BUAFS banner in Trafalgar Square on May Day 2015
A comrade from Bristol Ukraine Anti Fascist Solidarity (BUAFS) was invited to speak at a recent public meeting in London organised by Solidarity with the Antifascist Resistance in the Ukraine (SARU). We reproduce his remarks below.
We are talking today specifically about the way that the imperialist media serve a vital propaganda role in selling us their agenda of war and austerity. Other speakers have given many telling examples of this manipulation of public opinion.
In Bristol, we try to expose this manipulation by mounting a weekly picket of the BBC in Whiteladies Road. We do this to draw attention to the lies the corporation tells about the conflict in the Ukraine and Donbass, and to point out how this conflicts with the vaunted status of the BBC as a paragon of ‘objective’ and ‘balanced’ journalism. It lays claim to that status, so it’s right that we should demand that it be held to account for failing to live up to it.
However, in reality, we should not be so surprised about the BBC’s behaviour. Its journalists are just doing their job, serving as part of the propaganda machine for the imperialist ruling class. When push comes to shove, that is the basic purpose of every organ of mass media in imperialist society. How could it be other? The capitalist media are bought and paid for, and capitalism gets what it pays for. In that sense, we have nothing to complain about.
But if the real function of the BBC and the rest is not too hard to grasp, what have we to say about the role of some of those in ‘left’, ‘anti-war’ and trade-union circles who help to grease the wheels for war by going along with the reactionary propaganda? I’m thinking about those who in words ‘opposed’ the bombing of Libya, yet rowed in with all the vilification of Muammar Gaddafi by which imperialism sought to justify that bombing.
Or those who went along with the hate campaign against Bashar al-Assad and the progressive leadership of Syria – a hate campaign that acted as a smokescreen for the West’s proxy war of subversion against
an independent Arab state whose secular and progressive character posed a threat to imperialist dominance in the Middle East.
What do we make of those who peer down from a great height upon the inhabitants of the Donbass fighting for their lives against Kiev’s stormtroopers, only to pronounce them to be ‘Putin’s useful idiots’?
In my innocence, I had hoped to come here tonight in a cloud of glory, bearing glad tidings that Bristol Trades Council had decided to cough up £50 and affiliate to SARU. The Bristol branch of Community Unite earlier this year passed a resolution to affiliate, and went on to propose to the trades council that it follow suit.
Sadly, this initiative was ambushed by some very vocal delegates to the trades council, who ‘explained’ that the fascist coup that removed the democratically-elected Yanukovych government was in fact a “popular uprising”, that the subsequent elevation of Poroshenko to the presidency was “legitimate”, that his government was not fascist, that the Donbass resistance were no more than stooges for Putin and that the conflict in the Ukraine was not about anti-fascist resistance but was essentially a turf war between rival oligarchs.
To make this unashamed rehearsal of the standard BBC/Fox News Big Lie more palatable to a trade-union forum, matters were given a workerist twist, appealing for “solidarity with workers throughout the whole of the Ukraine”, carefully ignoring the fact that the fascist aggression dished out by the Kiev junta’s forces is actually the military wing of the IMF-imposed austerity being imposed on all Ukrainian workers.
This stunt recalls the dishonest ‘neither green nor orange’ pose that was assumed in the 1970s and 80s by those who sought to justify their enmity towards the Irish national struggle by making spurious appeals to the “unity of all workers” (all workers, that is, in ‘Northern Ireland’ – ie, the colonised six counties).
Regrettably, these lies about what is really going on in the Ukraine were enough to stampede the trades council away from supporting the resolution, which was formally remitted (kicked into the long grass). Fifty pounds here or there will not break our campaign, but this setback usefully illustrates just how crucial is the role of social democracy in making workers vulnerable to capitalist war propaganda, softening up our resistance.
It is important to challenge the media lies. But it is at least as important to challenge those on the social-democratic ‘left’ who help to give those lies currency in the working class. We can’t get rid of media lies, but we can make a start on challenging the social-democratic politics that rob workers of any ideological defence against those lies.
When the manufactured paranoia about Russia has been so eagerly embraced by many on the ‘left’, for example, it will take no more than one or two well-orchestrated false-flag operations for war fever to sweep the board.
What is the antidote to this war fever? The short answer is: to build an anti-war movement in the working class; a movement that identifies imperialist crisis as the driver of war, which supports all those engaged in resistance against imperialism and which leads a campaign of active non-cooperation with the war effort.
Do we possess such a movement now? Sadly not. The Stop the War Coalition, in the name of ‘broadening the appeal’ of the movement, withheld its support from the Afghan resistance and the Iraqi resistance. It likewise withheld support from the progressive governments of Gaddafi’s Libya and Assad’s Syria. Now it opposes the Russian bombing campaign against Islamic State in Syria.
And, of course, it withholds support from the Donbass resistance – always in the name of ‘broadening the movement’. Yet, far from ‘broadening’ the anti-war movement into the mass of the working class, this approach has narrowed the movement to a dwindling support base consisting mostly of a pacifist-minded middle class.
Our task must be to break down the social-democratic walls that separate workers in Britain from all their oppressed brothers and sisters who are fighting against imperialism – be it in Palestine, Syria, the Donbass or wherever.
The imperialist ruling class that plunges one country after another into war is the self-same imperialist ruling class that imposes austerity at home. By recognising that imperialism is our common enemy and linking arms with those engaged in resistance against imperialist meddling, we can unite in an anti-war movement that stands on solid anti-imperialist foundations.
I believe that this can be done in Britain, and that our support for the struggles of the people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk could be a step in the right direction.
It is in that spirit that we continue our solidarity work in Bristol. Let me take this opportunity to invite comrades to come and visit our picket outside the BBC in Whiteladies Road, every Monday from 5.00pm to 6.30pm.
Also, let me remind you about the public meeting we are holding on Saturday 24 October in the Terrace Room of Barton Hill Community Settlement, 43 Ducie Road, Bristol (BS5 0AX), from 2.00pm to 5.00pm, on the subject of imperialist crisis and the drive to war in Europe.
We reproduce this excellent article from Workers World with thanks.
Hollande: 'This is an act of exceptional barbarity.'
Assad: 'That's not what you say when you send them my way.'
By Sarah Flounders
How do we put in perspective the international media focus on the massacre of 12 journalists in Paris on 7 January at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, notorious for its racist anti-muslim caricatures and lack of response to the routine, daily, racist police murders of black youth in the US? Why were any protests banned in France of 15 journalists who were killed among the 2,000 deaths in the Israeli assault of Gaza this past summer? Don’t those lives matter?
The Charlie Hebdo assassinations strengthen the hand of the state, which is using them in an ideological offensive — even if the state had a role in arming and training the killers.
Why are other murders not mourned, not respected, not even reported — even the murders of other journalists? A crucial role of the corporate media is to try to shape the perception of which lives matter.
Consider the mass outpourings following several different, very public killings in the US. Hundreds of thousands of youths have been in the streets again and again in the US confronting the refusal of the state to prosecute killer cops — even when their murderous crimes have been seen on video by millions.
Hundreds of thousands of people were in the streets of Paris on 11 January. French, other European, US and Israeli politicians led the march honoring the slain journalists.
Twice, on 27 December and 4 January, thousands of police in uniform from all over the US converged on New York City for separate funerals of two police officers shot in their patrol car on 20 December. Jet Blue offered free flights to all police traveling nationally to the funeral. The US vice president, New York state’s governor and the city’s mayor attended the funerals. Roads in the areas were closed; giant outdoor TV screens were erected.
Not a free speech issue
The French government’s protection of the racist journal Charlie Hebdo had nothing to do with protecting freedom of speech. This is a deception that must be confronted. In 2012, the same government that protected this vile publication banned any demonstrations or protests or even public prayers opposing the racist publication.
French law allows for the prosecution of ‘public insults’ based on religion, race, ethnicity or national origin. But the racist, sexist, bigoted, grossly insulting cartoons in Charlie Hebdo magazine were never once a source of any successful legal action.
However, France did ban anyone from even protesting the cartoons that insulted muslims or the prophet Muhammed.
In 2012, as protests swept the muslim world in response to an anti-muslim film made in the US, French interior minister Manuel Valls said prefects had orders to prohibit any protest and to crack down if the ban was challenged. “There will be strictly no exceptions. Demonstrations will be banned and broken up.” (Daily Mail, 21 September 2012)
Even prayer meetings and street prayers were banned. (CNN, 19 September 2012)
In the same week, Charlie Hebdo put out an extra run of cartoons featuring a grossly obscene caricature of a naked prophet Mohammed. The magazine was given extra police protection.
Freedom of speech and of the press is hardly sacred in France. It was punishable by a year in prison to even post on the internet a notice of a demonstration opposing the Israeli onslaught on Palestine during the Israeli 2014 summer offensive on Gaza.
France was the only country in the world to bar all demonstrations and protests in any form supporting Palestine during that time. The penalty was one year in jail and 15,000 euro fine.
It is worth noting the double standard: There is no similar crackdown against the current right-wing, fascist demonstrations against immigrants.
Role of Nazi caricature
Charlie Hebdo serves a very important purpose for French imperialism, and that is why its virulent racism has been protected at the very time that protests against it are prohibited.
Charlie Hebdo may have run cartoons to ridicule the powerful 40 years ago, when it claimed to be left wing, irreverent and nonconformist. But there is a big difference between satire ridiculing the powerful — a French tradition going back to Voltaire — and the current imagery promoting fear and loathing of the oppressed and powerless. The latter is right-wing and fascist in character.
In this period, when muslims are facing increasing, extreme right-wing attacks, and fascist mobilisations are growing in Europe, Charlie Hebdo functions as did the Nazi publication Der Sturmer, with its vehemently anti-semitic caricatures. Jewish people in Der Sturmer, as muslims in Charlie Hebdo, were depicted with exaggerated facial features and misshapen bodies. Both publications use obscene, sexually explicit caricatures.
The Nazi newspaper’s caricatures were part of a policy to make jews an object of hatred, fear, ridicule and disdain. At the end of World War II, Julius Streicher, the editor of Der Sturmer — though he didn’t run death camps but used the press to incite hatred — was put on trial, convicted of crimes against humanity and executed.
Charlie Hebdo is protected because it hardens the population against muslim people in order to divide the population. The French government has announced a grant to Charlie Hebdo of 1 million euros, and Google donated 250,000 euros.
Charlie Hebdo is not freedom of expression and freedom of press. It is an instrument of war mobilisation. It ran cartoons demonising Serbs during the Nato campaign against Yugoslavia, and it supported Nato’s attack on Libya.
No free press
Although ‘free speech’ and ‘free press’ are being lauded and glorified in the murder of the French journalists, no such thing exists in any capitalist state. The press in France or in the US is not free, open or accessible.
The media are owned by and serve the interests of the ruling class. What can be said and who can say it is tightly controlled. The corporate media in capitalist society are owned to serve class rule. What is covered depends entirely on who can pay for publication or airtime.
A handful of multibillion-dollar media conglomerates control almost all information, culture and entertainment in the western capitalist countries — though in the past decade social media and the internet have opened a few tiny cracks in this overwhelming corporate control [just as small-scale people's printing presses did formerly].
The media industry has an enormous impact in shaping which lives have value and which deaths go unreported, unmarked or consciously covered up.
The hundreds of thousands of deaths in wars initiated by US imperialism, and with the full support of French and British imperialism, are unmarked, unmourned and callously labeled ‘collateral damage’. The media ignore or barely mention the enormous toll in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan. No mass sympathy is created when a US drone wipes out a wedding party in Pakistan or a whole village with a hellfire missile.
The assassinations of journalists in these wars are hardly noted. There were no state funerals for the 166 journalists killed in Iraq under US occupation. Chelsea Manning is in prison for releasing videos of US helicopters gunning down two Reuter’s camera operators in Iraq and then circling back to kill the family who stopped their van to try to help them.
According to the Palestinian Centre for Development and Media Freedoms, 15 journalists were killed in the 2014 Israeli bombing of Gaza. They “were killed in civilian sites that are supposed to be safe for civilians”. Eight media centres were targeted and bombed.
US bombers targeted and destroyed the RTS, Radio TV Serbia, in the 1999 US/Nato war on Yugoslavia, killing 17 journalists.
The most dangerous country in the world for journalists is Honduras. Since the US-backed coup, 46 media and information workers have been assassinated.
The International Federation of Journalists sharply criticised Nato’s 2011 air strikes against Libyan television, which killed three people and injured 15. The IFJ stated that the strikes violated international law and UN resolutions.
If a free press existed, then Chelsea Manning would not be in prison or Edward Snowden and Julian Assange on the run, living in exile.
What media are even allowed coverage in imperialist countries demonstrates how little freedom of the press is respected. For example, Press TV, an Iranian news channel broadcasting in English, is banned from broadcasting via satellite throughout Europe, Canada and the US. Al-Manar, a Lebanese satellite station affiliated with Hezbollah, has also been banned by France, Germany and the US.
Both Press TV and Al-Manar have protested, to no avail, that this is a grave breach of freedom of speech. While both news channels are available via the internet in limited form, Apple and Google have removed Al-Manar mobile apps.
National oppression and racism in France cannot be ignored. There are 5.5 million residents of African origin, many of them born in France and most of them citizens. A large number are from muslim backgrounds [usually from former French colonies], although not all are practicing. They are isolated by poverty in suburbs that have high unemployment, inferior schools and substandard housing.
Just as prisons in the US, overwhelmingly imprison black and brown youth, so too do French prisons. About 60 to 70 percent of all inmates in the country’s prison system are muslim, according to muslim leaders, sociologists and researchers, though muslims make up only about 12 percent of the country’s population. (Washington Post Foreign Service, 29 April 2008)
Imperialism needs hatred of targeted peoples. Western politicians have cynically used islamophobia to advance right-wing political agendas and curtail freedoms.
Regardless of whether a police conspiracy is ever exposed, we do know that the French ruling class and the corporate media are always primed to take full advantage of such acts to reinforce the repressive state apparatus and sow division among the working class.
There should not be an iota of confidence in the news stories of this massacre at Charlie Hebdo. We know only what we are being told in the corporate media by French military police and state intelligence agencies.
We do know that three men, who are now dead, were tools of imperialism in their wars of conquest in Syria and Libya. More than 1,000 French citizens of Arab and North African descent have been recruited, trained, armed and used as weapons conduits, saboteurs and terrorists in the efforts of US, France, Britain, Turkey and Saudi Arabia to overthrow the government of Syria.
This leads to the fundamental question of whose policies are responsible for the massacre and who gains from the massacre?
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, US imperialism, aided by the old colonial powers of Europe, has been engaged in a whole series of wars to reconquer countries that had achieved a high level of development based on sovereignty and control of their resources.
In their frantic efforts to recolonise Iraq, Syria and Libya, they have cynically whipped up sectarian divisions, organised deadly militias and promoted fanaticism and anarchy. That has aroused deep-seated rage against the US, France and Britain.
It is also highly unpopular that French imperialism is widely involved in Africa — primarily in the majority-muslim countries of Mali, Central African Republic, Chad, Ivory Coast and Djibouti, and in Abu Dhabi on the Arabian peninsula.
The French ruling class wants to divert mass attention from its expanding wars and increasingly militarised society. The mobilisations claiming to defend a free press by defending racism must be opposed and countered.
The following statement was issued by the politburo of the Syrian Communist Party in Damascus on 24 September 2014.
Syria will not kneel down.
In the early morning of 23 September 2014, US imperialism, with its allies and agents, began hostile armed actions on the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic. These actions are a flagrant violation of international law, which prohibits the violation of the sovereignty of independent states.
These hostile actions are being carried out under the pretext of ‘fighting terrorist organisations’. But the organisations in question were created in the laboratories of the imperialist intelligence agencies, especially those of the Britain and the US, with the active participation of the zionists. They were formed with the aim of creating a pretext for imperialist intervention and aggression against countries in the region, especially Syria, owing to Syria’s long opposition to imperialist and zionist hegemony, for which stand our people have made great sacrifices.
The experience of our people, and of the peoples of the world, absolutely proves that we are right to place no confidence in the words of the imperialists generally, and in those of US imperialism – the leader of world terrorism – in particular.
It is delusional to imagine that we will be able to neutralise the USA, which is the main enemy of our people and of the national liberation of our homeland, as well as being the enemy of the freedom of all the peoples of the world. The Syrian Communist Party calls on all patriots in Syria to defend the homeland, to protect national sovereignty, and to be on their guard against imperialist conspiracies and tricks.
No pretext of US imperialism, even that of ‘fighting terrorism’, can justify the violation of our national sovereignty. Our people are struggling bravely against the terrorist gangs, and making good progress in this battle. The latest developments confirm that the brave Syrian army, which depends upon the support of the masses, is defeating the obscurantist terrorist gangs.
That is why the imperialist agencies are making a push to speed up their aggressive moves against Syria. The Syrian people will continue to fight, as they have in the past, and will courageously resist any aggression against their national independence and dignity. The victory is ours.
We confirm once again that our fight is not just a duty, but that our victory is assured, and that our defence of our homeland is first and above any consideration.
Syria will not kneel down.
Fallujah in Iraq, destroyed by Nato's stormtroopers in 2004
Sirte in Libya, destroyed by Nato's luftwaffe in 2011
By Felicity Arbuthnot, via Global Research
“Hypocrisy, the most protected of vices.” Moliere (Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, 1622-1673)
Last week, a little more was learned as to the circumventions in Whitehall and Washington delaying the publication of the findings of Sir John Chilcot’s marathon inquiry in to the background of the Iraq invasion.
The UK’s Chilcot Inquiry, was convened under then Prime Minister Gordon Brown, to establish the decisions taken by the UK government and military, pre and post invasion. It ran from 24 November 2009 until 2 February 2011 and cost an estimated £7.5m. The as yet unpublished report is believed to run to 1,000,000 words.
The stumbling block – more of an Israeli-style ‘separation barrier’ in reality – has been the correspondence between Tony Blair and George W Bush, prior to an invasion and occupation that former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan finally told the BBC was “illegal”, and that “painful lessons” had been learned. ‘Lessons’ clearly not learned by the current British government. (16 September 2004)
The communications, in Sir John Chilcot’s words to former Cabinet Secretary Lord O’Donnell, related to “The question of when and how the prime minister (Tony Blair) made commitments to the US about the UK’s involvement in military action in Iraq, and subsequent decisions on the UK’s continuing involvement, is central to its considerations.” (Guardian, 17 July 2013)
Further: “Chilcot said the release of notes of the conversations between Blair and Bush would serve to ‘illuminate Mr Blair’s position at critical points’ in the run up to war.”
The inquiry had also been seeking clarification from O’Donnell’s successor, Sir Jeremy Heywood, regarding inclusion of references to “the content of Mr Blair’s notes to President Bush, and to the records of discussions between Mr Blair and Presidents Bush and Obama”. The wall remains in place.
Sir Jeremy Heywood, now the country’s most senior civil servant, was Tony Blair’s private secretary during the period of the trans-Atlantic lies that led to the Iraq war and during the creation of the Blair regime’s ‘dodgy dossiers’.
Interestingly too: “O’Donnell had consulted Blair before saying the notes must remain secret.” Effectively, one of the accused – in an action that has destroyed a country, lynched the president, murdered his sons and teenage nephew and caused the deaths of perhaps one and a half million people – is deciding what evidence can be presented before the court. Chilcot has seen the documents, but seemingly needs the accused’s permission to publish them.
A stitch-up of which any ‘rogue’ or ‘totalitarian’ regime would surely be proud.
Centre to the dispute between the inquiry, Cameron and his ennobled gate keepers is material requested for inclusion in the final report: “to reflect its analysis of discussions in Cabinet and Cabinet Committees and their significance”.
The documents being denied to the inquiry include 25 pieces of correspondence sent by Tony Blair to George W Bush and 130 documents relating to conversations between these lead plotters of Iraq’s destruction. Additionally: “dozens of records of Cabinet meetings”.
Ironically, on 31 October 2006, David Cameron voted in favour of a motion brought by the Scottish National Party and Wales’ Plaid Cymru (‘The Party of Wales’) calling for an inquiry into the Blair government’s conduct of the Gulf war.
On 15 June 2009, in a parliamentary debate, the terms of the Chilcot Inquiry were presented in detail, duly recorded in Hansard, the parliamentary records.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Blair’s successor stated: “In order that the committee is as objective and non-partisan as possible, the membership of the committee will consist entirely of non-partisan public figures acknowledged to be experts and leaders in their fields. There will be no representatives of political parties from either side of this House.”
David Cameron, then Leader of the Opposition stated piously:
“The whole point of having an Inquiry is that it has to be able to make clear recommendations, to go wherever the evidence leads, to establish the full truth and to ensure that the right lessons are learned … in a way that builds public confidence.”
Cameron was particularly concerned about: ‘openness’. How times change.
Further, said Cameron:
“The inquiry needs to be, and needs to be seen to be, truly independent and not an establishment stitch-up … The prime minister was very clear that the inquiry would have access to all British documents and all British witnesses. Does that mean that the inquiry may not have access to documents from the USA … On the scope of the inquiry, will the prime minister confirm that it will cover relations with the United States …”
Cameron concluded with again a demand for “openness and transparency”.
In response, Gordon Brown stated:
“I cannot think of an inquiry with a more comprehensive, wider or broader remit than the one that I have just announced. Far from being restricted, it will cover eight years, from 2001 to 2009. Far from being restricted, it will have access to any documents that are available, and that will include foreign documents that are available in British archives. [Emphasis mine.]
However, four years is a long time in politics, and last week, as David Cameron traveled to Sri Lanka for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, it transpired that the documents Sir John Chilcot had been pursuing and been denied for six months have been also blocked by: “officials in the White House and the US department of state, who have refused to sanction any declassification of critical pre-and post-war communications between George W Bush and Tony Blair”.
David Cameron is apparently also blocking evidence “on Washington’s orders, from being included in the report of an expensive and lengthy British Inquiry.”
However, ‘shame’ clearly not being a word in Cameron’s lexicon, he landed in Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon, a British Colony 1815-1948) as the above shoddy details broke, in full colonial mode.
Spectacular welcoming ceremonies barely over, he launched in to an entirely undiplomatic, public tirade, at this gathering of the ‘Commonwealth family of nations’ alleging that his host, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, was guilty of war crimes during the civil war with the Tamil Tigers.
It is not disputed that, as in any conflict, terrible crimes were committed on both sides. But these are accusations from the man both covering up the genesis of massacres of genocidal magnitude – and who enjoined in the near destruction of Libya, the resultant lynching of the country’s leader, the murder of his sons and small grandchildren and uncounted others in another decimation of a country that had threatened no other.
Cameron’s Libya is Blair’s Iraq. As in Iraq, the dying continues daily.
The pontification also from a prime minister backing funding for the cannibalistic-orientated insurgents in Syria – the beheading, dismembering, looting, displacing, kidnapping, chemical weapons lobbying, child killing, infanticide-bent crazies – including those from his own country.
In Sri Lanka, he demanded the country ensure “credible, transparent and independent investigations into alleged war crimes” and said if this did not happen by the March deadline he arbitrarily imposed, he would press the UN Human Rights Council to hold an international inquiry.
Further: “truth telling”, he said, was essential. To cite hypocrisy of breathtaking proportions has become a redundant accusation, but words are failing.
In the event Cameron “left Colombo having failed to secure any concessions from President Rajapaksa or persuade fellow leaders to criticise Sri Lanka’s record in a communique”. (Guardian, 16 November)
As the prime minster slunk out, President Mahinda Rajapaksa delivered an apt, withering reaction: “People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones,” he responded.
Ironically, in spite a tragic recent past, Sri Lanka is the only country in South Asia rated high on the Human Development Index. The UK and ‘allies’ recent victims Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan barely make it to the bottom.
David Cameron returned to Britain still having to grapple with how to evade delivering truth to the Chilcot Inquiry.
Hopefully, he will read a letter from writer Lesley Docksey:
“It was British taxpayers’ money that funded the Chilcot Inquiry, and this taxpayer wants her money’s worth. All the British government papers concerning the sorry affair of an invasion of another country belong to this nation – not to the United States, not to Tony Blair and not to the current government. Taxpayers aren’t here to save the faces of politicians.
“Nor is it, in the words of the Cabinet Office, ‘in the public’s interest’ that exchanges between the UK prime minister and the US president are kept secret’ – sorry, ‘privileged’ – from those who are paying their wages. The phrase ‘in the public interest’ only ever means the interests of the government of the day.
“Unless Sir John Chilcot and his team can publish a full and honest report, no lessons will be learnt by future governments. But then, if those lessons were learnt, and we the public knew (as in fact we do) what they were, this country would find it difficult to ever invade anywhere ever again.
“So, Sir John, in the words of a former PM, the Duke of Wellington, ‘Publish and be damned!’” (Independent, 18th November 2013)
Oh, and as David Cameron was lecturing Sri Lanka on ‘transparency’, the Conservatives were removing “a decade of speeches from their website and from the main internet library – including one in which David Cameron claimed that being able to search the web would democratise politics by making ‘more information available to more people’”.
“The party removed records of speeches and press releases from 2000 until May 2010. The effect will be to remove any speeches and articles during the Tories’ modernisation period …”
Comment again redundant.
“It’s a proxy war by outside forces and the world must stand up against it.”
Human shields from Britain are greeted as they cross the border into Iraq, February 2003
Arriving first in Syria
by FRANKLIN LAMB
A sort of roller-coaster atmosphere pervades Damascus these days, with both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ news rippling through the airwaves every quarter hour or so. Much of the population monitors it all closely. People listen; they read; they discuss their interpretations of the latest media reports or the rumours circulating – wondering, surmising, deliberating on the timing of the now-assumed American attack on their country.
In the very popular Abaa coffee house, on the edge of the old city, in what is called the Sarugha section, customers, many of them students, enjoy the fine cool mist that is sprayed from ceiling pipes, providing welcome relief from the 37 degree celsius temperatures prevailing outside.
You want a Damascus tradition? Gathering at the Abaa is it. Many are glued to their laptops or else in animated conversation, analysing the extent and likelihood of the strike upon their homeland by those who profess to be acting out of ‘humanitarian’ concerns.
This observer often meets interlocutors in the Abaa because it’s very pleasant. It is large with dozens of tables. It is also cheap and two blocks from my hotel. I have noticed that common greetings are changing from “kif hallack” (how are you?) and “Arak lahekan” (see you later), to “Get home safely” and “Good luck with the checkpoints.”
But there is also a growing esprit de corps, a coming together of much of the population, as the countdown to the firing of the American missiles begins. Much in evidence also is a rallying around the Assad government – the opposite, one would presume, of what the White House had hoped would result from its threats.
A good friend from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent Society (SARCS) described how her friends are preparing for the American attack. “We gather our important documents, birth, marriage certificate and passport and make photo copies. Then we leave them with friends in ‘safe’ areas or even bury them somewhere. No one knows how bad the Americans will bomb us. At work we have been told during our final practice drill that the next siren will be the ‘real thing’ and we will do as we have planned for.”
SARCS, by the way, has been providing some amazing rescue and medical services for Syrians and Palestinians during this expanding crisis.
“Many of my friends and family are leaving,” she added. “But it’s not easy, and is very expensive now to go to Lebanon, and they don’t want us – and my family has decided to stay in our home no matter what happens in the coming days.”
One topic getting a lot of attention here is the reluctance of the American public to attack Syria, and whether or not Obama will ignore it. “What kind of democracy do you have that your president can ignore the will of the American public?” this observer is frequently asked.
One soldier stationed with his unit outside my hotel seemed to speak from his heart: “You Americans claim you are trying to help the Syrian people. Every child knows, both here and in your country I think, that the coming attack will make things much worse for the Syrian people and many others. The American people are good and we hope they can control their government, but we are preparing for the worst.”
The government is assuring the public that Syria is ready for the American attack and that public services will continue. Round-the-clock images of heroic Syrian army exploits air on local TV channels, along with martial and patriotic music. Meanwhile, youngsters, students, and workers have begun gathering at presumed targets to offer themselves as shields while challenging President Obama to bomb them.
Interestingly, an international human shield movement is also coalescing, say informed sources here. One initiative reportedly will bring 1,000 Americans, along with thousands of others, to Syria within the next ten days to guard likely bomb sites – not so very different from efforts to protect Palestinian homes from bulldozing in Occupied Palestine.
Here are some descriptive specifics that have been disclosed to this observer from an international organising committee working round-the-clock to bring the human shield initiative into being:
“International Human Shields coming to Syria in solidarity with the Syrian people and in an effort to send a global message and hopefully deter an American attack next week.
“Timing – While moves can be made fast and with all other key elements in place, time is not in our favor. Ten more days for preparation would be ideal. The HS initiative assumes that it must be done in such a way that very little time lapses from the official announcement of the action to the actual arrival of the human shields on the ground in Syria.
“Impact – In order to achieve a significant impact, the objective is to have at least 1000 Americans and several thousand international human shields deployed in Syria. Ideally, this would include at least one representative from every UN Member State, and would serve as evidence of the true ‘international community’ opposing the American attack.”
The US activist-based steering committee is quickly bringing together professionals in IT, marketing, logistical planning and implementation, public relations, accounting, documentarians, and experienced project managers.
Ferries from European ports will need to be arranged to carry significant numbers of human shields from major European cities. Ideally, several jumbo jets will be chartered from some of the world’s major cities to carry those joining the effort.
“HS/Government Relations – The first objective of the enemies of Syria will be to portray the human shields as nothing more than pawns of President Bashar al-Assad. This was precisely what the mainstream media did in 2003, presenting human shields as pawns of Saddam.
“To be effective, the human shields must be seen not only as independent supporters of the people of Syria, but also as representative of the will of the vast majority of people around the world—namely those opposed to the pending US-led western attack.
“To this end, the HS should work with prominent leaders in the civilian sector of Syrian society. No effort should be spared to produce daily news stories of HS and Syrian people working hand-in-hand to protect the country from the ongoing foreign-instigated aggression. Once again, many details here need to be discussed and agreed upon if any action is to reach its full potential.
“Strategy – The sites that HS deploy to must be very well publicized and must be identified as protected sites under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
“The White House is saying that they are not going to attack infrastructure (as they did with Iraq in 2003), but in point of fact, the infrastructure must be attacked if the goal is to drive Syria into the stone age and to make it so weak that Israel, through its Takfiri agents, will eventually take the country over. Moreover, it is well known that the Syrian people and military cannot be defeated without massive attacks on the infrastructure.
“Therefore it becomes absolutely vital that human shields deploy to all power plants, water treatment facilities, bomb shelters (should they exist), civilian communications sites, food storage facilities, and any other sites critical to the civilian population.
“As for military sites, although I personally feel such deployment would be morally defensible, the power of HS in the public relations realm would probably be significantly compromised, and intelligent public relations is absolutely critical.
“At this point, a comprehensive list of protected sites needs to be produced immediately, and the sites will need to be verified by the most independent sources we can manage to obtain. UN representatives or former representatives, human rights attorneys, legal experts, and others of this type all could render invaluable assistance in this.
“Deployment to sites not specifically listed in the Fourth Geneva Convention should also be undertaken, including ethnic and religious minority communities whose members are deathly afraid of the foreign invaders/terrorists. Special emphasis should be placed on christian populations as the western audience, sadly, has more sympathy for christians than muslims.
“Public Relations - It cannot be over stated that smart public relations strategies are the key to success.
“Our goal is to personalise the people of Syria and show their suffering through the eyes of the HS. This can be done with effective daily reports to be uploaded on the internet and reported by legitimate news agencies such as Press TV, RT and Telesur.
“A massive effort must be made to educate the public about the reasons for the Fourth Geneva Convention (FGC) and the imperial powers’ undeniable record of knowingly destroying the lives of ‘protected persons’ as defined in the FGC. Essential to this effort are well-spoken Arabic/English speaking spokespersons.
“We should be ready to provide evidence of any attack on such sites the moment it happens, and to have legal briefs prepared so as to immediately charge the aggressors with war crimes. This is why it is critical that the HS are almost exclusively at sites that are protected by the FGC.
“We cannot necessarily stop them from doing what they intend to do, but we can make their aggression harm them far more than Syria and its people in the end. Herein lays the power, using the enemy’s momentum against him in the most advantageous way possible.
“Note: a contract has been drafted to protect human shields in their home country courts against the accusation that they are aiding and abetting and providing material support to a foreign power that is considered hostile. Human shields are acting in a manner consistent with, and in promotion of, international law and to save innocent, civilian lives.”
Time will tell which Americans will arrive first in Syria, the military or the American public. Many Syrians are today praying it will be the latter and have pledged to join them to defeat the coming aggression.
Franklin Lamb is doing research in Syria and Lebanon and can be reached c/o email@example.com
US soldiers protesting military strikes against Syria are taking to Facebook to voice their opposition to a war.
With the ruling class split over the ‘wisdom’ of an all-out attack on Syria (ie, some of our rulers have realised that imperialism might not win and that more war might just be counterproductive at home), more and more evidence is filtering through from marginalised ‘alternative’ media sources into the public eye.
Here are just a few of the articles currently circulating that together confirm what communists and anti-imperialists have said all along: that it is the Nato imperialists who are perpetrating illegal massacres and deliberately stoking up a sectarian and potentially genocidal war in Syria, and that the Syrian government and army are waging a heroic battle for national liberation from this fascistic neo-colonial onslaught.
The job of all anti-war, anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist and progressive people is to show the British working class that they have the power to stop the war criminals in their tracks. The corporate media, the munitions industry, the transporting and logistics as well as the forces themselves are all operated by workers. If we don’t do the work, these criminal wars cannot be fought!
‘Doctors’ behind Syrian chemical weapons claims are aiding terrorists (Land Destroyer Report)
Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) is fully funded by the very same corporate financier interests behind Wall Street and London’s collective foreign policy, including regime change in Syria and neighbouring Iran. Doctors Without Borders’ own annual report includes as financial donors Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Google, Microsoft, Bloomberg, Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital, and a myriad of other corporate-financier interests.
Syria: The questions that must be answered before any aggression (Dissident Voice)
Why do you not explain to your citizens that President Assad has the support of the vast majority of the population of his country and would you please draw up a list of the popularity ratings of the 30-odd terrorist/opposition groups fighting against the State?
US planned Syrian civilian catastrophe since 2007 (Press TV)
While the UN and nations across the West feign shock over the growing humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in and around Syria, the goal of a violent sectarian conflict and its predictable, catastrophic results along with calls to literally ‘bleed’ Syria have been the underlying strategy of special interests in the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia and their regional partners since at least 2007.
News of chemical weapons attack in Syria published one day before massacre happened (Voice of Russia)
This evidence shows that the terrorists massacred people then recorded the scenes to deceive the world.
‘Rebels’ admit responsibility for chemical weapons attack (Info Wars)
Syrian ‘rebels’ in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta have admitted to Associated Press correspondent Dale Gavlak that they were responsible for last week’s chemical weapons incident which western powers have blamed on Bashar al-Assad’s forces, revealing that the casualties were the result of an accident caused by rebels mishandling chemical weapons provided to them by Saudi Arabia.
Syria (In Gaza)
What a potential bloody ‘humanitarian’, ‘right-to-protect’ (right to bomb and pillage) intervention will do is rape yet another country of everything, including its culture, history, identity, and of course people … and further colonial interests and power in the region of Syria, Palestine, Lebanon … and on to Iran.
The American people have spoken: calls to Congress 499 to 1 against Syria war (Global Research)
Americans are slamming at least 24 members of Congress with thousands of phone calls and emails, urging lawmakers not to approve a military strike on Syria.
Russia releases key findings on chemical attack near Aleppo indicating similarity with rebel-made weapons (RT)
Russia’s foreign ministry has criticised the “flawed selective approach” of certain states in reporting the recent incidents of alleged chemical weapons use in August. The hype around the alleged attack on the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta showed “apparent attempts to cast a veil over the incidents of gas poisoning of Syrian army soldiers on 22, 24 and 25 August,” the ministry said, adding that all the respective evidence was handed to the UN by Syria.
Five things anti-war activists should know about Syria (FightBack! News)
The notion that there is a ‘red line’ that no one is allowed to cross is cynical at the core. Iraq is saturated with cancer-causing depleted uranium from US bombs. The US military used the chemical weapon white phosphorus in Fallujah and Israel used white phosphorus in Gaza in a manner that violates the Geneva Convention. Chemical weapons are a pretext to do what the US government, weapons manufacturers, Israel, and the Saudi ruling class wants to do - bomb Syria.
While Syria doesn’t have much oil, there is a whole lot of it in the neighbourhood. The conflict in Syria has been ongoing because it is being used as a geopolitical chess piece by the West. The point of the attack is to defeat Syria so the US can next move onto Iran and strike at other forces that are opposed to US domination.
Syria’s real ‘crime’ is to remain independent, ignoring the agenda of US empire in the Middle East and befriending the patriotic peoples of Iran, Lebanon and Palestine. The US speaks of chemical weapons, hoping that we have forgotten their plan for ‘regime change’ in Syria. The US government has no right to determine who should lead the Syrian government.
The opening paragraph of Stop the War’s latest email to members in Bristol ploughs a familiar furrow:
Yesterday’s vote in parliament is welcome. MPs reflected the majority view in the country and rejected the government’s plans to join an attack on Syria. It represented the victory of mass anti-war opinion over the interests of the UK elite that has been enthusiastically participating in US-led wars over the last decade and more.
There can be no doubt that the hundreds of demonstrations, protests, rallies and pickets of the last twelve years have been central to bringing the war makers low and making it impossible for Cameron to join in another catastrophic attack.
But we need to resist such mutual congratulation over the alleged effectiveness of ten years of rudderless protest and remind ourselves of a few salient facts.
1. The vote at Westminster was indeed a breathtaking upset for British imperialism, reflecting as it did the panic and disarray of our masters faced with a choice between drinking poison (plunging into another Iraq or Afghanistan) or dying of thirst (seeing US hegemony crumble).
It is the severity of the crisis and the steadfastness of Syria and the axis of resistance that combined to divide and weaken imperialism, not the feeble nonentities at the helm of the anti-war movement.
2. Open war against Syria is most likely still on the agenda anyway. Labour complains that war against Syria is being prepared “in a rush”, just as it used to complain that the cuts were happening “too fast”. Slacken the timetable a little and the objections melt away.
Labour complains only that the UN inspectors need more time, with the unstated corollary that an adverse report would legitimise missile strikes. All Miliband’s posturing amounts to is the demand for a bigger fig leaf to cover this criminal enterprise.
3. Under imperialism, though any given war may not itself be inevitable, war in general most certainly is, and the more urgently so as the capitalist crisis deepens.
Workers don’t need to be hearing right now that parliamentary democracy has proved itself a reliable bulwark against militarism. Least of all do they need to be hearing that Labour (or Labour ‘lefts’, or an anti-war movement dominated by social democracy) is going to deliver “peace in our time”.
4. We congratulate the government and people of Syria whose steadfast resistance to imperialist subversion has weakened and divided their enemies.
And we affirm again that it is by giving consistent support to the resistance forces and organising workers behind a campaign of practical non-cooperation with imperialist war crimes that a serious anti-war movement can and must be built.
The author of the statement below is a former Second Class Petty Officer in the US Navy (2007-2012) who served on the USS Fitzgerald and the USS The Sullivans. He now helps to organise anti-war actions in Los Angeles.
To my fellow sailors, shipmates and service members on active duty,
Many of you are now in the Mediterranean Sea near Syria to be used to carry out strikes against the country. Ninety-one percent of the American public opposes these strikes. The Obama administration has failed to produce the ‘evidence’ it says would justify them.
Do not be fooled into yet another war based on lies in the Middle East. The events that came to pass in Iraq and Afghanistan go to show that “defending freedom and democracy around the world“, as the Sailor’s Creed so wrongfully suggests, is just a scheme to defend the interests of the rich at our expense. Syria – which is the only remaining country in the Arab world that is independent of Wall Street – is a huge prize for the oil and defence industries. But the billionaires who will profit don’t send their own children. They send us.
What we learned from the Iraq war in particular is that the US government will fabricate intelligence, lies to our faces, and create a false story about ‘protecting civilians’ to cover up their true motives.
Don’t be a part of a war machine that kills innocent lives and separates entire families. Tomahawks and MK45 rounds kill indiscriminately.
Do not be fooled into yet another endless watch, duty day, sleepless night and deployment in support of a corrupt system that constantly puts you in harm’s way. I ask you, is it really worth it?
I enlisted on 20 July 2007, right out of high school, in the hopes that I could persue an education and travel the world through the Navy. The longer I was in, the more I realised that the community I was exposed to in the Navy was so far removed from the everyday lives of American civilians.
Military spending always goes up. I was surrounded by billions of dollars’ worth of equipment, while schools have to fundraise for supplies and scholarships, whole cities were going bankrupt, and students struggled to pay their loans.
I realised then that the system in place had left me no choice but to join the military. It was an illusion of choice when the reality is that more and more of us join to escape economic hardship. Then we are used to carry out missile strikes against other struggling people just like us all over the globe. It is a cycle that continues to fuel the war machine.
To me, patriotism is doing what you think is right for your country, not blindly following its government. It means that when we receive orders from corrupt high-ranking officers to launch strikes against Syria, against the will of the American people and against the will of the Syrian people, that it is our duty to refuse to carry them out.
Getting out of the military was the best decision I ever made, because the military tried to make me into a tool of oppression for other people around the world – but failed.
If I were at sea now, ordered to carry out this new war, I would refuse. You can too. Disobey the bogus orders to launch a new war. Refuse deployments and reenlistments. Come home to your families and fight the real battle that has been waged by the government against its own people in the form of unemployment, poor education, high interest rates for college students, police brutality and the erosion of our civil liberties.
30 August 2013
Act together to stop war … Join the axis of resistance!
If the imperialists succeed in destroying independent Syria, they will be one step closer to bringing down independent Iran, just as the destruction of independent Libya paved the way for the war against Syria.
The statement issued today (see below) by the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) is especially significant for British workers. It demonstrates the anti-imperialist understanding of the majority of the world’s workers, and it is in stark contrast to the reaction of Britain’s official trade-union and anti-war movements.
The World Federation of Trade Unions categorically denounces the intensified imperialist aggressiveness against Syria and calls for the immediate termination of any attack and military intervention being pursued against the country and the Syrian people.
In conditions of strong inter-imperialist competition, and in conditions of deep and prolonged international capitalist crisis where the rivalries over wealth-producing resources and geo-strategic crossroads are increasing, the conflict in the Middle East and the Mediterranean is reaching new extremes.
The manufactured etiology for the “use of chemical weapons” that is being attributed to the Syrian army is an obvious provocative slander aiming to provide an opportunity for the military intervention expected and prepared for years by the USA and the other forces.
The global mass media, owned by multinational groups, are fully coordinated with the imperialist agenda and are enriching the campaign of misinformation, building the people’s inertia or endorsement for yet another slaughter.
The forces within the country, which are morally and practically supported by the USA, Britain, France as well as Turkey, Israel and the Emirs and Kings of Qatar, Saudi Arabia etc, have nothing to do with the interests of the Syrian people, neither with the ‘peace’ nor with the ‘democracy’ that they are supposedly espousing.
The ‘democracy’ applied in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Libya, in Mali: we do not need it, we do not want it! No more blood for the interests of the multinationals.
We call upon all the trade-union organisations, members and friends of the WFTU, as well as all the peace-loving people and mass organisations internationally to protest their condemnation against the imperialist policy and the solidarity with the people of Syria.
The Syrian people without foreign intervention are the only ones who can and must decide upon their present and future.
Athens, Greece 29 August 2013
Let us be clear. Syria is under attack because it stands in the way of imperialist domination of the Middle East. The country has a long history of opposing zionism and supporting the Palestinian struggle for liberation, and of standing up against imperialist interventions of all kinds in the Middle East and the wider world. President Assad is not a ‘dictator’ but the leader of a popular national-unity coalition government that seeks to protect its people from imperialist superexploitation.
Instead of producing cheap trainers and living in slums, the Syrian people have free health care, free university education and an economy that retains its independence from the domination of imperialist multinationals.
The imperialist war against Syria is aimed at smashing all that to pieces and putting a puppet regime in place that will facilitate the looting of Syria and create a new base for attacks against Syria’s anti-imperialist allies in Iran and Lebanon (Hizbollah). This is also a step towards all-out war against Russia or China or both — a war that would be bound to consume the entire world in flames.
Meanwhile, the terrorist forces rampaging through Syria that the West has been arming want to plunge the country into a sectarian bloodbath and turn it into a fascistic theocracy of the most vicious kind.
In the face of all this, the British TUC has said absolutely nothing about the impending blitzkreig, while Britain’s ‘anti-war’ organisation Stop the War (StW) has merely suggested that the few people who still pay any attention to its emails might like to lobby their MPs and attend a demonstration or two.
Despite repeated endorsements for a mass non-cooperation campaign at consecutive StW conferences, Stop the War has not called on workers to withdraw their labour from the war machine. Indeed, it has not even suggested that the war is a crime, calling it instead a ‘mistake‘.
Instead of explaining that aggressive war against a sovereign nation is the highest crime against humanity under international law, StW calls the planned assault on Syria an ‘intervention’, and uses the same word to describe the genocides and massacres committed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.
Instead of exposing the war machine’s disgusting lies, StW’s ‘call to arms’ starts with a statement about the awfulness of chemical weapons — referencing and thereby emphasising imperialism’s hysterical anti-Assad hype without refuting it, and therefore helping to spread confusion and demoralisation.
Instead of organising workers to use their power to stop British imperialist participation in crimes against humanity, StW asks them to send emails to MPs. The ruling class must be quaking in its boots!
The war against Syria is a war against all oppressed and exploited people. It is a war to strengthen imperialism, and therefore a war to keep the workers of the world in subjugation. Just as we need to organise against cuts at home when the ruling class attacks us here, we need to join with our brothers and sisters on the frontline in Syria to ensure a defeat for imperialism by creating a worldwide axis of resistance.
It’s long past time for the bankrupt careerists who lead our movement to be given their marching orders and to be replaced by leaders who are prepared to stand up to imperialism and expose imperialist war propaganda, as well as to get on with organising a mass campaign of active non-cooperation with imperialist wars.
If every trade union in Britain made it their policy to refuse to cooperate with the war against Syria, then workers could refuse to make or move munitions or supplies, could refuse to write or broadcast propaganda, and could refuse to fight in the forces. It is quite simple: the imperialists can’t fight without us!