Tag: peter hitchens

Why the latest claims against Assad are a pack of lies

By Daniel Margrain

Image result for anti-assad propaganda

With a critical public increasingly turning to social media to scrutinize the claims of the mainstream as well as the credibility of the assertions made by the various NGOs and government-funded human rights organisations, it’s arguably becoming more difficult for the corporate press to pass their propaganda off as legitimate news.

This is particularly the case during periods when the establishment pushes for military conflicts. One salutary lesson from the Iraq debacle, is that the public appear not to be so readily fooled. Or are they?

It’s a measure of the extent to which the mass media barely stray from their paymasters tune, that president Trump, with near-unanimous journalistic support, was able to launch an illegal missile strike on Syria on April 7, 2017. Cathy Newman on Channel 4 News (April 10, 2017) stated that the attack on the al-Shayrat airbase was “in retaliation to a sarin gas attack by president Assad” (three days earlier). However, for the reasons outlined below, such a scenario seems highly unlikely.

New York Times reporter, Michael B Gordon, who co-authored that papers infamous fake aluminum tube story of September 8, 2002 as part of the media’s propaganda offensive leading up to the 2003 U.S-led Iraq invasion, published (along with co-author Anne Barnard), the latest chemical weapons fake news story intended to fit with the establishment narrative on Syria.

Lack of scepticism

Showing no scepticism that the Syrian military was responsible for intentionally deploying poison gas in Khan Seikhoun, the authors cited the widely discredited $100m-funded terrorist-enablers, the White Helmets, as the basis for their story. Meanwhile, the doyen of neocon drum-beating war propaganda in Britain, Jonathan Freedland of the Guardian, wrote a day after the alleged April 4 attack: “We almost certainly know who did it. Every sign points to the regime of Bashar al-Assad.” What these ‘signs’ are were not specified in the article.

Even the usually cautious Guardian journalist George Monbiot appears to be eager for military action. On Twitter (April 7, 2017) Monbiot claimed: “We can be 99% sure the chemical weapons attack came from Syrian govt.” Three days later, media analysts Media Lens challenged Monbiot by citing the views of former UN weapons inspectors, Hans Blix and Scott Ritter, both of whom contradicted Monbiot’s assertion. “What do you know that Hans Blix and Scott Ritter don’t know?”, inquired the analysts. Monbiot failed to reply.

Apparently it hadn’t occurred to these, and practically all the other mainstream journalists (with the notable exception of Peter Oborne and Peter Hitchens), that Assad’s motive for undertaking such an attack was weak. As investigative reporter Robert Parry, who broke many of the Iran-Contra stories, argued:

“Since Assad’s forces have gained a decisive upper-hand over the rebels, why would he risk stirring up international outrage at this juncture? On the other hand, the desperate rebels might view the horrific scenes from the chemical-weapons deployment as a last-minute game-changer.”

A second major inconsistency in the official narrative are the contradictory claims relating to the sarin issue. Charles Shoebridge referred to a Guardian article that claims sarin was used, but he counters the claim by stating: “Yet, a rescuer tells its reporter “we could smell it 500m away”. The intelligence and terrorism expert was quick to point out that sarin is odorless (unless contaminated). Blogger Mark J Doran astutely remarked: “Now, who is going be stuck with lousy, impure sarin? A nation state or a terrorist group?”

Meanwhile, independent investigative journalist Gareth Porter pointed out that neurological symptoms that mimic those of sarin can be achieved by phosphine gas when in contact with moisture and the smell is similar to what was reported by eyewitnesses in Khan Seikhoun.

Then there has been the willingness of the media to cite what is clearly an untrustworthy source, ‘British doctor’, Shajul Islam. Despite  having been struck off the British medical register for misconduct in March 2016, the media have quoted or shown Islam in their reports where he has been depicted as a key witness to the alleged gas attack and hence helped augment the unsubstantiated media narrative. In 2012 Shajul Islam was charged with terror offences in a British court.

Peter Hitchens takes up the story:

“He was accused of imprisoning John Cantlie, a British photographer, and a Dutchman, Jeroen Oerlemans. Both men were held by a militant group in Syria and both were wounded when they tried to escape. Shajul Islam, it was alleged, was among their captors. Shajul Islam’s trial collapsed in 2013, when it was revealed that Mr Cantlie had been abducted once again, and could not give evidence.

Mr Oerlemans refused to give evidence for fear that it would further endanger Mr Cantlie. Mr Oerlemans has since been killed in Libya. So the supposedly benevolent medical man at the scene of the alleged atrocity turns out to be a struck-off doctor who was once put on trial for kidnapping.”

Fourth, there is the question as to why the U.S would launch a military strike in the knowledge that it would risk further sarin leaks into the atmosphere. As the writer and musician, Gilad Atzmon, argues:

“It doesn’t take a military analyst to grasp that the American attack on a remote Syrian airfield contradicts every possible military rationale. If America really believed that Assad possessed a WMD stockpile and kept it in al-Shayrat airbase, launching a missile attack that could lead to a release of lethal agents into the air would be the last thing it would do. If America was determined to ‘neutralise’ Assad’s alleged ‘WMD ability’ it would deploy special forces or diplomacy. No one defuses WMD with explosives, bombs or cruise missiles. It is simply unheard of.”

Atzmon adds:

“The first concern that comes to mind is why do you need a saxophonist to deliver the truth every military expert understands very well? Can’t the New York Times or the Guardian reach the same obvious conclusion? It’s obvious enough that if Assad didn’t use WMD when he was losing the war, it would make no sense for him to use it now when a victory is within reach.”

Logical explanation

A far more logical explanation,  given the location, is that chemicals were released into the air by Salafist terrorists to frame the Syrian government. The location of the alleged attack is the al-Qaeda-affiliated controlled, Khan Sheikhoun, in Idlib province. It is from here that the Western-funded White Helmets operate. Rather conveniently, they were soon at the scene of the alleged attack without the necessary protective clothing being filmed hosing down victims.

As Al-Qaeda and their enabler’s are the kinds of people who cut out and eat human organs as well as decapitate heads, they are likely to have little compunction in using Syrian civilians, including children and women, as a form of ‘war porn propaganda’ in order to garner public sympathy as the pretext for Western intervention.

Syrian-based journalist, Tom Dugan, who has been living in the country for the last four years, claims no gas attack happened. Rather, he asserts that the Syrian air force destroyed a terrorist-owned and controlled chemical weapons factory mistaking it for an ammunition dump, and “the chemicals spilled out.” This seems to be the most plausible explanation.

Mr Dugan’s version is markedly similar to the analysis of former DIA colonel, Patrick Lang Donald who, on April 7, 2017 said:

“Trump’s decision to launch cruise missile strikes on a Syrian Air Force Base was based on a lie. In the coming days the American people will learn that the Intelligence Community knew that Syria did not drop a military chemical weapon on innocent civilians in Idlib. Here is what happened:

  1. The Russians briefed the United States on the proposed target. This is a process that started more than two months ago. There is a dedicated phone line that is being used to coordinate and deconflict (i.e., prevent US and Russian air assets from shooting at each other) the upcoming operation.
  2. The United States was fully briefed on the fact that there was a target in Idlib that the Russians believes was a weapons/explosives depot for Islamic rebels.
  3. The Syrian Air Force hit the target with conventional weapons. All involved expected to see a massive secondary explosion. That did not happen. Instead, smoke, chemical smoke, began billowing from the site. It turns out that the Islamic rebels used that site to store chemicals, not sarin, that were deadly. The chemicals included organic phosphates and chlorine and they followed the wind and killed civilians.
  4. There was a strong wind blowing that day and the cloud was driven to a nearby village and caused casualties.
  5. We know it was not sarin. How? Very simple. The so-called “first responders” handled the victims without gloves. If this had been sarin they would have died. Sarin on the skin will kill you. How do I know? I went through “Live Agent” training at Fort McClellan in Alabama.

The former colonel’s testimony is extremely persuasive and exposes the media’s attempts to take at face value Pentagon propaganda. Another convincing reason to discount the official narrative, is because Assad doesn’t possess any chemical weapons. Even The Wall Street Journal, citing a Hague-based watchdog agency, conceded on June 23, 2014 that “the dangerous substances from Syria’s chemical weapons program, including sulfur mustard and precursors of sarin, have now been removed from the country after a monthslong process.”

The plot thickens

On April 11. 2017 in response to the claims and counter claims, Washington released into the public domain a four-page White House Intelligent Report (WHR) by the National Security Council (NSC), purporting to prove the Syrian government’s responsibility for the alleged sarin attack and a rebuttal of Russia’s claim that rebels unleashed the gas to frame the Syrian government. Among the numerous claims of the WHR, was that the site of the alleged sarin release had not been tampered with.

But as one commentator pointed out, “any serious examination of the WHR reveals it to be a series of bare assertions without any supporting evidence….and is filled with phrases like “The United States is confident” … “We have confidence in our assessment” … “We assess” … “Our information indicates” … “It is clear” … and so on. In other words, “this is the US government speaking, trust us.”

More importantly, upon its release, the credibility of the WHR was also called into question by the respected US physicist and missile expert Theodore Postol, emeritus professor at MIT. In his detailed analysis released on April 11, 2017 titled A Quick Turnaround Assessment of the White House Intelligence Report about the Nerve Agent Attack in Khan Shaykhun, Syria, professor Postol argues that the physical evidence strongly suggests the delivery system for the nerve gas was a mortar shell placed on the ground, not a bomb dropped from a warplane. Towards the end of his critique, Postol said, “The situation is that the White House has produced a false, obviously misleading and amateurish report.”

Elaborating on his argument in a television interview, the MIT professor said:

“The report, quite frankly, doesn’t meet the laugh test. As an American citizen I want to know who signed it off….I think this is an indication that there is something extremely problematic in the American national system with regard to the use of intelligence.”

Postol added:

“It indicates a willingness on the part of high level people in the White House to distort and to use intelligence claims that are false to make political points and political arguments….I think this report was almost certainly politically-motivated… This is a serious and intolerable situation.”

On April 13, 2017 Postol produced a follow-up critique of the WHR – an Addendum to the first report – in which he asserts that “the assumption that the site of the alleged sarin release had not been tampered with was totally unjustified and no competent analyst would have argued that this assumption was valid.”

Postel goes on to criticise the veracity of the claims the WHR make with regards to the “communications intercepts” and the basis by which other intelligence assessments were made.

In a third paper – all of which have been totally ignored by the corporate Western media – Postol augments his previous papers by citing additional evidence from two selected videos which were uploaded to YouTube in the time period between April 5, 2017 and April 7, 2017.

The MIT professor posits that:

“Analysis of the videos shows that all of the scenes taken at the site where the WHR claims was the location of a sarin release indicate significant tampering with the site.  Since these videos were available roughly one week before the White House report was issued on April 11, this indicates that the office of the WHR made no attempt to utilize the professional intelligence community to obtain accurate data in support of the findings in the report.”

Postol points out that one of the videos indicates that workers in the close vicinity of the alleged bomb site were not wearing any protection of any kind to protect them from sarin poisoning, while others were inadequately protected.

Postol concludes by stating bluntly that “the WHR report was fabricated without input from the professional intelligence community.” He then reiterates the corporate media’s version of events, namely, that on April 4, 2017 a nerve agent attack had occurred in Khan Shaykhun, Syria during the early morning hours locally on that day and that three days later the U.S government carried out a cruise missile attack on Syria ordered by President Trump without any valid intelligence to support it.

Significantly, Postol then states:

“In order to cover up the lack of intelligence to support the president’s action, the National Security Council produced a fraudulent intelligence report on April 11, four days later. The individual responsible for this report was Lieutenant General H. R. McMaster, the National Security Advisor. The McMaster report is completely undermined by a significant body of video evidence taken after the alleged sarin attack and before the US cruise missile attack that unambiguously shows the claims in the WHR could not possibly be true. This cannot be explained as a simple error….

“…This unambiguously indicates a dedicated attempt to manufacture a false claim that intelligence actually supported the president’s decision to attack Syria, and of far more importance, to accuse Russia of being either complicit or a participant in an alleged atrocity.”

Postol then repeats a quote from the WHR:

“An open source video also shows where we believe the chemical munition landed—not on a facility filled with weapons, but in the middle of a street in the northern section of Khan Shaykhun [Emphasis Added]. Commercial satellite imagery of that site from April 6, after the allegation, shows a crater in the road that corresponds to the open source video.”

And then adds:

“The data provided in these videos make it clear that the WHR made no good-faith attempt to collect data that could have supported its “confident assessment.” that the Syrian government executed a sarin attack as indicated by the location and characteristics of the crater.”

If Postol’s version of events, which is the basis of Russia’s position (see below), is true (which is extremely likely), it’s almost certainly the case that the rebels on the ground linked to al-Qaeda who control Khan Sheikhoun, are the same people who carried out the alleged false flag attack.

Timing

Another aspect to all this which seems to have been overlooked by many commentators, is the timing of the incident. An observant reader, kindly pointed out to me the discrepancy between the reported time-frames of the gas release and the alleged sarin chemical attack. Lebanese independent investigative journalist, Adel Karim, stated that at 8am on April 4, 2017, journalists linked to radical groups located in Idlib provided him with material that purported to show the consequences of the alleged attack.

The timing of the rebel account of the attack was contradicted by Russian defense ministry spokesman Igor Konoshenkov who claimed that an attack took place between 11.30am and 12.30pm on that day, and that the said attack was directed against a “large terrorist ammunition depot and a concentration of military hardware in the eastern outskirts of Khan Sheikhoun town.”

The above anomaly, therefore, reiterates the contention made by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem that the first reports of the chemical attack from rebel-affiliated groups “appeared several hours before the government airstrike”. It follows that Karim’s version of events appears credible and the account provided to him by rebel groups in Idlib, is therefore almost certainly bogus.

The Lebanese journalist concludes convincingly that “the decision to attack the Syrian military infrastructure was taken in Washington long before the fabricated events in Khan Sheikhoun and what happened was a “staged falsification” aimed to “justify U.S aggression against Syria.”

Whatever the truth, both the anomaly in regard to the timings of the alleged incident and, more significantly, professor Postel’s analysis, are surely significant enough to be worthy of further investigation by Western corporate media outlets such as the BBC. But at the time of writing (April 17), other than the occasional brief interview with former Syrian ambassador, Peter Ford, no alternative narratives have been aired.

One of the few media outlets who have been prepared to give the oxygen of publicity to opposing viewpoints, however, is RT. Unlike the BBC, the Russian-based broadcaster has recently interviewed Postol at some length.

Pattern

This sequence of events follows a recent pattern of anti-Assad claims exemplified by four similar controversial stories in which the corporate media have attempted to pass fiction off as fact. The first of these on February 13, 2017, relates to the findings of a report by Amnesty International which contends that Assad was responsible for the “execution by mass hangings” of up to 13,000 people. The alleged atrocity that evoked in the press comparisons to Nazi concentration camps, was within days criticised for its unsubstantiated and uncorroborated claims.

It should be recalled that it was Amnesty International who uncritically supported the emergence of a fake news story during the first Gulf War in which Iraqi soldiers were said to have taken scores of babies out of incubators in Kuwait City leaving them to die.

The second press release, three days after the mass-execution story aired, concerned the heart-rending case of a Syrian boy who Anne Barnard of the New York Times reported on twitter as having “his legs…cut because of attacks from Assad and Russia.”

It soon transpired, however, that the organization credited with filming the “attacks” was Revolution Syria, a pro-insurgency media outfit who also provided the videos for the equally fraudulent claim that the Russians bombed a school in Haas in October 2016. Dr Barbara McKenzie provides a detailed background to the story which can be read here.

The third piece of false reporting to have emerged, is in connection with Security Council resolution 2235 which highlights the conclusions of a August, 2015 OPCW-UN report. The said report, aimed at introducing new sanctions against Syria (which Russia and China vetoed), didn’t make the claims subsequently attributed to it in the corporate media, namely that between April, 2014 and August, 2015 the Assad government was definitively responsible for three chemical attacks using chlorine.

Security analyst Charles Shoebridge pointed out on March 1, 2017, that “most media didn’t even seem to bother reading the report”. Shoebridge confirmed that the OPCW-UN investigation contained findings that did not correspond to what the public was being told. Pointing out the reports many caveats and reservations, the analyst said the evidence “wasn’t sufficiently good to declare that Syria had dropped chlorine to a standard that could be considered “strong”, or “overwhelming”, adding that “investigators were largely reliant on reports from the White Helmets.”

Finally, independent journalist Gareth Porter inferred that U.N. investigators increasingly make their conclusions fall in line with Western propaganda after he exposed distortions contained in a March 1, 2017 report by the United Nations’ “Independent International Commission of Inquiry which claimed that an airstrike on a humanitarian aid convoy in the west of Aleppo City on Sept. 19, 2016, was undertaken by Syrian government planes. Porter reveals that the reports findings were based on pro-rebel Syrian White Helmets testimonies that were “full of internal contradictions.”

Extraordinarily, in March, 2016 German journalist Dr. Ulfkotte brought the lies of the mainstream out into the open by confessing live on television that he was forced to publish the works of intelligence agents under his own name, adding that noncompliance with these orders would result in him losing his job. Sharing this information in front of millions of people (reminiscent of the film Network), Ulfkotte said:

“I’ve been a journalist for about 25 years, and I was educated to lie, to betray, and not to tell the truth to the public. But seeing right now within the last months how the German and American media tries to bring war to the people in Europe, to bring war to Russia — this is a point of no return and I’m going to stand up and say it is not right what I have done in the past, to manipulate people, to make propaganda against Russia, and it is not right what my colleagues do and have done in the past because they are bribed to betray the people, not only in Germany, all over Europe.”

The inability of mainstream journalists to undertake basic fact-checking illuminated by the examples described, reinforce the veracity of Ulfkotte’s claims that corporate journalists are “educated to lie, to betray, and not to tell the truth to the public.” But more than that, it amounts to a stark admission that the corruption at the heart of the elite media and political establishment is systemic. As Mark Doran on Twitter put it: “Our corrupt politics, our international crime, and our ‘free media’ form a seamless whole.” The goal of this consolidation of power is to secure yet another middle east resource grab.

Daniel Margrain is a freelance writer based in London. He has a masters degree in Globalization, Culture & the City from Goldsmiths. His articles have appeared in numerous on-line publications and blogs.

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Why Owen Smith is a Red-Tory

By Daniel Margrain

Last week a prominent independent journalist claimed on Twitter that my assertion Owen Smith was effectively a Tory was “intellectually lazy”. Coincidentally, a few days later on Thursday’s (September 8) edition of BBC’s Question Time during the Labour party leadership debate between challenger Owen Smith and incumbent Jeremy Corbyn, a studio audience member and Corbyn supporter accused Smith of “being in the wrong party”.

Smith responded angrily to this suggestion by denying this was the case and asserted that the claim amounted to a term of abuse. Smith’s view was supported the next day (September 9) on Twitter by Smith supporter, John McTernan who said that such a suggestion was “ludicrous”. Of course, nobody is claiming that Smith, in the literal sense, is a Tory, but his voting record in the House of Commons and his commercial activities outside it, would indicate that he might as well be.

So let’s take a look at his record. Since at least July, the public relations professional, Smith, has pitched himself as a ‘soft-left’ anti-austerity alternative to Corbyn. This implies that Smith is first and foremost concerned with image and branding as opposed to adopting a principled political and ideological position.

The ‘soft-left’ Smith had previously given interviews supporting PFI and, as chief lobbyist for the U.S multinational Pfizer, he actively pushed for the privatization of NHS services. Commenting on a Pfizer funded ‘focus group’ study as part of a press release, Smith referenced and promoted the notion that the precondition for greater availability of healthcare services was the ability of the public to be able to pay for them. This is one of the significant passages from a section of the study that Smith was keen to promote:

“The focus groups… explored areas of choice that do not yet exist in the UK – most specifically the use of direct payments and the ability to choose to go directly to a specialist without first having to see the GP.”

In other words, Smith favours direct payments from the public to doctors as a replacement for current NHS services. This policy strategy is consistent with the 1988 Tory ‘self-funding’ privatization blueprint for the NHS drawn up by Oliver Letwin and John Redwood. In the document ‘Britain’s Biggest Enterprise: ideas for radical reform of the NHS’, Letwin and Redwood suggest that the aim of charging is to “replace comprehensive universal tax funding for the NHS.”

Smith’s conflation of greater choice with an ability to pay, represents one more stage in the execution of Letwin and Redwood’s plans. The implementation of these plans were accelerated by Blair and Brown as documented by Leys and Player in their book The Plot Against the NHS. Smith intends to continue where Brown and Blair – then Lansley and now Hunt – left off as part of the final stages of the wholesale Letwin-Redwood privatization blueprint of which the 2012 Health & Social Care Act  is a major component part.

Since the 2015 general election, the Tory government have explicitly admitted that the NHS should be modelled on US-style “accountable or integrated healthcare” which is where Smith’s connections to Pfizer come in. In addition to his Policy and Government Relations role for the giant US corporation, Smith was also directly involved in Pfizer’s funding of Blairite right-wing entryist group Progress. Pfizer gave Progress £52,287 while the latter has actively pursued the agenda of PFI and the privatisation of NHS services.

So while Smith’s image is largely predicated on his attempt to convince the Labour membership that in policy terms he publicly supports Corbyn’s position that the NHS should remain a universally free at the point of delivery service, in reality nothing could be further from the truth.

Smith also supported Blair’s city academies that have continued under the Tories as well as assiduously courting the arms industry of which his support of Trident is a reflection. Arguably, most important of all, is that Smith effectively lined up with the Tories, alongside another 183 Labour MPs in July last year by refusing to vote against the Conservative governments regressive and reactionary policy of welfare cuts to some of the most vulnerable people in society.

In an Orwellian rejection of socialist values, Blairite Iraq war apologist and establishment gatekeeper, John Rentoul, affirmed his support for the policies of Owen Smith on Twitter:

As the graphic above shows, and as Craig Murray correctly posits:

“There is no evidence whatsoever that Smith is a left winger. There is every evidence that he is another New Labour unprincipled and immoral careerist, adopting a left wing pose that he thinks will win him votes.”

The graphic below highlights the hypocrisy of Smith and, by extension, his total contempt for ordinary Labour party members.

 

 

Smith’s acquiescence to corporate power is indicative of a wider democratic deficit within the liberal democracies of the West in an era of globalization more generally. But his close relationship to the PLP and the Tory-Labour establishment consensus that they represent, reflects a relatively recent historical pattern in which governments of both the left and the right have prioritized the interests associated with private capital over and above that of labour.

Thus the first serious attacks on the welfare state in Britain came not in 2008, or even with the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979, but several years previously, with that of a Labour government in 1974. Contrary to popular belief, dismantling the welfare state was not a key priority for Thatcher following her election in 1979. It was not until her third term of office in 1987 that Thatcher and her advisers (notably the Sainsbury’s chief executive Sir Roy Griffiths) began to develop the neoliberal ideas of the Chicago School.

These ideas were subsequently picked up and developed by New Labour under Tony Blair following his election victory in 1997. It was during this point that the introduction of competition into public services, ideas about the state as purchaser of public services and the outsourcing and privatization of health and social care services, became the norm.

The privatization of the NHS, made possible by the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, arguably poses the most immediate threat to the welfare state in the UK in its totality in which the outsourcing of services becomes the default position. The functioning of a welfare state that increasingly serves the minority interests of capital at the expense of fulfilling the needs of the majority of the population, is a process driven by a neoliberal-driven ideological consensus rather than any pragmatic attempts at ameliorating deficits and the encouragement of socioeconomic and environmental sustainability.

It’s the continued satisfying of minority elite interests rather than the wider public good that Owen Smith and the establishment – of which he is a part – are embedded. That’s fundamentally the reason why there is nothing that separates Owen Smith from the neoliberalism of Blair, Brown, Miliband, Major, Thatcher and May.

Whether one agrees with Jeremy Corbyn’s politics or not, he at least offers a genuine alternative to the consensus view that Smith represents. Even the right-wing commentator, Peter Hitchens, recognizes that the emergence of Corbyn is important to the adversarial nature of political discourse and, by extension, to democracy itself. If the UK was a healthy democracy instead of an effective corporate-political-media oligarchy, this development would be welcomed. Instead, Corbyn is demonized and smeared at almost every opportunity.

 

Why Trident is a useless waste of public money

By Daniel Margrain

Monday evenings vote by the UK parliament to renew the Trident nuclear weapons programme which is planned to begin in the early 2030s at an estimated cost of £205 billion, speaks volumes about the malaise at the heart of British parliamentary democracy. The disconnect between Labour members and the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) is, in part, indicative of this broader schism in liberal social democracy more generally.

This is highlighted, for example, by the fact that the democratically-elected leader of the Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn, who commands a 20 point lead over his rival, Owen Smith in the renewed challenge to his leadership set for September, voted against the renewal of Trident, while 60 per cent of Labour MPs, the vast majority of whom are opposed to Corbyn’s leadership, voted in favour.

The replacement of the current stock of nuclear submarines is predicated on the 2006 White Paper, The Future of the United Kingdom’s Nuclear Deterrent, which asserts that the UK needs nuclear weapons in order:

to deter and prevent nuclear blackmail and acts of aggression against our vital interests that cannot be countered by other means.

The assumed logic underpinning this reasoning is that nuclear weapons provide states with the protection they need against potential adversaries. On the basis of this reasoning, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that theoretically and, as an issue of consistency, every state should be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons. But contrary to state propaganda, this eventuality will inevitably make the world less, not more, safe. As Caroline Lucas eloquently and succinctly put it when she addressed PM, Theresa May, during the parliamentary debate:

“If keeping and renewing our nuclear weapons is so vital to our security and safety, does she accept the logic of that position must be that every other single country must seek to acquire nuclear weapons? And does she really think that the world would be a safer place if it did? Our weapons are driving proliferation, not the opposite.”

One only needs to look at the example of Iraq, which was attacked on the basis that Saddam was said to have had in his possession a functioning weapons programme that could be used to attack Britain within 45 minutes, in order to underline the truth of Lucas’ argument.

Secondly, both the Conservative and New Labour establishments’ claim that the Trident system is an ‘independent’ nuclear deterrent doesn’t stand up to scrutiny either. The reality is that Britain is currently only one among nine states ­in the world that does not possess an independent functional nuclear weapons system and the means to deliver it.

The notion then, that a U.S-supplied UK missile system is free to strike any target in the world is fanciful, particularly as its functionality is dependent upon the vagaries of US-UK relations at any given time. Of course, all of this is underscored by the fact that under the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Britain has an obligation to disarm.

The third illustration why Trident renewal is unsound, relates to the nature of the threats societies’ face in the 21st century. The 2015 National Security Strategy sets out the tier-one threats faced by the UK. These are international terrorism, climate change and cyber-crime. The obvious reality is that nuclear weapons are not a deterrent against any of these threats. How is it the case that over 180 countries in the world don’t feel the need to acquire this ‘deterrent’?

As the governments own Strategic Defence Review suggests, the threat of nuclear war is rated a two-tier level risk below international terrorism, climate change and cyber crime. It’s precisely because we live in an uncertain world where more countries aspire to get nuclear weapons, that the opportunity for terrorists to get hold of nuclear material becomes greater. The fact that nuclear weapons make the world less safe is the central premise which determines an ongoing UN process involving some 130 countries who are engaged in discussions about banning nuclear weapons. Unsurprisingly, the UK government is not a party to these discussions.

The arguments for maintaining Trident fall like a house of cards whose foundations are built on sand. The theory that having nuclear weapons makes the country safer is an entirely unproven one, and nor can it be proven. In logic, one cannot prove a negative insofar that doing something causes something else not to happen. The reason why nuclear attacks haven’t happened since the U.S attack on Japan, may be the result of any number of factors, or simply may be due to exceptionally good fortune. Indeed, many military experts argue that nuclear weapons make the country less safe, primarily because it increases the likelihood of them being used.

Britain’s possession of nuclear weapons exacerbates uncertainties and leads to the very scenario it is designed to avoid. If Trident is so effective in protecting the British people, why is it also not the case for every other country in the world? How can the UK government possibly try to deny the right of other countries to acquire them under circumstances where the UK government upgrades its own nuclear weapons?

The one argument that the proponents of Trident renewal frequently cite is the supposed loss of jobs that would allegedly result from any decision to de-commission or not to renew Trident. But, as SNP MP Mhairi Black argued in an erudite and passionate speech to the House of Commons, there is no evidence to suggest, given any political will to examine likely alternative employment opportunities, that job losses would inevitably be the result in any decision not to renew.

The billions that the government is proposing to spend on Trident renewal could conceivably be spent on utilizing the skilled engineers, scientists and other workers elsewhere by investing in energy, engineering and other alternative specialist areas. In addition, greater sums could be invested in preventing climate change. This latter diversification alternative would, as Black emphazises, seem to be particularly pertinent given that climate change is a tier-one threat. The notion that the Trident renewal argument as a defence against a two-tier threat trumps the threat posed by climate change which is a tier-one threat, defies all logic. As Peter Hitchens put it:

“Trident is like spending all your money on insuring against alien abduction, so you can’t afford cover against fire and theft.”

Furthermore, the decision to renew is both counter-intuitive and counter-productive. This is because such a process, as Caroline Lucas contends:

“gives out an incredibly negative message to the rest of the world that if you want to be secure then you have to acquire nuclear weapons. To that extent this vote will drive nuclear proliferation.”

Britain’s nuclear weapons capability does nothing to tackle the real threats the country faces. Rather, it has more to do with augmenting the perception throughout the rest of the world that a faded imperial power is still a significant player on the world stage. Maintaining a nuclear ‘deterrent’ is, in other words, about sending a message to the rest of the world that the projection of power by any means is necessary. Central to maintaining this illusion, is the assurance that the UK secures its permanent member status on the UN Security Council. The Trident nuclear weapons programme serves no other purpose than to satisfy the ego of the British establishment and the propping up of the arms industry.

In the context of an era of welfare retrenchment and austerity, the public are constantly being told by politicians that ‘difficult decisions’ have to be made in terms of the ‘necessity’ to cut disability, unemployment benefits and pensions, while the spending of billions on Trident is essential for their safety and security. The conservative political commentator and television personality, Michael Portillo, manages to cut through the spin as the graphic below illustrates:

As Portillo correctly implies, spending obscene amounts on what are frankly useless, unnecessary and immoral weapons of mass destruction, is an indefensible act of self-serving and short-sighted political narcissism.

 

 

COP21 resolves nothing

By Daniel Margrain

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Academic research supports the hypothesis that environmental degradation is linked to economic growth. As economies grow the countries’ in which the growth rates occur pump out correspondingly higher rates of the gas responsible for the greatest single cause of human induced climate change into the earth’s atmosphere. The tendency among humans to consume more and more of the finite resources of our planet, is predicated on capitalism’s inherent drive for growth upon which the maximization of profits is dependent. This is what Naomi Klein talks about when she refers to the capitalist system as one in which the ruthless drive for expansion is kept going by “consumption for consumption’s sake”.

If one accepts this line of reasoning then it follows that in order to ameliorate the affects of climate change by reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, it’s necessary to challenge the growth based profit seeking logic of capitalism that gives rise to it.

Here we are faced with a major contradiction. The economic growth that is generated by capitalism creates employment opportunities. But in so doing, it also creates an insurmountable environmental and ecological crisis which, taken to its logical conclusion, negates the need for economy and hence employment. It’s this fundamental contradiction that undermines the COP21 in Paris and all of the other UN Climate Summit’s that preceded it.

This rather depressing reality, is underscored by the fact that these summits are primarily concerned with satisfying the demands set by capitalist growth, as opposed to creating the necessary conditions for environmentally sustainable societies’. Although this truism is rarely openly and unambiguously stated, any cursory analysis of the situation reveals that job creation and the “need” to maximize economic growth, overrides environmental sustainability considerations.

The insatiable demands of investors on the one hand, and the urgent need to cut down on global carbon emissions, on the other, are necessarily incongruous concepts. The failure of successive summits, most notably, in Copenhagen, in addressing the incompatibility between economic growth – a factor intrinsic to capitalism – and environmental sustainability that limits it, is a recipe for disaster because it perpetuates the conditions in which further environmental degradation of the planet will occur.

It’s precisely this logic that explains why it is that one of the key players at the COP21 discussions in Paris, Saudi Arabia, attempted to undermine them, even though climate change forecasts suggest that the Gulf region will become uninhabitable as a consequence of the failure of the Arab state agreeing to a radical shift in its negotiating position at the summit.

The rationale for the world’s largest producer of oil in its derailing of negotiations, is based on narrow short-term economic self interest. Saudi Arabia are among the most powerful of the 195 nations who attended the conference in Paris who, alongside their powerful allies, are empowered to block any meaningful negotiations in terms of emissions through a process of informal consensus.

Conversely, the poorer nations, were effectively not in a position to wield sufficient enough power to be able to offset the decision-making processes of the most powerful – the negative impacts of which, as Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace International, noted – they will disproportionately be on the end of.

For example, the numerous islands that comprise the small Pacific states’ who are among most likely to be adversely impacted by the worst consequences of climate change, had emphasized the need to act on limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels, while their powerful counterparts adamantly arrived at a higher “consensual” non-binding figure reviewed once every five years.

All this, and the fact that Saudi Arabia introduced a set of unreasonable negotiating pre-conditions against the emerging economies, are the main factors that arguably, in part, prompted the former Nasa scientist, James Hansen, to comment that the discussions in Paris were “a…fraud… a fake,”. He added: “It’s just bullshit for them to say: ‘We’ll have a 2C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years.’ It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises….”.

Meanwhile, the United States used the fact that it has not ratified any human rights statute internationally as a poison ‘divide and rule’ pill against the developing countries with the aim of picking off the most vulnerable as their justification for shifting blame for the crisis on to the smaller nations.

This underhand tactic serves a dual purpose in as much as the source of the problem – the rich elites’ pattern of consumption and their lifestyle – is conveniently admonished. That the ‘1 percent versus the 99 percent’ narrative remained a feature of Paris, is to my mind, the most depressing aspect of the summit. Kenyan political ecologist, Ruth Nyambura summed up the impasse well when she said: “We want to get out of this sinking ship, but countries like U.S. are holding the lifeboats.”

The reality is the settlement that emerged in Paris is an extremely weak one due largely to the negotiated consensual interplay between the most powerful players. This meant they were able to use each other to take things off the table they didn’t want. This interplay, to a great extent, is determined by the influence the oil, coal and gas companies had on proceedings as well as the banks, hedge funds and other financial institutions who fund them.

The giant corporations garner an enormous amount of power in terms of their ability to be able to influence the decision making processes of the most powerful governments’. This often takes the form of the lobbying of leading politician’s of these governments by the giant corporations. Paris was no exception. The issues to do with conflicts of interest remain.

Thus, the potential for corruption is as strong as ever, aided ostensibly by credible figures who misrepresent consensus research. The misrepresentations in Paris included climate change professors who Greenpeace exposed as figures who were willing to produce pro-fossil fuel industry research by concealing the source of their funding.

The denialism also invariably extends to apparently skeptical mainstream journalists like Christopher Booker and James Delingpole whose roles are little more than conduits for the kinds of power they are supposed to hold to account. The reality is that the relationship between fossil fuel emissions and climate change is scientifically indisputable. To quote George Monbiot in his book ‘Heat’: “To doubt today, that manmade climate change is happening, you must abandon science and revert to some other means of understanding the world: alchemy perhaps, or magic.”

Nevertheless, the influence that journalists, powerful corporate lobbyists, former politicians and others within the denial industry are able to exert in order to deceive and mislead the public regarding the science can not be underestimated. One such figure is journalist, Peter Hitchens, who ought to know better.

The writer, who has many credible and sensible things to say about the decision of the UK government to go to war in Syria, apparently bases his authority to deny the reality of climate change on misleading glacier figures published online by the ‘Science and Environmental Policy Project’ (SEPP) run by a discredited environmental scientist called Dr S. Fred Singer.

The data has been reproduced by several other groups and had also found its way into The Washington Post. According to George Monbiot, the figures which were published by these groups, were subsequently used by Hitchens as well as other notable denialists like Melanie Phillips and David Bellamy to support their respective positions. However, the groups have one thing in common: they have all been funded by Exxon.

But this fact hasn’t initiated any retractions. On the contrary, it has resulted in the ‘digging in of heels’. The intention is to create confusion and the impression of uncertainty within the scientific community, when in reality none exists. The science is settled. Even Exxon’s own research conducted decades ago, that was until recently covered up, confirmed the role of fossil fuel in global warming.

Despite this, the damage has arguably already been done. Governments’ can only ameliorate the worst affects of runaway climate change. It’s too late to stop it in it’s tracks. As the consequences of climate change feedback begin to take their toll, we will soon be reaching the tipping point.

If in the year 2030, carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere remain as high as they are today then ecosystems will begin to release carbon dioxide as opposed to absorbing it. At this point climate change will not only be out of our hands, but it will accelerate without our help. If this does indeed come to pass, then the world will be taking to task the complicit role the denialism industry played in it.

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.”

 

 

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.