There have been at least two countries in Europe in recent history that undertook ‘anti-terrorist’ military operations against ‘separatists’, but got two very different reactions from the Western elite.
The government of European country A launches what it calls an ‘anti-terrorist’ military operation against ‘separatists’ in one part of the country. We see pictures on Western television of people’s homes being shelled and lots of people fleeing. The US and UK and other NATO powers fiercely condemn the actions of the government of country A and accuse it of carrying out ‘genocide’ and ’ethnic cleansing’ and say that there is an urgent ‘humanitarian crisis.’ Western politicians and establishment journalists tell us that ‘something must be done.’ And something is done: NATO launches a ‘humanitarian’ military intervention to stop the government of country A. Country A is bombed for 78 days and nights. The country’s leader (who is labeled ‘The New Hitler’) is indicted for war crimes – and is later arrested and sent in an RAF plane to stand trial for war crimes at The Hague, where he dies, un-convicted, in his prison cell.
The government of European country B launches what it calls an ‘anti-terrorist’ military operation against ‘separatists’ in one part of the country. Western television doesn’t show pictures or at least not many) of people’s homes being shelled and people fleeing, although other television stations do. But here the US, UK and other NATO powers do not condemn the government, or accuse it of committing ‘genocide’ or ‘ethnic cleansing.’ Western politicians and establishment journalists do not tell us that ‘something must be done’ to stop the government of country B killing people. On the contrary, the same powers who supported action against country A, support the military offensive of the government in country B. The leader of country B is not indicted for war crimes, nor is he labeled ‘The New Hitler’ despite the support the government has got from far-right, extreme nationalist groups, but in fact, receives generous amounts of aid.
Anyone defending the policies of the government in country A, or in any way challenging the dominant narrative in the West is labeled a “genocide denier” or an “apologist for mass murder.” But no such opprobrium awaits those defending the military offensive of the government in country B. It’s those who oppose its policies who are smeared.
What makes the double standards even worse, is that by any objective assessment, the behavior of the government in country B, has been far worse than that of country A and that more human suffering has been caused by their aggressive actions.
In case you haven’t guessed it yet – country A is Yugoslavia, country B is Ukraine.
Yugoslavia, a different case
In 1998/9 Yugoslavian authorities were faced with a campaign of violence against Yugoslav state officials by the pro-separatist and Western-backed Kosovan Liberation Army (KLA). The Yugoslav government responded by trying to defeat the KLA militarily, but their claims to be fighting against ’terrorism’ were haughtily dismissed by Western leaders. As the British Defence Secretary George Robertson and Foreign Secretary Robin Cook acknowledged in the period from 1998 to January 1999, the KLA had been responsible for more deaths in Kosovo than the Yugoslav authorities had been.
In the lead-up to the NATO action and during it, lurid claims were made about the numbers of people who had been killed or ‘disappeared’ by the Yugoslav forces. “Hysterical NATO and KLA estimates of the missing and presumably slaughtered Kosovan Albanians at times ran upwards of one hundred thousand, reaching 500, 000 in one State Department release. German officials leaked ‘intelligence’ about an alleged Serb plan called Operation Horseshoe to depopulate the province of its ethnic Albanians, and to resettle it with Serbs, which turned out to be an intelligence fabrication,” Edward Herman and David Peterson noted in their book The Politics of Genocide.
“We must act to save thousands of innocent men, women and children from humanitarian catastrophe – from death, barbarism and ethnic cleansing from a brutal dictatorship,” a solemn-faced Prime Minister Tony Blair told the British Parliament – just four years before an equally sombre Tony Blair told the British Parliament that we must act over the ‘threat’ posed by Saddam Hussein’s WMDs.
Taking their cue from Tony Blair and Co., the media played their part in hyping up what was going on in Kosovo. Herman and Peterson found that newspapers used the word ‘genocide’ to describe Yugoslav actions in Kosovo 323 times compared to just 13 times for the invasion/occupation of Iraq despite the death toll in the latter surpassing that of Kosovo by 250 times.
In the same way we were expected to forget about the claims from Western politicians and their media marionettes about Iraq possessing WMDs in the lead-up to the 2003 invasion, we are now expected to forget about the outlandish claims made about Kosovo in 1999.
But as the award winning investigative journalist and broadcaster John Pilger wrote in his article Reminders of Kosovo in 2004, “Lies as great as those told by Bush and Blair were deployed by Clinton and Blair in grooming of public opinion for an illegal, unprovoked attack on a European country.”
The overall death toll of the Kosovo conflict is thought to be between 3,000 and 4,000, but that figure includes Yugoslav army casualties, and Serbs and Roma and Kosovan Albanians killed by the KLA. In 2013, the International Committee of the Red Cross listed the names of 1,754 people from all communities in Kosovo who were reported missing by their families.
The number of people killed by Yugoslav military at the time NATO launched its ‘humanitarian’ bombing campaign, which itself killed between 400-600 people, is thought to be around 500, a tragic death toll but hardly “genocide.”
“Like Iraq’s fabled weapons of mass destruction, the figures used by the US and British governments and echoed by journalists were inventions- along with Serbian ‘rape camps’ and Clinton and Blair’s claims that NATO never deliberately bombed civilians,” says Pilger.
No matter what happens in Ukraine…
In Ukraine by contrast, the number of people killed by government forces and those supporting them has been deliberately played down, despite UN figures highlighting the terrible human cost of the Ukrainian government’s ‘anti-terrorist’ operation.
Last week, the UN’s Human Rights Office said that the death toll in the conflict in eastern Ukraine had doubled in the previous fortnight. Saying that they were “very conservative estimates,” the UN stated that 2,086 people (from all sides) had been killed and 5,000 injured. Regarding refugees, the UN says that around 1,000 people have been leaving the combat zone every day and that over 100,000 people have fled the region. Yet despite these very high figures, there have been no calls from leading Western politicians for ‘urgent action’ to stop the Ukrainian government’s military offensive. Articles from faux-left ‘humanitarian interventionists’ saying that ‘something must be done’ to end what is a clearly a genuine humanitarian crisis, have been noticeable by their absence.
There is, it seems, no “responsibility to protect” civilians being killed by government forces in the east of Ukraine, as there was in Kosovo, even though the situation in Ukraine, from a humanitarian angle, is worse than that in Kosovo in March 1999.
To add insult to injury, efforts have been made to prevent a Russian humanitarian aid convoy from entering Ukraine.
The convoy we are told is ‘controversial’ and could be part of a sinister plot by Russia to invade. This from the same people who supported a NATO bombing campaign on a sovereign state for “humanitarian” reasons fifteen years ago!
For these Western ‘humanitarians’ who cheer on the actions of the Ukrainian government, the citizens of eastern Ukraine are “non-people”: not only are they unworthy of our support or compassion, or indeed aid convoys, they are also blamed for their own predicament.
There are, of course, other conflicts which also highlight Western double standards towards ‘humanitarian intervention’. Israeli forces have killed over 2,000 Palestinians in their latest ruthless ‘anti-terrorist’ operation in Gaza, which is far more people than Yugoslav forces had killed in Kosovo by the time of the 1999 NATO ‘intervention’. But there are no calls at this time for a NATO bombing campaign against Israel.
In fact, neocons and faux-left Zionists who have defended and supported Israel’s “anti-terrorist” Operation Protective Edge, and Operation Cast Lead before it, were among the most enthusiastic supporters of the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. Israel it seems is allowed to kill large numbers of people, including women and children, in its “anti-terrorist” campaigns, but Yugoslavia had no such “right” to fight an “anti-terrorist” campaign on its own soil.
In 2011, NATO went to war against Libya to prevent a “hypothetical” massacre in Benghazi, and to stop Gaddafi ‘killing his own people’; in 2014 Ukrainian government forces are killing their own people in large numbers, and there have been actual massacres like the appalling Odessa arson attack carried out by pro-government ‘radicals’, but the West hasn’t launched bombing raids on Kiev in response.
The very different approaches from the Western elite to ‘anti-terrorist’ operations in Kosovo and Ukraine (and indeed elsewhere) shows us that what matters most is not the numbers killed, or the amount of human suffering involved, but whether or not the government in question helps or hinders Western economic and military hegemonic aspirations.
In the eyes of the rapacious Western elites, the great ‘crime’ of the Yugoslav government in 1999 was that it was still operating, ten years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, an unreconstructed socialist economy, with very high levels of social ownership – as I highlighted here.
Yugoslavia under Milosevic was a country which maintained its financial and military independence. It had no wishes to join the EU or NATO, or surrender its sovereignty to anyone. For that refusal to play by the rules of the globalists and to show deference to the powerful Western financial elites, the country (and its leader) had to be destroyed. In the words of George Kenney, former Yugoslavia desk officer at the US State Department: “In post-cold war Europe no place remained for a large, independent-minded socialist state that resisted globalization.”
By contrast, the government of Ukraine, has been put in power by the West precisely in order to further its economic and military hegemonic aspirations. Poroshenko, unlike the much- demonized Milosevic, is an oligarch acting in the interests of Wall Street, the big banks and the Western military-industrial complex. He’s there to tie up Ukraine to IMF austerity programs, to hand over his country to Western capital and to lock Ukraine into ‘Euro-Atlantic’ structures- in other words to transform it into an EU/IMF/NATO colony- right on Russia’s doorstep.
This explains why an ‘anti-terrorist’ campaign waged by the Yugoslav government against ‘separatists’ in 1999 is ‘rewarded’ with fierce condemnation, a 78-day bombing campaign, and the indictment of its leader for war crimes, while a government waging an ‘anti-terrorist’ campaign against ‘separatists’ in Ukraine in 2014, is given carte blanche to carry on killing. In the end, it’s not about how many innocent people you kill, or how reprehensible your actions are, but about whose interests you serve.
Was it appropriate for the Middle East peace envoy to throw a lavish party for political cronies and minor celebrities as Israel slaughtered over 1000 Palestinian civilians?
WHERE was Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair last week as Israel invaded Gaza and committed horrific war crimes, killing over 1000 Palestinians, 80% of them civilians, 200 of them children?
Not at his official residence and office in the millionaires’ row of East Jerusalem, which costs £750,000 a year, and from where he directs his somewhat less than successful efforts to bring peace to the Middle East.
And what was Tony Blair doing, as Israel bombed hospitals, schools, centres for the disabled, and UN shelters to which 180,000 civilians fled — as at least 1000 homes were turned to rubble by random bombardment? What was he doing as the people in 46% of Gaza were warned by Israel to evacuate — without any indication of where they could go — or face being slaughtered by the world’s fifth most powerful military force?
What has been the Middle East’s Peace Envoy’s only visible contribution to finding a peaceful resolution to the carnage we have witnessed since 6 July, when Israel escalated its merciless attack on 1.8 million defenceless people, held captive by an inhumane siege, which for seven years has left them starved of food, clean water and essential resources, including medical supplies?
The only sighting has been his appearances on television in which his one purpose seems to be to repeat endlessly that he supports “Israel’s right to defend itself”. By killing 200 childen? is never the repost by his interviewers, least of all on the BBC, which, like Tony Blair, is a fully signed up contributor to Israel’s propaganda campaign justifying crimes against humanity.
So has the peace envoy been active behind the scenes, working tirelessly to bring the carnage to an end?
As far as we know, his only behind the scenes activity has been to act as messenge-boy for the scam Egyptian “ceasefire proposal”, which was actually hatched in Washington, with the terms drafted by Israel. Tony Blair’s errand was to deliver the proposal to US-backed Egyptian dictator Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, for him then to announce it as his initiative. The Middle East peace envoy, whose role is supposedly intended to mediate between warring parties in the region, didn’t consider showing the ceasefire proposal to Hamas, which only learnt of it from the media and understandably rejected it as a one-sided demand to surrender. As Israel based journalist Jonathan Cook wrote,
The corporate media swallowed the line of Israel accepting the “ceasefire proposal” and Hamas rejecting it. What Hamas did was reject a US-Israeli diktat to sign away the rights of the people of Gaza to end a siege that cuts them off from the rest of the world.
Tony Blair was the natural choice to be the US and Israeli emissary to the Egyptian dictator el-Sisi, who came to power in a military coup last year that toppled the democratically elected government of president Mohamed Morsi. The Sisi regime is estimated to have killed more than 2,500 protesters and jailed more than 20,000. But that didn’t stop Blair at the beginning of July agreeing to “advise” the Egyptian dictator in a deal which is said to promise huge “business opportunities”.
Not for the first time, Blair is blurring the lines between his public position as peace envoy and his private business dealings in the Middle East. Which is why a group of former British ambassadors and political figures joined a campaign to call for Blair to be sacked as Middle East envoy
So where was Tony Blair last week, as the world watched in horror as Israel invaded Gaza with complete disregard for international and humanitarian law?
He was in the United Kingdom.
And what was his prime activity last week? It was planning a surprise 60th birthday party for his wife Cherie. Why she needed one to coincide with the news that Israel’s mass murder in Gaza had passed 1000 is not clear, as her 60th birthday isn’t actually due till September.
But there was the Middle East peace envoy on Friday 25 July, partying at a cost of £50,000 in his £6 million mansion, with 150 political cronies, wealthy businessmen and minor celebrities.
The next day, over 60,000 protesters brought central London to a standstill calling for the Gaza massacre to stop. Many thousands more demonstrated in towns and cities throughout the UK. And across the world, from San Francisco to Tel Aviv, on every continent, demonstrations called for an end to the killing, the siege to be lifted and Palestine to be free.
There is an ever-growing worldwide outrage that Israel is allowed with impunity to get away with such barbarity. As the Channel 4 News journalist Jon Snow put it: “Were any other country on Earth doing what is being done in Gaza, there would be worldwide uproar.”
And the response of Tony Blair, the Middle East peace envoy: “Israel has the right to defend itself.” Time to party.
As Israel buried Ariel Sharon amid eulogies from world figures, Tony Blair, a Butcher of Baghdad, paid a tribute to the Butcher of Beirut which included the line that Sharon: “didn’t think of peace as a dreamer, but did dream of peace.” Also that: “ … he sought peace with the same iron determination” as he had fought (read slaughtered, across the Middle East.) Re-writing history does not come more blatant, but Blair was ever good at fantasy, think “weapons of mass destruction” and “forty five minutes.”
Surgeon, Dr Swee Chai Ang went to help the wounded of Beirut after the 1982 Israeli invasion and witnessed the Sabra and Shatila massacre of unarmed men woman and children, Palestinian and Lebanese, between the 15th-18th September,1982.
In her book “From Beirut to Jerusalem”, she describes the reality:
“As I walked through the camp alleys looking at the shattered homes (many of these houses had just been rebuilt following earlier bombardments by Israel) I wanted to cry aloud, but was too exhausted emotionally even to do that. How could little children come back to live in the room where their relatives were tortured and then killed? If the Palestinian Red Crescent Society could not function legally, who was going to look after the widows and orphans?
“Suddenly, someone threw his arms around me. It was Mahmoud, a little child who had broken his wrist while trying to help his father rebuild their broken home. He had survived and his wrist had mended, but now his father was dead. Mahmoud cried, but he was glad I was alive because, from his hiding place during the massacre, he had seen the soldiers taking us away. He thought they had killed me.
“Soon I was surrounded by a whole lot of children. Kids without homes, without parents, without futures. But they were the children of Sabra and the children of Shatila. One of them spotted my pocket camera, and wanted a picture taken. Then they all stood together, wanting their pictures taken. “They wanted me to show their picture to the people of the world. Even if they were killed and the camps were demolished, the world would know that they were the children of Sabra and Shatila, and were not afraid. As I focused my camera, they all held up their hands and made victory signs, right in front of their destroyed homes, where many had been killed. Dear little friends, you taught me what courage and struggle are about.”
Dr Swee Chai Ang founded Medical Aid for Palestine as a result of her experiences in Beirut and Sabra and Shatila. On the eve of Ariel Sharon’s burial, she wrote the following. It is published with her permission:
The passing of Ariel Sharon brought back the memories of the horrors of the Sabra Shatilla massacre of September,’82. I arrived in August that year as a volunteer surgeon to help the war victims of Lebanon. The people in Lebanon were wounded, made homeless and lost precious friends and families as the result of ten weeks of ruthless bombardment. That was the “Operation Peace for Galilee”, launched by Sharon who was then the Defence Minister of Israel in June 1982.
No one knew how many were killed as the result of that offensive – the London newspapers estimated a thirty thousand with many times more made homeless. When a ceasefire was agreed with the evacuation of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, Sharon broke that ceasefire and drove tanks under air-cover launching a land invasion into Lebanon’s capitol Beirut. Part of the tanks sealed Sabra Shatilla and prevented the helpless civilian victims from escaping, while sending in Israel’s allies into the camps to carry out the most brutal massacre of defenceless women, children and old people under Israel’s watch. The blame was quickly and deliberately shifted to the Lebanese as perpetrators of the massacres, so that today no one can mention that massacre without blaming the Lebanese Phalange, yet forgetting the Israeli organisers of that event.
I worked in Gaza Hospital in Sabra Shatilla during the massacre trying to save the lives of a few dozen people, but outside the hospital hundreds were killed. My patients and I knew that Sharon and his officers were in control, and without them the massacre would not be possible. The residents of Sabra Shatilla could at least have escaped. Now more than 30 years later, we know that the killers were brought in by Israeli armoured cars and tanks, obeyed Israeli commands, their paths lit by Israeli military flares, and some of them also wore Israeli uniforms. The mutilated bodies of the victims were thrown into mass graves by Israeli bulldozers.
This Sharon continued on to be Israeli Prime Minister, and built the Wall which imprisoned the Palestinians in the West Bank. Sharon’s Wall cut through their lands, separating people from their homes, children from their schools, farmers from their orchards, patients from hospitals, husbands from wives, and children from parents. He marched into the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem 2000 with fully armed Israeli soldiers and tried to have the West believe that his intention was for peace.
He was responsible for other massacres such as in Jenin, Qibya and Khan Yunis just to name a few. The older generation in Khan Yunis in Gaza remembers that he killed all the grown men in the massacre of 1956 and left only the women and children to bury the dead.
I thought these facts should be publicised. Those who eulogise Sharon in his role of building Israel should also remember that he built his nation over the dead bodies of the Palestinian people, and the continued dispossession of those who are still alive.
- Dr Ang Swee Chai is the author of From Beirut to Jerusalem, Published by International Librarie, Beirut12 January 2014.
- Felicity Arbuthnot. is a journalist and activist who has visited the Arab and Muslim world on numerous occasions. She has written and broadcast on Iraq, her coverage of which was nominated for several awards. She was also senior researcher for John Pilger’s award-winning documentary Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq.
The US government has explicitly ordered Britain not to publish the contents of the four-year-long inquiry into the Iraq War carried out by Sir John Chilcot.
The administration of US President Barack Obama insists that certain parts of the Iraq Inquiry, known as the Chilcot Inquiry, could not be released as it is focused on the pre-war conspiracy hatched by the former US president George W. Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, The Independent has revealed.
Tony Blair led Britain into the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003 on the false pretext that the country’s Ba’athist regime possessed ready-to-use weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). No such arms were ever found in Iraq, but hundreds of thousands lost their lives following the invasion.
According to some leaks from the inquiry, Bush and Blair began conspiring for the Iraq War only weeks after Bush was inaugurated as the US president in 2001.
Now, the US government claims that Bush-Blair conversations and even those comments made by Blair to the inquiry are the property of the US government and has therefore decided to keep them classified.
“The US are highly possessive when documents relate to the presence of the President or anyone close to him. Tony Blair is involved in a dialogue in many of these documents, and naturally someone else is at the other end – the [US] President. Therefore this is not Tony Blair’s or the UK government’s property to disclose,” said one high-placed diplomatic source.
According to the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, “Chilcot, or anyone in London, does not decide what documents relating to a US President are published.”
This comes as Prime Minister David Cameron has told Chilcot in a letter that some documents needed to be “handled sensitively.”
Elaborating on Cameron’s statements, the Cabinet Office told The Independent: “It is in the public’s interests that exchanges between the UK Prime Minister and the US President are privileged. The whole premise about withholding them [from publication] is to ensure that we do not prejudice our relations with the United States.”
Therefore, the authors of the inquiry’s final report, including Chilcot and his team, are under heavy pressure not to hurt the so-called “special relationship” between Britain and the US.
It’s also expected that they will publish a neutral report in spring next year which will lack evidence to charge Blair with serious policy failures, and it may also be such a redacted report as to be meaningless and a waste of almost £8 million of British taxpayers’ money.
- Lord Owen calls for release of Blair and Bush Iraq evidence (theguardian.com)
MEMORANDUM FOR: The President
FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)
SUBJECT: Is Syria a Trap?
We regret to inform you that some of our former co-workers are telling us, categorically, that contrary to the claims of your administration, the most reliable intelligence shows that Bashar al-Assad was NOT responsible for the chemical incident that killed and injured Syrian civilians on August 21, and that British intelligence officials also know this. In writing this brief report, we choose to assume that you have not been fully informed because your advisers decided to afford you the opportunity for what is commonly known as “plausible denial.”
We have been down this road before – with President George W. Bush, to whom we addressed our first VIPS memorandum immediately after Colin Powell’s Feb. 5, 2003 U.N. speech, in which he peddled fraudulent “intelligence” to support attacking Iraq. Then, also, we chose to give President Bush the benefit of the doubt, thinking he was being misled – or, at the least, very poorly advised.
The fraudulent nature of Powell’s speech was a no-brainer. And so, that very afternoon we strongly urged your predecessor to “widen the discussion beyond … the circle of those advisers clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic.” We offer you the same advice today.
Our sources confirm that a chemical incident of some sort did cause fatalities and injuries on August 21 in a suburb of Damascus. They insist, however, that the incident was not the result of an attack by the Syrian Army using military-grade chemical weapons from its arsenal. That is the most salient fact, according to CIA officers working on the Syria issue. They tell us that CIA Director John Brennan is perpetrating a pre-Iraq-War-type fraud on members of Congress, the media, the public – and perhaps even you.
We have observed John Brennan closely over recent years and, sadly, we find what our former colleagues are now telling us easy to believe. Sadder still, this goes in spades for those of us who have worked with him personally; we give him zero credence. And that goes, as well, for his titular boss, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who has admitted he gave “clearly erroneous” sworn testimony to Congress denying NSA eavesdropping on Americans.
Intelligence Summary or Political Ploy?
That Secretary of State John Kerry would invoke Clapper’s name this week in Congressional testimony, in an apparent attempt to enhance the credibility of the four-page “Government Assessment” strikes us as odd. The more so, since it was, for some unexplained reason, not Clapper but the White House that released the “assessment.”
This is not a fine point. We know how these things are done. Although the “Government Assessment” is being sold to the media as an “intelligence summary,” it is a political, not an intelligence document. The drafters, massagers, and fixers avoided presenting essential detail. Moreover, they conceded upfront that, though they pinned “high confidence” on the assessment, it still fell “short of confirmation.”
Déjà Fraud: This brings a flashback to the famous Downing Street Minutes of July 23, 2002, on Iraq, The minutes record that Richard Dearlove, then head of British intelligence, reporting to Prime Minister Tony Blair and other senior officials that President Bush had decided to remove Saddam Hussein through military action that would be “justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD.” Dearlove had gotten the word from then-CIA Director George Tenet whom he visited at CIA headquarters on July 20.
The discussion that followed centered on the ephemeral nature of the evidence, prompting Dearlove to explain: “But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” We are concerned that this is precisely what has happened with the “intelligence” on Syria.
There is a growing body of evidence from numerous sources in the Middle East — mostly affiliated with the Syrian opposition and its supporters — providing a strong circumstantial case that the August 21 chemical incident was a pre-planned provocation by the Syrian opposition and its Saudi and Turkish supporters. The aim is reported to have been to create the kind of incident that would bring the United States into the war.
According to some reports, canisters containing chemical agent were brought into a suburb of Damascus, where they were then opened. Some people in the immediate vicinity died; others were injured.
We are unaware of any reliable evidence that a Syrian military rocket capable of carrying a chemical agent was fired into the area. In fact, we are aware of no reliable physical evidence to support the claim that this was a result of a strike by a Syrian military unit with expertise in chemical weapons.
In addition, we have learned that on August 13-14, 2013, Western-sponsored opposition forces in Turkey started advance preparations for a major, irregular military surge. Initial meetings between senior opposition military commanders and Qatari, Turkish and U.S. intelligence officials took place at the converted Turkish military garrison in Antakya, Hatay Province, now used as the command center and headquarters of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and their foreign sponsors.
Senior opposition commanders who came from Istanbul pre-briefed the regional commanders on an imminent escalation in the fighting due to “a war-changing development,” which, in turn, would lead to a U.S.-led bombing of Syria.
At operations coordinating meetings at Antakya, attended by senior Turkish, Qatari and U.S. intelligence officials as well as senior commanders of the Syrian opposition, the Syrians were told that the bombing would start in a few days. Opposition leaders were ordered to prepare their forces quickly to exploit the U.S. bombing, march into Damascus, and remove the Bashar al-Assad government
The Qatari and Turkish intelligence officials assured the Syrian regional commanders that they would be provided with plenty of weapons for the coming offensive. And they were. A weapons distribution operation unprecedented in scope began in all opposition camps on August 21-23. The weapons were distributed from storehouses controlled by Qatari and Turkish intelligence under the tight supervision of U.S. intelligence officers.
That the various groups trying to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have ample incentive to get the U.S. more deeply involved in support of that effort is clear. Until now, it has not been quite as clear that the Netanyahu government in Israel has an equally powerful incentive to get Washington more deeply engaged in yet another war in the area. But with outspoken urging coming from Israel and those Americans who lobby for Israeli interests, this priority Israeli objective is becoming crystal clear.
Reporter Judi Rudoren, writing from Jerusalem in an important article in Friday’s New York Times addresses Israeli motivation in an uncommonly candid way. Her article, titled “Israel Backs Limited Strike Against Syria,” notes that the Israelis have argued, quietly, that the best outcome for Syria’s two-and-a-half-year-old civil war, at least for the moment, is no outcome. Rudoren continues:
“For Jerusalem, the status quo, horrific as it may be from a humanitarian perspective, seems preferable to either a victory by Mr. Assad’s government and his Iranian backers or a strengthening of rebel groups, increasingly dominated by Sunni jihadis.
“‘This is a playoff situation in which you need both teams to lose, but at least you don’t want one to win — we’ll settle for a tie,’ said Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul general in New York. ‘Let them both bleed, hemorrhage to death: that’s the strategic thinking here. As long as this lingers, there’s no real threat from Syria.’”
We think this is the way Israel’s current leaders look at the situation in Syria, and that deeper U.S. involvement – albeit, initially, by “limited” military strikes – is likely to ensure that there is no early resolution of the conflict in Syria. The longer Sunni and Shia are at each other’s throats in Syria and in the wider region, the safer Israel calculates that it is.
That Syria’s main ally is Iran, with whom it has a mutual defense treaty, also plays a role in Israeli calculations. Iran’s leaders are not likely to be able to have much military impact in Syria, and Israel can highlight that as an embarrassment for Tehran.
Iran can readily be blamed by association and charged with all manner of provocation, real and imagined. Some have seen Israel’s hand in the provenance of the most damaging charges against Assad regarding chemical weapons and our experience suggests to us that such is supremely possible.
Possible also is a false-flag attack by an interested party resulting in the sinking or damaging, say, of one of the five U.S. destroyers now on patrol just west of Syria. Our mainstream media could be counted on to milk that for all it’s worth, and you would find yourself under still more pressure to widen U.S. military involvement in Syria – and perhaps beyond, against Iran.
Iran has joined those who blame the Syrian rebels for the August 21 chemical incident, and has been quick to warn the U.S. not to get more deeply involved. According to the Iranian English-channel Press TV, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javid Zarif has claimed: “The Syria crisis is a trap set by Zionist pressure groups for [the United States].”
Actually, he may be not far off the mark. But we think your advisers may be chary of entertaining this notion. Thus, we see as our continuing responsibility to try to get word to you so as to ensure that you and other decision makers are given the full picture.
We hope your advisers have warned you that retaliation for attacks on Syrian are not a matter of IF, but rather WHERE and WHEN. Retaliation is inevitable. For example, terrorist strikes on U.S. embassies and other installations are likely to make what happened to the U.S. “Mission” in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, look like a minor dust-up by comparison. One of us addressed this key consideration directly a week ago in an article titled “Possible Consequences of a U.S. Military Attack on Syria – Remembering the U.S. Marine Barracks Destruction in Beirut, 1983.”
For the Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
Thomas Drake, Senior Executive, NSA (former)
Philip Giraldi, CIA, Operations Officer (ret.)
Matthew Hoh, former Capt., USMC, Iraq & Foreign Service Officer, Afghanistan
Larry Johnson, CIA & State Department (ret.)
W. Patrick Lang, Senior Executive and Defense Intelligence Officer, DIA (ret.)
David MacMichael, National Intelligence Council (ret.)
Ray McGovern, former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA analyst (ret.)
Elizabeth Murray, Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Middle East (ret.)
Todd Pierce, US Army Judge Advocate General (ret.)
Sam Provance, former Sgt., US Army, Iraq
Coleen Rowley, Division Council & Special Agent, FBI (ret.)
Ann Wright, Col., US Army (ret); Foreign Service Officer (ret.)
Now that Prime Minister David Cameron has sought parliamentary approval for “military action” against Syria and President Barack Obama has announced his intention to seek congressional approval, can President François Hollande, as a political if not a strictly constitutional matter, afford not to do likewise?
A parliamentary session devoted to Syria is already scheduled for September 4, although no formal vote had been planned.
Hollande’s Socialist Party has a comfortable majority in the National Assembly and a razor-thin majority in the Senate. Party discipline in France tends to be more rigid and dependable than in the U.S. and the U.K., but the most recent poll showed 64% of the French people opposed to French involvement in any “military action” against Syria.
It would therefore be both highly interesting and encouraging for the future of democracy in France if Hollande were to permit a free and open debate and vote on this important issue.
However, there is another important issue which Hollande should keep in mind or factor into his thinking if no one has yet alerted to it.
When the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court was being negotiated, certain Western states insisted on a seven-year moratorium before the “crime of aggression” was added to the crimes over which the ICC would have jurisdiction if they were committed either by a State Party of the ICC or on the territory a State Party. This effectively gave habitual and potential aggressors a window of opportunity to continue committing acts of aggression, which was very fortunate for former British prime minister Tony Blair, whose country is a State Party but who therefore enjoys immunity and impunity (at least insofar as ICC jurisdiction is concerned) with respect to his role in the crime of aggression against Iraq in 2003.
However, that window of opportunity was closed on June 11, 2010, when the crime of aggression was inserted into the Rome Statute as one of the crimes over which the ICC now has jurisdiction.
While neither Syria nor the United States is among the 122 States Parties of the ICC (so that only a referral by the UN Security Council can give the ICC jurisdiction over their citizens or over crimes committed on their territory), France is a State Party of the ICC.
Article 8bis (1) of the Rome Statute, as added in 2010, reads: “For the purposes of this Statute, ‘crime of aggression’ means the planning, preparation, initiation or execution, by a person in a position effectively to exercise control over or to direct the political or military action of a State, of an act of aggression which, by its character, gravity and scale, constitutes a manifest violation of the Charter of the United Nations.” Included in the subsequent listing of acts constituting “aggression” is, at Article 8bis (2)(b): “Bombardment by the armed forces of a State against the territory of another State or the use of any weapons by a State against the territory of another State.”
In the absence of a UN Security Council resolution authorizing “military action” against Syria, these provisions fit the aggression being planned by Presidents Obama and Hollande “like a glove”. Even the most imaginative defense lawyer would struggle to imagine a defense.
The ICC is understandably uncomfortable with the awkward fact that, in over a decade of existence, it has indicted only Africans. If for no other reason than the institutional imperative of the court’s own credibility, there is a compelling need to indict some non-African as soon as the court’s restricted jurisdiction and the gravity and exemplarity of a crime permit.
Nothing could enhance the credibility of the court more than the indictment of the head of state or government of one of the major Western powers.
At the same time, nothing else could so constructively enhance the concept and stature of international law, the belief that international law is not simply (as it has tended to be) a stick with which the rich and powerful beat the poor and weak and the idea that even the rich and powerful do not enjoy immunity and impunity before the rules of international law.
Indeed, nothing else could so effectively enhance the chances for a more peaceful world.
For any number of good reasons, it is to be fervently hoped that, in the end, François Hollande will not choose to participate in the “planning, preparation, initiation or execution” of the crime of aggression against Syria. However, should he do so, his transfer to The Hague could be the only good result of this folly.
John V. Whitbeck is a Paris-based international lawyer.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has called on London and Washington to go to war in Syria to end what he claimed to be attacks on civilians “not seen since the dark days of Saddam”.
“People wince at the thought of intervention. But contemplate the future consequence of inaction and shudder,” said Blair who took Britain to the war in Iraq based on fabricated claims that Saddam had ready-to-launch weapons of mass destruction.
“Western policy is at a crossroads: commentary or action …. After the long and painful campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, I understand every impulse to stay clear of the turmoil …. But we have collectively to understand the consequences of wringing our hands instead of putting them to work,” he wrote in an article for The Times on Tuesday.
Blair’s comments come as there are serious qualms that the claims, led by Britain, the US and France, of Syrian government having carried out the chemical attack that allegedly killed hundreds of people on Wednesday are nothing but another deception to justify war, as was the case in Iraq.
British Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barack Obama have been rattling sabers since Wednesday, saying they should intervene to end what Washington described as a “moral obscenity”.
However, Britain and its western allies have so far offered no evidence to support their claims against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Asad.
The Conservative British PM will also have a hard time to persuade MPs to start a war after he was forced to promise to put any military action in Syria to parliamentary vote earlier this year after 82 Conservatives MPs signed a letter to demand such a process.
The opposition Labour party has also demanded the coalition government to ask for MPs’ approval before taking any military action.
Cameron has indicated he will consult the parliament with his office saying he could recall the parliament from a summer recess before it ends on Monday to discuss the situation in Syria.
Opposition to a possible military intervention in Syria has intensified in Britain with the Labour party demanding that the government “make their case” before the parliament.
An alleged chemical attack hit parts of the Syrian capital Damascus on Wednesday killing hundreds of people.
Foreign-backed terrorists in the country claimed that the government forces were behind the assault in the Damascus suburbs of Ain Tarma, Zamalka and Jobar while medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres, which treated those affected in the attack, said it cannot even “scientifically confirm” the use of chemical weapons.
Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander said on Monday that the cabinet has to “make their case” in the parliament before they can make a decision whether to go to a new war, if any such decision is to be made.
“Given both the seriousness of the reported chemical weapons strikes in Syria, and the enduring and complex nature of the conflict itself, ahead of any action being taken I would fully expect the Prime Minister to make his case to Parliament,” Alexander said.
“[The Prime Minister must be] open about the objectives, the legal basis, and the anticipated effect of any [British military action],” he added.
Meanwhile, British Conservative MP John Baron, who is leading MPs’ demands for a parliamentary session on the matter, expressed serious concerns about Britain going to war without the approval of the UN Security Council because of a Russian opposition to military intervention in Syria.
“Essentially, it is a civil war. If the West intervenes without a UN resolution … I think there is a more serious risk of this escalating beyond Syrian boundaries,” he said.
This comes as legal experts have seriously questioned the legality of a military move against Syria, saying it would create a “controversial situation”.
“The difficulty here is there’s no threat as I understand it to the security of this country or the United States and therefore on what basis can we intervene?” Michael Caplan, an international lawyer, asked during an interview on BBC Radio 4.
Following the alleged chemical attack in Syria, which government forces say was a false flag attack by foreign-backed militants, Britain, the US and France have been beating drums of war to punish what Washington described as a “moral obscenity” by Bashar al-Asad government in Syria.
Russia has demanded evidence from the three on their claims but no proof has yet been presented or even announced to exist.
The situation has sparked fears that Britain is assisting the US to justify another war based on totally unfounded claims after former British PM Tony Blair tampered with evidence related to Iraq weapons of mass destruction to facilitate the invasion of the country in 2003.
The fears are especially strong because the Syrian government cannot have sensibly carried out a large-scale attack when UN weapons inspectors were stationed almost 20 kilometers away from the site of the attack, waiting to probe earlier claims of poisonous gas strikes.
Qualms are also fueled by sporadic reporting of Syrian foreign-backed militants being in possession of chemical weapons, including a Twitter post by Abdola Al-Jaledi, a former high-ranking member of the Jabaht al-Nusra militant group, which said his colleagues were in possession of chemical weapons.
- Syrian war drums beat ever louder (morningstaronline.co.uk)
Prime Minister David Cameron shaking hands with Israeli regime’s agent in Britain, Daniel Taub.
Ten years ago Tam Dalyell, the ‘Father of the House’ (the most senior member of the House of Commons in the British Parliament), sparked a huge row by accusing the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, of “being unduly influenced by a cabal of Jewish advisers.”
In an interview with Vanity Fair, Dalyell named Lord Levy (Blair’s personal envoy on the Middle East), Peter Mandelson (whose father was Jewish), and Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary (who has Jewish ancestry), as three of the leading figures who had influenced Blair’s policies on the Middle East.
He told The Telegraph: “If it is a question of launching an assault on Syria or Iran…. then one has to be candid.” Blair, he said, was also indirectly influenced by Jewish people in the Bush administration, including Richard Perle, a Pentagon adviser, Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy defence secretary, and Ari Fleischer, the President’s press secretary.
Dalyell’s remarks were sad and unfounded, said Lord Janner, chairman of the Holocaust Education Trust. “Tony Blair is his own man. He will follow advice if he considers it correct and not otherwise. He has been a good friend of the Jewish people and the Jewish state.”
Dalyell was misguided, said Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, a spokesman for Britain’s Reform Synagogues. “Concerning Iraq it was crystal clear that Tony Blair was not swayed by popularity or anyone else but by his own deep convictions. It is also obvious that the majority of President Bush’s circle are Christian Evangelicals rather than Jews.”
Ned Temko, the American-born editor of the Jewish Chronicle, said: “I just think these sort of comments are offensive and are a profound misunderstanding of the way foreign policy is made in the United States or here.”
Dalyell also told The Scotsman on Sunday: “Blair and Straw have become far too close to these people and Lord Levy, who is an unaccountable ambassador in the Middle East, is part of this group. They are acting on an extremely Zionist, Likud-nik agenda. In particular I am concerned that some of them are pushing for an attack on Syria, for reasons of Israeli security. ”
MP Louise Ellman, a member of the Inter-Parliamentary Committee Against Anti-Semitism, said: “This absurd proposition implies a Jewish plot in high places…”
Former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a senior member of Scotland’s Jewish community, was rudely dismissive: “We all know that Tam gets bees in his bonnet and eight times out of 10 they are nuts but the other two are brilliant. This is, I’m afraid, one of the nutty ones.”
Next day the Guardian reported that Dalyell could face an investigation for inciting racial hatred. Eric Moonman, president of the Zionist Federation, was seeking advice on whether there was a case for referral. “I believe there is,” he said.
Today it is obvious that old Tam was neither nutty nor misguided. He joined the dots and saw the danger, as did many others.
‘The Torah party’
Meanwhile the Jewish cabal flourishes. A few weeks ago Ian Livingston was handpicked by Prime Minister David Cameron for the trade minister job. Cameron, who had previously broken with traditional wisdom and appointed the first Jewish ambassador to Israel, was reported by an ecstatic Times of Israel as having now decided to bring into the government possibly its most committed Jew yet, and certainly its most outspoken supporter of Israel, which Livingston called “the most amazing state in the world.”
Livingston is not elected. He’s appointed. The newspaper went on to name other top Jewish figures in the Conservative party such as co-chairs Lord Feldman and Grant Shapps MP, senior treasurer Howard Leigh, a member of the Jewish Leadership Council; and former party treasurers Richard Harrington MP and Lord Fink, another member of the JLC.
“There are so many Jews at the top of Britain’s Conservative party, Prime Minister David Cameron once quipped, that it should be known as the Torah party rather than the Tory party,” crowed the paper.
And to make the Prime Minister feel thoroughly at home in his Torah party a Jewish scholar, after tracing Cameron’s ancestry, claimed he could be “a direct descendant of Moses or, at least, a cousin”.
In case our American friends are puzzled by this Torah/Tory business, ‘Tory’ is an old 17th century name for the modern Conservative party founded in the 1830s.
Three years ago The Jewish Chronicle published a list of Jewish MPs in Britain’s parliament, naming 24. The Jewish population in the UK at that time was – and probably still is – around 280,000 or just under 0.5%. There are 650 seats in the House of Commons so, on a proportional basis, Jews could expect 3 seats. But with 24 they were 8 times over-represented. Which meant, of course, that other groups were under-represented.
The UK’s Muslim population is about 2.4 million or nearly 4%. Similarly, their quota would be 25 seats but they had only 8 – a serious shortfall. If Muslims were over-represented to the same extent as Jews (i.e. 8 times) they’d have 200 seats. Imagine the hullabaloo.
Over-representation in the House of Commons is only part of the picture. Many more Jews have been inserted into the House of Lords and other non-elected and unaccountable positions. An even bigger worry is the huge number of non-Jewish Zionists that have infiltrated every level of political and institutional life. They swell the pro-Israel lobby to such an extent that it is believed to account for 80% of the Parliamentary Conservative Party, which now rules with the Liberal Democrats as their junior coalition partner.
Too many pro-Israel MPs speak and act as if they’d rather wave the Israeli flag than the Union Jack. These ‘Israel-firsters’ never condemn the regime’s illegal occupation, apartheid-style policies, war crimes and refusal to sign up to nuclear non-proliferation, inspection and safeguards. They lock Britain (and British foreign policy) into Israel’s sickening ambitions and immorality. Defending the indefensible, as they do, inevitably raises questions for our national security, a deadly serious issue given the sheer number of Zionists now in British public life and the enemies they have made across the world, and continually provoke.
The Jewish Chronicle, in its 2006 special report ‘Team Cameron’s big Jewish backers’, revealed the support that enabled Cameron to suddenly burst into the political limelight, almost unknown, to take the Conservative leadership. With no significant achievement under his belt he was then able to manoeuvre, with the help of his backers, into Britain’s PM slot.
He is also a self-declared Zionist and voted for the war in Iraq, so how trustworthy does that make him? In a speech to Jewish fundraisers in London last year he declared: “There is no contradiction between being a proud Jew, a committed Zionist and a loyal British citizen.” How can someone who so closely aligns himself with a belligerent foreign military power like Israel hope to convince us that he’s 100 percent loyal to Britain and her interests, while once again drawing us unwillingly into conflict with Israel’s enemies, this time Iran and Syria, with whom we have no quarrel?
Cameron’s Foreign Secretary, William Hague, has been a member of Conservative Friends of Israel since he was 15. Hague once said: “The unbroken thread of Conservative Party support for Israel that has run for nearly a century from the Balfour Declaration to the present day will continue.”
Alistair Burt, a former officer of the Parliamentary group of Conservative Friends of Israel, is Foreign Office minister for the Middle East. And David Lidington, who has spoken of being a “staunch defender” of the State of Israel, is Foreign Office minister for Europe.
So the key stooges are safely installed and activated.
Powerless to deliver justice
It is said that becoming a Friend of Israel is a necessary stepping-stone to high office. Consequently fans of Israel are embedded at all levels in the fabric of British political life and at the heart of the Government.
When a group of concerned academics wrote to the Committee on Standards in Public Life complaining about Israel’s “deep penetration”, they were told it was not something the committee could investigate. A closer look revealed that some members of the committee had close links with Friends of Israel.
How do these Israeli flag wavers think it looks, standing shoulder to shoulder with religious fanatics and psychopaths who horribly persecute the Christian and Muslim communities of the Holy Land? It is especially offensive to see them endorsing a pseudo democracy that dishes out thuggish treatment even to children who, says the UN, are arrested by Israeli military and police and systematically subjected to degrading treatment, and often tortured. Read the report and weep.
Thanks to its misplaced admiration for Israel, the British government fails to intervene and stand up for justice. The disgrace is unbearable. Here is just one of many appalling examples. Right now Christians in that once beautiful country are under imminent threat of losing their land, their livelihood, and their way of life because an emergency law cooked up by the illegal occupier Israel, and upheld by an Israeli court, allows the Israelis to seize territory in the Cremisan Valley near Bethlehem. This brazen land-grab opens the way for the hated separation wall (ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice) to be extended across the valley, connecting two Israeli settlements built on stolen Palestinian land in the eastern suburbs of Jerusalem.
The onward construction of the barrier will divide a Salesian Catholic monastery from the neighbouring Salesian Catholic convent, confiscate most of the convent’s property, and cut off 58 Palestinian families from their agricultural lands – including vineyards, olive groves, and pastures. The barrier will also separate families and surround an elementary school on three sides, forcing young children to pass through a checkpoint to go to class.
The ICJ required the wall to be dismantled, not extended. And it reminded all States party to the Fourth Geneva Convention that they are under an obligation “to ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law as embodied in that Convention”. That was 9 years ago. The world is still waiting. The States never act. Compliance never happens. Non-compliance is rife, and highly profitable to Israel.
And Israel’s allies, including Britain, perversely reward its non-compliance. Across the West Bank, continuing restrictions on Palestinian access to agricultural lands have led to the slow abandonment and eventual confiscation of those lands by Israeli authorities.
Israel’s Knesset has approved the first reading of the Prawer Plan to remove 40,000 indigenous Bedouin people from their ancestral homeland in the Negev. This evil scheme clears the way for the $4 billion “Blueprint Negev” project intended to transform the Negev into a majority-Jewish area even though the Bedouin have lived there for thousands of years.
At the same time one of Israel’s most dangerous lunatics, Avigdor Lieberman (chairman of the foreign affairs and defence committee), is calling for Israel, after imposing a vicious 7-year blockade, to conquer the Gaza Strip and carry out “a thorough cleansing”, just because Hamas still hasn’t succumbed to Israel’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian homeland.
Britain could, at a stroke, bring Israel to heel and force the regime to conform to international law or face massive trade penalties.
The Telegraph reported today that “Tony Blair has hired a former Israeli army intelligence officer to work in his private office, despite his role as Middle East peace envoy.”
Lianne Pollak, who has led intelligence teams in the Israel Defence Forces, was recruited as a private consultant between October 2012 and April this year.
The 30-year-old Israel was previously a policy adviser to Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, working with security agencies and senior officials.
The former British prime minister is the envoy to the Middle East for the Quartet – the group that represents the US, Russia, the United Nations and Europe.
His role includes encouraging development in Gaza and the West Bank and helping to forge a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, having been appointed when he left Downing Street in June 2007.
- Tony Blair: Egypt’s army had no choice (thestate.com)
In early 2003, as the U.S. and British governments were seeking international acquiescence to their aggressive war on Iraq, an unexpected cog thrown into the propaganda machine was the disclosure that the National Security Agency was spying on UN Security Council members in search of blackmail material.
The revelation received little attention in the mainstream U.S. news media, which was almost fully on board the pro-war bandwagon, but the disclosure received wide international attention and stopped the blackmail scheme. U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair were forced to abandon a UN resolution and invade Iraq with a ragtag “coalition of the willing.”
Several months later, the identity of the leaker was revealed, a young woman named Katharine Gun who worked as a linguist at the NSA’s UK counterpart, British Government Communications Headquarters. Gun lost her job and was charged under British secrecy laws, but the case was dropped because the court would have required the Blair government to disclose that it also had twisted the arms of legal advisers to extract an opinion endorsing the invasion.
Now, a decade later, Edward Snowden, a young American systems analyst working for the NSA, has leaked documents revealing a global surveillance network and prompted another international debate – about government spying vs. personal privacy. Katharine Gun joined Pacifica’s “Flashpoints” host Dennis J Bernstein to discuss both cases.
DB: What exactly was your position when you decided to leak a certain document?
KG: My title was linguist analyst. I was a Mandarin Chinese speaker. We translated interceptions and produced reports for the various customers of GCHQ, which are normally the Foreign Office or MI-5 and MI-6.
DB: Can you explain the document you released and the significance of the timing?
KG: It was released at the end of January 2003, just before the invasion of Iraq. I saw an email that had been sent from the NSA to GCHQ. It was a request for GCHQ to help the NSA intercept the communications of six nations that sat on the Security Council at that time. It was to intercept their domestic and office telecoms in order to obtain all the information we could about the delegates, which the U.S. could then use to achieve goals favorable to U.S. interests. They called for the whole gamut of information, which made me think they would potentially use the information to blackmail or bribe the U.N. delegates.
DB: This bugging took place at the United Nations?
KG: Presumably, yes. Or it could involve the United Nations headquarters or also their domestic residence.
DB: The idea was to get the necessary information one way or the other to influence the key members to support the U.S. quest for war in Iraq?
KG: Yes. At the time, if you were not working for the intelligence services or the foreign offices of the U.S. or U.K. you would probably assume that the goal of [President George W.] Bush and [Prime Minister Tony] Blair at that time was to work diplomatically to reach a solution. But we now know, after several leaks over the years about the run-up to the war in Iraq, that war was the agenda all along. When I saw the email it made me think, “This is evidence that war is the agenda.” That’s why I decided the public needed to know.
DB: GCHQ is the British Government Communications Headquarters, the equivalent to the NSA [National Security Agency]. You were working there in the lead-up to the Iraq War. Can you remind us what governments were bugged?
KG: Six nations, smallish countries: Angola, Cameroon, and Pakistan, I think. Mexico was mentioned, and possibly Chile as well. They were countries that are generally not known for their big powerful positions at the U.N.
DB: What went through your mind leading up to the decision to leak this information? This big decision changed history a bit. How did you make this courageous decision that also changed your own life?
KG: I was very concerned. I had informed myself about the realities of Iraq and the situation there because I grew up during the first Gulf War and the following years of sanctions. It was in the back of my mind that Iraq was a country that was virtually destroyed, and that the people were living in impoverished conditions. It made me think that another attack on them would not be fair and justified because there was nothing about Iraq that was a threat to either the U.S. or the U.K.
So when I saw the email and realized what was going on behind closed doors was an attempt to get the U.N. to authorize what would then have become a pre-emptive strike on a country, I thought the public should know about this because it angered me.
DB: What happened after you made this information available? What happened with your position? Were you intimidated, attacked?
KG: Initially I tried to remain anonymous, but when I realized the information revealed in the newspaper at the time was identifiable to GCHQ, I decided I didn’t want to lead a double life at GCHQ and pretend I had nothing to do with it. I confided to my line-manager and said it was my leak. Then I was arrested under suspicion of breaking the Official Secrets Act, questioned, and released on bail for eight months.
In November 2003, much to our surprise, they decided to charge me, despite having waited so long. After discussions with my legal team, which included Liberty, an organization very similar to the U.S. ACLU, we decided I would plead non-guilty, because I personally felt that although I did the act, I didn’t feel guilt, because I didn’t feel I had done anything wrong. Our defense would have been to establish the defense of necessity, which is not yet tested in a court of law. My legal team then asked for all the legal advice leading up the war, and at that point, the prosecution decided to drop all charges against me.
DB: What do you think made them decide to prosecute you, and what information made them drop the charges? Were they trying to backpedal? Were they trying to make sure no other folks in positions like you would do it again?
KG: It’s speculation on my part because obviously they haven’t disclosed. I suspect one of the reasons they charged me was to make an example of my actions to try to deter people from it. On the other hand, when they dropped the charges, I suspect there may have been a variety of reasons. When we asked for the legal advice from the then-Attorney General, at that time his legal advice had not been fully disclosed.
During the run-up to the war, Blair asked for legal advice, obviously. The first draft was about 13 pages long. The language was very cautious – it didn’t say there was a definite reason for war. There were many legal terms of caution, but at some point Blair was told the legal advice was not good enough. He needed a watertight case. The Attorney General then re-drafted his advice, and condensed it to a single page that was then issued to the House of Commons.
That is what persuaded all the MPs in the House of Commons to vote for Britain’s involvement in the war. Eventually information came out, not from myself, but from other means and it became apparent that the legal advice had not been at all watertight to start with.
DB: Daniel Ellsberg said your most important and courageous leak is the only one made in time to avert an imminent possible war. Was your desire to avert war?
KG: Yes, I was hoping the British ministers would see the truth and question the actions of Blair and the secret negotiations he was having with Bush at the time. I wanted more transparency on the issue. I wanted people to question what was going on and to generally challenge this bandwagon for a preemptive strike against a country that was already very impoverished and no threat to anybody whatsoever.
DB: Did you ever hear from folks who based on your revelations, learned they were bugged?
DB: So there were no thank yous coming across from that part of the world?
KG: No. At the time of the leak, my name didn’t come out. Eight months later my name was made public.
DB: Did it change your life?
KG: I lost my job. The secure, full-time, long-term employment was no longer possible. That has made an impact, primarily financially, on my life and my family’s life.
DB: We are now seeing extraordinary NSA leaks from Edward Snowden in the British Guardian. What are your thoughts on this?
KG: I think Snowden is probably is a lot more clued-up than I was at the time. My leak was a single issue. Snowden has had a long period of time working within the U.S. intelligence services. He’s obviously a very technically savvy professional. I admire him for taking this tremendous step, which he thought out very carefully and methodically. He has made some very good points. These kinds of issues should be in the public domain because it involves innocent members of the public. We, the public, should be able to have a measure of a say in these matters.
DB: We hear that people like you, who were leaking before the war, and Snowden now, are putting people’s lives in jeopardy, endangering the people. We hear that secrecy is necessary to prevent terrorist attacks, and that many have been prevented by this kind of secrecy, investigation, wiretapping and bugging that’s going on now.
KG: There is absolutely no evidence that my leaks in any way endangered anybody else.
DB: But you were accused of that.
KG: Yes, they love to throw accusations around, there’s no doubt about that. But in my case, the majority of views supported my actions. In Snowden’s case, people who have a fair and just understanding of the issues at-large are supportive of his actions, as they would be of Private Manning, who is currently on trial.
DB: Did you lose any friends or associates, over this?
KG: Ironically, not really. Many of my friends and colleagues from GCHQ have also left GCHQ, partly to progress in their professions. They didn’t see much chance for their linguistic skills progressing much further within GCHQ and I continue to be in touch with them.
DB: If you had it all to do over again, would you?
KG: That’s a difficult question. Now I’m married and have a child. I would hope that I would still do it, but perhaps I would be more savvy about how I did it. Snowden was very clued-up and seems to know exactly what he should be doing – how to stay safe and keep out of the way of being unjustly arrested and tried without due process of law.
DB: Your language skills. Are you using them now?
KG: Not now. I’m only fluent in Mandarin Chinese. I speak some Japanese and am now trying to learn Turkish.
DB: That may in handy in the next decade or so. Thank you for talking to us.
- A British Precursor to Snowden Case (consortiumnews.com)
- British spy agency has access to global communications, shares info with NSA (alethonews.wordpress.com)
It is an event ‘of cosmic proportions’, said one Palestinian academic, a befitting description regarding Stephen Hawking’s decision to boycott an Israeli academic conference slated for next June. It was also a decisive moral call which was communicated on May 8 by Cambridge University, where Hawking is a professor.
Hawking is a world-renowned cosmologist and physicist. His scientific work had the kind of impact that redefined or challenged entire areas of research from the theory of relativity, to quantum mechanics and other fields of study. This towering figure is also wheelchair-bound – suffering from complete physical paralyses caused by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) disease. For Hawking, however, such a painful fact seems like a mere side note in the face of his incredible contributions to science, ones that are comparable to only few men and women throughout history.
What is considered a prestigious scientific conference in Israel is hosted by President Shimon Peres, most remembered by Lebanese and Palestinians for ordering the shelling of a United Nations compound near the village of Qana in South Lebanon in 1996. The compound was a safe heaven, where civilians often sought shelter during Israeli strikes. Not that time around, however. 106 innocent people that were mostly children and women were killed and 116 wounded, including UN forces. That harrowing event alone would have sent Peres, then Israel’s prime minister, to serve his remaining years in jail. But of course, Israel is above the law, or so the Israeli government believes and thus it has consistently behaved accordingly in the last 65 years with a price tag of uncountable lives, untold destruction and protracted suffering of entire nations.
Hawking’s response to the boycott call was immensely important. The man’s legendary status aside, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has proved more durable and successful than its detractors – mostly Israel’s apologists – want to believe. Hawking’s decision was also a testament that reason and morality should and must go hand in hand. Israel’s boasting of its scientific accomplishments should mean zilch if such technology is put to work to advance state violence, tighten military occupation and make killer drones available to other countries, thus exporting violence and mayhem. That very ‘science’ was used in abundance in Israel’s latest two wars on Gaza (2008-09 and 2012) which claimed thousands of lives between the dead and wounded.
Cambridge University, perhaps wary of a possible backlash, tried to mask Hawking’s decision as one that is compelled by health reasons, which, of course, was not the case at all. The university eventually retracted the statement, for the British scientist wished to make his decision crystal clear. The UK Guardian newspaper reported on Hawking’s rebuff of the conference, citing a statement by the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine, as it had coordinated with Hawking’s office:
“We understand that Professor Stephen Hawking has declined his invitation to attend the Israeli Presidential Conference Facing Tomorrow 2013, due to take place in Jerusalem on 18-20 June. This is his independent decision to respect the boycott, based upon his knowledge of Palestine, and on the unanimous advice of his own academic contacts there.”
Unlike other acts of boycott, sometimes dismissed by Israeli officials as insignificant, this one was manifestly shocking for Israel. Yigal Palmor, spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry was quoted by the New York Times saying “never has a scientist of this stature boycotted Israel.”
And since it was unexpected, Hawking’s respect of the boycott generated disorganized Israeli and pro-Israeli responses, ranging from demeaning jokes and insults pertaining to his illness, unwarranted accusations and even shaming him for using technology supposedly developed in Israel to combat his deteriorating ALS condition.
Never before has the country lost control over its carefully tailored narrative of its military occupation and violations of human rights in Palestine as is the case these days. While on one hand, Israeli officials speak of ‘peace’, they continue to issue tenders to build more settlements or expand existing ones, all built illegally on Palestinian land. On the very day that Hawking’s decision to boycott the conference was announced, ‘civil administration’ in Israel agreed to the construction of 296 new housing units in the illegal settlement of Beit El, thus entrenching military occupation and ethnic cleansing. Israeli officials and media still insist that there are no links whatsoever between such stark violations of international and humanitarian law and the rising boycott movement. They indefatigably accuse their critics of ‘anti-Semitism’ (which is hardly effective anymore) and warn of attempts at the ‘de-legitimatization’ of Israel, as if they expect the world to remain completely oblivious to its perpetual war crimes, illegal occupation and institutionalized discrimination against non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine and Israel.
The dialectics of Hawking’s decision are also important. It is a proof that civil society remains relevant, can be effective and also shows that official venues are not the only platforms in which the occupation of Palestine can be discussed and justly addressed. Nearly 20 years have passed since the Oslo Accords were signed, yet the Israeli occupation seems much more rooted than it was in 1993.
There is little doubt that the boycott movement is in constant growth and not simply because of the recurring news of artists and academics refusing to visit Israel, or take part in Israeli-sponsored events. Equally significant is the existence of strong layers of support being provided by civil society that makes it possible for artists, academics and others to adhere to the call of boycott, without fearing serious repercussions.
It was revealed that a letter to Hawking, aimed at dissuading him from joining the conference was signed by 20 top academics from many universities, including MIT, Cambridge, London, Leeds, Southampton, Warwick, Newcastle, etc. The professors told Hawking they were ‘surprised and deeply disappointed’ that he had agreed to take part in the conference, which is also to be attended by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former US President Bill Clinton, each with his own record of war crimes accusations spanning from Sudan, to Afghanistan, to Iraq.
But criticism of Hawking is not only emanating from Israel and its predictable circle of diehard supporters. It is also coming from some of those who count themselves as members of the Palestinian solidarity camp. The latter group, which is shrinking in number and outreach, argue that boycotting all aspects of Israel’s academic, cultural and political life will play into Israel’s ‘anti-Semitism’ and ‘de-legitimization’ arguments.
But can the solidarity movement limit its boycott to the few Israeli companies with links to West Bank settlements and expect to achieve tangible, long term results? Those who think that boycotting the occupation is enough, seem not to understand the nature of the relationship between West Bank setters and the Israeli government. Israel treats the settlements and its well-armed inhabitants as part and parcel of the Israeli state and economy. They are residents of Israel, even if they live near Ramallah. There is no separation whatsoever except for some imaginary ‘Green Lines’ and such. And now with the Apartheid Wall, even that separation is being blurred and redefined.
Palestinians in Gaza or Nablus don’t see any difference between a solider who lives in an illegal Jewish settlement or another who lives inside Israel. They are all capable of committing murder, as many surely have, unhampered by geography or borders. International civil society should not fall into the trap of illusory distinctions. This also makes Hawking’s decision to boycott an Israel-based conference “of cosmic proportions”. It is morally defensible and ethically sound, qualities befitting a formidable man of reason like Stephen Hawking.
- Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is: My Father Was A Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press).
- Stephen Hawking Stuns Israel With Conference Boycott (alethonews.wordpress.com)