Category: imperialism

How the West set out to destroy Syria

By Daniel Margrain

Pro-Assad demonstration

Largely unreported in the corporate media is that Bashar-al-Assad’s secular government won the first contested presidential election in Ba’athist Syria’s history on July 16, 2014. The election was regarded by international observers as open, fair and transparent. American Peace Council delegate, Joe Jamison, who was allowed unhindered travel throughout Syria, stated:

“By contrast to the medieval Wahhabist ideology, Syria promotes a socially inclusive and pluralistic form of Islam. We [the USPC] met these people. They are humane and democratically minded…. “The [Syrian] government is popular and recognized as being legitimate by the UN. It contests and wins elections which are monitored. There’s a parliament which contains opposition parties – we met them. There is a significant non-violent opposition which is trying to work constructively for its own social vision.”

Jamison added:

“Our delegation came to Syria with political views and assumptions, but we were determined to be sceptics and to follow the facts wherever they led us. I concluded that the motive of the US war is to destroy an independent, Arab, secular state. It’s the last of this kind of state standing.”

Analyst Stephen Gowans outlined that in early 2011, reporters from Time and the New York Times acknowledged that Assad commanded broad popular support and that the Syrian people exhibited little interest in protest.

Time’s Rania Abouzeid, for example, contended:

“Even critics concede that Assad is popular and considered close to the country’s huge youth cohort, both emotionally, ideologically and, of course, chronologically. 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, has legitimacy. The Time correspondent added that Assad’s “driving himself to the Umayyad Mosque in February to take part in prayers to mark the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, and strolling through the crowded Souq Al-Hamidiyah marketplace with a low security profile” had “helped to endear him, personally, to the public.”

This wouldn’t be possible if Assad was regarded by the Syrian people to be a dictator.

Overthrowing Assad by violent means

The notion that the United States government, its allies and proxies, want to see Syria’s pluralistic state under Assad destroyed, is not a secret. Indeed, the claim by Israel’s defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman, that Assad’s removal is the empires “ultimate goal”, is consistent with the notion that the aim of the U.S government is to stymie the non-violent opposition inside Syria.

Washington has been engaged in this latest phase of its long-standing strategy to depose Assad since early 2012 after it helped scupper Kofi Annan’s six point peace plan. Contrary to Western media propaganda, president Assad’s battle is not with his own people, but against outside mercenary forces and terror organisations who have, as commentator Dan Glazebrook noted, funded the Free Syrian Army and bribed government forces to defect.

Professor Jeffrey Sachs from the University of Columbia said:

“The CIA and Saudi Arabia together in covert operations tried to overthrow Assad….We started a [covert proxy] war (Operation Timber Sycamore) – a major war effort shrouded in secrecy [that was] never debated in Congress and never explained to the American people, signed by president Obama.”

Commentator John Wight added:

“Thousands of non-Syrians… descended on the country from across the Muslim world and beyond like a plague of locusts. [They took] advantage of the destabilization of the region wrought by Washington and its allies….”

The numbers highlighted below support this thesis:

Source Maytham

Dr Declan Hayes, who for many years has been living in Syria, offers additional insights:

“If this were a genuine revolution or revolt against a tyrannical regime, the sort of despots one gets in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait or Turkey, one would expect most Syrian moderates to support it. Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, to take one pertinent example, famously had the support of the shopkeepers, hawkers and students of Tehran who ended up sending the Shah, his secret police and their toadies scuttling for American-supplied bolt holes overseas.

Whatever its rights or wrongs, Iran’s Islamic Revolution had widespread support, as do Bahrain’s moderate protesters, who brave the henchmen of Saudi Arabia every time they protest against that truly autocratic regime. Moderate Alawites, Shias or Christians cannot support the Syrian insurgents as all the rebels are agreed that the Alawites and Shias must be exterminated and the Christians driven into exile, if they are not first also exterminated.

Hayes continued:

“All of Syria’s Christian leaders support, implicitly at least, the government of the Syrian Arab Republic, not least because, a few token rebels apart, there is no area in rebel-held Syria where they can openly practice their religion or live without perpetual fear.

Nor is there anywhere the moderate rebels control that Christians and other minorities can be safe from kidnapping by these same moderates, who will then sell them on to their more violent partners in crime, in much the same way the moderate rebels sold on the Ma’lulah nuns and the two American journalists who were recently beheaded. There is, in short, no way Syria’s Christians, Shias or Alawites, who do not have a death wish, can support the moderate rebels.”

Independent journalist, Vanessa Beeley, who spoke with civilians on the ground in east Aleppo as it was being liberated from Western-supported jihadist ‘rebels’, emphasized what she described as the universal “sheer jubilation and celebration at their liberation by the Syrian-Arab Army and the Syrian government.”

These kinds of testimonies have been totally absent from the corporate media and contradict the “Assad is a tyrant” narrative.

John Wight made the point that:

“History will not be kind to those who have propagated the lie that something approximating to a democratic revolution has been underway in Syria. On the contrary, the country and its people have suffered the depredations of an Islamic Khmer Rouge, intent on ‘purifying’ a multicultural and multi-religious society of minority communities that are able to trace their existence in this part of the world back over a millennia and more.”

The roots of Syria’s destruction

There is disagreement among academics as to the cause of Syria’s destabilization. However, there is general agreement that on 17 March, 2011, rioting occurred at the Syria-Jordan border town of Daraa involving hundreds of people. The rioting was guided by a largely Islamist agenda. It wasn’t a mass uprising typical of the Arab Spring.

A review of press reports in the weeks immediately preceding and following the riots, offers no indication that Syria was in the grip of a revolutionary struggle – a narrative consistent with the indifference shown to the “Day of Rage” on February 4 and 5, 2011 that preceded it. The ‘protests’ “fizzled,” said Time.

The magazine reported that two jihadist groups which would later play leading roles in the insurgency, Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, were already in operation on the eve of the riots, while three months earlier, leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood voiced their hope for a civil revolt in Syria.

The Muslim Brothers, who decades earlier declared a blood feud with Syria’s ruling Ba’athist Party and objected violently to the party’s secularism, had been embroiled in a life and death struggle with secular Arab nationalists since the 1960s, and had engaged in street battles with Ba’athist partisans from the late 1940s.

In response to the violent attacks by hundreds of jihadists against police officers and the setting alight of government buildings, president Assad conceded to many of the Islamists demands. This included releasing their comrades from state prisons. The U.S State Department had acknowledged that political Islam was the main opposition in Syria and that jihadists made up the principal section of opposition groups likely to be incarcerated.

Stephen Gowans drew comparisons with the West:

“Clerics demanding that Damascus release all political prisoners was equal in effect to the Islamic State demanding that Washington, Paris, and London release all Islamists detained in US, French and British prisons on terrorism charges.

Crucially, Gowans added:

“This wasn’t a demand for jobs and greater democracy, but a demand for the release from prison of activists inspired by the goal of bringing about an Islamic state in Syria. The call to lift the emergency law, similarly, appeared to have little to do with fostering democracy and more to do with expanding the room for jihadists and their collaborators to organize opposition to the secular state.”

Writing shortly after the events at Daraa, professor Michel Chossudovsky noted that the violence and burning of government buildings by jihadists:

“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.”

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.

Assad’s mass support

Clearly, the outbreak of violence in Daraa, undertaken by less than a thousand jihadists in support of their imprisoned comrades, was not representative of the will of the mass of the Syrian people. Indeed, the subsequent pro-government rally in the capital twelve days after the Western fomented violence in Daraa which can be viewed here, is indicative of widespread support for Assad. The rally far exceeded in number the hundreds of protesters who turned out in the Syria-Jordan border town to burn buildings and cars and clash with police.

Despite this, the rally was portrayed in the Western corporate 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”.

That the major forces driving the insurgency in the country were Islamist factions backed by the U.S, Britain, Saudi Arabia, France, Israel and others, was quietly dropped. In 2012, a Pentagon document obtained by Judicial Watch confirmed that jihadist terrorist groups that include ISIS – who burned down churches and massacred the world’s oldest Christian communities – were the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria.

Break-up of Syria

The rationale that lay behind the insurgency, is 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 backdrop 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 him 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.

Boost to profits

The prospect of a lengthy war against Syria provides a boost to the profits of the arms and weapons companies. Major U.S defense contractors Raytheon, Oshkosh, and Lockheed Martin assured investors that they stand to gain from the escalating conflicts in the Middle East. Lockheed Martin Executive Vice President Bruce Tanner said his company will see “indirect benefits” from the war in Syria.

Author, journalist and film-maker, Charles Glass, contended that in order 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, U.S tax payers’ money had been “used to fund terrorist groups from the very beginning.”

Corroborated by Wikileak cables, Glass continued:

“For the outside powers, it’s never been about human rights and democracy inside Syria. That’s not the issue. The issue has always been about Assad’s relationship with Iran.”

War is not meant to be won, it is meant to be continuous

The openly stated positions of the imperial powers in resource-rich parts of the world completely refutes the notion that the actions of these powers are benign. It is clear that continuous war that boosts the profits of arms companies is preferred to a genuine and lasting peace.

Western powers and their regional middle east allies view the suffering of innocent people at the hands of Islamist fundamentalists and other proxies, who they arm and fund, as a price worth paying in order that their geopolitical and economic regime change goals are maintained.

The right of Syria’s minority communities to be able to continue to live under a non-sectarian umbrella, protected under international law, and to ensure their civil liberties are upheld and protected, is not a priority for the imperial powers.

Many of my articles can be seen in Renegade Inc.

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

By Daniel Margrain

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

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

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

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

The Caroline Principle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It declared:

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

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

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

Israel & energy independence

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

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

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

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

As Orenstein explained:

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

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

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

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

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

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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.”

The Royals Are Making A Killing

Prince Charles does a sword dance while on a trip to Saudi Arabia to help sell UK arms to one of the world's most bruatl regimes. Not the swords, we hope, the Saudi monarchy uses to cut off people's heads and limbs for offences like adultery, blasphemy and homosexuality.:

By Daniel Margrain

Two weeks ago (December 22, 2016), Prince Charles warned against state persecution. This is despite the fact that the House of Saud regime he ingratiates himself with as depicted by the photograph above, executed religious leader, Nimr al-Nimr, earlier in the year and is one of the most barbaric regimes on earth. Millions of Londoner’s who are vehemently opposed to the regime have the opportunity to collectively vent their anger at the kind of duplicitous actions of Charles and the British governments unethical and inexcusable policy towards the Saudi regime that seeks to endorse it, once every two years on the streets of the capital.

It’s during these periods that the arms fairs which host representatives of some of the most authoritarian regimes on earth gather together in what on the surface might appear to some to represent run of the mill trade shows. It’s the attempt by the establishment to normalize killing and state oppression in this way that’s particularly repugnant. Nevertheless, it’s perhaps fitting that the apex of intra-state violence is not only represented in the home of a former empire that straddled the four corners of the globe, but which also has embodied in its future head of state somebody whose values are inherently inseparable from those he purports to despise. Thus it’s in the home of democracy that such luminaries as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and Azerbaijan are given a welcoming embrace as part of London’s Docklands biennial Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) exhibition.

Last 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, to the House of Saud regime. Saudi Arabia’s fleet of strike aircraft includes British Tornados, Eurofighter Typhoons and US F-15s. “The UK is digging into its own weapons supplies to replenish Saudi stocks,” Michael Stephens, of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), told the BBC. Many of the weapons sold to the Saudi’s are being used in airstrikes ostensibly against Houthi rebels in Yemen but in fact are being targeted against civilian infrastructure which amounts to a violation of the laws of war. More than 1,500 companies exhibited their weapons of death wares at the event, including the US and UK giants Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon and BAE Systems.

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. Amnesty said it had identified nine companies that had violated UK law at DSEI events between 2005 and 2013.

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. Contaminating the food chain is a crime against humanity for which the Royal Family is complicit, as it was (with the help of Tiny Rowland), in the asset stripping of Africa.

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 Lohnro their strategic minerals were armed to the hilt by Ogilvy and Rowland.

In 1987, the Anti-Slavery Society reported that in Lohnro’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 Lohnro 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”.

Unlike 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. BAe systems, Britain’s leading arms manufacturer last year 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.

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 is arguably in part the context that explains why the self-proclaimed democrat Jeremy Corbyn refused to sing the national anthem. The monarchy and democracy are simply 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 inward expression of Corbyn’s republican principles highlight the contradiction at the heart of liberal democratic Britain in the 21st century.

The Imperial arrogance of the BBC

 

 

By Daniel Margrain

“I think the days of Britain having to apologize for our history are over….I think we should celebrate much of our [imperialist] past rather than apologize for it, and we should talk, rightly so, about British values.”

The above words were uttered not by Nigel Farage, Nick Griffin or Enoch Powell, but former New Labour Chancellor, Gordon Brown eleven years ago during the recording of a BBC ‘Newsnight’ film which explored Brown’s ideas about Britishness. The “values” supposedly specific to Britain that Brown was referring to were not made clear.

Four years later, in 2009, Brown as Prime Minister, became embroiled in the controversy that surrounded the appearance of the fascist Nick Griffin on the BBCs flagship political forum programme, Question Time. After much to-ing and fro-ing between the BBC hierarchy and Brown, it was the latter who finally decided that the responsibility to allow Griffin on to the programme rested with the former.

Although in principle the BBC Trust – which oversees the requirement of the organisation “to deliver duly impartial news by the Royal Charter and Agreement and to treat controversial subjects with due impartiality” – is able to intervene in cases like this, in practice the body never interferes in individual programme content prior to transmission.

The decision to allow the then leader of an openly fascist party on to the programme on the basis that not to have done so would have breached the corporations impartiality guidelines, is an illustration of the absurdity underpinning the BBC claim. The organization frequently breaches its guidelines in this area. This can be seen in terms of a) how little BBC journalists scrutinize and challenge fascists in interviews and political debating programmes (Andrew Marr’s treatment of French MEP, Marine Le Pen being an example), and b) the extent to which these journalists uncritically accept the views and pronouncements of those in political power.

Stenography

Another clear example of how the corporation breaches its impartiality guidelines was in 2007. The then North America editor for the BBC, Justin Webb, whose role could be said to be closer to that of a stenographer than a journalist, rejected the charge he was a propagandist for US power. Webb said:”Nobody ever tells me what to say about America or the attitude to take about the United States. And that is the case right across the board in television as well”

Webb began a radio programme from the Middle East as follows:

“June 2005. US Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice flies to Cairo and at the American University makes a speech that will go down in history”.

Reproducing Rice’s subsequent statement verbatim, Webb allowed her views to be aired without challenge or critique. Rice said, “For sixty years my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region, here in the Middle East, and we achieved neither”.

The former U.S Secretary of State added:

“Now we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people.”

Webb told his listeners in all seriousness:”I believe the Bush administration genuinely wanted that speech to be a new turning point; a new start”.

Nobody had to tell Webb to say these words; he genuinely believed them.

In March, 2009, BBC reporter Reeta Chakrabarti was asked why she had claimed that Tony Blair had “passionately believed” that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when all evidence suggested otherwise. Chakrabarti responded it was because he [Blair] had “consistently said so.”

When Media Lens challenged former BBC news director Helen Boaden on whether she thought these kinds of uncritical responses relating to U.S-UK intent compromised the BBC’s commitment to impartial reporting, she replied that “analysis of the underlying motivation of the coalition is borne out by many of the speeches and remarks of both Mr Bush and Mr Blair.”

Another clear illustration of how the BBC breaches its impartiality guidelines occurred in 1999. It was during this year that the corporation made the political decision to allow its own high-profile newsreader, Jill Dando, to present a DEC appeal for Kosovo at the height of NATO’s 78-day bombing campaign against Serbian “genocide” in Kosovo (the genocide claim has since been proven to have been false).

Shortly after broadcasting the appeal, the BBC reported:”Millions of pounds of donations have been flooding in to help the Kosovo refugees after a national television appeal for funds.”

In a linked article, Tony Blair was was quoted as saying:”This will be a daily pounding until he [the Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic] comes into line with the terms laid down by NATO”.

The Kosovo appeal contrasted with the BBC’s decision not to broadcast the Gaza Charity Appeal a decade later in response to Israel’s violent 22-day attack on Gaza as part of Operation Cast Lead.

The BBC’s refusal to broadcast a national humanitarian appeal for Gaza, breached an agreement that dates back to 1963 and left “aid agencies with a potential shortfall of millions of pounds in donations.”

The BBCs support of the Kosovo appeal was consistent with the British states political and military imperial objectives in the region. By contrast, the notion of any support given to the Palestinian’s in Gaza run counter to these objectives. Apparently, the BBC had no concerns that this clear double-standard might damage its alleged reputation for impartiality.

The state broadcaster’s claims of impartiality are further compromised in relation to both the nature of their senior management appointments which are made by the government of the day, and by acts of cronyism of which there is clear evidence. For instance, at the time of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, both the BBC chairman, Gavyn Davies and his director-general, Gregg Dyke, were supporters of, and donors to, Blair’s New Labour government. Davies’s wife ran Gordon Brown’s office; his children served as pageboy and bridesmaid at the Brown wedding. Tony Blair has stayed at Davies’s holiday home.

Consider too, the establishment links of the members of the BBC Trust whose duty, to recall, is to uphold its public obligations, including impartiality. Are the general public seriously expected to believe that the unrepresentative demographic composition of the trustees, as reflected in their relatively narrow educational and professional backgrounds, are independent of the government that appointed them and of the elite corporate and other vested interests which they are deeply embedded?

Lord Reith, founder of the BBC, was honest in his assessment of the corporation and its relationship to the establishment: “They know they can trust us not to be really impartial”, he said.

Arguably, it’s the Iraq debacle more than any other event in recent history that has exposed the BBCs flagrant beaching of its Charter. BBC journalist, Andrew Gilligan lost his job after he revealed that the Blair regime had manipulated intelligence in relation to Saddam’s supposed possession of WMD.

Marr and full spectrum dominance

Probably no clearer illustration of BBC bias has existed as that which occurred outside 10 Downing Street on April 9, 2003. The BBCs political editor, Andrew Marr’s infamous piece to camera in which he described government ministers walking around Whitehall “with smiles like split watermelons” amounted to imperial hyperbole of the most obnoxious kind.

But it was his premature eulogizing of war criminal Tony Blair that will go down in history as one of the most blatant examples of pro-establishment propaganda ever witnessed. Marr, in overtones that echoed Churchill, and with a wry smirk and air of self-congratulatory righteousness, said of Blair and the coalition forces:

“He [Blair] said they [coalition forces] would be able to take Baghdad without a bloodbath, and in the end the Iraqi’s would be celebrating. And on both of those points he has been proved conclusively right. And it would be entirely ungracious even for his critics not to acknowledge that tonight he stands a larger man and a stronger prime minister as a result.”

With Iraq fast becoming an historical footnote, the latest Western-led imperialist wars of aggression in the middle east extended to Libya and latterly, Syria. However, unlike the former two countries, the government of president Bashar al Assad is proving to be a far stronger adversary than perhaps many U.S-UK strategists initially thought.

The BBCs propaganda offensive against Syria and its key regional Russian ally, is all-pervasive. John Pilger said, correctly, that “the first casualty of war is journalism.” What the public is witnessing, in other words, is a media propaganda war machine in ‘full spectrum dominance’ mode.

The BBCs deceptions and lies in relation to Syria – whether in terms of their uncritical stance to the role played by the White Helmets, their use of a fake BBC documentary film in an attempt to influence an important government vote in the House of Commons, or of their censorship by omission –  is so entrenched as to have become systemic and normalized in virtually all aspects of mainstream reportage emanating from that country.

RT & the demonization of Russia

The lies and deceptions also involves the BBCs demonizing of Russia. One way the media manages to achieve this is by instilling fear in the UK population. For instance, on the same day the head of Britain’s M15, Andrew Parker, was interviewed in the Guardian about the Russian “threat” – subsequently reported uncritically on the BBC – the CIA-financed Henry Jackson Society unveiled their new Manual of Russophobia.

A crucial component of the BBCs ‘demonization of Russia strategy’ relates to their attempts at discrediting the broadcaster, RT (also known as Russia Today). The BBCs Andrew Neil, for example, who post-satirist, Victor Lewis-Smith points out, hosts three political programmes on the station, while acting as chairman of the company that runs the Spectator and Telegraph, oversaw, on the Daily Politics programme, arguably one of the most repugnant pieces of anti-Russian propaganda ever witnessed on British television.

Launched in October, 2014, the RT channel is accused by its critics as essentially being a Putin propaganda mouthpiece. However, writer Glenn Greenwald proffers a far more nuanced (and accurate) evaluation. Writing about an anti-RT campaign in March, 2015, Greenwald said:

“The most vocal among the anti-RT crowd – on the ground that it spreads lies and propaganda — such as Nick Cohen and Oliver Kamm — were also the most aggressive peddlers of the pro-U.K.-government conspiracy theories and lies that led to the Iraq War. That people like this, with their histories of pro-government propaganda, are the ones demanding punishment of RT for ‘bias’, tells you all you need to know about what is really at play here”.

It’s also worth noting that another of the prominent liberal ‘leftist’ anti-Russia-RT brigade is David “those [Iraqi] weapons had better be there” Aaranovitch of the Times whose role for decades on the BBC appears to be to support just about every opportunity to wage war.

Journalists and broadcasters like Aaranovitch, Kamm and Cohen who are critical of RT, nevertheless tend to overstate the channel’s influence. The reality is RT’s global reach is far less than the BBCs, whose World Service is essentially funded by the organization who founded it – the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Meanwhile, the U.S spends hundreds of millions annually on outfits like RFE/RL in order to spread American values to the rest of the world in much the same way the BBC does in relation to its spreading of British values to a global market.

Apparently propaganda is only ‘evil’ when the broadcaster of the official enemy engages in promoting it, even though the impact of such propaganda is far less destructive than the propaganda emanating from the BBC.

The default position of the British state broadcaster appears to be that the nature of the liberal-democratic state in which they are embedded is such it confers them with certain entitlements – one of which is an unwritten rule allowing them to be selective in terms of their reportage. Thus, ignoring ‘our’ criminality is deemed to be acceptable based on the premise that elected politicians serve the people, and that it is the task of journalism to support, not undermine democracy.

However, democracy is dependent on a fair and impartial media to keep it in check. The realization that corporate lobbying money is becoming increasingly concentrated within the executive arm of the state, results in the subversion of democracy and a lack of honest media scrutiny of its actions. This explains why the mainstream’s demonization of official enemies like Russia and Syria is a given. As Media Lens put it:

“As a rule of thumb, we can be sure that the demonization of official enemies is a key requirement of all [mainstream] journalists in [influential positions]….It is simply understood.”

This structural bias also explains why Barack Obama, for example, continues to be depicted by the BBC as an almost saintly figure, while in truth his record of bombing seven countries is indicative of a warmongering psychopath. In Britain, the notion that the BBC is a propaganda organ of the British state that promotes imperialist war, is widely regarded as being outside the boundaries of acceptable discourse.