All posts by John Andrews

Is Britain’s Green Party About to take a Significant Step Towards Revolution?

The Green Party of England and Wales (GPEW) is currently undertaking a huge holistic review as to how the Party works. As it already has a superb set of highly radical policies encompassing not only its well-known concerns for saving the environment but also proposals for revolutionary reforms of the economy, British foreign policy, and our so-called constitution, the holistic review has the potential to be either a step towards a major peaceful revolution, or a damp squib.

Since the Greens were first established in Britain decision-making has been undertaken at annual conferences, where any Party member attending the conference may be involved. This has worked reasonably well, but obviously excludes all those members who are unable to attend conferences. The holistic review may possibly modernise this system.

About a hundred years ago Emma Goldman was one of the first to observe that if voting could really change anything it would be made illegal. It’s not absolutely true, of course, but her point, that most of our so-called democracies are not fit for purpose, was right on the money.

Democracy is a relatively new feature of human society. Given the incredible technical advances that humans have achieved over the last couple of thousand years, it’s not exactly impressive that it’s only just a hundred years or so since women were deemed to be sufficiently human to be entrusted with the right to vote once in a while.

The main reason why we have not yet evolved a system of government where all human beings are able to exercise well-informed decisions is not only because the technology has not been up to providing such a marvel until very recent times, it’s also because the tiny minority of super-rich beings that have always ruled the world have always fought tooth and claw to resist any efforts at weakening the vice-like grip they have always held on political power.

The GPEW has fine policies intended to try to advance the cause of real democracy. Inevitably it’s very hard work to effect those changes. Not only is there the huge problem of the existing global power structure which, like its predecessors, still fights to resist change, there’s also the problem of mass ignorance – the fact that the vast majority of the population has been conditioned to meekly conform to the wishes of our rulers and their lackeys in the mainstream media, or are too apathetic to even care.

However, the Greens holistic review must eventually lead to a major leap forward for real democracy. The Party recently tried to host a couple of online workshops as part of the review. It was the first time it tried to do something like this on a Party-wide scale. Whilst I have some reservations about how this initial effort was made, the fact the effort was made at all has to be greatly applauded. Few things work perfectly at the first attempt, so it’s no surprise that this online exercise had some problems.

Although I signed up to take part in three of the workshops it turned out that I was unable to do so because I do not have the requisite camera and microphone attachments for my computer. If those technical requirements had been stipulated in the original message from the holistic review team I obviously would not have booked a place, thus preventing someone else from taking part – as there was limited availability for participation. So this is the first little glitch – the fact that it was assumed that all GP members are computer literate and have instant access to the required technology. I know of GP members who do not use computers at all, so their voices are obviously excluded from the start. Given that equality and diversity are supposedly important to Greens, the fact that this limitation was not even considered is not impressive. Whilst I accept that it’s reasonable to assume that most people are computer literate, and will continue to be even more so, it should at least have been stated that this problem was recognised, and suitable apologies voiced in the name of tolerance for floundering baby steps towards the brave new world of real democracy.

On the day of the first workshop I received an e-mail from the organisers: “Message to attendees at conference”. There was very little information about how the process would work, but one point was made clear: “If you’re a man, and there have been lots of men speaking, I’ll prioritise a woman even if she had her hand up after you.” Why was this about the only rule the organisers mentioned? It’s significant that the reverse situation was not stated – we were not told that if lots of women had been speaking a man would be prioritised even if he put his hand up after women. The rule suggests discrimination against men, not a good look, but also not the first time I’ve come across it in the Green Party.

The last part of the “Message to attendees” was something of an agenda – some bullet points of subjects to be discussed. Obviously you need agendas, but at no point was I invited to contribute towards it, and this is very important: whoever controls agenda content controls the debate. Everyone taking part in any group discussion should be able to contribute to deciding what subjects will be discussed, and in what order – no matter their gender, race, physical condition, and so on.

One of the workshops I wanted to attend was about “Equality and diversity in the Green Party”. The first part of the “Message to attendees” of this workshop was similar to the previous message, with its identical discriminatory condition about men – quite ironic given the subject matter. This message also had an agenda, towards which, like its predecessor, I had also not been invited to contribute.

However, the given agenda looked quite interesting. The most interesting issue, to me, was the fourth item: “How do we avoid the infighting which has affected the Labour party about discrimination, especially anti-Semitism and transphobia?”

This is a very important topic. I was in the Labour Party for just over a year, and an active supporter of Momentum. Whilst there is indeed considerable dissent in Labour, I saw little evidence that it is any more or less discriminatory than the Greens. Labour’s infighting has almost nothing to do with discrimination and everything to do with the fact that it has no core ideology, no equivalent of our Policies for a Sustainable Society.

All the same, the point is interesting. Labour’s alleged anti-Semitism is mostly created and routinely exploited by the mainstream media to smear Jeremy Corbyn for his decades of opposition to Zionism. It’s just another fake news scam. Labour is no more anti-Semitic than the Greens are, and the London-based Jewish Socialists’ Group, for example, is very supportive of Labour under Jeremy Corbyn. But the very expression “anti-Semitism” has been corrupted by the mainstream media, possibly influenced by the powerful Zionist lobby.

The literal definition of Semitism originally referred to anyone with an ethnic origin stretching from North Africa to Iraq. The etymology of the word derives from ‘descendants of Shem’, a son of Noah, from whom the Phoenicians are believed to have come – the people who colonised much of the Mediterranean. Hence Arabic is routinely identified as a Semitic language, and unsurprisingly has similarities to Hebrew. But the way Semitism is being interpreted today is almost as a synonym for Zionism, suggesting that anyone who criticises Israel’s Zionist government is being anti-Semitic. But Zionism is a repulsive political ideology not dissimilar in practice to apartheid, and has nothing to do with Semitism – and many of its supporters are not even Semites. It’s a clever tactic designed to confuse understanding of the horrendous situation in Occupied Palestine and eliminate criticism of the vicious junta that rules it – something Jeremy Corbyn has always rightly done, as have the Greens, to some extent, with their support for the BDS campaign against Israel. Given Corbyn’s longstanding support for the terrible plight of Palestinians – a Semitic people – how could anyone rightly accuse him of anti-Semitism? So this is indeed a good and legitimate subject to include in the subject of “avoiding infighting” – but perhaps not quite as the workshop organisers intended.

Avoiding infighting is a vitally important concept, but it’s also a deeply loaded expression which can lead to totalitarianism. Enemies of the Greens will always seek to exploit any potential divisions as a means of destroying the party – the old “divide and rule” tactic. The widely-used traditional method for dealing with dissenting voices in large organisations is simply to eliminate them, one way or another. This is not an option for an organisation that’s striving to reform democracy. The most effective way to do this, for Greens, is through proper open debate and Party-wide decision-making. When dissenting opinion occurs, as it always will, provide a proper debate where voices for and against that opinion can be widely heard and then allow the whole membership to decide the result. The dissatisfied losers of such debates are free to leave the Party if they choose, but should not be pushed. Real progress can only be made in an environment of truly free expression and open debate, never through repression. So “avoiding infighting” should be managed through a process of open debate and decision-making, never through some form of secret policing. The very important need for widespread debate over the horrors being perpetrated in Occupied Palestine, for example, is being silenced everywhere by the simple device of labelling it “anti-Semitic”.

As I was unable to attend the workshops I have no idea how successful they were. But the fact that they were done at all is a huge advance, a giant leap forward towards creating a system where essential Party-wide debates and decision-making can be created. The key to improving the model is through increasing membership involvement at all stages, not limiting it. Those individuals tasked with administering the process must have less ability to control it. Their role must be simply to properly administer, not decide. A way must be found where any Party member may be included in deciding what issues to discuss, and in what order. Another way must be found where Proper Information is provided for each and every issue being discussed, both for and against, in an environment of real free expression. The provision of Proper Information is an essential component of real democracy. The spirit of Voltaire (who is alleged to have said, “I may disagree with all you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it”) must be the guiding principle (whether he actually said it or not – because the principle is a fine one). And a way must be found where any Party member can vote to decide the outcome of any debate. An honest, transparent, inclusive, trustworthy, voting system is another essential component of real democracy. There is no plausible excuse for not doing any of this. We have the technology. It must be used.

Many of today’s political decision-makers will inevitably resist the creation of real democracy. That has been the story of democracy from its very earliest days: every new advance has been bitterly opposed by those who wield political power. From the days when British kings lost their “divine right” to rule, allowing rich land barons to share power, to the days when the voting franchise expanded to permit a whole 1% of the population to vote, the right to make political decisions has been ruthlessly restricted. Such was the situation for hundreds of years. It’s not even a hundred years since women were finally allowed to vote, as they were always deemed incapable of doing so – just as non-white people were forbidden to vote, and for the same reason, in most parts of the world, up to as recently as just twenty five years ago when apartheid ended in South Africa. Even today voting is still not a natural right for all citizens. Israel still practices apartheid, preventing many Arabs from voting in Israeli elections by the creation of Bantustans, where Arabs have no political rights outside their ghettoes, exactly as happened in South Africa.

Emma Goldman was mostly right when she made her observation about the uselessness of voting. Her words are still largely true even today, when so-called democracy is largely a cynical pantomime carefully stage-managed by the super-rich to create the illusion of democracy. But in recent years technology has provided the means to set us truly free. We now have the technical ability continually to provide good information to the entire population, and then to harvest the opinions and choices of the population. It’s only a question of time before that is routinely available to all citizens.

The GPEW is now leading the way in providing this inevitable innovation. A noble place in history awaits those who first deliver real democracy to the people. The Greens must surge ahead with this fine start they have made, and use its changes as a campaigning aid. We must create a model of real democracy within the Party to show citizens a working example of how a Green government could deliver real democracy to the whole country, and then the world. The Greens have long had a policy aim of Direct Democracy. We now have the opportunity to start providing it. The days of policy decision-making being restricted to the few people who are able to attend party conferences must end. Every Green Party member should be able to take part in all Party decision-making. If the holistic review does not include that, and propose steps to achieve it, it will be a largely pointless exercise.

Life-giving Light and Those Who Would Snuff it Out

The concluding sentence of Roy Medvedev’s superb account of Russia during the Stalin years reads:

When the cult of Stalin’s personality was exposed [in the XXth and XXIInd Congresses in 1956 and 1961 respectively] a great step was made to recovery.1

It’s a vital point, similar to that made by the incredible truth and reconciliation commission event that followed the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa, and that point is this: before any society can really advance it must recognise and admit to itself the mistakes and crimes perpetrated by its own trusted leaders. Or, as Rosa Luxemburg once put it:

Self-criticism – ruthless, harsh self-criticism, which gets down to the root of things – that is the life-giving light and air of the proletarian movement.2

Yet self-criticism of our own governments is almost impossible. Infinitely more effective than state censorship – which can restrict criticism – is self-censorship, and that’s pretty much what we have: a society which is incapable of seriously challenging those in power, let alone calling them to account for any wrongdoing – not through any state-imposed censorship, but through creating a culture that’s utterly brainwashed into believing the perfection of their constitution and therefore refusing to even imagine its very considerable imperfections. Whilst we do not have the domestic death squads and concentration camps of Hitler’s Germany or Stalin’s Russia to enforce domestic obedience, we still have loyal populations that are almost as effectively programmed to believe the perfections of their state leaders and their institutions as many Germans and Russians were during the Hitler and Stalin years.

In Britain, for example, in 2015 when the leader of the Green Party Natalie Bennett was provocatively questioned about the Party’s well-known opposition to monarchy she remarked,

I can’t see that the Queen is ever going to be really poor, but I’m sure we can find a council house for her — we’re going to build lots more.

This obviously whimsical comment, although factually reasonable, provoked the following headline in The Independent: ‘We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,’ say Greens

Similar sensationalist headlines led in almost every newspaper and TV news broadcast. Green Party membership, which had been surging until that moment, immediately fell off a cliff. I was a membership secretary for our local Green Party branch at the time and had been signing up new members at the rate of about two a week. New memberships not only stopped completely, but some who had just joined us immediately cancelled their memberships. And this from people who would see themselves as progressives. No need to guess how Tory voters, who comprise most voters, reacted to Bennett’s quip. Such is the level of brainwashing in a supposedly democratic country about the perfection of the British monarchy, and its unchallengeable position as unelected head of state.

But it’s not just Britain that has to endure a majority of brainwashed citizens. I remember seeing a TV documentary about the time of the illegal Iraq War in 2003. The programme was about heroic US marines bravely defending western freedom, by helping to kill defenseless Iraqi civilians. Some of the heroes were interviewed about the hard time they were having, and the one that will forever stick in my mind implied that no amount of personal suffering was too great for him. “I would slit my own throat for my president”, he said. So Iraqi civilians didn’t have much chance.

The marine’s remark reminded me of a quote in Medvedev’s book, showing the similarity between modern US citizens and the brainwashed Russians of Stalin’s day:

Just as [religious] believers attribute everything good to god and everything bad to the devil, so everything good was attributed to Stalin and everything bad to evil forces that Stalin himself was [supposedly] fighting. “Long live Stalin!” some officials shouted as they were taken to be shot.3

When, very occasionally, some of the major crimes of our great trusted leaders are brought to our attention, there is never any clamouring for justice, no national outrage that the public’s trust could be so cheaply squandered. Whilst some newspapers might print a subdued story or two, located somewhere towards the bottom of page thirty nine, and whilst national TV stations may record a few words tucked away deeply buried somewhere on their websites, in the sacred name of “balance”, the real gravity of the misdeeds of our trusted leaders are otherwise routinely ignored, and the revelations are quickly lost in the usual myriad of trivial distractions.

For example, when, after many years and thirteen million pounds of treasure, the Chilcot Report was eventually published, effectively providing sufficient evidence for Tony Blair and other establishment leaders to be indicted for war crimes, no such calls from our trusted leaders were heard – just a deafening silence, followed almost immediately by business as usual.   But those who dare to provide the evidence of our rulers’ misdeeds are quickly and viciously victimized – as any whistleblower could easily confirm; with the better-known of whom, such as Daniel Ellsberg, Mordechai Vanunu, Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning and Ed Snowden standing as fine examples of the terrible consequences of speaking the truth about power. This is how Rosa Luxemburg’s ruthless self-criticism is rendered impossible in our “free” societies where official censorship doesn’t exist, but where official “news” isn’t worth censoring.

One of the holiest cows of the establishment, the institution which, almost above any other, will not tolerate any form of criticism, are our so-called “defence” forces. The word “hero” has been re-defined to mean absolutely anyone wearing a military uniform. TV commercials encouraging young people to join the armed forces appear almost every night. TV programmes depicting the military as brave heroes resisting overwhelming odds in the sacred name of freedom and democracy appear almost every night. Every year people adorn themselves in little plastic poppies and stand in silence for two minutes on the 11th November, not so much to recall those who were needlessly slaughtered for the supposed “war to end all war”, but to serve as a subliminal recruitment aid. Criticising the armed forces is always strictly off limits.

The Annihilation of Raqqa

Yet a recent report by Amnesty International (AI), who investigated the devastating attack by western coalition forces on the Syrian city of Raqqa, is so damning that anyone who does not criticise those responsible is guilty by association of war crimes.4 They are in a similar position to those who silently stood by as their neighbours were carted-off to Nazi concentration camps. Although AI has a somewhat dubious reputation, earned mainly by its very tepid response to the multitude of horrors perpetrated over many years by the Zionist regime in Occupied Palestine, its latest report on Raqqa has some merit.

Raqqa, Syria, February 2018 (AI Photo)

No one will ever know how many civilians perished in last year’s battle for Raqqa. However, estimates for the numbers of people living in the city prior to the war are given at around 220,000, whilst the number estimated to be living there earlier this year is around 61,000.  Some civilians managed to flee the city, but many did not, as they were prevented from doing so by IS. Amnesty summarised the terrible situation for civilians as follows:

The four-month military operation to oust the armed group calling itself Islamic State (IS) from Raqqa, the Syrian city which IS had declared its capital, killed hundreds of civilians, injured many more and destroyed much of the city. During the course of the operation, from June to October 2017, homes, private and public buildings and infrastructure were reduced to rubble or damaged beyond repair.

Residents were trapped, as fighting raged in Raqqa’s streets between IS militants and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters, and US-led Coalition’s air and artillery strikes rocked the city. With escape routes mined by IS and the group’s snipers shooting at those trying to flee, civilians fled from place to place within the city, desperately seeking refuge or escape. Some were killed in their homes; some in the very places where they had sought refuge, and others as they tried to flee.5

If Amnesty was referring to North Korea, say, or Iran, Russia, China, or the Syrian government, almost certainly its report would have been leading the western world’s news broadcasts. Outraged politicians and their tame propagandists in the mainstream media would have been demanding that “something should be done”. But those countries were not the subjects of the Amnesty report. It was referring instead to the biggest villains in the world — the US and British governments, joined on this occasion by France. Although other countries were implicated in this particular “coalition of the willing”, their roles were relatively minor. Consequently our politicians and their lackeys in the mainstream media seem hardly to have noticed AI’s report. Once again the truth is available, but has been conveniently self-censored by all the usual tricks of state.

Entire neighbourhoods in Raqqa are damaged beyond repair (AI Photo)

Two investigators from AI spent two weeks in February 2018 visiting the ruins of Raqqa. They went to 42 different locations and interviewed 112 civilian residents. About half of the report focuses mainly on the personal stories of four families whose lives were devastated by the “liberation” of Raqqa from IS occupation by the combined efforts of western firepower, and ground-troops supplied by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – a mainly Kurdish militia.

Although the so-called global coalition:

boasts membership of 71 countries and four inter-governmental organisations; an eclectic alliance including nations as diverse as Panama and Poland, Australia and Afghanistan. Some Coalition members, Chad, for example, or Niger, are likely to have given support in name only. Others, particularly European states, were more deeply involved, although the exact extent of their actions is not always clear.6

Whilst most people are probably aware that US, British and French air forces bombed countless targets in Syria generally, and specifically here, in Raqqa, fewer people know about the involvement of western ground troops. But AI tells us:

[T]he US deployed some 2,000 of its own troops to north-eastern Syria, many of whom were engaged in direct combat operations, notably firing artillery into Raqqa from positions outside the city. In addition, a smaller number of special forces were operating close to front lines alongside SDF members. British and French special forces were also deployed to the area, but in much smaller numbers.

Among the US deployment were Army High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) with GPS-directed 227mm rockets, which could be fired from 300km away, as well as hundreds of Marines from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and the 24th MEU equipped with M777 howitzers, which they used to rain down 155mm artillery fire upon the city from a distance of up to 30km.6

Children riding a bicycle among destroyed buildings in Raqqa. (AI Photo)

AI concludes its summary of the involvement of “coalition” forces as follows:

The Coalition launched tens of thousands of strikes on Raqqa during the military campaign. Of these, more than 4,000 were air strikes, almost all of them carried out by US forces. British forces carried out some 215 air strikes, while the French military was responsible for some 50 air strikes with the overwhelming majority – more than 90% – carried out by US piloted aircraft and drones. No other members of the Coalition are known to have carried out air strikes in Raqqa. At the same time, US Marines launched tens of thousands artillery shells into and around Raqqa…

While Coalition forces operated mostly from positions several kilometres outside the city, a small number of special operation forces from Coalition member states – notably the US, UK and France – operated alongside the SDF close to front line position in/around the city, reportedly mostly in an advisory rather than combat role.

The SDF were partly responsible for locating targets for Coalition air and artillery strikes. It is not clear what percentage of the Coalition air and artillery strikes were carried out based on co-ordinates provided by the SDF – as opposed to strikes on targets identified by Coalition forces themselves through air surveillance or other means – and the extent to which Coalition forces verified targets identified by the SDF prior to launching strikes on those targets.7

Although Kurdish militia were reportedly too lightly-armed to be physically accountable for the destruction of Raqqa, their target identification function was clearly significant.

It has long been routine for the military’s propaganda machine to dismiss concerns about civilian casualties inside war zones, and the carnage wreaked on Raqqa was no exception. Furthermore, the military’s word is always accepted at face value.

[A]t the height of conflict in Raqqa, Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend wrote that ‘… there has never been a more precise air campaign in the history of armed conflict’.8

But the alleged accuracy of the ordnance used by the military is not the point. The point is that no matter how smart the smart bombs are, they’re still killing civilians – and that’s a war crime. An estimated 4,000 bombs were dropped on the defenceless civilians of Raqqa by “coalition” warplanes. Given that many of those are only accurate, on a good day, to within ten metres of their target, it’s very clear to see that these alone must have accounted for considerable civilian casualties. But they may not have been the main problem.

Sergeant Major John Wayne Troxell (senior enlisted adviser to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), suggests that the Coalition operation was far from precise: ‘In five months they fired 35,000 artillery rounds on ISIS targets… They fired more rounds in five months in Raqqa, Syria, than any other Marine artillery battalion, or any Marine or Army battalion, since the Vietnam War.’8

But legitimate ISIS targets must have been almost negligible, as IS had immersed themselves amongst the civilian population. Given also that most artillery shells are considerably less accurate than guided missiles, and can only be expected to strike within a hundred metres of their targets, and given that tens of thousands of these things rained down on the trapped and defenceless civilians of Raqqa, the claims by the military’s propagandists that they tried everything possible to minimise civilian casualties are obviously ludicrous.

There has never been a more precise air campaign in the history of armed conflict [than in Raqqa]
— Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend

The ruins of the destroyed house where 28 members of the Badran family and five neighbours were killed in a Coalition strike on 20 August 2017 in Raqqa (AI Photo)

Isis withdraws, undefeated, from Raqqa

Sometime in October some sort of deal was suddenly worked out which allowed Isis to simply pack up and leave Raqqa, in a convoy of trucks, together with most of their weaponry. According to a BBC report, the deal:

enabled many hundreds of IS fighters to escape from the city. At the time, neither the US and British-led coalition, nor the SDF, which it backs, wanted to admit their part.  Has the pact, which stood as Raqqa’s dirty secret, unleashed a threat to the outside world – one that has enabled militants to spread far and wide across Syria and beyond?

Great pains were taken to hide it from the world. But the BBC has spoken to dozens of people who were either on the convoy, or observed it, and to the men who negotiated the deal…

[T]he convoy was six to seven kilometres long. It included almost 50 trucks, 13 buses and more than 100 of the Islamic State group’s own vehicles. IS fighters, their faces covered, sat defiantly on top of some of the vehicles…

Freed from Raqqa, where they were surrounded, some of the [IS] group’s most-wanted members have now spread far and wide across Syria and beyond.

War crimes

The US-led “coalition” undoubtedly committed a vast number of war crimes in the “liberation” of Raqqa, and the considerably-referenced AI report summarises the particular breaches of law applicable:

(a) The Principle of Distinction

This requires parties to conflict to at all times, ‘distinguish between civilians and combatants’ and to ensure that ‘attacks may only be directed against combatants’ and ‘must not be directed against civilians’. Parties to conflict must also distinguish between ‘civilian objects’ and ‘military objectives’. Anyone who is not a member of the armed forces of a party to the conflict is a civilian, and the civilian population comprises all persons who are not combatants. Civilians are protected against attack unless and for such time as they take a direct part in hostilities. In cases of doubt, individuals should be presumed to be civilians and immune from direct attack. Making the civilian population, or individual civilians not taking a direct part in hostilities, the object of attack (direct attacks on civilians) is a war crime (My emphasis).9

It isn’t clear how hard the “coalition” tried to distinguish combatants from non-combatants, but in the four detailed case studies that Amnesty supplied – which were the tragic stories of just four families from a city of tens of thousands – it would appear they didn’t try very hard at all. One such piece of evidence was supplied by “Ammar”, who

told Amnesty International that on ‘the second or third day of Eid” [26-27 June 2017] an air strike killed 20-25 people, mainly civilians but some IS too, at a communal water point, around the corner from Abu Saif’s house.’10

So, clearly essential water supplies were either deliberately targeted by the “coalition”, or some “legitimate” target was so near that the likely presence of defenceless civilians was simply ignored.

(b)  Proportionality

The principle of proportionality, another fundamental tenet of IHL, also prohibits disproportionate attacks, which are those “which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated”. Intentionally launching a disproportionate attack (that is, knowing that the attack will cause excessive incidental civilian loss, injury or damage) constitutes a war crime. The Commentary on the Additional Protocols makes clear that the fact that the proportionality calculus requires an anticipated “concrete and direct” military advantage indicates that such advantage must be “substantial and relatively close, and that advantages which are hardly perceptible and those which would only appear in the long term should be disregarded (my emphasis).11

Whilst it is undeniable that the head-chopping organ-eating occupiers of Raqqa were about as vile a group of psychopaths as it’s possible to get, and that their removal from Raqqa would no doubt be extremely difficult to accomplish, it’s deeply questionable that the total destruction of a civilian-occupied city could be considered proportional to the reign of terror it was supposed to terminate. The fact that IS were eventually cleared out of Raqqa, very much alive and well, shows that they were not committed kamikaze warriors and suggests that alternative methods for bringing to an end their repulsive occupation may have been possible.

(c) Precautions

In order for parties to an armed conflict to respect the principles of distinction and proportionality they must take precautions in attack. “Constant care must be taken to spare the civilian population, civilians and civilian objects”; “all feasible precautions” must be taken to avoid and minimise incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects. The parties must choose means and methods of warfare with a view to avoiding or at least minimising to the maximum extent possible incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects. As well as verifying the military nature of targets and assessing the proportionality of attacks, the parties must also take all feasible steps to call off attacks which appear wrongly directed or disproportionate. Parties must give effective advance warning of attacks which may affect the civilian population, unless circumstances do not permit. When a choice is possible between several military objectives for obtaining a similar military advantage, the parties must select the target the attack on which would be expected to pose the least danger to civilians and to civilian objects.

The limited information available on the precautions in attack taken by the Coalition suggests that they were not adequate or effective. The cases examined in detail indicate that there were serious shortcomings in verification that targets selected for attack were in fact military, with disastrous results for civilian life. Further, several attacks examined by Amnesty International suggest that the Coalition did not, at least in those instances, select weapons that would minimise harm to civilians. Also, the warnings that were given to civilians were not effective. They did not take into account the reality that civilians were blocked from leaving Raqqa, and did not include specific information (such as warning civilians to stay away from tall buildings).11

Amnesty claim that up to the point of publication of their report repeated approaches to “the coalition” for specific details regarding their attacks on Raqqa were either inadequately answered or had not been answered at all. Therefore questions relating to whether sufficient precautions were taken remain unanswered, and could imply breaches of international law.

(d) Joint and individual responsibility of coalition members

One of the attractions to “coalition” actions is the difficulty in attributing specific responsibility for possible crimes after the event, and Amnesty states:

It is concerned that this lack of clarity may enable individual Coalition members to evade responsibility for their actions. The UK Government, for example, maintained until May 2018 that it had not killed a single civilian in Syria or Iraq, despite carrying out thousands of air strikes across the two countries. On 2 May 2018 it admitted for the first time that one of its drone strikes had caused one civilian casualty in Syria in March 2018.11

However, there is very limited wriggle-room in attempting to evade responsibility by trying to divert attention to others. International Humanitarian Law (IHL):

Requires all states to ‘respect and ensure respect’ for its provisions under Common Article 1 of the Geneva Conventions. This includes both positive and negative obligations on states providing assistance to another state which is then used to commit a violation of international humanitarian law. The negative obligation is not to encourage, aid or assist in violations of IHL by parties to a conflict. The positive obligation includes the prevention of violations where there is a foreseeable risk they will be committed and prevention of further violations where they have already occurred.

The USA, UK, France, and other states involved in military operations as part of Operation Inherent Resolve therefore may be legally responsible for unlawful acts carried out by Coalition members.12

(e) Duty to investigate, prosecute and provide reparation

States have an obligation to investigate allegations of war crimes by their forces or nationals, or committed on their territory and, if there is sufficient admissible evidence, prosecute the suspects. They must also investigate other war crimes over which they have jurisdiction, including through universal jurisdiction, and, if appropriate, prosecute the suspects.12

A young man holding a child staring at the ruins of bombed buildings in Raqqa (AI Photo)

Life-giving light – and those who would snuff it out

The Amnesty International report provides compelling evidence that, at the very least, there are legitimate questions to be answered regarding the attacks on Raqqa by the USA, Britain and France. And it must never be forgotten that the whole IS phenomenon is mostly a creation of the west, that without the deeply cynical plotting of the US, British and possibly French deep states, IS would likely never have come into existence. The words of French foreign minister Roland Dumas should be recalled:

I’m going to tell you something,” Dumas said on French station LCP. “I was in England two years before the violence in Syria on other business [in 2009]. I met with top British officials, who confessed to me that they were preparing something in Syria. This was in Britain not in America. Britain was organizing an invasion of rebels into Syria. They even asked me, although I was no longer minister for foreign affairs, if I would like to participate. Naturally, I refused, I said I’m French, that doesn’t interest me.

So Dumas may have said – but the French were involved in the destruction of Raqqa.

Raqqa’s residents surveying the destruction in the city centre (AI Photo)

If similar probable war crimes had been carried out in some other country by Russia, say, or China, or Iran, or any other nation to which the west is routinely hostile, almost certainly outraged voices would be heard caterwauling in Westminster and Washington. Front pages of newspapers, together with TV and radio news programmes would be howling that “something must be done”. Yet in Westminster and Washington the silence is deafening. Not a single word of protest appears on the front pages of our newspapers, and our TV and radio stations appear to be looking the other way. Why? Because our “heroes” are personally involved, and personally responsible for the terror, and that is the terrible truth that cannot be admitted.

The cold hard fact is that far from being heroic, many people in the military are de facto war criminals. From at least as far back as the second world war, when defenceless civilians were bombed to death and incinerated in their homes in the pointless bombing of Hamburg, Dresden and Tokyo, for example, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, through the slaughter of countless defenceless civilians in later wars, in Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos to the more recent civilian killing fields of Iraq, Libya and now Syria, our so-called heroes have just as much innocents’ blood on their hands as any Nazi war criminal ever had.

With very few exceptions, the military seldom do anything heroic. The very last thing that senior officers want, the generals, admirals, air marshals and so on, is a peaceful world – for the very obvious reason that they would all be out of work, vastly overpaid work requiring very little real and useful effort, work that not only pays these people far more than they’re worth, but also, which is far worse, gives them far too much power in our societies. Consider, for example, the words of an unnamed general in a recent Observer interview that if Jeremy Corbyn – a lifelong pacifist – was to win a general election:

There would be a mutiny in the armed forces… unless he learnt to love NATO and the nuclear bomb.13

The cold hard fact is that these people, those who run our so-called “defence” forces are out of control. They are more interested in protecting their own careers than doing what they’re supposed to be doing, and which so many people mistakenly believe they are doing – protecting us. We are not made safer by the ruthless and illegal destruction of civilian cities such as Raqqa. The people that carry out these war crimes should be brought to account and charged like the common war criminals they really are, which is pretty much the same conclusion reached by Amnesty International:

Where there is admissible evidence that individual members of Coalition forces are responsible for war crimes, ensure they are prosecuted in a fair trial without recourse to the death penalty.14

We need complete, truthful information. And the truth should not depend on whom it is to serve.
— V.I. Ulyanov, (Let History Judge, Roy Medvedev, Preface.))

Self-criticism – ruthless, harsh self-criticism, which gets down to the root of things – that is the life-giving light and air of the proletarian movement.
— Rosa Luxemburg15

Sometimes I think we biologists may find ourselves coming into politics from our own angle. If things go on as they are going – We may have to treat the whole world as a mental hospital. The entire species is going mad; for what is madness but a complete want of mental adaptation to one’s circumstances? Sooner or later, young man, your generation will have to face up to that.…

I have an idea, Father, a half-formed idea,that before we can go on to a sane new order, there has to be a far more extensive clearing up of old institutions… The world needs some sort of scavenging, a burning up of the old infected clothes, before it can get on to a new phase. At present it is enormously encumbered… This is just a shadowy idea in my mind… Something like breaking down condemned, old houses. We can’t begin to get things in order until there has been this scavenging.

— HG Wells, The Holy Terror, Simon and Schuster, 1939.

  1. Let History Judge: The Origins and Consequences of Stalinism, Roy Medvedev, p. 566.
  2. Let History Judge: The Origins and Consequences of Stalinism, Roy Medvedev, Preface.
  3. Medvedev, p. 363.
  4. Amnesty International Report, p. 9.
  5. AI Report, p. 5.
  6. AI Report, p. 48.
  7. AI Report, p. 49.
  8. AI Report, p. 53.
  9. AI Report, p. 62.
  10. AI Report, p. 44.
  11. AI Report, p. 63.
  12. AI Report, p. 64.
  13. How the Establishment lost control, Chris Nineham, p. 93.
  14. AI Report, p. 67.
  15. Let History Judge, Roy Medvedev, Preface

Vassals and Victims

Nothing better illustrates the disaster of Britain leaving the EU than Donald Trump. Once we’re no longer able to enjoy the huge benefits of the European single market we will be compelled to try to arrange favourable independent trade deals with other countries, the largest of which will almost certainly be the USA. Having to rely on the US for our primary trading partner is the truly nightmare scenario of Brexit, and one example of why this is so was provided last week.

It was reported that the US will “use trade talks to force the NHS to pay more for drugs“. No matter that many medicines are already vastly overpriced, it’s still not enough for the giant drug companies who net billions of dollars profiteering from desperately sick people. They want to make even more because their greed knows no limit, and Mr Trump will “not be cheated by foreign countries” (1).

The US has a long and inglorious history of reneging on its promises and treaties. Ask Native Americans. More recently we’ve seen the US turn its back on its own Transpacific Partnership agreement, pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement, and effectively scrap the Iran Nuclear Deal, ignoring the fury of European counter-signatories. The US government has, of course, always totally ignored international law, as well as its own laws and federal constitution, whenever it felt like it. Henry Kissinger once infamously quipped, “The illegal we do immediately, the unconstitutional takes a little longer.”  It imposes vicious trade sanctions whenever it wants (more often than any other country), and last year this champion of free trade slapped a 200% trade tariff on Bombardier. This is the country we’ll be relying on after Brexit.

Of course, it’s easy, and true, to say that Donald Trump will not last forever, but Trump isn’t the main problem. The main problem is the whole US system of government, which appears to see the US as the only country in the world of any importance. The president is a distraction, designed to suggest that better days will come once the current one moves on. But the better days never come. Presidents come and go but the empire gets ever stronger, and more catastrophically dystopian.

Most of the people who voted for Brexit don’t understand this global reality. Most Brexit supporters have a worldview shaped almost entirely by deceitful tabloids and Hollywood propaganda movies. They think America is our friend. It isn’t. It has no friends, it only has vassals and victims, and neither of those is a very pleasant prospect for post-Brexit Britain.

Our Two Biggest Headaches

We normal people have two incredibly difficult and very serious problems to overcome. One is a basically mendacious and corrupt system of government, which routinely lies to us when, for example, it tells us it has no money for our essential services such as a well-funded NHS or free universities (like we used to have here in the UK), but has no trouble at all finding money to fund illegal wars and foreign terrorist groups, or finding hundreds of millions to bail out bankrupt zombie banks. Or when it slanders Russia or attacks Syria, for example, without any verifiable evidence or legitimate reason for doing so. A growing number of people are slowly beginning to understand this problem.

The second major problem we have is much less well-understood, but closely related to the first. It’s the fact that the main sources we use for the information that forms our opinions are not only not fit for purpose, they’re often downright deceitful and untrustworthy. These sources, comprising most national newspapers, radio, and TV stations, are totally unreliable because even when they do occasionally produce a good piece of work we just don’t know how much of it we can trust or believe. The evidence for this is vast. All that’s needed is simply to think carefully about almost any “news” item they produce.

Take one easy example: the front page of the 5th May edition of The Times newspaper, reckoned by many to be wholly trustworthy, stated “MPs call for inquest as Corbyn fails election test”. So at first glance it not only appears that the Labour Party suffered a humiliating defeat in the recent local elections, but also that this defeat is so important it deserves to be the leading story on the front page of this august truth-teller. Yet a quick glance on page 6 of the same paper shows that last week’s elections increased the number of Labour councillors by 59 — more than any other party. The Tories lost 31 councillors, but somehow it’s Labour that failed the “election test”.

This blatant misinformation-spreading is not unusual. It can be found dozens of times on any day of the week via our national newspapers or radio and TV stations. Over the years it has misled people into producing the disastrous Brexit result (following decades of xenophobic ranting by the country’s two most widely-read newspapers), supporting illegal foreign wars, and meek acceptance of the ruinous austerity policies of forty years of capitalist rule. Our system of government is in terrible shape, but it’s the complicit mainstream media that keep it propped up.

Copy of Letter to Dr Caroline Johnson, MP

Dear Mrs. Johnson,

This is an open letter that has been copied to the Grantham Journal and the website Dissident Voice.

According to news reports today, the United States is poised to launch missile strikes against Syria. Unless this is supported by a resolution from the United Nations Security Council such an action would be illegal in international law – a war crime in other words. As you are the Member of Parliament who is supposed to represent me I would like you to know that I strongly object to any British support for any illegal action, especially if initiated by the United States. Given that Britain has a bleak history of involvement in America’s illegal wars, there is very real concern that HMG may feel inclined to do so yet again, and I cannot strongly enough stress my opposition to any such move.

The events that took place in Salisbury a couple of weeks ago are deeply suspicious. Allegedly two Russians were attacked with an illegal chemical agent. With truly breathtaking haste, given the fact that there was no evidence to support it, the British government blamed the Russian government. The fact there was no such evidence was verified by the absence of any claim to that effect by the police, who attended the scene, as well as a statement issued from Porton Down, who examined the forensics and clearly said there was no proof of Russian involvement. The only other possibility that might have supported the British allegation is that evidence was supplied by “secret sources”. But if that was the case, and given the very rapid accusation by the British government following the alleged attack, one of two assumptions then follow: either the secret services are incompetent (or they should have prevented the attack), or the secret services were somehow involved in it.

Not only has there not yet been any verifiable evidence of Russian involvement in the Salisbury incident, arguably more to the point there is no rational reason as to why Russia would do so – especially given the fact that it is due to host the World Cup imminently, and is even less likely than usual to risk its international reputation for no obvious benefit.

And then a couple of days ago we hear of yet another alleged chemical attack in Syria for which, unsurprisingly, the Russian government is again supposedly implicated. Once more there is absolutely no hard evidence to that effect. Once more there is no good reason why either the Syrian government or the Russian government would use illegal chemical weapons when there is absolutely no conceivable reason to do so. Yet we’re told that Syria must expect missile strikes in retaliation.

In contrast, when dozens of defenceless Palestinians are murdered by the Israeli army, and hundreds more injured – which also happened recently – we hear not a single word of condemnation from the government – let alone talk of missile strikes. The hypocrisy is shameful.

The horrendous misery that’s been inflicted upon Syria over the last several years is widely known to have been sponsored and supported by major western governments using their Middle Eastern proxies. It was Russia that eventually became involved and helped the Syrian government overcome the terrorists. Given the fact that Russian aid was requested by the lawful Syrian government – unlike the involvement by western countries there – Russian forces had every right to be in Syria, then and now. Western armed forces do not currently have any such right to involve themselves there.

Therefore I trust that you will not support the government in any action that breaches international law.

Yours sincerely.

What’s in a word?

Jeremy Corbyn is currently enduring yet another well-organised smear campaign based on his alleged support for “anti-Semitism”. Although the allegation is too ridiculous for words, the smear campaign is nevertheless enjoying some success for two main reasons, each of which is pretty serious – yet neither one has any rational foundation that’s capable of withstanding even basic critical examination.

  1. What’s in a word?

The first, and arguably most relevant reason, is the widespread misunderstanding of the expression “anti-Semitism”. Consider the most significant part of the expression – Semitism. This obviously derives from the word “Semite”. The 1993 edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary defined “Semite” as follows:

A member of any of the peoples supposedly descended from Shem, son of Noah (Gen 10:21-31) including esp. the Jews, Arabs, Assyrians, Babylonians, and Phoenicians.

So just twenty five years ago the expression anti-Semitism could have referred to the showing of prejudice against tens of millions of people stretching from North Africa to Iraq. Then something quite peculiar happened. According to Stephen Sedley, writing for the London Review of Books:

In May 2016 the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, an intergovernmental body, adopted a ‘non-legally-binding working definition of anti-Semitism’: ‘Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred towards Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed towards Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, towards Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.

This definition, which has apparently being officially adopted by both the British government and Britain’s Labour Party, simply airbrushes out all of the other people originally included in the earlier rational definition of the word – and notably Arabs. It would appear that the new wording originated at the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), which also provides numerous examples how to interpret the definition. One such example reads:

Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g. by claiming that the existence of a state of Israel is a racist endeavour.

Now it isn’t very difficult to spot the lack of intellectual quality in this. The concept of a country owned and controlled by the Jewish people, and only the Jewish people, is the basis of Zionism. Many people have become so conditioned to fear Zionist propaganda that they become blinded to the many obvious flaws in the rationale of the Zionists. They appear to think that questioning Zionism is tantamount to supporting holocaust denial, when the two things are obviously completely different. No matter the obvious contradictions between the fundamental concept of Zionism, and a concept of basic human rights where no one group is exceptional, and which most civilised countries try to live up to.

But the example provided by the IHRA goes to the heart of the current problem: we have travelled from a definition of anti-Semitism that originally included hundreds of millions of people originating in North Africa and the Middle East, of which the Jewish people were not exceptional, to one which totally excludes everyone who is not Jewish, and demands acceptance of a notion that Israel is not a racist endeavour – despite seventy years of history, and counting, that provides voluminous evidence to the contrary. Zionism is clearly a racist endeavour, and seventy years, and counting, of Palestinian suffering is undeniable, ongoing, blood-soaked proof of that fact.

Given that Jeremy Corbyn has spent much of his political life as a dedicated supporter of the rights of the Palestinian people – a Semitic people – it’s really quite ridiculous to suggest he supports anti-Semitism.

It would seem that much of the smear campaign that’s being carried out at the moment is a carefully orchestrated attack on someone who has long championed the terrible injustices perpetrated against Palestinians for the last seventy years, and counting. A key part of this smear campaign is the gradual corruption of the expression “anti-Semitism”, from its original interpretation to one where it’s now supposed to include anyone who questions the concept of Zionism – a very different meaning altogether.

Whilst it’s very easy to accuse non-Jews, such as Jeremy Corbyn, say, or Ken Livingstone, of anti-Semitism because of their support for Palestinians and opposition to Zionism, it’s a lot more difficult when Jewish people themselves say basically the same thing, as frequently happens.

Hasidim, the ultra-orthodox Jewish group, has long opposed the state of Israel, and Zionism, the ideological principle behind it. In a recent article by the BBC, a photograph shows a large demonstration by Hasidic Jews, many of whom are holding up placards which read “Judaism rejects Zionism, and the state of Israel”. This is not as strange as it may seem: Judaism has been around for about five thousand years, Zionism for a mere hundred and twenty years or so, but accusing Hasidim of anti-Semitism, which is implied by the IHRA’s words, would be beyond satire.

Nor is Zionism opposed only by ultra-orthodox Jews. The London-based Jewish Socialists’ Group, for example, wrote the following:

Antisemitism and anti-Zionism are not the same. Zionism is a political ideology which has always been contested within Jewish life since it emerged in 1897, and it is entirely legitimate for non-Jews as well as Jews to express opinions about it, whether positive or negative. Not all Jews are Zionists. Not all Zionists are Jews. [My emphasis]

Criticism of Israeli government policy and Israeli state actions against the Palestinians is not antisemitism. Those who conflate criticism of Israeli policy with antisemitism, whether they are supporters or opponents of Israeli policy, are actually helping the antisemites. We reject any attempt, from whichever quarter, to place legitimate criticism of Israeli policy out of bounds.

Opposition to, or prejudice and discrimination against people just because they’re Jewish is totally inexcusable. Opposition to Zionism, however, is not only a completely different thing, it’s absolutely right. Zionism is the modern equivalent of apartheid (both of which, curiously, started flexing their muscles at about the same time). It practices exceptionalism, proclaiming one group of people superior to all others, justifying a vile and ruthless discrimination which, in the case of the Zionists, has murdered tens of thousands of defenceless people and cruelly oppressed millions of others. Therefore it’s fairly clear to see that anyone who does not strongly and actively oppose Zionism must obviously be supporting instead a regime whose institutionalised heartless cruelty has no other equivalent in the modern world.

  1. On a wing and a prayer

The second reason for the relative success of the smear campaign against Jeremy Corbyn which, when critically examined, quickly crumbles to dust is the very ideological premise for Zionism: that Jewish people have some sort of exceptional claim to the land around Jerusalem – because their god said so.

The hard unchallengeable facts about this claim are:

  1. The Old Testament, which contains the scriptures which supposedly validate the Zionist claim, was written by human beings – mostly Jewish human beings – not god.
  2. There is no verifiable empirical evidence that god exists.

At least two thirds of the human population are brainwashed into believing some kind of religion, and the existence of some sort of supernatural being, or beings, whose wisdom in all things is both beyond question and reproach. Coupled to this, and an integral part of the brainwashing, is the “carrot and stick principle”: if we wholeheartedly accept the religion we will live happily ever after in some sort of “heaven”; if we do not accept it we will live forever in some sort of “hell”. So even though many people do not regularly practice the religions in which they’re indoctrinated, the conditioning is still there inside them, which is why they invariably observe religious services for the events that matter to them: births, deaths and marriages.

So religion is a powerful controlling device for most people – no matter that the core principle of most religions – belief in some sort of supernatural being – cannot be proven. Therefore when Zionists say there are biblical scriptures to verify their claim to land around Jerusalem, scriptures purporting to be the very word of god, many people balk at the prospect of disputing the claim, vaguely recalling distant thoughts of eternal hellfire.

But the existence of this god cannot be proven, and the quoted scriptures were written by ordinary human beings with vested interests in the claims they made.

Some would no doubt argue that even though the religious basis of Zionism is flimsy, to say the least, that people are still entitled to believe whatever they want to believe, and that real libertarians should respect that. True, up to a point. People should indeed believe whatever they like, but there’s a very important caveat: that the practice of that belief should not be at the cost of the rights of others to practice their beliefs too; and the practice of that belief should very definitely not cause harm to others. When some new cult emerges claiming the necessity for human sacrifices, as happens from time to time, we don’t meekly nod in agreement and say, well, that’s O.K. if that’s what your religion says, we quite rightly throw the murderers into prison for substantial periods of time. But that’s not what’s happened with the Zionist cult. The Zionists have used their religion to not only justify stealing vast lands away from Palestinians who owned it for centuries, but also to justify the murdering of tens of thousands of Palestinians too, and ruining the lives of millions of others.

Therefore it’s very easy to see that the ideological claim of the Zionists has no substance.

It’s a shame the Labour Party hasn’t got the courage to strongly support its leader against the latest smear campaign. The spectacle of MPs from Jeremy Corbyn’s own party attacking him in support of the smearing against him is sickening beyond belief. Labour should stand up for justice for Palestine, not crumple up like a wet paper bag. Discrimination against Jewish people is utterly reprehensible and inexcusable, but Zionism is the modern equivalent of apartheid. As the Jewish Socialists say, “Antisemitism and anti-Zionism are not the same. Zionism is a political ideology“. Fighting it is totally justifiable, and right. Labour MPs who support the Zionists, against their own leader, are obviously also supporting one of the greatest human rights violations of modern times. There are no words adequate to the job of properly describing these people.

Open Letter to Mr Alexander Yakovenko, Russian Ambassador to the UK

Dear Mr Yakovenko,

I would just like to express my sincere dismay at the way my government reacted to the alleged recent poisoning of two people in Salisbury.

I recall very well the events that occurred fifteen years ago, when the British parliament was lied to about alleged weapons of mass destruction, supposedly held by Iraq, and which supposedly could strike at Britain within forty minutes. These allegations went almost completely unchallenged by the mainstream media, and our country was subsequently tricked into supporting an illegal war in Iraq. Although many people never believed the propaganda – as evidenced by the million or so protesters who marched through the streets of London at the time resisting the drive to war – the lie prevailed.

At this moment in time we have seen no verifiable evidence for the events that allegedly took place in Salisbury a couple of weeks ago. Until that evidence is forthcoming, and remembering well the deceit my own government has used in the past for its own very questionable ends, I refuse to believe that Russia had anything to do with it, and want to assure you that in this, as in many other areas of government policy, my government does not speak for me.

Neither am I impressed by the unbelievable actions of so many other countries in their expulsion of Russian diplomats from their embassies. Given the fact that there appears to be no verifiable evidence for the Salisbury incident, these actions by other countries defy logic, and strongly suggest some dark conspiracy that’s unfolding. The total abdication of responsibility of the mainstream media in their supposedly first duty of “holding government to account”, by refusing to question and challenge their actions, is yet further proof of the media’s culpability in these events – just as they were similarly culpable for the Iraq debacle of 2003.

I find the behaviour of my government in this matter completely inexcusable, and the public statements of certain of its representatives highly offensive and shameful. At this moment in time, none of them speak for me, and I do not trust a single word our mainstream media has to say on the matter.

Yours sincerely,

John Andrews
March 31, 2018

Dodgy Dossier Two

Never forget the Dodgy Dossier. That was the supposed evidence claiming in 2003 that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction that could be used against Britain within forty minutes. The Dodgy Dossier was presented in Britain’s House of Parliament as the truth – and was unchallenged by the mainstream media. It was included in the case for war presented to the UN by the United States, and became the given reason for Britain then joining forces with the US in the illegal war that followed, a war which, in addition to costing almost two hundred British lives, killed tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis and ruined the lives of millions more. The Dodgy Dossier turned out to be pure bunkum.

Fifteen years later a brand new dodgy dossier appears to be in the making, which once again is being unchallenged by the mainstream media. We are now supposed to believe that the Russian government is behind an alleged chemical attack on an ex-spy. Once again, the hard evidence for the allegation is nowhere to be seen. All that passes for evidence are stories about a chemical that was supposedly invented in Russia forty years ago (but almost certainly could easily be reproduced a few miles away from Salisbury at Porton Down – or by the CIA), and Oscar-winning performances of righteous rage in parliament by British politicians – not unlike the pantomime we saw in the same theatre a mere fifteen years ago.

Another possibility for the sourcing of Russian chemical weapons might be Syria. When Isis (who were actively assisted by western special forces) were enjoying their early successes in that tortured country, they overran some Syrian military bases which could have been storing chemical weapons. Russia has supplied Syria with military equipment in the past, and could have perhaps supplied chemical weapons too. All this happened before Assad destroyed his remaining stockpiles, and may have accounted for why he did so. So Isis could have obtained these chemicals at that time, and they could then have found their way into the hands of the west to be used in exactly the kind of scenario we’re seeing played out now in Salisbury.

Shortly after the Salisbury incident, Britain announced it was going to impose trade sanctions on Russia. I bet that had the Kremlin shaking in their boots. Imagine, a country that has almost no natural resources and is incapable of manufacturing anything that Russia can’t make for itself is going to stop trading with the country who supplies it with much of its natural gas. That’s sensible, isn’t it? About the only service that Britain provides in exchange for essential energy supplies is offshore banking – and even that is a service that’s probably used more by Russian gangsters than by the state. Russia is a country that grew up with trade sanctions and for most of the last hundred years has had to go it alone. If there’s anywhere on earth that’s pretty impervious to trade sanctions, it’s Russia.

It’s difficult to say for sure why the west has decided in recent years to renew the cold war with Russia. After all, given that Russia is no longer a communist country, that excuse no longer exists, so what other existential threat does Russia present? A likely explanation is that Russia has started to kick back against western assaults in Russian spheres of interest. The first major incident was over Ukraine, once part of the USSR, and a country where the US openly admitted spending $5 billion in a coup to overthrow the lawful Russian-friendly government. Russia openly supports Eastern Ukraine, who wanted no part of the coup, and especially Crimea where a referendum overwhelmingly backed a desire to formally merge with Russia – all of which resulted in something of a defeat for the western warmongers.

But possibly the most unacceptable intervention was Russia’s support for the Syrian government which, as a consequence of yet another terrible western-sponsored war, was on the brink of defeat. But when Russia was asked by the lawful Syrian government to help out, the made-in-the-west attempted coup was soon crushed, once again defeating the western warmongers.

Unlike the western warmongers, however, Russia has done nothing wrong, and has only supported the people who wanted and asked for its support and invited their military interventions. But that fact will not carry any weight in London or Washington – quite the reverse. It will be seen as a humiliating defeat, and recognition that Russia’s credibility as a force to be reckoned with once again will not pass unnoticed around the world. It’s just like what happens when someone stands up to a common gangster: if the gangster doesn’t strike back hard when he thinks his authority is being undermined he knows he’s going to be seen as weak.

Watching Britain’s Foreign Minister Boris Johnson in action over the last couple of weeks has been physically painful. This is someone who was almost unknown until he started appearing a few years ago on a popular news quiz on TV, in his capacity as a journalist. He was popular on the show because he appeared to be a likeable buffoon, someone else who had been educated in one of Britain’s most elite schools and yet who appeared to be as thick as two short planks. No one could take him seriously, yet somehow he has now obtained for himself one of the most important and powerful political positions in the country. Whether he’s insulting Europe, China or Russia with his “laddish humour” or his even more worrying attempts at being serious, watching Johnson at work these days is a bit like watching a bumbling clown playing around with matches at a petrol station – whilst you’re trying to top up your car with fuel.

As well as Johnson’s evidence-less ranting and personal attacks on Vladimir Putin, he then affects incredulous anger that Russia is stockpiling deadly nerve agents. Given that Britain’s own Porton Down laboratories, just walking distance away from the Salisbury incident, has been a world leader in this field for many decades, Johnson’s remark is simply breathtaking in its sheer brazen hypocrisy.

One of the cornerstones of Britain’s ludicrous “unwritten constitution” is the concept of a “free press” – the notion that our news providers should not be censored. The real purpose of this is supposed to be that those news providers will then fearlessly challenge our great trusted leaders and hold them to account whenever necessary. This almost never happens, as the outrageous and illegal Iraq War of 2003 proved. Then, the great trusted leaders never once had their feet held to the fire by the media; and afterwards, when some of the war crimes were revealed, there were no demands by the media for accountability – for heads to roll – possibly because the media were as complicit as the politicians. In short, our main news providers cannot be trusted, and the theoretically invaluable concept of a free press is nothing but a cynical joke.

It could be that Russia is indeed behind the events in Salisbury, even though everything about that possibility defies logic. Why would Russia kill-off an old and washed-up ex-spy in Britain by using an illegal weapon saying “made in Russia” all over it, an ex-spy who they had plenty of time and opportunity to dispatch if they wanted to whilst he was in Russia? Knowing full well the furore such an attack on British soil would provoke, how does that benefit Russia?

The anti-Russia hysteria that’s currently being whipped-up by politicians and the mainstream media is ridiculous, a dangerous bid to renew a cold war that benefited no one except the west’s military-industrial-intelligence complex. Before this situation gets out of hand we need hard evidence that Russia is responsible for the Salisbury attack, and we need reasonably independent UN weapons inspectors to examine it – not the same people who produced the dodgy dossier in 2003, nor the same people who provided dodgy evidence to wrongfully convict the “Birmingham Six” and the “Guildford Four” of terrorism, as well as who knows how many other dodgy political convictions in the past. Hysterical politicians grandstanding in parliament and on TV is not evidence. Never forget the Dodgy Dossier.

The Killing Field

Every time we hear news of yet another mass shooting in the United States we inevitably also hear that it is the right of every American to own a gun, sanctified by the Second Amendment to the US Constitution. But I wonder how many people making that claim have actually read the Second Amendment, because that’s not really what it does.

Fortunately the section is very short and pretty easy to understand. It reads, in its entirety, as follows:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

So it’s pretty obvious that the purpose of this law, which should be far more important than the actual wording, is to provide for the “security of a free state”. In the days when the amendment was written the only way this could be readily achieved was by permitting any citizen to bear arms, and to be ready to join with fellow citizens in defence of the community if it was attacked. Obviously that condition no longer applies. The US is the most powerful armed nation in the world and its existential security is no longer dependent on individual citizens bearing arms.

In other words the infamous Second Amendment, which is routinely quoted every time another appalling mass murder takes place in the US, does NOT give an unconditional right for Americans to own guns. It strongly suggests that the right to own a gun is dependent on the necessity of a citizen being part of a well-regulated state militia which, given the fact that the US has the most tooled-up government on the planet, is itself no longer a necessity. But how many of the perpetrators of previous mass slaughters, or even the more everyday suicides and shootings that happen on average 33,000 times a year are members of well-regulated state militias? Because those are the only people the Second Amendment actually authorises to bear arms.

Then we hear from the huntin’ shootin’ fishin’ brigade, the people who think it’s well hard to murder defenceless animals as some sort of perverted survival instinct. But the truth is that almost no one needs to kill animals in order to survive. Except for tiny isolated communities living in remote parts of the planet in the way their ancestors have always done, no one needs to kill animals to stay alive. Apart from the fact that the vast majority of human beings obtain their food from shops – much of which is slaughtered animal flesh of one kind or another – there’s also the obvious fact that we don’t actually need to eat animals at all, as millions of healthy vegans can easily prove.

Sometimes we also hear from gun clubs, about the harmless pleasures of shooting at bits of paper. Well, here’s a news bulletin: you don’t need high-powered rifles or handguns to put a hole through a bit of paper. You can do the job very successfully with an air-rifle, or by using an archery bow.

No, the real reason thousands of innocent Americans are destined to be gunned down every year has nothing to do with constitutional rights, or defending the need of a tiny handful of deluded people to murder defenceless animals, or standing up for people who like to put holes in bits of paper. The real reason is pretty much the same reason that’s behind every other factor that makes the United States the most dysfunctional nation on the planet: protecting the sacred right of giant corporations to make maximum profits.

It really is way beyond time for Americans to get a proper grip of their sick government. How many more Americans must get shot by their own people before someone says “enough”? 50,000 a year? 100,000? 1,000,000?

It’s not like it’s hard. All that needs to happen is to make it illegal to own or sell a high-powered rifle or handgun. No one needs these things. If guns didn’t exist, say, and someone just invented them, what chance would there be of being allowed to start selling them? None. Zero. Zip. So get a grip. Outlaw these things. Outlaw the people who make and sell them, and outlaw the people who make and sell the ammunition for them – because a gun without ammunition is only so much scrap metal.

And let’s please stop hearing about this “constitutional right” to bear arms. The Second Amendment does not give that right unconditionally. Its obvious purpose is to authorise armed militias to provide security. But having the most tooled-up government on the planet, supposedly providing security, armed militias are obviously irrelevant today. This needless perpetual slaughter must stop. Come on, America. Get a grip of yourself!

Atlas Shivered

A recent article by Matthew Moore appeared in The Times titled “Trump’s philosopher is heading for your local”. The piece not only suggests that Donald Trump is capable of reading a book, which seems unlikely enough, but that he’s also capable of reading a philosophical book. Quite frankly, that would be stretching credulity a little too far.

The so-called philosopher in question is Ayn Rand, a White Russian émigré to the US who died almost forty years ago. Her two best-known books are “The Fountainhead”, and “Atlas Shrugged”, both novels, rather than philosophical tomes. I read them when Rand was still alive. I’m now ashamed to admit that I thought they were pretty good at the time, but then I was young, and living a privileged five percenter existence at the time in a racist, semi-fascist country, and didn’t know any better. Today the suggestion that Rand’s writing is enjoying growing popularity is truly scary.

Rand’s so-called philosophy is easy to summarise: “selfishness to the point of total exclusion of anyone or anything else is the highest form of morality”. If Donald Trump ever actually read Ayn Rand, rather than have some flunky tell him about her, I can see why he might find her appealing. She does pretty much sum up the principle behind the fabled “American Dream”. There’s nothing commendable about Ayn Rand’s work, and I know from personal experience it can cause seriously conflicted emotions in young people.

In 1980 I worked on a kibbutz in Occupied Palestine for a few weeks. One of the kibbutzniks I remember was a young chap who had grown up on the kibbutz. I’ll call him David. He had recently discovered Rand, and was totally confused by the message in her writing. David liked talking to me because I was one of the few people who had also read her, and could understand the conflictions he was suffering. Here he was, raised from birth in a totally communist environment, where everyone was treated equally, and shared everything, and now he was being taught by Ayn Rand that these values were not only wrong but that they were almost evil. He seemed to me almost at the point of nervous breakdown. I don’t know if I helped him, because my experience was the exact opposite. I had been raised in an environment which was not very far away from Rand’s ideal, and was then living real-life communism. I too was being blown away by new lessons, but in a totally different direction. We were ideological ships crossing in the night.

I could almost have ignored The Times article were it not for one very worrying part of it. Towards the end of the article, we learn that:

Last year Rand was added to the A-level (the UK’s matriculation level examination) politics curriculum after a row about the sidelining of female thinkers.

So the people who get to choose fine role-models of female thinking, upon which today’s generation of young women should presumably mould themselves, can do no better than pick an exponent of fascism. To be fair, the article does not say if the A-level politics curriculum also includes female thinkers who would be outraged by the writing of Ayn Rand, and if that’s the case I suppose there’s a reasonable case for including her; but does it? Are young politics students also being exposed to the writing of Emma Goldman, for example? Or Rosa Luxemburg, Mary Wollstonecraft, Helen Hunt Jackson or Martha Gellhorn? What about more contemporary female writers, such as Naomi Klein, Arundhati Roy, Nancy MacLean, Ellen Brown or Nomi Prins? If the writing of these female thinkers is being included in the A-level curriculum, all of whom, I suspect, would not be fans of Ayn Rand, then fair enough. But is it?

Rand’s work has long appealed to the far-right extremists who pretty much control the United States — and therefore the rest of the world. It’s somewhat less well-known in Britain. But The Times article tells us that “Ayn Rand discussion groups” are appearing around the country and that one besotted disciple, Razi Ginsberg, “is in the process of setting up the Ayn Rand Centre, the UK’s first organisation devoted to spreading the philosophies of the US novelist”.

Apparently Mr Ginzberg wants “to create an appetite for Rand’s individualist, free-market ideas as an antidote to socialism”.

An “antidote to socialism”? Does Mr Ginzberg think that after forty years of unbroken capitalism socialism actually exists in the UK, and needs an “antidote”? How far to the right, or delusional, or both, must you be to think that Britain is a socialist country?

Mr Moore’s article opens with the words:

If you see a group earnestly debating objectivism and rational self-interest in your local pub, don’t be alarmed. They are probably from an Ayn Rand discussion group.

I have a different opinion. I think that if you see such a group in action you should be very alarmed indeed. You should be about as alarmed as seeing a group discussing the virtues of Adolph Hitler.