Category Archives: chemical weapons

Planned Chemical Weapon Provocation in Idlib aimed to Prevent Removal of Terrorists: Lavrov

Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists in Syria (Ammar Abdullah/Reuters

The planned chemical weapon provocation in the Syrian province of Idlib is aimed at maintaining the presence of terrorists in the area, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.

The Russian FM, who met his Saudi counterpart, Adel al-Jubeir in Moscow on Wednesday, compared the terrorist presence in the province with an “abscess” that should be swiftly removed.

“Idlib is now the last remaining hotbed of the terrorists, who try to speculate on the area’s status of de-escalation zone; try using the population as a human shield and try repressing the armed groups that are ready for talks with the government,” he said.

The Minister also noted that the overall goal in Washington with regard to war-ravaged Syria, was not really helping the country, but to push for regime change.

US chose ‘neocolonial course’ in Syria to gain control over its resources – Russian envoy to UN

“It’s not the first time the US – no matter the administration – has prioritized the task of changing dissident regimes above the common goals of eradicating terrorism and extremism. It happened in Iraq and Libya. Now they’re trying to do the same in Syria. To phrase it more correctly – they tried to do it in Syria, but failed,” Lavrov said.

The chemical attack issue and “the threats that are put forward against the Syrian government, are used with the sole purpose of preventing the expulsion of the terrorists from the de-escalation zone in Idlib,” Lavrov said.

In this case, the Trump administration is simply following the policies of Barack Obama, under whom “the Americans tried to use all means possible to shelter Jabhat al-Nusra, with hope of using it in the fight against, what they call, the regime,” he added.

Earlier, Moscow warned that a provocation, involving chemical weapons, was being prepared in Idlib by the US, with the aim of blaming the Syrian authorities and justifying further air strikes.

On Tuesday, Russia’s Defense Ministry said that sources on the ground informed them that the chemicals to be used in the fake attack have been already delivered to terrorists in the area with the assistance of the infamous White Helmets group.

Washington cautioned that it would respond to a chemical weapons attack by Syrian authorities with retaliatory strikes, which would be a lot larger in scale than those conducted against the country by the US, the UK and France in April.

Those strikes were carried out based on an unconfirmed reports of a chemical attack, which also came from the White Helmets. The Western-backed group has been caught red-handed working with militants and producing fake evidence to smear the Syrian government and its allies.

US Plans to Use Fake Chemical Weapons Attack to Strike Syria: Russian MoD

FILE PHOTO. © Paul Hanna / Reuters

The US may have plans to use a fake chemical attack in Syria to hit government forces with airstrikes, the Russian Defense Ministry has said. Washington is already building up strike capability in the Middle East, it said.

The warning comes a day after the Russian military said it had information about a looming provocation in Syria’s Idlib governorate, which would involve a staged chemical weapons attack. The US earlier warned it would respond to a chemical weapons attack by Syrian government forces with retaliatory strikes, which would be stronger than those conducted by the US, the UK and France in April.

‘Foreign specialists’ may stage chemical attack in Syria in 2 days to frame Assad – Russian MoD

In a statement published on Monday, the Russian MoD said it noted the deployment to the Mediterranean last weekend of the missile destroyer USS Ross carrying 28 Tomahawk cruise missiles on board. It came after a similar move of the USS The Sullivans to the Persian Gulf and the rebasing of a B-1B Lancer strategic bomber to an air base in Qatar. The Russian ministry said the “preparations are the latest evidence of the US intention to use the” expected provocation.

The statement reiterated that the Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham militant group, previously known as Al-Nusra Front, was preparing a staged chlorine attack in a city in Idlib. It alleged that a group of jihadists, trained in the handling of chemical weapons by the British private military contractor Olive Group, has already arrived in Jisr al-Shughur. The group will “stage decontamination of victims of a staged chemical weapons attack posing as members of the notorious White Helmets group,” the ministry claimed.

“The implementation of this provocation, which is being conducted with the assistance of the British intelligence services, is meant to serve as the latest pretext for the US, Britain and France to deliver a missile strike against state and economic facilities in Syria,” said General Igor Konashenkov, spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry.

On August 22, US National Security Advisor John Bolton stated that “if the Syrian regime uses chemical weapons, we will respond very strongly and they really ought to think about this a long time.”

In April, a reported chlorine attack in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta neighborhood served as justification for the US, UK, and France to attack what they claimed to be sites involved in a clandestine Syrian chemical weapons program. The missile attacks came just as a team of international inspectors was set to arrive at the scene to collect evidence of the supposed attack.

Later, residents of the area told journalists that the footage of the treatment of the alleged victims of the attack was filmed by the White Helmets group after they orchestrated a panic at a local hospital. The patients there were not poisoned by chlorine, local medics said. The footage was presented by the mainstream media as proof that an attack took place.

Terrorists readying chemical attack to frame Damascus and provide pretext for US strikes: Russian MoD

File Photo: A US Air Force B-1B Lancer / AFP

The US and its allies are preparing new airstrikes on Syria, the Russian Defense Ministry said, adding that militants are poised to stage a chemical weapons attack in order to frame Damascus and provide a pretext for the strikes.

The attack would be used as a pretext for US, UK and French airstrikes on Syrian targets, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Major General Igor Konashenkov said. USS ‘The Sullivans,’ an Arleigh Burke-class Aegis guided missile destroyer, was already deployed to the Persian Gulf a couple of days ago, he added.

The destroyer has 56 cruise missiles on board, according to data from the Russian Defence Ministry. A US Rockwell B-1 Lancer, a supersonic bomber equipped with 24 cruise missiles, has also been deployed at the Qatari Al Udeid Airbase.

Bolton calls on Al-Qaeda to stage more chemical attacks in Syria

The provocations are being prepared by militants from Al-Nusra Front (now known as Tahrir al-Sham) in Idlib province, northwestern Syria,

In order to stage the attack, some eight canisters of chlorine were delivered in to village near Jisr al-Shughur city for the terrorists’ use, he added. A separate group of militants, prepped by private British security company Olive, have also arrived in the area. The group will be disguised as volunteers from the White Helmets group and will simulate a rescue operation involving locals purportedly injured in the attack, according to the military official.

According to the Defense Ministry spokesman, recent statements by US National Security Advisor John Bolton – in which he threatened to bomb Syria – could be interpreted as an implicit confirmation of such airstrikes. On August 22, Bolton stated that “… if the Syrian regime uses chemical weapons, we will respond very strongly and they really ought to think about this a long time.”

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov warned Washington against new reckless moves in Syria, RIA Novosti reported. “We hear ultimatums from Washington, including those made in public,” the top official said, apparently referring to Bolton’s recent remarks.

According to Ryabkov, the US is aiming to destabilize Syria and create new pretexts for regime change in Damascus. “Again, we are witnessing serious escalation of the situation [in Syria],” he added.

In April, the US, UK and France unleashed a bombing campaign on Syria. The airstrikes were carried out in response to an alleged gas attack in Douma on April 7, which the West blamed on Bashar Assad’s government. The operation started hours before a team from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was due to reach the city.

Back then, Syrian defenses were scrambled to repel some 103 cruise missiles and air-to-surface missiles launched at civilian and military targets by the Western trio. It managed to intercept at least 71 of them, the Russian Defense Ministry said at the time.

• First published by RT

“Propaganda organization”: White Helmets “engage in anti-Assad activities”

Although some members of the Western-supported White Helmets may be in the business of saving lives, the group is also a “propaganda organization,” author Sy Hersh (Reporter: A Memoir) has told RT’s Going Underground.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist also spoke about reporting in the United States and how it changed under the Obama administration, as well as the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, UK.

A Tool to Combat Washington’s Middle East Wars

The Plot to Attack Iran gives a readable and well-referenced look at Western — especially US — abuse of Iran. The author and human rights lawyer Dan Kovalik presents a concise overview of US imperial conduct since World War II. The book is a reminder, which we need from time to time, of the outrageous hypocrisy and deceit of the US government and the corporate media. Kovalik also drives home that Washington’s foreign policy operations are not just a threat to other countries, but threaten the basic safety of the US people.

The US strove to crush any Iranian attempts to create their own development path for their country, particularly as oil became an important resource. The US has continuously sought to overthrow the government since the 1979 revolution. The book reviews the US-British coup against Iranian democracy in 1953 which installed the brutal Shah, who established the SAVAK torture network. The double standard of Jimmy “Human Rights” Carter, the struggle against the Shah’s murderous regime, the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini, the background to Iran-Contra, the US playing both sides against each other during Iraq’s war on Iran, the US relations with the Taliban, and the US-Saudi war on Yemen are all covered.

One aspect that could be added to the book is a summary of the social gains made by the Iranian people in the Islamic Republic, particularly under President Ahmadinejad (2005-2013), who instituted many anti-neoliberal programs which helped the poor. For instance, poverty had been reduced to one-eighth of what it was under the Shah, while health care is free for those who can’t pay.

Kovalik does note that in 1970 only 25% of Iranian women could read and write. By 2007 it was 80.3%, compared to 88.7% for men, and 90% percent of women are enrolled in school, free for all even through university. While about one-third of university students were women before 1979, now women make up 65 to 70% of the students. Women are legally entitled to ninety days maternity leave at two-thirds pay, have an entitlement to employer-provided child care centers, both gains which are denied women in the US. Iran has an equal pay for equal work requirement, also denied women here.

1953: US Overthrows Iranian Democracy

That Iran has an Islamic government which the United States and Israel abhor, is a direct result of the US coup against Prime Minister Mossadegh in 1953. The US’ subsequent support of the Shah made popular revolt inevitable, and when it broke out the US directly supported Islamists in Iran over the secular left.

Mossadegh had taken action to nationalize Iranian oil, then mostly under British control. Britain proceeded to sabotage Iran’s oil production and export, wrecking its economy.  Mossadegh actually appealed to President Eisenhower to mediate and resolve the issue in a way Eisenhower saw fit. The US reply came in the form of a coup, which showed many of the tactics we have seen in recent color revolutions and regime change interventions, one of the most current being in Venezuela.

CIA agents bought off secular politicians, religious leaders and key military officers, newspaper editors, hired thugs to run rampant through the street, sometimes pretending to be Mossadegh supporters, sometimes calling for his overthrow, anything to create a chaotic political situation. Thousands of demonstrators, unwittingly under CIA manipulation, surged through the streets, looting shops, destroying pictures of the Shah, and ransacking the offices of royalist groups. The impression was that Iran was sliding towards anarchy.

The Shah then took power and for a quarter century established one of the most barbarous regimes in the world.

US Trains Shah’s Military and SAVAK Torturers

The CIA helped train the Iranian security services in torture techniques—techniques borrowed, as in the case of Pinochet’s Chile, from the experienced experts, the Nazis. Every year 350 SAVAK agents were taken to CIA training facilities in Virginia, where they learned interrogation and torture. Top SAVAK brass were trained through the US Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Public Safety Program. SAVAK created torture prisons that outdid Dante’s Hell. The CIA filmed techniques it had taught SAVAK to use and made them available to torture centers in other countries.

The most common SAVAK instrument was an electrically heated table called the ‘frying pan,’ on which the victim was tied down by his hands and feet. Many died on these tables. Often, the accused was already raving by the time he entered the torture chamber—few people could bear the screams they heard while they waited, nor the smell of burning flesh.

This “Made in the USA” product makes it clear why Iran calls the US “The Great Satan.”

Amnesty International stated in 1974, 20 years after the US-backed coup and US training of repressive forces, that no country had a worse human rights record than Iran under the Shah. Yet Jimmie Carter maintained weapons supplies to Iran, and the human rights situation got even worse.

In 1978, anti-Shah street protests in Tehran drew more than a million strong. The Shah’s army, trained by the US, killed 4,000 demonstrators in Tehran’s Jaleh Square on September 8 alone. Kovalik notes that if such a thing happened in Venezuela or Cuba, or in Iran in 2018, this would be cause for the United States to invade. There was an explosion of corporate media condemnation against China during the Tiananmen Square protests ten years later, where probably one-tenth the number were killed. But who knows of this Jaleh Square massacre – not the only one – outside of Iran? Yet Washington approved of it, continuing to back the Shah and his methods for another half year.

1980s: US Provides Iraq with Chemical Weapons for their War on Iran

Kovalik notes the flagrant hypocrisy of the West’s noise about chemical weapon attacks in Syria, repeatedly and without evidence blaming the Assad government. Not only did the West arm Saddam Hussein’s Iraq with chemical weapons, but it downplayed their massive use against Iranian troops and civilians.  Kovalik reminds us of the US’ widespread and criminal use of chemical weapons in Korea, Vietnam, and more recently in Iraq in Fallujah and Mosul.

The US Department of Commerce and even the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) exported to Iraq items used for chemical weapons and nuclear weapons development. The US government approved 771 different export licenses of dual-use technology to Iraq.  The CDC sent Iraq 14 separate agents “with biological warfare significance.” The CDC was not involved in controlling disease, but in spreading it.

For its part, Iran itself refused to use chemical weapons against Iraq, and also pronounced a fatwa in 2005 against developing nuclear weapons. The UN International Atomic Energy Agency determined in 2003 and 2007 that Iran did not intend to build a nuclear weapon. This was confirmed by sixteen US intelligence agencies.

The US armed Iran the same time it aided Iraq in its war on Iran and used $18 million from the $30 million in weapons sales to illegally fund the Nicaragua contra terrorists after Congress had cut off their aid. This became known as the Iran-Contra Scandal. Israel, with US consent, also sold Iran hundreds of millions of dollars of US-manufactured weapons during the Iraqi war on Iran. Later Washington funded the contras by directing them to import crack cocaine into the US, fueling a drug addiction epidemic.

Kovalik notes that “the United States is continuing this cruel policy of playing both sides against each other today by supporting, but also trying to contain, ISIS forces in order to molest and undermine both Syria and Iran.”

Incredibly the US without shame justified its 2003 war on Iraq with the claim that Saddam Hussein possessed “weapons of mass destruction,” in particular, banned chemical weapons, which the West had previously sold him. That was, as is said now, “fake news” because Hussein’s chemical weapons had been destroyed under UN supervision years before.

To heighten the hypocrisy, the US itself used chemical weapons (white phosphorus and depleted uranium) in its war on Iraq in 2003, causing spikes in cancer rates and birth defects in areas like Fallujah.

US Trains Taliban in Afghanistan

During this whole period the US had been increasingly intervening in Afganistan. It was instrumental in ousting the progressive secular government in Afghanistan by supporting Islamic extremist forces, the Mujahideen, which included Osama bin Laden. The US later aided the Taliban taking power, and backed them until 2001. Al Qaeda then turned on the United States and, among other things, carried out the 9/11 attacks against the United States.

Osama bin Laden was himself a Saudi, and, as we now know, Al Qaida has received much support over the years from Saudi Arabia, the United States’ long-time partner in crime in the Middle East and mortal enemy of Iran. Yet, while Iran cooperated with the US in fighting Al Qaeda and the Taliban after 9/11, and while Saudi Arabia financed the 9/11 attack more than any other country, the US has remained closely allied with Saudi Arabia against Iran.

In early 2001, the US pledged $124 million in aid to the Taliban. But when negotiations between the two worsened over an oil pipeline project, the US threatened to carpet bomb and invade Afghanistan — even prior to the September 11 attacks.  Jane’s Defense Newsletter reported that in March 2001 Washington was planning an invasion.

Kovalik notes that in 2006 the FBI listed bin Laden on its “Most Wanted List,” but it did not include the 9/11 attacks as a basis for this listing. The FBI chief of investigative publicity stated, “The reason why 9/11 is not mentioned on Osama bin Laden’s Most Wanted page is because the FBI has no hard evidence connecting bin Laden to 9/11.”

While ruling Afghanistan, the Taliban had basically eradicated opium production (from which heroin is made). Then just four years after the US invaded and allied with the drug lords there, 90% of the world’s heroin came from that country. We now have what Trump admits is a “national health emergency” due to opiate addiction, yet it was US policy that contributed to that epidemic.

This shows how Washington’s foreign policy threatens the US people: contributing to the present opiate epidemic; creating the previous crack epidemic and the ongoing cocaine epidemic (which comes from US ally Colombia); financing and supporting the Taliban allies who attacked the US on 9/11. The US aided the rise of ISIS with arms and funding and is closely allied to Saudi Arabia, the country more than any other responsible for 9/11, ISIS, and Al Qaeda affiliated groups. The US has sought to destroy secular left movements in the Middle East, in Egypt, in Iraq by putting Saddam Hussein in power, in Iran by working with the Shah to murder it off and bringing in Khomeini as the lesser evil, in Afghanistan by using the Mujahideen and Taliban to eliminate the previous progressive government. In sum, the US has helped to empower Islamic extremists.

US War on Iraq

After invading Afghanistan, the US invaded Iraq, though it had nothing to do with 9/11. Saddam Hussein, like the leadership of Iran, had been a mortal enemy of Al Qaeda. “Iran watched in 2003 as its neighbor Iraq was invaded by the United States and its coalition partners, suffering the worst destruction it ever had since the Mongol invasion of 1258 led by Genghis Khan. And Iranians are painfully aware that the United States is intent on doing the very same to their country.”

When the US overthrew Saddam Hussein, whose base was among Iraqi Sunnis, Iraqi Shiites came to power, who then allied themselves with Shiite Iran. Then Washington sought to weaken Iran, which it had just strengthened through the Iraqi invasion.

Washington turned to aiding the very forces who attacked on 9/11 as a tool to contain Iran. The US aided Sunni extremists in Libya and Syria to try to overthrow Gaddafi and Assad. The US supported the opposition in Syria from the beginning and has spent $12 billion funding it just from 2014-2017. Now Iran is lawfully in Syria (and Iraq) to fight ISIS and Al Qaeda at the invitation of the Syrian government. In contrast, the US intervention in Syria is in violation of international law. Trump has announced the US will stay in Syria, not to fight ISIS, but to counter Iran, which has become a regional power due to US miscalculations in its interventions in the Middle East.

Present Day Threats against Iran

The US under both Obama and Trump has been arming and aiding Saudi Arabia in bombing and blockading Yemen (dependent on imports for 90% of its food), alleging the Houthis are “proxies for Iran,” and creating starvation and slaughter of Yemeni civilians. In Yemen, 22.2 million people need humanitarian assistance, 17.8 million are food insecure, and 8.4 million people are severely food insecure at risk of starvation.

The Iran nuclear deal, which Trump wants to scuttle, did not serve to significantly alleviate the economic problems the Iranian people faced. Sanctions on Iran have cost the country $160 billion since 2012, and Trump has increased these sanctions.

The 2017 protests in Iran were sparked by cuts to social benefits, a consequence of sanctions and US-Saudi engineered fall in oil prices. Washington spent over $1 million trying to convert the protests into a push for regime change, and another $20 million on Voice of America’s Persian Service seeking to turn Iranians against the government.

This brutal anti-democratic US conduct against Iran is similar to what it has also inflicted on Greece, El Salvador, Argentina, Chile, Guatemala, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Indonesia, etc. – if the US did not resort to massive invasion, killing millions as in the Philippines, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq.

We can see the brutal present world the US has created when we compare what humanitarian Third World leaders it overthrew or sought to, compared to the US-backed leader: Arbenz and the Guatemalan dictators, Sukarno and Suharto, Lumumba and Mobutu, the Sandinistas and Somoza, Goulart and the Brazilian generals, Allende and Pinochet, Mandela and apartheid, Mossadegh and the Shah, Chavez and the Venezuelan putschists, Fidel and Batista, Aristide and the Haitian generals, Juan Bosch and Balaguer, and so on. These are great losses to creating a more humane world.

Now the US blames Iran and Russia for the problems confronting the Middle East, and the US government wants us to believe that regime change in Iran will help fix the problem. This ignores the fact that none of the other regime changes the United States has been involved in have done anything but make matters worse. Millions have been killed, modern countries destroyed, and the US national debt has skyrocketed.

The Plot to Attack Iran gives us a well-referenced summary to the US war against Iranian democracy and the complex situation in the Middle East. The US has been backing groups it is also at times fighting, groups that still engage in terrorist attacks against the US, France, and Britain.

Kovalik’s book is a useful resource for our anti-imperialist movement. We get a taste of what liberal-lefts will say and do as the US advances its regime change strategy in Iran by looking at how they responded to the US attack on Libya and on Syria. The Plot to Attack Iran will aid us when we confront the same expected capitulation by much of this “left” when the US pushes ahead with its war plans on Iran.

The West Closes its Ears to Douma Testimony

The response from the US, UK and France to a briefing on Thursday at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in the Hague was perverse, to say the least. Russia had brought 17 witnesses from Douma who stated that there had been no chemical weapons attack there earlier this month – the pretext for an illegal air strike on Syria by the three western states.

The witnesses, a mix of victims and the doctors who treated them, told accounts that confirmed a report provided last week from Douma by British reporter Robert Fisk – a report, it should be noted, that has been almost entirely blanked by the western media. According to the testimony provided at the OPCW, the victims shown in a video from the site of the alleged attack were actually suffering from the effects of inhaling dust after a bombing raid, not gas.

The first strange thing to note is that the US, UK and France boycotted the meeting, denouncing Russia for producing the witnesses and calling the event an “obscene masquerade” and “theatre”. It suggests that this trio, behaving like the proverbial three monkeys, think the testimony will disappear if they simply ignore it. They have no interest in hearing from witnesses unless they confirm the western narrative used to justify the air strikes on Syria.

Testimony from witnesses is surely a crucial part of determining what actually happened. The US, UK and France are surely obligated to listen to the witnesses first, and then seek to discredit the testimony afterwards if they think it implausible or coerced. The evidence cannot be tested and rebutted if it is not even considered.

The second is that the media are echoing this misplaced scorn for evidence. They too seem to have prejudged whether the witnesses are credible before listening to what they have to say (similar to their treatment of Fisk). Tellingly, the Guardian described these witnesses as “supposed witnesses”, not a formulation that suggests any degree of impartiality in its coverage.

Notice that when the Guardian refers to witnesses who support the UK-UK-French line, often those living under the rule of violent jihadist groups, the paper does not designate them “supposed witnesses” or assume their testimony is coerced. Why for the Guardian are some witnesses only professing to be witnesses, while others really are witnesses. The answer appears to depend on whether the testimony accords with the official western narrative. There is a word for that, and it is not “journalism”.

The third and biggest problem, however, is that neither the trio of western states nor the western media are actually contesting the claim that these “supposed witnesses” were present in Douma, and that some of them were shown in the video. Rather, the line taken by the Guardian and others is that: “The veracity [of] the statements by the Russian-selected witnesses at The Hague will be challenged, since their ability to speak truthfully is limited.”

So the question is not whether they were there, but whether they are being coerced into telling a story that undermines the official western narrative, as well as the dubious rationale for attacking Syria.

But that leaves us with another difficulty. No one, for example, appears to be doubting that Hassan Diab, a boy who testified at the hearing, is also the boy shown in the video who was supposedly gassed with a nerve agent three weeks ago. How then do we explain that he is now looking a picture of health? It is not as though the US, UK and French governments and the western media have had no time to investigate his case. He and his father have been saying for at least a week on Russian TV that there was no chemical attack.

Instead, we are getting yet more revisions to a story that was originally presented as so cut-and-dried that it justified an act of military aggression by the US, UK and France against Syria, without authorisation from the UN Security Council – in short, a war crime of the highest order.

It is worth noting the BBC’s brief account. It has suggested that Diab was there, and that he is the boy shown in the video, but that he was not a victim of a gas attack. It implies that there were two kinds of victims shown in the video taken in Douma: those who were victims of a chemical attack, and those next to them who were victims of dust inhalation.

That requires a great deal of back-peddling on the original narrative.

It is conceivable, I suppose, that there was a chemical attack on that neighbourhood of Douma, in which people like Diab assumed they had been gassed when, in fact, that they had not been, and that others close by were actually gassed. It is also conceivable that the effects of dust inhalation and gassing were so similar that the White Helmets staff mistakenly filmed the “wrong victims”, highlighting those like Diab who had not been gassed. And it is also conceivable, I guess, that Diab and his family now feel the need to lie under Russian pressure about there not being a gas attack, even though their account would, according to this revised narrative, actually accord with their experience of what happened.

But even if each of these scenarios is conceivable on its own, how plausible are they when taken together. Those of us who have preferred to avoid a rush to judgment until there was actual evidence of a chemical weapons attack have been invariably dismissed as “conspiracy theorists”. But who is really proposing the more fanciful conspiracy here: those wanting evidence, or those creating an elaborate series of revisions to maintain the credibility of their original story?

If there is one thing certain in all of this, it is that the video produced as cast-iron evidence of a chemical weapons attack has turned out to be nothing of the sort.

Death and Impunity: Iraq Fifteen Years After

It might have made a bit more than a whimper had the US political scene not found itself in yet another paroxysm of the drama known as the Trump White House.  Fifteen years before, governments aligning with the dogs of war decided, in defiance of millions of protestors globally, to invade a sovereign state.  Papers cheered with blood lust; propagandists and public relations firms were hired to push the politics of regime change in a country that was already hemmed in by sanctions and surveillance.

The invasion of Iraq must, over time, be given its own specific criminal gravity.  It sundered the Middle East, it tore at the artificially imposed borders contrived by former colonial masters.  It emboldened new foes and generated further disagreements.  For generations, chaos will be guaranteed on the heaped folly of the 2003 decision.

“The results are in,” went a sombre Charles P. Pierce for Esquire. “Iraq never recovered.  Syria devolved into civil war. We got closer than ever to the inhumane regime in Saudi Arabia, now engaged in mass slaughter in Yemen with weapons we supplied, because there’s never been a problem with that before.”

As Matt Taibbi reflected, the invasion had the element of “awesome drama, made more thrilling by the seemingly obvious craziness of it all.” The subtext was a lack of sensible reason, distorted by the mania that Iraq had somehow become a global threat with a trigger happy maniac. In place was ample hysteric delight, characterised by the opening phase of the campaign: “Shock and Awe”.

As with the Indochina War, the invasion mirrored an emerging malaise back home.  Invading Iraq was “one of the great crimes of this or any age and destined to be a crossroads event in the history of America’s decline”.  It was “a cold, calculated, opportunistic power grab, aimed as much at future targets, and even our own population, as at the Iraqi ‘enemy’.”

The US allies who, with unfazed enthusiasm went in with similar destructive intent, were also showing mixed degrees of reflection.  In Australia, former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd saw a chance to chastise his predecessor, John Howard, for having joined the US-led enterprise.  “John Howard’s decision to commit thousands of Australian troops to the invasion of Iraq 15 years ago,” began his opening salvo, “ranks as one of the two great failures of Australian foreign policy since the Second World War.”

Rudd can show periods of sensible reflection.  The decision to invade Iraq had to also rank alongside another US-led mission that was doomed: the Vietnam War.  Again, the leadership in Canberra felt it logical and automatic that the soldiers of the South Cross should shed blood alongside those of the Stars and Stripes.

In Rudd’s reflection, analysis of legitimacy and interest was lacking. There was no specific Australian take on it, not a consideration of “the credibility of American military strategy to both win the war and secure the peace, as well as the long-term consequences for Australian national interests.”

Being a former diplomat, Rudd’s survey of the grotesque consequences is even deeper than Pierce. Sectarian violence between the Shia majority and Sunni minority was unleashed; Christians, having co-habited with Muslims for some 1,300 years were brutally expelled; Iraq was pushed into Iran’s orbit while Iraq duly imploded, becoming the base for regional terrorist influences.

The apologist’s tactic in these instances is one tried in history.  We were sincere in inflicting our butcheries; we were solemn in making our errors of judgment.  We only did what was appropriate at the time.  Even if those weapons of mass destruction had never turned up, Saddam Hussein was vicious, a sadist, murderer and torturer. Never mind those who knew better.

For John Howard, it was a case of making a decision on “available evidence” from Australian intelligence agencies at the time tying the Saddam regime with those ultimately elusive weapons of mass destruction. Howard duly “concluded that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction” and insisted that Rudd place himself in “the shoes of the government at the time”.

In the case of the evangelised Tony Blair of Britain, such ham sincerity is pure theatre, even convincing the likes of Sir John Chilcot, chairman of the public inquiry examining the lead-up to the 2003 invasion.  While he was not “straight with the nation” about the reasons for invading Iraq, he was “emotionally truthful”.

As Chilcot explained to the BBC’s political editor, Laura Kuenssberg last July, “Tony Blair is always and ever an advocate.  He makes the most persuasive case he can.  Not departing from the truth but persuasion is everything.”

As for President George W. Bush, he remains, along with Howard and Blair, elusive from the judicial bench of any tribunal, foreign or domestic.  War criminals have received weighty sentences for less but this triumvirate are at little risk of being apprehended.  In the autumn of their lives, they are witnessing a conflagration they happily initiated when in office.

Monbiot Still Burying his Head in Sands of Syria

Investigative journalist Gareth Porter has published two exclusives whose import is far greater than may be immediately apparent. They concern Israel’s bombing in 2007 of a supposed nuclear plant secretly built, according to a self-serving US and Israeli narrative, by Syrian leader Bashar Assad.

Although the attack on the “nuclear reactor” occurred a decade ago, there are pressing lessons to be learnt for those analysing current events in Syria.

Porter’s research indicates very strongly that the building that was bombed could not have been a nuclear reactor – and that was clear to experts at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) even as the story was being promoted uncritically across the western media.

But – and this is the critical information Porter conveys – the IAEA failed to disclose the fact that it was certain the building was not a nuclear plant, allowing the fabricated narrative to be spread unchallenged. It abandoned science to bow instead to political expediency.

The promotion of the bogus story of a nuclear reactor by Israel and key figures in the Bush administration was designed to provide the pretext for an attack on Assad. That, it was hoped, would bring an end to his presidency and drag into the fray the main target – Iran. The Syrian “nuclear reactor” was supposed to be a re-run of the WMD deception, used in 2003 to oust another enemy of the US and Israel’s – Saddam Hussein of Iraq.

It is noteworthy that the fabricated evidence for a nuclear reactor occurred in 2007, a year after Israel’s failure to defeat Hizbullah in Lebanon. The 2006 Lebanon war was itself intended to spread to Syria and lead to Assad’s overthrow, as I explained in my book Israel and the Clash of Civilisations.

It is important to remember that this Israeli-neocon plot against Syria long predated – in fact, in many ways prefigured – the civil war in 2011 that quickly morphed into a proxy war in which the US became a key, if mostly covert, actor.

The left’s Witchfinder General

The relevance of the nuclear reactor deception can be understood in relation to the latest efforts by Guardian columnist George Monbiot (and many others) to discredit prominent figures on the left, including Noam Chomsky and John Pilger, for their caution in making assessments of much more recent events in Syria. Monbiot has attacked them for not joining him in simply assuming that Assad was responsible for a sarin gas attack last April on Khan Sheikhoun, an al-Qaeda stronghold in Idlib province.

Understandably, many on the left have been instinctively wary of rushing to judgment about individual incidents in the Syrian war, and the narratives presented in the western media. The claim that Assad’s government used chemical weapons in Khan Sheikhoun, and earlier in Ghouta, was an obvious boon to those who have spent more than a decade trying to achieve regime change in Syria.

In what has become an ugly habit with Monbiot, and one I have noted before, he has enthusiastically adopted the role of Witchfinder General. Any questioning of evidence, scepticism or simply signs of open-mindedness are enough apparently to justify accusations that one is an Assadist or conspiracy theorist. Giving house room to the doubts of a ballistics expert like Ted Postol of MIT, or an experienced international arms expert like Scott Ritter, or a famous investigative journalist like Seymour Hersh, or a former CIA analyst like Ray McGovern, is apparently proof that one is an atrocity denier or worse.

Inconvenient facts buried

Monbiot’s latest attack was launched at a moment when he obviously felt he was on solid ground. A UN agency, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), issued a report last month concluding that the 100 people killed and 200 injured in Khan Sheikhoun last April were exposed to sarin. Monbiot argues that the proof is now incontrovertible that Assad was responsible – a position that he, of course, adopted at the outset – and that all other theories have now been decisively discounted by the OPCW.

There are reasons to think that Monbiot is seriously misrepresenting the strength of the OPCW’s findings, as several commentators have observed. Most notably, Robert Parry, another leading investigative journalist, points out that evidence in the report’s annex – the place where inconvenient facts are often buried – appears to blow a large hole in the official story.

Parry notes that the time recorded by the UN of the photo of the chemical weapons attack is more than half an hour *after* some 100 victims had already been admitted to five different hospitals, some of them lengthy drives from the alleged impact site.

But potentially more significant than such troubling inconsistencies are the conclusions of Gareth Porter’s separate investigation into Israel’s bombing of the non-existent Syrian nuclear reactor. That gets to the heart of where Monbiot and many others have gone badly wrong in their certainty about events in Syria.

Extreme naivety

Monbiot has been only too willing to promote as indisputable fact claims made both by highly compromised and unreliable western sources and by supposedly reputable and independent organisations, such as international human rights groups and UN agencies. He, like many others, assumes that the latter can always be relied upon to stand apart from western interests and can therefore be implicitly trusted.

That indicates an extreme naivety or possibly the lack of any experience covering on the ground highly charged conflicts in which western interests are paramount.

I have been based in Israel for nearly two decades and have on several occasions taken to task Human Rights Watch (HRW), one of the world’s most esteemed human rights organisations. I have shown that assessments it has made were patently not rooted in evidence or even credible interpretations of international law but in geopolitical considerations. That was especially true in the case of the month-long fighting between Israel and Hizbullah in 2006. (See here and here.) My concerns about HRW’s work, I later learnt from insiders, were shared in its New York head office, but were silenced by the organisation’s most senior staff.

Nuclear plant deception

But Porter helps shine a light on how even the most reputable international agencies can end up similarly following a script written in Washington and one that rides roughshod over evidence, especially when the interests of the world’s only superpower are at stake. In this case, the deceptions were perpetuated by one of the world’s leading scientific organisations: the International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitors states’ nuclear activities.

Porter reveals that Yousry Abushady, the IAEA’s foremost expert on North Korean nuclear reactors, was able immediately to discount the aerial photographic evidence that the building Israel bombed in 2007 was a nuclear reactor. (Most likely it was a disused missile storage depot.)

The Syrian “nuclear plant”, he noted, could not have been built using North Korean know-how, as was claimed by the US. It lacked all the main features of a North Korean gas-cooled reactor. The photos produced by the Israelis showed a building that, among other things, covered too small an area and was not anywhere near high enough, it had none of the necessary supporting structures, and there was no cooling tower.

Abushady’s assessment was buried by the IAEA, which preferred to let the CIA and the Israelis promote their narrative unchallenged.

Atomic agency’s silence

This was not a one-off failure. In summer 2008, the IAEA visited the area to collect samples. Had the site been a nuclear plant, they could have expected to find nuclear-grade graphite particles everywhere. They found none.

Nonetheless, the IAEA again perpetrated a deception to try to prop up the fictitious US-Israeli narrative.

As was routine, they sent the samples to a variety of laboratories for analysis. None found evidence of any nuclear contamination – apart from one. It identified particles of man-made uranium. The IAEA issued a report giving prominence to this anomalous sample, even though in doing so it violated its own protocols, reports Parry. It could draw such a conclusion only if the results of all the samples matched.

In fact, as one of the three IAEA inspectors who had been present at the site later reported, the sample of uranium did not come from the plant itself, which was clean, but from a changing room nearby. A former IAEA senior inspector, Robert Kelley, told Parry that a “very likely explanation” was that the uranium particles derived from “cross contamination” from clothing worn by the inspectors. This is a problem that had been previously noted by the IAEA in other contexts.

Meanwhile, the IAEA remained silent about its failure to find nuclear-grade graphite in a further nine reports over two years. It referred to this critical issue for the first time in 2011.

Chance for war with Iran

In other words, the IAEA knowingly conspired in a fictitious, entirely non-scientific assessment of the Syrian “nuclear reactor” story, one that neatly served US-Israeli geopolitical interests.

Porter notes that vice-president Dick Cheney “hoped to use the alleged reactor to get President George W Bush to initiate US airstrikes in Syria in the hope of shaking the Syrian-Iranian alliance”.

In fact, Cheney wanted far more sites in Syria hit than the bogus nuclear plant. In his memoirs, the then-secretary of defence, Robert Gates, observed that Cheney was “looking for an opportunity to provoke a war with Iran”.

The Bush administration wanted to find a way to unseat Assad, crush Hizbullah in Lebanon, and isolate and weaken Iran as a way to destroy the so-called “Shia crescent”.

That goal is being actively pursued again by the US today, with Israel and Saudi Arabia leading the way. A former US ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, recently warned that, after their failure to bring down Assad, the Saudis have been trying to switch battlefields to Lebanon, hoping to foment a confrontation between Israel and Hizbullah that would drag in Iran.

Abandoning science

Back in 2007, the IAEA, an agency of scientists, did its bit to assist – or at least not obstruct – US efforts to foster a political case, an entirely unjustified one, for military action against Syria and, very possibly by extension, Iran.

If the IAEA could so abandon its remit and the cause of science to help play politics on behalf of the US, what leads Monbiot to assume that the OPCW, an even more politicised body, is doing any better today?

That is not to say Assad, or at least sections of the Syrian government, could not have carried out the attack on Khan Sheikhoun. But it is to argue that in a matter like this one, where so much is at stake, the evidence must be subjected to rigorous scrutiny, and that critics, especially experts who offer counter-evidence, must be given a fair hearing by the left. It is to argue that, when the case against Assad fits so neatly a long-standing and self-serving western narrative, a default position of scepticism is fully justified. It is to argue that facts, strong as they may seem, can be manipulated even by expert bodies, and therefore due weight needs also to be given to context – including an assessment of motives.

This is not “denialism”, as Monbiot claims. It is a rational strategy adopted by those who object to being railroaded once again – as they were in Iraq and Libya – into catastrophic regime change operations.

Meanwhile, the decision by Monbiot and others to bury their heads in the sands of an official narrative, all the while denouncing anyone who seeks to lift theirs out for a better view, should be understood for what it is: an abnegation of intellectual and moral responsibility for those around the globe who continue to be the victims of western military supremacism.

Donald Trump Marks America’s “Heavy Toll of War” From Vietnam

One day while I was in a bunker in Vietnam, a sniper round went over my head. The person who fired that weapon was not a terrorist, a rebel, an extremist, or a so-called insurgent.  The Vietnamese individual who tried to kill me was a citizen of Vietnam, who did not want me in his country.  This truth escapes millions.”

— Mike Hastie, Former U.S. Army Medic, Vietnam 1970-71

On 10th of November, Donald Trump made a “Presidential Proclamation Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War.” (See below.)

Marking Veterans Day and Military Families Month, he wrote:

We salute our brave Vietnam veterans who, in service to our Nation and in defense of liberty, fought gallantly against the spread of communism and defended the freedom of the Vietnamese people …

During this Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War, we embrace our responsibility to help our Vietnam veterans and their families heal from the heavy toll of war.  We remember the more than 58,000 soldiers whose names are memorialized on black granite wall in our Nation’s capital for having borne the heaviest cost of war.

Moreover:

To ensure the sacrifices of the 9 million heroes who served during this difficult chapter of our country’s history are remembered for generations to come, I signed into law the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017, designating March 29 of each year as National Vietnam War Veterans Day …

All countries commemorate and honour those lost in war. What makes the statement, in its entirety, cringe-making, is that it was released as Trump was being hosted in Vietnam, including attending State Dinner hosted by Vietnamese President Trần Đại Quang.

Not one word of regret, sorrow, reconciliation is offered for the Vietnamese dead, an upper figure of 3.8 million, the near equivalent of wiping out the entire population of Panama, Bosnia Herzegovina or Mauritania – or over three times the population of Cyprus or six and a half times that of Luxembourg.

The only mention Vietnam gets is that: “I am in Vietnam alongside business and political leaders to advance the interests of America …” To bleed the country dry again, the cynic might think. Oh, and he is to “promote peace and stability in this region and around the world.”

The same sort of “peace and stability” Vietnam experienced at US’ hands between 8th March 1965 and 30th April 1975, though, in fact, the US had been involved in Vietnam since 1950.

Further, threatening to “totally destroy” North Korea and deliver “fire, fury and, frankly, power, the likes of which this world has never seen before” in the region, also hardly squares with “peace and stability.”

The devastation wrought against the Vietnamese people was the result of America’s belief that Communism was threatening to expand across South-East Asia. If it had, what business was it of America? Regions have their own cultures, beliefs, history and should be free to take, or resolve, their own paths, without incurring a threat of annihilation by the “Leader of the free world.”

However, such freedoms were not an option; thus 13,789 kilometers from America, eight million tons of bombs were dropped on Vietnam, more than three times the amount used in World War 11.

Chemical weapons, Napalm and Agent Orange were amongst the ordnance. The resultant effects and ongoing birth deformities are alibi to the horror still.

Napalm is a mixture of plastic polystyrene, hydrocarbon benzene, and gasoline. This mixture creates a jelly-like substance that, when ignited, sticks to practically anything and burns up to ten minutes. The effects of napalm on the human body are unbearably painful and almost always cause death among its victims.

Napalm is the most terrible pain you can ever imagine” said Kim Phúc, a survivor from a napalm bombing.

Water boils at 212°F. Napalm generates temperatures 1,500°F to 2,200°F. (Emphasis added.)

Kim Phúc sustained third degree burns to portions of her body. She was one of the only survivors of such extreme measures.

Agent Orange is fifty times more concentrated than normal agricultural herbicides; this extreme intensity completely destroyed all plants in the area. Agent Orange not only had devastating effects on agriculture but also on people and animals. The Vietnam Red Cross recorded over 4.8 million deaths and 400,000 children born with birth defects due to exposure to Agent Orange.

Such was the Trumpeted “gallant” fight against the spread of Communism and “(defence) of the freedom of the Vietnamese people …” If any one knows about “the heavy toll of war”, it is the Vietnamese.

Land in neighbouring Laos and Cambodia was also affected.

If you are trying to equate the 50th anniversary commemorations to a date, this is an annual event, which began on Memorial Day 2012 and ends on Memorial Day 2025. Whichever dates resonate from Vietnam it is hard to see what the 50th pertains to.

Donald Trump, of course, avoided the draft five times, the last time with a heel spur, which is “a painful inflammation of the fibrous band of connective tissue … that runs along the bottom of the foot and connects the heel bone to the ball of the foot”, thus preventing him from marching or walking long distances.

Oddly, it never prevented him from playing golf.

*****

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
November 10, 2017

Presidential Proclamation Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War

Commemoration of the 50TH Anniversary of the Vietnam War
by the President of the United States of America

A Proclamation:

Today, I lead our Nation in somber reflection as we continue the 13-year Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War that began in 2012.  We salute our brave Vietnam veterans who, in service to our Nation and in defense of liberty, fought gallantly against the spread of communism and defended the freedom of the Vietnamese people.

Fifty years ago, in 1967, nearly 500,000 American troops served in South Vietnam, along with approximately 850,000 troops of our allies.  Today, during Veterans and Military Families Month and as the Federal Government observes Veterans Day, I am in Vietnam alongside business and political leaders to advance the interests of America, and to promote peace and stability in this region and around the world.  I cherish this opportunity to recall, with humility, the sacrifices our veterans made for our freedom and our Nation’s strength.

During this Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War, we embrace our responsibility to help our Vietnam veterans and their families heal from the heavy toll of war.  We remember the more than 58,000 soldiers whose names are memorialized on black granite wall in our Nation’s capital for having borne the heaviest cost of war.  We also pay tribute to the brave patriots who suffered as prisoners of war, and we stand steadfast in our commitment not to rest until we account for the 1,253 heroes who have not yet returned to American soil.

To ensure the sacrifices of the 9 million heroes who served during this difficult chapter of our country’s history are remembered for generations to come, I signed into law the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017, designating March 29 of each year as National Vietnam War Veterans Day.  Throughout this Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War, and every March 29 thereafter, we will honor all those who answered our Nation’s call to duty.  We vow to never again confuse personal disapproval of war with prejudice against those who honorably wear the uniform of our Armed Forces.  With conviction, our Nation pledges our enduring respect, our continuing care, and our everlasting commitment to all Vietnam veterans.

We applaud the thousands of local, State, and national organizations, businesses, and governmental entities that have already partnered with the Federal Government in the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War.  Because of their remarkable leadership and dedication, countless Vietnam veterans and their families have been personally and publicly thanked and honored in ceremonies in towns and cities throughout our country.  During my Administration, I promise to continue coordinated efforts to recognize all veterans of the Vietnam War for their service and sacrifice, and to provide them with the heartfelt acknowledgement and gratitude that they and their families so richly deserve.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby confirm the commitment of this Nation to the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War, which began on Memorial Day, 2012 and will continue through Veterans Day, 2025.  I call upon all Americans to offer each of our Vietnam veterans and their families a thank you on behalf of the Nation, both privately and during public ceremonies and programs across our country.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this tenth day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand seventeen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-second.

DONALD J. TRUMP

“Inappropriate Behaviour”: Michael Fallon, Yemen, And The “Mainstream” That Is Anything But

The truth of corporate journalism, and the great irony of its obsession with ‘fake news’, is that it is itself utterly fake. What could be more obviously fake than the idea that Truth can be sold by billionaire-owned media dependent on billionaire-owned advertisers for maximised profit?

The ‘mainstream’ worldview is anything but – it is extreme, weird, a product of corporate conformity and deference to power. As Norman Mailer observed:

There is an odour to any Press Headquarters that is unmistakeable… The unavoidable smell of flesh burning quietly and slowly in the service of a machine.1

A prime example of ‘mainstream’ extremism is the way the UK’s illegal wars destroying whole countries are not an issue for corporate moralists. Physicians for Global Responsibility estimate that 1.3 million people have been killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan alone. And yet it is simply understood that UK wars will not be a theme during general elections (See here and here). By contrast, other kinds of ‘inappropriate behaviour’ are subject to intense scrutiny.

Consider the recent resignation of Defence Secretary Michael Fallon and his replacement by Prime Minister Theresa May’s Chief Whip, Gavin Williamson. Fallon resigned after it was revealed that he had ‘repeatedly touched the broadcaster Julia Hartley-Brewer’s knee at a dinner in 2002’.

Fallon was damaged further by revelations that he had lunged at journalist Jane Merrick:

This was not a farewell peck on the cheek, but a direct lunge at my lips.

The Commons leader Andrea Leadsom also disclosed that she had complained about ‘lewd remarks’ Fallon had made to her.

Sexual harassment is a serious issue, despite the scoffing of some male commentators. In the Mail on Sunday, Peter Hitchens shamefully dismissed women’s complaints as mere ‘squawking’.

But it is strange indeed that, while harassment is rightly deemed a resigning offence, other ‘inappropriate behaviour’ leaves ‘mainstream’ commentators completely unmoved.

Fallon voted for both the 2003 war that destroyed Iraq and the 2011 war that wrecked Libya. He voted for war on Syria. He voted for replacing the Trident nuclear missile system. Earlier this year, he even declared that Britain would be willing to launch a nuclear first strike.

After he was made Secretary of Defence in July 2014, Fallon oversaw the supply of weapons to Saudi Arabia waging war on Yemen. Two years later, Campaign Against Arms Trade reported that UK sales to Saudi Arabia since the start of the war included £2.2 billion of aircraft, helicopters and drones, £1.1 billion of missiles, bombs and grenades, and nearly half a million pounds’ worth of tanks and other armoured vehicles. British sales of military equipment to the kingdom topped £1.1bn in the first half of this year alone.

In December 2016, Fallon admitted that internationally banned cluster munitions supplied by the UK had been used in Saudi Arabia’s bombing campaign. Six months earlier, Amnesty International had reported that British-made cluster bombs were being used in attacks on civilians that had claimed the lives of children. For none of these horrors did Fallon resign.

So what kind of conflict are these weapons fuelling? The Guardian reports this week:

Yemen is in the grip of the world’s worst cholera outbreak and 7 million people are already on the brink of famine.

In July, Reliefweb reported:

The scale of the food crisis in conflict-ridden Yemen is staggering with 17 million people – two thirds of the population – severely food insecure and seven million of these on the verge of famine.

Director-General of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, José Graziano da Silva, has described Yemen as the UN’s ‘largest humanitarian crisis today’, noting that conflict and violence have disrupted agriculture, with violence intensifying in areas most short of food. In December 2016, a study by UNICEF, the UN children’s agency, found that at least one child was dying in Yemen every 10 minutes. The agency found that, since 2014, there had been a 200 per cent increase in children suffering from severe acute malnutrition, with almost half a million affected. Nearly 2.2 million children were in need of urgent care.

This week, the Saudi-led coalition declared it would close Yemen’s borders to prevent an alleged flow of weapons from Iran, after it intercepted a missile attack by Houthi rebels near Riyadh, the Saudi capital. Johan Mooij, Yemen director of Care International, commented:

For the last two days, nothing has got in or out of the country. Fuel prices have gone up by 50% and there are queues at the gas stations. People fear no more fuel will come into Hodeidah port.

He added:

People depend on the humanitarian aid and part of the cholera issue [is] that they do not eat and are not strong enough to deal with unclean water.

There have been ‘daily airstrikes in Sana’a,’ Mooij said, adding: ‘People fear the situation is escalating.’

On Monday, the UN’s World Food Program said that, out of Yemen’s entire population of 28 million people, about 20 million, ‘do not know where they’re going to get their next meal’. These are Fallon’s millions, May’s millions, the ‘mainstream’s’ millions.

In the Independent, Mary Dejevsky made the only mention of Yemen in an article discussing Fallon’s resignation that we have seen in the national corporate press:

In the Middle East [on Fallon’s watch], the UK made great efforts to maintain its alliance with Saudi Arabia – and the arms sales that went with it – playing down the desperate plight of Yemen which was a by-product of this policy.

Mass death, Iraq and Libya destroyed, millions of lives torn apart, profiteering in the billions from the torture of an impoverished, famine-stricken nation – none of this was deemed worthy even of mention in considering the record of Fallon and his ‘inappropriate behaviour’.

As for his replacement, the Guardian‘s Andrew Sparrow tweeted a link to his blog piece titled: ’10 things you might not know about Gavin Williamson’. Vital facts included news that the new Defence Secretary ‘kept a pet tarantula called Cronus on his desk’, ‘likes hedgehogs’, ‘is only 41’, and ‘went to a comprehensive school’.

Sparrow was adhering to the journalistic convention that parliamentary politics should be depicted as a light-hearted, Wodehousian farce. It is all a bit of a laugh – everybody means well. Despite Williamson’s lethal new role, the word ‘war’ was not mentioned.

Preoccupied with spiders and hedgehogs, Sparrow found no space to mention that Williamson ‘almost always voted for use of UK military forces in combat operations overseas’. He voted for war in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq. He voted against the Yemen motion put before the House of Commons in October 2016 that merely called on the Government to suspend its support for the Saudi Arabia-led coalition forces in Yemen until it had been determined whether they had been responsible for war crimes. The motion was defeated by 283 votes to 193, telling us everything we need to know about the ‘mainstream’s’ much-loved myth that British policy is motivated by a ‘responsibility to protect’.

The BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg tweeted a link to the BBC’s own comedy profile, which also discussed the tarantula and other nonsense, and made no mention of Williamson’s record on war. We asked Kuenssberg:

Will you be asking him if he has any regrets on voting against the Yemen motion to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia, given the vast civilian crisis?

We received no reply.

The extreme cognitive dissonance guiding ‘mainstream’ moral outrage was again highlighted by the Guardian columnist Gaby Hinsliff, who tweeted:

Can’t help thinking that now would be quite a good time for the first ever female defence secretary, really

We asked:

What difference would it make to the civilians dying under our bombs in Yemen and Syria? Isn’t that the key issue on “defence”?

Hinsliff did not reply. But the answer, of course, is that it would make no difference at all.

  1. Mailer, The Time Of Our Time, Little Brown, 1998, p.457.