Category: war

The carnage in Nice didn’t emerge from a metaphorical clear blue sky

By Daniel Margrain

Bullet imacts are seen on the heavy truck the day after it ran into a crowd at high speed killing scores celebrating the Bastille Day July 14 national holiday on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France, July 15, 2016. © Eric Gaillard

There is something deeply unsettling about the manner in which President Hollande and other leading political leaders and powerful establishment figures responded in the aftermath of the violent carnage that occurred in Nice on Thursday evening. The rolling media coverage that followed this tragic event, was accompanied by the predictable rhetorical flourishes from across the political spectrum highlighting the need for terrorism to be defeated. After every tragedy of this nature the same kinds of statements are repeated again and again even though the politicians making them must know that such an eventuality is impossible. The kind of crude public pronouncements that invariably follow tragedies of this kind are, in other words, seemingly inevitable as they are intellectually indolent.

It would appear that the establishment’s intention after these kinds of appalling acts of violence occur is to reinforce the invocation of ‘loyalty oaths’ as part of a broader strategy to marginalize and isolate minority Muslim communities. Whenever, for example, an atrocity is committed by those who self-identify as Muslims, the wider Muslim community are effectively urged to pledge an allegiance to the country of their birth or, alternatively, they are encouraged to collectively condemn the violence ostensibly undertaken in their name. Often it’s both of those things.

Any attempts to resist apology projection is deemed by the establishment to be akin to a form of treachery in which tacit support for an official enemy is implied. Crude loyalty binaries are invoked. Opposition to this sort of binary analysis often evokes the specter of the ‘enemy within’ trope among significant sections of the corporate-controlled media and the political establishment. Thus, whether implicitly or explicitly, the result is that the Muslim community often ends up being tarnished with the ‘terrorist sympathizers’ epithet. Consequently, over time the Muslim community in France, and elsewhere, has tended to become less trustful and more fearful of the wider community and vice-versa.

It has been the inability of successive French governments to successfully integrate its Muslim community minority within wider mainstream French society that has in part contributed to feelings of alienation among this community which is exacerbated as a result of the mainstream media’s response to it. The alienation that Muslims experience in France cannot be separated from the broader sociological context in which the political situation described above also plays a significant role. In relation to how the sense of alienation has manifested in Nice, Sky News’ Sam Kiley remarked:

“In the emergence of an active criminal underworld there exists a natural synergy between organised crime and violent Jihadism. …A number of people from Nice have gone to fight in Syria and Iraq alongside Islamic State…The killer in this case, wasn’t one of them. This is somebody who was a petty criminal and who was possibly radicalized on the internet as opposed to somebody who had direct relationships with terror groups.”

Kiley continued:

“Many immigrants feel left behind and excluded from the opportunities in a way that some of the wealthier residents in the city don’t. This makes them easy prey for the radicalized programme which is very effectively campaigned by Al-Qaida and IS, both of whom have been encouraging their followers and disciples to be these lone-wolf characters to use vehicles to mow people down….We need to recognize that Tunisia is the single biggest foreign fighter volunteers that go to join the Islamic State. This has been the case for well over a year.”

The misplaced notion that any long-term sense of community cohesion has been overstated, has resulted in an intellectual and media narrative in which the great social conflicts and ideological struggles were said to have been a thing of the past. This notion gained intellectual credence following Francis Fukuyama’s End of History thesis. Numerous newspaper editors and television presenters agreed.

A little over a decade after Fukuyama wrote his thesis, it’s premise had been shattered by real life events when Islamist obscurantists attacked the Twin Towers in New York. The attack was, in part, the result of Wahhabism’s ideological opposition to Western imperialist hegemony. Anthony Giddens, the former director of the London School of Economics and court sociologist to Britain’s then New Labour Prime Minister, Tony Blair, repeated a similar message to that outlined by Fukuyama in his 1998 book, The Third Way.

Giddens who, by uncritically accepting a widespread but unsustainable assumption  said“We live in a world where there are no alternatives to capitalism.” Numerous imperial wars as well as counter-insurgent violence on Western soil have been launched since Giddens and Fukuyama made their remarks. Leaving aside the possibility of global catastrophe resulting from climate change or nuclear war, the notion that capitalism will continue to exist indefinitely into the future, is highly improbable. Moreover the notion that Islamist extremist violence does not represent an ideological challenge to Western imperialist hegemony in light of the numerous atrocities since 9-11, is clearly wishful thinking. The violence in Nice is, in part, indicative of the continuation of the reactionary forces who are opposed to Western imperialism.

It took the UK corporate media some 15 hours following the atrocity in Nice to actually address the likely causes of the attack. Speaking on Sky News, Anna Guidicelli, former security analyst at the French Foreign Office, was explicit in her assertion that the state of emergency system in France is politically motivated as opposed to operationally motivated, the intentions of which, she claimed, are to undermine civil liberties. Guidicelli stated that the state of emergency in France would do nothing to address the issue of prevention or to aid justice. “I’m convinced that the underlying problems are geopolitical”, she said. “I’m trying to stress to the government the significance external foreign policy plays in these kinds of attacks.”

Guidicelli continued:

“People are radicalized, not only because they are crazy and lost but because they have a political view. While we have to recognize that the launching of war abroad has an effect domestically, the real question we have to address, is what are the interests, as part of the coalition, does our government have in places like Iraq and Syria? We have to address this issue in parliament. When we launch war we say we are doing so in order to protect our territory. But it’s exactly the contrary to what is happening. Our contribution as a country to the coalition is lethal.

In emphazising the sociopolitical context highlighted previously, Guidicelli remarked:

The attacks in France are a consequence of a complex combination of both sociological and political factors. The problems are deep-rooted and in order to address them long-term in any fundamental way it is necessary to go beyond the five year mandated electoral cycle which is dependent upon short-term ‘solutions’. What we can do now as part of a long term mix is to withdraw our troops from the Middle East. What is disappointing is that the government is not addressing this external aspect.”

On the contrary, French foreign policy predicated on the concept of endless warfare, appears to be perpetuating the kind of violence witnessed in Nice that the establishment claims it wants to prevent. This concept evokes the Project for the New American Century which predates the US-led slaughter in Iraq, the emergence of Al-Qaida and IS and the attacks in New York that preceded them. It’s therefore not Islamist terrorism that represents the catalyst for chaos and destruction in the world, but rather the United States, it’s allies and their proxies.

 

Blair damned. But did the Chilcot report go far enough?

By Daniel Margrain

Having mounted sustained attacks on Jeremy Corbyn since he became the Labour leader, the Blairite factions within the right of the party stepped-up their campaign of vilification and hostility in the wake of the much anticipated release of the Chilcot report in what they hoped would be one last concerted push to depose him. With Corbyn remaining defiant and showing no indication that he plans to step-down, the strategy has clearly been a monumental failure. With grass-roots membership of the party set to increase to an estimated 600,000, Corbyn currently heads the biggest movement of the left in Europe.

The Chilcot report was utterly damning of Blair and, by extension, was also critical of the plotters opposing Corbyn who either abstained or voted in favour of the Iraq war. However, the report fell woefully short of offering any justice for the families of British soldiers who lost loved ones or for the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians who were killed. For many, it wasn’t necessary for Chilcot to have taken seven years to oversee a report comprising 2.6 million words at a cost of £10m, in order for the public to grasp the fact that the war amounted to what the Nuremberg Tribunal defined as the “supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

Under the UN Charter, two conditions must be met before a war can legally be waged. The parties to a dispute must first “seek a solution by negotiation” (Article 33). They can take up arms without an explicit mandate from the UN Security Council only “if an armed attack occurs against [them]” (Article 51). Neither of these conditions applied to the US and UK. Both governments rejected Iraq’s attempts to negotiate. At one point, the US State Department even announced that it would “go into thwart mode” to prevent the Iraqis from resuming talks on weapons inspection.

Iraq had launched no armed attack against either nation. We also know that the UK government was aware that the war it intended to launch was illegal. In March 2002, the Cabinet Office explained that a legal justification for invasion would be needed: “Subject to Law Officers’ advice, none currently exists.” In July 2002, Lord Goldsmith, the attorney-general, told the Prime Minister that there were only “three possible legal bases” for launching a war: “self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UNSC [Security Council] authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case.”

Bush and Blair later failed to obtain Security Council authorisation. A series of leaked documents shows that the Bush and Blair governments knew they did not possess legal justification. Chilcot repeated the lie outlined in the Butler Inquiry that the intelligence was not knowingly fixed. The contents of the Downing Street memo, puts that lie to rest. The memo, which outlines a record of a meeting in July 2002, reveals that Sir Richard Dearlove, director of the UK’s foreign intelligence service MI6, told Blair that in Washington:

“Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”

The Downing Street memo reveals that Blair knew that the decision to attack Iraq had already been made; that it preceded the justification, which was being retrofitted to an act of aggression; that the only legal reasons for an attack didn’t apply. The legal status of Bush’s decision had already been explained to Blair. In March 2002, as another leaked memo shows, the UK foreign secretary, Jack Straw, had reminded him of the conditions required to launch a legal war:

“i) There must be an armed attack upon a State or such an attack must be imminent;
ii) The use of force must be necessary and other means to reverse/avert the attack must be unavailable;
iii) The acts in self-defence must be proportionate and strictly confined to the object of stopping the attack.”

Straw explained that the development or possession of weapons of mass destruction “does not in itself amount to an armed attack; what would be needed would be clear evidence of an imminent attack.” A third memo, from the Cabinet Office, explained that:

“there is no greater threat now than in recent years that Saddam will use WMD … A legal justification for invasion would be needed. Subject to Law Officers’ advice, none currently exists.”

Apologists for Blair often claim that war was justified by recourse to UN resolution 1441. But 1441 did not authorise the use of force since:

“there is no ‘automaticity’ in this resolution. If there is a further Iraqi breach of its disarmament obligations, the matter will return to the Council for discussion as required in paragraph 12.”

In January 2003, the attorney-general reminded Blair that “resolution 1441 does not authorise the use of military force without a further determination by the security council” Such a determination was never forthcoming. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan reaffirmed that the Iraq War was illegal having breached the United Nations Charter. The world’s foremost experts in the field of international law concur that “…the overwhelming jurisprudential consensus is that the Anglo-American invasion, conquest, and occupation of Iraq constitute three phases of one illegal war of aggression.”

As well as their being no legal justification for war, it’s also worth pointing out that the invasion was undertaken in the knowledge that it would cause terrorism – a point amplified by Craig Murray:

“The intelligence advice in advance of the invasion he received was unequivocal that it would increase the threat to the UK, and it directly caused the attacks of 7/7.”

Nevertheless, this determination was followed by a benevolent course of action. As Chilcot made clear, the process for coming to the conclusion that Saddam had in his possession WMD as the basis for Blair’s decision to go to war, was one in which his Cabinet was not consulted. Chilcot also revealed that flawed intelligence assessments were made with certainty without any acknowledgement of the limitations of the said intelligence. Third, that the UK undermined the authority of the UN Security Council, and fourth, that Blair failed the Cabinet about Lord Goldsmith’s rather perilous journey by saying the war was actually legal having previously said it was illegal having mulled over it for over a year.

However, even though Chilcot can be applauded for the fact that it did something that most other societies in the world didn’t do, ultimately the report can be defined by the fact that it fudged the legal question. Chilcot didn’t explicitly say that the war was illegal. As such, Blair in his post-Chilcot speech was still able to dishonestly depict the invasion as an effort to prevent a 9/11 on British soil in the knowledge that the real culprits of 9-11 were the Saudi elite who finance him.

In the run up to the report being published in which various worthies were wheeled out, Chilcot said“the circumstances in which a legal basis for action was decided were not satisfactory.” In other words, the establishment, which Chilcot and his team represent, hid behind processes as opposed to stating loudly and clearly that the British government at that point was hell-bent on going to war with Iraq irrespective of what the evidence said about WMD or anything else.

It’s quite astonishing that the comments made by an authoritative figure such as General Wesley Clark who tells how the destabilization of the Middle East was planned as far back as 1991, was not mentioned by Chilcot nor has been examined and debated in the mainstream media. Perhaps just as pertinently, both Chilcot and the media ignored the claim made by Scott Ritter who ran intelligence operations for the United Nations from 1991 to 1998 as a United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq, that by the time bombing began, Iraq had been “fundamentally disarmed”.

In the post-Chilcot context, it’s clear that no lessons from the guardians of power in the media have been learned, despite claims to the contrary. This can be seen, for example, in the reluctance of the media to allow the expression of dissenting voices that extend beyond the restrictive parameters of debate the media create. In highlighting the inherent bias, Craig Murray said:

“The broadcast media seem to think the Chilcot report is an occasion to give unlimited airtime to Blair and Alastair Campbell. Scores of supporters and instigators of the war have been interviewed. By contrast, almost no airtime has been given to those who campaigned against the war.”

Similarly, Stop the War’s Lindsey German pointed to the lack of balance on the BBCs ‘Today’ programme. For the most part, the guardians of power are only too eager to fall into line by acting as establishment echo-chambers rather than challenging the premises upon which various stated government positions and claims are based.

Terrorism & the chronicle of war foretold

By Daniel Margrain

The rolling media coverage that followed the tragic events in Brussels was accompanied by the predictable rhetorical political flourishes from across the spectrum highlighting the need for terrorism to be defeated. After every tragedy of this nature the same kinds of statements are repeated again and again even though the politician’s making them must know that such an eventuality is impossible.

According to the politician’s and the media, terrorism is the new global threat against which global war must be fought. ISIS and their affiliates constitute for them an ubiquitous presence against which the democratic values of civilization must take their fight to the backward forces of reaction and irrationality. But this notion reflects only a partial truth because it ignores an important historical context. The concept underpinning perpetual warfare that the Project for the New American Century evokes, was the precursor to ISIS which emerged from the ashes of the chaos resulting from the US-led slaughter in Iraq and the attack on New York that preceded it. It’s therefore not Islamist terrorism that represents the catalyst for chaos and destruction in the world, but rather the United States, it’s allies and their proxies.

A crucial dimension implicit to this unfolding story regarding the intention of the United States to create a wilderness as the precursor to ‘peace’, are the contemporary and historical links that have developed between American neoconservatives and the Israeli right. Specifically, this relates to the latter’s colonial role in its service to imperial power. This relationship, in the words of Theodor Herzl provided.“a portion of the rampart of Europe against Asia”. In other words, the newly created Israeli state in Palestine would, as part of the tail to the US dog, be part of the system of colonial domination of the rest of the world.

Today, close links exist between leading neoconservatives and the Israeli political elite. Christian fundamentalists – an indispensable element in the rights political base – have also incorporated support for Israel into a worldview in which Palestine is perceived as the land given by God to the Jews in the Old Testament and regard the return of the world’s Jews to a triumphant Israel as a precondition of the Second Coming. A consequence is a close identification by many Republican right-wingers of the strategic interests of Israel with those of the United States, as well as the hostility towards any notion of peace that they share with Likud and Binyamin Netanyahu .

A second dimension is the notion that the destruction of the terrorist demon be exorcised at all costs, even if that cost means the curtailment of civil liberties. The truth is, the global sweep of security services has been an utter failure. Casting the net ever wider by adding millions of names to a digital database in the hope of catching potential terrorists, is less than useless. The whole process seems concerned with targeting people on the assumption that a crime will be committed based on the nature of people’s thought processes rather than what they have done or plan to do.

Ultimately, individuals who are committed to undertaking atrocities in a democracy will always find a way of committing them. To successfully stop them would mean a curtailment to the kinds of civil liberties that the masses take for granted. Wherever large crowds of people gather, the potential for a terrorist to commit an atrocity will be there. Moreover, radicalization is not limited to non-EU or US citizens since many home grown terrorists are motivated to commit their atrocities as a result of them witnessing injustices almost daily on social media.

The disproportionate wall-to-wall media reportage in relation to the aftermath of Western based terrorist atrocities, gives a false impression that terrorist violence in European or American cities is far more of a danger than is actually the case. The reality is that the odds of being killed or injured in an Islamist terrorist attack in Britain, for example, is virtually non-existent. In the last decade, only one person has been killed in the UK by such an attack. Far more people have been killed and far more destruction and chaos caused in countries like Yemen, Syria, Libya and Iraq. This is not to condone the actions of illegal wars/terrorism wherever they occur, but to highlight that the coverage given to European and North American based atrocities is highly selective.

Shortly after the atrocity in Brussels, for example, a suicide bomb exploded in a football stadium near Baghdad killing at least 41 people. The incident received virtually no media coverage. During last Friday’s (March 25) Germany/England football international, both teams wore black arm bands, not paradoxically in memory of the 41 who died at the football match near Baghdad, but in memory of those who died in Brussels. The Baghdad atrocity was followed by a terrorist attack in Lahore, Pakistan, which received just over two minutes of coverage on a subsequent BBC news 24 bulletin.

But not only are the kinds of coverage given to terrorist atrocities highly selective depending on who is killed and where, but the wall-to-wall rolling coverage given to Western-based atrocities are also, I contend, counterproductive. This is because terrorists crave the oxygen of publicity. It says something about the strange times we live in, that a figure as divisive and reactionary as Margaret Thatcher was more radical in her thinking over 30 years ago than the majority of the current crop of corporate controlled robots in Westminster today. This is what Thatcher said in 1985 during a speech to the American Bar Association::

“The terrorist uses force because he knows he will never get his way by democratic means…Through calculated savagery, his aim is to induce fear in the hearts of people. And weariness towards resistance…And we must try to find ways to starve the terrorist and the hijacker of the oxygen of publicity on which they depend. In our societies we do not believe in constraining the media, still less in censorship. But ought we not to ask the media to agree among themselves a voluntary code of conduct, a code under which they would not say or show anything which could assist the terrorists’ morale or their cause while the hijack lasted?”

There is no moral excuse for committing horrific violence upon civilians. This remains true whether they are committed by men in uniforms pressing buttons on computer screens in the cockpits of aircraft that release bombs at the behest of commands from rich men sitting behind desks in plush offices, or if they are committed by alleged alienated Muslims in Brussels. Two wrongs do not make a wrong right. However, just because there is no moral excuse doesn’t necessarily mean that there are no circumstances in which individuals will not rationalize the use of violence.

If your loved ones happened to have been victims of an Obama drone attack or a Blair bomb, your life will be debased and you might feel that you have nothing to lose. I’m not condoning such actions but merely trying to put myself in the shoes of others. It doesn’t make it right or moral but seeking retribution against injustice anyway you can under circumstances where no alternatives are possible, might be reason enough to drive you over the edge. Every human being has a breaking point and seeing the death of your loved ones in terrible circumstances might be the straw that breaks the camels back.

If pushed to extremes, humans are potentially capable of just about anything. This goes far beyond the conventional media reasoning for terrorism which focuses almost exclusively on Islamist fundamentalist rationales but continually fails to make the connection between the foreign policies of Western governments and the consequences of those actions. Terrorism doesn’t emerge out of a metaphorical clear blue sky and so we need to reflect on why people all over the Middle East hate us. And they do hate us. We represent two decades of bombing the hell out of them and they loathe us for that. It doesn’t excuse the outcome but it explains it.

But instead of asking the relevant questions relating to likely causes, journalists tend to focus far more on the effects. Suicide bombings are not some barbaric throwback to pre-modernity. They are a horribly distorted response to the very real horrors of imperialism and capitalism. As Stephen Holmes, in relation to the 9/11 attacks on New York, argued:

“The vast majority of Bin Laden’s public statements provide secular, not religious, rationales for 9/11. The principal purpose of the attack was to punish the ‘unjust and tyrannical America’. The casus belli he invokes over and over again is injustice not impiety. True, he occasionally remarks that the United States has declared war on god, but such statements would carry little conviction if not seconded by claims that the United States is tyrannising and exploiting Muslim people… Bin Laden almost never justifies terrorism against the West as a means for subordinating Western unbelievers to the true faith. Instead, he almost always justifies terrorism against the West as a form of legitimate self-defence.”

In other words, the Muslim extremist goal is no different from other national liberation movements – to achieve independence by forcing the imperialist power to retreat. The terrorists may express themselves in religious terms, but in essence the aim is the same pursuit as that adopted by previous secular-nationalist movements in the Middle East, namely the defeat of US imperialism and its allies in the region. The scale and reach of some present-day attacks is greater than any terrorist organisation has been able to carry out in the past. But the devastation and death toll are still on a massively smaller scale than that routinely inflicted by the armed forces of ‘civilized’ states.

By focusing on the effects of terrorism as opposed to addressing the probable causes, encourages the worst kind of highly politically motivated and bigoted soundbite journalism imaginable. Examples have been the crass responses to the horror of Brussels by the likes of Katie Hopkins and Allison Pearson. Both ‘journalists’ attempted to tie the events in the Belgium capital city with the unfolding refugee crisis by condemning people who suffer terrorism on a daily basis in places like Syria and Iraq for fleeing to Europe where it’s virtually non-existent. The fact that this kind of commentary is widely regarded as part of the acceptable face of journalism within the ‘mainstream’, illustrates just how debased journalism has become.

 

Endless war, Everlasting peace

By Daniel Margrain

The downing by NATO member, Turkey, of a Russian aircraft on the Syrian-Turkish border in November 2015 – the first of its kind since 1952 – brought into sharp focus the complex patchwork of contending geopolitical and strategic allegiances against what is ostensibly a unified military response to ISIS. Turkey’s role in supporting the Al-Qaeda affiliate, the Al Nusra Front, starkly emphasises the risk of a military escalation to the crisis and the undermining of the current ceasefire.

Turkey’s seemingly schizophrenic relationship to the United States and NATO underscores the former’s reluctance in allowing the latter to use it’s military bases in the east of the country to attack ISIS. Instead, the Turkish government under president Erdogan have used these bases to target the Kurdish PKK. According to the United Nations, 30,000 terrorists from one hundred countries that have landed in Syria have arrived through Turkey and the CIA are overseeing the supply of arms to some of them. Meanwhile, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are also supporting Jihadi extremists to the tune of billions of dollars in arms and funds which are being funneled through Turkey.

Since both Russia and Iran are geo-strategically aligned to Syria, it’s in the interests of both countries to ensure that a Russian-friendly regime in Syria remains in power to act as a bullwark against undue US influence in the region. Clearly, given the competing interests of the major powers, and the potential risks of a major resource war between them, it’s an obvious truism that there can be no long-term solution to the conflict that involves a massive escalation of violence. Therefore, the only viable solution to the crisis is a negotiated settlement which the current ceasefire is a potential prelude to.

In addition to the tensions described, is the duplicitous role played by Turkey which has its own narrow anti-Kurdish agenda in the region. The problems are further compounded in that both the Syrian YPG and the Kurdish KPP have mounted effective ground offensives against ISIS while paradoxically both groups remain on the U.S terrorist list. In addition, Hezzbollah and Iran, backed by Russian air power, have also been effective in countering ISIS. But rather than backing these various factions, UK-US policy is predicated – ostensibly at least – on maintaining support for their two partners on the ground – the Iraqi army (which is weak) and the so-called moderate Syrian opposition to Assad and ISIS (which barely exists).

If the allies led by the US government were serious in their intent to obliterate the existential threat they claim ISIS represents, they would be aligning themselves with the first set of fighters mentioned above instead of their powerless and ineffectual “partners”. So given this anomaly, one has to wonder what the key motivating factor guiding US policy in relation to Syria is. The country sits in a region of the world where the US-UK government’s hypocritically covertly support the oppressive actions of some of the most brutal and authoritarian regimes on earth.

The rational answer is that the principle motivation lies not in eradicating ISIS but rather in toppling one of the more relatively tolerant and secular regimes in the region. Indeed, Assad who, just over a decade ago, was wined and dined in the company of British royalty, is currently on the U.S rogue state list primed for regime change. This overriding factor guiding Western policy is the ‘elephant in the room’ to which journalists and commentators within the liberal corporate media, who focus their critique on Assad, tend to overlook.

The widely accepted narrative is that the catalyst for the “civil war” in Syria is one in which Assad is said to have massacred peaceful demonstrators. This is equated with the events that characterized the Arab Spring in countries like Tunisia and Egypt. Both interpretations amount to a serious misreading of the situation. Following the initial outbreak of violence in Daraa, a small border town with Jordan on March 17-18, 2011, professor Michel Chossudovsky recounted the events:

“The protest movement had all the appearances of a staged event involving covert support to Islamic terrorists by Mossad and/or Western intelligence….Government sources pointed to the role of radical Salafist groups (supported by Israel)…In chorus, the Western media described the events in Daraa as a protest movement against Bashar Al Assad.”

Chossudovsky cited Israeli and Lebanese sources in support of his claims. These sources reported on the killing of seven police officers and at least four demonstrators in addition to the torching of the Baath Party Headquarters and courthouse. Chossudovsky commented:

“These news reports of the events in Daraa confirmed that from the very outset this was not a ‘peaceful protest’ as claimed by the Western media….What was clear… is that many of the demonstrators were not demonstrators but terrorists involved in premeditated acts of killing and arson…The title of the Israeli news report summarized what happened: Syria: Seven Police Killed, Buildings Torched in Protest.”

This account was subsequently confirmed five months later by Israeli intelligence sources who claimed that from the outset Islamist “freedom fighters” were supported, trained and equipped by NATO and Turkey’s high command (DEBKAfile, NATO to give rebels anti-tank weapons, August 14, 2011). Media Lens quoted Jeremy Salt, associate professor in Middle Eastern History and Politics at Bilkent University, Ankara, who added some background:

“Since the Soviet-Afghan war, Western intelligence agencies as well as Israel’s Mossad have consistently used various Islamic terrorist organizations as “intelligence assets”. Both Washington and its indefectible British ally have provided covert support to “Islamic terrorists” in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo and Libya, etc. as a means to triggering ethnic strife, sectarian violence and political instability… The ultimate objective of the Syria protest movement, through media lies and fabrications, is to create divisions within Syrian society as well as justify an eventual “humanitarian intervention”.’

In another article, journalist John Pilger quoted the former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas who last year revealed that “two years before the Arab spring”, he was told in London that a war on Syria was planned. “I am going to tell you something,” he said in an interview with the French TV channel LPC,“I was in England two years before the violence in Syria on other business. I met top British officials, who confessed to me that they were preparing something in Syria… Britain was organising an invasion of rebels into Syria. They even asked me, although I was no longer Minister for Foreign Affairs, if I would like to participate… This operation goes way back. It was prepared, preconceived and planned.”

The cementing of US hegemony in the region (and beyond), with the backing of its principle European ally, is hardly a secret. In fact, it dates back to at least the the Clinton era when the concept of American supremicism and exceptionalism were coined as the prelude to the setting up by the neoconservative pressure group of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). This document provided the ideological justification for the bolstering of America’s nuclear first strike capability.

Leading neoconservatives have conceded that the perpetuation of American supremacy, as opposed to defending the country, is what this capability is designed to achieve. Lawrence Kaplan, for example, admitted that missile defence is a tool for global US dominance. The purpose of the PNAC is to provide an overview of US defence strategy from a world-historical perspective within the context of a decade of supposed US neglect.

This perspective led the neoconservatives within the Bush, and later Obama regimes, to conclude the opening, and subsequent extension, of windows of opportunity with which to demonstrate America’s military superiority. In the same vein as the PNAC, the accompanying war manifesto, The National Security Strategy begins with the affirmation,“The United States possesses unprecedented- and unequalled – strength and influence in the world.” It concludes with the warning,“Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in the hopes of surpassing, or equalling, the power of the United States.”

A key section warns:

“We are attentive to the possible renewal of old patterns of great power competition. Several potential great powers are now in the midst of internal transition – most importantly Russia, India and China.” 

Reaffirming that the war on terror was just the beginning for the United States, George Bush in his State of Union address on 29 January, 2002, named Iran, Iraq and North Korea as “an axis of evil”. Secretary of State, John Bolton, subsequently extended the net to include Libya, Cuba and Syria. The ‘war on terrorism’ also provided the US with an opportunity to establish a string of military bases in Central Asia.

The reality is that regime change in Syria and elsewhere is predicated on the paradoxical concept of eternal warfare as the precursor to the creation of an everlasting peace borne out of a wilderness wrought of chaos and destruction. Specifically, the definitive article, the New American Century, is about shaping the world for the next hundred years according to the interests and values of American capitalism.

In 2001 when George Bush declared the ‘war on terror’, Al-Qaeda was confined to a small tribal area in north west Afghanistan. Now, thanks largely to the attempt at the imposition of American capitalist democracy delivered at the point of gun, so-called Islamist terrorism has spread worldwide.

Is the U.S heading towards military conflict in the South China Sea?

Famously, Albert Einstein defined common sense  as  “the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.” When viewed from the prism of the perspective of the apologists for capitalism, Einstein’s condescending approach to conventional wisdom belied much of the Western prevailing orthodoxy up to the events in New York on September 11, 2001.

The prevailing view, particularly among a large swath of intellectuals, was one in which capitalism was seen as the bedrock of society underpinned by an economic booster model of globalization that supposedly limited the scope for war and conflict. Intellectual proponents of this worldview understanding of capitalism included Third Way ideologues such as Anthony Giddens and Ulrich Beck. For them, globalization was reshaping liberal democracies into states that transcended the need for “enemies”.

The limitations of this thinking was brought sharply into focus following George W Bush’s proclamation of a global state of war on September 20, 2001: “Americans should not expect one battle”, he said , “but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen.” To accept the notion that the capitalist system is shaped purely by economics that under the guise of globalization ameliorates the pressures among states to go to war with one another, is to grossly misunderstand the nature of the beast and what the main catalyst is that drives the war machine forward.

In truth, the system is underpinned by “competitive processes that involve not merely the economic struggle for markets, but military and diplomatic rivalries among states.” In other words, capitalism embraces geopolitics as well as economics. This was first understood during the early 20th century when the expansion and intensification of capitalism began to make its mark. It was during this period that economic rivalries among firms began to take the form of conflicts which spilled over national borders.

Consequently, combatants called upon the military support of their respective states to protect them. Thus, the close and complex interweaving of economic and security competition became geopolitical in nature which was to develop into the tragic era of inter-imperialist war between 1914 and 1945.

The notion that diplomatic and military conflicts among states reflect the more general process of competition that drives capitalism on, is the basis of the classic theory of imperialism formulated by Nikolai Bukharin during the First World War. It’s a theory that provides the best framework for understanding the contemporary American war drive and, pertinent to this article, its ongoing South China Sea dispute with China which the staging of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in the U.S a few days ago is implicit.

The main purpose of the summit, from a U.S perspective, is to advance what the Obama administration calls its Rebalance to Asia and the Pacific, popularly known as the Asia Pivot which reflects a shift in U.S policy towards China which intimates more of a belligerent approach as opposed to one based on constructive rationality. This is highlighted by the projected deployment of 60 percent of U.S submarines to the region, the purpose of which is to undermine Chinese economic development by limiting its maritime access to markets.

Much has been made about how the U.S wants to “cooperate” with China and to maintain friendly relations. But at the same time, President Obama proposes to undermine bi-lateral relations in the region while China wants to enhance them on an individual basis in much the same way that it would with any other country outside the region.

Another indication that the U.S is not prepared to cooperate, was the summit agenda’s domination by the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This was in addition to the dispute regarding contested maritime territorial claims and so called “freedom of movement” issues. What the U.S has sought to do is to stifle the development of the South East Asia region in relation to China and therefore seek to undermine the trade agreements China already has in place with various other S.E Asian countries in the bloc – agreements that were formulated at an international level through the auspices of forums like ASEAN.

The crux of the conflict between the U.S and China essentially revolves around the contenting claims and the influence each player is able to exercise in relation to ASEAN. The U.S is attempting to use economic and political leverage to isolate or economically encircle China as a way of counteracting what they perceive to be the expansion of China’s political influence.

The false impression given in much of the Western corporate media is that sovereign nations in the region are under threat from an expansionist and belligerent China and that these nations are necessarily looking to the United States for assistance. How the U.S would likely respond if China were to build military bases throughout the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean or the Pacific coast off California is not a question the Western media seem to want to ask.

By reversing the roles, we can begin to understand the situation from the Chinese perspective, particularly given the painful and tragic history it has had over the last two centuries in relation to Western colonial domination of its territory. The contextual reality that underlies the Chinese position is that having emerged from a very dark period in their history, they are looking to assert their sovereignty by creating a regional sphere of influence.

Contrary to Western media propaganda, this doesn’t necessarily involve the domination of their neighbours. The perspective coming from Beijing is an insistence that the U.S respect China’s growing influence as a major political and economic power. This call, however, appears to be largely falling on deaf ears, particularly among the decision makers in Washington that really matter. What  A. J. P Taylor  called “the struggle for mastery” among the Great Powers is understood by Realists within the sphere of international relations in America. However, their views don’t hold significant enough sway within the corridors of power to influence policy.

The signing of the TPP to the exclusion of China, as well as the arm twisting by the U.S administration, appears to be intended to prohibit its European partners from joining the Asian Investment Infrastructure Bank (AIIB) which arguably has the potential to rival the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The dominant force in Washington is one which remains orientated towards greater competition which entails the possibility of greater conflict, not because the U.S wants war with with China, but because they are pushing the envelope which potentially can lead to unintended consequences.

While on the one hand, America pushes for its control of the regional trade and commerce framework through ASEAN, on the other, China is pushing to expand it’s so-called One Belt, One Road policy. This is predicated on growing Chinese economic penetration throughout the entire Eurasian land mass stretching from the Chinese coast on the South China Sea all the way to the Atlantic coast of Europe.

China is increasingly moving towards land-based commerce through Russia and central Asia and into the European space. This must be alarming to many of the strategic planners and paid-for corporate politicians in Washington. Underpinning the conflicts in the China Sea regarding disputed territory and the fomenting of others by the U.S involving China and its neighbours, is the larger geopolitical chess match, what Zbigniew Brzezinski famously referred to as The Grand Chessboard.

In exposing the real motives behind the Clinton administrations stated multilateralist strategy, Brzezinski who was one of the main architects of Nato expansion, presented The Grand Chessboard as one facet of a much broader approach to maintain American dominance over Eurasia through a continent wide policy of divide and rule. Brzezinski openly used the language of imperial power:

“America’s global supremacy is reminiscent in some ways to earlier empires, notwithstanding their confined regional scope. These empires based their power on a hierarchy of vassals, tributaries, protectorates, and colonies, with those on the outside generally viewed as barbarians. To some degree, this anachronistic terminology is not inappropriate for some of the states currently within the American orbit.”

The hosting by the U.S of the latest ASEAN summit, their TPP agenda and their attempts to contain China through the Asian Pivot, represents a worrying trend akin to the clash of imperial interests which led to the conditions from which the carnage of the First and Second World Wars emerged.

 

The slow strangulation of Yemen

By Daniel Margrain

Often overshadowed by the proxy war being fought in Syria, is the nine month old regional conflict in Yemen which ostensibly pits Sunni Saudi Arabia against Shia Iran. British-made ‘smart’ bombs dropped from British-built aircraft both of which continue to be sold in vast numbers to the Saudi’s have contributed to thousands of civilian deaths in Yemen.

Jeremy Corbyn’s peace narrative predicated on his public denunciations of the governments’ shady dealings with the Saudi Arabian regime have helped expose British involvement in Yemen even though the UK Government insists that it is not taking an active part in the military campaign in the country. However, it has issued more than 100 licences for arms exports to Saudi Arabia since the State began bombing Yemen in March 2015.

Meanwhile, a Freedom of Information request revealed that a so-called ‘memorandum of understanding’ (MOU) between Home Secretary Theresa May and her Saudi counterpart Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef was signed secretly during the former’s visit to the Kingdom last year. 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.

What is the extent of Britain’s role in Yemen? In September, Saudi Arabia bombed a ceramics factory in Sana’a close to the Yemeni capital which Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch confirmed was 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, and UK export licenses to Saudi Arabia said to be worth more than £1.7 bn up to the first six months of 2015, the UK government’s role in the conflict appears to be to augment the support the U.S is giving to the Saudi-led coalition.

The United States, alongside the UK, has bolstered the Saudi-led coalition’s airstrikes in Yemen through arms sales and direct military support. For example, last month, the 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, the Saudi’s used to target an MSF hospital.

On the 15 December, 19 civilians were killed by a Saudi-led coalition raid in Sana’a. 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 that:

“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’.”

With a seven day ceasefire in Yemen broken on December 16, Saudi-led airstrikes have continued throughout the Christmas period as have British and American arms exports to Saudi Arabia that give rise to them. In a standard response to accusations of British complicity, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office blandly stated:

“The UK is satisfied that we are not in breach of our international obligations. We operate one of the most vigorous and transparent arms export control regimes in the world…

…We regularly raise with the Saudi Arabian-led coalition and the Houthis the need to comply with international humanitarian law…we monitor the situation carefully and have offered the Saudi authorities advice and training in this area.”

Oliver Sprague, Amnesty International’s arms trade director, added:

“There is a blatant rewriting of the rules inside the (Foreign Office). We are not supposed to supply weapons if there is a risk they could be used to violate humanitarian laws and the international arms trade treaty – which we championed. It is illogical for (Foreign Secretary) Philip Hammond to say there is no evidence of weapons supplied by the UK being misused, so we’ll keep selling them to the point where we learn they are being used.”

Journalist Iona Craig has investigated 20 Saudi-led airstrike sites in Yemen in which a total of around 150 civilians have been killed. In an interview on the December 16 edition of Channel 4 News, 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 4 year old and their uncle, were American made. Although Craig stated that she had not personally uncovered evidence of British made weapons, Amnesty International is nevertheless unequivocal in its damning assessment of the illegality of Britain’s role.

The fact that, as Craig stated, there are twice as many British made aircraft in the Saudi Royal air force then there are in the British Royal air force, and that the British train the Saudi air force as well as supplying it with its weapons, is by itself, tantamount to Britain being complicit in the deaths of innocent Yemeni civilians.

Craig emphasized that she has seen evidence which suggests that civilian casualties in Yemen were 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. The consequences of this policy for the civilian population within the poorest country in the region, has been catastrophic with an estimated 2 million people having been displaced from a nation that’s on the brink of completely falling apart.

At least 5,600 civilians have been killed in the war torn country since March. A UN study in September 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.”

What is unfolding alongside the death and destruction in Yemen is a massive humanitarian crisis, exacerbated by the complicity of the U.S and UK, in which 21 million people – nearly double the number of people who need aid in Syria – are in need of humanitarian assistance. Consequently, levels of malnutrition have skyrocketed in the country with more than 60 per cent of Yemeni’s, according to the UN, close to starvation.

Sharif Abdel Kouddos describes the humanitarian situation unfolding in Yemen as a consequence of the imposition of a blockade on Yemen by Saudi Arabia and the coalition on a country, which:

“… comes under the rubric of a Security Council resolution—an arms embargo on the Houthi leadership….In September, 1 percent of Yemen’s fuel needs entered the country. Fuel affects everything—access for food delivery, electricity. So, Yemenis are slowly being strangled to death.”

The wider implications for British and U.S tacit support for Saudi Arabia in Yemen and the region in general is one of huge instability. Apart from the Yemeni context alone in which millions are being displaced and suffering from the onset of famine, is the broader question relating to how this situation is likely to bleed into the already ongoing refugee crisis in Europe.

But also, the conflict in Yemen involves a variety of regional players with opposing economic and geo-strategic interests – many of whom are using smaller factions to fight their battles on their behalf. These include mercenary groups from places as far away as Colombia and Panama as well as the involvement of Moroccan and Sudanese troops, all of whom are operating within one country as a part of a regional conflict that has all the makings of a much bigger one.

 

Is Western corruption & duplicity fanning the flames of ISIS?

By Daniel Margrain

On October 23 the mainstream media reported 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. Following the UK government’s decision to extend its military campaign from Iraq into Syria, a subsequent BBC report highlighted an additional bombing raid on December 5 in that country. But it has since transpired that this second raid targeted the precise location hit by the Russian and US coalition forces.

So the question arises, why would RAF warplanes hit a target that had already been obliterated five weeks prior to the second raid? A possible explanation is that the oilfield and supply routes described were in the process of being hastily reconstructed. However, this seems highly unlikely given that the BBC report cites Ministry of Defense claims that the RAFs Tornado and Typhoon warplanes were involved in eight attacks in which Paveway IV bombs were offloaded resulting in the destruction of wellheads….“thus cutting off the terrorists’ oil revenue at the very source”.

The impression given that the UK government had actively engaged in degrading the infrastructural and financial capability of their latest bogeyman, ISIS, appears therefore, to be a deception. In any event, one of David Cameron’s major justifications for his case for more war, was that Brimstone missiles, as opposed to Paveway bombs, were to be deployed against ISIS targets in Syria on account of their greater level of accuracy, thus limiting the possibility of civilian casualties.

It follows that in the unlikely event that what was being bombed was actually a site in the process of reconstruction, as opposed to an already existing obliterated terrain, the use of Paveway bombs would have greatly increased the risk of death to the civilian construction workers working on the site. This totally undermines Cameron’s claim that the UK would not attack civilians.

Whatever the truth of the situation, the fact that the RAF attacked a civilian target rather than a military base, would suggest that the government’s alleged intention to bring closure to this conflict at the earliest opportunity is bogus. The prospect of lengthy war provides a boost to the profits of the arms and weapons companies’. ISIS have gained access to weapons allegedly exported by the UK to the Middle East in the wake of 2003 invasion.

But gaining access to weapons is not possible without the access to money to purchase them. Tackling the flow and source of criminal money which helps sustain the lifeblood of ISIS, is the most effective strategy in dealing with the root cause of the terrorist organization. A second consideration, is ascertaining what the overriding medium to long-term motivation of the great imperial powers and their allies that underpins the strategy for war is. The answers to these questions are most likely to be found within the belly of the beast of the political establishment who, to a large extent, appear to be pulling the financial strings that determine the control, flow and maintaining of oil revenues.

One of the leading figures who allegedly plays a pivotal role in this regard is the British politician Nadhim Zahawi whose financial interests in Genel Energy suggests he is vulnerable to lobbying. As a member of David Cameron’s government, it is alleged that the Conservative MP for Stratford-upon-Avon has traded black market oil derived from ISIS controlled fields in Iraq prior to the black stuff being transported and sold, in part, to European markets through Turkey and the Mediterranean Sea, with the main purchaser said to be Israel.

The allegations against Zahawi come against the backdrop of evidence which indicates that ISIS sell oil emanating from nearly a dozen oil fields in northern Iraq and Syria’s Raqqa province that they control. It then passes through Turkey and Iraq’s Kurdistan region. Back in 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.

In September last year, 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. Given that the most effective way of countering ISIS is to attack the source of their funding rather than using bombs to attack civilians, it was unsurprising that Shadow Foreign Secretary, Hilary Benn’s initial position was to oppose military intervention in Syria. However, inexplicably, two weeks later, he changed his mind and voted in favour of bombing.

Something appeared to have happened in the two week period up to December 2 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 been lobbied by those who stood to gain financially from any change of heart.

Although share prices in the manufacturers of British WMD, BAE Systems, were depressed in late October they subsequently jumped after the announcement to bomb was made. Being in the pocket of the arms industry is concomitant to the notion of being favourable to war, which clearly explains his careful positioning to usurp the anti-war Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for the Labour leadership.

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, citing the Turkish military’s recent decision to shoot down a Russian warplane.

Meanwhile, 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 an energy independence.

Israel is part of a broader strategy to dismember Syria with a view to toppling Syrian president Bashar al – Assad leading to the annexation of the Golan Heights, captured from Syria during the 1967 war. This is being aided by one of the most concerted media propaganda offensives since the Iraq debacle. At the forefront of this offensive is the Murdoch printed press.

But what are Murdoch’s reasons for pushing so hard for war? The answer is Genie Energy. Israel has granted oil exploration rights inside Syria, in the occupied Golan Heights, to this multinational corporation. 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. The following is from a 2010 Genie Energy press release

Claude Pupkin, CEO of Genie Oil and Gas, commented, “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.”

“I am grateful to Howard Jonas and IDT for the opportunity to invest in this important initiative,” Lord Rothschild said. “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 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, as well as reining in Russian and Iranian influence in the region.

The West’s intention to augment its geopolitical and economic strategic influence in Syria and the region more widely is premised primarily on a militaristic, as opposed to, a political solution. This gives rise to conflicting attitudes to the Assad regime in terms of ascertaining who are, and who are not, terrorists. In this complex web, some players are more motivated to destroy ISIS than others.

NATO member Turkey’s geo-strategic motivation, for instance, is the obliteration by Turkish forces of the Kurdish YPG who conversely happen to be one of the key fighting forces opposed to ISIS on the ground. The YPG are ostensibly supported by the British and American’s who in turn desire the overthrow of Assad whose forces are the only real credible presence on the ground.

On the other hand, it’s in both Russia’s and Iran’s interest to keep Assad in power – the latter on the basis of maintaining a link to Hezbollah in Lebanon. If ever there was an illustration for the need for a properly coordinated and multi-pronged diplomatic approach to solve a complex problem that transcends narrow self interest, then Syria and the wider Middle East is it. But instead the world powers’ are blundering from one major crisis to another with no apparent end point in sight.

 

 

Brimstone & bloodied hands

 

By Daniel Margrain

The decision of the UK government yesterday evening (December 2) to extend its war on terror into Syria with no coordinated strategy in place to defeat ISIS, will almost certainly be as catastrophic as Tony Blair’s decision in 2003 to commit British troops to Iraq. The notion that MPs could have genuinely been persuaded by Cameron’s line of reasoning for another illegal war is as inconceivable as MPs during Blair’s reign being unaware of either Scott Ritter’s findings stating that by 1998 Saddam had effectively been disarmed, or the subsequent public pronouncements of Colin Powell and Condaleeza Rice that were made on the back of them that preceded the infamous 45 minute claim.

The Prime Minister’s justification for sending more of our troops into harms way – which, significantly, was rejected by the Foreign Affairs Committee – was predicated on the dubious and frankly laughable claim of the existence of 70,000 “moderate rebels”. On Sunday’s (November 29) edition of the BBCs Marr programme, Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, when pressed by presenter Andrew Marr to clarify who these rebels were, replied that were comprised solely of anti-Assad, Free Syrian Army forces.

However, early on December 1, Lt Gen Gordon Messenger, the deputy chief of the defence staff, appeared to have contradicted Fallon by refusing to confirm whether any of the alleged 70,000 fighters were members of more extremist groups such as the Islamic Front and Ahrar al-Sham. The fact that no clarification by Cameron was given to MPs regarding the source for the 70,000 figure or its composition, is not a sufficient enough basis for MPs to be able to make an informed decision about such an important life and death issue.

A major argument of those who defend the decision to extend the war, is premised on the claim that the attacks against ISIS in Iraq have not resulted in a single civilian casualty. Numerous conservative MPs have been afforded air time in the media to pontificate such an absurd claim without, to my knowledge, any serious challenge from journalists contradicting it. In under ten minutes of researching credible civilian casualty figures in Iraq resulting from coalition bombs, I learned that eight named children and two women had been killed in just one strike on Fallujah in a single day on November 26.

The public are being denied critical information by the mainstream media in order for them to be able to counter government propaganda and thus to challenge their MPs about their decisions for the case for war. But the same cannot be said of these MPs who themselves ought to be seeking to challenge such fundamental misconceptions and misinformation. Feigned ignorance is not a defence against complicit hands metaphorically covered in the blood of innocent victims.

The use of the government’s “precision” Brimstone missiles that will kill many more innocent men, women and children than the tragedy of Paris that gave rise to their use in Iraq and now Syria, will be the direct consequence of the deceptions of politicians’ and the shortcomings of journalists who failed to challenge their rationale for war.

If the government were serious about obliterating the existential threat they claim ISIS represents, then they would not be aligning themselves with allegedly 70,000 unidentified “moderates” who, as Patrick Cockburn contends “are weak or barely exist”. On the contrary, they would be aligning themselves with the forces on the ground that are resisting ISIS most effectively. These groups, as Peter Hitchens acknowledges, are the Syrian Kurds, the Syrian National Army, Hezzbollah and Iran – all of whom are being backed by Russian air power. However, this sensible coordinated strategy is being usurped by Cameron’s non-existent one, upon which, in their infinite wisdom, the majority of MPs voted.

The second explanation as to why the government’s decision to extend the bombing into Syria is not motivated by the need to destroy ISIS, is the duplicitous approach they have adopted in respect to their dictatorial regional allies in the Gulf peninsula who are among their biggest recipients of weapon deals. There is evidence that powerful actors within Saudi Arabia and Qatar, who are among the most brutal regimes on earth, have been facilitating funds and arms to ISIS and their affiliates that result from these deals.

Consequently, figures suggest ISIS alone has at least 80,000 fighters up from last year’s estimates of around 20,000 to 31,500. No matter how this is spun, the situation can only be interpreted as being an example of state sponsored terrorism that has had serious blow-back consequences. A former US military chief goes as far as to admit that the Iraq invasion had spawned ISIS.

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 was being funded by the very same “major Arab allies” that had just joined the US-led anti-ISIS coalition.

If the major imperial powers were serious about undermining the terrorists, they would start by ensuring that their regional allies stop providing monetary, military and logistical support to them and their affiliates. Often overlooked is the fact that NATO member Turkey has also played a pivotal role in funneling arms to the various extremist factions as well as actively facilitating ISIS oil sales through the country. The reason Turkey shot down the Russian jet was to deter the Russian bombing in the Nusra Front-controlled border region. All this, as Nafeez Ahmed points out:

“….. begs the question as to why Hollande and other Western leaders expressing their determination to “destroy” ISIS using all means necessary, would prefer to avoid the most significant factor of all: the material infrastructure of ISIS’ emergence in the context of ongoing Gulf and Turkish state support for Islamist militancy in the region. There are many explanations, but one perhaps stands out: the West’s abject dependence on terror-toting Muslim regimes, largely to maintain access to Middle East, Mediterranean and Central Asian oil and gas resources.”

Naturally, both Russia and its allies on the one hand, and the U.S and its allies on the other, have geopolitical interests’ diametrically opposed to one another. But the point is, Russia’s principle motivation leads them to destroying ISIS with the view to maintaining Assad’s grip on power, whereas the West’s motivation lies elsewhere.

The West have spent well over $5 trillion on waging their “war on terror”. Over that period, US State Department data shows that terror attacks have skyrocketed by 6,500 percent, while the number of casualties from terror attacks has increased by 4,500 percent.

*2004 terrorism estimates from CIA figures.

As Nafeez Ahmed pointed out, journalist Paul Gottinger, who analysed the data, noted that spikes in these figures coincided with military intervention: “…. from 2007 to 2011 almost half of all the world’s terror took place in Iraq or Afghanistan – two countries being occupied by the US at the time.” And in 2014, he found, “74 percent of all terror-related casualties occurred in Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Syria. Of these five, only Nigeria did not experience either US air strikes or a military occupation in that year.”

This would appear to be consistent with Ken Livingston’s contention, for which he was much maligned, that our military intervention in Iraq in 2003 had a direct bearing on the attacks in London on July 7, 2005. Moreover, it would also tend to support his view that the forthcoming air strikes in Syria will increase the threat of terrorist attacks here. Former British ambassador, Oliver Miles recently commented:

The [current] government seems to be following the example of Tony Blair, who ignored consistent advice from the Foreign Office, MI5 and MI6 that our Middle East policy – and in particular our Middle East wars – had been a principal driver in the recruitment of Muslims in Britain for terrorism here.”

Under such circumstances, it might well be reasonably argued, as former UK ambassador to Syria, Peter Ford has, that Cameron’s warmongering deceit is criminally negligent. It’s absurd to argue that the way to thwart transnational terrorism committed by organised groups of individuals on European soil is to bomb innocent people in nation states’ in the middle east.

Warmongering Blairites like Hilary Benn are incredulous that anybody should oppose the bombing of the 600,000 population of Raqqa, in the hope, as Craig Murray put it“of hitting 8,000 ISIS personnel carefully dispersed among them.” Conservative MP John Baron’s reasoned arguments and appeal to colleagues, below, ended up being futile but at least he and the minority of other MPs who opposed more war for the benefit of the arms industry who lobby Cameron, appear to have a conscience:

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Philip Hammond’s commendation to his opposite number, Hilary Benn, that his pro-war speech was “one of the greatest in parliamentary history”, is illustrative of how democracy is little more than lip service to power underpinned by a self-serving Red-Tory opposition. Craig Murray hit the nail on the head when he said“the odious Blairites are the most self-centred, selfish and indeed sociopathic group ever to have a serious presence in the UK parliament.”

The truth is, the general public are, as was the case with Iraq, being systematically lied to. After numerous hours of debate in parliament, it is clear that Cameron’s case for bombing that will now begin within hours of this article being published, had not been made. The decision by the British parliament to ostensibly bomb ISIS by an overwhelming parliamentary majority of 174, is not supported by the majority of the British people and is based on a charade whose real purpose is illegal regime change.

In a recent article, journalist John Pilger quoted the former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas who last year revealed that “two years before the Arab spring”, he was told in London that a war on Syria was planned. “I am going to tell you something,” he said in an interview with the French TV channel LPC, “I was in England two years before the violence in Syria on other business. I met top British officials, who confessed to me that they were preparing something in Syria… Britain was organising an invasion of rebels into Syria. They even asked me, although I was no longer Minister for Foreign Affairs, if I would like to participate… This operation goes way back. It was prepared, preconceived and planned.”

 

 

The psychology of ISIS and how to combat them.

By Daniel Margrain

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“The first step to combating Isis is to understand it. We have yet to do so. That failure costs us dear.” (Anthropologist, Scott Atran).

The lesson from almost a decade and a half of fighting terror with bombs is that the strategy has been an epic failure. And yet the UK government under the leadership of David Cameron seems intent on repeating the misguided foreign policy in Iraq in relation to dealing with ISIS in Syria presumably on the basis that the result will be different even though there is no evidence for this. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result may be a sign of insanity for most, but not, apparently, if you happen to be motivated by the need to satisfy the financial interests of the lobbyists who profit from war.

Although it is widely understood that bombs and drones are counterproductive, it’s perhaps less understood that the establishment appear to want it that way on the basis, it would seem, that terrorist retaliation justifies the further use of bombs and drones. Ken Livingstone was surely correct in his analysis on BBCs Question Time programme last Thursday (November 26), when he suggested that bombing Raqqa will play into the hands of ISIS from a propaganda perspective enabling them to bolster their number of recruits on the back of it. Indeed, it is clear that the aim of the extremists is to provoke an international bombing campaign precisely in order to achieve this objective.

The “strategy” of indiscriminate bombing of transnational “targets” as a means to ending the cycle of terrorism and counter-terrorism is a policy of despair. What is needed is a total rethink that involves, in the first instance, a serious attempt at addressing the causes that include the historical injustices meted out to the people of the region by the imperial powers. These injustices primarily stem from a series of secret meetings during World War 1 in London and Paris between the French diplomat, François Georges-Picot and the British politician, Sir Mark Sykes.

During these meetings, straight lines were drawn on a map of the middle east intended to effectively outline the control of land that was to be divided between the two countries. The French were to get Syria, Lebanon and parts of northern Iraq, while the British decided on southern Iraq, Jordan and Palestine. The idea was that instead of giving independence to the Arabs which was promised following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the imperial powers would run them on their behalf. The ensuing chaos over the next century stemmed from this agreement. ISIS is essentially motivated by power in a post-colonial world in which the artificial imperial borders created by Sykes-Picot are collapsing.

Robert Fisk points out that the first video ISIS produced was of a bulldozer destroying the border between Syria and Iraq. The camera panned down to a piece of paper with the words “End of Sykes-Picot” written on it. The wider “Arab Awakening,” as Fisk puts it, represents a rejection of the history of the region since Sykes-Picot during which time the Arabs have been denied freedom, dignity and justice.

According to Fisk, ISIS is a weapon that’s not primarily aimed at the West but at the Shia which the Sunni Gulf States’ want to keep at bay. This explains why the funding for ISIS is principally coming from the Sunni states’ of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The possibility of closer U.S-Iranian ties in the future will likely result in pressure being put on these states’ to ‘switch off’ their funding to ISIS which Fisk claims was one of the main topics of discussion at the Geneva nuclear talks between the two countries.

American and French anthropologist, Scott Atran, outlines the underlying ideological glue that binds the followers of ISIS together:

“When you look at young people like the ones who grew up to blow up trains in Madrid in 2004, carried out the slaughter on the London underground in 2005, hoped to blast airliners out of the sky en route to the United States in 2006 and 2009, and journeyed far to die killing infidels in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia; when you look at whom they idolize, how they organize, what bonds them and what drives them; then you see that what inspires the most lethal terrorists in the world today is not so much the Koran or religious teachings as a thrilling cause and call to action that promises glory and esteem in the eyes of friends, and through friends, eternal respect and remembrance in the wider world that they will never live to enjoy…. Jihad is an egalitarian, equal-opportunity employer: …fraternal, fast-breaking, thrilling, glorious, and cool.”

Atran posits that the appeal of ISIS seems to be their offering of a Utopian society and the sense of belonging and empowerment that they claim is lacking in Western society. The narrative is a future of peace and harmony, at least, under their interpretation, but with the recognition that brutality is also needed to get there. The underlying aspect of this Utopianism is the retreat from the kind of unconditional freedom where many young people feel pressured into certain social actions, towards a different kind of freedom free from ambiguity and ambivalence that, for those concerned, enhances a form of creativity that restraint helps nurture. ISIS exploits this dichotomy by outlining a way towards significance in a society that treats the alienated as insignificant.

It seems to me that the most effective way to counter ISIS propaganda is for governments’ to remove the “pull factors” of ISIS by giving young people a sense of hope for the future, offering them more of the “carrot” of opportunity instead of just the “stick” of despair. One of the major problems is that there is not the same kind of  government investment in prevention by way of guidance and decision making channels that are relevant to young people to avoid them becoming alienated enough to want to seek out ISIS. It seems to me that this is where ISIS have the upper hand, evidenced by the fact that they spend countless hours and cash luring people in.

Instead of spending billions on ineffectual war, the money would be far better spent on effective prevention programmes on the ground. This could involve, as middle east scholar Ed Husain has argued, employing former jihadists to reach out to help educate young people about the dangers of ISIS and other extremists. At some point, channels of communication will have to be opened up with radical Muslim groups who are willing to engage with experts outside the Muslim world to come to some kind of agreement that might even involve the formation of an enclave based on ISIS lines.

What is certain is the current path we are on is the wrong one in terms of the lack of any meaningful attempt to implement any effective strategy to weaken or destroy radical Islamism. Ideologies cannot be defeated by bombs, although the strategic use of broader coalition forces on the ground allied with a serious attempt by the U.S to insist that it’s dictatorial regional allies – Saudi Arabia and Qatar – deplete ISIS of funds, will go a long way to achieving the desired outcome. In order to defeat Hitler, Churchill was prepared to make a pact with the devil. The West might have to come to terms in doing the same with ISIS.

 

 

Cameron & Hollande increase the risk to our safety

By Daniel Margrain

That the overtly aggressive Western foreign policy of vengeance and the violent rush to bomb takes priority over the more conciliatory approach of attempting diplomacy, is depressing. But to do so in the knowledge that such a policy is both counterproductive and disproportionate is unconscionable. I’m not suggesting that Cameron and Hollande have deliberately set out to provoke terrorist atrocities on the streets of our cities, but their policies in the middle east unquestionably promote and exacerbate them.

It’s inconceivable that the political establishment are unaware that the violence of terrorists and the violence of the state are mutually reinforcing phenomena. So why, in their infinite wisdom, are the political establishment continuing the discredited ‘war on terror’ strategy if not to perpetuate the vicious cycle of death and destruction that the likes of Cameron and Hollande claim they want to eradicate?

Since the onset of the Iraq debacle, war and terrorism has spread exponentially but judging by the hawkish rhetorical flourishes of Cameron and Hollande one might have been led to believe otherwise. Yesterday, both leaders hardened their warmongering rhetoric as though in denial while the rest of the world looked on with incredulity. Even the right wing commentator Peter Hitchens acknowledges that “rhetoric and militancy have not done very much for us in the past. Why should it be different this time?”

The hardening rhetoric must be seen within a context in which the numbers of armed officers in Britain has fallen over the last five years, in addition to the refusal of ministers to rule out further cuts to the British police in general. It seems undeniable that the combination of more bombs allied to increasing austerity, will potentially put the British people at a greater risk from terrorism .

One might reasonably argue that mistakes at the top of government can be made, but to repeat them over and over again, in the hope that the result will be different, is a sign of madness. Fighting a war with bombs against an unidentifiable and highly mobile enemy whose sleeper cells are spread throughout the planet, is akin to arguing that the Hydra can be obliterated in the marshes of Lerna.

Every time the head of one of the principal beasts is decapitated, it mutates and multiplies into a far bigger entity whose tentacles and reach spread among their martyrs’ in ways that our leaders cannot seem to be able to comprehend.

A 14 year long Western war of terror has terrorized the oppressed to the extent that many more want to fight back than was the case prior to the atrocity in New York. The strategy of invasions and regime change has been an unmitigated disaster and yet our leaders’ are apparently oblivious to the fact that the war can never be won by what is effectively a policy of indiscriminate bombing.

Surely, it’s reasonable to surmise that the purpose of such a misguided foreign policy strategy of state violence that has demonstrably failed time and time again, is to maintain the establishments grip on political power thereby ensuring that the aspiration towards the reordering of society along more egalitarian lines are minimized.

A policy that effectively promotes and exacerbates terrorism means that the question of whether such an outcome is the intention of leaders’ like Cameron and Hollande is moot. The fact is the cycle of violence doesn’t stop with the dropping of ‘precision’ bombs on ‘terrorist targets’ whose collateral damage has historically killed more innocents than did the terrorist atrocities in Paris many times over.

It’s a sad and depressing reality that the kinds of barbaric acts witnessed in the French capital have been exploited politically by the establishment in order to justify their retaliatory rhetoric and subsequent violence. This in turn ensures that a system in which the military elite and arms manufacturers who lobby their governments for the purpose of maintaining their exalted financially privileged position, is sustained.

The logical corollary that arises from this mutually beneficial relationship, is that the protection of civilians on the streets of cities like Paris and London are not necessarily a priority for our leaders. This is because the deaths of civilians by terrorism is arguably regarded by the likes of Cameron and Hollande as a political price that’s ‘worth paying’ in the short term, with the view to securing their geo-strategic interests in the longer term.

Any rational analysis shows that acts of terrorism cannot seriously be regarded as an existential threat to the power of the state. The Paris attacks, for example, killed 0.01 per cent of the population of the city. To put it into context, many more people die each year in traffic accidents in France than were killed in the atrocity.

The disproportionate amount of media coverage devoted to Paris reached saturation point in the days that followed, which is partly a reflection of the nature of rolling 24 hour news. Of course geography and cultural affinity played a major part in the decisions of editors to give so much coverage to the drama, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that only a fraction given over to Paris was given to the terrorist atrocity on the Russian airliner which, it must be reiterated, resulted in more deaths.

The wall to wall coverage serves a political purpose which is the promotion of the idea that the suffering of people in places most of us are more readily able to identify with, matter more than those we don’t. This is all part of a media narrative that reports the victims of war and terrorism as though, as John Pilger put it, they are “worthy and unworthy” – the former being innocents killed on ‘our’ side while the latter are those of our official enemies.

This is all part of a much broader media system of propaganda which consistently conflates inappropriate militarism and its symbols with notions of unflinching patriotism. The displaying of national flags plays a very important role in this regard, especially after national tragedies.

For instance, the public were encouraged to adorn the French flag and sing the French national anthem at the England versus France football international at Wembley Stadium a few days after the Paris atrocity as an act of solidarity. But there were no similar calls following the terrorist atrocities in Beirut that happened just a few days before.

The purpose is to try and convince the public to support yet more ineffectual and immoral bombing of innocent people in a far away country in the hope that the people go along with the lie that this strategy has reduced the number of deaths caused by terrorism and is therefore making us safer.