SINCE the atrocities in Paris on Friday evening I have been surprised just how many of my friends have believed without question the explanation of events as described by our own Government.
This is the same Government which covered up the Hillsborough disaster, lied over MI6 dirty tricks during the miners’ strike, lied over MPs’ expenses and shifted Heaven and Earth to blanket a 50 year VIP paedophile network, involving at least one former PM.
It is a truism that “all you believe are your eyes, but your eyes they just tell you lies”.
For me, as a so-called investigative journalist for more than 20 years of my working life, I am naturally more sceptical, having many times seen, at first hand, the depths to which our own British Establishment will stoop to distort the truth, cover-up malpractice and quite simply lie.
Within half an hour of the tragic events of Friday night being relayed to our TV screens I was informed by former journalist friends that the official spin was the attack was the work of ISIS.
And within 12 hours the official press office lines from Paris, London and Washington corroborated that, with the sound knowledge that the terror group numbered eight – including suicide bombers – and they were of Syrian and Egyptian origin.
But sixty hours later, their hall of smoke and mirrors is starting to crumble.
Eyewitnesses now say they saw white professional killers at the Bataclan Concert Hall and at one of the restaurant shootings in Paris.
And by my own reckoning (it is quite easy to count between the official reports) there were at least 10 and possibly 12 people involved in the terror attacks.
French police have now confirmed that at least three separate teams perpetrated the attacks which left 129 people dead and hundreds injured in the capital city.
One survivor told Sky News that he was in the Bataclan Concert Hall and saw the attackers who murdered hostages.
He said that one of the gunmen had white skin and blonde hair.
Elsewhere an eyewitness has told how 20 people were executed in a calculated attack on a busy restaurant in the heart of the French capital as they ate at tables on the pavement.
Mahoud Admo said: “The gunman showed no emotion at all as he began spraying bullets into the diners. He just kept reloading his machine gun and firing, without saying a thing.”
Mr Admo, 26, who was staying at the Salvation Army hostel in Rue de Charonne opposite the Le Belle Equipe, recalled how the massacre unfolded, he said: “I was just in my room and had the window open on to the street below.
“I could see lots people sat outside the bar eating dinner and enjoying a drink. The place was full of people just enjoying themselves.
“At about 9.30pm a new looking black Mercedes pulled up outside with dark tinted windows at the back and the passenger and driver windows down. I could clearly see the passenger’s face as he was not wearing a hat or mask.
“As soon as the car stopped he quietly opened the door and got out in front of the restaurant.
“That is when I saw he was holding a machine gun that was resting on his hip.
“People outside spotted the shooter approaching with his gun and tried to run inside but he shot them down in the doorway.
“Then people inside moved forward to see what was happening and he sprayed more bullets into them. I was trying to catch them on my camera phone but the gunman saw the light on my mobile and I ducked down behind the wall as they fired at my hotel.
“The gunman calmly reloaded his weapon several times. He then shot up at the windows in the street to make sure nobody was filming anything or taking photographs. It lasted over six minutes.
“He fired lots of bullets. He was white, clean shaven and had dark hair neatly trimmed. He was dressed all in black accept for a red scarf.
“The shooter was aged about 35 and had an extremely muscular build, which you could tell from the size of his arms. He looked like a weightlifter.
“He was not wearing gloves and his face was expressionless as he walked towards the bar.
“The driver had opened his door shortly before the shooting began and stood up with his arm and a machine gun rested on the roof of the car. He stood there with his foot up in the door acting as a lookout.
“I would describe him as tall, with dark hair and also quite muscular.
“They looked like soldiers and carried the whole thing out like a military operation. It was clear that they were both very heavily armed and the gunman was carrying several magazines on him.”
These killers, like the ones in the Charlie Hebdo attack in January, are professionals for all intents and purposes.
The true facts are buried in a murkiness few can possibly imagine.
The West’s endless War on Terror, launched 14 years ago by George Bush, is tying itself up in ever more grotesque contortions.
In June this year, the trial in London of a Swedish man, Bherlin Gildo, accused of terrorism in Syria, collapsed after it became clear British intelligence had been arming the same rebel groups the defendant was charged with supporting.
The prosecution abandoned the case to avoid embarrassing the intelligence services.
The defence argued that going ahead with the trial would have been an “affront to justice” when there was plenty of evidence the British state was itself providing “extensive support” to the armed Syrian opposition.
That didn’t only include the “non-lethal assistance” boasted of by the government (including body armour and military vehicles), but training, logistical support and the secret supply of “arms on a massive scale”. Reports were cited that MI6 had cooperated with the CIA on a “rat line” of arms transfers from Libyan stockpiles to the Syrian rebels in 2012 after the fall of the Gaddafi regime.
Clearly, the absurdity of sending someone to prison for doing what ministers and their security officials were up to themselves became too much.
But it’s only the latest of a string of such cases.
Less fortunate was a London cab driver Anis Sardar, who was given a life sentence a fortnight earlier for taking part in 2007 in resistance to the occupation of Iraq by US and British forces. Armed opposition to illegal invasion and occupation clearly doesn’t constitute terrorism or murder on most definitions, including the Geneva Convention.
But terrorism is now in the eye of the beholder.
And nowhere is that more so than in the Middle East, where today’s terrorists are tomorrow’s fighters against tyranny, a place where allies suddenly become enemies.
For the past year, US, British and other Western forces have been back in Iraq, supposedly in the cause of destroying ISIS. This was after ISIS overran huge chunks of Iraqi and Syrian territory and proclaimed a self-styled Islamic caliphate.
The campaign isn’t going well. Last month, ISIS rolled into the Iraqi city of Ramadi, while on the other side of the now non-existent border its forces conquered the Syrian town of Palmyra.
Al-Qaida’s official Nusra Front, has also been making gains in Syria.
Some Iraqis complain that the US sat on its hands while all this was going on. The Americans insist they are trying to avoid civilian casualties, and claim significant successes.
Privately, officials say they don’t want to be seen hammering Sunni strongholds in a sectarian war and risk upsetting their Wahhabi Sunni Muslim allies in the Gulf – particularly Saudi Arabia.
A revealing light on how we got into this crazy mess has been shone by a recently declassified secret US intelligence report, written in August 2012, which predicts – and effectively welcomes – the prospect of a “Salafist principality” in eastern Syria and an al-Qaida-controlled Islamic state in Syria and Iraq.
In stark contrast to Western claims at the time, the Defense Intelligence Agency document identifies al-Qaida in Iraq (which became ISIS) and fellow Salafists as the “major forces driving the insurgency in Syria” – and states that “Western countries, the Gulf states and Turkey” were supporting the opposition’s efforts to take control of eastern Syria.
Raising the “possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality”, the Pentagon report goes on, “this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion.”
So American forces bomb one set of rebels while backing another in Syria
Which is pretty well exactly what happened two years later.
A year into the Syrian rebellion, the US and its allies weren’t only supporting and arming an opposition they knew to be dominated by extreme sectarian groups; they were prepared to countenance the creation of some sort of “Islamic state” – despite the “grave danger” to Iraq’s unity – as a Sunni buffer to weaken Syria.
That doesn’t mean the US created ISIS, though some of its Gulf allies certainly played a role in it – as the US vice-president, Joe Biden, acknowledged last year.
In August 2014, The Times of Israel reported that a Free Syrian Army commander, arrested by the Al-Nusra Front, told his captors he collaborated with Israel in return for medical and military support.
Sharif As-Safouri, the commander of the Free Syrian Army’s Al-Haramein Battalion, admitted to having entered Israel five times to meet with Israeli officers who later provided him with Soviet anti-tank weapons and light arms.
Safouri was abducted by the al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front in the Quneitra area, near the Israeli border, in the summer of 2014.
“The opposition factions would receive support and send the injured in to Israel on condition that the Israeli fence area is secured.” Safouri said.
“No person was allowed to come near the fence without prior coordination with Israel authorities.”
Safouri says that at first he met with an Israeli officer named Ashraf at the border and was given an Israeli cellular phone. He later met with another officer named Younis and with the two men’s commander, Abu Daoud.
In total, Safouri said he entered Israel five times for meetings that took place in Tiberias.
Following the meetings, Israel began providing Safouri and his men with “basic medical support and clothes” as well as weapons, which included 30 Russian rifles, 10 RPG launchers with 47 rockets, and 48,000 5.56mm bullets.
Late last year the Jewish Telegraphic Agency – a 97-year old Jewish wire service – reported: A senior employee of the Dutch Justice Ministry said ISIS was created by Zionists seeking to give Islam a bad reputation.
Yasmina Haifi, a project leader at the ministry’s National Cyber Security Center, stated: “ISIS has nothing to do with Islam. It’s part of a plan by Zionists who are deliberately trying to blacken Islam’s name.”
In March, Haaretz reported: “The Syrian opposition is willing to give up claims to the Golan Heights in return for cash and Israeli military aid against President Bashar Assad.”
And to add a further twist, a former high-level al Qaida commander has repeatedly alleged that ISIS works for the CIA. Investment adviser Jim Willie alleged: “The ISIS troops that are working there in Syria and Iraq are Langley (CIA) troops. They’re trained, funded, and armed by Langley.
While we don’t know which of the above-described allegations are true, two things are certain:
- The US armed Islamic jihadis in Syria, and their weapons ended up in the hands of ISIS
Close allies of the US have supported and trained the ISIS terrorists
And the US has certainly exploited the existence of ISIS against other forces in the region as part of a wider drive to maintain western control.
The calculus changed when ISIS started beheading westerners and posting atrocities online, and the Gulf States are now backing other groups in the Syrian war, such as the Nusra Front.
But this is a US and western habit of playing with jihadi groups, which then come back to bite them.
In reality, US and western policy in the conflagration that is now the Middle East is in the classic mould of imperial divide-and-rule.
American forces bomb one set of rebels while backing another in Syria, and mount what are effectively joint military operations with Iran against ISIS in Iraq while supporting Saudi Arabia’s military campaign against Iranian-backed Houthi forces in Yemen.
However confused US policy may often be, a weak, partitioned Iraq and Syria fit such an approach perfectly.
What’s clear is that ISIS and its monstrosities won’t be defeated by the same powers that brought it to Iraq and Syria in the first place, or whose open and covert war-making has fostered it in the years since.
Endless western military interventions in the Middle East have brought only destruction and division.
Unless we want to see more atrocities like Paris on Friday we must force our governments to leave the Middle East alone.
Stop creating more failed states.
Stop throwing away our freedoms at home on falsehoods.
Stop disenfranchising the Muslims who live with us.
Start with those things and see, even if you won’t give it 14 years to succeed, if things improve. Other than the death tolls scaling up further, I can’t imagine we could be doing anything worse.
I will finish with some words by a journalist hero of mine, John Pilger (his book Distant Voices is a must read): “By most scholarly measure, Bush and Blair’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 led to the deaths of some 700,000 people – in a country that had no history of jihadism.
“The Kurds had done territorial and political deals; Sunni and Shia had class and sectarian differences, but they were at peace; intermarriage was common.
“Three years before the invasion, I drove the length of Iraq without fear. On the way I met people proud, above all, to be Iraqis, the heirs of a civilization that seemed, for them, a presence.
“Bush and Blair blew all this to bits.
“Iraq is now a nest of jihadism.
“Al-Qaeda – like Pol Pot’s “jihadists” – seized the opportunity provided by the onslaught of Shock and Awe and the civil war that followed.
“Rebel Syria offered even greater rewards, with CIA and Gulf state ratlines of weapons, logistics and money running through Turkey. The arrival of foreign recruits was inevitable.”
A former British ambassador, Oliver Miles, wrote recently: “The Cameron Government seems to be following the example of Tony Blair, who ignored consistent advice from the Foreign Office, MI5 and MI6 that our Middle East policy – and in particular our Middle East wars – had been a principal driver in the recruitment of Muslims in Britain for terrorism.”
Acknowledgment: Saumas Milne