The Loaded Language of the British Press

FOR the majority of the British media, the importance of presenting impartial news coverage is a key objective, but balance is now being questioned with the escalating violence in the Middle East.

As many times before, it is the reporting of the Israeli bombardment of Gaza and murders of innocent Palestinians which has come under the closest scrutiny.

The death and destruction – especially the deaths of so many children – has appeared in brutal contrast with the relatively minor impact of the Hamas rocket attacks on Israel.

Moreover, Western media has been criticised for failing to cover the conflict in a fair manner and some media outlets, the BBC in particular, appear infused with a pro-Israeli bias.

Often it is down to the language used in such reports, which creates bias and distorts the view of the watcher or reader of the news.

The late Tony Benn said in his inaugural annual lecture in Bristol in 2006 that the BBC refer to the Palestinians as “Militants” but to the Israeli aggressors as the “Israeli Government”. Thus giving legitimacy to the Israeli side against the Palestinians.

Mr Benn said that in reality he believed the reverse was true.

In recent days we have seen the use of language challenged both between politicians and within the press.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister David Cameron was repeatedly asked to apologise for labelling MPs who might vote against bombing in Syria as “Terrorist Sympathisers”.

It was a failed but oblique attempt to score points against Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for his historical support for Hamas and the IRA.

Quite an ironic choice of language from Mr Cameron, who once called for Nelson Mandela to be hanged as a terrorist!

During the House of Commons debate on bombing Syria we also witnessed an agreement between the SNP and many Conservative and Labour MPs to refer to ISIS as Daesh. In doing so it would lock away the word Islamist, used by so many of the national press and the BBC to describe terrorist attacks.

Biased use of language, with a nakedly political motive, is clearly poisonous.

Note how the single photograph of a dead Syrian child on a Mediterranean beach in September this year reshaped the way our press reported the Syrian refugee crisis.

The public outcry at that image was so immense that our newspapers started to refer to the hapless refugees by the correct terms rather than the “swarms of migrants” favoured by David Cameron and Nigel Farage.

But sadly that didn’t last and following the Paris attacks of 13 November these self-same Syrian refugees were being labelled migrants and potential terrorists by our press.

UK tabloids like the Murdoch-owned Sun that has compared immigrants to ‘cockroaches’ recall the dark days of the Nazi media attacking those they sought to eliminate, says the UN’s human rights chief.

“The Nazi media described people their masters wanted to eliminate as rats and cockroaches,” said UN high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

He singled out an article by former gameshow contestant turned-commentator Katie Hopkins, published by the Sun, in which she wrote: “Make no mistake, these migrants are like cockroaches. They might look a bit ‘Bob Geldof’s Ethiopia circa 1984’, but they are built to survive a nuclear bomb. They are survivors.”

The comment piece was published just hours before a boat containing hundreds of displaced people capsized in the Mediterranean, killing 800.

“This type of language is clearly inflammatory and unacceptable, especially in a national newspaper. The Sun’s editors took an editorial decision to publish this article, and – if it is found in breach of the law – should be held responsible along with the author,” said Zeid.

Zeid said the Hopkins piece was by no means a one off, but rather the result of “decades of sustained and unrestrained anti-foreigner abuse, misinformation and distortion.”

“This vicious verbal assault on migrants and asylum seekers in the UK tabloid press has continued unchallenged under the law for far too long,” he said.

Like the Sun, The Daily Express was also a prime culprit, he said.

“To give just one glimpse of the scale of the problem, back in 2003 the Daily Express ran 22 negative front pages stories about asylum seekers and refugees in a single 31-day period,” he said.

“Asylum seekers and migrants have, day after day, for years on end, been linked to rape, murder, diseases such as HIV and TB, theft, and almost every conceivable crime and misdemeanour imaginable in front-page articles and two-page spreads, in cartoons, editorials, even on the sports pages of almost all the UK’s national tabloid newspapers.”

And the use of language to load news reporting is used often in domestic situations.

The British press regularly use the adjectives “Far Left”, “Hard Left” and “Loony Left” to describe Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters in the Labour Party, while referring to more right wing MPs as being “Moderates”.

Never do they seek to define what the word “Moderate” means or ever refer to David Cameron or George Osborne as being “Far Right” or “Hard Right”.

What we are observing is an adjectival degradation.

Every report, coming from inside governments or institutions outside is, if it contains some form of criticism, therefore “damning”, “devastating” or “scathing”.

Warnings, which most of the time were not heeded anyhow, are “stark”, differences of opinion between politicians of the same party are “dramatic splits”, developments are “alarming” – the consumer of the media is confronted with a permanent linguistic overkill.

Ironically, official language is evolving in the opposite direction, it is becoming more sanitised, cautious, bureaucratic and politically correct.

Remember how Tony Blair and his spin doctors rebranded the Labour Party as New Labour and Blair’s Labour as he courted Rupert Murdoch and the so-called Middle England vote in the 1990s.

For marketing and propaganda purposes he even banned the use of the word “socialist” or “socialism” among his MPs.

The final irony is that almost 20 years later the word “Blairite” is now a term of abuse among most Labour Party members and commentators.

Words matter!

 

Terrorism – The Common Worry of Everyone, Including Iran

IRAN has been the bogey country of the West since the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and its public demonization by the USA.

Anyone of a certain age will remember the portrayal of its then leader Ayatollah Khomeini in Western media as all that was “wrong with Islam”.

Matters weren’t improved in 1989 by the publication of Salman Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses.

Many Muslims accused Rushdie of blasphemy and in 1989 Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa ordering Muslims to kill Rushdie.

Numerous killings, attempted killings, and bombings resulted from Muslim anger over the novel.

The Iranian government backed the fatwa against Rushdie until 1998, when the succeeding government of Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said it no longer supported the killing of Rushdie.

But all is never as it seems, particularly when the US and UK’s right wing press is involved, and by 1991 Iraq had replaced Iran as the West’s Bête Noire.

Comical in all of this was that many Americans believed Iraq and Iran were actually the same country!

The fact that today the USA, Israel and Saudi Arabia all want to either bomb or control Iran, speaks volumes for its power and status in the Middle East.

Iran became an Islamic republic in 1979, when the monarchy was overthrown and clerics assumed political control under supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini.

The Iranian revolution put an end to the rule of the Shah, who had alienated powerful religious, political and popular forces with a programme of modernization and Westernization coupled with heavy repression of dissent.

Persia, as Iran was known before 1935, was one of the greatest empires of the ancient world, and the country has long maintained a distinct cultural identity within the Islamic world by retaining its own language and adhering to the Shia interpretation of Islam.

A brief political history of modern Iran is perhaps warranted.

In 1951, Mohammad Mosaddegh was elected as the prime minister. He became enormously popular after he nationalized Iran’s petroleum industry and oil reserves.

But he was deposed in the 1953 Iranian coup d’état, an Anglo-American covert operation that marked the first (and not the last) time the US had overthrown a foreign government during the Cold War.

After the coup, the Shah became increasingly autocratic and Iran entered a decades’ long period of close relations with the USA.

While the Shah increasingly modernised Iran and claimed to retain it as a fully secular state, arbitrary arrests and torture by his secret police, the SAVAK, were used to crush all forms of political opposition.

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini became an active critic of the Shah’s White Revolution, and publicly denounced the government. In 1963 Khomeini was arrested and imprisoned for 18 months.

After his release in 1964, Khomeini publicly criticized the United States government. The Shah sent him into exile.

In 1974, the economy of Iran was experiencing double digit inflation, and despite many large projects to modernize the country, corruption was rampant and caused large amounts of waste.

By 1976, an economic recession led to increased unemployment, especially among millions of young people who had migrated to the cities of Iran looking for construction jobs during the boom years of the early 1970s.

By the late 1970s, many of these people opposed the Shah’s regime and began to organize and join the protests against it.

An Islamic Revolution began in January 1978 with the first major demonstrations against the Shah.

After a year of strikes and demonstrations paralyzing the country and its economy, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi fled the country and Ruhollah Khomeini returned from exile to Tehran in February 1979, forming a new government. After holding a referendum, in April 1979, Iran officially became an Islamic Republic.

Then on November 4, 1979, a group of students seized the United States Embassy in Tehran and took 52 personnel and citizens hostage, after the US refused to return Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to Iran to face trial in the court of the new regime.

Attempts by the Jimmy Carter administration to negotiate for the release of the hostages, and a failed rescue attempt, helped force Carter out of office and brought Ronald Reagan to power. On Carter’s final day in office, the last hostages were finally set free as a result of the Algiers Accords.

Following the Iran–Iraq War, in 1989, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and his administration concentrated on a pragmatic pro-business policy of rebuilding and strengthening the economy without making any dramatic break with the ideology of the revolution.

In 1997, Rafsanjani was succeeded by the reformist Mohammad Khatami, whose government attempted to make the country more democratic.

Hassan Rouhani was elected as President of Iran on June 15, 2013, and his victory improved the relations of Iran with many other countries.

Now with warfare raging across the Middle East, most neutral observers view Iran as a necessary bulwark against ISIS and the dirty tricks of the USA, Turkey, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Against that background Iran’s constitutional Leader of the Revolution Sayyid Ali Khamenei has now written an unprecedented second open letter to young people in the West.

Entitled: Today Terrorism is Our Common Worry, he speaks clearly and with a hand of friendship to the West, but is also openly critical in the role the USA has played in the creation of ISIS and the brutality of Zionist Israel.

The letter, a condemnation of terrorism, can also be seen as a plea for self-reflection and clarification of misreported facts at a time of heightened tensions, bloodshed, war, occupation, hate.

Here is his unedited letter in full. I recommend you read it at least twice!

“The bitter events brought about by blind terrorism in France have once again, moved me to speak to you young people.

The bitter events brought about by blind terrorism in France have once again, moved me to speak to you young people.  

For me, it is unfortunate that such incidents would have to create the framework for a conversation, however the truth is that if painful matters do not create the grounds for finding solutions and mutual consultation, then the damage caused will be multiplied.

The pain of any human being anywhere in the world causes sorrow for a fellow human being.  The sight of a child losing his life in the presence of his loved ones, a mother whose joy for her family turns into mourning, a husband who is rushing the lifeless body of his spouse to some place and the spectator who does not know whether he will be seeing the final scene of life- these are scenes that rouse the emotions and feelings of any human being. 

Anyone who has benefited from affection and humanity is affected and disturbed by witnessing these scenes- whether it occurs in France or in Palestine or Iraq or Lebanon or Syria. 

Without a doubt, the one-and-a-half billion Muslims also have these feelings and abhor and are revolted by the perpetrators and those responsible for these calamities. 

The issue, however, is that if today’s pain is not used to build a better and safer future, then it will just turn into bitter and fruitless memories. I genuinely believe that it is only you the youth who by learning the lessons of today’s hardship, have the power to discover new means for building the future and who can be barriers in the misguided path that has brought the west to its current impasse.  

Anyone who has benefited from affection and humanity is affected and disturbed by witnessing these scenes- whether it occurs in France or in Palestine or Iraq or Lebanon or Syria.  

It is correct that today terrorism is our common worry.  However, it is necessary for you to know that the insecurity and strain that you experienced during the recent events, differs from the pain that the people of Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Afghanistan have been experiencing for many years, in two significant ways. 

First, the Islamic world has been the victim of terror and brutality to a larger extent territorially, to greater amount quantitatively and for a longer period in terms of time. Second, that unfortunately this violence has been supported by certain great powers through various methods and effective means. 

Today, there are very few people who are uninformed about the role of the United States of America in creating, nurturing and arming al-Qaeda, the Taliban and their inauspicious successors. 

Besides this direct support, the overt and well-known supporters of takfiri terrorism- despite having the most backward political systems – are standing arrayed as allies of the west while the most pioneering, brightest and most dynamic democrats in the region are suppressed mercilessly. The prejudiced response of the west to the awakening movement in the Islamic world is an illustrative example of the contradictory western policies.

I genuinely believe that it is only you the youth who by learning the lessons of today’s hardship can be barriers in the misguided path that has brought the west to its current impasse.  

The other side of these contradictory policies is seen in supporting the state terrorism of Israel. 

The oppressed people of Palestine have experienced the worst kind of terrorism for the last 60 years. 

If the people of Europe have now taken refuge in their homes for a few days and refrain from being present in busy places- it is decades that a Palestinian family is not secure even in its own home from the Zionist regime’s death and destruction machinery.

What kind of atrocious violence today is comparable to that of the settlement constructions of the Zionist regime?

This regime- without ever being seriously and significantly censured by its influential allies or even by the so-called independent international organizations- everyday demolishes the homes of Palestinians and destroys their orchards and farms. 

This is done without even giving them time to gather their belongings or agricultural products and usually it is done in front of the terrified and tear-filled eyes of women and children who witness the brutal beatings of their family members who in some cases are being dragged away to gruesome torture chambers.  

In today’s world, do we know of any other violence on this scale and scope and for such an extended period of time?

Shooting down a woman in the middle of the street for the crime of protesting against a soldier who is armed to the teeth- if this is not terrorism, what is? This barbarism, because it is being done by the armed forces of an occupying government, should not be called extremism? Or maybe only because these scenes have been seen repeatedly on television screens for 60 years, they should no longer stir our consciences.

The military invasions of the Islamic world in recent years- with countless victims- are another example of the contradictory logic of the west. The assaulted countries, in addition to the human damage caused, have lost their economic and industrial infrastructure, their movement towards growth and development has been stopped or delayed and in some cases, has been thrown back decades. 

Despite all this, they are rudely being asked not to see themselves as oppressed.  How can a country be turned into ruins, have its cities and towns covered in dust and then be told that it should please not view itself as oppressed? Instead of enticements to not understand and to not mention disasters, would not an honest apology be better? 

The pain that the Islamic world has suffered in these years from the hypocrisy and duplicity of the invaders is not less than the pain from the material damage.

Dear youth! I have the hope that you- now or in the future- can change this mentality corrupted by duplicity, a mentality whose highest skill is hiding long-term goals and adorning malevolent objectives.

Dear youth! I have the hope that you – now or in the future – can change this mentality corrupted by duplicity, a mentality whose highest skill is hiding long-term goals and adorning malevolent objectives.  In my opinion, the first step in creating security and peace is reforming this violence-breeding mentality. 

Until double-standards dominate western policies, until terrorism- in the view of its powerful supporters- is divided into “good” and “bad” types, and until governmental interests are given precedence over human values and ethics, the roots of violence should not be searched for in other places.

Unfortunately, these roots have taken hold in the depths of western cultural policies over the course of many years and they have caused a soft and silent invasion. 

Many countries of the world take pride in their local and national cultures, cultures which through development and regeneration have soundly nurtured human societies for centuries.  The Islamic world is not an exception to this. 

However in the current era, the western world with the use of advanced tools is insisting on the cloning and replication of its culture on a global scale.  I consider the imposition of western culture upon other peoples and the trivialization of independent cultures as a form of silent violence and extreme harmfulness. 

Humiliating rich cultures and insulting the most honoured parts of these, is occurring while the alternative culture being offered in no way has any qualification for being a replacement.  For example, the two elements of “aggression” and “moral promiscuity” which unfortunately have become the main elements of western culture, have even degraded the position and acceptability of its source region.      

So now the question is: are we “sinners” for not wanting an aggressive, vulgar and fatuous culture? Are we to be blamed for blocking the flood of impropriety that is directed towards our youth in the shape of various forms of quasi-art? 

I do not deny the importance and value of cultural interaction.  Whenever these interactions are conducted in natural circumstances and with respect for the receiving culture, they result in growth, development and richness. 

On the contrary, inharmonious interactions have been unsuccessful and harmful impositions.

We have to state with full regret that vile groups such as DAESH are the spawn of such ill-fated pairings with imported cultures. 

If the matter was simply theological, we would have had to witness such phenomena before the colonialist era, yet history shows the contrary.  Authoritative historical records clearly show how colonialist confluence of extremist and rejected thoughts in the heart of a Bedouin tribe, planted the seed of extremism in this region. 

How then is it possible that such garbage as DAESH comes out of one of the most ethical and humane religious schools which as part of its inner core, includes the notion that taking the life of one human being is equivalent to killing the whole humanity?

One has to ask why people who are born in Europe and who have been intellectually and mentally nurtured in that environment are attracted to such groups?  Can we really believe that people with only one or two trips to war zones, suddenly become so extreme that they can riddle the bodies of their compatriots with bullets? 

On this matter, we certainly cannot forget about the effects of a life nurtured in a pathologic culture in a corrupt environment borne out of violence.  On this matter, we need complete analyses, analyses that see the hidden and apparent corruptions. 

Maybe a deep hate – planted in the years of economic and industrial growth and borne out of inequality and possibly legal and structural prejudice – created ideas that every few years appear in a sickening manner. 

Any rushed and emotional reaction which would isolate, intimidate and create more anxiety for the Muslim communities living in Europe and America not only will not solve the problem but will increase the chasms and resentments.

In any case, you are the ones that have to uncover the apparent layers of your own society and untie and disentangle the knots and resentments. Fissures have to be sealed, not deepened.

Hasty reactions is a major mistake when fighting terrorism which only widens the chasms.

Any rushed and emotional reaction which would isolate, intimidate and create more anxiety for the Muslim communities living in Europe and America- which are comprised of millions of active and responsible human beings- and which would deprive them of their basic rights more than has already happened and which would drive them away from society- not only will not solve the problem but will increase the chasms and resentments.

Superficial measures and reactions, especially if they take legal forms, will do nothing but increase the current polarizations, open the way for future crises and will result in nothing else.  

According to reports received, some countries in Europe have issued guidelines encouraging citizens to spy on Muslims.  This behaviour is unjust and we all know that pursuing injustice has the characteristic of unwanted reversibility.  Besides, the Muslims do not deserve such ill-treatment. 

For centuries, the western world has known Muslims well- the day that westerners were guests in Islamic lands and were attracted to the riches of their hosts and on another day when they were hosts and benefitted from the efforts and thoughts of Muslims- they generally experienced nothing but kindness and forbearance.

Therefore I want you youth to lay the foundations for a correct and honourable interaction with the Islamic world based on correct understanding, deep insight and lessons learned from horrible experiences. 

In such a case and in the not too distant future, you will witness the edifice built on these firm foundations which creates a shade of confidence and trust which cools the crown of its architect, a warmth of security and peace that it bequests on them and a blaze of hope in a bright future which illuminates the canvass of the earth.”

 

Pol Pot, Palestine and Pilger

ON Friday I signed off my fortnight of continuous writing about the ongoing slaughter in the Middle East with a tribute to my journalist hero John Pilger.

And I make no apologies by beginning this week with Mr Pilger once again.

Following the ISIS outrages in Beirut and Paris, John has now updated this prescient essay on the root causes of terrorism and what we can do about it.

I believe it is essential reading:

 

From Pol Pot to ISIS: The Blood Never Dried

IN transmitting President Richard Nixon’s orders for a “massive” bombing of Cambodia in 1969, Henry Kissinger said, “Anything that flies on everything that moves”.

As Barack Obama wages his seventh war against the Muslim world since he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and Francois Hollande promises a “merciless” attack on the rubble of Syria, the orchestrated hysteria and lies make one almost nostalgic for Kissinger’s murderous honesty.

As a witness to the human consequences of aerial savagery – including the beheading of victims, their parts festooning trees and fields – I am not surprised by the disregard of memory and history, yet again.

A telling example is the rise to power of Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge, who had much in common with today’s Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). They, too, were ruthless medievalists who began as a small sect. They, too, were the product of an American-made apocalypse, this time in Asia.

According to Pol Pot, his movement had consisted of “fewer than 5,000 poorly armed guerrillas uncertain about their strategy, tactics, loyalty and leaders”. Once Nixon’s and Kissinger’s B-52 bombers had gone to work as part of “Operation Menu”, the west’s ultimate demon could not believe his luck.

The Americans dropped the equivalent of five Hiroshimas on rural Cambodia during 1969-73. They leveled village after village, returning to bomb the rubble and corpses. The craters left giant necklaces of carnage, still visible from the air.

The terror was unimaginable. A former Khmer Rouge official described how the survivors “froze up and they would wander around mute for three or four days. Terrified and half-crazy, the people were ready to believe what they were told… That was what made it so easy for the Khmer Rouge to win the people over.”

A Finnish Government Commission of Inquiry estimated that 600,000 Cambodians died in the ensuing civil war and described the bombing as the “first stage in a decade of genocide”. What Nixon and Kissinger began, Pol Pot, their beneficiary, completed. Under their bombs, the Khmer Rouge grew to a formidable army of 200,000.

ISIS has a similar past and present. By most scholarly measure, Bush and Blair’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 led to the deaths of at least 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, “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 here.”

ISIS is the progeny of those in Washington, London and Paris who, in conspiring to destroy Iraq, Syria and Libya, committed an epic crime against humanity.

Like Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, ISIS are the mutations of a western state terror dispensed by a venal imperial elite undeterred by the consequences of actions taken at great remove in distance and culture. Their culpability is unmentionable in “our” societies, making accomplices of those who suppress this critical truth.

It is 23 years since a holocaust enveloped Iraq, immediately after the first Gulf War, when the US and Britain hijacked the United Nations Security Council and imposed punitive “sanctions” on the Iraqi population – ironically, reinforcing the domestic authority of Saddam Hussein. It was like a medieval siege.

Almost everything that sustained a modern state was, in the jargon, “blocked” – from chlorine for making the water supply safe to school pencils, parts for X-ray machines, common painkillers and drugs to combat previously unknown cancers carried in the dust from the southern battlefields contaminated with Depleted Uranium.

Just before Christmas 1999, the Department of Trade and Industry in London restricted the export of vaccines meant to protect Iraqi children against diphtheria and yellow fever. Kim Howells, parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Blair government, explained why. “The children’s vaccines”, he said, “were capable of being used in weapons of mass destruction”.

The British Government could get away with such an outrage because media reporting of Iraq – much of it manipulated by the Foreign Office – blamed Saddam Hussein for everything.

Under a bogus “humanitarian” Oil for Food Programme, $100 was allotted for each Iraqi to live on for a year. This figure had to pay for the entire society’s infrastructure and essential services, such as power and water. “Imagine,” the UN Assistant Secretary General, Hans Von Sponeck, told me, “setting that pittance against the lack of clean water, and the fact that the majority of sick people cannot afford treatment, and the sheer trauma of getting from day to day, and you have a glimpse of the nightmare. And make no mistake, this is deliberate. I have not in the past wanted to use the word genocide, but now it is unavoidable.”

Disgusted, Von Sponeck resigned as UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator in Iraq. His predecessor, Denis Halliday, an equally distinguished senior UN official, had also resigned. “I was instructed,” Halliday said, “to implement a policy that satisfies the definition of genocide: a deliberate policy that has effectively killed well over a million individuals, children and adults.”

A study by the United Nations Children’s Fund, Unicef, found that between 1991 and 1998, the height of the blockade, there were 500,000 “excess” deaths of Iraqi infants under the age of five. An American TV reporter put this to Madeleine Albright, US Ambassador to the United Nations, asking her, “Is the price worth it?” Albright replied, “We think the price is worth it.”

In 2007, the senior British official responsible for the sanctions, Carne Ross, known as “Mr. Iraq”, told a parliamentary selection committee, “[The US and UK governments] effectively denied the entire population a means to live.”

When I interviewed Carne Ross three years later, he was consumed by regret and contrition. “I feel ashamed,” he said. He is today a rare truth-teller of how governments deceive and how a compliant media plays a critical role in disseminating and maintaining the deception. “We would feed [journalists] factoids of sanitised intelligence,” he said, “or we’d freeze them out.” Last year, a not untypical headline in the Guardian read: “Faced with the horror of Isis we must act.” The “we must act” is a ghost risen, a warning of the suppression of informed memory, facts, lessons learned and regrets or shame. The author of the article was Peter Hain, the former Foreign Office minister responsible for Iraq under Blair. In 1998, when Denis Halliday revealed the extent of the suffering in Iraq for which the Blair Government shared primary responsibility, Hain abused him on the BBC’s Newsnight as an “apologist for Saddam”. In 2003, Hain backed Blair’s invasion of stricken Iraq on the basis of transparent lies. At a subsequent Labour Party conference, he dismissed the invasion as a “fringe issue”.

Here was Hain demanding “air strikes, drones, military equipment and other support” for those “facing genocide” in Iraq and Syria. This will further “the imperative of a political solution”.

The day Hain’s article appeared, Denis Halliday and Hans Von Sponeck happened to be in London and came to visit me. They were not shocked by the lethal hypocrisy of a politician, but lamented the enduring, almost inexplicable absence of intelligent diplomacy in negotiating a semblance of truce.

Across the world, from Northern Ireland to Nepal, those regarding each other as terrorists and heretics have faced each other across a table. Why not now in Iraq and Syria? Instead, there is a vapid, almost sociopathic verboseness from Cameron, Hollande, Obama and their “coalition of the willing” as they prescribe more violence delivered from 30,000 feet on places where the blood of previous adventures never dried. They seem to relish their own violence and stupidityso much they want it to overthrow their one potentially valuable ally,  the government in Syria.

This is nothing new, as the following leaked UK-US intelligence file illustrates:

“In order to facilitate the action of liberative [sic] forces… a special effort should be made to eliminate certain key individuals [and] to proceed with internal disturbances in Syria. CIA is prepared, and SIS (MI6) will attempt to mount minor sabotage and coup de main [sic] incidents within Syria, working through contacts with individuals… a necessary degree of fear… frontier and [staged] border clashes [will] provide a pretext for intervention… the CIA and SIS should use… capabilities in both psychological and action fields to augment tension.”

That was written in 1957, although it could have been written yesterday. In the imperial world, nothing essentially changes.

In 2013, the former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas revealed that “two years before the Arab spring”, he was told in London that a war on Syria was planned. “I am going to tell you something,” he said in an interview with the French TV channel LPC, “I was in England two years before the violence in Syria on other business. I met top British officials, who confessed to me that they were preparing something in Syria… Britain was organising an invasion of rebels into Syria. They even asked me, although I was no longer Minister for Foreign Affairs, if I would like to participate… This operation goes way back. It was prepared, preconceived and planned.”

The only effective opponents of ISIS are accredited demons of the west – Syria, Iran, Hezbollah and now Russia.

The obstacle is Turkey, an “ally” and a member of Nato, which has conspired with the CIA, MI6 and the Gulf medievalists to channel support to the Syrian “rebels”, including those now calling themselves ISIS.

Supporting Turkey in its long-held ambition for regional dominance by overthrowing the Assad government beckons a major conventional war and the horrific dismemberment of the most ethnically diverse state in the Middle East.

A truce – however difficult to negotiate and achieve – is the only way out of this maze; otherwise, the atrocities in Paris and Beirut will be repeated. Together with a truce, the leading perpetrators and overseers of violence in the Middle East – the Americans and Europeans – must themselves “de-radicalise” and demonstrate a good faith to alienated Muslim communities everywhere, including those at home.

There should be an immediate cessation of all shipments of war materials to Israel and recognition of the State of Palestine. The issue of Palestine is the region’s most festering open wound, and the oft-stated justification for the rise of Islamic extremism. Osama bin Laden made that clear.

Palestine also offers hope. Give justice to the Palestinians and you begin to change the world around them.

More than 40 years ago, the Nixon-Kissinger bombing of Cambodia unleashed a torrent of suffering from which that country has never recovered.

The same is true of the Blair-Bush crime in Iraq, and the Nato and “coalition” crimes in Libya and Syria. With impeccable timing, Henry Kissinger’s latest self-serving tome has been released with its satirical title, “World Order”. In one fawning review, Kissinger is described as a “key shaper of a world order that remained stable for a quarter of a century”.

Tell that to the people of Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Chile, East Timor and all the other victims of his “statecraft”.  Only when “we” recognise the war criminals in our midst and stop denying ourselves the truth will the blood begin to dry.

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