#Brexit Free trade deal with US would be disaster for Britain, not to mention the end of the NHS

Free trade deal with US would be disaster for Britain

With Brexit on the horizon, the UK is now looking for ways to open up trade with countries outside the EU. A trade deal with the US is one of the most significant options politicians are exploring and an agreement that would increase imports and exports of food and drink could be an important component of this. This has raised the possibility of the UK accepting US food standards, which, to put it mildly, are a lot lower than current British/EU standards

Not only are US foodstuffs awash with toxic ingredients, animal welfare standards are appalling, which is a major issue to the British people who have a long history of campaigning for animal rights and utterly reject several forms of farming common in the US. Prime among these is the use of drugs such as steroids, bovine growth hormone and antibiotics in cattle farming, drugs that taint both the meat and dairy products. A few years ago the entire Mexican football team failed a FIFA drug test before a fixture, they hadn’t been taking steroids or growth hormone, they had been eating US produced beef.

Then there is the issue of the chemical cocktails allowed to be sprayed onto food crops in the US, things like the notorious Roundup from those lovely folks at Monsanto; it is impossible to prevent these chemicals entering the food chain and thanks to wholesale corruption and corporate criminal greed, no-one has actually done the studies to know just what effects these chemicals are having on the human population.

Here is a breakdown of just three of the toxic US food stuffs we want nothing to do with in Britain:

Chlorine Washed Chicken

The use of chlorine to wash chicken carcasses is currently banned in the EU and Britain

animal welfare is sidelined to keep costs down. In the EU, cost is also important, but the law means it can’t come at the expense of the birds’ basic welfare. There is a legal minimum amount of space, lighting and ventilation for EU poultry-rearing houses.

The more space the birds have to move around in, the fewer can be housed in a single area, which in turn has an effect on production costs. As there are no laws governing this in the US, the birds can be crammed in tightly so they have limited movement, with little light or ventilation. This reduces production costs but increases the risks of disease and contamination in a flock.

Washing the chickens in a strong chlorine solution (20-50 parts per million of chlorine) provides a brash, cost-effective method of killing any microorganisms on the surface of the bird, particularly bacteria such as species of Salmonella and Campylobacter. This helps prevent the meat being contaminated with microbes during slaughter and evisceration.

Why is the process banned in the EU?

US chicken has been banned in the EU since 1997 because of this chlorine-washing process. But this isn’t because the treatment itself has been deemed dangerous. A report by the EU Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures, for example, highlighted that the chemical cleaning treatment can be effective at removing food-borne pathogens depending on how it is used. The real fear is that heavily soiled birds may not be sufficiently disinfected, and that relying on chlorine washing could lead to poorer hygiene standards overall.

EU officials believe the food industry should be continually improving hygiene standards in all steps of processing – the “farm to fork” principle, and so have banned chickens washed in chlorine as a deterrent to poor practices. But in the US there are no poultry welfare standards so the process is common. There have also been reports, including undercover video evidence by the Humane Society of the United States, of both inhumane and unsanitary practices being carried out within poultry houses due to a lack of animal welfare regulation.

Although there are some benefits to this chlorine washing, there are concerns about it. Some US abattoirs and processing plants rely heavily on chlorination because their other hygiene standards are so poor that they would be illegal in Europe. The process is also very good at removing odours and surface slime, meaning the meat can be passed off as fresh for much longer than it should be.

Chlorine isn’t toxic at the levels used in the washing process and doesn’t itself cause cancer. But studies have shown that the treatment can cause carcinogens such as semicarbazide and trihalomethanes to form in the poultry meat if the concentration of chlorine is high enough.

Genetically Modified Corn

Pick up a box of cereal or other packaged food at any U.S. grocery store, and chances are you’re looking at a genetically modified product. The Center for Food Safety, a nonprofit organization that seeks sustainable alternatives to harmful methods of food production technologies, estimates that more than 70 percent of the processed foods in U.S. grocery stores contain some genetically modified ingredients — mostly corn or soy. But, in most cases, these modified foods have received only limited testing.

For example, take the three genetically modified corn varieties already being sold by Monsanto that are the subject of new analysis by French scientists. Two of the varieties have been genetically modified to contain unique proteins designed to kill insects that eat them, and the third variety was engineered to tolerate Roundup, Monsanto’s best-selling herbicide. Foods containing this “modified” corn are now being eaten by people all around the world, but the French researchers contend that Monsanto’s studies do not prove the corns are safe to consume.

Under current U.S. law, corporations are not required to make industry-conducted studies public. But, in this case, thanks to a lawsuit and the involvement of European governments and Greenpeace attorneys, these studies were released for independent analysis by scientists not being paid by Monsanto.

The researchers, affiliated with the Committee for Independent Research and Information on Genetic Engineering (an independent, nonprofit association dedicated to studying the impacts of genetically modified organisms), published their detailed critique of the Monsanto studies in the International Journal of Biological Sciences (2009; 5:706-726). They concluded that the data — which Monsanto claimed proved the corn varieties were safe to eat — actually suggest potential kidney and liver problems resulting from consumption of all three modified corn varieties, as well as negative effects in the heart, adrenal glands, and spleen. The findings confirm a 2007 report from the same researchers on a single variety of modified corn.

The new report also concludes that the Monsanto rat-feeding studies were so small and so brief that they clearly lack sufficient statistical power to prove the corn varieties are safe. So, why did governments grant permission to farmers to grow this genetically modified corn? Back in 1992, the industry persuaded the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to rule that their crops are “substantially equivalent” to traditionally bred crops. This assumption — that genetically modified foods pose no particular risk — has led to our current system of weak regulatory oversight.

According to the nonprofit Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, a project designed to facilitate dialogue about the pros and cons of genetic modification, “No single statute and no single federal agency govern the regulation of agricultural biotechnology products.” And, compared with the battery of tests demanded of chemical pesticides (evaluation of chronic exposure, carcinogenicity, etc.), the testing requirements for genetically altered crops amount to little more than a polite suggestion.

Beef tainted with hormonal growth promoters

In some non-EU countries, hormonal growth promoters are used in beef production to increase cow size and reduce fat content. But in Europe, these promoters were banned in the 1980s over food safety concerns. This has raised questions over whether UK farmers are set at a disadvantage to overseas producers and whether non-EU meat poses a food safety risk.

The production of meat is controlled by hormones. Growth hormones control the extent of growth, muscle and fat production, feed consumption and milk production.

Treating animals with specific combinations and doses of hormones can make a carcass more valuable, as muscle growth can be increased and fat is reduced. Most importantly, hormone-treated animals are cheaper to rear as they need less feed to maintain muscle. Overall the increase in productivity from using hormones is 5-20%.

The most widely-used treatments are combinations of sex hormones (androgens and oestrogens) for use in beef cattle, growth hormones for milk production in cattle and growth in pigs and adrenal hormones (beta-agonists) which increase muscle in pigs and cattle. Sex hormones are released via a plastic pellet implanted behind the ear, while growth hormones are given by injection. Beta-agonists are included in animal feed and absorbed in the intestine.

A European Commission directive banning the use of hormones in meat production was introduced in the 1980s. Imported meat from animals with detectable levels of hormonal residues was also banned.

The ban was introduced as evidence suggested oestrogenic hormones were carcinogenic at high levels. While animals given correct dosages were unlikely to have high levels, they could occur if there was misuse, such as tissue from an implantation site being sent for consumption.

But the EU was not just concerned about health – the ban was also based on consumer perception that using hormones to manipulate growth is unnatural, unnecessary and a risk to animal welfare.

In the US, where hormones are used, officials maintain there is no good evidence of any health risk from using hormones. The country has long-debated the issue with the EU as it claims the ban is against the spirit of free trade between countries.

The EU’s position on hormonal growth promotes has strengthened since the 1980s, partly because of examples of illegal hormone use – particularly muscle-building beta-agonists – in some countries. Monitoring residues of growth promotors is now more stringent and coordinated by a single body in each member state. In the UK, residues are monitored by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, which also also monitors residues from meat imported from other EU countries. Exporting countries also have their own surveillance programmes and infringements can lead in the cessation of exports to the EU.

Overseas producers supplying the EU usually designate special production units where no hormonal growth promoters are used. The loss of extra productivity is balanced by the high prices received. However, it can still be argued that producers in these countries are at an advantage compared with EU producers because the bulk of their production benefits from greater overall efficiency and can ‘subsidise’ exports of meat from untreated animals.

The main argument against growth promoters is the food safety risk, but consumers in many non-EU countries are apparently unconcerned about their use in meat and milk production. Promoters are seen as a normal part of animal production and as a tool to make livestock farming more efficient.

While some claim they compromise animal welfare, most hormonal growth promoters have no measurable effects on welfare indicators, so the basis of a ban on welfare grounds is unclear.

With food security and climate change coming to the fore, some have argued the need to improve production efficiency while reducing greenhouse gas emissions means EU producers could argue for the use of growth promoters. However public perception of the treatment of animals used for food production will always be a major consideration.

The real #Brexit ‘dividend’ – “a decade of economic underperformance and political crisis”

The real Brexit ‘dividend’ – “a decade of economic underperformance and political crisis”

The real Brexit 'dividend' - "a decade of economic underperformance and political crisis"

By London School of Economics and Political Science: Contrary to some predictions, Britain’s economy has not crashed in the two years since the EU referendum. But growth has slowed markedly, productivity is down, and investment is on hold. Dimitri Zenghelis looks at the effect the prolonged uncertainty about future trade arrangements is having on the economy.

In September 2016, a few months after the UK referendum vote to leave the European Union, I argued in this blog that it was too soon to judge the impact on the UK economy. At that time, GDP growth was accelerating and I warned it was too early to talk of a Brexit boost. Almost two years on, the time is ripe to revisit the data and make a more informed assessment of the impact of Brexit on the trajectory of the UK economy.

It is important at the outset to distinguish between the impact of the Brexit vote, and the negotiations that have followed, from the impact of Brexit itself, noting that the latter has yet to happen. On first pass, the much-vaunted post-referendum economic crash turned out to be the dog that never barked. UK GDP growth has held up and the economy has not slipped into recession. More people are in work than ever before. According to the latest figures, the UK employment rate stood at 75.6% in Feb-April, the joint highest since comparable records began in 1971. Tabloid headlines vaunting a ‘Brexit boom’ seem far-fetched, but the resilience of the UK economy has surprised some, especially compared to many dire forecasts made prior to the referendum.

Yet closer examination of the evidence paints a far less rosy picture. It is of course impossible to know how the economy would have fared in the absence of a vote to leave the EU as we have no observable counterfactual. Yet UK growth has slowed markedly since the referendum in 2016, over a period when the rest of the global economy has boomed. The UK has gone from top of the G7 growth league in 2015 to likely bottom in 2018. All else equal, growth in the UK economy should have accelerated and not slowed over this period. World growth increased in 2017 to 3.8 percent, with a notable rebound in global trade which is expected to endure through 2018. At the same time the Bank of England loosened policy, and the Treasury soft-pedalled on fiscal policy. Yet despite this, something seems to be acting as a powerful drag on UK growth and this is consistent with a negative Brexit effect.

The boost to employment ought to be welcome, and such an occurrence is normally associated with a strong economic recovery and a rise in consumption. But looking behind the numbers it is clear that strong employment growth has coincided with weak output growth, such that output per worker has stagnated. Figures published by the ONS earlier this month showed that productivity fell 0.4 per cent in the first quarter of the year and was only 0.9 per cent higher than a year earlier. A lot of the employment turns out to have been part-time and low wage.

Low productivity growth combined with the post-referendum depreciation of the pound, which correspondingly pushed up import costs, have squeezed British real wages and purchasing power. Indeed, according to the OECD, the UK had the weakest wage growth of any G7 country over the past decade. UK real wages contracted by an average annual rate of 0.3 per cent, the worst performance of all 34 OECD countries, with the exception of Greece and Mexico.

 

The Financial Times estimates that 0.9 per cent of annual national income has been forgone relative to what was possible if the country had voted to stay in the EU. By fortuitous coincidence this equates to £350m a week, precisely the figure emblazoned on the side of the Brexiters campaign bus, touted as the so-called ‘Brexit dividend’ available for immediate investment in the NHS.

 

Making labour more productive requires investment, yet total and business investment fell in the latest quarter of the year, and rose only 1.5 per cent over the same period the previous year, the weakest performance of all the G7 economies. Lower investment reduces GDP growth today, but it also cuts capacity for future economic expansion because generating growth is what investment does. The fall in business investment is likely driven by two Brexit-related causes. The first is greater uncertainty surrounding the political and economic environment post-referendum. The second is the average expectation that, whatever form Brexit takes, it will likely involve some reduction in access to markets, capital and skilled labour, making the UK a less attractive place to invest. Both put off investors.

A recent survey of 600 Eurozone corporations by UBS found that over three-quarters of companies headquartered in EU countries plan to move at least some of their investments out of the UK as a result of Brexit. More than one tenth had stated an intention to leave the UK entirely. According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, the industry lobby group, investment in Britain’s car industry has halved, reflecting uncertainty about the UK’s future relationship with Europe. The Bank of England estimates that UK nominal business investment is already at least 3-4ppts below what it would have been without the Brexit vote.

The bottom line is the UK cannot sustain growth in living standards without productivity growth, and productivity growth depends on investment in machines and people. Which brings us to the second question: what are the prospects post-Brexit? This is much harder to answer, not least because we will still don’t know what kind of Brexit (if any) will be finally negotiated. Even if we did, economists are notoriously bad at predicting the long run impact of out-of-sample, non-marginal changes to an economy’s underlying structure. Will reduced access to cheap labour force productivity enhancing automation? Will removing business burdens allow the UK to shave costs and retain a competitive edge? Will removing technocratic constraints give the UK policy flexibility to support the economy?

On the face of it, tighter controls on immigration may encourage greater capital investment in automation and efforts to enhance the skills of British workers to offset reduced access to cheap foreign labour. This could boost labour productivity and wages. Indeed, staff at the Bank of England have suggested this process may have already begun. However, this seems at odds with ONS findings that companies that import and export heavily tend to have significantly higher than average productivity, suggesting that open borders induce greater efficiency. Moreover, to the extent that a weaker pound has lowered UK real wages relative to other inputs, such as materials, components and finance capital, firms would be expected to shift to less productive labour-intensive activities.

Loosening labour and environmental regulations may look to some like an easy way to cut costs for business, but it is unlikely to build UK competitiveness in the modern economy. UK and global manufacturers will likely choose to set standards which allow access to the far bigger EU market. Moreover, there is a large and growing body of evidence showing that tighter environmental standards induce innovation, attract capital and draw in skilled workers to meet rising global demand for renewables and energy efficiency.

Yet some immediate effects of Brexit can be quantified with greater confidence. Perhaps the most robustly and rigorously tested model in economics is the gravity model. This tells us that trade between two countries is proportional to size, measured by GDP, and inversely proportional to the geographic distance between them. As Theresa May accurately reported before the referendum vote, this is why “we export more to Ireland than we do to China, almost twice as much to Belgium as we do to India, and nearly three times as much to Sweden as we do to Brazil”.

Throwing up obstructions to trade with all our closest neighbours will be predictably costly. Trade means greater competition, which encourages British firms to improve efficiency. It also allows the UK to specialise in sectors where it has a comparative advantage, benefiting from economies of scale in supplying large global markets. The effects of lower immigration on GDP and the public finances are also predictable. Immigrants tend to be younger and more economically active than the average citizen, and therefore make net contributions to GDP and the public finances.

 

The government’s own numbers show national income would be 8% lower under a no deal scenario, around 5% lower under a UK-EU free trade agreement and 2% lower under a ‘soft Brexit’ with single market membership over a 15-year period. Indeed, this is based on the implausible assumption that trading outside the EU customs union and single market is going to be frictionless. Other independent economic studies have shown similar or worse impacts.

 

Most reasonable Brexiters expect some economic transition cost, but they argue either that this is worthwhile to meet other cultural aims, or that it will be limited and temporary (or both). This may be so, but it remains the case that many Leave voters believed they would be at least no worse off after Brexit, which is why Brexiters put so much effort into downplaying the economic impact.

Looking ahead, the prospects are not encouraging. The ‘agreement’ at Chequers and subsequent ministerial resignations reflect the fact that the time for appeasing Eurosceptic conservatives with vague language, while postponing detailed outlines of a workable Brexit plan, has run out. The resignations reflected the inevitable acceptance that the UK is heading towards some form of ‘Brexit In Name Only’, whereby the UK is a de facto EU member, paying into the budget and subscribing to the rules, but without representation or influence. One of the few things Remainers and Leavers see eye-to-eye on is that this is deeply unsatisfactory. This makes it an inherently unstable position. Yet the alternatives of No Deal (or even a ‘Canada deal’) or remaining in the EU are, respectively, too costly—especially as the UK has made no preparations for it—or politically toxic in the absence of a mandate from a new referendum.

This means the coming years are likely to be defined by a continued and profound uncertainty over Britain’s future trade and investment climate, with enduring political tension over the destination. Until the terms of Brexit are known, companies will continue to defer investment. Even once terms are agreed, the resulting reallocation of resources to reflect new comparative advantages, trading partners and production patterns, is likely to prove costly and hold back productivity growth.

In short, barring a vote to remain in the European Union, Britain faces the prospect of a lost decade of economic underperformance, subdued wage growth and investment and, increasingly, political crisis

Sitting ducks: Trump Knows That the US Can Exercise More Power in a UK Weakened by #Brexit

Source

Photo by ijclark | CC BY 2.0

English nationalism as expressed by Brexiteers is a strange beast. Donald Trump gives an interview in which he assumes the right to intervene in the conflict between Theresa May and Boris Johnson over Brexit. He speaks with the same confident authority as he would in his own country, sorting out differences in the Republican Party over who should be the next senator for Alabama or South Carolina. His attempted roll-back later does not alter the tone or substance of what he said.

The aim of Trump’s intervention in the short term is, as always, to top the news agenda and to show up everybody, be they allies or enemies, as weaker and more vulnerable than himself. More dangerously for Britain, in the long term, his domineering words set down a marker for the future relationship between the UK and the US outside the EU which could be close to that between the colony or the vassal of an imperial state.

The terminology is the Brexiteers’ own: Johnson claimed in his resignation letter that the Chequers version of Brexit a few days earlier was so watered down that it meant that “we are truly headed for the status of a colony”. He cited, as concrete evidence of this servitude, the anger he felt towards the EU for frustrating his efforts to protect cyclists from juggernauts, though media investigation revealed that it was the British government that blocked the life-saving measure.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the fundamentalist Brexit leader, reached back far into the Middle Ages for a bizarre analogy to illustrate his point that Britain would entirely fail to escape the EU yoke under the terms envisaged in the White Paper on Britain’s future relationship with the EU. He described the intention to keep Britain within the EU rule book for goods and agriculture as “the greatest vassalage since King John paid homage to Phillip II at Le Goulet in 1200”.

The use of such an arcane example is presumably intended to show that Rees-Mogg has deeply pondered the great triumphs and betrayals of English history. In doing so he unintentionally reveals one of his many blind spots by choosing an event long preceding the creation of a British nation state incorporating Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

A problem about the whole Brexit debate, which has confused the issue since long before the referendum in 2016, is that discussion is focused on the economic connection between Britain and the EU when it should really be about the political relationship.

Trump says that the present Brexit plan rules out a US-UK free trade agreement, but even if it did not, there is a strong element of fantasy and wishful thinking in the Brexiteers’ vision of Britain’s economic future. Again it is worth looking at Johnson’s letter because it is almost touching in its naivety and wishful thinking about Britain’s future place in the world economy. We are to stifle “self-doubt”, and instead be more “nimble and dynamic and maximise the particular advantages of the UK, as an open outward looking economy”.

Apparently, the world is full of hermit kingdoms that have long been short of such vibrant economies and, once freed from the shackles of the EU, we will be able to meet their long unsatisfied needs.

It is easy to mock and the mockery is well-deserved, but it should be balanced with a much stronger part of the pro-Brexit case which is simply the pursuit of national self-determination regardless of the economic consequences. This demand for independence has usually preceded the formation of nation states, once imperial possessions, the world over. Most nationalist movements have claimed with varying degrees of truth or exaggeration that their economic, social and sectarian troubles stemmed from imperial misrule and independence would cure all. When this fails to happen few nationalist movements have had a realistic alternative plan.

Brexiteers similarly buttress their perfectly legitimate demand for self-determination with dubious assumptions about the degree to which EU regulations hobble the British economy. Most Brexiteers are on the right so they are neither familiar nor comfortable with anti-imperial arguments traditionally advanced by the left. They would not be happy to be reminded that much of what they say is the same as Sinn Fein – “Ourselves Alone” – says today in Ireland or Indian and Kenyan nationalists said before independence. A further cause of reticence is that focus on the economic benefits of Brexit masks the extent to which the result of the referendum – and the rise of populist nationalists in the US and much of Europe – are fuelled by opposition to immigration and racism.

But there is a price to pay for the Brexiteers’ skewed picture of Britain and its place in the world. If it leaves the EU, as seems inevitable, it will become a lesser power and no longer able to balance between America and Europe as, to a degree, it has hitherto been able to do. Dependence on the US will inevitably increase and we have just had a rude foretaste of what this means for Britain’s future in the Trump interview in The Sun. He knows that Britain has nowhere else to go and must bend the knee, something swiftly confirmed by the evasive British government response to his unprecedented intervention in the UK’s internal affairs.

The British government would clearly like the old post-Second World War order and Britain’s place in it to continue forever. The Cold War is being revived to serve as glue to hold Nato together and Russia is being boosted as an external threat as potent as the Soviet Union. Trump’s meeting with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki is portrayed as an ill-considered maverick action. Journalists, think tank “experts”, and retired diplomats vie with each other on CNN and the BBC in explaining how Trump is selling the pass to Putin and Kim Jong-un.

But it is not Trump, but the establishment on both sides of the Atlantic which are out of date. There was a twenty-year period between 1991 and 2011 when Russia could be ignored, though this was never wise because it always remained a nuclear super-power capable of blowing up the world. This changed in 2011 when Nato had the exceptionally bad idea of intervening militarily in Libya to overthrow Gaddafi with disastrous consequences for everybody. Russia restored its status as a great power through successful intervention in Syria in support of Bashar al-Assad.

During this period Britain sought to reinforce its status as the leading ally of the US in Iraq and Afghanistan, but failed politically and militarily in both wars. The extent and consequences of this failure have always been underestimated in UK where everything that went wrong could be conveniently blamed on Tony Blair.

What we are really seeing under the rubric of “Making America Great Again” is an American retreat from empire. Monstrous though Trump is in almost every way, he often shows a greater grip on the crude realities of power than his critics give him credit for. British politicians and civil servants are hoping that the Trump visit is a temporary bad dream but is in fact it an early sign of a post-Brexit reality in which Britain will play a lesser role in the world

Boris Johnson’s resignation: good riddance to a national embarrassment

 

The Guardian view on Boris Johnson’s resignation: good riddance to a national embarrassment

Theresa May tried to hold her party together over Brexit. Two senior resignations mean she now has to win the battle against the leaver fanatics

‘Boris Johnson is the most overrated politician in Britain, especially by himself’
Boris Johnson is the most overrated politician in Britain, especially by himself’ Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Theresa May has been prime minister for just two years. Until Monday she had managed, often at sapping cost, to hold the Conservatives together behind a Brexit strategy that combined unsustainable contradictions, studied vagueness and some abruptly dangerous red lines. Last week at Chequers, Mrs May persuaded her cabinet to blur some of the red lines, clarify some of the vagueness and make some of the choices that are required for the relatively frictionless post-Brexit relationship with the EU that she rightly prefers. She has now discovered the political cost of that.

The Chequers agreement has now caused two – and there may be more – serious cabinet resignations: first of David Davis as Brexit secretary, then of Boris Johnson as foreign secretary. The wider Tory party response – starting with Monday’s tense exchanges in the Commons and followed by a meeting of Tory backbenchers – has yet to make itself fully felt. The prospect of a vote of confidence challenge to Mrs May is clearly real. But the deeper political question facing the Tories is clear too. Will the hardline leaver minority at Westminster allow Mrs May to govern with a new Brexit policy that leans rather more towards Europe? Or will they risk wrecking the Tories as a party of government by seeking to prevent it? The coming days will determine whether Mrs May’s part of the Tory party has the power to prevent the anti-European, anti-regulatory, English nationalist bits of the party from vetoing everything else the party stands for or seeks to do. It is not an exaggeration to say the soul of the party may be at stake.

These were serious resignations, but the resigners themselves are not. As Brexit secretary in a government whose whole existence is dominated by Brexit, David Davis was a big figure in the first two May years. But he does not, by himself, have the clout to derail the new post-Chequers Brexit policy. Mr Davis was an underwhelming Brexit secretary, and was marginalised by Downing Street in favour of Mrs May’s Brexit adviser Olly Robbins. He has not led recent negotiations, spending a mere four hours with the EU’s Michel Barnier since 2017. He has regularly telegraphed his unhappiness, and his resignation letter was first drafted a month ago. It was a surprise that he signed up to the Chequers document. It was not a surprise that he quit at the weekend. Giving his job to Dominic Raab, yet another all-too-brief appointment as housing minister, was designed to preserve the post-2016 cabinet Brexit balance.

Boris Johnson and David Davis at the Tory party conference in October, 2017
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Boris Johnson and David Davis at the Tory party conference in October, 2017. Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA

Mr Davis nevertheless resigned on a matter of policy principle. He did not believe that the new facilitated customs arrangement would fly with Brussels. He disliked the role that the European court of justice might play in arbitrating future trade rules. These are not foolish questions. But he did not resign because of his personal ambition, since he is realistic about his chances of future office.

The same cannot possibly be said about the former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, whose departure 18 hours after Mr Davis could change the crisis facing the government from one concerning Brexit policy to one concerning the future of Mrs May. Mr Johnson is the most overrated politician in Britain, especially by himself. He was an embarrassingly useless foreign secretary. He diminished Britain’s standing in the world and he diminished his own reputation by the way he played his role, not least by his praise for Donald Trump. He was simply not up to the job. But Mr Johnson does not do serious. He does self-interest. The British government is better off without him. The Tory party should not deceive itself that he is the answer to its problems.

The Tory party has a historic reputation for being serious about power. But the modern Tory party can also be an extraordinarily febrile hothouse. It now faces a battle that was always going to have to be fought eventually, between the fanatics of the right and the pragmatists of the centre-right. Mrs May has been tenacious and sometimes skilful (though sometimes not) in postponing the battle. But the moment has arrived – and it must be resolved

An Open Letter to the People of Britain, from Vasily Livanov MBE

Vasily Livanov — Off-Guardian June 6, 2018

This open letter, from iconic Russsian actor Vasily Livanov MBE, was first sent to The Guardian. They declined to publish it, Off-Guardian did not.

Vasily Livanov

As with many of my compatriots, there are many things about Britain and the British people that I admire. As someone whose whole life has been linked with literature, cinema and theatre, I have the greatest appreciation for English literature and the arts, for its writers and playwrights, actors and directors. As someone who had the good fortune to have played the iconic Englishman Sherlock Holmes in a very successful Soviet film series, I was honoured to have been awarded an MBE by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. I am grateful for a chance to have been part of the mutually enriching cultural kinship and synergy of our two countries. As someone who has lived a long life, I vividly remember the years of WWII when the Soviet Union and Britain were staunch and proud allies in the fight against Nazism.
Many Russians feel an affinity with many things English – from pubs and gardens to Scotch whisky and Welsh singing and luscious valleys. Ascot races, Chelsea flower shows, London museums and Stonehenge – many will have been or at least seen them on TV. Perhaps surprisingly, many entertain a lively interest in the British monarchy and the Royal family, Russian television and papers carry stories about the Queen and her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Flattering stereotypes of Britain still abide. But more and more this idyllic picture is being marred by the political developments of recent years.
Today, as many of my compatriots, I am sad to see the state to which the relationship between our two countries has been reduced. While conflict situations can seldom be blamed on one party alone, I am convinced that the current deplorable and deepening crisis is primarily of London’s making.
Please do not make the mistake of writing this view off as a casualty of devious Kremlin propaganda. On the contrary, the view I hold and share with the vast majority of Russians has been shaped and honed, paradoxically, by incessant anti-Russian propaganda emanating from London’s corridors of power and the media that seems to have lost all capacity for independent reasoning, at least for anything Russian. Many in Britain may be surprised that Russian audiences are kept well informed of the international media coverage, certainly insofar as it concerns their country.
I do not intend to dwell on the long list of geostrategic and political differences between Moscow and London. Surely, each of side has its own interests and reasons for acting the way it does. Understanding these reasons is the job of respective governments and their foreign policy thinktanks. Manifestly refusing to understand those reasons is an abject failure of government. And that, I am sad to say, is exactly what I am seeing at the top of the British government and in much of the British press.
What we have been witnessing is London’s – and, more generally, Western – consistent refusal to treat post-Soviet Russia as an equal partner in international affairs. The more hawkish Western capitals – notably, London – have been trying to condemn Russia to be the defeated party in the Cold War, and to behave like one. Mind you, this is a view taken by most Russians who are also increasingly convinced that the West’s attacks are not directed at Putin or the Kremlin, but at their country as such, at the people and state of Russia.
Many will point to Crimea as proof of Russia’s aggressiveness and threat to world peace. But they should consider that Crimea, rather than being the cause, is a consequence of the total collapse of East-West dialogue in which London has played a significant role and often been the cheerleader. More importantly, it is, in the final count, down to the people of Crimea to decide where they want to be, certainly not to London or Washington.
The accusations London has been flinging at Russia’s door fly in the face of every complimentary stereotype that Russians have of Britain and its allegedly gentlemanly culture. People at the top of the British government have been talking down to Russians as some kind of ‘lesser people’ in a language that invokes the less flattering pages of the not so distant British imperial history.
PM Theresa May accusing Russia in the Skripals poisoning without any serious evidence was downright shameless. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson likening Russia’s upcoming World Cup to Hitler’s 1936 Olympics was the ultimate insult – not only to Russia, but to Britain itself and the rest of the anti-Hitler coalition. Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson telling Russia to ‘shut up and go away’- does he even realise whom he is trying to bully? You can criticise Moscow all you want but it has never stooped to this level in talking to sovereign nations, big or small. Is an acute crisis in British education the reason for this excuse for statesmanship? What sort of policy do they think they are pursuing, what kind of world they are shaping? I feel genuinely sorry for Her Majesty the Queen that she has to call this government her own.
The current explosion of Russophobia and anti-Russian hysteria in Britain has no precedent in living memory. Not even the Cold War saw such blatant disregard for the norms and conventions of inter-state diplomacy. Anyone who calls for a meaningful engagement with Russia is branded a dangerous radical or traitor. People who even agree to talk to the Russian media are ostracised and side-lined. Anyone who simply calls for restraint or caution is vilified as a Putin puppet. Is there a name for it already? Un-British activities? A curious yet deeply troubling throwback to the McCarthy era in modern-day enlightened Britain.
It’s hard to escape the timing of this latest chapter in London’s lengthy anti-Russian saga with a crucial stage of the North Stream 2 project, the football World Cup and of course the recent presidential election in Russia. Which only goes to show that the instigators are quite ignorant of what the Russian people are like. Any hostile moves from the outside will unite us, we come together and find a response. They wouldn’t have attempted it if they knew the first thing about what makes Russia tick. They have to realise that in their poisonous campaign they are engaging not just the Kremlin or Putin, they are taking on the whole of the Russian people, including its political class and business elite.
We have no beef with the people of Britain. From what we can glimpse, more and more of them are sceptical of the anti-Russian propaganda spewed by the hawks in government and much of the media. The current cold winds will die down and our two countries will revert to a civilised and respectful relationship which has so much to offer. As a proud recipient of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire I aspire to wise and dignified British statesmanship that will make it possible.
– Vasily Livanov
Vasily Livanov, is a legendary Russian actor, director and novelist, born in 1935. He was awarded an MBE by Queen Elizabeth in 2006 for his exceptional portrayal of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes in the hugely successful Russian film series The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson.

Source

#Douma, Syria, Deception In Plain Sight

Douma: Part 1 – Deception In Plain Sight

Media Lens | April 25, 2018

 

UK corporate media are under a curious kind of military occupation. Almost all print and broadcast media now employ a number of reporters and commentators who are relentless and determined warmongers. Despite the long, unarguable history of US-UK lying on war, and the catastrophic results, these journalists instantly confirm the veracity of atrocity claims made against Official Enemies, while having little or nothing to say about the proven crimes of the US, UK, Israel and their allies. They shriek with a level of moral outrage from which their own government is forever spared. They laud even the most obviously biased, tinpot sources blaming the ‘Enemy’, while dismissing out of hand the best scientific researchers, investigative journalists and academic sceptics who disagree.

Anyone who challenges this strange bias is branded a ‘denier’, ‘pro-Saddam’, ‘pro-Gaddafi, ‘pro-Assad’. Above all, one robotically repeated word is generated again and again: ‘Apologist… Apologist… Apologist’.

Claims of a chemical weapons attack on Douma, Syria on April 7, offered yet another textbook example of this reflexive warmongering. Remarkably, the alleged attack came just days after US president Donald Trump had declared of Syria:

I want to get out. I want to bring our troops back home. I want to start rebuilding our nation.

The ‘mainstream’ responded as one, with instant certainty, exactly as they had in response to atrocity and other casus belli claims in Houla, Ghouta, Khan Sheikhoun and many other cases in Iraq (1990), Iraq (1998), Iraq (2002-2003), Libya and Kosovo.

Once again, the Guardian editors were sure: there was no question of a repetition of the fake justifications for war to secure non-existent Iraqi WMDs, or to prevent a fictional Libyan massacre in Benghazi. Instead, this was ‘a chemical gas attack, orchestrated by Bashar al-Assad, that left dead children foaming at the mouth’.

Simon Tisdall, the Guardian’s assistant editor, had clearly decided that enough was enough:

It’s time for Britain and its allies to take concerted, sustained military action to curb Bashar al-Assad’s ability to murder Syria’s citizens at will.

This sounded like more than another cruise missile strike. But presumably Tisdall meant something cautious and restrained to avoid the terrifying risk of nuclear confrontation with Russia:

It means destroying Assad’s combat planes, bombers, helicopters and ground facilities from the air. It means challenging Assad’s and Russia’s control of Syrian airspace. It means taking out Iranian military bases and batteries in Syria if they are used to prosecute the war.

But surely after Iraq – when UN weapons inspectors under Hans Blix were prevented from completing the work that would have shown that Saddam Hussein possessed no WMD – ‘we’ should wait for the intergovernmental Organisation for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons inspectors to investigate. After all, as journalist Peter Oborne noted of Trump’s air raids:

When the bombing started the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was actually in Damascus and preparing to travel to the area where the alleged chemical attacks took place.

Oborne added:

Had we wanted independent verification on this occasion in Syria surely we ourselves would have demanded the OPCW send a mission to Douma. Yet we conspicuously omitted to ask for it.

Tisdall was having none of it:

Calls to wait for yet another UN investigation amount to irresponsible obfuscation. Only the Syrian regime and its Russian backers have the assets and the motivation to launch such merciless attacks on civilian targets. Or did all those writhing children imagine the gas?

The idea that only Assad and the Russians had ‘the motivation’ to launch a gas attack simply defied all common sense. And, as we will see, it was not certain that children had been filmed ‘writhing’ under gas attack. Tisdall’s pro-war position was supported by just 22% of British people.

Equally gung-ho, the oligarch-owned Evening Standard, edited by veteran newspaperman and politically impartial former Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, headlined this plea on the front page:

HIT SYRIA WITHOUT A VOTE, MAY URGED

Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland, formerly the paper’s comment editor, also poured scorn on the need for further evidence:

Besides, how much evidence do we need?… To all but the most committed denialists and conspiracists, Assad’s guilt is clear.

Freedland could argue that the case for blaming Assad was clear, if he liked, but he absolutely could not argue that disagreeing was a sign of denialist delusion.

Time and again, we encounter these jaw-dropping efforts to browbeat the reader with fake certainty and selective moral outrage. In his piece, Freedland linked to the widely broadcast social media video footage from a hospital in Douma, which showed that Assad was guilty of ‘inflicting a death so painful the footage is unbearable to watch’. But when we actually click Freedland’s link and watch the video, we do not see anyone dying, let alone in agony, and the video is not, in fact, unbearable to watch. Like Tisdall’s claim on motivation, Freedland was simply declaring that black is white.

But many people are so intimidated by this cocktail of certainty and indignation – by the fear that they will be shamed as ‘denialists’ and ‘apologists’ – that they doubt the evidence of their own eyes. In ‘mainstream’ journalism, expressions of moral outrage are offered as evidence of a fiery conviction burning within. In reality, the shrieks are mostly hot air.

In the Observer, Andrew Rawnsley also deceived in plain sight by blaming the Syrian catastrophe on Western inaction:

Syria has paid a terrible price for the west’s disastrous policy of doing nothing.

However terrible media reporting on the 2003 Iraq war, commentators did at least recognise that the US and Britain were involved. We wrote to Rawnsley, asking how he could possibly not know about the CIA’s billion dollar per annum campaign to train and arm fighters, or about the 15,000 high-tech, US anti-tank missiles sent to Syrian ‘rebels’ via Saudi Arabia.

Rawnsley ignored us, as ever.

Just three days after the alleged attack, the Guardian’s George Monbiot was asked about Douma:

Don’t you smell a set up here though? Craig Murray doesn’t think Assad did it.

Monbiot replied:

Then he’s a fool.

Craig Murray responded rather more graciously:

I continue to attract attacks from the “respectable” corporate and state media. I shared a platform with Monbiot once, and liked him. They plainly find the spirit of intellectual inquiry to be a personal affront.

Monbiot tweeted back:

I’m sorry Craig but, while you have done excellent work on some issues, your efforts to exonerate Russia and Syria of a long list of crimes, despite the weight of evidence, are foolish in the extreme.

The idea that Murray’s effort has been ‘to exonerate Russia and Syria of a long list of crimes’ is again so completely false, so obviously not what Murray has been doing. But it fits perfectly with the corporate media theme of Cold War-style browbeating: anyone challenging the case for US-UK policy on Syria is an ‘apologist’ for ‘the enemy’.

If Britain was facing imminent invasion across the channel from some malignant superpower, or was on the brink of nuclear annihilation, the term ‘apologist’ might have some merit as an emotive term attacking free speech – understandable in the circumstances. But Syria is not at war with Britain; it offers no threat whatsoever. If challenging evidence of Assad’s responsibility is ‘apologism’, then why can we not describe people accepting that evidence as ‘Trump apologists’, or ‘May apologists’, or ‘Jaysh al-Islam apologists’? The term really means little more than, ‘I disagree with you’ – a much more reasonable formulation.

As Jonathan Cook has previously commented:

Monbiot has repeatedly denied that he wants a military attack on Syria. But if he then weakly accepts whatever narratives are crafted by those who do – and refuses to subject them to any meaningful scrutiny – he is decisively helping to promote such an attack.

Why Are These Academics Allowed?

The cynical, apologetic absurdity of questioning the official narrative has been a theme across the corporate media. In a Sky News discussion, Piers Robinson of Sheffield University urged caution in blaming the Syrian government in the absence of verifiable evidence. In a remarkable response, Alan Mendoza, Executive Director of the Henry Jackson Society, screeched at him:

Who do you think did it? Was it your mother who did it?

Again, exact truth reversal – given the lack of credible, verified evidence, it was absurd to declare Robinson’s scepticism absurd.
Mendoza later linked to an article attacking Robinson, and asked:

Why are UK universities allowing such “academics” – and I use the term advisedly because they are not adhering to any recognised standard when promoting material with no credible sourcing, and often with no citation at all – to work in their institutions?

In 2011, Mendoza wrote in The Times of Nato’s ‘intervention’ in Libya:

The action in Libya is a sign that the world has overcome the false lessons [sic] of Iraq or of “realism” in foreign policy.

The UN had ‘endorsed military action to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe unfolding’.

In fact, the unfolding ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ was fake news; Mendoza’s mother needed no alibi. A September 9, 2016 report on the war from the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons commented:

Despite his rhetoric, the proposition that Muammar Gaddafi would have ordered the massacre of civilians in Benghazi was not supported by the available evidence….

The Times launched a shameful, front-page attack on Robinson and other academics who are not willing to accept US-UK government claims on trust. The Times cited Professor Scott Lucas of Birmingham University:

Clearly we can all disagree about the war in Syria, but to deny an event like a chemical attack even occurred, by claiming they were “staged”, is to fall into an Orwellian world.

In similar vein, in a second Guardian comment piece on Douma, Jonathan Freedland lamented: ‘we are now in an era when the argument is no longer over our response to events, but the very existence of those events’. Echoing Soviet propaganda under Stalin, Freedland warned that this was indicative of an intellectual and moral sickness:

These are symptoms of a post-truth disease that’s come to be known as “tribal epistemology”, in which the truth or falsity of a statement depends on whether the person making it is deemed one of us or one of them.

And this was, once again, truth reversal – given recent history in Iraq and Libya, it was Lucas and Freedland who were falling into an Orwellian fantasy world. Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens made the obvious point:

Given the folly of the British government over Iraq and Libya, and its undoubted misleading of the public over Iraq, it is perfectly reasonable to suspect it of doing the same thing again. Some of us also do not forget the blatant lying over Suez, and indeed the Gulf of Tonkin.

Hitchens clearly shares our concern at media performance, particularly that of the Guardian, commenting:

Has Invasion of the Bodysnatchers been re-enacted at Guardian HQ? Whatever the dear old thing’s faults it was never a Pentagon patsy until recently. Rumours of relaunch as The Warmonger’s Gazette, free toy soldier with every issue.

Hitchens questioned Guardian certainty on Douma:

But if facts are sacred, how can the Guardian be so sure, given that it is relying on a report from one correspondent 70 miles away, and another one 900 miles away.. and some anonymous quotes from people whose stories it has no way of checking?

He added:

The behaviour of The Guardian is very strange & illustrates just what a deep, poorly-understood change in our politics took place during the Blair years. We now have the curious spectacle of the liberal warmonger, banging his or her jingo fist on the table, demanding airstrikes.

Indeed, in discussing the prospects for ‘intervention’ in the Guardian, Gaby Hinsliff, former political editor of the Observer, described the 2013 vote that prevented Britain from bombing Syria in August 2013 as ‘that shameful night in 2013’. Shameful? After previous ‘interventions’ had completely wrecked Iraq and Libya on false pretexts, and after the US regime had been told the evidence was no ‘slam dunk’ by military advisers?

In the New Statesman, Paul Mason offered a typically nonsensical argument, linking to the anti-Assad website, Bellingcat:

Despite the availability of public sources showing it is likely that a regime Mi-8 helicopter dropped a gas container onto a specific building, there are well-meaning people prepared to share the opinion that this was a “false flag”, staged by jihadis, to pull the West into the war. The fact that so many people are prepared to clutch at false flag theories is, for Western democracies, a sign of how effective Vladimir Putin’s global strategy has been.

Thus, echoing Freedland’s reference to ‘denialists and conspiracists’, sceptics can only be idiot victims of Putin’s propaganda. US media analyst Adam Johnson of FAIR accurately described Mason’s piece as a ‘mess’, adding:

I love this thing where nominal leftists run the propaganda ball for bombing a country 99 yards then stop at the one yard and insist they don’t support scoring goals, that they in fact oppose war.

Surprisingly, the Bellingcat website, which publishes the findings of ‘citizen journalist’ investigations, appears to be taken seriously by some very high-profile progressives.

In the Independent, Green Party leader Caroline Lucas also mentioned the Syrian army ‘Mi-8’ helicopters. Why? Because she had read the same Bellingcat blog as Mason, to which she linked:

From the evidence we’ve seen so far it appears that the latest chemical attack was likely by Mi-8 helicopters, probably from the forces of Syria’s murderous President Assad.

On Democracy Now!, journalist Glenn Greenwald said of Douma:

I think that it’s—the evidence is quite overwhelming that the perpetrators of this chemical weapons attack, as well as previous ones, is the Assad government…

This was an astonishing comment. After receiving fierce challenges (not from us), Greenwald partially retracted, tweeting:

It’s live TV. Something [sic – sometimes] you say things less than ideally. I think the most likely perpetrator of this attack is Syrian Govt.

We wrote to Greenwald asking what had persuaded him of Assad’s ‘likely’ responsibility for Douma. (Twitter, April 10, direct message)

The first piece of evidence he sent us (April 12) was the Bellingcat blog mentioning Syrian government helicopters cited by Mason and Lucas. Greenwald also sent us a report from Reuters, as well as a piece from 2017, obviously prior to the alleged Douma event.

This was thin evidence indeed for the claim made. In our discussion with him, Greenwald then completely retracted his claim (Twitter, April 12, direct message) that there was evidence of Syrian government involvement in the alleged attack. Yes, it’s true that people ‘say things less than ideally’ on TV, but to move from ‘quite overwhelming’ to ‘likely’, to declaring mistaken the claim that there is evidence of Assad involvement, was bizarre.

Political analyst Ben Norton noted on Twitter:

Reminder that Bellingcat is funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which is funded by the US government and is a notorious vehicle for US soft power.

Norton added:

It acts like an unofficial NATO propagandist, obsessively focusing on Western enemies.

And:

Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins is a fellow at the Atlantic Council, which is funded by NATO, US, Saudi, UAE, etc.

And:

According to Meedan, which helps fund Bellingcat — along with the US government-funded NED — Bellingcat also works with the group Syrian Archive, which is funded by the German government, to jointly produce pro-opposition “research”.

And:

The board of the directors for Meedan, which funds Bellingcat, includes Muna AbuSulayman—who led the Saudi oligarch’s Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundation—and Wael Fakharany—who was the regional director of Google in Egypt & North Africa (US gov. contractor Google also funds Bellingcat)

And:

Bellingcat—which gets money from the US gov-funded NED and fixates obsessively on Western enemies—claims to be nonpartisan and impartial, committed to exposing all sides, but a website search shows it hasn’t published anything on Yemen since February 2017.

Although Bellingcat is widely referenced by corporate journalists, we are unaware of any ‘mainstream’ outlet that has seriously investigated the significance of these issues for the organisation’s credibility as a source of impartial information. As we will see in Part 2, corporate journalism is very much more interested in challenging the credibility of journalists and academics holding power to account.

Another Dodgy British Dossier: the #Skripal Case

Another Dodgy British Dossier: The Skripal Case

 by Gareth Porter

In this second part of a series, Gareth Porter compares the same faulty logic employed in two purposely misleading, so-called British intelligence dossiers.

By Gareth Porter Special to Consortium News

The British government shared what was supposedly a dossier containing sensitive intelligence to convince allies and EU member states to support its accusation of Russian culpability in the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury, England on March 4.

But like the infamous 2003 “dodgy dossier” prepared at the direction of Prime Minister Tony Blair to justify British involvement in the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the intelligence dossier on the Salisbury poisoning turns out to have been based on politically-motivated speculation rather than actual intelligence

British officials used the hastily assembled “intelligence” briefing to brief the North Atlantic Council on March 15, the European Foreign Affairs Council on March 19 and the European summit meeting in Brussels on March 23.

The Need for Dramatic Claims

When Prime Minister Theresa May and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson ordered the production of an intelligence dossier to be used to convince allies and EU member states to join Britain in expelling Russian diplomats, they had a problem: they were unable to declare that nerve agent from a Russian military laboratory had been verified as the poison administered to the Skripals. As the well-informed former Ambassador Craig Murray learned from a Foreign and Commonwealth Office source, the British government military laboratory at Porton Down had been put under strong pressure by Johnson to agree that they had confirmed that the poison found in Salisbury had come from a specific Russian laboratory. Instead Porton Down would only agree to the much more ambiguous formula that it was nerve agent “of a type developed in Russia.”

May and Johnson: Needed dramatic claims.

So May and Johnson needed some dramatic claims to buttress their argument to allies and EU member states that the Salisbury poisoning must have been a Russian government assassination attempt.

A letter from British national security adviser Mark Sedwill to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg released publicly on April 13, refers to two key claims in the dossier of a Russian program to research ways of delivering nerve agent, including smearing it on door handles, and of Russian production and stockpiling of nerve agent during the past decade.

But closer analysis of these claims, based in part on information provided by official British sources to the press, makes it clear that the government did not have any concrete “intelligence” to support those Government claims in the intelligence brief.

The Door Knob Claim

The Sedwill letter referred to a Russian “investigation of ways of delivering nerve agent, including by application to door handles” as being part of a broader alleged Russian government program of chemical weapons research and military training.”  The letter was obviously implying that it had some secret intelligence on which to base the charge, and some in the British press pitched in to support the claim.

The first paragraph of the The Guardian story on the intelligence dossier said, “Russia had tested whether door handles could be used to deliver nerve agent,” attributing the information to “previously classified intelligence over the Salisbury attack made public Friday.”

In another story about the evidence on the Salisbury poisoning, however, The Guardian, apparently reflecting its understanding of what government officials had conveyed, wrote, “Such an audacious attack could have been carried out only by trained professionals familiar with chemical weapons.” That statement hinted that the alleged Russian “investigation of ways of delivering nerve agents, including by application to door handles” was actually a speculative inference rather than a fact established by hard evidence.

A report in the Daily Mirror, evidently intended to support the government line, actually showed quite clearly that what was being presented as intelligence on alleged Russian research on delivering nerve agent via a door handle was in fact nothing of the sort. It quoted a “security source” as explaining how that claim in the intelligence paper was linked to the belief of counter-terrorism investigators that the Skripals first came in contact with nerve agent on the handle of Skripals’ front door.

“The door handle thing is big,” the unnamed source told the Mirror. “It amounts to Russia’s tradecraft manual on applying poisons to door handles. It’s the smoking gun.” The source was not saying that British intelligence had firsthand information about a Russian tradecraft manual; it was suggesting that one could somehow deduce from the assumed application of nerve agent to the door handle of the Skripal house that this was a sign of Russian intelligence tradecraft.

The source then appeared to confirm explicitly that this inference was the basis of the specific claim in the intelligence brief that, “It is strong proof Russia has in the last 10 years researched methods to administer poisons, including by using door handles.”

The Murder that Contradicts the Dossier

The idea that only intelligence operatives with formal training could have applied nerve agent to a door handle was not based on objective analysis. MI6, the British foreign intelligence service, knows very well that a 1995 murder committed in Moscow with a nerve agent developed by Soviet-era scientists was carried out by a private individual, not a government intelligence unit.

Court documents in the 1995 murder of banker Ivan Kivelidi, reported by the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, show that in 1994 a Russian criminal syndicate had acquired Novichok nerve agent, which had been synthesized by Soviet scientists, and that it was used the following year to kill Kivelidi and his secretary by applying some of the nerve agent on his telephone receiver.

Boris Kuznetsov, a dissident Russian lawyer involved in the Kivelidi murder case, who fled Russia in 2007 with copies of all the relevant documents, turned them over to the British government after the Skripal poisoning. The knowledge of that episode would account for Prime Minister May’s otherwise surprising acknowledgement on March 12 of the possibility that the poisoning might not have been a Russian government action but the consequence of the Russian government allowing nerve agent to “get into the hands of others”.

An Ongoing Russian Novichok Program?

The Sedwill letter made another sweeping claim of covert Russian production of the line of nerve agent that had been dubbed Novichok. “Within the last decade,” it said, “Russia has produced and stockpiled small quantities of Novichok under the same programme.”If true, that would have been major evidence bearing on the Skripal poisoning, since such a program would be both covert and illegal under the Chemical Weapons Convention.

But neither the Sedwill letter nor any other statement from the British

Sedwill: No evidence.

government has referred to the possession of any evidence for that claim, even in the most generic way. In fact, Prime Minister May said merely that Russia “had previously produced Novichoks and would still be able to do so”.

In contrast to its silence about any kind of information supporting its claim of Russian production and stockpiling of Novichok program in the past decade, the Sedwill letter cited “a combination of credible open-source reporting and intelligence” on the existence of the Russian program that developed the Novichok line of nerve agents in the 1970s and 1980s.

If the UK possessed actual evidence of such a Russian nerve agent program at Shikhany, the former military chemical weapons facility, it presumably would have informed the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) of the fact and presented its evidence to the 41-member Executive Council, the governing body of the organization. It clearly has not done so, and it has not suggested that it was prevented from doing so by the fear of compromising an intelligence source within the Russian government.

The British government could also demand a “challenge inspection” at the facility. Any member of the Chemical Weapons Convention can call for an immediate inspection, and Russia would have had no option but to permit it. But it has not done so, signifying that it does not have the information necessary to identify the location of the alleged production and stockpiling of such a weapon, nor does it have the name of anyone who has worked on such a project.

Suspect Intercepted Russian Communications

Another claim in the British “intelligence” dossier is an intercepted Russian communication that allegedly supports the Russian nerve gas operation accusation.

The tabloid Express reported its sources saying such an intercept had been “a key part of Britain’s intelligence evidence.” The sources revealed that on March 4, a message from Damascus to Moscow intercepted by a listening post in Southern Cyprus contained the words, “The package has been delivered.” And the same message was said to have reported that two named individuals had “made a successful egress” – meaning that they had left.

But without knowing the context in which either statement was made, such quotes are meaningless. And one must ask how often something like those exact words would be communicated to Moscow from a diplomatic or military outpost somewhere in the world every single day. Furthermore, the second message to which the dossier is said to have referred actually revealed the names of the two men who had departed, so it clearly had nothing to do with a covert operation.

The May government was able to convince 29 other states, including the United States, to take action against Russia by expelling its diplomats, representing a deliberate step toward higher tensions with Moscow. But the intelligence dossier it deployed in that effort, as reflected in the Sedwill letter and media reporting, was far from being the kind of information one might expect to provoke such a major diplomatic move. It was instead, like the original 2003 “dodgy dossier” on WMD in Saddam’s Iraq, essentially a collection of misleading claims based on politically-skewed logic.

Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and historian on U.S. national security policy and the recipient of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. His most recent book is Manufactured Crisis: the Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare, published in 2014.

 

Syrian ‘Rebels’ (TERRORISTS) Used Sarin Nerve Gas Sold By Britain

Syrian ‘Rebels’ Used Sarin Nerve Gas Sold By Britain

By TruePublica: The British government, like many others around the world, have been developing chemical weapons since the First World War – and continue to do so from Porton Down. However, unlike others, the Conservative government were complicit in the sale of these deadly banned weapons to Syria. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills granted licences for the sale of chemical weapons ingredients and components to Syria ten months after the uprising began.

There is a type of hypocrisy coming from the current crop of politicians that has learned nothing at all from the international embarrassment that emanated from Britain’s awful foreign policy choices when Tony Blair blindly followed the Americans and led the country into killing a million people in Iraq that even to this day has three million displaced from their homes. David Cameron saw fit to do the same in Libya. Many were killed, hundreds of thousands displaced and today the country in is the hands of gangsters and terrorists who make money in slave trading markets and sending millions of migrants across the Mediterranean that is currently destabilising Europe.

Theresa May has sought exactly the same route from the same playbook of lies and deceit. The Skripal/Novichok/it was Russia story has been roundly discredited. It was clearly the precursor to blaming Russia for protecting its ally, prior to attacking Syria without either the authority of the UN or debate in parliament, where 78 percent of Britain’s disagree with Theresa May’s air strikes.

The airstrikes were carried out on a pretext of the use of chemical weapons – which has now been fully discredited as well. Robert Fisk via The Independent brought us that evidence yesterday – that no chemical gas attack took place in Douma.

We have had very firm confirmation from the Obama administration back in 2014 that the British made nerve gas stockpiles were completely extracted from Syria. “We struck a deal where we got 100 percent of the chemical weapons out,” declared then-Secretary of State John Kerry on Meet the Press in 2014. Kerry was referring to Bashar al-Assad’s declared stockpiles of chemical weapons which, under a 2013 deal struck by the Obama administration following a sarin nerve gas attack that brought the U.S. to the brink of striking Syrian government forces, were dismantled and shipped out of the country.

 

In Summary

We have conclusive evidence that Britain manufactured and sold nerve agents to Syria even during the first year of the uprising.

We have evidence that ISIS backed terrorists did use chemical weapons as confirmed by the United Nations (see below) that was a ‘red-line’ for the Obama administration.

We have more evidence that these so-called ‘rebels’ used gas attacks as confirmed by the US State Department (see below).

We have concrete evidence that nerve agents sold by Britain were handed over via a diplomatically brokered deal that included the UN, US, Britain and Russia – to the complete satisfaction of all concerned.

We have confirmed evidence that no chemical weapons attack took place in Douma contrary to the Trump and May administrations allegations.

Like Blair and Cameron before her, we have been provided little more than circumstantial evidence from Theresa May and her cabinet that only goes as far as ‘highly likely‘ and ‘suspected,‘ almost all of which cannot be verified, much of which, can be discredited.

 

As if you needed more evidence:

The Week – July 9th 2014 – HEADLINE:

UK firms ‘sold chemical weapons ingredients to Syria’

British companies supplied ingredients for the production of the deadly nerve agent sarin to Syria in the 1980s, a secret Foreign Office document obtained by Newsnight has revealed.

Sarin has been linked to several attacks during Syria’s three-year civil war, including last year’s deadliest, in which almost 1,500 people were killed, including 426 children. 

The report names the UK as the sole supplier of the three key ingredients used to produce sarin; dimethyl phosphate (DMP), trimethyl phosphate (TMP) and hexamine. These three chemicals are regarded as the “building block” of sarin.

Sarin is described by chemical weapons experts as one of the “deadliest agents known to man”. It is classified as a weapon of mass destruction as a small amount is capable of killing thousands of people, as was evident in Syria.

The report states that hundreds of tonnes of the ingredients were sold to Damascus. The UK also supplied electrical fans to Syria in 2003, it says, components of which were used in Assad’s chemical weapon programme. The programme points out that at the same time the UK invaded Iraq, which it accused of stockpiling weapons of mass destruction.”

 

 

Washington Times – May 6th 2013 – HEADLINE:

Syrian rebels used Sarin nerve gas, not Assad’s regime: U.N. official

Testimony from victims strongly suggests it was the rebels, not the Syrian government, that used Sarin nerve gas during a recent incident in the revolution-wracked nation, a senior U.N. diplomat said in 2013.

Carla del Ponte, a member of the U.N. Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, told Swiss TV there were “strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof,” that rebels seeking to oust Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad had used the nerve agent.

But she said her panel had not yet seen any evidence of Syrian government forces using chemical weapons, according to the BBC.

Damascus has recently faced growing Western accusations that its forces used such weapons, which President Obama has described as crossing a red line. But Ms. del Ponte’s remarks may serve to shift the focus of international concern.

Ms. del Ponte, who in 1999 was appointed to head the U.N. war crimes tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda. The former Swiss prosecutor and attorney general, told Swiss TV: “Our investigators have been in neighbouring countries interviewing victims, doctors and field hospitals. According to their report of last week, which I have seen, there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated.”

 

 

Source: US State Department

US admits Chemical weapons used by rebels

Last September, the US Department of State Consular Affairs offered official Syria travel warning for American citizens: that the core rebel group currently operating in northwest Syria not only possesses but has used chemical weapons – to the point that the State Department considers it a major enough threat to publicly warn citizens about.

The armed opposition group, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), is referenced early in the document: “Terrorist and other violent extremist groups including ISIS and Al-Qaeda linked Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham [dominated by Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Al-Nusra, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization], operate in Syria.”  The document clearly names terrorist groups operating in Syria who use tactics such as suicide bombings, kidnappings and chemical weapons – to target major city centres and open spaces.

Killing Mosquitoes: The Latest Gaza Massacres, Pro-#israel Media Bias And The Weapon Of ‘Antisemitism’

SOURCE

The Palestinians have long been seen as an obstacle by Israel’s leaders; an irritant to be subjugated. Noam Chomsky commented:

‘Traditionally over the years, Israel has sought to crush any resistance to its programs of takeover of the parts of Palestine it regards as valuable, while eliminating any hope for the indigenous population to have a decent existence enjoying national rights.’

He also noted:

‘The key feature of the occupation has always been humiliation: they [the Palestinians] must not be allowed to raise their heads. The basic principle, often openly expressed, is that the “Araboushim” – a term that belongs with “nigger” or “kike” – must understand who rules this land and who walks in it with head lowered and eyes averted.’ (Noam Chomsky, ‘Fateful Triangle,’ Pluto Press, updated edition, 1999, p.489)

Recent events encapsulate this all too well. On Friday, March 30, Israeli soldiers shot dead 14 Palestinians and wounded 1400, including 800 hit by live ammunition. By April 5, the death toll had risen to 21. During a second protest, one week later on Friday, April 7, the Israelis shot dead a further 10 Palestinians, including a 16-year-old boy, and more than 1300 were injured. Among those killed was Yasser Murtaja, a journalist who had been filming the protest. He had been wearing a distinctive blue protective vest marked ‘PRESS’ in large capital letters. The brutality, and utter brazenness with which the killings were carried out, is yet another demonstration of the apartheid state’s contempt for the people it tried to ethnically cleanse in 1948, the year of Israel’s founding.

On the first day of the protest, on March 30, many Palestinians had gathered in Gaza, close to the border with Israel, as part of a peaceful ‘Great March of Return’ protest demanding the right to reclaim ancestral homes in Israel. 100 Israeli snipers lay in wait, shooting at protesters, including an 18-year-old shot in the back while running away from the border. The Israel army boasted in a quickly-deleted tweet that the massacre had been planned, deliberate and premeditated:

‘Nothing was carried out uncontrolled; everything was accurate and measured, and we know where every bullet landed’

BBC News and other ‘mainstream’ news outlets, including the Guardian, carried headlines about ‘clashes’ at the Gaza-Israel border ‘leaving’ Palestinians dead and injured. As we noted via Twitter, an honest headline would have read:

‘Israeli troops kill 16 Palestinians and injure hundreds’

When the Israelis shot dead yet more Palestinians on the second Friday of protests, the BBC reported, ‘Deadly unrest on Gaza-Israel border as Palestinians resume protest’. BBC ‘impartiality’ meant not headlining Israeli troops as the agency responsible for the ‘deadly unrest’.

Adam Johnson, writing for Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting, observed of news reports carrying inappropriate headlines about ‘clashes’:

‘We do not have one party’s snipers opening fire on another, unarmed party; we have “violent clashes”—a term, as FAIR has noted before, that implies symmetry of forces and is often used to launder responsibility.’

Later, the Guardian quietly removed the word ‘clashes’ from its headlines, while adding Israeli military spin: that the protest was a Hamas ploy to ‘carry out terror attacks’; compare this early version with a later version.

On the first Friday of mass killing, we noted that the Israeli newspaper Haaretz had reported the presence of Israeli snipers. We asked the public to look for any mention of this on BBC News. Around the time we made the request, the Newssniffer website picked up the first reference to ‘snipers’ on the BBC News website (albeit buried in a tiny mention at the bottom of a news article). Coincidence? Or were BBC editors aware that their output was under public scrutiny?

Within just one day, the BBC had relegated the news of the mass shootings in Gaza to a minor slot on its website. It considered ‘news’ about television personality Dec presenting Saturday Night Takeaway without Ant, and royal couple Harry and Meghan choosing wedding flowers, more important than Israel killing and wounding many hundreds of Palestinians.

When BBC News finally turned to Gaza, with a piece buried at the bottom of its World news page, it was from Israel’s perspective:

‘Israel warns it could strike inside Gaza’

and:

‘Palestinian groups using protests as a cover to launch attacks on Israel’

This disgraceful coverage strongly suggested that Israel was the victim. As political analyst Charles Shoebridge observed:

‘Editors especially at the BBC aren’t stupid, they know exactly what they’re doing, and the use of very many devices such as this isn’t somehow repeatedly accidental. Indeed, it’s a good example of how the BBC is perhaps history’s most sophisticated and successful propaganda tool.’

By contrast, a powerful article in Haaretz from veteran Israeli journalist Gideon Levy pointed to the reality that the mass shooting by Israeli ‘Defence’ Forces:

‘shows once again that the killing of Palestinians is accepted in Israel more lightly than the killing of mosquitoes.’

 

The Silence of Liberal ‘Interventionists’

Last year, Jeremy Corbyn was hounded by ‘mainstream’ media jounalists, demanding that he condemn acts of violence by the socialist government in Venezuela. But there was no corporate media campaign calling upon Theresa May to denounce much worse Israeli violence. The same media that devoted sustained, in-depth coverage of Spanish police brutality during the Catalan independence referendum swiftly relegated Israel’s mass murder to ‘other news’.

Imagine if Russian or Syrian troops had shot dead almost 30 civilians, and injured well over 1000, during peaceful protests. ‘MSM’ headlines and airwaves would be filled with condemnations from senior UK politicians and prominent commentators. But not so when it is Israel doing the killing.

We tweeted:

‘Twitter task for today: think of any of the famously impassioned, outraged “humanitarian interventionists” in the Guardian, The Times, the Observer and so on, and check how much they’ve tweeted about the mass killings and woundings in Gaza. Go ahead, try it.’

Examples were glaring by their absence.

Writing for The Intercept, journalist Mehdi Hasan asked rhetorically:

‘Where is the moral outrage from former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, the famously pro-intervention, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of a “A Problem From Hell,” which lamented U.S. inaction in Rwanda […]?

‘Where is the demand from Canadian academic-turned-politician Michael Ignatieff, who was once one of the loudest voices in favor of the so-called responsibility to protect doctrine, for peacekeeping troops to be deployed to the Occupied Territories?

‘Where are the righteously angry op-eds from Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times, or Richard Cohen of the Washington Post, or David Aaronovitch of The Times of London, demanding concrete action against the human rights abusers of the IDF?’

Hasan concluded:

‘The ongoing and glaring refusal of liberal interventionists in the West to say even a word about the need to protect occupied Palestinians from state-sponsored violence is a reminder of just how morally bankrupt and cynically hypocritical the whole “liberal intervention” shtick is.’

Global realpolitik was highlighted yet again when the US government blocked a vote at an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council calling for an international investigation into the mass shooting of civilians by Israeli troops on March 30. The US repeated its block a week later after the second wave of Israeli killing. We have found no coverage in the UK ‘mainstream’ media of the US blocking a UN investigation. In other words, Israel can act with impunity when committing grievous crimes against humanity, backed to the hilt by its biggest sponsor in Washington.

 

Weaponising ‘Antisemitism’ Against Corbyn

Meanwhile, the ‘MSM’ was continuing to deploy charges of alleged antisemitism against Corbyn-led Labour; and, seen in a wider political context, against realistic hopes of even moderately progressive changes to UK government policy.

A Facebook comment made in 2012 by Corbyn about a mural depicting Jewish and non-Jewish bankers was unearthed and used to mount a remarkable barrage of vehement media attacks. BBC News took its lead from the obviously right-wing, anti-Corbyn agenda across the ‘spectrum’ of the country’s ‘free press’.

The attacks continued with a vicious front-page ‘exclusive’ in the extreme right-wing Sunday Times:

‘Exposed: Corbyn’s hate factory’

The article, based on a trawl of Facebook posts, painted a hugely exaggerated picture of ‘racism, violent threats and abuse by leader’s fan base’. Alex Nunns, author of The Candidate, a book about Corbyn’s ‘improbable path to power’, pointed out the absurdly cynical nature of this Murdoch ‘journalism’. Nunns undertook his own Facebook search for posts by Conservatives and quickly discovered examples of misogyny, abuse, an implied threat of violence and implicit racism. The Tory Facebook page he found:

‘appears to have links to The Bruges Group, which in turn has links to leading Conservative politicians including Iain Duncan Smith. Headline: “EXPOSED: Iain Duncan Smith’s hate factory.” See how this is done?’

Guardian columnist Owen Jones picked up Nunns’ tweets and pointed out in a live BBC interview:

‘Why has there been no coverage of the despicable racism and abuse found in Conservative Facebook groups’?

The BBC news presenter replied:

‘Because Labour is the story at the moment’.

That the ‘MSM’, including the BBC, had made Labour ‘the story at the moment’ was simply not worthy of comment by corporate journalists or, perhaps, permissible thought.

Shamefully, the BBC published a big splash based on the Sunday Times article on ‘Jeremy Corbyn’s hate factory’. The BBC piece was almost gleeful in saying that there was ‘no let up for Labour’:

‘With negative stories on the front pages of at least four newspapers, this is not a happy Easter Sunday for Labour.’

In other words, as it so often does, the BBC was following the lead of the right-wing, anti-Corbyn ‘mainstream’ press. The onslaught of ‘news’ linking Corbyn to ‘antisemitism’ continued with an account of how Corbyn had attended a ‘left wing Jewish event’ organised by Jewdas. The BBC stated:

‘Jewdas, which describes itself as a “radical” and “alternative” Jewish collective, is at odds with mainstream Jewish groups over allegations of anti-Semitism in Labour.’

Three of the principal pro-Israel bodies in the UK, the Jewish Board of Deputies, Jewish Leadership Council and Jewish Labour Movement, criticised Corbyn for attending the event. The BBC reported:

‘Jonathan Arkush, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said: “If Jeremy Corbyn goes to their event, how can we take his stated commitment to be an ally against anti-Semitism seriously?”‘

The BBC not only ran with this latest ‘story’ linking Corbyn to antisemitism, but promoted it as the lead item on the BBC News website.

However, there is nothing that says we must allow BBC News to determine what is ‘mainstream’ and what is not. And, in particular, when it comes to the Jewish Board of Deputies, Jewish Leadership Council and Jewish Labour Movement, journalist Asa Winstanley of Electronic Intifada notes:

‘Their primary function is to lobby for Israel, an institutionally racist, apartheid state.’

A measure of the Jewish Board of Deputies’ staunch pro-Israel stance can be seen from the tweet they sent in the wake of the brutal Israeli killings in the first Friday border protest:

‘Alarming developments at Gaza border as Hamas once again using its civilians – inc children – as pawns.’

The lack of condemnation from ‘mainstream’ voices in politics and the media to such a disgraceful message reveals widespread deep fear of being accused of antisemitism. This fear, used to constrain reasoned debate, needs to be seen in a broader historical context. In 2002, former Israeli minister Shulamit Aloni explained the rationale behind the charge of antisemitism:

‘Well, it’s a trick – we always use it. When from Europe somebody’s criticising Israel then we bring up the Holocaust.’

And it works. Professor Greg Philo of the Glasgow Media Group related that he was once told by a senior BBC News editor:

‘The BBC waits in fear for the telephone call from the Israelis.’

None of the above is to deny that there is a significant problem of antisemitism in British politics, or in wider British society. But, as the group Jews for Justice for Palestinians notes, the facts are that:

‘Levels of antisemitism among those on the left-wing of the political spectrum, including the far-left, are indistinguishable from those found in the general population.’

Moreover, antisemitism has decreased in Labour under Corbyn, and public polling indicates that it is more prevalent among Conservative and UKIP members than among Labour and Liberal members. Indeed, there is ample evidence of an extraordinary scale of Tory racism and abuse.

In summary, then, here is the horrible irony of recent coverage on Israel and antisemitism: the corporate media continued to headline Corbyn’s ‘antisemitism crisis’ – supposedly triggered by a comment about a mural in 2012 – while quickly relegating Israel’s massacres of civilian Palestinians to ‘other news’ at the bottom of the page and running order.

The truth is that the deadliest racism today is indicated by the casual way in which the West and its allies rain violence down on countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen. Although human rights are typically used as a pretext, the real goal is control of natural resources and the global economy; the tears of compassion evaporate the instant that an Official Enemy obstructing Western control has been overthrown. As Chomsky has noted, this is actually closer to a kind of speciesism than racism:

‘Namely, knowing that you are massacring them but not doing so intentionally because you don’t regard them as worthy of concern. That is, you don’t even care enough about them to intend to kill them. Thus when I walk down the street, if I stop to think about it I know I’ll probably kill lots of ants, but I don’t intend to kill them, because in my mind they do not even rise to the level where it matters. There are many such examples. To take one of the very minor ones, when [President Bill] Clinton bombed the al-Shifa pharmaceutical facility in Sudan, he and the other perpetrators surely knew that the bombing would kill civilians (tens of thousands, apparently). But Clinton and associates did not intend to kill them, because by the standards of Western liberal humanitarian racism, they are no more significant than ants. Same in the case of tens of millions of others.’

A further example, as we have seen, are the yawns of indifference from the corporate media as hundreds of civilian protestors – Palestinian ‘mosquitoes’ – are gunned down by Israeli snipers

The #Windrush” scandal- Theresa May’s blatant racism exposed when she was in charge of the Home Office

May leads with coldness and cruelty. Just ask the children of Windrush

Ministers choose not to solve this immigration debacle, steered by a leader who has form in making people’s lives a misery

Prime minister Theresa May.
‘Theresa May sets the tone of government. She must change it.’ Photograph: Simon Dawson/PA
One of the most appalling elements of the Windrush generation immigration scandal is that the mess is so easily fixable. The government has long had the right and the facility to grant indefinite leave to remain to those whose presence in the country may be technically questionable but socially desirable. That it has chosen not to do so tells us much, as does today’s revelation that No 10 has snubbed a plea from Commonwealth heads of government for talks about the debacle.The government has not acted decisively so far because it has not felt compelled to do so. For many months now, the Guardian reporter Amelia Gentleman has trodden a lonely path in trying to highlight these stories, without exciting the sort of supplementary interest from other media that might persuade ministers and their advisers that failure to do so placed their own futures in jeopardy. But in recent days, other newspapers and broadcasters have begun to expose the government’s failure to act. The equation, and with it the level of risk to politicians and bureaucrats, has changed. That speaks to the power of the media even now to hold the system to account, a vital component of our democracy. But it also says some sorry things about Theresa May and those who do her bidding.

This is a government that lacks purpose and obvious competence. We see that in its stewardship of the NHS, the benefits system, and most of all, its muddling towards an ill-considered, undefined, illogical Brexit. But what is just as disturbing, given the might of government and the extent to which its activities have a direct effect on people’s lives, is the lack of any moral grounding or emotional intelligence. It wields power disproportionately and clumsily. It tramples on the cares of ordinary people like a drunk in hobnail boots.

It is said that up close, May herself is thoughtful and personable, but when it’s time to go to work, she is the leader who thought the best way to allay immigration concerns was to hire vans with advertising boards telling undesired immigrants to “go home”. She is the one who sent the signal to her officials that, henceforth, those whose immigration status was questionable should find Britain a “hostile environment”. She is the one who went to Grenfell and, initially at least, couldn’t spare the time to speak to victims. She runs a government that tells the infirm that they must work and disabled people that they aren’t really disabled.

Leaders lead. Followers follow. If you look at May’s bloodless, technocratic approach to government, you easily understand how those who serve her feel able, or perhaps compelled, to do their jobs unburdened by any demand for compassion or empathy. She sets the tone. She must change it. She could start today by meeting the Caribbean leaders and responding to their concerns, as well as those voiced by 140 MPs from across the political spectrum.

Of course, that will require political navigation. She knows that after the poisonous Brexit campaign – and thanks to her lieutenants, messrs Gove and Johnson – the public expectation is that by fair means or foul, she will be tough towards immigrants. But even her own logic dictates a different approach. Along with the “deep and special” relationship she envisages with the EU post-Brexit, her ministers promise a new and vital recoupling with the Commonwealth. How does this mistreatment of its people, this trashing of historic ties and this deaf ear to the concerns of its representatives, forward that strategy?

It could be that, in their calculations, ministers believed that there would be no groundswell of support for middle-aged black people, irrespective of any ties they have or the contributions they have made to communities up and down the country. In that, again, the technocrats are being proved wrong by the media, MPs and the public. That may be the only heartening development so far in this sorry affair.

Hugh Muir is associate editor of Guardian Opinion

The #Skripal event and the #Douma “gas attack” – two acts in the same drama?

Source

OffGuardian | April 14, 2018

The illegal air strikes on Syria by the coalition of the guilty (US, France, UK) have happened, to no one’s great surprise. As such things go all current indications are that they were more token than anything else. The Russians are saying around 100 missiles were fired at an unclear number of targets, of which around 70% were intercepted. Syrian General Staff are reporting 3 injuries and no deaths. Mattis was at pains to say this was a one-off, though adding the reckless caveat that any further evidence of chemical weapons usage by Assad might change that (thus giving every lunatic or CIA/neocon-controlled cell in Syria a pure gold motive for a false fag).

Compared to how bad this might have been, this is a fairly harmless result for the present.

We’ve resisted the temptation to do any kind of analysis of things so far, preferring to let them play out and to document developments and opinions. But maybe this is a good time to offer a tentative overview of what seems to have been going on in the past weeks.

1) The Douma “gas attack” was likely faked

The only evidence we have for any “gas attack” in Douma on April 7 is the video released on April 7-8, showing piles of corpses, mostly children, some with foam around their mouths. When, where or how the video was made is not verifiable. Who killed the children shown or how they died is not verifiable. Additionally we have images of an alleged “gas canister”, again without any sourcing or verification, and which have been widely suggested to be implausible. And there is Bellingcat (Eliot Higgins), contributing his usual brand of “comparisons” of images and Google maps, adding nothing that could be described even loosely as verification of the salient claims.

In opposition to this the Russians are claiming the event was staged. They allege their armed forces entered Douma shortly after the alleged attack and claim to have found no evidence of chemical weapons usage, no witnesses and no victims.

They have also released video statements by two young men claiming to be doctors at the hospital. They describe people running in to the hospital screaming that there had been a chemical attack, inciting panic among the people there, and “unqualified” people administering to children, giving them “asthma inhalers.” However, he says, there were no victims of such a chemical treated there, only victims of smoke inhalation from recent shelling and subsequent fires.

There is also the notable reluctance by US Defense Secretary, James Mattis to fully endorse the reality of this narrative. Even on April 12, just hours before the air strikes were to be implemented, he was still publicly saying he had seen no evidence to show the gas attacks happened or who may have been responsible. Given his senior position on the Trump administration, and his previously gungho attitude to military adventurism, this is significant.

Of greatest potential significance is the claim by the Russian foreign ministry that they have evidence the UK government was directly involved in staging the fake attack or encouraging a false flag. So far they haven’t released this data, so we can’t comment further at this time.

2) Primarily UK initiative?

The fact (as stated above) that Mattis was apparently telegraphing his own private doubts a) about the verifiability of the attacks, and b) about the dangers of a military response, suggests he was a far from enthusiastic partaker in this adventure. Trump’s attitude is harder to gauge. His tweets veered wildly between unhinged threats and apparent efforts at conciliation. But he must have known he would lose (and seemingly has lost) a great part of his natural voter base (who elected him on a no-more-war mandate) by an act of open aggression that threatened confrontation with Russia on the flimsiest of pretexts.

Granted the US has been looking for excuses to intervene ever more overtly in Syria since 2013, and in that sense this Douma “initiative” is a continuation of their long term policy. It’s also true Russia was warning just such a false flag would be attempted in early March. But in the intervening month the situation on the ground has changed so radically that such an attempt no longer made any sense.

A false flag in early March, while pockets of the US proxy army were still holding ground in Ghouta would have enabled a possible offensive in their support which would prevent Ghouta falling entirely into government hands and thereby also maintain the pressure on Damascus. A false flag in early April is all but useless because the US proxy army in the region was completely vanquished and nothing would be gained by an offensive in that place at that time.

You can see why Mattis and others in the administration might be reluctant to take part in the false flag/punitive air strike narrative if they saw nothing currently to be gained to repay the risk. They may have preferred to wait for developments and plan for a more productive way of playing the R2P card in the future.

The US media has been similarly, and uncharacteristically divided and apparently unsure. Tucker Carlson railed against the stupidity of attacking Syria. Commentators on MSNBC were also expressing intense scepticism of the US intent and fear about possible escalation.

The UK govt and media on the other hand has been much more homogeneous in advocating for action. No doubts of the type expressed by Mattis have been heard from the lips of any UK government minister. Even May, a cowardly PM, has been (under how much pressure?) voicing sterling certitude in public that action HAD to be taken.

Couple this with the – as yet unverified – claims by Russia of direct UK involvement in arranging the Douma “attack” and a tentative story-line emerges.

The Skripal consideration

Probably the only thing we can all broadly agree on about the Skripal narrative is that it manifestly did not go according to plan. However it was intended to play out, it wasn’t this way. Since some time in mid to late March it’s been clear the entire thing has become little more than an exercise in damage-limitation, leak-plugging and general containment.

The official story is a hot mess of proven falsehoods, contradictions, implausible conspiracy theories, more falsehoods and inexplicable silences where cricket chirps tell us all we need to know.

The UK government has lied and evaded on every key aspect.

1) It lied again and again about the information Porton Down had given it

2) Its lawyers all but lied to Mr Justice Robinson about whether or not the Skripals had relatives in Russia in an unscrupulous attempt to maintain total control of them, or at least of the narrative.

3) It is not publishing the OPCW report on the chemical analyses, and the summary of that report reads like an exercise in allusion and weasel-wording. Even the name of the “toxic substance” found in the Skripals’ blood is omitted, and the only thing tying it to the UK government’s public claims of “novichok” is association by inference and proximity. Indeed if current claims by Russian FM Lavrov turn out to be true, “novichok” may indeed not have been found in those samples at all and the active substance was a compound called “BZ”, a non-lethal agent developed in Europe and America. (more about that later).

None of the alleged victims of this alleged attack has been seen in public even in passing since the event. There is no film or photographs of DS Bailey leaving the hospital, no film or photographs of his wife or family members doing the same. No interviews with Bailey, no interviews with his wife, family, distant relatives, work colleagues.

The Skripals themselves were announced to be alive and out of danger mere days after claims they were all but certain to die. Yulia, soon thereafter, apparently called her cousin Viktoria only to subsequently announce, indirectly through the helpful agency of the Metropolitan Police, that she didn’t want to talk to her cousin – or anyone else – at all. She is now allegedly discharged from hospital and has “specially trained officers… helping to take care of” her in an undisclosed location. A form or words so creepily sinister it’s hard to imagine how they were ever permitted the light of day.

Very little of this bizarre, self-defeating, embarrassing, hysterical story makes any sense other than as a random narrative, snaking wildly in response to events the narrative-makers can’t completely control.

Why? What went wrong? Why has the UK government got itself into this mess?

Is this what happened?

If a false flag chemical attack had taken place in Syria at the time Russia predicted, just a week or two after the Skripal poisoning, a lot of the attention that’s been paid to the Skripals over the last month would likely have been diverted. Many of the questions being asked by Russia and in the alt media may never have been asked as the focus of the world turned to a possible superpower stand-off in the Middle East.

So, could it be the Skripal event was never intended to last so long in the public eye? Could it be that it was indeed a false flag, as many have alleged, planned as a sketchy prelude to, or warm up act for a bigger chemical attack in Syria, scheduled for a week or so later in mid-March – just around the time Russia was warning of such a possibility?

Could it be this planned event was unexpectedly canceled by the leading players in the drama (the US) when the rapid and unexpected fall of Ghouta meant any such intervention became pointless at least for the moment?

Did this cancellation leave the UK swinging in the wind, with a fantastical story that was never intended to withstand close scrutiny, and no second act for distraction?

This would explain why the UK may have been pushing for the false flag to happen even after it could no longer serve much useful purpose on the ground, and why the Douma “attack” seems to have been so sketchily done by a gang on the run. It would explain why the US has been less than enthused by the idea of reprisals. Because while killing Syrians to further geo-strategic interests is not a problem, killing Syrians (and risking escalation with Russia) in order to rescue an embarrassed UK government is less appealing.

If this is true, Theresa May and her cabinet are currently way out on a limb even by cynical UK standards. Not only have they lied about the Skripal event, but in order to cover up that lie they have promoted a false flag in Syria, and “responded “ to it by a flagrant breach of international and domestic law.

This is very bad.

But even if some or all of our speculation proves false, and even if the Russian claims of UK collusion with terrorists in Syria prove unfounded, May is still guilty of multiple lies and has still waged war without parliamentary approval.

This is a major issue. She and her government should resign. But it’s unlikely that will happen. So what next? There is a sense this is a watershed for many of the parties involved and for the citizens of the countries drawn into this.

Will the usual suspects try to avoid paying for their crimes and misadventures by more rhetoric, more false flags, more “reprisals”? Or will this signal some other change in direction?

We’ll all know soon enough.

What a surprise!! Independent Swiss Lab Says Poison Used in # Skripal Attack Was Produced in US or UK

Independent Swiss Lab Says Poison Used in Skripal Attack Was Produced in US or UK

On March 4, 2018, Sergie Skripal and his daughter Yulia, who was visiting him from Moscow, were poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent after he stopped by a local store.

Skripal is a Russian double agent who WORKED FOR Christopher Steele’s company in England. Steele was behind the fake Russian dossier on Trump.

Russia denied the poison attack.

The US expelled 60 Russian diplomats following the poison attack after the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, England.

On Saturday Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said a Swiss lab analyzed the poison and said the nerve agent was not produced in Russia or the Soviet Union.

Reuters Top News

@Reuters

Russia’s Lavrov says Skripals may have been poisoned by substance Russia never made https://reut.rs/2JLt6z6 

#Skripal and #Syria- When A Government Declares A Verdict Before An Investigation, It’s Because There’s A Pre-existing Agenda

When A Government Declares A Verdict Before An Investigation, It’s Because There’s A Preexisting Agenda

Hours after an alleged chemical weapons attack on civilians in Syria, long before any investigation into the matter could have possibly even begun much less been completed, the US State Department declared that “the Assad regime must be held accountable” and Russia “ultimately bears responsibility” for it. Anyone who questioned such proclamations was branded a delusional conspiracy theorist.

Days after an alleged poisoning of an ex-spy in Salisbury, the UK’s Foreign Office was telling reporters that the Kremlin would be held responsible. Anyone who questioned such proclamations was branded a delusional conspiracy theorist. Weeks later, we learned that laboratory forensics had still determined no such culpability, and crime scene forensics were all over the map positing many contradictory theories about what happened and how.

Isn’t it interesting how just as its data begins warning that the western empire is approaching post-primacy and will likely lose its dominant position in the world if it doesn’t take drastic action, all this information begins pouring out about a longtime rival of that very empire? It’s almost as if there is a preexisting vendetta to cripple oppositional governments, and then crimes are being discovered which just so happen to advance that preexisting agenda.

 

How wild is that?

Hey everyone! You know that WikiLeaks drop everyone’s talking about? Turns out it was Russia. No we can’t show you the evidence. It’s secret evidence.

Oh hey, the election didn’t turn out how it was supposed to, but guess what? Turns out it was Russian Facebook ads that definitely made that happen. No we can’t show you evidence of it. It’s secret evidence. Shut up and give us our sanctions.

Look! Russian propaganda! Russian propaganda everywhere! We need to increase internet censorship against dissenting narratives, report every inconvenient social media trend as a Russian plot and shut down RT! No we haven’t wanted to do that all along, what are you talking about?

Poisoned ex-spy in the UK? Russia! No, no time for an investigation! Russia, Russia, Russia! Throw out those diplomats and rally Europe into taking a more aggressive stance against Putin!

Gas attack in an area crawling with known terrorists being reported by the Al Qaeda-affiliated White Helmets? Let’s issue a State Department press release that spends literally half its space talking about Russia! Russia Russia Russia! No time to investigate! Russia!

Russia Russia everywhere! Ignore all those false reports and retractions coming from the mainstream media about Russia! Russia!

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the Skripal case and the alleged Douma attack, it’s that when a government demands new cold war escalations with a longtime rival before an investigation can be carried out, it’s because there’s a preexisting agenda.

And we should never fall for it. There is no valid excuse for refusing to allow a full neutral investigation to run its course before plunging into world-threatening escalations with a nuclear superpower. By refusing to do so, the western power establishment is already admitting that it is lying to us.

In a post-Iraq invasion world, it is our duty to demand copious amounts of evidence from our governments before consenting to any dangerous military agendas, whether for hot war or cold. In the case of Syria, statements from the US president seem to indicate that we may well be looking at hot warfare in an area full of Russian forces, which means we could well be staring down the barrel of a third and final world war right now.

But no time for an investigation, right?

Wrong.

Of course it’s wrong. These depraved, power hungry sociopaths don’t get to imperil our lives without even providing us evidence for their claims about why it is necessary for them to do so.

Iraq happened. Libya happened. These are not conspiracy theories. These are facts. We know for a fact that these people will lie to us to advance preexisting agendas against noncompliant governments. It’s not our job to roll over and let them do whatever they want to us, it’s their job to convince us that the actions they’re demanding are completely necessary.

So far the only evidence they have given us is evidence that they are afraid of evidence. There is a reason for that. Don’t be taken in. Keep fighting.

UK government’s reckless kowtowing of Trump on Syria – and contempt for the British people

 

Trump and May holding handsTrump and May holding hands

A word to my Westminster MP on Syria

Stuart Littlewood writes on 12 April:

A reminder to my MP that his party boss Theresa May and her out-of-control Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson impatiently jumped the gun on Iraq and look like making the same mistake on Syria in an apparent attempt to provoke a wider war.

In a crazy-dangerous situation like this, when our country is run by fools who never learn, what can one legitimately do short of taking to the streets in a mob? Write to one’s MP of course – though much good it will do. Most MPs are not there to express the wishes of their constituents but to obey the diktats of their tribal leaders (or the shadowy powers that pull their strings).

I well remember being on high alert during the last Cold War, and I’m not going through that again just to satisfy the pathological hatred some government ministers have for Russia, Iran and Syria while cosying up to the world’s truly vile regimes like Saudi Arabia and Israel and even rolling out the red carpet for them.

So, I for one have written to my MP along these lines:

Let’s remember that Theresa and Boris enthusiastically supported the loons who took us to war in Iraq and both voted against saying that the case for war against Iraq has not yet been established (see theyworkforyou.com). Both were impatient to commit the gravest crime in the book, namely taking a nation to war, without being sure of the facts and without even bothering to run basic checks that would have told them the information fed to Parliament by Labour was bollox. Millions of ordinary citizens had managed to work that out for themselves, so why not MPs who are entrusted with getting it right?

Boris, as we’ve seen, still hasn’t learned the lesson and is none too careful about the way he seeks, interprets and broadcasts intelligence. Or the way he recklessly hurls accusations when he’s actually paid to make friends and do trade…

We now hear that Theresa May is under pressure from ministers and allies to join a US-led military strike against the Assad regime in retaliation for a suspected chemical attack. She says that President Assad and Russia will be “held to account… if they are found to be responsible”. Funny she isn’t so keen to hold the Israeli regime to account for its barbarism in recent days. Or the Saudi regime for its genocide in Yemen…

She’s been warned that Britain risks losing influence in Washington and Paris if she refuses Trump’s request to join his murderous military adventure. Crude and despicable stuff from our nice allies.

Trump, like Boris, might not last long. Let us pray for that. Meanwhile, the whole insane caper has a high chance of going badly, and I do mean badly, wrong and this time there’ll be no hiding place for the warmongers who were part of it…

There are insistent counter-reports that the Douma chemical attack never happened. And we all know that America-Israel axis have long had their own criminal agendas in this energy-rich region and are masters of disinformation, false flags and other dirty tricks. So, the news this morning that Mrs May contemplates joining a mad-ass freak like Trump in an act of war without recalling Parliament fills me with even more rage and disgust than Blair ever managed to do.

As we teeter on the brink of war in Syria, a further word to my Westminster MP

Stuart Littllewood writes on 13 April:

It is disturbing to hear on the news this morning that the Cabinet has agreed in principle to join the US-led coalition for a military attack on Syria and decided Cabinet approval is all that’s necessary.

In other words, parliamentary democracy will be by-passed in a matter with potentially fatal consequences for millions. Blair in 2003 at least was bright enough to get gullible MPs from across the House to give him political cover for his illegal game.

I have just come across the following remarks by an eminent US law expert, Francis Boyle, Professor of International Law at the University of Illinois, that show Trump to be on very shaky ground and at risk of impeachment.

Boyle writes:

When Obama was in a similar position in 2013, his advisor Ben Rhodes has since commented that they turned back largely because they were afraid of impeachment. That fear is well founded. While the prospect of impeaching Trump is thrown around frequently for partisan purposes, on this issue the constitution is clear: Initiating a war or any such attack without authorisation is clearly impeachable.

Last year, at the National Press Club, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr claimed the authority to target the Syrian government stemmed from the 2001 Authorisation for the Use of Military Force. Gen. Dunford was totally incorrect. The AUMF passed after 9/11 has indeed been used to justify the bombing campaign purporting to target ISIS [Islamic State group], but it cannot possibly be used to justify targeting the Syrian government.

Excuses of “humanitarian intervention” have no basis in international law and in these circumstances are transparently hollow. Israel apparently just attacked Syria (illegal) from Lebanese airspace (also illegal). Israel itself just openly admitted that it is killing Palestinian civilian protesters – part of a decades-long brazenly illegal policy. The US representative to the UN, Nikki Haley, prevented even an inquiry by the UN into the matter. There’s no evidence of any humanitarian concern here, simply a search for pretexts to pursue geopolitical goals which may well include carving up Syria.

As upholders (one supposes) of the rule of law, including international law, Theresa May and her Cabinet colleagues surely won’t wish to implicate themselves – or the nation – in any such criminal conduct. You might criticise Boyle for his anti-US/Israel stance just as many people are sickened by the Conservative Party’s undying devotion to the Israel project, but none of that extinguishes the legal point. Exactly what advice has our Conservative government received, please, to say that joining this action against Syria is lawful or even sensible?

Also what rock-solid evidence is there that the Douma gas attack actually took place and, if so, that the Syrian government was responsible?

I imagine most government MPs have already asked these questions and received answers, but the British public is still waiting, unconsulted, while we teeter on the brink…

Boris “the clown” Johnson blames Russia again for #Skripal attack, despite independent report providing no new evidence

Johnson blames Russia again for Skripal attack, despite independent report providing no new evidence

Johnson blames Russia again for Skripal attack, despite independent report providing no new evidence

The chemical weapons watchdog has confirmed the UK’s claims that the Skripals were attacked with a nerve agent, but did not identify the origin. Still, Boris Johnson jumped on the chance to blame Russia again.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) collected independent samples at Britain’s request. As the findings were released on Thursday, Foreign Secretary Johnson simultaneously declared, again, that Russia was behind the chemical attack in Salisbury on former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia.

Johnson said that the chemical used in the Salisbury attack was a military-grade nerve agent – Novichok – and that there can be “no doubt“ that Russia was responsible.

“There remains no alternative explanation about who was responsible – only Russia has the means, motive and record,” Johnson said, despite the report from the OPCW offering no new findings beyond what Britain’s own lab has already found.

The foreign secretary’s renewed claims that Russia is responsible for the Salisbury attack come after he told a German TV channel that he had been informed by British military lab Porton Down that without a doubt the poison had originated from Russia.

Days later, Porton Down chief Gary Aitkenhead undermined Johnson’s comments, telling Sky News that the facility was unable to determine the origin of the toxin.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May said on March 12 that Sergei and Yulia Skripal had been poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent from the Novichok group of poisons, which sparked international tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions and tension with Moscow. Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement in the attack on the ex-Russian double agent and his daughter.

On Thursday, the OPCW’s executive summary of its independent findings was made public.

READ MORE: ‘Boris Johnson misled the public’ – Labour ex-frontbencher attacks govt over Skripal case (VIDEO)

“The results of analysis by the OPCW designated laboratories of environmental and biomedical samples collected by the OPCW team confirm the findings of the United Kingdom relating to the identity of the toxic chemical that was used in Salisbury and severely injured three people,” the public report reads.

“The name and structure of the identified toxic chemical are contained in the full classified report of the Secretariat, available to States Parties.”

Russia has consistently denied any involvement in the poisoning. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Britain would have to apologize to Russia for its “mad accusations.”

The chemical weapons agency will hold a special session on the Salisbury poisoning next Wednesday to further discuss the findings

#Corbyn: UK must wait for UN probe, not Trump orders

Corbyn: UK must wait for UN probe, not Trump orders

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn. (Getty Images)Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn. (Getty Images)

British Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn has demanded that the UK government ask for an independent UN-led investigation into the recent suspected chemical attack in Syria rather than “wait for instructions” from US President Donald Trump.

“The government appears to be waiting for instructions from President Donald Trump on how to proceed. But the US administration is giving alarmingly contradictory signals,” Corbyn said in a statement on Friday.

“Britain should press for an independent UN-led investigation of last weekend’s horrific chemical weapons attack so that those responsible can be held to account.”

Corbyn added, “Ministers should take their proposals, such as they are, to parliament.

The Labour Leader has been asking for a private briefing on the UK government’s intelligence about Saturday’s chemical attack in Douma, emphasizing that parliament must be consulted if military action were taken against Syria.

As cabinet ministers gathered for an emergency meeting in Downing Street on Thursday, he said, “Surely the lessons of Iraq, the lessons that came from the Chilcot report, are that there has to be a proper process of consultation. Cabinet on its own should not be making this decision.”

Last night the UK cabinet unanimously backed Theresa May’s warning that Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons could not go unchallenged, leaving the way open for British participation in military action.

“Obviously the situation is very serious, obviously there has to be, now, a demand for a political process to end the war in Syria. We cannot risk an escalation even further than it’s gone already,” Corbyn said.

The British prime minister is is not bound by law to seek parliamentary approval for offensive military action, but recent interventions in Libya and Iraq have been put to a vote. Many now believe lawmakers should always have a vote before the government takes military action.

Corbyn said different sides in the Syrian conflicts should get around a negotiating table and stated that he wanted to see the “whole picture” and questioned what would happen if a US missile hit a Russian plane.

“What happened last weekend was terrible. What we don’t want is bombardment which leads to escalation and leads to a hot war between Russia and America over the skies of Syria,” he said.

Corbyn further noted that he believed UK military intervention in Syria risks escalating an already devastating conflict.

Split among Labour over Syria?

While Corbyn has been defiant over a potential government military strike on Syria and his tone has been critical of May’s foreign policy in the Middle East region, Labour’s shadow cabinet international development secretary Kate Osamor, struck different rhetoric than that of her boss, indicating discord among Labour over Syria.

Labour’s shadow cabinet international development secretary Kate Osamor along side Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. (PA Images)

She told the House magazine that “intervention must take place” if the UN concludes the Syrian government was behind the alleged chemical attack.

“If a leader is killing their own they need to be removed. We don’t keep them there. They need to go. He needs to be removed.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Osamor said Corbyn should allow his shadow ministers to comment on foreign policy matters instead of displaying his own positions. “It takes the government off the hook because the media then talk about Jeremy’s response.”

Damascus has rejected the accusation, saying militants the area have made up the “chemical fabrications” to impede the army advances.

Germany Together with 190 Other UN Member States, Have No Intention of Attacking Syria. Why Has Britain?

Germany Together with 190 Other UN Member States, Have No Intention of Attacking Syria. Why Has Britain?

By Hans Stehling,

Does the Conservative government of Theresa May imagine that Britain, in 2018, with just one tenth the armed forces of America, is still a global military power?

Does it imagine that the UK has millions to throwaway on a military adventure when our National Health Service is on the point of collapse through lack of funding? When the sick lie on trolleys in hospital through lack of beds? Where our cancer treatment record is still the worst in Europe?

Where our roads are so full of potholes that we are more like a banana republic?

Where the government has cut welfare payments for the sick and disabled?

Where crime and murder in our cities is rising due to cuts in police numbers?

Where knife attacks in London are at a record high?

Where public spending is at an all-time low due to massive government debt?

Yet this Prime Minister, with no military experience whatsoever is prepared to commit the United Kingdom to war? The electorate would not sanction it and neither must Parliament.

  • TOTAL BRITISH ARMED FORCES  =      147,000 (2018)
  • TOTAL AMERICAN ARMED FORCES =   1,430,000 (2018)

Britain has just one (1) outdated, Trident submarine at sea at any one time. Israel has a fleet of four (4) state-of-the-art, German built, Dolphin Class, nuclear-armed submarines with cruise missiles currently assumed active in the Mediterranean and the Gulf.

It is clear that the British Prime Minister is under the covert influence of a political lobby that acts not in British interests but of those whose agenda is to effect regime change, not in Syria but in Iran.  And that puts the UK on a collision course with both the European Union and the UN Security Council.

Theresa May must not be allowed to take military action against Syria upon the request of the erratic Trump administration or under pressure from the unelected CFI Lobby or any other political pressure group.  The consequences could prove disastrous for Britain, and for Europe.

*

Hans Stehling (pen name) is an analyst from the UK; a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Video: #Skripal “Theater of the Absurd”. Russia Demolishes UK Poisoning ‘Hoax’ at UN Security Council Meeting

Video: Skripal “Theater of the Absurd”. Russia Demolishes UK Poisoning ‘Hoax’ at UN Security Council Meeting

By Alex Christoforou,

Russia’s UN envoy blasted the UK’s attempt to blame the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal on Moscow, describing the entire hoax as a “theater of the absurd.”

The extraordinary UN Security Council meeting was requested by Russia, following the announcement made by the secretive British Porton Down chemical laboratory, that it had not established that the Novichok nerve agent used in the poisoning was of Russian origin.

According to RT, top British officials explicitly cited the Porton Down laboratory when pinning the blame on Moscow, so following this revelation their theory started to fall apart, said Vasily Nebenzia, noting that the UK’s secret agencies rushed to help the government, producing new claims based on some “intelligence data.”

Nebenzia asked a series of questions pointing to inconsistencies of the UK’s narrative.

“I don’t even know how to comment on this. It’s some sort of the theater of absurd. You couldn’t have come up with better fake story?”

“Why did we have to wait eight years and [then] decided to [attack the Skripals] two weeks before the elections and several weeks before the world cup? Why did we release him from the country in the first place? Why do that in extremely public and dangerous fashion.”

RT reports

The fact that the victims of the nerve agent, which is believed to be among the deadliest, managed to survive the attack has also raised serious questions, Nebenzia said. It could be explained only if an antidote had been administered to them immediately after the exposure. British officials, however, insisted that no antidote was used, since none existed in the first place. The Skripals managed to walk around for four hours after the exposure, according to the version by the British authorities, yet the police officer who found them lost consciousness immediately.

There are also different versions of how the poison was delivered, leaked and speculated in the British media.

“There are so many versions in wake of the lack of facts and evidence. House of Skripal, the door knob, flowers, buckwheat, or, in fact, the bay leaf?” Nebenzia said.

As the cornerstone allegation that the nerve agent originated from Russia turned out to be without merit, the whole narrative fell apart, Nebenzia said. Arguments that the Novichok nerve agent family originates from Russia, and therefore it was Moscow to blame do not hold water either, the diplomat added.

“We want to state urbi et orbi, Novichok is not copyrighted by Russia,” he stressed.

While the British authorities try to make fun of different theories expressed by Russia-based experts and media, Nebenzia said, Moscow does not have any version of the events due to glaring lack of facts available.

The Russian diplomat stated that the level of intellectual justification used by the UK authorities, namely by the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, “does not invoke even a smile.”

“Boris Johnson, who constantly proclaims his Russophile [nature], produces an absurd, to use the nicest word I can, absurd and immoral premise that the incident was necessary for Moscow to bring the people together before the [presidential] elections,” Nebenzia stated.

“His comparison of Russia’s Football World Cup with the Berlin Olympics of 1936 was equally immoral,” he continued, adding that unlike the Soviet Union, a large British delegation took part in those Games.

UK envoy Karen Pierce stood by her government’s firm belief that there is “no plausible alternative explanation” and that that Russia was “highly likely” behind the Salisbury incident. She called it part of a “wider pattern of irresponsible Russian behavior” and accused Moscow of constant “aggression” over the recent years.

“Russia seeks to undermine the international institutions which have kept us safe since the end of the Second World War,” Pierce said.

The two envoys also resorted to literary references in sparring with each other, with Nebenzia illustrating the British position by quoting the Red Queen from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, who demanded “sentence first, verdict afterwards.”

Pierce retorted that another quote from the same book, about “believing six impossible things before breakfast,” suited her Russian colleague better, though it matched her own government’s case built on assertions and rhetoric.

Poison Gas – Weapon of Choice for “False News”

The Saker

by Peter Koenig for the Saker blogPoison Gas – Weapon of Choice for “False News”

Poison gas is not only deadly, it often provokes a slow suffocating death. That, perpetrated on innocent children, is particularly cruel. But when such poison gas attacks are mere false flags, or by the new term, “false news”, and are used to provoke war, perhaps an all annihilating war, then humanity has turned to what it never should have become – a lowly-lowly herd of brainless zombies. Is that what we have become – brainless, greedy, selfish beings, no sense of solidarity, no respect for other beings; I am not even talking about humans, but any living being.

Poison gas, the weapon of choice for fear. Poisoning in Salisbury of the former Russian double-agent, Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, visiting her dad from Moscow. Poisoning with a nerve gas, called Novichok that was allegedly made in Russia. In the meantime, we know that nerve gas made in the former Soviet Union, now non-existent in Russia, was military grade and deadly. The gas used for the alleged attack was not deadly. We also know by now that the UK – all of their highest officials, from PM May down the ladder, lied so miserably that they will have a hard time recovering. It will backfire. Unlike the foreign secretary, Johnson boy pretended their secret bio-gas / bio-weapon laboratory Porton Down, just 13 km down the road from Salisbury, where the pair was allegedly found unconscious on a park bench, assured him the gas was made in Russia. Alas, the laboratories chief chemists testified later to the media that they could not be sure that the substance was made in Russia. No, of course not.

In fact, Porton Down, working in close collaboration with the CIA, is a highly sophisticated chemical warfare facility that can easily make the gas themselves – at the grades they please, deadly or not so deadly, if it should serve a “false news” purpose – which this did.

Were father and daughter indeed poisoned? – This is a legitimate question. Who has seen them since the alleged poisoning occurred on 28 March? – They disappeared from the public eye. Apparently, they are both recovering, Yulia having been released from hospital a few days ago, but has not been seen by anyone in public, nor been able to talk to the media, lest she could say “something” the public is not allowed to know. Her father is also recovering and may be released soon – released from where? – Is this all a farce?

An aunt talked to Yulia from Moscow, where she noticed that Yulia was not free to talk. The aunt wanted to visit her niece in the UK but was obviously denied a visa.

Where are father and daughter? – Washington has “offered” them a new home and new identity in the US, to avoid further poisoning attempts… how ridiculous! A blind man or woman must see that this is another farce, or more correctly, an outright abduction. The two won’t have a chance to resist. They are just taken away – not to talk anymore to anyone ever. – That’s the way the story goes. The lies are protected, and the “Russia did it” syndrome will prevail – prevail in the dumb folded public, in the herd of pigs that we all have become, as Goebbels would say.

And the saga continues. The saga to drum up war. That’s the purpose of it all. Nothing else – Russia, the evil nation, led by an evil leader, must be subdued and conquered. But the empire needs the public for their support. And the empire is almost there. It disposes of a vicious media corporate army – that lies flagrantly about anything that money can buy. It’s like spitting in the face of the world, and nobody seems to care, or worse, even to notice.

On the other side of the Mediterranean is Syria. A vast and noble country, Syria, with a leader who truly loves his people and country, a leader who has despite a foreign induced war – not civil war – a proxy war, instigated and funded by Washington and its vassal allies in Europe and the Middle East; Syria, a highly educated socialist country that has shared the benefit of her resources, free education, free medical services, free basic infrastructure, with her people. This Syria must fall. Such strength cannot be tolerated by the all-dominating west. Like Iraq and Libya, also socialist countries once-upon-a-time, and like Syria, secular Muslim nations, sharing their countries wealth with the people, such countries must fall.

According to Pentagon planners and those Zion-neofascist thinktanks that designed the PNAC (Plan for a New American Century), as the chief instrument of US foreign policy, we know since Wesley Clark, the former Supreme Allied commander and Chief of NATO in Europe (1997-2000) talked to Democracy Now in 2007 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8FhZnFZ6TY ), saying that within 5 years seven countries must fall, one of them is Syria. – Since 2011, the Syrian people have been bombarded by US and NATO and Saudi funded terrorists, causing tens of thousands of deaths, and millions of refugees. Now, even more blatantly, US bases are vying to occupying the northern third of Syria, totally illegally, but nobody says beep. Not even the UN.

The recent fake gas attack on Douma outside of Damascus, has allegedly killed 80 to 120 people, mostly women and children. Of course, that sells best in the propaganda theatre – women and children. Strangely, like last time the infamous White Helmets discovered the gas victims, including a gas canister-like bomb laying on a bed, having been shot through the roof of a house… a totally and unprofessionally staged event. As Russian military quickly discovered and reported. They called on an independent investigation, one that could not be bought and corrupted by Washington. President Assad invited a team of investigators to inspect the scene.

Instead of heeding this invitation, Trump, the bully, calls Mr. Assad an “animal” and a “monster”, twittering his brainless aggressions throughout the world. Tell you what, Mr. Trump, Bashar al-Assad is a far better human being than you are a monster. You and your dark handlers don’t even deserve being called human. Mr. Assad has regard and respect for his people, attempts to protect them and has so far succeeded with the help of Russia, Iran and Hezbollah, recovering the last bits of Syrian territory from the terrorist, except of course, the northern part, where the chief terrorist and the world’s only rogue state has itself installed, the US of A. – Why in the world would Mr. Assad choose to gas his own people? Especially, when he is winning the war? – People, ask yourself, cui bono (who benefits?) and the answer is simple: The western aggressors, who seek a reason to mass bomb Syria into even more rubble, causing even more death and destitution. That’s who.

While you, Donald, and those monsters that direct you from behind the scenes, have no, but absolutely no respect for your people, for any people on this globe, for that matter, not even for your kind, for your greed-no-end kind of elite, as you bring the world to the brink of an all-destructive, all killing annihilating war.

Since the other fake event, 9/11, we are, of course, already in a “soft version” of WWIII, but that’s not enough, the United States needs a hard war, so badly it doesn’t shy away from destroying itself. That’s how blinded your own propaganda has made you Americans, you generals, you corporate “leaders” (sic-sic) – and all you Congress puppets. That is the sheer truth. You better read this and wake up. Otherwise your dead sentence is hastened by your own greed and ignorance.

Both Russia and the US drafted a Security Council Resolution – which of course are both not approved, with Nikki Haley lambasting Russia, accusing them of being responsible for the countless deaths in Syria – pointing again to the children and women, making up the majority. Again, it sells best in the world of psychological propaganda, while evil Nikki Haley knows very well who has caused all these deaths by the millions, destitution and refugees by the millions, tens of millions throughout the Middle East and the world – her own country, directly or through NATO, the European puppets allies and proxy wars, paid and funded by Washington and by elbow-twisting her vassals.

On 9 April – UNSC – while Nikki Haley, repeats and over-repeats her lies and fake accusations, the Russian Ambassador to the UN, Mr. Vassily Nebenzia, listens. And then in a twenty-minute statement of sheer intelligence, he dismantles all the lies, and lays bare the truth, about all the fakeness being played out internationally. The depth with which he addresses the assembly is concise and so brilliant, none of his UK, French and German counterparts could have ever come close to a statement of this magnitude an dexcellence. Even Ms. Haley can’t help glancing over ever-so often to Vassily Nebenzia, as he speaks (http://thesaker.is/russian-ambassador-to-the-un-vasily-nebenzea-addressing-the-un-sc-9-april-2018/ ). Her eyes reveal some kind of hidden admiration for what he says. – After all, she can’t be as dumb as she is paid for to look and sound.

By now anybody who dares not just reading and listening to the mainstream presstitute “fake news”, but has the courage to dig into the truth news, RT, TeleSur, CGTN, PressTV – and a few others, or websites like Global Research, The Saker Blog, ICH, NEO, Greanville Post CounterCurrent, Dissident Voice and many other trustworthy sources – knows about the lies and the only, but the very only purpose these false flags cum false news serve: Provoking a war with Russia, subjugating and dividing Syria, and the Middle East and becoming the hegemonic masters of the universe.

For the simple reason, and hardly anybody talks or writes about it – the US economy is based on war, is based on weapon manufacturing and international banking which finances weapon manufacturing and the exploitation of mineral resources coveted by weapon manufacturing.

The entire war industry with all its associated civil services and industries, of banking, electronics, aviation, mining…. makes up more than half of the US GDP – but of course, it’s never broken down that way. The chosen people will control the world. Well, they do already – financially at least the western part of our globe. But it’s not enough. They will not stop, before they burry themselves in their own-dug graves, or rather in one massive mass-grave. But, please, do take all your fakeness, from money, to lies, to hypocrisy and more lies and coercion and sanctions and blackmail with you – never to surface again. And give peace a chance – for those who survive your (almost) terminal assault on humanity.

Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a water resources and environmental specialist. He worked for over 30 years with the World Bank and the World Health Organization around the world in the fields of environment and water. He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America. He writes regularly for Global Research; ICH; RT; Sputnik; PressTV; The 21st Century; TeleSUR; The Vineyard of The Saker Blog; and other internet sites. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe. He is also a co-author of The World Order and Revolution! – Essays from the Resistance.

Salisbury hospital becomes secret rendition center for Yulia #Skripal

Source

By John Helmer, Moscow

Salisbury Hospital’s chief administrator and chief doctor refuse to say they are holding consent forms signed by Sergei Skripal and Yulia Skripal. Without those forms, and proof the hospital has obtained them from the Skripals since they regained consciousness last week, the hospital is making claims about their privacy which are improper, according to the practice rules of the British National Health Service, and unlawful violations of their human rights, according to British and European law.

Late on April 4, Cara Charles-Barks, the Salisbury Hospital chief executive, said by email: “Due to patient confidentiality, the [Salisbury Hospital] Trust is not able to enter into further correspondence about the clinical care of patients.” This was her reply to the request that she confirm her hospital’s standard practice for communication between patients and their next of kin; and the particular next-of-kin arrangements which the Skripals have agreed with Salisbury Hospital.  For details of that story, read this.


Left – Cara Charles-Barks; right – Dr Christine Blanshard.

On Friday afternoon, April 6, following Yulia Skripal’s telephone call to her cousin in Moscow, Victoria Skripal, the Salisbury Hospital’s medical director and chief doctor, Christine Blanshard,  issued a new claim about the medical care and condition of the Skripals. Click to open.

Blanshard reported that both Skripals remained under her supervision in the hospital. As of Friday afternoon, they had not left for the US, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand, as the Rupert Murdoch media began reporting on Saturday evening.

That report  cited “a senior Whitehall figure” for the claim that “intelligence officials at MI6 have had discussions with their counterparts in the CIA about resettling the victims of the Salisbury poisoning. ‘They will be offered new identities’…. ‘There’s a preference for them to be resettled in a five-eyes nation [US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand] because their case would have huge security implications’.”

This claim has not been repeated by British state radio or any other publication. Reuters said it had tried to verify the claim, but “Britain’s Foreign Office had no immediate comment on the report.”

The hospital director corroborated Yulia Skripal’s remark in her telephone conversation with Victoria Skripal that her father was “recovering…He’s resting now, having a sleep. Everyone’s health is fine.” Blanshard also confirmed that Yulia Skripal had recovered her power of speech. “Yulia has asked for privacy,” Blanshard added in her statement, “while she continues to get better – something I’d like to urge the media to respect.”

Yulia had told her cousin the day before: “I’ll be discharged soon.” On Friday afternoon, according to the hospital medical director,  “she can look forward to the day when she is well enough to leave the hospital. Any speculation on when that date will be is just that – speculation.”

On the same day, the UK Home Office in London issued a statement that Victoria Skripal’s visa application to visit Salisbury Hospital was rejected on the ground that “ it did not comply with the immigration rules.” This confirmed Yulia’s remark in the telephone call: “Vika, no-one will give you a visa.”

The hospital statement by Blanshard did not claim that Yulia Skripal was medically incapable of making the telephone-call to her cousin, nor is the hospital denying the call took place from its premises.   According to the hospital website, Blanshard is “the [Salisbury Hospital] Trust’s Caldicott Guardian and is responsible for protecting the confidentiality of patient information, allowing it to be shared with other organisations or individuals only when it is lawful and ethical to do so.”

The British law which applies to patients in hospitals, as well to their communication with next of kin, is the Human Rights Act of 1998. Here it is in full.  This statute gives legal effect in the British courts to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.  When Blanshard made her claims about Yulia Skripal’s privacy and consent, she is required to comply with Article 8(1) and (2).

If she is falsifying what Yulia Skripal has said, or if she has failed to get Skripal’s consent “in accordance with the law”, Blanshard can be called to account for her actions in court, according to this statute.

She is also required to comply with the rules of the “Caldicott Guardian”, as referred to in the hospital website’s description of Blanshard’s duties.  The Caldicott Guardian is the official role required to be assigned at every hospital by the British Health Ministry and the National Health Service since the adoption of the Report on the Review of Patient-Identifiable Information; that was issued in December 1997 by a committee of officials chaired by Dame Fiona Caldicott; for the full report, click. The report’s intention was to protect patient confidentiality;  and also to ensure that “the sharing of some types of very sensitive personal information is strictly controlled by law.” Blanshard was, still is, the Salisbury Hospital’s official responsible for the lawfulness of patient information and consent.

This is how the Caldicott Committee set down Blanshard’s duties in general, and the Skripal case in particular:

For a brief summary of the Caldicott principles, read this.

To verify what the Salisbury Hospital authorities are claiming about Yulia Skripal’s wishes and the lawfulness of her reported consent, Chief Executive Charles-Barks and Medical Director Blanshard (along with their spokesmen Patrick Butler and Paul Russell) were asked by email on Saturday morning two questions.

________________________________________

To: “Patrick Butler” <Patrick.Butler@salisbury.nhs.uk>

Cc: “Cara Charles-Barks” <Cara.Charles-Barks@salisbury.nhs.uk>; “Paul Russell (PP Manager)” <Paul.Russell@salisbury.nhs.uk>; “Christine Blanshard” <Christine.Blanshard@salisbury.nhs.uk>

Sent: 07/04/2018 11:20:25

Subject: Request for proof of Yulia Skripal’s consent

Dear Ms Charles-Barks and Dr Blanshard:

Your last line in your email to me of April 4 was changed by Dr Blanshard’s sudden decision to issue a statement on Friday afternoon confirming that Mr Sergei Skripal is no longer unconscious.  I refer to this release: https://www.england.nhs.uk/south/2018/04/06/updates-on-the-salisbury-incident-6/

Ms Yulia Skripal had confirmed this, as you know, a day and a half earlier in her Thursday morning conversation with her cousin, Ms Victoria Skripal. You have added to the evidence dispelling media speculation that the call was not a genuine one, and I am most grateful for your contribution.

May I refer you to Dr Blanshard’s  claim in the Friday  statement — “Yulia has asked for privacy while she continues to get better”. The Metropolitan Police statement quotes Ms Skripal as saying “I hope that you’ll respect my privacy and that of my family during the period of my convalescence.”

Two requests, please:

— it is universal hospital policy that patients sign consent forms relating to care, to contact with next of kin, and to privacy. You were referring to this when you said in your statement — “Yulia has asked”.  Do you have these signed consents from Ms Skripal, and if you do, I request you prove it.

— I have highlighted two word forms in the Metropolitan Police quotation of Ms Skripal’s remarks. These cannot be translations from the Russian language we know Ms Skripal uses. They are also English idioms which she cannot form herself. Do you as the responsible physician have evidence that Ms Skripal’s exposure to the purported nerve agent has improved her English beyond the level she exercised prior to March 4.

I invite you to respond promptly.

In the event that you do not answer the questions, I am obliged to remind you, as before, that you will be reported as refusing to answer.

Yours sincerely,

Dr John Helmer

_______________________________________________________________________________

By press time, Salisbury Hospital refuses to produce evidence of lawful consent.

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