Syrian state media outlets claim the British parliament’s decision to extend airstrikes against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) from Iraq into Syria is in contravention of international law.
The claims come a day after MPs voted to bomb targets within the war-torn country and hours after the first sorties hit an oilfield in the east of the country.
The Independent reported that the Al-Baath newspaper – which reportedly answers to President Bashar Assad’s own party – said Prime Minister David Cameron was running a “PR campaign” in support of a “US-led show in violation of the UN charter.”
Al-Thawra, another official newspaper, said Cameron and the House of Commons vaulted “over international legitimacy as usual.”
British politics is still reeling from the decision in parliament last night to extend airstrikes to Syria.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon claimed on Thursday that RAF bombing raids against IS in Syria have dealt “a real blow” to the financing of the terror group.
Analysis indicates “the strikes were successful,” the Ministry of Defence (MoD) claimed.
Fallon told the BBC he had approved the targets before the House of Commons vote on Wednesday evening, and gave permission for the raids to go ahead once MPs had rubberstamped extending airstrikes.
He added that airstrikes against extremists are likely to continue for years.
“This is not going to be quick,” he said.
The war drums are getting louder in the aftermath of ISIS attacks in Paris, as Western countries gear up to launch further airstrikes in Syria. But obscured in the fine print of countless resolutions and media headlines is this: the West has no legal basis for military intervention. Their strikes are illegal.
“It is always preferable in these circumstances to have the full backing of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) but I have to say what matters most of all is that any actions we would take would… be legal,” explained UK Prime Minister David Cameron to the House of Commons last Wednesday.
Legal? No, there’s not a scrap of evidence that UK airstrikes would be lawful in their current incarnation.
Then just two days later, on Friday, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2249, aimed at rallying the world behind the fairly obvious notion that ISIS is an “unprecedented threat to international peace and security.”
“It’s a call to action to member states that have the capacity to do so to take all necessary measures against (ISIS) and other terrorist groups,” British UN Ambassador Matthew Rycroft told reporters.
The phrase “all necessary measures” was broadly interpreted – if not explicitly sanctioning the “use of force” in Syria, then as a wink to it.
Let’s examine the pertinent language of UNSCR 2249:
The resolution “calls upon Member States that have the capacity to do so to take all necessary measures, in compliance with international law, in particular with the United Nations Charter…on the territory under the control of ISIL also known as Da’esh, in Syria and Iraq.”
Note that the resolution demands “compliance with international law, in particular with the UN Charter.” This is probably the most significant explainer to the “all necessary measures” phrase. Use of force is one of the most difficult things for the UNSC to sanction – it is a last resort measure, and a rare one. The lack of Chapter 7 language in the resolution pretty much means that ‘use of force’ is not on the menu unless states have other means to wrangle “compliance with international law.”
What you need to know about international law
It is important to understand that the United Nations was set up in the aftermath of World War 2 expressly to prevent war and to regulate and inhibit the use of force in settling disputes among its member states. This is the UN’s big function – to “maintain international peace and security,” as enshrined in the UN Charter’s very first article.
There are a lot of laws that seek to govern and prevent wars, but the Western nations looking to launch airstrikes in Syria have made things easy for us – they have cited the law that they believe justifies their military intervention: specifically, Article 51 of the UN Charter. It reads, in part:
“Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.”
So doesn’t France, for instance, enjoy the inherent right to bomb ISIS targets in Syria as an act of self-defense – in order to prevent further attacks?
And don’t members of the US-led coalition, who cite the “collective self-defense” of Iraq (the Iraqi government has formally made this request), have the right to prevent further ISIS attacks from Syrian territory into Iraqi areas?
Well, no. Article 51, as conceived in the UN Charter, refers to attacks between territorial states, not with non-state actors like ISIS or Al-Qaeda. Syria, after all, did not attack France or Iraq – or Turkey, Australia, Jordan or Saudi Arabia.
And here’s where it gets interesting.
Western leaders are employing two distinct strategies to obfuscate the lack of legal justification for intervention in Syria. The first is the use of propaganda to build narratives about Syria that support their legal argumentation. The second is a shrewd effort to cite legal “theory” as a means to ‘stretch’ existing law into a shape that supports their objectives.
The “Unwilling and Unable” Theory – the “Unable” argument
The unwilling and unable theory – as related to the Syria/ISIS situation – essentially argues that the Syrian state is both unwilling and unable to target the non-state actor based within its territory (ISIS, in this case) that poses a threat to another state.
Let’s break this down further.
Ostensibly, Syria is ‘unable’ to sufficiently degrade or destroy ISIS because, as we can clearly see, ISIS controls a significant amount of territory within Syria’s borders that its national army has not been able to reclaim.
This made some sense – until September 30 when Russia entered the Syrian military theater and began to launch widespread airstrikes against terrorist targets inside Syria.
As a major global military power, Russia is clearly ‘able’ to thwart ISIS –certainly just as well as most of the Western NATO states participating in airstrikes already. Moreover, as Russia is operating there due to a direct Syrian government appeal for assistance, the Russian military role in Syria is perfectly legal.
This development struck a blow at the US-led coalition’s legal justification for strikes in Syria. Not that the coalition’s actions were ever legal – “unwilling and unable” is merely a theory and has no basis in customary international law.
About this new Russian role, Major Patrick Walsh, associate professor in the International and Operational Law Department at the US Army’s Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School in Virginia, says:
“The United States and others who are acting in collective defense of Iraq and Turkey are in a precarious position. The international community is calling on Russia to stop attacking rebel groups and start attacking ISIS. But if Russia does, and if the Assad government commits to preventing ISIS from attacking Syria’s neighbors and delivers on that commitment, then the unwilling or unable theory for intervention in Syria would no longer apply. Nations would be unable to legally intervene inside Syria against ISIS without the Assad government’s consent.”
In recent weeks, the Russians have made ISIS the target of many of its airstrikes, and are day by day improving coordination efficiency with the ground troops and air force of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies -Iran, Hezbollah and other foreign groups who are also in Syria legally, at the invitation of the Syrian state.
Certainly, the balance of power on the ground in Syria has started to shift away from militants and terrorist groups since Russia launched its campaign seven weeks ago – much more than we have seen in a year of coalition strikes.
The “Unwilling and Unable” Theory – the “Unwilling” argument
Now for the ‘unwilling’ part of the theory. And this is where the role of Western governments in seeding ‘propaganda’ comes into play.
The US and its allies have been arguing for the past few years that the Syrian government is either in cahoots with ISIS, benefits from ISIS’ existence, or is a major recruiting magnet for the terror group.
Western media, in particular, has made a point of underplaying the SAA’s military confrontations with ISIS, often suggesting that the government actively avoids ISIS-controlled areas.
The net result of this narrative has been to convey the message that the Syrian government has been ‘unwilling’ to diminish the terror group’s base within the country.
But is this true?
ISIS was born from the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) in April, 2013 when the group’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a short-lived union of ISI and Syria’s Al-Qaeda branch, Jabhat al-Nusra. Armed militants in Syria have switched around their militia allegiances many times throughout this conflict, so it would be disingenuous to suggest the Syrian army has not fought each and every one of these groups at some point since early 2011.
If ISIS was viewed as a ‘neglected’ target at any juncture, it has been mainly because the terror group was focused on land grabs for its “Caliphate” in the largely barren north-east areas of the country – away from the congested urban centers and infrastructure hubs that have defined the SAA’s military priorities.
But ISIS has always remained a fixture in the SAA’s sights. The Syrian army has fought or targeted ISIS, specifically, in dozens of battlefields since the organization’s inception, and continues to do so. In Deir Hafer Plains, Mennagh, Kuweires, Tal Arn, al-Safira, Tal Hasel and the Aleppo Industrial District. In the suburbs and countryside of Damascus – most famously in Yarmouk this year – where the SAA and its allies thwarted ISIS’ advance into the capital city. In the Qalamun mountains, in Christian Qara and Faleeta. In Deir Ezzor, where ISIS would join forces with the US-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA): al-Husseiniyeh, Hatla, Sakr Island, al-Hamadiyah, al-Rashidiyah, al-Jubeileh, Sheikh Yasseen, Mohassan, al-Kanamat, al-Sina’a, al-Amal, al-Haweeqa, al-Ayyash, the Ghassan Aboud neighborhood, al-Tayyim Oil Fields and the Deir ez-Zor military airport. In Hasakah Province – Hasakah city itself, al-Qamishli, Regiment 121 and its environs, the Kawkab and Abdel-Aziz Mountains. In Raqqa, the Islamic State’s capital in Syria, the SAA combatted ISIS in Division 17, Brigade 93 and Tabaqa Airbase. In Hama Province, the entire al-Salamiyah District – Ithriyah, Sheikh Hajar, Khanasser. In the province of Homs, the eastern countryside: Palmyra, Sukaneh, Quraytayn, Mahin, Sadad, Jubb al-Ahmar, the T-4 Airbase and the Iraqi border crossing. In Suweida, the northern countryside.
If anything, the Russian intervention has assisted the Syrian state in going on the offensive against ISIS and other like-minded terror groups. Before Russia moved in, the SAA was hunkering down in and around key strategic areas to protect these hubs. Today, Syria and its allies are hitting targets by land and air in the kinds of coordinated offensives we have not seen before.
The role of propaganda and carefully manipulated narratives should not be underestimated in laying the groundwork for foreign military intervention in Syria.
From “the dictator is killing his own people” to the “regime is using chemical weapons” to the need to establish “No Fly Zones” to safeguard “refugees fleeing Assad”… propaganda has been liberally used to build the justification for foreign military intervention.
Article 2 of the UN Charter states, in part:
“All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.”
It’s hard to see how Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity has not been systematically violated throughout the nearly five years of this conflict, by the very states that make up the US-led coalition. The US, UK, France, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, the UAE and other nations have poured weapons, funds, troops and assistance into undermining a UN member state at every turn.
“Legitimacy” is the essential foundation upon which governance rests. Vilify a sitting government, shut down multiple embassies, isolate a regime in international forums, and you can destroy the fragile veneer of legitimacy of a king, president or prime minister.
But efforts to delegitimize the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have also served to lay the groundwork for coalition airstrikes in Syria.
If Assad is viewed to lack “legitimacy,” the coalition creates the impression that there is no real government from which it can gain the necessary authority to launch its airstrikes.
This mere ‘impression’ provided the pretext for Washington to announce it was sending 50 Special Forces troops into Syria, as though the US wasn’t violating every tenet of international law in doing so. “It’s okay – there’s no real government there,” we are convinced.
Media reports repeatedly highlight the ‘percentages’ of territory outside the grasp of Syrian government forces – this too serves a purpose. One of the essentials of a state is that it consists of territory over which it governs.
If only 50 percent of Syria is under government control, the argument goes, “then surely we can just walk into the other ‘ungoverned’ parts” – as when US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford and US Senator John McCain just strolled illegally across the border of the sovereign Syrian state.
Sweep aside these ‘impressions’ and bury them well. The Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad is viewed by the United Nations as the only legitimate government in Syria. Every official UN interaction with the state is directed at this government. The Syrian seat at the UN is occupied by Ambassador Bashar al-Jaafari, a representative of Assad’s government. It doesn’t matter how many Syrian embassies in how many capitals are shut down – or how many governments-in-exile are established. The UN only recognizes one.
As one UN official told me in private: “Control of surface territory doesn’t count. The government of Kuwait when its entire territory was occupied by Iraq – and it was in exile – was still the legitimate government of Kuwait. The Syrian government could have 10 percent of its surface left – the decision of the UN Security Council is all that matters from the perspective of international law, even if other governments recognize a new Syrian government.”
Countdown to more illegal airstrikes?
If there was any lingering doubt about the illegality of coalition activities in Syria, the Syrian government put these to rest in September, in two letters to the UNSC that denounced foreign airstrikes as unlawful:
“If any State invokes the excuse of counter-terrorism in order to be present on Syrian territory without the consent of the Syrian Government whether on the country’s land or in its airspace or territorial waters, its action shall be considered a violation of Syrian sovereignty.”
Yet still, upon the adoption of UNSC Resolution 2249 last Friday, US Deputy Representative to the United Nations Michele Sison insisted that “in accordance with the UN Charter and its recognition of the inherent right of individual and collective self-defense,” the US would use “necessary and proportionate military action” in Syria.
The website for the European Journal of International Law (EJIL) promptly pointed out the obvious:
“The resolution is worded so as to suggest there is Security Council support for the use of force against IS. However, though the resolution, and the unanimity with which it was adopted, might confer a degree of legitimacy on actions against IS, the resolution does not actually authorize any actions against IS, nor does it provide a legal basis for the use of force against IS either in Syria or in Iraq.”
On Thursday, UK Prime Minister David Cameron plans to unveil his new “comprehensive strategy” to tackle ISIS, which we are told will include launching airstrikes in Syria.
We already know the legal pretext he will spin – “unwilling and unable,” Article 51, UN Charter, individual and collective self-defense, and so forth.
But if Cameron’s September 7 comments at the House of Commons are any indication, he will use the following logic to argue that the UK has no other choice than to resort to ‘use of force’ in Syria. In response to questions about two illegal drone attacks targeting British nationals in Syria, the prime minister emphasized:
“These people were in a part of Syria where there was no government, no one to work with, and no other way of addressing this threat… When we are dealing with people in ISIL-dominated Syria—there is no government, there are no troops on the ground—there is no other way of dealing with them than the route that we took.”
But Cameron does have another route available to him – and it is the only ‘legal’ option for military involvement in Syria.
If the UK’s intention is solely to degrade and destroy ISIS, then it must request authorization from the Syrian government to participate in a coordinated military campaign that could help speed up the task.
If Western (and allied Arab) leaders can’t stomach dealing with the Assad government on this issue, then by all means work through an intermediary – like the Russians – who can coordinate and authorize military operations on behalf of their Syrian ally.
The Syrian government has said on multiple occasions that it welcomes sincere international efforts to fight terrorism inside its territory. But these efforts must come under the direction of a central legal authority that can lead a broad campaign on the ground and in the air.
The West argues that, unlike in Iraq, it seeks to maintain the institutions of the Syrian state if Assad were to step down. The SAA is one of these ‘institutions’ – why not coordinate with it now?
But after seven weeks of Russian airstrikes coordinated with extensive ground troops (which the coalition lacks), none of these scenarios may even be warranted. ISIS and other extremist groups have lost ground in recent weeks, and if this trend continues, coalition states should fall back and focus on other key ISIS-busting activities referenced in UNSCR 2249 – squeezing terror financing, locking down key borders, sharing intelligence…”all necessary measures” to destroy this group.
If the ‘international community’ wants to return ‘peace and stability’ to the Syrian state, it seems prudent to point out that its very first course of action should be to stop breaking international law in Syria.
Sharmine Narwani is a commentator and analyst of Middle East geopolitics. She is a former senior associate at St. Antony’s College, Oxford University and has a master’s degree in International Relations from Columbia University. Sharmine has written commentary for a wide array of publications, including Al Akhbar English, the New York Times, the Guardian, Asia Times Online, Salon.com, USA Today, the Huffington Post, Al Jazeera English, BRICS Post and others. You can follow her on Twitter at @snarwani
British Prime Minister David Cameron is facing criticism for breaking his promise to lead a transparent government, after he refused to reveal what had been discussed at the secretive Bilderberg meeting.
Cameron’s presence at the shadowy meeting is provoking controversy as the Prime Minister’s spokesman claimed that he is still committed to lead a transparent government, even though he refused to discuss what was said in the secretive conference.
A member of the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency, Tamasin Cave, said that Cameron’s decision to attend the Bilderberg conference “drives a coach and horses” through his pledge of openness”.
This comes as on the Sky News channel, opposition Labour MP Michael Meacher demanded transparency over the Bilderberg meeting, which took place in a luxury hotel in Watford, Hertfordshire.
“If there is any conference which required transparency, it is the Bilderberg conference because this is really where the top brass of western finance capitalism meet”, Meacher said, adding that there will be no statement in the House of Commons about it.
“This is totally in contradiction to the government’s commitment to have greater transparency,” he added.
The Bilderberg Group, which is made up of senior politicians, business leaders and academics from around the world, commonly attracts conspiracy theories as its annual gatherings always take place in secrecy.
News Unspun | May 8, 2013
The Syrian conflict has been accompanied by a distinct media narrative. Within this narrative – which poses a binary division between the forces engaged in the conflict, identifying the players as good (the rebels, who must receive ‘our’ support) and bad (the government) – the role the West must play is that of potential saviour, whose aim is to cautiously observe the conflict so that it may intervene to ‘fix’ the situation, as The Guardian’s Simon Tisdall put it:
So what can Obama do? As Vladimir Putin was expected to make plain to John Kerry in Moscow on Tuesday, he cannot count on Russian (or, therefore, Chinese or UN security council) support to fix Syria.
This sentiment, that the West can put right the Syrian situation, is inherent to most reporting of the conflict. The BBC recently reported that ‘the pressure to act has intensified in recent days after emerging evidence that Syria has used chemical weapons such as the nerve gas sarin’. This statement presents the existence of a ‘pressure to act’ as a given, though the source of such pressure is unidentified. From where is this pressure emerging? As a BBC report points out, public opinion in France, the UK, the US, and Germany is by majority opposed to the possibility of intervention in the conflict through sending arms and military supplies to the Syrian opposition. The BBC is not then speaking on behalf of the public majority. Pressure towards military intervention, to some extent considered a desirable option by the UK government (if it can ‘achieve the result [they] want’, as Cameron put it in an interview with Nick Robinson), is, however, increasingly mounting within the media itself.
Chemical Weapons ‘Evidence’
It is also important to note that the ’emerging evidence’ referred to above is not conclusive despite the wording of this report. The BBC reported again on Monday 6 May that ‘Western powers have said their own investigations have found evidence that government forces have used chemical weapons’. Again, this is simply not the case. ‘Western powers’, regardless of their true intentions, have in fact been very cautious in public about how precisely they present their claims, underscoring the lack of conclusive evidence they have found and that there exists the possibility that chemical weapons had been used by the Syrian government. This misrepresentation by the BBC emerges in a context in which the use of chemical weapons has been signified by the UK and US as the point at which they may become militarily involved in the Syrian conflict. As such these details, so easily misrepresented by the BBC, are of high consequence.
(There are other examples of BBC reports dangerously getting important facts wrong about such issues: just over a year ago, for example, a BBC news report stated that the ‘International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released a report with new evidence showing Iran was secretly working towards obtaining a nuclear weapon’ – in this case the report said no such thing.)
Journalists Pushing for Intervention
In recent reports, certain BBC journalists have appeared more hawkish than government officials themselves. Take for example a question put to Cameron by the BBC’s Nick Robinson:
Do you ever fear that a terrible thing is happening in our world and that Western leaders cannot or will not act because of a fear of another Iraq?
Cameron responded with ‘I do worry about that’, before clarifying that what he has concluded from the ‘Iraq lesson’ is that the UK should only enter into conflicts it can win, that ‘the ability is there’. This is at a far remove from the implication of Robinson’s question that past ‘mistakes’ might prevent the West from playing a righteous humanitarian role. Yet Robinson’s leading question provides the basis for the seemingly unambiguous headline: ‘Cameron fears Iraq effect holding West back in Syria’.
There is a prevailing trend of journalists taking up the position of presenting the case for military intervention in Syria and proactively pushing government representatives to commit to intentions for military action. On the Andrew Marr show on 5 May Jeremy Vine asked Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond a number of questions which demonstrated this pressure by the media for the UK to become involved in the Syrian conflict. When Hammond appeared cautious regarding the prospect of military intervention, stating that the UK would need to engage in discussion with the UK’s ‘allies and partners’, Vine admonished, ‘you’re talking about having a series of meetings’. Another brief exchange emphasises Vine’s apparent desire to see the UK intervene:
Phillip Hammond: ‘Frankly that [the potential use of chemical weapons] is not what’s delivering the tally of 70,000 that have been killed… the majority of these people have been killed by conventional weapons’.
Jeremy Vine: ‘More reason to do something then…’
These comments reflect the consistency of BBC reporting which seems aimed towards creating a case for war. When Carla Del Ponte, of the UN’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, told reporters that there were ‘strong, concrete suspicions’ that the rebels – perhaps not as virtuous as would be convenient for States considering providing military support – may have used chemical weapons, the tone of BBC reporting did not suggest that the pressure for military action should be alleviated.
Analysis of Attacks on Syria: Real and Imagined
Taking the case a step further, Jonathan Marcus, the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent, discussed the various ways in which the US could attack Syria. His assessment reads more like a military strategy report than an analysis of events for a news provider. Surgical airstrikes, Marcus said, ‘could be carried out by cruise missiles launched from aircraft well outside Syrian airspace or from warships or submarines in the Mediterranean’, while a wider air campaign, ‘might have to be preceded by a significant effort to destroy missiles, associated radars and command systems and might well involve losses’. Why it is in the public interest that such analysis is brought to us by journalists is unclear. Through Marcus’s piece, which is nothing more than speculation of military strategy on an as yet non-existent, illegal military intervention, the idea of an attack on Syria from outside is normalised further.
The reporting on the air strikes that Israel has carried out on Syria also reveals how normalised warfare has become in BBC reporting, with very little discussion of casualties or of the chaos inflicted on the people who were bombed. What was important, in this story, it seems, is that Israel was protecting itself from weapons that were supposedly being transported. This is summed up in the BBC’s Q&A page on the Israeli airstrikes: in answer to the question ‘Why would Israel attack?’ we are told that ‘the statements from unnamed officials suggest Israel’s actions are defensive.’ If the Syrian government had, for example, attacked the Israeli air force within Israel, to prevent airstrikes on its own territory, it is extremely unlikely that this would be overwhelmingly reported as an act of defence. Yet when Israel bombs another country, BBC journalists and editors happily report such actions as ‘defensive’ measures.
Jonathan Marcus writes that Israel’s airstrikes are ‘designed to send a powerful signal’ (the headline: ‘Israeli air strikes: A warning to Syria’s Assad’). It is worth at this point noting that following the last Israel attack on Syria, in early 2013, Marcus also wrote that this was ‘in one sense pre-emptive, but also a warning’. It was also portrayed as a ‘signal’. That such attacks are continuously reported as warnings and signals, as seemingly rational, and therefore it seems permissible, actions, goes further to normalise them. We might wonder how many attacks Israel would have to inflict on another country before Jonathan Marcus stops referring to the attacks as ‘signals’ and ‘warnings’?
In their seeming urgency to present a case for war, BBC reporters have neglected factual accuracy of reported events. Scepticism towards the unsupported claims of Western governments, insistence upon proof, is also lacking. We are presented with a simplified narrative, of ‘good versus evil’, in which the possibility of misconduct on both sides of the conflict is considered improbable. This style of reporting very much takes its lead from the positions of Western governments. Whitehouse spokesman Jay Carney outlined the position of the US: ‘We are highly sceptical of suggestions that the opposition could have or did use chemical weapons. We find it highly likely that any chemical weapon use that has taken place in Syria was done by the Assad regime, and that remains our position’. The supposed instincts of the US or UK government, despite the inconclusive nature of the evidence, as to the righteousness of the Syrian rebels is not proof of the reality and should not be considered by journalists as such.
Leaving the scandal of horsemeat contamination of processed meat products behind, the British prime minister David Cameron flew to India for a three-day visit (February 18-20), boasting the largest-ever trade delegation he had led to a foreign country. The aim of young Cameron was to clinch multi-million pound deals with the world’s second most populous nation, and a vibrant and rising economy. The reasons behind his mission to India were domestic as well as foreign.
Cameron leads a wobbly government in coalition with the Liberal Democratic Party, which has all but abandoned many of its policies on civil liberties, minority rights, the nature of Britain’s relationship with the European Union and the welfare state. In essence, the Liberal Democrats, whose leader Nick Clegg has the title of deputy prime minister with no portfolio, have become the enablers keeping in power a Conservative Party that is itself fatally divided over how far right to move on some of the most fundamental issues.
Britain’s Conservative prime minister, his finance minister George Osborne, and a group of ministers to the right, are enforcing draconian cuts that, many experts complain, are making economic recovery more difficult. The Liberal Democrats have become supporters of war. A former Liberal Democrat leader, now a party grandee, Lord Paddy Ashdown, recently defended President Obama’s drone wars that, according to several authoritative studies including one by Stanford and New York Universities, have killed thousands of innocent people. In an astonishing defense of Obama’s “kill list,” Lord Ashdown asserted that the president’s policy had more accountability than ever before. A U.S. president secretly ordering to kill specific individuals, and others who happen to be in the targeted area, without Congressional or judicial scrutiny, is somehow “more accountable than ever”? One does not know what to say––except that power has clearly elevated Lord Ashdown and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg to a different planet.
Against this backdrop, Prime Minister Cameron went to India to seduce politicians in government and big business with a basket of offers. He reminded his hosts of India’s colonial links with Britain, and sought to press the Indian government to buy Eurofighters, in which Britain has a stake, instead of French multi-role combat planes already being negotiated. Cameron had been promising his party MPs that he would be pushing the deal aggressively, failing to realize that the Indians do not like being told by the British, especially by a Conservative prime minister. In such an event, the Indian response would likely be to buy from any one except India’s former colonial rulers.
Cameron leads a party which continues to live in the Churchillian past. He simply misread India’s historical development, and was badly advised as he embarked on his visit. Cameron failed to accept the reality that India, a country twenty times larger in population than the United Kingdom, was not a client state that could be pressured. The Indians would be courteous in welcoming him, but were quite capable of turning the tables, and would rebuff unwanted offers. The signs were there some while ago when India told Britain that it did not want a few hundred million pounds worth of British aid, describing it as “peanuts.” The British government’s increasingly hostile anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies to placate the political right at home were alienating many Indian residents and new students coming to Britain. The consequences of this went largely unnoticed in Cameron’s circle.
There is an unmistakable propensity in today’s Britain to blame “immigrants” and “asylum-seekers” for all the ills––from filth to chaos and crime in the streets, as well as unemployment among white Britons. Alienation and frustration of those less fortunate are alarming, but their causes are easier to explain. However, the eagerness of the political class to join in the chorus of xenophobic hysteria, and to craft legislation to placate the Right are much harder to understand because of the risks this entails. News reaches distant places with lightning speed in a globalized world. Indian students, increasingly better informed and direct, told the BBC, as Cameron sought to woo them, that they thought the British attitudes were a “little racist.” They would rather seek other destinations for education, or stay in their own country.
As he visited the historic Golden Temple of Amritsar and the nearby site of the 1919 Jallianwala massacre of hundreds of men, women and children, committed on the orders of General Reginald Dyer, Prime Minister Cameron described the episode as a “deeply shameful event.” But he stopped short of issuing an outright apology. That was not enough for historians and ordinary citizens alike in India. Among other questions raised was whether the British government would please return the Koh-i-noor to India. The world’s most precious diamond had been taken to Britain following the imperial power’s annexation of the Punjab into the Empire in 1849. For ten years prior to that, the British administrators had failed to execute the last will of the Punjab ruler Ranjit Singh, who had the diamond until his death. Cameron could not have agreed, so he said that he did not believe in “returnism.”
By the time the British prime minister met his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh in Delhi, the deal to sell AgustaWestland helicopters to India seemed to have been scuppered. It was suggested to Cameron that Britain cooperate with the Indian authorities in providing more information about allegations that the Anglo-Italian helicopter manufacturer based in the United Kingdom had attempted to bribe influential figures to secure the deal with India. The British prime minister promised to do so, and returned home, leaving a “wish list” behind.
British Prime Minister David Cameron called off his long-awaited speech on the relations with the European Union on Friday to deal with the hostage-taking in Algeria as his country actively assisted France in its military intervention in Algeria’s neighbor Mali.
Cameron was outraged by, what he described in an address to the MPs on Thursday, as the Algerian government’s “all guns blazing” tactic against the “terrorist” kidnappers at BP’s In Amenas gas plant because it could endanger British and other western lives.
“I won’t hide, of course I was… we were disappointed not to be informed of the assault in advance,” Cameron told the MPs.
In effect, Cameron was telling Algeria that they are not supposed to be fighting “terrorists” at the cost of British lives while he and his French allies were – and are — exactly killing innocent Malians for the alleged ‘greater good’ they tend to name fighting terrorism.
There are no precise figures on the number of Malian civilians killed in the French Britain-assisted airstrikes near the country’s borders with Algeria but Human Rights Watch said on the second day of the attacks last Sunday that 10 civilians including three children, were killed during airstrikes.
The situation has also been grave enough for international organizations to call for restraint.
“Forces involved in armed attacks should avoid indiscriminate shelling at all costs, and do their utmost to prevent civilian casualties,” said Paule Rigaud, Amnesty International’s Africa deputy director.
However, there has been no such restr aint to the point that United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Melissa Fleming warned on Friday “that in the near future there could be up to 300,000 people additionally displaced inside Mali, and over 400,000 additionally displaced in the neighboring countries” many of them escaping indiscriminate attacks on Malian rebels and civilians.
Nor has Cameron advised French president Francois Hollande to hold back attacks to avoid collateral damage to women and children probably because their skins are not as white as the British hostages in Algeria.
This comes as Hollande said on Friday that the attack and hostage crisis in the remote desert gas plant show the French military intervention in Mali was justified.
However, one comes to think that matters are exactly the other way round, especially after the hostage-takers said their move was in response to the French intervention in Mali.
One should also note a report by Amnesty International on brutality on the part of the ally of Britain and France, the Malian government, against the Tuareg ethnic minority where rebels are rooted.
When the conflict originally exploded, Tuaregs were arrested, tortured, bombed and killed by the security forces, “apparently only on ethnic grounds”, Amnesty said in a report on December 21.
Meanwhile, last July, 80 inmates arrested by the Malian army were stripped to their underwear, jammed into a 5 sqm cell and cigarettes were burnt into their bodies.
Also, back in September 2012, 16 Muslim clerics were rounded up at a checkpoint and summarily executed by the Malian army, which is now Britain’s ally.
Indeed, Britain could apparently pat itself on the back for setting the stage for the kidnapping of its own nationals in Algeria by helping the Malian government.
Britain should also answer whether the “botched” Algerian operation to free hundreds of hostages that left a few western hostages killed would have been also botched if the hostages were not white westerners, or if the scenario was one of British forces and its allies pounding Malian targets with huge civilians casualties on people with darker skins.
The correct path to statehood is through implementation of international law and UN resolutions and the approval of the international community.
By Stuart Littlewood | Salem-News | December 14, 2012
(LONDON) – Britain’s prime minister David Cameron has again shown why he should stand down from British politics.
In a speech to Conservative Friends of Israel at a lunch the other day he said – and not for the first time – things that are deeply disturbing to people who expect him to put British interests first. He again compromised himself and this country with ridiculous pledges of support for a foreign military power whose behaviour is beyond the Pale and an affront to human decency. Here are some of his remarks…
“I am a passionate friend of Israel – and that’s the way it’s going to stay.”
In that case you shouldn’t be in British politics, Mr Cameron. You have fallen foul of the Seven Principles of Public Life, especially the principle of ‘Integrity’ which says quite simply: “Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might seek to influence them in the performance of their official duties.”
“We promised to stand up for Israel and in Government that’s exactly what we’ve done. We said it was ridiculous that Israeli officials felt unable to visit Britain because of the malicious and unfounded use of arrest warrants so we changed the law to end it.”
Unfounded? Tzipi Livni, for example, was responsible for launching the pre-meditated blitzkrieg four years ago which caused the deaths of 1,400 defenceless Gazans (including 320 children and 109 women), horribly maimed thousands more and caused immense devastation to essential infrastructure and services. She showed no remorse. Livni’s office issued a statement saying she was proud of Operation Cast Lead, and speaking later at a conference at Tel Aviv’s Institute for Security Studies, she said: “I would today take the same decisions.”
“We said we’d resist calls for boycotts on Israel and yes – we are going to keep on working with Israel, doing business with Israel, trading with Israel.”
Even though Israel is in continual breach of EU-Israel Agreement rules and forcibly prevents its neighbours, the Palestinians, from doing business and trade with the outside world…
“To me it is clear what needs to happen… We need the Palestinians to understand there is only one path to statehood, and that is through negotiations with Israel. We made that clear with that UN vote a couple of weeks ago.”
Wrong. The correct path to statehood is through implementation of international law and UN resolutions and the approval of the international community. Only when the illegal occupation is ended and the right of self-determination is restored can meaningful talks begin.
“We said that Britain could not support a resolution that set back the prospects for peace and that did not commit the Palestinians to return to negotiations without preconditions. Well: they did not provide the assurances that we asked for. So… we did not vote for it.”
Pure blackmail. Bullying Palestinians into resuming failed and discredited talks to bargain with the thief for the return of their lands and property when it is still being stolen with impunity, is utterly immoral. There can be no peace under occupation. And nobody ‘negotiates’ with a gun to their head, nor should they be expected to.
“And I have made something else clear that needs to be made clear to the Palestinians. Britain will never tolerate the obscenity of a football tournament named after a suicide bomber who killed 20 Israelis in a restaurant. We will not tolerate incitement to terrorism.”
This is about Wafa Idris. It has become a favourite rant and Cameron was banging on about it a couple of months earlier at another top Jewish gathering. According to The Jerusalem Post (September 2011) a Fatah-affiliated youth centre in the Ama’ari refugee camp near Ramallah named a sports event after female suicide bomber Wafa Idris, a 28 year-old paramedic who had been shot several times by Israeli rubber bullets during her work for the Red Crescent. Relatives said she was angry at seeing children shot and killed by the IDF in Ramallah. Idris was the first Palestinian woman to carry out a suicide bombing. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a subsidiary of Abbas’s Fatah (who are Cameron’s friends in Occupied Palestine), claimed responsibility for the bomb attack although her family said she was not known to be an activist with any Palestinian militant group.
Cameron, before opening his mouth, might have asked what led her to do it. Wafa Idris was born in the Ama’ari refugee camp. Set up by the Red Cross in 1949 it provided tents to refugees from Jaffa, Ramla and Lydda, towns allocated for an Arab state in the UN Partition but subjected to a bloody programme of ethnic cleansing in 1948.
In Lydda the Israelis massacred 426 men, women, and children. 176 of them were slaughtered in the town’s main mosque (See the lurid details here). Out of the 19,000 people who called Lydda home, only 1,052 were allowed to stay. The remainder were forced to walk into exile in the scalding July heat leaving a trail of bodies – men, women and children – along the way.
The slaughter in Lydda was led by a certain Moshe Dayan. The event was witnessed by two American newspapermen who reported that “practically everything in their way died. Riddled corpses lay by the roadside.” They saw “the corpses of Arab men, women and even children strewn about in the wake of the ruthlessly brilliant charge” (emphasis Aletho News ). This appalling war crime didn’t prevent Dayan becoming a great hero in Israel, and later defence minister and foreign minister.
Today Tel Aviv University has a Moshe Dayan Centre named after the war criminal, but I haven’t heard Cameron complain about that. Likewise the Menachem Begin Centre in West Jerusalem is named after the terrorist leader responsible for the bomb attack in 1946 on the British mandate government based in the King David Hotel, killing 91. Has Agent Cameron anything to say about that?
Back to the Ama’ari refugee camp, now run by the UNRWA, where Wafa Idris was obliged to live in squalor as a result of Israel’s criminal land-grab and forcible eviction of her parents from Ramla. At Ama’ari 10,500 people are squeezed into less than 1 square kilometre in dreadful conditions.
However the camp’s football team has won the Palestine football championship several times and qualified to represent Palestine in regional and international competitions.
The Arab media were lavish in their praise for Idris, the “courageous Palestinian girl”, and as a result she became a heroic symbol of Palestinian womanhood in their struggle to throw off the occupation. If it’s OK for Israel to name major institutions after its famous terrorists what right has Cameron to get upset when Palestinian football team similarly commemorates one of theirs?
“So, in Gaza too, Hamas need to know that they must renounce violence and they will not be allowed to dictate the way forward in the peace process.”
Does Cameron have the balls to tell Israel it too must renounce violence? Hamas, in case he has forgotten, is the legitimate democratic authority. He may not like it but he should respect it and work with them, like the good democratic he claims to be.
“Last month, when rockets rained down on Israel, we were unequivocal about the right of Israelis to live free from attack by terrorist groups on their border.”
When Gaza suffers air strikes on a daily basis, how unequivocal is Cameron about the right of Palestinians to live free from attack by the terrorist state occupying their lands?
“I’ve never had to run for cover as the air-raids sound overhead. I’ve never had to give gas masks to my children. I do understand that for the Israeli people, uncertainty isn’t such a great thing. It means instability. Anxiety. Fear.”
If he goes to Gaza he can experience fear and anxiety in abundance under Israeli air raids. I vividly remember as a kid being bombed by the Nazis every night in London – and not with garden-shed whizz-bangs. I remember German bombers flying at rooftop height down our street to avoid the anti-aircraft guns. At least they didn’t use white phosphorus like the Israelis.
Cameron’s hyper-partisan, head-over-heels friendship – no, obsession – with Israel is allowed to steer nearly every aspect of Britain’s foreign policy. What drives this? You need look no further than The Jewish Chronicle which in 2006 reported on the backers bankrolling David Cameron’s bid for power and provided a fascinating insight into how the pro-Israel lobby infiltrates government and destroys the principles of integrity and accountability so vital to public life.
When Cameron became Conservative leader he proclaimed:
“The belief I have in Israel is indestructible – and you need to know that if I become Prime Minister, Israel has a friend who will never turn his back on Israel.”
Agent Cameron is very careful not to let the words ‘justice’ and ‘law’ pass his lips in connection with Israel’s illegal occupation of the Holy Land. And he and his foreign secretary, Hague, will put on a wonderful show of hand-wringing, deploring and urging whenever Israel commits atrocities, but they never condemn the racist regime or use any obvious levers like suspension of trade or other sanctions.
On the contrary, they shamelessly find ways of rewarding the Israeli regime’s crimes against humanity, making us complicit with its racist ambitions.
© Stuart Littlewood 2012
- A letter to David Cameron (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- The cowardice at the heart of our relationship with Israel (telegraph.co.uk)