Saturday, 30 June 2012

Cook on Syria and other 'humanitarian interventions'

With continuing shrill calls by a 'concerned' West for 'humanitarian intervention' in Syria, and many confused liberal-leftist claims about the nature of the 'resistance', here's the always reliable Jonathan Cook with a well-grounded assessment of both those mercenary and mistaken agendas.


Thursday, 28 June 2012

Stand up for Assange

Isn't it all just so very on-cue to see Julian Assange being roundly vilified by twittering liberals?

The cheap-cheep ridiculing of Assange tells us all we need to know about the real conformity of our media class.

Here's a man who has risked his very liberty to tell the world about the West's dirtiest secrets, to provide that most vital of humanitarian services in exposing the powerful and their criminal acts.

Yet, despite his desperate predicament, all we hear is a chorus of sneering jibes and personal abuse from our media illuminati.   

What poverty of intellect to see this gloating spectacle of the liberal vigilante.

Presumably, they'd be happy to see him banged-up alongside Bradley Manning, a man who has been tortured and held incommunicado for daring to whistleblow America's vast war crimes and gross violations of human rights.

And, as those Guardian and other tweeting journos surely understand, that's the true point of Assange's plea for political asylum: a last-lifeline avoidance of the Swedish-assisted plan to see him extradited to the US.

The latest Media Lens alert piece provides a quite brilliant collection and indictment of the "comedic sludge".

Read it and consider just what kind of key service the Guardian and other supine 'journalists' play in neutering true dissent.

As the depressing vacuity of their 'analysis' shows, so many of our 'vanguard' writers would rather giggle in puerile one-liners than partake in assertive defence of a serious dissident; a jokery of liberal 'stand-ups' unwilling to stand up for those engaged in real radical work.


Monday, 18 June 2012

Leveson, Guardian, Campbell, Iannucci: roll up, roll up for the great circus of hypocrisy

So, as covered by the Guardian, Alastair Campbell's diaries 'reveal' that Rupert Murdoch 'pressurised' Tony Blair into war against Iraq.  The same claim was made by Campbell at the Leveson inquiry and denied there by Murdoch.

Conveniently, Leveson's 'grilling' of Murdoch and Campbell didn't include any uncomfortable questions about the actual illegality of that invasion - all consistent with its daily charade of 'exposing media malfeasance' and 'bringing the powerful to book'.   

And here was spin-criminal Campbell, of all people, spilling the beans on Murdoch, implying that he rushed a 'hesitant' Blair to war - as if he needed that vital prodding.

Alongside his 'trusty testimony,' isn't it so reassuringly 'post-confessional' to have Campbell's diaries featured by the Guardian, lending him respectable liberal cover and letting us all see just how 'concerned' he was over Tony's and Rupert's exchanges?

Isn't it all so coyly 'radical' to have this liberal-righteous output now, so safe after the event, the mass slaughter?

Blair, Brown, Campbell and Murdoch - the whole depraved lot - are guilty of the highest war crimes, and the Guardian has nothing, not a singular, solitary word, to say about that elementary truth, most likely because this whited sepulchre of a newspaper is itself deeply complicit in supporting Blair and his crazed evangelical project.

Meanwhile, the Guardian has carried the twitterspat between Campbell and comedy writer Armando Iannucci, just awarded an OBE in the latest honours dispensation.

Campbell berates Iannucci for joining the establishment he proffers to satirise. Iannucci jibes back with a barbed reminder of Campbell's much greater crime of helping to march his country, unsolicited, into Iraq.

Laughably, we also learn of Campbell's opposition to the honours system, as though this helps prove his 'true leftist' politics.

Iannucci's reminder to Campbell over Iraq seems the more damning indictment. Yet, it can't hide his own excruciating excuses for joining the Empire and giving sustenance to an elite institution hallmarked by preening militarism.

All par for the course when it comes to 'subversive' artists.  Dangle the gong and the ego can't resist. Thanks, ongoing, to the poetically-resistant Benjamin Zephaniah for refusing his.

Iannucci protests that this won't stop him poking fun at politicians. I'm sure it won't. If only that finger were extended to peel back the Guardian's own contortions over Iraq and our liberal media's vital role in legitimising Britain's continued warmongering.

And so the circus of hypocrisy trundles on.

Approved comedian Iannucci gets royal kudos for creating Malcolm Tucker. War propagandist Campbell tweets his disapproval and hosts Have I Got News For You. And the Guardian/BBC report all the banter, invective and diary 'disclosures' like dutiful liberal journalists do.

Was there ever a neater illustration of our power-safe 'democracy' in self-sustaining action?


Friday, 8 June 2012

Syria massacres - avoiding more bloodshed

The recent terrible killings in Houla and Qubair would seem like obvious, damning evidence of Bashar al-Assad's guilty directives.

But, with military interventionist pressure from the west growing, isn't the spectre of such massacres precisely what Assad and his regime would more likely seek to avoid?

The latest Guardian editorial asserts that Assad is now using these killings as part of a 'sectarian card' to help keep him secure:
"The more polarised and sectarian the conflict becomes, the harder it will become to keep a popular insurrection afloat. The harder, too, it comes for the opposition to give meaningful guarantees, if they ever could have done, to the minorities who have most to fear from regime change – the Alawites, Christians and Kurds. Once again, Assad's terror is tactically ahead of the game: sectarianism is the tool to dig himself further in."
A seeming template strategy: keep religious sectors in a state of conflict/distrust, deflecting challenges to the government. Yet, doesn't this rampant sectarianism also help reveal the deeper causes, identity and motivations of forces engaged in the conflict?

Moreover, why would Assad risk elevating the call for western force in this crisis-intensifying way - particularly just before a key UN Security Council meeting?

Why would he specifically order such brutalities, understanding, full well, how they will likely be used, as with Benghazi in Libya, as the all-important 'moral' pretext for western action?

The word via US intelligence agency Stratfor (in Wikileaks-revealed documents) suggests otherwise:
"There still seems to be a lot of confusion over what a military intervention involving an air campaign would be designed to achieve...They dont [sic] believe air intervention would happen unless there was enough media attention on a massacre, like the Ghadafi move against Benghazi. They think the US would have a high tolerance for killings as long as it doesn't reach that very public stage."
So, what purpose is served by Assad raising the ante in this very public way?
Perhaps Assad did order or conspire in shabiha-led murders. But without any available evidence of such, and with other rebel claims now heavily discredited, shouldn't the same level of scrutiny be applied to all sides?

Whatever the actual explanation, journalists and editors might be expected to keep a sceptical eye on the opposition's own slickly-honed PR. Alas, little of this is evident.

Curiously, beneath the BBC's blanket reporting of Assad's villainy, one of its own news editors, Jon Williams, offers this much more cautious reading:
"Some months ago, I reflected on the difficulties of reporting from Syria. The deaths of Marie Colvin and a dozen other journalists in the country so far this year has given us cause to think long and hard about the very real dangers there. But so too does the complexity of the situation on the ground in Syria, and the need to try to separate fact from fiction. 
Damascus prides itself on being the oldest, continually inhabited city in the world. It also has the longest history of rumours passing for fact. 
I spent three days in Syria earlier this week, talking to all sides involved in the current conflict. Waking up on my first morning, social media was alive with reports that the mobile phone network was down. True enough, I could access the hotel wi-fi but not place a call. On Twitter and Facebook, people claimed the phones had been turned off as the precursor to a major military assault. The truth it seems was more prosaic. It's the high school exam season in Syria - diplomats claimed the real reason was the phone network had been turned off to prevent students cheating. Even in a conflict zone, good grades count for a lot. 
In the aftermath of the massacre at Houla last month, initial reports said some of the 49 children and 34 women killed had their throats cut. In Damascus, Western officials told me the subsequent investigation revealed none of those found dead had been killed in such a brutal manner. Moreover, while Syrian forces had shelled the area shortly before the massacre, the details of exactly who carried out the attacks, how and why were still unclear. Whatever the cause, officials fear the attack marks the beginning of the sectarian aspect of the conflict.
In such circumstances, it's more important than ever that we report what we don't know, not merely what we do. In Houla, and now in Qubair, the finger has been pointed at the shabiha, pro-government militia. But tragic death toll aside, the facts are few: it's not clear who ordered the killings - or why. 
Given the difficulties of reporting inside Syria, video filed by the opposition on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube may provide some insight into the story on the ground. But stories are never black and white - often shades of grey. Those opposed to President Assad have an agenda. One senior Western official went as far as to describe their YouTube communications strategy as "brilliant". But he also likened it to so-called "psy-ops", brainwashing techniques used by the US and other military to convince people of things that may not necessarily be true.
A healthy scepticism is one of the essential qualities of any journalist - never more so than in reporting conflict. The stakes are high - all may not always be as it seems."
In another analysis piece, the BBC's Paul Danahar also raises doubts over standard accounts of the conflict:
"There is a sense in Damascus shared by many diplomats, international officials and those opposed to President Assad that his regime may no longer have complete and direct day-to-day command and control of some of the militia groups being blamed for massacring civilians. The world has looked at the Syrian conflict in very black and white terms over the past 15 months. It now needs to acknowledge the shades of grey that are emerging.
UN observers are hoping to soon investigate the latest reports of killings. Kofi Annan will be updating the UN today on his mission and on the massacre in Houla. Members of the international community in Damascus say that, contrary to initial reports, most of the people in Houla were killed by gunfire spraying the rooms, not by execution-style killings with a gun placed to the back of the head. Also people's throats were not cut, although one person did have an eye gouged out.  
What is acknowledged is that, while the UN observer mission has been a success in terms of meeting its brief, the six-point plan has been a failure. And it's clear the Syrian conflict has stopped looking like past Arab revolutions and is instead beginning to look much more like Bosnia when it began the slow slide into sectarian civil war."
One can but wonder over the differing takes of these BBC reporters from that of headline BBC coverage.

First-hand evidence from Houla gathered by Channel 4 News correspondent Alex Thomson does appear to affirm the brutal nature of the killings - though, not the savage throat-cutting and close executions originally claimed by rebel activists and reported by the mainstream media. He also confirms that government shelling preceded the attack.

Yet, even by Thomson's own admission, this still tells us little about who, definitively, instructed and carried out the actual executions: "We may never know firmly", he says.

Thomson also refers in his various reports to the conflict as a "civil war", emphasising its sectarian nature, something the opposition are at pains to deny.

Again, contra the Guardian version, this is important because it dispels the preferred opposition/western narrative of a widescale national insurrection against the regime.

And, as this disturbing dispatch from Thomson strongly suggests, the Free Syrian Army are also ready to assist in the killing of foreign journalists for propaganda purposes.

Having been lured into a deadly free-fire situation by rebel media handlers, Thomson concludes:
"I’m quite clear the rebels deliberately set us up to be shot by the Syrian Army. Dead journos are bad for Damascus."
None of this cautious assessment is to suggest that atrocities aren't taking place, or to excuse Assad's wider criminality.

Rather, it's to highlight the much more nuanced set of sectarian forces now vying for control, alongside the mercenary involvement of the west, Saudi Arabia and others in the arms-supplying chain using Syria for regional gain and, most vitally, as a proxy war on Iran.

While many uncertainties remain over who, precisely, is doing some of the killing in Syria, there can be little doubt that any further western intervention will only intensify the carnage, proving, as with Libya, even more disastrous for Syrians and the region at large.

In their proclaimed efforts to support a 'popular challenge' to a repressive regime, many liberals/leftists have erred badly in their failure to see both the non-populist, disparate nature of the conflict and the ways in which their calling others 'apologists' for that reading is actually fuelling the case for further western-driven bloodshed.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Starkest propaganda

Glad the Jubilee endurance has now ended?   

Well, here's a last reminder of the grovelling media-fest, with David Starkey in full flag-wallowing flow, breaking down and waxing effusively on the glories of our English-rooted monarchy.  

Listen (clip 6/9) as he intones reverentially on the "very strange interchange between the balcony and the crowd, each one, as it were, telling each other what to do" and the way in which The Mall doesn't actually fill, rather "it's like water, it's a slow flood...the Union Jacks become like water, the colours merge into each a wave, slow, slowly [voice breaking], very good-humoured, gently...

The ITN presenters, Julie Etchingham and Philip Schofield, seeing Starkey's "emotional" and  "overwhelmed" state, encourage him on, asking for more of his close feelings on monarchy and the constitutional order.

Recomposed, Starkey obliges with further romantic reverie on this country's "non-forced" civic society and a rant against North Korea and other such 'communist conformism', before launching into a misty-eyed gush on "the genius of England".

Realising, in mild panic, that he's now gone uncomfortably off-message, Etchingham splutters "no, no, it's the United Kingdom, it's Britain", trying to cut him off, the cameras panning quickly back to the flag-waving crowd.

Starkey's drooling commentary may have been an English-centric jingoism too far for a media obediently cued-up to play the Jubilee as an 'all-inclusive, modern, classless, community celebration'.

But the huge blanket propaganda we've seen over the last few days confirms its vital role as a key check on democratic modernity, caring society and social equality in serving to reinforce the archaic forces of feudal privilege, inherited wealth and cultural militarism.

Does this lavish media-driven spectacle lend 'ideological majesty' to 'our country', 'our system', 'our values', 'our ever-benign rulers', 'our right to intervene' in foreign lands? Most assuredly.

The imperial establishment and its servant estate operating at its most brilliantly efficient.