Posts Tagged ‘Drones’

Secular Talk: Jeremy Scahill Criticises American Pro-War Journalism

April 13, 2017

This is another piece criticising the pro-War slant of American news, this time from Secular Talk. The host, Kyle Kulinski, comments on the appearance of the respected journalist Jeremy Scahill on CNN’s Reliable Sources. Scahill was asked by the programme’s male anchor if he believed Americans had been desensitised to the war in Syria through media coverage. Scahill attacked Trump for giving even more leeway to bomb and invade the countries of the Middle East in campaigns, which had killed civilians. In March alone, according to one group monitoring airstrikes, the US military had killed 1,000 civilians in Iraq. Trump had also supported military intervention in Syria for a long time, and there had been strikes made by special ops forces as well as normal ‘boots on the ground’. He had also supplied intelligence and arms to the Saudis for the war in Yemen, which was also claiming innocent lives.

Scahill stated that CNN needed to withdraw all appearances from retired generals and colonels, because they were pushing the war. He also attacked two journalists in particular, Fareed Zakaria and Brian Williams, for their outrageous enthusiasm for the war. He states that Zakaria would have sex with a cruise missile if he could, and criticised Williams for his ‘obscene’ quotation of Leonard Cohen.

Kulinski remarks on how Scahill seems to have been aged by his experiences making a film in which he talked to people in Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan, who had been the victims of drone strikes. He points out how a simple Google search will show that Trump doesn’t care about protecting civilians, as he claims. He said he wanted to kill the families of terrorists as well as the terrorists themselves. In his raid on Yemen, he killed an eight year old American girl, as well as 35 other innocent victims, in a raid that Obama had considered would cost too many innocent lives. 200 civilians have also died in a recent air strike in Mosul. Kulinski makes the point that there has been a 432 per cent rise in drone strikes. Trump is also aiding Saudi Arabia, who have blockaded Yemen. As a result of this, 17 million Yemenis are facing starvation. As for chemical weapons, America has given white phosphorus, a truly horrific weapon, to the Saudis for Yemen and Israel, which has used it in Gaza. Kulinski points out that the media is now part of the military-industrial complex. They don’t check their sources, and they have on retired generals and colonels, who are on the payroll of the arms companies. Kulinski praises Scahill for cutting through all the corporate, pro-war bullsh*t, but says that means that Scahill probably won’t be coming back to CNN any time soon.

I’ve put this up as I think it is interesting and heartening that some journalists are attacking the mainstream media for their bias in promoting an American invasion of Syria, and the obscenity of Brian Williams’ quotation of Leonard Cohen. I wonder what Cohen himself would have thought of it, if he were alive today. I don’t know what his personal politics were, but the people I knew, who were fans of his were leftie liberal types, who hated war.

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William Blum on the Police Bombing of Black Americans

February 9, 2017

I found this passage in William Blum’s America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy absolutely mind-blowing as it says so much about Reaganite and post-Reaganite America’s willingness to use deadly force, regardless of who gets killed, and the militarisation of the police.

In the chapter on human rights and torture, Blum discusses the continuing misuse of American drone strikes to assassinate terrorist leaders. These are notorious, as most of the victims so far have been civilians, including women and children. Blum mentions that Amnesty International has protested several times against their use. He makes the point that drones are only ever used against poor countries, like Yemen and Pakistan, and would never be used against America’s allies in the Developed world, like Britain. But bomb strikes have been used by the police in America against terrorists in poor Black neighbourhoods, with the resulting massive loss of innocent lives and destruction of people’s homes. He writes

Can it be imagined that American officials would fire a missile into a house in Paris or London or Ottawa because they suspected that high-ranking al-Qaeda members were present there? Even if the US knew of their presence for an absolute fact, and was not just acting on speculation, as in the Predator cases mentioned above? Well, they most likely would not attack, but can we put anything past Swaggering-Superarrogant-Superpower-Cowboys-on-steroids? After all, they’ve already done it to their own – US drone attack killed two American citizens in Yemen in 2011, and on May 13, 1985, a bomb dropped by a police helicopter over Philadelphia, Pennsylvania burned down an entire block, some sixty homes destroyed, eleven dead, including several small children.. The police, the mayor’s office, and the FBI were all involved in this operation to evict an organization called MOVE from the house they lived in.

The victims in Philadelphia were all black of course. So let’s rephrase the question: can it be imagined that American officials would fire a missile into a residential area of Beverly Hills or the Upper East Side of Manhattan? Stay tuned. (p. 127).

No, of course they wouldn’t.

But what in the name of Heaven is a police force doing with bombs? This whole affair reads like something from a dystopian SF novel. You know, something like Stephen King’s The Running Man, which was set in a Fascist America where the cops shoot people rioting to get bread. That one was filmed in the 1980s with Arnie. Or The Hunger Games. It does not sound like the actions of a responsible democracy based on ‘justice for all’.

I’m not disputing that sometimes it is necessary to use force against armed, violent criminals and terrorists. But I am absolutely amazed that the US police was militarised to the extent that the used bombs. As for the victims being Black, that explains so much about why so many Blacks in America hate the police, and the entire point behind the Black Lives Matter movement.

American Psychiatrists Fear Trump Mentally Ill, Unsuited for Presidency

December 29, 2016

They aren’t the only one, and this is serious.

In this video from The Young Turks, The Ring of Fire’s Farron Cousins reports that three professors of psychiatry, one from Harvard, the other two from the University of California San Francisco, have written a letter to Barack Obama requesting that he step in and force Trump to take a psychiatric examination. They are concerned that he suffers from psychological defects that render him not just unsuitable, but actually too dangerous to be given the job of president. They believe that Trump’s grandiosity, his impetuousness, the way he takes offence and responds aggressive at even the mildest criticism point to mental illness. He may just suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, perhaps something rather more serious than that, or perhaps even be a full-blown sociopath. Cousins states that it could just be affluenza. Trump comes from an extremely wealthy background, and has been given everything he wanted, including now the presidency. But it looks more serious than this.

This makes Trump extremely dangerous. He cannot be trusted with the nuclear codes, nor control of the drone programme, which he could use to strike down his opponents. Cousins states that the US constitution provides for presidents to be removed or impeached if they are unfit for their office. And mental illness would certainly come under those conditions disqualifying a president from taking office on fitness grounds. Cousins believes it is unfortunately too early at this stage to use this to prevent Trump gaining office. But he recommends that letter should be saved and stored, and that once Trump is in the White House, it should be taken out and acted upon.

RUR Performed by Lego Robots in Prague

October 24, 2016

Yesterday I put up a piece discussing the similarities between the humanoids in H.B.O.’s WestWorld SF TV series, based on the 1970s film of the same name by Michael Crichton, and R.U.R., the 1920’s play by Czech writer, Karel Capek, which introduced the word ‘robot’ to the English language. In both WestWorld and RUR, the robots are actually closer to the replicants of Blade Runner, in that rather than being machines, they’re biological constructs produced artificially through the processes of industrial manufacturing. Capek’s play has been produced many times, and its theme of a robot rebellion against humanity has been one of the dominant themes in Science Fiction. It’s most famous treatment has been in the Terminator films, in which a virus infects the Skynet computer system, causing it to revolt against humanity, unleashing an army of killer drones and humanoid robotic soldiers.

I found this short video on YouTube. It’s about a production of R.U.R. staged last year, 2015, at the Czech republic’s national gallery in Prague by Café Neu Romance, and directed by Christian Gjorret. Gjorret is a member of the group, Vive Les Robots, which has been set up to get the public interested in robots and robotics. The theatre company took the unusual step of performing the play entirely with robots, made out of the commercially available lego kits available in toy shops.

It’s an interesting approach, even if it means that the physical scale of the performance is rather small. I think there’s an opportunity to stage the play on a much grander scale, using life-size animatronic robots. There is, after all, a robot band called Compressorhead, which plays cover versions of various Rock and Heavy Metal tracks. The ABC Warrior, which appeared in the 1995 Judge Dredd film was also genuinely robotic. It also looked to me very much like a real robot was used to show C3PO’s mechanical nature, when R2D2’s metal mate made his first appearance being built by Anakin Skywalker in the first of the Star Wars prequels, The Phantom Menace. The problem with staging such a production would be the immense cost. Animatronics aren’t cheap. The operators of the Ry’gel puppet in the SF series Farscape said in an interview that the portable version of the character cost as much as a car, while the studio version was even more expense, and cost the equivalent of a house. Nevertheless, I think if it could be staged, it would be a fascinating and genuinely thought-provoking experiment. If nothing else, it would show how near we are to creating some of these machines, and how pressing and prescient some of the SF stories dealing with the issues of Artificial Intelligence, freedom, and the survival of humanity faced with machines, which may be its superior, are.

Here’s the video:

Frontiers Magazine on Robot Weapons

October 23, 2016

The popular science magazine, Frontiers, way back in October 1998 ran an article on robots. This included two pages on the ‘Soldiers of Tomorrow’, military robots then under development. This included drones. These are now extremely well-known, if not notorious, for the threat they pose to privacy and freedom. The article notes that they were developed from the unmanned planes used for target practice. They were first used in the 1960s to fly reconnaissance missions in Vietnam after the US air force suffered several losses from surface to air missiles. Drones were also used during the Cold War to spy on the Soviet Union, though instead of beaming the pictures back to their operators, they had to eject them physically. They were further developed by the Israelis, who used them to spy on their Arab neighbours during their many wars. Their next development was during the Gulf War, when they broadcast back to their operators real-time images of the battlefields they were surveying.

Apart from drones, the article also covered a number of other war machines under development. This included remotely operated ground vehicles like SARGE, and the Mobility Module and remotely controlled buggy shown below.

robot-army-cars

SARGE was a scout vehicle adapted from a Yamaha four-wheel drive all-terrain jeep. Like the drones, it was remotely controlled by a human operator. The top photo of the two above showed the Mobility Module mounted aboard another army vehicle, which contained a number of reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition sensors. Below it is a missile launcher fixed to another remote-control buggy. The article also carried a photo of a Rockwell Hellfire missile being launched from another of this type of adapted vehicle.

robot-army-car-missile

Next to this was a photo of the operator in his equipment, who controlled the Tele-Operated Vehicle, or TOV, as the developers were calling such machines.

robot-army-car-operator

Another of the machines described in the article was the Telepresent Rapid Aiming System, a robot gun designed by Graham Hawkes and Precision Remotes of California as a sentry robot. As the article itself notes, it’s similar to the tunnel machine guns used by the Space Marines in the film Aliens. It could either be operated by remote control, or made fully automatic and configured to shoot live ammunition. At the time the article was written it had already been tested by a number of different law enforcement agencies.

The only vaguely humanoid robot was the Robart III, shown below.

robot-solider

This machine was able to track a target automatically using its video vision, and possessed laser guidance to allow it to be operated remotely. In demonstrations it carried a pneumatic dart gun, capable of firing tranquillizer darts at intruders. In combat situations this would be replaced with a machine gun. It was designed to be used as a mechanical security guard.

The article also stated that miniature crawling robots were also under development. These would be used to creep up on enemy positions, sending back to their operators video images of their progress. If such machines were mass-produced, their price could fall to about £10. This would mean that it would be easily affordable to saturate an area with them. (pp. 56-7).

The article describes the state of development of these machines as it was nearly 20 years ago. Drones are now so widespread, that they’ve become a nuisance. I’ve seen them in sale in some of the shops in Cheltenham for anything from £36 to near enough £400. Apart from the military, they’re being used by building surveyors and archaeologists.

And while robots like the above might excite enthusiasts for military hardware, there are very serious issues with them. The Young Turks, Secular Talk and Jimmy Dore have pointed out on their shows that Bush and Obama have violated the American constitution by using drones to assassinate terrorists, even when they are resident in friendly or at least non-hostile countries. Despite all the talk by the American army about ‘surgical strikes’, these weapons in fact are anything but precise instruments that can kill terrorists while sparing civilians. The three programmes cited, along with no doubt many other shows and critics, have stated that most of the victims of drone attacks are civilians and the families of terrorists. The drones may be used to home in on mobile signals, so that the person killed has been someone using their phone, rather than the terrorists themselves. Others have been worried about the way the operation of these weapons through remote control have distanced their human operators, and by extension the wider public, from the bloody reality of warfare.

Way back in the first Gulf War, one of the French radical philosophers in his book, The Gulf War Never Happened, argued that the extensive use of remotely controlled missiles during the war, and the images from them that were used in news coverage at the time, meant that for many people the Gulf War was less than real. It occurred in Virtual Reality, like a simulation in cyberspace. Recent criticism of the military use of drones as killing machines by whistleblowers have borne out these fears. One, who was also an instructor on the drone programme, described the casual indifference to killing, including killing children, of the drone pilots. They referred to their actions as ‘mowing the lawn’, and their child victims as ‘fun-sized terrorists’, justifying their deaths by arguing that as the children of terrorists, they would have grown up to be terrorists themselves. Thus they claimed to have prevented further acts of terrorism through their murder. And they did seem to regard the operation of the drones almost as a video game. The instructor describes how he threw one trainee off the controls after he indulged in more, unnecessary bloodshed, telling him, ‘This is not a computer game!’

And behind this is the threat that such machines will gain their independence to wipe out or enslave humanity. This is the real scenario behind Dr Kevin Warwick’s book, March of the Machines, which predicts that by mid-century robots will have killed the majority of humanity and enslaved the rest. A number of leading scientists have called for a halt on the development of robot soldiers. About 15 or twenty years ago there was a mass outcry from scientists and political activists after one government announced it was going to develop fully autonomous robot soldiers.

I’m a fan of the 2000 AD strip, ‘ABC Warriors’, which is about a group of robot soldiers, who now fight to ‘increase the peace’, using their lethal skills to rid the galaxy of criminals and tyrants and protect the innocent. The robots depicted in the strip are fully conscious, intelligent machines, with individual personalities and their own moral codes. The Frontiers article notes elsewhere that we’re a long way from developing such sophisticated AI, stating that he did not believe he would see it in his lifetime. On the other hand, Pat Mills, the strips’ writer and creator, says in the introduction to one of the collected volumes of the strips on the ‘Volgan War’, that there is a Russian robot, ‘Johnny 5’, that looks very much like Mechquake, the stupid, psychopathic robot bulldozer that appeared in the strip and its predecessor, ‘Robusters’. None of the machines under development therefore have the humanity and moral engagement of Hammerstein, Ro-Jaws, Mongrol, Steelhorn, Happy Shrapnel/ Tubalcain, Deadlok or even Joe Pineapples. The real robotic killing machines now being developed and used by the military represent a real threat to political liberty, the dehumanisation of warfare, and the continuing safety of the human race.

Secular Talk: Clip of Maggie Thatcher Praising Mujahideen in 1981

September 14, 2016

This is another sharp reminder of how much of the present mess the world’s in can be directly traced back to the policies of Maggie Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Despite the fact that both are great, molten gods against whom no word must be spoken amongst Conservatives over here and Republicans in the US. Kyle Kulinski begins the segment by showing a clip of Maggie Thatcher praising the mujahideen in Afghanistan in 1981, calling them freedom fighters, stating that they have the support of everyone who believes in freedom back in Britain, and promising another £2 million. In case viewers get confused, and believes that this is part of the kind of conspiracies Alex Jones regularly screams about on Infowars, that it’s all some kind of establishment plot with the Devil and UFO aliens to destroy and enslave the world, Kulinski supplies some context. This was a time when the USSR had invaded Afghanistan, and working on the assumption that ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’, America, Britain and the west started funding the militant Islamists to fight a proxy war.

Kulinski uses the clip to make the point that just as that error of judgement had disastrous consequences for decades after, so we’re making the same mistakes now. America and the west are still supporting hardline, intolerant Islam in the form of Saudi Arabia and Erdogan’s Turkey. Saudi Arabia is vehemently intolerant, and is responsible for the spread of the brutal Islamist ideology. And the US and the west are also supporting the Islamists, in the form of the al-Nusrah Front, which is another branch of al-Qaeda, in Syria. Why? Because Assad is allied with Iran, the West’s enemy, and also the Russians, who, despite the Fall of Communism, are still our enemy.

We haven’t learned anything. Kulinski points this out as a rejoinder for those right-wingers, who rant about the ‘regressive left’. No, it’s not the Left, who are making the same mistakes.

He also produces a few more embarrassing photos. One shows Ronald Reagan meeting members of the Mujahideen in the White House. The other is a newspaper article from 1983 praising Osama bin Laden as a religious warrior ‘on the road to peace’.

Kulinski responds to his critics, who have accused him of ignoring Islam as the source of this violence, by stating that he is very much aware that extremist, fundamentalist Islam is part of the problem. However, there are ways to counteract it, without bombing anyone. Like freezing the Islamists’ bank accounts, and not selling them arms. He illustrates this point with a newspaper headline about 90 per cent of people killed by drones being the wrong people.

Everything Kulinski says in this video is absolutely correct. But he could also have gone further. Reagan and the rest of his gang of New Cold War thugs at the time were told what would happen by the Russians. The Russian ambassador actually told one of Reagan’s team responsible for arming and funding the mujahideen that after they’d finished with the Russians, they’d come for the Americans. The Soviet ambassador was exactly right. This is precisely what happened with the attacks on the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon and the White House on 9/11. The Reagan’s hagiographers cannot say the old butcher wasn’t told.

And as Kulinski says, nothing’s changed in the meantime. The Tories are still following this murderous, stupid policy. The I newspaper today has reminded everyone that David Cameron is responsible for the current mess in Libya. But he was also one of those backing further airstrikes in Syria, though Private Eye has pointed out that he tended to send the planes in only at times when someone else, usually the Americans, had complained that Britain wasn’t doing enough.

And as Mike has pointed out in his critique of today’s report on Cameron’s legacy in Syria, that’s only one disaster for which he’s responsible. His whole administration was responsible for other persecution and suffering in Britain, amongst the poor, the disabled, the unemployed and the working class, who he has impoverished and exploited with welfare cuts and the imposition of highly exploitative working practices.

Which also follows a long Tory tradition, going all the way back to Maggie Thatcher and beyond.

It’s high time they were thrown out of power, and replaced with an administration genuinely determined to improve the lives of the unemployed, the sick and working people in Britain, and use peaceful means to stamp out the spread of murderous extremism abroad.

Counterpunch: Obama Will Not Permit American Chilcot Inquiry

July 10, 2016

After the Chilcot inquiry finally released its report this week, which found that Tony Blair had misled parliament and the British people into a bloody and illegal war in Iraq, some parts of the American left are bitter that there will not be a similar inquiry and condemnation of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and co in the Land of the Free. This is due to Obama and the Democrats, who have shown themselves every bit as hawkish and Bush’s Republican administration, which started the War. Kyle Kulinski of Secular Talk has pointed out how Obama, despite his initial anti-war rhetoric, has been every bit as zealous in continuing the war, including assassination by drone, as his Republican predecessors. This is highly ironic, and once again shows the how farcical the decisions of the Nobel Committee are, as Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. As indeed was Henry Kissinger, despite the Nixon presidency’s support for every extreme-right Fascist butcher and mass murderer across the world from South America to Indonesia, including horrific bombing campaigns in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

Obama was able to position himself as the peace candidate against Shrillary, as he had been in the Senate at the time Bush declared war, and so couldn’t vote against it. Once in power, however, he passed legislation ruling out any future prosecution of Bush and co for starting the conflict.

In this piece in Counterpunch, John Stauber comments on how the Democrats as well as the Republicans gave their support to the war in Iraq. Clinton, Kerry and Biden, the leading Democrats, voted for the war in 2002. The progressive faction in the Democrats, MoveOn, also worked with Nancy Pelosi to maintain public support for the war. It could have been a powerful voice for peace. Stauber also mentions a book by another journalist, David Barstow, which revealed how the Bush administration had run the ‘Pentagon Pundits Programme’, in which the major US TV networks put on the air retired military analysts, who recited the material they were fed by the White House to broadcast pro-war propaganda. Despite work by himself, Barstow and other journalists exposing the lies of the press and the political parties, Stauber observes that most Americans are still unaware of all this, and continue to believe the lies of Saddam Hussein possessing weapons of mass destruction.

Stauber concludes

So no Chilcot type investigation for America, the source of the war. 13 years after the launch of the illegal, first-strike offensive attack that created ISIS and has killed and displaced millions, some are asking why not. Blame Obama the peace poser and his pro-war Democrats. American Exceptionalism strikes again.

The original article is at: http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/07/07/wheres-the-us-chilcot-report-blame-obama-hillary-biden-and-kerry/

This should be a source of major discontent in America. Already voices are being raised in radical news organisations like The Young Turks and elsewhere that the Democrats and their presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, are showing themselves to be every bit as corrupt, corporatist and pro-war as the Republicans. Despite Bernie Sanders’ attempts to drum up support for Clinton, many of those on the American left are severely disappointed and alienated from the Democrat party. They are also becoming increasingly disillusion with the broader American political system, which permits only two parties to dominate the political landscape, and which has been careful doctored to maintain the interests of corporate big business against the needs of the American people.

Counterpunch Article on the History of British Imperial Domination in Iraq

July 9, 2016

This is a bit of background information to the current political situation in Iraq, and the report of the Chilcot inquiry damning Tony Blair for taking us into war with that country.

Garikai Chengu’s article in Counterpunch discusses the century or so of British domination of Iraq following the 1912 Cairo conference, convened by Britain and France to define their territories in the Middle East following the dismantlement of the Ottoman Empire. Britain took over what is now Jordan, and Iraq. He notes that the pattern of ethnic violence in the country was set when Britain merged the three separate Ottoman provinces for the Kurds, Sunni and Shia. He describes the brutal methods employed by us to suppress the rebellion against British rule that broke out in 1920. To force Iraq’s Sunnis and Shias into submission, Churchill destroyed whole villages, targeting both civilians, including women and children, as well as soldiers and using poisoned gas. He describes the way Britain saw air power as the decisive instrument for securing their dominance, which prefigured the use of drones in Afghanistan in this century. British continued to hold power in Iraq until long after the Second World War and the formal grant of independence in 1932. He also discusses the establishment of British Petroleum, BP, the British oil company, and its strategic importance exploiting Iraqi oil to fuel the British navy. Despite a revolution in 1958, we and the Americans aided Saddam Hussein’s ascent to power in 1963, and continued backing him both militarily and with intelligence during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s. Part of this aid included covert British funding for a chemical plant that the British government knew would be used to manufacture chemical weapons against the wishes and cognizance of the Americans. He also discusses the half a million Iraqis, who perished due to the sanctions imposed by Britain and America, many of them children.

Chengu also remarks on the similarities between the British occupation of Iraq in 1917 and the 2003 invasion, and the way the latter was sold to the public on the basis of non-existent threats. In both invasions, the British posed as liberators, not invaders. He also remarks on the mushrooming of suicide bombings in a nation that previously had none. He also discusses Robin Cook’s explanation of the term al-Qaeda in his resignation speech. It is an Arabic abbreviation of the term for ‘the database’, and refers to the database of Islamist radicals funded and supported by the Americans as mujahidin in the proxy war in Afghanistan with the Russians.

The article concludes with Chengu’s judgement that this may be Britain’s greatest longstanding foreign policy failure.

From Churchill to Blair: How British Leaders Have Destroyed Iraq for Over a Century

Jeremy Corbyn on the Chilcot Report in Counterpart

July 7, 2016

Counterpunch, the American radical Left magazine, has published a transcript of Jeremy Corbyn’s remarks to parliament on the Chilcot report yesterday. Mr Corbyn duly pays tribute to the hundreds of British servicemen and women, who have been killed in Iraq, as well as the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. He states the war was not, as Chilcot has concluded a last resort, and it has vindicated the 1.5 million people across the whole spectrum of British society and politics, who marched against the war. He mentions specifically in this the late Labour politician, Robin Cook. He describes the way the war destroyed Iraq, and the lethal sectarianism that it has provoked. He also reminds parliament that those who marched against the war knew how terrible Saddam Hussein’s regime was, and had protested against it, when Thatcher’s government had been supporting it. They protested against the war because they knew that Hussein’s Iraq was not a threat and the pretexts offered in the report were ‘flimsy’. He states that the principle cause of the war was the desire to follow the Americans into a conflict that was both unprovoked and colonial, and cites the general Major General Michael Laurie, who said that the army knew at the time that the dossier was to make the case for war, rather to produce unbiased evidence. Corbyn also makes several recommendations to prevent such a situation occurring again. This include great supervision of the security and intelligence services, strengthening the position of the cabinet, and giving parliament the ultimate power over the decision to go to war. He also wants greater legal controls and supervision over drone strikes.

Corbyn in his statement before the House mentioned that he had been meeting the families of some of the British servicemen and women killed during the War, as well as Iraqis, and was going on afterwards to meet more of them. He also announced his intention to consult the British public and Iraqis about the decision to send this country to war.

The article is at: http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/07/06/the-iraq-war-was-an-act-of-military-aggression-launched-on-a-false-pretext-on-the-chilcot-inquiry-report/ It deserves to be read.

Corbyn is, of course, entirely right, though his remarks are likely to provoke opposition. Lobster, the parapolitics magazine, has argued from its very beginning that the intelligence services, including British, are out of control. In the case of Britain, they are at best incompetent, at worst, murderous, as shown by their collusion in a ‘dirty war’ of assassination and extra-judicial execution of Irish nationalists in Northern Ireland.

As for strengthening parliament and the cabinet, the Tories themselves complained at the way Tony Blair was intent on reducing the powers of both, to create a powerful, centralised ‘presidential’ post of Prime Minister. Nevertheless, they will oppose his demands to make parliament, not the prime minister, responsible for the decision to go to war. I’ve already found a book written by a Tory MP against such a proposition in Waterstones. I can’t remember the title, nor the author, but its argument was that taking the decision away from the Prime Minister would weaken the country’s ability to defend itself. I can see the logic behind it, but I think it comes from that part of the Tory party that still hankers after imperial glory, when Britain’s armies conquered one sixth of the world’s land area. I also think that while it might slow down decisions to go to war, it would make such decisions much more democratic and, more importantly, correct, both morally and for reasons of national security. After all, Blair’s invasion of Iraq demonstrates the powerful reasons for this. It was undemocratic, and not justified either morally or for reasons of national security. Hussein was a thug, but he was not a threat. Other Middle Eastern nations regarded his regime as a joke. The decision to go to war was made purely on cynical, economic and political grounds, in which plundering the country of its oil and profitable state industries figured largely.

A stronger parliament and cabinet may not prevent such unjust wars happening again, but they will be another constitutional check in the British system of constitutional checks, to make such arbitrary and bloody decisions less likely.

Democracy Now! On the Failings of Media ‘Terrorism’ Pundits

May 9, 2016

This is a very relevant and serious piece from Democracy Now! In it, the two anchors talk to Glenn Greenwald and Lisa Stampnitzky, a social studies professor at Harvard and author of the book, Disciplining Terror, about how those, who appear on Fox News and the rest of the media claiming to be experts on terrorism actually aren’t. Greenwald and Stampnitzky point out that there is considerable academic disagreement about what constitutes ‘terror’ and ‘terrorism’, and that often the people credited with being experts are only called such because other media pundits have so called them.

They talk about some of the ludicrous statements made about Muslim terrorists, such as by Emerson, the Fox News pundit, who appeared on the Janine Pirro show talking about how Europe was riddled with Muslim no-go zones. He became notorious, and just about universally ridiculed over this side of the Pond as he claimed that Birmingham was one such Muslim state-within-a-state, and that non-Muslims didn’t go in there. To make this guy’s humiliation complete, they also play the section of the interview he gave on the Beeb, in which he had to admit he didn’t know what he was talking about, and that the interviewer asked him if he knew that David Cameron had called him ‘an idiot’.

There’s another, similar incident, where an American news anchor, talking to the director, Kohlmann, about his movie, The Al-Qaeda Plan, asks him if, after he talks about how al-Qaeda isn’t really understood, because it emerged in a part of the world with which most Americans are not familiar, and whose language they don’t speak, he’s now going to go to some of the places that he’s featured in his movie and learn Arabic. Kohlmann’s reply is to state that he has a degree in Islam, and speaks some Arabic, though he’s not fluent. He also says that it’s very, very difficult now to get into Pakistan.

Greenwald also points out that throughout history there’s been much debate over what constitutes ‘terrorism’. He cites the work of a French academic, who pointed out that the term really only came into widespread use in the late 60s and 70s, when it was used by the Israelis to universalise Arab attacks on them. They used to term to present their anti-terror campaign as part of a wider defence of the West against the threat of Islam. Greenwald also states that there has also been many, many attempts by the Western military and politicians to define terrorism in such a way, that they can use it to delegitimise the use of violence by their enemies, without having it applied to their own violence, or that of their allies. These definitions have also failed. He states controversially that at the moment, ‘terrorism’ simply means any act of violence committed by a Muslim.

The Democracy Now! anchors and Greenwald also discuss how the term really is only applied to Muslims, and that when terrorist acts are committed by White Christians, they are described in other terms – the perpetrators are insane, or loners, or whatever. An example of this was Timothy McVeigh’s terrible attack on the federal building in Oklahoma in the 1990s. Before it was discovered precisely who did it, it was briefly described as a ‘terrorist’ attack. Two of the suspects had Arab names, though it turned out these were just taxi drivers, who had gone there to have their licences renewed. When it was discovered that McVeigh, a White Christian, had committed the atrocity, the ‘terrorism’ label was dropped.

Similarly, Louis Stark, an extreme right-wing anti-tax nut also flew a plane into a government building. Again, when it was believed that this might be the work of Muslims, the attack was described as ‘terrorism’. When it was again found out that it was a White, Christian American, who was responsible, it again stopped being described as terrorism.

Here’s the video:

In Britain, the use of the term ‘terrorism’ is rather broader. It was used, for instance, to describe the atrocities committed by the paramilitaries in Northern Ireland. I also think it’s been used to describe the violence committed by the Basque separatist group, ETA, and in the 1970s to describe bombings and other attacks by Leftist extremist groups, like the French Action Direct and the Baader-Meinhof Gang in Germany. But nevertheless, the central point – that it’s only terrorism if it’s been committed by a Muslim – has been made by others as well as Democracy Now! I think the liberals over at The Young Turks have also discussed this issue.

Now, the violent attacks by al-Qaeda, ISIS, and other Islamist groups, like Boko Haram in Nigeria, are horrendous and truly deserve to be described as terrorism. But the term can also be applied to attacks by the West and its allies in the Middle East. The Young Turks have commented many times on the illegality of Obama’s drone strikes, and pointed out that they would be greeted with howls of outrage if a Muslim or foreign government carried them out against, say the KKK on American soil. Similarly, the Saudis’ targeting of Shi’a civilians in their attacks on supposed ‘terrorists’ in Yemen are another example of a type of terrorism, that isn’t described as such. And the Democracy Now! programme points out how the term terrorism was not used to describe the Contras and the other South American death squads supported by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.

Terrorism, as they point out, is a highly emotive, value-laden term, and the people appearing as experts on it on the news by and large, according to the programme, just recycle American government propaganda. The lesson is that you have to be careful, not just about how trustworthy the experts are, but also about the way the term ‘terrorism’ is being deliberately used in a way to stigmatize America’s enemies, while avoiding what’s committed by America, and its allies, including us in Britain.