Once More Into the Abyss, Chaps

Whenever the Quartet’s ‘Peace Envoy’ Tony Blair makes any pronouncement on the great issues in the Middle East, you can always guarantee that the missile silos are being readied for action. Last week Blair took time out from his unctuous tribute to Shimon Peres to call for the establishment of no-fly zones over Syria in order to avoid ‘catastrophic consequences.’

This urgency was based on the ‘confirmation’ by British and US intelligence services of the use of chemical weapons by Bashar al-Assad, which according to Blair, means that ‘we’ must now act immediately to prevent such weapons becoming the norm.

At a speech to the 2013 Presidential Conference hosted by Peres, he condemned ‘the predominant emotion in the West today …to stay out of Syria; indeed to stay out of the region’s politics’ and insisted, just as he once did back in 2002 and 2003 in a different context, that ‘as every day that passes shows, the cost of staying out may be paid in a higher price later….

My latest piece for Ceasefire magazine.  You can read the whole piece here.

Sibel Edmonds: the woman no one wants to hear

Anyone interested in getting to grips with the twisted and murky contradictions of the great war on terrorism should read the absolute must-read story by Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed on the Ceasefire webzine on the FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds.

A former translator for the FBI, Edmonds has been subjected to successive gagging orders by the US government for more than a decade now, ever since she tried to go public about evidence she came across suggesting that some of her colleagues were engaged in espionage.

That would be interesting enough to the US government and to the public, one would have thought.  But Edmonds also has some very  interesting revelations that she wants to share with the world.   According to Ahmed:

In interviews with this author in early March, Edmonds claimed that Ayman al-Zawahiri, current head of al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden’s deputy at the time, had innumerable, regular meetings at the U.S. embassy in Baku, Azerbaijan, with U.S. military and intelligence officials between 1997 and 2001, as part of an operation known as ‘Gladio B’. Al-Zawahiri, she charged, as well as various members of the bin Laden family and other mujahideen, were transported on NATO planes to various parts of Central Asia and the Balkans to participate in Pentagon-backed destabilisation operations.

‘ Gladio ‘, for those that don’t know, refers to the ‘stay behind’ networks established by NATO in Europe during the Cold War, which spawned all kinds of nebulous alliances between European fascists and secret services, particularly in Italy.   The existence of the European Gladio network is well-established – and so is the fact that some of its offshoots deliberately carried out ‘terrorist’ attacks in Italy and other countries as part of the ‘strategy of tension’ developed by fascists/militarists and Cold Warriors in various countries.

Now you would have thought, given the tumultuous events of the last decade or so, that American politicians and the media would want to consider whether there is any truth in Edmonds’ allegations, perhaps starting with the very simple question: Why was the second-in-command of al Qaeda participating in ‘Pentagon-backed destabilisation operations’ in 2001 – the same year in which al Qaeda was preparing to bring down the World Trade Centre?

I mean, you have to admit it’s a question worth posing, just for the sake of argument.   Yet strangely, hardly anyone wants to ask it.     US officials have done everything possible to shut Edmonds down and stop her talking.  The US media might as well stick its fingers in its ears and shout la-la-la-la-la whenever her name is mentioned.  The ‘9/11 Commission’ once  took evidence from her and then completely ignored  everything she had to say from its final report.

And now, says Ahmed:

According to two Sunday Times journalists speaking on condition of anonymity, this and related revelations had been confirmed by senior Pentagon and MI6 officials as part of a four-part investigative series that were supposed to run in 2008. The Sunday Times journalists described how the story was inexplicably dropped under the pressure of undisclosed “interest groups”, which, they suggest, were associated with the U.S. State Department.

Which really says a great deal about the mess we’re in.   Not that the State Department would behave like that – nothing too surprising there.  But the fact that one of our most illustrious newspapers should have buckled on such an explosive story is really not the greatest advertisement for the fourth estate.

There is no doubt that it’s a story that would require lifting a lot of rocks and some very queer and probably not very savoury life forms would probably be uncovered in the process.    An investigation into Edmonds’ allegations would require real journalists to ask some probing questions not only about 9/11 and the ‘war on terror’, but about the alliances between Western governments and al Qaeda-like formations that go right back to the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan.

Inquisitive and truth-seeking newspapers would then pick up the ball and run with it to look at ‘Al Qaeda in the Maghreb’; at some of our jihadist allies in Libya and Syria, or some of the groups that now make up the ‘Taliban’ that once benefited from Western largesse in the days before we went to save Afghanistan from them, and ask why Western governments keep supporting the same groups that they are also fighting.

Some might end up  concluding that the ‘war on terror’ is a black farce and a dark manipulative game that has very little to do with fighting terrorism and a lot to do with projecting Western military power into areas of geopolitical and strategic interest, and disciplining the public in a period of chronic economic and social crisis.

They might then ask why Michael Sheehan, US Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations has declared that the war on terror could go on for ‘ At least 10 or 20 years’ – when the organization that the US is supposedly fighting in the name of civilisation has actually been a Western asset – at least from time to time.

But these aren’t questions that the MSM is much interested in.   And so it has been left to Ceasefire to pick up the baton and talk about the woman no one wants to hear – a woman with great deal more courage than many of those who are trying so desperately to ignore her.

Three Cheers for Hsiao-Hung Pai

Journalism should be an honourable, inspiring and admirable profession, but few people will need to be reminded that it frequently isn’t. Ever since newspapers were invented, it has generated more than its fair share of cynics, propagandists, and opportunists.

Journalism has always attracted people who subscribe to the essential philosophy described in a Punch joke – referenced by George Orwell in his essay on Henry Miller – in which an aunt asks her aspiring writer nephew, ‘And what are you going to write about, dear?’, to which the youth replies, ‘My dear aunt, one doesn’t write about anything, one just writes’….

My piece on the brilliant Hsiao-Hung Pai for the Ceasefire webzine.   You can read the rest here.

The Invisible Dead

I had a bit of an Internet disaster yesterday, when I upgraded WordPress and my entire blog disappeared,  to be replaced by the dreaded White Screen of Death.   I felt as if I’d been airbrushed from history by technological forces outside by control – and my knowledge.   I had done backups, of course, but I wasn’t sufficiently techno savvy to get my website back up.   In fact I couldn’t even get into the site at all.

Anyway, fortunately, my domain provider was able to sort it out, and so here I am again, ready to crank up the machine once again with a link to my latest piece for Ceasefire magazine.  It’s entitled ‘The Invisible Dead’ – a title which has acquired a kind of retrospective irony as a result of my 24 hours in the memory hole:

In his inaugural address yesterday (Jan. 21, 2013), US President Barack Obama appeared to distance his administration still further from the unilateral militarism of the George W Bush years, when he insisted that ‘enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.’  This declaration was accompanied by the customary genuflection  to ‘ Our brave men and women in uniform, tempered by the flames of battle’ and a reminder that ‘Our citizens, seared by the memory of those we have lost, know too well the price that is paid for liberty. The knowledge of their sacrifice will keep us forever vigilant against those who would do us harm’.

Such paeans to the military have long been something of an obligation for American presidents, and the former community leader from Chicago who once opposed the Iraq war is no exception. In his speech to the last soldiers returning from Iraq, delivered at Fort Bragg on 14 December 2011, Obama described the war as an ‘extraordinary achievement’ and told his audience ‘We know too well the heavy cost of this war. More than 1.5 million Americans have served in Iraq — 1.5 million.  Over 30,000 Americans have been wounded, and those are only the wounds that show.  Nearly 4,500 Americans made the ultimate sacrifice.’

Apart from a brief reference to ‘the spectre of sectarian violence’ and ‘ al Qaeda’s attacks on mosques and pilgrims’ Obama made no reference to the impact of this catastrophic war on the country it was supposed to save. There was no audit of the numbers of Iraqis killed, wounded, or made orphans and widows…

You can read the whole piece here.