Tag: michael fallon

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.”

 

 

Fallony

By Daniel Margrain

It’s credit to the Daily Mail for leading with their report about the leaked dossier concerning Alexander Blackman, the Royal Marine serving life for murder. The dossier contains crucial evidence withheld from Alexander Blackman’s court martial into the killing of a mortally wounded Taliban insurgent in Afghanistan.

Military chiefs solely blamed the seargent for the killing. However, the report into the incident says that Blackman’s over-stretched unit was being pushed to be too aggressive, his senior officer was not prepared for the demands of the war zone and that there were signs that Blackman’s unit was cracking up. All these things, the leaked report says, were missed by commander’s.

If not for the investigative work of the Daily Mail who unearthed these details, none of the MOD’s censoring of the admission of command failings in Helmand province would have come to light. What the Mail revealed, in other words, is the fact that the MOD conducted a report into their own actions and put a black line through anything that didn’t make them look good.

It’s report said that the supervision of the commanding officer where Blackman and his men were based was insufficient to identify a number of warning signs that could have indicated that they were showing evidence of moral regression, psychological strain and fatigue. I think you and I would show evidence of moral regression if somebody was shooting at us while we were at work.

The Mail says that this shows that officers were partly responsible for the extreme state that Blackman was in when he pulled the trigger. The report is now going to form a major plank of his battle for justice which was debated in Parliament two days ago. The Mail’s discovery of the full executive summary of the report was followed by minsters’ caving in to demands from Blackman’s lawyers to have confidential access to all its 50 pages. Who is the MOD protecting?

It’s not for the benefit of the country that this report was blacked out. It’s surely for the benefit of pen-pushers in the MOD. “Blackman and his troops were at breaking point”, says the Mail after a “tour from hell in Hellmand province that had seen comrades tortured and killed.” But the Mail investigation discovered that Blackman’s court martial was blocked from hearing the truth about these mitigating circumstances. Had this not been the case, he might of faced a manslaughter charge instead of murder.

The executive summary of the Navy’s report into the shooting that was leaked to the Mail is marked “official-sensitive”. It lays bare how commanders were blind to the psychological strain and fatigue endured by Blackman and his men. The fact that the damning conclusion is blotted out with censors’ black ink illustrates how the UK government refuse to acknowledge that there are any systemic problems within the corridors of power. On the contrary, they have shifted criticism towards how the leak got into the hands of the media in the first place.

Meanwhile, in response to a question from Green Party MP Caroline Lucas about the number of airstrikes undertaken ostensibly against ISIL by the British over the past year. Fallon said the estimated number of ISIL fighters killed as a result of UK strikes from September 2014 to 31 August 2015 is around 330. “This figure is highly approximate, ”he said, not least given the absence of UK ground troops in a position to observe the effects of strike activity.” He added that he believed that no civilians had been injured or killed by such strikes. 

This announcement follows the extrajudicial murder of two British citizens in Syria justified on the highly implausible grounds that the alleged terrorists presented an imminent threat to the population in Britain thousands of miles away. It’s hence an absurdity that the government acted in self-defense. What Fallon’s announcement and the conviction of Blackman for murder highlight is a major contradiction.

Michael Fallon effectively admits that the British government doesn’t have the faintest idea how many people have been killed by British airstrikes in the year up to 31 August 2015. If he doesn’t know how many have been killed, it follows that he doesn’t know who has been killed and in what circumstances. Therefore he is unable to conclude, as he did, that it’s his belief that “no civilians had been injured or killed by such strikes”.

Logically, it’s only possible to claim you are under imminent threat from terrorists if you are able to identify the nature of the said threat and the only way to do that is to be able to identify those who are allegedly threatening you. How then, can the government claim self defense under such vague circumstances? Dropping bombs from a great height in order to supposedly ‘target’ terrorists can never be precise despite the propaganda claims to the contrary. Killing in this way is necessarily indiscriminate.

How can it be justified that officers’ who were partly responsible for the extreme state of mind of one of their underlings and a foreign secretary who oversees them all, get a free pass for murder (in terms of the latter, mass murder), while the guy at the bottom who pulled the trigger as a result of the actions of the said officers that led to his conviction, gets life imprisonment?

It’s reasonable to assume that there are certain circumstances in which somebody on the battlefield who is showing evidence of moral regression, psychological strain and fatigue and whose life would almost always be under imminent threat could be justified in killing an enemy combatant. But it’s impossible to envisage the mitigating circumstances by which it could be justified for others higher up the chain of command who oversee or give orders to somebody else to press a button on a computer screen in order to release bombs from a great height that would, by their very nature, kill large amounts of innocent people indiscriminately within the vicinity of the intended “target”.

Cameron defended the imprisonment of Blackman prior to an intended visit to see the Afghan president, So it would appear that Blackman is the political fall guy in this sorry saga whilst his friend, Fallon, gets off the hook. Blackman was prosecuted so why not Fallon?

All That Is Solid Melts Into Air

By Daniel Margrain

The momentous nature of Jeremy Corbyn’s landslide victory should not be underestimated. It has to go down as one of the most sensational and politically earth shattering events in modern British political history – the impacts of which are sending tremors throughout the entire establishment. After the announcement was made that Corbyn had won, it was obvious that the smiles, handshakes and applause of the vast majority of the calculating and opportunistic labour elite were as a fake as Blair’s claim that Saddam was about to attack Britain within 45 minutes.

A pointer to the overwhelming inspiration underlying Corbynism was the fact that no less than 160,000 volunteers who seemingly emerged out of nowhere, were recruited to the cause. The grass roots support that Corbyn engendered – by far the biggest of its kind in history – was almost certainly the catalyst that propelled him to victory. Although the activists were mainly young people, they were by no means exclusively so. In fact the demographic was wide ranging.

Corbyn’s straight talking, lucidity, and unambiguous commitment to a programme of anti-austerity brought many older activists who had felt betrayed by the direction the party had gone under Blair, back into the fold. To put Corbyn’s victory into context, he secured a higher percentage of votes than Blair got in 1994  Even more significant, the 554,272 votes he achieved was more than double Blair’s, and no less than 76 per cent of them actually voted, a higher percentage turnout than Blair received.

This would indicate that Corbynmania is no flash in the pan, but on the contrary, represents a new optimism that things really can be better given the right circumstances. Decades where nothing happens can all of a sudden transform into the possibility where decades happen all within the blink of an eye. Neoliberal ideology, which for many was perceived to have been fixed and immutable has, with the rise of Corbynism ,the potential to be swept away.

The excitement that surrounds Corbyn in 2015, therefore, marks a more significant change within the labour movement than the superficial controversy of ‘third way’ Blairism in 1994. Blair’s subsequent general election victory in 1997 cemented the ideological coming together of the Red-Tory axis that this writer hopes Corbynism will shatter to the dustbin of history. What is certain is that September 12, 2015 will be remembered as the day in British political history that Blairism officially died.

When Corbyn was first nominated, he was seen by his opponents both inside and outside the party as a joke candidate. But an indication of how they are now taking him seriously is the extent to which the mainstream media are unanimously attacking him. The Tories, who apparently voted for him because they thought it would enhance their future electoral prospects, are the ones now claiming he is a danger to national security.

But the more they attack, the greater is his support. Justice Secretary, Michael Gove, Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, Prime Minister David Cameron, Chancellor, Gideon Osborne and MP, Priti Patel have all made exactly the same public statements attacking Corbyn. Clearly, all of them have read the same memo issued from Whitehall. The fear mongering and demonizing propaganda, intended for news bulletin soundbites, is so transparent that it’s comical.

The Tories got this tactic from the Republican Party in America who repeat the same propaganda over and over again hoping that some of it sticks which it invariably does. Of course, the media play their part by uncritically reporting it. An example was the way Fox News repeated the lie that President Obama was a Muslim who was born outside of America.

The phrase repeated in the UK media is that “hard-left” Jeremy Corbyn is a danger to the security of our country, economy and every UK family. In the interest of consistency, why don’t the media who describe security-risk, Corbyn as “hard-left”, apply the euphemism “hard-right” to Cameron whose illegal wars greatly increase the risk of domestic terrorist activity? Gove said:

Jeremy Corbyn’s victory is a deadly serious demand from her majesty’s opposition that we put the future of this country in the hands of the MP for Islington North…There can be no room for doubt or ambiguity about what Jeremy Corbyn would do if he formed the next government. He would pose a direct threat to the security of our country, the security of our economy and the security of every family…. He would weaken our defenses and make Britain less safe. By choosing Jeremy Corbyn over his rivals, the party have now endorsed deserting our allies like Norway. He proposes leaving the NATO alliance just as the growing threat from Islamist extremists requires international solidarity.

Or to put it another way, Corbyn wants Britain to stop trailing after America to launch another war that got us into this mess in the first place. Gove continues:

“Corbyn would also reduce our armed forces further unilaterally, scrapping our nuclear deterrent whilst terrorists and state sponsors of terror seek to develop nuclear weapons of their own.”

Just think about that for a moment. In the unlikely event that terrorists get hold of a nuclear weapon, they are not going to put it on the back of a rocket and send it from where they are living because they will be easily detectable from space and consequently we would be able to respond in kind. Terrorists are insane but they are not stupid.

What they are more likely to do is Fed Ex some kind of small device in the hope that it would be undetectable which, therefore, totally mitigates against the effectiveness of a state like Britain to be able to use nuclear weapons as a targeted response.

Gove then goes on to criticise Corbyn for his apparent economic incompetency by suggesting that his policy of printing money would be inflationary, overlooking the fact that his own government flooded the bankers with money. The stated aim was that the banks would lend the money back to us with interest so that they would make more profit. But the bankers went one better than that by using the money to buy shares in their own companies thereby increasing the value of those shares and hence the amount of bonuses they were able to award themselves. Conversely, Corbyn’s stated aim is to give the money to the people as a means of generating growth.

Gove then misquotes Corbyn as saying that the death of Osama Bin Laden was a tragedy. But what Gove failed to mention, was that Corbyn was not describing the death as a tragedy, but the fact that Bin Laden wasn’t put on trial, imprisoned and therefore punished for longer.