Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Miliband and mesmerised media - no energy for real change

So, Labour leader Ed Miliband has pledged to freeze energy prices for 20 months if elected in 2015. 
Sometimes one needs an energy boost just to read what passes for 'radical' policy and the media's energised coverage of it. 
It's not just that Miliband is promising electoral sweeties. It's the stark poverty of political reform and shallow critique that follows such announcements.

Here, for example, is Jonathan Freedland's excited take on Labour's 'new left populist' sell:
The new approach will bring relief to both the shadow cabinet and Labour MPs. They have struggled to explain what one nation means, to convert an academic insight into a doorstep-ready pitch. Now they have a set of specifics, tailormade for retail – with the 20-month freeze on energy bills bound to be the first sample pulled from the salesman's suitcase. 
Like one of the shark-competing energy companies it affects to indict, Labour unveils its 'switch-over-to-us-for-a-fixed-rate (but only for 20 months)' offer, and it's treated like some great electrical bolt from above. This is the outer limits of political-media 'challenge' to neoliberal 'reality'. 
Of course, there's no promise to slash household energy bills. No notion of bringing such companies to serious, even criminal, account. And certainly no intention (how apparently laughable) of taking them into public ownership, stripping-out grossly-overpaid executives and a parasitical shareholder class.    
Nor is the issue of energy usage/costs ever linked to the emergency situation of global warming, mass consumer waste and the case for radical environmental sustainability.   
For Labour and a liberal commentariat, the core 'problem' here is one of 'market inefficiency':
As the Guardian's political correspondent, Patrick Wintour, amplifies:
Ed Miliband has written to the big six energy firms urging them to co-operate with his plan to impose a 20-month price freeze and reset the energy market, or instead be seen as part of the problem in the energy market. The companies have reacted with fury to his plans, saying he is risking power blackouts and sending a message that Britain is not open for business. They said he was threatening much-needed investment in green energy as rightwing newspapers accused him of swerving to the left.
Thus, for Miliband, the market itself is not the problem, just the now-so-embarrassingly-obvious grab within such markets. All that's needed, then, is a little tweaking of those market arrangements, a little squeeze on those considerable profits, which can be used, in this case, as a cheap electoral bribe.
Cue predictable reactions from furious energy chiefs, defiant rebukes from 'people-championing' Labourites and a gazing media swooned by these oh-so-daring pledges.  
And isn't it always useful to note, as in Wintour's lame panderings, that lofty liberal distance between Guardianista 'reformers' and all those right wing scaremongers. 

The' leftist' alternative? The most sensible solution for Miliband - and seemingly for the Guardian? Even greater competition.

Wintour goes on:
Miliband insisted he wanted greater competition in the market and in his letter argued: "We can work together on the basis of this price freeze to make the market work in the future. Or you can reinforce in the public mind that you are part of the problem, not the solution." He said there was a crisis of confidence and loss of trust in the energy market. [...] "I'm determined to make this change and I've written to them today to say: 'Look come on, make yourself part of the solution, not part of the problem. There's a crisis of confidence in this market. There's a crisis of confidence in you.'"
As Wintour and his Guardian peers should be noting, the crisis is not just in "this market", but in the people-dismissing, capitalist market at large. 

Corporations are profit-grabbing entities. That's what they do. Definitively.  So, how easy, safe and hypocritical for corporate-facilitating politicians and a corporate-centred media to round on corporate excess.

The actual crisis of 'confidence' here lies not with the energy companies or any other money-driven corporation. Their primary motivation and function -greed and profit - is already established.

The real crisis of confidence, massively hidden by such diversionary speeches and reportage, lies in the complicit actions of a political class who allow, promote and excuse such market greed, and with a functionary media which says almost nothing to expose or challenge such manipulation and deceit.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Gunpoint diplomacy - Israel's message to 'meddling' visitors

Here's an image to ponder on UN International Peace Day.
French diplomat Marion Castaing, visiting the West Bank this week with other EU and UN officials, lies on the ground with a gun in her face after her delegation had tried to deliver aid to a village being pulled apart by the Israeli army.
As The National's Hugh Naylor reports:
"The convoy was carrying tents and water to residents of the Palestinian-Bedouin community of Makhul that Israel demolished on Monday. Makhul is located in the West Bank’s Jordan Valley area. Taking part were diplomats from several European Union countries, Brazil and Australia, along with officials from the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Israeli soldiers forcibly removed Marion Castaing, a French diplomat, from a truck and pushed her to the ground. After the military seized the aid, police officers arrived on scene and dispersed the crowd with stun grenades, witnesses said."
Of course, Palestinians are treated much worse every day, their experiences often resulting in death, serious injury, homelessness and detention, with barely a media mention.
International coverage of this disgraceful incident doesn't amount to much in itself - just imagine the blanket, headline reports if it had been such treatment of diplomats by, say, Syrian or Iranian forces. 
Still, as the posturing 'peace talks' go on, this powerful image helps illustrate the ways in which even peaceful international visitors are routinely dealt with by Israel, ever determined to enforce its brutal occupation and arrogantly oblivious, it would seem, to world reaction.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

War exponents exploit non-findings of UN report

UN findings on the chemical weapons attack in Ghouta confirms what most already understood: that an atrocity, one of many in this tragic civil war, had actually taken place.

Yet, for all the UN's carefully-gathered evidence, two key things remain unidentified: those responsible for the attack and the actual number of people killed in it.

The issue of culpability was not, of course, part of the UN remit. Nor does the report tell us for sure how many died in this incident.

Yet these two key issues continue to be assumed and misrepresented by war politicians and most Western media.

On the fatality count, John Kerry claims that 1429 were killed in the August 21 attack. Yet, substantial doubts remain over the precise figure, including children.

This is not to say that such numbers of people did not die. It's simply to record that we've seen no actual proof of these claims from the UN or, as yet, from the US and its allies.

Nor, one must reasonably assume, are we likely to, particularly from the latter. For, surely, if the actual evidence was there, it would have been placed in the public domain by now.

And yet, war-supporting politicians and most major media continue to use such numbers without qualification.

The figure of over 100,000 deaths in the course of the conflict is, likewise, usually cited without either a source, or, crucially, clarification that it includes deaths caused by all sides in the civil war.

The total death figure is commonly attributed to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Yet, SOHR's own recent figures include 27,654 army soldiers and 17,824 pro-regime militia. That in itself is a substantial part of their declared count - intended to convey the impression of a strong military opposition.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, their calculation of civilians killed by opposition forces is not so forthcoming.

But whatever the breakdown of SOHR figures, why would the BBC and other political/media observers trust an organisation so obviously propagandising the opposition case?

As previously cited by Media LensAisling Byrne has cast key questions over SOHR's bona fides, and the easily-accepted ways in which the BBC and other leading media repeat its claims.

There's also, as ML show, a notable precedent here for the BBC in its selective use of Iraq Body Count.

The absence of hard evidence on actual fatalities corresponds with a lack of hard proof on who was definitively responsible for the attack.

Again, the UN seems to have 'prudently' avoided making proclamations over what it doesn't substantively know.

But, speaking at Real News, environmental scientist and human rights activist Rania Masri also asks us to consider why the UN inspectors were not also tasked with obtaining evidence on who committed the crime.

The resulting vacuum of definitive information has allowed the American French and British governments even more space to infer Assad's guilt, while, as Masri also notes, marginalising the very real means and motives of an international-backed opposition to handle, move and deploy chemical weapons.

Emerging Russian-Syrian claims of opposition guilt over the use of chemical weapons are also being treated with token disregard by the BBC.

But even these claims do not confirm or deny Assad's innocence. We still have no primary proof either way.      

Thus, critical analysts will search in vain for any actual evidence of Assad's guilt in Samantha Power's interpretation of the UN report.

Yet, this hasn't stopped Human Rights Watch director Peter Bouckaert, writing at the Guardian, from intimating guilt based on little more than hypothetical supposition:
Their [the UN's] mandate does not allow them to say who was responsible for the deadly barrage. But if you read between the lines, it isn't difficult to figure it out.
The various theories claiming to have "evidence" that opposition forces were responsible for the attack lack credibility. This was not an accidental explosion caused by opposition fighters who mishandled chemical weapons, as claimed by some commentators online. The attacks took place at two sites 16km (10 miles) apart, and involved incoming rockets, not on-the-ground explosions. This was not a chemical attack cooked up by opposition forces in some underground kitchen. It was a sophisticated attack involving military-grade sarin.
Perhaps. But, again, where is the defining evidence disproving all this, or proving otherwise? And, as with its interventionist promotions over Libya, doesn't HRW's supportive assumptions over Syria again indicate its useful service to Power?

Meanwhile, beyond the chemical weapons attack, and key others still to be verified, a greater overall calamity goes on, involving both sides in the civil war.

As the UN statement specifically states:
We should not lose sight of the broader perspective of the Syrian crisis. The terrible loss of life on 21 August was the result of one of many attacks that have collectively killed more than 100,000 people in Syria during the past two and a half years.

The UN Commission of Inquiry has reported that Government and pro-government forces have committed murder, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, rape and torture against civilians. It has also reported that anti-government armed groups have committed murder, executions, torture and hostage-taking. There has been indiscriminate shelling of civilian neighbourhoods by all sides. Yet arms continue to flow to the country and the region.
Beyond the CW issue, the ongoing militarisation of the conflict, as overseen by the West and its Gulf allies, is the much bigger problem requiring political and media attention.

Yet beneath the diplomacy-speak on removing chemical weapons and wider 'peace-seeking' overtures, a much more pernicious policy prevails for the US, Israeli and Saudi nexus: to keep Syria in a state of war, instability and mutual depletion. As noted by Rania Masri:
You know, I don't believe that the U.S. government ever really cared about chemical weapons attacks in Syria. It was simply used as a means for a larger goal, and that larger goal has been to shift the imbalance on the ground in Syria, to prolong the civil war as long as possible, until it reaches a stage where the country has completely been destroyed, and then to be able to replace the regime with a more clientelist regime than we currently have.
Unsurprisingly, liberal interventionist groups like HRW and Avaaz seem much less interested in helping to uncover the truth behind that toxic agenda.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

War deaths in Iraq - what the BBC don't Trust us to know

Further to my complaint over BBC coverage of Iraq war deaths, its Senior Editorial Complaints Adviser, Leanne Buckle, has advised against the matter being presented to the BBC Trust for full consideration.
Here's an abbreviated copy of her letter, the Trust's own acceptance of her findings, and my own response to the Trust.
As intimated, the point of pursuing this is not in any expectation of its acceptance, but to help highlight the BBC's blatant evasions over Iraq war death figures and the institutional gatekeeping that passes for an 'independent' complaints procedure.
I hope readers find it informative.

BBC Trust
British Broadcasting Corporation
180 Great Portland Street
London W1W 5QZ
T. 020 3214 4994

Mr J Hilley

Email: [...]

Our Ref: 2222439

Date 10 September 2013

Dear Mr Hilley

‘Iraq 10 years on: in numbers’, 20 March 2013, BBC News website 

Thank you for writing to the BBC Trust about the above article. I am very sorry that you were unhappy about elements of this online article and that you feel the BBC has not given you a proper response to your complaints.

The Trust is the last stage of the complaints process and everyone who works within the Trust Unit is outside the day-to-day operations of the BBC. We review the complaints that come to us to assess whether they should be put before the BBC’s Trustees for them to reach a final decision. I and an Independent Editorial Adviser have read the article and the correspondence that has already passed between you and the BBC. If you want to find out more about how the complaints system works – and in particular about how the BBC Trust fits in – this is the web link:

I should explain that the Trust does not take every appeal that comes to it. In deciding which ones should be considered by the Trustees, we look at the merits of the complaint and only ones that stand a reasonable chance of success are passed to Trustees. The Trust acts in the interests of all licence fee payers and it would not be proportionate to spend a good deal of time and money on cases that do not stand a realistic prospect of success. The link that I have given above gives more information about this.

I am sorry to send a disappointing response, but I do not believe your appeal should be put in front of Trustees. The BBC’s journalists and programme-makers are expected to work to a high standard; those standards are set out in the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines1 which underpin all BBC output. I have looked at your appeal in relation to those Guidelines. This means I have assessed if the points you have raised can be judged against the standards set down in the Guidelines. I have attached a summary of your appeal as well as the reasons behind my decision with this letter.


If you disagree with my decision and would like the Trustees to review it, please reply with your reasons by 24 September 2013 to the Complaints Advisor at or at the above address. Please send your reasons by this deadline in one document if possible.

Correspondence that is received after this date may not be considered as part of your request for a review of the decision. If, exceptionally, you need more time please write giving your reasons as soon as possible.

If you do ask the Trustees to review this decision, I will place that letter as well as your original letter of appeal and this letter before Trustees. Your previous correspondence will also be available to them. They will look at that request in their November meeting. Their decision is likely to be finalised at the following meeting and will be given to you shortly afterwards.

If the Trustees agree that your case has no reasonable prospect of success then it will close. If the Trustees disagree with my decision, then your case will be given to an Independent Editorial Adviser to investigate and we will contact you with an updated time line.

Yours sincerely

Leanne Buckle

Senior Editorial Complaints Adviser

Annex 1: Appeal and decision

‘Iraq 10 years on: in numbers’, 20 March 2013, BBC News website

The Trust’s Editorial Appeals procedure states that:

The Trust will only consider an appeal if it raises "a matter of substance".
This will ordinarily mean that in the opinion of the Trust there is a reasonable prospect that the appeal will be upheld as amounting to a breach of the Editorial Guidelines. In deciding whether an appeal raises a matter of substance, the Trust may consider (in fairness to the interests of all licence fee payers in general) whether it is appropriate, proportionate and cost-effective to consider the appeal.


This appeal related to the use by the BBC of figures calculated by the Iraq Body Count (IBC) when referring to the number of civilian deaths in Iraq. In his complaint to the BBC, the complainant had stated that he considered the figures provided by IBC were misleading and had been selected by the BBC because they reflected: "…UK/US war killing in its least damaging light."

The complainant considered this was inaccurate and resulted in bias.

The complainant appealed to the BBC Trust on 19 July 2013, saying that "no serious or satisfactory consideration" of his concerns had been offered at the previous stages of his complaint. His points and questions included the following:

The BBC was consistently inaccurate and biased in its coverage of civilian war deaths in Iraq because of its frequent reliance on Iraq Body Count (IBC) figures, which were "limited and misleading".

 To improve balance, the BBC could cite other sources and their respective data (which suggested much greater numbers of deaths), in addition to the IBC figures. Why had the BBC not done this?

 Who at the BBC had made the editorial decision to adopt IBC as a principal source and how had that decision been arrived at?

 For the purposes of the complaint, he wished to cite the online article "Iraq 10 years on: in numbers" as an example of the biased use of IBC figures, specifically the section headed "Violence" and its associated graphic.

 He also wished to cite a recent survey by a market research company, in support of his appeal, which suggested "a shocking absence of…public awareness" in relation to the "true scale of war-related deaths" in Iraq. He reminded the Trust of the BBC’s public education role in this respect.

Decision of the Senior Editorial Complaints Adviser

The relevant correspondence was reviewed by the Trust Unit and an independent editorial adviser, and they also read the article in question, which is at Annex 2. 

In reviewing the complaint, the Senior Editorial Complaints Adviser (the Adviser) took into account all the relevant Editorial Guidelines ( and, in particular, those concerning Accuracy and Impartiality.

[Relevant Guidelines cited here.]

The Adviser noted that the complainant’s appeal was principally couched in general terms, relating to an alleged BBC practice of virtually exclusive reliance on Iraq Body Count figures in its overall reporting. However, she noted that, for the purposes of the complaint, the complainant wished to cite the online article, "Iraq 10 years on: in numbers," published on the BBC News website on 20 March 2013, to illustrate his concerns. The Adviser, therefore, focused on this article in her review of the complaint.  

[Parts of the article re-stated here.]

The Adviser noted that the context of the article was set out in the introductory sentence of the piece as follows:

"Ten years after the US-led invasion of Iraq – how much has changed? We look at the numbers behind the country that is still emerging from conflict."

The article, she noted, then went on to look at figures relating to Iraq’s economy, technology, refugees and displaced persons, food, human development, and, as set out above, violence. The text under all these headings, she further noted, sought to compare Iraq’s position in 2003, at the point of the invasion, with the country’s situation 10 years later. The Adviser noted that, in accordance with the Editorial Guidelines on Accuracy, the sources for all the information collated in the article were given.

In the case of the section on violence, the Adviser noted that a consistent run of figures for those years was clearly required to assemble a graphic to illustrate civilian deaths. She noted that it had been explained at previous stages of the complaint that the IBC figures, which have been produced on an ongoing basis over the years, were considered by the BBC’s Middle East Editor to be appropriate in this case.

The figures were clearly sourced to IBC in the article, she noted, and a brief summary of the methodology for collecting the figures was given: "The Iraq Body Count organisation, which cross references reported deaths with official figures….

The Adviser noted that the complainant suggested that using two other sets of data, in addition to the IBC figures, would have resulted in a "fairer and more viewer-serving graphic". She noted that the complainant said these figures were from a Lancet/Johns Hopkins survey covering the period March 2003 to the end of June 2006, and from an Opinion Research Business (ORB) survey in August 2007.

She further noted that the following had been explained by the BBC at Stage 1:

"The Iraq Body Count is the only organisation to offer an actual count covering the period since the US-led invasion. Other organisations seek to estimate the death toll at particular points in time, using statistical and sampling techniques."

The Adviser also noted the response from the Head of Accountability, BBC News, at Stage 2, which expanded on this point:

"As previously explained, what matters here is the pattern over a number of years. Other agencies cannot provide this information so the Middle East editor felt that IBC was the right source in this instance. Using other studies as well – based on different methodologies – would have been pointless and confusing for readers."

The Adviser agreed with that view and considered that in practical terms it would have been very difficult for the graphic, shown above, to have incorporated three sets of data, all for different periods and collected in different ways, in a way that was meaningful for the audience.

The Adviser appreciated that the complainant felt strongly that IBC figures vastly understated the numbers of civilian casualties, compared with the other surveys he had cited, and she noted that the complainant had made the following allegation at Stage 1:

"It’s clearly evident that the BBC has selected IBC’s data because it reflects UK/US war killing in its least damaging light. Your every excusing word makes the BBC complicit in disguising that crime."

She considered it unlikely that the Trustees would agree with the complainant that this motivation was "clearly evident" from the selection of data for the article in question, and she noted that the complainant had not provided evidence to support this allegation at any stage of the complaint.

The Adviser also thought it likely that the Trustees would wish to take into account that the BBC was not isolated in its citing of IBC data, and that many other reputable organisations also cited IBC where appropriate. She noted that the complainant had acknowledged this in his blog which stated that the Channel 4 News’ "10 years after" report on Iraq had used a similar graphic, with figures sourced to IBC, and that it was "standard" for the Guardian, Independent, and "almost every other ‘authoritative’ news outlet" to use IBC figures.

The Adviser fully appreciated that reporting on civilian casualties in any conflict situation was fraught with difficulties. She noted that the BBC had explored these issues in various articles over the years, and these articles had been cited at earlier stages of the complaint.

She considered Trustees would be likely to conclude that it was for the BBC to make an editorial judgement about the use of data in this particular article and there was no evidence this had not been done within the Editorial Guidelines.

The Adviser noted that the complainant had repeated his request to be informed about who at the BBC had made the decision to use IBC as a source. Her view was that the Trustees would consider this had been answered at Stage 2 by the Head of Editorial Compliance and Accountability, and that, in this particular case, it was the Middle East Editor who had considered IBC was the most appropriate source.

The Adviser thanked the complainant for reminding the Trust about the BBC’s role in promoting education and learning, and for forwarding the weblink to the ComRes survey on public perceptions of the Iraqi death toll.

The poll appeared to suggest that 66 per cent of those questioned in May 2013 thought there had been fewer than 20,000 deaths (of both combatants and civilians) as a result of the 2003 invasion. She noted that this figure was hugely at variance with even the IBC figures quoted in the website article in question (112,017-122,438 civilians), which the complainant had said were themselves vastly understated.

Therefore, for the reasons set out above, the Senior Editorial Complaints Adviser considered there was no reasonable prospect of the Trustees finding the article had been in breach of the Accuracy and/or Impartiality Guidelines, and the appeal would not, therefore, be put before the Trustees.


Dear Christina Roski
(Complaints Adviser)

Thanks for your letter from the BBC Trust with regard to my appeal.

Here is the letter I wish to submit to the Trust in further consideration of my complaint.

To BBC Trust

Ref: 2222439
11 September 2013

Dear Trust

Leanne Buckle's letter and your upholding argument is yet another small masterclass in BBC evasion. Not entirely original in its dissembling. But 'admirably' brazen in its crafted circumvention of a central issue.

That issue: how can the BBC justify the selective and continuous use of data which vastly understates the death figures in Iraq, thereby serving an establishment purpose?

The answer, of course, is in the question. And the nature of your complicit response bears witness to the essential reliability of the Trust in dismissing not only the complaint but any notion that your decision could be part of system-protecting process.

Indeed, it all rather confirms Chomsky's landmark response to Andrew Marr:
How can you know that I’m self-censoring? How can you know that journalists are...  
I don’t say you’re self-censoring - I’m sure you believe everything you’re saying; but what I’m saying is, if you believed something different, you wouldn’t be sitting where you’re sitting.
And there, in a nutshell, is the work of the Trust: a gatekeeper proclaiming purely 'objective' credentials while exercising safely subjective judgement over what can be allowed as valid complaint matter.   

The idea that the BBC could not display, cite or include the other data suggested is simply ludicrous.

And yet the claim is peddled that "in practical terms it would have been very difficult for the graphic, shown above, to have incorporated three sets of data, all for different periods and collected in different ways, in a way that was meaningful for the audience."

Your particular focus on the '10 years after' piece is, in itself, a standard deceit, diverting discussion from the particular issue of why the BBC has selected IBC as a main source across all its output.

Nor does the wider usage of IBC across other major media absolve the BBC from it own particular responsibility to offer a varied and impartial range of information and opinion. 

You also assert that the Middle East Editor made the decision to adopt IBC. Perhaps so. But where is the editorial-making evidence for this?  I'm sure viewers would be very interested to know more specifically how this decision was arrived at.

Again, we may invoke the likely 'safe editorial hands' process. But, in the interests of transparency, are we not entitled to a closer and more detailed account of who was involved in that decision and how it was determined?    

You also 'acknowledge' the ComRes poll, yet provide not a single word on how the BBC's selective use of IBC has helped contribute to the massive lack of public awareness noted in that poll.

On every count, on every aspect of my enquiry, the BBC has failed to justify its principal use of IBC or explain its own part in keeping people so uninformed about the Iraq death toll.  

I formally request that the Trust look again at this complaint and consider my further argument for a review of your decision.

However, I'd like to make clear that the essential purpose of this complaint is not to seek or expect a favourable ruling. It's to help illustrate the BBC's institutional bias and the very ways in which that bias is exemplified by the complaints process.

As evidenced in Leanne Buckle's advice, and your endorsement of it, there is no likely chance of any senior BBC official accepting my points or anyone at the Trust permitting or upholding such a complaint. To do so would be to concede that the absence of non-IBC data was part of a conscious effort to mask the much more damning reality of Iraq war deaths. And that would be an effective admission of institutional bias. 

Nonetheless, I consider any further evaluation of this issue, your probable rejection of it and my continued highlighting of that exchange to be in the public interest.

I look forward to your further comments.

Yours sincerely
John Hilley


Reply received
11 September 2013:
Dear Mr Hilley

Thank you for your response to Leanne Buckle’s letter regarding your request for an appeal to the Editorial Standards Committee.

As you have challenged the decision not to proceed with your appeal we shall provide the Committee with your appeal, the letter from Leanne Buckle and your challenge below of the decision not to proceed. Your full correspondence will be available to the Committee if they wish to refer to it.

The Committee will then take a decision on whether it will proceed to hear your complaint on appeal. This will be done at the Committee's next meeting, on 3 October 2013. When the minutes from this meeting have been ratified at the Committee’s November meeting I will write again to inform you of the Committee's decision.

Yours sincerely
Christina Roski
Complaints Adviser, BBC Trust Unit

Monday, 9 September 2013

Roll up to the great UK arms fair - shop so they drop

Isn't it all so very typical, so very British?

Amid resounding opposition to more murderous weaponry being deployed in Syria, London is this week hosting another leading international arms bazaar.

Well, business must continue. And there's no more willing trader and helpful organiser than the UK.

With multiple 'theatres' of warfare to promote and exploit, just think of all that amazing new hardware sitting on the shelves, all that lovely profit to be made, all the friends and enemies waiting to be supplied.

The DSEi - Defence Security and Equipment International - event offers a phantasmagorical display of sleek weaponry and killing consultancy for visiting dictators, strutting generals and corporate gun-runners.

Or, as its more carefully marketised webpage announces:
DSEI provides the opportunity for companies to display their full capabilities at a single exhibition and provides the ideal platform to network, exchange ideas and showcase products and services:
The leading global and defence and security exhibition
Every major defence and security market represented
A senior audience of over 28,000 senior level decision makers
Global media coverage and PR opportunities
Live demonstrations, seminars and briefings
NEW enhanced VIP and delegations programme
Strong international partnerships offer
35 + country pavilions
Dedicated capability focus areas
Unbeatable networking opportunities
Perfect platform to launch products

Yes, indeed, what enticing shopping!

Just the place to catch-up on the latest wipe-out ballistics, spook surveillance and advanced torture technologies.


Why not get along, or even drop-in, if at all possible, to check-out the goods and visitors?


Friday, 6 September 2013

Cameron on the bench - frustrations of the political ego

How deflated a 'sidelined' David Cameron seems at the big G20 'showdown', not being 'in' on the main war-waging game.
How mercilessly the Obama 'A-team' - the 'cautious, tactical manager' and his French 'new-signs' - relegate the 'non-participants', the 'B-players', even those who so earnestly still want to be 'A-players'. 

And how readily spectator-glazed journalists fascinate themselves in scoring all their performances: the 'star president', playing resolute 'striker for the world'; the 'self-injured' PM, as though he's failed some alpha fitness test; and, of course, for the Guardian, that dark 'Russian stopper', Putin, the obstructionist spoiler who seems intent only on ruining the whole 'noble game'.  
And so, while our 'heroic away man' takes on the' home villain', Cameron must make do with playing in the 'reserves', keeping up some crowd attention with his apparent pledge to increase humanitarian help for Syria.  
For the Guardian's political editor Patrick Wintour, it's still a laudable role, but, alas, not one that can raise him back up to the premiership, not one to match the glory days of former good 'ol boys:   
"And what of Cameron? It was in St Petersburg, at an earlier G8 summit, that President George Bush famously greeted Tony Blair "Yo, Blair". After his ignominious and mishandled defeat in the Commons last week, relations between the current UK prime minister and US president are more strained. Cameron has been stripped of a central role at this summit, and heavily blames the politicking of Labour leader Ed Miliband. But Cameron has worked as hard as possible within the confines of the Commons vote to show his determination to shake the world out of its lethargy at what he regards as the biggest humanitarian crisis of this century.

At a session on Thursday night, including a discussion with Putin, Cameron pressed the case for more funding to help refugees, the need to create humanitarian routes so aid convoys can drive into Syria safely and the need for better chemical weapons protection for Syrians under attack from Assad. It is a noble cause to fight, even if it is not the central role he planned, standing shoulder to shoulder with Obama as he made the case for military action. (Italics added.)"
For the war-cheering Wintour, then, a 'match summary' of "noble cause" and commendable effort: Cameron 'playing for the jersey', even if he didn't, this time, share in the main spotlight.

The stalwart Guardian and its senior defenders of power; as with Blair and Iraq, ever-reliable team-mates.    
Still, there can be little doubting the UK's ongoing commitment to the main war game, the determination to remain in the big directors box, priorities ruthlessly enforced even as the citizen crowd boo and reject their warmongering play.
And while it may seem that, after all its loyal support in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, Britain is 'only as good as it's last game', America still knows that 'our' little country, clinging to that proud imperialist status, is ever on-side.
Doesn't it all say so much about the twisted psychology of the powerful, the preening of high ego, its media encouragement, and how that craving for top-league inclusion can drive the lust for executive-level violence?

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Syria - media war beats also out of time with public mood

By a substantial two-thirds margin, an Independent poll of British people indicates a strong rejection of any US-UK war on Syria or any other involvement in the region. A BBC poll suggests similar findings.

Yet, despite the avalanche of propaganda, public feeling also seems at odds with the media's own war promotions.

As efforts intensify for a re-run of the parliamentary debate - urged-on by Liberal hawks like Lord Ashdown - Cameron, Clegg and others within the ConDem hierarchy have prudently avoided calls for a second parliamentary vote, wary of such public feeling.

As Glenn Greenwald notes, while Obama could also ignore any Congressional disapproval in order to wage war, he, like Cameron, is also deeply aware of America's mass hostility over intervention.

Such public reticence also prevails despite Kerry's 'definitive evidence' that Assad has used chemical weapons, claims routinely taken as authentic by an establishment-serving media.

Yet, public scepticism is still holding. All of which casts encouraging doubt not only over the official version of events but the media's selective repetition of them.

Even as constituency-watching politicians cover themselves from political fallout, liberal media support for bombing intensifies, much of it pitched as headline-honed approvals.      

While the Independent and Guardian duly report the public's war weariness, they also peddle for intervention; recording populist disapproval while keeping the beat for war.

It's a fork-tongued R2P-speak evident in yet another tortured Guardian editorial, applauding Obama's 'cautious' manoeuvring for war. 

In an equally scurrilous piece, Guardian doyen Jonathan Freedland piles on the Shakesperean language, casting Obama as the 'torn interventionist' and urging him to get the bombing started. Among the many distortions here is the claim that Assad's forces alone are responsible for all deaths in the conflict.

Again, despite all the signs of public disapproval, despite the absence of definitive proof over chemical weapons, and despite their prior complicity over Iraq, we see key Guardian liberals masking the facts and cheer-leading for war.    

So, beyond even their moral 'authority', how much analytical credibility should such 'senior' media be given?  

Craig Murray, the whistleblowing ex-diplomat and blogger who knows from experience the inside workings of the intelligence network, casts very reasonable doubt on Kerry's key claims over Israeli phone 'intercepts' between Syrian officials 'incriminating' Assad. He shows that UK listening facilities in Cyprus, the most advanced and vital in the region, would almost certainly have picked-up these communications. Yet, there's no mention of them in the British intelligence accounts. Murray's logical conclusion: it's because they don't exist.

Complementary analysis can be viewed in a fine piece by Gareth Porter, discussing in close detail how the 'evidence' has been "twisted" and potentially fabricated. In particular, he notes that no actual proof of words confirming the alleged Syrian officials' use of chemical weapons has been presented by US intelligence. If Kerry had them, he would certainly have used them.

A sceptical public may never get to see the definitive evidence over chemical weapons. Yet, in contrast to most liberal output, this kind of unconstrained media is proving a vital source of public information. There's almost non-existent coverage of such insights or detailed scrutiny of official claims coming from our 'best liberal' journalists.  

What does certainly exist, and will continue to function despite British 'withdrawal' from the proposed onslaught, is the UK's dutiful intelligence line to the US. None of that vital militarism will be affected. And, again, it's a media 'reality' taken-for-granted.

So is the presumed right of Israel to test its own weaponry under Assad's nose, with the BBC pitching this as though Israel itself was under primary threat of attack.      

Faced with this vast network of forces and the imminent purge on Assad, one might expect at least some considered thought on how his government regard the gathering threat.   

The level of 'balance' can be seen in a token BBC report citing Assad's warning that an attack will only assist al-Qaeda. And that's about the extent of the 'impartial assessment'.

Indeed, for the BBC's Jeremy Bowen, the Assad circle is, we're led to believe, greatly enjoying the moment:
"As you'd expect, the Syrian leadership is quite relishing where it is - it sees itself as eyeball to eyeball with the Americans."
Of course, you'd never hear Bowen or his associates say the Obama leadership is relishing "where it is", or that it's arrogantly eyeballing Assad. That's because Western relish for action is always assumed as motivated by' 'benign concern', not, as in Assad's supposed case, puffed-up nationalism.

It's very possible that Assad could soon be facing the same fate as Saddam and Gaddafi. Or, maybe, for Bowen, that's part of the same relishing of martyrdom so often ascribed to the Arab or/and Muslim 'other'.

Whatever Western-Israeli fears of what might replace him, Assad is now another dispensible foe. His fetings by Blair and receptions at Buckingham Palace are no more. 

No need either for an Assad-demonising media to dwell on America's past use of the Syrian regime for rendition and torture.

And, as revelations of British government licenses for chemical weapon-making substances to Syria confirm, profit-driven interests - as in Western dealings with Saddam and Gaddafi - will always prevail over humanitarian ones.

All this hypocrisy is part of the same mock outrage over the actual use of chemical weapons, as though this form of militaristic murder is somehow more reprehensible or, in its actual outcome, deadlier than any other brandished by the merchants of death.

How easily, bombarded by this narrative, we absorb the media-churned language of 'red lines', as though the blowing apart of Afghan children with drones is somehow a 'better' or 'more moral' way to die.  

And, of course, what of the West's own mass deployment of deadly nerve agents, from Agent Orange and napalm in Vietnam to the murder of innocents in Fallujah with white phosphorus (also used by Israel in Gaza), or the use of depleted uranium and other thermobaric weapons elsewhere in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Whatever Assad's own crimes, how staggering to think that the perpetrators of these mass human atrocities should ever be allowed to speak or act with 'moral authority'.  

America, Britain and Nato at large cannot help the Syrian or any other war-suffering people. Why? Because Obama, Cameron and their ilk are already part of violent, aggressive states, guilty of vast criminal acts, with no 'solution' to offer other than more reckless violence.

Sometimes the enormity of the deceit feels surreal. How seamlessly BBC news coverage of sprawling Syrian refugee camps (what similar coverage of 4 million Iraqi refugees?) is immediately followed by Obama and his staff announcing their readiness to lay more bombs and misery upon that very country. 

Our media should be asking: what kind of insanity allows not just politicians but we journalists and news presenters to discuss this, 'our civilised interventions', as 'reasonable' human behaviour?  

This is the level of 'humanity' a power-serving media keep us attuned to, as if the only answer to such suffering is cruise missiles; as if even - as weapons correspondents assess and political ones speculate - Obama's approval rating or legacy in office should remotely matter in deciding whether, how or when to blow more people up.

Despite all this craven propaganda, even a politically-assaulted public are now seemingly more war-averted than a liberal media still crafting approving headlines, weasel editorials and lofty opinions for murderous intervention.