Posts Tagged ‘Aramco’

Zelo Street Destroys Blair’s Latest Speech about Weapons of Mass Destruction

September 8, 2021

The former prime minister Peter Hitchens calls ‘the Blair creature’ crawled out from under whatever rock he and his millions hide under this morning to give a speech to the Royal United Services Institute. This warned that Islamism was still a threat, and that in the wake of the Covid pandemic there was a horrific possibility that such terrorists would use bioweapons against the west. He suggested that ‘boots on the ground’ may indeed be needed again to help countries overseas tackle the terrorists on their soil. Of the Islamist terrorists themselves, he said

This ideology – whether Shia, promulgated by the Islamic Republic of Iran or Sunni promoted by groups on a spectrum from the Muslim Brotherhood through to AQ, ISIS Boko Haram and many others – has been the principal cause of de-stabilisation across the Middle East, and beyond and today in Africa”.

To which Zelo Street asked rhetorically ‘Hasn’t he missed someone?’

Yes, yes, he had. Saudi Arabia. 17 of the 19 perps of 9/11 were Saudis. The Street reminds us

“The majority of the 9/11 terrorists were from Saudi Arabia, and if you were to select one country that practises strict, even militant, Islam, that would be it. But Saudi Arabia buys weapons from us. It’s got a lot of oil. So, despite its export of terrorism, brutalisation of its own people, and subjugation of women, we are invited to Look Over There.”

Quite. There is considerable evidence to suggest that elements within the Saudi secret services were responsible for it, and that responsibility for the attack goes to the very highest levels. Saudi Arabia was firmly behind al-Qaeda and its infiltration into Syria and Iraq and I don’t think they had any real problem with ISIS. Not until Daesh went and issued a call for the faithful to rise up and overthrow the Saudi monarchy. Then the Saudi regime changed its attitude.

The Street concludes

“This will not do. Tony Blair could have set out some kind of vision; instead, he showed that he hasn’t moved on from 2003. He brings us no credible solutions. No change there, then.”

I don’t believe Tory Tone has anything credible to say about the Middle East. He may well be right about bioweapons, though I’ve heard rumours that we used them against the Iraqis. The rumour goes that scientists have developed pathogens that are so lethal they burn themselves out within a short time so that they don’t infect anyone beyond the limited number they were launched against. And the South African security service, BOSS, was supposed to be developing gene-tailored germs that would only infect and kill Blacks. Bioweapons may well be a real threat, but I worried that it’s not only our enemies who may be developing and using them.

As for Blair, he lied about weapons of mass destruction as part of the whole tissue of lies he and his mate Dubya constructed to justify an illegal war of aggression against Iraq. This war was really about seizing the Iraqi oil fields for the American-Saudi oil industry and Iraqi state industries for multinationals like Haliburton. These malign clowns sent brave men and women to fight and die, not to give the country democracy and freedom from tyranny, but so the corporate elite could loot it.

A few days ago I drew this sketch setting down in pictorial form precisely what I think of Bush and Blair. It shows them and Saudi oil magnate clutching oil wells with the names Aramco and Haliburton behind them. Also behind them are my attempts to draw warplanes from underneath. In front of them are the bodies of a Middle Eastern family.

The caption is ‘New Labour, Old Imperialism’.

This is the leader of the Labour party Starmer wants to drag us all back to. He needs to go for the sake of Britain’s working people and the safety of millions in the Middle East.

Afghanistan Withdrawal – the Conspiracy Theories Start

September 2, 2021

For some the catastrophic departure of the western armed forces from Afghanistan has been almost unimaginable. This is not surprising, as successive governments have been telling us for years that the Taliban had been successfully contained and victory was only a few months away. They find it particularly incomprehensible that the US and western armed forces were so unprepared for the Taliban’s reconquest of the country, that President Biden has left 73 military planes and $80 billion worth of kit behind in the scramble to get out. One of these is the mad right-wing YouTuber and internet radio host, Alex Belfield. In the video below, Belfield wonders if all that military equipment has been deliberately left behind to be taken and used by the Taliban, in order to provide the pretext for more wars. He sees this as part of an overall strategy by out governments to keep us afraid. One of these ruses has been, so he argues, the Coronavirus. He seems to follow here the line of some of the sceptics that Covid doesn’t present a real threat, but has just been used by the government in order to justify a totalitarian seizure of power through the lockdown.

Belfield’s been sceptical about the Coronavirus and the lockdown almost from the beginning. His argument is usually that the lockdown is doing more harm than good to the economy and to the health, mental and physical, of the British people. He’s right in that clearly people’s businesses and wellbeing is suffering, but is completely and utterly wrong about lifting the lockdown and letting the disease take its course and carry off whoever it may.

But I can’t say that his paranoia about the US leaving behind so much military equipment is unwarranted. The American and British public were miss-sold the wars in the Middle East. We were told we were freeing Afghanistan from a brutal theocratic tyranny and defending America and ourselves from future terrorist attacks. We weren’t. The troops were sent in to secure the country so that an oil pipeline could be built, one which Bush’s administration had been in talks with the Taliban to build. The Taliban had pulled out, and so the NeoCons were looking for an excuse to invade. This came along in the shape of 9/11.

Ditto Iraq. We were informed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and that he was in league with Osama bin Laden. He wasn’t. Hussein had led a largely secular regime, which was cordially hated by bin Laden and his Islamist fanatics. We were told that the invasion would liberate the Iraqi people from Hussein, who really was a tyrant. But the invasion wasn’t about granting a grateful Iraqi people democracy. It was about Aramco, the joint Saudi-American oil company seizing the country’s oil reserves and the western oil companies grabbing its oil industry. Other multinationals, such as Haliburton, which employed various members of Bush’s family and cabinet colleagues, seized its state industries. Meanwhile the country descended into sectarian violence and chaos, the secular state and the feminism it promoted vanished, and the private military contractors – read: mercenaries – hired as part of the peacekeeping forces ran amok with drug and prostitution rings. They also amused themselves by shooting ordinary Iraqis for sport.

It’s been said that America is a ‘warfare state’. That is, its military-industrial complex is so pervasive and powerful that its entire economy is geared to and depends on war. It was suggested years ago in one of the publications of the old Left Book Club, as I recall, that this is deliberate. American political ideology rejects Keynsianism, the economic doctrine that maintains that the state should interfere in the economy through welfare spending, public works and so on to stimulate it. American political culture, on the other hand, rejects this in favour of laissez-faire. But the American economy still needs government intervention, and the only way the American state can do this is through war and military spending. Hence the continual need to find new wars to fight. First it was the Cold War, then the War on Terror.

I tend to believe in ‘cock-up’ rather than conspiracy – that the world is the way it is because of the incompetence of the authorities, rather than that there is some overwhelming and all-pervasive conspiracy against us. This does not rule out the fact that real conspiracies by the intelligence agencies, big business and various covert political groups really do occur. My guess is that the armaments left behind in Afghanistan are there as a result of incompetence rather than a deliberate plot to produce more war and international instability for the benefit of the war profiteers.

But after the lies that have sustained two decades and more of war and occupation in the Middle East, it wouldn’t surprise me if this was true.

Corrbyn Was Right About Afghanistan

August 25, 2021

A few days ago Mike was pointing out that, in contrast to Starmer and his current attitude towards Afghanistan, there was one Labour politico who was consistently right. This was Jeremy Corbyn. Back in 2001 when Blair and Bush were considering invading, Jeremy Corbyn was elected to the steering committee of the Stop the War Coalition. He said there was considerable disquiet and opposition to the deployment of troops in Afghanistan and the bombing of Iraq. An invasion would cost thousands of lives and not solve anything.

Totally correct.

In 2010 he spoke against the war, saying

“The issue of Afghanistan goes on. The deaths continue, the soldiers continue to die, the war is clearly unwinnable,” Corbyn said.

“The expense in moral terms, financial terms and loss of life of Afghan people gets worse and worse.”

He spoke again against the war in Afghanistan in 2017 when he was leader of the Labour party.

The war in Afghanistan has failed. After 16 years of bloodshed and destruction, the Taliban are undefeated and terrorism is no less of a threat at home. In fact it has spread.

“The British Government should make clear to Donald Trump that his strategy of more bombing and a new troop surge will continue this failure, not obediently applaud his latest policy U-turn.”

In July 2021, last month, when Johnson announced that he was pulling British troops out of Afghanistan, Corbyn dared to question why we had ever invaded the country in the first place.

“This has to be a day of reflection. We have spent billions of pounds in the war in Afghanistan, 450 British troops have lost their lives, thousands of Americans and other troops have lost their lives, many, many thousands of Afghan people have lost their lives and many more have been forced to be refugees in exile all around the region as well as in western Europe.

“While Britain is withdrawing, surely we need to recognise that when we make hasty foreign policy decisions to go to war, the consequences go on for a very long time. In this case, it is now the 20th anniversary of such a decision.”

Now Mr Corbyn has said

 “We must learn the lessons of a two-decade war which cost nearly a quarter of a million lives and failed to achieve security for the Afghan people or prevent the spread of terrorism.

“The War on Terror and its architects’ reckless use of force to deal with complex political issues has had profound, uncountable, and unacceptable human costs – whether to British and allied servicement and women or to the civilian populations of Afghanistan, Iraq, and beyond.

“Invasions and occupations are not only wrong and violate the right to sovereignty, they also do not deliver viable and sustainable political settlements. We cannot allow ourselves to be led down such a disastrous road again.”

He recognises that some critics see a refusal to take action as a sign of weakness, and pre-empts them with the statement

 “Too often rejecting military intervention is conflated with taking no action at all. As well as resettling refugees, I will be making the case in Parliament this week for the UK to play its part in a robust diplomatic effort that engages regional powers to ensure stability.

“This will need to cover humanitarian support, a response to rising extreme poverty, respect for human and civil rights especially those of women and girls, and real self-determination for Afghanistan.”

Mike contrasts this with Starmer, who says that his thoughts are with the Afghans but is only concerned with rescuing British support staff, not giving sanctuary to Afghan refugees.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2021/08/22/one-person-has-been-consistently-right-about-uk-involvement-in-afghanistan-guess-who/

The British and American peoples have been lied to about Afghanistan and Iraq. They were told the invasions and occupations were all about liberating these nations from vicious tyrants. They were told that the Taliban and Saddam Hussein were responsible for 9/11. Well, the Taliban did provide a safe haven for bin Laden, but I heard that they protested that they had no idea what the thug was doing and actually offered to give him up. And Hussein had nothing to do with the attack.

Both invasions were really all about oil and demonstrating American military superiority. Bush and the Neo-Cons were waiting for an opportunity to invade Afghanistan so they could build an oil pipeline after talks with the Taliban about its construction had broken down. Iraq was invaded because Aramco, the joint American-Saudi oil company wanted the country’s oil industry and oil reserves. American multinationals like Haliburton, to whom Bush and various members of his wretched cabinet had close ties, also coveted Iraq’s state industries. The Neo-Cons also had fantasies of turning the country into a low tariff, free trade state, the establishment of which wrecked domestic Iraqi industries, creating a surge of bankruptcies and an unemployment rate of 60 per cent.

And the succeeding regimes have had serious flaws. Hamid Karzai’s regime in Afghanistan was massively corrupt, with officials buying their positions and government contracts and connections, and using them to extort bribes and money from Mr and Mrs Ordinary Afghan. Under Karzai, the production of opium actually increased. Iraq descended into sectarian violence and civil war, while the mercenary companies brought in as peacekeepers ran amok, setting up prostitution and drug rings. They also shot ordinary Iraqis for fun.

Mike has pointed out in the above article that while Corbyn has been spot on, Boris’ predictions are so off target that he could have taken them from a box of Christmas crackers. Actually, I’d say that probably reflects the value of some of the decision makers. You can wonder if our intelligence agencies actually have any understanding of the Middle East. The CIA didn’t see the Islamic Revolution coming, for example. When it did become clear that the Shah’s regime would be toppled, they predicted that the Ayatollah Khomeini would lead a peaceful movement like Gandhi.

If only.

As for Iraq, one of the Neo-Cons critics is a female Pentagon Colonel, Kathryn W. She’s a woman of the right, a traditional Conservative who believes America has no right to interfere in the affairs of others. She is particularly scathing about the massive ignorance of Bush and his advisors of the practical realities of the Middle East. Not only that, but they were hostile to and dismissed American military staff, like General Zilli, the head of the Pentagon’s Middle East sector, who actually did. Because officers like Zilli told the Smirking Chimp what he didn’t want to hear: that it wouldn’t work, and the occupations would last a long time.

Two million people marched against the Iraq invasion. That’s two million people who knew far better than the grinning warmonger Tony Blair. Bush and Blair were not only wrong, but wilfully ignorant and greedy. And Johnson is so stupid he’s a walking insult to the intelligence.

Only one person has been consistently right about Afghanistan and Iraq – the man the media has vilified and smeared as a Communist, Trotskyite and Anti-Semite: Jeremy Corbyn.

Musical Satire: Bush and Blair Sing ‘Gay Bar’

August 24, 2021

Tony Blair crawled out from under whatever rock he’s been hiding himself under recently to give the world the benefit of his informed opinion on the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. He wasn’t in favour. In fact, he described it as ‘imbecile’. Zelo Street has put up an excellent demolition of Blair’s arguments over at https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2021/08/tony-blair-imbecile-yourself.html

It is massively hypocritical of Blair to present any kind of criticism of the efforts of contemporary politicos, such as President Joe Biden, to deal with the mess in Afghanistan. It was Tory Tone who, with his best mate George Dubya Bush, was responsible for the invasion and the following 20 years of occupation and nation building. Which really wasn’t about liberating the Afghan people from a viciously repressive Islamist regime and creating a stable society based on democracy and human rights. Bush and his backers in the New American Century wanted an opportunity to invade Afghanistan so they could build an oil pipeline that was being blocked by the Taliban. Yes, they were justified in attacking Afghanistan in reprisal for harbouring Osama bin Laden and 9/11, but that wasn’t the reason for the continuing occupation.

Just as the liberation of the Iraqi people from the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein also wasn’t the real reason Dubya and Tone invaded that country. The real reason was to enable Aramco, the joint American-Saudia Arabian oil company to seize Iraq’s oil industry and reserves, and for Haliburton and other multinationals to get their grubby mitts on the country’s state enterprises. The result was the destruction of what had once been one of the Middle East’s most secular states into political and religious anarchy and violence. Two hundred thousand people have been killed due to the invasion, and a further million or more forced into exile as refugees. For many people, Blair and Bush are war criminals who should be prosecuted, not indulged and fawned over by the media. They sent our highly trained, courageous and patriotic young men and women to their deaths, and murdered and mutilated a million or more innocent Iraqis.

Well, to mark the return of Blair to the media, I’m putting up this highly satirical piece I found on YouTube. About the same time Bush and Blair decided to invade Iraq, the Electric Six had a hit with their song, ‘Gay Bar’. Someone with a wicked sense of humour and master of video editing took footage of a joint press conference by Bush and Blair, and edited it so that the two appear to be singing the Six’s ditty. This was at a time when the momentum for gay marriage was building. In America an increasing number of American states were legalising it, and Blair had passed laws providing for civil partnerships, an alternative form of marriage that was mainly intended to cover gay couples. But the song’s also relevant to their invasion of Iraq and the other wars, containing as it does the line: ‘Let’s start a war. Let’s start a nuclear war. In a gay bar, gay bar.’

Well, I don’t know of any bars, gay or otherwise, that have nuclear weapons, although some have a reputation for violence. But Bush and Blair certainly started wars, the consequences of which are still plaguing us.

And Blair has absolutely nothing to tell present politicians about ending the debacle he started.

Iranians March Against Trump’s UN Speech

September 23, 2017

This is a very short clip from Telesur English showing the people of Iran marching in protest at Trump’s belligerent speech attacking their country at the UN. It’s only about 23 seconds long, but it does show the range of people on the march, from older men dressed in traditional Islamic garb to young women in chadors and people in western-style, ‘modern’ dress.

I remember the great demonstrations in Iran after the Islamic Revolution, in which thousands of people turned up chanting ‘Margh bar Amrika! Margh bar Thatcher!’ – ‘Death to America! Death to Thatcher!’ I wasn’t impressed with those demonstrations, but having read a little more about the political situation in Iran and foreign exploitation of the country by Britain and America under the Shah, I now understand why the Revolution broke out, and what motivated the marchers to come onto the streets.

The election of Rafsanjani a few years ago seemed to indicate that relations between the West and Iran had thawed. It’s true that the country still has a bounty on the head of Salman Rushdie, and claims they can’t rescind the Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa, a claim I find frankly incredible. However, people can move freely between the two nations, and there have been some cultural exchanges. For example, the Young British Artists – Damian Hurst and the rest of them – went to Iran to open an exhibition of their work, and the British Museum also leant the Cyrus Cylinder, documenting the conquests of the great Persian emperor Cyrus the Great in the 5th century B.C. to go on display.

John Simpson in his book on the country also points out that Khomeini and the other theocrats were careful to distinguish between America, Ronald Reagan and the American people. They denounced Reagan and America, but not ordinary Americans. He also states that, with the exception of the demonstrations at the outbreak of the Islamic Revolution, in one of which he was nearly torn apart by the crowd, he always knew he was perfectly safe. He describes covering one such demonstration where the crowd were chanting slogans against the ‘great and little Satans’ – meaning America and Britain. He then stepped into the crowd and walked up to one of the demonstrators, and introduced himself. The man greeted him, and said, ‘You are very welcome in Iran, Agha.’ That said, I do know Iranians, who have said the opposite, that you are certainly not safe during these marches.

Trump’s speech has had the effect of making relations between the west and Iran much worse. But it’s very much in line with the policy of the neocons, who defined and set the agenda for American foreign policy in the Middle East back in the 1990s. They want Iran and Syria overthrown. They see them as a danger to Israel, and are angered by the fact that Iran will not let foreigners invest in their businesses. It’s an oil producing country, whose oil industry was dominated under the Shah by us and the Americans, and which was nationalized after the mullahs took power. One of the holidays in the country’s calendar commemorates its nationalization. I’ve no doubt that the American multinationals want to get their hands on it, just as they wanted to steal the Iraqi oil industry.

Iran is abiding by the agreement it signed with Obama not to develop nuclear weapons. This is confirmed by the Europeans and the Russians. The real issues, as I’ve blogged about previously, are that they’re supporting Syria, sending troops into Iraq to support their fellow Shi’a there, and are allied with the Russians. It’s all about geopolitical power.

Iran’s an ancient country, whose culture and history goes back thousands of years, almost to the dawn of western civilization in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East. It’s a mosaic of different peoples and languages. If we invade, as the Trump seems to want, it’ll set off more ethnic carnage similar to that in Iraq. And I’ve no doubt we’ll see the country’s precious artistic and archaeological heritage looted and destroyed, just as the war and violence in Iraq has destroyed and seen so much of their history and monuments looted.

Iran is an oppressive theocracy, and its people are exploited. You only have to read Shirin Ebadi’s book on the contemporary situation in Iran to know that. But if Trump sends in the troops, it’ll be just to grab whatever he can of the nation’s wealth for his corporate masters in big business. It certainly won’t be to liberate them and give them democracy.

And the ordinary people of America and Britain will pay, as we will be called upon to send our brave young people to fight and die on a false pretext, just to make the bloated profits of American and western big business even more grossly, obscenely inflated. Just as the cost of the war won’t fall on big business, but on ordinary people, who will be told that public spending will have to be cut, and their taxes raised – but not those of the 1 per cent – in order to pay for it.

Enough lies have been told already, and more than enough people have been killed and maimed, countries destroyed and their people left impoverished, destitute, or forced in to exile.

No war with Iran.

As they chanted during the First Gulf War – ‘Gosh, no, we won’t go. We won’t die for Texaco!’ Or Aramco, Halliburton or anyone else.

We need peace, so let’s get rid of Trump.

Radical Journalist Chris Hedges and Cartoonist Dwanyne Booth on the True Horror of War

September 2, 2017

I see that the government have started running recruiting ads for the armed forces again. It was the navy a few months ago. Now it seems to be the army. The ads show a greasy, disheveled man, who clearly represents some kind of Latin American Fascist or other butcher, being hunted down and snatched by our brave boys, who then whisk him over the sea in the motorized dinghy to a waiting British warship and justice.

Oh, if that were the reality!

It ain’t, of course. Like the Americans, we seem to have spent the last seventy odd years since the end of the Second World War propping up every Fascist mass murderer we could, so long as he would protect British interests from Communism or local nationalist movements. In 1958 we and the Americans organized a coup against the Iranian prime minister, Mossadeq, because he dared to nationalize the Iranian oil industry, which included the equipment and complexes owned by Anglo-Persian Oil, which later became British Petroleum, now BP. Then there was Nasser and Suez, and Mrs. Thatcher’s fave South American buddy, General Pinochet. Quite apart from one of the Libertarian organisations that form part of the Tory party inviting the head of one of the South American death squads over as guest of honour at their annual dinner one year.

As for snatch squads, this ad looks inoffensive over here, but if it was shown on American TV it would actually be very sinister. One of the tactics the American military used to terrorise the Vietnamese during the war there was to use snatch squads to catch Vietnamese peasant farmers during nighttime raids. The farmers would then be killed and their bodies left as a mute message to their compatriots.

Britain’s invasion of Iraq with George Bush, in contravention of the UN legislation against pre-emptive war, and the continuing occupation of Afghanistan, have done precious little except create even more carnage and bloodshed in the Middle East. And these wars were not fought to defend America and the West against evil dictators. In the case of Iraq they were fought so that the oil industry and other western countries could loot whatever they thought was profitable in the country’s economic infrastructure. They also managed to wreck the economy by lowering trade tariffs in order to create the magical free trade utopia fantasised about by the Libertarians and Neo-Cons. Added to this was the ethnic and sectarian bloodshed unleashed by the occupation, and the use of mercenaries and Shi’a militias as death squads by the American overlords.

This makes this next video all the more urgently important. It’s not short – over fifty minutes long. It seems to be a film of the American radical journalist Chris Hedges speaking at an American university gathering about his experiences as a war reporter, and the anti-war cartoonist Dwanyne Booth, alias ‘Mr. Fish’, talking about his work. And it’s strong stuff, which doesn’t pull its punches.

Hedges has a degree in Divinity from Harvard. His father was a Presbyterian priest with radical political beliefs, who was strongly involved in the Civil and gay rights movements. Hedges trained in a seminary, but didn’t joint the clergy. After graduating, he joined the New York Times and served as a war journalist in South America in the 1980s, when Reagan was funding Fascists dictators and their death squads, like Contras in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala. After that, he then covered the war in Iraq.

And he presents the unvarnished truth about war and the dehumanizing effect it has on those who are involved, whether as combatants or observers. It’s bloody and horrible, and he states that being in a firefight is terrifying beyond imagination. In fact, terror really doesn’t describe the sheer fear felt during these encounters. These are wars fought for the benefit of big business, and the images and stories about it that we are brought up on are lies.

He describes some of the battles in which he was personally involved, and the times he was captured by hostile forces, like Contras in Nicaragua and the Iraqi Republican Army in Iraq, when he really thought they were going to kill him and his companions. He states that before going into battle, everyone, with himself excepted, used to get drunk or high. Particularly the photographers, as they had to do what you really shouldn’t do in a gun battle and stand up. He states he knew many of them, who lost their lives doing their job. He also states that it is not like the movies. He praises Oliver Stone and his movie about Vietnam, Platoon, but says that the battle in that film is not like real firefights. It’s choreographed. Real battles are just chaos, in which you don’t know what’s going or who’s firing. In all the very many battles in which he was personally involved, he only once saw someone firing in his direction.

He describes how the Contras in Nicaragua called the Sandinistas and forces allied or sympathetic to them ‘periacuas’, a Latin American term meaning ‘motherf***er’. The Contras especially despised the press and media as being allied to the Sandinistas, which made his job even more dangerous. They also used to launch night raids, in which they’d murder a couple of peasant farmers. These people, would have had nothing to do with the war or the Sandinistas, but they were killed and a message left for the ‘periacuas’ on their bodies telling them that this was what was going to be done to them next.

They captured Hedges and his team, when he went looking for a group of them, who had gone underground. He found them, and they really weren’t happy. After capturing him, they radioed their headquarters to ask them whether they should kill them. Fortunately, the answer was, ‘No.’ But they were told to release them and say that if they caught them again, they would kill them and burn their jeep. As if they cared what would happen to the vehicle when they themselves were facing death!

He describes how he and another group of journalists were caught in Iraq by the Republican Army, thrown in the back of a jeep, and had guns pointed at their heads. They were then driven out of the city, and were afraid that their captors would stop somewhere in the desert and shoot them. Fortunately, this didn’t happen, and they were captured by proper, regular soldiers rather than the various militias that had sprung up, including companies formed of 14 year old Shi’a boys, who’d been given guns by Iran.

He also talks about the numbing effect war has on its participants, and the way it becomes a drug. Nothing can beat the high experienced by actually surviving a battle. And so he, like the soldiers he covered, became addicted to combat, playing a weird game with God to see if he could survive ever increasingly dangerous situations and battles.

He also talks about the immense alienation former soldiers feel, an alienation that prevents them from fitting back into society when they’ve returned from combat. He describes them as speaking a language no-one can understand, and makes the point that no-one wants to hear what they’re saying. He makes the point that when you find yourself in a war, you realise that everyone, from your government, the media and your educators, has lied to you. He discusses how old soldiers hate being told how well they’ve served their country, and how no-one wants to hear from them what war is really like. Of the troopers who took Iwo Jima, for example, several took their own lives, while a couple of others drank themselves to death. Hedges himself states proudly that he concentrated on talking to ordinary soldiers. He didn’t talk to anyone above the level of lance corporal, because he wanted to get the truth from them, rather than get caught up in the propaganda spouted by the generals and commanding officers. And he was unique in this. Most journalists wanted to see the top people, and so when he went for the job with the Times, he was told that the queue for the job began and ended with him.

As for the brutal reality of war, it is not like it is portrayed on television on the nightly news. He describes how, when he was in Iraq, in one area they visited the Iraqi army had been without water for three days. Dying of thirst, they tried to cross a minefield in the hope that Hedges and the squaddies he was with would give them some. One of the Iraqi troopers had both legs blown off by a mine. It took him six hours to bleed to death.

Hedges says that it’s quite possible now to show incidents like that using a satellite feed, so you can see in real time real soldiers suffering and dying. But no-one wants to see it, or broadcast it, because if they did, there’d never be another war.

Booth in his work is also angry and bitter about war, and the corporations and individuals standing behind it. One of his cartoons shows a little boy pointing into the camera in the classic Uncle Sam/ Lord Kitchener pose in the war recruiting posters. The legend below reads

I want YOU to give me a future not f*cked up by all your crazy bullsh*t about how moral and just the United States of America is when it invades and occupies other countries and how heroic and brave I’d be to kill for you because you’re too f*cking lazy and bigoted and unimaginative to prefer peace to hegemony and terrorism.

Another of his cartoons shows a child’s body in its grave, with corporate logos covering the shroud.

After speaking, there’s also a question and answer session with members of the audience, who include staff at the university. Some of these link the military action of the American empire to the destruction of the environment and other issues.

This is hard-hitting stuff, and it needs to be heard. We still have our politicians telling us lies about Iraq, and the other interventions in the Middle East, like Libya and Syria. And we haven’t been told the whole truth about Afghanistan – that the Taliban were utterly defeated, but the allied occupation was so terrible, and created so much chaos, that they were able to return and actually be welcomed by the people, they’d formerly oppressed.

Despite the fact that he’s a war criminal, Tony Blair’s still at large and desperate to get back into politics.

We need journos like Hedges. But the corporate media aren’t going to allow them to speak. In fact, the New York Times did its best to suppress the truth about what was going on in Iraq. And tens of journalists have died out there in highly suspicious circumstances, which suggests that the American army might have been killing those members of the media, who didn’t follow the approved line and described what they saw, rather than what the military wanted them to.

Don’t believe the corporate claptrap and the rubbish put out in the recruiting films. Support the independent media that dares to say what they won’t. And for heaven’s sake let’s get our young men and women out of the Middle East. Let’s stop wasting the precious lives of courageous people, who are being butchered simply so Haliburton and Aramco can make even bigger, more obscene profits.

Despite DAPL, Trump Plans to Steal More Native American Oil

December 7, 2016

A few days ago the water protectors in North Dakota won a victory against big oil when Barack Obama finally did the right thing, and refused to award the oil company the final permit that would allow them to dig. Despite this victory for the First Nations, and the very many Americans of all races and creeds, who came together to support them, it seems big oil and their puppets in Congress still want to take Native Americans’ final natural resources.

In this short piece from The Young Turks, Ana Kasparian and her hosts discuss plans by Donald Trump’s advisors to privatise the oil deposits on the Indian reservations, so that they can be exploited by private industry. Although the reservations comprise only 5 per cent of America’s land, they hold 20 per cent of the country’s oil deposits. And so naturally the oil companies want to get their mitts on them. If this goes through, it would violate the reservations’ status as sovereign nations. Kasparian and The Turks believe that the advisors will try to sell this idea to Native Americans as an opportunity for them to become prosperous through the exploitation of their mineral wealth. However, in reality this is just another episode in the long history of Native Americans having their lands seized by the American government and private industry. They also make the point that the American government actively overthrows governments in the interests of big business, such as Arbenz’s government in Guatemala and the 1953 coup that toppled Mossadeq in Iran. Arbenz was a democratic Socialist -but not a Communist – who nationalised the banana plantations. Most of these were owned by the American company, United Fruit, who had the American government organise a right-wing coup. This set up a brutal military dictatorship, which kept the majority of Guatemalans as virtual slaves to the plantation masters. Mossadeq in Iran was also overthrown, because he nationalised the Iranian oil industry, which again was in foreign hands. As a result, America organised a coup, which overthrew him, thus initiating the brutal rule of the Shah as absolute monarch, a rule which only ended with the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Trump’s administration really is one of rapacious capitalism, absolutely determined to crush Americans’ civil liberties, and the rights of minorities for the benefit of big business. Not that Killary’s regime would have been any different. She was gearing up for more war in the Middle East, wars which would have been fought not free its peoples from dictators, but simply so that American multinationals could loot their oil and state industries.

Tribal sovereignty is, quite rightly, a very sensitive issue with Native Americans. Way back in the 1980s there was an armed stand-off between one of the Amerindian people in New York state. The FBI had pursued a Native American man, who was a member of the American Indian Movement, for a series of violent offences. The man drove into the reservation, and the way was blocked by angry indigenous Americans when the FBI tried to follow him. They claimed that the reservation was a sovereign country in its own right, and that any attempt by the authorities to infringe that sovereignty would be met with force. The tribe’s chief stated that if the police and the FBI tried to enter, the matter would then be up to the tribe’s young warriors.

I think the issue must have been legally clarified since then, as I can remember that at the same time there was considerable controversy over the decision by some Amerindian peoples to issue their own passports, as separate, independent nations.

Given how extremely sensitive the matter of sovereignty and land rights are to Native Americans, this latest scheme by Trump’s friends in the oil industry seems to me to have the potential to do immense harm, not just in the potential environmental damage, and the further dispossession and impoverishment of the First Nations, but also in overturning what must have been a series of very delicate negotiations between the Federal law enforcement agencies and the First Nations. This is quite apart from the various other programmes that have been launched over the years to bring Native and non-Native Americans together, and incorporate their point of view into the wider story of American history.

As for trying to convince Native Americans that private ownership of their oil would bring prosperity, that was the line the mining companies were trying to sell to the Aboriginal Australians back in the 1980s. I can remember a piece in the Torygraph of the time moaning that left-wingers were keeping Aboriginal Aussies poor by refusing them to mine the uranium on their lands.

Given the immense environmental damage oil pipelines like DAPL have done, and the rapacity of the oil companies and American government when it comes to exploiting other nations’ oil, Native Americans would likely be very well advised to keep well away from this. One of the instances of massive environmental damage done by the oil corporations show in one of the American left-wing news sites – I can’t remember whether it was The Turks, Majority Report or Secular Talk, was the destruction of hundreds of acres of waterways in Louisiana. The oil company had completely removed all the available oil, which had formed a supporting layer under the fertile rock and soil. As a result, the surface started sinking, with the marshland and waterways degenerating into a toxic, oil-sodden sludge.

The multinational companies in the Middle East also pay very little in royalties to the countries, whose oil deposits they exploit. Greg Palast in his book, Armed Madhouse, states that Aramco, the oil conglomerate formed to exploit the oil in Saudi Arabia, actually only gives one per cent of its profits to the Saudis as royalties. It’s a pittance, though enough to support the bloated and corrupt Saudi ruling caste in obscene luxury and absolute power. Similar trivial amounts of money are paid to the other Middle Eastern countries for exploitation rights, including Iraq.

If this goes ahead, the Amerindians can look forward to losing more of their territory, the devastation of the tribal lands, which is at the heart of the culture, and further poverty as the oil companies keep the profits for themselves.

Of course, the oil deposits do offer the possibility of enriching the tribes that posses them. But you can raise the question quite legitimately why a private company is needed, or should be allowed, to extract the oil. I understand that many tribes have set up their own, collectively owned companies to manage and exploit their natural resources for themselves, through tourism, woodland management and agriculture. One of the First Nations in California set up a company to catch, can and market the area’s salmon. If companies are to drill for oil on tribal land, a strong case could be made that the company should be at least part-owned by the tribe as the sovereign people, and very strict provisions put and rigorously enforced to protect the people and their homeland.

Vox Political: Youssef El-Gingihy on Western Imperialism in Iraq

August 21, 2016

Mike’s also put up an excellent piece by Youssef El-Gingihy, ‘Business as Usual in Iraq’. I think Mr Gingihy is a medical doctor. He’s certainly a very firm opponent of the privatisation of the NHS, and has written a book against it, How to Dismantle the NHS in 10 Easy Steps, published by Zero Books. I found a copy of this in the Cheltenham branch of Waterstones.

El-Gingihy makes the point that the Iraq invasion was not an aberration, but merely the continuation of American and British global imperialism. This isn’t about making the world safe for democracy, but in the forcible acquisition of other nation’s industries and resources. He points out that Tony Blair wasn’t Bush’s poodle, but took part in the invasion of Iraq perfectly willingly as part of the Atlantic Alliance. George Bush senior and Maggie Thatcher armed Hussein in the Iran-Iraq War, and his gassing of the Kurds in 1988 aroused no condemnation from us. The US military-industrial complex was determined to invade Iraq, because its acquisition was estimated to be worth $100 billion to the American economy. This was only the latest in a series of coups that have overthrown popular elected leaders in countries around the world, so that America can get its hands on their countries’ valuable economic assets. This goes back to the overthrow of Mossadeq in Iran in the 1953, who had the audacity to nationalise the Persian oil industry, and Salvador Allende in Chile in 1975, who was ousted because he was a Marxist and wanted to break up the great estates to give land to the peasants.

He also sees Bush’s decision to disband the Ba’athist army, whose troops then joined the jihadists fighting against the occupation and the Shi’a and other factions, which supported or benefited from it, as part of the imperial tactics of divide et conquera. As a result of the invasion, Iraq has been transformed from a secular dictatorship into a breeding ground for terrorists. There were only a few thousand globally at the time of 9/11. Now that number has increased to about 100,000. The number of Iraqis, who’ve been killed may be as high as 600,000 +. America maintains its global dominance through a network of 800 bases worldwide. At the time of 9/11, the Americans drew up plans to invade seven countries, and El-Gingihy notes how the wars and destabilisation have spread to other countries, like Yemen. He makes the point that if we really wanted to stop terror, we should stop supporting countries that are funding and supporting it, like Saudi Arabia. But that isn’t going to happen, because Saudi Arabia is our ally.

He concludes

Tony Blair famously called on history to be his judge. That judgement will be one of eternal damnation. He has already attempted a spirited defence but, as with Lady Macbeth, not all the perfumes of Arabia can relieve the stench of blood on his hands.

See his article: https://thexrayfactor.wordpress.com/2016/08/19/the-iraq-war-was-simply-business-as-usual/

Mike’s reblog is at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/08/20/the-iraq-war-business-as-usual-youssef-el-gingihy/

Everything Dr El-Gingihy has said is correct. The Iraq invasion was all about stealing the country’s oil and state industries. Iraq has the largest oil reserves after Saudi Arabia, and Aramco, the American-Saudi oil company, and the other oil magnates, desperately wanted to get their hands on it. The Americans also drafted legislation declaring that any rare crops still grown in Iraq were also automatically owned by American biotech companies. Iraq and the Fertile Crescent is the area where western agriculture started at the dawn of civilisation nearly 6,000 years ago. Then, Neolithic farmers began cultivating varieties of wheat, which have largely been superseded in the west, like emmer. These varieties may, however, have properties which have been lost in later varieties, and so are of intense interest to the biotechnology companies and agribusiness. A year or so ago there was even a feature about the renewed interest in emmer in farming in Britain on the Beeb’s farming interest show, Countryfile. The legislation cannot practically be enforced, but it means Iraqi peasant farmers in theory have to pay American biotech companies for the privilege of rearing crops they’ve been raising since literally the dawn of civilisation.

And the same goes with other parts of the economy, like industry. Halliburton and the rest of the big businesses pressing for war had Bush, who was deeply involved with them, pass legislation allowing them to acquire Iraqi businesses in recompense for possible damages they had sustained, even if, in fact, they had not suffered any damage. It’s a deeply iniquitous piece of legislation. Both of these laws were revealed in articles in Private Eye years ago. And it bears out what the Joseph Bronowski, the great scientist, broadcaster and Fabian Socialist said in The Descent of Man way back in the ’70s: War is theft by other means.

And the number of coups promoted by America is a long one, and getting longer all the time. William Blum in an edition of his Anti-Empire Report links to a complete list of them, since the 19th century, which stretches on and on. it includes the overthrow of Alfredo Benz’ regime in Guatemala in the 1950s, because Benz nationalised the estates of the American United Fruit Company, which, along with the other landlords, treated their peasant workers as slaves. Benz was a threat to American business, and dared pass legislation giving greater welfare rights and power to the peasants. So he had to go. And Shrillary Clinton has followed. A few years ago she made sure that the coup that toppled a democratically elected socialist president in Honduras was not called a ‘military coup’, so that Obama could keep funding the country’s new, military overlords. These are, as you can imagine, the usual right-wing tyrants ruling through terror, violence, assassination and imprisonment. But they have the support of Obama and Shrillary, who no doubt claim the coup was in America’s best interest.

And so we continue to see the agony of the world’s weaker nations, all for the profit of western, chiefly American, multinationals.

Remember the chanting of the anti-war protesters during Gulf War 1 back in 1990? ‘Gosh, no, we won’t go. We won’t die for Texaco’? It’s even more relevant now.

Empire Files: Saudi Arabia’s History of Thuggery

January 17, 2016

Yesterday I put up a number of posts criticising and attacking Saudi Arabia and its brutal use of the death penalty, following the complaint of the Saudi Foreign Minister, al-Jubair, that the kingdom had an image problem because of it, and moaning that people should respect their use of the death penalty ‘Because it’s the law’. This is another, very informative, and grimly fascinating video discussing Saudi Arabia’s long history of repression, violence and brutality from its very foundation. The video’s from Empire Files, which is another news agency specialising in criticising and documenting the corruption and political oppression committed by the American Empire.

Presented by Abby Martin, the video begins with shots of the western great and good meeting and praising various Saudi royals, mentioning the country’s election to the UN Human Rights Council. It then goes on to discuss the Saudi use of public executions. Among the crimes liable to the death penalty are atheism and adultery. 43% of all executions are for non-violent drug offences. It also discusses the execution of Ali al-Nimr, a democracy protester, by crucifixion and beheading. These cases are judged in secret courts, and other punishments include amputation and whipping.

The programme also goes on to examine the almost complete absence of rights for women in Saudi Arabia. Despite having been given the right to vote, women in Saudi Arabia require the permission of male relatives or guardians to go to school, work or even receive medical treatment. They may also be punished for their own sexual assault. The video cites a rape case, where the victim received more lashes than her attackers. Women constitute only 17% of the Saudi work force. 77% of female graduates are unemployed.

The kingdom has also been actively clamping down and suppressing protesters and activists campaigning for democracy. Many of these have been arrested and tried in secret courts. The punishments include execution, or transferral to re-education centres. The attacks on democracy campaigners escalated after 9/11. Before hundreds were being arrested. Now it’s thousands. Furthermore, no civil rights organisations are allowed in the country.

The programme then moves on to describe the history of the kingdom. It’s an absolute monarchy, ruled by a single dynasty. The current king’s personal wealth is estimated at $18 billion. Despite the obscene wealth of its rulers, 20% of its population live in abject poverty, with a youth unemployment rate of 30%.

Thirty per cent of the country’s population is composed of migrant workers, who are virtually slaves due to the system of kafala, sponsorship, through which they are imported. The programme describes their exploitation, with 15 – 20 hour working days, maltreatment, confiscation of passports on arrival, and adverts for runaway labourers and domestic workers, similar to those for de jure slaves in the American West.

Martin then talks to the Saudi dissident, Ali al-Ahmed, the head of the Gulf Institute. Al-Ahmed states that part of the problem is that the country’s vast wealth is confined to the king, his relatives and cronies. The present king can in no way be described as a great reformer. He imprisoned his four daughters for 14 years, and to this day no-one knows what happened to them. The king is an absolute monarch. The Saudi parliament is only partially elected. It is also partly appointed, and wields no power. As for the judicial system, al-Ahmed describes it as medieval and tribal. It deliberately excludes women, blacks, ordinary people and the Shi’a. It is similar to ISIS. And the bond between Saudi Arabia, America and the West is money. Bill Clinton and George Bush have both visited Saudi Arabia, probably secretly looking for Saudi sponsorship for their election campaigns. Al-Ahmed states that this should be investigated by the FBI. It appears to be a case of the Saudis trying to buy off prospective American presidents in the aftermath of 9/11.

The kingdom itself was founded after 20 years of warfare and campaigning by Ibn Saud, who declared himself king in 1925. Ibn Saud was aided in his rise to power by a religious militia. These later revolted, and so Ibn Saud had them massacred. The conquest of what is now Saudi Arabia was complete by 1932. Ibn Saud tried, and failed, to conquer and incorporate what is now Yemen.

The Saudi family struck oil after World War I, and invited the Americans in to exploit it. The Americans were only too pleased, after having been shut out of the rest of the oilfields of the Middle East by the triumphant European colonial powers. The American oil company, Chevron, staked its claim to the Saudi oilfields in 1933. This resulted in the formation of Arab-American Oil – Aramco. Despite the name, Aramco was 100 per cent owned by the Americans. It is the property of four American oil companies, including Chevron and Mobil. These oil companies paid a small proportion of their profits to the Saudi royal family as royalties.

Italian bombing during the Second World War severely disrupted oil supplies. In 1943 President Roosevelt declared that the defence of the Saudi oilfields was a national priority. Two years later, in 1945, Roosevelt signed a treaty with the Saudis giving them American protection in exchange for oil. This was the start of the network of American army and naval based in the country. In 1953 15,000 or so oil workers went on strike, demanding a union. The monarchy responded by assassinating the leaders and promulgating a royal decree banning working class organisations. In 1962 a left-wing revolution broke out in Yemen. Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the UK responded by supporting the royalist counterrevolution.

The relationship between Saudi Arabia and the West has not gone untroubled, however. There was a rift following the foundation of Israel. In response to Israeli victories during the Arab-Israeli wars, the Saudis launched their oil embargo, sparking the energy crisis of the 1970s. This did not, however, bother Nixon and Kissinger very much. If the worst came to the worst, they planned on bombing the kingdom in order to secure the vital supplies of oil. In the event, they didn’t need to take such drastic action. The Saudis were alarmed by the spread of Communism. So Nixon and Kissinger convinced the Saudis, along with the UAE, Qatar and Bahrein to back their war on Communism and specifically the conflict in Vietnam.

In the 1980s Saudi Arabia was the major backer of the Mujahideen. In 1979 there was a religious uprising in imitation of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. It was suppressed, and the 60 leaders executed. Saudi Shi’a were also attacked for celebrating a Shi’a religious festival. Following the killing of a student, there were mass demonstrations by the Shi’a, women’s organisations, the Communist party and the religious community. In retaliation, the Saudis deployed 20,000 soldiers, strafing the Shi’a communities with helicopter gunships. And Ronald Reagan pledged his support in suppressing any revolution. Saudi Arabia was, of course, the major American base in 1990 for the Gulf War.

The Saudis’ response to the Arab Spring was, predictably, also harsh. The regime issued a ban on all journalism that dared to question or criticise the monarchy, and the internet was subject to even heavier censorship. Saudi troops helped to crush the Arab Spring in neighbouring Bahrein. Despite this, people are still fighting and dying for their right to freedom in the east of Saudi Arabia. There was another uprising in 2013 following the shooting of another young person. Saudi Arabia has also responded to the threat by making massive purchases of arms. It is the biggest customer for American weapons, having bought $5.5 billion of them c. 2012. The kingdom is also a major financier of al-Qaeda and ISIS. This was admitted by Hillary Clinton in documents revealed by Wikileaks. They are estimated to have given $100 billion to terrorists.

They also had strong links to the 9/11 hijackers. 28 pages of the official inquiry into 9/11 remain classified, but the leader of the inquiry has stated that the material points to Saudi Arabia as a major funder. Nevertheless, the current crisis in the Middle East has alarmed them so much, that the Saudis have held secret meetings with Israel. The Saudis have also been active trying to suppress the rebellion in Yemen. So far, half of those killed have been civilians. Saudi arms have levelled the ancient and historic city of Sanaa, and there are cases where civilians and rescue workers have been attacked and killed.

This is a brutal, authoritarian and cruel absolute monarchy, responsible for the savage suppression of human rights and democracy throughout the Middle East. It is scandalous that the West continues to support this murderous regime, although not surprising given the vast profits from and the dependence of the West on Saudi oil, while western arms manufacturers make money from selling to them.

Lobster: Saudis Wreck American Fracking Industry; No Retaliation from Americans

December 20, 2015

I found this little piece under the headline ‘Pentagonism’ on the ‘View from the Bridge’ page at Lobster, no. 71.

What is it with the American state and Saudi Arabia? Bin Laden is a Saudi, the 9/11 gang were almost all Saudis, the
operation was funded by Saudi money and Saudi money is spreading their particular version of fundamentalist Islam
around the world.29 And if that wasn’t enough, just when the US was on the way to becoming self-sufficient in oil through domestic shale, the Saudis deliberately increased oil production, halving the world price of crude, making many of the American shale operations uneconomic. About half of all the US shale operations are now idle.30 Is the Saudi regime now on the US shit-list for this act of economic warfare? Apparently not. Why? The answer, I have to assume, is arms sales. Saudi Arabia has been the number one purchaser of US arms for the last half century.31 (The thought does occur that since this Saudi connection is the aspect of 9/11 the deep and surface US states have suppressed, all the ‘9-11 truther’ activities will be rather welcome distractions to them.)

See http://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster71/lob71-view-from-the-bridge.pdf.

My guess is that too much American money is also wrapped up in Saudi oil. The big oil company there is Aramco, which is a contraction of Arab-American Company. And it’s big oil that donates money to fund politicians’ careers in the hope of getting very handsome subsidies from the American taxpayer.

This also raises serious questions about the Tories’ proposals to wreck the country with fracking. If it’s uneconomical in America, it’s uneconomical over here. Yet still they want to try it. These people ain’t rational, and there’s something deliberately perverse in their campaign to wreck the environment for other people. All in the name of business £££profit, of course.