regular occurrence, the Saudi’s targeted public buses and a farmers market.

Remnants from a bomb that Craig pulled from a civilian home that killed an eighteen month old baby as well as a four old and their uncle, were American made. Craig at the time stated that she had not personally uncovered evidence of British made weapons but has since corrected this view in the light of subsequent events.

The fact that, as Craig stated, there are twice as many British made aircraft in the Saudi Royal air force than there are in the British Royal air force, and that the British train and supply them with weapons, is by itself, tantamount to the UK government being complicit in the deaths of innocent Yemeni civilians.

Craig emphasized that she has seen evidence which suggests civilian casualties in Yemen are the result of deliberate targeting rather than “collateral damage”. Among the numerous cases the journalist has examined there have been no Houthi positions or military targets in the vicinity – a contention which she claims is supported by the pro-coalition side.

Britain’s active participation in Yemen began in September, 2015 following the bombing by Saudi Arabia of a ceramics factory in Sana’a close to the Yemeni capital which was confirmed as a civilian target. Fragments of a British made missile that had been built by Marconi in the 1990s had been recovered from the scene. With the British providing technical and other support staff to the Saudi-led coalition, the UK government’s role in the conflict is to augment US support as part of a broad-based coalition.

In December, 2015, the US State Department approved a billion-dollar deal to restock Saudi Arabia’s air force arsenal. The sale included thousands of air-to-ground munitions and “general purpose” bombs of the kind that, in October 2015, the Saudi’s used to target an MSF hospital. On the 15 December, 2015, 19 civilians were killed by a Saudi-led coalition raid in Sana’a.

Double-tap strikes

During a recent interview for LBC, Craig said that one of the tactics the Saudi-led coalition have adopted is to strike locations they had previously bombed which invariably kill first responders at the scene of atrocities who are trying their best to rescue the bodies of survivors. The casualties from such attacks outnumber the original bombings. Craig said she has personally witnessed attacks by coalition forces on a civilian market in which twelve people died in the initial attack and a further fifty or more had been killed in the follow-up attack. According to Craig, houses in Sana’a have been hit multiple times, which contradicts the myth that such targets are errors. Airstrikes of this nature are not isolated incidences as the media often portray. As Craig said in the interview:

“They [airstrikes] happen on a regular basis…The Saudi-led coalition have hit 58 hospitals and 39 markets. Routine targets include petrol stations and public markets. …Between March, 2015 when the war started to the end of August, the Yemen Project gathered all of the figures and calculated that there were 8,600 single incidences and amongst that over 3,000 hit civilian sites.”

Public relations

Facing mounting pressure from human rights groups, last month the Obama administration engaged in what was essentially a public relations exercise by announcing that the US government would halt the sale of precision-guided weapons to the Saudi regime. It’s likely the US government will attempt to get around this by selling them to other members of what is a multinational coalition.

In any case, the US government continues to provide its allies with intelligence and there is no indication that its major US ally, the UK, intends to end its authorization of over £1 billions’ worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia over the course of the war.

But most significantly of all, is that Obama’s announcement will do nothing to prevent the refueling of coalition aircraft. Logistically, without being able to refuel, fighter jets are unable to continue with their sorties. As Craig pointed out, this “would stop the bombing campaign literally tomorrow…If the U.S. government did want to stop the bombing campaign, they could do it…But they’re still heavily involved in the whole campaign carrying on.”

Lying to parliament

Towards the end of July last year, the UK government stood accused of repeatedly misleading parliament about Britain’s role in Yemen – news that was buried until its release in the final hours of the last day of the parliamentary term. Rather than accepting it has contravened International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and as a result says it wants to stop trading in illegal weapons of death with one of the most tyrannical regimes on the planet, the UK governments line has been to assure parliament that assessments into Saudi behaviour have been undertaken and that the country has not been abusing human rights in Yemen.

With talks between the country’s warring factions still deadlocked, the Foreign Office (FO) have retracted a series of statements on the crisis in the country describing them as “an error”, adding that no such assessments of human rights had ever been carried out. However, on July 21 last year, the government admitted misleading parliament on six different occasions telling MPs they had assessed Saudi conduct when they hadn’t, insisting that the Saudi’s weren’t breaking IHL. Amazingly, the UK government is not assessing whether the weapons they sell to the Saudi regime are being used in breach of IHL.

Having previously lied in an attempt to stitch-up Julian Assange in order to please his counterparts on the other side of the Atlantic, the then Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond went a stage further with his piece of mandarin-speak intended to cover-up his misleading of parliament as a justification to sell weapons that are being used to kill innocent men, women and children in Yemen. Hammond’s signing off weapons of death to one of the most brutal regimes on earth without them having been independently assessed beforehand, is indicative of just how detached Hammond is from the plight of his fellow human beings.

The government statement at the time read:

“We have NOT assessed that there has not been a breach of International Humanitarian Law by the coalition”.

This translates as that on no fewer than six occasions the coalition government misled parliament telling MPs that the Saudi’s were not breaching IHL in Yemen. However, they must of known they were. Late on Friday, June 22, 2016, former Shadow Foreign Secretary, Hilary Benn, MP wrote to then Foreign Secretary, Hammond (now Chancellor):

“I urge Boris Johnson, as the new Foreign Secretary, to ensure that the Government does what you originally said it was doing and immediately assess whether IHL has been breached. A continued failure to undertake such an assessment would be an abdication of responsibility and will serve to further undermine Britain’s standing in the world.”

The jaw-dropping revelations which represent complete u-turns on previous answers that the UK parliament were given, are not just about the correction of six parliamentary answers, but have a direct impact on the people of Yemen and the families of the thousands of civilians who have lost their loved ones in the conflict.

Freedom of information 

The British governments role in the country initially only came to light following a Freedom of Information request that revealed a ‘memorandum of understanding’ (MOU) between the then Home Secretary Theresa May and her Saudi counterpart Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef which was signed secretly during the former’s visit to the Kingdom in 2014. The purpose of the MOU is to ensure that, among other secret deals, the precise details of the arms sales between the two countries is kept under wraps.

Questions about the precise role the UK, US and Saudi Arabia are playing in Yemen, as well as the extent to which UK weapons are implicated in the deaths of civilians, will redouble in the months ahead, particularly after activists won their battle to take the government to court over the affair set for next month (February, 2017). No amount of attempts by the media to bury the Yemen conflict from the headlines will alter that fact.

The government tried to bury some very bad news last July and got found out. As long as there exists alternative media to bring the government to account, they will continue to be exposed for their criminal activities.

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All original material created for this site is ©Daniel Margrain. Posts may be shared, provided full attribution is given to Daniel Margrain and Road To Somewhere Else along with a link back to this site. Using any of my writing for a commercial purpose is not permitted without my express permission. Excerpts and links, including paraphrasing, may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Daniel Margrain and Road To Somewhere Else with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Unless otherwise credited, all content is the site author’s. The right of Daniel Margrain to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

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