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Tag Archives: Britain

Eton college’s exam asks boys to justify army shooting protesters dead

Press TV

Britain’s elite school Eton, where Prime Minister David Cameron went to school, has asked 13-year old boys to pretend to be Prime Minister and justify the army shooting dead 25 protesters in a speech to win a scholarship, British media reported.

The question, which was put to students applying for the King’s Scholarship, worth one tenth of Eton’s £32,000 a year fees, is entitled “Concerning Cruelty, Clemency and Whether It Is better To Be Loved than Feared”, and follows a passage from Machiavelli.

“The year is 2040. There have been riots in the streets of London after Britain has run out of petrol because of an oil crisis in the Middle East. Protesters have attacked public buildings. Several policemen have died. Consequently, the government has deployed the army to curb the protests. After two days the protests have stopped but 25 protestors have been killed by the army,” the question reads.

Candidates are then asked to imagine that they were the Prime Minister and to write a speech for broadcast to the nation on why the decision to deploy the army against violent protests was both necessary and morally right.

The headmaster of Eton College, Tony Little, emailed the US paper the Huffington Post saying the question has been taken out of context and that Eton School does not favor any particular political viewpoint.

“We are looking for candidates who can see both sides of an idea and express them clearly. High ability candidates at this level are often asked to put themselves in someone else’s shoes,” he wrote.

British staff disclose US abuses in secret jail in Iraq

Press TV

The British forces who were present at a secret US prison in Baghdad have unveiled new details regarding some of the most shocking human rights abuses to occur in Iraq during the US-led invasion of the country in the facility.

On Tuesday, the Guardian published a report based on interviews with British soldiers and airmen from the UK Royal Air Force and Army Air Corps who had been given guard and transport duties at the secret prison at Baghdad International Airport, known as Camp Nama, during the US-led war in Iraq.

“I saw one man having his prosthetic leg being pulled off him, and being beaten about the head with it before he was thrown on to the truck,” said a British serviceman who had served at Camp Nama.

According to the report, Iraqi prisoners were subjected to electric shocks and routinely hooded.

The witnesses also said the detainees at Camp Nama were held for long periods of time in cells the size of large dog kennels.

A probe launched by Human Rights Watch disclosed that the detainees at the secret center were subject to “beatings, exposure to extreme cold, threats of death, humiliation and various forms of psychological abuse or torture.”

General Stanley McChrystal, the then-commander of US Joint Special Operations Forces in Iraq, was frequently seen at the prison, the report added…

British, U.S. spies ignored intelligence before Iraq invasion

Press TV

Britain and U.S. spying agencies had ignored intelligence before invasion of Iraq that the country had no active weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), it has been revealed.

MI6 and CIA had been told through secret channels by Saddam’s foreign minister and his spy chief that Iraq had no WMDs, media reports said.

This is while that former Prime Minister Tony Blair told parliament in the run-up to the war that intelligence showed Iraq’s nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programme was “active”, “growing” and “up and running”.

According to a special Panorama programme in the BBC, British and U.S. spying agencies were informed by top sources months before the invasion that Iraq had no active WMD programme, and that the information was not passed to subsequent inquiries.

The programme explains how Naji Sabri, Saddam’s foreign minister, told the CIA’s station chief in Paris at the time, Bill Murray, through an intermediary that Iraq had “virtually nothing” in terms of WMD.

Meanwhile, Panorama confirms that three months before the war an MI6 officer met Iraq’s head of intelligence, Tahir Habbush al-Tikriti, who also said that Saddam had no active WMDs.

The meeting in the Jordanian capital, Amman, took place days before the British regime published its now widely discredited Iraqi weapons dossier in September 2002.

Lord Butler, the former cabinet secretary who led an inquiry into the use of intelligence in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, tells the programme that he was not told about Sabri’s comments, and that he should have been.

Butler says of the use of intelligence: “There were ways in which people were misled or misled themselves at all stages.”

When it was suggested to him that the body that probably felt most misled of all was the British public, Butler replied: “Yes, I think they’re, they’re, they got every reason think that.”

Cameron in Blunderland

by Felicity Arbuthnot, source

The refuge of the morally, intellectually, artistically and economically bankrupt is war.

— Martin H. Fischerm, 1879-1962

It has not been an auspicious couple of weeks for UK Prime Minister David Cameron.

His Cabinet colleagues, largely a bunch of millionaires, have accused the unemployed of being work-shy and a burden on the taxpayers – never mind that businesses are closing in near industrial numbers and that often hundreds, if not thousands, apply for one job. Additionally, according to the Literacy Trust: ”One in six people in the UK struggle with literacy. This means their literacy is below the level expected of an eleven year old … Men and women with poor literacy are least likely to be in full-time employment at the age of thirty.”

A junior Health Minister has accused the poor of being fat because, she has decided, they eat the wrong things.

The latter, of course, implies that the overweight poor will be a further burden on Britain’s National Health Service, being more likely to develop chronic conditions. It seems this health fascism exempts government Ministers and politicians such as the Minister for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, who must flatten the tyres and springs of his Ministerial limousine, along with other political rotunds, politicians who, of course, live entirely at the taxpayers expense, from large salaries, with all financial outputs covered and health care.

David Cameron himself stated that without the health help he had received, often twenty four hours a day, for his little son Ivan, suffering a chronic condition which subsequently proved fatal, his family would have been unable to cope. Now under his government, the Health Service too is under government fire – slash and burn style. Cuts in welfare include attempting to force the very disabled, even potentially terminally ill, back to work. Some have committed suicide.

Public anger and resentment is palpably mounting against pretty well all policies in a government seen as completely blind to the reality in Britain’s villages, towns and cities.

The government message. of course, is fiscal belt tightening, ”getting the economy back on track.”

Then the Prime Minister cancelled a long planned address in Europe on Britain and the EU (another mess) leapt on a ‘plane for Mali, a geographical stone’s throw away from the ruins of his last African foray, Libya, and announced support for France’s reckless insurgency in one of the few countries the British have not invaded, plundered or colonised. So much for fiscal probity.

The opposition Labour Party’s Defence spokesman, Jim Murphy, commented of what rapidly became Operation Creep: “The UK commitment to Mali has grown from lending the French two transport aircraft, to the deployment of perhaps hundreds of troops to the region.” Most will be there, Cameron has assured, on a “training mission.”

In what should have been a mega reality check for anyone but the Prime Minister, former Labour Cabinet Minister, Frank Dobson, pointed out that: “The American catastrophe in Vietnam started off with a deployment of troops in a training capacity.”

From there he went to meddle in Algiers, popped in on the remains of Libya in a sixteen vehicle armed and armored motorcade, where he addressed a police training college (in English) and assured them that: “In building a new Libya you will have no greater friend than the United Kingdom. We will stand with you every step of the way.” That should send a chill down spines.

Cameron’s decision to fly to the Maghreb, wrote one commentator, “was a Blair-style statement that Britain intends to stay involved. Indeed, Cameron’s references to a ‘generational struggle’ make him sound remarkably similar to Tony Blair after 9/11.”

“I believe we are in the midst of a long struggle against murderous terrorists and a poisonous ideology that supports them,” he told the World Economic Forum in Davos on returning.

Whilst “We’ve successfully put pressure on al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan, so al-Qaida franchises have been growing for years in Yemen, in Somalia” and across parts of Africa he warned. His predecessor, “Peace Envoy” Tony Blair, wanted by lawyers and others worldwide for his Iraq lies, cheered on Britain in Mali from the television studios.

It now transpires that David Cameron relies on Blair, who may yet be headed for the International Criminal Court in The Hague, as seemingly some sort of mentor, from whom, it is reported, he has been taking personal advice.The Chancellor, George Osborne, is reported as referring to Blair as “the master”.

Cameron is quoted as being “very admiring of Blair, whom he regards as a nice person and has conviction.” With judgment like that there may be those who feel he would be dangerous in charge of a broom, yet alone a country.

Iraq’s ruins, widows, orphans, three million dead, five million displaced are testimony to Blair’s “conviction” and niceness, in this tenth anniversary of the invasion year and twenty second of the embargo, which Blair endorsed, helped sustain its strangulation, colluded with – with UK aircraft aiding the illegal US bombings, during his term in office, 1997-2007.

On Monday (February 4) David Cameron hosted Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai and President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan at a dinner at the Prime Ministerial country home, Chequers “as part of his ongoing efforts to help to strengthen Afghanistan-Pakistan relations and promote regional peace and stability”, according to The Independent.

It would have been interesting to have been a fly on the wall as the canapes did the rounds. Ahead of this much touted mini summit, President Karzai gave lengthy interviews to the Guardian and ITN. It was to put it mildly, a bit of a broadside:

“In 2002 through 2006, Afghanistan had a lot better security. When we had our own presence there, with very little foreign troops, schools were open in Helmand and life was more secure”, said the President.

Moreover, whilst he appreciated “the sacrifices” and “contributions” of the British forces: “ … we also would like our allies in the west to recognise the immense sacrifices of the Afghan people in the last ten years, the immense loss of life and the suffering that the Afghan people put up with …”

Acknowledging corruption within the Afghan government and its agencies (indeed the allegations leveled at his own family and connections are a litany) he stated that: “In comparison to the corruption coming through the international donor contracts, and the way the money was spent (it was) really insignificant.” He gave examples.

Asked about the attacks by Afghan troops on coalition forces, he said it “pained” his Administration as a “serious breach of hospitality” for which Afghanistan is known, but “ …there has to be a lot more cultural sensitivity by our allies when they send troops to Afghanistan. Plus much more.”

Given night raids, wholesale destruction of lives, livelihoods, homes, terrorism by Drones, his restraint was commendable, the more so since he and colleagues survived a US “friendly fire” missile attack in 2001, suffering serious injuries, his also involving damage to facial nerves, still sometimes noticeable.

Asked what stood in the way of progress in Afghanistan: “The risk is continuation of foreign interference …” Further: “The exit of foreign forces will not bring more violence … but a serious, strong, good reduction in violence will occur.” Earlier he had said: “On our own, as Afghans, we will be good. It’s the external factors that will determine the extent of progress and stability or the lack of it.”

On the planned departure of western troops from Afghanistan one comment was that perhaps the reason was: “ …that they have felt that there was no fight in Afghanistan from the very first day, that terrorism was not in Afghanistan to be found, that they had to go to the (Taliban’s) sanctuaries long time back, that they didn’t do that and since they cannot do that even today there is no point for them to stay in Afghanistan, so they would like to leave …” Ouch!

(It should be said that in the mid nineties Karzai not only worked with the Taliban, but they asked him to be their Ambassador to the United Nations.)

In a long interview there are certainly some enlightening lines. US and UK “progress” and conquest of “hearts and minds” over twelve years in Afghanistan seems to lie buried in that “graveyard of empires.”

The US is committed to “an enduring presence” in Afghanistan (it’s the minerals, stupid.) So far Hamid Karzai is talking a conciliatory line. They would perhaps be confined to the odd base, but in no towns or villages. Mr Karzai seems like a man who is capable of changing his mind.

It is to be hoped nothing went wrong with the menu of that bridge-building Prime Ministerial dinner. Britain has had another major food scandal, with horsemeat found in beefburgers – and pork in halal meat. Hope none found its way to Chequers to round off Cameron’s latest accident prone couple of weeks.

British troops face fresh Iraq torture charges

Press TV

British troops, who were stationed in southern city of Basra during Iraq war, face fresh charges of breaching international law over alleged torture and killing of Iraqi prisoners from 2003 to 2008.

The troopers should address charges such as “systemic” policy of abuse over five years in the English High Court during a three-day hearing from 29 January, the Guardian newspaper reported on Sunday.

“Lawyers for 180 Iraqis who claim they are victims of abuse, or that their family members were unlawfully killed, will place a file of statements before two judges presiding over the court in London accusing British soldiers and intelligence officers of unlawful interrogation practices,” the report said.

The use of “stress positions”, sexual abuse, beating and religious abuse of illegally detained prisoners are among the accusations that will be unveiled in the high court.

“In some cases, the testimonies allege, the torture led to the death of the prisoner,” the British newspaper added.

“This is the crucial moment of decision,” said Andrew Williams, a law professor at the University of Warwick, who wrote a book on the killing of Baha Mousa — an innocent hotel worker killed while in British custody in Basra in 2003.

“This is our last chance to get to the truth of what happened. This is what we demand of others, but we do not demand it of ourselves. What kind of message does that give the world about who we are?” he added.

Public Interest Lawyers group also has called for a public inquiry into what is presented as “an orgy of sadism, outlawed interrogation methods and unlawful killings by soldiers and intelligence officers against Iraqi civilians and prisoners of war between 2003 and 2008.”

The hearing comes just weeks after the tenth anniversary of the occupation of Iraq in 2003.

Britain was the second largest contributor of troops to the Iraq war. At least 179 British troops were killed during the US-led invasion of the country.

Fighting ‘terrorism’ or repressing democracy? Britain’s system of mass surveillance

The British government’s plans to monitor the entire population’s electronic communication

by Dr. Paul Anderson, source

The focus of critiques of authoritarianism today lies increasingly in the use by liberal governments of ‘exceptional’ powers. These are powers in which an imminent threat to national security is judged to be of such importance as to warrant the restriction of liberties and other socially repressive measures in order to protect national security. ‘Terrorism’ has offered a particularly salient source of justification for a level of social repression that would be intolerable in normal times. A dominant line of criticism is that the use of exceptional powers to this end has gone too far. Critics emphasise the need to curtail such power by bringing it into line with basic human rights standards.[1]

As pertinent as this critique may be, focus on the proper extent of the social repression tends to assume, Scheuerman, Herman and Peterson point out, that there is a real threat (e.g., terrorism) and that repression by an expansion of executive authority is itself an appropriate response to that threat.[2] A less noticed yet critical feature of governments’ use of anti-terror power is the prior erosion of democratic oversight and control which has enabled repression to appear a plausible response to what is, in many respects, an as yet unspecified threat.[3]

The erosion is essentially three-pronged. The first aspect of democratic control to have been eroded is the power to define what constitutes a threat. In the absence of meaningful control, governments are able, Clive Walker explains, to ascribe to whatever political violence is being encountered, attributes of novelty and extraordinary seriousness so as to justify correspondingly alarming incursions into individuals rights and democratic accountability.[4]

Governments are able to do so in no small part because of the semantic fog that surrounds the core concepts of national security, threat and terrorism by which exceptional powers are usually evoked. Terrorism, for instance, is a concept that resists consistent definition.[5] Commonly understood by governments as the use or threat of use of serious violence to advance a cause, the term elides legitimate resistance to occupation and oppression with ‘senseless destruction’. Furthermore, by relegating all terrorists to the criminal sphere, the term delegitimises any political content that acts regarded by authorities as terrorist may have. This helps to obscure from the public the reasons why people resort to such acts.[6] It also enables the police character of the proper response to be presumed.

This brings us to the second aspect of democratic control to have been eroded, namely, the power to determine proper responses to threats. Responses are deemed automatically to require a dramatic expansion in the scope of executive authority, a requirement that is heightened the more an atmosphere of fear can be created such as by declaring a ‘war on terror’.[7] This response is alarming, Walker suggests, because governments may assume repressive powers unimaginable outwith dictatorial states. In Britain, for example, these now include powers to curtail critical liberties (e.g., speech, movement, assembly, protest, work, privacy), suspend habeas corpus and use armed forces to deal with domestic disturbances – all on the basis of ‘threats’ which the government assumes the power to define.[8]

The third aspect of the erosion concerns the capacity to review the use of both powers. Incursions into democratic accountability include, Walker continues, growing immunity from parliamentary and judicial control in the exercise of these powers.[9] It goes without saying, Girvan LJ points out, that the “dangers to the integrity of society and of citizens’ lives” of undermining accountability in the use of exceptional powers were “amply demonstrated in the Fascist and totalitarian regimes of Europe”.[10]

In short, the reported terrorism crisis is also part of an ongoing actual crisis of democracy.

A case in point is the British government’s plans to monitor the entire population’s electronic communication on grounds that this is ‘necessary to fight serious crime and terrorism’.[11] Criticism of the plans is various and detailed, and has centred on the invasion of privacy.[12] Many regard plans for intensified surveillance as a ‘snooper’s charter’. This is because they mandate a shift from monitoring communications on the basis of individual suspicion to the indiscriminate stockpiling of individual data – essentially blanket surveillance of the population – for a future unspecified purpose.

As pertinent as the objection may be, limiting criticism to the extent of the government’s response leaves unquestioned the plausibility of the alleged threat and the merits of expanding executive power as a proper response to that threat. It would be useful to broaden criticism to take account of how the threat has been defined, and the proper response to it determined. To do so, it must look deeper into the extent to which democratic control has been eroded, as this is an obstacle to any viable opposition to mass surveillance and related socially repressive measures. Doing so would enable criticism to cast into sharp relief some of the most pressing questions concerning democracy and liberty in our times.

As part of a more precise characterisation of the erosion of democratic control, it would also be useful to see outlined some legally relevant aspects of this process, particularly given that legal challenge is likely if the government’s surveillance plans become law. Three aspects stand out. They follow from the fact that because mass surveillance would breach of peoples’ right to privacy guaranteed inter alia under the European Convention on Human Rights, the onus will be on the government to demonstrate that this breach is nonetheless justifiable. To do so, the government must show that mass surveillance is (a) necessary in a democratic society for (b) the achievement of a legitimate end and (c) is proportionate to that end. The more any legal challenge takes account of the wider decline of democratic control, the less likely it is that the government should be able to show, in each of these three respects, that mass surveillance is justified.

Legitimate end?

An example of a significant end that could justify breaching the right to privacy may be reasons of national security. Since fighting terrorism is such a reason, mass surveillance could, according to official views in Britain and the EU, be justified as a way of preventing

acts or threats intended to influence the government or intimidate the public which, for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause, are violent, damaging or disrupting and which include those that seriously destabilise the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country.[13]

Two difficulties undermine the idea that ‘fighting terrorism’ might serve as a legitimate end by which to justify mass surveillance.

Repressing democracy

The first difficulty is a growing tendency to expand the use of anti-terror powers from suspects to the public, especially certain non-violent social movements.[14] This problem is made possible by the breadth of official definitions of terrorism: the very purpose of many social movements is to ‘influence governments’ by means such as protest which is by definition ‘disruptive’. Particularly targeted are movements from environmental to social movements such as Occupy which are unified by resistance to the kind of ‘destabilisation of basic political, constitutional, economic and social structures’ that, it is claimed, follows from re-organisation of society around the market, in particular, financial markets.[15] The problem for government lies in showing how repressing popular democratic expression in this way – a litmus test for the democratic constitutional state, according to Jürgen Habermas[16] – could possibly be a legitimate end in a democratic society. This problem turns not only on a definition of terrorism that is sufficiently broad to permit authorities to generalise suspicion, criminalise certain behaviour and sanction surveillance and preventative detention. The problem also turns, more fundamentally, as is explained below, on a basic incoherence in the government’s view of democracy itself.

Involvement in terrorism

Even if it can be somehow shown that repressing democratic expression is legitimate in a democracy, a second difficulty lies in the government’s involvement in terrorism, as defined. The definition preferred by government is sufficiently broad to capture two forms of terrorism with which it has involvement. For the sake of simplicity, these may be regarded, following Edward Herman, as ‘retail’ and ‘wholesale’ forms.[17]

‘Retail terrorism’ refers to individuals and small groups which are typically responsible for several hundred to several thousand casualties per year worldwide.[18] Recent analysis reveals involvement by successive British governments in financing, the training of, and logistical support and component supply for many groups.[19] Analysis suggests that involvement is motivated chiefly by ideological causes (a) of maintaining influence in world affairs, which helps explain why involvement centres on resource-rich and strategically useful countries, and (b) of protecting that influence from threats, which helps explain why support is given to groups in those countries unified by a common hostility to popular democracy, socialism and national secularism.[20]

‘Wholesale terrorism’ refers to the activities of major institutions capable of far greater harm such as states which, Mark Curtis explains, are “responsible for far more deaths in many more countries than [retail] terrorism”.[21] Government involvement in wholesale terrorism is widespread.[22] Two areas stand out. The first is repressive geo-strategic foreign policy. Motivated by similar ideological aims of maintaining influence and of enabling concentrations of private power to shape foreign economic affairs, repressive foreign policy from Malaya, Kenya and Iran to more recent examples such as Chechnya and Iraq has ranged from illegal sanctions and covert operations to active support for other government’s violence.[23] Since World War II, it is possible to attribute, Curtis continues, several million deaths to such policies.[24] It is also possible to attribute to them an appreciable if unsurprising escalation in the risk of (retail) terrorism – a risk heightened where local resistance is criminalised and denied restitution.[25]

The second area in which the government has involvement lies in domestic policies which permit, rather than (say) criminalise, wholesale harms from private power itself. Permitted for similar ideological reasons, harms include (a) the ‘destabilisation of the basic structures’ of entire countries by financial institutions such as by means of induced crises forcing ‘austerity’ onto sovereign nations; (b) the ‘intimidation’ of governments by multinational corporations in order to drive political change to provide suitable investment climates by means of capital flight, investment strike and attacks on currencies; and (c) various kinds of direct ‘violence and damage’ to people, property and planet.[26]

Taken together, the problem the government would face is to justify mass surveillance as means of fighting terrorism in light of mounting evidence that certain forms are permitted, supported, created and perpetrated.

Proportionate?

Even if a legitimate end can be established, doubts arise about whether surveillance is proportionate to that end.

A selective response?

It is unclear why, when appeasement characterises government policy to (much) wholesale terrorism in ways indicated above, the comparatively limited effects of retail terrorism – in the range of up to several thousand casualties per annum worldwide – should warrant such pervasive and repressive domestic measures as mass surveillance.

A crude comparison with resources devoted to public survival elsewhere may be instructive. The current expenditure on counter-terrorism measures of some £3 billion per annum[27] and an annualised average death rate in Britain attributed to terrorism of five – a number that compares with those killed by wasp and bee stings and is one-sixth of the number of people who drown in the bath each year, – amounts roughly to £60 million per fatality.[28] In contrast, at £18.2 billion government spending on cardiovascular disease healthcare and research, which kills some 250,000 people annually, works out roughly at £7-10,000 per fatality.[29] Similar figures are found for annual deaths from cancer (150,000), air pollution (39,000; much of it from traffic) and traffic accidents (3,000).[30] Although the comparison is crude, it follows at least that even a small increase in efforts to combat these and other serious non-terrorist threats would, Thomas Pogge explains, do much more to protect public survival, at lower cost, than would escalating a fight against an unspecified, perhaps unspecifiable, threat.[31]

Advancing the goals of terrorism?

A further problem lies in ways in which mass surveillance advances the apparent aims of certain retail terrorists. These aims, as former Home Office secretary, Charles Clarke declared to the European Parliament, are to destroy “many hard-fought rights [such] as the right to privacy [and] the right to free speech”. Mass surveillance undermines these rights – and thus appears disproportionate – because it obliterates any distinction between law-abiding and law-breaking citizens: every citizen is to be treated like a potential criminal to be monitored without warrant or reason.

The suspicion of disproportionality deepens in light of two wider, disturbing incursions into individual rights and democratic accountability with which surveillance plans are linked. The first concerns wider surveillance measures developed by the EU to create a database on all European citizens.[32] The aim, as an EU Council Presidency paper makes plain, is to create a detailed digital record…[of] every object the individual uses, every transaction they make and almost everywhere they go.[33]

The second incursion follows from the ever-increasing scope of executive power. Incursions, to expand upon some already indicated, follow from the executive’s

- power to curtail critical liberties, suspend habeas corpus and use armed forces to deal with domestic disturbances;

- growing immunity from parliamentary and judicial control in the exercise of these powers; and

- power, reminiscent of the German Enabling Act 1933, to amend and repeal almost any legislation, subject to vague and entirely subjective restraints, by decree and without recourse to Parliament – such as might render legal the government’s involvement with the US in abduction, torture and assassination.[34]

Such is the extent of these incursions into ‘hard-fought’ individual rights and democratic accountability that former MI5 chief, Stella Rimington, concedes that, unbeknown to much of the public, Britain appears to have been turned into a police state.[35] If one adds to these incursions the proposed surveillance, then it is difficult to escape the conclusion, Curtis continues, that the greater threat to the public, to its liberty and to what remains of democracy lies in “the policies of our own government”. This outcome appears a qualified victory for certain terrorists. For they have, Jean Baudrillard notes, induced in the West a climate of fear and obsession with security, which is itself a veiled form of permanent terror.[36]

A proportionate response

This idea of ‘fighting terrorism’ by means which actually advance its alleged aims should be contrasted with more mature responses such as that of Norway. Barely five days after Anders Breivik murdered 77 people, the Norwegian prime minister responded not by cracking down on civil liberties but by a pledge not to allow a fanatic to succeed in eroding Norway’s democracy:

the Norwegian response to violence is more democracy, more openness and greater political participation.[37]

Necessary in a democratic society?

Even if mass surveillance might be proportionate to a legitimate end, it must also be shown to be necessary in a democratic society. Problems here are both specific and general in nature.

Specific difficulties

While mass surveillance may well help fight serious crime and terrorism, this does not mean that it is necessary to that end. It merely means that it is expedient to that end. To claim that mass surveillance is necessary implies that these problems could not be resolved unless it were imposed. This assumes that the police would be ineffective without it. The assumption is difficult to sustain for two reasons. First, mass surveillance is proposed at time when killings and related serious crime are fewer than at any time in almost thirty years[38] and when, according to the Home Office, “counter-terrorism work has made significant progress over the last ten years” to such an extent that “al Qa’ida”, for instance “is weaker than at any time since 9/11”.[39] Second, it is already quite possible with proper permission and oversight to monitor people suspected of terrorism and serious crimes. Consequently, the claim to be unable to deal with serious crime and terrorism except by removing what remains of personal privacy seems at best an admission of incompetence.

In any case, the government’s involvement in terrorism undermines the argument for necessity. It is actively preventing the achievement of the declared legitimate end (fighting terrorism) for which surveillance is supposedly necessary means. If the government were at all serious about fighting terrorism then it should, as Chomsky remarks, first stop participating in it.

General difficulties

Proving the necessity of mass surveillance requires, Keith Ewing explains, a “theory of democracy by which to determine whether a restriction on a [European] Convention [on Human Rights] right can be justified”.[40] A problem lies in the fact that, as Girvan LJ suggests, mass surveillance, while acceptable with totalitarian regimes, is antithetical to a democratic society. It is antithetical because, as the House of Lords Constitution Committee explains, since

privacy is an essential pre-requisite to the exercise of individual freedom, its erosion weakens the constitutional foundations on which democracy… ha[s] traditionally been based.[41]

The difficulty of formulating a theory of democracy by which the breach of privacy may be justified deepens in light of incoherence in the government’s view of democracy. The incoherence may be observed in the argument for exceptional powers in general and for mass surveillance in particular. It is an argument, Tony Bunyan notes, that assumes that “everyone accepts that the ‘threats’” which the government proclaims are real and that addressing them requires incursions into civil liberty and democratic accountability.[42] It follows that if national security requires, Bunyan continues, that the state

sets the limits, boundaries and sanctions of all peoples’ actions [including peoples’ telecommunication, then] there can be no individual freedom, except that sanctioned by the state.[43]

This is to say that when the state assumes exclusive power to define the nature of a threat, and the appropriate means to deal with that threat, it may also define the extent of individual liberty. Individual freedom becomes at most little more than a discretionary grant subject to executive will; at worst, national ‘security’ becomes code for social repression.

In a framework in which the state determines which liberties to grant to which individuals, political liberty is effectively possessed by the state. The source of sovereignty resides in the state, much as it did for Hobbes, rather than in the individual. As Karma Nabulsi explains, this kind of ‘social contract’ affirms a theory of state, but it is far from a democratic one.[44] Elementary to a nominally democratic social contract (or similar democratic model) such as those expressed by the likes of J.S. Mill, Kant and Rousseau is the view that protection of citizens’ liberty, particularly political liberty, is a supreme good. In this contract, the sovereign citizen does not surrender sovereignty, but instead delegates specific powers and functions to the state. Because political sovereignty is not transferred to the state, both civil rights and political liberties are inalienable. These include the right to define the public good and threats to it, the right to deliberate and determine laws including those which address threats, and the right to adequately review both.

Genuine democratic governance would by definition structure political power toward the public good. It would do so in part by encouraging, rather than excluding, considered public participation in the definition and determination of the public good. An essential preliminary to this would be to prevent those who benefit from social repression from exerting undue influence on the exercise of that power. A particular priority would therefore be to dismantle the growing union of state and private power – some harmful consequences of which have been observed (see ‘legitimate end’). In their place would appear viable and legitimate ways and means of addressing violence, of which Norway’s response appears one example.[45] In short, such governance would mean that the reported crisis of terrorism would no longer automatically mean an actual crisis of democracy.

Dr Paul Anderson is a philosopher, lawyer and ecologist with interests in contemporary public and environmental concerns. His book, Critical Thought for Turbulent Times: Reforming Law and Economy for a Sustainable Earth (Routledge), is forthcoming. Details about his research, advocacy and consultancy are available at http://www.chapter5.org.uk.

References

[1] HRW. 2011. ‘UK – proposed counterterrorism reforms fall short: authorities should rely on criminal prosecution to combat terrorism’, Human Rights Watch, 11 February; see also Protection of Freedoms Bill 2011-12, Liberty.

[2] Scheuerman, W. 2002. ‘Rethinking crisis government’, Constellations, vol. 9, no. 4, pp. 492-505; Herman, E. and D. Peterson. 2008. ‘There is no ‘war on terror’’, ZNet, 17 January.

[3] For general comment, see, for example, Kolin, A. 2011. State Power and Democracy. London: Palgrave Macmillan; European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights, 2005. ‘Suspect Communities: The Real “War on Terror” in Europe’ (Proceedings of the Conference), International Conference held at London Metropolitan University, 21 May; Gearty, C. 1997. The Future of Terrorism. London: Phoenix; Lobel, J. 1989. ‘Emergency power and the decline of liberalism’. Yale Law Journal, vol. 98, no. 7, pp. 1385-1433.

[4] Walker, C. 2009. ‘Book review: Executive measures, terrorism and national security: have the rules of the game changed? by David Bonner’, European Public Law, vol. 15, pp. 662-665.

[5] Meisels, T. 2009. ‘Defining terrorism – a typology’. Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, vol. 12, no. 3, pp. 331-51; see also Schechter, D. 2012. ‘When is a terrorist no longer a terrorist?’ Global Research, 24 September.

[6] Milne, S. 2001. ‘Terror and tyranny: What powerful states call terrorism may be an inevitable response to injustice’, The Guardian, 25 October.

[7] See, for example, Curtis, A. 2004. The Power of Nightmares: the Rise of the Politics of Fear.

[8] See, for example, Walker, C. 2011. Terrorism and the Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press; Head, M. 2010. ‘Calling out the troops and the Civil Contingencies Act: some questions of concern’. Public Law, April, pp. 340-61; Rayner, J. 2012. ‘Secret courts ‘will conceal UK complicity in torture’’, The Law Society Gazette, 12 September. See also generally, the Convention of Modern Liberty.

[9] Walker, Terrorism and the Law, and ‘Book Review’ (above).

[10] Girvan LJ, R A’s Application [2010] NIQB 99 at §1.

[11] On the draft Communications Data Bill, see, for example, Editorial, 2012. ‘After the Queen’s speech: who will speak for liberty now? A blanket licence for electronic monitoring could slowly strangle private life’, The Guardian, 11 May. On grounds for the Bill, see, for example, ‘Theresa May sets out plans to monitor internet use in the UK’, BBC News online, 14 June 2012.

[12] See, for example, Liberty, 2012. ‘Liberty’s Submission to the Joint Committee on the Draft Communications Data Bill’, August; Bernal, P. 2012. ‘The draft Communications Bill and the ECHR’ UK Const. L. Blog, 11 July (available at http://ukconstitutionallaw.org) and generally, the Surveillance Studies Network.

[13] See, for example, the European Union Council Framework Decision of 13 June 2002 on combating terrorism (2002/475/JHA) and the UK Terrorism Act 2000 (as amended).

[14] Evans, R. and P. Lewis. 2009. ‘Civil servants attacked for using anti-terror laws to spy on public’, The Guardian, 28 February; Anon. 2002. ‘Anarchists to be targeted as ‘terrorists’ alongside Al Qaeda’, Statewatch, 25 February.

[15] On the use of emergency power against social movements, see, for example, Cunningham, D. 2007. ‘Surveillance and social movements: Lenses on the repression-mobilization nexus’. Contemporary Sociology, vol. 36, No. 2, pp. 120-125; Welsh, I. 2007. ‘In defence of civilisation: terrorism and environmental politics in the 21st Century’. Environmental Politics, vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 356-75; Hyland, J. 2007. ‘Britain: Police use anti-terror powers against environmental protest’. World Socialist Web Site, 16 August; Chomsky, N. 2007. ‘Democracy promotion at home’ in Failed States. London: Penguin; Bunyan, T. 2002. The war on freedom and democracy: an analysis of the effects on civil liberties and democratic culture in the EU, Statewatch. For a classic statement on the re-organisation of society around markets, see Polanyi, K. 2001 [1944]. The Great Transformation: Political and Economic Origins of Our Time. Boston: Beacon Press; see also, for example, Wolin, S. 2008. Democracy Inc.: Managed Democracy and the Spectre of Inverted Totalitarianism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

[16] Habermas, J. 1985. ‘Civil disobedience: Litmus test for a democratic constitutional state’. Berkeley Journal of Sociology, vol. 30, pp. 95-116.

[17] Herman, E. 1996. ‘Terrorism: the struggle against closure’. Martin, B (ed.) Confronting the Experts. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, pp. 77-97.

[18] Smyth, M. et al. 2008. ‘Critical terrorism studies – an introduction’. Critical Studies on Terrorism, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 1-4; see also Mueller, J. and M. Stewart. 2012. ‘The terrorism delusion: America’s overwrought response to September 11’. International Security, vol., 37, no. 1, pp. 81-110.

[19] Curtis, M. 2012. Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam (2nd ed.). London: Profile Books. Support includes indirect supply, such as coalition forces in Iraq allowing systematic looting of Iraq’s nuclear facilities previously monitored by the IAEA (Penketh, A. 2004. ‘Nuclear material has ‘gone missing’ since war’. The Independent, 13 October). See also Anderson, P. 2004. ‘Governance by universal justice or serial warfare?’ The International Journal of Human Rights, vol. 7, no. 4, pp. 143-154.

[20] Curtis, M. 2010. ‘Interview: Colluding with extremists’. New Left Project, 8 March.

[21] Curtis, M. 2004. Unpeople: Britain’s Secret Human Rights Abuses. London: Vintage; Curtis, M. 2003. Web of Deceit: Britain’s Real Role in the World, London: Vintage; Chomsky, N. 2002. ‘Who are the global terrorists?’ in Booth, K. and T. Dunne (eds.) Worlds in Collision: Terror and the Future of Global Order. London: Palgrave Macmillan; Chomsky, N. 2000. Rogue States: the Rule of Force in World Affairs. Cambridge, MA: South End Press.

[22] Curtis, Secret Affairs; Stohl, M. and G. Lopez (eds.) 1984. The State as Terrorist: The Dynamics of Governmental Violence and Repression. Westport, CT: Greenwood; Herman, E. 1982. The Real Terror Network: Terrorism in Fact and Propaganda. Cambridge, MA: South End Press.

[23] MediaLens, 2007. ‘The media ignore credible poll revealing 1.2 million violent deaths in Iraq’. MediaLens, 18 September; Curtis, M., 2003. ‘British state terror’. Red Pepper, July; Chomksy, N. 2003. ‘Wars of terror’. New Political Science, March; Mueller, J. and K. Mueller, 1999. ‘Sanctions of mass destruction’. Foreign Affairs, May/June.

[24] Curtis, Unpeople.

[25] On policies escalating the risk of (retail) terrorism, see, for example, Anon., 2010. ‘Iraq inquiry: ex-MI5 boss says war raised terror threat’. BBC News Online, 28 July. See also Silke, A. 2005. ‘Fire of Iolaus. The role of state countermeasures in causing terrorism and what needs to be done’ in T. Bjørgo (ed.) Root causes of terrorism. Myths, reality and ways forward. London: Routledge. Among examples of the continued denial of restitution, see, for example, Dowell, K. 2012. ‘Matrix and Doughty Street win latest victory for Mau Mau Kenyans’. The Lawyer, 5 October.

[26] For accounts of various forms of intimidation, destabilisation and harm from private power, see, for example, Chernomas, R. and I. Hudson, 2008. Social Murder: and other Shortcomings of Conservative Economics. Winnipeg, Manitoba: Arbeiter Ring; Klein, N., 2007. The Shock Doctrine: the Rise of Disaster Capitalism. London: Penguin; Perkins, J. 2005. Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. London: Ebury Press. Palast, G. 2001. ‘The globalizer who came in from the cold’, 10 October; McMurtry, J. 2002. Value Wars: the Global Market versus the Life Economy. London: Verso; Punch, M., 2000. ‘Suite violence: when managers murder and corporations kill’. Crime, Law & Social Change, vol. 33, no. 3, pp. 243-80; Gill, S., 1995. ‘Globalisation, market civilisation and disciplinary neoliberalism’. Millennium – Journal of International Studies, vol. 24, pp. 339-423. See also ‘Discover the dark side of investment’, Transnational Institute (2012).

[27] Anon. 2009. ‘Anti-terror spending to rise £1bn’. BBC News Online, 9 October.

[28] Beckford, M. 2012. ‘Bee stings killed as many in UK as terrorists, says watchdog’. Daily Telegraph, 28 June; see also see also Mueller and Stewart, 2012. ‘The Terrorism Delusion’.

[29] On government healthcare spending, see, for example, Luengo-Fernández, R. et al., 2006. ‘Cost of cardiovascular diseases in the United Kingdom’. Heart, vol. 92, no. 10, pp. 1384–1389. On government research spending, see, for example, Luengo-Fernández, R. et al., 2012. ‘UK research expenditure on dementia, heart disease, stroke and cancer: are levels of spending related to disease burden?’ European Journal of Neurology, vol. 19, no. 1, pp. 149-54.

[30] See, for example, Pogge, T. 2008. ‘Making war on terrorists – reflections on harming the innocent’. Journal of Political Philosophy, vol. 16, no. 1, pp. 1-25; Monbiot, G. 2005. ‘Will they never stand up to carmakers and save our lungs?’. The Guardian, 1 November.
[31] Pogge, ‘Making war on terrorists’. See also Frank, E. 2005. ‘Funding the public health response to terrorism’. British Medical Journal, vol. 331 (7516), pp. 526-7.

[32] Bunyan, T. 2009. ‘The surveillance society is an EU-wide issue: The EU’s new five-year plan for justice and home affairs will export the UK’s database state to the rest of the EU’. The Guardian, 28 May.

[33] Cited in Bunyan, T. 2008. ‘The Shape of Things to Come’. Statewatch (September), pp. 1, 55. See also generally Statewatch Observatory on Surveillance in Europe.
[34] Rayner, ‘Secret courts ‘will conceal UK complicity in torture’’, Law Society Gazette. See also generally, Hosenball, M. 2011. ‘Secret panel can put Americans on ‘kill list’’. Reuters, 5 October; Greenwald, G. 2012. ‘Obama moves to make war on terror permanent’. The Guardian, 24 October; and the Convention of Modern Liberty.

[35] Booth, J. 2009. ‘Ex-spy chief Dame Stella Rimington says ministers have turned UK into police state’. The Times, 17 February.

[36] Baudrillard, J. 2002. The Spirit of Terrorism and Requiem for the Twin Towers. London: Verso; see also the notion of ‘security theatre’.

[37] Pidd, H. and J. Meikle. 2011. ‘Norway will not be intimidated by terror attacks, vows prime minister: Jens Stoltenberg condemned Anders Behring Breivik’s brutal assault and said country ‘would stand firm in defending values’’. The Guardian, 27 July.

[38] Office for National Statistics. 2012. Crime in England and Wales, Quarterly First Release to March 2012. UK Government, 19 July.

[39] Home Office. ‘CONTEST: Counter-terrorism Strategy’. UK Government (accessed 12 November 2012).

[40] Ewing, K. 2000. ‘The politics of the British constitution’ Public Law (Autumn), p. 433.

[41] House of Lords Constitution Committee. 2009. Surveillance: Citizens and the State, UK Parliament, §14.

[42] Bunyan, ‘The Shape of Things to Come, p. 36-7.

[43] Bunyan, ‘The Shape of Things to Come, p. 7. See also De Graaf, B. and B. de Graaf. 2010. ‘Bringing politics back in: the introduction of the ‘performative power’ of counterterrorism’. Critical Terrorism Studies, vol. 3, no. 2, p. 264.

[44] Nabulsi, K., 2006. . ‘Don’t sign up to this upside down Hobbesian contract: The government insists it can only protect us if we surrender freedoms, but such a grim pact has no place in a democracy’. The Guardian, 22 March.

[45] Martin, B. 2006. ‘Instead of Repression’. Social Alternatives, vol. 25, no. 1, pp. 62-66. See also, for example, Building Bridges for Peace.

The Gulf protection racket is corrupt and dangerous folly

by Peter Schrank

Sooner or later the Arab despots David Cameron is selling arms to will fall, and the states that backed them will pay the price

by Seumas Milne, The Guardian

On the nauseating political doublespeak scale, David Cameron’s claim to “support the Arab spring” on a trip to sell weapons to Gulf dictators this week hit a new low. No stern demands for free elections from the autocrats of Arabia – or calls for respect for human rights routinely dished out even to major powers like Russia and China.

As the kings and emirs crack down on democratic protest, the prime minister assured them of his “respect and friendship”. Different countries, he explained soothingly in Abu Dhabi, needed “different paths, different timetables” on the road to reform: countries that were western allies, spent billions on British arms and sat on some of the world’s largest oil reserves in particular, he might have added by way of explanation.

Cameron went to the Gulf as a salesman for BAE Systems – the private arms corporation that makes Typhoon jets – drumming up business from the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Oman, as well as smoothing ruffled feathers over British and European parliamentary criticism of their human rights records on behalf of BP and other companies.

No wonder the prime minister restricted media coverage of the jaunt. But, following hard on the heels of a similar trip by the French president, the western message to the monarchies was clear enough: Arab revolution or not, it’s business as usual with Gulf despots.

The spread of protest across the Arab world has given these visits added urgency. A year ago, in the wake of the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, it seemed the Gulf regimes and their western backers had headed off revolt by crushing it in Bahrain, buying it off in Saudi Arabia, and attempting to hijack it in Libya and then Syria – while successfully playing the anti-Shia sectarian card.

But popular unrest has now reached the shores of the Gulf. In Kuwait, tens of thousands of demonstrators, including Islamists, liberals and nationalists, have faced barrages of teargas and stun grenades as they protest against a rigged election law, while all gatherings of more than 20 have been banned.

After 18 months of violent suppression of the opposition in Bahrain, armed by Britain and America, the regime has outlawed all anti-government demonstrations. In western-embraced Saudi Arabia, protests have been brutally repressed, as thousands are held without charge or proper trial.

Meanwhile, scores have been jailed in the UAE for campaigning for democratic reform, and in Britain’s favourite Arab police state of Jordan, protests have mushroomed against a Kuwaiti-style electoral stitchup. London, Paris and Washington all express concern – but arm and back the autocrats.

Cameron insists they need weapons to defend themselves. When it comes to the small arms and equipment Britain and the US supply to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and other Gulf states, he must mean from their own people. But if he’s talking about fighter jets, they’re not really about defence at all.

This is effectively a mafia-style protection racket, in which Gulf regimes use oil wealth their families have commandeered to buy equipment from western firms they will never use. The companies pay huge kickbacks to the relevant princelings, while a revolving door of political corruption provides lucrative employment for former defence ministers, officials and generals with the arms corporations they secured contracts for in office.

Naturally, western leaders and Arab autocrats claim the Gulf states are threatened by Iran. In reality, that would only be a risk if the US or Israel attacked Iran – and in that case, it would be the US and its allies, not the regimes’ forces, that would be defending them. Hypocrisy doesn’t begin to describe this relationship, which has long embedded corruption in a web of political, commercial and intelli gence links at the heart of British public life.

But support for the Gulf dictatorships – colonial-era feudal confections built on heavily exploited foreign workforces – is central to western control of the Middle East and its energy resources. That’s why the US has major military bases in Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE, Oman and Bahrain.

The danger now is of escalating military buildup against Iran and intervention in the popular upheavals that have been unleashed across the region. Both the US and Britain have sent troops to Jordan in recent months to bolster the tottering regime and increase leverage in the Syrian civil war. Cameron held talks with emirates leaders this week about setting up a permanent British military airbase in the UAE.

The prime minister defended arms sales to dictators on the basis of 300,000 jobs in Britain’s “defence industries”. Those numbers are inflated and in any case heavily reliant on government subsidy. But there’s also no doubt that British manufacturing is over-dependent on the arms industry and some of that support could usefully be diverted to, say, renewable technologies.

But even if morality and corruption are dismissed as side issues, the likelihood is that, sooner or later, these autocrats will fall – as did the Shah’s regime in Iran, on which so many British and US arms contracts depended at the time. Without western support, they would have certainly been toppled already. As Rached Ghannouchi, the Tunisian leader whose democratic Islamist movement was swept to power in elections last year, predicted: “Next year it will be the turn of monarchies.” When that happens, the western world risks a new backlash from its leaders’ corrupt folly.

Has David Miliband changed his spots?

by Stuart Littlewood, source

Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) has been providing vital help to vulnerable Palestinian communities ever since the Sabra and Shatila massacre 30 years ago.

Eyebrows therefore shot up when MAP announced that former foreign secretary David Miliband will be speaking at its Annual Gala Fundraising Dinner tomorrow (Thursday) held in the posh Sheraton Park Lane Hotel.

It seems he’ll be talking about his visit to the West Bank and Gaza.

Miliband will be forever remembered as the British foreign secretary who shamelessly groveled to Israel’s gangsters for forgiveness for their running the risk of arrest if they set foot in London.

And he’ll be remembered for not having the guts to go visit Gaza, or even Iran while in office.

Back in 2009 Ehud Barak, Tzipi Livni and retired general Doron Almog, cancelled engagements in London for fear of being arrested. Israel complained bitterly

Miliband actually apologized to Livni and Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman for the arrest warrant issued against Livni. He promised Lieberman to begin working immediately to change the UK laws relating to ‘universal jurisdiction’. He asked Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Justice Minister Jack Straw to find an urgent solution.

But the general election overtook him. Miliband’s groveling promise was echoed by his replacement, William Hague, who announced: “We have had good discussions with Israeli ministers on Universal Jurisdiction where the last government left us with an appalling situation where a politician like Mrs. Livni could be threatened with arrest on coming to the UK…”

He said it was “completely unacceptable… We have agreed in the coalition about putting it right, we will put it right through legislation… later this year and I phoned Mrs. Livni amongst others to tell her about that and received a very warm welcome for our proposals”.

Never mind that British law was operating perfectly properly. The warrants were issued to answer well-founded charges. Under universal jurisdiction all states that are party to the Geneva Conventions are under a binding obligation to seek out those suspected of having committed grave breaches of the Conventions and bring them, regardless of nationality, to justice. There should be no hiding place for those suspected of crimes against humanity and war crimes. Applications could be made to a court for private arrest warrants, and this had been happening because the government itself was in the habit of shirking its duty under the Fourth 1949 Geneva Convention and dragging its feet until the bird has flown.

The beauty of the private warrant is that it can be issued speedily.

Bringing a private prosecution for a criminal offence is an ancient right in common law and, in the words of Lord Wilberforce, “a valuable constitutional safeguard against inertia or partiality on the part of the authority.”

Lord Diplock, another respected Lord of Appeal, called it “a useful safeguard against capricious, corrupt or biased failure or refusal of those authorities to prosecute offenders against the criminal law”.

Who can forget that Tzipi Livni, Israel’s former foreign minister, was largely responsible for the terror that brought unspeakable death and destruction to Gaza’s civilians during the blitzkrieg known as Operation Cast Lead?

Showing no remorse and with the blood of 1,400 dead Gazans (including 320 children and 109 women) on her hands, and thousands more horribly maimed, Livni’s office issued a statement saying she was proud of Operation Cast Lead. And speaking later at a conference at Tel Aviv’s Institute for Security Studies, she said: “I would today take the same decisions.”

In a sane world no British government minister would undermine our justice system in order to make the UK a safe haven for the likes of her.

Yet Miliband’s successor Hague said: “We cannot have a position where Israeli politicians feel they cannot visit this country. The situation is unsatisfactory [and] indefensible. It is absolutely my intention to act speedily.”

He even tried to make Livni’s monstrous crimes look good by claiming, as reported on the Conservative Friends of Israel website, that “the immediate trigger for this crisis [the war on Gaza] was the barrage of hundreds of rocket attacks against Israel on the expiry of the ceasefire or truce.” It is well known that the ceasefire didn’t expire. It was deliberately breached by an Israeli raid into Gaza that killed several Palestinians with the intention of provoking a response that would re-ignite the violence and provide an excuse to launch Operation Cast Lead, which the Israelis had been preparing for months.

As for Avigdor Lieberman, he lives in an illegal squat on stolen Palestinian land and is a wanted criminal on that score alone.

Livni bleated: “It’s about the entire State of Israel and our ability to go on working together against common threats.”

Common threats? The threats Israel faces are caused by its racist expansion, land theft, general lawlessness and hateful attitude towards its neighbors, not to mention the nuclear menace Israel itself poses to others in the region and the Islamic world generally. To suggest we have anything in common with the Tel Aviv regime is absurd.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office butted in with this arrogant statement: “We will not agree to a situation in which [former prime minister] Ehud Olmert, [Defense Minister] Ehud Barak and [opposition leader and former foreign minister] Tzipi Livni will be summoned to the bench. We utterly reject the absurdity that is happening in Britain.”

Miliband never went to Gaza when he should have done. But he managed to visit Gaza with Save the Children. “I had not been able to visit while in government for security reasons,” he said in an article in The Guardian.

Bollox. Hamas were honor-bound to take good care of him. The only danger would have been an Israeli air-strike or a Mossad assassin. But those risks go with the job. You can’t be an effective foreign secretary wrapped in cotton wool.

With David Miliband heading up foreign policy it was frankly embarrassing to be British. What sort of transformation has the groveler undergone that makes him now worthy of an invitation to MAP? Has he become a new White Knight championing the Palestinian underdog against the evil occupier?

I hope so. But I’ll believe it when I actually see evidence that this particular leopard’s spots have well and truly changed.

As “Israel” haemorrhages British political support, its supporters watch impotently

by Asa Winstanley, EI

Speaking to Israeli TV earlier this month British ambassador Matthew Gould said Israel was increasingly losing support among middle-ground politicians in the UK because of its aggressive settlement policies.

His comments confirm other indications of increased mainstream support for Palestine in the political mainstream, as I showed in a feature for EI last month.

The Guardian reports that:

In an unusually forthright interview for Israel’s Channel 10 news, Gould said he detected a shift among the middle ground of British members of parliament towards a more critical view of Israel.

“Israelis might wake up in 10 years’ time and find out that the level of understanding in the international community has suddenly changed, and that patience for continuing the status quo has reduced,” he said.

“Support for Israel is starting to erode and that’s not about these people on the fringe who are shouting loudly and calling for boycotts and all the rest of it. The interesting category are those members of parliament in the middle, and in that group I see a shift.”

It’s interesting to note that, according to The Guardian, Gould said the “shift was a result of Israeli government policies… [and suggested] that it could not be countered or obscured byhasbara” or Israeli propaganda campaigns.

As is clear from the way he attempts to cast boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigns as marginal, Gould is by no means on our side. But it’s interesting that even he has to acknowledge how low Israel’s public support has slipped in Europe – as a result of its own aggressive actions against the Palestinian people:

“Israel is now seen as the Goliath and it’s the Palestinians who are seen as the David.” In the biblical story of David and Goliath, the young future king of Israel defeats the mighty Philistine warrior armed only with a sling and stones.

Zionist reactions

It’s been most encouraging and funny to watch the sometimes hysterical reactions from Israeli officials and their British apologists. It’s a good thing for us that they are living in denial.

Missing the point, Dermot Kehoe, the acting chief executive of Israel lobby group BICOMtold The Guardian:

The Britain/Israel relationship has never been stronger in terms of trade, technology and security cooperation. Our polling shows the relationship is not eroding.

“The ambassador is right to highlight the importance of the peace process to the British public. However, Israel is not Goliath. It is a small country surrounded by threats…

The Guardian quotes an unnamed Israeli official, who seems to be in total denial:

“[This] does not describe anything near reality. It’s a dishonest attempt to take a biblical myth and turn it upside down to make Israel look bad in Jewish terminology.” In the past 30 years, he added, there had been other attempts, particularly by the Palestinians, “to dispossess Jews of our history”.

Stuart Polak, director of lobby group Conservative Friends of Israel also attacked Gould. He told The Jewish Chronicle that:

the comments did not reflect the actions of Tory MPs. “Conservative MPs ‘in the middle’ of the debate are very engaged and regularly make their voices heard in support of Israel on a wide range of issues,” he said.

Interestingly, he didn’t name any MP in particular. You can almost picture him sticking his fingers in his ears and shaking his head.

British, Irish activists set foot in Israeli-blockaded Gaza

Press TV

A group of British and Irish activists have arrived in the Gaza Strip to show their solidarity with Palestinians living under siege in the Israeli-blockaded coastal enclave, Press TV reports.

The second Irish delegation, called “Freedom & Friendship Delegation 2012,” arrived in Gaza via the Rafah border crossing on Thursday evening.

The visit is organized by “Derry friends of Palestine” from the city of Derry in Ireland.

The first Irish delegation had entered the coastal sliver on Tuesday, bringing much-needed medicines for patients in Gaza.

Another delegation from England, including students from Bradford, also arrived in Gaza. They have planned to work with the Irish delegation and hold seminars at different educational institutions in the impoverished territory.

Pro-Palestinian activist Lauren Booth admired the patience, strength, and endurance of people living in Gaza.

“I can’t stay away from Gaza because every time you come as an activist with open heart and you leave people say don’t forget us,” she said.

Meanwhile, former British MP Martin Linton said that people in Britain support the Palestinians.

“I just want people in Gaza to understand that more and more people in Britain are fighting for the cause of the Palestinians and particularly Gaza and it’s my job to make sure that the issue is raised constantly in the House of Commons in London,” Linton told Press TV.

The delegations will stay in Gaza for a week to see the situation on the ground under the Israeli regime’s persisting 5-year siege and visit different areas within the enclave and hold meetings with Palestinian officials.

Flying into ‘Tel Aviv’? ‘Welcome to Palestine!’

Nakba

by Stuart Littlewood, source

The other day someone kindly sent me an old link to an aviation forum where an irate passenger had written: ‘This morning (6 May 2003) on a flight from Rome to Tel Aviv, after landing the pilot announced in the microphone: ‘Welcome to Palestine’. I think this is the most disgusting thing for a pilot to say.’

It led to a long and acrimonious argument with many demanding dire punishment for the Alitalia pilot.

But he had a valid point.

Ben Gurion airport, which serves Tel Aviv, was formerly Lydda airport. Lydda, a major town in its own right during the British mandate, was designated Palestinian in the 1947 UN Partition. In July 1948 Israeli terrorist troops seized Lydda, shot up the town and drove out the population. In this report by Donald Neff we’re told how, as part of the ethnic cleansing, the Israelis massacred 426 men, women, and children. 176 of them were slaughtered in the town’s main mosque. Of all the blood-baths they say this was the biggest. See also here for lurid details. Here’s an extract:

“Out of the 19,000 people who used to call Lydda home, only 1,052 were allowed to stay. Yitzhak Rabin, the Nobel Prize winner, wrote in his diary soon after Lydda’s and Ramla’s occupation: ‘After attacking Lydda, Ben-Gurion would repeat the question: What is to be done with the population?, waving his hand in a gesture which said: Drive them out!…’ (Soldier Of Peace, p. 140-141)”

The remainder were forced to walk into exile in the scalding July heat leaving a trail of bodies – men, women and children – along the way. The cruelty, on top of being robbed of everything, was horrific.

The attack on Lydda was led by Israel’s great ‘hero’ Moshe Dayan, who was later to become defense minister and foreign minister, and witnessed by two American news correspondents. One recorded that “practically everything in their way died. Riddled corpses lay by the roadside.” The other wrote that he saw “the corpses of Arab men, women and even children strewn about in the wake of the ruthlessly brilliant charge”.

The murder spree was followed by systematic looting. Israeli troops carried away 1,800 truck loads of Palestinian property. Jewish immigrants then flooded in and Lydda was given a Hebrew name, Lod.

Let’s Wipe ‘em off the Map

So Israel has no real right to Lydda/Lod/Ben Gurion airport – it was stolen in a terror raid, as was another town we hear so much about – Sderot.

That’s where, say Israel’s propagandists, Hamas rockets have been “raining down”. And that’s the main plank of their efforts to justify the bloodshed Israel has inflicted on the people of Gaza.

They use it ad nauseam to brainwash the media and their own people. Their stooges, returning to these shores after their indoctrination, repeat it here. They have studiously counted and broadcast the number of erratic, home-made Qassam rockets coming into Israel, without ever admitting to the huge number of missiles, bombs and shells that Israel’s high-tech military fires into Gaza with much more murderous effect.

Those sympathetic to Israel should know that Sderot has no business being where it is. It’s built on the lands of a Palestinian village called Najd, which was ethnically cleansed by Jewish terrorists in May 1948, just before Israel was declared a state and before any Arab armies arrived to defend the Palestinians. The 600+ villagers were forced to flee for their lives. It happened at the end of Britain’s watch as the mandated government, when they were packing up to leave. This and many other atrocities were committed while no-one was looking.

Palestinian Arabs owned over 90 percent of the land in Najd. According to UN Resolution 194 and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights they have a right to return home. But as we have come to expect, Israel refuses to recognise the rights of others and will not allow them back. Anyway, what is there for them to return to? The 82 homes in Najd were bulldozed as part of Israel’s wipe-‘em-off-the-map policy.

Najd was one of 418 Palestinian villages and towns ethnically cleansed and erased by Zionist Jews. Its inhabitants presumably became refugees in nearby Gaza and their families are probably still living in the miserable camps there. The irony is that some of them could have been manning the rocket launchers.

When Barack Obama visited Sderot, he spouted the well-worn mantra backing Israel’s right to protect its citizens from rocket attacks. “If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I would do everything to stop that, and would expect Israel to do the same thing.” Yes, well said, Obama. But let’s hope you wouldn’t be so stupid or arrogant as to settle your family on land stolen from your neighbour at gun-point.

Insult to Our Patron Saint

Getting back to Ben Gurion’s air travelers, there’s another reason for British Christians as well as Muslims to take a very dim view of the thieving, destruction and ethnic cleansing of Lydda. It’s the birthplace of our patron saint, George.

George was a Palestinian born at Lydda and brought up in the Christian faith, although some sources think he was born in Cappadocea (Turkey) and taken home by his mother to her native Palestine when his father died.

Either way he is inextricably linked to Lydda. He decided on a soldiering career, joined the Roman army at the time of Emperor Diocletian and rose to high rank. He became one of the Emperor’s favourites, as his father had been, but when Diocletian’s fanatical slavishness to the Roman gods got out of control and he began slaughtering innocent Christians George stood up to be counted for his religious beliefs. He denounced the Emperor and tore up his orders. Not surprisingly he was arrested, imprisoned and tortured.

George was told his life would be spared if he made sacrifice to the Roman gods. He was offered riches if only he’d renounce his Christian beliefs. Instead he prayed to his Christian God, who immediately responded, so we’re told, with thunderbolts and fireballs and an earthquake that shook the ground and destroyed the temple buildings. That sealed poor George’s fate. He bore his ordeal – being dragged through the streets, stretched on the rack, poked with red-hot irons, cut to ribbons on a wheel of swords, and dunked in quicklime – with such fortitude that Diocletian’s wife converted to Christianity on the spot. This matrimonial upset caused her to be condemned to death too.

The Romans were expert martyr-makers. George was finally beheaded at Nicomedia on 23 April 303 and buried at Lydda. He was soon a cult figure among soldiers around the world. In 494 George was canonised and became the warrior saint for many worthy enterprises.

The earliest known reference to him in Britain was in an account by St Adamnan, the 7th century Abbot of lona, who probably heard the story from a French bishop returning from Jerusalem. George was adopted by Richard the Lionheart as his personal saint in the Crusades. Later, King Edward III made him the patron saint of England and dedicated the Order of the Garter to him.

St George’s cross is England’s flag and it’s incorporated into the Union flag. Lydda therefore was and always will be of great importance to the English and indeed the British as a whole. The Crusaders built and rebuilt a church there which was dedicated to him. It was destroyed by Saladin during the Third Crusade in 1191 and the church that stands there now dates from 1872.

George – Al Khadir – is also patron saint of Bethlehem and a figure sacred to Muslims and Christians alike. As one elderly Muslim Arab told me, George is special – he’s the only saint who could ride a horse. Stone carvings of George on horseback can to be seen in the Church of the Nativity and above the doors of many Bethlehem houses.

He’s also patron saint of Portugal and of certain cities in Spain, and of Moscow and many other places… a really popular guy. The Israelis ought to have had more respect.

It seems fitting to remember these things as we approach St George’s Day, 23 April.

So I salute that unnamed Alitalia pilot. Welcome, travelers, to Lydda and Palestine!…

British Lord forced to resign for: “Israel” won’t last

Moqawama

A British Lord has been forced to resign from her party after saying that “Israel” would not last forever if it continued to oppress the Palestinians.

Jenny Tonge, a former MP for the Liberal Democrats, which is the junior partner in the British government, made the comments in a speech at a British university.

“Beware “Israel”,” she said. “”Israel” is not going to be there forever in its present form. One day, the United States of America will get sick of giving £70bn a year to “Israel” to support what I call America’s aircraft carrier in the Middle East – that is “Israel”.

“One day, the American people are going to say to the “Israel” lobby in the USA: enough is enough,” she added predicting that “”Israel” will lose support and then they will reap what they have sown.”
Tonge’s comments were seized upon by the powerful right-wing British blog Guido Fawkes, which launched a campaign calling for her to be fired from the party.

Tonge was heavily criticized by all British political parties, with the leader of the Labour Party Ed Miliband saying there was “No place in politics for those who question existence of the “state of Israel”.”
Liberal Democrat party leader Nick Clegg demanded she apologize but Tonge, a long-time supporter of Palestinian freedom, refused to do so and resigned instead.
As a result, Tonge will remain a peer but will not sit with the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords.
Tonge was previously fired from her shadow Cabinet role in 2004 after claiming she could identify with Palestinian self-scarifying martyrs.

“If I had to live in that situation – and I say that advisedly – I might just consider becoming one myself,” she said.

“Having seen the violence and the humiliation and the provocation that the Palestinian people live under everyday and have done since their land was occupied by “Israel”, I could understand.”

Britain eying share in Somalia’s future energy industry

Press TV

British media say the government’s move to offer humanitarian aid and security assistance to Somalia is aimed at winning a stake in country’s future energy industry.

In a report published Saturday, The Guardian revealed Britain’s involvement in a secret high-stakes dash for oil in Somalia.

The Horn of Africa nation, a former British colony, has been suffering decades of conflict and is known as a hotbed of piracy plaguing international shipping in the Indian Ocean.

In early February, British Foreign Secretary William Hague paid an unannounced visit to Somalia to become the first British Foreign Secretary to visit Mogadishu in almost two decades.

He also appointed Matt Baugh as Britain’s first ambassador to war-torn Somalia, which he described Somalia as “the world’s most failed state.”

Last week, UK Prime Minister David Cameron hosted an international conference on Somalia where he pledged more aid, financial help and measures to fight terrorism in the African nation.

The Guardian report, however, described the summit as talks between British officials and Somali counterparts over exploiting intact oil reserves in the arid northeastern part of Somalia.

“We have spoken to a number of UK officials, some have offered to help us with the future management of oil revenues. They will help us build our capacity to maximize future earnings from the oil industry,” the report cited Abdulkadir Abdi Hashi, the minister for international cooperation in the autonomous Puntland region, as saying.

Puntland is an region in northeastern Somalia, where the first oil is expected to be extracted next month.

Experts say London’s involvement in the future Somali oil industry could prop up the UK’s weakened economy, at a time it has resorted to austerity measures to avoid a budget deficit.

Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali said his government had almost no other choice but to persuade Western companies to invest and operate in Somalia by offering a portion of the country’s plentiful resources of oil and gas and large reserves of uranium.

Britain’s efforts to develop Somalia’s natural resources continue while the Canadian company Africa Oil started oil exploration in Puntland in January, the first drilling in Somalia for 21 years.

Chinese and US firms have reportedly also voiced interest about the potential for oil as the country sounds safe enough to drill after two decades of unrelenting war.

Time to recognize the Blair government’s criminality

by Peter Schrank

by John Pilger, source

In the kabuki theater of British parliamentary politics, great crimes do not happen and criminals go free. It is theater after all; the pirouettes matter, not actions taken at remove in distance and culture from their consequences. It is a secure arrangement guarded by cast and critics alike. The farewell speech of one of the most artful, Tony Blair, had “a sense of moral conviction running through it,” effused the television presenter Jon Snow, as if Blair’s appeal to kabuki devotees was mystical. That he was a war criminal was irrelevant.

The suppression of Blair’s criminality and that of his administrations is described in Gareth Peirce’s Dispatches from the Dark Side: on torture and the death of justice, published in paperback this month by Verso. Peirce is Britain’s most distinguished human rights lawyer; her pursuit of infamous miscarriages of justice and justice for the victims of state crimes, such as torture and rendition, is unsurpassed. What is unusual about this accounting of what she calls the “moral and legal pandemonium” in the wake of 9/11 is that, in drawing on the memoirs of Blair and Alistair Campbell, Cabinet minutes and MI6 files, she applies the rule of law to them.

Advocates such as Peirce, Phil Shiner, and Clive Stafford-Smith have ensured the indictment of dominant powers is no longer a taboo. Israel, America’s hitman, is now widely recognized as the world’s most lawless state.  The likes of Donald Rumsfeld now avoid countries where the law reaches beyond borders, as does George W. Bush and Blair.

Deploying sinecures of “peace-making” and “development” that allow him to replenish the fortune accumulated since leaving Downing Street, Blair’s jackdaw travels are concentrated on the Gulf sheikhdoms, the US, Israel and safe havens like the small African nation of Rwanda.  Since 2007, Blair has made seven visits to Rwanda, where he has access to a private jet supplied by President Paul Kagame. Kagame’s regime, whose opponents have been silenced brutally on trumped-up charges, is “innovative” and a “leader” in Africa, says Blair.

Peirce’s book achieves the impossible on Blair: it shocks. In tracing the “unjustifiable theses, unrestrained belligerence, falsification and wilful illegality” that led to the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, she identifies Blair’s assault on Muslims as both criminal and racist. “Human beings presumed to hold [Islamist] views were to be disabled by any means possible, and permanently … in Blair’s language a ‘virus’ to be ‘eliminated’ and requiring ‘a myriad of interventions [sic] deep into the affairs of other nations’.” Whole societies were reduced to “splashes of color” on a canvas upon which Labor’s Napoleon would “re-order the world.”

The very concept of war was wrenched from its dictionary meaning and became “our values versus theirs.” The actual perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks, mostly Saudis trained to fly in America, were all but forgotten. Instead, the “splashes of color” were made blood-red – first in Afghanistan, land of the poorest of the poor. No Afghans were members of al-Qaeda; on the contrary, there was mutual resentment. No matter. Once the bombing began on 7 October 2001, tens of thousands of Afghans were punished with starvation as the World Food Program withdrew aid on the cusp of winter. In one stricken village, Bibi Mahru, I witnessed the aftermath of a single Mk82 “precision” bomb’s obliteration of two families, including eight children. “TB,” wrote Alistair Campbell, “said they had to know that we would hurt them if they don’t yield up OBL.”

The cartoon figure of Campbell was already at work on concocting another threat in Iraq. This “yielded up,” according to the MIT Center for International Studies, between 800,000 and 1.3 million deaths: figures that exceed the Fordham University estimate of deaths in the genocide in Rwanda.

And yet, wrote Peirce, “the threads of emails, internal government communiqués reveal no dissent.” Interrogation that included torture was on “the express instructions … of government ministers.” On 10 January 2002, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw emailed his colleagues that sending British citizens to Guantánamo Bay was “the best way to meet our counter terrorism objective.” He rejected “the only alternative of repatriation to the United Kingdom.” (Later appointed “justice secretary,” Straw suppressed incriminating Cabinet minutes in defiance of the Information Commissioner). On 6 February 2002, Home Secretary David Blunkett noted that he was in “no hurry to see any individuals returned to the UK [from Guantánamo].”  Three days later, Foreign Office minister Ben Bradshaw wrote, “We need to do all that we can to avoid the detainees being repatriated to the UK.” Not one of the people to which they refer had been charged with anything; most had been sold as bounties to the Americans by Afghan warlords. Peirce describes how Foreign Office officials, prior to an inspection of Guantánamo Bay, “verified” that British prisoners were being “treated humanely” when the opposite was true.

Immersed in its misadventure and lies, listening only to their leader’s crooned “sincerity,” the Labor government consulted no one who spoke the truth. Peirce cites one of the most reliable sources, Conflicts Forum, run by the former British intelligence officer Alastair Crooke, who argued that to “isolate and demonize [Islamic] groups that have support on the ground, the perception is reinforced that the west only understands the language of military strength.” In wilfully denying this truth, Blair, Campbell and their echoes planted the roots of the 7/7 attacks in London.

Today, another Afghanistan and Iraq beckons in Syria and Iran, perhaps even a world war.  Once again, voices such as Crooke’s attempt to explain to a media salivating for ” intervention” in Syria that the civil war in that country requires skilled, patient negotiation, not the provocations of the British SAS and the familiar, bought-and-paid-for exiles who ride in Anglo-America’s Trojan Horse.

Mossad agents use foreign passports for covert ops: Report

Press TV

A report has revealed that Israel’s Mossad operatives use passports belonging to foreign nationals serving with the Israeli military to carry out covert operations abroad.

According to the report published in the Times of London on Saturday, the Mossad agents mainly use passports belonging to British and French nationals for their operations.

A British national who had voluntarily joined the Israeli military in 2009 said a “young woman from Mossad” asked him to lend his passport in the beginning of his service claiming that the move would demonstrate the Briton’s “commitment” to Israel.

The report said the passport was given back to the British national after 18 months of military service and that he was “surprised to find stamps in it from Turkey and Azerbaijan, countries that he had never visited.”

A French national also said in an interview with the Times that months after the beginning of his voluntary service for the Israeli military, a woman asked him to give her his passport. The passport was returned a year later with “stamps from Russia and several other countries.”

The British newspaper added that there have been “several occasions” where foreign nationals have been asked by Israeli agents to “lend their passports” to the intelligence agents.

The foreign nationals have reportedly filed complaints with the judiciary of their countries of origin over the issue.

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