Category Archives: Theresa May

Buried In Broad Daylight: The “Free Press” And The Leaked OPCW Report On Douma

A defining feature of the propaganda system is that facts supporting the agenda of Western power are pushed to the forefront of the ‘mainstream’ media, while inconvenient facts are buried. A prime example is the shameful media silence in response to a devastating document leaked from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), discussed in a recent media alert. The document, an engineering assessment of two chlorine cylinders found at two separate locations after an attack on the Damascus suburb of Douma on April 7, 2018, casts serious doubt on the official narrative that Syrian government forces had dropped them from helicopters. The claim that Assad had used chemical weapons ‘against his own civilians’ was used by the US, UK and France to ‘justify’ missile strikes on ‘chemical weapons facilities’ on April 14, 2018.

One of the cylinders was found on top of a four-storey building with its front end lodged in a hole in the roof. The other cylinder was found lying on a bed in the top-floor room of an apartment with a crater-like opening in the roof. Engineering analysis – based on measurements, photographs and computer modelling – were conducted on the two cylinders and the scenes where they were found. The aim was to ‘evaluate the possible means by which these two cylinders arrived at their respective locations as observed.’ The leaked report, signed by Ian Henderson, a senior OPCW engineer with many years’ experience, concluded:

In summary, observations at the scene of the two locations, together with subsequent analysis, suggest that there is a higher probability that both cylinders were manually placed at those two locations rather than being delivered from aircraft. [Our emphasis.]

But this dissenting engineering analysis was excluded from the final OPCW Fact-Finding Mission report presented to the UN Security Council on March 1, 2019.

Theodore Postol, professor of science, technology, and international security at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, whose main expertise is in ballistic missiles, gave an initial assessment of the leaked OPCW report on May 21, and agreed with its conclusion. He summarised:

Observations at the scene of the two locations, together with subsequent analysis, suggest that there is a higher probability that both cylinders were manually placed at those two locations rather than being delivered from aircraft.

In short:

Two analyzed chlorine cylinder attacks were staged in April 2018 in Douma. [Our emphasis.]

On June 4, Postol released a more in-depth assessment which completely rejected the propaganda claim that the cylinders could only have been dropped from Syrian government helicopters. This strengthens the conclusion that the April 2018 Douma attacks were indeed staged, presumably by Syrian rebels attempting to provoke a Western military response against Assad (and perhaps even with Western connivance).

Postol noted the glaring discrepancies between the OPWC report that was submitted to the UN (minus the dissenting analysis of the leaked document) and the facts on the ground:

The calculations produced as proof for the conclusions bear no relationship to what was observed at the scene and both the observed data from the scene and the calculations bear no relationship to the reported findings.

Postol expanded:

An important characteristic of concrete is that it is brittle. By definition, such a material is not flexible but will develop cracks and fail catastrophically when subjected to stresses that are sufficiently large. Concrete can be substantially strengthened [as in this case] by embedding reinforcing steel rebar or other strong but flexible materials within it. The rebar performs the function of maintaining the strength of the material when it is flexed rather than failing catastrophically as is the case with the surrounding brittle material.

He added:

A very important additional phenomenon associated with the impact of an object can be the creation of a hole due to a process that is generally referred to as “tunneling.” Because the breach created by the penetrating object results in the crushing and pushing of brittle concrete as the object moves forward, the diameter of the hole produced by the impact of the object will be very close to that of the penetrating object. This means that a hole created by a 40 cm diameter chlorine cylinder should be close to 40 cm in diameter…

But this was not the case:

The diameter of the hole is nearly twice that of the cylinder and the steel rebar that was supposed to stop the cylinder from penetrating through the roof is instead completely shattered and bent away from the forward direction by more than 60°… This photograph shows that the crater was produced by an explosion on the roof which had nothing to do with the impact of a chlorine cylinder. These discrepancies simply mean that the cylinder was placed on the roof after the hole was produced by the explosion of a mortar shell or artillery rocket.

Postol provided much more detail, but this was his summary:

There is absolutely no doubt that the OPCW finding that the chlorine cylinder found at what it identifies as Location 2 did not produce the hole in the roof that allegedly led to the killing of more than 30 people that the OPCW claims were trapped and poisoned in the building. The OPCW’s own science-based technical analysis does not come close to matching what was observed at Location 2.

The only possible conclusion is that ‘chemical weapons attacks’ at the two sites where the cylinders were found must have been staged.

Postol praised the high-quality analysis presented in the leaked OPCW document. But he was damning about senior OPCW management who had disregarded the dissenting engineering assessment and instead presented a deeply biased and misleading final report to the UN:

The OPCW has been compromised in terms of the content they are providing. The deception of the OPCW is quite blatant. Perhaps they are not used to people who are knowledgeable on these issues scrutinizing their material.

On June 3, Labour MP Chris Williamson submitted a parliamentary question:

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, with reference to investigations suggesting that reports of the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Government in Douma in April 2018 were staged and with reference to reports that OPCW expert advice was redacted from its final report, whether he has made a reassessment of the decision to bomb targets in Syria in 2018.

In an interview with Afshin Rattansi on RT’s Going Underground, Williamson rightly pointed to the insidious part played by the ‘mainstream’ media:

The hysterical mainstream media at the time a year ago who seemed to be clamouring for military airstrikes have been incredibly silent about this [leaked OPCW report]. I remember having a very rough interview on Channel 4 about the whole issue. And yet they seem to, as far as I’m aware, have failed to follow up now with this quite damning revelation which has been brought to light by a whistle-blower.

He added:

What is very regrettable today is the tradition that we used to take for granted, that investigative journalists – serious journalists like John Pilger – seem to be sadly lacking these days.

Williamson also cited Robert Fisk – ‘a very unusual animal these days’ – who reported from Douma last April, after interviewing civilians in the vicinity of the alleged chemical weapon attacks. A senior Syrian doctor, Dr Assim Rahaibani, told him that the ‘gas’ video that had so horrified the world showed patients who had been overcome, not by gas, but by oxygen starvation:

I was with my family in the basement of my home three hundred metres from here on the night but all the doctors know what happened. There was a lot of shelling [by government forces] and aircraft were always over Douma at night – but on this night, there was wind and huge dust clouds began to come into the basements and cellars where people lived. People began to arrive here suffering from hypoxia, oxygen loss. Then someone at the door, a “White Helmet”, shouted “Gas!”, and a panic began. People started throwing water over each other. Yes, the video was filmed here, it is genuine, but what you see are people suffering from hypoxia – not gas poisoning.

BBC Syria producer Riam Dalati said earlier this year via Twitter that:

After almost six months of investigation, I can prove without a doubt that the Douma hospital scene was staged.

He subsequently set his Twitter status to ‘private’. Moreover, in a now deleted tweet, he stated two days after the Douma attack:

Sick and tired of activists and rebels using corpses of dead children to stage emotive scenes for Western consumption. Then they wonder why some serious journos are questioning part of the narrative.

As far as we know, BBC News has never given proper coverage to the serious doubts surrounding the alleged ‘chemical weapons’ attack on Douma, other than to ascribe such doubts to Syrian and Russian government claims of ‘fabrication’. As we saw with Iraq and Saddam’s ‘denials of WMD’, a powerful propaganda technique to dismiss facts, evidence and truth is to make them come out the mouths of Official Enemies.

The BBC Goes Quiet

That the OPCW may be so compromised as to present a misleading report to the UN Security Council that could be used as post-facto ‘justification’ for a Western military attack is, to say the least, an extremely grave matter. Indeed, it casts doubt on the whole integrity of an important international organisation. Ted Postol said in an interview with Sharmini Piries of The Real News Network that he believes the official OPCW report into an alleged chemical weapons attack in Khan Shaykhun on April 4, 2017 – almost exactly one year before the Douma attack – may also have been ‘severely compromised’.

As Tim Hayward, a member of the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media (WGSPM), the group of independent scholars and researchers that originally published the leaked OPWC document, noted:

While Western politicians and news media echo tropes about obstructive Russia & outlaw Syria, States of Non-Aligned Movement and China share their concerns about politicisation and polarising of OPCW.

Hayward added:

Suppressed OPCW document undermines the claimed justification for Western missile strikes on Syria in April 2018, and it reveals an organisation in need of radical reform.

Regardless of the findings of the official and leaked OPCW reports, the leaders of the US, UK and France, including Prime Minister Theresa May, were guilty of launching an unprovoked military attack on another country in violation of the UN Charter; the ‘supreme international crime’, in the words of the post-WW2 Nuremberg judgment. These are issues that would, in a sane media system, be extensively reported and debated.

However, as we wrote over three weeks ago in our earlier media alert, other than the small-circulation, left-wing Morning Star, the damning leaked document has been mentioned in just two articles in the national press: one by Peter Hitchens in the Mail on Sunday and one in the Independent by Robert Fisk. Remarkably, but unsurprisingly, this remains the case at the time of writing. Nor is there a single mention of it anywhere on the BBC News website. Hitchens has also submitted questions direct to the OPCW which appear to have been ignored by the body.

Our repeated challenges to senior BBC journalists, including Kamal Ahmed, the BBC’s head of news, have met with a stony silence, with one exception. Lyse Doucet, the BBC’s chief international correspondent, replied via Twitter on May 24:

Thanks for your message. I am in Geneva today, in Sarajevo and Riga last week, and heading to Gulf next week. It’s an important story. Will make sure programmes know about it. As you know, UK outlets focused on May & Brexit last few days. [Our emphasis.]

Let us set aside the implausible argument that ‘UK outlets focused on May & Brexit’ should preclude any coverage of a vital reappraisal of the West’s ‘justification’ of an attack on Syria; or the notion that senior editors at the BBC, with its vast monitoring resources, would have to be informed by Doucet of the leaked document. But, if we were to take Doucet’s words at face value, she would surely be happy to respond to our follow-up query, asking for an update. Seemingly not. She has now retreated behind the wider, blanketing BBC silence.

And yet, last week, evidence emerged that the BBC is well aware of the leaked document. In a live-streamed panel debate at the annual meeting of GLOBSEC, a global security thinktank, on June 6, the BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner asked OPCW director-general Fernando Arias about the Independent report ‘by someone called Robert Fisk’. Was this an example of fake news? In his evasive reply, Arias stated that:

All the information given by any inspectors is considered but sometimes it is not fit to the conclusion. [Our emphasis.]

This remarkable admission that serious evidence and analysis were disregarded because it does ‘not fit the conclusion’ went unchallenged by the BBC’s Gardner and everyone else in the room. It echoed the infamous statement in the 2002 Downing Street memo on plans to invade Iraq that ‘the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.’ The focus of Arias’s concern was to defend the OPCW and to identify the whistle-blower, stating that:

‘”actions had to be taken” following the leak…” I stand by the impartial and professional conclusions” of the full OPCW report.’

On June 12, Peter Hitchens, mentioned earlier for his excellent reporting on Syria, challenged Gardner on whether he had reported his exchange with the OPCW director-general. Later that day, Hitchens tweeted:

BBC this afternoon stated that @FrankRGardner has *not* reported on the exchange, indeed BBC as a whole, despite vast resources paid for by licence holders, has yet to report at all on this major development.

The only response to the leaked OPCW report by a Guardian journalist so far appears to have been this remarkable outburst from George Monbiot on Twitter:

The Assad apologists are out in force again, and baying for blood. It’s chilling to see how they latch onto one person’s contentious account of a single atrocity, while ignoring the vast weight of evidence for chemical weapons use and conventional massacres by the govt. #Syria

Monbiot added:

They seek to exonerate one of the bloodiest mass murderers on the planet, denying his crimes and whitewashing his record. In doing so, they share some of the blame for his ongoing mass killing of Syrian people.

As we, and many other people, pointed out, this was an inexplicably irrational response to an obviously important, indisputably authentic, highly credible, leaked document that was not at all ‘one person’s… account’. The leaked material simply has to be taken seriously and investigated, not dismissed out of hand. We are, after all, talking about possible war crimes under Trump, the famously dangerous, fascist US President every liberal journalist is supposed to be determined to excoriate at every possible turn. Why should we not, then, describe Monbiot as a ‘Trump apologist’?

Last year, during an exchange about Syria, Hitchens told Monbiot what we had already concluded about him:

This is important. I have until now regarded you as a fundamentally decent and honest person (and defended you against those who have argued otherwise). But your behaviour in this matter is causing me to reconsider this opinion. Please argue honestly.

The near-total ‘mainstream’ media blanking of the leaked OPCW document is a genuinely disturbing sign of growing corporate media conformity and totalitarian-style mendacity. In the age of social media – with netizens repeatedly challenging the likes of the BBC’s Lyse Doucet and the Guardian‘s George Monbiot – the stonewalling, and the denial of newsworthiness, is happening in plain sight. Corporate journalists know that it is important, they know that we know that it is important, they know that we are asking why they are ignoring it, and they are ignoring us anyway, with the whole act of censorship swathed in silence. As the Soviet dissident Yevgeny Yevtushenko once said:

When truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie.

Snubs, Bumps and Donald Trump in Britain

He may not be popular in Britain, but he still has shavings of appeal.  For a country that has time for Nigel Farage, pro-Brexit enthusiast and full-time hypocrite (he is a member of the European Parliament, the very same institution he detests), President Donald Trump will garner a gaggle of fans.

One of them was not the London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, trenchant in his belief that the US president should never have been granted a state visit.  “It’s quite clear that Theresa May was premature in making this invitation, and it’s backfired on her.” But Trump’s tendency to unhinge his critics is not so much levelling as lowering: Khan’s coarse remarks a day before Trump arrived were timed to create a Twitter scene.

Trump, he wrote spitefully in The Guardian, was leading a push from the right “threatening our hard-won rights and freedoms and the values that have defined our liberal, democratic societies for more than seventy years.”  The UK had to stop “appeasing” (that Munich analogy again) dictatorial tendencies.  (Oblivious, is Khan, to the illustrious record Britain has in providing receptions and banquets for the blood thirsty and authoritarian.)

This semi-literate historical overview had the desired result.  Just prior to landing in London, Trump tweeted that Khan “who by all accounts has done a terrible job as Mayor of London, has been foolishly ‘hasty’ to the visiting President of the United States, by far the most important ally of the United Kingdom.”  For good measure, Trump insisted that the mayor was “a stone cold loser who should focus on crime in London, not me…”

The mood was set, and the presence of the president overseeing Britain’s increasingly feral political scene reminded The New York Times of boardroom takes of The Apprentice (reality television, again) though it came uncomfortably close to an evaluation of the “rear of the year” or a wet t-shirt competition of the fugglies.  This was aided by the absence of a one-to-one meeting between Trump and the soon to depart Theresa May, there being no preliminary meeting in Downing Street.

Trump felt at home, sizing up candidates to succeed May as British prime minister.  While he could muster choice words to describe Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove barely registered. “Would do a good job, Jeremy?  Tell me.”

A few candidates did their best to impress, a spectacle that did, at points, verge on the grotesque.

The Conservative Party is deliriously panicked: Farage’s Brexit Party is proving so threatening its pushing the old guard to acts of pure desperation.  This is riveting, if troubling stuff for political watchers such as Tim Bale of Queen Mary, University of London.  “A lot of the constraints have come off British politics.  Whether they’ve come off permanently, or whether it’s because the Conservative Party is at panic stations, is something only time can tell.”

Foreign secretary Hunt was particularly keen to show his wet shirt to the ogling Trump.  He no doubt felt he had to, given that Johnson had already been praised as a person who “would do a very good job” as British prime minister. To repay Trump for his acknowledgment, Hunt dismissed the views of the London mayor.  “I agree with [Trump] that it is totally inappropriate for the Labour party to be boycotting this incredibly important visit.  This is the president of the United States.”

The situation with Johnson cannot but give some amusement.  Trump, rather memorably, had been a subscriber to the theory that parts of London had become a dystopian nightmare replete with psychotic, murderous residents of the swarthy persuasion.  Johnson, for all his faults, was happy to give Trump a nice slice of demurral on his city when mayor.  He also opined that Trump was “clearly out of his mind” in making the now infamous suggestion on December 7, 2015 for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”   But politics is an odd stew, throwing together a strange mix of ingredients.  For his part, Johnson declined an invitation to see Trump in person, preferring the comforting distance of a 20-minute phone call.

Away from rear of the year proceedings were those who had consciously boycotted any event associated with Trump.  Prince William and Prince Harry preferred to avoid a photo opportunity with the president at Buckingham Palace.  Jeremy Corbyn of the Labour Party preferred to join protests against Trump over attending the state banquet.  The act will no doubt be seen as admirable in some quarters, but hardly qualifies as those of a potential future prime minister.  “Corbyn,” noted The Independent, “has again dodged the stately bullet and had instead taken the easy way out.”  To the echo chamber he went.

Beyond the visit, more substantive matters are going to be troubling for diplomats in the UK Foreign Office.  One of the things touted during the Tuesday press conference was the prospect of a trade agreement between a Britain unshackled from the EU, and the United States.  Trump even went so far as to press May to stay longer for the negotiations.  Not one for briefings, he ventured a suggestion: “I don’t know exactly what your timing is but, stick around, let’s do this deal.”

The issue is fascinatingly premature: Britain, having not yet left the EU, let alone on any clear basis, faces an orbit of sheer, jangling confusion for some time to come.  In terms of numbers, the issue is also stark: the UK has the EU to thank for half of its trade; the United States comes in at 14.7 percent.

The troubling feature of any free trade proposal coming out of the Trump administration will be its rapacity, or, as Trump likes to call it, “phenomenal” scope.  Nothing will be exempt.  Agriculture and health are two fields of contention.  Access for US exports will entail easing limitations on animal feed with antibiotics and genetically modified crops.  More headaches, and bumps, await the relationship between troubled Britannia and groping Uncle Sam.

The End of Theresa May

The vultures of the British conservative party have gathered, and the individual who seemed to thrive in failure, to gain momentum in defeat, has finally yielded.  UK Prime Minister Theresa May will leave the way for change of leadership on June 7.  Never known for any grand gestures of emotion, the Maybot finally gave way to it.

It had begun rather optimistically in 2016.  May would preside over a Britain leaving the European Union in good order.  She even dared suggest that an agenda of domestic reform might be implemented.  Neither has transpired, and clues were already apparent with the blithely optimistic trio in charge of overseeing the Brexit process: David Davis, as a fabulously ill-equipped Brexit Secretary, Liam Fox holding the reins as international trade secretary and Boris Johnson keeping up appearances at the Foreign Office.  But for all that it was May who seemed to insist that all was possible: the UK could still leave the customs union and single market, repudiate free movement and wriggle out of the jurisdiction of the European Court.  Independent trade deals with non-EU countries would be arrived at but similar trading agreements could still continue in some form with the EU. And there would be no Irish border issue.

Problems, however, surfaced early.  May’s leadership style problematic.  Her cabinet reshuffles (read bloodletting) did much to create animosity.  Some eight ministers were sacked in the first round, with all but one under 50 at the time.  They were, as Stephen Bush puts it, “right in the middle of their political careers, a dangerous time to leave them with nothing to lose.”

Her decision to go to the polls in 2017 to crush the opposition was also another act of a folly-ridden leader.  From a position of strength from which she could instruct her party on the hard truths of Brexit instead of covering their ears, she gave Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn ample kicking room to revive his party while imposing upon herself a considerable handicap.  EU negotiators knew they were negotiating with a significantly weakened leader.

Then came the cold showers, initiated by such wake-up alarms as shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer’s suggestion in 2017 that a transitional phase would have to come into effect after the UK had thrown off the EU.  As Starmer observed at the time, “Constructive ambiguity – David Davis’s description of the government’s approach – can only take you so far.”

May duly suffered three horrendous defeats in Parliament, all to do with a failure to pass the Withdrawal Agreement, and fought off the daggers of usurpation within her own party. She had also had to convince the EU that two extensions to Brexit were warranted. The last throw of the dice featured bringing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to the negotiating table.  To a large extent, that had been encouraged by the third failure to pass the Withdrawal Agreement on March 29th.

On May 21, the prime minister outlined the latest incarnation of a plan that has never moved beyond the stage of life support.  It had that air of a captain heading for the iceberg of inevitability.  She remained committed “to deliver Brexit and help our country move beyond the division of the referendum and into a better future.”  It was spiced with the sweet nothings of forging that “country that works for everyone”, all with “the chance to get on in life and to go as far as their own talent and hard work can take them”.

She hoped for alternative arrangements to the Irish backstop. The new Brexit deal would “set out in law that the House of Commons will approve the UK’s objectives for the negotiations on our future relationship with the EU and they will approve the treaties governing that relationship before the Government signs them.”  A new Workers’ Rights Bill would be introduced to guarantee equivalent protections to UK workers afforded to those in the EU, perhaps even better.  No change to the level of environmental protection would take place, something to be policed by a new Office of Environmental Protection.  But May’s concessions on the subject of a customs union and a proposed second referendum as part of the package, both largely designed to placate Labour, were too much for her cabinet.  Her resignation was assured.

The resignation speech was a patchwork attempt to salvage a difficult legacy.  It was “right to persevere, even when the odds against success seemed high.”  But it would be for her “successor to seek a way forward that honours the result of the referendum. To succeed, he or she will have to find consensus in parliament where I have not.”

She had led “a decent, moderate and patriotic Conservative government on the common ground of British politics”. She spoke of “a union of people”, standing together regardless of background, skin colour “or who we love”.  In an effort to move beyond a pure and exclusive focus on Brexit, she tried to single out such domestic achievements as gender pay reporting and the race disparity audit.  This led such conservative outlets as The Spectator to wonder whether such initiatives had “invented victimhood where none existed.”

There will be as many post-mortems on May’s tenure as Brexit proposals.  Steve Richards, writing for The New European, felt May never had a chance.  It was a period of uncertainty made permanent.  With each Brexit secretary resignation, with each parliamentary defeat of the exit plan, “nothing much happened, only an accumulative sense of doom.”  That was a ready-made outcome.

The list of contenders seeking to replace May is a who’s who of agents, less of assuring stability than guaranteed chaos shadowed by enormous question marks.  Furthermore, anyone willing to offer themselves up for replacement is likely to face similar treatment to that given May.

The current stable of contenders are of varying, uneven talents.  Environment secretary Michael Gove and former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab were rather late to the fold.  They joined Matt Hancock, Jeremy Hunt, Boris Johnson, Esther McVey, Andrea Leadsom and Rory Stewart.  Political watchers and the party faithful will be keeping an eye on wobbliness and wavering: foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt had campaigned in the 2016 referendum to remain in the UK; likewise the self-touted tech-savvy Hancock.

With an individual such as Boris Johnson, you are assured a spell of chaos.  Incapable of mastering a brief, his temperament is utterly hostile to stable ministerial appointments.  He tries to make up for that with a buffoonish, public school air that treats certain character flaws as gifts of eccentricity.  While he is liked amongst the conservative fan base, his parliamentary colleagues are not so sure.  The Bold as British formula is only going to carry you so far; the hard negotiators in the EU will attest to that.

Media Smoothed Way to Corbyn Target Practice

It is time to stop believing these infantile narratives the political and media establishment have crafted for us. Like the one in which they tell us they care deeply about the state of British political life, that they lie awake at night worrying about the threat posed by populism to our democratic institutions.

How do they persuade us of the depth of their concern? They express their horror at the murder of an MP, Jo Cox, and their outrage at the abuse of another, Anna Soubry.

But they don’t really care whether politicians are assaulted, vilified or threatened – at least, not if it is the kind of politician who threatens their power. These political and media elites don’t seriously care about attacks on democracy, or about political violence, or about the rottenness at the core of state institutions. Their outrage is selective. It is rooted not in principle, but in self-interest.

Is that too cynical? Ponder this.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn hasn’t faced just shouted insults from afar, like Soubry. He was recently physically assaulted, hit on the head by a man holding an egg in his fist. But unlike Soubry, our media expressed no real concern. In fact, they could barely conceal their sniggers at his “egging”, an attack they presented as little more than a prank. They even hinted that Corbyn deserved it.

Shown as Kremlin stooge

The media have been only happy too to vilify Corbyn as a Kremlin stooge and a former Soviet spy. Senior Tory Iain Duncan Smith today called Corbyn “a Marxist whose sole purpose in life is to do real damage to the country” – a remark that, as ever, went entirely unchallenged by the BBC giving him a platform. Just imagine a Labour MP being allowed to accuse Theresa May of being a fascist whose only goal is to destroy the country.

But the BBC has never bothered to conceal its intense dislike of Corbyn. Its news shows have even photoshopped the Labour leader to make him look “Russian” – or “more Russian”, as the BBC and the rest of the media mischievously phrased it. Those who protested were told they were reading too much into it. They needed to lighten up and not take themselves so seriously.

The Conservative party, including the former defence secretary Michael Fallon, has regularly portrayed Corbyn as a threat to national security, especially over concerns about the Trident nuclear missile system. Many senior members of Corbyn’s own party have echoed such smears – all amplified, of course, by the media.

Those who suggested that the government and media needed to engage with Corbyn’s well-grounded doubts about the safety of nuclear weapons, or the economics and practicalities of the Trident programme, were derided – like Corbyn – as “pacifists” and “traitors”.

Then Corbyn became the target of another sustained demonisation campaign. It was claimed that this lifelong, very public anti-racism activist – who over decades had forged strong ties to sections of the British Jewish community, despite being a steadfast critic of Israel – was, at worst, a secret anti-semite and, at best, providing succour to anti-semites as they overran the Labour party.

Was there any factual basis or evidence for these claims? No. But the British public was assured by rightwing Jews like the Board of Deputies and by “leftwing” Jewish supporters of Israel like Jonathan Freedland that evidence wasn’t necessary, that they had a sixth sense for these things.

Corbyn’s supporters were told that they should not question the wildly inflammatory and evidence-free denunciations of Corbyn and the wider Labour membership for a supposed “institutional anti-semitism” – and, with a satisfyingly circular logic, that to do so was itself proof of anti-semitism.

Too toxic to lead Labour

The weaponisation of anti-semitism through political spin by Corbyn’s political enemies, including the Blairite faction of the parliamentary Labour party, was and is a dangerous assault on public life, one that has very obviously degraded Britain’s political culture.

The smear was meant to override the membership’s wishes and make Corbyn too toxic to lead Labour.

It has also politicised the anti-semitism allegation, weakening it for a section of the population, and irresponsibly inflaming fears among other sections. It has deflected attention from the very real threat of a rising tide of rightwing racism, both Islamophobia and the kind of anti-semitism that relates to Jews, not Israel.

Then, there was the serving British general who was given a platform by the Sunday Times – anonymously, of course – to accuse Corbyn of being a threat to British national security. The general warned that the army’s senior command would never allow Corbyn near Number 10. They would launch a coup first.

But no one in the corporate media or the political establishment thought the interview worthy of much attention, or demanded an investigation to find out which general had threatened to overturn the democratic will of the people. The story was quickly dropped down the memory hole. Those who sought to draw attention to it were told to move on, that there was nothing to see.

And now, this week, footage has emerged showing British soldiers – apparently taking their commanders’ expressed wishes more seriously than the media – using a poster of Corbyn as target practice out in Afghanistan.

Questioning ‘security credentials’

Do the media and politicians really care about any of this? Are they concerned, let alone as outraged as they were at Soubry’s earlier discomfort at the verbal abuse she faced? Do they understand the seriousness of this threat to British political life, to the safety of the leader of the opposition?

The signs are still far from reassuring. Theresa May did not think it worth using prime minister’s questions to condemn the video, to send an unequivocal message that Britain’s political choices would never be decided by violence. No one else in the chamber apparently thought to raise the matter either.

Sky News even used the footage to question yet again Corbyn’s “security credentials”, as though the soldiers might thereby have grounds for treating him as a legitimate target.

The clues as to where all this is leading are not hard to fathom. The white nationalist who drove into a crowd at Finsbury Park mosque in London, killing a worshipper, admitted at his trial that the real target had been Corbyn. An unexpected roadblock foiled his plans.

The fact is that no one in the political or media class cares much whether their constant trivialising of Corbyn’s political programme degrades British political life, or whether their smears could lead to political violence, or whether four years of their incitement might encourage someone to use more than an egg and a fist against Corbyn.

So let’s stop indulging the media and politicians as they cite Jo Cox’s murder and Anna Soubry’s intimidation as evidence of their democratic sensibilities and their commitment to political principle.

The truth is they are charlatans. They will use anything – from the murder of an MP to confections of anti-semitism and smears about treason – to incite against a democratic politician who threatens their domination of the political system.

It is their refusal to engage with a political argument they know they will lose, and to allow a democratic process to take place that they fear will produce the wrong result, that is setting the scene for greater polarisation and frustration, and ultimately for violence.

Europe on the Brink of Collapse?

The Empire’s European castle of vassals is crumbling. Right in front of our eyes. But Nobody seems to see it. The European Union (EU), the conglomerate of vassals. Trump calls them irrelevant, and he doesn’t care what they think about him, they deserve to be collapsing. They, the ‘vassalic’ EU, a group of 28 countries, some 500 million people, with a combined economy of a projected 19 trillion US-dollar equivalent, about the same as the US, have submitted themselves to the dictate of Washington in just about every important aspect of life.

The EU has accepted on orders by Washington to sanction Russia, Venezuela, Iran, and a myriad of countries that have never done any harm to any of the 28 EU member states. The EU has accepted the humiliation of military impositions by NATO – threatening Russia and China with ever more and ever more advancing military basis towards Moscow and Beijing, to the point that Brussels’ foreign policy is basically led by NATO.

It was clear from the very get-go that the US sanctions regime imposed on Russia and all the countries refusing to submit to the whims and rules of Washington, directly and via the EU, was hurting the EU economically far more than Russia. This is specifically true for some of the southern European countries, whose economy depended more on trading with Russia and Eurasia than it did for other EU countries.

The ‘sanctions’ disaster really hit the fan, when Trump unilaterally decided to abrogate the “Nuclear Deal” with Iran and reimpose heavy sanctions on Iran and on “everybody who would do business with Iran”. European hydrocarbon giants started losing business. That’s when Brussels, led by Germany, started mumbling that they would not follow the US and – even – that they would back European corporations, mainly hydrocarbon giants, sticking to their contractual arrangements they had with Iran.

Too late. European business had lost all confidence in Brussels EU Administration’s feeble and generally untrustworthy words. Many breached their longstanding and, after the Nuclear Deal, renewed contracts with Iran, out of fear of punishment by Washington and lack of trust in Brussel’s protection. Case in point is the French-British petrol giant, Total, which shifted its supply source from Iran to Russia – no, not to the US, as was, of course, Washington’s intent. The damage is done. The vassals are committing slow suicide.

The people have had it. More than half of the European population wants to get out of the fangs from Brussels. But nobody asks them, nor listens to them, and that in the so-called heartland of ‘democracy’ (sic). That’s why people are now up in arms and protesting everywhere – in one way or another in Germany, France, the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Hungary, Poland – the list is almost endless. And it can be called generically the ‘Yellow Vests”, after the new French revolution.

The latest in a series of the US attacking Germany and German business – and German integrity, for that matter – are the US Ambassador’s, Richard Grenell, recent threats to German corporations with sanctions if they work on Nord Stream 2, the 1,200 km pipeline bringing Russian gas to Europe, to be completed by the end of 2019. It will virtually double the capacity of Russian gas supply to Europe. Instead, Washington wants Europe to buy US shale gas and oil, and especially keeping Europe economically and financially in the US orbit, avoiding in any way a detachment from Washington and preventing the obvious and logical – an alliance with Russia. This attempt will fail bitterly, as various German Ministers, including Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, have loudly and with determination protested against such US hegemonic advances. Well, friends, you have bent over backwards to please your Washington Masters for too long. It’s high time to step out of this lock-step of obedience.

In France, this past weekend of 12 / 13 January, the Yellow Vests went into round 9 of protests against dictator Macron, his austerity program and not least his abject arrogance vis-à- vis the working class. A recent public statement of Macron’s is testimony of this below-the-belt arrogance: Trop de francals n’ont pas le sens de l’effort, ce qui explique en partie les ‘troubles’ que connalt le pays”. Translated: “Too many French don’t know the meaning of ‘effort’ which explains at least partially the trouble this country is in.”

The Yellow Vests and a majority of the French population want nothing less than Macron’s resignation. Protesters are consistently and largely under-reported by Christophe Castaner, the French Interior Minister. This past weekend the official figure was 50,000 demonstrators, countrywide, when in reality the figure was at least three times higher. The official French version would like the public at large, inside and outside of France, to believe that the Yellow Vest’s movement is diminishing. It is not. To the contrary, they are demonstrating all over France, and that despite the Macron regime’s increasing violent repression.

RT reports on Macron’s orders the police are becoming more violent, using military suppression to control protesting French civilians. Thousands have been arrested, and hundreds injured by police brutality. Nevertheless, the movement is gaining massive public support and the ‘Yellow Vests” idea is spreading throughout Europe. This spread is, of course, hardly reported by the mainstream media.

In fact, 80% of the French back the Yellow Vests and their idea of a Citizen Initiated Referendum (RIC for “Référendum d’initiative citoyenne”), under which citizens could propose their own laws that would then be voted on by the general public. The RIC could effectively bypass the French Parliament, and would be enshrined in the French Constitution. A similar law exists since 1848 in Switzerland and is regularly applied by Swiss citizens. It is a way of Direct Democracy that any country calling itself a “democracy” should incorporate in its Constitution.

The UK is in shambles. Thousands are taking to the streets of London, organized by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity”, calling for general elections to replace the failing Tory Government. They are joined by the French Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests), out of solidarity. Many of the UK protesters are also wearing high-visibility yellow vests.

This is in direct correlation with the ever-growing louder debacle over BREXIT – yes, or no and how. At this point nobody knows what Britain’s future is going to be. Propaganda and counter-propaganda is destined to further confuse the people and confused people usually want to stick to the ‘status quo’. There is even a movement of pro “remain” propaganda, organized by some members of the European Parliament. Imagine! Talking about sovereignty, if Brussels cannot even leave the Brits alone to decide whether they want to continue under their dictate or not.

Hélas, the Brits are largely divided, but also past the stage of being swayed by foreign propaganda, especially in this delicate question of leaving the EU – which a majority of Brits clearly decided in June 2016. Prime Minister, Theresa May, has screwed-up the BREXIT process royally, to the point where many Brits feel that what she negotiated is worse than “no deal”. This has likely happened in close connivance with the unelected EU ‘leadership’ which does not want the UK to leave and under strict orders from Washington which needs the UK in its crucial role as a US mole in the European Union.

On 15 January 2019, the UK Parliament voted on whether they accept the negotiated BREXIT conditions, or whether they prefer a ‘no deal’ BREXIT, or will request an extension for further negotiations under Article 50 of the “Treaty of Lisbon” (which was imposed by the heads of state of the 28 members, without any public vote, and is a false stand-in for a EU Constitution). Ms. May’s proposal was largely rejected by the British Parliament, but her Government survived a subsequent vote of “No Confidence”.

Now, the situation for the a divided British population is chaos. So far nobody knows, probably not even Ms. May, what will follow next. There are various options, including ‘snap’ elections, and let the new PM decide, a new “remain or exit” referendum that would not go down well with probably the majority of the population – or simply a vote to in Parliament for a “no deal Brexit”, or to stay in the EU after all.

For weeks, the Yellow Vest movement has spread to Belgium and The Netherlands. For similar reasons – public discontent over austerity, EU dictatorship over Belgian and Dutch sovereignty. Last Friday, one of the Belgian Yellow Vests was overrun by a truck and killed. Authorities reported it as an accident.

Greece — The MS-media report all is ‘donkey-dory’, Greece is recovering, has for the first time in many years a positive growth rate and is able to refinance herself on the open capital market. Greece is no longer dependent on the irate and infamous troika (European Central Bank – ECB, European Commission and IMF). Reality is completely different, as about two thirds of the Greek population are still hovering around or below the survival level – no access to public health care, affordable medication, public schools – umpteen times reduced pensions, most public assets and services privatized for a pittance. Nothing has fundamentally changed in the last years, at least not for the better and for the majority of the people. The troika has allowed the Greek to go to the private capital markets – to boost falsely their, the Greek’s, image among the international public at large, basically telling the brainwashed populace, “It worked, we, the troika, did a good job”.

Nothing worked. People are unhappy; more than unhappy, they are indignant. They demonstrated against Angela Merkel’s recent visit to Athens, and their protests were violently oppressed by police forces. What do you expect? This is what has become of Europe, a highly repressive state of spineless vassals.

On Wednesday, 16 January, the Greek Parliament may hold a Vote of Confidence against or for Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. The official and make-believe reason is supposedly the controversy over the name of Macedonia, which, in fact, has long been settled. The real reason is the public’s discontent about the continuous and increasing blood-letting by never-ending austerity, sucking the last pennies from the poor. According to Lancet, the renowned British health journal, the Greek suicide rate is soaring. Nobody talks about it. Will Tsipras survive a possible Vote of Confidence? If not, early elections? Who will follow Tsipras? Don’t be fooled by the term ‘democracy’.  The elite from within and without Greece will not allow any policy changes. That’s when people à la Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests) may come in. Civil unrest. Enough is enough.

In Italy the coalition of the 5-Star Movement and the small right-wing brother, Lega Norte, is pulled to the far right by Lega’s Matteo Salvini, Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister. Mr. Salvini is clearly calling the shots, and his alliance is firing strongly against Brussels and with good reason, as Brussels is attempting to impose rules on Italy’s budget, while the same rules do not apply equally to all EU member states. For example, Macron, France’s Rothschild implant, has special privileges, as far as budget overrun margins are concerned. Mr. Salvini’s anti-Brussels, anti-EU stance is no secret, and he has a lot of Italians behind him. An Italian Yellow Vest movement cannot be excluded.

The empire’s vassal castle is crumbling and not even silently.

Then there are the former Soviet satellites, Hungary and Poland, turned right wing – don’t appreciate Brussels meddling with Hungary’s anti-immigration policy and in Poland over a controversial overhaul of the Judiciary system. Never mind whether you agree or not with individual country actions. Both cases are clear interferences in these nations’ sovereignty. Though upon the European Court of Justice’s strong warning, Poland indeed blinked and reinstated the judges fired in the judiciary reform process. Poland’s love for NATO, and Brussels use of the NATO leverage, may have played a role in Poland’s reversal of decision. Nevertheless, discontent in Poland as in Hungary among the public at large remains strong. Migration and the Judiciary are just the visible pretexts. The legendary tip of the iceberg. Reality is on a deeper level, much deeper. These countries are both reminded of what they considered the Soviet Union’s handcuffs. “Freedom” is not being dictated by Brussels.

The triad of systematic and willful destabilization and destruction of what we know as the Greater Middle East and western world is what we have to be aware of. The east, mostly Russia and China, is a challenge being tackled simultaneously, impressively for the brainwashed westerner, but rather meekly for those who are informed about Russia’s and China’s military might and intelligence capacity.

This drive of destabilization cum destruction comes in three phases. It started with the Middle East which for the most part has become a hopeless hell-hole, a source of indiscriminate killing by the western allies, say, the emperor’s puppets and mercenaries, resulting in millions killed and in an endless flood of refugees destabilizing Europe – which is the second phase of the triad. It’s in full swing. It happens right in front of our eyes, but we don’t see it.

It’s the Yellow Vests, austerity, increasing inequality, unemployment, social sector’s being milked to zilch by the financial system, popular uprisings’ oppression by police and military forces; it’s reflected by the dismal powerlessness of the people that leads to “enough is enough” in the streets. That’s the way it’s all wanted. The more chaos the better. People in chaos are easily controlled.

Now comes phase three of the triad – Latin America. It has already started three or four years back. Countries that have struggled for decades to eventually break loose with some form of ‘democracy’ from the fangs of empire, are gradually being subdued with fake elections and ‘internal’ parliamentary coups, back into the emperor’s backyard. The Southern Cone – Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay – is ‘gone’, except for Bolivia. Peru, Colombia, Ecuador all the way to Guyana are governed by neoliberal, even neo-nazi-shaded Lords of Washington. But there is still Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and now also Mexico that have not caved in and will not cave in.

In an extraordinary analysis, Thierry Meyssan describes in “The Terrible Forthcoming Destruction of the Caribbean Basin” –  how the Pentagon is still pursuing the implementation of the Rumsfeld-Cebrowski plan, this time aiming at the destruction of the “Caribbean Basin” States. There is no consideration for friends or political enemies, Thierry Meyssan observes. He goes on predicting that after the period of economic destabilization and that of military preparation, the actual operation should begin in the years to come by an attack on Venezuela by Brazil (supported by Israel), Colombia (an ally of the United States) and Guyana (in other words, the United Kingdom). It will be followed by others, beginning with Cuba and Nicaragua, the ‘troika of tyranny’, as per John Bolton.

Only the future will say to what extent this plan will be implemented. At the outset, its ambitions exceed the crumbling empire’s actual capacity.

When it comes all down to one single denominator, it’s the current western financial system that must go. It is private banking gone berserk. We are living in a financial system that has gone wild and running havoc, uncontrolled – a train of endless greed that is loosely speeding ahead and doesn’t know when it will hit an unyielding steel-enforced brick wall – but hit it will. It is a mere question of time. People are sick and tired of being milked no end by a fraudulent pyramid system constructed by the US and her dollar hegemony and maintained by globalized private banking.

We are living in a private banking system that has nothing to do with economic development, but everything with a greed-driven domination of us, consumers, sold on debt and on money that we don’t control, despite the fact that we earned it with our hard labor; despite the fact that it is our added value to what we call the economy. No!  This system is totally disrespectful of the individual.  It is even ready to steal our money, if it needs to survive – our banking system. It takes the liberty of “administering” it and basically appropriating it. Once our money is in a private bank, we have lost control over it. And mind you and get it into your brains, private banks do not work for you and me, but for their shareholders. But through hundreds of years of indoctrination, we have become so used to it, that being charged interest for borrowing our own money, through an intermediary who does nothing, absolutely nothing but wait for profit to fall into its lap, has become the ‘normality’.

It isn’t. This system has to be abolished, the faster the better. Private banking needs to be eradicated and replaced by local public banking that works with local currencies, based on local economic output, way removed from globalized concepts that help steal resources, empty local social safety nets – all under the guise of austerity for progress. We should know better by now. There is no austerity for progress, has never been. This fraudulent IMF-World Bank concept has never worked, anywhere.

We have to de-dollarize our money, de-digitize our money and pool it through a public banking system for the purpose of people’s growth, hence a society’s or nation’s growth. There is currently one good example, the Bank of North Dakota. The BND has helped the US State of North Dakota through the 2008 and following years crisis, with economic growth instead of economic decline, with almost full employment, versus skyrocketing unemployment in the rest of the US and the western world. We need to build our common wealth with sovereign money, backed by our sovereign economies.

As the empire and its vassals are crumbling badly, they are shaking in their foundations, it is time to rethink what we have been taking for granted and for ‘normal’ – a fraudulent and deceptive monetary system, backed by nothing, no economy, not even gold – we are living on sheer fiat money, made by private banking by a mouse-click – and by letting us be enslaved by debt.

Enough is enough. The Yellow Vests have understood. They want to get rid of their “Macron” who keeps propagating the fraud. It is time to rethink and restart, as the crumbling is getting louder and louder. Empire’s European vassal state is falling apart and will pull Washington and its hegemonic war and money machine along into the abyss.

• First published by the New Eastern Outlook – NEO

No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit

Theresa May’s prime ministership remains one of torment, drawn out, and weakened daily.  But does it really matter?  If it is true to claim that people deserve the government they elect, then there is something madly representative of the debacle of May’s leadership, one where problems are sought for any possible solutions.

Steering through the waters of Brexit has been a nigh impossible task rendered even more problematic by a stubborn myopia nursed by May.  She nurses dogmas incapable of learning new tricks.  Her latest Brexit plan, as it headed to inevitable defeat, would have rendered Britain bound to the EU in a manner more servile than any sovereign populist would have dreamed.  Benefits would have been shed; obligations would have persisted. While there is very little to recommend the views of the rabid Tory Eurosceptics, there is something in the idea that Britain would become a vassal state.

As it transpired, May lost by a colossal margin, an indication that few could stomach her vision: 432 to 202, the worst defeat by a British administration in over a century. “In all normal circumstances,” observed Robert Peston, that legendary pessimist of matters economic, “a Prime Minister would resign when suffering such a humiliation on their central policy – and a policy Theresa May herself said today would ‘set the future of this country for a generation’.”

Such is the nature of the climate: gross failure results in bare survival rather than inevitable annihilation.  Grand acts of quixotic behaviour are not richly punished but given reprieve before the next charge against windmills. So we are left with the idea of uncharted territory, suggesting, in the face of such chaos and uncertainty, a postponement of the departure date from the EU set for March 29.  The Article 50 period, in other words, would have to be extended, but this, again, implies a set of hypothetical variations and ponderings.

For all that, May survived yet another no-confidence motion by 325 to 306, with Labor’s Jeremy Corbyn incapable of pushing the entire debacle to an election. Not even the Tories wished that upon their own leader, whom they have come to despise in ways verging on the pathological. Corbyn might well have called the May prime ministership a “zombie” administration, but he had failed to supply the necessary weapons to finish it off, prompting colleagues in the Commons to suggest a change of approach.

The leader of the Liberal Democrats, Vince Cable, advanced the proposition that the Labour leader had to alter “his position and come behind the ‘People’s Vote’ or he will just be seen, and will be, a handmaiden of Brexit.”

Despite the failure, Corbyn had his own demands.  “The government must remove clearly, once and for all, the prospect of the catastrophe of a no-deal exit from the EU and all the chaos that would come as a result of that.”  The language of cross-party lines on discussing Brexit remain distant matters.

As for the zombie representative-in-chief herself, the government would “continue to work to deliver on the solemn promise to the people of this country to deliver on the result of the referendum and leave the European Union”.  Same words, barely touched up – the May formulae remains incapable of changing form, incapable of elevation, but also seemingly incapable of perishing.

Wednesday’s vote of survival after the calamity of her defeated proposals suggested a change in heart from May.  (Did she have any other choice?)  She ventured talks with various opposition party leaders, though various news outlets in the UK insisted that Corbyn had been ungenerous in snubbing the prime minister. Labour’s leadership remains sceptical at any advances from Downing Street.  As The Guardian editorialised on May’s proposed talks, “It is a welcome shift in tone, but there is no indication from Mrs May’s record that she has the diplomatic skills required to make such a consultation fruitful.”  This notable lack manifested in an obsession with “red lines”, a mad faith in a Brexit plan long rendered cadaverous.

For the paper’s own worth, a new strategy of change focused on a customs union arrangement between Britain and the EU would “transform dialogue with Labour and pro-European Tories.”  Fine thing to suggest, but the darkness refuses to abate.  International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, for one, sees such a union as a way of ensuring that Britain will not have an independent trade policy.  The ship of apocalypse, whatever it might entail, remains on course.

May Days in Britain

It is hard to envisage sympathy for a person who made a name as a home secretary (prisons, detentions, security and such) taking the mast and banner of her country before hopeless odds, but inadequate opponents will do that to you.  Vicious, venal and underdone, the enemies from within Theresa May’s own Tory ranks resemble the lazily angry, the fumingly indulgent.  These are the same men, and a few women, who managed to derive enormous satisfaction from a Britain pampered and spoiled by EU largesse but questioning of its bureaucracy and demands.  Patriotism has an odd habit of making one jaundiced, but manic self-interest will also do that to you.

May remains British prime minister after a botched effort to overthrow her within conservative party ranks.  She faced the unenviable situation of being stonewalled in Europe and by Parliament itself.  President of the European Council Donald Tusk assured May that the deal for the UK leaving the EU is not up for renegotiation, “including the backstop”.

The border with Ireland – soft, hard, or middling – is proving to be a rattling affair.  Should it go “hard”, Britain will find itself trapped.  As The Irish Times noted, “It evokes genuine fear, not least in those who live near the Border or rely on trade for their livelihoods or count themselves among the silenced majority in Northern Ireland who voted Remain.”

As for Parliament, May has ducked and weaved in putting the deal to its irritable members, thereby depriving MPs a hack at sinking it.  May fears, rightly, defeat over a proposal that has satisfied few.  What is now being run in certain circles is the idea of “indicative votes” which might throw up various Brexit models (Canada-styled; Norwegian adapted).

The May plotters, however, showed the skills and talents of marksmen who end up shooting themselves in a fit of drunken enthusiasm on a poorly planned hunt.  The leadership challenge on December 12 served to demonstrate a good level of incompetence, amplified by the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson.

The fact that May received 200 votes against 117 to stay on as PM was not enough for the righteous Rees-Moog, who spoke as if some inscrutable victory for the rebels had been attained.  “She said in 2017 she would lead the Conservative Party if she had the support of the parliamentary party.”  It was clear that a third of members voting against her suggested she did not. “So if she honours her word she will decide in the interests of the party and the nation she will go.”

This all seems to amount to a stay of execution.  May survives, but faces daggers on a daily basis.  Home Secretary Sajid Javid is nipping at her heels in the hope to land a blow.  Welfare Secretary Amber Rudd has made it public that she likes the idea of a UK-EU arrangement along the lines of Norway’s relationship with the union.  Naturally, as with so many such ideas, the EU response is automatically assumed.

The idea of a second referendum, long seen as the ultimate betrayal of the Brexit result, has received more than a decent fanning.  Vast swathes have changed their mind since the populist up swell of 2016, goes the view of conservative Dominic Grieve and New Labour’s former spin doctor Alastair Campbell on Good Morning Britain, a bastion of rusted reaction few can match on British television.  The panel, as ever, was on the hunt for the elusive idea of democracy in Britain, and found wanting.   The Remainers remain desperately confused.

If there is a good reason to be suspicious of a second referendum, former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s endorsement of it would be one.  Frankly Tony, whose rule was characterised by long spells of deception and arrogance (remember the Iraq War?), had a singular contempt for democracy that should not be forgotten. He is now spending time slumming in Brussels in the hope that people will take notice, advocating for a second people’s vote.  Should parliament be unable to reach agreement on each of the forms of Brexit being put forth, he suggests, “then the logical thing is to go back to the people.”

To Blair can be added May’s own de facto deputy prime minister, David Lidington and chief of staff at 10 Downing Street Gavin Barwell.  The latter has supposedly discussed the issue of a second people’s vote with Chancellor Philip Hammond and Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd.

May is having none of it.  “Let us not break faith with the British people by trying to stage another referendum.” To do so “would do irreparable damage to the integrity of our politics, because it would say to millions who trusted in democracy, that our democracy does not deliver.”

Brexit is the great exercise of imperfection, an experiment that the EU would like to quash just as many in the UK would like to see reversed.  It has been disheartening and cruel; it has divided and disturbed. It has also demonstrated levels of marked mendacity fitting for countries British citizens tend to mock.  Facts have become fictions; fictions have been paraded as exemplars of truth.  The dark spirits have been released, and they are not going to be bottled any time soon.

National Interest or Personal Interest: Theresa May’s Spat with Tony Blair

The war of words between Tony Blair and Theresa May over the last few days is quite revealing – not of Blair’s known position regarding the Brexit mess, but because the Prime Minister’s rant showed her weakness.  Her position is unsustainable and the last thing she wanted was unwelcome comments from an ex-Prime Minister.

She had, after all, just come back from Brussels yet again, carrying no hope from the EU negotiators, but then she had offered no new ideas to put on the table.  The agreed withdrawal text was ‘the best deal’ she could get, and Parliament had been refused the chance to vote against it – a vote she had promised then taken away.

The spat started with Tony Blair speaking on BBC’s Today programme* prior to a speech he was due to make later that day.  His predecessor John Major, had already publicly given his support for 2 options: another referendum (the Peoples Vote) and revoking the Article 50 withdrawal.  Blair had also backed the People’s Vote.

There is currently no majority in Parliament for May’s deal or any other, including crashing out of the EU with no deal at all. Blair said there could be majority support among MPs for a new EU poll if Parliament ended up “gridlocked”, and certainly more MPs are saying so.  He added that “he admired Mrs May’s determination but suggested that, with so many MPs opposed to the backstop and other parts of the deal, this was becoming a weakness and she must realise she was “in a hole… and there is literally no point in carrying on digging”.

All very reasonable but this did not please Theresa May.  She issued an explosive statement, demonstrating just how touchy and vulnerable she’s feeling.  She said the ex-PM’s backing for a second referendum was deliberately sabotaging her bid to make EU leaders compromise on the Irish backstop.  To quote:

There are too many people who want to subvert the process for their own political interests rather than act in the national interest.  For Tony Blair to go to Brussels and seek to undermine our negotiations by advocating a second referendum is an insult to the office he once held and the people he once served.  We cannot, as he would, abdicate responsibility for this decision.

There are three points to note here. First, ‘her bid to make EU leaders compromise…’  After all this time and months of negotiation, her government has not abandoned its arrogant and self-important attitude towards the EU, something many of us find embarrassing.  How many more times does the EU have to say ‘no more negotiations’ before they will be believed?

Secondly, her government’s ‘responsibility for this decision’.  The decision is no decision.  Brexit MPs and supporters have never produced a genuine plan for Brexit.  It has been about nothing but leave the EU and its regulations.  What happens then is not their problem.  On May’s side there has been a complete failure to enable Parliament to come up with any ‘decision’.  That is her problem, and indeed her responsibility.

Thirdly, according to the Independent, ‘Mr Blair is understood not to have visited Brussels for several months, and it is unclear what prompted the timing of Ms May’s attack.’  Blair, of course, defended his position, being somewhat better at that than May (he’s had a lot of practice), saying that if Parliament cannot come to a clear decision, it is logical to go back to the people.

May suggests that Blair’s latest comments are in his own interests.  It is true that Blair has relentlessly popped up to pontificate about the current state of affairs, and that most of those occasions could be seen as self-advertisement and very much in his personal interest.  (On the other hand, the Prime Minister may not be doing all this in her personal interest, but it’s certainly focused on the interests of the Conservative Party and its survival.)

Blair ignored the people and the national interest when he joined President Bush’s military games.  I and millions of others will find it difficult to ever forgive him for the damage done to Afghanistan and Iraq and their citizens** (and, Mr Blair, please don’t forget that somewhere in the dusty back rooms of the International Criminal Court is a case still to be heard against you for war crimes).

Word has it that whenever he criticises Jeremy Corbyn or suggests a more ‘centrist’ party, Labour membership increases. Sadly, that is now probably balanced by the number of members leaving because of Labour’s very weak position on Brexit.  People joined Labour because of the social reforms promised in the Labour manifesto.  They saw an end to the disastrous Tory ‘austerity’ ideology.  How on earth Labour thinks it can deal with Brexit and deliver on its pledges is beyond me – and anyone else.  Nor would the EU be willing to start negotiations all over again, regardless of Corbyn’s internationalism and negotiating skills.

So, where Brexit and the national interest are concerned, I have to admit Blair is right, and I never thought I would say that.  But then, over the last two years I have had to revise my opinion about several, mostly right wing, MPs who are doing their best to protect the UK from Brexit and the chaos that May’s predecessor David Cameron and her government have caused.

Blair and his predecessor John Major (who sensibly kept out of politics until Brexit reared its head) were largely responsible for the Good Friday Agreement, which not only brought an end to most of the violence in Northern Ireland; it resulted in the open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.  For trade, traffic and people that border has become almost invisible.  It is in the national interests of both the UK and the RoI to keep it that way, regardless of what Brexiters and Northern Ireland’s DUP MPs claim.  The border issue is the very large and unavoidable hole in the Brexit road.

For Blair and Major, their legacy will include the Good Friday Agreement.  For the politicians of that time, it is something to be proud of, something worth protecting.  And if the negotiators could achieve that, then surely peace could be made between Leavers and Remainers without trashing the UK in the process.

Theresa May’s legacy, on the other hand, will be ‘the hostile environment’, a policy that shames this nation and its people.  And the last two years under her leadership, with her ministers’ inability to negotiate in any real sense with the EU, is also deeply shaming.  Even worse, they have blamed the EU for their failures, accusing them of bullying (Brexit Minister No. 1, David Davis, and blackmailing and bullying (Brexit Minister No. 2, Dominic Raab) while Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt likened the EU to the Soviet Union. This is no way to negotiate your way out of one of the biggest threats to this country’s stability.

Shame, embarrassment, humiliation and unwise rants against a former Prime Minister – what more could Theresa May add to her ‘legacy’ and its place in our history?

* You can hear the whole interview here, starting at 2:19:52

** An estimate of 2.4 million Iraqi deaths from the invasion and the following years of violence and unrest.

In Contempt of Parliament: The Legal Advice of Brexit

It is attrition, suffocation and contortion.  While Theresa May’s Brexit program, weak, compromising and cobbled as it is, endures that bit longer, her opponents from within and without government have been essentially undercutting her on various fronts.

Foppish and solutions-free Boris Johnson does so from the perspective that the May program as it has been agreed to with the EU so far is a case of Britannia surrendering to the wickedness of the Continent.  He prefers, according to Sir Roger Gale, “the grievance to the solution”.

In the Commons, Johnson persisted with his motif of imprisonment and punishment for the sceptred isle: that the bureaucrats across the channel were cooking up a terrible fate for Britain were the backstop not to be removed from any arrangement. “They will keep us in permanent captivity as a momento mori, as a reminder to the world of what happens to all those who try to leave the EU.” Britain would be hostage to Spanish claims on Gibraltar, the French purloining of its fish and bankers, and German pressing for concessions on the free movement of EU nationals.

Opposition parties assail the prime minister from the perspective that the entire campaign for Brexit, and government behaviour since, has been a tissue of irresponsibility and lying.  They are often not sure which, but they are chancing it.  Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn is, however, playing a double game. Being himself sympathetic with the Leavers, he can only, as of this time, trash the Chequers proposals with indignant scrutiny.  Before his fellow parliamentarians, Corbyn insisted that May’s plan would cause a severe case of economic shrinkage: some 4 percent, precipitating the loss of £100 billion over the course of fifteen years.

What exercised the House of Commons on this occasion most, however, was a historical incident of singular rarity.  Members from Labour and the DUP were permitted by Speaker John Bercow to submit an emergency motion to find the government in contempt.  The motion carried.

The May government had not done itself any favours in that regard, equipping opponents with the bombs to duly situate under their chairs.  As if channelling her former self as home minister, the secretive May refused to release the full legal advice behind the Brexit deal that may yet be doomed.  A circulating rumour (for much, in these shadows, remains rumour), is the fear that the backstop might keep Northern Ireland in the EU customs union indefinitely.

The government defence proved to be stock standard and would, in most instances, have worked: to release such a report would expose vulnerabilities in negotiating positions ahead of further talks with the EU, thereby rewarding the very individuals deemed enemies by many in parliament.  Besides, argued transport secretary Chris Grayling, himself a former lord chancellor, it remained “a central part of the principles of our legal system that the advice provided from a lawyer to their client is treated as confidential.”

Such is the dire, panicked state of British politics at the moment than even old principles of legal propriety, including that of professional privilege, should be seen to be broken in the higher national interest.  Parliament, as the people’s arbiter, must be informed, and not releasing the attorney general’s legal advice failed to comply, according to the parties behind the contempt motion, with the Commons resolution of November 13.  That resolution stemmed from the principle that legal advice on the Brexit deal would be published in its entirety.

Attempts to placate opponents were duly made. The first was the release by the government of an overview on Monday covering the gist of the attorney general’s legal advice.  Then came the appearance of Attorney General Geoffrey Cox in the Chamber. He expressed a willingness to answer questions put to him, but this proved a minor sedative to the proceedings.  A three-line whip, deployed by Conservative MPs in an effort to shield the government, also failed.

Cox’s responses conceded various government weaknesses in their negotiations with the EU.  He would have preferred, for instance, “a unilateral right of termination” over the Northern Ireland backstop.  Additionally, he would have also liked to see “a clause that would have allowed us to exit if negotiations had irretrievably broken down.”  But such frankness was to no avail, and Andrea Leadsom, the Commons leader, was compelled to accede to the wishes of the opponents, with the full advice set to be published on Wednesday.

Contempt matters are ancient things, the sort referred to a privileges committee.  But the focus here will be less seeking sanction against any relevant minister, including Cox, than the vote on December 11 in a house that is already faltering.  The government, surmised shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer, “has lost its majority and the respect of the house”.  At this point, the deal in this form will be scuppered, leaving a drawing board bereft of options.  Those filling the void will do so with a formula so repetitive it has become traditional: extol the scenario of total collapse, or embrace the fiction a world outside Europe that can act as appropriate replacement for British trade and power.

The Saudi Arabian Model: Blueprints for Murder and Purchasing Arms

It reads like a swaying narrative of retreat.  A man’s body is subjected to a gruesome anatomical fate, his parts separated by a specially appointed saw doctor – an expert in the rapid autopsy – overseen by a distinctly large number of individuals.  Surveillance cameras had improbably failed that day.  We are not sure where, along the line, the torturers began their devilish task: the diligent beating punctuated by questions, followed by the severing of fingers, or perhaps a skipping of any formalities.  One Turkish investigator sniffing around the Saudi consulate in Istanbul saw such handiwork “like a Tarantino film.”

The result was clear enough: the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi went into the Saudi embassy on October 2 and never came out alive.  (Even an attempt of the gathered crew of death to procure a Khashoggi double was noted.)

For aspiring authoritarians, the Saudi state is a model instructor.  First came blanket denial to the disappearance: the Saudi authorities had no idea where the journalist had gone after October 2.  On October 18, Riyadh officially acknowledged Khashoggi’s death.  By October 21, Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir had come to the conclusion that this had, in fact, been murder, and a mistake. “This was an operation where individuals ended up exceeding the authorities and responsibilities they had”.

Then, an improbable story of a fist fight developed through the media channels. (When one has to kill, it is best to regard the enemy as inappropriately behaved when they dare fight back.)  In the presence of 15 Saudi operatives, this was all richly incredulous – but the Kingdom does specialise in baffling and improbable cruelties.

It was clear that distancing was fundamental, hence the cultivation of the “rogue” theory, with Saudi operatives taking a merry trip off the beaten path.  Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was happy to pour water on the suggestion. “We have strong evidence in our hands that shows the murder wasn’t accidental but was instead the outcome of a planned operation.”  It had been executed “in a ferocious manner”.

The Turkish president has, however, danced around the issue of ultimate state sanctioned responsibility.  Neither King Salman, nor Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, have been publicly outed in any statements as either showing awareness of the killing or ordering it.  Prince MBS and his father are happy to keep it that way, severing their links with the killing as assuredly as the killers had severed the journalist’s fingers.  This is evidenced by the Crown Prince’s own labelling of the act as a “heinous crime that cannot be justified”.

The Saudi Public Prosecutor has also decided to move the case from one of accidental killing (fist fights will do that sort of thing) to one of planned murder.  A bit of cosmetic housecleaning has been taking place (another authoritarian lesson: look busy, seem engaged with heavy concern): 18 people have been arrested and two advisers sacked by the Saudi state.  The Crown Prince, according to the official Saudi Press Agency, has chaired the first meeting of a committee established to reform the country’s intelligence services.

This authoritarian blueprint also implies a staying power in the face of other states who see Saudi Arabia as cash cow and security partner.  The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has a rich appetite for foreign arms, a point not missed on the weapons makers of the globe.  Some attrition is bound to take place: certain countries, keen to keep their human rights credentials bright and in place, will temporarily suspend arms sales.  Others will simply claim disapproval but continue leaving signatures on the relevant contracts of sale.

Some ceremonial condemnations have been registered.  Members of the European Parliament voted upon a non-binding resolution on Thursday to “impose an EU-wide arms embargo on Saudi Arabia.”  Germany, temporarily concerned, has suspended arms sales to the House of Saud, with Chancellor Angela Merkel deeming the Khashoggi killing “monstrous”. Canada’s Justin Trudeau briefly pondered what to do with a lucrative defence contract with Riyadh worth $12 billion, only to then step back.

The Canadian prime minister did acknowledge that the killing of Khashoggi “is something that is extremely preoccupying to Canadians, to Canada and to many of our allies around the world” but has not made good any threats.  His predecessor has become the ideal alibi.  “The contract signed by the previous government, by Stephen Harper, makes it very difficult to suspend or leave that contract.”  Cancellation would lead to penalties which, in turn, would affect the Canadian tax payer.  How fortunate for Trudeau.

France, the United Kingdom and the United States remain the three biggest suppliers of military hardware to the kingdom, a triumvirate of competitors that complicates any effective embargo.  Which state, after all, wants to surrender market share?  It’s a matter of prestige, if nothing else.  President Donald Trump’s reaction is already clear: a suitably adjusted lid will be deployed to keep things in check till matters blow over; in the meantime, nothing will jeopardise a $110 billion arms deal.  Business with a theocracy can be patriotic.

The French angle has been reserved and coldly non-committal.  “Weapons exports to Saudi Arabia are examined in this context,” claimed foreign ministry deputy spokesman Olivier Gauvin, meaning that his country’s arms control policy was made on a case-by-case basis.  For France, keeping Riyadh in stiff opposition to Tehran’s regional ambitions has been a matter of importance in its Middle Eastern policy for decades, a point reiterated by President Emmanuel Macron in April.  And the Kingdom pays French arms exporters well: between 2008 and 2017, Saudi Arabia proved the second biggest purchaser of French arms (some 11 billion euros), with 2017 being a bumper year with licenses coming to 14.7 billion euros.  Riyadh can expect little change there.

Britain’s Theresa May, in the tradition of elastic British diplomacy (condemnation meets inertia), has insisted that her government already has the appropriately stringent rules on arms exports, another way of shunning any European resolution that might perch on human rights.  Such strictness evidently does not preclude the eager oil sheiks of Riyadh, though Britain’s foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt did suggest the Khashoggi killing, should it “turn out to be true” would be “fundamentally incompatible with our values and we will act accordingly.”  Such actions are bound to be symbolic – much money has been received by the British arms industry, with earnings of £4.6 billion coming from sales to the Kingdom since the Saudi-led war on Yemen began in 2015.  Sowing death, even if through the good agency of a theocratic power, is lucrative.

The fate of Khashoggi, cruel and ghastly, seems a piddle of insignificance in that light.  “Brexit,” urged Philippe Lamberts, MEP and leader of the Group of the Greens, “must not be an excuse for the UK to abdicate on its moral responsibilities.” That abdication, on the part of Britain and its arms competitors, took place sometime ago.