Posts Tagged ‘Arms’

Lyra McKee and the Return of the Troubles in Northern Ireland

April 20, 2019

Yesterday Mike reported the death of Lyra McKee, a crusading journalist in Ulster, who was shot dead during rioting at the Creggan estate in Derry. Police had been despatched their to search for arms and ammunition that it was feared would be used by Republican terrorists, hoping to commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising with a return to violence and bloodshed.

Mike makes the point that there are no reasons good enough to justify murder, and that 21 years after the Good Friday agreement there must be a commitment instead to friendship. Power must once again be restored to the Stormont Assembly, and the people of the Six Counties should be shown that the Irish border will remain open, whatever Britain’s relationship with the EU is like.

He states that the best way to shut down violence is to remove the cause for it. But Tweezer has instead stated that ‘nothing has changed’. Well, problems with a political cause need a political solution, and so he asks May squarely why nothing has changed.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/04/19/journalist-shot-dead-in-northern-ireland-21-years-after-good-friday-agreement-why/

I think we all know the reason for that. Devolved government in Northern Ireland has collapsed through a failure of the two coalition parties to cooperate. And Tweezer has increased insecurities over the Irish border through her determination to hold on to power at the expense of a proper Brexit deal or alternative government, that could find one. And she is being propped up by a Loyalist party with very extreme views, linked to political corruption and terrorism.

The people of Ulster and the British people need and deserve better.

One of the problems Jerry Adams faced in selling the Good Friday agreement to the Republicans was that to many of them, it was simply a return to the situation before the Troubles. Northern Ireland had a devolved assembly, but it’s government was taken over by Westminster after the Troubles broke out. And there was a ‘hard border’ with Eire. Now that the government of the Six Counties is once again in the hands of Britain and there is again a prospect of a hard border returning, it is not surprising that anxiety among the Nationalist community in Ulster is rising and that dissident Republicans are seeking to exploit this and begin the terrorist campaign again.

It’s time this was stopped before it began, as Mike said. It’s time there was a renewed commitment to making democracy work in Northern Ireland, no hard border with Eire, and Tweezer and her wretched Brexit scheme out from No. 10. And preferably Corbyn in, who was never a supporter of terrorism, and had the respect of all the parties in Northern Ireland. And we need this immediately, before more innocents are killed.

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Consortium News: Why No Probe of ‘Israel-Gate’?

November 14, 2017

‘Michelle’, one of the great commenters to this blog, sent me a link to this article by Robert Parry last week. I hadn’t really had time to read it and post it up until now. But the question it raises is acutely relevant. Since Killary lost the election to Trump, the Western media and political-industrial class has been baying that it’s all the Russians’ fault. That Vladimir Putin and RT are spreading ‘fake news’ all over America and the rest of the western media. They’re interfering in our politics. Just this morning the British press reported that Theresa May had joined the attack, claiming that Russia was the biggest threat to western democracy. Or some similar rubbish that sounds like something from the Cold War.

There’s no evidence that the Russians have been trying to interfere in American politics any more than usual. And May has very good, personal reasons for trying to deflect attention away from her on to a perceived Russian threat. Her government is in meltdown, with 40 of her MPs having signed a ‘no confidence’ letter against her. If they find eight more Tories to add their signatures, then May has to give herself up for re-election as the head of her party.

Hence the fear, and the determination to seize on a spurious Russian threat to western democracy in order to distract people from how precarious her ‘strong and stable’ government is. Quite apart from its horrific policies that are privatising the NHS, education, destroying the welfare state and killing the unemployed and disabled through benefit sanctions.

In fact, it isn’t the Russians who have repeatedly and blatantly interfered in American politics. It’s the Israelis, as Robert Parry shows. Parry was the reporter, who revealed many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s. This was Reagan’s dirty little secret about how he was allowing the Contras in Nicaragua to support their war against the Sandinistas by exporting drugs to America’s ghettoes. And how, in order to secure the release of US squaddies taken hostage in Lebanon, he sent a shipment of armaments to Iran.

Parry’s article discusses the way that both the Democrats and the Republicans prostrate themselves before AIPAC, the big Israeli lobbying group in America, and solicits donations from millionaires and billionaires like Sheldon Adelson. Adelson is the proprietor of a chain of casinos, and makes no secret of the fact that he is ‘Israel first’. And congress has repeatedly issued invitations for Netanyahu, whom I’ve heard described by at least one Jewish academic as ‘that b***ard Netanyahu’ to address them. They’ve invited him over three times, the same number as Winston Churchill.

Anyone who steps out of line and does not kowtow to the Israel lobby is duly punished. They’ll be vilified as ‘anti-Semites’, even if they are decent people, who are disgusted by anti-Semitism. Parry gives an example of two Republican politicos, Paul Findley and Charles Percy, both from Illinois, when they tried to open negotiations with the PLO in the early 1980s. The Israel lobby responded by donating handsomely to their opponents, so that both were defeated, Findley in 1982, Percy two years later. Findley later published a book about his experiences in 1985, entitled They Dare to Speak Out: People and Institutions Confront Israel’s Lobby. It was then comprehensively trashed in the pages of the New York Times by Adam Clymer, who denounced it as ‘one-sided’.

After that, American politicians were much less likely to confront the Israel lobby. Parry notes how Barack Obama and Mitt Romney both visited Israel, Obama in 2008, Romney in 2012, in order to secure Netanyahu’s blessing.

Israel was also involved in the October Surprise. This was the deal Ronald Reagan made with the Iranians to stop Jimmy Carter being re-elected. At the time, the new Islamic revolutionary regime had Americans in Iran captive as hostages. Carter was negotiating for their release, but Reagan arranged for arms to be sent to the Ayatollahs to keep the hostages captive for longer. This was to present Carter as ineffectual and incompetent, and allow Reagan to win the election.

And it worked.

The Israelis were also in on Reagan’s dirty little deal. The Israeli president, Menachem Begin, and many other leading Israeli politicos and officials hated Carter, because he had brokered the Camp David peace accords between Israel and Egypt. As part of the deal, Israel had been forced to hand back the Sinai to Egypt. Begin was afraid Carter would push for Israel to retreat back to its 1967 border, and would recognise a Palestinian state. So he connived with Reagan to scupper Carter’s chances at re-election.

Israel’s part in these manoeuvring was later revealed by Ari Ben-Menashe, an Israeli intelligence official, who had been part of the negotiations. So the Israelis then did their level best to discredit him in turn. And in the same decade, the Israelis also mounted internal spying missions in America. One of these involved Jonathan Pollard, who fed the Israeli spooks highly sensitive American documents.

Parry’s article also describes how the Americans themselves manipulate and interfere in other countries’ politics, often for regime change, using the National Endowment for Democracy and USAID – the US Agency for International Development. It was these agencies which were responsible for the ‘Maidan Revolution’ in the Ukraine, which ousted the pro-Russian Ukrainian president, Victor Yanukhovych.

He also describes how the Neocons collaborated with the Likudniks in 1996 to secure Netanyahu’s re-election in Israel, and how the same politicos and apparatchiks turned instead to the policy of regime change. Instead of negotiating with Arab governments, they were to be overthrown. By 1998 the Project for the New American Century, led by the neocons William Kristol and Robert Kagan, were putting pressure on Bill Clinton to invade Iraq. Five years later, they got their wish, and a new president, George Dubya Bush, launched the invasion. He also states that it was due to Israel that Barack Obama decided to ally with the Sunni forces in the region, including those fighting Assad in Syria. Which makes America ally with al-Qaeda. Parry then brings the story up to last year’s election, when Clinton and Trump both presented themselves as pro-Israel. Both Clinton and Trump attacked Iran as the prime supporter of terrorism in the world, even though it’s actually the Sunni kingdoms of Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states.

He then goes on to discuss the lies spread by US intelligence and the Clintonite wing of the Democrats that it was the Russians, who hacked into the computers at the Democratic National Convention to leak the incriminating documents. In fact, WikiLeaks have repeatedly denied that they received the documents from the Russians.

The article concludes

The U.S. intelligence community also has accused the Russian government of raising doubts in the minds of Americans about their political system by having RT, the Russian-sponsored news network, hold debates for third-party candidates (who were excluded from the two-party Republican-Democratic debates) and by having RT report on protests such as Occupy Wall Street and issues such as “fracking.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu making opening remarks at a joint White House press conference with President Donald Trump on Feb. 15, 2017. (Screenshot from White House video)

The major U.S. news media and Congress seem to agree that the only remaining question is whether evidence can be adduced showing that the Trump campaign colluded in this Russian operation. For that purpose, a number of people associated with the Trump campaign are to be hauled before Congress and made to testify on whether or not they are Russian agents.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post, The New York Times and other establishment-approved outlets are working with major technology companies on how to marginalize independent news sources and to purge “Russian propaganda” (often conflated with “fake news”) from the Internet.

It seems that no extreme is too extreme to protect the American people from the insidious Russians and their Russia-gate schemes to sow doubt about the U.S. political process. But God forbid if anyone were to suggest an investigation of Israel-gate.

See: https://consortiumnews.com/2017/04/20/why-not-a-probe-of-israel-gate/

All of this is demonstrably true. And there’s probably more, if you want to look for it. The other year the Israel lobby brought down a Black, Green party politico by presenting her as an anti-Semite and funnelling money into her opponents when she dared to criticise the Israel lobby.

We’ve also seen it in this country, where Al-Jazeera caught various members of the Tory party conspiring with officials at the Israeli embassy to remove awkward members of the Tory party. And there is the continuing witch hunt and vilification as anti-Semites people in the Labour party, like Ken Livingstone, Jackie Walker, Tony Greenstein and Mike from Vox Political, because they dared to criticise Israel for its barbarous treatment of the Palestinians.

These smears have nothing whatsoever to do with anti-Semitism. Those smeared in the Labour party have, by and large, been decent, anti-racist, men and women. Very many of them, like Walker and Greenstein, are self-respecting Jews. Those smeared included the secular as well as the Torah-observant and even devoutly Orthodox. Many of them have been victims themselves of anti-Semitic violence and abuse.

I’ve blogged before about how the British comedian, Alexei Sayle, who’s the son of Jewish Communists from Liverpool, has remarked on how most of those accused of anti-Semitism by the Israel lobby are Jewish. Well, you can expect that. The last thing Israel and its cheerleaders want is for ordinary Brits and Americans, whether Jewish or not, to realise that Judaism does not equal Zionism, and that to many Jews Zionism is an abhorrent blasphemy.

So decent anti-racists are vilified in Britain and America, and Russia misrepresented as the new threat to democracy, by a corrupt and desperate corporate political class trying to find a scapegoat for its increasing popularity. While a complicit media looks the other way, preferring to join in the creation of a new Cold War, rather than reveal Israel’s very real interference in American and western politics.

RT on House of Lord’s Opposition to £200 million Going to Syrian Opposition

October 21, 2017

This clip from RT covers the opposition in the House of Lord’s debate over the British government spending £200 million of taxpayer’s money on the Syrian opposition groups. Only £14 million of this money was for ‘political purposes’. One member of the Lords asks the obvious question about what the rest of the money is for. A government spokesman replies that it is to help the Syrian people stand on their own feet, and that £39 million has gone towards roads and such. Another peer states that the British people would be outraged if they knew how much money was being spent in this way, and feels it would be better spent against fuel poverty in the UK.

Baroness Caroline Cox argued that we should not be sending this money to the Syrian opposition groups, as they are not moderate and will use the money to purchase arms that will be used against us. Interviewed by RT afterwards, she states that she has gone to Syria to see what the situation was really like there, where she met President Assad. She states that there was much opposition to her when she came back, as the government really didn’t want to go, arguing it was unsafe. But she felt she had to go after working with women and children, who had fled the war. She states that she certainly does not condone many of the things Assad has done, but she went to see what the Syrian people wanted.

Cox is quite right to object to this money being spent supporting the opposition groups. They are by no means moderate. They include al-Nusra, which used to be the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, and ISIS. They aim to set up another hardline Islamist state. Syria at the moment, while not a democracy, is a secular state. If the opposition groups take over, they will begin exterminating Christians, Shi’a and moderate Sunni Muslims, and any other religious or secular group that they considered the enemies of Islam, just as they have done elsewhere in Iraq. The weapons they use will be passed on to other Islamist militants, who will use it against us.

The claim that this is to promote a genuinely democratic regime in Syria is a lie. The Likudniks and neocons have been pressing for regime change in Syria for a long time, not least because Assad is supported by Russia and Iran. They, and an alliance of various Arab countries, also want to topple Assad because he is blocking the construction of an oil pipeline which they would like to run from Qatar to Turkey. Assad has refused on the grounds that it would damage the oil interests of his Iranian and Russian allies.

We should not be funding the Syrian opposition. They represent only more sectarian violence and butchery. If they win, the country will destroyed, just like Iraq and Libya. But it will allow the oil multinationals to loot the country, just as they did in Iraq.

Telesur English on the Chaos Caused by the Death of Gaddafy

October 21, 2017

This is another very short video from the South American broadcaster, Telesur English, about the destruction wreaked on Africa by the murder of Colonel Gaddafy. The video states that under the dictator, the country had free education and healthcare. It was also a racially tolerant society, and Gaddafy did much to help the other countries on the continent. The NATO bombings that assisted the rebels have destroyed much of the country, including the free education and healthcare. Islamist rebels have taken over large regions, and the country is in turmoil. The racial tolerance is gone, and weapons from Libya have travelled south, to be used by Islamist rebels making life miserable in other African nations.

This is all absolutely true, and I’ve said much of it before. But it’s interesting to see it repeated by Telesur. Gaddafy wasn’t perfect. He was a thug and a dictator. He also used Islamist terrorists to kill his political rivals elsewhere in Africa and the Middle East. But he gave his country prosperity after decades of bloody Italian colonial rule, secular government, albeit one that mixed Arab socialism with Islam and stability. And there is now a massive racist backlash against the Black Africans, who came to the country seeking a better life, or passage to Europe.

But he defied America and big oil, and so he was on the neocons list of countries to be invaded and leaders to be ousted. His country has been destroyed, Africa as a whole impoverished. And Hillary Clinton, now promoting herself as the great feminist heroine, had a jolly good giggle about his death.

Jimmy Dore on Media Censorship of the War in Syria

January 4, 2017

In this video from the Jimmy Dore Show, the American comedian and his team comment on media censorship and lies about the war in Syria. They start off by playing a clip of Wesley Clarke talking about how a general he was interviewing told him, and handed him a paper, showing that America was going to invade seven countries including Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Syria and Iran. The general did not know why these countries were targeted for invasion, and there was no new evidence against them which would justify invasion.

Dore also makes the point that Obama, despite all his rhetoric about ‘hope’ and ‘change’, has expanded the number of wars being fought by America from two to eight. If this had occurred under Trump, the public would be horrified, by as it has been done under supposedly liberal Barack Obama, it’s been apparently acceptable.

Dore also describes how Google, which owns YouTube, are attempting to stifle independent comment and reporting on the war on Syria by demonetising videos that are critical of American support for the rebels. This has been done not just to Dore, but also to another poster.

He then shows another video of a rare instance where a reporter in the mainstream media has criticised the official reporting of the civil war. The presenter, Ken or Ben Swan shows scenes of a crowd in east Aleppo celebrating that part of the city’s liberation by Assad and the Russians from the rebel groups supported by America. He makes the point that if Assad is as bitterly hated by his own people, as the media claims, then why should they be celebrating his victory?

Swan goes further and demolishes the notion of ‘moderate’ rebels, who America and the West are supposedly helping to defeat Assad. In fact, these moderate rebels don’t exist. The Free Syrian Army was disbanded last year. They gave their weapons, which had been supplied by America, to the Al-Nusra Front, which is the name for the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda. And the biggest force now fighting Assad is ISIS. But the mainstream media simply refers to them as ‘rebels’. It does not tell the American public that their government is supporting ISIS and al-Qaeda.

Swann also shows footage of the buses that were sent into eastern Aleppo by Assad to evacuate the civilians there. These were attacked and set on fire by the rebels. It was done deliberately to prevent the civilians from leaving, as the rebels hide behind them.

Dore makes the point that you will not hear any mention of the above on any of the mainstream channels, such as CNN, MSNBC, Rachel Maddow and so on, and jokes about Swan himself being assassinated.

Here’s the video, which contains strong language.

Although Dore is commenting from an American perspective, the same is very much true of British journalism on Syria, with some exceptions. The I did report the attacks on the buses sent into evacuate the civilians in eastern Aleppo. However, we have had various Tory MPs jumping up and down demanding that we send planes in to bomb Assad and support the non-existent ‘moderate’ terrorists, who are going to liberate Syria for Islamism. With the exception of the I, and possibly the Independent, I don’t recall anyone making the point that ISIS is now the largest opposition group, and that if we send troops into the country, we will joining forces with them.

The media are deliberately feeding the American and British peoples lies to promote a war that has absolutely nothing to do with spreading democracy.

American Politico Tulsi Gabbard Wants the US to Stop Arming Terrorists

December 18, 2016

This is another very interesting piece from The Jimmy Dore Show. In this video, Dore discusses the demand by Democrat politician Tulsi Gabbard, that the US stop providing arms and military support to the terrorists who oppose it. Dore reminds his audience that the terrorists responsible for 9/11 were all Saudis, and that the Saudis are funding Islamist terrorists, like ISIS, in Syria to overthrow President Assad. The Americans are also in Syria trying to overthrow Assad, and we are supporting the Saudis. ‘So,’ he asks rhetorically, ‘are fighting with ISIS now?’

The answer is obviously ‘Yes’. And Congresswoman Gabbard wants to stop it. She’s the representative for a constituency in Hawaii, and has proposed the ‘Stop Arming Terrorist Act’ to halt arms sales by America to its enemies. In her speech to Congress, Gabbard states that it is illegal for US citizens to aid their country’s enemies. But this is precisely what the American state itself is doing. The legislation she proposes to stop this would prevent the US government from using taxpayers’ money to provide funding, weapons, training and intelligence services to Islamist organisations such as the Levant Front, Fursan al-Ha, Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda, ISIS, and countries that are providing support, whether direct or indirect, to these terrorists.

She states that this would prevent the US from funding terrorists in the same way that Congress passed the Boland Amendment in the 1980s to prevent America from funding the CIA-backed Contra rebels in Nicaragua under Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. Dore states that this was why Oliver North was sent to jail, because he was caught violating that amendment. The US government was also allowing the Contra rebels to export cocaine to the US as part of their war against the Sandinistas. Dore makes the point that Gabbard’s proposed legislation means the US cannot provide funds to Saudi Arabia, as that country funds Islamist terrorism. This, Dore states, is why it won’t pass.

The decision on which groups and individuals are to be considered terrorists would be made by the Director of National Intelligence, who would determine which people and organisations are linked or co-operating with al-Qaeda, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, or ISIS. He or she would also be responsible for deciding which countries were providing assistance to those terrorist groups. The list would have to be updated every six months in consultation with the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The Director of National Intelligence would also be required to brief congress on their decisions.

Dore also reminds his viewers that the reason why America is backing Saudi Arabia, an oppressive theocracy, rather than supporting democracy in the Middle East is because of the oil industry. Mossadeq, the democratically elected prime minister of Iran, wanted to export democracy. But he nationalised the oil industry, and so was overthrown by the Americans. Because democracy in the Middle East was too close to Communism. Hence the preference for anti-democratic theocracies like Saudi Arabia. They also won’t tell you the truth about why America’s in Syria. They’re not there to spread democracy, but for the fossil fuel.

Dore thinks that the legislation will not get through, as Paul Ryan – presumably the Speaker of the House, will not bring it to a vote. As for spreading democracy, they don’t even have it in America. Dore’s team notes that Hillary Clinton got 2 1/2 million votes more than Donald Trump, but did not win the election. Dore follows this up with the statistic that in 40 per cent of American elections, the presidency went to the loser. He and his team end by joking that they wish somebody would invade them – like Canada – and spread democracy.

Dore and his team are absolutely right. Saudi Arabia is backed by the US and its allies following a pact made in the 1920s, in which Saudi Arabia would allow American and the rest to exploit their oil reserves, in return for which they would defend the country militarily. Which means that America is giving aid and succour to the country, whose government collaborated with the 9/11 terrorists, of whom 17 of the 19 involved in the plot were Saudis.

I think Dore’s right, and doubt very much that this bill will pass. But even if it’s many years too late, at least somebody in America in authority has woken up to the fact that America is funding its enemies, people responsible for appalling atrocities like the Contras in Nicaragua. There’s not even a remote chance of that happening in Britain. Since its foundation in the 1980s, Robin Ramsey’s Lobster has been arguing that British intelligence is far out of control. It smeared Harold Wilson as a Communist, and ran assassination squads in Northern Ireland. The Blair government were remarkably uninterested in the problem of reining it in, or even in reading the files the agencies compiled on them personally when they were student radicals. Indeed, they wanted to carry on Major’s expansion of the surveillance state, just as May is doing now.

In fact this legislation would be just as unwelcome over this side of the pond, as Cameron and May have been giving material aid to the same terrorist groups, for exactly the same reason, and our government and corrupt corporate media, including the BBC, has also been falsely claiming that they’re freedom fighters. And the Tories have been just as keen to sell the Saudis weapons, with David Cameron waxing lyrical the other year at all the ‘wonderful kit’ being produced at a weapons factory up North.

Private Eye on Parliamentary Committee Scrutinizing Arms Trade

March 11, 2016

I found this piece in Private Eye for the 15th-28th November 2013 reporting the questioning of representatives of the arms trade by a parliamentary committee in that issue’s ‘Called to Ordure’ column. It’s still relevant now, after nearly three years, because of the way we are still selling arms to brutal, anti-democratic regimes like Saudi Arabia.

Please don’t call them “missiles” or “landmines”, and certainly not “tools of military repression”. They are, according to the arms trade, “goods”, and the foreign regimes that buy them are “the ultimate end users of the goods”.

So heard MPs more than once when Westminster’s arms export controls select committee took evidence from four “defence exporters” (to use another euphemism). Unofficial leader of this genteel quartet was middle-aged Brummie called David Hayes from the Export Group for Aerospace and Defence, a trade lobbying group which uses the acronym Egad. Egad, indeed.

Alongside Hayes: arms-trade consultant Michael Bell; Susan Griffiths from weapons manufacturer MBDA; and Bernadette Peers, from the Strategic Shipping Company, a company name so bland you might believe it was exporting nothing more dangerous than cauliflowers to the Canaries.

MPs noted that government reporting on arms dealers has been reduced, Whitehall’s Export Control Organisation (ECO) now doing only an annual report of statistics instead of the quarterly updates it used to offer. The people from Egad were breezily unconcerned by this, insisting it made no difference. Hayes said there was a “very, very low risk” that less frequent reporting of special arms-sale licences wold be detrimental to transparency.

Three critics of the arms trade also gave evidence. Roy Isbister, from conflict-reduction group Saferworld, said that the reduction in ECO’s reports had come as “a bombshell”. You can say that again, Roy. Several bombshells, really, packed and ready for shipping. Oxfam had sent along one Martin Butcher. With that surname, shouldn’t he have been on the other side of the argument?

Committee chairman Sir John Stanley (Con, Tonbridge & Malling) wondered if the arms dealers were concerned about “extra-territorial” prosecutions, under which a British arms trader may be guilty of wrongdoing if he or she breaks British law while abroad. Bell was most aggrieved by this. “We have reservations of principle!” he declared, this peddler of munitions with a highly-tuned sense of ethics.

Extra-territorial prosecutions meant that a business executive would be “subject to two jurisdictions for the same actions” and that offended Bell’s strong sense of morality. Bell also had “reservations of practice” because “the only people who suffer are the compliant”.

Richard Burden (Lab, Birmingham Northfield) noted that the United States had recently relaxed its arms-trade licence requirements, meaning US weapons manufacturers can now export pretty much willy-nilly to 36 countries where they would previously have faced greater government checks. Hayes argued that with one of these countries being Turkey, “American exporters are at a clear advantage over UK exporters”. Western government might want to beware, because it was hard to know who would be “the ultimate end user of the goods” in an arms deal. Interesting to hear an arms trader make this argument; it is usually heard from the peaceniks.

Bell pointed out that one of the countries covered by the US’s new, looser rules is Argentina. Uh oh. The MPs went a rather greeny-grey tinge. The tension was relieved only when Ann Clwyd’s mobile trilled into life at high volume with a Gangnam-style ringtone. Clwyd (Lab, Cynon Valley) didn’t know how to turn the device off and had to leave the room to take the call. Good to see the arms trade being scrutinised by such tech-savvy legislators.

The meeting was not just about multi-million pound weapon systems. The committee heard about the enthusiastic exporting of machetes, police whips, handcuffs and sjambok-style truncheons to troubled countries, where, presumably, democracy-hungry protestors can draw comfort from being gored, whacked and manacled by “goods” made in Blighty.

Surprise, surprise, the kingdom of GCHQ (and, er, the late News of the World) is also a world-leader in producing “anti-privacy equipment” as Stanley put it. Isbister flourished statistics about how arms licences to the Middle East recently have, er, rocketed and now form half our arms exports. Perhaps it is no wonder the government was so keen to life the arms embargo on Syria and why it has given “priority market” status to Libya, despite that country’s alarming political instability.

Mike Gapes (Lab, Ilford South) had unearthed statistics on gun exports. These included 24,000 assault rifles, 9,000 rifles, 1,000 “super rifles” and 3,000 “sporting guns” to places such as Sri Lanka, the Seychelles and the Maldives. I say, Jeeves: how is the grouse shooting in the Maldives this season?

These guns were exported without much paperwork because they were listed as being required for “anti-piracy” purposes. Gapes suggested that “some of these weapons might be diverted to othe5r purposes than anti-piracy”. Surely not! Sir Malcolm Bruce (Lib Dem, Gordon) said that some 40,000 firearms had been shipped from Britain under the anti-piracy label and wondered if “there is a danger a perfectly genuine concern about piracy could be a cover for getting more weapons” sold to foreign governments.

Oliver Sprague from Amnesty International was worried that such weapons were often sold to countries where there was not much “human rights training”. Human rights training? Perhaps that can become the next growth area for British exports.

With the Middle East now forming over half the market for British arms exports, this explains why David Cameron was so keen to boast about having sold ‘wonderful things’ to Saudi Arabia and places like it in his visit to the BAE plant in Wharton, Lancashire.

Demonstration Tomorrow Against The Security and Policing Trade Show 2016

March 8, 2016

There’s going to be a demonstration tomorrow against a police and security industry trade expo at 5 O’clock in the afternoon. There have already been posters put up across London, showing a woman holding a placard explaining that despite being an elected member of the London Assembly, the police deemed her such a threat that the spied on her for ten years.

Mike over at Vox Political has a piccie of the posters, and quotes the organisers of the demonstration on their reasons for calling it. They state:

“Behind closed doors, the Home Office is hosting a three day shopping spree. Governments, police forces and military delegations from around the world can buy all the necessary equipment to support violent militarised policing, aggressive border controls and oppressive surveillance operations.

“Organised far from London, it provides a “discreet environment” for hundreds of companies who want to “display products which would be too sensitive to show in a more open environment”. Companies such as Serco who make a fat profit from the inhumane detention of thousands of refugees in centres like Yarls Wood; or weapons companies like BAE systems whose business is dependent on human suffering and continuous wars.

“The heavy policing of borders, militarisation of police, increased surveillance of civilians and high military spending do not improve security and they do not make any of us safer. They make the world a more dangerous place and we need to resist all of it.”

(My emphasis).

Mike’s article can be read at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/03/08/want-to-know-why-these-posters-have-started-appearing-theydontmakeussafer/

The organisers have a home page on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/events/712863342183693/

Not being a Londoner, I have no idea who the woman in the photograph is. All I can say is that she looks White, of mature years, and entirely ordinary. Which I believe is the point. She does not look as if she belongs to any suspect ethnic or religious group, though it would be an example of the Met’s racism if they had unfairly spied on a Black or Asian person for the past decade, simply because of their ethnicity; or if it was a gay man or woman.

These are the merchants of death, and the industrial beneficiaries of the massive expansion of the surveillance state and the increasing diminution of the circle of freedom Brits now enjoy. The explanation includes references to Yarls Wood detention centre. That was the place, if I recall correctly, that was hit by riots a few years ago due to the inhuman and brutal treatment the detainees received at the hands of SERCO. I believe one person may even have been killed by a SERCO guard, thus provoking the disturbances.

As for BAE, they were caught several times by Private Eye trying to sell electric batons and riot shields at arms expos to those lovely, entirely democratic countries in the Middle East, with excellent human rights laws like Saudi Arabia. Such weapons are illegal under international law. And if they’re prepared to sell them to the Gulf Arab states, you wonder if they’re also prepared to secretly sell them to the government, especially after they’ve contributed to handsomely to Tory coffers over the years. And Cameron returned the compliment when he visited their factory in Wharton, where he boasted how he had sold ‘wonderful things’ to the bloody despots of the Middle East.

This is the civilian end of the military-industrial complex, and like the military, they don’t promise peace, but more conflict, suffering and bloodshed. And they are a continuing threat to traditional British freedom.

Secular Talk on Ben Carson Advocating Free Gun Classes

February 21, 2016

In this fascinating clip from Secular Talk, Kyle Kulinski critiques a speech by Ben Carson, one of the Republican presidential candidates, in which the great surgeon lays out why he opposes gun control.

Carson’s a neurosurgeon, and his skill as a physician is certainly not in doubt. On everything else, however, he talks rubbish. For example, he’s been telling everyone that he used to be a real teenage tearaway. He claims he was violent, once trying to stab one of his friend in the stomach. The belt, apparently, stopped the knife. Everyone who knew him says the opposite. His friend can’t remember the incident, there’s no account of him being at all violent, and the people who knew him at College say he was extremely hard-working. You’d have thought hard-work, perseverance and a normal family background would be more than enough for a politician. But apparently it’s not what Republicans expect of a Black man. And so he has to invent all this complete bullshit about being a violent thug, who was eventually turned from crime by the grace of Jesus. I don’t decry or disbelieve people, who have genuinely turned away from lives of crime because of the Lord’s grace. I just don’t have much time for the tale when it’s simply being cynically used as a marketing tool by someone desperate to ingratiate himself with the electorate.

Carson says he’s not in favour of gun control, because of the 2nd Amendment guaranteeing gun right and ‘a regulated militia’ and so on. He says that instead of gun regulation, he’s in favour of free classes to instruct people on proper gun use and safety. His argument for not depriving Americans of their guns is the usual argument about the public needing to have weapons to protect themselves against government tyranny.

Kulinski points out that this interpretation of the 2nd Amendment is simply erroneous. The Founding Fathers inserted that clause into the Constitution because they did not want a permanent standing army, as such military forces were a threat to the government. They had been used throughout history to overthrow governments in coups. As a compromise, they allowed Americans to keep their guns and form militias to protect themselves and their nation. So, he remarks, it’s actually the opposite of what Carson is talking about. The people are allowed to keep their weapons, but it’s to prevent the existence of a standing army, which could overthrow the government.

Kulinski is exactly right. The Founding Fathers in their opposition to standing armies were part of a tradition of political thought going back to 16th and 17th century Britain. The collection of 17th century political texts from the British Civil War, Divine Right and Democracy, contains a number discussing the issue of militias and standing armies. Standing armies were resented as a threat to traditional English liberties. They were the mark of foreign despotisms like France and the Turkish Empire. As for militias, I got the impression that they were like the Home Guard and Territorial Army in modern Britain. They were semi-professional soldiers, who could be mobilised by the authorities against the threat of invasion, such as the Spanish Armada, rather than unregulated bands of citizens.

Kulinski states that there is another aspect to the 2nd Amendment. It was put in to placate Virginia and encourage it to enter the new United States by allowing it to set up slave patrols. Virginia was a state where slaves were in the majority. Its rulers feared that if it joined the US, the slaves would escape north to their freedom in those states, where slavery was in the minority. So in order to reassure Virginia that slavery would be protected, the 2nd Amendment was inserted to allow them to set up slave patrols in the north of the state to capture runaways. Kulinski therefore says that there is considerable irony in a Black American defending gun rights and the 2nd Amendment.

He also makes the point that the Republicans are just plain wrong when they say that the Democrats are against gun rights. What the Democrats are for is some moderate legislation restricting the ownership and purchase of certain types of weapons. They aren’t going to confiscate everyone’s guns, as that would be illegal and unconstitutional. They are in favour of buy-back programmes, where the state purchases them from individuals, and takes them out of use that way.

And finally, he also makes the point that there is no way an ordinary individual with his firearm can possibly take down the government, with its armoury of highly sophisticated firearms, tanks, planes and missiles.

More on Saudi Slavery and Arms Sales

January 20, 2016

I got a few more great comments from people for the posts I ran on the Saudi arms trade and their plans to acquire nukes, and their continuing enslavement of poor migrant workers from other parts of the Developing World.

Michelle Thomasson in particular sent a number of very interesting links to newspaper articles and TV videos about these topics. She provided the following links.

Petition for the UK to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia: https://www.caat.org.uk/get-involved/act-now/petition/stop-arming-saudi

Further information on ‘Saudi arms sales: Court threat by campaign group’ 17th Dec 15 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-35118296

and about a hospital in Yemen, run by Medecin Sans Frontieres, which was destroyed by Saudi airstrikes: http://www.msf.org.uk/article/yemen-msf-hospital-destroyed-by-airstrikes.

She also commented on the modern Saudi slave trade

Saudi”s system of jurisprudence promotes slavery, from Aidan McQuade, director of Anti-Slavery International, ‘Is Home Secretary Theresa May covering up a slavery inquiry into the circumstances of nearly 20,000 whose visas are sponsored by subjects of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates?’ Short video with McQuade and Afshin Rattansi (18th Jan 16):

This last video is about the way British law ties foreign servants to their masters by allowing them to come in on their masters’ passports. The result of this is that those slaves, who try to flee risk being deported. They also cover the strong-arm tactics the Saudis have used in order to stop Britain putting pressure on them over this issue. When the government threatened to do something about this previously, the Saudis said that they would not share intelligence on terrorism with us if we did so, thus leaving us vulnerable to attack. So this is what are allies in the region are like – spoilt, petulant bullies, getting in a huff and threatening to play elsewhere when they can’t get their own way.

She also provided further links to interviews with modern days slaves describing their plight and exploitation, writing

Interviews with modern day victims of slavery in the UK, especially from rich Saudi households, the victims are even more trapped due to changes in UK visa system in 2012: http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/video/2016/jan/11/i-was-just-a-slave-the-foreign-domestic-staff-living-a-life-of-five-star-serfdom-in-london-video

http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/video/2016/jan/11/i-was-just-a-slave-the-foreign-domestic-staff-living-a-life-of-five-star-serfdom-in-london-video.

Despite these horrors and flagrant human rights abuses, Mike today has blogged a piece about a report in the Independent that Britain’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia has increased by 100 x in the last three months of last year, when we managed to sell £1 billion worth of arms to them. See Mike’s article at
http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/01/20/british-arms-companies-ramp-up-bomb-sales-to-saudi-arabia-by-100-times-despite-air-strikes-on-civilians/

Here’s Kyle Kulinski from Secular Talk discussing the Saudis’ bombing of the hospital.

Kulinski also reports that the Saudis have also bombed weddings and schools, including a school for the blind. These bombings are also contributing – what a surprise! – to a hostile attitude towards America. Why? because the weapons dropped come from the US, and have ‘Made in USA’ printed on them. And when these don’t go off, like many of them don’t, this can be read, and the Yemenis informed who is selling armaments to their attackers.

And the weapons dropped on the Yemenis are very nasty indeed. They include clusterbombs, which remain in fields, killing and maiming after wars and fighting have officially ended. They are illegal under international law.

Kulinski states that it’s clear that America should stop selling arms to these butchers. Not least because America is having problems spending money on issues at home, like the water crisis in Michigan. He’s right, and it’s about time we stopped selling arms to the Saudis too.

Here’s another video from Kulinski and Secular Talk, in which he comments on the Saudis bombing of Shi’a mosques in Yemen. This seems to have been done as part of a campaign against the Shi’a population as a whole in a deliberate act of ethnic cleansing.