Middle East


Preparing to Bomb Syria

Quite simply I do not believe the US, UK and French government’s assertion that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons against rebels “multiple times in small quantities”.  Why on earth would they do that?  The claim that “up to 150 people have died” spread over a number of incidents makes no sense at all.  In a civil war when tens of thousands of people have died, where all sides have been guilty of massacres of scores at a time, I cannot conceive of any motive for killing a dozen or so at any one time with the odd chemical shell.  It makes no military sense – chemical weapons are designed for use against population centres and massed armies.  They are not precision weapons for deployment against small groups.

Why on earth would the Assad regime use a tiny amount of chemical weapons against tiny groups of rebels, knowing the West would use it as an excuse to start bombing?  It makes no sense whatsoever.  Cui bono?

The Russians have described the evidence as fabricated, and on this one I am with the Russians.

It is of course no coincidence that this humanitarian motive to start bombing Syria  arises just as the tide of war turned against the rebels, and the government forces are about to move on Aleppo.  I suspect now we will see massive NATO force intervention, with huge air to ground destruction of the government forces all over the country to “defend” Aleppo, just as we saw hundreds of thousands killed and whole cities destroyed in Libya to “defend” Benghazi.  Whose people showed their gratitude by murdering the US Ambassador.

It is a further fascinating coincidence that this coordinated western switch of policy happens immediately after the Bilderberg conference.  An analysis of which of the corporate interests there stand to gain in Syria might be a fascinating exercise.

There were two main reasons the tide of war turned against the rebels.  Firstly, Hizbollah’s decision to enter the war on a large scale was provoked by the Israeli Air Force’s massive attack around Damascus, a fact the mainstream media has managed to hide completely.  Secondly, at Turkish urging, the rebel forces had diverted much of their energies to attacking the Syrian kurds.  This opens the interesting question of what the American client Kurds of Iraq will make of their patron sponsoring the massacre of their brethren in Syria.

Finally, chemical weapons are a terrible thing and their use should be  condemned unreservedly.  But where was all this Western outrage and activity when the Israelis were pouring down white phosphorous and kicking and maiming thousands of women and children in Gaza?

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Completely Surreal Hague Press Stunt

William Hague just gave a press conference on the big Libya conflab in London at which he obviously thought it would look good to be flanked by an Arab. So he sat next to the Prime Minister of Qatar, who solemnly told us that the Libyan people have the right to choose their own leadership. Fucking QATAR! An absolute monarchy.

This is from the State Department’s annual Human Rights Report 2009:

The emir exercises full executive power. The 2005 constitution provides for continued hereditary rule by the emir’s male branch of the Al-Thani family. Shari’a (Islamic law) is the main source of legislation. The emir approves or rejects legislation after consultation with the appointed 35-member Advisory Council and cabinet. There are no elections for national leadership, and the law forbids political parties

Rather amusingly, but completely wrongly, the State Department call this unmitigated hereditary autocracy a “constitutional monarchy”. It is also worth noting that the State Department has listed Qatar as a Tier 3 – ie absolutely terrible – country for human trafficking in bonded domestic servants. Homosexuality is illegal as are Christian religious symbols, even in churches.

Of course the chief decision of the London conference was that Qatar will take over Libya’s oil resources. I am still astounded that anybody can still be taken in by all the bullshit about democracy and human rights, with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other human rights abusers in the thick of the politicking.

Finally, hours of broadcast coverage have been given to the poor woman who says she was raped by Gadaffi’s militia. I am inclinded to believe her, but it sticks in my throat that it is paraded everywhere as a justification for war. As detailed in Murder in Samarkand, rape by the security forces is a constant occurrence in our ally Karimov’s Uzbekistan, and neither these outraged western journalists nor western governments have ever said a single word about it.

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Illegal War

The attack on Libya is now illegal, a criminal war of aggression. While I always opposed the action as a matter of policy, I explained it was not illegal within the confines clearly established in UNSCR 1973.

It is now plain that NATO forces have wilfully breached those confines and are now guilty of a criminal war of aggression. They are bombing what are now the defenders as a deliberate act of aerial support to pave the way for the rebel forces’ ground assault. I suspended my judgement on calling this an illegal war because it is a huge accusation, and I take these matters very seriously. Two days ago I posted this:

Whether taking a side in the civil war can be justified in terms of UNSCR 1973 as “protecting civilians” seems to me a very dubous prospect indeed. It is certainly unwise, but the legality of current actions is arguable as it may not yet be definitely established that taking sides is what we are doing.

There is no longer any doubt. In bombing defensive emplacements ahead of the rebel assault on Gadaffi’s hometown of Sirte, a line has been definitively crossed. Attacking Sirte cannot possibly be justified as “Protection of civilians”. There was no threat to the civilians of Gadaffi’s hometown from Gadaffi’s forces. Indeed it is arguable that the citizenry of Sirte may be more in danger from the tribal antagonists we are assisting to conquer them.

The government has refused to release the full advice of the Attorney General on the legailty of the attack on Libya. What they have released is:

The Attorney General has been consulted and Her Majesty’s Government is satisfied that this Chapter VII authorisation to use all necessary measures provides a clear and unequivocal legal basis for deployment of UK forces and military assets to achieve the resolution’s objectives

My italics. Now I strongly suspect that the Attorney General’s unpublished advice discusses the objectives and the consequential scope of military action. The British Government is now plainly involved in military action that goes well beyond “the resolution’s objectives”. We need to discover what the Attorney General thinks of that.

A lesson not learned from the Iraq debacle is that we need to move beyond the position where legal advice on the legality of war is given by a politician and controlled, and withheld, by the executive, with no access for the opposition or the general public.

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All Eyes on the Middle East

For weeks now, every Friday has been full of thrill and expectation, as we have waited to see what will transpire after Friday prayers. Plainly the Islamic religion is capable of being a motor for postive social change. First expectation centred on Tunisia, then on Egypt. Today among many key points, Syria and Yemen are particularly interesting.

In Yemen, the Americans are back in the position they were in over Egypt as it became plain that Mubarak could not survive, when they tried to foist in the arch Zionist Omar Suleyman. In Yemen they are still hoping to find a successor for Salih endorsed by the USA and propelled to power by the military, who will permit free operation by US forces in Yemen. It does not seem that anything will ever convince Obama that freedom and democracy in the Middle East would address most of the root causes of terrorism.

Syria is interesting, because while Assad is every bit as murderous as his father, he gives an example of what a younger and more media savvy generation of Middle Eastern dictators might look like. Instead of threatening to murder all opposition, he apologises for each and every massacre his troops carry out and sends flowers to their relatives. His wife does excellent PR in a Princess Diana style, pretending all kinds of concern for the poor. Assad spouts the language of reform with glib facility, meaning absolutely none of it. If is easy to see that Saif Gadaffi, charmer of Western politicians and institutions who craved the money stolen from his people, would have adoped that model if the Arab Spring had not emerged.

While the USA is not fond of Assad, stylistically he is a good example of the kind of media friendly dictator the CIA sees as the ideal medium term outcome of the Arab Spring.

It is peculiar that the Western media, and now international law, view Gadaffi’s assets as ill-gotten because he stole them after seizing power, whereas the money looted from his pople by the King of Bahrain, or the vast Saudi oil wealth treated as private property by the al-Saud, is viewed as highly respectable and desirable. At least Gadaffi seized it for himself. The ancestors of monarchs did precisely what Gadaffi has done, and then their descendants simply wallowed in the inheritance. There is no moral difference between Gadaffi’s sons and Saudi princes. I should like to see the back of the lot of them.

As predicted, the military action in Libya is going horribly wrong. The bombs and missiles are consolidating an undeserved nationalist support for Gadaffi and motivating more people to actually fight for him. The rebels are on the wrong end of ground battles and there is precious little evidence what majority opinion in Libya actually now wants. The western bombing forces are more and more involved in ground attack on pro-Gadaffi forces, and not only armour.

Whether taking a side in the civil war can be justified in terms of UNSCR 1973 as “protecting civilians” seems to me a very dubous prospect indeed. It is certainly unwise, but the legality of current actions is arguable as it may not yet be definitely established that taking sides is what we are doing.

However, it cannot be argued that taking out the command and control structure of the entire Libyan army, not just that related to air defence, is necessary to civilian protection and a no fly zone. And the pattern of ground attack in support not of civilians but of armed rebel forces is becoming plainly established.

If this goes on for more than another couple of days, it seems to me it will be beyond doubt that the action has gone outwith the aims of UNSCR 1973, are disproportionate, and the UK will be engaged in illegal war.

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On Civilian Casualties

During the initial phase of the war in Iraq, stray US missiles aimed at Iraq hit Kuwait, Turkey and Syria. Two missiles hit Syria which were specifically supposed to hit Baghdad. That is on top of the numerous instances of misidentification. You will also remember that we hit the Chinese Embassy when bombing Belgrade.

Two nights ago, 118 Tomahawk missiles were aimed at 20 targets. These things are extremely destructive. We know that some of the targets were radar installations and SAM missile sites. These are not extensive. Airfields would need more, but the fact that 118 extremely expensive missiles were fired at just 20 targets undoubtedly includes a large measure of redundancy, precisely because the military know very well that some of them will miss.

You cannot send hundreds of cruise missiles and numerous bombing raids into Libya without killing civilians. You do not have to accept anything the Gadaffi regime says to know that.

There are genuine questions arising now about proportionality and whether the allied action really is confined to carrying out the mandate of SCR1973. Taking out air defences can be justified as an essential precursor to setting up the no fly zone. But whether taking out the command and control structure of the entire Libyan armed forces is really necessary to the protection of civilians appears at best a dubious proposition.

The Guardian’s editor, disgraceful Blair catamite Alan Rusbridger is always up for military action to kill Muslims. The Guardian reports that


Critics claimed that the coalition of the willing may have been acting disproportionately and had come perilously close to making Gaddafi’s departure an explicit goal of UN policy

The last part of that quote is misleading nonsense. The “coalition of the willing” have failed miserably to make regime change explicit UN policy. That is extremely clear in SCR1973. What the coalition of the willing are extremely close to doing is acting illegally in making war beyond their UN mandate. That is a very different thing.

According to the Guardian report, the allies are now going on to attack Gadaffi’s artillery and armour. Whether there is still any threat to Benghazi remains unclear. But there seems to be a very real danger that the bombings will only serve to stoke patriotic support for Gadaffi among wide sectors of the population.

Plainly what compliance with SCR1973 would require now is a period of pause, during which the no fly zone is enforced, and whether any further ground attacks are in fact needed to enforce the very limited aims of SCR 1973 can be assessed. If instead we continue to see further intense attacks upon Libya, plainly the coalition is moving into illegality.

Actually, having seen the man in the flesh, I don’t object to the “Mad Dog” descriptions of Gadaffi. Britian has its own “Mad Dog” in Liam Fox, shooting his mouth off about assassinating Gadaffi and doing his best to alienate international support. I remenber Fox as a rumbustious bigot from the beer bar of Glasgow University Union. He was a leading light in the successful campaign to ban the Gay Society. He struck me then as a talentless zealot of deeply unpleasant views. It is deeply worrying that somebody like him can achieve high office.

Al Jazeera have excellent coverage today of the terror being visited upon the people of Bahrain now their democracy movement has been temporarily crushed. The US were complicit in this, and Qatar and the UAE – neither of them democracies, both of them involved in the brutality in Bahrain – are now providing the Arab military forces supposed to give political cover to the coalition.

The endgame may be the division of Libya into two parts – diesel and unleaded.

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Dancing To The Saudi Tune

As the British government carefully looks the other way while democracy movements are bloodily crushed in the Gulf, here is some good reading for anyone who doubts the influence wielded over the British government by Saudi oil money and by the armaments industry. This wikileaks cable catalogues one of the most shameful moments in the long history of the British state. I strongly recommend that you read the whole thing. Here is a taster.

Garlick
reported that SFO and MOD Police investigators had expended more
than 2 million pounds sterling on the BAE investigations. She
said on December 14, SFO Director Robert Wardle had decided to
discontinue the joint SFO/MOD Police investigation based on his
personal, independent judgment. Garlick then described four
distinct parts of the BAE/Saudi Arabia investigation:

¶4. (C) First, the relationship between BAE plc and Prince Turki
Bin Nasir: evidence indicated payments had been made by two
subcontractors to Prince Turki, who, as Deputy Commander of the
Royal Saudi Air Force during the involved period, was in a
position to exert influence on the al-Yamamah contract.
Payments fell into three time periods: before the
implementation of the U.K.’s 2001 Act (effective February 14,
2002); during a transition period; and following full
implementation of the Act. Evidence indicated that payments of
up to 70 million pounds had been made to Prince Turki prior to
implementation of 2001 Act. SFO had evidence indicating BAE had
conspired to circumvent the 2001 Act and another 3 million
pounds were paid to Turki following implementation;

¶5. (C) Second, payments made to BAE’s overseas agents:
evidence indicated that substantial payments were made by BAE
through XXXXXX XXXXXX to marketing consultants employed at
the behest of the Saudi government after implementation of the
2001 act, but no documents were produced to substantiate the
provision of any genuine services by the consultants;

¶6. (C) Third, payments made under the al-Yamamah contract to an
unnamed senior Saudi official: Garlick advised that in October
2005, the SFO had demanded BAE produce documents including
payments related to the al-Yamamah contract. The company made
representations to the AG on public interest grounds (political
and economic considerations) as to why the investigation should

be halted. The AG undertook a Shawcross Exercise and sought
representations from various British officials regarding the
case. The SFO Director wanted to continue the investigation.
On January 25, 2006, the AG agreed that there was no impediment
to continuing the investigation. The SFO sought Swiss banking
records regarding agents of BAE. The SFO found reasonable
grounds that another very senior Saudi official was the
recipient of BAE payments. The SFO was poised to travel to
Switzerland in connection with its Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA)
request when the decision to discontinue the investigation was
made; and

¶7. (C) Fourth, potential fraud against the U.K.’s Export Credit
Guarantee Department: the SFO investigated potential fraud
against the EGCD and discovered false representations by BAE to
conceal the corrupt dealings, which would constitute conspiracy
to defraud under U.K. law.

¶8. (C) Garlick noted a number of difficult legal issues
involved in the case, which put into question the sustainability
of corruption charges for payments made prior to 2002. Under
U.K. law, the informed consent of the principal to the agent’s
actions may be offered as a defense, making possible an
exception to the prohibitions on foreign bribery where the
individual receiving the bribe acts with the consent of the
principal. Evidentiary problems were also presented in a case
involving the Saudi absolute monarchy. Garlick said information
was being shared within the British government with a view to
the wholesale reform of UK law on corruption. She expressed
concern that the BAE investigation had not concluded, but said
while the Saudi Arabia case had been discontinued due to
unusual/extraordinary circumstances, other investigations
involving BAE activities in South Africa, Tanzania, Romania,
Chile, and the Czech Republic continued.

¶9. (C) Jones cited public interest as the reason for
discontinuation of the investigation, based on risks to
international and national security and to the lives of U.K.
citizens. He said the U.K. was not seeking to avoid giving
offense to another State or harming diplomatic relations with
another State, and “still less” to avoid harming British
commercial interests. Jones said U.K. authorities do not
believe the Anti-bribery Convention requires parties to pursue
cases if doing so would compromise the fight against terrorism
or the safety of citizens. He said U.K.-Saudi cooperation was
critical and that Saudi Arabia was the source of unique strains
of intelligence on al-Qaida. If Saudi Arabia were to withdraw
such cooperation, the UK would be deprived of a key source of
information. Jones also cited UK-Saudi cooperation related to
the Middle East Peace Process.

As I have said in relation to so many other such lying claims by the British government, if there were really thirty active terrorist plots by genuine determined terrorists, is it not astonishing that between them they did not manage to kill a single person? Doubtless they included the “lyrical terrorist” and the deadly poems for which she was jailed (before thankfully being freed by the Court of Appeal, a fact the mainstream media missed). As for the Saudi contribution to the so-called Middle East Peace Process as the reason not to prosecute anybody, the concept is so far beyond rational as to be unanswerable.

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The Enemies of Freedom

The West is extremely selective about which enemies of freedom it opposes and which it supports, to the extent that it is a necessary conclusion that liberty is not a real factor in western foreign polcy. As part of the western world, it is the hypocrisy of my own wider community that most troubles me.

But equally, the enemies of freedom may themselves be pro or anti-western, or vacillate for personal advantage. Karimov and Gadaffi are among the latter and arguably Putin. Ahmadinejad is the mirror of Obama in the hypocrisy of his calls for freedom. Assad is proving as adept as his father in killing those striving to be free. But I want to focus in particular on Hamas who are using open violence against the young educated population of Gaza and against journalists, and whose reign of terror in Gaza is shamefully ignored by much of the British left.

Those who have known Palestinians and followed their cause for as many decades as I, understand that it took colossal forces to warp Palestine’s impressive civil society until it could produce an ugly excrescence like Hamas. Those forces were produced by the vast pressure of the Israeli crushing of the population of Gaza in a long, slow but relentless and very deliberate genocide. But understanding how it happened does not make Hamas any more acceptable. If the young people of Palestine are ever to know freedom, they have to throw off not only the vicious Israeli deathlock, but also the violent, narrow, religious nutters of Hamas and the perjured, fat, corrupt sell-outs of Fatah.

The only good news is that a significant proportion of young Palestinians do seem to know that.

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US Sponsored Massacre in Yemen

Forty pro-democracy demonstrators have been killed outside the university in Sanaa by the US sponsored Yemeni regime this morning, with over two hundred shot. The Clinton/Obama plan for US allies to crush the democracy movement against their Gulf allies, while the whole media is diverted to the “pro-democracy” military demonstration in Libya, proceeds apace.

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Military Action Against Libya Is Not Illegal, Not About Democracy and Very Limited

I was much attacked, especially by “Liberal interventionists”, in comments across the blogosphere when I broke the news four days ago that:


A senior diplomat in a western mission to the UN in New York, who I have known over ten years and trust, has told me for sure that Hillary Clinton agreed to the cross-border use of troops to crush democracy in the Gulf, as a quid pro quo for the Arab League calling for Western intervention in Libya.

I must be wrong, it was widely opined, because the US was against military intervention in Libya; a number of quotes from Clinton and Gates to that effect were thrown around. Well, I was telling the truth and they were lying. The Arab League support was essential to getting the Security Council Resolution passed. The Security Council Resolution 1973 contains this preambulatory paragraph:

Taking note also of the decision of the Council of the League of Arab States of 12 March 2011 to call for the imposition of a no-fly zone on Libyan military aviation, and to establish safe areas in places exposed to shelling as a precautionary measure that allows the protection of the Libyan people and foreign nationals residing in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya

As part of the US deal with Saudi Arabia, the Arab forces which are going to be used as poster boys for the action against Libya will come largely from the Gulf Cooperation Council, ie precisely the same organisation which the US and Saudi are using to put down democracy in Bahrain. So whatever this is about, it is not about support for democracy.

I have no pretence to omniscience, or great judgement. But I was a pretty senior diplomat, I do have a reputation to protect, and when I say I know for sure that something is happening in the diplomatic world, I do know it for sure.

There is no doubt that SCR 1973 does authorise military action against Libya. That is understood by the phrase “All necessary means”, which is precisely the phrase that Bush and Blair tried and failed to get into resolutions on Iraq. So unlike Bush and Blair, in launching attacks against Libya, Obama and Cameron will not make themselves guilty of the war crime of launching an illegal war of aggression.

That is not a minor point. International law is extremely important, and has to be rebuilt after the Bush/Blair demolition of the concept.

But for action to be legal it must stay within the confines of SCR1973, which are much more constrained than the warmongering media is putting over.

SCR 1973 SPECIFICALLY DOES NOT AUTHORISE GROUND INVASION
SCR 1973 SPECIFICALLY DOES NOT AUTHORISE VIOLENT REGIME CHANGE
SCR 1973 SPECIFICALLY DOES NOT AUTHORISE ARMING OF REBEL FORCES

SCR 1973 SPECIFICALLY DOES NOT AUTHORISE GROUND INVASION

Operative Paragraph 4
4. Authorizes Member States that have notified the Secretary-General, acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements, and acting in cooperation with the Secretary-General, to take all necessary measures, notwithstanding paragraph 9 of resolution 1970 (2011), to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory, and requests the Member States concerned to inform the Secretary-General immediately of the measures they take pursuant to the authorization conferred by this paragraph which shall be immediately reported to the Security Council;

SCR 1973 SPECIFICALLY DOES NOT AUTHORISE VIOLENT REGIME CHANGE

Operative paragraphs 1 and 2:
1. Demands the immediate establishment of a ceasefire and a complete end to violence and all attacks against, and abuses of, civilians;
2. Stresses the need to intensify efforts to find a solution to the crisis which responds to the legitimate demands of the Libyan people and notes the decisions of the Secretary-General to send his Special Envoy to Libya and of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union to send its ad hoc High-Level Committee to Libya with the aim of facilitating dialogue to lead to the political reforms necessary to find a peaceful and sustainable solution;

SCR 1973 SPECIFICALLY DOES NOT AUTHORISE ARMING OF REBEL FORCES

Operative Paragraph 13
“13. Decides that paragraph 11 of resolution 1970 (2011) shall be replaced by the following paragraph : “Calls upon all Member States, in particular States of the region, acting nationally or through regional organisations or arrangements, in order to ensure strict implementation of the arms embargo established by paragraphs 9 and 10 of resolution 1970 (2011), to inspect in their territory, including seaports and airports, and on the high seas, vessels and aircraft bound to or from the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, if the State concerned has information that provides reasonable grounds to believe that the cargo contains items the supply, sale, transfer or export of which is prohibited by paragraphs 9 or 10 of resolution 1970 (2011) as modified by this resolution, including the provision of armed mercenary personnel, calls upon all flag States of such vessels and aircraft to cooperate with such inspections and authorises Member States to use all measures commensurate to the specific circumstances to carry out such inspections”;

On the arms embargo, the scope is simply geographic, the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya being the official name of the country as recognised by the United Nations. Other provisions within SCR 1973 make it plain that phrase is simply used to denote the whole country.

Furthermore the initial UK draft of the Security Council Resolution contained a provision to exempt the rebels from the arms embargo. It read:

“to take all necessary measures, notwithstanding paragraph 9 of resolution 1970 (2011), to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory”

The phrase highlighted was dropped in the negotiating process. As paragraph 9 of SCR1970 institutes the arms embargo, the proposal would in effect have exempted the rebels from the arms embargo justified as protection of civilian populated areas. That has been dropped in negotiation and it is therefore explicit that the arms embargo applies to all of Libya.

So military action against Libya is legal provided and only provided it stays within the strict parameters of SCR 1973. I continue to believe it may prove unwise, and am most concerned at the civilian casualties that will certainly accrue from air strikes which the media will lie to us were incredibly targeted and precise. But this is not full scale illegal war of the Iraq kind.

We await events with apprehension.

Meantime the leader of the opposition and six other prominent dissidents in Bahrain have been thrown into jail, along with four hundred supporters, and foreign armies patrol the streets. Where is the Security Council Resolution about that? I repeat, this all has nothing to do with promoting democracy. It is about promoting US interest, controlling and directing pro-democracy movements where they cannot be stopped, but more widely clamping down on them with brutal force in favour of US client tyrants.

The media has now gone into full war gaming mode, and western public attention will be diverted in a false cloud of war patriotism from the vicious activities of western allies in Bahrain, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and elsewhere. The blogosphere now has a vital role to play in keeping truth available to those who wish to find it.

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The Haynau Precedent

The vicious war criminal King of Bahrain will be among the guests at the royal wedding. There is a much honoured precedent for how we should deal with him.

After the European pro-democracy revolutions of 1848 were bloodily put down, one of the most vicious aristocratic oppressors, the Austro-Hungarian General Haynau, was visiting London. As he had used the military against unarmed protestors, including women, ordinary London people made plain he was not welcome. He was dragged from his carriage and beaten up in Park St, Southwark.

There is a monument to it. I was taught it at school as something to be proud of, as showing the British people’s disdain of foreign tyrants. But then I didn’t go to the same kind of school as David Cameron and Nick Clegg.

So I intend to form the Haynau contingent, a group of people dedicated to landing one squarely on the nose of the fat absolute monarch when he arrives in the UK for the wedding. I am looking for volunteers to join me. I am going to write to Scotland Yard, the Foreign Office and to the Embassy of Bahrain declaring this intention.

When the Emperor of Austria-Hungary launched a diplomatic protest at the treatment of General Haynau, Palmerston told him where to shove it. From Palmerston to William Hague – was there ever a starker illustration of the decline of a nation?

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Bahrain: Crimes Against Humanity

Live rounds by security forces were used in a massive dawn attack on the protest camp at Pearl roundabout. The hundreds of injured have been denied access to the hospital, which is surrounded by military including Saudi military. Doctors are not allowed to leave to treat the wounded outside. This is a crime against humanity.

Both CNN and Al Jazeera have numerous eye witnesses to these events. CNN report that some doctors and patients have been beaten. Yet Hillary Clinton has just been shown calling for “restraint by all sides” and calling for an end to “sectarian violence from all groups”. This is the standard US response to an atrocity by one of its close allies. In Uzbekistan, when at least 700 pro-democracy demonstrators were massacred by security forces at Andijan, the State Department called for “Both sides to stop violence”.

So there you have it. People who wanted democracy are dying from gunshot wounds which could be treated if they were not denied medical attention, actually within sight of the ships of the US fifth fleet. I do hope US citizens reading this are feeling proud and patriotic today.

It is also interesting how keen apologists for the fat rich ugly King of Bahrain, including Clinton, are to cast this as “sectarian”. There are plenty of Sunni democrats also who do not wish to live in an absolutist monarchy. It is yet another variation on the theme “We have to support the dictator as there is no democratic alternative. The only alternative is theocracy”. Clinton is falling back on that bullshit – again just as in Uzbekistan.

There is no doubt that, as a matter of law, the denial of hospitil access to the injured demonstrators, following a planned attack on them preceded by the importation of foreign troops, puts the King of Bahrain in line for a cell at The Hague. How can Britiain be surprised at lack of UN support for a no fly zone in Libya, when our concern for democracy and humanity is so blatantly selective? Where is the travel ban on the King and his family, and the freezing of his assets?

There are moments of clarity when the doublespeak of governments is starkly exposed. This is one of those. It is plain that Obama did not mean a single word of the concern for democracy in the Muslim world he expressed in his “Cairo speech”. The US much prefers its pet dictators.

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Bahrain Anschluss

The fatter of these two evil ugly bastards is the King of Bahrain. Having invited in foreign armies to crush the pro-democracy protests of his own people, he has immediately let them loose on the demonstrators, who are being viciously attacked by them even as I type.

In classic anschluss fashion, the King has invited his people to “co-operate fully and to welcome” the invaders, as they attack them. He has simmediately declared a state of emergency, made demonstrations illegal, and attacked the protestors. Today they killed two and injured 200, many very seriously.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates was in Bahrain the day before the Saudi invasion. The British Embassy issued a first travel advisory for Brits not to travel to Bahrain, also the day before the Saudi invasion. As I reported yesterday, the US agreement to the Saudi military crushing of democracy movements in the Gulf was part of a complex deal which included the surprise Arab League agreement to a no fly zone over Libya. Interestingly, in the BBC report linked above the US admit to advance knowledge of the Saudi invasion, but BBC News is now reporting they are denying it.

There is still absolutely no sign of condemnation from the UK or US of this outrageous crushing of Bahrain’s democracy movement by foreign military forces. The hypocrisy of our governments is breathtakingly audacious.

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The Invasion of Bahrain

A senior diplomat in a western mission to the UN in New York, who I have known over ten years and trust, has told me for sure that Hillary Clinton agreed to the cross-border use of troops to crush democracy in the Gulf, as a quid pro quo for the Arab League calling for Western intervention in Libya.

The hideous King of Bahrain has called in troops from Saudi Arabia, UAE and Kuwait to attack pro-democracy protestors in Bahrain.

Can you imagine the outrage if Gadaffi now called in the armies of Chad. Mali and Burkina Faso to attack the rebels in Ben Ghazi?

But do you think that those in power, who rightly condemn Gadaffi’s apparent use of foreign mercenaries, will condemn this use of foreign military power by oil sheiks to crush majority protestors in Bahrain? Of course they won’t. We just had Sky News rationalising it by telling us that the Gulf Cooperation Council have a military alliance that a state can call in help if attacked. But that does not mean attacked by its own, incidentally unarmed, people. NATO is a military alliance. It does not mean Cameron could call in US troops to gun down tuition fees protestors in Parliament Square.

This dreadful outrage by the Arab sheikhs will be swallowed silently by the West because they are “our” bastards, they host our troops and they buy our weapons.

I do hope this latest development will open the eyes of those duped into supporting western intervention in Libya, who believe those who control the western armies are motivated by humanitarian concern. Bahrain already had foreign forces in it – notably the US fifth fleet. Do you think that Clinton and Obama will threaten that they will intervene if foreign armies are let loose on pro-democracy demonstrators? No they won’t.

Whether this will have any effect on the railroading of public opinion behind military intervention in Libya remains to be seen. I am fascinated to hear, for example, whether Ming Campbell and Phillippe Sands, who wrote of Our Duty To Protect The Libyan People , also believe we have a duty to pro-democracy demonstrators in Bahrain to protect them from attack by foreign forces.

We know from Iraq and Afghanistan, Serbia, Lebanon and Gaza that the “collateral damage” from the initial bombing of Libyan air defences will kill more people than are dying already in the terrible situation in Libya. While a no-fly zone would help rebel morale, most of the actual damage rebels are sustaining is from heavy artillery; without a no tank, no artillery and no gunboat zone, a no-fly zone will not in itself tip the military balance.

It appears that getting rid of Gadaffi may be a longer slog than we would like, but an attempt at a quick fix will lead to another Iraq, and give him an undeserved patriotic mantle. It was former UK Ambassador to Libya, Oliver Miles who said western military intervention in Libya should be avoided above all because of the law of unintended consequences. One consequence has happened already, unintended by the liberals who fell in behind the calls for military attacks on Gadaffi. They helped cause the foreign military suppression of democracy in Bahrain. For Clinton and Obama, it is a win-win forwarding US foreign policy on both Libya and the Gulf, where they don’t want democracy.

People of good heart should weep.

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Whether It Matters When Arabs Die Depends On Who Is Killing Them

How very few of the voices urgently raised now for a no-fly zone over Libya, said anything at all when Israel killed 1,400 civilians in the Gaza Strip, raining down white phosphorous bombs. Did NATO meet to discuss a no fly zone then?

The Libyan National Council recognised by France includes some good men but also includes Gadaffi’s former interior minister and former head of the national security service. These are people drenched in the blood of dissidents. You can be quite sure that the rush by Western governments to pick a side is related to positioning by oil interests seeking to benefit from those who take over power.

None of which is to excuse Gadaffi or demean the thousands of ordinary people genuinely fighting for freedom. They should be supported. But anyone who believes the NATO governments are acting from humanitarian concern is a fool. This is their chance to capture and tame the Arab revolution. The African Union was quite right to reject outside intervention.

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This Hague Cock-up Must Be Explained

So far it is a toss up whether events in Libya pose more threat to the careers of Muammar Gadaffi or of William Hague. First we had the sadly typical farce of the inert UK evacuation effort, with British diplomats cowring behind their walls concerned about health and safety, and our Ambassador being tied down with politically correct nonsense about his “Duty of Care” to his staff not to let them anywhere near harm’s way.

Reminiscent of this, isn’t it:


In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, British citizens had been evacuated to the horror and squalor of the Superdome stadium, where thousands of people were crowded among what the BBC described as “knee-high piles of faeces”. After the roads in to New Orleans had become again passable, a British Consulate convoy set out to pick them up. Reaching a checkpoint, they were told they were not allowed to enter without a permit from the Governor of Louisiana. Our intrepid diplomats turned back.

Ten minutes later the Australian consul had arrived. Told he had to turn back, he replied “Are you going to shoot me?” and drove through the roadblock, the Southern Cross flying proudly from his bonnet. . The Australians got out their own people and some of ours. When the British finally arrived at the stadium two days later, having gone through the paper hoops like good little bureaucrats, they found they had almost no-one left to rescue, most of the Britons having been helped out by journalists.

And now we have a posse of the SAS and MI6, motoring around the Libyan desert pretending to be Fitzroy Maclean, before ignominiously being captured, detained and thrown back as of no value.

What on earth were they playing (I use the word advisedly) at? WHat on earth came over Hague to authorise this extremely daft blunder into a highly delicate situation? The one thing we do know is that the cover story is nonsense. They were not there to establish contact with the rebel leadership. Our Ambassador, Richard Northern, already had close contact with the rebel leadership and indeed was able to phone the rebel leaders up and beg for the release of our crack squad. Hague had not even thought it necessary to tell our Ambassador about the operation.

If we had really wanted to establish a liaison with the rebels, we would have sent a real diplomat into Benghazi on a ship. Preferably someone already accredited in Libya. I did plenty of that kind of stuff in my career, as recounted in my books. You want a simple unarmed person to liaise, not a Ramboesque raiding party.

And make no mistake, this was a raiding party. But just what were they going to raid? We are not at war in Libya, and the government has no right to undertake armed intervention in a foreign country without telling the British people and parliament. There is no right to mount covert armed operations by military units abroad. William Hague must tell us what he was doing.

UPDATE

I just heard on the BBC that Hague is indeed going to parliament to explain himself. As usual our politicians will be competing to harrumph loudly in a patriotic way, and just as with the similarly embarassing incident of the stray sailors captured by the Iranians, nobody will be asking any sensible questions for fear of not getting the Murdoch seal of approval for supporting “our heroes”.

ADDENDUM

Very interesting comment here by Ruth which I am elevating to the main body of the post. I recall well the reports of the arms dump explosion – 27 killed was the last total I saw. Assuming Ruth is right (and her source on timing is the Guardian) it appears that this team were in that area, and had been there at the relevant time.

The Guardian quite clearly states that the SAS men had been in the country for two days. Most reports say that they landed in the dark in the early hours of Friday morning. First reports stated they were picked up on Saturday by the rebels. All the reports I have read state that they were found a few kilometres from Benina, Benghazi’s airport. Ramjah, the big arms depot supplying the rebels, is a few kilometres from Benina in the very same direction. The depot exploded at 7pm on Friday. There had been no planes in the vicinity.

I am pretty secure in my contention that this was a raid, not a search for a meeting. It appears it may be physically possible that the mission was succesful and the target the arms dump. No more than a possibility, but a great deal more plausible than the Hague explanation.

Now Blair’s grest rapprochement with his “Friend” Gadaffi led to all sorts of grubby deals, One distinct possibility is that weapons were sold to Libya which the government doea not want people to know about. The US did not join in Bliar’s Libya love-fest. A very large percentage of British manufactured arms include components made under license from the US, with strict controls on to whom they can be sold on. We wouldn’t want that kind of stuff turning up in any arms dumps.

Just a hypothesis which fits the limited facts we appear to know so far. But I repeat, a great deal more plausible than Hague’s explanation.

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Western Cant on the Middle East

Consider a few facts:

The Obama administration had two years ago stopped all US funds to human rights defenders and civil society groups in Egypt, stipulating that all aid must go through the Mubarak regime

President Karimov of Uzbekistan killed more peaceful demonstrators in a single day in May 2005 than Colonel Gadaffi has done in the Libyan uprising so far. Yet Karimov in the fast three months had a visit from Hillary Clinton, a new military supply agreement with the United States and new partnership agreement with NATO, an official visit to the EU in Brussels, and new tarriff preferences for slave picked Uzbek cotton entering the EU. Most people in Uzbekistan have not a clue the arab revolutions are happening, such is state control of meida and internet and blocking of airwaves

In 1991, when the allies embarked on the First Gulf War to retake Kuwait from Iraq, John Major and George Bush sr declared that, rather than simply put the absolute Kuwaiti monarchy back on its throne (which it had unheroically run away from), the price of western soldiers being asked to risk their lives was the democratisation of Kuwait. That was immediately forgotten after the war. Ordinary British, US and other taxpayers paid out billions to put one of the richest families in the world back in sole charge of massive oil reserves. The Kuwaiti royal family still has a total monopoly of executive power, with a talking shop parliament and very limited electorate.

I could go on. If you want to go to the absolute font of western hypocrisy, take this from David Cameron:

It is not for me, or for governments outside the region, to pontificate about how each country meets the aspirations of its people. It is not for us to tell you how to do it, or precisely what shape your future should take. There is no single formula for success, and there are many ways to ensure greater, popular participation in Government

This was spoken in Dubai as Cameron travelled the region with a gang of millionaire arms dealers trying to flog weapons to any Emir wanting to buy. In other words, we feel free to insist on democracy in Libya. If we don’t do so in Saudi Arabia, it is not because we are hypocrites, it is because there is no single formula. Democracy would be quite wrong for Uzbekistan and Bahrain, and until two months ago it was quite wrong for Egypt too. It might hurt our allies. But it is absolutely essential yesterday in Libya and Zimbabwe.

Words scarcely suffice to condemn this cant. In Bahrain the majority are struggling for more freedom from their minority rulers, to a deafening silence from the West. In Yemen, a gross dictator hangs on with every kind of US support. In Egypt, the US policy of propping up Mubarak, then their replacement policy of a managed transition to Suleyman, have failed one by one and now we have a military dictatorship which is every day abducting and torturing pro-democracy campaigners. Over fifty Tahrir Square demonstrators have been sentenced to at least three years jail each by military tribunals in the last week, to total western silence. The US aim of securing an entrenched pro-Israeli government continues to be pushed forward by every available means.

That odious charlatan Niall Ferguson, producer for the right wing US market of popular history devoid of original research , informs us that democracy is not something arabs can do. For him to cite the invasion of Iraq, which he supported, as evidence that you cannot succeed with democracy in Arab countries, is sickening on so many levels. That democracy might be better implanted without killing hundreds of thousands of intended recipients, like so much else, does not occur to him.

Ferguson’s ludicrous assertion – inaccurate even for a generalisation – about lack of property rights in the Islamic world making democracy impossible there, needs to be challenged.

Firstly, it is by no means clear that democracy can only exist in a society with entrenched property rights. Ghana, for example, is widely viewed as the model African democracy, yet it is virtually impossible to own land there other than leasehold from the “stool”, or local chieftaincy. The vast majority of Ghanaians are not property owning in the Ferguson sense, but democracy and human rights function very well, thank you.

Secondly, there is a wide variety of property models throughout the Islamic world, and Islam has little or nothing to do with why the model is so different in Turkey, Morocco, Uzbekistan and Pakistan.

The notions that arabs and/or muslims are incapable of democracy is of course the staple of neo-conservative thinking. For there to be a “Clash of civilisations”, Islamic civilisation must be portrayed as incompatible with all modernity, as retrograde, autocratic and violent. Again, that is far from the truth.

That Islam and democracy are incompatible (and Turkey therefore presumably a mirage) has been the excuse for the Western backing of Mubarak, Karimov and endless other “hard men”. We really back them because they serve western interests over oil and gas, over Israel, or over Afghanistan. But we pretend that we back them because the only alternative to them is radical Islam.

That false dichotomy was given a seeming substance by our complicity with the torturers of Egypt, Uzbekistan, Tunisia and Morocco. The regime torturers happily made dissidents twisting in unimaginable agony admit that they wanted an al-Qaida state. The regime passed this on to the CIA and MI6, and they and western political leaders happily swallowed this claptrap because it united their interests with those of their client regime in a grubby circle of lying self-justification. I hope that puts Murder in Samarkand in context for you.

As for Gadaffi, we should not make the mistake of presuming he is not bad, because he is hypocritically denounced by those who support other dictators as bad or worse. Gadaffi is bad, and he is barking mad (you can read of my personal experience of him in The Catholic Orangemen of Togo). I hope that the Libyan people manage to oust him and bring democracy, though I fear this curiously low level civil war could drag on for a long while.

But the West should stay out. That the powers which are still trying, in the interests of Israel, to limit the democratic reform in Egypt, which still occupy Afghanistan, and are still propping up their puppet Gulf autocracies, should interfere with air or ground intervention, would be deeply unhelpful and the consequences are unreckonable. I can see an argument for shipping food and medical supplies to Benghazi and Tobruk, but that is the limit of western interference which might be helpful.

The Arab people have shown they are more than capable of seizing their own destiny. This must be for the Libyan people and other Arab states to sort out. For years, Western commentators spoke of “the Arab street” as a coherent public opinion, but as though it were natural that such opinion was at complete odds with the views of autocratic leaders, and the arab voice had no potential for translation to action. That has changed and the Arab voice must reverberate loudly enough to shake down more autocratic leaders – Gadaffi included.

The undeniable fact of the existence of the articulate young protestors of Tunisia, Tahrir Square, Bahrain, Muscat and elsewhere should have killed forever the figleaf behind which Western viciousness sought to skulk, that there are only two Arab political options: dictatorship or theocracy. In fact the Arab peoples are teeming with possibility and vast untapped human potential, waiting to form dynamically into new political and social organisation. We should leave them alone, stop arming their repressors and give them that chance.

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