Posts Tagged ‘Mark Thatcher’

Lobster on the Rise of British Mercenary Companies

October 12, 2016

This winter’s edition of Lobster carries a very interesting article, ‘Team Mercenary GB’ by Nick Must on the rise of the various mercenary companies in Britain now being hired out by governments all over the world. Most of the British mercenary companies, or, in modern parlance, Private Military Contractors, seem to have been founded by ex- or serving members of the SAS. Sometimes their founders even alluded to their former regiments in the names they gave their own private armies, such as John Banks’ Security Advisory Services, e.g., SAS. These companies have been involved in a long line of very murky dealings, including several attempts to assassinate Colonel Gaddafi. In the 1960s and 1970s they were involved in the fighting in Yemen, Angola, Congo, Oman and the notorious Biafran civil war in Nigeria. The African writers Abdel-Fatah Musah and J. ‘Kayode Fayemi note that this was a deliberate response by the colonialist regimes to counter these nations’ independent movements. They were also involved in abortive coup attempt to overthrow the government of the Seychelles. In the 1970s the City of London also got involved in the action, with several Lloyd’s syndicates offering various anti-kidnap packages.

Must’s article also describes how they have prospered by taking any worthwhile government security contracts. This has seen them provide military training for some very nasty organisations and individuals, such as Sultan Qaboos of Oman and the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, and Sri Lanka for its bloody repression of the Tamils. Major Walker’s KMS company also got into trouble for supplying arms and assistance to the Contras in Nicaragua, along with fighting with them in the capital, Managua. One of the company’s leaders, Major Brian Baty, had also caused something of an incident while in the SAS. He and a group of other SAS soldiers illegally crossed the border from Ulster into Eire, which they blamed on a map reading error. They were also embarrassed by a question Red Ken raised about an advertisement they had placed in a brochure produced by International Military Services Limited, which was involved in large-scale arms dealing, assisted with bribery.

MI5 were also closely involved with the deal between the British mercenaries and the Sri Lankan government, which not only involved the repression of dissident Tamils at home, but also in Britain. In this, the British government used them as its proxy in order to facilitate an arms deal without offending Indira Gandhi’s government in India, which supported the Tamils. The suppression of the Tamil uprising used the same tactics the British used against the IRA and other Nationalist paramilitaries in Northern Ireland – imprisonment, random beatings and assassination. This was so brutal that one of those providing the training, Robin Horsfall, left after three months as he felt that they were training the wrong side. KMS also provided military advice to the Indian government on the suppression of the Sikh paramilitary occupation of the Golden Temple of Amritsar. This ended in the Indian army storming the Temple, an act of sacrilege that is still bitterly resented by Sikhs thirty years later. It should be mentioned, however, that the eventual plan adopted was not that of KMS.

It also covers the attempt by a group of mercenaries under ‘Brigadier-General’ Simon Mann to overthrow the government of Equatorial Guinea involving Mark Thatcher. This was thwarted, and Mann imprisoned. He was released after a year, and is now providing security advice to the country’s dictator, Teodoro Obiang Nguema. Since 2011 he has also been working with another mercenary company, Moda Solutions. A previous director of this company was Des Browne, a former defence secretary, and one of its present directors is Lord Brennan, who is a QC at Cherie Blair’s Matrix Chambers. So much for her interest in human rights.

This is the first of a couple of articles, the second of which will be how the War on Terror has led to immense profits for these companies. Even limited to this period, where the mercenary companies were just beginning to develop, shows how they were involved in a series of corrupt, grubby and brutal operations for both foreign dictators and as an ‘arms-length’ instrument of the British state.

See: http://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster72/lob72-team-mercenary.pdf

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Former South African MP Andrew Feinstein on Global Arms Trade

January 2, 2016

I received this fascinating comment from Michelle Thomasson on my last post, in which I put up a meme about how the banks, businesses and governments profit from war at the expense of the people, who actually have to live, fight and die through them. She writes

In November I helped host a discussion at the House of Commons on the Ethics (!!) of the UK Arms Trade, one of the speakers was Andrew Feinstein a politician in South Africa (he worked against apartheid), but in the last 10 years has undertaken very brave research re the shadow world of the arms trade, the information he relates in this short clip is hair-raising: https://youtu.be/2F6J4Xvdkuo

For a fuller speech from him and more on the hidden dynamics within politics, here is an extended speech from Andrew a couple of weeks later at Medact:

These clips are grim, but immensely informatiove in giving an overview into how immensely profitable, pernicious and massively corrupt the global arms trade is, and how that corruption infects government at the highest possible levels. The first clip is audio only, but still well worth listening to. The second is rather long at 27 minutes, and has video. They both cover much the same ground, though the second adds a few more details, including Feinstein’s own experience as a South African politician being thrown out of government because of his opposition to a massively corrupt arms deal cut by Thabo Mbeki.

Feinstein is South African, Jewish and a former ANC politician, serving his country in its parliament for seven years. After he was forced out of government by his country’s president, he started making a documentary, The Shadow World, which is both a book and a film, on the global arms trade. He states in these clips that Europe is experiencing its highest level of militarism in peacetime for seven years. This militarism is supported by the global arms trade. The global trade in arms is worth $1.5 trillion. The small arms trade is smaller and less profitable, but worth a whopping $8.5 billion. Nevertheless, it is responsible for tens or hundreds of thousands of violent deaths through the world. The United States is the leader in this trade by a massive margin. Its arms sales make up as much as the rest of the world combined. Other leading countries involved in the trade are Germany, Britain, Japan and a number of others. As many of these countries are on the UN security council, there is a general unwillingness and inability to hold the arms trade to account. And the main customer for British weapons is Saudi Arabia, despite that country’s appalling lack of human rights.

Feinstein goes on to state that arm dealing operates on a continuum between the legal to the illegal. In practice, all arms deals involve some kind of illegality. He describes his meeting with the 77 year old man, whose fellow arms dealers described as ‘the most dangerous man alive’. After failing to track him down, he eventually found him on Facebook. This man was an unreconstructed Nazi, who began his career aged 18 in an office run by a former Nazi officer in post-War Germany. At one point the man told Feinstein to his face that many of the world’s problems would have been solved, ‘if Hitler had been able to continue his work’. Feinstein states that he didn’t tell him that as well as being Jewish, his mother was a holocaust survivor.

Feinstein asked the dealer if his Nazi views ever presented a problem in this business. The man looked at him as if he was stupid, and pulled out from his wallet a stack of cards showing that he was an official in the American Department of Defense and in USAID, the American aid agency, for Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Liberia, amongst other nations. He also stated that UN arms embargoes were good for business. He describes them as practically dollar signs, as that means the dealers can charge more.

By and large the arms dealers operate above the law. The trade comprises 40% of all corruption cases worldwide, and 50% of American corruption cases. This corruption is not incidental, but built into the trade’s very structure. It is responsible for the erosion of democracy and state’s internal stability, as well as damaging to their citizens’ health, prosperity and wellbeing. The dealers owe their massive power to the revolving door between them, the arms manufacturers, government and the civil service. This door is so fast, that its changes are impossible to track. One of Feinstein’s media colleagues tried in the US, and gave up after 18 months. And just to show how seriously the Land of the Free treats peaceful negotiation compared to the trade, there are less US diplomats across the globe than personnel on a single US aircraft carrier.

The trade is critical in securing party funding. Hence it operates in a parallel legal universe. Of the 502 violations of UN arms trading laws, only two have resulted in any legal consequences. One of these was the massive al-Yamamah arms deal between Britain and Saudi Arabia, negotiated by Thatcher, which earned her and her disgusting progeny, Mark, a nice little kickback. Mark Thatcher, aka ‘Thickie Mork’, got his own private jet, painted in whatever colour or design the little so-and-so wanted. This was being paid for by the British taxpayer until 2007. Other notorious deals included Iran/Contra, in which the Americans supplied arms to the Islamic Revolutionary Regime in Tehran, and the Contras in Nicaragua. One of the worst aspects of the arms trade is that the weapons often end up in the wrong hands, or turned against the very western countries which sold them. For example, when America started bombing Gadaffi’s Libya in the last stages of the war, the gun installations they attacked were those they had previously sold them. And immediately after the revolutions in the Middle East during the Arab Spring, Dave Cameron was in the region, including Egypt, trying to sell the new governments arms.

Feinstein also describes the massive arms deal that saw him forced out of office. He was head of the oversight committee when Mbeki struck an arms deal worth $10 billion, as well as $300 million in bribes. He was thrown out, and the two anti-corruption agencies in South Africa closed down because he refused to drop the investigation into the deal. This was an arms deal encouraged by Tony Blair. Jacob Zuma, Mbeki’s successor, was also involved, but was let off. The judge who did so was appointed to the high court two weeks later.

Feinstein includes in the final part of his talk a discussion of how arms dealing harms countries’ medical provision for their peoples. At the same time Mbeki was making his deal, he announced that there was no money for the retroviral drugs to treat those suffering from HIV. As a result, 365,000 South Africans died of AIDS in five years, and tens of thousands of babies were unnecessarily born HIV positive. Feinstein concluded his speech by stating that we needed to work to close down the trade’s massive corruption, and make sure that what remained of it was highly regulated.

Watch and listen to his talk yourself, and be informed about how vile and pernicious the trade is. The parapolitics magazine, Lobster, also has numerous articles on the arms trade and Iran/Contra, as well as criticism of Tony Blair.

Throwing Stones in Glass Houses: Cameron Criticises Miliband for Having Two Kitchens

March 14, 2015

The Tories have been demonstrating their own double standards again. Mike over at Vox Political has this story, ‘Two-kitchens Miliband’, Tories? At least he didn’t use public cash like Cameron! about the latest Conservative ad hominem attack on the Labour leader. The Tories have accused him of not really being a ‘man of the people’, because in addition to the main kitchen, he has a ‘functional kitchenette’ in his home.

As Mike points out, this is all rather hypocritical coming from team Cameron. Miliband may have two kitchens, but at least he spent his own money. Unlike Cameron, who according to the Guardian spent £680,000 of our money in 2011 renovating 10 Downing Street. And part of the money was also spent on improvements they’d made the previous summer to No. 11.

Mike’s article is at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/03/14/two-kitchens-miliband-tories-at-least-he-didnt-use-public-cash-like-cameron/. Go to it for the fuller story, plus piccies.

This is not, of course, by any means the first time the Tories have made a personal attack on a Labour leader and his domestic life. Some of us can remember how way back in the 1980s, when Kinnock was head of the party, the Sunday Express really laid into him. Part of the suggestion there was that he wasn’t the perfect father. Supposedly his children had been playing happily with a train set, until he came up to show them how it was done. He was so bad at this, that his children were supposed to have left the toys crying, leaving him the only one still using it.

My guess is that, if this incident really happened, it was pretty much has happened in thousands of families up and down Britain and across the world ever since Adam and Eve. A lot of dads try to show their kids how to work a toy properly, only to find it much harder than they thought. It’s provided material for humourists right across the generations. Like Michael Rosen’s poem, ‘My Dad’s Thicker Than Your Dad’, in which two children compete to see which of them has the most stupid father. Nothing to see here, and nothing to show that Kinnock was a bad father, or particularly incompetent either.

Of course, there was never any suggestion that Maggie and Dennis were less than the perfect parents to Carol and Thickie Mork. Mind you, I don’t think I read any story about Dennis actually playing with the children, let alone the Leaderene. Probably beneath their dignity.

Seumas Milne on Why Thatcher Should Not Be Celebrate

April 4, 2014

thatcherburn

Former PM Margaret Thatcher, whose infernal glamour still captivates the Tory faithful

Mike over at Vox Political suggested that there should be a day celebrating the life of Tony Benn as a response to the suggestion by a Tory MP that there should be a national holiday celebrating former prime minister, Margaret Thatcher.

Guardian Columnist Milne on Streep’s The Iron Lady

The Guardian’s columnist, Seumas Milne, was alarmed by the trend towards the rehabilitation of the dictator of the British bourgeoisie signalled two years ago by the release in 2012 of the Meryl Streep biopic, The Iron Lady. In his column for the fifth of January, he wrote

In opposition David Cameron tried to distance himself from her poisonous ‘nasty party’ legacy. But just as he and George Osborne embark on even deeper cuts and more far-reaching privatisation of public services than Thatcher herself managed, Meryl Streep’s The Iron Lady is about to come to the rescue of the 1980s prime minister’s reputation.

As the Hollywood actor’s startling Thatcher recreation looks down from every other bus, commenters have insisted that the film is ‘not political’. True, it doesn’t explicitly take sides in the most conflagrationary decade in postwar British politics. It is made clear that Thatcher’s policies were controversial and strongly opposed. But as director Phyllida Lloyd points out, ‘the whole story is told from her point of view…

Lloyd herself is unashamed about the film’s thrust: this is ‘the story of a great leader who is both tremendous and flawed’. Naturally, some of Thatcher’s supporters and family members have balked at the depiction of her illness.

But her authorised biographer, the High Tory Charles Moore, has no doubt about The Iron Lady’s effective political message. The Oscar-bound movie is, he declares, a ‘most powerful piece of propaganda for conservatism’. And for many people under forty, their view of Thatcher and what she represents will be formed by this film.

Milne notes the narrative strategies the film uses to generate sympathy for Thatcher. Her enemies are shown – angry protestors, and striking miners, but their motives are never explained and the communities she devastated with her policies are also never shown. He notes that the concentration on the onset of her dementia is also calculated to make the audience feel sympathy for a human being struggling with such a terrible disease. The film also presents her, absurdly, as a feminist icon when she strongly rejected feminism. In another depiction of the opposite of the truth, she is presented as battling class prejudice when she launched a naked class war.

You can understand why Maggie’s life would appeal to the film industry, and to an actress of Streep’s stature. It’s a strong female role, in an industry where such roles for mature women are few. Thatcher was a pioneering female figure, the first female prime minister and one of those, who held office the longest in the last century. Crucially for a film, it also has lots of drama, as well as personal tragedy – Alzheimer’s disease, rather than the antics of her stupid, arrogant and wastrel son, ‘Thickie’ Mork. You can also see how it would be presented as a rags to riches story, as she goes from her parent’s shop in Grantham to hold the highest public office in the UK, an angle she herself spun, even though she hated and despised the working class.

Yet the film neglects the horrific harm she did to Britain, the poor and the working class. And Milne himself later points out in the article that the people who were hit hardest by her policies were women. Just as they are now, under her successor, Dave Cameron. As for the lack of context or explanation given for her enemies, Roland Barthes in his book, Mythologies, states that is one of the techniques film uses to establish the villain: you know less about them than the hero.

Milne on the Economic Devastation and Impoverishment Caused by Thatcher’s Policies

Milne was particularly shocked by Gordon Brown’s suggestion that she be given a state funeral, and in the rest of the article presents the argument why this is an iniquitous idea.

Gordon Brown absurdly floated a state funeral in a fruitless attempt to appease the Daily Mail. But the coalition would be even more foolish if it were to press ahead with what is currently planned. A state funeral for Thatcher would not be regarded as any kind of national occasion by millions of people, but as a partisan Conservative event and affront to large parts of the country.

Not only in forming mining communities and industrial areas laid waste by her government, but across Britain Thatcher is still hated for the damage she inflicted – and for her political legacy of rampant inequality and greed, privatisation and social breakdown. Now protests are taking the form of satirical e-petitions to the funeral to be privatised: if it goes ahead, there are likely to be demonstrations on the streets.

This is a politician, after all, who never won the votes of more than a third of the electorate; destroyed communities; created mass unemployment; deindustrialised Britain; redistributed from poor to rich; and, by her deregulation of the City, laid the basis for the crisis that has engulfed us twenty-five years later.

Thatcher was a prime minister who denounced Nelson Mandela as a terrorist, defended the Chilean fascist dictator Augusto Pinochet, ratcheted up the cold war, and unleashed militarised police on trade unionists and black communities alike. She was Britain’s first woman prime minister, but her policies hit women hardest, like Cameron’s today.

A common British establishment view – and the implicit position of The Iron Lady – is that while Thatcher took harsh measures and ‘went too far’, it was necessary medicine to restore the sick economy of the 1970s to healthy growth.

It did nothing of the sort. Average growth in the Thatcherite ’80s, at 2.4 per cent, was exactly the same as in the sick ’70s – and considerabl6y lower than during the corporatist ’60s. Her government’s savage deflation destroyed a fifth of Britain’s industrial base in two years, hollowed out manufacturing, and delivered a ‘productivity miracle’ that never was, and we’re living with the consequences today.

What she did succeed in doing was to restore class privilege, boosting profitability while slashing employees’ share of national income from 65 per cent to 53 per cent through her assault on the unions. Britain faced a structural crisis in the 1970s, but there were multiple routes out of it. Thatcher imposed a neoliberal model now seen to have failed across the world.

He concludes by suggesting that Thatcher’s rehabilitation is connected to the Coalition’s need to shore up support now that they are implementing the same policies, and experiencing the same opposition.

It’s hardly surprising that some might want to put a benign gloss on Thatcher’s record when another Tory-led government is forcing through Thatcher-like policies – and riots, mounting unemployment and swingeing benefits cuts echo her years in power. The rehabilitation isn’t so much about then as now, which is one reason it can’t go unchallenged. Thatcher wasn’t a ‘great leader’. She was the most socially destructive prime minister of modern times.

‘Thatcher’s Rehabilitation Must Be Resisted to the End’, in Seumas Milne,The Revenge of History: The Battle for the 21st Century (London: Verso 2013) 245-8.

Thatcher, Churchill and the Tories View Organised Working Class as Nazi-like Threat

Milne is absolutely right about the destructive effect Thatcher and her policies have had on British society. He also in the above article criticises the attempt to present Thatcher as possessing the same stature as Winston Churchill. This show very strongly the Tory attitude to the working class and organised labour – a mighty force for evil on a par with Nazi Germany, which should be resolutely destroyed no matter what the cost. Not that she didn’t share some of Churchill’s views. He too hated the working class and was fully prepared to use military force against them. He is still bitterly hated in parts of Wales for his use of the army to put down striking workers in Newport. Martin Pugh in his book on Fascism in Britain between the Wars argues that one reason why the 1926 General Strike ended without much bloodshed was because the Conservative Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, removed Churchill from any direct responsibility. When the strike broke out, Churchill announced that the army would stand ready to do their duty if called upon by the civilian authorities. A cabinet aide suggested to Baldwin that perhaps a post in the Telegraph office would suit the future minister. ‘Yes’, replied Baldwin, ‘he can do no harm there’.

Left and Liberal Parties Should Not Court Tory Press

It also shows the folly of any Labour or left-wing party expecting support from the Tory press. Any support given by Messrs Dacre, Murdoch and Desmond is contingent on following a series of policies that will punish and harm the poor in support of the rich. Labour, or any other party, such as the Lib Dems, will automatically act against the interests of their own constituencies if they do so. Moreover, the same press barons will automatically move back to their default position of supporting the Tories, as has been shown by Murdoch’s move back to the Conservatives from supporting Blair.

Thatcher and Mugabe: Both Politicians Destroyed their Nations for Sectional Gain

As for Thatcher’s destruction of British manufacturing industry, and the massive growth in poverty, what actually struck me there was not the parallel with Churchill, but with another politician entirely: Robert Mugabe. Mugabe has, after all, comprehensively wrecked what was one of the most prosperous countries in Africa. Before Mugabe unleashed his reign of terror, Zimbabwe actually exported food. Now he’s reduced it to absolute poverty, while, like so many dictators around the world, enriching himself and his coterie.

And just in case anyone disputes how divisive Thatcher was, remember the mass celebrations that broke out at the news of her death.

Milne is quite right: Thatcher was not great politician. She was a disastrous one, and her rehabilitation by the political elite needs to be strongly resisted at every turn.