Posts Tagged ‘Gulf States’

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

November 14, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it worked.

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

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

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

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

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

The article concludes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Secular Talk: Candidate for Trump’s Secretary of State Wants War with Iran

November 19, 2016

Unfortunately, the Neocons demanding war with Iran, along with just about every other opposing, or simply independent country, in the Middle East didn’t die with Killary’s campaign for the presidency.

In this piece from Secular Talk, host Kyle Kulinski talks about how John Bolton, one of the potential candidates for Trump’s secretary of state, has made a speech demanding ‘regime change in Tehran’. Bolton blames the Iranians for destabilising the Middle East. Kulinski points out how ludicrous and hypocritical Bolton’s views are. He begins with the point America and the West are now at war with seven countries in the Middle East, including boots on the ground. Bolton was one of the worst of the warmongers. Unlike many others, he still supports the Iraq invasion. Kulinski states ironically that Bolton never met a war he didn’t like. Kulinski goes on to explain how we, America and the West, have destabilised the Middle East. As for Iran, it’s a Shi’a theocracy, but Kulinski accurately states that it is far more liberal and progressive than Saudi Arabia. He doesn’t like the horrific Islamic theocracy in Iran, but also explains that the majority of the population is much younger, under thirty, and more secular than the dinosaurs that rule over them. Again, true.

Kulinski also explains how the Shi’a are a tiny minority in the Middle East, and are under attack everywhere. They have the Israelis on one side of them, and the Saudis on the other. And what about countering their destabilisation of the region? Israel, for example, invaded Lebanon in order to expand its influence, and continues to build illegal settlements to push out the Palestinians. The Saudis have invaded Yemen to attack the Shi’a there. And Qatar and the other Sunni states are funding al-Qaeda, so that they will overthrow Assad in Syria. But no, according to Bolton, it’s the Iranians, not these, who are primarily responsible for the chaos and carnage in the region.

Kulinski also describes how Bolton has blithely made this demand for war with Iran, without even thinking about whether the American people themselves want another war. Usually governments need to build up a propaganda campaign to prepare the public’s mood for war. But no, not this time. Bolton and his friends simply aren’t bothered about that. They’ll just steal Americans’ money through taxation to fund yet another war that no-one except them wants.

Kulinski concludes by stating that if Bolton is picked by Trump as his secretary of state, or even remains in Trump’s circle of advisors, it means that Trump wasn’t serious about keeping America out of further conflicts. Of course, there’s a chance that Trump may keep him as an advisor, but not listen to him. Similarly, if Trump doesn’t pick him, or anyone like him, to be secretary of state, then perhaps there is a chance for America to avoid going into another war.

This is another stupid, horrendous pronouncement by yet another Republican fossil. Again, it ultimately seems to go back to the Neocon plans under Bush, to overthrow a series of regimes in the Middle East, including Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya and Somalia. The result has been an unmitigated disaster. Iraq is now a warzone. As we saw this week, ISIS is determined to smash as much of the regimes precious heritage as it can. After destroying immeasurably valuable antiquities from the dawn of civilisation in Syria and Iraq, it carried out another assault on the Iraqi people’s ancient civilisation by levelling one of the country’s ziggurats. These barbarians have been funded by Saudi Arabia, in its campaign to spread its extremely repressive, intolerant brand of Islam across the world. The Iraqis weren’t responsible for 9/11: it was Saudi Arabia. But the Neocons and Likud wanted Iraq invaded. The Likudniks despised Saddam Hussein because he supplied the Palestinians with guns, while the Saudis and Neocons just wanted to the loot the country of its oil industry and other potentially valuable state assets.

Now, apparently, they want to do this to Iran. The mullahs are unpleasant. They’re extremely corrupt, intolerant and repressive. But they aren’t as corrupt and intolerant as the Saudis. Unlike Saudi Arabia, the Iranian theocracy does include a democratic element. Every so many years, the Iranian people vote for a president. I got the impression that in many respects, it’s pretty much Hobson’s choice, in that there’s little ideological difference permitted between the candidates. Nevertheless, the Iranian people enjoy a measure of popular sovereignty that is denied the peoples of the Sunni absolute monarchies in the Gulf.

I also need hardly say that Iran is also an ancient land with an immensely rich cultural and artistic heritage. This was demonstrated a few years ago when the British Museum lent the Cyrus cylinder for exhibition in Iran. The cylinder records the conquests of the great Persian emperor, Cyrus, over the Babylonians. It’s valuable because it documents how he freed the Israelites from their exile, and allowed them to return to Israel and Judea. This heritage would also be seriously threatened if the Americans decide to invade, just like the heritage of Iraq.

One of the causes for the present chaos in Iraq is the fact that the country is an artificial creation of the imperial powers, in this case, Britain during the Mandate in the 1920s. It does not have a uniform population, but is composed of different tribal groups and sects, including Kurds, Shi’a and Sunni Muslims, Christians and the Mandaeans, a small Gnostic sect that reveres John the Baptist as the true messiah. Iran similarly is composed of a multitude of different peoples. Just over half – 52 per cent – speak Farsi, the language derived from ancient Persia. There are also a number of other different tribes, speaking languages related to Turkish, Arabs in Khuzistan in the West, and Kurds, Lurs and Bakhtiars in their homelands. Three per cent of the population are Armenian Christians, and there are also Parsees, the followers of the ancient religion of the Persian Empire, Zoroastrianism, a monotheist faith centred around the teachings of the prophet Zoroaster. The Kurds have been fighting a war for their independence since the 1970s, just as they have in Iraq and Turkey. Iran was also the birthplace of the Baha’i faith, which claims that Baha’ullah, an Iranian religious of the 1920s, was a prophet. Baha’ullah and his followers were exiled to Haifa, in what is now Israel, when it was still part of the Turkish empire. Because of this, the Baha’i’s are under considerable pressure and suspicion as agents of Israel, intent on destroying Islam and Iran. It’s nonsense, but it has been strongly promoted by the authorities, with the result that there have been terrible pogroms and persecution against them.

There is also a massive underground Christian church in Iran. Although its comparable to the underground Christian churches in China, you’ve probably never heard of it. This is made up of Iranians, who have secretly converted from Islam. They too are under immense persecution as apostates. I’ve heard that the situation has go to the point, where the government is posting guards at the Armenian Christian churches to try and keep the Iranians away. If America invades, it will result in the same ethnic conflict and civil war that has turned neighbouring Iraq into a bloodbath. And just as the Christian populations of the Middle East are being massacred and cleansed from the regions by the Islamists, along with other, non-Muslim religions like the Yezidis and moderate Muslims, who want tolerance and peaceful coexistence, so my fear is that if the West attacks Iran, it will intensify the brutal persecution of Christians there.

Apart from this, Iran is a modern, relatively developed and sophisticated country. It was the most developed economy in the Middle East during the Shah’s reign. He tried to industrialise the country. One of his aims was for Iran to equal France as a producer of cars. The Iranians had their own car, the Payhan, and he very nearly pulled this off. Even now Iran is significantly involved in scientific research. I was surprised looking at some of the videos on YouTube on robotics to find that, alongside Britain, America, Japan and China, the Iranians have also developed a humanoid machine. Perhaps I shouldn’t be too surprised. The Middle East was the homeland of the Banu Musa brothers, who in the 11th century created a hundred or more automata and other ‘ingenious desires’. The country is also far more tolerant artistically than Saudi Arabia. More than a decade and a half ago, about the turn of the century, the Iranian government staged an exhibition of the works of the YBAs, including Damian Hirst and Tracey Emin.

Just as the invasion of Iraq wasn’t about liberating the Iraqi people and giving them democracy, this isn’t about bringing peace and freedom to the beleaguered people of Iran. This is just another, cynical excuse for us to grab their oil. We did it before. In the 1950s Mossadeq, the last democratically elected Iranian prime minister, nationalised the country’s oil industry, which had previously been in the hands of foreigners, principally us, the British. BP used to be Anglo-Persian Oil, and was set up to exploit the Iranian oil fields. And we did exploit them and the Iranian workers. They were paid less than British workers, and worked in appalling conditions. After Mossadeq nationalised the oil companies, America organised a coup, which we also backed, to overthrow him. I think Mossadeq was a Baha’i, and this was used to mobilise suspicion against him. His removal from power resulted in the Shah assuming total, autocratic control, complete with a secret police, SAVAK, who were brutal thugs. This in turn created rising discontent, which eventually culminated in the Islamic Revolution in 1979. The regime renationalise the oil industry, the date of which is now an official state holiday.

Bush and his fellow Neocons deluded themselves that they would be welcomed as liberators in Iraq. They weren’t. Corinne de Souza, one of Lobster’s contributors, whose father was Iraqi, made the point that one of the consequences of the invasion was that there were fewer Iraqis willing to cooperate with the British intelligence services. This was for a simple reason: they were like everyone else, and loved their country. They were prepared to help us, as they believed that we would liberate them from Saddam Hussein. But they did not want to collaborate with an occupying force. I’ve no doubt that the same will be true of the Iranians, if Trump goes ahead and appoints this idiot as head of state.

A few years ago, before Obama’s election, Bush and his circle of mass-murderers were indeed considering invading Iran. Shirin Ebadi’s book, Iran on the Brink, which describes rising discontent in Iran against the mullahs, strongly argued against her country’s invasion. Protest groups were also being formed. There was one organising meetings in Clifton in Bristol, as I recall. For a few years, that threat seemed to pass. Now it is come back.

There are now so many wars being fought by America and its allies in the Middle East, that one of the ghastly monsters from Bush’s cabinet actually lost count when he was asked that very question in an interview on American television. And the disgusting so-and-so even had the gall to laugh it off and chuckle about it, as if the murder of whole nations was some kind of joke.

And this comes just as NATO is moving more troops and missiles into Estonia, just in case Putin invades. Killary looked all set to start a war with Russia by stoking tensions there up to levels where some feared we were at the same point the great powers were just before the First World War. I think that threat receded slightly when Trump became president. Trump is a disgusting monster, but he does seem to be friends with Putin, and I’m sure that has helped defuse some of the tensions.

Now we have this despicable moron demanding more carnage. I do wonder where it will all end. How many countries have to be invaded, how many millions murdered, how many people forced out of their homes, to live in camps as refugees? How many of our brave young men and women have be sacrificed to the greed of the oil companies before this all stops? Is there really no end to these politicos’ lust for others’ blood?

This is a situation that will have to be watched very carefully. And I’ll keep an eye out also for any groups being formed to stop war with Iran.

Vox Political on Sadiq Khan’s Rebuff to Donald Trump

May 10, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has also written a piece about the rebuff by the new Labour mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to Donald Trump. Trump would like to ban Muslims from entering America, but has said that there would be exceptions. Including Mr Khan, whom he would be happy to see enter the Land of the Free. Khan has said clearly that he would not go to America if such a ban was in place, not while it discriminates against his friends, his family, and others like him. He attacked Trump’s proposal as divisive, and pointed out that it could alienate moderate Muslims. He also stated that Trump’s idea that Islam was incompatible with western liberal values was wrong.

Mike states that Mr Khan is right, and his ban on Muslims is divisive and dangerous. See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/05/10/khan-is-right-to-rebuff-ignorant-donald-trump/

Of course, Khan’s right. No self-respecting member of any ethnic, national or religious group would want to go to a country that discriminates against their people. I am aware, though, of the people from all over the world, who go to work in the brutally intolerant nations of the Gulf States. In the case of the migrant workers from the Developing World, they’re driven by the sheer necessity to find work in the face of terrible, grinding poverty. For Mr Khan and people like him, the situation is somewhat different. I used to work with a Black historian, who strongly disliked America because of that country’s long history of racism. The man didn’t hate Whites, as some might allege because of this. He had a White wife and friends. But he was concerned about how he might be treated in the more prejudiced parts of the country, and about the way the country had treated people of colour like him.

And going to America under a Trump presidency is not an option for Mr Khan as a British Muslim politician. It would create division and play into the hands of extremists. The fire-breathing preachers of hate, like the wretched Anjem Chaudhury, sneer at moderate, liberal Muslims as ‘chocolate Muslims’, their term for an Islamic ‘Uncle Tom’. If Khan went to America, he’d get this label, and with a certain amount of justification. And as a result, the hands of the extremists – the preachers of hate, who encourage the young, impressionable, naïve and just plain stupid to kill, and maim and rape, or destroy their lives and those of innocents in suicide bombings, would be strengthened immensely.

No true citizen of a diverse, multicultural world city like London would ever want that for their city, let alone a genuinely responsible leader. Khan’s right to turn the coiffured buffoon down. So, I hope, will the people of America at the forthcoming elections. Trump’s a Nazi demagogue, playing on racist fears and insecurities. The American people deserve far better.

The Young Turks on ISIS’ Destruction of Ancient Assyrian Remains

March 16, 2015

This morning I blogged about ISIS’ destruction of priceless and irreplaceable antiquities from ancient Assyria. I compared it to concerns by the local people about the excavation of ancient Assyrian statues of the winged bulls in Mosul by Austin Henry Layard in the 19th century. Layard had, however, been able to allay local fears about the identity of the remains by assuring the local governor that it was not the remains of the Nimrod, mentioned in both the Bible and the Qu’ran. After allowing the excitement produced by the discovery of this massive monument to subside, Layard was able to go back to excavating it quietly.

I also mentioned some of the issues involved in archaeology in the Developing World, and particularly the Islamic nations. As much of the investigations are done by Western organisations, these can be resented as forms of Western imperialist interference. The excavation of pre-Islamic civilisation in the Gulf States can also be delicate, as this period is regarded as the Juhailiyya, the period of ignorance or darkness before the appearance of Mohammed and Islam. The Saudi authorities have sponsored excavation of the ancient civilisations, but archaeologists still have to be careful to avoid causing religious offence.

This is another video from The Young Turks. They discuss the destruction of the artefacts, and make several very good points. First of all, the smashing of these artefacts, although horrendous, is not as atrocious as the mass death that has been caused by the Western invasion and the ensuing carnage.

Secondly, the whole point of the exercise is provoke American and her allies into overreacting and responding with violence. This will, they hope, lead to further disaffection and give them further support. It is absolutely vital that we do not do so, but give a measured response designed to win hearts and minds. Only that way will ISIS be truly defeated.

The Grim Reality Behind First World War Enlistment

April 4, 2014

WWI Poster

World War I Recruitment Poster, playing on the British love of sport

Yesterday I posted a sample of the great artwork from the strip, ‘The Coward’s War’, from the anti-First World War graphic novel anthology, To End All Wars. I also criticised Jeremy Paxman’s comments made a few weeks ago during his recent tour of the Gulf State. Newsnight’s long-running anchor had complained that today’s young people lacked the idealism and patriotism that had moved their great-grandfathers to volunteer for the War. He declared that most of today’s kids wouldn’t know what to do if they were put in trench. In his opinion, they’d probably just photograph it with their mobiles rather than do anything useful. I argued in the piece that if today’s young people don’t have the ideals of the Victorian and Edwardian predecessors, it’s because history has shown that all too often those ideals merely resulted in imperialist wars of oppression and exploitation.

I also received two comments on the post from Ulysses and Jess pointing out that the men, who volunteered to fight were hardly motivated by patriotism. The reason instead was to escape the grinding poverty and harsh unemployment conditions of Britain a century ago.

Ulysses stated

After reading The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist, i seriously doubt Patriotism was the main reason for the majority of British working class men signed up.
I gather, from reading that account, conditions on the front were immeasurably better than the struggle at home to keep body and soul together by prostituting yourself to the tender mercies of employers or the poor laws, charities and Churches of the time.
The Army gave you 3 square meals, a pair of boots that reasonably fit and weren’t 4th or 5th hand when issued, and reasonable clothing that needn’t be pawned and clawed back by hook or crook between bouts of unemployment and the choice was eat, or sell the clothes off your back.
The description of Town Councillors of that time, I could easily put contemporary names to the characters in the book the parallels are so striking, it seems as though the Local Authority have taken that work of semi fiction as a working plan on how to run a town for the last 100 years.

And as for Paxo and his views on the youth of today?
I seriously hope they’d all have more sense than to spill their blood for the ideology of the ruling classes.

Jess also commented that there was no mass voluntary enlistment, and that the soldiers who did join the army did so to escape hardship and deprivation at home.

” volunteer en masse as they did for the War”
This is an old canard beast.

Quite simply, people didn’t ‘volunteer en masse’ for WW1

No ‘reputable’ historian would still suggest they did.

There were many things that caused people to enlist….over the course of the war….But the BEF that went to France in 1914 was a professional army

It would take too long, and too much space to go into detail, but , as one example, single men, thrown out of work by the outbreak of war, were denied Unemployment Assistance unless they (guess what?)

And workhouses and labour colonies were toured by recruiting sergeants looking for ‘suitable’ recruits, until a magistrates court put a stop to that…

The fact that the myth of the British volunteering en masse for service in the War is still believed, despite being discredited by historians, shows just how desperately we do need popular treatments of the War, like the To End All Wars volume above.

I don’t really know much about the First World War, and so rely on those who know more about it than me. But Ulysses’ and Jess’ comments corroborate some of the other pieces of information I’ve also come across about the reasons men volunteered for the armed forces in Britain’s imperial heyday.

Way back in the 1980s a radical historian from South Africa or Zimbabwe – I’m afraid I’ve forgotten which – presented a controversial piece on the BBC’s history programme, Timewatch. He compared the miserably malnourished British squaddies of the time of the Zulu War, with their Zulu opponents. The average British soldier joined up to avoid starvation due to unemployment, and the lack of nourishment showed itself in their poor physiques. The army had to reduce the minimum height requirement several times until it was gradually reaching four feet simply because of the poor physical standards of the men, who were volunteering for service. He also argued that they were held in contempt by the rest of British society, as Kipling depicted in his Barrack Room Ballads with the lines

‘An’ it’s Tommy this, and Tommy that,
An’ throw him out, the brute,
But it’s the thin red line of England
When the drums begin to beat.’

Their Zulu opponents, on the other hand, were the fit, well-fed elite of their society.

This caused a storm amongst the patriotic, and the BBC said they’d received a number of angry letters in response to the programme. Nevertheless, the poor physical standard of British troops was a major concern to the late Victorian and Edwardian establishment. These years saw the emergence of the Campaign for National Efficiency, which sought to make Britain and her empire better governed, and which sought improvements throughout society. And one of its aims was to improve health and physical fitness of the British people in order to raise the physical quality of the army’s recruits. The army had been alarmed at how the Afrikaaner farmers had been able to hold off the British until defeated through sheer force of numbers and superior military equipment during the Anglo-South African War. And, it should be added, other, horrific tactics such as the imprisonment of Afrikaaner women and children in concentration camps, which has created a bitter legacy amongst some Afrikaaners towards their Anglo-South African fellow countrymen.

Back to the sample artwork from To End All Wars, it struck me that the pose adopted by firing squad at the bottom of the panel mimics the pointing finger gesture in the recruiting post at the top of the page.

Coward's War pic

Sample page from To End All Wars printed in Wednesday’s I newspaper.

It’s probably me reading too much into it – after all, this is the natural posture used to sight down a gun. Nevertheless, it seems a bitter comment on the patriotic posters like that above urging the young and idealistic to sign up for death, pain, fear and mutilation.

‘To End All Wars’ Sample Page

April 3, 2014

Coward's War pic

Page from the story ‘The Coward’s War’ from the To End All Wars Graphic Novel

Yesterday I put up a piece about the article in that day’s edition of the I newspaper reporting the publication of a new graphic novel on the First World War. Introduced by 2000 AD’s Pat Mills, the comic aims to present the grim reality of the conflict, documenting some of the challenging, embarrassing and difficult facts and attacking the jingoistic lies told about the War by Michael Gove and similar Right-wingers. The article also contained the above sample page of artwork from one of the stories, ‘The Coward’s War’, about Thomas Highgate, the first British squaddie executed for cowardice in the War. I didn’t put it up yesterday, and so here it is today. It’s credited to Jonathan Clode, writer, Matt Soffe, artist, and with lettering by Jim Campbell. Enjoy!

This is not the first time comics have taken an anti-War stance. Back in the 1990s during Gulf War I there was a strip attacking that conflict, The Unknown Deserter, if I remember correctly. I don’t know if Alan Moore is anything to do with the above anthology, but he also wrote another anti-war comic, Real War Stories. This was intended to show the horrific reality of modern conflict. Moore wrote it in connection with a conscientious objectors’ group in the US, and based it on real soldiers’ accounts of combat, such as what it feels like to be shot and so on. This volume seems to be similarly meticulously researched, as you’d expect from a creative team that includes Mills, the writer of the classic comic First World War story, Charley’s War. I’ve reblogged Mike’s story about the forthcoming graphic novel adaptation of classic First World War poetry, and the news that Mills and his artist, Hitchcock, also have another First World War project, Brothers in Arms, waiting for a publisher. With all this coming out from the funny papers, it should provide something of an antidote to some of the views on the War being broadcast by the BBC. It’s also a reminder why David Cameron’s recommendation that people should commemorate the centenary of the War’s outbreak with street parties is such colossal, tasteless and offensive nonsense. Jeremy Paxman, away on a lecture tour of the Gulf States, criticised Cameron for that.

Unfortunately, Paxo didn’t get the reason why so much of British yoof arguably wouldn’t volunteer en masse as they did for the War. A few weeks ago the I reported that Paxo had complained that in today’s climate, the army would struggle to fill a trench due to the apathy and luxury of today’s young people. He claimed that most of today’s kids really wouldn’t know what to do with a military trench, and instead of doing anything militarily useful would probably stand around taking pictures of it on their mobile phones.

This is too cynical and dismissive a view of modern kids. Right through history the older generation have complained about the immorality of the younger. One old Soviet cosmonaut, when asked how he felt about Russian young people grooving in a disco held at the Moscow Space Museum the day before the collection was due to be broken up and the Museum closed, simply remarked that they’d found a complaint about how terrible the kids of today were scribbled on a wall in Babylon. He had no desire to complain about the young lads and lasses partying the night away there, but quietly sat there with his wife enjoying the evening. It’s a good attitude.

If today’s young people aren’t as ready and willing to volunteer to fight and die for their country as they once were, it’s because history has left them with fewer illusions than that generation. The lessons of history have all too often shown that the imperialism, which the British and other Western powers viewed with pride as bringing civilisation and justice to the benighted peoples of the rest of the world was all too often simply a pretext for invasion, carnage, oppression and exploitation. And people are now far more aware of the reality of warfare – the soldiers returning home with shattered minds and missing limbs, or who simply don’t come back at all. The illusion that you can somehow have a sportsman’s war that’ll be over by Christmas is extremely difficult to maintain. Hence the way the reporting of the harsh reality of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are very carefully concealed and managed by the military and civilian authorities. The American radical magazine, Counterpunch, did a piece on this a few years ago. They noted, for example, that unlike in the Vietnam War, the journalists covering the conflict are embedded within the troops themselves, so they get to feel part of the team, and rely on them for their own personal safety. It’s all part of a strategy of managing the War’s coverage to keep it as positive as possible, and avoid the negative coverage like that which turned American public opinion against the Vietnam War.

And with Pat Mills and his fellow artists creating these strips, the lessons of what war is really like in the case of the First World War, will be brought home once more. And its going to be grim. Wilfred Owen’s piece, ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’, anthologised in To End All Wars, contains some truly horrific descriptions of what actually happened. It describes the froth spewed from a stricken trooper’s lungs after he was gassed as like a ‘cud’ and ‘a Devil’s sick of sin’. This is ugly stuff, described in beautiful poetry and doubtless with beautiful artwork that’ll do the poem justice. And the fact that Paxo doesn’t understand why so many young people after the First World War are less than enthusiastic about joining the army for another one shows how needed such comics are. Except that it’s probably not the kids who need to read them, but the older generation of the establishment looking on and castigating them for a cynicism that has been ground into them by the bleak lessons of history the elders of the establishment don’t understand or share.