Posts Tagged ‘Michelle Thomasson’

Open Democracy Webinar on Alternative Democracy

February 25, 2016

Last Thursday, February 18th 2016, I was privileged to attend a webinar held by the Open Democracy forum on ‘alternative democracy’. Webinars, if you’ve never come across before, like me, are discussions held over the internet between a number of participants. They remain in their own homes, and talk to each other via their webcams or digital cameras attached to the computers. In this instance, the main speaker at any given point occupied most of the screen, while the other participants were each shown at the bottom. I was invited to go by Michelle Thomasson, a member and a commenter on this blog. The discussion was an hour long, covering topics that have been central to the issue of democracy since the very first democratic theorists like the ancient Athenians and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. These include the fact that democracy leads to popular government, rather than right government; the problem of applying a political system that originally arose in small city states to large, complex modern societies, and the problem of energising and encouraging public engagement in politics and the political process at a time when increasing numbers feel disenfranchised, and that politicians are self-serving and isolated from the rest of society.

The first issue, that of democracy allowing the public to vote for the ‘wrong’ people, or make the ‘wrong’ decisions, is shown by the controversy about capital punishment and the EU. One of the female participants made the point that she wasn’t happy with referenda, because if one was a held on those two issues, the British public would almost certain vote in favour of reinstating the death penalty and leaving the European Union, both of which she considered wrong and unjust. She also made the point that there was a problem in that people don’t understand how parliament itself works. People have been horrified by what they’ve seen of it and the parliamentary process on television, especially since the launch of the parliament channel. She also discussed the problem of young people becoming uninterested in politics. She felt that part of the solution to this problem of increasing political indifference and disenfranchisement was for parliament itself to become more representative. She was in favour of quotas, and particularly for more women in parliament. She also felt that there should be more teaching in schools about the importance of politics, democracy and political participation. There still were areas for the public to be involved in politics in local issues, but these were becoming increasing rare as many local amenities, such as youth clubs, were being closed down. There was therefore a real danger of people retreating into social media.

The participants also discussed the possibility of learning from the Occupy Movement, which mobilised people against the cuts and bankers’ bail-outs across the world. People were disillusioned and felt that politicians were distant. One possible solution was digital democracy, but it was felt that this also was not the right way to go. They also pointed out that as far back as ancient Greece, politicians have never done what the electorate wanted. There was also the additional problem of democratic decisions in large societies like modern Britain. They pointed out that although the march against the Iraq War were the largest modern protests, most people still supported the invasion of Iraq, because they had been deliberately given the wrong information. There were similar problems with the reforms attacking and dismantling the welfare state. This led to a discussion of the wider problem of how communities could be connected to parliament.

Some possible solutions included the transformation of the House of Lord’s into a genuine popular assembly, and the revitalisation of political parties. Trump and Bernie Sanders in America, and Jeremy Corbyn over here at sparked an upturn in people joining and becoming interested in political parties. This led to the problem of how to involve other organisations to balance the power of the big corporations now involved in defining and influencing politics. They felt that the revitalisation of the political parties should be done through the existing political system. However, one of the problems with Jeremy Corbyn was that one of the speakers felt he hadn’t drawn new people into the party, but caused older members, who had let their membership lapse, to rejoin.

That led in turn to the question of what should be done with all the new political activists and participants, once they’d been energised, so that they could transform society. One of the men stated that the Labour party had declined from a genuinely popular movement into a party, in which people in suits made decision on behalf of the people they represented. This led to the question of local democracy in the Aristotelian sense. He considered that we currently have local administration rather than democracy. Most of the funding for local councils in England comes from central government, compared with Sweden where 80 per cent comes from local taxes. One of the other participants pointed out that the Coalition was indeed trying to reverse this situation under the guise of localism. They also discussed the way the Tory-Lib Dem Coalition had dissolved the regional partnerships, that had some success in regenerating the local political and economic situation. On the other hand, the Coalition has also encouraged local authorities to group together so that they could co-operate across borders. This worked well in some areas, like Manchester, but was less effective in others.

They also discussed whether Britain needed a constitution. It was pointed out that those nations with constitutions were not necessarily any more democratic than those which did not. One of the speakers was also quite scathing about the way the leadership in Labour party had blocked a bill on corporate funding in order not to upset the trade unions. The result of this was that the Tories were continuing to enjoy massive corporate donations, while trying to find ways to deprive the Labour party of money.

They also returned to the question of referenda. They stated that this worked in small countries with a tradition of direct democracy, like Switzerland. It was much less effective in large countries like Britain. As an example, when the Americans set up internet polling following the British example, the two petitions with greatest number of signatures were for America to build a Death Star, like the one in Star Wars, and to deport Justin Bieber back to Canada.

They also raised the issue of untrained cabinet ministers. Many ministers didn’t know how to manage the performance of the civil servants under them, as it wasn’t a requirement for cabinet ministers. There was poor human resource management in the Civil Service and poor project managers. However, expertise in specific areas did not necessarily make someone a more efficient minister. Andrew Lansley was an expert on health and healthcare, and yet his reforms were dreadful. The Coalition had also performed a number of U-turns, as no-one had told its members what the results of their reforms were intended to be. Overall, they concluded that the problem was one of improving the existing system, rather than overturning it.

All of these issues are complex and it’s fair to say that they need long and careful examination if we are to overcome the continuing crisis in British democracy. People do feel bitter and disenfranchised by their politicians. The scandal over MPs’ bonuses showed how bitter the public felt about their claims. Hopefully, more seminars and discussions like this will lead to the discovery of better ways to reverse this, and to bring people back to participating in the political process, which is supposed to serve them. Democratic political theory states that political sovereignty lies with the people. It’s a question of putting them back in charge, and taking power away from an increasingly managerial elite.

And if digital democracy is not a solution to this problem, than the internet has also provided part of the solution. Yes, there is the danger that people are retreating into social media. But the same social media has enabled political discussions like the above, by connecting people vastly separated from each other, who can discuss weighty issues like this easily in the comfort of their own homes.

A recording of the webinar, plus comments, can be found at: https:​//plus.​google.​com/events/cqjpogiqt6osi7fliui​4k4tkg4c
Thanks, Michelle.

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More on Saudi Slavery and Arms Sales

January 20, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

She also commented on the modern Saudi slave trade

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Berman on the Nazi Origins of Modern Militant Islamism

January 11, 2016

Berman Flight Intellectuals

Yesterday I posted up a very informative piece by Michelle Thomasson, on the origins of modern militant Islam, based on McHugh’s book, A Short History of the Arabs. This sees the origins of modern Islamic militancy in the work of the Muslim reformer, Rashid Rida, and the alliance of Muslim religious and political leaders with the Nazis following the foundation of the state of Israel during the British Mandate in Palestine.

The left-wing American journalist and writer, Paul Berman, says much the same in his book, The Flight of the Intellectuals (New York: Melville House 2010). This is partly an investigation into the career and ideas of the contemporary French Muslim writer and philosopher, Tariq Ramadan. Ramadan’s a highly controversial figure, as while many have found him an admirable spokesman for interfaith dialogue and on social questions like poverty, others consider that far from being a liberal modernist, Ramadan instead preaches a very hard-line, intolerant Islam concealed under a veneer of liberal verbiage. He has, for example, been championed by Ian Buruma of the New York Times, who sees his philosophy, based on traditional, universal Muslim values, as offering an escape from violence. Many of Ramadan’s opponents are liberal Muslims and women, shocked at what they see as his anti-feminism. Another of his opponents is the Lebanese historian, Antoine Sfeir. In addition to stirring up intellectual controversy, Ramadan has also been investigated by the Spanish authorities for possible terrorist connections.

Ramadan’s grandfather, Hassan al-Banna, was the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, one of the leading organisations in the modern Islamic revival, and a nationalist campaigner against the French and British occupying powers. The Muslim Brotherhood taught discipline, obedience and adulation of al-Banna as their Supreme Leader. It also aimed at throwing out the British and other European colonialists, and reviving the former Islamic empire and caliphate. this would include all the nations and countries ever conquered and ruled by Islam, including modern peoples, who had also converted. Al-Banna’s ideas spread from his native Egypt to Palestine, Syria, Sudan and North Africa. They were introduced into Iran in Shi’ite form by the Ayatollah Khomeini and Ali Shariati. They were then exported from Iran to the Shi’a in Lebanon, and then into India and Pakistan by Abul Ala Mawdudi. In Palestine, the Muslim Brotherhood became Hamas, a political party which has used suicide bombers against the Israelis, although al-Banna’s supporters have always defended him from accusations of terrorism. The Muslim Brotherhood has also produced a number of splinter groups, one of which is al-Qaeda. Ramadan has written books presenting his grandfather as a democrat wanting to create a genuine national assembly free of British influence. However, some of his writings suggest he really wanted to create a theocracy, in which Egypt would be governed by Islamic scholars, though after consulting the general public. Other Muslim scholars also believe that al-Banna wanted the establishment of an authoritarian, anti-democratic state. These include Bassam Tibi, a German-Egyptian liberal Muslim, and the Iranian scholars Ladan and Roya Boroumand. Tibi sees al-Banna as the creator of a modern totalitarianism at variance with the traditional teachings of Islam.

Critical in the creation of modern Islamic anti-Semitism was Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. al-Husseini was at various times the head of the Supreme Muslim Council in Palestine, and chairman of the Arab Higher Committee. He was one of the leading figures in the resistance against the foundation of the nascent Jewish state. In the 1920s, he organised several attacks against both Zionist settlers from the West, and traditional, indigenous Jewish Palestinians, culminating in a pogrom in 1929. He was also partly responsible for Rashid Ali al-Gaylani’s pro-Axis coup in Iraq in 1941, and the launch of a Farhoud, or pogrom, against the Jews in Baghdad. He met with Mussolini and proposed the creation of an Arab Fascist state comprising Iraq, Syria, Palestine and Trans-Jordan.

And in 1941 he met the Nazis, including Ribbentrop, Hitler, Heinrich Himmler and Goebbels. He set up the Handzar, or ‘Sabre’ division of the SS, to fight against the Serbs and the anti-Fascist partisans in the former Yugoslavia, as well as exterminate Bosnian Jews. The Nazis employed al-Husseini and Rashid Ali in their Revolutionierungspolitik, or policy of stirring up internal revolutions in order to bring down their enemies from within. The most famous example was during the First World War when Germany sent Lenin into Russia on the sealed train with large sums of money to spark the Bolshevik revolution. The Mufti was charged with translating the Nazis’ anti-Semitism from Europe to Islam. He therefore combed the Islamic scriptures to present a Muslim version of the stupid and murderous conspiracy theories about the Jews circulating in Europe. He therefore created a vast conspiratorial view of Muslim history, in which the Jews had been trying to destroy Islam and the Arabs from the very beginning of Islam to the 20th century.

The Jewish state was initially extremely small, and Berman argues that there was little support for it in the Jewish populations of the Islamic world, except here and there in small pockets. Nevertheless, in al-Husseini claimed that the Zionists were aiming to create a gigantic Jewish homeland that would stretch from British Palestine to Egypt and the Persian Gulf. He also claimed that this new Jewish state would also include the north African Arab nations of Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. Or they were going to create two homelands, one of which would be the former north African Arab states. These would be colonised by the Jews. The second Jewish homeland, in north Africa, was to be established through the efforts of America, which was already dominated by the Jews. This homeland was to be colonised by Jews and Blacks from America. Britain was also under Jewish control, and, as with Nazism, the Jews were blamed for the creation of Communism. In their propaganda broadcasts on the radio, the Mufti and his followers urged the Arabs to rise up and kill the Jews and their children. Al-Husseini was personally responsible for sending 20,000 Jews to the gas chambers when Himmler wanted to release them as a publicity stunt. The Nazis were also planning the extermination of Egypt’s Jews if Rommel had won. Mercifully, he didn’t, and Montgomery stopped him.

Berman also states that traditionally, Western Jews regarded Islam as being far more welcoming and much less oppressive than Christianity, and cites Graetz’s history of the Jews of c.1900 of such scholarship. He notes that this view has been challenged more recently by others, who have seen the Islamic world as just as hostile to Jews as the Christian West. Other scholars consider that, while there has been anti-Semitism in traditional Islamic society, it was not as severe as in Christianity. In this case, contemporary Islamism and its poisonous anti-Semitism is essentially the creation of al-Banna, al-Husseini and the Muslim Brotherhood. It’s simply a Muslim version of Nazism, with the irony that the Nazis also regarded the peoples of the Islamic world, the Arabs, Turks and Persians, as racially inferior. Hitler even referred to them in one of his speeches as ‘painted apes who long for the whip.’

If there is ever to be peace, then this poisonous, last reflection of Nazism must also be tackled and destroyed.

British Foreign Policy, Oil Politics and Saudi Arabia

January 10, 2016

This is more information on Britain’s diplomatic and commercial links with Saudi Arabia through the oil industry given by Michelle Thomasson. She writes

UK oil interests in Iraq are clear, even when the Foreign Office deny it! e.g. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/secret-memos-expose-link-between-oil-firms-and-invasion-of-iraq-2269610.htmlhttp://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/secret-memos-expose-link-between-oil-firms-and-invasion-of-iraq-2269610.html
and this article has some useful maps to show energy interests in the war torn Middle East: http://21stcenturywire.com/2015/12/12/special-report-isis-oil-follow-the-money-back-to-europe/http://21stcenturywire.com/2015/12/12/special-report-isis-oil-follow-the-money-back-to-europe/

You mentioned that you felt Britain’s dealing with Saudi goes back to the Cold War, thereby preventing Russian expansion. The Saudi’s would also find this arrangement useful because of their lust for tribal dominance against Shia power (Iran, Hezbollah etc.)

But just wanted to add that The UK has been openly working with the Saudi’s since the early 1930’s and have been involved in splitting and trying to dominate the Arab world for a very long time. (From the end of WW1 Arabic academics thought the British used Zionism to also accomplish this). From the time that Saudi was established in 1932 (after much tribal rivalry and conflicts) the British have supported the Saudi’s, they did so then because they saw them as a counterforce to the Ottoman Empire and a tool to help the Brits maintain control of oil resources in the region….

So it is a long and ugly relationship involving oil, power and arms which continues today, and the UK government has all manner of elite tradesmen to keep this relationship cosy: https://blog.caat.org.uk/2014/02/20/prince-charles-dance-of-shame/https://blog.caat.org.uk/2014/02/20/prince-charles-dance-of-shame/ and http://www.politics.co.uk/comment-analysis/2014/04/07/comment-the-foreign-office-prefers-saudi-arms-deals-to-human http://www.politics.co.uk/comment-analysis/2014/04/07/comment-the-foreign-office-prefers-saudi-arms-deals-to-human

I’ve also come across quotations from British officials during the Mandate in Palestine, where they accused the Balfour and other leading British politicians of supporting a Jewish state in Palestine as a way of maintaining British influence in the region. There’s one quotation floating about which compares the Jewish state as it was then to the Ulster Protestants. The British government was accused of using the Jews in the same way that they were using the Irish Protestant community to keep control of part of those respective countries. I’ve also seen another quote by a leading British soldier in Palestine around about the time of the foundation of Israel, who believed that the British government was deliberately fomenting conflict between Jews and Arabs in order to keep them at each other’s throats, and so stop them from uniting against Britain.

The Origins of Saudi Arabia and Modern Islamo-Nazism

January 10, 2016

I’ve posted several pieces discussing the role of the Saudis and their form of Islam, Wahhabism, in promoting the terrorism and vicious religious intolerance and warfare that has now overwhelmed the Middle East. Many of these pieces come from Michelle Thomasson, one of the commenters on this blog, who had done extensive research on these issues. Here’s another piece she posted in response to my previous article on modern terrorism and the role of covert American espionage actions in destabilising Assad’s Syria.

I am also very cautious when posting information and prefer to rely on original data / sources, so when reading up on Zionism I tried to scan a variety of referenced sources (second hand bookshops are a treasure trove for old document finds). Here is a précis of my notes on Wahhabism which leads into the quote:

Roots of ISIS fundamentalism

Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab (born 1702/3) in Nejd, central Arabia founded Wahhabism. He was a zealous reformer; he looked at the intentions behind actions and advocated the most scrupulous, most inflexible interpretation of Islam, he also called for believers to engage with the Quran directly.

Muslims who did not share his strict interpretations, including his application of Sharia law were to be gently persuaded; if this did not succeed then arms were called against them to bring them back in to the fold (trying not to kill them). This tactic was also applied to Shi’ites. Adult males who fought against Islam and who were polytheists, that refused to convert were executed.

The Al Saud family backed by zealous Wahhabi’s (who considered it their task to purify Islam) have dominated central Arabia since the mid eighteenth century. Endorsement by leading Wahhabi scholars, legitimised the Saudi monarchy.

Rasid Rida (1865 – 1935, Syria) was a pupil of the great Egyptian reformer Muhammad Abdul; he urged Muslims to find unity and focus in Islam with a dynamism in their own traditions as an essence of Jihad. As Rida grew older he condemned the abolition of strict Sharia practices such as cutting off the hand, but he also began to praise Wahhabism and was a passionate supporter of the new Saudi kingdom. Rida’s endorsement enabled the spread of Wahhabism beyond the kingdom’s borders.

Conflicts increase – until 1914 Rida advocated coming to a mutual arrangement with Zionism, then after WW1 the Arabs wanted to collaborate with Israel directly, however, Zionist leaders such as Chaim Weizmann decided it best to cooperate with Imperial Britain instead. “For Rida, this put them on the other side of the great divide, and like many other Arabs he came to see Zionism as a British tool to split and dominate the Arab world. From the late 1920s onwards, he mined the most hostile traditions to Jews in Islam and combined such material with the conspiracy theories of European anti-Semitism to attack the Zionist project and Jews in general.

Thus, he focused on the hadith (italicised) ‘The Jews will fight you and you will be led to dominate them until the rock cries out; “O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, kill him!”’ He claimed that the Torah exhorted Jews to exterminate people that they conquered, and that the Jews rebelled against God by killing the prophets he sent after Moses. They invented Freemasonry and the Western banking system, and in recent years had created capitalism in Western Europe and Communism in Eastern Europe with which to plot against the European nations. He also saw Jewry as contributing to Germany’s defeat in First World War in exchange for Britain’s promise to grant them Palestine.

From this final period in his life, we can see the origins of the anti-Semitism which has infected some parts of the Arab and Muslim struggle against Zionism and is now reflected, for instance, in the Hamas charter and the propagation of Holocaust denial in sections of the Arabic media.” (A Concise History of the Arabs, 2014, page 163, by John McHugo.)

I chose a Hugo quote because it is a summation of the information I found and his writing is not the stuff of alternative media fright nights, quite the opposite! He is ‘an Arabist, an international lawyer and former academic researcher. His writing has been published on the BBC, History Today and Chatham House’s The World Today.. He is the director of the Council for Arab British Understanding and of the British Egyptian Society.” (From the introduction page to the above quoted book.)

Please note tribal rivalry and local conflicts continued during the nineteenth century in Saudi, the charismatic Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud disposed of most local rivals in the first 2 decades and he conquered the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, as well as Hejaz in 1924/5. The new Saudi Arabia was eventually proclaimed as such in 1932. The British then supported the Saudi’s because they saw them as a counterforce to the Ottoman Empire i.e. divide and conquer.

Re the role of academic legitimisation in the last decade, there have been calls for an Islamic front by Sheikh Essa an Egyptian ideologue who wanted to forge an Islamic front from 2003 and also Dr. Israr Ahmed an academic who called for the revival of the Islamic Caliphate.

Unless one has been made a target by groups that operate clandestinely, it is difficult to believe, but here is an academic unafraid to point out one of the elephants in the room, I posted this last year: https://theconversation.com/europes-elites-are-more-like-berlusconi-than-you-think-25769

Interestingly, the link to Berlusconi’s masonic lodge in above link has ‘disappeared’ since the article was published!

This is very much what I’ve found out, simply through looking through standard reference works like Carl Brockmann’s History of the Islamic Peoples and the Oxford Encyclopaedia of World Religions, as well as Alfred Kopel’s study of the modern religious revival, The Revenge of God. Berman, in his book, The Flight of the Intellectuals, also puts the origin of the vicious anti-Semitism now poisoning the Islamic world to the influence of Nazi propaganda following the establishment of Israel. The Nazis were hoping to manipulate Muslim public opinion to mobilise them against their British overlords in support of Nazi Germany. Before then he notes that there was little anti-Semitism in Islam, and that 19th century Jewish scholars generally saw Islam as being far more hospitable and welcoming towards Jews than the Christian West.

I’ve also found second-hand bookshops to be invaluable treasure troves for good books. I did see in one of them in Cheltenham a few months ago a documentary history of Israel and the Arabs, so books on this complicated and highly emotive subject are about.

As for the Masonic lodge, Propaganda Due, or P2, their role in modern Italian politics is extremely murky. There are articles in Lobster linking them to some of the Fascist antics in Italy in the 1970s, such as the Bologna railway bombings, where the Neo-Fascists blew up a train station killing and injuring something like 127 people. They also seem to have some involvement in the death of ‘God’s Banker’, Roberto Calvi, who was found hanging under London Bridge, between the low tide and high water mark, with his pockets full of stones. This is supposedly one of the punishments in the Masonic oath that’s meted out to people who betray the brotherhood’s secrets. Calvi was also a senior figure in the Vatican bank, the Banco Ambrosiano, which was then in the middle of a corruption scandal.

Forget stupid, murderous lies like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Conspiracies really do exist, and real politics is riddle with them. Fox Mulder didn’t know the half of it.

Channel 4 broadcast a programme about a decade ago now also examining the roots of modern Islamic terrorism. This also showed pupils in Saudis schools dutifully learning that hadith, and being explicitly taught that it was their religious duty as Muslims to fight and kill Jews. The allies might be our allies in the War and Terror, but they’re extremely untrustworthy. It’s been partly through Saudi influence that the ideology behind modern Islamic terrorism has been spread, and terror groups funded.

More on US Military Funding of al-Qaeda and Islamist Militants

January 9, 2016

I’ve received a couple more extremely interesting comments from Michelle Thomasson about the wars in the Middle East and the US funding of Islamist militants. She writes

You probably already have this info… but just in case it is also relevant here. One of the three most important military officials re the war on terror, General Flynn (was head of the Defence Intelligence Agency), is caught admitting on video what the U.S. government already knew in 2012 about the establishment of a caliphate by Islamic extremists and then still supplying them the arms (though not mentioning they may have been supplying some clapped out weaponry). Clip from Democracy Now, https://youtu.be/MQDRGrA9I7A?t=3m17s

If people really understood!

and

The information is out there, yet still most of our mainstream media peddle devastating misinformation for the war mongers!!

Here is a very telling clip from Joe Biden talking to people at Harvard. I can imagine he thought they were too smart to try and fool hence the honesty to appear ‘informed’ but he has tried to withdraw comments since his admission. The clip is just over 2mins and the Biden mishap comes in at 1 min:

Interestingly, Qatar mentioned in the link above was involved in paying a very large ransom to IS for UN peacekeepers under the scrutiny of the Israelis, it is a rather unusual way to openly give militants a big wad of money: https://youtu.be/PMDc_NBsfi0

And with Israel that brings up a conundrum, as ISIS/IS (Daesh) is just an extension of Wahhabism why have these recent medieval-like slaughterers not included Israel in their target sights? Wahhabism was always against Zionist goals…

And for your records here is Hilary Clinton admitting how they used the “Wahhabi brand of Islam to go beat the Soviet Union” makes it sound like a baseball match! This information is so terrible, when are they going to wake up to what they are doing re the havoc, desperation and destruction they have designed for millions of people?

I also have some short notes I wrote up on the roots of Wahhabism if you want them with an interesting quote re Zionism from John McHugo the author of ‘A Concise History of the Arabs'(2014)

I’d be very interested in the notes on the origins of Wahhabism, as well as the quote about Zionism from John McHugo. And it is very strange that Israel has not been attacked by ISIS or al-Qaeda, when so much Arab and Islamic politics is fiercely hostile to the Jewish state. If you look on Youtube, there are a number of pieces on there claiming that ISIS is the creation of the Israelis and funded by Mossad. I haven’t looked at them, because it’s too much like some of the stupid, genocidal conspiracy theories about Jews and Zionism that influence and motivate the Neo-Nazis, ever since the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

And the mainstream media is silent about nearly all of this. The award-winning American journalist, Glenn Greenwald, speaking on one of the clips, explains why mainstream American journalists are hostile to blowing the lid off this particular can of worms. He states that journalists are just as susceptible to the hyper-patriotism as the rest of society; that many of them come from the same socio-economic groups as the politicians, generals and business leaders they interview. They’re dependent on them for stories, and so don’t press them or criticise them, for fear of losing leads or stories. He also adds that much of it is motivated by professional jealousy after the Snowden revelations. They were angry at the way they were excluded from the material Snowden revealed, and bitter about the way he received journalism awards while they didn’t. So they’re personally hostile against him, and against the journalism he represents.

Lobster, the parapolitics magazine, has also been discussing the issue, and the reason why mainstream historians by and large are hostile to taking into account the role of clandestine groups in politics. Any mention of conspiracies is excluded from respectable academic discussion as it recalls all the murderous and stupid fantasies about vast, global conspiracies by Jews and Freemasons, fantasies that have resulted in the deaths of millions. But real conspiracies – by corporations, secret political groups and the secret state, do exist. You only have to look at the way the CIA orchestrated coups in Latin America and the Middle East. Or simply at the way the CIA again funded much radical art and movements in the 1950s through to the 1970s, in order to present the West as much more culturally pluralistic and democratic, in contrast to the monolithic, totalitarian East.

Some of this reluctance to concede the role of clandestine groups is probably due to academic inertia. Doctoral students are placed under the supervision of academic supervisors, who made demand major changes to their work if they don’t agree with it. Doctoral students are required to show they can make an original contribution to research, and while students obviously do need advice and guidance, it also puts limits on how original or radical an academic dissertation can be. Also, some of the academic institutions are in receipt of monies from the intelligence services. Lobster also published a list of these some time ago.

I also think part of the problem is that the whole notion of the role of powerful, secret interest groups controlling politics is unacceptable because it problematizes vast areas of contemporary politics. The dominant ideal of the democratic West is that our rulers are essentially benign, and however beneficial or detrimental their particular party politics may be, the foundation of their power is that of the sovereign individual, as established by liberal political theorists going back to John Locke. It is also tacitly assumed that government and corporations will also work for the public good, despite obvious scandals involving political corruption.

Genuine parapolitics raises profound question marks about all this, by showing how secret groups or factions within political parties, in concert with allies in the media and the military-industrial complex, can and do manipulate public opinion, and world affairs without reference to any kind of democratic mandate. Instead of the Whig view of history, which sees it as the gradual march of progress, culminating in the establishment of liberal democracy, or the Marxist view, which sees history as produced by impersonal economic forces producing inevitable changes to the social fabric, and hence the ruling ideologies, it shows history to be made by big business and political factions, with the sovereign people there only to provide a democratic façade for decisions that have already been made by their social superiors for their own class political and economic benefit. It explicitly raises the problem that you can’t trust what politicians and big business tell you. And not just in the superficial, cynical sense, but right to the core of the political process and the nature of the democratic state itself.

And that’s unacceptable to large parts of the media and the academic establishment, embedded and nurtured as they are by the status quo.

David Cameron, Human Rights and Arms Sales in Saudi Arabia

January 5, 2016

Yesterday I put up a number of piece about Saudi Arabia, and the current international outcry over the execution of a number of political prisoners, including the Shi’a cleric, Nimr al-Nimr. Britain’s own dealings with the Saudis are particularly murky. Secret cables released by Wikileaks seem to indicate that our government was involved in some shady deals to get the Saudis elected to the UN Human Rights Council, despite the complete absence of anything like human rights there. These have been publicised in the Australian newspaper, The Australian, and Cameron has been called upon to issue a clarification of what went on. See Mike’s article at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/01/04/uk-government-urged-to-reveal-role-in-getting-saudi-arabia-onto-un-human-rights-council/

It has also been revealed that the House of Commons supervisory committee on arms sales has been absent for the past nine months. So there are naturally concerns that Britain has been selling arms to the Saudis so they can use them against the rebels in Yemen. See this article by Mike at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/01/04/uk-arms-exports-escape-scrutiny-under-tory-government-2/

Putting two and two together, its seems likely that Cameron did indeed cut some kind of a deal with the Saudis. We get them elected to the UN Human Rights Council, and they buy our arms. And who knows what else.

Michelle Thomasson, whose comments on this blog have been very informative about events in the Middle East and the current wars, made this comment on by piece about William Blum’s view that the real reason for the invasion of Afghanistan was to secure its oil supply.

Thank you, very interesting Blum article, which also mentions in passing ‘USraeli’, but do other nations also play a role in USraeli interests?…

I thought this recent article about a ‘Saudi Oil Imperium’
ref
: http://journal-neo.org/2015/12/08/what-stinks-in-saudi-aint-the-camel-dung/ may have some grains of truth but the writer fails to mention US/Israeli interests.

I also wonder about the inner machinations of the UK government who seem to have an awful synergy with Saudi e.g. http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/sep/29/uk-and-saudi-arabia-in-secret-deal-over-human-rights-council-place

The UK has had an interest in directing and controlling Arab dynastic interests in the Middle East for a very long time e.g. “The outstanding event at this time was, of course, the Cairo Conference of March 1921 at which British army officers and officials headed by the Colonial Secretary, Mr Winston Churchill, decided to convert the region into a Hashemite Kingdom of Iraq led by Amir Faisal bin Hussein whom the French had recently evicted from Syria. Faisal´s debt to Britain for an Iraqi throne would, it was assumed, ensure respect for British interests in the area. These could be further promoted by using British bomber aircraft for policing. Cambridge University Archives, Records of Iraq 1914-1966: ref: http://archiveeditions.co.uk/titledetails.asp?tid=94

So wouldn’t the UK and Saudi be included in the US/Israeli bid to control the energy empire from Afghanistan to Syria? Just musing out loud because we seem to have similar inquiries, thank you again for your posts.

This seems to me to be a line worth pursuing. Greg Palast in his book, Armed Madhouse, describes the way the Saudis effectively wreck the economies of other oil producing countries if they don’t toe their line on the price of oil. I’d have to chase this up, but it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Britain also didn’t have oil interests in the Gulf, beyond the simple dependence on Saudi oil. I’ve also got a feeling much of the dealings between Britain and Saudi Arabia also go back to the Cold War, and the need to find an ally and a bulwark in the region against Soviet influence, and particularly Nasser’s Egypt and Arab Socialism.

As for the state of the Saudi regime and their support for human rights, one of the prisoners sentenced to execution was a young man, whose only crime was to give first aid to protestors, who had been shot or wounded by the Saudi police or army. In Yemen, 50% plus of the victims of Saudi bombing are civilians. The Saudis’ presence on the Human Rights Council is a monstrous travesty.

Major General Smedley Butler’s ‘War Is A Racket’

January 3, 2016

I’ve posted several pieces on the immense profiteering by governments and corporations promoting war. One of the most savage critics of such profiteering was the American officer, Major General Smedley Butler. Michelle Thomasson sent me this comment and links to his speech, ‘War Is A Racket’ to my post on the meme on capitalism and war, as well as the amount so far made by the defence contractors and other participating corporations in the war in Afghanistan.

In 2014 when I was researching for Campaign Against Arms Trade I posted Smedley Butler’s 1935 speech (it was also printed as a book). If any readers of your blog have time his ‘War is a Racket’ speech or ‘turning blood into gold’ is worth listening to. A recording of it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EI3lckqaSk0 or here: http://ia600507.us.archive.org/3/items/nonfiction018_librivox/snf018_warisaracket_butler_jh.mp3

and printed versions: https://archive.org/details/WarIsARacket or here: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article4377.htm

On recent spending on war racketeering by the USA (including the sojourn into Afghanistan) this is sobering reading, in 13 years they paid out $1.6 trillion to military contractors (shown on the second page of the Congressional Research file, December 8th 2014) Ref: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL33110.pdf

Smedley Butler’s ‘War Is A Racket’ is one of the most famous and celebrated polemics against war. Butler was writing in 1936, and concerned by the growing preparations and clamour for war amongst the European nations. Like very many other soldiers, he was horrified by the mass death and suffering experienced by the squaddies, and disgusted by the vast profits made by the arms and equipment manufacturers. He denounced the way a minuscule few had made money out of the sufferings of millions. In the speech he gives examples of the many firms and industries that made vast profits manufacturing and selling to the American government equipment, munitions and clothing for the conflict. This included surplus and seriously defective items that could never be used, such as shoes, ships that kept sinking, and wrenches that were suitable only for loosening the bolts on the pumping stations at Niagara.

He also describes the way the bankers manipulating the financial system to profit from war bonds. The public was persuaded to purchase them, there was then a crisis so the same public sold them back to the banks at a loss, and then there was flip in the stock exchange, which meant that their value soared again.

Butler also describes the immense suffering of the soldiers themselves. It’s interesting that decades before Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder became a household word, linked to the continued mental suffering of Vietnam vets, he described the shattered mental state of discharged veterans. These were men so traumatised that they were kept under heavy guard in prison-like conditions at the mental hospital. Butler contrasts the way the forces of society, propaganda and psychology were used to persuade them to enlist with the way they were summarily discharged after the war with no thought to training or remoulding their psychologies so that they could fit back into civilian life after being trained to kill.

He also describes the way the American soldier was deprived the profits of war. During the Civil War, Americans were given a bonus if they joined up. And up until the war with Spain, American squaddies also received prize money for ships captured. That was all scrapped, as it made war too expensive. Instead, they were given medal to encourage them to fight. As for the wages they received, these were half the monthly pay of the average factory steel worker. Then there were deductions, to support the families their families so they wouldn’t be a burden on the community while their sons and husbands were away fighting. Other deductions were for the squaddies’ own equipment. The result of all these was that on payday, some soldiers received absolutely nothing at all.

Butler was also not impressed with the various disarmament talks. He considered that their purpose was for countries to get the maximum number of permitted weapons for themselves, and the least number for their opponents. The American government had also declared that it was looking into ways to avoid war. Smedley Butler described how this was undermined by a commission by the corporations and generals, which was set up deliberately to counteract it.

In conclusion, Smedley Butler argued that war would only be ended through a series of reforms intended to take the profits out of it, limit the capability of the American armed forces so that they could not fight an offensive war, and put the decision whether America should go to war or not in the hands of the very people, who would have to fight it. He therefore argued that one month before mobilisation, the capitalists, generals, politicians and workers in the manufacturing and other industries that would profit from the war should also be conscripted, and their pay limited to the $30 a month given to the squaddies. The US armed forces should be limited by law to protecting US territory. The army should be legally prevented from serving abroad, and the range of the American navy and air force limited to a few hundred miles off the American Pacific coast. He also states that before the decision to go to war is taken, their should be a limited plebiscite of men of recruitment age only. Only they should have the power to decide whether to wage war, as they would be the people who have to fight it. Not politicians or businessmen, who were too old to serve, or unfit, and who would profit from it.

Smedley Butler was an isolationist, who states firmly at the end of the speech that he doesn’t care what system other countries live under – democracy, monarchy, Fascism, whatever. He only cares about protecting democracy in America. He believed that America would not have entered the war, if it had not been approached for aid by Britain and France. The declaration that Americans were fighting for democracy was a lie. They were fighting only for corporate profits. As the brief biography for the audiobook version of his speech states, Butler served as a Republican politician. Nevertheless, his isolationism still persists amongst some Conservative American critics of the Neo-Cons, who similarly saw Bush’s desire to extend the American Empire as against the basic principles of American Conservatism. These critics included serving senior army officers, who were spectacularly unimpressed by the fact that the Neo-Cons had not actually fought in any war, and had no understanding of the political situation in the Middle East.

As the vast profits being made by the arms manufacturers in this latest phase of militarism show, war is a racket, and Smedley Butler’s speech still has immense political relevance and moral force.

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.

Michelle Thomasson on the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Martin Luther King and Gandhi

December 28, 2015

Michelle Thomasson posted a fascinating comment on the influence of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Christian peace movement that arose in response to the First World War, and its influence on Martin Luther King and the Black Baptists’ campaign against segregation, and even Gandhi on the article I put up yesterday about the Christian peace movements and Pax Christi. She wrote

Thanks for putting this list together. Wanted to add that these little lights, though small, can have an enormous effect even though there has always been war mongering support from the UK’s state church e.g. https://theconversation.com/the-church-of-englands-vote-to-effectively-back-military-action-is-a-shocking-mistake-51679

Last December, I attended a conference called ‘Movements for Peace in 1914’ at Regents College, Oxford, supported by the Fellowship of Reconciliation and the Centre for Baptist History and Heritage; one of the talks illustrated just how far these peace movements reached. In the presentation on ‘The Relation between the International Fellowship of Reconciliation and the early Civil Rights Movement’ by Andrea Strubind (Prof of Church History and Dean of Faculty for the Institut fur Evangelische Theologie at the Universitat Oldenburg) a profound link was shown between the black Baptist movement and the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR). FOR had developed training and co-operation in non-violent peaceful demonstration and resistance. This training was shared in the Montgomery bus movement and many others in the Baptist church including Martin Luther King, even Gandhi learnt some of the peaceful resistance techniques from Clifford an early advocate of FOR because Gandhi had been influenced in his early years by Clifford when he had been injured and stayed with him in his home.

Today also the Quakers reach out in unexpected ways, they have peace education for schools, especially important to try and counteract the current government’s Dept. of Defence’s youth engagement strategy to build support for the armed forces (for which the poorer students are especially targeted!).
REF: http://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/nov/09/peace-education-schools-mililtary-ethos-children and further info from http://www.forceswatch.net/