The official inquiry castigating the UK’s former defence secretary Liam Fox for what has come to be known as a “cash-for-access” scandal appears to have only scratched the surface of what Fox and accomplice Adam Werritty may have been up to when they met for dinner in Tel Aviv.
Nazareth – Last February Britain’s then defense minister Liam Fox attended a dinner in Tel Aviv with a group described as senior Israelis. Alongside him sat Adam Werritty, a lobbyist whose “improper relations” with the minister would lead eight months later to Fox’s hurried resignation.
According to several reports in the British media the Israelis in attendance at the dinner were representatives of the Mossad, Israel’s spy agency, while Fox and Werritty were accompanied by Matthew Gould, Britain’s ambassador to Israel. A former British diplomat has claimed that the topic of discussion that evening was a secret plot to attack Iran.
Little was made of the dinner in the 10-page inquiry report published last month by Gus O’Donnell, the cabinet’s top civil servant. O’Donnell found that Werritty, aged 33 and a long-time friend of Fox’s, had presented himself as the minister’s official adviser, jetted around the world with him and arranged meetings for businessmen with Fox.
The former minister’s allies, seeking to dismiss the gravity of the case against him, have described Werritty as a harmless dreamer. Following his resignation, Fox himself claimed O’Donnell’s report had exonerated him of putting national security at risk.
However, a spate of new concerns raised in the wake of the inquiry challenge both of these assumptions. These include questions about the transparency of the O’Donnell investigation, the extent of Fox and Werritty’s ties to Israel and the unexplained role of Gould.
Craig Murray, Britain’s former ambassador to Uzbekistan until 2004, when he turned whistle blower on British and US collusion on torture, said senior British government officials were profoundly disturbed by the O’Donnell inquiry, seeing it as a “white wash.”
Murray himself accused O’Donnell of being “at the most charitable interpretation, economical with the truth.”
Two well-placed contacts alerted Murray to Gould’s central – though largely ignored – role in the Fox-Werritty relationship, he told al-Akhbar.
Murray said he has pieced together evidence that Fox, Werritty and Gould met on at least six occasions over the past two years or so, despite the O’Donnell inquiry claiming they had met only twice. Gould is the only ambassador Fox and Werritty are known to have met together.
In an inexplicable break with British diplomatic and governmental protocol, Murray said officials were not present at a single one of the six meetings between the three men. No record was taken of any of the discussions.
Murray, who first made public his concerns on his personal blog, said a source familiar with the inquiry told him the parameters of the investigation were designed to divert attention away from the more damaging aspects of Fox and Werritty’s behaviour.
Subsequently, the foreign office has refused to respond to questions, including from an MP, about the Tel Aviv dinner. Officials will not say who the Israelis were, what was discussed or even who paid for the evening, though under Whitehall rules all hospitality should be declared.
Also unexplained is why Fox rejected requests by his own staff to attend the dinner, and why Werritty was privy to such a high-level meeting when he had no security clearance.
The real concern among government officials, Murray said, is that Fox, Werritty and Gould were conspiring in a “rogue” foreign policy – opposed to the British government’s stated aims – that was authored by Mossad and Israel’s neoconservative allies in Washington.
This suspicion was partially confirmed by a report in the Guardian last month, as O’Donnell was carrying out his investigation. It cited unnamed government officials saying they were worried that Fox and Werritty had been pursuing what was termed an “alternative” government policy.
Murray said the Tel Aviv dinner was especially significant. His contact had told him the discussion had focused on ways to ensure Britain assisted in creating favourable diplomatic conditions for an attack on Iran.
Israel is widely believed to favor a military attack on Iran, in an attempt to set back its nuclear program. Israel claims Tehran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon under cover of a civilian nuclear energy project.
Israel has its own large nuclear arsenal and is known to be fearful of losing its nuclear monopoly in the region.
Britain, like many in the international community, including the US government, officially favors imposing sanctions on Iran to halt its nuclear ambitions.
The episode of the Tel Aviv dinner, Murray said, raises “vital concerns about a secret agenda for war at the core of government, comparable to [former British prime minister Tony] Blair’s determination to drive through a war on Iraq.”
The Guardian revealed this month that the defense ministry under Fox had drawn up detailed plans for British assistance in the event of a US military strike on Iran, including allowing the Americans to use Diego Garcia, a British territory in the Indian ocean, as a base from which to launch an attack.
The O’Donnell inquiry has done little to allay many officials’ concerns about the series of strange meetings involving Fox, Werritty and Gould.
David Cameron, the British prime minister, has so far refused opposition demands to hold a full public inquiry into Fox and Werritty’s relationship. And the three men at the centre of the saga have refused to discuss the nature of their ties.
This month revelations surfaced that Werritty had had dealings with other government ministers
“It is deeply inadequate of the prime minister to continue to refuse to probe this issue further,” said shadow defense spokesman Kevan Jones, in response to the new information.
The British media have cautiously raised the issue of apparent Israeli links to Fox and Werritty.
The Daily Telegraph reported that the pair secretly met the head of the Mossad – possibly at the Tel Aviv dinner, though the paper has not specified where or when the meeting took place.
Last month the Independent on Sunday claimed that Werritty had close ties to the Mossad as well as to “US-backed neocons” plotting to overthrow the Iranian regime. The Mossad were reported to have assumed Werritty was Fox’s “chief of staff.”
In addition, the O’Donnell report revealed that Werritty’s many trips overseas alongside Fox had been funded by at least six donors, three of whom were leading members of the pro-Israel lobby in Britain.
The donations were made to two organisations, Atlantic Bridge and Pargav, that Werritty helped to establish. Werritty apparently used the organizations as a way to gain access to Conservative government ministers, including three in the defense ministry.
The advisory board of Atlantic Bridge, which Werritty founded with Fox, included William Hague, the current foreign minister, Michael Gove, the education minister, and George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Despite Werritty’s apparently well-established connections to the ruling Conservative party, the media coverage has implied that he was a lone “rogue operator,” hoping to use his contacts with Fox and other ministers to manipulate British government policy.
Murray, however, raises the question of whether Werritty was actually given access, through Fox and Gould, to the heart of the British government. Were all three secretly trying to pursue a policy on Iran favored by Israel and its ideological allies in the US?
A clue to the answer, according to Murray, may lie in a series of meetings between the three that have slowly come to light since O’Donnell published his findings.
According to the 2,700-word report Werritty joined Fox on 18 of his official trips overseas, and that the pair met another 22 times at the defense ministry, with almost none of their discussions recorded by officials. The Guardian has also reported that Fox’s staff repeatedly warned him off his relationship with Werritty but were overruled.
Despite the serious concerns raised about Werritty by defense ministry staff, Gould, one of the country’s most senior diplomats, appears nonetheless to have cultivated a close relationship with Werritty as well as Fox.
According to Murray’s sources, Gould and Werritty “had been meeting and communicating for years.” The foreign office has refused to answer questions about whether the two had any contacts.
O’Donnell’s report mentions another meeting between the three, in September 2010. On that occasion, Gould met Fox in what a foreign office spokesman has described as a “pre-posting briefing call” – a sort of high-level induction for ambassadors to acquaint themselves with their new posting.
Werritty was also present, according to O’Donnell, “as an individual with some experience in…the security situation in the Middle East.” His participation at the meeting was “not appropriate,” O’Donnell concluded.
However, Murray said such briefings would never be conducted at ministerial level, and certainly not by the defense minister himself.
He added that a senior official in the defense ministry had alerted him to two other peculiar aspects of the meeting: no officials were present to take notes, as would be expected; and their conversation took place in the ministry’s dining room, not in Fox’s office.
“As someone who worked for many years as a diplomat, I know how these things should work,” Murray told al-Akhbar.
“So much of this affair simply smells wrong,” he said.
Murray’s queries to the foreign office about this meeting have gone unanswered but have revealed other unexpected details not included in the O’Donnell report.
In a statement in late October, after the report’s publication, a foreign office spokesman said Gould had met Fox and Werritty earlier than previously known – before Gould was appointed ambassador to Israel and when Fox was in opposition as shadow defense minister.
The foreign office has refused to answer questions about this meeting too – including when it occurred and why – or to respond to a parliamentary question on the matter tabled by MP Jeremy Corbyn. All that is known is that it must have taken place before May 2010, when Fox was appointed defense minister.
In replying to Corbyn’s questions, William Hague, the foreign minister, acknowledged yet another meeting between Fox, Werritty and Gould – at a private social engagement in the summer of 2010.
Again, the foreign office has refused to answer further questions, including one from Corbyn about who else attended the social engagement.
The trio were also together shortly before the Tel Aviv dinner, when Fox made a speech at the hawkish Herzliya security conference in a session on the strategic threat posed by Iran.
And a sixth meeting has come to light. Fox and Gould were photographed together at a “We believe in Israel” conference in London in May 2011. Werritty was again present.
“That furtive meeting between Fox, Werritty and Gould in the MOD dining room [in September 2010], deliberately held away from Fox’s office where it should have taken place, and away from the MOD officials who should have been there, now looks less like briefing and more like plotting,” Murray wrote on his blog about the Ministry of Defense meeting.
Both Werritty and Gould are considered to have an expertise on Iran.
Gould was the deputy head of mission at the British embassy in Iran from 2003 to 2005, a role in which he was responsible for coordinating on US policy towards Iran. Next he was moved to the British embassy in Washington at a time when the neoconservatives still held sway in the White House.
Werritty, meanwhile, has travelled frequently to Iran where he has teamed up with opposition groups seeking the overthrow of the Iranian regime. On his return from one trip to Iran he was called in by Britain’s MI6 foreign intelligence service for a debriefing according to the Independent on Sunday.
Werritty also arranged for Fox to travel with him to Iran in summer 2007, when Fox was shadow defense minister. He also arranged a meeting in May 2009 at the British parliament between Fox and an Iranian lobbyist with links to the current regime in Tehran.
The murky dealings between Fox, Werritty and Gould, and the government’s refusal to clarify what took place between them, is evidence, said Murray, that a serious matter is being hidden. His fear, and that of his contacts inside the senior civil service, is that “a neo-con cell of senior [British] ministers and officials” were secretly setting policy in coordination with Israel and the US.
Gould’s unexamined role is of particular concern, as he is still in place in his post in Israel.
Murray has noted that, in appointing Gould, a British Jew, to the ambassadorship in Israel in September last year, the foreign office broke with long-standing policy. No Jewish diplomat has held the post before because of concerns that it might lead to a conflict of interest, or at the very least create the impression of dual loyalty. Similar restrictions have been in place to avoid Catholics holding the post of ambassador to the Vatican.
Given these traditional concerns, Gould was a strange choice. He is a self-declared Zionist who has cultivated an image that led the Forward, a main Jewish US newspaper, to describe him recently as “not just an ambassador who’s Jewish, but a Jewish ambassador.”
Influential French Zionist Bernard-Henri Levy, who played a key role in NATO’s intervention in Libya, is now hoping to repeat the same scenario in Syria.
In a revealing installment of his weekly column Le Point magazine titled “Endgame in Syria,” French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy claims that Syrian opposition figures he’s in touch with are increasingly coming around to the view that military intervention, Libya-style, may be the only way to get rid of the regime in Damascus.
He ends his article with a quasi-official declaration of war on Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Levy, who bragged in his last book about the strong influence he has over French President Nicolas Sarkozy, confessed that the two conspired together to marginalize the French foreign ministry so that it would not impede NATO’s intervention in Libya.
In his recent column, Levy reveals secret efforts he has undertaken in the past few months to convince Syrian opposition figures to support him in what he calls the “Gaddafi theory.”
He argues that NATO intervention to overthrow the Libyan dictator has set a “precedent” in the 21st century for developing a new doctrine for toppling authoritarian regimes that shoot at their own people.
Levy goes on to affirm that the Syrian regime will be toppled along the lines of the Libyan scenario, adding that all that is left in Syria is “the final scene which has not been completely written yet.”
Levy, who is well-known for his Zionist views, revealed that his behind-the-scenes endeavor began six months ago with a meeting in London with former Syrian vice president Rifaat Assad.
Perhaps this explains Rifaat’s surprise appearance in Paris last week to call on the Assad family to step down, and for the Syrian people to take up arms against the regime.
Levy also confirms in his column that a number of Syrian opposition figures and military officers who have defected have told him in meetings and discussions he has held with them during the course of the uprising that they support “international intervention.”
On the other hand, Levy says that “a nascent regional power called Qatar” is behind the latest Arab League initiative on Syria, which is part of a plan inspired by the “Libyan precedent.”
Levy goes on to say: “As in Libya? Yes, as in Libya. It is the ‘Libyan precedent’ all over again. The same force, nay, the same forces producing the same effect. How do those involved not see it? What autism prevents Bashar Assad from understanding that the same coalition which toppled Gaddafi is coming together again to topple him?”
The most interesting piece of information revealed in Levy’s article is how a number of Syrian opposition figures he talked to shifted their position towards supporting “international intervention.”
“That had been a taboo until now. ‘Intervention’ was a word that ought not to be uttered. There were, even in France, Syrian opposition figures whom I met while preparing for a rally in solidarity with Syrian civilians this past summer who told me at the time that they would prefer to die than say the word ‘intervention’ or ‘international intervention’,” Levy wrote.
“This is the reason why we did not do in Syria what we did in Libya. Not because of double standards. This ‘moral scandal’ has many reasons and justifications, first among them is that Syrian opposition figures, unlike their Libyan counterparts, not only did not ask for intervention, but often opposed it. Their views however are beginning to change. And this is the reason why the regime in Damascus is doomed,” he continued.
“The war has been declared on Assad.”
In the Silwan neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem, another house is about to bite the dust. The odds are certainly stacked against the Somrein family, which has received eviction orders and a series of bills amounting to more than two million shekels (over $500,000) worth of “back rent.” Back rent for what? For living in the family house, on family land, in Silwan.
The house and land in question is located in Wadi Hilweh, Silwan, just two hundred yards from al-Aqsa Mosque on the southern side of the Old City walls. The property belonged to Musa Abdullah Somrein, a Jerusalem ID holder. Hajj Musa, as he was known, passed away in 1983 and was buried in Jerusalem, while his burial certificate was issued by the Israeli Ministry of Interior.
Today, Hajj Musa’s nephew, Mohammed Somrein, lives there with 11 other members of the Somrein family. Mohammed has lived in this house, with his uncle while he was alive, since he was five years old. The years since have not been kind to Mohammed. He is diabetic and requires dialysis treatment on a regular basis. He is also unemployed. And now, he has been hit with an eviction order and a huge fine he cannot possibly pay.
Somehow, despite Mohammed’s 48 years of residence in this house, and despite the fact there are legal documents clearly stating that the land is owned by the Somrein family, the land has been declared absentee property and thus subject to confiscation. The property has been defined as such because Hajj Musa’s direct descendants — his children and grandchildren — live in the United States, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan. Mohammed’s status as Hajj Musa’s nephew has been completely overlooked, and his lifetime residence on the property, with the consent of the children of Hajj Musa, disregarded.
Though this could never happen in any normal country, under Israeli rule, all absurd things seem possible for Palestinians. After Hajj Musa’s death, the land was transferred to the Custodian of Absentee Property. He went on to transfer custody of the land to the Israel Development Authority, which transferred the land to the Jewish National Fund (JNF).
The JNF, in turn, transferred the property to a subsidiary company called Himnuta. While this bizarre series of events was unfolding, Mohammed and his family continued to live in the house, unaware that they were about to receive a very distressing shock (“Palestinian family given two weeks to vacate East Jerusalem home,” Haaretz, 15 November 2011).
In 1991, Himnuta lodged a complaint against the Somrein family in Israeli courts, demanding their eviction. They also started “billing” Mohammed for living on the property. Mohammed fought the order, arguing that Hajj Musa was a Jerusalem resident, who died in Jerusalem, was never “absent” from his property, and that his family continue to reside there.
Himnuta, according to the Somrein family lawyer, is just another of the many faces of Elad, an extreme right-wing Jewish settler organization. Also known as the Ir David Foundation, Elad has the backing of the Israeli prime minister’s office, the Israeli-controlled Jerusalem municipality, and the Israel Antiquities Authority (which Elad helps finance). Elad’s aim was best expressed in a 2007 interview with then Elad development director Doron Speilman. During the interview, he gestured toward Silwan and said: “Our goal is to turn all this land you see behind you into Jewish hands” (Tim McGirk, “Archaeology in Jerusalem: Digging Up Trouble,” Time Magazine, 8 February 2010).
Indeed, most of the 30 dunums (about 7.4 acres) included in the land swap were apparently leased to settlers without tender (“Palestinian family at immediate risk of eviction in Silwan,” Settlement Watch East Jerusalem, 16 November 2011).
The question remains, how will Mohammed Somrein and his family fight a well-financed and invidious organization such as Elad in an Israeli court already biased in Elad’s favor? For that matter, how do the many other families in Silwan succeed in regaining the land and homes that have been snatched by Elad? How do others protect themselves from similar fates?
Since the Wadi Hilweh Information Center came into being in 2009, it has reported that 15 eviction notices have been issued to families in Silwan alone. Meanwhile, according to a study by the Jerusalem-based human rights organization Al-Maqdese for Society Development, Silwan has had 36 buildings housing 245 people demolished by Israeli authorities between 2000 and 2010 (“House demolitions in Silwan,” Al-Maqdese for Society Development, July 2010 [PDF]). Furthermore, plans announced by the Jerusalem municipality in 2009 to demolish 88 homes in the Bustan area of Silwan have not been cancelled (“An update on Bustan,” Wadi Hilweh Information Center, 25 May 2011) .
And just last week, the Committee for the Defense of Silwan issued a statement announcing that the Jerusalem municipality seized a piece of land belonging to a Palestinian Orthodox monastery in the neighborhood of al-Thawri in west Silwan. According to the statement, these 850 square meters of land are to be turned into a Talmudic garden (for students of Jewish law and ethics) and a parking lot (“Israeli municipality seizes land in Silwan,” Wafa, 16 November 2011).
Of immediate concern, however, are the twelve Somreins who are to be evicted next week, unless a court order declares that the case has not yet reached its conclusion. If the family is evicted, they will have nowhere else to go.
Nadia Somrein lives and works in East Jerusalem and is a relation of the family about to be evicted.
RAMALLAH — The Palestinian Authority cabinet on Tuesday condemned Israel’s ongoing refusal to hand over Palestinian tax revenue.
Israel froze the transfer of funds owed to the West Bank government, amounting to around $100 million a month, after the UN cultural agency UNESCO voted to admit Palestine as a member.
During a weekly meeting in Ramallah, ministers said the Israeli government aimed “to punish the Palestinian people and weaken the Palestinian Authority,” a cabinet statement said.
The cabinet urged the international community to pressure Israel to release the funds, noting that by withholding the money Israel was violating signed agreements.
“Israel’s continued halt of the transfer would influence the Palestinian Authority’s various financial commitments, and delimit its ability to continue with its development and building programs,” the statement added.
UN Middle East peace envoy Robert Serry on Monday warned the Security Council that by freezing the transfer of tax revenue, Israel undermined the PA’s state-building gains and the development of the security forces upholding law and order in the West Bank.
“Withholding this level of funding would cripple any government, let alone an authority under occupation,” Serry noted.
He added: “Israel should heed the calls of the Secretary-General and other international leaders to unfreeze transfers to the Palestinian Authority immediately in accordance with existing agreements.”
When Americans think of propagandized people they think of the now defunct Soviet Union or Nazi Germany or perhaps a banana republic dictatorship of the sort supported by their government. Very few of them would think of themselves as being under the sway of a government and corporations who work hand in glove to tell outright falsehoods or hide important information that is inconvenient for them.
In this country, not only are we victims of a government intent upon keeping us misinformed or silent in the face of its wrong doing, but they work hand in hand with a media almost entirely owned by corporations. The interests of the people are rarely in sync with the interests of these corporations, and that results in a media which works with the government which consciously works to misdirect our attention or have us believe outright lies.
Almost every major news story gives us an example of this terrible phenomenon. We may be told that Iran is on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons capability, but we are not told that it has the right to do so as a signatory of the Non Proliferation Treaty. To add insult to injury, there isn’t any proof that Iran has even acquired this capability.
But Israel is chomping at the bit to attack Iran, and its lackey state, the United States of America, will not stand in its way. The corporate media never tell us that Israel, a country which is not a signatory of the NPT, has an arsenal of an unknown number of nuclear weapons.
A simple and easily provable fact, that the nation which casts itself as the victim of a potential nuclear power is itself nuclear, is rarely mentioned. One might read the New York Times and Washington Post every day and watch one of the broadcast or cable news networks at night, and not be aware of this information.
“Government sources say,” are the buzz words for falsehoods told in the name of the state. So-called prestigious publications will print the most outrageous information without attribution, investigation or proof of very serious charges. The Washington Post prints a story, quoting an anonymous source, claiming that Gaddafi’s Libya not only was in possession of a mustard gas stockpile, but also that it was supplied by Iran.
When Israel and/or the United States attack Iran none of the highly paid anchor men or women or reporters who have access to the administration will stray far from the official party line. That is why one president is as dangerous as any other. The system rewarded the liars who drove America to war against Iraq. The anti-Iranian warmongers will probably fare equally well.
Foreign policy has long been the domain of the big lie, but reporting or the lack of reporting on important domestic issues is either twisted in favor of the powerful or ignored altogether. The sins of omission are as dangerous as the sins of the bald faced lie. Did any major newspaper report on the week-long Georgia prison strike which took place one year ago? This phenomenal story of incarcerated Bloods and Crips working hand in hand with members of Aryan nation should have been front page news. But it was ignored, and the country lost an opportunity to be informed that their nation has the largest prison system on the planet and that it profits quite literally from their slave labor.
The court scribes who tell us that a statistical blip is proof of economic recovery or that the president had no choice but to accept the “Satan sandwich” budget deal are no better than propagandists in dictatorial states. The press corps in Libya, who actively assisted NATO in destroying that nation, committed international war crimes in the process. They will never reveal their own evil doing nor will they be called to account by a public that doesn’t even realize the magnitude of their crimes.
Anyone who is resistant to the notion that this country is awash in propaganda need look no further than the case of Anwar al-Awlaki. The president ordered the killing of an American citizen who was never charged with a crime. He then directed his minions to reveal to the New York Times the existence of a secret, extra legal memo which justifies his actions. The Times no doubt celebrated their role as court favorites and ignored the role that a newspaper ought to play in reporting a story that should have resulted in a presidential impeachment.
Americans love to say that they live in the greatest country in the world. Such a nation will be hard pressed to admit that they can trust little of the information they get. The nexus of a corrupt governmental structure and a corporate media results in nonsense on a good day and disinformation on a bad one. Our country is not great, it is just powerful and very, very dangerous.
Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgandaReport.com.
President Obama has been doing his charming best to play off the huge dilemma that the success of the Occupy Wall Street movement represents for his brand of corporate Democratic politics. Obama, the phony populist who is actually far better suited to corporate boardrooms, tried to mollify demonstrators at a campaign stop in New Hampshire, this week. Obama told a high school crowd: “In the Occupy movement there is a profound sense of frustration. The American dream – seems like that’s slipping away.” But, such presidential vagaries do not begin to describe the major thrust of the Occupation movement, whose overwhelming focus is “to get money out of politics,” as progressive reporter Arun Gupta recently told Black Agenda Radio. If there is anything that unites the supposedly leaderless Occupation movement, says Gupta, it is “a message about extreme concentration of wealth and power, and that wealth is used to dominate the political system.”
The trick that President Obama must pull off this election year is to raise a cool one billion dollars, while pretending to run as a man of the people – of the 99 percent. That kind of money can only come from the same Wall Street mafias that bankrolled Obama from the very start of his 2008 race for the White House. By any objective standard, the First Black President is really Mr. Moneybags, a corporate politician who has repaid Wall Street’s investment in him with $16 trillion of the people’s money. And, there is no doubt, Wall Street wants him back for a second term. To paraphrase Othello, Obama has done the plutocrats some service, and they know it. That’s why he is far ahead in the electoral race that really counts in America, the quest for campaign contributions, having already raised $155 million for himself and the Democratic Party – far ahead of any combination of Republicans.
However, after two months of Occupy Wall Street fever, Obama’s intimate relationship with rich men’s wallets may prove prejudicial to his reelection prospects. How can Obama claim to be ready to stand up to the 1 percent, when he’s weighted down with a billion dollars of their money?
The very idea that taking bundles of Wall Street checks hand over fist could be a negative for an American presidential campaigner, is testimony to the strength of the movement that has emerged over the past several months. I remember well how, back in the 2004 campaign, ABC’s Ted Koppel decided it was his civic and journalistic duty to evict the three poorest candidates from the Democratic primary race. Al Sharpton, Dennis Kucinich and Carolyn Moseley Braun, said Koppel, should get out of the running, to give more breathing space to the richer candidates. Koppel spoke to the non-corporate candidates like raggedy ass interlopers at a rich man’s ball. “You don’t have any money, at least not much,” Congressman Kucinich, said Kopple. “Rev. Sharpton has almost none.” And Ambassador Moseley Braun, “You don’t have very much.” Then Koppel accused them of being “vanity candidates” who ought to drop out. Immediately afterwards, ABC News cut off coverage of their campaigns.
What a difference even a whiff of a social movement makes. Now, the corporate candidates will have to explain why they’ve got so much money, and what they promised to do to get it. Especially, the richest one of all, Barack Obama.
NATO’s Great Victory
The other day, I was listening to the voice of “liberal” radio, NPR, and was surprised to hear its bizarre, and yet quite candid, report on what it apparently views to be one of the more hideous aspects of the Gadhafi years – a modern welfare state which looked after working people.
Thus, without tongue in cheek, or any note of irony, NPR, in its November 14 report, entitled, “Libya’s Economy Faces New Tests After Gadhafi Era,” explained that the biggest impediment to the new economic era is the Libyan worker who was simply too coddled by Gaddafi.
NPR thus cited a 2007 book on the Libyan economy by authors Otman and Karlberg who called “the Libyan worker under Gadhafi ‘one of the most protected in the world,’” receiving job tenure, government subsidies of around $800 a month for the average Libyan household, and gasoline at a mere 60 cents a gallon. NPR, citing the same book, explained that workers now freed from such a tyrannical world by NATO bombs, have been left with a “’subsidy mentality’” and a “’job-for-life outlook which has ill-prepared Libyans for the more aggressive and cutthroat world of competition.’”
However, lucky for them, Libya’s new acting finance and oil chief, Ali Tarhouni, is resolved to turn this situation around by disciplining Libya’s workers through “smaller government and a larger and freer private sector.” NPR describes that, Tarhouni, being the realist that he is, “has no illusions that it will be an easy transition.” The report thus quotes Tarhouni who states that, “[t]he challenge here is that this is a welfare state,” with Libyan workers expecting too much from their government. I’m sure Tarhouni, with Western support, will show these workers a thing a two.
Of course, had NPR gone further, they could have also explained that, according to the statistics of the United Nations Development Programme, Libya, at the time of the NATO invasion, had the highest human development indicators (which measure levels of health, education and income) in all of Africa, with a life expectancy of 74.5; undernourishment of the population at under 5%; and adult literacy at over 88%. Libya was in fact ranked 53 in the world out of 169 comparable countries, ranking, for example, above Turkey, (post-Soviet) Russia, Brazil and Costa Rica in terms of the human development indicators.
For NATO, its corporate allies, and its media mouthpieces, such prosperity for workers simply will not do. We live in a world where austerity for the workers is the order of the day – for those in Libya, Greece, Italy, Spain, Great Britain and the U.S. as well. And those who stand in the way of such austerity measures, whether they be a nationalist government in Libya, Communists in Greece or Occupiers in the U.S., must be dealt with accordingly – by violent reaction.
Thankfully, once in a while, we have news sources such as NPR which will, albeit quite unwittingly and clumsily, tell us that this is indeed what our military and police actions are all about. You just have to be reading and listening between the lines to find out.
Dan Kovalik is Senior Associate General Counsel of the United Steelworkers of America.