Friday, 30 June 2017

Radiohead in Israel: why is Thom Yorke so outraged over boycott call?

Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke has now made a public statement rejecting calls from Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) and the wider Palestinian solidarity movement to cancel the band's Tel Aviv concert. Disappointingly, it's a piece riddled with liberal evasions, barbed charges, and unfounded assumptions about those making the case for a boycott.

Here's Yorke's full comments on the issue, as reported at Rolling Stone:
I'll be totally honest with you: this has been extremely upsetting. There's an awful lot of people who don't agree with the BDS movement, including us. I don't agree with the cultural ban at all, along with J.K. Rowling, Noam Chomsky and a long list of others. 
There are people I admire [who have been critical of the concert] like [English film director] Ken Loach, who I would never dream of telling where to work or what to do or think. The kind of dialogue that they want to engage in is one that's black or white. I have a problem with that. It's deeply distressing that they choose to, rather than engage with us personally, throw shit at us in public. It's deeply disrespectful to assume that we're either being misinformed or that we're so retarded we can't make these decisions ourselves. I thought it was patronizing in the extreme. It's offensive and I just can't understand why going to play a rock show or going to lecture at a university [is a problem to them]. 
The university thing is more of a head fuck for me. It's like, really? You can't go talk to other people who want to learn stuff in another country? Really? The one place where you need to be free to express everything you possibly can. You want to tell these people you can't do that? And you think that's gonna help? 
The person who knows most about these things is [Radiohead guitarist] Jonny [Greenwood]. He has both Palestinian and Israeli friends and a wife who's an Arab Jew. All these people to stand there at a distance throwing stuff at us, waving flags, saying, "You don’t know anything about it!" Imagine how offensive that is for Jonny. And imagine how upsetting that it's been to have this out there. Just to assume that we know nothing about this. Just to throw the word "apartheid" around and think that's enough. It's fucking weird. It's such an extraordinary waste of energy. Energy that could be used in a more positive way. 
This is the first time I've said anything about it. Part of me wants to say nothing because anything I say cooks up a fire from embers. But at the same time, if you want me to be honest, yeah, it's really upsetting that artists I respect think we are not capable of making a moral decision ourselves after all these years. They talk down to us and I just find it mind-boggling that they think they have the right to do that. It's extraordinary. All of this creates divisive energy. You're not bringing people together. You're not encouraging dialogue or a sense of understanding. Now if you're talking about trying to make things progress in any society, if you create division, what do you get? You get fucking Theresa May. You get [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, you get fucking Trump. That's divisive.
Noted musician and leading Palestinian campaigner Roger Waters has responded to Yorke, again as reported at Rolling Stone:
I read Thom Yorke’s interview in Rolling Stone. It needs a reply as it doesn’t tell the whole story. 
On February 12th, hoping to start a dialogue, I sent an email expressing my concern about Radiohead crossing the BDS picket line to perform in Israel. A few hours later, Thom replied. He was angry. He had misinterpreted my attempt to start a conversation as a threat. So I tried again. 
“Hey Thom,I’m sorry. My letter wasn’t meant to be confrontational. I was reaching out to see if we could have the conversation that you talk about in your reply. Can we?Love, R.” 
I didn’t hear back. So silence prevailed for three weeks until March 4th when I sent a long heartfelt entreaty to Thom asking him again to talk. 
In Thom’s interview with Andy Greene of Rolling Stone, in referring to Ken Loach and me, he says, “It’s deeply distressing that they choose to, rather than engage with us personally, throw shit at us in public.” 
That is not true, Thom. I have made every effort to engage with you personally, and would still like to have the conversation. 
“Not to talk is not an option.” 
Today is the 50th anniversary of the occupation of Palestine by Israel. Fifty years living under military occupation. Fifty years for a people with no civil rights. Fifty years of no recourse to the law. Fifty years of apartheid. 
The BDS picket line exists to shine a light on the predicament of the occupied people of Palestine, both in Palestine and those displaced abroad, and to promote equal civil rights for all the people living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea no matter what their nationality, race or religion. All human life is sacred, every child is our child, exceptionalism is always our enemy. There is no Us or Them, only Us. 
Restiamo umani.  
Love,
Roger Waters
The warm and patient tone of that letter from Roger Waters stands in stark contrast to Thom Yorke's hostile lines. Waters also offers a quiet reminder to Yorke of just what Palestinians have endured over 50 years of illegal occupation, and that "the BDS picket line exists to shine a light on [their] predicament". 

Yorke is, of course, entitled to his viewpoint. But why, we might wonder, did he feel the need to respond with such invective-laden charges against BDS and its backers? Why such angry indignation?

Yorke makes a first attempt at moral cover by citing a list of those who oppose any cultural boycott, including JK Rowling and Noam Chomsky. 

While nominally correct regarding Chomsky, it's a disingenuous selection, failing to note Chomsky's more selective and nuanced endorsement of certain boycott tactics, as well as a lifetime's work exposing and resisting Israel's crimes. In that assertive spirit, Chomsky has engaged with leading BDS figure Ilan Pappe over the boycott issue, helping to promote the actual narrative of tactical resistance. 

Strikingly, although a short interview, Yorke doesn't even mention the Palestinians, their treatment, the need to resist Israel's aggressions, or how best to go about it.   

Nor does Yorke care to note JK Rowling's liberal Zionist contortions, or the criticism she faced across Palestinian civil society over her rejection of BDS and endorsement of the pro-Israel grouping Culture for Coexistence.  

Again, it seems, Yorke is seeking safe liberal cover behind major names, and evading the core issue of Palestinian suffering.              

Yorke continues in more injured voice, claiming that it's "deeply disrespectful to assume that we're either being misinformed or that we're so retarded we can't make these decisions ourselves.

Yet, why would Yorke himself make such facile assumptions about the understandings or motives of those campaigners? Does he really believe that bodies like BDS, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Artists For Palestine (including Waters and Loach), alongside groups like Jewish Voice for Peace, Radiohead Fans for Palestine, or anyone else asking them not to play Israel, take Yorke and his band to be so "misinformed" or "retarded" that they're unable to take such decisions for themselves? 

Why resort to such overblown, straw-man language? Why not simply accept that these are legitimate organisations and people making an open appeal based on rational argument, and that Yorke has the same rights and opportunities to oppose that view?  
Yorke also says it's "deeply distressing that they [Loach and others] choose to, rather than engage with us personally, throw shit at us in public." Again, that's a remarkably crass and inaccurate claim, as the context and tenor of the reply from Waters clearly illustrates. 
But there's a more particular problem with Yorke's annoyance here: why shouldn't this discussion be conducted in public, as an open and vital issue? Are we all to remain quiet and restrained about artists', like Radiohead's, part in legitimising Israel's brutal and illegal conduct, because it's too "distressing" for Yorke and his band?
Yorke also seems to think that fellow band member Jonny Greenwood has some kind of special emotional status in this regard. He's "the person who knows most about these things", claims Yorke, apparently because he has Israeli and Arab friends and an Arab Israeli wife: "All these people to stand there at a distance throwing stuff at us, waving flags, saying, "You don’t know anything about it!" Imagine how offensive that is for Jonny."
Again, the inverted assumption about those flag-wavers. Why does Yorke presume to know, and dismiss, campaigners' own comprehension of the issues? More importantly, might Yorke imagine how offensive his own prioritised defence of Jonny Greenwood and his 'superior understanding' is to actual Palestinians facing the daily experience of occupation, siege and constant threat to life in the West Bank and Gaza?    
Nor is the label "apartheid" just simply thrown around by campaigners as some lazy slur. If Yorke and Greenwood really are so well-informed, they will know that the application of 'apartheid state' to Israel has been ably demonstrated through a wealth of academic studies, papers and booksUN findings and rapporteurs' reports. Devoid of any serious counter-argument, Yorke can only say that this is "fucking weird. It's such an extraordinary waste of energy."

The call for an academic boycott is similarly derided and dismissed: "It's like, really? You can't go talk to other people who want to learn stuff in another country? Really?

I have no idea whether Yorke has read the particular guidelines for academic disengagement laid out by bodies like PACBI. But it would, at least, be intellectually reasonable for him to know and reference them, rather than present the call for academic boycott as some random ploy to prevent people wanting "to learn stuff in another country." 

In particular, Yorke's anodyne wish for 'open exchange' includes no recognition of an academic system deeply inter-connected with its occupier state, providing every form of support for Israel's military aggression, weapons development and hi-tech surveillance, continued land seizures, control of water supplies and other key resources, as well as the whole vital field of cultural and ideological production helping to hide and excuse those crimes. 
Pointing these things out is, apparently, antagonistic to Yorke, who finds it "really upsetting that artists I respect think we are not capable of making a moral decision ourselves after all these years. They talk down to us and I just find it mind-boggling that they think they have the right to do that. It's extraordinary. All of this creates divisive energy. You're not bringing people together. You're not encouraging dialogue or a sense of understanding."
Yet, without a trace of self-reflecting irony, here's Yorke effectively shouting down to those who won't any longer accept the relentlessly-peddled 'need for dialogue' and proclaimed 'peace process', as though that entire, exhausted posture hasn't been seen, exposed and dismissed by BDS for the sham that it is. 

"Not to talk is not an option," Yorke says. Again, such assured liberal conformity. While voicing his own lofty disdain for those no longer willing to participate in the deceit, there's not a single word here about how Israel and its backers have used that very 'peace' narrative as a weapon of evasion and expanded occupation for over half a century. That's exactly why BDS have asked Radiohead not to give succour to Brand Israel.  

In an impressive letter to Yorke, a list of Israeli musicians set out the same key points about Israel's branding agenda:
Every international artist who plays in Israel serves as a propaganda tool for the Israeli government. International performances in Israel serve the government’s agenda of whitewashing its war crimes against Palestinians by creating a “business as usual” atmosphere wherein the status-quo, a reality of colonization and military occupation for Palestinians, becomes normalized. Maintaining this atmosphere relies heavily on creating a facade of Israel as a hip, advanced, progressive state with a vibrant and diverse cultural scene. In 2005 the Israeli foreign ministry decided to invest in a public relations strategy to “re-brand Israel,” diverting attention away from Israeli crimes by highlighting Israeli cultural and scientific achievements. Needless to say, the government which just celebrated 50 years of brutal military rule over the occupied Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip should not be assisted, even unintentionally. The government which legislated to suppress even the commemoration of the displacement of the majority indigenous Palestinian population in 1948 should not be given the chance to claim that artists and musicians are endorsing its policies. This effect of a performance in Israel can not be undone even with the best intentions. Any statement that you might wish to make on stage would be overshadowed by the fact that you would be crossing an international picket line established by the vast majority of civil society organizations in Palestine. On the other hand, if you decided not to play, it would send a strong message to the Israeli government that their racist policies and grave violations of Palestinian human rights will not be normalized. It would also send a message to the people of Palestine that you’re with them in their struggle in a very real way.
Their letter concludes, like so many others to Yorke, with an open invitation: 
Please reconsider violating the Palestinian call for boycott. We remain at the ready to talk to you about any questions or concerns that you may have, and continue to welcome a conversation with you.
Again, note the studious argument behind that appeal, none of it intended to intimidate. It's a laudable message of solidarity, serving to connect communities in pursuit of just resolutions.

Yet, for Thom Yorke, the boycotting of Israel, an occupier, apartheid state, is, apparently, "divisive", resulting in the emergence of people like Netanyahu. That's quite an inversion of cause and effect. By such logic, not only are BDS culpable, but a mass of Palestinians who support the boycott are responsible for creating their own oppressors. 

If you create division, Yorke says, you get the likes of May and Trump. Once more, the recourse to liberal angst, rather than willingness to address the structural forces underpinning such villains. How easy to slate Netanyahu, May and Trump - what of Obama? - without identifying the very systems of power - neoliberalism, militarism, Zionism - that build and thrive on social division. How easy to wish for peace and dialogue. How noble to want an end to Palestinian suffering without doing anything seriously proactive to bring it about. 

The purpose of BDS is not about creating social division. It's about bringing people together in broad, tactical and effective opposition to the unbending, repressive power and divisive infrastructure of the Israeli state: its illegal wall, inhuman checkpoints and colonialist settlements; its ruthless imprisonment and disconnection of Gaza from the outside world; its apartheid divisions inside Israel and ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.
I have no idea whether or not Yorke and his band are able to see the merits of that case. But they should, at least, resist caricaturing those making it as "weird" and "patronising". Yorke's vociferous indignation looks a lot more like feigned liberal deflection of the actual issues.

It seems unlikely that Radiohead will change their minds now about performing in Israel. That's their decision, their moral choice. But Yorke should refrain from slandering a BDS movement with serious, rational and well-supported ideas about how to advance human rights and justice for Palestinians. 

There's been no 'talking-down' or 'telling' Thom Yorke and Radiohead what to do, only fair and reasoned requests for them not to cross this picket line and partake in Israel's whitewash. Accept or reject those arguments, but don't run for cover behind faux outrage.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Scotland and the potential of a Corbyn-led progressive alliance

No predictions. One can only hope now for a Corbyn victory and the pleasure of May's removal. But either an outright win or a close outcome presents us with the exciting potential of a Corbyn-led progressive alliance.
 
Corbyn's manifesto is no radical socialist blueprint. But it's still a major statement of progressive intent, breaking decisively with Blairism and steering us away from the harshest excesses of neoliberal orthodoxy. A Corbyn victory would be the greatest rebuke to establishment politics since 1945.


As an alarmed elite and poisoned media make their last efforts to stop Corbyn and deny his mass appeal, his popularity and resilience demonstrates the multiple possibilities of a new united politics.

In seeing-off the most brutal media-led assault ever unleashed on a left-Labour leadership - including the BBC's relentless smears and protection of May - the surge for Corbyn represents a landmark achievement in itself.

Even if the final numbers take us into hung parliament territory, it opens the way for a practical progressive alignment, a whole new dynamic for leftist change, driven by Corbyn, the SNP, Plaid and the Greens.

This requires a decisive rejection of Labour in Scotland. Kezia Dugdale's Scottish Labour remains a lamentable impediment both to Corbyn and any such progressive development.

Perversely, in the very place that should have the most left-leaning, Corbyn-approving voice, Labour's garrison is still stuck in its old establishment ways, hunched down in its Union-defending bunker, unable either to advance Corbyn's major leftist agenda or engage the new independence politics.

Part of the failed coup forces, Dugdale and her associates are no friend of Corbyn. No amount of squirming overtures to her leader can disguise that dislocation. Even the undeserved Corbyn boost Scottish Labour is likely to receive doesn't rectify the fundamental problem of a party needing completely taken down and rebuilt as a serious leftist force.

Corbyn's rise has presented something of an existential political problem for many leftists in Scotland still desiring radical independence. Yet while wishing for a Corbyn victory in England and Wales, any temptation towards Scottish Labour only entrenches the very problems noted.

The SNP still has a considerable journey to make towards being a radical force for change. It can be seen as an encouraging work in progress, for many in the wider indy movement a means to an end. 

Yet, for all its flaws, left-leaning minds should still view a vote for the SNP here as both vital in building progressive alliances and holding the line for independence.  A significant bloc of SNP MPs not only helps maintain the independence mandate, it also provides an incentivising effect on Corbyn.

This is no more apparent than the key issue of Trident, opposed outright by the SNP, yet still maintained by deeper Labour forces against Corbyn's wishes. In this and vital other policy-forming areas, the leverage of SNP and Greens on Corbyn can only be of mutual, progressive advantage.

Also, while May still appears resolute in denying Holyrood's recently-secured mandate for a second independence referendum, any SNP dealings with Corbyn, whether he's in power or substantially well placed at Westminster, might prove more fertile. Again, that requires a substantive SNP representation. 

So many intriguing possibilities, so much to play for. Whatever the outcome, we can take great heart from Jeremy Corbyn's leadership and his inspiring part in opening-up these new progressive spaces.    

Monday, 5 June 2017

Corbyn soars high above weathervane Guardian

It's been a pleasure to watch Jeremy Corbyn surge on a wave of rational argument and populist appeal. Whatever happens now, Corbyn has won his party and seen off any further Blairite plots. It's been inspiring to track this astonishing comeback, against everything the establishment could muster, most notably the brutal media onslaught.

In particular, it's been heartening to observe the squirming awkwardness of Corbyn's left-liberal naysayers at the Guardian, following its damning editorials, loaded reportage and columnists of calumny - Jonathan Freedland, Andrew Rawnsley, Owen JonesGeorge Monbiot and others - all now desperately back-tracking. 

As Jonathan Cook writes:
Those journalists who should have been behind Corbyn from the start – who could have been among his few allies as he battled the corporate media for nearly two years as Labour leader – are now starting to eat humble pie. Polls suggest that Corbyn may be gradually turning the election around, to the point where the latest poll, published in the Times, indicates that Britain could be heading for a hung parliament. No one is surprised that the Daily Mail, Telegraph and Times have been relentless in their hatchet jobs on Corbyn. But it has been disconcerting for the left that the Guardian and BBC never gave him a chance either. He was in their gun-sights from day one. Owen Jones, a Labour stalwart and Guardian columnist, should have been Corbyn’s number one ally in the press. And yet he used the invaluable space in his columns not to challenge the media misrepresentations, but to reinforce them. He engaged in endless and morose navel-gazing, contemplating a Labour rout.
After so many visceral Guardian attacks on Corbyn, one might have expected, at least, some kind of humble contrition. Nothing. Despite writing Corbyn's 'obituary', there's been no mea culpa from Freedland or his smug coterie. Someone at the Guardian even thought it necessary to edit the headline in Freedland's 'supportive' article from "extraordinary fightback" to just "fightback". 

The seething resentment of Corbyn permeates such crawling 'approvals' as they scramble to be seen as 'on-side'.

(h/t Ludwig W)
From John Harris to John Crace, the rush of Guardian liberals now affecting praise for Corbyn is almost too embarrassing to read.

Another, Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett - revealing much about subtle Guardian bullying of young reporters - has now declared: "I used to be a shy Corbynite, but I'm over that now."

Disappointingly, when congratulated, yet chided, by Jonathan Cook over her belated 'coming out' for Corbyn, Cosslett could only reduce to: "interesting this man waited for a woman to write something before launching a patronising tirade". Cook replied: "Oh dear! Better read my blog before commenting. Otherwise your special pleading looks very silly. (Try asking Freedland, Monbiot, Jones)." Media Lens, also citing Cook's many previous attacks on Freedland, Jones and Monbiot, asked: "Worst ever attempt to resort to 'sexist male' take?"

The real intention of Cook's comment, as emphasised in his updated piece, was not to target Cosslett, but to highlight the pernicious culture of intimidation at the Guardian, and show how the actual publishing of Cosslett's piece is yet another example of the paper in all-out damage limitation mode.

Now, days before the election, a Guardian editorial has come out with the most grudging, 'endorsement' of Corbyn. Still damned with faint praise, Corbyn is presented as some kind of 'surprisingly improved schoolboy' who, despite not coming up to the Guardian's lofty 'standards', could just, after all, have some 'redeeming grades' for use in seeing-off the Tories.

With Corbyn's poll numbers surging, here was the most cynical and sanctimonious attempt to 're-identify' with Labour's core, and 'walk-back' some of its recent hatchet-job editorial

Whatever the outcome on Thursday, we can be pretty sure the Guardian cabal will be using the same weathervane commentary to keep readers abreast of 'Corbyn's progress'. Pleasingly, many are now deserting its fair-weather pages, having seen through its shrill, pettifogging and hypocritical output.

Corbyn's electoral advancement against everything the Guardian's 'best' warned us about shows just what a crucial impediment the liberal establishment media is to real political progress. 

And its humiliation can give impetus to wider radical aspirations. For example, in conveying the case for a more radical independence politics, Robin McAlpine at Common Space sees great merit in Corbyn's assertive approach, and the need to resist the Guardian's doom-laden mantras: 
I've been following the Guardian's coverage of Corbyn with gritted teeth – the swaggering certainty of most Guardian analysts (many former cheerleaders for Blair) that Corbyn is self-evidently bottled, distilled failure was utterly endemic.
In halting the Blairites and taking his party to this vital point, Corbyn has not only demonstrated the deep potential for a renewed politics, but that it's possible to build such a project without the help and approval of an entirely hostile and system-serving media. That's a massive achievement and message of encouragement to all now seeking real progressive change.            

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Manchester bombing: media fail to probe intelligence-jihadi collusion under May's watch

Amid reports of multiple arrests and the 'immense progress' made by police and the security services in 'rounding-up' the alleged terror network behind the Manchester bombing, a vital piece of the story has been wilfully ignored by the BBC and other leading media.

A key investigation by the reputable Middle East Eye has uncovered damning evidence that British intelligence agencies actively approved and assisted the travel movements of known jihadist individuals between the UK and Libya. In particular, it provides critical insight on the covert dealings between MI5/MI6 and the proscribed Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).

According to MEE:
The British government operated an "open door" policy that allowed Libyan exiles and British-Libyan citizens to join the 2011 uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi even though some had been subject to counter-terrorism control orders, Middle East Eye can reveal. Several former rebel fighters now back in the UK told MEE that they had been able to travel to Libya with "no questions asked" as authorities continued to investigate the background of a British-Libyan suicide bomber who killed 22 people in Monday's attack in Manchester.
The investigation relates how, for LIFG-linked individuals, it was "no questions asked", with travel "sorted" by MI5:
One British citizen with a Libyan background who was placed on a control order – effectively house arrest – because of fears that he would join militant groups in Iraq said he was "shocked" that he was able to travel to Libya in 2011 shortly after his control order was lifted "I was allowed to go, no questions asked," said the source, who wished to remain anonymous. He said he had met several other British-Libyans in London who also had control orders lifted in 2011 as the war against Gaddafi intensified, with the UK, France and the US carrying out air strikes and deploying special forces soldiers in support of the rebels. "They didn't have passports, they were looking for fakes or a way to smuggle themselves across," said the source. But within days of their control orders being lifted, British authorities returned their passports, he said.
British intelligence officers were, in effect, acting as 'travel agents' for known jihadists. 

David Pratt at the Sunday Herald, citing the MEE investigation, offers supportive background:  
Abedi’s parents fled Libya as opponents of Colonel Gaddafi’s regime, the British government only too happy to give them refuge in 'Little Libya' as Manchester became dubbed. Along with Birmingham and London, Manchester became a hub of Libyan opposition politics. It was from these cities that many would return home to fight against Gaddafi as part of a broad opposition, among them Salman Abedi’s father. In some cases though these anti-Gaddafi forces were closely linked to Islamist groups like the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). This Islamist connection is crucial, not least because it has now become clear that the British government operated an “open door” policy that allowed Libyan exiles and British-Libyan citizens to join the 2011 uprising that overthrew Gaddafi, even though some had been subject to counter-terrorism control orders. Unpalatable as it might be to consider let alone accept, last week’s Manchester attack is, in part, of Britain’s own making – insofar as the UK government willingly embraced a policy that exacerbated instability and a subsequent power vacuum in Libya that allowed jihadist terror to gain traction. Several foreign fighters now back in the UK and interviewed by the respected online news website Middle East Eye (MEE) confirmed that they had been able to travel to Libya during that time with “no questions asked”.
Alastair Sloan at Al-Jazeera provides another sharp piece on Abedi, the Libyan-Manchester connection and UK duplicity. Writing his column at the Mail, Peter Oborne offers further acknowledgement of the MEE research, valuable insights on the hierarchical culture of MI6, and damning comment on UK collusion.

But where is all this crucial information and analysis from the BBC, ITN and other 'mainstream' outlets? Lamentably, there's been no wider flagging of the MEE story and its vital implications.

These revelations should be leading news, calling into question both the dark conduct of the security agencies and the very competence of Theresa May and her government. A real media would have this on the front pages every day. Indeed, proper reporting of this story should be enough to bring Theresa May down.

Instead, it's all about her 'strong response' to the bombing, depicted for the public by shots of taped-off streets and armed police standing outside smashed doors. 'Breaking news' headlines announce that 'suspects' continue to be arrested - the subsequent release of most more quietly noted. Nominal questions are raised about why Salman Abedi wasn't subject to closer surveillance, all dutifully assumed by 'security correspondents' as a 'procedural failure' to cope with the growing volume of people now on the intelligence radar

Yet, given the security services' long-standing relations with LIFG, is it credible that Abedi and connected others simply 'slipped through the net'? As intelligence chiefs instruct an 'internal inquiry' into such 'failings', how readily the BBC accepts the proposition of MI5 'investigating' itself. How 'laughable' to see the 'all-probing' Guardian report it likewise.    

Media speculation over Abedi's possible motives includes only abbreviated suggestions of 'blowback', the link to UK foreign/war policy framed mainly as an election issue around whether Jeremy Corbyn's proposed security agenda can really be trusted against May's more 'proven record' and 'stronger commitment' to fighting terror. 

While the BBC's Andrew Neil conducted a virulent smear job on Corbyn, spending almost half their interview on spurious 'evidence' of his 'IRA associations', May has been spared any such interrogation by the BBC over her actual part in protecting Libyan-connected terrorists.  

We also hear the usual calls for 'greater Muslim vigilance', and 'need to identify' those elements feeding radicalisation, all coated in supportive liberal messages to the wider Muslim community.  Yet, much more carefully avoided is the possibility of deeper state collusion with those very jihadist individuals and groupings, the issue here again pitched around the 'need for greater sharing of information' and 'lessons to be learned' by MI5.  

Beyond all this token 'analysis' and establishment 'self-inspection', real pressing questions should be exercising serious journalists:

What is the precise connection between the UK security forces, MI5/MI6, and the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group based in Manchester and other parts of the UK?

Why, as detailed by the MEE report, was there an 'open-door' arrangement in place for the easy movement of Salman Abedi and other jihadists between the UK and Libya?

Why wasn't Abedi detained, or more closely monitored, by the security agencies despite mosque authorities and others reporting concerns over his conduct?

Why didn't the UK act upon recent US intel warnings about Abedi?

Why were Theresa May, Home Secretary Amber Rudd and the UK intelligence services so aggrieved at the US leaking of Abedi's name and details?

Why aren't the BBC and other 'mainstream' media headlining the MEE story as central context to the Manchester bombing?

Why aren't the media pointing a damning finger at Theresa May, who must have known about this arrangement, not just on becoming PM, but, even more crucially, under her watch as Home Secretary between 2010 and 2016?

How was the UK's regime change decision to oust Gaddafi conveyed by the Home Office to the security agencies, the green light given to assist LIFG and the instruction made to lift control orders on known jihadists?

Where is the investigation of David Cameron's own role in this affair and his bombing of Libya in 2011?

While a few decent efforts to address these questions have been made, most major media either avoid, or merely hint at, the dark extent of UK malfeasance. All told, the negating of this story is a striking example of compliant, boundaried journalism, understanding the limitations of critical enquiry, and the safe, 'dignified' tone to be observed. Much is still to be learned about the actual motives and movements of Abedi and his assumed network. But the absence of serious media coverage and investigation only serves to hide deep state subterfuge and protect those war-promoting politicians responsible for intensifying the terror environment. 

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Manchester: seeking the deeper causes of terrorist violence

If the wicked slaughter of innocents in Manchester leaves us grasping for explanations, the major political and media reactions offer only the same futile repetitions on 'security' and the continuing 'war on terror'.

Imagine a truly concerted political effort dedicated to understanding and limiting terrorist violence. Wouldn't its first, elementary task be to identify the actual reasons for that violence, the core causes? Wouldn't that require honest comprehension of what really spawns, motivates and generates violence? Wouldn't any such uncompromised enquiry want to trace the primary circumstances and founding grievances behind major acts of violence? Wouldn't it, in true enlightenment spirit, dispense immediately with all the tired labels, standard narratives and media pedantry that has only served to obscure, excuse and further encourage terrorist violence? Wouldn't it come to the logical conclusion that the more states, governments and corporations produce, sell, fund, sponsor and promote the instruments, economics, geopolitics and deeper culture of violence, the greater likelihood of a respondent spread of virulent violence?

Even if we're to accept that violence is somehow an intrinsic or inevitable feature of human existence, shouldn't the driving instincts of a truly civilized order be to contain and limit terror through imaginative diplomacy and patient peace initiatives rather than relentless war-seeking 'interventions' and arms proliferation?

Donald Trump has been in Saudi Arabia this week sword-dancing with despots. Yet his buffoonery, readily derided by liberals, got more attention than the staggering $110 billion arms deal being signed-off by these two weapons-addicted states. More planes, bombs and instruments of mass terror to annihilate more suffering children in Yemen. More military and political support from the world's primary exporter of arms for a regime intent on building ISIS in Syria and Iraq and spreading its ideological barbarism across an already war-scorched region. 

As fellow leading arms trader, the UK also continues to back this medievalist tyranny. Given a virtual free ride by the media, Theresa May and Defence Secretary Michael Fallon express no concern over such ugly dealings and the West's wider economy of death. The UK's arms trade with Saudi Arabia, they insist, is in the 'public interest', a 'commercial necessity'. For May, "Gulf security is our security and Gulf prosperity is our prosperity." And this 'vital relationship', she soothes, has "helped to keep people on the streets of Britain safe." Is this claim remotely credible? 

While May and Trump stand in 'resilient defiance' of ISIS-style terrorism, they both uphold a regime that, 9/11 included, has done more than any other to promote, inculcate and export such ideological violence. Yet, rather than blanket media condemnation, an already electorally-wounded May gets the chance to play moral stateswoman. How many mourning the victims in Manchester fully realise that May and the UK state actually back the regime most supportive of ISIS, its offshoots and its proxy executioners? Will the BBC or any of our leading commentariat ever have the guts to highlight and shout-down such blatant hypocrisy?  

We watch bewildered at the actions of a crazed terrorist. How could any person carry out such an act of calculated wickedness? Murdered children, devastated parents. Lives and families wrecked. Yet we remain cocooned and detached from the same human suffering inflicted by our politicians and their deliverance of terrifying weaponry against similar innocents in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. 

The emergence of al-Qaeda in Iraq, and now ISIS in Syria, was the direct product of Western invasion. After Blair and Bush, Cameron, Obama and NATO have also left a trail of human carnage in Libya, giving rise to more jihadist forces, notably the al-Qaeda-derived Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a contingent of which is thought to have been domiciled in Manchester, where suicide bomber Salman Abedi was born to a Libyan family.

Abedi carried out the bombing days after returning from Libya. As Neil Clark asks, not only do we need to understand who turned Abedi, but "who turned Libya - which as recently as July 2010 was being lauded in the British press as one of the top six cruise ship holiday destinations - into an "Daesh stronghold" - and a training ground for terrorists like Abedi?"

That one person, Salman Abedi, is immediately responsible for the horrific killings in Manchester. Others may be party to his terrible act. But, as Trump joins the Western war club with his own murderous assaults on Yemen and Syria, you will wait in vain for 'our' state elites and their corporate-military associates to accept that they hold crucial responsibility for the unleashing and spread of such madness.

As Nafeez Ahmed observes, the mindset of ISIS-drawn 'martyrs' suggests a pathology of the deluded "loser" dangerously detached from social reality, seeking 'inclusion' and 'approval' through acts of 'redemptive' violence. But, as Ahmed shows, that same sick denial of barbaric act and consequence is evident in the words of Trump as he proclaims 'solutions' to the ISIS menace through more mass arms shipments and partnership with the Saudis.

Ahmed goes on to remind us how the US, West and Gulf states funneled arms and support to al-Qaeda affiliates in Syria as part of their common agenda to remove Assad. The CIA and MI6 also facilitated "rat-lines" for jihadist fighters to Syria from Libya, the Caucuses and Balkans. As Ahmed records, all this was approved by the UK authorities, who turned their own blind eye to British jihadists travelling to Syria. Ahmed further notes how NATO and the West were eager partners of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group in their common effort to remove Gaddafi.          

It's very likely we may never prevent a deranged individual, bent on whatever ideological crusade, from exploding a bomb, or weaponising a truck, in a public space. But, as the media grant prime ministers and presidents privileged platforms to condemn and denounce, there's a gaping lack of scrutiny over the West's own wicked war and arms agenda - or 'foreign policy' as it's so dutifully called. 

That distortion matches the abject failure of Western 'intelligence' to promote meaningful 'safety on our streets'. What truly intelligent mind, after all, would fail to see, or seek to disguise, the inevitable consequences of so much Western aggression, invasion, proxy warmongering and arms procurement? 

For Nafeez Ahmed, the "deeply uncomfortable reality" here is that:
the domestic leftovers of Britain's military adventures abroad are emboldened networks of extremist sympathisers, which British authorities are literally afraid of prosecuting for fear of embarrassing MI5 and MI6 over their wanton liaisons with Islamist militants for geopolitical aggrandisement.
It is a convenient way of avoiding confrontation with the most inconvenient truth of all time: that since 9/11, the staple tactics of the 'War on Terror' - military interventions, mass surveillance, drone assassinations, torture, rendition - have seen a massive acceleration in terrorist violence. US State Department data shows that since 2001, terror attacks have skyrocketed by 6,500 percent, while the numbers of casualties from terror attacks has increased by 4,500 percent. At what point are we going to wake up to the fact that the institutions of the 'War on Terror', too, have failed? Not just failed, but contributed to the violence we all fear? (Original emphasis.)
Behind all the lofty appeals to 'uphold our way of life', Manchester only confirms how the whole language of 'state intelligence' and 'public security' has been crafted as propaganda in the service of power. Incredibly, we're now asked to believe that May ordering troops onto the streets is a signal of 'strength and reassurance' rather than an admission of the greater dangers we now face as a result of Britain's failed warmongering. As historian Mark Curtis asserts, "the British establishment is putting our lives at risk."    

Lamentably, populist liberal voices lauding our 'resistance to terror' and 'refusal to succumb' also obfuscate the problem by failing to accompany that message with wider explanation of Western crimes.

The admirable, spontaneous care shown by people in Manchester and beyond tells us much about the natural capacity for human compassion and empathy. Yet any serious deterrence and limiting of such suffering, here and elsewhere, requires not just condemnation and pledges of unity, but the specific indictment and exposure of the higher state forces driving terrorist violence.   

Einstein's (supposed) definition of insanity - doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results - may have become, in itself, a circular-sounding cliche, but, as the same reactive outcries over yet another atrocity on 'our' cities unfolds, how many politicians and journalists have the integrity to confront these issues in their wider, causal context?