Libya

Regional Inferno, by Amin Saikal

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 13/12/2019 - 2:34pm in

The Middle East is on the boil more than could have been expected a decade ago. It has been transformed into a zone of conflicts within conflicts, which have bedevilled the region from Afghanistan to Syria to Palestine to Yemen to Libya. It has gained the notorious reputation of being the most unstable, turbulent and insecure region of the world. Authoritarianism, violent extremism, human rights violations, social and economic disparities, shifting alliances and loyalties and foreign interventionism have come together to make the region highly explosive. Some might say ‘What’s new?’, as the region has always been on a dangerous edge. That may be so, but not to the same extent as it has been since the formation of the modern Middle East by colonial powers in the wake of the Second World War. The region is badly in need of structural reforms at the national level, meaningful cooperation at the regional level and deeper understanding of its complexities by outside powers at the international level.

Against the backdrop of the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict, whereby Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian lands and repressive treatment of the Palestinian people have become a perpetual source of anxiety in world politics, the 2001 and 2003 US-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, respectively, were touted as enhancing the conditions for regional stability and security. Yet this was not to be the case. Not only have the Afghan and Iraqi tragedies become daunting for both the interventionists and their subjects but also more conflicts, iron-fisted rule, violent extremism, public unrest, and power struggles fuelled by major powers, national authorities and non-state actors have become a dominant feature of the Middle Eastern landscape.

The Afghan and Iraqi fiascos, emanating largely from an interactive relationship between the socially difficult and politically mosaic nature of the two countries and the United States’ inability to deliver peace, have placed the two states in the grip of long-term structural instability. Whereas the Afghan war has gone on for nineteen years with increasing violence and insecurity, which has prompted President Trump to seek an (as yet unsuccessful) political settlement of the conflict as central to a US exit strategy, the Iraqi situation has not fared any better. Although the United States pulled out of Iraq at the end of 2011, it left behind a broken country. The continued Iraqi turmoil in combination with the bloody conflict in neighbouring Syria dramatically altered the dynamics in the Levant. In Syria the so-called Arab Spring or popular uprisings, which commenced in Tunisia in late 2010, triggered a mass uprising against the Iranian-backed authoritarian regime of Bashar al-Assad. Instead of reaching a negotiated settlement with the opposition, the regime decided to crush the uprising. These factors enormously helped provide the necessary conditions for two important developments.

One was the rise of the so-called Sunni extremist Islamic State (IS). The other was the return of the United States as the head of a military coalition to combat IS, which succeeded in declaring a territorial Islamic state (khilafat) over one third of Iraq and Syria in mid-2014. IS’s religious extremism and politics of brutality were opposed not only by the United States and its allies but also by the Muslim world and the wider global community. However, the United States and its allies could not exclusively claim victory for folding back IS territorially by early 2019. Another coalition that played a more formidable role in the process was led by Russia, in league with the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah, in support of the Assad regime. This meant that two international coalitions, one opposing the Assad regime and the other backing the regime, deployed forces against IS as a common enemy. The US-led coalition also focused heavily on fighting IS in Iraq, where the United States, as in the case of Syria, made common cause with its regional foe, Iran. The latter vehemently opposed IS’s anti-Shia and anti-Iran stand. Although neither Washington nor Tehran ever acknowledged publicly that they were complementing one another against IS, a change of alignment and loyalty has never ceased to be a common occurrence in the troubled Middle East. It depends on who serves whose current geopolitical purpose.

Under the neo-nationalist and impulsive Trump this occurrence has become more common. While adopting a policy of exerting maximum pressure on Iran by cancelling the multilateral July 2014 Iran nuclear agreement—officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—and imposing harsh sanctions on the country, Trump has eased US opposition to the Assad regime. He has let Russia, Iran and Turkey (the latter is a NATO ally, but opposed to the Assad regime and yet tilts towards Russia and Iran because it has been disillusioned with its NATO partners) occupy the driver’s seat in determining the future of Syria. He recently ordered the withdrawal of 2000 US troops from Syria by claiming victory over IS. In the process, he also dropped US support for its most trusted ally in the Levant, the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who had fought IS valiantly alongside US personnel in Syria.

However, after his action met condemnation from both sides of the US Congress and from his European allies, Trump back-pedalled to some extent by redeploying some of the troops, under the pretence of protecting the largely non-productive Syrian oil fields in the north, and warned Turkey against attacking the SDF. Ankara regards the SDF, or more specifically its People’s Protection Units (YPG), as a terrorist organisation and an extension of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), which has been fighting for the independence of Turkey’s substantial Kurdish minorities over the last four decades, at a very high human cost. While ignoring Trump’s warning, Ankara negotiated with Moscow as the main force in Syria to achieve its objective of pushing the SDF back by 10 kilometres from a strip along its border—a strip where Russian forces have taken over abandoned US bases and engaged in joint patrolling with Turkish forces. In all, the United States’ Syrian policy has featured as much chaos as its handling of Iraq. Today, Russia and Iran call the shots in Syria. This, together with Iran’s having secured a formidable degree of sectarian and geopolitical influence in Iraq, places the entire Levant from Iraq to Lebanon under the Russo-Iranian axis, at the cost of the United States’ traditionally dominant role in the region and Israel’s growing security discomfort.

Meanwhile, Trump has provided unqualified support for Israel and Saudi Arabia and the latter’s allies within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) as the main regional front against Iran, and augmented US-force deployment in the Gulf. He has rejected a passionate appeal from Congress to pressure Riyadh over the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in October 2018 and to retrench US backing for the Saudi-led Arab coalition against Iran-affiliated Houthi rebels in Yemen, where the coalition’s operations have caused massive human misery and physical destruction.

Concurrently, while backing away from any kind of support for democratic reforms, the Trump administration has lately acted unconstructively in relation to the Libyan conflict, which commenced with the overthrow of the country’s dictator, Muammar al-Qaddafi, in 2011 as a result of a popular uprising and NATO’s intervention. The Libyan crisis has taken a severe toll on its population and economy, and the fate of the country has fallen into the hands of several warring groups. A UN-backed Government of National Accord has materialised in Tripoli, backed by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia. However, its position is challenged by the Libyan National Army, led by veteran field marshal Khalifa Haftar, and Trump has voiced his support for him, which can only prolong the Libyan tragedy.

Against this backdrop, not only does the Middle East remain riddled with conflicts, violence and insecurity but also its demographic composition has changed significantly in favour of younger generations, whose frustrations over appalling conditions in many of the constituent states have led them to engage in mass protests. Lately there have been cross-sectarian and cross-ethnic popular demonstrations in Iraq, Lebanon, Algeria and Sudan in pursuit of good and clean governance, democratic rights and freedoms, and better living conditions. Of all these states, the Sudanese have managed to take the initial steps towards a transition to a kind of democracy, though with considerable sacrifices on the part of those who have demanded it. Otherwise, the struggle between the authorities and the popular opposition in other concerned states has taken a steady course with no relief in sight. This has led some analysts to predict a second Arab Spring.

Yet, the forces of status quo that stifled the objectives of the first pro-democracy Arab Spring that resulted in the toppling of such dictators as Tunisia’s Ben Ali, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, Libya’s Qaddafi and Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh, and fuelled the Syrian uprising are still in full force in the region. Of all the countries that experienced the Arab Spring, only Tunisia has assumed a democratic trajectory; the others have either gone back to authoritarian rule, as is the case with Egypt, or are drowning in perpetual conflicts. The status-quo forces are led by two rival actors: Saudi Arabia on one side and Iran on the other. Despite recently having loosened up socially to some extent under the young de facto leader Mohammad bin Salman, Saudi Arabia is not about to move down the path of democratic political reforms. Similarly, Iran cannot be expected to transition from a politically pluralist theocracy with a network of supporting sectarian groups across the Levant and Yemen to a liberalist posture any time soon. The two Gulf powers are locked in serious geopolitical-sectarian rivalry, but neither is willing to see any sea change in the region. Both want to see the region altering in their favour, but not in any direction that could undermine their current domestic and regional settings.

At the same time, the public’s demand for structural change in many of the countries in the region is growing louder by the day. If the authorities fail to address popular concerns whose expression has already cost many lives, the Middle East remains ripe for more instability, violence and insecurity. It is these kinds of conditions that also provide the space for extremist groups, whether in the name of religion or other creeds, to become active. The two main extremist groups—al Qaeda and IS—that emerged in the conflict zones are still alive and kicking. They have franchised and extended their networks wherever they have found a power vacuum within an arena of conflict. In spite of the US claim of success against them, the two groups can be expected to maintain and possibly widen their operational capability as the old conflicts continue and new ones surface in the Middle East as an arena of frenemies.

The outlook for the Middle East does not appear bright. Most of the conditions that have given rise to conflicts, extremism, public protests, insecurity and tensions have not been addressed. US-Iranian enmity, Iranian-Saudi rivalry and Iranian-Israeli hostility, proxy conflicts, and challenges by non-state actors—Islamic or otherwise—are set to be the major components of instability and insecurity across the Middle East in the coming years. The variable that could dramatically change the situation is a possible military confrontation between Iran and the United States or Iran and Israel or both at the same time. Such a scenario is conceivable only if a beleaguered Trump decides, under the pressure of impeachment, to go for a foreign-policy diversion. Otherwise, all parties are fully aware that a war could be very costly for them and could easily trigger a regional inferno that no one could control. Recognition of this fact undermines the reason for a war but does not free the region from being a source of boiling discomfort for its inhabitants and the international community. To shift the Middle East towards a paradigm of stability there is an urgent need for structural reform at the national level, regional cooperation, and world powers’ constructive engagement in pursuit of both. This may not come soon enough for the suffering people of the region.

Corbyn Demands Change to Foreign Policy to Stop Fuelling Terror

This is another story from yesterday’s I that I’ve no doubt is going to alarm some people in certain places. Corbyn has said that it is ‘time to end bad foreign policy fuelling terror’, according to the headline of an article by Will worley.

The article runs

Successive governments have too often fuelled, rather than reduced, the threat of terrorism-with UK leaders having made the wrong calls on security for “far too long “, Jeremy Corbyn said.

Speaking in Yorkshire, the Labour leader said the war on terror has “manifestly failed”, adding that security requires “calmly making the right calls at moments of high pressure”.

Mr Corbyn accused Boris Johnson of being “the world’s leading sycophant” towards Donald Trump.

Mr Corbyn said he warned against the invasion of Iraq. “I said it would set off a spiral of conflict, hate, misery that will fuel the wars, the conflict, the terrorism, and the misery of future generations. It did and we are still living with the consequences.”

He’s right, and the 1-2 million people who marched against the Iraq invasion also knew it. I’ve read again and again on left-wing news and comments sites that studies have shown that what motivates Islamist terrorists isn’t some kind of jealous resentment of western freedoms or the western way of life – though I don’t doubt that this is a factor for many terrorist atrocities – but anger at western foreign policy. The Iraq Invasion had nothing to do with stopping al-Qaeda. It was a cynical ploy by the American military-industrial complex to overthrow Saddam Hussein and seize his country, and particularly its oil reserves and state enterprises. The Iraqi oil industry is now firmly in foreign hands, and likely to remain so: it’s been written into the country’s constitution. It has also been part of a wider neocon strategy of overthrowing seven different states in the region. These include Libya, Somalia, Syria and Iran. It’s also been suggested, citing documents written by various members of Bush’s cabinet and his advisers, that it’s also part of an American strategy of showing the world where the real military power lies. In the terms of the people who wrote this document, that meant picking up a country every once in a while and shaking. The American military manufactured a foreign policy crisis in order to use it as the pretext for a show of force in order to impress other nations not to buck their global authority and interests. Bush keenly denied that the invasions and wars in the Middle East are against Islam – which is true, as they’ve also been allied to Saudi foreign policy goals of also seizing other nations’ oil wealth and fighting and destroying rival Shi’a and secular Muslim and Middle Eastern states. But nevertheless, this how many Muslims see it, and especially after the flagrant islamophobia spewed by Johnson and the Tories, and their press.

It’s nearly 20 years since 9/11 and British forces are still fighting in Afghanistan, if not Iraq. Instead of pacifying the region, they’ve exacerbated it immensely. And if the neocons have their way, there may be more to come, as they’d dearly love to invade Iran. Which would have exactly the same consequences as the Iraq invasion, if not worse.

Corbyn’s words won’t be welcome to the neocons and certainly not to the Israelis, who are also profiting and seeking to foment wars with some of the Muslim states around them, like Iran. But they’re exactly right. The old foreign policy isn’t working. Perhaps, as John Lennon sang so long ago about the Vietnam War, it’s time we gave ‘peace a chance’.

Reclaiming Your Inner Fascist

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 23/11/2019 - 12:00pm in

CJ Hopkins OK, we need to talk about fascism. Not just any kind of fascism. A particularly insidious kind of fascism. No, not the fascism of the early 20th Century. Not Mussolini’s National Fascist Party. Not Hitler’s NSDAP. Not Francoist fascism or any other kind of organized fascist movement or party. Not even the dreaded …

Long Read Review: The Education of an Idealist by Samantha Power

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 05/11/2019 - 10:53pm in

In The Education of an IdealistSamantha Power offers a political memoir that traces her life story from her beginnings as an Irish immigrant to the US through to her work as a war correspondent in the Balkans and her ascent to the White House, where she served as President Barack Obama’s human rights adviser and became the youngest ever US Ambassador to the United Nations. This gripping, candid and witty book tells the story of Power’s efforts to bring about a different kind of US foreign policy and reveals the tensions that arose between acting on the dictates of governance and responding to human suffering, writes Chris Harmer

The Education of an Idealist. Samantha Power. HarperCollins. 2019.

Find this book: amazon-logo

The Education of an Idealist chronicles Samantha Power’s beginnings from Irish immigrant to the US, through to working as a war correspondent in the Balkans and her ascent to the White House, where she served as President Barack Obama’s human rights adviser. In 2013 she was sworn in as the youngest ever US ambassador to the United Nations. By then already established as an academic, journalist and author, what characterised Power above all was an unwavering compulsion to advocate for more effective responses to humanitarian crises. The same humanitarian impulse, which was forged during her early years covering the war in Bosnia, is at the heart of her 2003 Pulitzer Prize-winning work, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide. The essence of her new book, The Education of an Idealist, is the story of her efforts to bring about a different kind of US foreign policy: one that, in her words, would ‘muster the imagination needed to reckon with evil’.

It was Power’s case for more nuanced thinking in foreign policy that brought her to the attention of the then Senator for Illinois, Barack Obama, in 2005. Having spent five years investigating America’s response to twentieth-century genocides, Power had advocated a range of policy options between inaction in the face of mass atrocities and all-out ‘boots on the ground’ military intervention. After Power’s A Problem From Hell was brought to Senator Obama’s attention, the two met in Washington. The chapter about their first meeting includes a very telling comment by Obama – a portent of much of what was to follow. When discussing the US-led war in Iraq, Obama expressed disdain for the George W. Bush administration’s intervention and the folly of ‘regime change’. Power recalls: ‘For him, it seemed like malpractice to judge one’s prospects by one’s intentions, rather than making a strenuous effort to anticipate and weigh potential consequences.’ For Obama, such pragmatism was to become the hallmark of his foreign policy. For Power, the encounter proved pivotal – few humanitarian activists cross into the political domain to be held accountable for the outcome of their actions, not simply the justness of their intentions.

As if to accentuate the significance of Power’s transition from outsider activist to White House staffer, The Education of an Idealist is divided into two parts: the first concerns her childhood, journalism and academic career; the second how she attempted to bring her convictions to bear in the two successive Obama administrations where she served as Director for Multilateral Affairs in the National Security Council before becoming Ambassador to the UN.

Image Credit: Samantha Power (US Embassy Kyiv Ukraine Public Domain)

Central to the book are the tensions and conflicts that arose between acting on the dictates of governance and acting in the face of widespread human suffering. The climax of The Education of an Idealist is the story of ten days in August 2013 when that tension was at its most intense. The key question then under consideration by the Obama administration was the one expressed by the President himself when he asked: ‘What message will we send if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight and pay no price?’

Power was just three weeks into her role as UN ambassador when, in the early hours of 21 August 2013, news broke of a suspected chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus, Syria. Contemporaneous US government estimates put the number of dead at 1,429, including at least 426 children, which would make it the worst chemical attack since Halabja a quarter-century earlier. The ‘clear and convincing evidence’ of the use of Sarin gas subsequently reported by the UN investigating team represented a grave breach of the international norm prohibiting the use of chemical weapons. From her vantage point in the White House Situation Room, Power reveals just how close the administration came to military intervention in Syria in the immediate aftermath of the attack: ‘Obama had concluded that the costs of not responding forcefully were greater than the risks of taking military action.’ The atrocity came almost a year to the day after the President made clear what his response would be: ‘That’s a red line for us and […] there would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front or the use of chemical weapons. That would change my calculations significantly.’

In the critical hours and days that followed, Obama mobilised his administration for military intervention. He instructed the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (the nation’s most senior military figure) to identify and draw up targets for air strikes; Power was told to get the UN mission in Damascus ‘shut down now’ (lest the UN be used as a human shield against strikes); White House lawyers began constructing the legal case for the use of force, drawing on the precedent established in Kosovo where force had been used without UN Security Council authorisation. At one point Obama asked: ‘If I gave the order Sunday night, could this be done as early as Monday?’ The Chairman of the JCS affirmed it could. And then? Through gripping storytelling, Power relates how she received a call at night in the Waldorf Astoria, New York (then the official residence of the US Ambassador to the UN). National Security Advisor Susan Rice cut her short with the news that the President had gone from ‘wanting to go and go yesterday’ to deciding that he would seek authorisation from Congress for the use of force before proceeding with military strikes to punish Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

The narrative begs the question: what made Obama blink in the face of a war crime and opt not to proceed with strikes without the authorisation of Congress? As Commander in Chief, he had the power to do so.

Power asserts that had the UN team not still been present in Damascus four days after the chemical attack, Obama would have authorised strikes on the night of 25 August 2013. She further contends that in going to Congress Obama miscalculated: ‘Had he known he would fail, I did not believe he would have chosen the path he did.’ (Her use of the past tense here is perhaps telling). But it would most likely have been clear to Obama that political partisanship in the House meant he could not count on Congressional support. Obama’s memoirs, to be published next year, may reveal more, but the myriad potential outcomes of US intervention in Syria would have weighed heavily in balancing the case for the air strikes that Power and Rice advocated. The legal grounds for military action were far from clear cut. The route to UN Security Council authorisation for the use of force was blocked by Russia. There was the danger of drawing in other powers and unleashing a wider conflagration. Syria’s chemical weapons could not be taken out by strikes alone – meaning their further use could not be ruled out. (Indeed, their use has been reported again).

Also, around the time the President made his decision to go to Congress, it would have become clear to Obama that he could not rely on the support of coalition partners. Here, Power gives surprisingly short shrift to events across the Atlantic where in Britain, US-led air strikes were under consideration in Parliament and where precisely the same factors confronting parliamentarians mirrored those faced by Congress. Again and again, the spectre of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq loomed as MPs rose in turn to debate a motion to join US-led intervention. Again and again, the absence of post-war planning, the loss of blood and treasure in wars of ‘regime change’ and fears of open-ended commitment were invoked. On 30 August 2013, after an impassioned debate, the UK Parliament ruled out joining US-led strikes by 285 votes to 272 – a fact relegated to a footnote in Power’s account.

The very next day Obama’s speech made clear that he would not act without the authorisation of Congress, effectively shutting down the possibility of a military response to the attacks of 21 August 2013. Despite Power’s efforts to garner support in Congress for intervention, they came to nothing; the vote never happened. Power laments that: ‘We would have countless meetings and debates on Syria over the next three and a half years, but he [Obama] would never again consider the kind of risk he had been prepared to bear in the immediate aftermath of the August 21st attack.’ The window of opportunity for intervention in Syria under the Obama administration closed for good – a significant milestone in the tragedy that has engulfed the country, and for the system of a rules-based international order prohibiting chemical warfare.

Image Credit: President Barack Obama talks with Amb. Samantha Power, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, following a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Sept. 12, 2013 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) (Obama White House US Government Work)

Power’s conclusions on Syria are in marked contrast to those in the earlier chapters on Libya, where the US intervened in 2011 following the uprising in the opposition stronghold of Benghazi. The threat of a massacre was made explicit when Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi threatened to ‘cleanse Libya inch by inch, house by house, home by home, alley by alley, person by person, until the country is cleansed of dirt and scum.’  Under US leadership a resolution ‘to take all necessary measures’ was passed by the UN Security Council authorising the use of force to protect civilians. It is reported that Obama came to view Libya as the worst mistake of his presidency for failing to plan for what would happen after the strikes. But despite the country’s fragmentation into lawlessness and chaos, Power stands by the intervention as being the right thing to do: ‘The US had helped orchestrate the fastest and broadest international response to an impending human rights crisis in history.’

Perhaps the most striking aspect of these memoirs is the extraordinary openness of the author, which makes for compelling reading (although it may occasionally curl the toes of readers at the more reserved end of the frankness spectrum). Given the warts-and-all honesty of Power, there is one curious lapse of candour: her silence on Guantanamo. Obama had made it a campaign and presidential pledge to close the camp but it didn’t happen. It is odd that as human rights adviser she omits this episode – a silence that perhaps conveys another tension between Power’s convictions and her loyalty to the administration in which she served.

Also striking for a political memoir is the humour. The Education of an Idealist is replete with colour, insight and anecdotes, some laugh-out-loud funny, including the time when unbeknown to Power, Obama was within earshot when she took a call from her stepfather on her mobile in the White House. Caring for Power’s infant in her absence, he became increasingly frustrated at not being able to fathom a fiddly feeding device for his baby granddaughter. The call became audibly more fraught until Obama grabbed the mobile to give the instruction: ‘Listen, this is the President of the United States. You can do this. You just need to stay calm and focus.’ Some minutes elapsed before he handed back the phone with the words: ‘He’s got this.’

Part-political memoir and part-autobiography, the chapters on Syria may well reignite the ire of Power’s critics who accuse her of betraying her principles for power. But the wit, honesty and storytelling will likely have broader appeal beyond foreign policy circles. The story of her journey from intern to White House staffer may prove particularly educational and inspirational for younger readers. Power’s inability to overcome Obama’s resistance to deeper involvement in Syria clearly remains a source of anguish for her and others who served under him – notably those who came of age at the time of the genocides in the Balkans and Rwanda. But Power served in an administration that also did much to promote human rights. Thousands of Iraqi Yazidis who fled ISIS in 2014 were provided safe passage following US air strikes that Power and others advocated. She helped persuade the UN Security Council to define the Ebola epidemic as a threat to international peace and security, energising the mobilisation of a multinational response including the deployment of US troops. Power’s pioneering work in promoting LGBT rights at the UN encouraged the first ever Security Council condemnation of attacks on the basis of sexual orientation. She might not always have succeeded in influencing US foreign policy to ‘muster the imagination to reckon with evil’, but The Education of an Idealist is the story of how Power helped achieve Obama’s more modest and realistic definition of what constitutes success in political life: ‘Better is good and better is actually a lot harder to achieve than worse.’

Chris Harmer is a writer with a background in journalism and communications for the BBC World Service, Overseas Development Institute, United Nations and Westminster Foundation for Democracy. She has written on humanitarian affairs for academic and human rights organisations and was a producer and editor of international news and current affairs radio programmes. She has postgraduate degrees in international relations and international law from the LSE and King’s College, London.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics. 


Russian Assets and Realignment as the Dems Morph into Neocons

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 29/10/2019 - 2:00am in

Renée Parsons As you may have figured out by now, Hillary Clinton, warped by her own self aggrandizement of entitlement, did Tulsi Gabbard and her Presidential campaign against interventionist wars a huge incidental favor. While the Democrats continue to splinter and spiral out of control on the eve of what promises to be a transformative …

The Simple Truth About Libya and Syria

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 05/10/2019 - 5:25am in

Whatever one thinks of the pre-war regimes of Assad and Qaddafi, the majority of people in Syria were better off before the wars. This so completely undeniable, that anyone who claims otherwise is delusional or a liar (and hopefully on a payroll.)

War should have the highest bar of all because, as was noted at Nuremburg, it includes all others crimes, from rape and murder on down, within it.

“We came, we saw, he died,” said Hilary Clinton. Evil. Beyond evil. Anyone with two brain cells, after seeing Iraq and Afghanistan, could predict that the Western allies couldn’t rebuild Libya and that it would be far worse off afterwards.

While not all of Europe’s refugee crisis is Libya and Syria related, a lot is, and the Europeans (who remember, pushed hard for regime change, especially the French), and Americans are morally, and should be legally responsible for those refugees. Rather than refusing them, in a just world, they would be required to house and feed them, having been complicit in destroying their countries.

All of this is so obvious it should be beyond question to anyone remotely sentient.

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Nuclear War: Just Another Day

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 03/10/2019 - 2:37am in

Colin Todhunter Catastrophic events that send the world into turmoil happen on ‘just another day’. The atom bomb that exploded over Hiroshima took place while thousands of ordinary folk were just going about their everyday business on ‘just another day’. A missile attack on a neighbourhood in Gaza or a drone attack on unsuspecting civilians …

Brexit isn’t David Cameron’s Legacy – Libya is

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 01/10/2019 - 10:14am in

Kit Knightly “The strong man with the dagger is followed by the weak man with the sponge.” Lord Acton David Cameron has a book out. You’ve probably heard. There’s a lot of press coverage. The BBC did a retrospective documentary about him to coincide with it, The Guardian had a review of the book, a …

Kate Maltby Smears Corbyn and his Supporters as Conspiracy Theorists

Last Thursday, 22nd August 2019, Kate Maltby decided to give us all the benefit of her views on Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn and the ‘Trumpification of British politics’ in the pages of the I. She opined that both BoJo and Corbyn were like the megalomaniac manbaby over the other side of the pond. She was also irritated by the fact that the similarity between Corbyn and Trump hadn’t been picked up by the public in the same way the similarity between Johnson and Trump had. She then went on to whine that both Trump and Corbyn’s politics were based in conspiracy theories undermining western democratic politics, conspiracies which she thought came straight from Putin and the Kremlin. She wrote

Yet to those of us hwo have followed Corbyn’s rise closely, the sight of him comparing any other politician to Donald Trump felt like an act of such shamelessness that it might only be matched by the Ponzi President himself. If there is a single line running through Tump’s politics, it is the practice of rule by conspiracy theory. Yet it is from those who believe that the existing democratic order is essentially a conspiracy that Corbyn also draws his base. As researcher Peter Pomerantsev writes in his superb new book, This Is Not Propaganda, “we live in a world of mass persuasion run amok, where the means of manipulation have gone forth and multiplied”. The digital imprint of the Russian state has been particularly successful in undermining the confidence of voters in western democracies in our own democratic norms and even our ability as voters to understand our political realities.

The analyst Ben Nimmo has summed up the Russian approach to disinformation as “dismiss, distort, distract, dismay”. Hence, the birth of a whole new online culture populated by voters who don’t even share a basic epistemology with existing “elites”. Johnson and the Brexit campaign benefited most clearly from this crisis of trust, but so does their fellow Eurosceptic, Jeremy Corbyn. Track the pro-Corbyn and pro-Trump networks online, and you’ll find a commitment to anti-vax theories that tell you the Government wants to make your children ill. Johnson, to his anti-Trumpist credit, has just announced a campaign to counter this particular theory.

Both are surrounded by supporters who trade in conspiracy theories about Jews. While Corbyn’s party is under formal investigation for anti-Semitism, only this week Trump was manically R’Ting the conspiracy anti-evangelical Wayne Allyn Root, who attacked Jewish Democrats for not supporting him.

She then goes on to take Corbyn to task for not coming down hard enough on the Russians about the Skripal poisoning, and for using the memory of the lies over the Gulf War to cast doubt on the Russian’s guilt.

This is all shameless bilge and propaganda itself. The I also reviewed Pomerantsev’s book, and declared that while it was very good on the subject of Russian propaganda, there was very little material about how the West also manipulates information.

And manipulate it the West certainly does. The conspiracy magazine Lobster has been showing since the beginning of the 1980s how the British and American secret state and other covert organisations have manipulated information and worked secretly to influence state policy to their advantage. During the Cold War there was an entire department, the IRD, or Information Research Department set up within the British state to counter Russian and other enemy propaganda. It also tried to undermine the Labour party by producing disinformation and fake texts linking Labour politicians with the IRA and Soviet espionage. And we’ve seen this campaign start up again under the Tories in the form of the Integrity Initiative, with its extensive links to British intelligence and the cyberwarfare division of the SAS producing smears trying to link Corbyn to the Russians. When various right-wing loons and shameless liars haven’t been trying to claim that Corbyn was somehow an agent for the Czechs.

That the British secret state has also done its best to undermine democracy is solid fact. Britain’s disinformation campaign against its foreign enemies is the subject of a book, Disrupt and Deny: Spies, Special Forces, and the Secret Pursuit of British Foreign Policy, by Rory Cormac, (Oxford: OUP 2018). The blurb for this reads

It has long been an open secret that British leaders use spies and special forces to interfere in the affairs of others-as discreetly as deniably as possible.

Since 1945, Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, has spread misinformation designed to divide and discredit targets from the Middle East to Eastern Europe and Northern Ireland. It has instigated whispering campaigns and planted false evidence on officials working behind the Iron Curtain, whilst GCHQ now uses the internet to undermine terrorist recruiters. MI6 has tried to foment revolution in Albania, and to instigate coups in Congo, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran. It has sabotaged ships to prevent the passage of refugees to Israel, secretly funnelled aid to insurgents in Afghanistan, and launched cultural and economic warfare, not only against Cold War enemies such as Communist Czechoslovakia, but also NATO allies.

Through bribery and blackmail, Britain has rigged elections as colonies moved to independence. It has fought secret wars in Yemen, Indonesia, and Oman-and discreetly used special forces to eliminate enemies, from colonial Malaya to Libya during the Arab Spring. This is the world of covert action: a vital, though controversial tool of statecraft and perhaps the most sensitive of all government activity. If used wisely, it can play an important role in pursuing national interests in a dangerous world. If used poorly, it can cause political scandal-or worse.

In Disrupt and Deny, Rory Cormac tells the remarkable true story of Britain’s secret scheming against her enemies, as well as her friends. He uncovers a world of intrigue and manoeuvring within the darkest corridors of Whitehall, where officials fought to maintain control of this most sensitive and seductive work. A fascinating tale of covert operations in its own right, it is also the story of Britain’s attempt over the decades to use smoke and mirrors to mask its decline as global power.

As readers of this blog will be aware, it’s blatantly untrue that Corbyn and his supporters, or at least the vast majority of them, have conspiracy theories about Jews. What they are aware of is the way accusations of anti-Semitism have been levelled at Corbyn and the Labour left for purely political reasons. The Right, including the Blairites in the party, like Tom Watson and John Mann, are using it to try to maintain the Thatcherite status quo. And the Israel lobby is doing it simply to smear and discredit anyone critical of that nation’s apartheid system and its slow-motion ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.

I am at a loss, however, to know where Maltby got the idea that Corbynists are opponents of vaccination. The American anti-vaxxers, from what I’ve seen, tend to be on the political right, Conservatives and Libertarians. The kind of people who watch Alex Jones’ InfoWars and have the same bizarre ideas of ‘Purity Of Essence’ as the mad American general Jack D. Ripper in Stanley Kubrick’s Cold War satire, Dr. Strangelove. The type of people, who think putting fluoride in the water is a globalist plot, and any kind of welfare state is a horrendous Commie assault on democracy. Definitely not the kind of people, who support Jeremy Corbyn. In fact, it looks like the accusation is simply a shameless invention of Maltby herself.

I’m not surprised that Maltby has come out with this lying screed. Along with her CV, in which she informs us she’s written for The Financial TimesThe Spectator, The Telegraph, The Guardian, The TLS, The Times, and The New Statesman, and appeared on various TV and radio programmes, she also declares that

Much of what I’ve gleaned about the workings of Westminster I’ve learned from my time on the team behind Bright Blue, the liberal Conservative pressure group and think tank. 

See: http://www.katemaltby.com/about-me/

She’s a Tory, and the only difference I can make out between ‘liberal’ and right-wing Tories, is that the ‘liberals’ are less open in their hatred of the poor and disabled, and their determination to punish, humiliate and kill them. Oh yes, and their better at deceiving the Tory rank and file that they don’t want to destroy the welfare state and privatise the health service.

She’s just another right-wing hack, upset and irritated by the fact that an increasingly media-savvy public are aware of how much the lamestream media is manipulated by corporate and right-wing political interests. And she’s just following a well-worn media path by trying to link Corbyn and his supporters to anti-Semitism, conspiracy theories and the Russians. It’s time she, and the various shameless hacks like her, were given the boot. Then people might start believing in their politicians and their media.