Saturday, 26 November 2016

The strange world of Paul Mason's liberal left wargaming

Anxious about whether the arrival of Trump signals an expanded militarism? Disturbed about hovering neo-cons getting an upper-hand in his administration? Fearing the promotion of dangerous new Cold War narratives?

Well, while all that latest hawk politics plays out, consider how the very case for greater militarism and weapons 'solutions' is being made by prominent left liberal Paul Mason.      

Astonishingly, having already defended Trident, Mason now invokes the Rand Corporation, and its Wargaming discourse, to argue for a massive show of Nato strength across Eastern Europe.

Rand's own war agenda (noted associates include Henry Kissinger and Donald Rumsfeld) and Dr Strangelove mindset should be obvious enough. So, why is Mason embracing it? It seems, for Mason, that the 'looming Russian menace' just can't be ignored, and that, 'realistically', we must look to such analysis and strategies to help counter it. 

In phrases that might have come straight from the head of MI5 (as actually hosted recently by an all-too-eager Guardian), Mason warns:
The UK’s national security is faced with two threats. One is jihadi terrorism, which current security, intelligence and policing has managed to contain, for now. The other is no longer simply a theoretical attack by Putin on the Baltics: it is the strategic breakup of Europe in the face of US isolationism and Russian adventurism.
On top of the encirclement already taking place, Mason sees the need for an even more substantive build-up of Nato divisions along Europe's eastern borders with Russia:
You’ll have read about increased NATO troop deployments to the Baltics but these are peanuts compared to what RAND estimates is needed even as a baseline figure.
As a demonstrative act of 'national security', he urges that the UK's own military spend move beyond 2 percent of GDP. In promotion of all this, he even wants us to embrace a new popular militarist culture:
Make the UK armed forces look more like the UK population. In May 1940 the shock of Dunkirk was amplified by the distance many people felt from the UK’s military culture. The plan for an expanded Territorial Army should be embraced and its status enhanced. The labour movement in the UK needs to start thinking about what a democratized and socially engaged UK armed forces would look like, and what pro-active links it wants to build with the military as an institution.
In advocating a major shift of military resources towards the European arena, Mason asserts that: 
The first thing, obviously, is to avoid conflict in the Baltics. Especially since all the projected outcomes from it are catastrophic.
Yet what's more likely to precipitate that kind of catastrophe than the arrival of even larger numbers of troops and weaponry? Isn't the calamity of Syria evidence enough that more militarism only inflames conflict? Wasn't Nato's murderous assault on Libya and its humanitarian consequences sufficient warning? Isn't the West's and Nato's aggressions in the Middle East proof positive that more soldiers and arms only intensify, rather than avert, war and human misery? And, why, for Mason, are Nato's land-grabbing wars in the Middle East somehow different from its border-expanding ambitions in Eastern Europe?           

Amid much apocalypse-speak on Trump, Putin and Assad, Mason doesn't even mention the already disastrous record of Obama and Hillary Clinton in promoting a neo-fascist coup in Ukraine, nor the heightening of military tensions her election would have brought there.

Helpfully, Lindsey German, at Stop The War, provides a reality-check on Mason's 'Russian threat', and the true menace of Nato's encouragements:
The truth is, Russia is nowhere near the military power it was during the Cold War. Even then, it was weaker than its main adversary, the US. True it is stronger militarily now than it was after the collapse of the USSR and the Warsaw Pact. But its military strength bears no comparison to that of the US, let alone the US and its allies in NATO. The countries lobbying for greater NATO involvement, including Poland and the Baltic states, are not doing so for reasons of peace. 
It's also notable how other left liberals eagerly court such discourse. Giving an approving heads-up to Mason, Bella Caledonia editor Mike Small suggests independence-seeking Scots should now look beyond the standard 'Bairns not Bombs' narrative. Citing Mason's reading of Rand, Small says:
It’s a compelling wake-up call that casts into light both our lack of control over Defence matters in Scotland and the long-term incompetence of British defence strategy. It’s a challenge to peaceniks and the left to think on our feet and adapt to rapidly changing global circumstances. If the Better Together arguments and propaganda has crumbled – so too must the case for an independent Scotland be updated and overhauled, and not just rest on the laurels of ‘Bairns not Bombs’.
Alas, despite much good output, Bella too often lapses into the same queasy Guardian-speak - the very place where Mason has found a ready platform for much of his specious 'left militarism'.

For nuclear-weapons-burdened people in Scotland, as elsewhere, the real thinking on our feet should not be about Mason's liberal-defined 'adaptations', but how quickly we rid ourselves of the entire militarist monster posing as Nato 'security' - including what the US harbours at Faslane. That's still the vital imperative behind Bairns not Bombs.

The most insidious case for 'necessary militarism' comes not from the dark world of Rand Wargaming, but from the pages of liberal wargamers. It's lofty media like the Guardian and New Statesman giving criminal warmonger Tony Blair relentless airings. It's state-serving BBC journalists forever fetishising 'our' weapons and 'military capabilities'. And it's 'liberal-realist' interventionists like Paul Mason making Nato's rapacious war machine and its provocative deployments seem benign and palatable.



Friday, 18 November 2016

The real cause of Trump: rampant neoliberalism

As the great 'How Could This Have Happened' inquest into Donald Trump's victory continues, we've seen predictable liberal recourse to simplified 'explanation' and blame. Primarily, it points the finger at naked racism, understated misogyny, and hatred of minorities, all amplified by Trump and his play to authoritarian populism. And who would deny the prevalence of all that.

Yet, this liberal tick-box tells us almost nothing of substance. Indeed, it merely mystifies the issue more. For what's being identified here are symptoms rather than elementary causes.

How easy to invoke media memes like 'whitelash', as if we can simply say a country founded and built on racism has now just suddenly decided to turn decisively on black, latino or immigrant people. There's no doubt that base racism, and Trump's ugly cultivation of it, played a notable part in his election. But that doesn't make it a core cause.

How myopic, likewise, to claim Clinton's demise can be attributed to Trump's and his followers' hatred of Clinton as a woman. Misogyny exists, in varying degrees, at all levels of society. Yet, it's no more a principal cause of major political outcomes than any other form of social hostility. 

Among much of the liberal left commentariat, the 'explanatory' narrative seems more 'searching', yet no more convincing. Owen Jones, for example, posits, first and foremost, the same 'primary' factors: racism, misogyny and homophobic hatred. In his further 'probing' of the electoral demographics, Jones adds: 
Trump appears to have done best among middle-income Americans, and narrowly beat Clinton among the affluent. But the biggest shift to Trump – a 16-point swing– came from those earning less than $30,000 a year, even though he still lags behind Clinton among this group. Last time they voted for the country’s first black president. This time they shifted to a candidate backed by avowed racists, and ensured he won. Centrism has failed these and many other voters.
Jones believes that "Centrism", "the ideology of self-styled moderates" is now "in a state of collapse." Once, this "third way project championed by Bill Clinton and Tony Blair could claim political dominance in much of the US and Europe." For Jones, that 'vacuum' has now provided the opening for Trump.
Again, none of this provides any real insight on Trump's victory. Firstly, Jones is eager to blame racism as a central factor, while pointing out that many low income voters once loyal to Obama have now switched to Trump, thus undermining his very own claim about racism as a major determining issue. Why not, at least, discuss this as class, rather than racist, politics? 
Again, confusing cause and effect, Jones claims "Centrism" and its "collapse" as the reason for social and economic estrangement, and the political turn to Trump. But why not look, more closely, and critically, at the actual forces driving that "Centrism"? How appropriate is it even to call the extremist market doctrines embraced by Blair and Clinton 'centrist'? 
As Glenn Greenwald more convincingly argues, liberal denial and deflected blame following both Trump and Brexit have only obscured the real issue:   
The indisputable fact is that prevailing institutions of authority in the West, for decades, have relentlessly and with complete indifference stomped on the economic welfare and social security of hundreds of millions of people. While elite circles gorged themselves on globalism, free trade, Wall Street casino gambling, and endless wars (wars that enriched the perpetrators and sent the poorest and most marginalized to bear all their burdens), they completely ignored the victims of their gluttony, except when those victims piped up a bit too much — when they caused a ruckus — and were then scornfully condemned as troglodytes who were the deserved losers in the glorious, global game of meritocracy.
Greenwald also notes that Obama leaves office with high approval ratings, suggesting there's little evidence to show that racism is any more an issue in 2016 than it was in 2008 and 2012:
People often talk about “racism/sexism/xenophobia” vs. “economic suffering” as if they are totally distinct dichotomies. Of course there are substantial elements of both in Trump’s voting base, but the two categories are inextricably linked: The more economic suffering people endure, the angrier and more bitter they get, the easier it is to direct their anger to scapegoats.
Greenwald also relates, at Democracy Now, how the US media first talked-up Trump during the primaries, then turned on him when he became the Republican's candidate:
And in a big way, that also played a role, unwittingly, I think, in helping Trump, because, of all the institutions in the United States, the institutions of authority that are hated, the American media leads the way. 
Unlike liberal denialists and moderated leftists like Jones, Greenwald takes us to the closer heart of why Trump got elected.    

It's here we get to the essential cause, rather than symptoms, of what we're now witnessing in America, as elsewhere: rampant neoliberalism.

Neoliberal doctrine has been relentlessly imposed by a liberal political class, and propagated at every level of life, notably by a corporate media. In a fine study article on neoliberalism, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, Anis Shivani writes:
I would go so far as to say that neoliberalism is the final completion of capitalism’s long-nascent project, in that the desire to transform everything—every object, every living thing, every fact on the planet—in its image had not been realized to the same extent by any preceding ideology.
And, for Shivani, there's been no more zealous practitioner of unrestrained neoliberalism than Clinton:
When Hillary Clinton frequently retorts—in response to demands for reregulation of finance, for instance—that we have to abide by “the rule of law,” this reflects a particular understanding of the law, the law as embodying the sense of the market, the law after it has undergone a revolution of reinterpretation in purely economic terms. In this revolution of the law persons have no status compared to corporations, nation-states are on their way out, and everything in turn dissolves before the abstraction called the market.
Complementing this view, Nomi Prins provides a detailed assessment of Hillary Clinton's service to Wall Street. She recalls how Clinton backed her husband in dismantling the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999, which "freed the big banks to use their depositors’ money as collateral for risky bets in the real estate market and elsewhere, and so allowed them to become ever more engorged with questionable securities." Clinton also failed as senator to initiate bills that would regulate Wall Street, while protecting her major bank contributors (Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, and Morgan Stanley). And she voted to approve Obama's $700 billion bank bail-out during the 2007-8 financial crisis, the very institutions that had ran amok with risky investments, plunging ordinary people into poverty.

Prins concluded with this warning, had Clinton got elected:
The banks have voted with their dollars on all of this in multiple ways. Hillary won’t do anything to upset that applecart. We should have no illusions about what her presidency would mean from a Wall Street vs. Main Street perspective.
It's here we saw the vital role of Clinton's liberal backers. In particular, Clinton's liberal media devotees either ignored, said little about, or cravenly excused her neoliberal positions, from every form of financial deregulation and corporate alignment, to upholding, despite expedient prevarications, key 'free trade' deals like TTP and  NAFTA.

Evading serious discussion of her corporate loyalties, political corruption and mass warmongering, Clinton was eagerly hailed at the Guardian by Polly Toynbee, Hadley Freeman and other female notables.

Likewise, while 'progressive feminist' Laurie Penny could rightly denounce Trump's sleazy behaviour, she saw in Hillary's conduct an admirable "dignity". Having talked-up her candidacy, Penny now laments her losing:
It was decreed that the only alternative to naked screaming fascism was the status quo. Despite her gender, Hillary Clinton was the status quo candidate, the legacy candidate, the dynasty candidate. She also looks like what she is — a woman in politics — and that enraged as many people as it inspired.
An all seemingly sober admission. Yet, where do we find in such narrative the more crucial truth that Hillary was the neoliberal candidate?

In contrast, a fine piece at Jacobin magazine details Clinton's corporate-serving policies and "neoliberal feminism":
When Clinton was brought onto the board of Walmart, the company was facing serious problems of gender discrimination. At every level, women were paid less than men, leading to the largest sex discrimination class-action lawsuit in history. As Featherstone wrote, while “Clinton’s presence on the board helped to make the company look like a better place for women, there is no evidence that she took any measures as a board member to address Walmart’s systemic sexism.” This example captures the essence of neoliberal feminism — the placement of women in leadership positions of institutions dedicated to maintaining unequal, sexist, and discriminatory practices. While it is sold as a “trickle-down theory,” in reality, women in these positions — Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright, Condoleezza Rice, Carly Fiorina — only serve to reproduce the unjust and unequal institutions they head.
The title of another sharp piece captures Clinton's faux progressive foreign policy: "Dear Hillary: You Can't Be a Pro-War Feminist". For its author, Belén Fernández, Clinton can't escape:
the fundamental irreconcilability of feminism and giddy warmongering [...] Clinton’s performance on the international battlefield over the years makes a mockery of any pretense of support for the rights of women not to be violated, either sexually or otherwise.
Citing a 2014 Time magazine article, Fernández highlights Clinton's:
warmongering efforts as Secretary of State under Barack Obama, when her State Department “helped enable Obama’s expansion of lethal drone strikes.” The article goes on to observe that “on at least three crucial issues — [escalation in] Afghanistan, Libya, and the bin Laden raid — Clinton took a more aggressive line than [Defense Secretary Robert] Gates, a Bush-appointed Republican.”
And then, notes Fernández, there's Hillary on Israel:
“I think Israel did what it had to do” was her assessment of the 2014 Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip that killed some 2,251 Palestinians, among them 299 women and 551 children. It’s no wonder, perhaps, that more than one observer has referred to Israel’s devastating domination of Gaza as itself tantamount to rape.
John Pilger has issued a scathing indictment of the Guardian and other liberal propagandists for hyping Clinton and ignoring her crimes.

In another searing rebuttal of Hillary adherent Jonathan Freedland, Jonathan Cook denounces Democrat-supporting liberals for rigging the primaries against Bernie Sanders, and, under Obama and Clinton, upholding the very worst neoliberal doctrines. For Cook:
Trump isn’t the antithesis of liberal America. You liberals created him. You unleashed this monster. It is you in the mirror. You stayed silent, you took no stand while your country was stolen from you. In fact, you did worse: you enthusiastically voted time after time for those who did the stealing. 
 As Naomi Klein asserts, that same neoliberalism is:
the force most responsible for creating the nightmare in which we now find ourselves wide awake [...] That worldview – fully embodied by Hillary Clinton and her machine – is no match for Trump-style extremism. The decision to run one against the other is what sealed our fate.
For Klein - author of The Shock Doctrine - neoliberalism has caused the mass devastation, insecurity and inequality that's so energised Trump's resentful constituency. And it sees in the Clintons nothing but indifference as they cosy-up to the global elite: 
Elite neoliberalism has nothing to offer that pain, because neoliberalism unleashed the Davos class. People such as Hillary and Bill Clinton are the toast of the Davos party. In truth, they threw the party.
Unlike so many Guardian-styled liberals, desperate to exonerate Clinton and blame everyone from Wikileaks to Putin, Klein views neoliberalism as the core, causal issue behind Trump's ascendancy. 

So too have other progressive women, like Green Party candidate Jill Stein who captured it neatly in this post-election tweet:
Dear Liberals: the pain of Clinton neoliberalism caused the rise of Trump. To survive, we must build an economy that works for all of us.
Stein was, of course, wilfully ignored and sidelined by a corporate media beholden to everything Clinton defends and Stein opposes. Other conscientious left women like Susan Sarandon also saw through the false 'lesser evil' and 'glass ceiling' pleas to support Clinton.

As Craig Murray concisely notes, the liberal plea to elect Clinton was itself pitched as a neoliberal rationale:
Still more blatant was the promotion of the idea that Hillary being a corrupt neo-con warmonger was outweighed by the fact she was female. The notion that elevating extremely rich and privileged women already within the 1% to top positions, breaks a glass ceiling and benefits all women, is the precise feminist equivalent of trickledown theory.
That metropolitan governing class not only believed in itself completely, but couldn't see past its own preoccupations and concerns. Liberals think that everything is basically fine barring a minor tweak here and there (because for middle class liberals with nice houses everything really is basically fine). It's signature policy is more women in the boardrooms of multinationals. It has managed to take the massive issue of inequality and turn it into a problem of the rich.
Thus, Trump's election is also a landmark failure of liberalism; a political failure, as with Brexit, to persuade people that neoliberalism is the only realistic game in town.

The liberal media is now invoking facile memes like 'post-truth' and 'fake news' to suggest that it was 'irrational' and false output on social media that helped deliver Trump and Brexit.

Yet, isn't this media-hyped 'problem' of 'false news' the most brazen inversion of a truth? From the BBC's complicit lies over Iraq, to the Guardian's warnings that Corbyn cannot be trusted with the economy, there's no more fake news than the state propaganda and neoliberal narratives peddled daily by our 'mainstream' media.

Using Trump and Brexit as examples, the BBC even had Alastair Campbell in the studio defending the term 'post-truth' as a way of exposing the 'dangers' of 'fake news'. Campbell stated:
It's acknowledging that politics, which has always been rough, has moved to a different phase where politicians who lie now appear to get rewarded for it. (BBC2 Jeremy Vine Show, 16/11/2016.) 
What might Orwell have said about Campbell, master spinner and Blairite warmonger, sitting inside the BBC being rewarded for his thoughts on 'post-truth and 'fake news'?

Beyond the BBC's own newspeak, Trump isn't some toxic aberration. His election isn't just some sudden turn to neo-fascist politics. He's the latest manifestation of dark corporate authority in the US.

Trump is a 'charismatic', 'reality show' con man. But he's also an inevitable outcome of what happens when capitalism in its most promiscuous and visceral form creates ever deeper social destruction, inequality and misery, allowing space for the concocting of even more right wing 'solutions'.

Liberals see Trump as a 'stain on American democracy'. Again, this symptomatic outpouring tells us much about how a liberal establishment help disguise actual cause and effect. A basic part of that denial lies in the very refusal to see that America is not actually a democracy at all. As one notable US academic study concludes, it's an oligarchy. Some may add other valid identifiers: a plutocracy, a kleptocracy, and now, after so many brutal neoliberal decades, it may be reasonably argued, a demagoguery, announcing a deepening shift to more corporate-fascistic rule.

Mass rejection of Clinton is the outcome of an all-consuming neoliberalism. It's not that Trump's supporters identified it as such, and voted in that political vein. It's a primal reaction to a system that offers them nothing. And when Clinton and other liberal protectors of that system dismiss such people as "deplorables", the response is not surprising. As Anis Shivani observes:
Hillary Clinton has been the most perfect embodiment of neoliberalism among all the candidates, she is almost its all-time ideal avatar, and I believe this explains, even if not articulated this way, the widespread discomfort among the populace toward her ascendancy. People can perceive that her ideology is founded on a conception of human beings striving relentlessly to become human capital (as her opening campaign commercial so overtly depicted), which means that those who fail to come within the purview of neoliberalism should be rigorously ostracized, punished, and excluded.
This will go down as one of the greatest snake oil sales jobs of all political time. But it wasn't hard to see why brooding, alienated Americans bought the mix. It wasn't difficult to see how they embraced Trump's seductive 'remedies' in emboldened rejection of Clinton.

Of course, alongside his immediate back-peddling on 'platform policies', like pledging to jail Clinton and end Obamacare, the list of Trump's crony 'transition team' shows just how 'determined' he is to 'drain the swamp'. If Clinton is the swamp, Trump and his coterie are part of the same sewer system.

There's a short honeymoon now before Trump's hardline constituency realise they've been played. But it may be considerably longer before the Clinton cabal openly concede their own venality in cheer-leading an arch-warmonger and Wall Street-serving villain.

Wait also in vain for the remotest acceptance that they used every dirty trick and subterfuge to stop Bernie Sanders, knowing that, at all stages of the primaries, he was regarded as the only candidate to stop Trump. And, as Shivani reminds us, Sanders diverged significantly from Clinton's wholesale neoliberalism:
He does not believe—unlike Hillary Clinton—that the market can tackle climate change or income inequality or unfair health and education outcomes or racial injustice, all of which Clinton propagates. 
Self-protecting Democrats, media liberals, and posturing 'leftists' are now in raging mood, lamenting the 'crisis of democracy', and urging on the 'Not My President' street protests. What they fail to admit is their own lamentable part in ignoring Clinton the hawk, and remaining silent on the neoliberal disorder she helped create. Within their New York party-media bubble, they see and understand almost nothing of the real, fundamental cause of Trump's landscape victory.

Reports of supporters crying over Clinton's 'thank you speech reveal so much about the illusion-making complicity of the liberal media. Echoing the words in her speech, Clinton tweeted:
"To all the little girls watching...never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world."
Except, of course, all those little girls in the Middle East no longer able to watch, all the non-valued, powerless and undeserving she helped bomb. Typically, Clinton's first post-election public appearance was at the Children's Defence Fund gala.

It's a 'crisis of civilization', anguished liberals, notably 'liberal progressives', wail; 'a vote for intolerance and destruction'. Tell that to the destroyed women and families of Iraq, to the broken people of Libya and Syria, to the children of Gaza, wondering when the next US-supplied bomb is coming to kill them.

Clinton, has been behind every moment of these 'civilizing interventions', and much more. Backed by Hillary, Obama leaves office having raised the military cheque for Israel over the next decade to $38 billion (from $3.1 billion to $3.8 billion per year). And, for all the unpredictability of Trump, and speculation over his seemingly ad hoc foreign policy, we've, at least, been spared the predictable spectre of Clinton's intensified militarism in Syria and heightened prospects of war with Russia.

Again, how could so many lofty liberals fail to see Clinton's true colours? How could they dismiss the corporate bankrolling that tried to buy another election as just some 'that's the way it is' political system? Why weren't they shouting down the system itself? Why weren't they saying: 'the real lesser evil choice is not between two corporate-placed elites, but the choice between upholding or rejecting a system set up to secure elite power in perpetuity'?

Paradoxically, Trump the corporate trickster, has no seeming ambition to court neoliberal ideologues. Indeed, there's no apparent driving mission behind 'Trump economics' other than a more protectionist version of grab-it-all-while-you-can capitalism. For Shivani, the Trump elite seem ready for a "shackles off" fight with all contenders, a kind of perverse challenge, in itself, to the quieter menace of neoliberal orthodoxy.  

As Noam Chomsky warns, this is most apparent in his vulgar denial of climate change and its emergency implications. Having delivered both House and Senate for the Republicans, Trump is now dispensing posts to another motley crew, all ready to wield their own array of planet and people destroying policies.

Yet it's a rupture that brings forth not only more bombastic villains, but new progressive opportunities. Political authority has shifted and intensified. But this also signals a deepening crisis of elite legitimacy. We are witnessing the death throes of neoliberalism, and, bleak as things seem, the possibility of real alternatives to emerge. Bereft of remedies, it won't be long before Trump's vacuous policies give way to the same social disenchantment over Obama's 'Hopey-Changey' failure. The only other direction from there is a serious leftward turn, as shown so promisingly in the mass popular support behind Sanders. Acknowledging this radical potential, Klein observes:
A good chunk of Trump’s support could be peeled away if there were a genuine redistributive agenda on the table. An agenda to take on the billionaire class with more than rhetoric, and use the money for a green new deal.
And if Sanders was always likely to have beaten Trump in America, Jeremy Corbyn can win in Britain. When the next smart pollster, Blairite plotter or BBC journalist declares that Corbyn has no chance of being elected, just remember the Sanders surge, and, now with Trump, how readily people can turn against the warnings of the political-media establishment and 'assurances' of 'know-all' liberals.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

SNP Friends of Peace in the Middle East is a pro-Israel front group

A new pro-Israel front group is seeking to exert its influence within the SNP.  

SNP Friends of Peace in the Middle East claim to be promoting 'common dialogue' towards a 'two state solution'. 

But behind the seemingly all-inclusive title and benign facade, it's really a Zionist advocacy group formed through Glasgow Friends of Israel and Sammy Stein, a leading figure within both bodies.

Contrary to their 'pro-peace' and 'pro-Palestinian' claims, each of these groups is dedicated to upholding Israel's occupation, colonial settlements and apartheid state.

The manoeuvring of those behind SNP Friends for Peace in the Middle East has been ably reported by Michael Gray at the social media news site Common Space. This includes leaked emails revealing support from the Israeli consular in Scotland, despite the group claiming to have no particular alignment with the state of Israel. 

As detailed at Common Space, Stein, a former-serving soldier in the IDF, gained the backing of wealthy SNP associate Joe Goldblatt to help establish the organisation through a floor stall at the recent SNP conference. Behind the smooth promotion, it's a brand exercise in disguising Israel's crimes. A Jewish community leader has even denounced it as an 'Israel front group'.

With Israel coming under increased international pressure, this is part of the wider hasbara effort to contrive a new 'peace' image. But it requires little research or scrutiny to see the real reactionary nature of such groups.

Glasgow Friends of Israel hand out street literature produced by the US-based, far-right Zionist lobby, Stand With Us. Stein has also appeared on the evangelical Christian-Zionist channel Revelation TV, defending Israel, smearing the Palestinian solidarity movement, and damning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign.

Stein is also facing an SNP disciplinary committee for undermining party MSP Sandra White's candidacy during the 2015 Scottish Parliamentary elections.   

Disappointingly, on the eve of the SNP conference, the party's Glasgow South MP Stewart McDonald wrote a comment piece at STV endorsing Stein's new group. (The STV site has been overseen by digital and comments editor Stephen Daisley, an ardent defender of Israel, who was recently 'reined-in' by the channel following concerns over his inappropriate use of the space.)

As reported at Common Space, McDonald's approval of the group has led to considerable critical reaction, both within and outwith the party. 

The independent journalist Liam O'Hare has produced a searching critique of McDonald's claims to be a 'progressive, liberal moderate' serving the 'real' interests of Palestinians, reminding him that this group "is not pro-Palestine in any sense". Noting the "naivety displayed in McDonald’s article", O'Hare says of such groups' manipulative branding:
The creation of front groups is not a new tactic among those who seek to defend Israel’s actions. They represent an attempt to create an equilibrium in a conflict where none exists. I risk stating the obvious, but it’s important to remember that there is an occupier and an occupied. Israel is a nuclear-armed state, with the ninth strongest army in the world, and the blanket support of the world’s sole superpower. The Palestinians are a dispersed and dispossessed people largely abandoned by the international community.
At The National, Cat Boyd, offers further critical questioning of McDonald's "Palestinian rights activists have been unable to move with the times" line, and his chorus-joining 'concerns' over anti-Semitism on the "anti-imperialist" left. Boyd also challenges his invocation in the article of Winnie Ewing's past travels around Israel with Menachem Begin as some kind of 'inspiration to Scotland'. Where, we might ask, was his mention of Begin's own colonialist terror role, or his order to invade Lebanon in 1982, leading to the massacres in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps?          

Like many authentic SNP supporters of Palestinian rights, one can but speculate as to the reasons for McDonald's tortured endorsement of this organisation. But it's deeply perplexing that he should have failed to understand the group's real motivations, or, having been duly informed of its true agenda, still not renounced it.  

McDonald has since declared his enduring commitment to the Palestinian cause. But many will question the kind of 'solidarity' that still approves and engages such zealous pro-Israel voices.

With Gaza under relentless, merciless siege, and the murderous occupation intensifying daily, it's never been more important to stand up unequivocally for Palestinian justice by helping to expose, rather than indulge, this kind of Brand Israel duplicity.

As Desmond Tutu reminds us: "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor."

For the purposes of confirmation, here's the short leaflet produced and distributed by Glasgow Palestine Human Rights Campaign denoting the true agenda behind Glasgow Friends of Israel and their associate Friends groups. The very same deceit applies to SNP Friends of Peace in the Middle East.

STREET DECEIT
Friends of Israel are NOT 'pro-Palestinian'
Friends of Israel are committed ONLY to Israel


Alarmed at growing, global criticism of Israel's mass crimes and apartheid system, Friends of Israel are using the words 'pro-Palestinian' to disguise their true agenda of protecting Israel.
Friends of Israel:
  • HAVE NO SUPPORT within Palestinian civil society, or any Palestine solidarity group.
  • WON'T USE the term 'pro-Palestine', as this entails actual support for Palestinian rights.
  • CLAIM TO BE 'pro-peace', yet say nothing about Israel's refusal to engage in meaningful negotiations, end the occupation, cease settlement expansion, or stop the assault on Gaza.
  • REFUSE TO CONDEMN Israel's war crimes, or demand that its leaders be indicted by the International Criminal Court.
  • TURN A BLIND EYE to repression and atrocities. While Israel bomb homes, schools and hospitals in Gaza, and deny humanitarian aid, Friends of Israel blame it all on Hamas.
  • WON'T BACK apartheid-breaking Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel.
  • ARE CLOSELY LINKED with other Zionist organisations. Much of their literature comes from the right-wing (US), evangelist group Stand With Us.
  • CONSISTENTLY IGNORE international law:
UN Resolution 194 - Palestinian Right of Return (General Assembly, Dec 11, 1948)
UN Resolution 242 - Occupation of Palestine illegal (Security Council, Nov 22, 1967)
UN resolution 446 - West Bank settlements illegal (Security Council, March 22, 1979)
International Court of Justice - Wall illegal (General Assembly, August 2, 2004)http://www.palestinecampaign.org/information/un/

Friends of Israel's MULTIPLE EVASIONS over Palestinian rights, and cynical claim to be 'pro-Palestinian', are intended to deflect public attention from Israel's colonisation of Palestinian land, war crimes and apartheid violations. DON'T BE MISLED BY THEIR STREET DECEIT.


Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Let them view cake - media normalizing of warmongers and the arms trade

How do warmongering politicians and the corporate arms industry they so readily promote manage to evade serious indictment? Largely, because our media grant them privileged status and effective protection.

David Cameron's 'legacy' has now been officially stained by a Foreign Affairs Select Report damning his actions on Libya. But he won't be going to The Hague any time soon for his leading part in that murderous calamity. Nor will you hear any of our major media campaigning for him to be made fully accountable.

557 MPs voted for the motion to attack Libya in March 2011. Only 13 voted against, among them Labour's Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, alongside Caroline Lucas of the Green Party.

The Guardian ran a major story detailing the parliamentary report. Yet, as Media Lens remind them, it contained no reference to the paper's own backing of that 'intervention' at the time. A Guardian editorial has since pleaded in hand-wringing mitigation that the UK acted in 'good, if flawed', faith, failing to mention the illegality of regime change.

Likewise, the BBC's token reporting of the committee findings contained no mention of mass media support at the time for the bombing.

A wide array of political and media notables supported the assault on Libya. Among them, the Guardian's Jonathan Freedland now offers only cringing distance and consoling words for Cameron.

Even now, after the mass death and criminality inflicted on Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and others on the 'R2P' list, our liberal media just can't bring itself to shine a real critical light on UK War Inc.

The UK is now the second largest arms provider in the world. This should have been headline, even breaking, BBC news. Yet, it's a story barely acknowledged, never mind pursued, by our leading media.

For issue-placing editors, none of that has been deemed as much of a topical public story as 'major developments' in The Great British Bake Off. All of which brings a new propaganda twist to that infamous invocation, 'Let them eat cake'.

What kind of serious media can emote so many headlines about the 'loss' of a baking show, while virtually ignoring Britain's elevation as a top merchant of death?

In a world of relentless conflict, we all need a little light escapism. But when media-hyped bake-offs are deemed more newsworthy than state sanctioned arms trade-offs, we've really reached a point of entertainment as mass diversion and political dulling.

The dark truth of Britain's insatiable corporate arms dealing can be found in a fine piece of investigative journalism by Mark Curtis.  Here we see the real mercenary extent of Britain's arms and oil dealings with Egypt's el-Sissi regime, and how our most favoured dictators are given an easy ride by establishment media.

Britain has been 'in the news' recently over its supply of weaponry to Saudi Arabia. But, again, where is the really damning headline commentary? Why don't the BBC have, say, Campaign Against the Arms Trade or Stop the War on to explain and denounce the UK's vile trade? Why isn't this a leading media issue?

Instead, we must turn to alternative outlets such as Media Lens, lamenting the failure of key media to report on UK arms to the Saudi regime for the merciless bombing of Yemen, and the dark collusion of British intelligence.

Meanwhile, British state media continues to serve up more magazine features on the 'benign' nature of UK militarism, foreign bombing and weapons technology. Consider this fetishistic BBC appraisal of the Tornado fighter plane:
The cockpit of a supersonic Tornado attack bomber is a much more peaceful place than you might expect. "It's incredibly quiet," says Jas Hawker, a former RAF wing commander who flew the aircraft over Iraq and Kosovo. "The pilot and the navigator could drop their oxygen masks and talk to each other. It's not silent but it's a lot quieter than people think." It also has a rather retro feel, as befits a four-decade-old model approaching the end of its time in service.
Style and aesthetics, quiet performance, but no mention of the explosive purpose and brutal effect on humanity below.

While Britain acts as junior arms fixer to the world, it has as its parental model a US state obsessed with the business of war and killing, all duly assisted by the UK, including secret British complicity in Obama's drone wars.

Obama has overseen more arms sales than any post-WW2 administration, yet, as William D Hartung notes, there's virtual media silence over America's weapons industry:
When American firms dominate a global market worth more than $70 billion dollars a year, you'd expect to hear about it. Not so with the global arms trade. It's good for one or two stories a year in the mainstream media, usually when the annual state of the business come out. It’s not that no one writes about aspects of the arms trade. There are occasional pieces that, for example, take note of the impact of US weapons transfers, including cluster bombs, to Saudi Arabia, or of the disastrous dispensation of weaponry to US allies in Syria, or of foreign sales of the costly, controversial F-35 combat aircraft. And once in a while, if a foreign leader meets with the president, US arms sales to his or her country might generate an article or two. But the sheer size of the American arms trade, the politics that drive it, the companies that profit from it, and its devastating global impacts are rarely discussed, much less analyzed in any depth.
Nor will a corporate media make the connection here on why American society is also a gun-toting, police-rampaging War Zone.

In a parting gift from Obama, the US has just signed an 'aid' deal with Israel worth $38 billion over 10 years. That's $3.8 billion per year, up from $3.1 billion. While a slavish media gush over Hillary, turning a blind-eye to her hawk agenda and neo-con backers, how much attention has that obscene statistic received?

As 'Bibi' and Obama exchange their cringing homilies and farewells, where is the critical examination of that ugly incentive to mass killing and destabilisation?

Any sane and rational media would be asking how and why such major politicians remain effectively immune from prosecution over their executive wars and elimination of mass populations.

But it's the very media normalization of militarism, warmongering and its elite exponents that provides the most vital cover.

On Question Time recently, David Dimbleby goaded Labour's John McDonnell over being "a Marxist", followed by Tory MP Anna Soubry calling him a "nasty piece of work." Meanwhile, on the same panel sat Alastair Campbell, a political knave par excellence, deeply complicit in the likely loss of 1 million Iraqi lives. Even after Chilcot damned Blair, Campbell still defended him, and remains one of the key players in the whole Iraq deceit. What kind of moral media do he have when Campbell's presence on such shows is deemed more respectable than people like McDonnell?

Campbell has been doing many other studio rounds, such as the BBC Jeremy Vine Show - Vine was also a VIP guest at a major arms dealers dinner - promoting his book, Winners: And How They Succeed. For our power-fascinated media, the concept of 'successful' human endeavour, it seems, involves spinning, tricking a country into war, and then having the front to write a text on 'winning psychology'.

Another grovelling interview with Campbell can be heard on Radio New Zealand (hat tip to 'Morrissey' at the Media Lens message board, past).

The token extent of any 'critical' mainstream piece on Campbell and his media appearances can be summed up by the Telegraph headline, 'Spinner in chief now settles for an occasional turn'.

But those who executed, supported and still refuse to acknowledge the crimes of Iraq also enjoy a wider political reception. Campbell recently interviewed Nicola Sturgeon for Q8 Magazine. And George Galloway has hosted unrepentant Blair war apologist John McTernan on Sputnik. Despite Galloway's film, The Killings of Tony Blair, and other noble efforts to indict Blair's war circle, he retains a strong degree of 'political admiration' for McTernan.

It's just basic manners, some may say. Fair intellectual engagement. Open, adversarial debate. Yet, even where key political differences exist, as they plainly do in these cases, it seems that 'our' war cheerleaders are still to be granted respected status.

In another such nod to what counts as 'elite achievement', the recent BBC programme Sir Alex Ferguson - Secrets of Success invokes Blair's 'leadership qualities'. As tweeted in response:
A million plus souls lost to Blair's Iraq carnage, and he's treated as some honoured manager by #SirAlexFerguson and BBC #SecretsOfSuccess
And, of course, the Guardian just can't stop running to Blair for his lofty dispensations.

How did it come to pass? How did people directly responsible for mass killing come to enjoy such celebrity profiles? What is it with villains like Blair, Brown, Campbell and McTernan that they're all still so feted and embraced by politicians and journalists? Imagine real journalists like John Pilger conducting such interviews and failing to question their leading roles in great crimes.

Again, it's all part of a default media culture which just can't contemplate the dark actions of 'ours'. This needn't involve full exoneration. Rather, it's a process of easy acceptance and familiarity, whether it's the Guardian asking Tony for another opinion, or Alastair doing another 'turn' on Question Time. They may be deemed 'controversial' - and sought even more so for 'ratings appeal' - but never considered criminal or beyond the pale in the sense reserved for official foreign enemies.

As figures like Blair, Campbell and Cameron enjoy the financial rewards, patronage and sinecures of post-political office, the human devastation they've caused gets treated as some kind of 'past issue' - it's 'all just politics'.

It's not that such people should be personally hated, hounded or even denied compassion. It's a question of justice, of a media bearing true witness to elite criminality, of insisting that no one, however senior, however famous, can escape responsibility for their part in the taking of mass human life. The same must apply to corporate elites engaged in arms production and the economy of death.

When might the BBC pitch and defend that kind of programming? When might we see a Great British Media Off between channels and editors competing to reveal what's really being cooked up by warmongering profiteers in the kitchens of power?    

Thursday, 1 September 2016

'Critical liberal' media are only mitigating Obama's Syria crimes as 'regrettable mistakes'

As Barack Obama's term comes to a close, a faux 'critical-reflective' media has taken to pronouncing on his foreign policy 'successes' and 'mistakes'. While struggling to prove instances of the former, prominent within the latter is the repeated trope that Obama and the US have 'missed a vital opportunity to intervene in Syria'.

Across the political-media 'spectrum' - and in special reference to The Obama DoctrineJeffrey Goldberg's major interview-based piece on the president - a bombs-away commentariat have been lamenting 'Obama the ineffectual'. It includes familiar neo-con malcontents, now aligned with the Clintonites for an all-out assault on Assad. But there's also been much 'this happened on your watch, Mr Obama' recrimination from 'mainstream' cruise-missile 'humanitarians'. 

This more influential version of the lament finds 'moderate', Guardian-styled liberals perturbed by Obama's apparent 'passivity' when he really ought to be wielding 'legitimate Western violence' in the name of 'R2P', the all-moral-missile-guiding mantra 'responsibility to protect'. It's saying, in essence: 'a tad too much Mr Nice Guy, when you really just have to go smash The Bad Guy.' 

Thus, for the Observer, Obama has avoided the 'all-too-reasonable' case for liberal bombing:
Like the Chicago college professor he once was, Obama intellectualises his decision, making it seem a matter of principle and strategy. The problem with this mental exercise is that the “good reasons” that are its premise ignore the real story. Obama took fright over Syria because he realised there was little appetite in the US for an adventure akin to Iraq.
And the 'lamentable outcome' of this "real story" for the Observer:
the US national interest – and that of its allies – has been seriously affected by his Syrian equivocation...Obama’s shabby intellectual glasshouse is a bad place from which to throw stones.  
Likewise, for Ann Applebaum at the Washington Post, Obama's 'reticence' over Syria has been nothing less than a "disastrous nonintervention."  

One might be forgiven for thinking that many of Obama's 'natural liberal backers' have lost their own 'liberal compass'. But such 'criticism' helps illustrate the true, hawkish extent of our liberal war media, while misrepresenting, in their craving for intervention, Obama's own duplicitous 'case for restraint'.       

The proper framing of these tensions and truths are conveniently clouded because they sit within a broader liberal narrative which still understands Washington as the 'reluctant, but facilitating, outsider' - think, classically, Israel-Palestine - faithfully 'arbitrating for peace'. 

A constant media motif throughout the Syria conflict has been the 'tireless efforts' of John Kerry in seeking a 'diplomatic resolution'. And with this comes the embedded fiction that, even after its mass, murderous assault on an entire region, and relentless protection of Israel, the US has, instead, opted to play a 'relatively hands-off' game in Syria.    

In a highly-informed article, independent journalist Gareth Porter reveals the damning extent to which Obama's administration has, in fact, led, fed, fostered and encouraged a disastrous proxy war:
The Obama administration bears responsibility for this atrocity, because it could have prevented Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia from launching their foolishly adventurous war in Syria.  None of them did so out of desperate need; it was a war of choice in every case.  And each of the three states is part of the US security system in the Middle East, providing military bases to NATO or to the United States and depending on US support for its security. But instead of insisting that those three Sunni allies reconsider their options, the Obama administration gave the green light at a conference in Riyadh at the end of March 2012 for proceeding with arming those who wanted to replace the regime, leaving the United States ostensibly free to be a peacemaker. As Hillary Clinton put it at the Riyadh conference: “Some will be able to do certain things, and others will do other things.”
Knowing, in particular, the deep sectarian history and volatile forces it would unleash. Porter asks:
Could senior Obama administration officials have been unaware that a war to overthrow Assad would inevitably become an enormous sectarian bloodbath? By August 2012 a US Defense Intelligence Agency report intelligence warned that “events are taking a clear sectarian direction,” and that the “the “Salafist[s], Muslim Brotherhood and AQI [al-Qaeda in Iraq]” were “the major forces driving the insurgency”. Furthermore, the Obama administration already knew by then that the external Sunni sponsors of the war against Assad were channeling their money and arms to the most sectarian groups in the field. But the administration did nothing to pressure its allies to stop it. In fact, it actually wove its own Syria policy around the externally fuelled war by overwhelmingly sectarian forces. And no one in the US political-media elite raised the issue.
In similar vein, a recent Media Lens alert article, again featuring some sharp analysis by Porter, exposes such media evasion and distortion, in this case taking apart the BBC's Radio 4 Today programme, 'Obama's battle against so-called Islamic State'. The very title is self-revealing.

Listen to the BBC's leading editors Nick Robinson and John Simpson, alongside former Senior State Department official Karin Von Hippel, lament Obama's apparent 'failure' to 'intervene decisively'.

Hear Obama and the US presented by the BBC and their sole-selected guest as an effectively 'neutral and benign', yet still 'reticent', force trying to 'resolve' conflict and 'break' Islamic State, rather than as a principal creator and promoter of the regional carnage which has allowed IS to emerge and grow.

And consider, in the course of this 'moderate' discussion, just what a vital role our 'liberal-probing' media play in the encouragement and mitigation of Western warmongering.   

As Obama readies the handover baton, there's also been a virtual media blackout on Hillary Clinton's dark and deadly part in the calamity of Syria and the region. Think of this as a voluble silence of liberal encouragement, another nodding green light to even more heinous acts of 'R2P' aggression. 

Nor will they be able to say they didn't know what was still to come. Clinton aide, former Pentagon chief of staff Jeremy Bas, has duly confirmed that, if elected, she will intensify Obama's war on Assad.

It's an inauguration that doesn't augur well for war-afflicted Syrians and others suffering the calamitous effects of America's perpetual 'mistakes', and the liberal media's unmistakable misrepresentation of them.