Archive for the ‘Iraq’ Category

Private Eye on the Integrity Initiative and Its Links to American Intelligence

December 30, 2018

I’ve just put up a piece by left-wing British vlogger Gordon Dimmack on the Integrity Initiative and its parent organization, the Institute for Statecraft, which have been revealed as British intelligence operations running smears against Jeremy Corbyn, claiming that he’s supported by the Russians. It’s pretty standard British establishment disinformation. In the 1970s MI5 ran a similar campaign against Harold Wilson, claiming that he was a KGB spy. The Sunday Times smeared the former Labour leader, Michael Foot, the same way in the 1990s, and have repeated the same libels recently. And then there are all the absurd attacks on Jeremy Corbyn in the press that he’s a Communist, Trotskyite or Stalinist.

Private Eye also ran a piece about the Integrity Initiative in this fortnight’s Christmas issue, for 22nd December 2018-10th January 2019. The article, entitled ‘Hot News, Cold War’, runs

The Integrity Initiative, ostensibly a campaign against “Russian disinformation”, faced Labour Party anger and a Foreign Office (FCO) inquiry when it emerged recently that the supposedly “independent” initiative was backed by 2m pounds of government money and had been circulating anti-Jeremy Corbyn articles.

Private Eye can now reveal that the project to “defend democracy against disinformation” has also relied on help from one John Rendon, the US political PR supremo dubbed “the man who sold the Iraq war” after his company, Rendon Group, was paid millions by the US government to build the Iraqi National Congress, the supposed “dissident” group behind fake tales about weapons of mass destruction that helped launch the Iraq war.

The Integrity Initiative was launched in 2016 by the Institute for Statecraft, a charity that claims to be “totally independent and impartial, not dependent on funding from political or government agencies”. However, documents released by hacktivist group Anonymous in November revealed that it got nearly 2m pounds from the Foreign Office in 2017/18 specifically to run the Integrity Initiative-figures subsequently confirmed by an embarrassed Sir Alan Duncan, Foreign Office minister, in a written parliamentary answer.

The Anonymous documents included detailed FCO plans to build up secretive “clusters” of friendly journalists and academics to spread their messages, with monthly reports back to government.

Integrity Initiative staff have intelligence links. The documents name as part of the team one Harold Elletson, a former Tory MP identified by the Observer in 1996 to have been an MI6 agent (see Eye 916). Another team member, Chris Donnelly, is a reserve officer in the British Army Intelligence Corps.

Integrity Initiative “clusters” across Europe push articles “written by independent journalists in newspapers” which were “based on material provided anonymously by the cluster”. The documents show the FCO-funded “clusters” were not just aiming at “Russian disinformation”. Instead the attacked European politicians they believed were too “pro-Putin”.

The papers show how John Rendon helped shape this FCO-funded campaign. He was a top speaker at a 45,000 pound programme of Integrity Initiative seminars to “educate core team and clusters”, and his firm helped write Integrity Initiative dossiers.

The Rendon Group works extensively for the CIA, Pentagon and other US agencies. Famously, it was paid nearly $100m to help shape the Iraqi National Congress (INC) from the 1990s onwards. The INC built its western media contacts to pump out fake stories about WMDs. After Saddam’s fall, the INC proved to have little support in Iraq itself. Rendon’s experience shows the danger of secretive government PR supposedly aimed at foreign opponents distorting domestic politics.

The FCO says the Integrity Initiative documents were exposed by a Kremlin hack and “amplified” by “Russian disinformation”. Russian media are certainly delighted by the news, and Russia may well have hacked the press, but they are real. (p. 11).

The people thus smearing Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour left as Russian stooges are aided by an outfit that the helped to cause the illegal invasion of Iraq, an outfit that works for the American intelligence establishment. This makes sense. The Boston-based alternative news network, The Real News, have also put up a video about Initiative revealing that it doesn’t just smear British politicians and activists, but also American. This is a real scandal, and there needs to be a proper exposure of this organization and inquiry. And especially of the hacks, who are putting the organization’s lies into print to undermine real democracy across Europe and America.

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Democracy Now on the Crimes and Mass Murders of President George H.W. Bush

December 10, 2018

The Friday before last, former president George H.W. Bush, the father of former president George ‘Dubya’ Bush, finally fell off his perch at the age of 94. Like Monty Python’s parrot, he had shuffled off this mortal coil and joined the choir invisible. He was an ex-president, and well and truly. He was buried with due state honours last Wednesday.

And the press and media fell over themselves to praise him to the rafters. If you believed them, you would have thought that America had lost a statesman of the stature of the ancient Athenian politico, Pericles. Or that he combined in himself the wisdom of Thomas Jefferson, Maddison and the rest of the Founding Fathers.

He wasn’t. He was the successor to Ronald Reagan and a former head of the CIA, and had been involved with shady dealings, dirty, proxy wars and invasions in Latin America and Iraq, that had cost thousands their lives, while thousands others were tortured by the dictators he supported. And domestically he was responsible for racist electioneering and a highly discriminatory drugs policy that has resulted in the massive disproportionate incarceration of Black American men.

Mehdi Hasan on George Bush Senior

He was a disgusting creature, and Mehdi Hasan wrote a piece in the Intercept describing just how disgusting and reprehensible he was. In the piece below, he also appeared on Democracy Now! to talk to host Amy Goodman about Bush senior and his legacy of corruption, murder and terror.

Bush was elected president in 1990. He was a former director of the CIA, and served from 1981-89 as Reagan’s vice-president. Despite calling for a kinder, gentler politics when he was vice-president, Bush refused to tackle climate change, saying that the American way of life was not up for negotiation, defended future supreme court justice Clarence Thomas even after he was accused of sexual harassment. He was responsible for launching the first Gulf War in Iraq in 1991. During the War, the US air force deliberately bombed an air raid shelter in Baghdad killing 408 civilians. The relatives of some of those killed tried to sue Bush and his deputy, Dick Cheney, for war crimes. The attack on Iraq continued after the end of the war with a devastating sanctions regime imposed by Bush, and then his son’s invasion in 2003.

The Invasion of Panama

In 1990 Bush sent troops into Panama to arrest the country’s dictator, General Manuel Noriega on charges of drug trafficking. Noriega had previously been a close ally, and had been on the CIA’s payroll. 24,000 troops were sent into the country to topple Noriega against Panama’s own military, which was smaller than the New York police department. 3,000 Panamanians died in the attack. In November 2018, the inter-American Commission on Human Rights called on Washington to pay reparations for what they considered to be an illegal invasion.

Pardoning the Iran-Contra Conspirators

As one of his last acts in office, Bush also gave pardons to six officials involved in the Iran-Contra scandal. This was a secret operation in which Reagan sold arms to Iran in order to fund the Contras in Nicaragua, despite Congress banning the administration from funding them. Bush was never called to account for his part in it, claiming he was ‘out of the loop’, despite the testimony of others and a mass of documents suggesting otherwise.

The Collapse of Communism and Neoliberalism

Bush’s period in office coincided with the collapse of Communism. In the period afterwards, which Bush termed the New World Order, he was instrumental in spreading neoliberalism and the establishment of the NAFTO WTO treaties for international trade.

Hasan not only wrote for the Intercept, he also hosted their Deconstructed podcast, as well as a show, Up Front, on Al-Jazeera English.

The Media’s Praise of Bush

Goodman and Hasan state that there is a natural reluctance against speaking ill of the dead. But they aren’t going to speak ill of Bush, just critically examine his career and legacy. Hasan states that as a Brit living in Washington he’s amazed at the media hagiography of Bush. He recognizes that Bush had many creditable achievements, like standing up to the NRA and AIPAC, but condemns the way the media ignored the rest of Bush’s legacy, especially when it involves the deaths of thousands of people as absurd, a dereliction of duty. He states that Bush is being described as the ‘anti-Trump’, but he did many things that were similar to the Orange Buffoon. Such as the pardoning of Caspar Weinberger on the eve of his trial, which the independent special counsel at the time said was misconduct and that it covered up the crime. And everyone’s upset when Trump says he might pardon Paul Manafort. Bush should be held to the same account. It doesn’t matter that he was nicer than Trump, and less aggressive than his son, he still has a lot to answer for.

The Iran-Contra Scandal

Goodman gets Hasan to explain about the Iran-Contra scandal, in which Reagan sold arms to Iran, then an enemy state, to fund a proxy war against a ‘Communist’ state in South America despite a congressional ban. He states that it was a huge scandal. Reagan left office without being punished for it, there was a Special Council charged with looking into it, led by Lawrence Walsh, a deputy attorney general under Eisenhower. When he looked into it, he was met with resistance by Reagan’s successor, Bush. And now we’re being told how honest he was. But at the time Bush refused to hand over his diary, cooperate with the Special Counsel, give interviews, and pardoned the six top neocons responsible. The Special Counsel’s report is online, it can be read, and it says that Bush did not cooperate, and that this was the first time the president pardoned someone in a trial in which he himself would have to testify. He states that Bush and Trump were more similar in their obstruction of justice than some of the media would have us believe.

Iraq Invasion

They then move on to the Iraq invasion, and play the speech in which Bush states that he has begun bombing to remove Saddam Hussein’s nuclear bomb potential. It was done now, because ‘the world could wait no longer’. Because of Bush’s attack on Iraq, his death was marked by flags at half-mast in Kuwait as well as Washington. Hasan states that Hussein invaded Kuwait illegally, and it was a brutal occupation. But Hasan also says that Bush told the country that it came without any warning or provocation. But this came after the American ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, told Hussein that American had no opinion on any border dispute with Kuwait. This was interpreted, and many historians believe, that this was a green light to Hussein to invade.

Bush also told the world that America needed to go into Iraq to protect Saudi Arabia, as there were Iraqi troops massing on the border of that nation. This was another lie. One reporter bought satellite photographs of the border and found there were no troops there. It was lie, just as his son lied when he invaded twelve years later. As for the bombing of the Amariyya air raid shelter, which was condemned by Human Rights Watch, this was a crime because the Americans had been told it contained civilians. Bush also bombed the civilian infrastructure, like power stations, food processing plants, flour mills. This was done deliberately. Bush’s administration told the Washington Post that it was done so that after the war they would have leverage over the Iraqi government, which would have to go begging for international assistance. And this was succeeded by punitive sanctions that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children. It all began on Bush’s watch.

Racism, Willie Horton and Bush’s Election Campaign

They then discuss his 1988 election campaign, and his advert attacking his opponent, Michael Dukakis. Dukakis was attacked for having given a weekend pass from prison to Willie Horton, a Black con serving time for murder, who then went and kidnapped a young couple, stabbing the man and repeatedly raping the woman. This was contrasted with Bush, who wanted the death penalty for first degree murder. The advert was created by Lee Atwater and Roger Ailes, who later apologized for it on his deathbed. This advert is still studied in journalism classes, and until Trump’s ad featuring the migrant caravan appeared it was considered the most racist advert in modern American political history. Atwater said that they were going to talk about Horton so much, people would think he was Dukakis’ running mate. Bush approved of this, and talked about Horton at press conferences. And unlike Atwater, he never apologized. Roger Stone, whom Hasan describes as one of the most vile political operatives of our time, an advisor to Donald Trump and Nixon, actually walked up to Atwater and told him he would regret it, as it was clearly a racist ad. When even Roger Stone says that it’s a bad idea, you know you’ve gone too far. But the press has been saying how decent Bush was. Hasan states he has only two words for that: Willie Horton.

In fact, weekend passes for prison inmates was a policy in many states, including California, where Ronald Reagan had signed one. Hasan calls the policy what it was: an attempt to stoke up racial fears and division by telling the public that Dukakis was about to unleash a horde of Black murderers, who would kill and rape them. And ironically the people who were praising Bush after his death were the same people attacking Trump a week earlier for the migrant caravan fearmongering. It reminded everyone of the Willie Horton campaign, but for some reason people didn’t make the connection between the two.

Racism and the War on Drugs

Hasan also makes the point that just as Bush senior had no problem creating a racist advert so he had no problem creating a racist drug war. They then move on to discussing Bush’s election advert, in which he waved a bag of crack cocaine he claimed had been bought in a park just a few metres from the White House. But the Washington Post later found out that it had all been staged. A drug dealer had been caught selling crack in Lafayette Square, but he had been lured there by undercover Federal agents, who told him to sell it there. The drug dealer even had to be told the address of the White House, so he could find it. It was a nasty, cynical stunt, which let to an increase in spending of $1 1/2 billion on more jails, and prosecutors to combat the drugs problem. And this led to the mass incarceration of young Black men, and thousands of innocent lives lost at home and abroad in the drug wars. And today Republican senators like Chris Christie will state that this is a failed and racist drug war.

This was the first in a series of programmes honouring the dead – which meant those killed by Bush, not Bush himself. The next programme in the series was on what Bush did in Panama.

Dark Rock and Bush: The Sisters of Mercy’s ‘Vision Thing’

I’ve a suspicion that the track ‘Vision Thing’ by the Sisters of Mercy is at least partly about George Bush senior. The Sisters are a dark rock band. Many of front man Andrew Eldritch’s lyrics are highly political, bitterly attacking American imperialism. Dominion/Mother Russia was about acid rain, the fall of Communism, and American imperialism and its idiocy. Eldritch also wanted one of their pop videos to feature two American servicemen in a cage being taunted by Arabs, but this was naturally rejected about the bombing of American servicemen in Lebanon. Another song in the same album, ‘Dr Jeep’, is about the Vietnam War.

‘Vision Thing’ seems to take its title from one of Bush’s lines, where he said, if I remember correctly, ‘I don’t have the vision thing.’ The song talks about ‘another black hole in the killing zone’, and ‘one million points of light’. It also has lines about ‘the prettiest s**t in Panama’ and ‘Take back what I paid/ to another M*****f****r in a motorcade’. These are vicious, bitter, angry lyrics. And if they are about Bush senior, then it’s no wonder.

Ex-CIA Head Michael Scheuer States America Should Not Support Israel

November 27, 2018

I found this short clip of Michael Scheuer, the former head of the CIA, speaking at a debate held at Georgetown University. He was answering questions about his view that America should not support Israel.

The panel are incredulous at this, and raise the old canard about Israel being the only democracy in the Middle East.

He makes it clear that he believes that America should be indifferent to whether Israel survives, and that democracy is a silly foreign policy goal. This has been proved in Afghanistan. Against the response that democracies are less likely to wage war on democracies, he replies that he spent four years when two of the world’s greatest democracies managed to kill 640,000 of their own people. He states that democracies will fight like other people, but it is not the business of the US to install democracy anywhere. ‘We don’t do it very well. We do it ridiculously badly as a matter of fact.’ He goes on to say that it is a canard that countries have a right to exist. No, they have a right to defend themselves.

He then denies the charge that Israel and its representatives corrupt US politics. No, it’s Israel-supporting Americans who do that. As for his evidence for this, he points to what they did to Ambassador Freeman. The panel states that that was not corruption, it was a lobby doing what a lobby does. The panel then compares the Israel lobby to the tobacco lobby and the gun lobby. And Scheuer replies by saying that none of these lobbies rebound to America’s harm, while the Israel lobby does exactly that. They then ask him about the harm the Israel lobby has done. Scheuer responds by saying that they have convinced Americans that Israeli interests are identical with US national security interests. When the chairman of the panel says that a lot of people would agree with that, Scheuer says bluntly that a lot of people are foolish, and leading America into defeat.

I think Scheuer’s an old school American Conservative of the type who believes that America has no business telling other countries how to run their affairs. It’s classic isolationism. He isn’t alone. One of the American servicewomen voicing this objection was a senior Pentagon officer, who despise the Neocons for dragging America into a series of pointless wars in the Middle East.

And no, America is not good at installing democracies. It has always instead installed Fascist dictatorships. The democracies it has installed, in Iraq and Afghanistan, are artificial and very dependent on continued US military support.

As for Israel being the only democracy in the Middle East, that’s rubbish. Lebanon is also a democracy, though very carefully limited in a system of consociality, so that the different religions occupy particular posts in a very careful balancing of sectarian power. Iran’s a theocracy, but it’s people also vote in elections, so it has a democratic component. The democracy the Neocons wanted to bring to Iraq was similarly limited, in that they wanted the only parties to gain power to be those standing for complete free trade, low taxes, and so on. The constitution the Americans imposed on Iraq has written into it that the Iraqis’ own oil industry cannot be nationalized. It has remain in private hands. Which means those of the western multinationals. And Israel itself is very dubious as a democracy. The Palestinians are very much second-class citizens and the Israeli state only acts on behalf of the European and American Jewish colonists.

And it should be absolutely axiomatic – a clear, fundamental true political principle – that one major reason why so much of the Arab and Muslim world hates America has absolutely nothing to do with hatred of democracy or western civilization per se, but because America backs Israel, the persecution of that nation’s indigenous Arab and Muslim population, and invades and plunders other Arab and Islamic states.

Scheuer’s a brave man for pointing all this out, and I’m surprise the Israel lobby hasn’t smeared him as an anti-Semite. Perhaps they have. But he’s right. As are all the other decent critics of Israel, that the country and its foreign lobbies have smeared.

Does Blair’s Money Come from Israeli Settlers

November 11, 2018

I found this photographic joke about Tony Blair in Private Eye’s edition for the 30th September – 13th October 2011 on page 5.

If you can’t read it, click on it to enlarge. The piccie shows the former leader of the Labour party and the man, who launched the illegal and bloody invasion of Iraq saying ‘I’m laughing all the way to the West Bank’. The caption above reads ‘Blair’s Mystery Millions’.

Blair’s money is still very much a mystery. A recent Private Eye quoted one tax official as saying that his financial interests seemed to be hidden by a series of holding companies in a manner that was extremely unusual and complicated. The West Bank referred to in the photo is almost certainly the Israeli West Bank, part of Palestine, which has been under Israeli occupation since 1967. And if that is where Blair’s money comes from, it’s very unlikely it comes from the Palestinians, for all that Blair tried to curry favour with British Muslims by telling the world how much he respects their religion and regularly read the Qur’an.

Blair and the Labour Right that follows his Thatcherite, neoliberal ideology, always were close to the Israel lobby. He met Lord Levy, who became his chief fundraiser, at a party in the Israeli embassy. It was Levy, who raised the donations from Jewish businesspeople that allowed Blair to be independent of the unions and to defy and increase the legislation intended to crush them. Labour always has had Jewish members – one the best known of the Jewish Labour MPs was the veteran and respected Manny Shinwell. Jewish businesses also donated to the Labour party before Blair. Harold Wilson was given considerable support by the Jewish members of Manchester’s business community. What made Blair unusual wasn’t that he had Jewish supporters and donors, but that they were Zionists, whose contributions to Blair’s finances appeared to have been designed to influence party policy. Blair’s close friend and spin doctor, Peter Mandelson, said that Blair had ended the ‘cowboys and Indians’ attitude to Israel, and was a staunch supporter. Or words to that effect.

And Blair’s Zionism was also reflected very strongly in his foreign policy. Despite claims to be impartial, Blair always supported the Israelis over the Palestinians. He and Bush followed the NeoCon agenda in the invasion of Iraq. Not only was this intended to enrich western multinationals and Saudi oil interests through the seizure of the Iraqi oil industry and other lucrative state assets. It was also to aid Israel through the toppling of Saddam Hussein, who provided aid and support to the Palestinians. And the Neoconservative project was first launched in 1969 by William Kristol in an article in an American Jewish magazine discussing ways to increase wider American support for Israel.

If some of Blair’s money did come from the West Bank, then it seems very much that it comes from Israeli settlers and the businesses they have set up in contravention of international law. It’s these businesses that are target of the BDS campaign, which demands that people and institutions boycott and divest from Israeli businesses in the Occupied Territories. The campaign has, so far, resulted in a 1/3 of these businesses closing down, though the construction of illegal settlements and the persecution and maltreatment of the indigenous Arab population continues. And if that’s the case, then it adds another explanation for the Blairites’ determination to silence, persecute and purge those critical of Israel from the party. They, or their former leader, have personal financial reasons to fear Jeremy Corbyn and a Labour government that believes in equality and justice for the Palestinians.

RT Video of Interfaith March for Religious Peace

November 6, 2018

This is another short video from RT UK, of an interfaith march held on Sunday to promote peace between the different religions in the UK. Most of the marchers appear to be Muslims. The women wear the chador, and the marchers hold banners with Islamic slogans written in Latin and Arabic script. Some of these are addressed to Ali, Mohammed’s son-in-law, who is the fourth caliph for Sunni Muslims and revered by Shi’a as the first imam. There are also placards from Muslims Against Terrorism, and others proclaiming ‘They shall not divide us’ and ‘Love will win, Terror will lose’. They also have prayer mats, and some are shown praying.

At the beginning of the video, one young man says

What we’ve seen a lot of now is the voices of hate, the voices of extremism, whether that be from the right wing, from people who call themselves certain religious groups, and try to bring themselves up within the media. They’re getting a larger voice than they should, perhaps. What we want to do is trying to say is the majority of people do not believe in this. The majority of people have not got this kind of belief in their mind, of hatred between each other and causing friction.

He’s followed by a rabbi, surrounded by a group of clergy from the different faiths, including Christians and Muslims. The rabbi says

Today we are standing here, looking at the background of grassroots Muslims expressing a clear message of peace and harmony with all segments of the community. This is very important to dispel the myth about all Muslims being negative towards society. Here they are announcing, and they are declaring that the way forward that they desire is peace and harmony.

Amen to that. The bigots and fanatics are getting too much attention. And unfortunately the media recently has allowed a platform to Tommy Robinson and those like him, which are threatening to normalize Islamophobia. Muslims across the world have denounced terrorism. A year or so ago, India’s biggest Muslim organization issued their declaration against terrorism. But the Islamophobes continue to ask, completely spuriously, why Muslims haven’t denounced terrorism.

I have a feeling that the invocations to Ali probably mean that the marchers, or at least those shown, were Shi’a, which is the majority religion of Iran. The march is therefore extremely timely, as Trump seems to be whipping up war fever in America ready to invade them. As if too many countries already haven’t been turned into a bloodbath thanks to western military actions and invasions. Iran is an oppressive theocracy, which viciously persecutes political dissidents, trade unionists and those of its people who convert to Christianity. However, change, if it comes, has to come from the Iranian people themselves. Western action will only allow the mullahs there to claim that the various opposition movements are simply tools of the west to subvert the country and reimpose western domination.

And if Trump invades, it won’t be to liberate the country. He’ll simply be following the Neocon agenda of invading middle eastern and Islamic states, that have blocked American and Israeli interests. Like Iraq and Libya. They’d also like to invade Syria and Somalia as well. Well, the Iraq invasion left behind a bitterly divided society, in which the mercenaries the Americans used alongside regular troops ran riot, organized prostitution rings and shot ordinary Iraqis simply for the hell of it, while the American military authorities ran death squads. The country’s oil fields and industry was seized for the benefit of western multinationals, as were major state enterprises. As with Libya, a relatively secular society in which women were safe to enjoy careers outside the home, and whose citizens had the benefit of free healthcare and education was destroyed. The economy and infrastructure was wrecked, and at least in the case of Iraq, the removal of all the trade tariffs protecting the country’s own businesses were torn down, so that everyone dumped their goods on them. The native businesses were driven into bankruptcy, and unemployment shot up to something like 60 per cent.

And this will happen again in Iran if Trump launches yet another invasion.

It’s time to stop this warmongering and aggression. Jeremy Corbyn’s right: there should be no more interventionist wars. Everyone needs to unite about this, whether they are religious or not. We did before, when two million of us in this country marched against Blair’s illegal invasion of Iraq.

Book on How to Resist and Campaign for Change

November 4, 2018

Matthew Bolton, How To Resist: Turn Protest to Power (London: Bloomsbury 2017)

About this time last week, hundreds of thousands of people were out on the streets marching to demand a second referendum on Brexit. It was the biggest demonstration since 2 million or so people marched against Blair’s invasion of Iraq. And as Mike commented in his blog post about it, as likely to do as much good. Blair and his corrupt gang ignored the manifest will of the people, and went ahead anyway, determined to prosecute a war whose real reasons were western imperialism and multinational corporate greed. The march failed to stop the war and the chaos it caused is still ongoing. Just as last week’s march will also fail to prevent the Tories doing whatever they want.

It’s a disgusting situation, and this book is addressed to everyone who’s fed up with it. The author, Matthew Bolton, is an organizer with the campaigning group Citizens UK and their Living Wage campaign. And the book is addressed to people, who have been on the march, and are sick and tired of being ignored. Right at the very beginning of the book, he writes

This book is for people who are angry with the way things are and want to do something about it; for people who are frustrated with the system, or worried about the direction the country is going in. For people who are upset about a particular issue, or want a greater say in the changes happening in their neighbourhood. They’ve posted their opinions on social media and they’ve shouted at something they’ve seen on the news. They’ve been on the big march and they’ve been to the ballot box, but what more can be done? This is for people who want to make a change, but they’re not sure how. (p.1)

A few pages later he describes the dangers to democracy and the increasing sense of powerlessness people now feel when decisions are taken out of their hands by politicians.

What’s at stake here is more important than simply helping people who care about particular issues to run effective campaigns. It’s about democracy. In the past, people who wanted to make a difference, and believed in change fought for democracy with sweat, blood and courage. The Chartists, the Suffragettes and other endured prison and faced death in their struggle for the chance to have a say in the governance of the country. They organized and campaigned to force the ruling elites to open up our political system to influence by the majority of the people. It is a great misunderstanding to think that they were fighting for the chance to put a cross in a box once every few years. They were fighting – week in, week out – for power. Fighting for more people to have more influence.

Over time, we have become confused. Now we have the vote, we have mistaken politics for Parliament and have come to see democracy as something to watch on television or follow on Twitter, like spectators at a football game – or worse, to switch off from it completely, losing trust in politicians, losing trust in the media, losing trust in the system. Democracy doesn’t just mean ‘to vote’, it means people power. It means embedding political action into our day-to-day lives, in our communities and workplaces. It is a vision of a society where power is distributed amongst the people, not concentrated in the hands of the few. It’s not an end state, but a constant struggle for people to fight for a seat around the decision-making table.

But it doesn’t feel like we are at the table. It feels like we are on the menu. Power is being concentrated in the hands of an increasingly small circle of people. We have a revolving door of Cabinet ministers becoming bankers, becoming newspaper editors, becoming chief executives. We have been lulled into a false sense of security, thinking that our democratic system would create a better future for us all. But it doesn’t look that way. By lunchtime on the first Wednesday in January, after just two-and-a-half days’ work, FTSE 100 bosses will have earned more than the average person will earn that entire year. The generation now in their twenties will be the first in modern times to be worse off than their parents. What we want for ourselves and our children – a decent job, a home, a health service, a community – is under threat. (pp. 4-5).

He then discusses how the political terrain has shifted immensely recently, with people demanding change, giving as examples the vote to Leave in the Brexit referendum and the election of Jeremy Corbyn. But he also makes the point that you need a strategy and that winning campaigns are very well planned and organized. And he gives two examples: Rosa Parks and Abdul Durrant. While the action that sparked off the bus boycott that began the Civil Rights movement in earnest was presented as spontaneous in Dr. Who, in reality it was very carefully planned. The Montgomery chapter of the NAACP had been planning a boycott for a year before she refused to give up her seat. They had already tried this with three other Black passengers, but had failed to light the fuse of public indignation. This time, they found the right person with Rosa. Durrant was a leader in the East London Communities Organisation, part of Citizens UK, who worked nights as a cleaner in HSBC in Canary Wharf. He led a campaign to get better pay for workers like him, and then organized a media and mass protest to get it.

As for Bolton himself, he comes from a working/ middle class family. His father’s family were working class, his mother’s solidly middle class. He attended Cambridge university, but went to the state primary in his part of London. The local area was very rough, and his mother wanted him privately educated, and he was lucky enough to get a scholarship to a private school in Dulwich. He says that it was at this time that the stark difference between conditions in south London and the bubble of privilege in Dulwich began to grate on him. He was mugged twice in his neighbourhood, once at the point of a knife, punched several times in the face, and violently carjacked. After private secondary school, he went to sixth form at a state school that also had its fair share of problems. He describes how some of his friends from private school went on to work with a family friend in the City, which he describes as a conveyor belt to a decent university and a great career. Others had to avoid gang trouble on their way home, looked after their young siblings in the evening because their mother was working nights, scrimped and saved to pay the gas meter, and then tried to do their homework. He continues

It wasn’t just the unfairness that made me angry: it was the fact that as a society we say success is determined by how clever you are and how hard you work. If you fail, it’s your fault. That convenient lie made me angry then and it makes me angry now. (p. 21).

The book describes the strategy he has devised over years of campaigning to affect change. It starts off by identifying the issue you are particularly angry about – it could be anything – and identifying the people in authority who may be able to do something about it. He rejects the idea that powerlessness is somehow noble, and recommends instead that protestors concentrate on developing their power, as well as appealing to those that already have it to help them through their self-interest. The book also talks about the correct strategy to adopt in meetings and talks with those in authority and so on. It is all about mobilizing popular protest for peaceful change. After the introduction, pieces of which I’ve quoted above, it has the following chapters:

1. If You Want Change, You Need Power

2. Appreciating Self-Interest

3. Practical Tools to Build Power

4. Turning Problems Into Issues

5. The Action is in the Reaction

6. Practical Tools to Build a Campaign

7. Unusual Allies and Creative Tactics

8. Finding the Time.

9. The Iron Rule.

I’m afraid I didn’t finish reading the book, and have no experience of campaigning myself, so I can’t really judge how useful and applicable it is. But just reading it, it seems to be a very useful guide with sensible, badly needed advice for people wanting to mount effective campaigns on the issues that matter to them. And Bolton is absolutely right about the rising, obscene inequalities in our society and the crisis of democracy that has developed through the emergence of a corrupt, self-interest and interlinked media-political-banking complex.

RT Video of Demonstration outside Saudi Embassy Yesterday

October 27, 2018

The brutal murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi embassy in Turkey this week has intensified criticism of the Saudi regime and its de facto monarch, Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Yesterday, protesters gathered outside the Saudi embassy in London for a ‘Justice for Jamal’ demonstration. The video below is from RT UK, which covered the demo.

As the video shows, it wasn’t just about Khashoggi’s murder, but also about the continuing war in Yemen, the Saudis’ war crimes against women, children and civilians, and the continued aid given to the Saudis by Britain through massive arm sales.

The protesters shout ‘Hands Off Yemen!’ and carry placards with same slogan. They also have placards and banners denouncing bin Salman as a butcher, and also cry ‘Stop Arming Saudi!’

A young woman explains to the camera that she

thinks this case has brought to light many more of the wrongdoings of the Saudi regime, particularly the conflict we’re witnessing in Yemen since 2015. This is a barbaric conflict, many war crimes are being committed, civilians are being targeted, vital infrastructure is being targeted. I think it’s also important to raise what is the British government’s role in this? We have to look at the responsibility for our sale of arms. Nearly 5 billion pounds worth of arms have been sold to Saudi regime since 2015 in the war in Yemen. We have to put pressure on the government to stop these inhumane arms trades.

An older lady says

We were told Mohammed bin Salman was a reforming prince. I mean what a load of, what a farce that is really, when you look at, you know, the reforms include luring people into a consulate, killing them, torturing them, cutting them up. These are things which we think are absolutely unacceptable. And the truth of the matter is that Saudi Arabia would not be in the position it was without support, particularly of the US and UK.

Well, bin Salman might be a reforming prince, but it seems any reforms are limited and grudging. As they pointed out on Have I Got News For You Last Night, the Saudi regime has at last granted women the freedom to drive. But all the women who actually protested for it are in jail.

And there is evidence tying bin Salman himself to Islamist terrorism. There have been intelligence reports stating that bin Salman and the Saudi intelligence service were heavily involved in al-Qaeda and ISIS incursions into Syria and Iraq.

17 of the 19 9/11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia, and the censored parts of the US government report into the attack show that support for the outrage came from the highest levels of the Saudi state. But that part of the report was suppressed by the American government, which instead used it as a pretext to invade first Afghanistan – not unreasonably, as bin Laden, the head of al-Qaeda was there – and then Iraq, which wasn’t involved.

The Saudis seem to have only become interested in combating ISIS after Daesh targeted them and urged their citizens to rise up against the regime.

Britain and America’s support for Saudi Arabia is all about the petrodollar and the profits of the oil industry, as well as using the influence of the theocratic, absolute monarchy to undermine secular Arab nationalist and socialist regimes. These threatened our economic and political hegemony over the region, as well as western corporate interests. And so they have been destabilized and overthrown.

But our support for the Saudis is having dangerous consequences for the West. Salafi preachers in mosques funded by Saudi Arabia, and supported by the regime or from similar states with a widespread, intolerant form of Islam have been active in Britain and Europe preaching their bigotry and intolerance, radicalizing the young and alienated.

The Saudis are a danger to the Middle East, the West and the world. It’s long past the time we should be encouraging and supporting them in their brutality and intolerance. And the first thing we should do to stop the real terror they’re spreading is to stop selling them arms.

Gordon Dimmack on Corbyn’s Pledge ‘No More Interventionist Wars’

October 24, 2018

Gordon Dimmack is a left-wing vlogger with a particular interest in disability issues. In this piece from the 27th September 2018, he gives his enthusiastic approval, with some reservations, to Corbyn’s speech at the Labour conference. Although he strongly supports all of Corbyn’s speech, in this video he concentrates specifically on the Labour leader’s proposed new foreign policy, as it particularly shows the difference between Labour and the Tories. After making these points briefly at the very beginning, he then moves on to a brief clip of that part of Corbyn’s speech. Corbyn says

Britain’s relationship with the rest of the world, our foreign policy, is no longer sustainable. We’re entering a new, fast-changing and more dangerous world, including the reckless attacks in Salisbury, which the evidence painstakingly assembled by the police points to the Russian state. When president Trump takes the US out of the Paris accord and tries to scrap the Iran nuclear deal, moves the US embassy to Jerusalem and pursues an aggressive nationalism and trade wars, then he’s turning his back on international cooperation and even international law.

We need a government in Britain that not only keeps the country safe, but can also speak out, speak out for democratic values and human rights. Today’s Conservative government continues to collude with the disastrous Saudi-led war in Yemen, turning a blind eye to the evidence of war crimes on the devastating suffering of millions of civilians. That’s why I was honoured to attend a vigil this week held in Liverpool by the Yemeni community in protest against what is taking place.

Corbyn has received applause before in this speech, but at this point it becomes a standing ovation. He continues

Labour’s foreign policy will be driven by progressive values and international solidarity, led by our international team of Emily Thornberry, Kate Osselmore and Neil Griffith. This means no more reckless wars of intervention after Iraq or Libya, it means putting negotiation before confrontation, diplomacy before tub-thumping threats. And it means championing human rights and democracy everywhere, not just where it’s commercially convenient. And working to resolve the world’s injustices, not standing idly by, or worse, fueling them in the first place.

He’s also applauded during this section, which is the end of the part of his speech included in the video.

Dimmack then goes on to the make the point that Corbyn was absolutely correct when he said that the UK’s foreign policy was unsustainable. It is, That’s why we’re in all these wars in the Middle East. Because it’s all about the oil, the petrodollar and a natural gas pipeline that has to go through Syria to supply Europe. And in answer to those, who deny this, the value of the world’s reserve fund is based upon it. And it isn’t sustainable, because oil and gas, fossil fuels, are the very products leading to the destruction of this planet. He argues that we have to move away from these wars in countries we shouldn’t be involved in and take care of our own country.

He is critical of Corbyn’s comment about the evidence in the Skripal poisoning pointing to the Russian state. This has ruined his speech for Dimmack, but he believes Corbyn has to say it, as if he didn’t, that would be the headlines in the paper the next day.

Dimmack liked the fact that Corbyn called out Trump, and pointed out that you don’t get Tweezer calling out Trump. You get them sycophantically licking his a**e like Boris Johnson does. And people like Jeremy Hunt meeting Kissinger. Dimmack praises Corbyn for calling Trump out on moving away from the Paris accords, scrapping the nuclear deal with Iran and moving the embassy to Jerusalem and states that you won’t find Tweezer doing the same. He predicts that in the Tory conference the following week we’ll get Tweezer offering Trump an olive branch in the hope of a trade deal.

Dimmack also praises him for condemning the war in Yemen, and states that while he’s critical of standing ovations, this one was definitely warranted. Dimmack makes the point that this is a proxy war that the West is allowing. We could stop it at any time. The Saudi planes wouldn’t even be able to take off unless we and the Americans gave our permission.

Dimmack is less impressed by Corbyn’s statement that the foreign policy would be run by Emily Thornberry. Although she’s an ally of Corbyn, she was mentioned in an article by the Electronic Intifada about the decision at the conference to freeze arms sales to Israel and other, similar countries like Saudi Arabia. Despite her closeness to Corbyn, Thornberry’s a supporter of Labour Friends of Israel and opposed the decision. The party also condemned the killing of civilians by the Israelis on the ‘March for Freedom’ protest. Dimmack would like to know who the source for the Intifada’s article was, as they are not named.

Dimmack states that Corbyn’s pledge that Britain would no longer engage in interventionist wars is what we all wanted him to say. He makes the point that Libya was ‘liberated’ in 2012, and that now there is a slave trade there. An open air slave trade in the markets. He goes on to say that this is ironic, as Reagan’s chief of staff for the CIA, Bill Casey, was under investigation at the time Reagan held his first meeting with him and the other chiefs, because he was suspected of instigating a coup in Libya to oust Colonel Gaddafy. One of the lies the Agency was spreading to destabilise Gaddafy’s regime was that Gaddafy was involved in a slave trade with Myanmar. And then after they get rid of Gaddafy within a few years there is an open slave trade in Libya.

Dimmack approves of Corbyn substituting negotiation for aggressive action, as you can’t solve anything without lines of communication, and the way he attacked Israel and the Saudis without explicitly singling them out. He goes on to state that the newspapers, especially online, were unanimous in their acclaim of Corbyn’s speech. Even the Torygraph, which said it was his best speech yet. Dimmack says that with this going on, it’s no wonder that within 90 minutes to a couple of hours following it that the government leaked details that one of the two men accused of poisoning the Skripals was commended or given a medal by Putin. He leaves his audience to make up their own minds about it.

Dimmack states that while there are some things he doesn’t like about the speech, it’s what he wanted to hear, and it’s a radical shift in our country’s foreign policy. And when people hear Corbyn speak, he wins votes. Unlike the opposition, who, like the Democrats and Hillary, don’t want Tweezer to campaign as whenever she does, her approval rating goes down. He then predicts that Tweezer at the Tory conference in the next few days would have a more difficult time than Jezze did.

Books ‘For A Worker’s Chamber’ and ‘Crimes of Empire’ Published with Lulu

May 11, 2018

This week I’ve working on publishing my books For A Workers’ Chamber and Crimes of Empire with the print on demand publishers, Lulu. This has now been done, and the books are now available, if anybody wants them.

For A Workers’ Chamber is my book arguing that as parliament is dominated by millionaires and company directors, to be really representative working people need their own parliamentary chamber within it. My blurb for it runs as follows

The book argues that working people need their own separate chamber in parliament to balance the domination of millionaire MPs holding directorships. It uses Marx’s analysis of the state as an instrument of class domination, and examines schemes for working people’s political autonomy from the Chartists, through anarchism, syndicalism, Fascism and the system of workers’ self-management in Yugoslavia, as well as the corporative management system adopted in post-War Europe. This set up negotiations between government, management and unions to settle industrial disputes and manage the economy.

It’s ISBN is 9780244386061.

Crimes of Empire is the book Florence suggested I write all that time ago, about how America and the West has overthrown generally liberal, socialist regimes, and replaced with them Fascist dictatorships when they have been an obstacle to western corporate or political interests.

The blurb for this runs

The book discusses the current wars fought by the West in the Middle East, and shows that these are not being fought for humanitarian reasons, but are part of a long history of American coups and political interference since World War II. These have been to overthrow regimes that have blocked or resisted American corporate or political interests. This policy is behind the Maidan Revolution in Ukraine, the invasions and attacks on Iraq, Libya and Syria, and conflicts with Russia and Iran.

It’s ISBN is 978-0-244-08662-6.

Lulu are at http://www.lulu.com/

These are the print versions of the books. For a Workers’ Chamber is £4.50 and Crimes of Empire £10.00. The prices are exclusive of tax. I am planning to make e-book versions of them, which should bring the price down further for people who want to read them on computer or Kindle.

Expelled Labour Anti-Racist Campaigner Marc Wadsworth Talks to Afshin Rattansi on RT

May 8, 2018

This is another great video from that notorious Russian propaganda outlet, RT, which shows exactly why we need the channel. It’s the only one allowing those smeared as anti-Semites from the Labour party to come on TV to give their side and their views.

In this clip, RT’s presenter for the ‘Going Underground’ programme, Afshin Rattansi, talks to Marc Wadsworth. Wadsworth is the veteran anti-racist campaigner, who was smeared as an anti-Semite by Blairite Labour MP Ruth Smeeth. He was then subjected to what can only be described as a kangaroo court, before being found guilty and thrown out.

Wadsworth here talks about how he formed the Anti-Racist Alliance in 1991, and how he helped the parents of the murdered Black teenager, Stephen Lawrence, meet Nelson Mandela. He states that this was a time when racism and Fascism were on the increase. Blacks and Asians had been attacked, the BNP had established a bunker, which they claimed was a bookshop, and then there was the murder of Stephen Lawrence. He was able to get Stephen Lawrence’s parents to meet Mandela through contacting expatriate members of the ANC, who were disgusted to find out that Black lives were just as cheap in London as they were in South Africa. The Anti-Racist Alliance itself had the support of MPs, Blacks, Asians and Jews, and was the largest Black led anti-racist organisation in Europe.

Rattansi then asks him about Amber Rudd, the deportations and his expulsion from the Labour party. Wadsworth states that his father was one of the Windrush generation. He was an RAF volunteer from Jamaica, who paid his own passage of here in 1944 to help Britain fight the Nazis. After the War, he then made his way back here, to help this country rebuild. Wadsworth says that his father’s dead now, but if he were alive, he’d be appalled at the way they were treated, and the way his son has been treated.

Rattansi then asks him how long he’s known Jeremy Corbyn. Wadsworth states that he’s known Corbyn since he was first elected as an MP in 1983, when he was a campaigning trade unionist. Wadsworth also discusses how he was one of those involved in the movement for Black sections in the Labour party, which led to the election of the first Black Labour MPs, including Bernie Grant and Diane Abbott. This was a landmark moment, as up till then parliament had been all White, as White as that of South Africa.

He and Rattansi also discuss how Wadsworth was influential in changing and drafting the law on racial harassment in concert with a member of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. This was after a series of battles with the BNP on the Isle of Dogs after the election of Derek Beacon, when Jews were being attacked.

As for the kangaroo court that found him guilty of anti-Semitism, he states that his legal team had entirely disproved the charges against him, and that the court couldn’t even give him a definition of anti-Semitism, and had to take legal advice part way through. He found this very disturbing. He says he’s been overwhelmed by the support he’s received from thousands of people, and that polls show most people think he’s innocent. He states that this is the Blairites trying to hold on to power, and that if they get away with throwing him out, they’ll be able to throw out anybody. It could be Jackie Walker next, or Ken Livingstone.

Rattansi tackles him on why no Labour figures have publicly defended him. Wadsworth states that he had received the support of high-ranking Labour MPs, naming them. As for the reason they haven’t publicly come forward, this is because Jeremy Corbyn is under siege by the Blairites. 172 MPs signed a ‘no confidence’ motion against him, which is 95 per cent of parliamentary MPs. They’re afraid to speak out in case the right-wing press jump in and try to use their defence against them and the wider Labour party.

Rattansi mentions that Wadsworth isn’t just concerned with racial justice, but also with class. Wadsworth states that he left the Labour party because of the invasion of Iraq. He rejoined when Corbyn became leader. He states that we need to back Corbyn in this battle for the soul of the Labour party, if we wish to have genuinely socialist, internationalist, anti-war Labour party.

At the end of the programme their subtitles giving dates from a ‘Justice for Wadsworth’ tour, beginning in London. You may wish to stop the video at that and make notes of the dates.

Wadsworth is clearly a man of deep conviction and integrity, and it is an utter travesty that he has been so foully smeared as an anti-Semite when he is clearly very, very far from it. As are so many others.

As for his story about his father serving in the RAF, and then coming back to Britain after the War to help in our reconstruction, Wadsworth’s father was by no means the only one. The book Under the Imperial Carpet, which discusses various incidents in Black British history, has a chapter on the many West Indians, who, like Wadsworth’s father, came to this country during the War to help us. These people were so well received that they came back here after the War expecting the same treatment. Sadly, they weren’t, and found instead bitter racism and resentment. Rudd and Tweezer’s deportation of this generation and their children is another vile chapter in this story of hope, racism and disappointment and maltreatment.

Wadsworth and everyone else falsely accused of anti-Semitism should be cleared and reinstated as members of the Labour party immediately.

The deportations must stop now, and those deported returned to their homes and families in Britain. And Tweezer should resign or be thrown out for her role in drafting the legislation used to persecute them.

And Ruth Smeeth and the other Blairites are utterly despicable, and should be deselected.