Posts Tagged ‘Torture’

‘I’ Article on Allegations of British War Crimes in Iraq and Aghanistan

November 18, 2019

I put up a piece yesterday evening commenting on a trailer for the Beeb’s Panorama programme tonight, 18th November 2019, investigating allegations that British troops have committed war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is also the subject of an article in today’s I by Cahal Milmo, titled ‘Army and UK Government accused of cover-up in war crimes scandal’. This reads

The Government is facing demands to ensure an investigation into “deeply troubling” allegations that torture and murders – including the killing of children – by British soldiers were covered up by senior commanders and officials.

Leaked documents provided to an investigation by BBC Panorama and The Sunday Times detail claims that evidence of crimes committed by UK troops in Afghanistan and Iraq was not fully investigated.

Amnesty International said that rather than sweeping such claims “under the carpet”, Britain needs to ensure cases are “treated with the seriousness they deserve”.

The claims, which include an allegation that an SAS soldier murdered three children and a man in Afghanistan while drinking tea in their home in 2012, arose from two official investigations into alleged war crimes by British forces. The Iraq Historic Allegations Teams (IHAT) and Operation Northmoor, which investigated alleged incidents in Afghanistan, were wound down in 2017 after a solicitor – Phil Shiner _ was struck off for misconduct after bringing more than 1,000 to IHAT.

Neither IHAT nor Northmoor resulted in any prosecutions, a fact which the Government insists was based on “careful investigation”.

But military investigators told the BBC and The Sunday Times that other factors were responsible. One former IHAT detective said: “The Ministry of Defence had no intention of prosecuting any soldier of whatever rank he was unless it was absolutely necessary and they couldn’t wriggle their way out of it.”

The media investigation uncovered claims no action was taken after military prosecutors were asked to consider charges against a senior SAS commander for attempting to pervert the course of justice in relation to the Afghanistan incident. It also found evidence that allegations of beatings, torture and sexual abuse of detainees by members of the Black Watch regiment did not reach court.

The Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab insisted all cases had been looked at and “the right balance” struck in terms of court action.

A spokesman for the MOD said “Allegations that the MoD interfered with investigations or prosecution decisions relating to the conduct of UK forces in Iraq and Afghanistan are untrue. The decisions of prosecutors and investigators have been independent of the MoD and involved external oversight and legal advice.”

Underneath the article is a statement in a box that reads Another investigator said ‘Key decisions were taken out of our hands. There was more and more pressure from the Ministry of Defence to get cases closed as quickly as possible.’

As I wrote yesterday, this is something that no-one really wants to hear. We’d love to believe our girls and boys are far better than this. But I’m afraid that for all their training and professionalism, they are just humans like everyone else, placed in positions of extreme fear and danger. Regarding the killing of children, it also has to be taken into account that the enemy in those areas has hidden behind children and tried to use them to kill allied soldiers. This has resulted in allied squaddies having been forced to shoot them to preserve their own lives.

Falling Off the Edge, a book which describes how neoliberalism is forcing millions into poverty worldwide and actually contributing to the rise in terrorism, begins with a description of a firefight between American soldiers and Daesh in Iraq. The Daesh fighters are losing, and one of them drops a Rocket Propelled Grenade in a house’s courtyard. The fighters then run inside, and throw out of the door two little boys. They boys try to grab the RPG despite the American troops screaming at them not to. One of them makes to pick it up, and is shot by an American trooper.

It’s an horrendous incident, but one in which the squaddie had no choice. It was either himself and his comrades, or the child. It’s a sickening decision that no-one should have to face, and I don’t doubt that it will scar this man psychologically for the rest of his life. One of the complaints Private Eye had about the lack of appropriate psychological care for returning servicemen and women suffering from PTSD was that they weren’t put in the hands of army doctors and medical professionals, who would understand the terrible choices they had to make. Instead many were put in civilian treatment groups, who were naturally shocked and horrified by their tales of killing children. It may well be that some of the accusations of the murder of children may be due to incidents like this. I also remember an al-Qaeda/ Taliban propaganda video from Afghanistan that the Beeb played during the Afghanistan invasion. This was intended for audiences elsewhere in the Middle East. In it, one of the fighters hands a gun to another small boy, who waves it around as if he can hardly hold it, and proudly declares that he will gun down the evil westerners. This seemed to show that the Taliban and al-Qaeda weren’t above using small children as soldiers. It’s evil, and banned under the UN Rights of the Child, I believe. But if the Taliban have been using boy soldiers, this might explain some of the murders.

Even so, these are very serious allegations. I blogged yesterday about how an American diplomat in Iraq was shocked at the conduct of US forces. The mess of one division was decorated with Nazi insignia, mercenaries were running drugs and prostitution rings, and shot Iraqi civilians for sport. And the American army was also supporting sectarian death squads. We need to know if there is similar lawlessness among British troops.

And I’m afraid I have no faith in the ability of the British army or the MoD to investigate these claims fairly. Nearly every fortnight Private Eye’s ‘In the Back’ section has yet more information from the Deep Cut Inquiry into the suicide of three squaddies at the barracks now well over a decade ago. There have been allegations that the initial investigation was appallingly inadequate, that detectives and doctors were taken off the investigation, or prevented from properly examining forensic evidence. And reading some of the depositions makes it appear that there may well have been a cover-up. And this also lends credibility to the allegations that the government and MoD are covering up atrocities here.

This needs to be very carefully investigated with complete transparency. And it also shows how profoundly morally wrong the invasion of Iraq was. It was a war crime, and the criminals responsible were Bush and Blair.

 

Review of Book on New Atheist Myths Now Up on Magonia Review Blog

November 1, 2019

The Magonia Review of Books blog is one of the online successors to the small press UFO journal, Magonia, published from the 1980s to the early part of this century. The Magonians took the psycho-social view of encounters with alien entities. This holds that they are essentially internal, psychological events which draw on folklore and the imagery of space and Science Fiction. Following the ideas of the French astronomer and computer scientist, Jacques Vallee, and the American journalist, John Keel, they also believed that UFO and other entity encounters were also part of the same phenomenon that had created fairies and other supernatural beings and events in the past. The magazine thus examined other, contemporary forms of vision and belief, such as the Satanic Ritual Abuse scare in the 1990s. It also reviewed books dealing with wide range of religious and paranormal topics. These included not just UFOs, but also the rise of apocalyptic religious faith in America, conspiracy theories, ghosts and vampires, cryptozoology and the Near Death Experience, for example. Although the magazine is no longer in print, the Magonia Review of Books continues reviewing books, and sometimes films, on the paranormal and is part of a group of other blogs, which archive articles from the magazine and its predecessor, the Merseyside UFO Bulletin (MUFOB), as well as news of other books on the subject.

I’ve had a number of articles published in Magonia and reviews on the Review of Books. The blog has just put my review of Nathan Johnstone’s The New Atheism, Myth and History: The Black Legends of Contemporary Anti-Religion (Palgrave MacMillan 2018).  The book is a critical attack on the abuse of history by New Atheist polemicists like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and so on to attack religion. He shows that the retail extremely inaccurate accounts of historical atrocities like the witch hunts and persecution of heretics by the Christian church and the savage anti-religious campaign in the Soviet Union in order to condemn religion on the one hand, and try to show that atheism was not responsible for the atrocities committed in its name on the other. At the same time he is alarmed by the extremely vitriolic language used by Dawkins and co. about the religious. He draws comparisons between it and the language used to justify persecution in the past to warn that it too could have brutal consequences despite its authors’ commitment to humanity and free speech.

The article is at: http://pelicanist.blogspot.com/2019/10/believing-in-not-believing-new-atheists.html if you wish to read it at the Magonia Review site. I’ve also been asked to reblog it below. Here it is.

Nathan Johnstone. The New Atheism, Myth and History: The Black Legends of Contemporary Anti-Religion. Palgrave Macmillan 2018.

The New Atheists is a term coined to described the group of militant atheists that emerged after the shock of 9/11. Comprising the biologist Richard Dawkins, the journalist Christopher Hitchens, the philosophers Daniel C. Dennett and A.C. Grayling, the neuroscientist Sam Harris, the astronomer Victor Stenger, and others, they are known for their particularly bitter invective against all forms of religion. The above claim to stand for reason and science against irrationality and unreason. But while they are especially protective of science, and who gets to speak for it or use its findings, they are cavalier regarding theology and the humanities, including history.
Johnstone is appalled by this attitude. Instead of respecting history and its scholarship, he compares Dawkins, Harris et al to hunter-gatherers. They are not interested in exploring history, but rather using it as a grab-bag of examples of atrocities committed by the religious. In so doing they ignore what historians really say about the events and periods they cite, and retail myth as history. These he regards as a kind of ‘Black Legend’ of theism, using the term invented in the early twentieth century by the Spanish historian Julian Juderas to describe a type of anti-Spanish, anti-Roman Catholic polemic. He states his book is intended to be just a defence of history, and takes no stance on the issue of the existence of God. From his use of ‘we’ in certain points to describe atheists and Humanists, it could be concluded that Johnstone is one of the many of the latter, who are appalled by the New Atheists’ venom.
One such religious doubter was the broadcaster John Humphries,  the author of the defence of agnosticism, In God We Doubt. Humphries stated in the blurb for the book that he considered himself an agnostic before moving to atheism. Then he read one of the New Atheist texts and was so shocked by it he went back to being an agnostic. The group first made its debut several years ago now, and although New Atheism has lost some of its initial interest and support, they’re still around.
Hence Johnstone’s decision to publish this book. While Dawkins’ The God Delusion was published almost a decade ago, the New Atheists are still very much around. They and their followers are still on the internet, and their books on the shelves at Waterstones. Dawkins published his recent work of atheist polemics, Outgrowing God: A Beginner’s Guide a few weeks ago at the beginning of October 2019. He accompanied its publication with an appearance at Cheltenham Literary Festival, where he was speaking about why everyone should turn atheist.
The events and the atrocities cited by the New Atheists as demonstrations of the intrinsic evil of religion are many, including the Inquisitions, the witch-hunts, anti-Semitism, the Crusades, the subjugation of women, colonialism, the slave trade and the genocide of the Indians, to which they also add human sacrifice, child abuse, censorship, sexual repression and resistance to science. These are too many to tackle in one book, and it confines itself instead to attacking and refuting New Atheist claims about the witch-hunts, the medieval persecution of heretics, and the question of whether Hitler was ever really Christian and the supposed Christian origins of Nazi anti-Semitism and the Holocaust.
The book also tackles historical movements and figures, that the New Atheists have claimed as atheist heroes and forerunners – the ancient Greek Atomists and two opponents of the witch-hunts, Dietrich Flade and Friedrich Spee. It then moves on to examine Sam Harris’ endorsement of torture in the case of Islamist terrorists and atheist persecution in the former Soviet Union before considering the similarity of some New Atheist attitudes to that of religious believers. It concludes with an attack on the dangerous rhetoric of the New Atheists which vilifies and demonises religious believers, rhetoric which could easily provoke persecution, even if its authors themselves are humane men who don’t advocate it.
Johnstone traces these atheist myths back to their nineteenth and pre-nineteenth century origins, and some of the books cited by the New Atheists as the sources for their own writings. One of the most influential of these is Charles MacKay’s 1843 Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. In many instances he shows them to be using very dated, and now refuted texts. With some of the modern works they also draw on, examination shows that often they ignore the authors’ own conclusions, which may differ considerably, or even be the complete opposite of their own.
In the case of the witch-hunts, Johnstone traces the oft-quoted figure of over nine million victims to an early nineteenth century German author, Gottfried Christian Voigt, who extrapolated it from the murder of the thirty witches executed in his home town of Quedlinburg from 1569 to 1683. He assumed this was typical of all areas throughout the period of the witch-hunts. The figure was picked up by the radical neo-Pagan and feminist movements of the 1970s. But it’s false. The real figure, he claims, was 50,000. And its intensity varied considerably from place to place and over time. The Portuguese Inquisition, for example, only killed one witch c. 1627. In other places, the inquisitors were conscientious in giving the accused a fair trial. Convictions for witchcraft were overturned and evidence was taken to prove the accused’s innocence as well as guilt. The Roman Inquisition also demanded the accused to provide a list of their enemies, as their testimony would obviously be suspect.
In regions where the discussion of witchcraft had resulted in the mass trial and execution of the innocent, the religious authorities imposed silence about the subject. Johnstone rebuts the statement of some Christian apologists that the Church was only complicit in these atrocities, not responsible for them. But he shows that they were an anomaly. Nearly all societies have believed in the existence of witches throughout history, but the period of witch-hunting was very limited. The problem therefore is not that religion and belief in the supernatural leads inexorably to persecution, but how to explain that it doesn’t.
He shows that the Church moved from a position of initial scepticism towards full scale belief over a period of centuries. The witch-hunts arose when maleficium – black magic – became linked to heresy, and so became a kind of treason. As an example of how secular and political motives were also involved in the denunciations and trials, rather than just pure religious hatred, he cites the case of the priest Urbain Grandier. Grandier’s case was the basis for Aldous Huxley’s novel, The Devils of Loudoun, which was filmed by Ken Russell as The Devils. Here it appears the motives for the trial were political, as Grandier had been an opponent of the French minister, Cardinal Richelieu. Johnstone also considers that as secular societies have also persecuted those they consider to be politically or morally deviant there exists in humanity a need to persecute. This means finding and identifying an anti-group, directly opposed to conventional society, whose existence and opposition demonstrates the value of that society.
KEN RUSSELL’S ‘THE DEVILS’ (1971)
The medieval persecution of heretics may also have been due to a number of causes and not simply due to the malign attitudes of religious believers. There was a period of nearly 700 years between the execution of the Roman heretic, Priscillian, in the fourth century and the revival of persecution the early eleventh. This arose in the context of the emergence and development of states and the expansion of papal and royal power, which involved church and crown extending their power over local communities. At the same time, the papacy attempted reforming the church, at first in response to popular demand. However, it was then faced with the problem of clamping down on some of the popular reform movements when they threatened to run out of its control.
As the case of the Waldensians shows, the line between orthodoxy and heresy could be an extremely fine one. Johnstone also raises the question here of whether one of the most notorious medieval heretical groups, the Cathars, ever existed at all. It is possible that their existence is an illusion created by the categories of heresies the inquisitors had inherited from the Church Fathers. These were forced onto a group of local communities in the Languedoc, where popular piety centred around the Good Men and Women. These were highly respected members of the community, who were believed to live exemplary Christian lives. They were therefore due proper respect, which to the inquisitors looked like heretical veneration.
Hitler’s Christianity is also highly debatable. The little reliable testimony states that he was indeed Roman Catholic, but doesn’t provide any evidence of a deep faith. He certainly at times claimed he was a Christian and was acting in accordance with his religious beliefs. But an examination of some of these quotes shows that they were uttered as a rebuttal to others, who stated that their Christian beliefs meant that they could not support Nazism. This raises the question of whether they were anything more than a rhetorical gesture. There is evidence that Hitler was an atheist with a particular hatred of Christianity. This is mostly drawn from his Table Talk, and specifically the English edition produced by Hugh Trevor-Roper. The atheist polemicist, Richard Carrier, has shown that it is derived from a French language version, whose author significantly altered some of the quotes to insert an atheist meaning where none was present in the original. However, Carrier only identified a handful of such quotes, leaving forty requiring further investigation. Thus the question remains undecided.
Johnstone also examine the Nazi persecution of the Jews from the point of view of the theorists of political religion. These consider that humans are innately religious, but that once secularisation has broken the hold of supernatural religion, the objects of veneration changes to institutions like the state, free market capitalism, the New Man, Communism and so on. Those who follow this line differ in the extent to which they believe that the Nazis were influenced by religion. Some view it as a hydra, whose many heads stood for Christianity, but also Paganism in the case of Himmler and the SS. But underneath, the source of the real religious cult was the race, the nation and Hitler himself. If these theorists are correct, then Nazism may have been the result, not of a continued persecuting Christianity, but of secularisation.
He also considers the controversial view of the German historian, Richard Steigmann-Gall, whose The Holy Reich considered that the Nazis really were sincere in their Christianity. This has been criticised because some of the Nazis it examines as examples of Nazi Christian piety, like Rudolf Hess, were minor figures in the regime, against vehement anti-Christians like Alfred Rosenberg. He also shows how the peculiar views of the German Christians, the Nazi Christian sect demanding a new, Aryan Christianity, where Christ was blond and blue-eyed, and the Old Testament was to be expunged from the canon, were similar to certain trends within early twentieth century liberal Protestantism. But the German historian’s point in writing the book was not simply to put culpability for the Nazis’ horrors on Christianity. He wanted to attack the comfortable distance conventional society places between itself and the Nazis, in order to reassure people that they couldn’t have committed such crimes because the Nazis were different. His point was that they weren’t. They were instead uncomfortably normal.
DEMOCRITUS
The New Atheists celebrate the ancient Greek Atomists because their theories that matter is made up of tiny irreducible particles, first put forward by the philosophers Epicurus and Democritus, seem so similar to modern atomic theory. These ancient philosophers believed that these alone were responsible for the creation of a number of different worlds and the creatures that inhabited them by chance.
Some of these were forms that were incapable of surviving alone, and so died out. Thus, they appear to foreshadow Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection. New Atheist writers bitterly attack Aristotle, whose own rival theories of matter and physics gained ascendancy until Atomism was revived in the seventeenth century. The natural philosophers behind its revival are credited with being atheists, even though many of them were Christians and one, Pierre Gassendi, a Roman Catholic priest. Their Christianity is thus seen as nominal. One also takes the extreme view that Galileo’s prosecution was due to his embrace of the atomic theory, rather than his argument that the Earth moved around the Sun.
But scholars have shown that the ancient atomic theory grew out of particular debates in ancient Greece about the fundamental nature of matter, and cannot be removed from that context. They were very different to modern atomic theory. At the same time, they also held beliefs that are to us nonsense as science. For example, they believed that the early creatures produced by atoms were fed by the Earth with a milk-like substance. They also believed in the fixity of species. Even where they did believe in evolution, in the case of humanity, this was more Lamarckian than Darwinian. Aristotle’s views won out over theirs not because of religious narrow-mindedness or ignorance, but because Aristotle’s had great explanatory power.
The scientists, who revived it in the seventeenth century, including Boyle and Newton, were sincere Christians. They believed that atoms created objects through divine agency because the ancient Greek explanation – it was all chance without a theory of momentum – genuinely couldn’t explain how this could occur without God. As for Galileo, the historian who first suggested this extreme and largely discredited view, believed that he was a victim of papal politics, and that there had also been a party within the Vatican and the Church, which supported his theories.
Discussing the two witch-hunters celebrated by the New Atheists as atheist, or at least, Sceptical heroes, the book shows that this was not the case. Dietrich Flade seems to have been accused because he had fallen out with an ecclesiastical rival, Zandt, for being too lenient on the accused witches. But he also appears to have been protected by the church authorities until the accusations of witchcraft by accused witches became too many to ignore.
The other Sceptical hero, Friedrich Spee, was a Jesuit priest, who became convinced of the innocence of those accused of witchcraft through attending so many to the stake. He then wrote a book condemning the trials, the Cautio Crimenalis. But he was no sceptic. He believed wholeheartedly in witchcraft, but considered it rare. The use of torture was wrong, as it was leading to false confessions and false denunciations of others, which could not be retracted for fear of further torture. Thus the souls of the innocent were damned for this sin. But while good Christians were being burned as witches, many of the witch-hunters themselves were in league with Satan. They used the hunts and baseless accusations to destroy decent Christian society and charity.
But if the New Atheists are keen to ascribe a wide number of historical atrocities to religion without recognising the presence of other, social and political factors, they deny any such crimes can be attributed to atheism. Atheism is defined as a lack of belief in God, and so cannot be responsible for inspiring horrific acts. Johnstone states that in one sense, this is true, but it is also a question about the nature of the good life and the good society that must be constructed in the absence of a belief in God. And these become positive ideologies that are responsible for horrific crimes.
Johnstone goes on from this to attack Hector Avelos’ statement that the Soviet persecution of the Church was only a form of anti-clericalism, which all societies must go through. Johnstone rebuts this by describing the process and extent of Soviet persecution, from the separation of church and state in 1917 to the imposition of atheism by force. Churches and monasteries were closed and religious objects seized and desecrated, religious believers arrested, sent to the gulags or massacred. These persecutions occurred in cycles, and there were times, such as during the War, when a rapprochement was made with the Orthodox Church. But these periods of toleration were always temporary and established for entirely pragmatic and utilitarian purposes.
The goal was always the creation of an atheist state, and they were always followed, until the fall of Communism, by renewed persecution. The wartime rapprochement with the Church was purely to gain the support of believers for the campaign against the invading Nazis. It was also to establish state control through the church on Orthodox communities that had survived, or reappeared in border areas under Nazi occupation. Finally, the attack on the clergy, church buildings and religious objects and even collectivisation itself were done with the deliberate intention of undermining religious ritual and practice, which was considered the core of Orthodox life and worship.
Sam Harris has become particularly notorious for his suggestion that atheists should be trusted to torture terrorist suspects because of their superior rationality and morality compared to theists. Harris believed it was justified in the case of al-Qaeda suspects in order to prevent further attacks. But here Johnstone shows his logic was profoundly flawed. Torture was not introduced into medieval judicial practice in the twelfth century through bloodthirsty and sadistic ignorance. Rather it was intended as a reasonable alternative to the ordeal. Human reason, and the acquisition of evidence, was going to be sufficient to prove guilt or innocence without relying on supposed divine intervention. But the standards of evidence required were very high, and in the case of a crime like witchcraft, almost impossible without a confession.
The use of torture was initially strictly limited and highly regulated, but the sense of crisis produced by witchcraft resulted in the inquisitors abandoning these restraints. Similarly, Harris’ fear of terror attacks leads him to move from reasonable suspects, who may well be guilty, to those who are simply members of terrorist organisations. They are fitting subjects for torture because although they may be innocent of a particular offence, through their membership of a terrorist organisation or adherence to Islamist beliefs, they must be guilty of something. Finally, Harris also seems to see Islamism as synonymous with Islam, so that all Muslims everywhere are seen as enemies of the secular Western order. This is exactly the same logic as that which motivated the witch-hunts, in which witches were seen as the implacable enemies of Christian society, and so exempt from the mercy and humane treatment extended to other types of criminal.
From this Johnstone then goes on to consider how the New Atheists’ image of atheism and the process of abandoning belief in God resembles religious attitudes. Their belief that atheism must be guarded against the dangers of falling back into religious belief mirrors Christian fears of the temptation to false belief, such as those of the Protestant reformers towards the persistence of Roman Catholicism. At the same time, their ideas of abandoning God and so attaining the truth resembles the Christian process of conversion and membership of the elect. And the vitriol directed at the religious for continuing to believe in God despite repeated demonstrations of His nonexistence resembles the inquisitors’ attitude to heretics. Heresy differs from error in that the heretic refuses to be corrected, and so must be compelled to recant by force.
The book also shows the dangers inherent in some New Atheist rhetoric about religious believers. This runs in contrast to much New Atheist writing, which is genuinely progressive and expresses real sympathy with the marginalised and oppressed, and which advocates trying to see the world through their eyes. But no such sympathy is granted religious believers. They are described as children, who may not sit at the same table as adults. Or else, following the logic of religion as a virus, proposed by Dawkins, they are described as diseased, who do not realise that they have been infected and even love their condition.
Bringing children up religious is condemned as child abuse. A.C. Grayling is shown to have a utilitarian attitude in his own advocacy of secularisation. He first states that he supports it for creating multiculturalism, but then contradicts himself by stating that he looks forward to it undermining religion. This was the same attitude the Soviets initially adopted towards religion. When it didn’t disappear as they expected, they resorted to force. Peter Boghossian wants atheist ‘street epistemologists’ – the atheist version of religious street preachers – to attack believers’ religious beliefs in public. They are to take every opportunity, including following them into church, in order to initiate ‘Socratic’ discussions that will lead them to questioning their faith.
Johnstone states that this is an implicit denial of theists’ right to conduct their private business in public without atheist interference. It’s in line with the New Atheist demands that religion be driven from the public sphere, into the churches, or better yet, the home. The metaphor of disease and infection suggests that what is needed is for religious believers to be rounded up against their will and forcibly cured. It’s the same metaphor the Nazis used in their persecution of their victims.
He quotes the atheist philosopher Julian Baggini, who is dismayed when he hears atheists describing religion as a mental disease from which believers should be forcibly treated. As for the statement that religious upbringing equals child abuse, the seriousness of this charge raises the question of how seriously the New Atheists actually see it. If Dawkins and co. really believe that it is, then their lack of demand for state intervention to protect children from indoctrination, as they see it, from the parents shows that they don’t treat child abuse seriously.
The New Atheist rhetoric actually breaks with their concrete recommendations for what should be done to disavow believers of their religious views, which are actually quite mild. This is what Johnstone calls the ‘cavalierism of the unfinished thought’. They may not recommend coercion and persecution, but their rhetoric implies it. Johnstone states that he has discussed only one of several competing strands in New Atheist thinking and that there are others available. He concludes with the consideration that there isn’t a single atheism but a multiplicity of atheisms, all with differing responses to religious belief. Some of them will be comparably mild, but most will involve some kind of frustration at religion’s persistence. He recommends that atheists should identify which type of atheist they are, in order to avoid the violent intolerance inherent in New Atheist rhetoric. This agrees with his statement at the beginning of the book, where he hopes it will lead to an atheist response to religion which is properly informed by history and which genuinely respects religious believers.
The book is likely to be widely attacked by the New Atheists and their followers. Some of its conclusions Johnstone admits are controversial, such as the view that the Cathars never existed, or that the persecution of heretics was an integral part of the forging of the medieval state. But historians and sociologists of religion repeatedly show that in the persecutions and atrocities in which religion has been involved, religion is largely not the only, or in some cases even the most important reason. Johnstone’s views on witchcraft is supported by much contemporary popular and academic treatments. His statement that the figure of over nine million victims of the witch-hunt is grossly exaggerated is shared by Lois Martin in her The History of Witchcraft (Harpenden: Pocket Essentials 2002). The Harvard professor, Jeffrey Burton Russell in his Witchcraft in the Middle Ages (Ithaca: Cornell University Press 1972) also shows how Christian attitudes towards witchcraft passed from the scepticism of the Canon Episcopi to belief as the responsibility for its persecution passed from the bishops to the Holy Office.
Early law codes treated maleficium – black or harmful magic – purely as a civil offence against persons or property. It became a religious crime with the development of the belief that witches attended sabbats where they parodied the Christian Eucharist and worshiped Satan. A paper describing the scrupulous legality and legal provisions for the accused’s defence in the Roman Inquisition can be found in the Athlone History of Witchcraft and Magic In Europe IV: The Period of the Witch Trials, Bengt Ankerloo and Stuart Clarke eds., (Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press 2002). Other writers on religion have noted the similarity between the late medieval and early modern witch-hunts and paranoid fears about Freemasons, Jews and Communists in later centuries, including the Holocaust, Stalin’s purges and McCarthyism. They thus see it as one manifestation of the wider ‘myth of the organised conspiracy’. See Richard Cavendish, ‘Christianity’, in Richard Cavendish, ed., Mythology: An Illustrated Encyclopedia (London: Orbis 1980) 156-69 (168-9).
The Soviet persecution of the Russian Orthodox Church is described by Rev. Timothy Ware in his The Orthodox Church (London: Penguin 1963). Ludmilla Alexeyeva also describes the Soviet persecution of the Orthodox Church, along with other religions and national and political groups and movements in her Soviet Dissent: Contemporary Movements for National, Religious and Human Rights (Middletown, Connecticutt: Wesleyan University Press 1985). R.N. Carew Hunt’s The Theory and Practice of Communism (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1950) shows how leading Communists like Lenin believed atheism was an integral part of Communism and the Soviet state with a series of quotations from them. An example of Lenin’s demand for an aggressive atheism is his speech, ‘On the Significance of Militant Materialism’ in Lenin: Selected Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers 1968). 653-60.
It is also entirely reasonable to talk about religious elements and attitudes within certain forms of atheism and secular ideologies. Peter Rogerson in many of his well-reasoned articles in Magonia pointed out how similar some of the sceptics’ attacks on superstition and the supernatural were to narratives of religious conversion. His attitude is shared with some academic sociologists, historians and political theorists. Peter Yinger’s section on ‘Secular Alternatives to Religion’ in The Religious Quest: A Reader, edited by Whitfield Foy (London: Open University Press 1978) 537-554, has articles on the ‘Religious Aspects of Postivism’, p. 544, ‘Faith in Science’, 546, ‘Religious Aspects of Marxism’, p. 547, ‘Totalitarian Messianism’ 549, and ‘Psychoanalysis as a Modern Faith’, 551. For some scholars, the similarities of some secular ideologies to religion is so strong, that they have termed them quasi-religions.
While some atheists resent atheism being described as religion, this term is meant to avoid such objections. It is not intended to describe them literally as religions, but only as ideologies that have some of the qualities of religion. See John E. Smith’s Quasi-Religions: Humanism, Marxism and Nationalism (Macmillan 1994). New Atheism also mimics religion in that several of the New Atheists have written statements of the atheist position and edited anthologies of atheist writings. These are A.C. Grayling’s The Good Book and Christopher Hitchens’ The Portable Atheist. The title of Grayling’s book is clearly a reference to the Bible. As I recall, it caused some controversy amongst atheists when it was published, as many of them complained that atheism was too individual and sceptical to have a definitive, foundational text. In their view, Grayling’s book showed the type of mindset they wanted to escape when they left religion.
The fears of the terrible potential consequences of New Atheist rhetoric despite the avowed intentions of its authors is well founded and timely. There have been sharp complaints about some of the vitriolic rhetoric used to attack particular politicians in debates about Brexit which has resulted in assault and harassment. At the same it was reported that anti-Muslim hate crimes spiked after the publication of Boris Johnson’s column in which he described women wearing the burqa as looking like letterboxes. Neither religion, nor secularism and atheism should be immune from criticism. But Johnstone is right in that it should be correctly historically informed and careful in the language used. Otherwise the consequences could be terrible, regardless of the authors’ own humane feelings and sympathies.

Have I Got News For You Pushes the Anti-Semitism Smears against Corbyn

October 18, 2019

Hey, ho! Another day, another anti-Semitism smear against the Labour party from the Beeb. I might be overreacting here, but my respect for Victoria Coren has just taken a very severe dent. On Have I Got News For You tonight she made a very stupid joke about Corbyn believing in the classic conspiracy theory about Jewish bankers. She told the world that Labour had gone from a surplus in funds of several million to being £650,000 in debt. She then told Corbyn, ‘Jeremy, if you want to know someone good with money, it’s the Jewish bankers you believe are conspiring against you.’ Or something like that. I’ve forgotten the precise wording, but no doubt someone will put it up on YouTube tomorrow. But whatever the wording, she definitely mentioned Corbyn and the Jewish banking conspiracy.

I’m really disappointed as I thought she was better than that.

I can’t say I’m a fan of Have I Got News For You. I got sick and tired of seeing the Beeb push lies on it. It annoyed me so much at one point I stopped watching it completely. I wasn’t really keen on seeing it tonight, truth be told. Perhaps I should have kept well away.

But for the information of Victoria Coren-Mitchell and anyone else who might be taken in by the media’s lies, neither Jeremy Corbyn nor his followers believe in stupid, murderous theories about Jewish bankers. Indeed, as Mike and so many others have put up on their blogs, Corbyn has a proud record of defending the British Jewish community. He even criticised the Beeb and other broadcasters for not putting on enough programmes to cater for the Jewish community. What he has done to cause outrage to the Conservative British Jewish establishment – the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Leadership Council and former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, among others, is demand proper civil rights and equality for Palestinians. Freedom from torture, house demolitions, arbitrary arrest, seizure and eviction from ancestral lands by the Israeli state and militant settlers, the dismantlement of the system of apartheid that exactly mirrors that of White South Africa. You know, basic human rights like that.

In his criticism of Israel, Corbyn has enjoyed the support of Jews, who share his concerns. Hajo Meyer, at whose speech criticising Israel Corbyn committed the heinous crime of nodding in agreement, is not only Jewish but a Holocaust survivor. Many of the entirely decent people smeared as anti-Semites and suspended or expelled from the Labour party by their kangaroo court, are also Jews. People like Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker, Martin Odoni and many, many others.

No-one from the BBC has ever had the decency to talk to any of the people smeared by the witch-hunters, whether anti-racist gentiles like Mike or Ken Livingstone, or the self-respecting, Torah-observant and secular Jews like those I’ve mentioned. They have sought comments on the anti-Semitism smears from people like the Israel-critical Jewish American scholar, Norman Finkelstein, and have given only grudging airtime to Jewish Voice for Labour. Nor has anyone mentioned that some of the heroes of the Warsaw Uprising against the Nazis, like Marek Edelman, were also supporters of the Palestinians. Indeed, Edelman caused notoriety in Israel by stating that the Palestinian rebels were the equivalent of his comrades in their revolt against occupation and murder by the Nazis. Edelman has passed on, but his legacy as an anti-Fascist and supporter of Palestinian rights is admired by veteran anti-racists in the Labour party like Tony Greenstein. A man who is also justly proud of the way British Jews and their gentile comrades in the Labour movement and trade unions resisted Mosley and his thugs before the War.

All this has gone by the wayside. Instead, the Beeb has followed the media pack and its self-imposed groupthink, and pushed ad nauseam the lie that Corbyn and the Labour party are institutionally anti-Semitic. And this latest smear of Corbyn is very suspicious in its timing. Zelo Street yesterday suggested that Louise Ellman’s resignation and the way news of it seemed to come first from the wretched Guido Fawkes was deliberately timed to do damage to Labour. Boris Johnson was in trouble, there hadn’t been an anti-Semitism smear scandal in a little while, so lo! Ellman manufactured one. As has the Beeb. As Mike and Zelo Street have pointed out, Ellman was a Thatcherite entryist parachuted into Liverpool by Blair. Jewish members of her constituency party have made a video stating that they have always been welcomed in the party and they do not recognise her comments about it.

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/10/louise-ellman-and-guido-fawkes.html

Good riddance to Louise Ellman and her lies about Corbyn and anti-Semitism

I don’t expect anything better than the BBC in this. The Beeb has been pushing the anti-Semitism smears ever since they were first made. But I did expect better of Victoria Coren-Mitchell. How wrong I was.

 

Question Time Now Stoops to Getting Guido Fawkes Propagandist on Panel

July 7, 2019

Another character from the sewer of the British far right appeared on Question Time on Thursday. This was Tom Harwood, a member of the Paul Staines’ malign team over at the Guido Fawkes blog. Yes, that cesspool of borderline Fake News was invited to give his opinion on the BBC’s flagship current affairs programme. As Zelo Street points out, this shows how low the programme has sunk after it has been revealed to have used Tory plants in the audience, Tory and other extremely right-wing panelists spouting facts that are just plain wrong, using spurious statistics and gaslighting left-wing panelists, like Diane Abbott, when they have been right.

As Zelo Street points out, many of the peeps on Twitter were not impressed.Comments included

Question … what does Tom Harwood have that makes him qualified to stand on Question Time? He’s not a serious journalist, he’s just a snot-nosed brat on a Right-Whingers blogging site” … “The fact we have people like Tom Harwood on question time shows how low this country has sunk. Surely it starts getting better soon?” [Ron Hopeful there] … “You can definitely tell what Tom Harwood is going to look like at 80 years old when he’s standing in the street shouting at nothing”.

And they continued, with the language including what Spock describes in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, as ‘colourful metaphors’. Very colourful metaphors. Mark Taggart commented on the whole charade

Typically dreadful Question Time with Tom Harwood, an absolute nonentity, being this week’s BBC choice as cheer-leader to the bigoted, cheering, jeering, drown out any opposition Brexit mob. For anyone with a brain the whole show has become utterly unwatchable”.

As for the reason such an odious figure was invited on the programme, ‘Darren’ suggested this

He’s risen through working for an extreme right wing blog which encourages racism in its forums and does things like misrepresents tweets to get people sacked and doxed. He then gets congratulated by BBC journalists and accepted into #bbcqt. The whole thing is sickening”.

Quite. As Zelo Street says, it’s rewarding dishonesty and dirty tricks. They conclude that one day the Beeb will learn not to get into bed Staines and the rest of the Fake News merchants, but by that time it’ll be too late.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/07/question-time-credibility-fawked.html

The programme also bears out the French Philosophical Feline’s observation, over Guy Debord’s Cat, that the TV companies are always softer on the far right than they are on the left. And this now includes Question Time, despite the savaging the panelists gave the then head of the BNP when he appeared on it all those years ago.

And Paul Staines is far right. Very far right. He’s a Libertarian, and was a member of the Freedom Association. But for Libertarians and particularly the Freedom Association, ‘freedom’ only means ‘freedom for the corporate rich’. It certainly does not mean freedom for working people as they are strongly opposed to the welfare state, including the NHS, trade unions and any kind of state intervention in industry. In the 1980s Staines attended an official dinner in which the guest of honour was the leader of one of Rios Montt’s death squads in El Salvador. Because killing, torturing, raping, castrating and mutilating peasants in ways so horrific that they can’t be decently described is a thoroughly respectable defence of free trade economics as preached by Thatcher and the Chicago School. Keeping starving rural workers in conditions of serfdom is entirely consistent with saving them from socialism, as advocated by von Mises and von Hayek in the latter’s The Road to Serfdom.

And in addition to his Fascist views, Staines was a fan of psychedelic drugs, particularly DMT, and complained that because of his advocacy of such psychoactive chemicals he wasn’t taken seriously.

Paul Staines and his wretched crew thus are another bunch of rightists, who have much in common with Mosley and his Fascists. And the fact that the producers of Question Time seem to consider members of his shabby outfit suitable guests on their programme also shows how biased the show has become.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UN Calls for Inquiry into Torture by British Troops in Iraq

May 21, 2019

Saturday’s issue of the I had this article, ‘UN calls for inquiry into torture by Army’ on page 2, which runs

A United Nations body has called for an inquiry into allegations of unlawful killings, torture and ill-treatment by British troops in Iraq. The Committee against Torture, which monitors the implementation of the convention against torture, said the UK should “refrain from enacting legislation that would grant amnesty or pardon where torture is concerned”.

This reminds me very strongly of Abu Ghraib, the US interrogation and detention centre where it was revealed US squaddies were abusing Iraqi prisoners. As much as I’d like to believe that British troops are different and morally superior to the rest of the world, it strikes me as all too possible that some of our troops were also doing the same. Britain was involved in the secret renditions of terrorists or terrorist suspects to countries, where they could be tortured. Furthermore, it has also been revealed that the American troops and mercenaries in Iraq ran amok in a reign of terror, according to shocked American diplomats. The mercenaries ran prostitution rings and shot innocent Iraqi civilians for sport as they drove past them. It was also revealed that American troops also collaborated with Shi’a gangs in running death squads.

I don’t know, but unfortunately it wouldn’t surprise me if British troops were involved in similar atrocities. But I wonder if we will ever find out about it, considering how unwilling the mainstream media were in promoting the War in Iraq, at least in America, and the way the British state still has very strong powers to block Freedom of Information requests and any inquiries into its dodgy activities.

Video Urging Boycott of Eurovision to Combat Israeli Artwashing

May 15, 2019

The Eurovision Song Contest is nearly upon us, and TV stations all across Europe have started showing the contestants going through their moves and ditties ready for the big event. This year it’s in Israel, and last night the Beeb started their broadcast from that country. This raises the awkward issue of how the Israeli state is using the event as propaganda, to try to present itself as a liberal, progressive nation while in fact its the reverse. It’s an apartheid state, which has practised a 70 + year campaign of apartheid, arrest, torture and ethnic cleansing against its indigenous people, the Palestinians.

This video comes from Breadtube’s European All-Stars, with speakers including the Spanish Javi, Amelia Jane, Brit Kevin Logan, and Paul Morrin. It’s done with humour, with Javi himself opening the video with a piece in Spanish explaining to his compatriots that they are to hang on, because they’re experiencing cultural difficulties. But it’s very solidly factual, and presents a powerful, irrefutable argument why decent people should not go to Israel and should boycott the Song Contest.

Amelia Jane begins by describing the Song Contest’s origins. It’s staged by the European Broadcasting Union, and was devised to pull the various European nations together after the Second World War. It’s gone from a very upper class oriented event to something rather more democratic. It’s now campy and so LGBTQ positive that it’s almost the precursor to the full Pride parades later in the year.

Despite the EBU’s claim that it is apolitical, the contest has always had its share of controversies, and even the existence of state broadcasters like the EBU in an age of post-Milton Friedman neoliberalism is controversial. Turkey pulled out of the contest a few years ago in protest at two women kissing during one of the pieces. But before that, Austria refused to broadcast it following the inclusion of Franco’s Spain. The ghastly thug was using it to open up his Fascist state to the rest of the world. Since the fall of Communism, it’s included a number of states that were in the former Soviet Union, with the exception of Russia itself. These are using the Song Contest to position themselves as more liberal, progressive, and oriented towards north-west Europe and the free market.

It’s also expanded far beyond the conventional boundaries of Europe. Since the beginning its included Israel, but now also includes Morocco and Australia. This was supposed to be only for a single time, but has somehow continued.

Here Kevin Logan takes up the narrative, talking about Israel as a colonialist, apartheid state. He states that it is a colonialist state, that took over a large proportion of Palestinian territory after the war of 1948 and the departure of the British. It is a religious state, where Jews are the privileged citizens. The indigenous Arabs, however, have been subjected to continuing arrest, massacre and ethnic cleansing. Those who remain in Israel are subjected to a form of apartheid. He states that current technology means that the Israelis cannot hide their atrocities, which include the arrest and torture of children as young as five. He compares this with apartheid South Africa, which also experienced boycotts in sport, the arts and elsewhere in protest at its racism.

This part of the video shows clips of the Israeli forces doing precisely what Logan describes, including arresting small children and a journo shot by the IDF. And to show what ordinary Israelis think of Islam and Palestinians, he shows clips from Abby Martin’s Empire Files, in which various young Israelis declare their hatred of Islam, desire to see Arabs and Israelis segregated, and that the whole of Palestine is theirs and Jews and Arabs should not intermarry, because they are God’s Chosen People.

Phil Morrin then takes over to show how the Israelis are turning to the arts and culture to burnish their very soiled image. He explains what green-, art-, and pinkwashing are. Greenwashing would be if the IDF tried to convince the world that it was now a progressive, caring organisation by putting its squaddies on a vegan diet. He declares that the real vegans wouldn’t be impressed, and would say that the diet was merely plant-based. Similarly, the Israeli state has also used Eurovision and queer issues to try to present itself as more humane and progressive than it really is. This was twenty years ago, when the Israeli contestant was bearded woman Dana International. Actually, I though International was really a pre-operative transsexual, meaning that she was biologically male, rather than completely female at that point. And then the other year their entry was a song about resisting bullying, performed by a plus-sized singer determined to combat stereotypes about body size. He wonders how that would have gone down with the 27 people the Israelis shot that year, which actually was one of the quietest.

The video ends with a call for people to get involved with the boycott campaign and stay away from Israel in order to overturn it, and create a Palestine, which is free, democratic, and where all its citizens enjoy equal rights. And this includes the wider Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement. It may not do much, but the Eurovision Song Contest now has such cachet that Madonna wanted to take part and was denouncing people, who were urging its boycott. Okay, Javi says, they’ve got Madonna, but we’ve got Roger Waters, formerly of Pink Floyd. So the guitar on our side is better, but probably not the dancing. The video ends with Javi appealing for donations.

I’ve no doubt that this video, posted on May 7th, has already got the Zionists’ teeth gnashing. It’s precisely the kind of material that will have the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, the Board of Deputies, and the various parties’ ‘Friends of Israel’ all screaming ‘anti-Semitism’, including Labour Friends of Israel and the Jewish Labour Movement. The groups, who howl with outrage at anyone, who dares to suggest that Israel has no right to exist as a state that declares itself as the homeland of the Jews, while denying the Palestinians a right to their homeland, or to live as equal citizens in a religiously and racially neutral Israel. But this doesn’t stop the video being true, and its arguments valid.

And Israel and its supporters are ultimately behind the anti-Semitism smears against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party, and the foul lies against decent, anti-racists and campaigners and anti-Semitism and Fascism like Jackie Walker, Marc Wadsworth, Mike Sivier, Martin Odoni, Tony Greenstein, Cyril Chilson, and so many, many others.

Given how the Israeli state and its craven supporters have behaved to Mike and the rest, I don’t even want to see it on TV. Go boycott it, even if you’ve no intention of going to Israel anyway. Watch something on the other channels, or put in a DVD, listen to a CD, go on YouTube, play footie, snooker, go down the pub. Do anything, in fact, but give your precious time and attention to Israel’s efforts to divert the world’s attention away from its true, horrific, Fascist reality.

 

 

 

 

Tony Greenstein on Israel’s Support for Murderous, Fascist Regimes

May 4, 2019

On Wednesday Tony Greenstein put up a piece on his blog, once against criticism the fake campaign against anti-Semitism against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party. This has zero to do with really defending Jews from abuse and assault from genuine anti-Semites and Nazis, like those of the youth terror group, National Action. No, it’s really purpose is to unseat Jeremy Corbyn because he stands up for the rights of the Palestinians against Israeli oppression, and because he threatens to destroy the forty-year reign of neoliberalism that has wrecked this country’s economy, made its working people paupers dependent on food banks, and killed the disabled.

In his piece, Greenstein described how the Labour party had gone along with British imperialism, which disguised its exploitation of its subject nations by presenting it as for their benefit. Hence the Labour party’s support in turn for Zionism, which was similarly presented as beneficial. He makes it clear that Richard Burgon, who was forced to apologise and recant his statement that Zionism was the enemy of peace, was actually quite right. And he gives a list of the viciously repressive, murderous regimes Israel has supported. Greenstein wrote

But it’s not only within the Middle East that Israel has been a threat to peace. It has consistently supported the most repressive and genocidal regimes abroad. It actively aided the genocide in Guatemala where up to 200,000 Mayan Indians were slaughtered. It supported the death squad regime in El Salvador. Shipped weapons to the Nicaraguan Contras when the US Congress cut them off. It supported Pinochet in Chile (Israel’s Supreme Court recently refused to allow the files to be opened on ‘national security’ grounds). It armed the neo-Nazi Junta of Argentina between 1976-1983 when it murdered up to 3,000 Jews and of course more recently it armed the Burmese regime as it committed genocide. Israel was also of course the main arms supplier to the Apartheid regime in South Africa, including nuclear weapons.

See: http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2019/05/how-to-create-anti-semitism-in-2-easy.html

These are horrific regimes. The atrocities committed by the Fascist death squads in Latin America, which involved not only mass murder, but torture, rape and sexual mutilation, are so horrific that I cannot decently describe them in this blog. By supporting these regimes, Israel was complicit in acts of genocide and crimes against humanity.

It also isn’t just Greenstein, who has argued that Burgon was right in his initial comment about Zionism. The Israeli expatriate historian Ilan Pappe says the same in his book, Ten Myths about Israel. Pappe argues very persuasively that Israel and its politicians have never been serious about making peace with the Palestinians, and have instead sought ways of provoking conflict while at the same time making it look as if they are the victims, not the aggressors. This is also argued by another book I’ve read, which stated that the real danger to Jews was Zionism.

Richard Burgon was absolutely right in his view that Zionism is a threat to peace. And it is absolutely disgusting that the Israeli state has supported utterly monstrous regimes across the world, which have tortured and murdered innocents in the tens and hundreds of thousands. And that any criticism of it for this is immediately condemned by the British establishment, including the Board of Deputies of British Jews, as ‘anti-Semitic’.

Tony Greenstein on the Neocon Warmongering of Nick Cohen, Private Eye’s ‘Ratbiter’

March 20, 2019

This fortnight’s edition of Private Eye contains yet another piece by ‘Ratbiter’ promoting the fake story that Corbyn’s Labour party is just one seething mass of anti-Semites, and making these allegations against a couple of people in particular. I’ll blog about these latest claims in due course, as they’re very similar to the accusations used against others like Mike, who are very definitely not anti-Semites.

‘Ratbiter’ is the pseudonym used by GuardianObserver journalist Nick Cohen. According to a piece Tony Greenstein put up on his blog in October last year, 2018, Cohen at one time used to be a respectable journalist. He started writing for the Groan / Absurder during Blair’s tenure of No.10, but what actually respectable. He defended immigrants and asylum seekers against Blair’s attempts to demonise them and tighten up the anti-immigration legislation. And then along came 9/11, and he became a determined critic of Islam and a fervent supporter of Bush and Blair’s invasion of Iraq. Greenstein described this part of his journalistic career in a piece he put up defending Jon Lansman, the head of Momentum, who seems to believe the anti-Semitism smears. Cohen had attacked him for not doing enough to purge the organisation of Greenstein himself. Here’s how Greenstein described Cohen and his turn to the Right.

But first let me digress. There was a time, at the beginning of the Blair government, when Nick Cohen was a decent journalist. I even looked forward to reading his column in The Observer. No one was a more indefatiguable defender of asylum seekers from the depredations of a racist New Labour government than Cohen. Cohen was a mainstream Tribune style journalist.

Then something happened. As with Christopher Hitchens it was 9/11 and then the war with Iraq.  From being a left-wing journalist Cohen became transformed into an anti-Muslim bigot. No one, not even David Aaronovitch, banged the war drum more assiduously than Cohen. He did it, he said, in support of his anti-Baathist Iraqi friends, seemingly oblivious to the hundreds of thousands dead in Iraq, the murderous rampages of American troops, the torture centres and the deliberate policy of setting Shi’ites against Sunnis with all the devastatingly sectarian consequences that followed. To Cohen Iraq was a holy war and unlike Aaronovitch he never publicly recanted (Aaro promised to eat his hat, although to my knowledge this never happened).

Instead Cohen became one of the authors and founders of the short-lived Euston Manifesto group of neo-cons and imperialists. For him opposition to war meant you were inextricably intertwined with Islamic fundamentalism and inherently anti-Semitic. Naturally when Jeremy Corbyn came along Cohen joined the rest of the chorus at the Guardian/Observer in his ceaseless attacks on Labour’s most radical and left-wing leader ever. Nothing was too dirty or discredited to attack Corbyn with but it is nonetheless worth remembering that once upon a time Nick Cohen was a decent and genuine journalist.

Today Cohen operates under the pseudonym of ratbiter at Private Eye, acting as a conduit for whatever misinformation about the Left that the Right supplies him with. It is an appropriate name as his journalism, if that’s the right word, is certainly verminous. In this capacity he has written a series of attacks on Momentum’s Left in Brighton and in particular on my friend and comrade Greg Hadfield.

Greenstein then turns to taking apart the lies, smears and inaccuracies Cohen has made against the Momentum left in Brighton in that fortnight’s issue of Private Eye in a piece entitled ‘The New Nasty Party’. And he also reveals another magazine Cohen writes for: The Speccie. Greenstein writes

As befits a good socialist, not only does Nick Cohen write in Private Eye but he is a columnist at that well known socialist weekly The Spectator. And there it was that he attacked poor Lansman for not doing enough in the fight against ‘anti-Semitism’. Cohen starts off his column with the brainless comment that ‘being a Jew on the Corbyn left is soul crushing.’

Greenstein also add the remark that he was tempted to ask Cohen how he would know, as Cohen isn’t actually Jewish. He then goes on to attack the inaccuracies in another, previous article Cohen had written, and a piece on his blog. After describing this lies and inaccuracies, Greenstein concludes by stating that he wrote to the Guardian telling them he would be willing to replace both Cohen and Owen Jones for half their salaries. His offer was unsurprisingly rejected.

A picture of the man himself from Greenstein’s article. If you can’t read the caption, it says, ‘The worst thing about all the Fascists, charlatans and liars running the Leave campaign is all the bloody name calling! To which Greenstein adds a caption saying that he lacks a certain self-awareness.

See: http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2018/10/will-nick-cohen-guardians-hapless.html

Private Eye is therefore publishing highly biased pieces, which could well be considered defamatory – Greenstein said that the only reason he isn’t suing him is because he was already suing the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, and has the Jewish Chronicle and a certain unnamed councillor in his sights – by someone who fully supported and promoted an unprovoked, illegal war. A war that was really wages solely for the enrichment of predatory western multinationals and the American-Saudi oil industry. A war that has left a million dead and seven million displaced in the Middle East, quite apart from the carnage Greenstein describes in the passage quoted above.

But there, no source is apparently too low and no lie too vile in the media’s determination to oust Corbyn.

American Right-Winger Wants to Impose Fascist Dictators

December 14, 2018

Bit of American politics, which shows how the mask slips occasionally from the faces of respected conservative political pundits to show the real Fascist underneath.

In this video from Secular Talk, host Kyle Kulinski discusses recent tweets from Eric Erickson and what this says about the right-wing bias in the supposedly liberal media. Erickson’s been a fixture of the American news media for years. He had a job as contributor at CNN, in October this year, 2018, he was on Meet The Press, and was the subject of a glowing article in the New Yorker, a supposedly liberal paper. Kulinski points out that, especially in contrast to himself, who has only been on Fox News twice, Erickson’s certainly isn’t a fringe figure. He is very definitely a part of the mainstream media. The lamestream media love him because he’s nominal anti-Trump. But he posted a series of tweets stating that he wanted American to impose another dictator like Pinochet on the countries of South America.

Erickson tweeted:

The US spends $618 million in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico. We could double that and it’d still only be 11% of the cost of the wall. And we cold deploy the money to find and prop up the next generation of Pinochet types.

These countries are corrupt. We will not exterminate that corruption. But let’s not pretend we should let corrupt autocrats thrive who work against our hemispheric interests and cause refugee caravans to approach our borders.

Support strong leaders who will force through free market reforms and promote economic stability even with a heavy hand.

In reply to Josiah Neeley’s comment that there might be holes in this plan,
Erickson responds with ‘I think there might be some helicopters in this plan’.

Kulinski explains that the last comment refers to Pinochet’s habit of murdering his political opponents by throwing them out of helicopters. He then reads out a piece from Think Progress, which explains that Pinochet was the Fascist dictator, who seized power in Chile after overthrowing the democratically elected socialist president, Salvador Allende, in a CIA backed coup. He ruled from 1973 to 1990. Pinochet tortured, murdered and exiled his political opponents. In at least 120 cases they were killed by being thrown out of helicopters into the sea. Pinochet’s thugs also assassinated Orlando Leteiler, a former Chilean diplomat, and two other bystanders in car bomb in Washington D.C. in 1976.
But all this is fine in the eyes of the far-right, because he also brought in free market reforms.

Kulinski goes on to warn his audience that this is what lies underneath the façade of respectability the next time they hear a right-winger sanctimoniously declaring that they believe in freedom, democracy and human rights. The next time Erickson is cheering on America’s next intervention in Latin America, it will be because it has nothing to do with freedom and human rights. Erickson has told everyone that he prefers Fascists like Pinochet, who rule through terror and institute free market reforms.

Kulinski states that this brings him back to the point he made at the beginning of his piece about the bias in the American media. They will run extensive pieces on the right and extreme right, because they view them as inherently sexy and interesting. It’s the age of Trump, and they want to provide some insight into a growing right-wing movement. That’s why they’ll publish features on Trump supporters and real neo-Nazis in the mid-West and Richard Spencer, but won’t cover the resurgent socialist and progressive left in America. Neither he, Cenk Uygur, Chakyaborti, or Zack Exley, the founders of Justice Democrats, have got glowing individual reviews in the press. Left-wing groups like the Justice Democrats, Our Revolution and a number of others named by Kulinski, have won 41 per cent of their primaries, and there are now 13 candidates backed by them going to Washington. They’re moving the Democrat party left, and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez has also defeated another right-wing opponent. These groups didn’t exist an election cycle ago. But they’ve got no coverage, because the press sees left-wing activism as boring. He mocks them, saying that they wave away people demanding proper healthcare as boring, but get terribly excited when they find someone who believes in an ethno-state and wears a suit. Which is clearly a reference to Richard Spencer, the very conventionally dressed founder of the Alt Right.

Kulinski argues that this imbalance is due to the media overreacting to accusations of liberal bias. They’re so terrified of it that they go overboard to be kind to the right. And so there are no articles giving positive coverage to the idea that Bernie Sanders might run in 2020. Instead they try to shove on American voters establishment types like John Kerry, who lost to George ‘Dubya’ Bush and Hillary Clinton. But when it comes to the left there’s silence. And so the chickens have metaphorically come home to roost when Erickson makes his Fascist tweets.

Kulinski concludes by observing that this won’t stop Erickson appearing on the news media. But he asks his audience what kind of system allows and actively promotes loathsome clowns like Eric Erickson, while downplaying Social Democrats and those on the populist left. A broken system, a s****y system, a corrupted system, he answers.

In some ways it’s really not surprising that someone like Erickson should hold such horrific views. As William Blum has shown in his books and website, the Anti-Empire Report, this has been America’s policy in Latin America and elsewhere in the world since the end of World War II. America has supported Fascist coups and dictators in Chile and Guatemala, where the democratic socialist president, Jacobo Arbenz, was overthrown and smeared as a Communist because he dared to nationalize the plantations owned by the American United Fruit Company. Reagan backed the murderous Contras in Nicaragua, the right-wing Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, and the brutal Samosa regime and the leader of its death squads, Rios Montt, in El Salvador. And Hillary Clinton is no better. She endorsed the Fascist regime that seized power in Honduras in 2012. A regime that has rounded up and killed indigenous activists, trade unionists and left-wingers. Perhaps the only thing surprising about Erickson’s comments on twitter was that he’s honest about his support for Fascism.

And it’s America’s brutal policies in Latin America, that are partly responsible for the migrant caravan of refugees seeking to flee countries that have been denied freedom and prosperity by America.

Erickson’s tweets show what’s really underneath the mask of moderate respectability worn by American right-wing pundits. Which makes you wonder if our own Conservatives and Conservative media figures are any different. I very much doubt it. They’re just better at hiding it.

Labour’s Kangaroo Courts Are A Credibility Liability

November 19, 2018

Yesterday, Mike put up a piece discussing how he had finally got written notification from the Labour party, informing him he had been thrown out as an anti-Semite. He can, apparently, reapply for admission in something like 18 months time. The letter also informed Mike on what grounds they had decided he was anti-Semitic. As Mike points out, these were quite different grounds than the charges that were originally made against him.

The letter declared that he had been found guilty because

“Upon the balance of probabilities the charge was proved for reasons including:
◾It was not disputed that you were responsible for the posting the content that the NEC claimed breached Labour Party rules;
◾A reasonable person would find the posted content, that is the basis of the NEC’s charge, to have the propensity to cause offence, be regarded as abusive and make some feel discriminated against;
◾In posting the content you breached the Labour Party’s Antisemitism and other forms of racism code of conduct, Social Media Policy and Member’s Pledge in appendix 9 of the Rule Book.”

But the original charges were

“Mr Sivier has repeatedly posted content propogating the conspiracy that secretive networks of Jews control and have undue influence over government and other societal institutions. He uses language that is dismissive of antisemitism and that denies Jews the right to self-identify as they wish. This falls fairly and squarely within the IHRA definition of antisemitism, which the Labour Party has adopted.”

Mike states clearly that at his hearing he completely blew these charges out of the water, which is why the NCC was reduced to finding him guilty on the trumped-up twaddle in the letter. But he points out that all the letter proves is that there was someone who felt abused, offended and discriminated against.

He also makes the point that there is a huge difference between saying something and meaning it, and that the complaint was deliberately made to interfere with his attempt to run for election as a member of Powys council.

He also wondered how the reasonable people, who read his blog, and don’t believe that he’s an anti-Semite feel about how the NCC has described them. Their ruling is a clear statement that they don’t regard people like them as reasonable.

Actually, the unreasonable person(s) in the whole affair are whoever made the complaint, and Labour’s NCC, and the Vishinsky in charge of this Stalinist show trial, Maggie Cousins. The allegations that Mike’s an anti-Semite was made originally by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, and apparently supported by the Israel lobby within the Labour party, like the Jewish Labour Movement. Or Paole Zion, as it used to be called. These people aren’t remotely reasonable. They’re bug-eyed fanatics, who demand unquestioning support for Israeli policies, even when these are clearly Fascistic, such as the system of apartheid designed to contain and isolate the Palestinians, and their slow ethnic cleansing through land seizures, house demolitions, the poisoning of their water supplies and the arrest, torture and casual shooting by the armed forces, including women and children.

The Israel lobby in Britain is violently islamophobic and, like its Israeli masters, makes alliances with real Nazis and anti-Semites to further its ends. Israel has invited Richard Spencer, the head of the Alt-Right, Sebastian Gorka and Stephen Bannon from America, and Tommy Robinson, the former head of the English Defence League, onto its television and high-level political and military gatherings. The Israeli state has also allied itself with the Far Right governments of Poland and Hungary, and sold arms to the Nazis now running amok in the Ukraine.

In the UK, we’ve had Stephen Pollard, the editor of the Jewish Chronicle, tell Groaniad readers that Michal Kaminski, an MEP for the current ruling party in Poland, isn’t an anti-Semite. This is despite Kaminski’s party trying to cover up Polish complicity in the Holocaust and denying that the villagers of Jedwabne were responsible for the massacre of the Jews there. Zionists like Jonathan Hoffman turn up at anti-Palestine demonstrations in the company of members of Britain First and have links to the EDL. Which had a Jewish division, quite apart from the Jewish Defence League. Some of the members of the British Zionist movement are Likudniks, members of the Likud party’s British organization, Herut. And there are a couple, who even brazenly turn up wearing the insignia of Kach, a Fascistic Israeli organization banned in Israel for terrorism.

As for former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sachs, who was one of the leading members of the Jewish community baying for Corbyn’s removal, Sachs has absolutely no business calling anyone racist. A few years ago, Sachs took it upon himself to lead a party of Jewish Brits to join the Israel Day march in Jerusalem. This is when the Israeli equivalent of skinhead thugs march through the Muslim quarter to threaten and intimidate the indigenous residents, vandalizing their property, scrawling racist graffiti on the walls and Lord knows what else. One Israeli scientist, religious scholar and philosopher described such thugs as ‘Judeonazis’. And he’s right. They are the Jewish equivalent of the Nazis. There is no other word which properly describes them, no matter how much the Israel lobby may scream and howl with rage at the comparison.

Of the letter itself, Mike says it proves two things, that

I am not an anti-Semite (the letter makes no suggestion of any hatred towards Jews, simply because they are Jewish) – and Labour’s National Constitutional Committee is a laughing-stock.

However, the affair has also created problems for the Labour party. Labour has just launched a recruitment campaign. But they may find that a problem, as many people will not want to join a party that is so prejudiced against its own grassroots members, and which cannot correct and root out the systemic corruption in its bureaucracy. This gives the party a credibility problem with its treatment of Mike and others like him, especially as there is no appeal procedure.

He states that this also puts them in an actionable position, so perhaps the mess can be sorted out in court. He also makes the point that while he is putting a brave face on it, it is nevertheless distressing to be accused of anti-Semitism.

Labour is now particularly in a difficult position, as they wish to close the gap with the Conservatives in the polls. But that’s the party’s fault, not Mike’s.

He concludes

If Labour really wanted to gain credibility now, the party’s leaders should have thought very carefully before inflicting this particular injustice on this particular man.

They’d better do something about it quickly – don’t you agree?

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/11/18/labours-kangaroo-court-issues-details-of-its-finding-against-me-and-they-dont-even-match-the-charge/

Now I very much do agree, but I don’t think the Blairites and Zionists in Labour, who have engineered this crisis are remotely bothered about it. They have shown themselves absolutely determined to destroy Corbyn’s leadership by any means, including organizing coup after coup, smearing him and his supporters in the press, trying to pack the party with Lib Dems and Tories in order to stop themselves being deselected, or prevent grassroots Labour members getting elected to important posts. And finally they’ve threatened to split from the party and form their own, like the SDP in the 1980s.

They have, in short, shown that they are determined to destroy the party, if they can’t control it. And if it does badly in the polls, then they’re highly delighted if they can blame it on Corbyn. And in order to prevent a Corbyn Labour government, they will betray the country and their members and vote with the government to prop up Theresa May.

In short, they are the credibility. And Corbyn is assisting them, as he has shown time and again that he won’t back up his supporters against these false charges of anti-Semitism, because he thinks that if he sacrifices them to the Israel lobby, it’ll placate them. It won’t. They have made it very clear that their overriding concern is to remove him. Attacking his supporters is merely part of this overall strategy.

The Blairites and the Israel lobby are a liability, and have created a credibility gap. And the only way it can be solved is if these people are cleaned out, and Corbyn grows a backbone and stands up to them.