Posts Tagged ‘Crimea’

Despite the Jokes, HIGNFY Is Fake News

April 20, 2017

Okay, the BBC have started running trailers for the new series of Have I Got News For You that’s due to begin on Friday. The trailer jokes about how the programme won’t be dominated by fake news, before going into a series of clips in which the panellists are dubbed over by a voice with a Russian accent, going on about how wonderful Putin’s Russia is.

Ho ho! We all know how corrupt the Russian media is, ever since the days of the Soviet Union, if not the Tsar. So all good fun and fair comment, eh?

Well, no. I stopped watching the show last year, because I got sick and tired of the way it retailed fake news, cleverly masked as fair comment on the news stories of the week, and wrote a post about it. Jokes like that are dangerous, because they promote a very false image of what Russia is doing in Ukraine, as well as ramping up international tensions, which could all too easily lead to war. Remember, last year a NATO general wrote a whole book about how, by next month, we would be at war with Russia. Considering the stupid actions of Trump and the American military-industrial complex and its poodles in the media, I don’t know if that was a genuine prediction or a prepared script that has been laid down for NATO to follow.

But let’s take the connection between Russia and ‘fake news’. This has been heavily promoted by the Democrats to excuse their defeat in the American presidential elections. They lost, not because they had no policies that would really benefit the poor, not because Hillary Clinton is a corporatist hawk, who has been paid obscene amounts by the Wall Street banks for making sure they can get away with wrecking the economy and impoverishing the country’s working people. Or the way she sneered at implementing single-payer healthcare, and has worked for companies like Wallmart, which stamped on trade unions. No! It was all because the Russians hacked into the Democrats’ computer and handed all the incriminating evidence of their crooked deals with industry and to rig the nominations to keep Bernie Sanders out, and then gave it to WikiLeaks. Except that there’s no evidence of this, and WikiLeaks itself has denied this, saying instead that they were given the material in a Chicago park by a Democratic insider, who was annoyed at the way the party was being run.

And there’s more, much more. Since then the Democrats and their corporate shills, like Rachel Maddow, have been not only banging on about this, but also about how they supposedly hacked into Trump, and have some kind of hold over him, blackmailing him to support their interests. There’s no evidence for that, but nevertheless, that’s what’s being sold the American public. There are two videos from the Jimmy Dore show where he reports on the finding by an American media monitoring organisation that stories about Russian hacking now comprise over 50 per cent of the stories covered by Maddow on her show. Despite the fact that figures from the FBI and CIA have said that it’s all rubbish.

Dore points out how McCarthyite this all is, and how it is dangerously ratcheting up tensions with Putin in a new ‘Red Scare’.

Added to this already volatile situation is the current war in Ukraine. If you believe the media, including Private Eye, Putin doing the same thing as Hitler did to Czechoslovakia. He using the supposed persecution of his people in that country to invade and overthrow its democratically elected government and annex the entire nation.

Except that Putin isn’t. He is in Ukraine to protect the ethnic Russian and Russian-speaking Ukrainian population, who are genuinely being persecuted by the Ukrainian government. However, Crimea was never historically part of Ukraine, is overwhelmingly Russian, and was only given to Ukraine in 1950 or so. And its people voted, perfectly constitutionally, to leave Ukraine and join the Russian Federation.

As for the current Ukrainian government, they are anything but nice, western-style democrats. The Orange Revolution was not a spontaneous revolution at all, but a carefully funded astroturf coup staged by George Soros and the National Endowment for Democracy, which is the American government’s quango in charge of fomenting coups against governments the American state doesn’t like. Which means, in practice, those countries that try to stop American corporations exploiting them and treating their people as slaves.

The Ukrainian government also contains genuine Nazis from the Pravy – ‘Right’ – Sektor. These organisations dress in the costume and use the regalia – the flags, signs and insignia – of the Ukrainian SS auxiliaries during the Second World War. These organisations, and the leaders they revere, where responsible for some of the pogroms and actively aided the Holocaust during the Nazi invasion. And they are still bitterly anti-Semitic today.

But from Reagan onwards, the American government has supported elements of the Ukrainian far right, and its leaders, like Vladimir Stetso, as freedom fighters.

None of this is being reported in Private Eye, or mentioned on the BBC, not even on Have I Got News For You. Indeed, Private Eye, in their ‘Letter from Ukraine’, actively retailed the narrative that democratic Ukraine is under attack from Putin’s Russia. This is all to serve British, and indeed, western, corporate and military interests.

And so Have I Got News For You, and its hosts, are actively feeding us fake news, all the while pretending to be acting as a kind of humorous check, holding politicians accountable through satire and humour. But there are limits to the joking, beyond which they clearly don’t want to go. And the jolly irreverence then becomes actively dangerous, as it adds an entirely spurious verisimilitude to the lies they are telling about Russia, Ukraine and the former eastern bloc.

I had enough of this a couple of years ago, and have stopped watching it. I am not saying it doesn’t do some good, and that the team and panellists don’t genuinely hold some politicos to account. I’m just saying that it’s also peddling fake news, and that, if you watch it, you need to be very careful about what Hislop, Merton and the guest presenter for that week say.

Have I Got News For You and the Bias in BBC News Satire

December 17, 2016

As I said in the previous blog post, I’ve stopped watching Have I Got News For You, because I’m sick of its bias. This is partly because I’m fed up with the show constantly repeating the anti-Corbyn, anti-Labour line of the mainstream newspapers. I also think its because, after having read some of the alternative news outlets and organisations about various issues, like Counterpunch, Lobster and seen Abby Martin and Amy Goodson on RT and Democracy Now, as well as The Young Turks, Secular Talk, the Jimmy Dore Show and Sam Seder’s Majority Report, I’ve become acutely aware of how far the reporting of the corporate media, including the mendacious BBC, is from the real situation in Britain and other nations around the world.

I was particularly struck by it during an edition of Have I Got News For You a month or so ago. One of the guests that week is the new head of the Conservative part in Scotland. I can’t remember her name. I did, however, find her very smug, self-satisfied and sneering, as you’d expect from a Tory official. She was also introduced as being ‘openly gay’, as if it were part of the changes the Tories had made to make themselves more electable to the guid people north of the Border. The Tories have been fielding many openly gay candidates around the country for several years now, ever since Dave Cameron took over the party and very ostentatiously set about his modernisation policy. This was about trying to make the Conservatives look more left-wing than the Labour party, then under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, which wasn’t exactly the most difficult task. Part of this involved them trying to break the image of the ‘nasty party’ by endorsing more female and minority candidates. This is presumably calculated to impress that part of the liberal middle class, who are worried about the lack of representation of women, ethnic minorities and gays in parliament, but only if they come from respectable upper and middle class backgrounds like themselves. If they’re working or lower middle class, then they had better know their place along with the rest of the proles, and not threaten the wonderful Thatcherite utopia the Tories and Blairites have created.

At one point, the Tory went off on a rant about how the Ukraine was under threat from Putin, as part of his campaign to annexe the whole country, beginning with the eastern part of the country and the Crimea, before taking over the Sudetenland and invading Poland. The view pushed very much by her was that the Russians are the aggressor, who need to be stopped at all costs from victimising the innocent Ukrainian regime.

It’s a tissue of lies. The Ukrainian regime is hardly innocent. It is stuffed full of Nazis from the Pravy Sektor, individuals and organisations that have adopted the full regalia and rituals of the SS auxiliaries that fought for the Nazis during the Second World War. These Ukrainians Nazis fully participated in the Holocaust and were responsible for some of the most horrific pogroms against Jews in the occupied Soviet territories during the War. These groups have shot at and savagely beaten left-wingers, including trade unionists. Just as the regime is intent on clamping down on independent journalists, who do not follow Kyiv’s ultranationalist line. This has included compiling and publishing a black list online of several hundred offending journalist, who have subsequently received death threats.

It is also a lie that the current regime is the product of spontaneous democratic demonstrations, like that of the Maidan Revolution. It isn’t. It is essentially the creation of a clique of very corrupt oligarchs, backed by quangos from America and the EU. The orange uniforms the protestors wore were handed out to them at a tent run by these semi-official US organisations.

And instead of being the aggressors, it is the Russians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians, who are the victims. Simply looking online, you can find reports of these people being beaten and murdered by the Ukrainian army, and of the Ukrainian government sending troops in to prevent them from reaching polling stations. This is to stop them putting in their votes for the opposition. I realise that some of this is going to be Russian propaganda, but not all.

But this is very much not the image presented by the corporate media and the Beeb. Including Private Eye’s editor, Ian Hislop. Hislop cut into the woman’s spiel. However, instead of challenging her about the real situation in Ukraine, he instead decided to ask her questions about whether or not she had contradicted Boris Johnson.

This is an issue, especially if you like to see the Tories tear themselves apart. But it’s not the most important issue here.

Which is that the British people are being fed lies by their media, and the British, American and EU authorities to whip up hatred of the Russians and strengthen ties with a brutally intolerant and persecutory Nazi regime. There’s obviously a very good reason why the Beeb and the corporate media want to silence any mention of Nazism in Ukraine. Despite the vile antics of National Action, the sight of a real Nazi politico, like those in the Ukrainian rada, in full SS gear, giving the Nazi salute would appal the vast majority of people in this country, regardless of whichever side of the political spectrum they came from. Except, perhaps, the Tory right and parts of UKIP.

And so in the interests of furthering this international, corporatist agenda of incorporating the Ukraine into the web of western-orientated, free-trade governed countries, any reporting and discussion of just how murderous and undemocratic the Ukrainian regime is, is rigorously censored.

And this incident also showed how the Beeb’s political bias works, even in a show which proclaims itself as ‘irreverent’. In an interview a while ago at the Edinburgh television festival, the genuinely irreverent – amongst many other things – Scots comedian Frankie Boyle discussed political bias at the Beeb. Boyle, you will remember, had been a regular guest on Mock The Week, another news comedy show. This was more like What’s My Line, in that the guests were given subjects to joke about by the question master, Dara O’Brien. Boyle disappeared as some of his jokes were too extreme and dark for the Beeb, even if the show was broadcast after nine O’clock. Boyle commented that the Beeb’s idea of remaining impartial is simply to lampoon all of the parties. It does not, however, like criticism or jokes about particular issues. And so Boyle’s humour was too edgy for the Corporation.

He was also critical of Have I Got News For You and the cosy relationship the show has with the politicians it lambasts and lampoons. Boyle had been to Romania. While he was there, he watched a Romanian comedian on television, who was making jokes about the country’s government, members of which were in the audience. The comedian pointed them out, and the politicos and comedian exchanged quips and greetings. Boyle found it all far too cosy and complacent, and said so to his Romanian guide. The man defended the show, saying that Boyle had it in his own country. How so, asked the Scots comedian. ‘I’ve seen it. Have I Got News For You‘, replied his Romanian friend, who stated it was just like that.

And Boyle concurs that it is. He stated that if the show rips into a politico one week, the next week they’ll have him on the panel, laughing and joking with them. He gave the example of Boris Johnson, who was a regular guest on the show. He could have mentioned many others. Such as Cecil Parkinson, who father a love child with his secretary, Sarah Keays, and then did his best to prevent the story getting out and imposing legal restrictions on Keays and her disabled daughter that led to great hardship. I have to say, I don’t know many women, who find Parkinson at all attractive. Far from it. I think most women find him smarmy. And my mother and her friends described him as ‘the type of man you would not like to be caught behind the filing cabinet with’. But Parkinson’s charm certainly worked on Hislop. After he appeared on Have I Got News For You, the editor of Private Eye talked about he charmed all of them on the programme. Perhaps you have to meet him in person to feel it.

I’m very much aware that Frankie Boyle is very much a controversial figure. Some of his jokes are too dark and tasteless for most people. But in this case, he’s absolutely right. The BBC has a very pronounced bias, even on ‘satirical’ shows such as Have I Got News For You, where the presenters and guests very definitely keep away from certain topics, and keep their criticisms within the very narrow compass prescribed by the official media.

William Blum on American Preparations for Nuclear War with Russia

November 9, 2016

William Blum in his Anti-Empire Report 146, posted a few days ago, has put up various thoughts on American foreign policy. Blum’s a veteran critic of American imperialism, and his observations on it in the latest Report cover a wide range of issues including Cuba, the bogus rationale for the Iraq invasion, Syria, China, Iran, the different countries America has attacked and whose governments it has tried to overthrow, the perilous position of Christians in the Middle East, thanks to America foreign policy, and democratisation as the pretext for invading and looting foreign nations. Along with his own comments, Blum also provides a series of very telling, pertinent quotes.

One of the issues Blum discusses is America’s confrontational stance towards Russia, and the very real danger that this will lead to a nuclear conflict between the two. This is shown in the following quotes.

“I don’t believe anyone will consciously launch World War III. The situation now is more like the eve of World War I, when great powers were armed and ready to go when an incident set things off. Ever since Gorbachev naively ended the Cold War, the hugely over-armed United States has been actively surrounding Russia with weapons systems, aggressive military exercises, NATO expansion. At the same time, in recent years the demonization of Vladimir Putin has reached war propaganda levels. Russians have every reason to believe that the United States is preparing for war against them, and are certain to take defensive measures. This mixture of excessive military preparations and propaganda against an “evil enemy” make it very easy for some trivial incident to blow it all up.” – Diana Johnstone, author of “Queen of Chaos: The Misadventures of Hillary Clinton”

“War with Russia will be nuclear. Washington has prepared for it. Washington has abandoned the ABM treaty, created what it thinks is an ABM shield, and changed its war doctrine to permit US nuclear first strike. All of this is obviously directed at Russia, and the Russian government knows it. How long will Russia sit there waiting for Washington’s first strike?” – Paul Craig Roberts, 2014

On supposed Russian plans to invade Ukraine and seize Crimea, Blum makes the following observations

Crimea had never voluntarily left Russia. The USSR’s leader Nikita Khrushchev, a native of the region, had donated Crimea to Ukraine in 1954. Crimeans were always strongly opposed to that change and voted overwhelmingly to rejoin Russia after the US-induced Ukrainian coup in 2014. Russian President Vladimir Putin refers to the Ukrainian army as “NATO’s foreign legion”, which does not pursue Ukraine’s national interests. The United States, however, insists on labeling the Russian action in Crimea as an invasion.

Putin re Crimea/Ukraine: “Our western partners created the ‘Kosovo precedent’ with their own hands. In a situation absolutely the same as the one in Crimea they recognized Kosovo’s secession from Serbia legitimate while arguing that no permission from a country’s central authority for a unilateral declaration of independence is necessary… And the UN International Court of Justice agreed with those arguments. That’s what they said; that’s what they trumpeted all over the world and coerced everyone to accept – and now they are complaining about Crimea. Why is that?”

Paul Craig Roberts: “The absurdity of it all! Even a moron knows that if Russia is going to put tanks and troops into Ukraine, Russia will put in enough to do the job. The war would be over in a few days if not in a few hours. As Putin himself said some months ago, if the Russian military enters Ukraine, the news will not be the fate of Donetsk or Mauriupol, but the fall of Kiev and Lviv.”

Blum also states that the plans for regime change in Syria involve damaging Russian interests in the Middle East and its natural gas combine in favour of the Qatari gas pipeline:

A successful American regime change operation in Syria would cut across definite interests of the Russian state. These include the likely use of Syria as a new pipeline route to bring gas from Qatar to the European market, thereby undercutting Gazprom, Russia’s largest corporation and biggest exporter. Assad’s refusal to consider such a route played no small role in Qatar’s pouring billions of dollars in arms and funds into the Syrian civil war on behalf of anti-Assad forces.

He also quote Dick Cheney to show that absolutely all of this is based on American plans for world domination. Not humanitarianism, not democracy, but the simple goal of extending American power across the globe until it dominates the world completely.

“The Plan is for the United States to rule the world. The overt theme is unilateralism, but it is ultimately a story of domination. It calls for the United States to maintain its overwhelming superiority and prevent new rivals from rising up to challenge it on the world stage. It calls for dominion over friends and enemies alike. It says not that the United States must be more powerful, or most powerful, but that it must be absolutely powerful.” Vice-President Dick Cheney – West Point lecture, June 2002

Oh yes, and in many regards Obama is no better. In 2014 he told the UN that Russia was one of the three greatest threats to the world. The others were ISIS and the Ebola virus.

For more, go to https://williamblum.org/aer/read/146.

It’s clear from this that America’s leader are colossal warmongers, who are threatening to tip us all into nuclear Armageddon just purely from their own selfish nationalism and drive for power.

‘In the Shadow of Mary Seacole’: Review

October 20, 2016

Tuesday evening, at 10.40 ITV broadcast a documentary, ‘In the Shadow of Mary Seacole’, in which the actor David Harewood went on a journey from Britain to Jamaica and the Crimea tracing the life of Mary Seacole. Seacole was one of the Victorian heroines that have been forgotten with the march of time. In her forties, she went to Crimea to open a hotel to serve the troops, as well as going on to the battlefield to try to heal them with traditional Jamaican herbal remedies. She was at one time as popular as Florence Nightingale, and her memory has been preserved by Black historians and activists. Amongst those Harewood spoke to about her, were a group of mainly Black, but with one or two White ladies, who had formed a society to commemorate her. These ladies had succeeded in their campaign for a monument to be erected to her. As Harewood traced Seacole’s physical journey around the globe, so he also followed the story of the her statue from the initial design as a maquette, or scale model, to the completion of the final, 3 metre tall statue and its installation outside one of London’s hospitals.

Apart from Harewood himself and the ladies of his commemoration society, the other speakers in the programme included Diane Abbott, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, the comedian Jo Brand, a Black actress, a White woman, who had written a biography of Seacole, and a biographer of Florence Nightingale. The latter was very critical of Mary Seacole. He felt that, in contrast to Nightingale, Seacole’s achievements in nursing had been blown out of proportion. He declared that there was no evidence she had saved thousands of lives. He felt she was only being commemorated due to ‘political correctness’ – the need to find a Black counterpart to Nightingale. He stated he had no objection to a statue being put up to her, but did object to where it was to be sited: outside the very hospital associated with Nightingale. Harewood correctly commented that she continued to divide opinions today.

He began the programme at the side of the lakes in Birmingham, where he and his brother used to play as children. He said that at the time he was growing up in the 70s, there were no major figures of his skin colour, and no women. Mary Seacole had been a particular heroine of his. Seacole had been born in Jamaica in 1805, the illegitimate daughter of a free Black woman and a Scots soldier. Her mother ran a boarding house, and it was from her mother that she also learnt her knowledge of Jamaican herbal medicine. She later on married a White Englishman, Horatio Hamilton, who claimed to be the illegitimate son of Horatio Nelson and Lady Hamilton. The marriage unfortunately only lasted nine years. Hamilton was sickly, and Seacole nursed him through his final years before his death. With the outbreak of the Crimean War, Seacole used her own money to journey to Crimea to construct a hotel. There she was known for serving good food, as well as dispensing ‘liquors’ to the troops. Her hotel was particularly patronised by the officer class.

Harewood explained that the purpose of the War had been to quell fears that the Russians were going to expand southward. The Crimea, then as now, was home to the Russian fleet. And so the British invaded and besieged the town of Sebastopol. After several years of fighting, the British managed to break the Russians, who retreated, sinking their own ships as they did so. The sequences showing the Crimean War were illustrated by clips from a Russian movie made in 1912.

Mary’s fortunes were not so successful, however. She came back to Britain in debt. A banquet was held in her honour, in order to raise money for her, supported by several of the soldiers. Although the banquet was a success, it did not raise any money for her, and she died penniless, eventually to be all but forgotten. She had, however, left an autobiography, a modern edition of which Harewood was shown reading.

The sculptor showed Harewood the model he had made. This would show Seacole as the strong, purposeful woman she was, striding forward with her clothes swirling around her. Behind would be a metal disc, which would bear the imprint of the ground from Crimea. It was designed to be lit up from below at night. To illustrate this, the sculptor showed Harewood the intended effect using the light from his mobile phone. His intention was not only to show Seacole herself, but that the shadows of the people admiring the statue would also be cast onto the disc behind her, so that for a brief moment they too would share her space.

The sculptor stated that there were a lot of photographs showing Seacole’s face from the front, but he wanted to know what she looked like from all sides. Thus he asked Harewood to go to the archives in Jamaica to see what material they had on her. The British archivist there produced a bust of the heroine, in reddish-brown clay, that was made by one of the army surgeons. It was, he said, one of the rarest of its type in the archives and easily the most valuable. Harewood duly photographed the bust from all angles.

Also in Jamaica, Harewood spoke to a former pharmacist, a doctor, who had given up her career in orthodox medicine for one in complementary healing. She explained that Seacole didn’t have any formal medical training, but would have been a ‘doctress’. This meant that she had a knowledge of herbal lore, which she used to treat and heal. It was this knowledge that she used to treat the wounded squaddies on the frozen battlefields of the Crimea.

This led to Harewood and the sculptor, back home in England, discussing Seacole’s features. There’s a debate and a little controversy over how ‘Black’ Seacole was. She was clearly a woman of African heritage, but the sculptor also felt that there would have been some elements in her appearance from her White heritage. Her features, he believed, would have been a little narrower from other Black Jamaicans as a result. He then sent Harewood on to the next stage of his journey of discovery, to the Crimea to find suitable ground from which to take the impressions for the statue’s metal disc.

At the Crimea, he met a local historian, a mature lady, who guided him to some of the battle sites. He looked over the ‘Valley of Death’ through which the Light Brigade charged to spike the Russian guns, celebrated in Tennyson’s poem, and illustrated in a painting from the period. Poring over maps, he traced the site of Seacole’s hotel, and was delighted to discover that there were still relics of her stay littering the ground. These included some of the wine and alcohol bottles she had stocked. Looking at the shards of glass, Harewood and the historian discussed how the British used to shoot the tops off the bottles. Harewood was accompanied on his journey by the technician, who was going to take the impression of the ground. While Harewood and the historian discussed Seacole’s hotel and its remains, he went off to find a suitable rock formation. This was scanned using a laser, which the technician held up to shoot its rays at the rock face, slowly building up a three dimensional computer model of its surface.

The Black actress commented on what a strong, modern woman Seacole would have been. She had travelled on her own across the world without a husband, something which was extremely rare at the time, and which few women did today.

Back in England, Harewood returned to see the immense metal armature the sculptor had constructed, which would serve as the three-dimensional framework for the clay from which the statue would be made. The sculptor trowelled a few pieces of clay into place before inviting Harewood to join in. Harewood did so, but not unsurprisingly found stirring and getting the great gobs of clay from the bucket onto his trowel, and then on to the frame hard work. It struck me that this part of the statue’s construction was not so much like the image of sculpture everyone has, with delicate fingers moulding pliant clay, so much as like a navvy laying down mortar on a brick wall.

Harewood then said that there were a few more things that needed to be done to the statue, with footage of it being covered with various other substances, one of which looked like rubber, before it was due to be taken to be cast into bronze. The programme showed the statue being driven to the foundry on the back of an open truck, securely fastened with tarpaulin and ropes. Once there, the programme showed the molten bronze being poured from a crucible into the mould formed from the clay statue. This was the moment of truth, and the sculptor described it as a form of alchemy.

The statue was being cast in pieces, and the sculptor took Harewood to see some of the pieces that had already been cast, which included her head. At this stage of the process, the bronze was a bright, coppery colour. The pieces would be assembled and welded together. The welding marks would then be removed, before the statue was finally put in place. There was a little footage of this being done. When completed, the statue was a much darker colour.

The programme showed the ceremony for the statue’s installation. Amongst those speaking were Diane Abbott, and the sculptor himself. He said in his speech that there were plenty of statues of White men, mostly monarchs and generals, but only 15 per cent of the statues in Britain were of women, and very few Black people. It had therefore been his privilege to try to redress this. Back in the studio, Jo Brand paid tribute to Seacole, saying that she was a woman of immense compassion. Her biographer answered the criticisms of Nightingale’s biographer by saying that the comments about her going to run a hotel there were meant to disparage her accomplishment by pointing out that there was also a commercial motive. But this did not detract from her achievements. She also answered the criticism that Seacole didn’t have formal medical training by pointing out that nursing as a distinct, respected profession didn’t exist at the time, and was only created by Nightingale after the War. Harewood himself also commented, stating that there were few, if any, statues of people of his colour. But it was important to have them, to show that people of colour had been a part of this country’s history for a very long time.

It was an interesting glimpse into the life of a determined woman, who was rightly celebrated in her day. I don’t think you could quite make her Nightingale’s equal – Nightingale herself was an expert mathematician, who added much to statistics, and whose achievements included the invention of the pie chart. And Nightingale is the genius behind the creation of modern nursing. Nevertheless, she played her bit providing comfort to the wounded in during the horrors of the Crimean War. Brand at one point said she must have been an immense comfort to some poor, teenage soldier dying far away from his mother. And the troops also doubtless appreciated the alcohol she brought on to the battlefield. So, while may be not as great a figure as Nightingale, she certainly deserved her statue.

One other thing also struck me about Seacole and her unofficial status as ‘doctress’. While this may strike people today, used to modern, professional scientific medicine, as something close to magic, it would have been immediately familiar to the ordinary troopers from working class or rural poor backgrounds. Before it was applied to African spiritual healers and practitioners, the term ‘witchdoctor’ originally meant the white witches and wizards of rural Britain, to whom the poor turned to heal their illnesses. Professional doctors before the establishment of the NHS and the welfare state were rare in rural areas, and expensive. Unofficial healers with a knowledge of herbalism were therefore the only people available to the poor, whether they were White British or Black Jamaicans. Professional doctors also had a reputation as rapacious quacks, whose treatments were more likely to kill you as cure you. The rank and file squaddies in the British army were thus probably more prepared to trust her as the type of healer they had grown up with at home, than the properly trained medical men. And clearly, the army surgeon, who had sculpted the bust respected her courage and professionalism, otherwise he would not have tried to preserve her image in clay.

And Harewood is right: Black people have been in Britain since the Romans. It is thus only right that Seacole should have a statue in her honour.

Ken Livingstone on the Rehabilitation of Fascists to Protect Capitalism

May 29, 2016

Ken Livingstone has always been a fierce opponent of racism in all its forms. He makes this very clear in the chapter ‘Labour Should Have Listened to Black People’ in his 1987 book, Livingstone’s Labour. He states clearly that all forms of racism, whether against Blacks, the Irish, or anti-Semitism, are the worst form of reaction and should be fought against. His anti-racism and anti-Fascism are made even clearer in the chapter, ‘Made in the USA’, which is about how the US gained economic and political hegemony over Europe from the end of World War I as part of its campaign to halt the advance Communism. Leninspart is justifiably outraged out how, at the end of World War II, America and the Western powers began to rehabilitate Fascists and Nazis as part of this global power struggle. He writes

The policy of reviving capitalism in Germany, as well as the attitude taken towards Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal, by the United States and Britain required the rehabilitation of Fascists. This was made simpler by the fact that most Allied leaders, contrary to their claims, had not objected to Fascism as such. What was unacceptable was fascism which threatened Britain and US interests. The US banker Morgan had financed Mussolini’s Italy and Churchill had summarised his attitude towards Mussolini in his History of the Second World War:

He was, as I had addressed him at the time of the fall of France, the ‘Italian lawgiver’. The alternative to his rule might well have been a communist Italy, which would have brought perils and misfortunes of a different character both upon the Italian people and Europe … Even when the issue of the war had become certain, Mussolini would have been welcomed by the Allies.

In line with this attitude, Adenauer, the United States choice to lead West Germany, was perfectly prepared to consort with Nazis. As Walter Laquer Smith admits in his pro-cold War Europe Since Hitler:

While Adenauer’s anti-Nazi record was above reproach, he was less than scrupulous in the choice of his closest collaborators: there could be but one opinion about the career of men like Oberlander and Globke in the Nazi era, but the former was dropped only after protests from all sides and Globke, a lawyer who had provided the official interpretation to the anti-Semitic Nuremberg laws of 1935, remained for years the Chancellor’s close associate and confidant, despite heavy pressure.

Similar policies of rehabilitating ex-Fascists were pursued in the other ex-Axis states. In Italy, out of 800,000 pre-liberation civil servants, many of whom had been members of the Fascist Party, no more than a few hundred were removed from their posts. An amnesty was granted in October 1946 after which only 3-4,000 Fascists and war criminals remained in prison. The surviving Fascist dictatorships of Franco and Salazar were propped up by the United States. The support later given by the United States and Britain, to regimes such as that of South Africa, Pinochet in Chile, and Stroessner in Paraguay had its direct forerunner in the support given to rehabilitating European Fascists.

He goes on to describe how Britain and the US were deeply implicated in this odious policy.

The problem for the USA and Britain in this policy was that the war had been fought under an anti-Fascist banner and the majority of the population of Europe was strongly anti-Fascist. For that reason much work of rehabilitating Fascists and war criminals had to be done under cover and its truth is coming out only today. Ed Harriman has been prominent in exposing this and it is wroth quoting at length from his article in the New Statesman and Society of 5 August 1988:

The first to champion this dubious cause [of protecting war criminals] was Hector McNeil, the Labour government’s man at the United Nations. At the UN General Assembly’s second session in 1947, Soviet, Byelorussian, Ukrainian and Yugoslav delegates taxed McNeil to explain why Britain was sheltering war criminals in displaced persons camps in Germany … ‘In the town of Hoxter in the UK zone of occupation lives the butcher of the Byelorussian people, … Rodoslav Ostroski’, charged a Russian delegate … Ostroski … the Nazi-groomed ‘Fuhrer’ who press-ganged 60 battalions of his countrymen into fighting, and killing, for the Nazi cause. The liquidation of Jews in Byelorussia … was by then well known. Yet McNeil was unmoved. In 1961, Soviet authorities charged three Estonians with organising the mass murder of some 120,000 Jews, prisoners of war and other ‘untermenschen’ … in Estonia. Two pleaded guilty and were shot. The third, Ain Mere, was then living in Leicester. The Soviets said Mere was the Estonian police boss under the Nazis who personally ordered prisoners to be exterminated in the Jagala concentration camp, and joined the local SS. The Soviet request for his extradition was refused. ‘My record was checked when I came to England over 10 years ago,’ Mere told The Times. The Foreign Office reply was to inform the Soviet government that Britain did not recognise Estonia as part of the Soviet Union.

Harriman notes:

In 1945 the Joint Intelligence Committee declared that the Soviet Union, not Nazi Germany, was Britain’s prime intelligence target … In the perverse logic of the spying world, there were few better sources for this than the Gestapo, which had devoted enormous resources and considerable vigour to liquidating communist suspects. The united States government now admits that Gestapo agents and their files were avidly sought be American intelligence. In 1983 the US Justice Department published a hefty report spelling out exactly how the Americans recruited one such agent – Klaus Barbie [the Butcher of Lyons] – and then gave him a free ride to South America. The appendix of the US report explains that before the Americans bagged him, Barbie was being recruited, in 1945, by a pair of ex-Nazis working as agents for Britain’s SIS, a Dr Hoffman and his superior, a man called Markus. Markus had been aide-de-camp to SS Intelligence General Walter Schellenberg, who set up a network of spies and saboteurs amongst Soviet collaborators… Shortly after the war Markus became the mayor of a small town in the British zone in Germany and, according to US documents, ‘was given the task of forming for the British a network of agents in Germany’… Prosecutions of war criminals quickly became an embarrassment to [the Labour] Government. They impeded the cold war… Churchill was one of the first to call for an end to war crimes investigations … Shortly afterwards Churchill made a much publicised donation to the support fund for Nazi Field Marshal Erich von Manstein, who was being 5ried in Hamburg for murdering prisoners of war on the eastern front. Proceedings against Manstein’s fellow officers had already been dropped by British prosecutors on grounds of the defendants’ ‘poor health’. In 1941, in the Crimea and short of food, von Manstein had ordered: ‘The Jewish-Bolshevik system must be wiped out once and for all… especially in the occupied cities, a large part of the population will have to starve.’ By 1952 Manstein was a free man serving in the West German army. The UN War Crimes Commission was quickly wrapped up. Prosecutors such as Gerald Draper found their efforts thwarted. the British and American authorities were not cooperative. General Lucius Clay declared that as of the end of 1947, no more suspected war criminals would be handed over for prosecution from the American zone in Germany. The British followed suit. (Pp. 170-2).

These are clearly not the words of someone who denies the existence of the Holocaust, let alone an anti-Semite. Rather they show that Leninspart was acutely aware of the horrific reality of the Nazi attempt to exterminate the Jews, and was rightly revolted by the way his country’s leaders and the US, including the Labour, had protected Nazi war criminals as part of the Cold War against the USSR. And just as some members of the Labour party were involved in this, so was that great Conservative hero, Winston Churchill.

Global Research on US and EU Sponsored Fascist Regime in Ukraine

April 10, 2016

Okay, I’m afraid I haven’t done much blogging this week. That’s partly due to my having picked up some kind of germ that was going round. It left you feeling completely drained of energy, and feeling that you were almost going to come down with a bout of diarrhoea and sickness. Mercifully, I didn’t. A lot of people in our area have had it, and all except one or two have managed to have avoid getting diarrhoea. It’s nasty, but it also seems to be over in a couple of days.

This is about something else that’s nasty, but unfortunately hasn’t been over in a couple of days. I’ve been blogging a lot about the resurgence of Fascism in eastern Europe, including Ukraine. One of the pieces I put up was about the Pravy Sektor – the infamous ‘Right Sector’ group of Ukrainian extreme Right-wing groups, including ‘Svoboda’, whose name means ‘Freedom’, but are probably more accurately described by their old monicker, the Social Nationalist Movement. Yep, they’re a bunch of Nazis. And the current Ukrainian regime includes them as one of its coalition partners, and seems very happy indeed with the extreme violence, intimidation and brutality it metes out, especially to ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians.

This is another video presenting the case that the regime change, the ‘Orange Revolution’ in Maidan Square in 2013, which overthrew President Yanukovych, wasn’t entirely a popular revolution, but a carefully orchestrated piece of geopolitics by the US and EU to install a client regime as the Ukrainian government. Yanukovych had committed the cardinal sin of signing a treaty providing for closer relations, both political and commercial, with Putin’s Russia. This could not be tolerated by the governments in Washington and Brussels, and so Yanukovych was toppled, fleeing to Russia with Putin.

This is at times a very hard video to watch. It’s not short, at about 1 hour 25 minutes long, and shows scenes of very graphic violence. Many of these will be familiar from some of the other videos I’ve posted up, such as the masked, uniformed figures of Svoboda and their Nazi regalia – the Wolfsangel SS Rune on their sleeves for example – marching amongst the crowd. It shows them holding torchlight marches – almost exactly like those staged in the Third Reich by the Nazis – chanting the names of Stepan Bandera and another Nationalist hero, along with cries of ‘Death to the Communists’ and ‘Death to the Russians’. At one point the marchers are shown chanting a slogan about sticking Russian heads on spikes.

There’s also footage of the snipers from Svoboda shooting and killing unarmed demonstrators in Maidan Square, in an atrocity that was falsely ascribed by Obama and the Western media to Yanukovych. It also shows the attack on the trade union headquarters by Svoboda thugs, in which something like 45 people were burned alive, while others were beaten, and thrown out of the building’s windows. As they fell, their attackers joked about how ‘Negroes are falling!’ The documentary also includes an interview from Russian television, RT, with a young woman, who was one of the survivors of the attack. She was part of a peace camp, and she and the others were chased into the building by the storm troopers. Other victims included people in unarmed demonstrations, shot and killed by retreating state security forces.

Some of the victims were dissenting journalists and politicians. There’s a clip of one of the senior journos in one of the Ukrainian papers being roughed up by the minister for looking after the country’s ethnic minorities, at the head of another mob of thugs. He was angry as the newsman had published photos of the stormtroopers beating up civilians. One opposition politician was pelted with eggs, and savagely beaten. His attackers even attacked the ambulance crew that came to help him. There are also scenes from inside the Rada, the Ukrainian parliament. An opposition politico takes the chair to voice extremely trenchant criticism of the government and its policies. Immediately, other politicos and officials start running to the lectern to force him.

In many of these attacks, the police either do nothing, or are actively involved. There are scenes showing senior police officers in very chummy conversation with the masked and uniformed Nazis surrounding them about beating and murdering protestors.

This is also a regime, which doesn’t even bother to hide its Nazi sympathies. Another piece of footage shows members of the government at one of the national monuments making speeches praising Bandera, the Nazis and Hitler himself. They’re greeted in their turn by angry shouts and chants from a pro-Soviet crowd just behind the barrier. There’s also a leaked phone conversation from the Ukrainian politicians and Oligarch’s wife, Yulia Timoshenko, to another government official describing what she’d like to do ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians: nuke them, and then kill them all.

So what’s the US and EU’s response to the beatings, mass murder and repression? Active collusion with the regime, and smooth denials to the international press and Congress that there is any kind of ethnic cleansing being done by the regime. Or that if there is, is all the fault of the Russkies under Putin. There’s that notorious phone call between Victoria Nuland and another state department official, effectively fixing who she wants in the Ukrainian cabinet. One of the members she explicitly mentions, Oleh Tiahnybok, is the head of Svoboda. There’s also the phone call between the Estonian minister, Urmas Paet to Baroness Ashcroft about the shooting of unarmed civilians by Svoboda snipers, in which Ashcroft sounds distinctly uncomfortable. This is not stuff she really wanted to hear. And the lies go all the way to the top. It’s not just Nuland in the state department, nor Psaki, a Whitehouse spokeswoman, but also John Kerry and Obama. All of whom tell the press, and some critical US congressmen, that Ukraine is a free, democratic country that’s not oppressing anyone.

This is demonstrably untrue. The video also shows footage of Ukrainian troops entering Russian-speaking towns in the east of the country, firing on and killing unarmed civilians. There are also shown occupying a polling station to prevent the local people voting for independence. Again, when the local people march to claim their right to vote, they open fire. One young lad is horribly shot in the leg. This scene is cut with Kerry telling the ladies and gentlemen of the Fourth Estate that no-one was being prevented from voting, the elections were completely fair, and that the reason why turn-out was so low is that nobody turned out to vote. Again, that’s another lie, as the video shows a massive turn out of Russian-Ukrainians of all ages, taking the opportunity to vote for a federal Ukrainian. This is something else that’s anathema to the Ukrainian puppet regime and its masters in Washington. Obama and Kerry stand in front of the microphones and cameras claiming that the polls by the people in the eastern part of the country demanding their own separatist, autonomous enclave, lack democratic support. Of course, the video argues that the opposite is the case. It is the American-installed regime that lacks the democratic mandate.

The Fascist regime and Obama also try to claim that the demands for a separate Russian-speaking enclave in the Donbas region is due to the machinations of Putin. It isn’t. They claim that these were only made after the Ukrainian government sent the troops into the Russian-speaking areas to intimidate them. Obama, Kerry and Nuland also claim that the reason Crimea voted to join with Russia was due to the intimidation of the Russian forces there. In fact, the voting in the Crimea was much fairer and far less rigged, due to the presence of the Russians as observers.

One of the other tactics the Ukrainian regime has also tried to use to smear its enemies is accusations of anti-Semitism. The Donbas separatists were supposed to be going to pass a law demanding Jews register with the authorities. There is, horrifically, much anti-Semitism in Russia, just as there is in the rest of the former eastern bloc. But this was a lie, and soon had to be dropped as too many people knew it was.

As for the Russians, Putin is, it seems, this time the maligned one. Rather than seeking to overthrow a democratic regime or dismember a rival, and disobedient nation, the opposite is true. He’s been forced to act because a democratically elected regime was overthrown at the behest of an outside power – Washington, and the oppression of his own ethnic group by the resulting Fascist regime. And Putin has every right to do so under international law. Putin’s a nasty piece of work himself, but this time, he’s the victim, not the aggressor.

And it’s not just Russians, who are the victims. some of the groups beaten and shot at by the goose-steppers are, it is claimed, just severely normal Ukrainians. And one fact both Washington and Kiev want to cover up is that many of the original Maidan protestors don’t want the ruling president. They wanted to throw out Yanukovych, but they are very definitely not supporters of his successors.

The video lastly claims the reason Washington has set up this puppet regime, and is attempting to demonise Putin, is because Putin has defied America’s attempts to become the only world super-power, and is successfully competing with the Land of the Free in what it sees as a ‘multi-polar’ world – one in which there are various competing powers, not all subject to American domination. And so here there are shots of Putin with other world leaders, including those of Iran.

Here’s the video:

The video is by a group calling itself Global Research, based in Quebec, Canada. It’s an interesting video which presents a compelling case. I think some scepticism is necessary in the way it presents Putin. He’s not ‘whiter-than-white’ innocent. His regime itself is extremely authoritarian, and it has also responded to critics and dissenting journalists with violence and murder. The same for many of the regimes with whom he is shown doing business. But this time, it really does seem that he is not responsible for the current outbreak of ethnic violence and repression. It’s the fault of the governing elites in Washington and Brussels, safe and comfortable thousands of miles away from the horror they’ve unleashed further east.

Brainwash Update on Lawlessness, Murder and Assassination by American Mercenaries Blackwater in Iraq

January 27, 2016

This piece is from the show Brainwash Update on RT. RT’s owned by the Russians, and its presenter, Abby Martin, resigned on camera in protest against Putin’s invasion of the Crimea. Martin here reports on the lawless of Blackwater, one of the ‘private military contractors’, or mercenaries, that the American government brought into Iraq as part of the invasion. She states that this was adopted as a result of the way the publicised deaths of American soldiers in the Vietnam War caused public opinion against that conflict. She’s right. The use of mercenaries in future wars, like the Iraq invasion, was approved for that reason. The public might be concerned about US troops, and particularly conscripts, coming back in coffins, but there was much less concern about private mercenaries.

Blackwater, however, brought their own problems with them. From the report here, it seems they’re completely lawless, who gun down and murder with impunity, even up to the point where they threaten officials from the State Department itself. In Iraq, the company became notorious for a series of murder sprees, where their soldiers shot at passing cars, innocent bystanders and animals. They were responsible for the massacre of 17 civilians. This was called Iraq’s My Lai moment, after the infamous massacre of a village by US soldiers during the Vietnam War. It was denounced by the Iraqi PM, and resulted in legislation being passed that made American mercenaries subject to the American judicial system. Apparently, they hadn’t before. They’ve become so notorious, that they’ve actually changed their names several times, including to ‘Z’ and ‘Academy’.

James Risen, a journalist with the New York Times, reported that Eric Prince, Blackwater’s top manager in Iraq, had stated that he would have the investigator for the State Department, Jean Richter, killed, and that as it was Iraq, no-one would be able to do anything about it. The officials at the American Embassy sided with Blackwater, and Richter was ordered out of the country. She is not the only person to testify that the company has been responsible for assassinations and other illegal activities. Two anonymous former employees have similarly stated that the company was involved in gun-running, and that they were also threatened with death.

Prince, however, appeared on the Daily Show to complain that he was being persecuted by the government, who threatened to drive him out of business. And instead of being closed down, or being called to trial, Blackwater received $200 million worth of further contracts, including from the Department of Defense and the CIA.

It’s not too hard to see why the American embassy sided with Blackwater. The mercenaries had the contract for protecting them, which made them extremely vulnerable. Quite apart from any ideological sympathies the staff may have had with the policy of using mercenaries. And a few years ago there were other reports of lawlessness in Iraq by the private military contractors. This included not just murder, but also prostitution, and was covered in Private Eye. The invasion of Iraq was a crime that has destabilised the whole of the Middle East, and the use of lawless elements, like Blackwater, and the Shi’a death squads set up by one American general to use against the Sunnis, contributed to the anarchy and bloodshed in this most historic of countries today.