The Fifth Estate

Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious

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The Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA Torture and What Now?

Following the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA torture, Ali Watkins poses the most pertinent of questions when she asks, “What Now?” Unfortunately, with her going on to point out that the report fails to suggest any legal action against either the CIA officials who committed the worst abuses, or those in the Bush administration who instigated and are ultimately responsible for the implementation of the programme, she is implicitly answering her own question. Nothing will happen to the criminals and, in all probability, nothing will change. The same general apathy which greeted a number of publications and articles, including Philippe Sands book, ‘Torture Team’, which exposed these crimes can ultimately be expected, The Senate Intelligence Committee’s report is not news. This is something we have known about for a long time.

Therefore, while Jeff Schweitzer quite rightly states that “George Bush and Dick Cheney should be tried as war criminals”, neither they, nor a long list of Mitlaufer, including, of course,  a certain Anthony Charles Lynton Blair, will be. Indeed, with the crimes still being committed, how can they be? That is the real problem, for while a long list of atrocities and interference in other nations, might indicate that the United States has always had a scant regard for international law, what we in fact had with Rumsfeld signing and approving  the ‘Haynes Memo’ were the beginnings of an official policy which would lead to the recommendation of practices that contravened not only Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention, but also went far beyond what the military interrogators bible, ‘US Army Field Manual’ 34-52′, allowed (Sands, 2008:7). In other words, what we now have is torture as official US policy.

Of course, this official policy has not been implemented in isolation and not only are we in the West less free than we were a decade ago, something which is all too obvious at least since the publication of the NSA files, but we are also living in the shadow of permanent illegal wars of aggression. The tortures, the spies, the war criminals, are in our midst and if only we could only find a better answer to Ali Watkins’ question, “What Now?” If we could, the world would ultimately be a far better place..

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Diplomatic History, The continued ethnic cleansing of Palestine, and the Dahiya Doctrine

Dr Carly Beckerman-Boys’s review of Ahron Bregman’s latest work ‘Cursed Victory: A History of Israel and the Occupied Territories’  might provide enough motivation for the reader to turn their attention to what is a diplomatic history. However, while Bregman’s access to classified sources alone might make the effort worthwhile, the reviewer’s contention that the reader might “feel a little let down by the diplomatic focus” of Bregman’s analysis tells us not to expect any useful contribution to our understanding Israel’s “Realpolitik”. Israel ignored Washington, Israel rode roughshod over the Palestinians, Israel did what it was always going to do, and Israel was never going to leave the path of ethnic cleansing.  Therefore, what genuinely worthwhile revelations will a diplomatic history, albeit one which has exclusive access to primary material, provide? After all, a focus, which concludes with the thesis that Israel missed “crucial opportunities to resolve the conflict”, would appear to neglect the fact that a genuine diplomatic solution is not something that any Israeli government has ever been willing to consider. Moreover, Beckerman-Boys would appear to imply as much when she mentions that unconventional tactics such as the Dahiya Doctrine and policies aimed at decreasing Palestinian fertility are given no place in the Bregman’s book. In other words, while Bregman’s “revelations” might be of some interest to the diplomatic Historian, we only have to look at the facts on the ground to realise that no diplomacy was ever going to interfere with the Zionist agenda of controlling the whole of historical Palestine. That is why, it might be appropriate to discuss the two “unconventional tactics” mentioned by Beckerman-Boys and put these into a wider perspective.

Of course, “decreasing Palestinian fertility” would in the longer term be one effective measure to ensure that the Jewish population would remain in the ascendency in what was once mandate Palestine. However,while it is very probable that the Zionist state is  “exploring ways to “lower the birthrate” of Palestinian Bedouins” and while there is also some evidence to suggest that similar measures were to be applied to the Palestinian population as whole, it remains very probable that this is no longer seen as the preferred and sustainable wider option by the Israeli government. Indeed, since a US Department of State  report some ten years ago stated that the Palestinian population in Israel and the occupied territories exceeded 5.3 million, while the Jewish population stood at 5.2 million, it is difficult to see how it can be.  Furthermore, even if there are “new Palestinian generations (who) are defying tradition and leaning toward limiting the number of children they have” there will be no real reversal of this trend. For the ethnic cleansing of Palestine to continue apace other, more practical solutions are required.

One such “practical solution” is embodied in the idea of land swaps with the Palestinians which will take place after any final settlement. These land swaps will ensure that not only the major settlements in the West Bank are retained, but also that the country’s Jewish population will be bolstered through the implementation of a proposal whereby most of The Triangle” area  and its some 300,000 Arab Israeli citizens would become part of a new Palestinian state. This population transfer would effectively reduce the percentage of Israeli Arabs from 20% to 12%. Jonathan Cook’s ‘Blood and Religion’ and Ilan Pappe’s ‘The Forgotten Palestinians’ provide excellent background reading into an approach that is effectively a continuation of the ethnic cleansing which began in 1948 and both authors further inform us that the 12% Arabs who remain in the country will have to pledge loyalty to that oxymoron, “Israel as a Jewish and a democratic state”. Indeed, this citizenship law is already in place and while at the moment it only applies to non-Jews who want to become citizens, it could and, most probably, will be extended to all Arabs who want to remain Israeli citizens. It is not difficult to deduce that the non-Jewish 12% will be allowed to remain as unwelcome guests, but the ethnic cleansing that was started in 1948 would de facto be completed, and when it is we can only speculate on the long-term fate of those unwelcome guests.

Of course, before the final settlement can be drawn up all resistance has to be broken. At the end of  ‘Operation Cast Lead’ Jonathan Cook, on the  20 January 2009, pointed out that “the general devastation, far from being unfortunate collateral damage, has been the offensive’s unstated goal. Israel has sought the political, as well as military, emasculation of Hamas through the widespread destruction of Gaza’s infrastructure and economy.”  This was in fact in line with the “Dahiya Doctrine,” which is named after a suburb of Beirut that was almost leveled during Israel’s attack on Lebanon in summer 2006. It is a military strategy which targets civilians and civilian infrastructure, and which aims at breaking all resistance. It is unlikely to be successful in the Lebanese situation for reasons which can be deduced from why it might just be successful in the context of the Palestinian resistance.  Jonathan Cook wrote on the 27 October 2014, about two months after Israel’s so-called ‘Operation Protective Edge’, : It is astonishing that the reconstruction of Gaza, bombed into the Stone Age according to the explicit goals of an Israeli military doctrine known as “Dahiya”, has tentatively only just begun two months after the end of the fighting”. However, he didn’t leave us hanging there and quickly went on to say why this was so by adding, “The reason for the hold-up is, as ever, Israel’s “security needs”. Gaza can be rebuilt but only to the precise specifications laid down by Israeli officials.”  In other words, not only is it imperative that the Palestinians moral is broken, but they are also to be deprived of any means to resist. Palestinians’ basic needs and the right to defend themselves are to be sacrificed for the right of the oxymoron “Jewish Democracy” to define its own borders.

Finally, Bregman’s access to classified sources might provide an interesting read. However, there isn’t any real diplomacy in this history of ethnic cleansing, or at least certainly not a diplomacy that is indicative of any compromise. The diplomatic smoke screens put up by the Zionist state are best summed up by Avi Schlaim’s comment on  the Oslo Accords from 1993 when he asserts that they were worse than a charade: it provided Israel with just the cover it was looking for to continue to pursue with impunity its illegal and aggressive colonial project on the West Bank.” New sources might be interesting, but if here is any usefulness in studying the diplomatic history that accompanies the tragedy of a people losing their land, it is only from the perspective of looking at how it facilitated us getting to the point where the complete ethnic cleansing of Palestine has almost become a reality.




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Ten reasons why bombing Iraq and Syria is no way to defeat ISIS – Stop the War Coalition

Took the link Ten reasons why bombing Iraq and Syria is no way to defeat ISIS – Stop the War Coalition. from the ‘Stop the War’ website. For now, I would just like to pick up on one of the ten reasons:

“The issue of the Kurds is central to countering ISIS expansion in the region. The Iraqi Kurds are close allies of the west, but there is a very different attitude to the Kurds in Turkey and Syria. The PKK, which has been struggling for Kurdish self-determination for decades, is still listed as a terrorist organisation by the EU and the US. This is despite the PKK and its allies being prominent in the battle against ISIS. Turkey has oppressed the Kurds for many years and will not help those in Kobane, now under imminent threat of seizure by ISIS. Turkey could open its border to the Kurds, but refuses to do so, in contrast with its support for ISIS in the past. Instead the Turkish parliament has voted to create a ‘buffer zone’ at the Syrian border which will involve the disarming of the Kurds.” 

With Turkey refusing to help the beleaguered town and Turkish troops guarding the border to ensure that PKK’ fighters cannot help, The Guardian’ reports:

“The sense of betrayal is palpable. The Kurds on Turkey’s southern border with Syria are embittered as the tragedy of Kobani unfolds before their eyes on the other side of a wire fence.”

However, with Kurds throughout Turkey demonstrating their anger, it might just be that Erdogan, who believes that the Kurds of Kobani and the jihadists should be dealt with jointly, has decided to take a calculated risk. We can expect Turkish military intervention, but only after Kobani has fallen.

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A few words on Ilan Pappe’s ‘The Idea of Israel: A History of Power and Knowledge’

IMG_9343Ilan Pappe’sThe Idea of History: A History of Power and Knowledge’ is an excellent read. It is well-structured and cohesive and coherent to a point where you can familiarise yourself with the narrative, even if a lot of the reference is new to you. Should there be a need, however, to acquire a more detailed background knowledge of the topic, then the author’s ‘The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestineand The Forgotten Palestinians might represent good starting points.

The book is divided into three parts and covers the classical Zionist, post-Zionist and Neo-Zionist narratives.  Pappe begins by taking us through that school of fabrication which viewed “Palestine as land without people, for a people without land”; a school where there was  “no contradictions between ideology and professionalism” and which ensured that the Nakba was erased from Israeli academic discourse. This classical Zionist narritve was perfect for the oxymoronic “Jewish democracy” established through an oxymoronic “purity of arms” on someone else’s land.

The author the goes on to talk about post-Zionism and places its’ starting point, as he says, “artificially”,  in 1994, one year after the Oslo Accords, while connecting it to developments in Israeli society and the emergence of the “new historians” in the late 80s. That is certainly valid, because not only might these historians be seen as the ideological precursors of post-Zionism, but the developments that led to Oslo also facilitated a climate where, for a time at least, serious research could be undertaken and the right moral conclusions could be drawn.  It might be advisable not to overestimate their influence, but they were there, and they were being seen and heard. Moreover, that also mean that the Palestinian narrative was being discussed in the public space. However, things were to change, and, beginning with the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin at the end of 1995, a new Zionist consensus was to assert itself during the next five years.

Of course, the genie was already out of the bottle and there could be no going back to the gobbledygook fabrication of classical Zionism. The Nakba happened, the land was not empty and there was an ethnic cleansing. That is why, we now have the spectre of neo-Zionists, such as Benny Morris,  who, no longer in complete denial (he does continue to argue that there was no systematic plan in 1948 to expel the Palestinians) contend that in Israel’s case, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, are justified.

This is the current prevailing consensus in Israel and, of course, as Pappe says, it has far-reaching political implications for it not only shows that Israel is “unwilling to reconcile with the past and with the Palestinians “, but that the Zionist state is “overtly confident that its policies of ethnic cleansing and dispossession can be morally justified and politically maintained as long as there are Western academics and politicians who are reluctant to apply the same set of values and judgements to the Jewish state that they would have quite brutally to countries in the Arab and Muslim world.” That, however, might lead to a different discourse. However, it would not be unrelated and it would also be concerned with power and knowledge. Therefore, it might be appropriate to finish with Edward Said’s quote on page 27 of Pappe’s book, which was taken from Said’s 1999 publication  ‘After the Last Sky’.

“To most people Palestinians are visible principally as fighters, terrorists, and lawless pariahs. Say the word “terror” and a man wearing a keffiyeh and mask and carrying a Kalashnikov immediately leaps before one’s eyes. To a degree, the image of a helpless, miserable-looking refugee has been replaced by this menacing one as a the veritable icon of ‘Palestine’.”  This might be part of the Zionist narrative, but it is one which is in keeping with the world view that Zionism and its allies are creating of the extended Muslim and Arab world. For just as no images of maimed and dead children in Gaza reach our screens, so too is the reality of dead Arab and Muslim children from Afghanistan to Libya, Somalia to Syria, either being kept hidden, or justified, in that Orwellian world where knowledge is a victim of power.





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The United Kingdom enters another illegal war

Obama’s “Authorization to use force in Iraq”  suggests that the President of the United States of America believes all the domestic authority he needs to carry out attacks comes from the legislation passed by Congress in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and the 2002 Authorization which provided the domestic legal basis for the Iraq War. That is, to say the least, debatable. What, however, is not debatable is that there is absolutely no international legal justification for strikes on Iraq.

Therefore, when MPs in the British parliament vote by 524 to 43 to sanction the UK air strikes in Iraq, what we effectively have is the United Kingdom entering an illegal war as it, once more, lines up behind the US-led drive to reassert control over the entire Middle East. That is why, before the British extend their campaign to Syria, which they have put on hold for the time being, it is worth reminding ourselves of just some of the consequences of the *great game” that these madmen play out when they pursue their plans for a new Middle East.

The major consequence is, of course, mass murder being perpetrated and when the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights , an EU funded propaganda front, asserts 36 non-combatants, many of them women and children” were killed in American air strikes on an oil facility, a modicum of cognitive processing will allow us to deduce that not only are innocent men, women, and children, once again, being slaughtered in an illegal war, but that the number of reported deaths might only be the tip of the iceberg. Unfortunately, the modicum of cognitive processing is invariably neglected and when the same article informs us that another 147 people have died in those attacks the senseless slaughter is justified. Queen Reason takes a back seat, it all gets very irrational, very emotional, and aren’t these ISIS guys very nasty people?

The evidence would seem to suggest they are. However, there is evidence to support the contention that they are also a US strategic asset. For instance, when Günter Meyer, Director of the Center for Research into the Arabic World at the University of Mainz, in Germany, says that “the most important source of ISIS financing to date has been support coming out of the Gulf states, primarily Saudi Arabia but also Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates,”  what we have is someone who can hardly be accused of an anti-Western or anti-US position directly pointing to the West’s allies as being the banker behind ISIS. Michel Chossudovsky goes further when he asserts that the creation of ISIS is all part of Washington’s plan to carve up the Middle East.

However, while that thesis is worthy of consideration, it might be appropriate to look specifically at Britain’s more immediate aim in lining up behind the US. According to Paul Mitchel that aim is “to use ISIS as a pretext to reverse the climbdown last year, when plans to bomb Syria were derailed.” Remember, a resolution to bomb Syria was defeated in the UK parliament last August? Well, of course, you don’t, and if you could, you are hardly likely to put two and two together. The fact is the nasty men being shown on your television screens are only a pretext for another illegal war.

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The Big Debate on Scottish Independence; Pie in the Sky narratives and George Galloway

Ten busy weeks in England are coming to an end and I now find myself coming up for air in a sometimes bizarre country which is plagued by vague personal interest stories and pie in the sky narratives.

It’s infectious of course and to some extent personified by the character of George Galloway who is determined by his own vaguely interesting personal story and his very own irrelevant narratives. On the BBC’s ‘Big Debate’ on Scottish independence at Glasgow’s Hydro yesterday, he really was one big misplaced ego. What we got was the world according to George instead of his addressing the questions the audience were asking. Well, that is what you often get from George, but it really did get extra silly when he was asked to sum up why we should all stay together and out came a stream of silly drivel about how, if it wasn’t for the stance that we all took together back in 1939, we would be speaking German rather than English today. This from a man who seeks to impress in the Muslim world with an Arabic discourse that is limited to “salam alikum.”

‘ The Herald Scotland’ hits the nail on the head and sums up this person of the crudest crude half educations when it writes about how he ignored a question about jobs and spoke “not of jobs but of borders, share prices and banks and he did it in halting, broken sentences as though not trusting these young people to understand” and that is George, nobody understands only he does, and it really is not easy to understand him at times. It was, as the article continues, really a case of his being “just too intent on the role he was playing to step out of the persona and address the reality.”

How can it be any different? After all, our beings in society determine our consciousness and in that bizarre country, which is plagued by vague personal interest stories and pie in the sky narratives, there has to be delusional egos that are detached from reality. Therefore, whether the people of Scotland realise it or not, they are being offered an opportunity next week to get real.

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Almost 100 years after the Sykes-Picot Agreement they are still carving up the Middle East

Map-1024_178602kDrawing lines across maps and then pocketing whole regions as their property; they were very good at it and, while the “they” being referred to is the British, it could also be the French or any of the other colonial powers. Today it is the United States and its allies. Those allies are called “the international community”, and surprise, surprise, the “international community” includes …..yes, bingo, the British, and the French, and other erstwhile colonial powers

However, for the purposes of this piece, back to the “they” being refered to in the first sentence and have you ever wondered why the continent of Africa has all those straight border lines? Or, have you heard about the agreement  signed by British India’s Sir Mortimer Durand, who we are told, was a Persian scholar and spoke the language fluently, but failed to impress his superiors in London, and Afghan Amir Abdur Rahman Khan back in 1893? The Durand Line as it came to be known established the border between what was then British India and Afghanistan, it ran cuts through the Pashtun tribal areas and, in the south, through Balochistan, and it divided Pashtuns, Balochs, and other ethnic groups. It was inherited by Pakistan in 1947 and  …….. well it is a right old mess, isn’t it? Yes, they were good at laying the foundations for a right old

In his book ‘A Line in The Sand'(2012)  James Barr contends that, unlike Sir Mortimar Durand, Mark Sykes did create a favorable impression on his superiors and that he left Downing Street after a meeting on the 16 December 1915 “he left the prime minister and his colleagues under the impression that he was fluent in both Arabic and Turkish”, when in fact, “he could speak neither.”(ibid: 8). Of course, that favourable impression was to lead to his being instrumental, along with his equally inept French counterpart, “a diplomat  with a grudge” (ibid) Francois Georges-Picot, in the carving up of the Ottoman empire back in 1916. Furthermore, the manner in which they did so, was, according to Taki Theododoracopulus to show them (and by implication their governments): “as ignorant as George W. Bush was to be 87 years later.” He continues, by pointing out that “the 1990 wars over Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo, the Gulf War of 1991 and the disastrous Iraq war of 2003, as well as the Israeli–Palestinian tragedy can all be traced directly to  the fall of the Ottoman empire in 1920 and those two fools carving up the Middle East.”

Sykes might have had stupidity as his excuse. At least, that is suggested when Barr compares him to the “brilliantly clever” T.E.Lawrence, writing that the man who “left the prime minister and his colleagues under the impression that he was fluent in both Arabic and Turkish” (ibid), also “left Cambridge without completing his degree, but found a job through contacts as an honorary attaché at the British Embassy in Constantinople” (ibid: 38). There you have it! At best a person of the very crudest half education, at worse a veritable buffoon …… and the idiots causing chaos in the region today?

However, Taki Theododoracopulus, sees Sykes as ignorant, rather than stupid and there is even some hedging in that assessment when he suggests that, when they (Sykes and Picot) were drawing up the agreement “their minds were obviously elsewhere,before adding in parenthesis, “most likely trying to figure out whose family was older and richer.” That is probably hitting the nail on the head and the “they”, the British, or the British establishment, while generally not very bright, are not particularly stupid. At the end of the day it really is all about “the family” and “getting richer” …. and, while millions continue to die in the Middle East, there is most certainly no cunning plan apart from the one where they get richer and stay richer. However, we should not take it too personally, after all its only business.


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