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Mounting concern over SAS operations in southern Syria

British SAS or SBS soldier in action in Syria
Press TV – March 8, 2020

There is mounting concern in the region about the nature and scale of British Special Forces deployment to southern Syria.

The concern comes in the wake of an exclusive report by the Daily Mirror (March 05) that two RAF Chinook helicopters “packed with special forces” troops and medics had “swooped” into southern Syria to rescue a wounded Special Air Service (SAS) operative.

According to the Mirror, the casualty was airlifted from “deep inside the warzone” to a medical facility in Erbil, northern Iraq.

Whilst the Mirror doesn’t say exactly where in southern Syria the SAS soldier was operating, the reference to “warzone” would suggest Deraa province, in the southwest of the country.

There have been clashes in recent days between Syrian government forces and terrorist groups controlling parts of the town of Al-Sanamayn, situated 50 kilometers south of the capital, Damascus.

Based on the realities on the ground, there is mounting speculation that Britain’s elite SAS could be lending a helping hand to anti-government forces in and around Al-Sanamayn.

British Special Forces, both in the form of the SAS and its allied unit, the Special Boat Service (SBS), have been operating in Syria for seven years.

According to the Mirror, more than 30 British special operatives have been injured in Syria. There has been at least one combat fatality, that of Sergeant Matt Tonroe, who was killed in a joint US/UK operation in March 2018.

Late last year it was reported that British Special Forces in Syria were beating a hasty retreat following US President, Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of Syria.

The latest incident appears to indicate that the SAS and SBS continue to operate in Syria based on the needs of allied Syrian rebel and terrorist groups.

The exfiltration of the injured SAS soldier will cause huge concern as the rescue operation involved RAF choppers taking off from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus before flying through Israeli airspace to northern Jordan and onto southwestern Syria.

This brazen violation of Syrian sovereignty is likely to aggravate Britain’s outlaw status in Damascus, where both the Syrian government and people take a dim view of Britain’s hostile interference in their internal affairs.

March 8, 2020 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

Is the UK a rogue state? 17 British policies violating domestic or international law

By Mark Curtis • Declassified UK • February 7, 2020

UK governments routinely claim to uphold national and international law. But the reality of British policies is quite different, especially when it comes to foreign policy and so-called ‘national security’. This explainer summarises 17 long-running government policies which violate UK domestic or international law.

British foreign secretary Dominic Raab recently described the “rule of international law” as one of the “guiding lights” of UK foreign policy. By contrast, the government regularly chides states it opposes, such as Russia or Iran, as violators of international law. These governments are often consequently termed “rogue states” in the mainstream media, the supposed antithesis of how “we” operate.

The following list of 17 policies may not be exhaustive, but it suggests that the term “rogue state” is not sensationalist or misplaced when it comes to describing Britain’s own foreign and “security” policies.

These serial violations suggest that parliamentary and public oversight over executive policy-making in the UK is not fit for purpose and that new mechanisms are needed to restrain the excesses of the British state.

The Royal Air Force’s drone war

Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF) operates a drone programme in support of the US involving a fleet of British “Reaper” drones operating since 2007. They have been used by the UK to strike targets in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

Four RAF bases in the UK support the US drone war. The joint UK and US spy base at Menwith Hill in Yorkshire, northern England, facilitates US drone strikes in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia. US drone strikes, involving an assassination programme begun by president Barack Obama, are widely regarded as illegal under international law, breaching fundamental human rights. Up to 1,700 civilian adults and children have been killed in so-called “targeted killings”.

Amnesty International notes that British backing is “absolutely crucial to the US lethal drones programme, providing support for various US surveillance programmes, vital intelligence exchanges and in some cases direct involvement from UK personnel in identifying and tracking targets for US lethal operations, including drone strikes that may have been unlawful”.

Chagos Islands

Britain has violated international law in the case of the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean since it expelled the inhabitants in the 1960s to make way for a US military base on Diego Garcia, the largest island.

Harold Wilson’s Labour government separated the islands from then British colony Mauritius in 1965 in breach of a UN resolution banning the breakup of colonies before independence. London then formed a new colonial entity, the British Indian Ocean Territory, which is now an Overseas Territory.

In 2015, a UN Tribunal ruled that the UK’s proposed “marine protected area” around the islands — shown by Wikileaks publications to be a ruse to keep the islanders from returning — was unlawful since it undermined the rights of Mauritius.

Then in February 2019, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled in an advisory opinion that Britain must end its administration of the Chagos islands “as rapidly as possible”. The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution in May 2019 welcoming the ICJ ruling and “demanding that the United Kingdom unconditionally withdraw its colonial administration from the area within six months”. The UK government has rejected the calls.

Defying the UN over the Falklands

The UN’s 24-country Special Committee on Decolonisation — its principal body addressing issues concerning decolonisation — has repeatedly called on the UK government to negotiate a resolution to the dispute over the status of the Falklands. In its latest call, in June 2019, the committee approved a draft resolution “reiterating that the only way to end the special and particular colonial situation of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) is through a peaceful and negotiated settlement of the sovereignty dispute between Argentina and the United Kingdom”.

The British government consistently rejects these demands. Last year, it stated:

“The Decolonisation Committee no longer has a relevant role to play with respect to British Overseas Territories. They all have a large measure of  self government, have chosen to retain their links with the UK, and therefore should have been delisted a long time ago.”

In 2016, the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf issued a report finding that the Falkland Islands are located in Argentina’s territorial waters.

Israel and settlement goods

Although Britain regularly condemns Israeli settlements in the occupied territories as illegal, in line with international law, it permits trade in goods produced on those settlements. It also does not keep a record of imports that come from the settlements — which include wine, olive oil and dates — into the UK.

UN Security Council resolutions require all states to “distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967”. The UK is failing to do this.

Israel’s blockade of Gaza

Israel’s blockade of Gaza, imposed in 2007 following the territory’s takeover by Hamas, is widely regarded as illegal. Senior UN officials, a UN independent panel of experts, and Amnesty International all agree that the infliction of “collective punishment” on the population of Gaza contravenes international human rights and humanitarian law.

Gaza has about 1.8 million inhabitants who remain “locked in” and denied free access to the remainder of putative Palestine (the West Bank) and the outside world. It has poverty and unemployment rates that reached nearly 75% in 2019.

Through its naval blockade, the Israeli navy restricts Palestinians’ fishing rights, fires on local fishermen and has intercepted ships delivering humanitarian aid. Britain, and all states, have an obligation “to ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law” in Gaza.

However, instead of doing so, the UK regularly collaborates with the navy enforcing the blockade. In August 2019, Britain’s Royal Navy took part in the largest international naval exercise ever held by Israel, off the country’s Mediterranean shore. In November 2016 and December 2017, British warships conducted military exercises with their Israeli allies.

Exports of surveillance equipment

Declassified revealed that the UK recently exported telecommunications interception equipment or software to 13 countries, including authoritarian regimes in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia and Oman. Such technology can enable security forces to monitor the private activities of groups or individuals and crack down on political opponents.

The UAE has been involved in programmes monitoring domestic activists using spyware. In 2017 and 2018, British exporters were given four licences to export telecommunications interception equipment, components or software to the UAE.

UK arms export guidelines state that the government will “not grant a licence if there is a clear risk that the items might be used for internal repression”. Reports by Amnesty International document human rights abuses in the cases of UAE, Saudi Arabia and Oman, suggesting that British approval of such exports to these countries is prima facie unlawful.

Arms exports to Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has been accused by the UN and others of violating international humanitarian law and committing war crimes in its war in Yemen, which began in March 2015. The UK has licensed nearly £5-billion worth of arms to the Saudi regime during this time. In addition, the RAF is helping to maintain Saudi warplanes at key operating bases and stores and issues bombs for use in Yemen.

Following legal action brought by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, the UK Court of Appeal ruled in June 2019 that ministers had illegally signed off on arms exports without properly assessing the risk to civilians. The court ruled that the government must reconsider the export licences in accordance with the correct legal approach.

The ruling followed a report by a cross-party House of Lords committee, published earlier in 2019, which concluded that Britain is breaking international law by selling weapons to Saudi Arabia and should suspend some export licences immediately.

Julian Assange’s arbitrary detention and torture

In the case of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange — currently held in Belmarsh maximum-security prison in London — the UK is defying repeated opinions of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention  (WGAD) and the UN special rapporteur on torture.

The latter, Nils Melzer, has called on the UK government to release Assange on the grounds that officials are contributing to his psychological torture and ill treatment. Melzer has also called for UK officials to be investigated for possible “criminal conduct” as government policy “severely undermines the credibility of [its] commitment to the prohibition of torture… as well as to the rule of law more generally”.

The WGAD — the supreme international body scrutinising this issue — has repeatedly demanded that the UK government end Assange’s “arbitrary detention”. Although the UN states that WGAD determinations are legally binding, its calls have been consistently rejected by the UK government.

Covert wars

Covert military operations to subvert foreign governments, such as Britain’s years-long operation in Syria to overthrow the Assad regime, are unlawful. As a House of Commons briefing notes, “forcible assistance to opposition forces is illegal”.

A precedent was set in the Nicaragua case in the 1980s, when US-backed covert forces (the “Contras”) sought to overthrow the Sandinista government. The International Court of Justice held that a third state may not forcibly help the opposition to overthrow a government since it breached the principles of non-intervention and prohibition on the use of force.

As Declassified has shown, the UK is currently engaged in seven covert wars, including in Syria, with minimal parliamentary oversight. Government policy is “not to comment” on the activities of its special forces “because of the security implications”. The public’s ability to scrutinise policy is also restricted since the UK’s Freedom of Information Act applies an “absolute exemption” to special forces. This is not the case for allied powers such as the US and Canada.

Torture and the refusal to hold an inquiry

In 2018 a report by parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee found that the UK had been complicit in cases of torture and other ill treatment of detainees in the so-called “war on terror”. The inquiry examined the participation of MI6 (the secret intelligence service), MI5 (the domestic security service) and Ministry of Defence (MOD) personnel in interrogating detainees held primarily by the US in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay during 2001-10.

The report found that there were 232 cases where UK personnel supplied questions or intelligence to foreign intelligence agents after they knew or suspected that a detainee was being mistreated. It also found 198 cases where UK personnel received intelligence from foreign agents obtained from detainees whom they knew or suspected to have been mistreated.

In one case, MI6 “sought and obtained authorisation from the foreign secretary” (then Jack Straw, in Tony Blair’s government) for the costs of funding a plane which was involved in rendering a suspect.

After the report was published, the government announced it was refusing to hold a judge-led, independent inquiry into the UK’s role in rendition and torture as it had previously promised to do. In 2019, human rights group Reprieve, together with Conservative and Labour MPs, instigated a legal challenge to the government over this refusal–which the High Court has agreed to hear.

The UN special rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, has formally warned the UK that its refusal to launch a judicial inquiry into torture and rendition breaches international law, specifically the UN Convention Against Torture. He has written a private “intervention” letter to the UK foreign secretary stating that the government has “a legal obligation to investigate and to prosecute”.

Melzer accuses the government of engaging in a “conscious policy” of co-operating with torture since 9/11, saying it is “impossible” the practice was not approved or at least tolerated by top officials.

UK’s secret torture policy

The MOD was revealed in 2019 to be operating a secret policy allowing ministers to approve actions which could lead to the torture of detainees. The policy, contained in an internal MOD document dated November 2018, allows ministers to approve passing information to allies even if there is a risk of torture, if “the potential benefits justify accepting the risk and legal consequences”.

This policy also provides for ministers to approve lists of individuals about whom information may be shared despite a serious risk they could face mistreatment. One leading lawyer has said that domestic and international legislation on the prohibition of torture is clear and that the MOD policy supports breaking of the law by ministers.

Amnesty for crimes committed by soldiers

There is a long history of British soldiers committing crimes during wars. In 2019 the government outlined plans to grant immunity for offences by soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan and Northern Ireland that were committed more than 10 years before.

These plans have been condemned by the UN Committee Against Torture, which has called on the government to “refrain from enacting legislation that would grant amnesty or pardon where torture is concerned. It should also ensure that all victims of such torture and ill-treatment obtain redress”.

The committee has specifically urged the UK to “establish responsibility and ensure accountability for any torture and ill-treatment committed by UK personnel in Iraq from 2003 to 2009, specifically by establishing a single, independent, public inquiry to investigate allegations of such conduct.”

The government’s proposals are also likely to breach UK obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, which obliges states to investigate breaches of the right to life or the prohibition on torture.

GCHQ’s mass surveillance

Files revealed by US whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013 show that the UK intelligence agency GCHQ had been secretly intercepting, processing and storing data concerning millions of people’s private communications, including people of no intelligence interest — in a programme named Tempora. Snowden also revealed that the British government was accessing personal communications and data collected by the US National Security Agency and other countries’ intelligence agencies.

All of this was taking place without public consent or awareness, with no basis in law and with no proper safeguards. Since these revelations, there has been a long-running legal battle over the UK’s unlawful use of these previously secret surveillance powers.

In September 2018, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that UK laws enabling mass surveillance were unlawful, violating rights to privacy and freedom of expression. The court observed that the UK’s regime for authorising bulk interception was incapable of keeping “interference” to what is “necessary in a democratic society”.

The UK’s Investigatory Powers Tribunal, the body which considers complaints against the security services, also found that UK intelligence agencies had unlawfully spied on the communications of Amnesty International and the Legal Resources Centre in South Africa.

In 2014, revelations also confirmed that GCHQ had been granted authority to secretly eavesdrop on legally privileged lawyer-client communications, and that MI5 and MI6 adopted similar policies. The guidelines appeared to permit surveillance of journalists and others deemed to work in “sensitive professions” handling confidential information.

MI5 personal data

In 2019, MI5 was found to have for years unlawfully retained innocent British people’s online location data, calls, messages and web browsing history without proper protections, according to the Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office which upholds British privacy protections. MI5 had also failed to give senior judges accurate information about repeated breaches of its duty to delete bulk surveillance data, and was criticised for mishandling sensitive legally privileged material.

The commissioner concluded that the way MI5 was holding and handling people’s data was “undoubtedly unlawful”. Warrants for MI5’s bulk surveillance were issued by senior judges on the understanding that the agency’s legal data handling obligations were being met — when they were not.

“MI5 have been holding on to people’s data—ordinary people’s data, your data, my data — illegally for many years,” said Megan Goulding, a lawyer for rights organisation Liberty, which brought the case. “Not only that, they’ve been trying to keep their really serious errors secret — secret from the security services watchdog, who’s supposed to know about them, secret from the Home Office, secret from the prime minister and secret from the public.”

Intelligence agencies committing criminal offences

MI5 has been operating under a secret policy that allows its agents to commit serious crimes during counter-terrorism operations in the UK, according to lawyers for human rights organisations brin

ging a case to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal.

The policy, referred to as the “third direction”, allows MI5 officers to permit the people they have recruited as agents to commit crimes in order to secure access to information that could be used to prevent other offences being committed. The crimes potentially include murder, kidnap and torture and have operated for decades. MI5 officers are, meanwhile, immune from prosecution.

A lawyer for the human rights organisations argues that the issues raised by the case are “not hypothetical”, submitting that “in the past, authorisation of agent participation in criminality appears to have led to grave breaches of fundamental rights”. He points to the 1989 murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, an attack carried out by loyalist paramilitaries, including some agents working for the British state.

The ‘James Bond clause’

British intelligence officers can be authorised to commit crimes outside the UK. Section 7 of the 1994 Intelligence Services Act vacates UK criminal and civil law as long as a senior government minister has signed a written authorisation that committing a criminal act overseas is permissible. This is sometimes known as the “James Bond clause”.

British spies were reportedly given authority to break the law overseas on 13 occasions in 2014 under this clause. GCHQ was given five authorisations “removing liability for activities including those associated with certain types of intelligence gathering and interference with computers, mobile phones and other types of electronic equipment”. MI6, meanwhile, was given eight such authorisations in 2014.

Underage soldiers

Britain is the only country in Europe and Nato to allow direct enlistment into the army at the age of 16. One in four UK army recruits is now under the age of 18. According to the editors of the British Medical Journal, “there is no justification for this state policy, which is harmful to teen health and should be stopped”. Child recruits are more likely than adult recruits to end up in frontline combat, they add.

It was revealed in 2019 that the UK continued to send child soldiers to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan despite pledging to end the practice. The UK says it does not send under-18s to warzones, as required by the UN Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, known as the “child soldiers treaty”.

The UK, however, deployed five 17-year-olds to Iraq or Afghanistan between 2007 and 2010: it claims to have done so mistakenly. Previous to this, a minister admitted that teenagers had also erroneously been sent into battle between 2003 and 2005, insisting it would not happen again.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concern at the UK’s recruitment policy in 2008 and 2016, and recommended that the government “raise the minimum age for recruitment into the armed forces to 18 years in order to promote the protection of children through an overall higher legal standard”. Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights, the children’s commissioners for the four jurisdictions of the UK, along with children’s rights organisations, all support this call. DM

Mark Curtis is editor of Declassified UK and tweets at @markcurtis30

February 9, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A People’s History of Churchillian Madness

By Elliot Murphy | CounterPunch | December 17, 2015

This year marked the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, which is almost universally seen in Britain as purely a war against the Nazis and their UK-bound warplanes. Unlike the First World War or the wars in Indochina and Iraq, the Second World War is somewhat unique in that it is likely the only modern war whose reputation has remained pristine throughout the decades, being regarded as the ‘Good War’. But the impetus behind Britain’s involvement was as much imperial as it was defensive. At the end of the 1930s, Winston Churchill and Anthony Eden believed Germany to be a significant threat to their empire, and not Britain’s national security. Some of the ruling class entered the Second World War reluctantly, and contrary to many propaganda cartoons, British elites did nothing to aid the Poles; they did, however, evacuate a segment of the Polish army to deploy in their own objectives in 1940.

Even after the Battle of Britain, Whitehall still marginally favoured Hitler. Indeed, its objection to the Hitler-Stalin pact was merely that it gave Stalin too much power. Between the spring of 1940 (the fall of France) and 1943 (the Allied landing in southern Italy), the British army fought the majority of their battles in northern Africa. Churchill was deeply concerned about the safety of Suez Canal and the region’s oilfields, along with Saudi Arabia, which he sought to keep from Roosevelt’s influence.

The traditional view of the war, however, is a picture of democracy versus fascism, good versus evil. But this was not the motivation for the Allied leaders, as Chris Harman wrote in A People’s History of the World (Verso, 2008, p. 536):

The Churchill who demanded a no-holds-barred prosecution of the war was the same Churchill who has been present during the butchery at Omdurman, sent troops to shoot down striking miners in 1910, ordered the RAF to use poison gas against Kurdish rebels in British-ruled Iraq, and praised Mussolini. He had attacked a Conservative government in the 1930s for granting a minimal amount of local self government to India, and throughout the war he remained adamant that no concessions could be made to anti-colonial movements in Britain’s colonies, although this could have helped the war effort.

At the Yalta Conference, Churchill informed Roosevelt and Stalin that ‘While there is life in my body, no transfer of British sovereignty will be permitted’ in India. His stubbornness over the issue was so extreme that in 1942, during the Battle of Stalingrad, instead of pushing back the Nazis thousands of British troops were viciously suppressing demonstrations in India. Churchill’s inflexibility on the issue of sovereignty was so extreme that it led to a famine in Bengal which killed three million.

As historians like Harman and Danny Gluckstein (in A People’s History of the Second World War) have documented, the Second World War was comprised of two wars; one ‘from above’ and one ‘from below’. In a typically hypocritical act of pseudo-internationalist policy formation, during the war ‘from above’ in August 1941 Roosevelt and Churchill pledged to respect, in one of the principles of the Atlantic Charter, ‘the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live’. Applying different standards to his own actions, Churchill later stressed, when presenting the Charter to the House of Commons, that it did ‘not qualify in any way the various statements of policy which have been made [regarding] the British Empire’, since it only applied to ‘the States and nations of Europe now under the Nazi yoke’ (The Times, 10 September 1941). The war was consequently a disagreement between the major world governments about who should dominate, and not a battle against domination itself.

As early as the fall of Singapore in 1942, plans were already being made in Whitehall to reclaim parts of the empire, with the examples of Burma, Malaya, Hong Kong and Nigeria being the most notable. Churchill even drew up a plan, vetoed by the US, of taking over Thailand (covered by P.J. Cain and A.G. Hopkins in their 1993 study British Imperialism: Crisis and Deconstruction 1914-1990). He also issued a stern instruction to Eden towards the end of 1944: ‘[H]ands off the British empire is our maxim and it must not be weakened or smirched to please sob-stuff merchants at home or foreigners of any hue’. Labour had long confessed a principled opposition to imperialism, though had a change of heart after assuming office in 1945, supporting the renewal of the Colonial Development and Welfare Act and the establishment of a managerial structure run by several generations of educated colonial subjects. As Ernest Bevin modestly put it, ‘our crime is no exploitation; it’s neglect’ – where ‘neglect’ should be understood in its proper sense of ‘more exploitation’ (for discussion, see Robert D. Pearce’s 1982 The Turning Point in Africa: British Colonial Policy 1938-1948).

In 1936, the Greek king appointed General Ioannis Metaxas as a fascist dictator, who sought to bring about a ‘Third Hellenic Civilisation’. A British liaison officer sent to wartime Greece, C.M. Woodhouse, believed Metaxas to be ‘benevolent’, having ‘high-minded motives for undertaking supreme power’ (The Apple of Discord: A Survey of Recent Greek Politics in their International Setting, Hutchinson, 1948, pp. 16-17). Britain supported Metaxas because, as a different liaison officer explained in 1944, three years after the dictator’s death, the Greeks ‘are a fundamentally hopeless and useless people with no future or prospect of settling down to any form of sensible life within any measurable time’. Any remnants of the Atlantic Charter had by now been long discarded from political consciousness. The Allies proceeded to bomb Athens in order to destroy the Greek resistance movement, EAM (the National Liberation Front) and its military arms, ELAS (the National Popular Liberation Army). During the war, zones controlled by EAM underwent large-scale self-government to a level of sophistication rivalling the Spanish anarchists. Residents voted for municipal councilors and judiciaries in mass assemblies, while expensive lawyers were dispensed with and regular justice prevailed.

‘Communist’ Russia also declined to support EAM/ELAS, and ordered the resistance to fuse with the government of the king. In an effort to dominate as much of the country as possible, Churchill’s coup later overthrew the Greek government while also suppressing the communists. Churchill informed General Scobie, in language to match that of any of the century’s great dictators, ‘Do not hesitate to fire at any armed male in Athens who assails the British authority or Greek authority … [A]ct as if you were in a conquered city where a local rebellion is in progress’. He later informed parliament of his view on EAM/ELAS, preferring collaborators to anti-fascists: ‘The security battalions came into existence … to protect the Greek villagers from the depredations of some of those who, under the guise of being saviours of their country, were living upon the inhabitants and doing very little fighting against the Germans’, unlike the ‘security battalions’ deployed by the Greek government who pledged loyalty to Hitler and who, according to Churchill, ‘did the best they could to shelter the Greek population from German oppression’.

Post-war Greek persecutors also worked alongside US counterinsurgency forces. Whereas Russia allowed the Nazis to crush the Polish communist resisters, the AK, Churchill actively sought the destruction of the Greek anti-fascists. In 1947 the American New Republic reported that ‘Churchill’s victory is complete – and neatly underwritten by hundreds of millions of American dollars. It could only be slightly more complete if Hitler himself had engineered it’ (15 September 1947). Like the US, Churchill also thoroughly approved of Mussolini. After visiting him in 1927, Churchill once again picked up his pen to confess how he ‘could not help being charmed, like so many other people have been, by his gentle and simple bearing and by his calm, detached poise’ (Extract from press statements made by Churchill, January 1927, Churchill Papers, CHAR 9/82 B). When Mussolini fell in 1943, Churchill promised that ‘Even when the issue of the war became certain, Mussolini would have been welcomed by the Allies’.

Earlier in the 1920s, Churchill had proclaimed his desire for justice when he confessed that poison gas would be an excellent weapon against ‘uncivilized tribesmen and recalcitrant Arabs’. This tactic was in clear violation of the Hague Declaration of 1899, calling on all adherents to refrain from ‘the use of projectiles the sole object of which is the diffusion of asphyxiating or deleterious gases’, which Britain eventually agreed to sign in 1907. During the Good War, he added that ‘It is absurd to consider morality on this topic when everybody used it in the last war without a word of complaint from the moralists or the Church. On the other hand, in the last war the bombing of open cities was regarded as forbidden. Now everybody does it as a matter of course. It is simply a question of fashion changing as she does between long and short skirts for women’. Expressing his concern for the safety of the British public, he continued in a secret memo:

If the bombardment of London became a serious nuisance and great rockets with far-reaching and devastating effect fell on many centres of Government and labour, I should be prepared to do  anything that would hit the enemy in a murderous place. I may certainly have to ask you to support me in using poison gas. We could drench the cities of the Ruhr and many other cities in Germany in such a way that most of the population would be requiring constant medical attention. We could stop all work at the flying bomb starting points. I do not see why we should have the disadvantages of being the gentleman while they have all the advantages of being the cad. There are times when this may be so but not now.

Britain engaged in what Churchill called the ‘absolutely devastating’ tactic of ‘area bombing’ of German cities instead of hitting specific military targets. Because of the power of aerial bombing, as Prime Minister Baldwin had explained in 1932, ‘The only defence is in offence, which means that you have to kill more women and children more quickly than the enemy if you want to save yourselves’. During the later years of the war, Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris took this message to heart more than any other RAF commander. He took pride in the fact that his Bomber Command has ‘virtually destroyed 45 out of the leading 60 German cities. In spite of invasion diversions we have so far managed to keep up and even exceed our average of two and a half cities a month’; that is, in spite of the existence of actual military targets to hit, Harris continued to wreak unnecessary and horrific damage on Germany.

On February 13th 1945, the Allies initiated the bombing of Dresden, an act which only hardened the resolve of the German military and encouraged it to step up its production of armaments. British and US bombers devastated Dresden’s cultural centre, the Altstadt, and destroyed 19 hospitals, 39 schools and residential areas. Meanwhile, core military and transport installation remained unscathed. Between 35,000 and 70,000 people died, and only 100 were soldiers; a civilian:soldier death ratio which would make even Benjamin Netanyahu blush. The only reason the bombing stopped was because Churchill realised that a completely demolished Dresden would leave no spoils, such as ‘housing materials … for our own needs’. Likewise, two years earlier, after the end of the Battle of Britain in May 1941, Churchill had wept over the ruins of the House of Commons, though not, strangely, over the deaths of thousands of Londoners.

After the Siege of Sidney Street in January 1911, in which Churchill, Home Secretary in the Liberal government, directed police to attack two jewelry robbers who had left three policemen dead the previous month in Houndsditch, the building the robbers were hiding in ended up in flames and all three were killed. Lindsey German and John Rees comment in A People’s History of London (Verso, 2012, p. 167).

Churchill reveled in such confrontations, and exploited the furore over the killing and the emerging popular press’s witch-hunt of anarchists to stoke up his own reputation and justify repressive methods overall. In fact the dead men were not anarchists but Latvian social democrats, engaged in what was called an ‘expropriation for the cause’.

Consequently, because of Churchill’s authoritarianism and the media’s assault on anarchists, Latvians, and Russians, one anarchist noted that ‘Anyone who walked along in a Russian blouse was considered a suspicious character and sometimes assaulted’. It’s against this cultural and political backdrop that any histories of Churchill and the Second World War should be assessed – and any judgements of the benevolent claims of present statesmen should be made.

Elliot Murphy teaches in the Division of Psychology and Language Sciences at University College, London.

December 17, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment

NATO overcharged by £460m for fuel during Afghan war, MoD investigates

RT | September 7, 2015

Military police are examining claims that a defense contractor overcharged the armed forces by hundreds of millions of pounds for fuel during the war in Afghanistan.

An audit by NATO, which ran the operations in Afghanistan, suggests the alliance was overcharged by £460 million (US$700 million) by contractor Supreme Group.

Britain is thought to have paid for about 10 percent of the fuel used in Helmand Province, southern Afghanistan, during the conflict, meaning it could have been ripped off by up to £46 million, sources told the Telegraph newspaper.

On Sunday, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed an investigation was underway.

In December 2014, the Amsterdam-based Supreme Group’s food business was found guilty of overcharging the US military for supplies during the Afghan war and paid fines of $389 million, the most ever paid by a defense contractor.

Supreme won and ran lucrative contracts for British and US forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan during the wars and currently provides fuel for the Royal Air Force (RAF) and food to the MoD on a global scale.

“We are committed to getting the maximum value for money for the taxpayer and will always seek to recover any overpayments,” a spokesman for the MoD told the Telegraph.

“We are aware of the allegations of overcharging by Supreme and we have referred the matter to the Ministry of Defence Police Criminal Investigation Department.”

“The issue continues to be addressed by NATO through follow-on reviews and investigations into the matter by Allied Command Operations,” a NATO spokesman told the paper.

“Part of unduly paid costs have already been recovered. The recovery process continues. This however remains a complex and lengthy process, whose specific details cannot be revealed until its completion.”

Outsourcing services previously controlled by the military has increasingly become a part of the MoD’s cost cutting measures.

September 7, 2015 Posted by | Corruption | , , , , , | Leave a comment

UK media hypes up RAF interception of Latvian plane

RT | October 30, 2014

Two Royal Air Force jets reportedly threatened to shoot down a Latvian cargo plane, rushing at supersonic speeds to intercept it, after the plane failed to respond to air traffic control over Kent in Southern England and sent authorities into panic mode.

“I am instructed by Her Majesty’s Government of the United Kingdom to warn you that, if you do not respond immediately to my orders, you will be shot down,” radioed one of the jets, according to an audio recording circulating in UK media.

The incident occurred at about 5pm local time after the Latvian Antonov An-26 aircraft failed to make contact with air traffic controllers.

British Typhoons were tasked with intercepting the cargo plane. “To fulfill their quick reaction role, they were cleared to travel at supersonic speed,” an RAF spokesperson said, adding that the speed explains the loud noise people heard in the air.

Many locals took to Twitter, describing how their houses shook after the loud bangs.

Communications with the civilian pilots were restored only after the jets intercepted the plane.

The Latvian plane was then escorted to London’s Stansted Airport at around 5:20 pm “All three people who were on board have been spoken to by police,” AP quoted Essex Police spokeswoman Emma Thomas as saying. “It was established that everything was in order and the reason for the short loss of communication was due to a change in airspace jurisdiction.”

Russian planes everywhere

The excitement surrounding the intercept – apparently based on post-9/11 terrorist attack fears – came amid a heightened terror alert in the UK at the time of the allied military campaign against the Islamic State.

Media reports mirrored the panic frenzy triggered by the incident, but in a peculiar way: first saying that the cargo plane was “Russian” and then switching to a “Russian-made” reference.

Both takes were wrong: the Antonov design bureau, the producer of An-26 planes, is a Ukrainian company founded in Soviet times, and the plane in question belonged to a Latvian-registered company, ironically called RAF-Avia.

However, the British media seemingly capitalized on the latest NATO reports of “unusual” increased activity of Russian military aircrafts over the Atlantic and the Black Sea.

NATO stated that it has intercepted four groups of Russian planes since Tuesday. “These sizeable Russian flights represent an unusual level of air activity over European airspace,” the alliance said.

Most media reports based on the NATO statement failed to mention that the Russian planes did not cross any borders and remained within international airspace in every mentioned case.

Four Tupolev Tu-95 strategic bombers were spotted participating in a military exercise over the Norwegian Sea early on Wednesday. “We see Russian aircraft near our airspace on a regular basis but what was unusual is that it was a large number of aircraft and pushed further south than we normally see,” Reuters quoted a Norwegian military spokesman as saying.

In another incident on Wednesday, two Tu-95s were being monitored by Turkish aircraft over the Black Sea.

October 30, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | Leave a comment