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?