Category Archives: UK Politics

Predictable Monstrosities: Priti Patel Approves Assange’s Extradition

The only shock about the UK Home Secretary’s decision regarding Julian Assange was that it did not come sooner.  In April, Chief Magistrate Senior District Judge Paul Goldspring expressed the view that he was “duty-bound” to send the case to Priti Patel to decide on whether to extradite the WikiLeaks founder to the United States to face 18 charges, 17 grafted from the US Espionage Act of 1917.

Patel, for her part, was never exercised by the more sordid details of the case.  Her approach to matters of justice is one of premature adjudication: the guilty are everywhere, and only multiply.  When it came to WikiLeaks, such fine points of law and fact as a shaky indictment based on fabricated evidence, meditations on assassination, and a genuine, diagnosed risk of self-harm, were piffling distractions.  The US Department of Justice would not be denied.

“Under the Extradition Act 2003,” a nameless spokesman for the Home Office stated, “the Secretary of State must sign an extradition order if there are no grounds to prohibit the order being made.  Extradition requests are only sent to the Home Secretary once a judge decides it can proceed after considering various aspects of the case.”

Evidently, overt politicisation, bad faith, and flimsy reassurances from the US Department of Justice on how Assange will be detained, do not constitute sufficient grounds.  But the cue came from the courts themselves, which have done a fabulous job of covering the US justice system with tinsel in actually believing assurances that Assange would not be facing special administrative detention measures (SAMs) or permanent captivity in the ADX Florence supermax in Colorado.  “In this case, the UK courts have not found that it would be oppressive, unjust or an abuse of process to extradite Mr Assange.”

In such a scatterbrained, and amoral cosmos that marks decision making in the Home Office, no mention has been made of the surveillance operation against the publisher in the Ecuadorian embassy, orchestrated at the behest of the Central Intelligence Agency.  None, either, of contemplated abduction or assassination, or the frail mental health Assange finds himself.

As late as June 10, a letter from the group Doctors for Assange, comprising 300 doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists, noted that the Home Secretary’s “denial of the cruel, inhuman treatment inflicted by upon Assange was then, and is even more so now, irreconcilable with the reality of the situation”.

In April, an umbrella grouping of nineteen organisations dedicated to press freedom and free speech urged Patel, in reviewing the case, to appreciate that Assange would “highly likely” face isolation or solitary confinement US conditions “despite the US government’s assurances, which would severely exacerbate the risk of suicide”.

The co-chairs of the Courage Foundation’s Assange Defense Committee, Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg and Alice Walker, reflected on the depravity of the order in a statement.  “It is a sad day for western democracy.  The UK’s decision to extradite Julian Assange to the nation that plotted to assassinate him – the nation that wants to imprison him for 175 years for publishing truthful information in the public interest – is an abomination.”  As for the UK, it had “shown its complicity in this farce, by agreeing to extradite a foreigner based on politically motivated charges that collapse under the slightest scrutiny.”

Similar views were expressed by Amnesty International (“a chilling message to journalists the world over”) and Reporters Without Borders (“another failure by the UK to protect journalism and press freedom”).  There was even concern from Conservative MP David Davis, who expressed his belief that Assange would not “get a fair trial.”  The extradition law was, as matters stood, lopsided in favour of US citizens.

All this is consistent with Patel, who seems to relish the prospect of sending individuals to a place where human rights are marginal jottings on a policy paper.  The UK-Rwanda Migration and Economic Partnership, as it is euphemistically termed, is her pride and joy, albeit one currently facing strenuous legal opposition.

Under the arrangement, individuals crossing the channel will receive one-way tickets to Rwanda to have their claims processed without a prospect of settling in the UK.  The Rwandan government, hostile to contrarians, the rule of law and refugees, will be subsidised for their pain and labours.

To this sadistic streak can be added her admiration for the Espionage Act being used to prosecute Assange.  This fact should have disqualified her in any country operating under the rule of law.  Even as Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced a Conservative no-confidence vote this month, Patel’s National Security Bill passed its second reading in Parliament.  The bill articulates an offence of “obtaining or disclosing protected information” that includes “any information… which either is, or could reasonably be expected to be, subject to any type of restrictions of access for protecting the safety and interests of the UK.”

In a polite nod of deference to US law, the proposed law states that an offence is committed when a person “obtains, copies, records or retains protected information, or discloses or provides access to protected information” for a purpose “that they know, or ought reasonably to know, is prejudicial to the safety or interests of the United Kingdom” and if “the foreign power condition is met”.  The requirement there is that the act is “carried out for or on behalf of a foreign power”, including instances where “an indirect relationship” exists.

Assange has 14 days to appeal this insidious rubber stamping of judicially sanctioned brutality.  His legal team are hoping to use the High Court as the route to highlight the political dimension of the case and draw attention back to the way the extradition law was read.

If the defence fail, Assange will be sent across the Atlantic, entrusted to officials, some of whom considered murdering him, to be made an example of.  It will be the clarion call to regimes across the world that punishing a publisher is something supposed liberal democracies can do as well, and as deviously, as anybody else.

The post Predictable Monstrosities: Priti Patel Approves Assange’s Extradition first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The British Art of Black Propaganda

Never underestimate the potency, and deceptive malice, of the British political mind.  In responding to the threat posed by Imperial Germany during the First World War, the British propaganda campaign made much of the atrocity tale, the nun raping German and the baby bayoneting Hun.  The effectiveness of the campaign was so impressive it sowed doubt amongst a generation about the reliability of war crimes accounts.

In its efforts to try to win US support for its cause against Hitler in World War II, the train of British propaganda again operated with a concerted effect, demonising isolationists and denigrating supporters and members of the America First Committee.  The great hope there was that Britain would fight the Germans to the last American.  It led to one of the largest covert operations in UK history conducted under the auspices of an agency known as “British Security Coordination”.  During the course of its operations, BSC subject matter entered the American political bloodstream, aided by the injecting activities of Walter Winchell, Drew Pearson, a radio station (WRUL) and the Overseas News Agency (ONA).

During the Cold War, the black propagandists were again in high demand.  In 2021, the Observer revealed that the Information Research Department (IRD) had done its bit to egg on the massacres of communists and sympathisers in Indonesia in 1965.  Pamphlets supposedly authored by seething Indonesian patriots but cooked up by the dark musings of the IRD, called for the elimination of the Indonesian communist party, the PKI.  The deaths that followed numbered in the hundreds of thousands.

The IRD, which had, at its height in the mid-1960s, a staff of 360, had a primary purpose: to counter Soviet propaganda and its effects in Britain.  It had its origins in the opening shots of the Cold War, established in 1948 but found itself behind the efforts of various sections of Whitehall already dedicated to the anti-Soviet effort.

Its program was more engaged and more ambitious than previously thought.  “It’s very clear now,” Rory Cormac, an authority on subversion and intelligence history, explained to the Guardian, “that the UK engaged in more black propaganda than historians assume and these efforts were more systemic, ambitious and offensive.  Despite official denials, [this] went far beyond merely exposing Soviet disinformation.”

The effects of propaganda can be perversely insidious.  Allies or friendly nations can be used and abused if the aim is to advance the security of the propagandist.  As Howard Becker laconically puts it in describing the consequences of black propaganda, “truth or falsity, as determined by any standard, is not raised.  Propaganda which achieves its end may be entirely true, it may be entirely false; expedient rationality alone governs the choice of means.”

The IRD shows that, while it was more modest in scale to its US, Soviet and East European counterparts, it could hold its own in terms of inventiveness.  It specialised in creating fake news sources and false statements designed to stir pots of racial tension, create instability, and foster social and political chaos.

A feature of the black propaganda campaign was the forging of statements by official Soviet bodies and entities.  The Soviet-run news agency Novosti was something of a favourite, given the release of 11 fake statements supposedly authored by the body between 1965 and 1972.

In the wake of Israel’s lightning victory during the Six-Day War of 1967, the outfit drafted a number of documents claiming to be authored by disgruntled Muslim organisations sore at defeat and seeking answers.  One did not have to look far for the culprit of godless Communism.  “Why is the Arab nation at this time afflicted by so much sorry and disaster?” asks a statement purportedly issued from the League of Believers, a fictional Islamist organisation.  “Why were the brave forces defeated in the jihad by the evil heathen Zionists?”  The reason: that “we are departing from the right path, we are following the course chosen for us by the communist-atheists for whom religion is a form of social disease.”

Other material focused on existing and influential organisations, such as the Muslim Brotherhood.  One pamphlet from the IRD, supposedly issued by the group, takes issue with the quality of Soviet weaponry.  As for the Soviets themselves, they were “filthy-tongued atheists” who had little time for Egyptians, mere “peasants who lived all their lives nursing reactionary superstitions”.

In Africa, propaganda efforts were made to malign the activities of Soviet front organisations such as the World Federation of Democratic Youth.  Nationalist, revolutionary figures were also targeted.  A statement from early 1963, forged by the IRD, has the WFDY falsely accusing Africans of being morally feeble, uncivilised, and “primitive”.  The theme is repeated in another forged statement three years later, and in a fake release by Novosti noting the poor quality of African students enrolled at an international university in Moscow.

These recent revelations do have a certain flavour of told-you-so obviousness, but serve as reminders that the news, however official, reeks when consulted between the lines (and lies).  Cormac reminds us that the current UK foreign secretary, Liz Truss, has her own “government information cell”, a distant echo of the IRD.  It pays to look behind the merits of the next news bulletin, if only to be disillusioned.

The post The British Art of Black Propaganda first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Didn’t those enraged at Boris Johnson’s ‘smears’ of Starmer defame Corbyn at every turn?

“Why is Boris Johnson making false claims about Starmer and Savile?” runs a headline in the news pages of the Guardian. It is just one of a barrage of indignant recent stories in the British media, rushing to the defence of the opposition leader, Sir Keir Starmer.

The reason? Last week the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, blamed Starmer, now the Labour party leader, for failing to prosecute Jimmy Savile, a TV presenter and serial child abuser, when his case came under police review in 2009. Between 2008 and 2013, Starmer was head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). Savile died in 2011 before he could face justice.

Johnson accused Starmer, who at the time was Director of Public Prosecutions, of wasting “his time prosecuting journalists and failing to prosecute Jimmy Savile”.

The sudden chorus of outrage at Johnson impugning Starmer’s reputation is strange in many different ways. It is not as though Johnson has a record of good behaviour. His whole political persona is built on the idea of his being a rascal, a clown, a chancer.

He is also a well-documented liar. Few, least of all in the media, cared much about his pattern of lying until now. Indeed, most observers have long pointed out that his popularity was based on his mischief-making and his populist guise as an anti-establishment politician. No one, apart from his political opponents, seemed too bothered.

And it is also not as though there are not lots of other, more critically important things relating to Johnson to be far more enraged about, even before we consider his catastrophic handling of the pandemic, and his raiding of the public coffers to enrich his crony friends and party donors.

Jumping ship

Johnson is currently embroiled in the so-called “partygate” scandal. He  attended – and his closest officials appear to have organised – several gatherings at his residence in Downing Street in 2020 and 2021 at a time when the rest of the country was under strict lockdown. For the first time the public mood has shifted against Johnson.

But it was Johnson’s criticisms of Starmer, not partygate, that led several of his senior advisers last week to resign their posts. One can at least suspect that in their case – given how quickly the Johnson brand is sinking, and the repercussions they may face from a police investigation into the partygate scandal – that finding an honorable pretext for jumping ship may have been the wisest move.

But there is something deeply strange about Johnson’s own Conservative MPs and the British media lining up to express their indignation at Johnson’s attack on Starmer, a not particularly liked or likable opposition leader, and then turning it into the reason to bring down a prime minister whose other flaws are only too visible.

What makes the situation even weirder is that Johnson’s so-called “smears” of Starmer may not actually be smears at all. They look like rare examples of Johnson alluding to – admittedly in his own clumsy and self-interested way – genuinely problematic behaviour by Starmer.

One would never know this from the coverage, of course.

Here is the Guardian supposedly fact-checking Johnson’s attack on Starmer under the apparently neutral question: “Is there any evidence that Starmer was involved in any decision not to prosecute Savile?”

The Guardian’s answer is decisive:

No. The CPS has confirmed that there is no reference to any involvement from Starmer in the decision-making within an official report examining the case.

Surrey police consulted the CPS for advice about the allegations after interviewing Savile’s victims, according to a 2013 CPS statement made by Starmer as DPP.

The official report, written by Alison Levitt QC, found that in October 2009 the CPS lawyer responsible for the cases – who was not Starmer – advised that no prosecution could be brought on the grounds that none of the complainants were ‘prepared to support any police action’.

That’s a pretty definite “No”, then. Not “No, according to Starmer”. Or “No, according to the CPS”. Or “No, according to an official report” – and doubtless a determinedly face-saving one at that – into the Savile scandal.

Just “No”.

Here is the Guardian’s political correspondent Peter Walker echoing how cut and dried the corporate media’s assessment is: “[Starmer] had no connection to decisions over the case, and the idea he did emerged later in conspiracy theories mainly shared among the far right.”

So it’s just a far-right conspiracy theory. Case against Starmer closed.

But not so fast.

Given Savile’s tight ties to the establishment – from royalty and prime ministers down – and the establishment’s role in providing, however inadvertently, cover for Savile’s paedophilia for decades, it should hardly surprise us that the blame for the failure to prosecute him has been placed squarely on the shoulders of a low-level lawyer in the Crown Prosecution Service. How it could be otherwise? If we started unpicking the thorny Savile knot, who knows how the threads might unravel?

Sacrificial victim

Former ambassador Craig Murray has made an interesting observation about Johnson’s remark on Starmer. Murray, let us remember, has been a first-hand observer and chronicler of the dark arts of the establishment in protecting itself from exposure, after he himself was made a sacrificial victim for revealing the British government’s illegal involvement in torture and extraordinary rendition.

As Murray notes:

Of course the Director of Public Prosecutions does not handle the individual cases, which are assigned to lawyers under them. But the Director most certainly is then consulted on the decisions in the high profile and important cases.

That is why they are there. It is unthinkable that Starmer was not consulted on the decision to shelve the Savile case – what do they expect us to believe his role was, as head of the office, ordering the paperclips?

And of the official inquiry into Starmer’s role that cleared him of any wrongdoing, the one that so impresses the Guardian and everyone else, Murray adds:

When the public outcry reached a peak in 2012, Starmer played the go-to trick in the Establishment book. He commissioned an “independent” lawyer he knew to write a report exonerating him. Mistakes have been made at lower levels, lessons will be learnt… you know what it says. Mishcon de Reya, money launderers to the oligarchs, provided the lawyer to do the whitewash. Once he retired from the post of DPP, Starmer went to work at, umm,…

Yes, Mischon de Reya.

Starmer and Assange

Murray also notes that MPs and the British media have resolutely focused attention on Starmer’s alleged non-role in the Savile decision – where an “official report” provides them with cover – rather than an additional, and far more embarrassing, point made by Johnson about Starmer’s behaviour as Director of Public Prosecutions.

The prime minister mentioned Starmer using his time to “prosecute journalists”. Johnson and the media have no interest in clarifying that reference. Anyway, Johnson only made it for effect: as a contrast to the way Starmer treated Savile, as a way to highlight that, when he chose to, Starmer was quite capable of advancing a prosecution.

But this second point is potentially far more revealing both of Starmer’s misconduct as Director of Public Prosecutions and about the services he rendered to the establishment – the likely reason why he was knighted at a relatively young age, becoming “Sir” Keir.

The journalist referenced by Johnson was presumably Julian Assange, currently locked up in Belmarsh high-security prison in London as lawyers try to get him extradited to the United States for his exposure of US war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq.

At an early stage of Assange’s persecution, the Crown Prosecution Service under Starmer worked overtime – despite Britain’s official position of neutrality in the case – to ensure he was extradited to Sweden. Assange sought political asylum in the Ecuadorean embassy in London in 2012, when Starmer was still head of the Crown Prosecution Service. Assange did so because he got wind of efforts by the Americans to extradite him onwards from Sweden to the US. He feared the UK would collude in that process.

Assange, it turns out, was not wrong. With the Swedish investigation dropped long ago, the British courts are now, nearly a decade on, close to agreeing to the Biden administration’s demand that Assange be extradited to the US – both to silence him and to intimidate any other journalists who might try to throw a light on US war crimes.

The Italian journalist Stefania Maurizi has been pursuing a lengthy legal battle to have the CPS emails from Starmer’s time released under a Freedom of Information request. She has been opposed by the British establishment every step of the way. We know that many of the email chains relating to Assange were destroyed by the Crown Prosecution Service – apparently illegally. Those would doubtless have shone a much clearer light on Starmer’s role in the case – possibly the reason they were destroyed.

The small number of emails that have been retrieved show that the Crown Prosecution Service under Starmer micro-managed the Swedish investigation of Assange, even bullying Swedish prosecutors to pursue the case when they had started to lose interest for lack of evidence. In one email from 2012, a CPS lawyer warned his Swedish counterpart: “Don’t you dare get cold feet!!!”. In another from 2011, the CPS lawyer writes: “Please do not think this case is being dealt with as just another extradition.”

Prosecutors arm-twisted

Again, the idea that Starmer was not intimately involved in the decision to arm-twist Swedish prosecutors into persecuting a journalist – a case that the UK should formally have had no direct interest in, unless it was covertly advancing US interests to silence Assange – beggars belief.

Despite the media’s lack of interest in Assange’s plight, the energy expended by the US to get Assange behind bars in the US and redefine national security journalism as espionage shows how politically and diplomatically important this case has always been to the US – and by extension, the British establishment. There is absolutely no way the deliberations were handled by a single lawyer. Starmer would have closely overseen his staff’s dealings with Swedish prosecutors and authorised what was in practice a political decision, not legal one, to persecute Assange – or as United Nations experts defined it, “arbitrarily detain” him.

Neither Murray nor I have unique, Sherlock-type powers of deduction that allow us to join the dots in ways no one else can manage. All of this information is in the public realm, and all of it is known to the editors of the British media. They are not only choosing to avoid mentioning it in the context of the current row, but they are actively fulminating against Boris Johnson for having done so.

The prime minister’s crime isn’t that he has “smeared” Starmer. It is that – out of desperate self-preservation – he has exposed the dark underbelly of the establishment. He has broken the elite’s omerta, its vow of silence. He has made the unpardonable sin of grassing up the establishment to which he belongs. He has potentially given ammunition to the great unwashed to expose the establishment’s misdeeds, to blow apart its cover story. That is why the anger is far more palpable and decisive about Johnson smearing Starmer than it ever was when Johnson smeared the rest of us by partying on through the lockdowns.

Scorched-earth tactic?

Look at this headline on Jonathan Freedland’s latest column for the Guardian, visibly aquiver with anger at the way Johnson has defamed Starmer: “Johnson’s Savile smear was the scorched-earth tactic of a desperate, dangerous man”.

A prime minister attacking the opposition leader – something we would normally think of as a largely unexceptional turn of political events, and all the more so under Johnson – has been transformed by Freedland into a dangerous, scorched-earth tactic.

Quite how preposterous, and hypocritical, this claim is should not need underscoring. Who really needs to be reminded of how Freedland and the rest of media class – but especially Freedland – treated Stramer’s predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn? That really was a scorched-earth approach. There was barely a day in his five years leading the Labour party when the media did not fabricate the most outrageous lies about Corbyn and his party. He was shabby and unstatesmanlike (unlike the smartly attired Johnson!), sexist, a traitor, a threat to national security, an anti-semite, and much more.

Anyone like Freedland who actively participated in the five-year campaign of demonisation of Corbyn has no credibility whatsoever either complaining about the supposed mistreatment of Starmer (a pale shadow of what Corbyn suffered) or decrying Johnson’s lowering of standards in public life.

We have the right-wing populist Johnson in power precisely because Freedland and the rest of the media relentlessly smeared the democratic socialist alternative. In the 2017 election, let us recall, Corbyn was only 2,000 votes from winning. The concerted campaign of smears from across the entire corporate media – and the resulting manipulation of the public mood – was the difference between Corbyn winning and the Tories holding on to power.

Corbyn was destroyed – had to be destroyed – because he threatened establishment interests. He challenged the interests of the rich, of the corporations, of the war industries, of the Israel lobby. That was why an anonymous military general warned in the pages of the establishment’s newspaper, The Times, that there would be a mutiny if Corbyn ever reached 10 Downing Street. That was why soldiers were filmed using an image of Corbyn as target practice on a firing range in Afghanistan.

Johnson’s desperate “smears” aside, none of this will ever happen to Starmer. There will be no threats of mutiny and his image will never used for target practice by the army. Sir Keir won’t be defamed by the billionaire-owned media. Rather, they have demonstrated that they have his back. They will even promote him over an alumnus of the Bullingdon Club, when the blokey toff’s shine starts to wear off.

And that, it should hardly need pointing out, is because Sir Keir Starmer is there to protect not the public’s interests but the interests of the establishment, just as he did so conscientiously when he was Director of Public Prosecutions.

The post Didn’t those enraged at Boris Johnson’s ‘smears’ of Starmer defame Corbyn at every turn? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The State’s Celebration of Lies and Punishment of Truth

Julian Assange once said that if wars can be started by lies, they can be stopped by truth. Assange suffered immeasurably, with Britain and America taking him away for revealing facts about US war crimes in Iraq, while notorious Iraq War liar Tony Blair was knighted.

“Sir” Tony Blair may now be paraded around as a model citizen of the United Kingdom and the West, an appropriate display of the “values” our civilization now represents. Be a spreader of lies and violence like this goblin, and you will be honored. Happen upon evidence of a war crime by the state, or even by a foreign regime the UK has allied itself to, and you will be punished.

Of course, the greatest victims of Tony Blair’s knighting are the British state’s eroded and discredited reputation for veracity and each individual who was made a knight by the state and now has to bear the dishonor of sharing that with Blair. By sending the message that they support and stand by a liar, British MPs are telling their constituents that they are also liars and that all the UK’s government departments are staffed by liars. Although it is hardly true, sending this message complicates their ability to elicit trust from many in their attempts to inform the public.

If we find ourselves asking why a new generation of paranoid people and conspiracy theorists is emerging in the UK in the next decade, we need look no further than the resolute commitment of the state and the media to honor a known liar. For many, that will be the final nail in the coffin of the state as a source of information.

At the same time that they celebrate and idolize a liar, British politicians wonder why so many people don’t believe them. They can only conclude that certain mischief-makers must be spreading disinformation, rather than that normal people tend to notice liars and eventually stop believing them.

The terror of British MPs under the gaze of the people is greater than ever before, yet they are unable to accept that they created this situation. MPs may, in fact, be more violently hated by paranoid random citizens than ever before in history.

The murders of MPs Jo Cox and Sir David Amess by random citizens as they tried to do their jobs were undeserved and tragic, and even Tony Blair deserves no such thing. However, these acts, like the crazy burning of 5G towers by paranoid citizens, are the result of disbelief in all authority. It is the result of British MPs often regarding citizens as mere fools they are allowed to deceive.

The Assange saga shows that such politicians are much more frustrated at the inconvenient truth than they are at deception on any scale. As far as they are concerned, the ends are all that matter, and the means are not to be looked at. It doesn’t matter how many people are lied to or killed if the personal wishes of British MPs and officials are served – what they would call the “national interest” but is, in fact, their interest at the expense of the nation. If the truth hurts them, the truth is to be abhorred for being against the national interest, as Assange’s truth is. If lies help the politicians, the lies are good and ought to be rewarded and the deceiver praised for being an “outstanding statesman and performer“, to use the words Michael Gove recently used in Blair’s defense. No sense of morality is permitted, only a sense of what most favors those individuals who manage the country.

In rewarding liars and punishing the innocent, Britain as a state has shown itself to be blind and deaf to the warning signs before it. It sets itself on course to being believed by no-one and securing the loyalty of no-one. The terror in the heart of the state at what its own citizens might do next will increase, as MPs will know they deserve contempt.

The sirs of Britain could give up their titles to avoid being associated with predators and psychopaths. From Prince Andrew to Jimmy Savile, the most honored figures in Britain have a history of often being, or at least coddling, the vilest people imaginable. No honorable person will be found among them, if they are willing to be associated with monsters.

British politicians seem to live in polite, isolated bubbles from which they take a tone of moral superiority and lecture the population, taking no mandate from them. They do not comprehend the gravity of what could happen to them if there was a complete collapse of all trust in authority, and seem to have no belief in such a scenario at all.

British political authority oozes festering snobbery, privilege and immunity because British rulers miraculously never succumbed to revolution, never paid the price for abusing the sovereign nation, and never learned to serve the country faithfully. The result is self-serving “sirs” who believe their purpose is to lord over others once they get past the inconvenient trifle of pandering for votes. Democracy exists, but what we get is not democratic.

Boris Johnson’s resistance to resigning over his lockdown-defying parties, against the demands of MPs, shows that the priority of rulers even under the present democracy is hardly ever the wellbeing of the public but their own positions. It also shows how politicians draw a distinction between how they conduct themselves and how they expect members of the public to behave. The opposition Labour Party offers little better, though, being guilty of the same thing, despite their efforts to capitalize on the scandal.

Although radical change cannot take place in the UK, owing to the deeply reactionary nature of the overall society and wise caution exercised by many, the state can be expected to eventually change its ways, bending under the wind of change. It is doubtful that Tony Blair’s knighthood will be reversed in his lifetime, but society will eventually recognize him for what he was. As with Jimmy Savile, the divorce of the society from him will politely take place after he is gone.

The UK does not undergo radical change, but it does become kinder with time, and that should be expected in the way it handles political prisoners like Assange and the way it chooses to engage in future conflicts. It is only unfortunate that we, as a society, seem to still be too dragged down by the self-serving governing elite to save Assange in time.

The post The State’s Celebration of Lies and Punishment of Truth first appeared on Dissident Voice.

A Christmas Tale: The Downing Street Party, Laughter And Bigger State Crimes

Huge media coverage has been devoted to allegations, and now serious evidence, that a Christmas party was held at 10 Downing Street on 18 December 2020. London was then in a strict lockdown with social events banned, including parties.

In leaked footage obtained by ITV News, senior Downing Street staff are shown four days later, laughing and joking about the party being a ‘business meeting’ with ‘cheese and wine’. Allegra Stratton, then Boris Johnson’s press secretary, was leading a mock televised press briefing and, through laughter, said there had been ‘definitely no social distancing.’

The original story was broken on 30 November by Pippa Crerar, the Daily Mirror political editor.  When pressed at Prime Minister’s Questions, Johnson refused to deny three times that a ‘boozy party’ had taken place at 10 Downing Street when such events were banned.

One source who was aware of the party in Downing Street told ITV News:

‘We all know someone who died from Covid and after seeing this all in the papers I couldn’t not say anything. I’m so angry about it all, the way it is being denied.’

Understandably, there is much public anger, though perhaps little surprise, that the Tory government under Johnson has once again been found to have broken rules and then attempted to deceive the public about it. That anger is felt most keenly by those who suffered the unimaginable pain and grief of not being allowed to be with loved ones who were dying of Covid.

Even BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg, who has spent much of her latter career shielding Johnson, began her BBC News website piece on the latest revelations with condemnations from Tory MPs: ‘Indefensible’, ‘catastrophic’ and ‘astonishing’.

She added:

‘Expect to hear plenty of the charge of “one rule for us, one rule for them” in the next few days.

‘On the back of Downing Street’s attempt to change the rules on MPs’ behaviour after former minister Owen Paterson broke them, even some senior Conservatives are making that claim tonight.’

It is possible that this is yet another nail in the coffin for Johnson’s leadership of the Tory party. There will surely come a time, if it has not already, when the Conservatives will assess that he has become an electoral liability and that he must be replaced to ‘steady the ship’ in order to continue promoting elite interests. After all, financial capital and the establishment require a ‘respectable’ figure at the helm.

While public anger is justified and entirely understandable, with the ‘mainstream’ media judging that the scandal deserves laser-like focus and intensity, the bigger picture is that the government has committed much greater crimes that have not received the same level of scrutiny.

A Surreptitious Parade Of Parliamentary Bills

Just one example is the Health and Care Bill that was being passed while the furore over the Downing Street Christmas party was erupting. As John Pilger observed:

‘The US assault on the National Health Service, legislated by the Johnson govt, is now relentless – but always by “stealth”, as Thatcher planned.’

Pilger, whose 2019 documentary, The Dirty War on the NHS, is a must-watch, urged everyone to read ‘a rare explanatory piece’ on this assault, largely ignored by corporate media including the BBC. The article, by policy analyst Stewart Player and GP Bob Gill, warned that the ‘Health and Care Bill making its way through official channels simply reinforces’ the ‘penetration of the healthcare system’ by private interests; in particular, the giant U.S. insurer UnitedHealth.

Player and Gill explained that the bill’s centrepiece is a national scheme of Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) across all 42 health regions of England. This network of ICSs ‘is being effectively designed and fast-tracked by the private UnitedHealth’.

They continued:

‘The Health and Care Bill will essentially provide legislative lock-in for the changes already embedded throughout the NHS. Patients will be denied care to generate profits for the ICS, over which their family physician or hospital specialist will have no influence, while the growing unmet patient need will have to be serviced either through out-of-pocket payments, top-up private insurance, or not at all.’

Player and Gill warned:

‘The NHS will, in the immediate future, resemble “Medicare Advantage” or “Medicaid Managed Care”, a basic, publicly funded, privately controlled and delivered corporate cash cow repurposed to make profit, though in time the full range of the organizational options found in the U.S. will follow.

‘All this will increase the total cost of healthcare, deliver less, harm thousands, enrich foreign corporations and destroy what was once Britain’s national pride.’

Where is the in-depth scrutiny and across-the-board coverage of this scandal?

Likewise, where is the large-scale, non-stop ‘mainstream’ media outrage over the Tory government’s Nationality and Border Bill to be voted on this week? Home Secretary Priti Patel said the Bill would tackle ‘illegal’ immigration and the ‘underlying pull factors into the UK’s asylum system’.

However, as Labour activist Mish Rahman noted via Twitter:

‘While ppl are focused on the video of the govt laughing at us a year ago and a Downing Street Party – the government, with the minimum of media coverage are getting the Nationality & Borders bill passed which will allow them to strip ppl like me of my citizenship without notice’

A report by the New Statesman found that almost six million people from ethnic minority backgrounds in England and Wales could have their British citizenship in jeopardy. Al Jazeera noted that:

‘The bill also aims to rule as inadmissible asylum claims made by undocumented people as well as criminalise them and anyone taking part in refugee rescue missions in the English Channel.’

But, as Jonathan Cook, pointed out: ‘Britain helped create the refugees it now wants to keep out’, adding:

‘Those making perilous journeys for asylum in Europe have been displaced by wars and droughts, for which the West is largely to blame.’

The bill is being pushed through shortly after the appalling tragedy of 27 people losing their lives at sea while attempting a Channel crossing from France to England. Compounding the tragedy:

‘Barely noted by the media was the fact that the only two survivors separately said British and French coastguards ignored their phone calls for help as their boat began to sink.’

Cook summarised his analysis:

‘Europe is preparing to make its borders impregnable to the victims of its colonial interference, its wars and the climate crisis that its consumption-driven economies have generated.’

Meanwhile, yet another bill endangering life and liberty is being pushed by the government. Patel has just added an extra 18-page amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. George Monbiot warned:

‘It looks like a deliberate ploy to avoid effective parliamentary scrutiny. Yet in most of the media there’s a resounding silence.’

The bill seeks to add to the existing plethora of legislation, together with sinister undercover police and surveillance operations, that obstruct and criminalise protest and dissent. Monbiot noted that, if the bill passes, it will become:

‘a criminal offence to obstruct in any way major transport works from being carried out, again with a maximum sentence of 51 weeks. This looks like an attempt to end meaningful protest against road-building and airport expansion. Other amendments would greatly expand police stop and search powers.’

He added:

‘Protest is an essential corrective to the mistakes of government. Had it not been for the tactics Patel now seeks to ban, the pointless and destructive road-building programme the government began in the early 1990s would have continued: eventually John Major’s government conceded it was a mistake, and dropped it. Now governments are making the greatest mistake in human history – driving us towards systemic environmental collapse – and Boris Johnson’s administration is seeking to ensure that there is nothing we can do to stop it.’

Unscrutinised UK Foreign Policy

While corporate news coverage continues to delve into the 2020 Downing Street Christmas party, the humanitarian disaster in Yemen, fuelled in significant part by UK foreign policy, barely gets a mention. Cook rightly observed:

‘Britain and others have aided Saudi Arabia in its prolonged, near-genocidal bombing campaigns and blockade against Yemen. Recent reports have suggested that as many as 300 Yemeni children are dying each day as a result. And yet, after decades of waging economic warfare on these Middle Eastern countries, western states have the gall to decry those fleeing the collapse of their societies as “economic migrants”.’

We wrote in a recent media alert that Matt Kennard and Phil Miller of Declassified UK had investigated the largely-hidden role of a factory owned by arms exporter BAE Systems in the Lancashire village of Warton. The factory supplies military equipment to the Saudi Arabian regime, enabling it to continue its devastating attacks on Yemen.

Kennard and Miller reported that:

‘Boris Johnson recently visited Warton and claimed the BAE site was part of his “levelling up agenda”. No journalist covering the visit seems to have reported the factory’s role in a war.’

In fact, you could take just about any article published on the exemplary Declassified UK website and compare its quality journalism with the omission-ridden, power-friendly output of ‘respectable’ media. Here is a recent sample:

  • Anne Cadwallader on the UK government’s attempt to rewrite the history of British policy in Northern Ireland. Meanwhile, the UK government is actually ‘censoring numerous files showing British army complicity in the deaths of civilians, depriving bereaved families of access to the truth.’ See also Michael Oswald’s documentary film, ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’, about Colin Wallace, an intelligence officer in Northern Ireland who became a whistleblower and was framed for murder, likely by UK intelligence. Declassified UK published a review of this important film, describing it as ‘essential viewing for anyone who seeks to hold power to account, who seeks to understand the dark links between state intelligence and the media apparatus.’
  • An article by Richard Norton-Taylor, the former Guardian security editor, titled, ‘Manchester bombing: What are the security agencies hiding?’. He wrote: ‘We need to know why MI5 and MI6 appear to have placed their involvement in power struggles in Libya, and Britain’s commercial interests there, above those of the safety of its own citizens.’
  • Matt Kennard and Mark Curtis reported that Lord Chief Justice Ian Burnett, the judge that will soon decide Julian Assange’s fate, is a close personal friend of Sir Alan Duncan who once described Assange in Parliament as a ‘miserable little worm’. When Duncan was the UK foreign minister, he arranged Assange’s eviction from the Ecuadorian embassy.
  • Israeli historian Ilan Pappé wrote that ‘Britain is ensuring the death of a Palestinian state’. His piece explained that: ‘The UK claims to support a “two-state” solution in Israel-Palestine but the body of a Palestinian state has long been in the morgue, although nobody dares to have a funeral. As long as Britain and other states continue to superficially endorse a two-state solution, Israel will become entrenched as a full-blown apartheid state with international blessing.’

Any one of these topics, and many more on the Declassified UK website, would be a major item on ‘mainstream’ news if there was a functioning ‘Fourth Estate’ to scrutinise power and hold it to account. In particular, Israel is continually given a free pass by the ‘free press’.

Israeli journalist Gideon Levy – a rare example of a journalist who regularly reports and comments on Israel’s serious crimes – published a recent piece, ‘A Brief History of Killing Children’. He wrote:

‘Soldiers and pilots have killed 2,171 children and teenagers, and not one of these cases shocked anyone here, or sparked a real investigation or led to a trial. More than 2,000 children in 20 years – 100 children, three classrooms a year. And all of them, down to the last, were found guilty of their own death.’

Needless to say, these facts are hidden, or at best glossed over, by ‘responsible’ news outlets. As we pointed out last month on Twitter after Israel had dropped bombs on Syria’s capital Damascus – the fourth Israeli attack on Syria in three weeks:

‘Hello @BBCNews

‘Seen this? Of course you have. But most likely you’ll ignore Israel’s latest breaking of international law. Or, at best, you’ll mention it briefly at 3am on  @bbcworldservice

‘You are indeed the world’s most refined propaganda service, as @johnpilger says.’

The ‘mainstream’ media has almost entirely ignored major reports by two human rights groups – B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch – classing Israel as an apartheid state. Cook observed that, despite this, ‘the Labour and Tory parties are now competing to be its best friend’. Commenting on a ‘shameful speech’ by Labour leader Keir Starmer that uncritically supported Israel, Cook added:

‘Israel’s apartheid character, its vigorous lobby and support for a boycott are all off the table. But worse, Labour, like the Conservative party, is once again reluctant even to criticise the occupation.’

Near-silence also greeted human rights groups’ condemnation of the UK government’s announcement of a new 10-year trade and defence deal with Israel. The Morning Star was virtually alone in giving ample space to critical voices, such as Katie Fallon of Campaign Against the Arms Trade:

‘The evidence that Israeli spyware has been used against journalists, human rights defenders and lawyers in the UK continues to pile up. This agreement signals that the government prioritises trade deals to the degree that they are willing to jeopardise the security of people in the UK who are most at risk of illegal surveillance — totally at odds with their stated foreign policy priority to protect and support human rights defenders.’

War on War’s senior campaigner for militarism and security, Chi-Chi Shi said:

‘If the UK government observed its duty to uphold human rights and international law, it would end the UK-Israel arms trade.

‘Instead, it is actively enabling grave human rights abuses and Israel’s occupation and apartheid regime against the Palestinian people.’

But full, accurate and critical coverage of anything to do with Israel is essentially out of bounds for ‘mainstream’ news media.

So, too, is anything that truly exposes the role of corporate and financial power in driving humanity to the point of extinction: a vital point which we have repeatedly emphasised since Media Lens began in 2001.

Following the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, the esteemed climate scientist James Hansen summarised that ‘COP meetings are actually Conferences of the Pretenders’ 1.

He continued:

‘Political leaders make statements that they know – or should know – are blatant nonsense. COPs can produce numerous minor accomplishments, which is sufficient reason to continue with the meetings.’

In typically blunt fashion, Hansen stated:

‘Why is nobody telling young people the truth? “We preserved the chance at COP26 to keep global warming below 1.5°C.” What bullshit! “Solar panels are now cheaper than fossil fuels, so all we are missing is political will.” What horse manure! “If we would just agree to consume less, the climate problem could be solved.” More nonsense!’

‘Young people, I am sorry to say that – although the path to a bright future exists and is straightforward – it will not happen without your understanding and involvement in the political process.’

Noam Chomsky, who recently turned 93, concurs. Asked what is the greatest obstacle to solving the climate crisis, he responded:

‘There are two major obstacles. One is, of course, the fossil fuel companies. Second is the governments of the world, including Europe and the United States.’

Ending the climate crisis, says Chomsky, ‘has to come from mass popular action’, not politicians.

While corporate news media are content to expose the galling, but comparatively minor crime of holding a Christmas party at 10 Downing Street during lockdown, they remain essentially silent about much bigger state crimes.

  1. ‘A Realistic Path to a Bright Future’, newsletter [pdf], 3 December 2021
The post A Christmas Tale: The Downing Street Party, Laughter And Bigger State Crimes first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Jewish Chronicle’s libel payouts were a small price to pay for smearing Corbyn and the left

The Jewish Chronicle, a weekly newspaper that was saved from liquidation last year by a consortium led by a former senior adviser to Theresa May, has been exposed as having a quite astonishing record of journalistic failings.

Over the past three years, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), the misnamed and feeble “press regulator” created by the billionaire-owned corporate media, has found the paper to have breached its code of practice on at least 28 occasions. The weekly has also lost, or been forced to settle, at least four libel cases over the same period.

According to Brian Cathcart, a professor of journalism at Kingston University in London, that means one in every four or five editions of the Chronicle has broken either the law or the IPSO code. He describes that, rather generously, as a “collapse of journalistic standards” at the paper.

IPSO, led by Lord Edward Faulks, a former Conservative minister, has repeatedly failed to launch any kind of formal investigation into this long-term pattern of rule and law-breaking by the Jewish Chronicle. He has also dragged his feet in responding to calls from a group of nine individuals maligned by the paper that IPSO urgently needs to carry out an inquiry into the paper’s editorial standards.

Consequently, IPSO has left itself in no position to take action against the paper, even assuming it wished to. The “press regulator” has not fined the Chronicle – one of its powers – or imposed any other kind of sanction. It has not insisted on special training to end the Chronicle’s systematic editorial failings. And the paper’s editor, Stephen Pollard, has remained in place.

And here one needs to ask why.

Holding the line

Cathcart’s main explanation is that IPSO, as the creature of the billionaire press, is there to “handle” complaints – in the sense of making them go away – rather than seriously hold the media to account or punish its transgressions.

IPSO has never fined or sanctioned any of its member publications since it was created seven years ago by the owners of the corporate media to avoid the establishment of a proper regulatory body in the wake of the Levenson public inquiry into media abuses such as the phone hacking scandal.

The bar for launching an investigation by IPSO was intentionally set so high – failings must be shown to be “serious and systematic” – that the “press regulator” and its corporate media backers assumed they would plausibly be able to argue that no paper ever reached it.

The Chronicle has put even this sham form of regulation to the severest test.

Cathcart argues that IPSO’s job has been to hold the line. If it tackled the Jewish Chronicle for its serial deceptions and character assassinations, it would risk paving the way to similar sanctions being imposed on Rupert Murdoch’s titles.

Attack dog

But there is an additional reason why IPSO is so loath to crack down on the Chronicle’s systematic editorial failings. And that is because, from the point of view of the British establishment, those failings were necessary and encouraged.

It is important to highlight the context for the Chronicle’s egregious transgressions of the editors’ code of practice and libel laws. Those fabrications and deceptions were needed because they lay at the heart of the establishment’s campaign to be rid of former Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

The Jewish Chronicle served as the chief attack dog on Corbyn and the Labour left, in service of an establishment represented by the Conservative party and the long-dominant right wing of the Labour party.

Whereas the rest of the corporate media tried to discredit Corbyn and the Labour left with a range of early, lamentable claims – that he was scruffy, unpatriotic, sexist, a national security threat, a former Soviet spy – the Jewish Chronicle’s task was more complicated but far more effective.

The paper’s role was to breathe life into the claim that Corbyn and his supporters were anti-semites, and the paper managed it by maliciously conflating antisemitism and the left’s criticisms of Israel as a racist, apartheid state that oppresses Palestinians.

Confess or you’re guilty

The Chronicle’s job was to initiate the antisemitism libels and lies against Corbyn and his followers that served to feed and rationalise the fears of prominent sections of the Jewish community. Those fears could then be cited by the rest of the corporate media as evidence that Labour was riding roughshod over the Jewish community’s “sensitivities”. And in turn the Labour left’s supposed indifference to Jewish sensitivities could be attributed to its rampant antisemitism.

It culminated in the McCarthyite claim – now being enforced by Corbyn’s successor as Labour leader, Keir Starmer – that to deny Labour has some especial antisemitism problem, separate from that found more generally in British society, is itself proof of antisemitism. Once accused of antisemitism, as the Labour left endlessly is, one is guilty by definition – the choice is either to confess to antisemitism or be proven an antisemite by denying the accusation.

Like a victim caught in quicksand, the more vigorously the Labour left has rejected claims that the party is riddled with antisemitism the more it has sunk into the mire created by the Jewish Chronicle and others.

It is therefore hardly surprising that so many victims of the Chronicle’s libels and code violations are Corbyn supporters targeted in the antisemitism witch-hunt. Without these deceptions, the antisemitism claims against the Labour party would have looked even more preposterous than they did to anyone familiar with the evidence.

False accusations

For those interested, here are those four recent libel cases that went against the Chronicle:

September 2019: “The Jewish Chronicle has paid out £50,000 in libel damages to a UK charity [Interpal] that provides aid to Palestinians after wrongly linking it to terrorism.”

February 2020: “The libel settlement comes after a UK press regulator in December ruled that the paper’s four articles about [Labour activist Audrey] White had been ‘significantly misleading’ and that the paper had engaged in ‘unacceptable’ obstruction of their investigation.”

October 2020: “Nada al Sanjari, a school teacher and Labour councillor, was the subject of a number of articles published by the newspaper in 2019 that claimed she was one of several Momentum activists responsible for inviting another activist who the Jewish Chronicle characterised as anti-Semitic to a Labour Party event.”

July 2021: “The publication falsely accused [Marc] Wadsworth, in an article on its website in March, of being part of a group of current and ex-Labour members targeting Jewish activists in the party.”

It is not hard to spot the theme of all these smears, and many others, which suggest that those in solidarity with Palestinians under Israeli oppression, including Jews, are antisemites or guilty of supporting terrorism.

Saved from liquidation

Remember, the 28 IPSO code violations – media euphemism for fabrications and deceptions – are only the tip of the iceberg. It is almost certain that many of those maligned by the Chronicle did not have the time, energy or resources to pursue the weekly paper either through the pointless IPSO “regulation” process or through extremely costly law courts.

And remember too that IPSO found against the Chronicle for breaching its code at least 28 times, even though that code was designed to give IPSO’s member publications every possible benefit of the doubt. IPSO has no incentive to highlight its members’ failings, especially when it was set up to provide the government with a pretext for not creating a truly independent regulatory body.

The reality is that the 180-year-old Jewish Chronicle, or JC as it has remodelled itself, would have gone out of business some time ago had it not been twice saved from liquidation by powerful, establishment figures.

It avoided closure in 2019 after it was bailed out by “community-minded individuals, families and charitable trusts” following massive losses. The identities of those donors were not disclosed.

At the time Stephen Pollard highlighted his paper’s crucial role: “There’s certainly been a huge need for the journalism that the JC does in especially looking at the anti-Semitism in the Labour party and elsewhere.”

Consortium of investors

Then only a year later the Chronicle had to be rescued again, this time by a shadowy consortium of investors who promised to pump in millions to keep the paper afloat and reimburse those who had donated the previous year.

Why these financiers appear so committed to a paper with proven systematic editorial failings, and which continues to be headed by the same editor who has overseen those serious failings for years, was underscored at the time by Alan Jacobs, the paper’s departing chairman.

He observed that the donors who bailed out the paper in 2019 “can be proud that their combined generosity allowed the JC to survive long enough to help to see off Jeremy Corbyn and friends, one of the greatest threats to face British Jewry in the JC’s existence.”

Corbyn had lost the general election to a Conservative party led by Boris Johnson later that same year.

The public face of last year’s consortium was Sir Robbie Gibb, a former BBC executive and a longtime ally of figures on the Conservative right. He served as Theresa May’s spin doctor when she was prime minister. He was also an early adviser to GB News, a recent attempt to replicate the overtly right wing Fox News channel in the UK.

Other visible consortium members are associated with the antisemitism campaign against Corbyn. They include former right wing Labour MP John Woodcock, who cited antisemitism as his reason for quitting the party after it had begun investigating him for sending inappropriate messages to a female staff member.

Another is Jonathan Sacerdoti, a regular “analyst” on the BBC, ITV and Ch4 who previously served as a spokesperson for the Campaign Against Antisemitism, a lobby group set up back in 2014 specifically to discredit critics of Israel as antisemites.

And then there is John Ware, a former Sun journalist turned BBC reporter who fronted probably the single most damaging programme on Corbyn. An hour-long Panorama “special” accusing Labour of antisemitism was deeply flawed, misleading and failed to acknowledge that several unnamed figures it interviewed were also pro-Israel lobbyists.

It would probably be unwise for me to say more about Ware or his publicly stated views on Muslims, shared by the Jewish Chronicle, because he has recently become litigious. He apparently has deep pockets, helping to fund both the rescue of the Chronicle and law suits against critics.

Exceptional indulgence

But the exceptional indulgence of the Jewish Chronicle, both by IPSO and prominent figures in broadcasting, and the paper’s continuing credibility as a source of news for the wider corporate media, indicates how the antisemitism narrative about Labour served, and continues to serve, the British establishment.

Represented politically by the Conservative party and the Labour right, that establishment was able to reassert its cosy parliamentary duopoly by ousting any meaningful challenge from the Labour left. With Corbyn gone, the threat of real politics has disappeared. We are back to one-party, corporate rule under the guise of two parties.

Which is why IPSO cannot take any meaningful action against the Jewish Chronicle. To do so would pull the rug from under the antisemitism narrative that destroyed Corbyn and is now being used by his successor, Starmer, to purge Labour of the remnants of the left and to distance the party as far as possible from any lingering signs of Palestinian solidarity.

Exposure of the Jewish Chronicle as an editorial wrecking ball aimed at the left would show just how much the paper and the antisemitism narrative it bolstered were key to the Conservative party’s successful smearing of Corbyn that helped to keep him out of Number 10. It would highlight the enduring collusion between the corporate media and the political elite.

And it would indicate that corporate media is not really an exercise in capitalist, free-market economics, where profitable outlets drive out those that are unpopular. Rather loss-making corporate media such as the Jewish Chronicle are a price the establishment is only too happy to bear as long as those publications fulfil a more important purpose: ensuring that the political and economic climate remains favourable to the ruling class.

The Jewish Chronicle has played its part in destroying Corbyn and the left. Now it will continue that role by policing the public discourse and ensuring that no one like Corbyn ever gets near power again. Those libel payouts were a small price to pay.

The post Jewish Chronicle’s libel payouts were a small price to pay for smearing Corbyn and the left first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Neocons Speak: Afghanistan as Political Real Estate

When the tears dry, it is worth considering why there is so much upset about the fall of Kabul (or reconquest) by the Taliban and the messy withdrawal of US-led forces.  A large shield is employed: women, rights of the subject, education.  Remove the shield, and we are left with a simple equation of power gone wrong in the name of paternalistic warmongering.

The noisiest group of Afghanistan stayers are the neoconservatives resentful because their bit of political real estate is getting away.  In being defeated, they are left with the task of explaining to the soldiery that blood was not expended in vain against a foe they failed to defeat.  “You took out a brutal enemy,” goes a statement from US President George W. Bush and his wife Laura, “and denied Al Qaeda a safe haven while building schools, sending supplies, and providing medical care.”  The couple throw in the contribution of Dr. Sakena Yacoobi of the Afghan Institute of Learning, behind the opening of “schools for girls and women around the nation.”

Paul Wolfowitz, who served as Bush’s deputy defence secretary, is less sentimental in his assessment of the Afghanistan fiasco. To Australia’s Radio National, he was unsparing in calling the victors “a terrorist mob that has been hating the United States for the last 20 years.”  They had provided the launching ground for “one of history’s worst attacks on the United States” and were now “going to be running that bit of hostile territory.”

Being in Afghanistan, he asserted, was not costly for the occupiers – at least to the US.  It made good sense in preventing it from “once again becoming a haven for terrorists”.  For the last year and a half, there had not been a single American death.  He chided the simpletons at the Chicago Council of Global Affairs who dared survey Americans with the question, “Would you like to leave [Afghanistan] and get out?”  They would have been far better framing it differently: “Do you support withdrawal if it means the country is going to be overrun by the same people who hated us 20 years ago and from where an attack that killed 3,000 Americans took place”.

To talk about “endless wars” was also something to avoid.  In a reminder that the US imperial footprint remains global, Wolfowitz drew attention to the fact that Washington was hardly going to withdraw from South Korea, where it was still officially at war with the North.  It kept troops in countries it had previously been at war with: Germany and Japan.  Americans, he lamented, had not “been told the facts” by their politicians.

Boiled down to its essentials, such a view has little time for Afghans with a country “more or less ungovernable for long periods of time”.  (What uncooperative savages.)  The Obama administration’s deployment of 100,000 soldiers had been an “overreach” with unclear intention.  It was far better to treat Afghanistan as a state to contain with “a limited commitment” of US forces rather than “extending to the idea that Afghanistan would become a latter-day Switzerland.”  Ringing the real estate, not advancing the people, mattered.

Former US National Security Advisor John Bolton, a caricature of US interventionist policies, never had much time for the withdrawal argument, either.  Earlier in August, with the Taliban humming along with speed in capturing a swag of provincial cities, Bolton warned that it was “literally [President Joe] Biden’s last chance to reverse his and Trump’s erroneous withdrawal policy.  When the Taliban wins, it compromises the security of all Americans.”

Another voice from the neoconservative stable advocating the need for a continued boot print of US power was Max Boot, who thought it nonsensical to keep US troops in Iraq while withdrawing them from Afghanistan.  US forces needed, he wrote in the Irish Independent (July 29) “to stay in both countries to prevent a resurgence of the terrorist threat to the US and its allies.”  The “imperative” to prevent both countries from becoming “international terrorist bases” remained, but only one had an adequate military presence to provide insurance.  Decent of Boot to show such candour.

The British, long wedded to the idea of empire as gift and necessity, have also piled onto the wagon of stayers, saying less about the merits of protecting Afghan citizens than keeping trouble boxed and localised.  “We will run the risk of terrorist entities re-establishing in Afghanistan, to bring harm in Europe and elsewhere,” feared General Sir Richard Barrons.  “I think this is a very poor strategic outcome.”

British Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood, a former captain in the Royal Green Jackets, went further by suggesting that plucky Britain best go it alone in the face of foolhardy US withdrawal.  “Just because the US chose to depart does not mean we should slavishly follow suit,” he exhorted. “Would it not make sense to stay close to the Afghan people given the importance of this bit of real estate?”

The one who tops all of this off must be former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, always one given to evangelising wars waged in the name of a sinister, tinfoil humanitarianism.  As executive of an institute bearing his name (modest to a fault), he railed against a withdrawal executed “in obedience to an imbecilic political slogan about ending ‘forever wars’”.  Like Wolfowitz, he dismissed the use of such terms and comparisons, noting the diminishing troop deployment on Afghan soil and the fact that “no allied soldier had lost their life in combat for 18 months.”

Despite the withdrawal, Blair suggested that options were available to “the West” which needed some “tangible demonstration” that it was not in “retreat”.  A “list of incentives, sanctions and actions” had to be drawn up against the Taliban.  In doing so, his motivation was simple: that these turbaned fanatics represented a strategic risk, part of “Radical Islam” that had been “almost 100 years in gestation”.

Far from ditching the prospect for future interventions, the high priest of illegal war is all-embracing of the formula.  “Intervention,” he opines, “can take many forms. We need to do it learning the proper lessons of the past 20 years according not to our short-term politics, but our long-term strategic interests.”  Be fearful for Afghanistan’s sovereignty, and woe to those lessons.

The post The Neocons Speak: Afghanistan as Political Real Estate first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Global Britain Slashes International Aid

Decisions on aid are eroding trust and eroding relationships between the UK and developing countries.

— Abby Baldoumas, Financial Times, July 15, 2021

Politics is not merely the art of the possible but the pursuit of concerted hypocrisy.  When it comes to that matter of funding good causes – foreign aid, for instance – wealthy states are often happy to claim they open their wallets willingly.  As good international citizens, they fork out money for such causes as education, healthcare, sanitation.  The goals are always seen as bigger than the cash, a measure of self-enlightened interest.

The United Kingdom is certainly such a case. For years, governments of different stripes praised the political importance of the aid programme.  “Development has never just been about aid or money, but I am proud that Britain is a country that keeps its promises to the poorest in the world,” British Prime Minister David Cameron told the United Nations General Assembly in a 2012 speech.

This all started changing in 2020.  The merging of the Department of International Development with the Foreign Office was a signal that pennies would be in shorter supply.  On November 25, 2020, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced that the government would not spend 0.7% of gross national income on official development assistance in 2022.  The allocation would fall to 0.5% of GNI – £10 billion in monetary terms.  Relative to the 2019 budget, this would amount to an effective cut of around £4 to 5 billion.  Aid had very much become a matter of money.

The 0.7% allocation has been part of British policy since 2013.  Two years after that, it became part of legislation.  Up till September 2020, it was even assumed that it would also be part of Tory policy, given its mention in the Conservative Party manifesto.

Sunak did not shy away from populist justification in delivering his spending review for the 2021-22 financial year.  “During a domestic fiscal emergency, when we need to prioritise our limited resources on jobs and public services, sticking rigidly to spending 0.7% of our national income on overseas aid is difficult to justify to the British people.”

The Chancellor tried assuring his fellow parliamentarians that he had “listened with great respect to those who have argued passionately to retain this target, but at a time of unprecedented crisis, government must make tough choices.”  Such a tough choice seemed to put Sunak in breach of the law, not something alien to members of the Johnson government, including the prime minister himself.  But do not expect legal writs or the constabulary to be pursuing the matter: all that’s seemingly required is a statement to Parliament explaining why the aim was not achieved.

On July 13, Parliament passed a motion confirming the reduction in the aid budget, with 333 votes cast in favour of it.  298 opposed it.  Despite being billed as a compromise, the former international development secretary Andrew Mitchell was wiser.  “There is an unpleasant odour leaking from my party’s front door,” he ruefully admitted.  The motion had been “a fiscal trap for the unwary.”

The consequences of these slashing initiatives have laid waste to the charity and humanitarian landscape.  The list of casualties mentioned by Devex is grim and extensive.  A few unfortunates are worth mentioning.  On July 7, South Sudan country director of Christian Aid reflected upon the closure of peace-building efforts led by various churches in South Sudan given the 59% cut in UK aid.  “These cuts risk having a lethal effect on the chances of a lasting peace here,” James Wani lamented.

On June 14, support was cancelled for the Strategic Partnership Arrangement with Bangladesh.  In the view of the NGO BRAC, this would see a halt to educating 360,000 girls, stop the funding of 725,000 school places, and cut nutritional support for 12 million infants, not to mention access to family planning services for 14.6 million women and girls.

Whole initiatives will cease outright, such as the Malawi Violence Against Women and Girls Prevention and Response Programme or the Green Economic Growth for Papua programme, which focuses on preventing deforestation.  In some cases, existing budget allocations have been reduced by staggering amounts.  The UN Sexual and Reproductive Health Agency (UNFPA), for example, has seen its funding allotment from the UK for its family planning programme reduced by 85% – from £154 million to £23 million.

With all this devastation taking place, Prime Minister Boris Johnson could still breezily announce at the G7 summit that his government would be providing an extra £430 million of extra funding from UK coffers for girls’ education in 90 developing countries.  The timing of this was exquisite: only some weeks prior, cuts had been made amounting to over £200 million for the same cause, down from the £600 million offered in 2019.

In April 2021, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab sounded every bit the stingy economic rationalist.  “Throughout the business planning process, we strived to ensure that every penny of the FCDO’s (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s) ODA (Official Development Assistance) spent brings maximum strategic coherence, impact and value for taxpayers’ money.”

At the Global Education Summit this July, the bleak and razored approach Johnson had taken to aid was concealed by a mask of colourful praise for his own moneyed initiatives.  He called the Global Partnership for Education “the universal cure”, “the Swiss Army knife, complete with Allen key and screwdriver and everything else that can solve virtually every problem that afflicts humanity.”

Without blushing at any point, he spoke about educating the world properly and fairly to “end a great natural injustice.”  In giving “every girl in the world the same education as every boy, 12 years of quality education, then you perform the most fantastic benefits for humanity – you lift life expectancy, you lift per capita GDP, you deal with infant mortality”.

The aid cuts have not only aggrieved those in the charity and development sector.  Baroness Liz Sugg resigned as minister for overseas territories and sustainable development in response to the cuts.  “Cutting UK aid risks,” she wrote to the prime minister last November, “risks undermining your efforts to promote a Global Britain and will diminish your power to influence and other nations to do what is right.”

From the levels of local government, Shropshire councillor Andy Boddington also expressed his dismay.  “Our local MPs and Boris Johnson should bow their heads in shame and recognise how this unnecessary cut has diminished Britain on the world stage just as we prepare to host the international climate summit COP26.”  The good councillor would surely be aware that the allocation of shame, for Johnson, is much like Britain’s current aid budget: diminished in supply.

The post Global Britain Slashes International Aid first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Clinching in the Breach: Matt Hancock Resigns

From his secure fortress of contented spite, Dominic Cummings, exiled from the power he once wielded at Number 10 as one of the chosen, must have felt a sense of satisfaction.  Biliously, the former top aide to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had scorned the now former UK Health Secretary in a performance before MPs lasting hours.  Matt Hancock, Cummings explained last month, could have been sacked for any number of things he did in responding to the pandemic.

With history moving from its tragic gear into a farcical one, Hancock has resigned.  It had all the makings of a tabloid fix: the minister’s name (Hancock), an aide, kissing, a leaking mole and CCTV.  But the departure was not for mendacity or want of competence so much as an ill-considered moment in breach of COVID-19 regulations.  With the country still continuing a lockdown that was meant to dramatically ease on June 21, a camera recording the Health Secretary snogging his aide, Gina Coladangelo, was leaked.  The camera footage of the office incident was recorded on May 6.

Johnson was never going to sack his minister on grounds of incompetence.  The leader has set the precedent others must follow.  According to the vengeful Cummings, it took a hail of 89 texts from Johnson’s wife Carrie to lessen the support.  It was left to Hancock to fall upon his sword, which he took some time to do.

In his resignation letter, priorities are reversed.  “The last thing I would want is for my private life to distract attention from the single-minded focus that is leading us out of this crisis.”  The actual reason comes afterwards.  “I want to reiterate my apology for breaking the guidance, and apologise to my family and loved ones for putting them through this.”  People who had “sacrificed so much in this pandemic” were owed a sense of honesty “when we have let them down as I have done by breaching this guidance.”  The Times tersely opined that such conduct suggested that “the government tolerates breaches of lockdown rules for themselves, while insisting the public adhere to higher standards.”

With the bigger picture of Hancock’s conduct miniaturised (the breach of social distancing rules, various questionable staff appointments – the list is long), Brandon Lewis, Northern Ireland Secretary, could now focus on the important matters: finding out how CCTV footage found its way into the pages of that undyingly malicious paper of poor record, The Sun.  The culprit is said to be lurking in the corridors of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

British press outlets suggested that the leaker had made contact via Instagram to an unnamed anti-lockdown activist.  “I have some very damning CCTV footage of someone that has been classed as completely f***ing hopeless. If you would like some more information please contact me.”  The same paper supplied readers with all the details, leaving little to the imagination.  Included was a crude outlay of Hancock’s office, including the positioning of the Union Jack, painting of the Queen, bookshelf, coat rack and, it transpires, the “kiss door”.

On Sky News, Lewis made the government’s priorities clear.  “I have seen some of the reports this morning outlining how different journalists think the tape might have got out there.  That is certainly a matter I know the Department of Health will be looking into to understand exactly how that was recorded, how it got out of the system.  It’s something we need to get to the bottom of.”

In comments that can only induce smirks of derision, Lewis preferred to focus on the principle that what took place in “government departments can be sensitive, important and people need to have confidence that what is happening in a government department is something that allows the government to be focused on these core issues, and the sensitivity sometimes in the security sense of those issues.”

Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt was also busy directing attention to the things that counted – at least from a government perspective.  By leaking footage of Hancock’s intimate moment, the leaker may well have sailed close to breaching the Official Secrets Act.  Paying lip service to the “open society” and protections “for whistleblowers who find things out and release them in the public interest”, Hunt told the Andrew Marr Show what really bothered him.  “[W]e need to understand how this happened, and to make sure that ministers are secure in their offices, to be able to have conversations that they know aren’t going to be leaked to hostile powers.”

A fevered panic swept through Johnson’s cabinet, with ministers fearing they might be the next one to be Hancocked.  Justice Minister Robert Buckland revealed that sweeps were being organised to identify any filming or listening devices that had escaped detection.  “I think there is an important principle here about need for ministers and civil servants who often are handling very sensitive material and information to have a safe space within which to work.”

The calls for investigation did not stop at the issue of a breach of ministerial confidence.  The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, wished to guide the debate back to the breach of those very regulations government ministers had insisted Britons follow. “What’s important now is for there to be proper investigations into which rules were broken in relation to use of private email, in relation to the appointment of senior staff and also in relation to the social distancing rules.”

Hancock had certainly built himself a fortress of impropriety during the course of the pandemic.  The Sunday Times, having seen minutes of various meetings, noted that the minister had been using a private email address from March 2020 to conduct departmental correspondence, making accountability for decisions regarding the novel coronavirus slippery at best.

The deflectors were also tapping away.  Those sympathising with Hancock within the government were aghast at the very existence of a camera in the office.  Had he been the victim of an orchestrated sting by enemies in Number 10?  Or did some meddlesome power such as China wish to cause ripples by installing a clinch catching “love bug”?

The smug Mail on Sunday poured water on suggestions of foul play. “In fact, pictures taken in September 2017, just before Hancock moved in, show that the camera which caught the clinch is clearly visible on the ceiling of his office.”  But the Tories were also searching for another alibi that would, if not exonerate Hancock then at least provide a distraction from his conduct.

To that end, suspicion started growing legs with commentary on the camera’s make.  While rented from a Singaporean firm, it stems from Chinese manufacturer Hikvision, a company under contract to supply surveillance equipment to the authorities in China’s Xinjiang region.  Despite being blacklisted by Washington in October 2019 for its role in conducting surveillance of Uighurs in the region’s network of “re-education camps”, US cities, counties and schools have made good use of them during the pandemic.  In Britain, city councils employ them in public spaces.

The China Research Group, run by Tory MPs keen to drum up fears about China, fastened on Hikvision’s role in the Hancock affair in a statement.  “There are questions over whether [Hikvision cameras] are currently used in Portcullis House (where MPs have their offices) and the Palace of Westminster (where the House of Lords and the House of Commons is located).”  The group feared “the potential for Chinese intelligence agencies to tap into camera feeds in sensitive locations”.

The nature and scope of the forthcoming inquiry is uncertain.  A full-blooded investigation, no holds barred, might well reveal a bit more than the Department of Health might want to reveal.  Investigators run the risk of lionising a potential whistleblower while uncovering a good deal of rot at the centre of the Johnson government.  And few civil servants, and certainly no government politician, would like to see that.

The post Clinching in the Breach: Matt Hancock Resigns first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Laying the Bear Trap: Orbán visits No 10 Downing Street

His comments would not have fallen on deaf ears.  While metropolitan London would have been aghast at his pedigree and remarks, a Brexit-audience in the rustbelts and areas of deprivation, would have felt a twang of appreciation.  For them, migration has not been a boon and glory.  For Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, it has been an opportunity to make valuable enemies and court new friends.

The meeting between UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Orbán on May 28 did more than raise eyebrows and prompt head scratching.  The statement released by No 10 was anodyne enough, filling space and not much else.  “The leaders discussed the importance of the UK and Hungary working together bilaterally to increase security and prosperity in our countries and to address global challenges such as climate change.”

Johnson is also said to have “raised his significant concerns about human rights in Hungary, including gender equality, LGBT rights and media freedom.”  In terms of foreign policy, Johnson saw his Hungarian counterpart as a man of influence.  “The Prime Minister encouraged Hungary to use their influence to promote democracy and stability.”

The critics, notably those drenched in the juice of Britannic values, were bemused and baffled.  Labour MP Alex Sobel outlined Orbán’s resume ahead of the visit: “a renowned anti-Semite, fuelled violence against the Romany, clamps down on the LGBT and Muslim communities.”  He had also “suppressed democratic norms and press freedom”.  Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy took issue with the visit given Orbán’s record on attacking “press freedom and democracy”, refugees as “Muslim invaders” and was “a cheerleader for Putin and Lukashenko.”

Nandy then turned on that resource so commonly drawn upon when faced with discomforting leaders. Orbán, being one of Europe’s “most regressive leaders” was effectively undermining “the values the UK government says it wants to defend”.

The government of Boris Johnson may well spout the values argument, but Brexit has meant courting and entertaining widely.  The world is less its opportune oyster than a pressing necessity.  Friends need to be won over, agreements inked and secured.  As a No 10 spokesman put it, “As president of the Visegrád group of Central European nations later this year, cooperation with Hungary is vital to the UK’s prosperity and security.”  UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng was even more explicit: the UK had to, at times, speak to the unsavoury and approach the unlikeable. “I think Viktor Orbán’s views on migrants are things I would not endorse in any way.”

Kwarteng distils the amoral British position with accuracy, though it also says much about what Timothy Garton Ash described as “the dilemma of self-inflicted weakness” that burdens post-Brexit Britain.  Arms contracts with Saudi Arabia while a theocracy maims and molests remain a matter of course.  The relationship with China privileges the business imperative, despite claims about holding a liberal international order together.  Deals are to be made, even with authoritarian regimes and those with a sketchy record on human rights.

Orbán, by comparison to some of the UK’s trading partners, is almost civil.  And more to the point, he never disappoints as one of the great critics of the EU, even as he remains in its tent.  The abundant admiration for Brexit, described as the opening of a “fantastic door, a fantastic opportunity”, has not gone unnoticed.

Then there is that niggling issue that Johnson and his party members might not be entirely at odds with the Hungarian PM.  While the official statement on the No 10 meeting mentions a concern for rights and liberties, Johnson could hardly have disagreed with some of his counterpart’s views, notably on Islam.  The recent Singh report into claims of Islamophobia within the Conservative Party found degrees of discrimination from the Prime Minister to grass roots organisations, though it rejected claims of “institutional racism” made by such prominent Tory members as Baroness Warsi.  The Prime Minister’s previous remarks, mocking those wearing burqas as “looking like letterboxes” were also picked up in the report.  “I am obviously sorry for any offence taken,” Johnson said in response, though he also added a rounding qualifier: “My writings are often parodic, satirical”.

Orbán’s views on immigration and Islam are far from satirical, though they do not resist unintentional parody and farce.  Reprising himself as a nationalist warrior fending off a modern Ottoman surge, the grave Hungarian leader wears the habitual costume of a defender of European civilisation.

And what of anti-Semitism? Specifically referring to his troubled relationship with George Soros, the billionaire was described as “a talented Hungarian businessman… he is very much in favour of migration, financing and helping the NGOs who are doing that.  We don’t like it but it has nothing to do with ethnic identity.”

The shambolic rollout of the EU vaccination program has also gifted much room to Orbán to mock opponents and stifle detractors.  Vacillation in Europe on how best to approach COVID-19 and poor planning has meant the courting of other countries for vaccines.  The EU is not working, he can say, and this is how we respond.  The result is a range of options for Hungarians, sourced from Russia and China.  As he has done so, Orbán has pursued an aggressive campaign against contrarians within his country.  The pro-government media mobbing of political scientist Peter Kreko, who cautioned against the speed the Orbán government was seeking the Sputnik V vaccine, was typically sinister.

In the indignant storm surrounding the visit, a White Hall source may have provided the most accurate summary that reflects the British PM’s approach to policy in general: “Number 10 has walked into a bear trap.”

The post Laying the Bear Trap: Orbán visits No 10 Downing Street first appeared on Dissident Voice.