Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

The Legacy and Fallacies of Bernard Lewis

By As`ad AbuKhalil | Consortium News | June 29, 2018

There is no question that Bernard Lewis was one of the most politically—not academically—influential Orientalists in modern times.

Lewis’ career can be roughly divided into two phases: the British phase, when he was a professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, and the second phase, which began in 1974, when he moved to Princeton University and lasted until his death on May 19. His first phase was less overtly political, although the Israeli occupation army translated and published one of his books, and Gold Meir assigned articles by Lewis to her cabinet members.

Lewis knew where he stood politically but he only became a political activist in the second phase. His academic production in the first phase was rather historical (dealing with his own specialty and training) and his books were then thoroughly documented. The production of his second phase was political in nature and lacked solid documentation and citations. In the second phase, Lewis wrote about topics (such as the contemporary Arab world) on which he was rather ignorant. The writings of his second phase were motivated by his political advocacy, while the writings of the first phase was a combination of his political biases and his academic interests.

Shortly upon moving into the U.S., Lewis met with Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson, the dean of ardent Zionists in the U.S. Congress. He thus started his political career and his advocacy, which was often thinly hidden behind the title of superficial books on the modern Arab world. Lewis not only mentored various neoconservatives, but he also elevated the status of Middle East natives that he approved of. For instance, he was behind the promotion of Fouad Ajami (he dedicated one of this books to him), just as he was behind introducing Ahmad Chalabi to the political elite in DC.

Lewis: A questionable legacy

Furthermore, Lewis was also behind the invitation of Sadiq Al-Azm to Princeton in the early 1990s (as Edward Said told me at the time) because Lewis always relished Al-Azm’s critique of Said’s Orientalism. Sep. 11 only elevated the status of Lewis and brought him close to the centers of power: he advised George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and other senior members of the administration.

In the lead-up to the Iraq war, he assured Cheney (relying on the authority of Ajami) that not only Iraqis, but all Arabs, would joyously greet invading American troops. And he argued to Cheney before the war, using the dreaded Zionist and colonial cliché, that Arabs only understand the language of force. (Lewis would later distort his own history and claim that he was not a champion of the Iraq invasion although the record is clear).

Lewis was not only close to the higher echelons of the U.S. government, but in addition to his long-standing ties to Israeli leaders, he was close to Jordanian King Husayn and his brother, Hasan (although Lewis would mock what he considered a Jordanian habit of eating without forks and knives, as he wrote in Notes on a Century: Reflections of a Middle East Historian, on page 217).

Lewis was also close to the Shah’s government, and to the military dictatorship in Turkey in the 1980s. Kenan Evren, the Turkish general who led the 1980 military coup, had a tete-a-tete with Lewis during one of his visits to D.C. Lewis had contacts with the Sadat government, and Sadat’s spokesperson, Tahasin Bashir, in 1971 sent a message through Lewis to the Israeli government regarding Sadat’s interest in peace between the two countries.

Distorted View of Islam

There are many features of Lewis’s works, but foremost is what French historian Maxime Rodinson called “theologocentrism”, or the Western school of thought which attribute all observable phenomena among Muslims to matters of Islamic theology.

For Lewis, Islam is the only tool which can explain the odd political behavior of Arabs and Muslims. Lewis used Islam to refer not only to religion, but also the collection of Muslim people, governments ruling in the name of Islam, Shari`ah, Islamic civilization, languages spoken by Muslims, geographic areas in which Muslims predominate, and Arab governments. A review of his titles show his fixation with Islam. But what does it mean for Lewis to refer to Islam as being “the whole of life” for Muslims, as he does in Islam and the West?

Lewis also began the trendy Islamophobic, Western obsession with Shari`ah when he wrote years ago in the same book that for Muslims religion is “inconceivable without Islamic law.” There are hundreds of millions of Muslims in the world who live under governments which don’t subscribe to Shari`ah. No Muslim, for example, questions the Islamic credentials of Muslims who live in Western countries under secular law. Lewis even notes this fact, but it confuses him. In Islam and the West he states in bewilderment: “There is no [legal] precedent in Islamic history, no previous discussion in Islamic legal literature.”

Lewis could have benefited from reading James Piscatori’s book, Islam in a World of Nation States, which shows that Shari`ah is not the only source of laws even in countries where Islam is supposedly the only source of law. But Lewis was stuck in the past, he could only interpret the present through references to the original works of classical Islam.

His hostility and contempt for Arabs and Muslims was revealed in his writings even during the British phase of his career, when he was politically more restrained. He was influenced by the idea of his mentor, Scottish historian Hamilton Gibb, regarding what they both called “the atomism” of the Arab mind. The evidence for their theory is that the classical Arabic poem of Jahiliyyah and early Islam was not organically and thematically unified, but that each line of poetry was independent of the other. I remember back in 1993 when I discussed the matter with Muhsin Mahdi, a professor of Islamic philosophy at Harvard University, when I was reading the private papers of Gibb at the Widener Library. Mahdi said that their ideas are completely out of date and that recent scholarship about the classical Arabic poem refuted that thesis. (Lewis would resurrect the notion about the “atomism” of the Arab mind in his later Islam and the West).

Other writings of Lewis became obsolete academically. In his The Muslim Discovery of Europe he recycles the view that Muslims had no curiosity about the West because it was the land of infidelity and that they suffered from a superiority complex. A series of new scholarly books have undermined this thesis by Lewis largely by scholars looking into Indian and Iranian archives. The Palestinian academic, Nabil Mater, in his books Britain and the Islamic World, 1558-1713, Europe Through Arab Eyes, 1578-1727, and Turks, Moors and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery, paints a very different—and far more documented—picture of the subject that Lewis spent a career distorting.

Relished in Disparaging Arabs

In addition, the tone of Lewis’ writings on Arabs and Muslims was often sarcastic and contemptuous. Lewis did the work of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), which was started in 1998 by a former Israeli intelligence agent and an Israeli political scientist,before MEMRI existed: he relished finding outlandish views of individual Muslims and popularizing them to stereotype all Arabs and all Muslims.

In the early editions of Arabs in History, Lewis remarked that none of the philosophers of the Arab/Islamic civilization were Arab in ethnic extraction (except Al-Kindi). What was Lewis’s point except to denigrate the Arab character and even genetic makeup? In the same book he cites an Ismaili document but then quickly adds that it “is probably not genuine.” But if it is “probably not genuine” why bother to cite it except for his fondness for bizarre tidbits about Arabs and Muslims?

The Orientalism of Lewis was not representative of classical Orientalism with all its flaws and shortcomings and political biases. His harbored more of an ideology of hostility against Arabs and Muslims. This ideology shares features with anti-Semitism, namely that the whole (Muslims in this case) form a monolithic group and that they pose a civilizational danger to the world, or are plotting to take it over, and that the behavior or testimony of one represents the total group (Islamic Ummah).

In writing about contemporary Islam, Lewis spent years recycling his 1976 Commentary magazine article titled, “The Return of Islam.” What he doesn’t answer is, “return” from where? Where was Islam prior? In this article, Lewis exhibits his adherence to the most discredited forms of classical Orientalist dogmas by invoking such terms as “the modern Western mind.” He thereby resurrected the idea of epistemological distinctions between “our” mind and “theirs”, as articulated by the 1976 racist book, The Arab Mind by Israeli anthropologist, Raphael Patai. (This last book would witness a resurrection in U.S. military indoctrination after Sep. 11, as Seymour Hersh reported).

An Obsession with Etymology

For Lewis, the Muslim mind never seems to change. Every Muslim, regardless of geography or time, is representative of any or all Muslims. Thus, a quotation from an obscure medieval source is sufficient to explain present-day behavior. Lewis even traces Yaser Arafat’s nom de guerre (Abu `Ammar) to early Islamic history and to the names of the Prophet Muhammad’s companions, though `Arafat himself had explained that the name derives from the root `amr (a reference to `Arafat’s construction work in Kuwait prior to his ascension to the leadership of the PLO).

Because `Arafat literally embraced Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran when he first met him, Lewis finds evidence of a universal Muslim bond in the picture. But when Lewis revised his book years later, he took note in passing of the deep rift which later developed between `Arafat and Khomeini and said simply: “later they parted company.” So much for the theory of the Islamic bond between them. Lewis must not have heard of wars among Muslims, like the Iran-Iraq war.

Lewis read the book Philosophy of Revolution by the foremost political champion of Arab nationalism, Nasser of Egypt, as containing Islamic themes. He must have been the only reader to come to that conclusion.

Another feature in Lewis’s writings is his obsession with etymology. To compensate for his ignorance of modern Arab reality, Lewis would often return to the etymology of political terms among Muslims. His book, The Political Language of Islam, which is probably his worst book, is an example of his attempt to Islamize and standardize the political behavior of all Muslims. His conclusions from his etymological endeavors are often comical: he assumes that freedom is alien to the Arabs because the historical meaning of the word in an ancient Arabic dictionary merely connoted the absence of slavery. This is like assuming that a Westerner never engaged in sex before the word was popularized. He complains that some of contemporary political terms, like dawlah (state), lost some of their original meanings, as if this is a problem peculiar to the Arabic language.

In his early years, Lewis was close to the classical Orientalists: he wrote in a beautiful style and his erudition and language skills showed through the pages. His early works were fun to read, while his later works were dreary and dull. But Lewis was unlike those few classical Orientalists who managed to mix knowledge about history of the Middle East and Islam with knowledge of the contemporary Arab world (scholars like Rodinson, Philip Hitti and Jacques Berque). Lewis’s ignorance about the contemporary Arab world was especially evident in his production during the U.S. phase of his long career. His book on the The Emergence of Modern Turkey, which was one of the first to rely on the Ottoman archives, was probably one of his best books. There is real scholarship in the book, unlike many of his later observational and impressionable works.

In his later best-selling books, What Went Wrong? and The Crisis of Islam, one reads the same passages and anecdotes twice. Lewis, for example, relishes recounting that syphilis was imported into the Middle East from the new world. His discussion of Napoleon in Egypt appears in both books, almost verbatim. The second book contains calls for (mostly military) action. In The Crisis of Islam, Lewis asserts: “The West must defend itself by whatever means.” The book reveals a lot about his outlook of hostility towards Muslims.

Al-Ghazzali: Lewis thought bin Laden was like him

Misunderstood Bin Laden

One is astonished to read some of his observations on Muslim and Arab sentiments and opinions. He is deeply convinced that Muslims are “pained” by the absence of the caliphate, as if this constitutes a serious demand or goal even for Muslim fundamentalist organizations. One never sees crowds of Muslims in the streets of Cairo or Islamabad calling for the restoration of the caliphate as a pressing need.

But then again: this is the man who treated Usamah Bin Laden as some kind of influential Muslim theologian who is followed by world Muslims. Lewis does not treat Bin Laden as the terrorist fanatic that he is, but as some kind of al-Ghazzali, in the tradition of classical Islamic theologians. Furthermore, Lewis insists that terrorism by individual Muslims should be considered Islamic terrorism, while terrorism by individual Jews or Christians is never considered Jewish or Christian terrorism.

In his retirement years, his disdain for the Palestinian people became unmasked. Although in his book The Crisis of Islam he lists acts of violence by PLO groups—curiously, only ones that are not directed against Israeli occupation soldiers—he lists not one act of Israeli violence against Palestinians and Arabs. To discredit the Palestinian national movement, he finds it necessary to tell yet again the story of Hajj Amin Al-Husayni’s visit to Nazi Germany, apparently seeking to stigmatize all Palestinians.

He is so disdainful of the Palestinians that he finds their opposition to Britain during the mandate period inexplicable because he believes that Britain was, alas, opposed to Zionism. Lewis is so insistent in attributing Arab popular antipathy to the U.S. to Nazi influence and inspiration that he actually maintains that Arabs obtained their hostility to the U.S. from reading the likes of Otto Spengler, Friederich Georg Junger, and Martin Heidegger. But when did the Arabs find time to read those books when all they read were their holy book and Islamic religious texts—as one surmises from reading Lewis?

While he displays deep–albeit selective–knowledge when he talks about the Islamic past (where his documentation is usually thorough), his analysis is quite simplistic and superficial when addressing the present (where he often disregards documentation altogether). For instance, he sometimes produces quotations without endnotes to source them: In Islam and the West he quotes an unnamed Muslim calling for the right of Muslims to “practice polygamy under Christian rule.” In another instance, he debates what he considers to be a common Muslim anti-Orientalist viewpoint, and the endnotes refer only to a letter to the editor in The New York Times.

Lewis once began a discussion by saying: “Recently I came across an article in a Kuwaiti newspaper discussing a Western historian,” without referring the reader to the name of the newspaper or the author. He also tells the story of an anti-Coptic rumor in Egypt in 1973 without telling the reader how he collects his rumors from the region. On another page, he identifies a source thus: “a young man in a shop where I went to make a purchase.”

Lewis was not shy about his biases in the British phase of his career, but be became an unabashed racist in his later years. In Notes on a Century, he did not mind citing approvingly the opinion of a friend who compared Arabs to “neurotic children”, unlike Israelis who are “rational adults.” And his knowledge of Arabs seems to decrease over time: he would frequently tell (unfunny) jokes related to Arabs and then add that jokes are the only indicator of Arab public opinion because he did not seem to know about public opinion surveys of Arabs. He also informs his readers that “chairs are not part of Middle Eastern tradition or culture.” He showers praise on his friend, Teddy Kollek (former occupation mayor of Jerusalem) because he set up a “refreshment counter” for Christians one day.

The political influence of Lewis, who lent Samuel Huntington his term, if not the theme, of “the clash of civilization”, has been significant. But it would be inaccurate to maintain that he was a policy maker. In the East and the West, rulers rely on the opinions and writings of intellectuals when they find that this reliance is useful for their propaganda purposes. Lewis and his books were timely when the U.S. was preparing to invade Muslim countries. But the legacy of Lewis won’t survive future scholarly scrutiny: his writings will increasingly lose their academic relevance and will be cited as examples of Orientalist overreach.


As’ad AbuKhalil is a Lebanese-American professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus. He is the author of the Historical Dictionary of Lebanon (1998), Bin Laden, Islam & America’s New ‘War on Terrorism’ (2002), and The Battle for Saudi Arabia (2004). He also runs the popular blog The Angry Arab News Service. 

June 29, 2018 Posted by | Book Review, Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Islamophobia, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | 1 Comment

OPCW’s new power attempt to politicize its work: Syria

Press TV – June 29, 2018

The Syrian government has denounced a recent decision made by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the world’s chemical watchdog, to empower itself to assign blame for alleged chemical attacks.

“Syria expresses its deep concern at the methods of blackmail and threat used by Western countries, especially the ones involved in the tripartite aggression against Syria — the US, UK and France — to pass a resolution at the OPCW emergency session,” Syria’s official news agency, SANA, quoted a source at the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates as saying on Friday.

On Wednesday, the Hague-based organization passed by 82 votes to 24 a British-backed proposal, which enable the watchdog to hold responsible those who it thinks are behind alleged chemical attacks. Until then, the OPCW’s mandate was limited only to determining whether or not a chemical attack took place, not who was responsible.

Russia, which had strongly opposed granting extra powers to the OPCW, said it would not rule out leaving what it called a “sinking Titanic.”

The new decision would allow for the watchdog to be used as “vehicle to carry out violations against independent, sovereign states under the pretexts of chemical weapons use”, the source further said, adding, “The decision will only add new complications to the OPCW’s capacity to play its role, which will lead to its paralysis.”

Back in April, militants and activists linked to them, including the so-called civil defense group White Helmets, claimed that government forces on Saturday had dropped a barrel bomb containing poisonous chemicals in Douma, Eastern Ghouta’s largest town, killing and wounding dozens of civilians.

Damascus strongly rejected the allegation and said that the so-called Jaish al-Islam Takfiri terrorist group, which had dominant presence in the town at the time, was repeating the allegations of using chemical munitions “in order to accuse the Syrian Arab army, in a blatant attempt to hinder the Army’s advance.”

However, the US State Department issued a strongly-worded statement, blaming the Syrian government for purportedly conducting the attack.

The Hague-based OPCW is soon expected to publish the highly-anticipated results of its probe into the purported toxic gas attack in Douma.

The Syrian foreign ministry’s source further said that Wednesday’s decision “sets a dangerous precedent” by giving an “organization concerned with scientific and technical issues the authority to carry out criminal and legal investigations that are not its specialty.”

The source added that the Arab country reiterated its condemnation of the use of chemical munitions by “anyone, anywhere, under any circumstances.”

Militants belonging to a number of factions had held the Eastern Ghouta, an enclave in the vicinity of the capital Damascus, since 2012 and had practically held hostage its inhabitants, some 400,000 people.

Syrian troops and allied fighters from popular defense groups managed to fully liberate the enclave from the clutches of militants in April, after months of intense fighting with terror groups, which had used the area as a launch pad for deadly rocket attacks against residents and civilian infrastructure in the capital.

Since the beginning of the conflict in Syria in early 2011, the Western governments have on several occasions accused Syria of using chemical weapons against militants. Damascus has denied the allegation, saying it is meant to pile more pressure on government forces and delay their success in the fight against terrorists.

In April last year, the US and allies in Europe said Syria and Russia, an ally of Damascus in the fight against terror, used chemical weapons against militants in Khan Shaykhun in the province of Idlib. Moscow and Damascus strongly rejected the allegation. However, US warships in the eastern Mediterranean launched a barrage of 59 Tomahawk missiles against Shayrat Airfield in Syria’s Homs province, which Washington alleged was the origin of the suspected chemical attack.

The Syrian government surrendered its stockpiles of chemical weapons in 2014 to a joint mission led by the UN and the OPCW.

June 29, 2018 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | Leave a comment

Hezbollah Accuses Int’l Organizations of Intimidating Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

Sputnik – 29.06.2018

BEIRUT – International organizations and some Lebanese actors have been intimidating Syrian refugees and asylum seekers displaced by war and who want to return to their country from Lebanon, Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah movement, said on Friday.

“According to our data, there are some international organizations, and certain local parties, which intimidate the refugees and provoke concerns about the return,” Nasrallah told the Al-Manar broadcaster.

The Hezbollah leader called for action to ensure a safe and comfortable return to Syria of those willing to go back to their homeland.

The Lebanese movement would take its own measures to help the refugees until the Lebanese and Syrian authorities establish cooperation in this area, Nasrallah added. Hezbollah has set up a special mechanism for these activities, and plans to open special centers where the refugees can call, and civil committees for interaction with the refugees, according to the group’s leader.

Since the beginning of the Syrian military conflict in 2011, millions of Syrians have fled the country to other states, including neighboring Lebanon. The situation around Syrian asylum seekers and refugees in Lebanon has recently exacerbated in a wake of the authorities’ claims that the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR had been discouraging those displaced by the Syrian war from returning to their home country.

June 29, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Lavrov on trading Snowden for sanctions relief: Russia sees US exile as ‘master of his own destiny’

RT | June 29, 2018

Russia has never mulled handing over NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden to the US in exchange for easing sanctions, Russian FM Sergey Lavrov has told the BBC, when asked if this could form part of a deal with President Donald Trump.

“I have never discussed Edward Snowden with [Donald Trump’s] administration,” Lavrov told Channel 4’s Cathy Newman. He added that President Vladimir Putin had addressed the issue years ago, however.

“When he was asked the question, he said this is for Edward Snowden to decide. We respect his rights, as an individual. That is why we were not in a position to expel him against his will, because he found himself in Russia even without a US passport, which was discontinued as he was flying from Hong Kong,” Lavrov recalled.

Snowden, the man behind the biggest exposure in years of the US electronic surveillance apparatus, got stranded in Russia when Washington withdrew his passport as he was travelling via Moscow from Hong Kong. The Russian government eventually granted him political asylum. Snowden is facing prosecution in the US for leaking classified documents to a number of media outlets.

The Channel 4 correspondent suggested during the interview that Russia may try to bargain Snowden for the lifting of US sanctions, during the upcoming meeting between Putin and Trump.

“I do not know why people would start asking this particular question in relation to the summit. Edward Snowden is the master of his own destiny,” Lavrov reiterated.

June 29, 2018 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | 2 Comments

Labour Friends of Israel: Palestine refugees’ right to return is ‘extreme and illegitimate’

MEMO | June 29, 2018

Westminster-based lobby group Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) has described the Palestinian refugees’ right of return as “extreme and illegitimate”, in a letter to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn this week.

LFI’s letter came in response to remarks made by the Leader of the opposition on 25 June, during a recent visit to Jordan. In a Twitter post, Corbyn wrote:

“In Jordan, I went to Baqa’a, one of the largest Palestinian refugee camps. We must work for a real two state settlement to the Israel-Palestine conflict, which ends the occupation and siege of Gaza and makes the Palestinian right to return a reality.”

In the period 1947-1949, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled from or fled their homes as Zionist militias and the Israeli army destroyed hundreds of villages in what became Israel. Refugees attempting to return were killed, and Israel passed laws to expropriate their properties.

Corbyn’s expression of support for the Palestinian refugees’ internationally-recognised rights, prompted anger and concern from British pro-Israel groups, including LFI.

In a letter from LFI chair MP Joan Ryan, the pro-Israel group describes the Palestinians’ right to return (which is referred to in scare quotes) as “highly contentious”, and at odds with Israel’s insistence on retaining its Jewish majority of citizens.

Ryan added: “I do not believe that it does anything to encourage the compromises and concessions a future negotiated settlement will involve for foreign politicians to appear to endorse the most extreme and illegitimate demands of either side.”

The LFI chair concluded by urging Corbyn to “immediately clarify” what he understands by a right to return, and to only use “language… [that] helps to advance, not hinder, the cause of peace, reconciliation and coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians.”

A spokesperson for the Labour party said: “These rights are inalienable and guaranteed by UN Resolution 194 of 11 December 1948. How the right of return is implemented is a matter for the negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians.”

 

June 29, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , , , , | 2 Comments

Israeli occupation forces deliver ‘humanitarian aid’ to Syria

Al-Manar | June 29, 2018

Israeli occupation forces delivered about 60 tons of ‘humanitarian aid’ to the Syrian Golan Heights on Thursday night, in a new and this time clear attempt to support terrorists based in the country’s south who have been engaged in fierce battle with the Syrian government troops.

Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported a ‘special operation’ took place overnight Thursday in which “some 300 tents, 13 tons of food, 15 tons of baby food, three pallets of medical equipment and medicine and some 30 tons of clothes and shoes were transferred into Syria from four different spots on the border.”

As the occupation military delivered the aid, it made it clear it will not allow fleeing Syrians to enter occupied territories, the Israeli daily quoted a statement issued by occupation army.

IOF “was monitoring the events in southwest Syria and was prepared for a variety of different scenarios, including sending further humanitarian aid,” Ynet quoted occupation army spokesman as saying.

The Zionist occupation regime has repeatedly offered different forms of support to militants fighting the Syrian government. The Syrian army has repeatedly seized Israel-made weapons in areas controlled by terrorists.

June 29, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , | 2 Comments

Times Headline: Fears Over Prospect of Peace

OffGuardian | June 29, 2018

OffGuardian was founded on the idea that the media should be held to account, corrected, fact-checked and interpreted. A lot of the time that’s a job that needs to be done.

But sometimes it’s not. Sometimes you just let them talk and their own words condemn them.

This is one of those times.

The Times is scare-mongering about peace.

Nothing more need be said.

June 29, 2018 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | | Leave a comment

Blair and Brown Governments Gory with Torture

By Craig Murray | June 29, 2018

Even I was taken aback by the sheer scale of British active involvement in extraordinary rendition revealed by yesterday’s report of the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee. Dominic Grieve and the committee deserve congratulations for their honesty, integrity and above all persistence. It is plain from the report that 10 Downing Street did everything possible to handicap the work of the committee. Most crucially they were allowed only to interview extremely senior civil servants and not allowed to interview those actively engaged in the torture and rendition programme.

Theresa May specifically and deliberately ruled out the Committee from questioning any official who might be placed at risk of criminal proceedings – see para 11 of the report. The determination of the government to protect those who were complicit in torture tells us much more about their future intentions than any fake apology.

In fact it is impossible to read paras 9 to 14 without being astonished at the sheer audacity of Theresa May’s attempts to obstruct the inquiry. They were allowed to interview only 4 out of 23 requested witnesses, and those were not allowed “to talk about the specifics of the operations in which they were involved nor fill in any gaps in the timeline”. If the UK had a genuinely free media, this executive obstruction of the Inquiry would be the lead story. Instead it is not mentioned in any corporate or state media, despite the committee report containing a firm protest:

It is worth reflecting that the Tory government has acted time and time again to protect New Labour’s Tony Blair, David Miliband, Jack Straw and Gordon Brown from any punishment for their complicity in torture, and indeed to limit the information on it available to the public. The truth is that the Tories and New Labour (which includes the vast majority of current Labour MPs) are all a part of the same elite interest group, and when under pressure they stick together as a class against the people.

Despite being hamstrung by government, the Committee managed through exhaustive research of classified documents to pull together evidence of British involvement in extraordinary rendition and mistreatment of detainees on a massive scale. The Committee found 596 individual documented incidents of the security services obtaining “intelligence” from detainee interrogations involving torture or severe mistreatment, ranging from 2 incidents of direct involvement, “13 to 15” of actually being in the room, through those where the US or other authorities admitted to the torture, to those where the detainee told the officer they had been tortured. They found three instances where the UK had paid for rendition flights.

My own evidence to the Committee focused on the over-arching policy framework, and specifically the fact that Jack Straw and Richard Dearlove had agreed a deliberate and considered policy of obtaining intelligence through torture. The report includes disappointingly little of my evidence, as the Committee has taken a very narrow view of its remit to oversee the intelligence agencies. This is the only part of my evidence included:

130. This was not unique to the Agencies. Their sponsoring Departments appear to have adopted the same approach. We heard evidence from a former FCO official, Craig Murray, who suggested that “there was a deliberate policy of not committing the discussion on receipt of intelligence through torture to paper in the Foreign Office”.
In July 2004, when he was Ambassador to Tashkent, he raised concerns about the use of Uzbek intelligence derived from torture in a formal exchange of telegrams with the FCO. Mr Murray drew our attention to FCO documents from the same time, which we have seen, one of which referred to “meetings to look at conditions of receipt of intelligence as a general issue”. He told us that the meetings “specifically discuss[ed] the receipt of intelligence under torture from Uzbekistan” and “were absolutely key to the formation of policy on extraordinary rendition and intelligence”.
Mr Murray told us that, when he had given evidence to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee about this, they sought the documents from the FCO which replied that the “meetings were informal meetings and were not minuted ”. He went on to say:
“the idea that you have regular meetings convened at director level, convened by the Director of Security and Intelligence, where you are discussing the receipt of intelligence from torture, and you do not minute those meetings is an impossibility, unless an actual decision or instruction not to minute the meetings has been given.… Were it not for me and my bloody-mindedness, … you would never know those meetings had happened. Nobody would ever know those meetings had happened.”

131. We note that we have not seen the minutes of these meetings either: this causes us great concern. Policy discussions on such an important issue should have been minuted. We support
Mr Murray’s own conclusion that were it not for his actions these matters may never have come to light.

Jack Straw to this day denies knowledge and involvement and famously told Parliament that the whole story about rendition and torture was a “conspiracy theory”.

Unless we all start to believe in conspiracy theories and that the officials are lying, that I am lying, that behind this there is some kind of secret state which is in league with some dark forces in the United States, and also let me say, we believe that Secretary Rice is lying, there simply is no truth in the claims that the United Kingdom has been involved in rendition full stop, because we have not been, and so what on earth a judicial inquiry would start to do I have no idea. I do not think it would be justified.”

In fact I strongly recommend you to read the whole Hansard transcript, from Q21 to Q51, in which Jack Straw carries out the most sustained bravura performance of lying to parliament in modern history. The ISC report makes plain he was repeatedly involved in direct authorisations of rendition operations, while denying to parliament the very existence of such operations.

For over a decade now the British government, be it Red Tory or Blue Tory, has been refusing calls for a proper public inquiry into its collusion with torture. The ISC report was meant to stand in place of such an Inquiry, but all it has done is reveal that there is a huge amount of complicity in torture, much more than we had realised, which the ISC itself states it was precluded from properly investigating because of government restrictions on its operations. It also concluded in a separate report on current issues, that it is unable to state categorically that these practices have stopped.

The Blair and Brown governments were deeply immersed in torture, a practice that increased hatred of the UK in the Muslim world and thus increased the threat of terrorism. Their ministers repeatedly lied about it, including to parliament. The British state has since repeatedly acted to ensure impunity for those involved, from Blair and Straw down to individual security service officers, who are not to be held responsible for their criminal complicity. This impunity of agents of the state is a complete guarantee that these evil practices will continue.

June 29, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | 1 Comment

European Union extends economic sanctions against Russia

RT | June 29, 2018

EU leaders have extended economic penalties against Russia for six months until the end of January. The decision prolongs the ban on doing business with Russian banking and financial institutions and new energy projects.

“We had a very short discussion on Russia, Ukraine and the Minsk Agreements that led to a political decision to extend the sanctions for another six months,” an unnamed source in the EU Council told journalists in Brussels.

The decision came at the bloc’s summit and is expected to be confirmed in the coming days. According to the source, the move was triggered by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who reportedly urged the leaders to prolong sanctions against Moscow due to the current state of implementation of the Minsk peace accord on Ukraine.

“It was said that there are no changes, so sanctions are prolonged, the sanctions regime remains unchanged,” the source added.

Meanwhile, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said that the renewal of the punitive measures against Russia should not be automatic. Italy has repeatedly voiced concerns over the sanctions, saying they were having a huge negative impact on Italian firms’ exports to Russia.

“We will reaffirm the principle that there should be nothing automatic about the renewal of sanctions,” the official told parliament. “We need to be very careful about this. Sanctions should be a means and not constitute an end.”

The penalties were initially introduced in 2014 over Moscow’s alleged involvement in the Ukraine crisis and its reunification with Crimea. Sanctions target Russia’s financial, energy and defense sectors, along with some government officials, businessmen and public figures.

The Kremlin responded by imposing an embargo on agricultural produce, food and raw materials on countries that imposed sanctions on Russia. Since then both sides have repeatedly broadened and extended the restrictive measures.

June 29, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

The Putin-Trump Helsinki Summit Can Produce Practical Results

By Arkady SAVITSKY | Strategic Culture Foundation | 29.06.2018

A Russian-US summit will take place on July 16 in Helsinki. No breathtaking breakthroughs are looming. This event will be quite different from Richard Nixon’s historic visit to the USSR in 1972, when three major security agreements were signed. There is a wide gap between what the leaders want to achieve and what they can really do, other than exchange pleasantries, make a few jokes, slap each other’s shoulders, and shake hands for the cameras. But despite all the deep divisions on many issues, the tensions that are running high, the negative attitude of the US Congress toward Moscow, and the other factors that cloud that relationship, the planned summit could produce concrete and tangible results, contrary to what is generally believed.

If history is any guide, dividing the agenda into “baskets” makes sense. It made the 1975 Helsinki Act possible. One basket should include problems that are of fundamental importance but with solutions that still look fairly distant. Another one could hold the problems for which some success could be achieved right now or in the near future. The third one should be left for miscellaneous issues that require some discussion. Some of those might pop up randomly.

The first basket could include the New START, the INF Treaty, Russia-NATO relations, the problems related to the 50th anniversary of the Non-Proliferation Treaty on July 1, and also other arms-control issues that need to be addressed to prevent backsliding toward an unfettered race and dangerous confrontation. There are some areas where agreement can be reached, but ratification is normally a very complicated and time-consuming procedure. We need to remember the positive experience of the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives (PNIs) and make practical use of it. Progress on arms control is critical for the overall improvement of the bilateral relationship. It is not normal to have a situation in which the major agreements appear to have one foot in the grave and this needs to be changed. If a dialog on arms control were revived, one could say the meeting had been a big step forward.

The time is right for the parties to begin talks on easing the tensions that have been ramped up by the US ballistic missile defense plans in Europe. Mutually-agreed verification measures could be prepared for consideration by experts, if the leaders told them to sit at the round table and start working. A dialog on cybersecurity could be launched at the level of working groups. The presidents could exchange opinions about ways to gradually end the sanctions war.

The second basket should include the revival of the Incidents at Sea Agreement (INCSEA) and the Agreement on the Prevention of Dangerous Military Activities. Those two accords that seem to be somewhat forgotten nowadays have proven their effectiveness and constitute a legal basis that can be built upon. The presidents could confirm the validity of those historic agreements and pledge compliance with them, in order to avoid the sparks that can start big fires — a scenario that must be avoided at any cost.

The parties could pledge to remain faithful to the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act, especially the provision that keeps the parties from deploying substantial forces in the proximity of each other’s borders. The US could agree to suspend those activities in Europe that are viewed by Moscow as provocations and preparatory steps for a military intervention. In return, Russia could abstain from deploying some weapons systems that could hit American assets on the US continent. The presidents could agree to become more transparent when preparing for military exercises. They could also limit their scope. Some confidence-building measures could be agreed on within the bilateral format, which could be added to the Vienna Document.

Obviously, the agenda will include Syria. This is an issue that needs to be discussed very candidly behind closed doors. It’s important to understand what goals each side is trying to achieve and see if the existing divergences could be narrowed. The presidents could agree not to take steps to do anything that would aggravate the situation in Ukraine. If no agreement about what to do next seems imminent, the problem could be set aside for the time being.

The leaders could agree to revitalize their bilateral contacts at various levels, including between working groups, NGOs, experts, scholars, lawmakers, businesses, etc. Two-way contacts are vital for moving forward, especially if they touch on arms control or other security-related issues. The number of diplomats stationed in each country, which fell after the wave of expulsions, could be increased, making embassy and consular services more efficient, and steps to move in this direction could also be approved at the meeting.

The third basket could include a preliminary exchange of views on potential bilateral cooperation in Libya and an exploration of ways to spur bilateral economic and cultural projects. Launching negotiations on avoiding a military standoff in the Arctic could help create a much better environment. This problem may not seem as urgent as some other security issues, but a better understanding of each other’s intentions would promote overall progress in the relationship. The prospects for joint space programs should also be studied.

Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump have a good basis, such as their personal chemistry, to build on. There are no magic wands they could wave to make the fundamental problems that divide the two countries disappear, but they can turn the tide and start making step-by-step progress here and there. As a result, the two nations would be involved in dialog rather than confrontation.

June 29, 2018 Posted by | Militarism | , | Leave a comment

New York Times exposes its own hypocrisy with juvenile cartoon of Trump & Putin as gay lovers

© The New York Times
By Danielle Ryan | RT |

A recent cartoon produced by the New York Times depicts Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin as gay lovers. It was clearly intended to be hilariously funny while also making a salient political point. In reality, it does neither.

The cartoon is part two of a three-part series called ‘Trump Bites’ from critically-acclaimed animator Bill Plympton. Let me explain the contents of the minute-long video to save you from having to watch it yourself.

It begins with a cartoon Trump standing in front of a mirror altering his bow tie while a portrait of a topless Putin hangs on the wall behind him. Audio of the real Trump confirming that he does have “a relationship” with Putin begins to play and the doorbell of Trump’s cartoon house rings.

The visitor is none other than a muscly, topless (again) Putin. Trump’s cartoon heart begins to beat out of his chest and he hands it over to the macho Russian as a gift. Audio of the real Trump claiming Putin has done a “brilliant and amazing” job plays over the scene.

Now Donald and Vlad are sitting in a car together. The Russian is in the driving seat. Witty political metaphor? Check! Cartoon Trump leans over and places his tiny hand on top of Putin’s excessively large hand. Overdone dig at the size of Trump’s hands? Check!

Suddenly, the car morphs into a unicorn (stay with me) and the star-crossed lovers are riding on its back through a pink sky filled with butterflies, hearts and rainbows. Putin turns around to kiss Trump and we get a close-up of tongues swirling.

Back in his bedroom after his date with the Russian, cartoon Trump is seen with a gun in hand shooting at his TV screen — an obvious reference to his distaste for “fake news” and the like. Roll credits.

Describing the cartoon on its website, the Times explains that it “plays out in a teenager’s bedroom, where the fantasies of this forbidden romance come to life.” But, in case it wasn’t already clear, the end result isn’t funny. It doesn’t do a particularly good job of making any political point, either — unless you’re counting the reinforcement of a tired, boring and unproven narrative of “collusion” and “bromance” between Trump and his Russian counterpart.

What it does do, very well in fact, is highlight the hypocrisy of the New York Times. Despite its socially liberal credentials, the paper of record has seen fit to use gay stereotypes to malign political figures it does not like. The very fact that the men are portrayed as gay is what is supposed to make the cartoon so funny.

Unsurprisingly, gay people on Twitter were quick to point out that mocking people — even fake versions of real people — for being gay isn’t actually very funny at all. Journalist Glenn Greenwald (who happens to be gay himself) called out the Times for “using one disgusting gay stereotype after the next” in an attempt to make a political point. “Homophobia for progressive messaging is still bigotry,” he wrote on Twitter. He’s right. Another gay Twitter user hit out at the Times for its “vulgar” and “homophobic” negative stereotyping, while others blasted the paper for the tone-deaf decision to publish the “gay-bashing” cartoon during Pride Month, of all times.

The Times’ decision to produce the ‘lol they’re gay’ cartoon seems particularly odd, given how oh-so-concerned they pretend to be with the plight of gay people in Russia. Then again, much of the Western concern over gay rights in Russia is and always has been insincere; a political tool that Western nations use to hammer Russia with while ignoring the far, far worse treatment that gay people are subjected to in countries like Saudi Arabia — a religious dictatorship which is hailed by US political leaders for its progressiveness if it makes even the mildest step towards modernity.

Recall the stunt pulled by the Paddy Power bookmakers during the World Cup. The company proudly announced that it would donate €10,000 to gay rights charities every time Russia scored a goal. The irony of announcing this charitable endeavor during a match against a country (Saudi Arabia) where being gay (MAY BE PUNISHED) by death was apparently entirely lost on them.

Anyway, back to the Times. Even if we forgive the newspaper for its foray into homophobic stereotyping to malign public figures, there’s still the fact that the cartoon is boring and stale and one would struggle to justify classing it as political satire.

There is nothing particularly cutting edge about it. It’s a simple rehash of a tired narrative — just with some homophobia thrown in for laughs. The cartoon series bills itself as satire — but satire is supposed to be original, biting, thought-provoking, clever. This fails on every count.

Danielle Ryan is an Irish freelance journalist. Having lived and worked in the US, Germany and Russia, she is currently based in Budapest, Hungary. Her work has been featured by Salon, The Nation, Rethinking Russia, Russia Direct, teleSUR, The BRICS Post and others. Follow her on Twitter @DanielleRyanJ, check out her Facebook page, or visit her website: danielle-ryan.com

June 29, 2018 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , | Leave a comment