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Sunday 18 December 2016

In Jo Cox's memory: Expel those who defame the White Helmets

I have a question for John Prescott.

If you are a Labour Party member who defames the White Helmets should you be expelled?

On Friday my friend the Times columnist Oliver Kamm retweeted my throw to him of the Snopes post debunking Eva Bartlett.

She is a Russia Today promoted woman whose shtick is that media reports of atrocities in Syria are staged.

Her shtick has been as widely distributed as the one about the Odessa Massacre, and by the same people.

Her shtick has been distributed in the same way - and often from the same sources - as was the notion that the Sandy Hook massacre of Connecticut small school children was staged.

The lunacy, the internal contradictions, of this shtick has not been better mocked than by Jim Kovpak.

My timeline since Oliver's RT has been bloated with conspiracists. I have hit 'mute' a lot.

Flying Monkeys.. descend!

I am way far from alone in being assailed by such Flying Monkeys. Someone still obsessed with complaining about Hilary Benn* thinks the RAF is bombing Aleppo. Someone who has a ton of followers. Many of those same people are busy defaming the White Helmets.

It is all the same to them - Syrians are lying, a white person knows better than a brown one.

This is the truth they keep yelling about. The I Know Better truth.

The White Helmets are the civilians busy pulling Syrian people from the rubble. Their reality is documented times over but their treatment by sections of the supposed liberal/left, emblematic of the defamation in general heaped on Syrians, including our comrades, trying to do something against fascism, is not featured by liberal media. For four years we have had this. Liberal media failing to expose these people.

This is from the David Icke website. All Civilian protectors in Syria must be in service to the great lizard.
According to the Internet the White Helmets are part of a false flag operation. Or they are AL-Queda. You can find it all endlessly repeated online.

The campaign against the White Helmets went quiet after Jo Cox, the British MP who was a great friend to Syrians, was assasinated. It has ramped up since. That their selfless acts are questioned, by anyone, should - should - be incredible. Yet those who distort are seemingly allowed to get away with it.

My response to all this earlier was:

All this is not 'Labour'
A timeline telling me that a Tweeting seven year old Aleppine is a CIA invention should be a joke - F'yes - but when it comes to the Syrian civil defence organisation the White Helmets it should be different, for anyone in the Party. As far as Labour is concerned you should - should - never dare touch the White Helmets.

The White Helmets were joint recipients of the Jo Cox memorial fund. When you hurt that you hurt Labour.

They are as 'Labour' as the Welsh Dulais Valley miners and families I visited in 1984. Labour is Internationalist and Jo Cox embraced that meaning.

Social media is flooded with defamation against the likes of the White Helmets. Labour has seen this before. Jo got this. We should too.

If Jo Cox's life meant anything it was that we enfolded these Syrians within Us. If we respect Jo we listen to those she listened to.

But, is there is a block between Us embracing the likes of the White Helmets?

Are We the White Helmets or Not?

All that keeps us from this is conspiracism. Or straight up silencing of Syrians, as Stop The War Coalition does.

One or the other Labour has to reject both. It is not who we are.

How many of those who I just engaged with, via Oliver Kamm, are Labour? Who else are here in Labour who would reject those who Jo embraced?

The point is, Mr Prescott and everyone else, whether we heard Jo or not, whether she represents us or not, Labour must decide. Who Are We.

Jo Cox's embrace of the White Helmets faces Labour with a stark choice. Whether Labour likes it or not.

Are we those who defame the White Helmets - or are we not? John? Others?

So do we expel those who defame the White Helmets?


*Hilary Benn is the Labour MP who stood up for Labour's internationalist tradition a year ago in the House of Commons in a widely applauded speech. For this the Flying Monkeys descended and he now faces being forced out of Parliament.

Friday 16 December 2016

Lindsey German is a thug, an accomplice

This week as the massacre of men, women and children has been live on the Internet UK MPs from all parties bar UKIP have urged aid for civilian protection on the British government.

Many of those MPs have payed close attention to what Syrian civil society has been urging. In an impassioned post Kellie Strom for Syria Solidarity UK (SyriaUK), the organisation which channels those demands here in Britain, outlined what the UK could be doing.
There are still people alive to be saved: on the run in Aleppo, under siege in Madaya and the suburbs of Damascus, in prisons across Syria. There are many possible actions that we and others have proposed that haven’t been attempted by our Government.

We haven’t seen UK airdrops, even to areas away from the Russian focus of operations such as Madaya which is only minutes from Syria’s border.

We haven’t seen RAF surveillance drones make their presence felt over hospitals and other civilian targets to deter war crimes.

We haven’t seen the UK track and publicly identify aircraft committing war crimes and publicly identify officers and officials with command responsibility.

We haven’t seen any sanctions against Russian individuals implicated in war crimes.

We haven’t seen any sanctions against Iranian airlines resupplying Assad.

We haven’t allowed our much discussed prospective allies against ISIS, the Free Syrian Army, to have the means to defend themselves and their fellow Syrians against Assad’s and Putin’s air attacks.

We haven’t dared do anything to constrain or deter Assad’s ongoing chemical attacks, at the same time as Israel has regularly enforced its own red lines by carrying out air strikes against Assad and Hezbollah forces.

Assad and Putin’s mode of operation is to attack the weakest: to attack hospitals, schools, and aid workers. They are free to attack the weak because we are afraid to be strong.

This is a war against humanity, a war against every law and convention that keeps us secure. We must defend ourselves now and end Assad’s and Putin’s slaughter.
In response to Parliament one of the loudest leaders of the Stop The War Coalition (StWC), Lindsey German, said:
Every time they get the chance, MPs rush to promote further intervention and to justify past ones.
To her organisation the use of the UK's armed forces to meet the requests of Syrians, such as those articulated by SyriaUK, is 'intervention'. This is the group which also opposed the use of those UK armed forces to defend Yazidis under genocidal threat from ISIS. This is the group which opposed any aid to Mali when is was faced with occupation by the same sort of Islamists.

Defending Yazidis = 'war'. Defending Malians = 'war'.

Their 'hearts' are not in the 'right place'. Someone tell Eno.

Socialist Gabriel Levy
I have gone through the last six months of statements on Syria by the “Stop the War” coalition, looking in vain for any mention that the main responsibility for the assault on civilians this year is borne by the Syrian and Russian forces. If anyone’s seen one, please let me know. There are repeated calls for “all” intervening forces to withdraw and underlining the role of US, British and other forces (but not Russian ones).
They write of the need for 'aid' but refuse to outline by what mechanism it can be delivered.

They write of the need for 'peace' as if they are the only ones demanding it. They talk of the need for negotiations as if no one else had thought of it.

They back their posture with thuggery that descends into outright racism.

Syrians are pawns to them, nothing more

One year ago an event happened which exposed StWC to a wider world than the one they usually inhabit. Again the focus was in Parliament.

They held a meeting in a Parliament room where UK Syrians attempted to get their voices heard. The police were called on those Syrians.

Later, German told lies on Twitter about what had happened. She behaved, as one of those who was there observed of her co-silencer Dianne Abbott MP, in the manner of the Harry Potter villain Dolores Umbridge. It was notable that she did not engage, furiously. with those Syrians at that meeting, she did it instead with one of their supporters, Peter Tatchell, who is a famous, white UK leftie.

It was almost as if they do indeed have a soft spot, which other white Westeners can poke.

She avoids Twitter wars with brown Syrians or their UK supporters. It, their edifice, cannot stand giving an inch to Syrians. They will stop any branch giving that inch. Their politics means that such Syrians must not be heard - ever - and sometimes they must behave as thugs.

What does this amount to?

Imagine how their behaviour towards Syrian refugees would have been treated in any other circumstances. Imagine women in hijabi yelling at white lefties that they are wrong (and what ensued) in any other circumstance but this.

The refusal to listen to Syrians and to the presentation of Syrian's views (even when they outline a civilian protection agenda as articulated by SyriaUK and others) as fitting a US agenda is racist. The argument of the overwhelming older, white British StWC, shown by their actions, amounts to 'we know better than brown people.'

More widely this is seen in the reception of white 'explainers' such as Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton and the wide circulation of conspiracist theories about the Syrian civil protection organisation (supported by Jo Cox) the White Helmets.

Assad and Russian propaganda is everywhere online.  Circulated by the right and the left.

It all comes down to 'we know better than brown people'. All of it. On the left, none of them* even pretend to genuflect. This does not occur in other situations. There is no reflection. None. By white Westeners.

This is racist. Imagine this about Trinidadian or Ghanaian politics. Imagine this refusal to listen about that.

Syrians disagree amongst themselves. Obviously. Those opposed to the fascist regime have different arguments. Some more thinking lefties have said that aid drops are not technically feasible. Some engage on such a useful, practical basis - The basis of listening, real listening. because they want to help. But none of this exists according to StWC. None.

StWc oppose any engagement. Any. Never listen and never support 'intervention'. All who do not support their line are in service to 'empire'. They have demonstrated this. 'Foreign' people are to be collectively judged. (And those who listen to them.)

There is a name for this.

To many this is crystal clear when the same arguments promoted by StWC are advanced by the likes of Nigel Farage. Yet the simple, smart branding of 'Stop The War' deflates all questioning for a section of opinion.

This must end. StWC must become toxic. StWC must become branded as excusers of war, excusers of massacres, excusers of genocide.


This exercise is essential for the left. The defeat of StWC is essential, has always been essential, to aid Syrians.

Many are woke. In October an open letter was published saying:

Dear Jeremy,

We write as members of the Labour Party and Momentum, as socialist activists, or as other supporters of your leadership of the Labour Party. We agree wholeheartedly with your opposition to militarism and nuclear weapons, and your call for an end to British arms exports to countries such as Saudi Arabia. Yet we are concerned by your silence – thus far – on the ongoing slaughter of civilians by Russian and Assad-regime forces in Syria.

If it is not clear who these people oppose, one year on we have a StWC treasurer defaming Syrians using Russian propaganda.

This is what they do. Who they are. Jo Cox's friends defamed. 

A few weeks earlier we had a spokesperson for the Labour leader* deflecting from Russia hitting an aid convoy to Blame America.

The Labour angle

At the time of that Parliament meeting one year ago the Labour leader, the former StWC leader, was besieged over his StWC history.

News crews attendance meant he had to enter the StWC Christmas party by the back door.

Major media had picked up on left critics and the more outrageous content of the StWC website had been exposed to wide scrutiny. Myself and many others had picked through the detritus of what StWC was frantically deleting.

One year on and we have defenders of the Labour leader again focusing on Tatchell over Syrian voices.

Again they chose Lindsey German's tactic, focus on the white leftie (Tatchell), ignore the Syrians.

What got drowned out again was what drowned out a year ago: #ListenToSyrians

The Labour leader, as some have pointed out, has become the focus. Acting becomes dependent on internal Labour politics. Instead, Syrians must be.

What must be done

As SyriaUK outlines, the actions we can take are many.

There are practical actions outlined by them which you can lobby your MP about - but the main one I urge to readers is to listen to Syrians. All flows for that.

Many of them are silenced because of Assad. The terror is beyond anything and this bleeds into their visibility. Literally bleeds.
  • Contact SyriaUK to ask how you can support them.
  • Support refugees and amplify the voices of Syrian ones.
  • If you are a socialist argue, everywhere, against StWC and its influence.
  • If you are a union member demand they stop supporting StWC. 
  • Ask your MP to carry on pressing the government to support the sort of civilian protection measures outlined by SyriaUK.


It is really important to note that StWC has many, many left critics. At the Downing Street demonstration over Aleppo left-wing groups were unrepresented save one. There are many other voices. Tendance Coatsey has an overview of left critics here. This is the resistance.

*I have picked up here on an idea advanced by Michelle Obama of not naming 'him'. Yes I know it may not work but worth a try. I have done this because my last post was understood by some as critiquing all of Labour when many have done good work over Syria. Yes, but, your leader. Nail him to the trucking wall. You have not nailed him. This is the question of our time. You must do more.

*'Them' covers a lot. From those who have a job who have decided to, or were inclined to, ignore Syrians to those who think they're on the left who have done the same.

See also:

Tuesday 13 December 2016

How Labour trashed Tatchell, not Assad


As the people of Aleppo were being burned alive in the street, hospital staff massacred and men and boys led to deaths which evoke Srebrenica the Labour Party's High Command's trashed Peter Tatchell.

For days after a speech by leader Jeremy Corbyn protested by activists demanding action to support those Aleppines his supporters raged against Tatchell on the basis of - women's rights.

Yet Corbyn's Human Rights Day speech had been promoted to the media as about Saudi Arabia and Bahrain - not women's rights.

Four days later and a prime vehicle for the spin by the Labour Party proclaimed the 'victory' of fascist Assad's forces in Aleppo.

It wasn't about women

Thanks to one of those who protested last Saturday I tracked down that BBC and Sky News reporters at the Labour leader's speech had been briefed by Labour to focus on Saudi Arabia. Reporting by the Huffington Post and the placement of a piece by Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry confirms this.

Labour's aim for the speech was to attack UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who had made Trumpesque comments about Saudi Arabia, a bete noir country for the sections of the left who now run the Labour Party Command.

Saudi Arabia and its role in Yemen is a constant 'whatabout' reference for left wing Twitter. Labour's media manager is Seumas Milne, whose entire history is to blame everything on the US.

Of course their aim was to use an event on the day of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to slag off America. Doh.

Aleppo, whatever

The grassroot activist intervention in the Corbyn speech was allied to the desperate Aleppines because they are personally connected to them because it was organised by Syria Solidarity UK who are led by Syrian civil society. Their focus in the protest was aid drops of food and medicine. a method of civilian protection which was pushed in the House of Commons a few days later - by Labour MPs.

The presence of Tatchell was a lighting rod, which I wrote about after the protest and which has since played out. I said that the problem is journalists should ask Corbyn's office if he supports air drops - this has still not happened.

The protest resulted in a forced statement by Corbyn, live at the event, in which he did not say he supported air drops.

This did not result in headlines that Corbyn does not support airdrops despite journalists knowing full well that Corbyn's 'anti-intervention' in any sense stance means zero action for Syrian civilians.

Despite the hostility against them, once again journalists let him off the hook. Nothing appeared saying Corbyn refused support to aid Syrian civilians.

Labour's position on Syria is coming from everyone else but the leader. The supporters default to that, which tells you a lot. They imagine a Syria position by the leader which does not exist.

To the barricades! Attack Tatchell!

Despite the Party selling the speech as about Saudi Arabia and Bahrain almost immediately the leader's fanclub decided what their leader had talked about was, in fact, women's rights.

This line was promoted by the Party's Campaign Director. The leader's personal army, Momentum, proclaimed it within a few hours.

As always in these things it was based on some truth. 'Women' were mentioned in the speech a lot. Great victory. Yet hours earlier the Party machine was selling another story.

It was even claimed that the event was not about human rights in general but was about domestic violence (DV) in particular , despite the absence of Jess Phillips MP, the party's main champion on this issue and another bete noir of the leader's fanclub. And also despite the leader's failure to whip MPs (make their vote near-mandatory) on a international domestic violence measure pushed in Parliament by the Scottish Nationals. That same measure in post-speech accounts was cited to attack Tatchell, as if he had single-handily destroyed it.

Corbyn fans even suggested HM Opposition could have no impact, despite the earlier Dubs amendment victory over child refugees practically cited by George Osborne in his valediction of Jo Cox.

Focusing on Tatchell - despite the obvious protest women and the Syrian women they were representing - a Blitzkrieg was launched. It resulted in hundreds of personal online attacks on Tatchell and a front page in the Stalinist newspaper The Morning Star, which was happily shared widely.

The Morning Star has been praised by the leader as the only newspaper he will allow in his presence.

On and on it went with the wide circulation amongst fans of Corbyn of denunciations of the Nobel nominated Syrian rescue organisation the White Helmets included. Shameful conspiracism, whose source is Russian propaganda and comparable to the online experience of Trumpism.

All while Aleppines were being massacred.

While Aleppines were being massacred

Today we have a Stalinist Newspaper Corbyn professes to like, on its front page, saying that Aleppo has been 'liberated'. The same newspaper carries - highlights - a denunciation of Tatchell.

Are the people who did this proud of what they did? Will this be something they will want to tell their grandchildren?

Not the CPGB, we know who they are. They cheer Stalin. Nope. Am thinking of those 'social democrat' others who got us to this point.

Those who half listened to Allepines and half listened, for (guilty) shame to something more enticing.

Peter is someone I know and someone who is flawed. F'yeah and yourself? This is not the point. Your focus on Peter is offensive on several levels, not the least because actual people in Syria (Aleppo! May I weep)  heard what happened and reacted far differently than you and you ignored what they said.

He was not the protest - and you know that.

A huge part of the left's problem with Syria is a failure to listen to Syrians. Just STFU and listen.

Otherwise? Endless 'we/I know better'. This is why the Stop The War Coalition has trolled you in systematically excluding Syrians who disagree with them. And told you this brown face is an agent, with a neocon agenda.

In another world this would be immediately understood as orientalism and this would be obvious.

These are Jeremy and Seumas's people. Of course they did what they did. They have history, or for the brand makers - legend.

Own it

The 'man of peace' and his coterie wanted to use the Declaration of Human Rights anniversary to attack the Yanks. Agin.

Some people representing Syrians showed up but, thank dafunk, force multiplier, Tatchell did too. So they deflected. We saw what Corbynistas said and we picked up on that and used every muscle to pile onto that. And all we cared about was defending the leader.

We saw what you did but...

The issue is Syria and if you are fine with fascists massacring people, for whatever reason you have invented in your head, have the guts to say it.

Own it. Galloway does. Some call Assad the mass murderer a socialist/secular revelation. That you? Assad opposes the Yanks! You're taking a side and it's with Assad!

Own it.

UK Labour has no such guts, it goes after Tatchell. UK Labour circled the wagons to defend the leader and did not have the guts to fight fascism when it counted. Some members, some MPs did. Hooray. Gold Star. No. really. But this exercise tells me that the Party failed at this moment.

That is the trucking truth. That is what happened.

If you will not yell this now when will you?

Saturday 10 December 2016

Does Corbyn back aid drops to starving Syrians?

Today's protest of Jeremy Corbyn over Syria has drawn a lot of attention because of the presence of Peter Tatchell. This is a good thing when it highlights the issue - aid drops to civilians - but also a bad thing when Peter becomes the focus and not Syria. It is a good thing when Peter's presence draws more attention than one just by the organisers, the pressure group Syria Solidarity UK, would have done but a bad thing when reporting focuses on Peter and not the issue, which is Corbyn's failure over humanitarian protection and, most desperately now, aid drops.

It is also a problem when there is no context given to the coverage, which is the disquiet over Corbyn's leadership failure on Syria, particularly the breadth of that disquiet.

Members of the party who otherwise support Corbyn have been calling on him to speak out on protection of civilians in Syria for some time.

In October an open letter was published saying:
Dear Jeremy,

We write as members of the Labour Party and Momentum, as socialist activists, or as other supporters of your leadership of the Labour Party. We agree wholeheartedly with your opposition to militarism and nuclear weapons, and your call for an end to British arms exports to countries such as Saudi Arabia. Yet we are concerned by your silence – thus far – on the ongoing slaughter of civilians by Russian and Assad-regime forces in Syria.
Also in October Corbyn was protested over Syria, by Syrians, at a meeting of the Stop The War Coalition.

Protestor Oz Katerji wrote:
The late MP Jo Cox called for the Labour Party to support civilian protection measures in Syria; I call on Jeremy to listen to Jo and stop ignoring Syrian activists. The bloodshed in Syria cannot be stopped while continuing to refuse to hold Assad accountable for his crimes. We must act to protect civilians now, a sea-enforced deter and retaliate no-bombing zone would be a good place to start, as would aid drops to civilians starving under Assad’s brutal ‘submit or starve’ sieges.

Enough of the silence, enough of the complicity, it is time to act now to protect Syrian lives.
The response from Corbyn's spokesperson (almost certainly Seumas Milne) was:
The focus on Russian atrocities, or Syrian army atrocities, which is absolutely correct, I think sometimes diverts attention from other atrocities that have taken place.

Independent assessments are that there have been very large scale civilian casualties as a result of US-led coalition bombing and there are several cases of large numbers of civilian deaths in single attacks and there hasn’t been so much attention on those atrocities or those casualties.

Both the United States and Britain, the British Government, have been reluctant to accept any independent assessment of those.
That drew this comment from the husband of assassinated MP Jo Cox, who had chaired the all party parliamentary friends of Syria group:
This isn't just wrong, it's absolutely disgraceful.
Corbyn's Twitter feed has made no comment on Syria since a series of tweets around the parliamentary vote a year ago. Today's tweets about Human Rights Day mention Bahrain but not Syria.

Tatchell said today:
He’s made no statements as far as we know in solidarity with civil societies in Syria. He’s not listening to their demands, he’s not promoting their demands, which are very simple – a UN-supervised ceasefire, for the UN to supervise the evacuation of civilians to safe havens, and, most importantly right now, the airdrop of aid and medicine to besieged civilian populations.
Labour MPs, including the Shadow Foreign Secretary, have backed aid drops to civilians. But Corbyn has said nothing and his response to the protest today did not clarify whether he backs aid drops either.

He said:
Just to be absolutely clear, in response to the point that Peter made, Emily Thornberry on our behalf during foreign office questions and on many other occasions has made it absolutely clear that we do think that aid should be given to people in Aleppo, we do think that bombing should end, we do think there should be a ceasefire, we do think there should be a political solution, we do think the war should end in Syria, we are absolutely supporting the people.
The specific demands made to Corbyn today were:
  • Support calls for humanitarian access to besieged areas in Syria. 
  • Push for a parliamentary vote on unilateral UK aid drops. 
  • Demand the suspension of Syria from the UN until it agrees to a ceasefire, and stops blocking aid to besieged areas. 
  • Request UN supervised evacuations of the White Helmets and the civilian population.
Despite the claims by Momentum we are no clearer now as to whether he supports those specific proposals - and a journalist who can get a response from Corbyn's office should ask.

Given the response from his office in October and given the attitude of the Stop The War Coalition to aid drops then I can guess what they will say. But I want to see a headline saying 'Corbyn refuses to back food drops to starving Syrians' not multiple versions of 'Peter Tatchell disrupts Jeremy Corbyn speech with Syria protest'.

Someone needs to pin him down with specific questions that demand a specific answer. In other words, the next journalist up needs to do a version of "Did you threaten to overrule him?"

Edited to add: In case it is not clear why pinning Corbyn down on these specific four points from responses and Twitter conversations today it appears that some genuinely believe that Corbyn has supported aid drops. Or must have. Until a journalist gets his office on record rejecting these demands (and others, such as sanctions on Russia, as has also been pointed out) then he will continue to get away with waffle. Myself, Peter Tatchell, Syria Solidarity UK, we cannot get a comment from the Opposition Leader's Office - journalist's can.

See also:

Friday 28 October 2016

Red/brown unite shocker - over damn foreigners

Attitudes to Jewish immigration by political identifier.

The Canadian journalist Michael Colborne likes nothing better than to crunch some numbers. So there he was, as you do, rooting round the details of the of the European Social Survey (ESS) - an enormous project which you can see more about on its own Wikipedia page.

And lo, this is what he found:
The vast majority (94%) of respondents said that either many, some or a few Jews should be allowed to come live in Britain, with only 6% saying no Jews should be allowed at all.

But…regardless of how you slice up the left/right scale, British people who identify as furthest to the left or right seem a lot less keen on Jews than those in the relative middle on the spectrum.

Drilling down some more he found that fully a fifth of those who identified as furthest left would permit no Jewish immigration to the UK, just shy of the 22.5% of the furthest-right who wouldn't either (image at top of page). Colborne (who I follow on Twitter) confirmed to me that the samples are statistically significant.

It gets worse

Today Colborne did some more number crunching and found that far-left attitudes to Jews come in a context - hostility to immigration full-stop.

This is - in cold, hard numbers - a big minority of the Corbyn supporting, Momentum supporting far-left having the same views as a similar sized minority of the far-right.

Here some comparisons from the same source across Europe (Courtesy Colborne):

All great stuff for the proponents of horseshoe theory, as well as those also on the left who have been pointing out that the left has some fucking serious issues for years (thinking of you, Nick Cohen).

Oh and Michael has set off to plow through other surveys to find other samples demonstrating the same phenomenon ..

Wednesday 12 October 2016

Most Libyans welcomed intervention

Benghazi, Libya, 2011

Last week the Guardian writer Patrick Kingsley published a series of tweets regarding the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee's (FASC) report on the 2011 Libyan intervention.

Kingsley showed that the conclusion widely reported in the media that the intervention was based on false information, that Gaddafi wasn’t a major threat to civilians in Benghazi, was itself false. Information supposedly from Amnesty International did not exist.

Idress Ahmed added that information supposedly from Human Rights Watch in the FASC report was also misrepresented.

The blogger Bob from Brockley pointed out that the Committee talked to no Libyans and that this is consistent behaviour by them.
"The MPs quoted a non-existent AI report second hand (via Patrick Cockburn) & pretended they were citing the original! Shameless," he tweeted.
Bob noted that "Cockburn has a track record of bring economical with the truth."

This is consistent with Stop the War Coalition (StWC), whose chief selling point has been its brand (who disagrees with 'stopping wars'?) - Never mind what that means.

We see this in patently ridiculous memes which blame Hilary Benn MP for the bombing of Aleppo.

Not talking to or allowing Syrians to speak is also consistent behaviour from the StWC, as I wrote about last year (and same applies with the FASC). This followed a StWC event at which Syrians were stopped from speaking but at which the FASC chair, the Conservative MP Crispin Blunt, who strongly supports the arms industry was an invited speaker.

One can understand, perhaps, why both Tories like Blunt and 'anti-imperialist' lefties want to shut out voices from those countries they claim to care about - because they won't like what they hear, as this post by al-Hamra, reblogged here, demonstrates. 


Anti-interventionists often cite the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) 2011 air war in Libya in arguments over the Syrian civil war. What these opinionated partisans never mention is that NATO’s military action against the forces of dictator Moammar Ghadafi’s regime was not only popular with Libyans but overwhelmingly so.

A Gallup poll taken in 2012 found the following:
  • 75% favored NATO’s actions in their country.
  • 54% approved of U.S. leadership, which according to Gallup is the highest approval rating “ever recorded in the Middle East and North Africa region, outside of Israel.”
  • 19% approved of Russia’s leadership (which opposed NATO’s attacks on Ghadafi’s forces).
  • 22% approved of China’s leadership (which opposed NATO’s attacks on Ghadafi’s forces).
  • 61% considered members of Ghadafi’s regime to be a major security threat.
  • 62% considered Al-Qaeda and other Islamic militants to be a major security threat.
  • 48% considered Western military forces to be a major threat.
  • 77% favored Western military aid to their fledgling armed forces.
  • 68% supported Western military trainers being sent to their country.
  • 77% favored Western governance experts being sent to assist their new government.
  • 56% opposed Western aid for Libyan political groups.
Gallup is a reputable polling organization and the sample size of 1,000 is the industry standard because sample sizes that large yield a low margin of error (for the math behind why that is the case, see this).

A second poll done by a similarly reputable British polling organization, Orb International, yielded similar results:
  • 85% strongly supported NATO military action against Ghadafi.
  • 89% expressed a favorable or very favorable view of the United Kingdom.
  • 58% agreed that Libya and Britain should keep strong and close links with one another.
  • 83% viewed then-Prime Minister David Cameron favorably.
  • 76% agreed the country’s government should be chosen by the people in free, competitive elections.
  • 68% considered the post-Ghadafi government — the National Transition Council — effective in helping to improve life Libya.
What becomes clear from these two polls is that not only was NATO’s military assistance in toppling Ghadafi overwhelmingly popular among Libyans, Libyans wanted continued intervention to help restore law and order after the chaos and upheaval brought about by the 2011 revolution. Although a near majority worried about unwanted Western military action in their country, more Libyans wanted closer and more harmonious economic, political, diplomatic, and military relations with Western governments.

This is not to suggest that everyone in Libya supported NATO’s intervention. The Ghadafi regime was opposed and organized rallies denouncing NATO’s interference with their counter-revolution. But after the regime was overthrown in 2011, these anti-NATO protests stopped.

No anti-intervention political parties formed after 2011 with enough popular support to win any elections. Pushed to the margins of Libyan politics by their unpopularity, Ghadafi loyalist tribes in Sirte joined Islamic State (ISIS) to continue their struggle against the new government and against Western intervention.

Openly acknowledging what Libyans thought about NATO’s intervention would put anti-interventionists in the awkward and arrogant position of asserting that they (non-Libyans) knew better than Libyans what was good for Libya in 2011.

Students of history will recognize this contradiction for what it is — the racist, colonialist White Man’s Burden, although couched in fiercely ‘anti-imperialist’ rhetoric. To avoid touching on this contradiction, anti-interventionists are forced to regard Libyans as passive victims to be pitied rather than politically active participants to be supported or engaged. For them, what matters in Libya is the West’s iniquity, not Libyan aspirations.

Hat tip Clay Claiborne

See also:

Sunday 18 September 2016

Venezuela: The left's giant forgetting

Earlier this year Jeremy Corbyn deleted a lot of content from his website. Right, malnourished child in Maracaibo hospital.

"Malnourished children who faint in class. Children who, in the worst cases, die from hunger, their bodies nothing but skin and bones, the outlines of their ribs visible.

Images like those have become common in Venezuela, where critical food shortages are pushing hundreds of thousands of children under a blanket of misery and hunger more often seen in the poorest countries in Africa."
Hunger haunts Venezuela, especially its children, Miami Herald, August 5, 2016.

For months images of starving Venezuelan children, reports of food riots, of the very poorest banging pots on the streets demanding food and desperate parents hunting for medicine for their children have appeared in Western media.

Ordinary people are now being randomly snatched out of the huge food lines, arrested and labelled saboteurs by a government desperate to blame anyone else but themselves.

President Maduro has joked about the food crisis.

Nothing new

These images of starvation are not new, although the media attention is. Last June The Economist reported evidence that Chavismo's vaunted alleviation of poverty and food insecurity had reversed.
Marianella Herrera, a nutritionist at the Fundación Bengoa, a private foundation, calls official data partial and inconsistent. “Other studies show an increase in malnutrition,” she says. “Children are showing up in hospital emergency wards with severe malnutrition, and some are dying because of a lack of basic supplies.” The government’s own figures, which show it reached the UN target for reducing malnutrition in children by 2008, indicate that by 2013 Venezuela was close to crossing the line again, in the opposite direction.

From The Economist, June 2015.

June 2015 was also the time of the last recorded comment  (that I am aware of) by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on Venezuela, at a rally organised by the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign (VSC).  In March 2016 he deleted a slew of content from his website including this pro-Chavismo article.

Circulated by VSC prior to June2015 rally.
His speech in June 2015 did not include anything - not one word - on the situation with hunger in Venezuela. Almost the entire focus was on supposed American imperialism.

Yet not only was there reporting on starving Venezuelans in June 2015 there were many earlier reports, such as this one from March 2014 about riot police preventing a 'empty pots march' on the Food Ministry.
More than 5,000 protesters banged pots, blew horns and whistles and carried banners in the capital to decry crippling inflation and shortages of basics including flour, milk and toilet paper. Similar protests were held in at least five other cities.

All over Venezuela, people spend hours every week queuing at supermarkets, often before dawn, without even knowing what may arrive.

“There’s nothing to buy. You can only buy what the government lets enter the country because everything is imported. There’s no beef. There’s no chicken,” said Zoraida Carrillo, a 50-year-old marcher in Caracas.

Silent witness

Also at that June 2015 rally were Labour MPs Richard Burgon and Grahame Morris and Labour MSP Neil Findlay.

I cannot find any comment on Venezuela by any of those three since last June.

This is symptomatic of a silence which has descended over the left on Venezuela from those who have previously and loudly cheered Chavismo. Symptomatic of that silence is the prominent British journalist and activist Owen Jones. Jones is very active on social media and he has been asked numerous times to explain his silence. He has not responded.

The timeline of the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign since last June demonstrates this sudden poverty of interest. It is like Venezuela has become kryptonite to a certain section of the left. Something which is no longer talked about in certain circles.

The group Labour Friends of Progressive Latin America, formed in May, also has nothing to say about Venezuela.


What has occupied these people, and others such as MP Diane Abbott, since they decided to forget about Venezuela and its starving children, is a so-called 'coup' in Brazil. That country - like Venezuela - has suffered from enormous levels of corruption which has involved politicians from all parties. Are you sensing a theme?

Whither the 'socialist economic model'?

What the Maduro government is doing is entrenching the political philosophy which created the food crisis in the first place. The same economic policies which these British left-wingers had previously cheered on.

Key to the entrenchment is a Spanish Marxist Professor called Alfredo Serrano Mancilla. Those policies include:
Expropriations, the seizure of businesses, “urban agriculture” on balconies, the soviet supply system and forced employment in the public agriculture sector are all a result of Serrano’s influence.
He is the coordinator of the Center for Political and Social Studies (CEPS), a Spanish anti-capitalist organization that provides political consulting and is closely associated with the left-wing party Podemos.

Mancilla is described as "a kind of ideologue of Chavismo." Maduro has called him "the Jesus Christ of the economy."

Mancilla, according to the Spanish newspaper El Nacional, has solidified the idea that the socialist economic model of the 21st century is unquestionable, and that any failure is the result of attacks from the opposition.

Does this sound familiar? Ring any bells?

Mancilla has said he wants to hide the crisis and not allow the entry of humanitarian aid. NGOs like Doctors Without Borders cannot act in Venezuela without asking permission from authorities.

Writing last month César Crespo noted that 'Chavismo' was always built around an uneasy alliance between heterogenous political groups, but "his long game was always establishing an “alternative” to capitalism." (This is what Western lefties fell in love with.)
Let’s not forget that even though initially Chavez vehemently denied being a Marxist and ran in 1998 as a third-way Caribbean Tony Blair, he openly embraced marxism soon afterwards, he had ties from the beginning with Venezuelan radical marxist groups who had even trained his handpicked heir, his economic guru was an ideological Marxist dinosaur, counted Fidel Castro as a mentor and considered Cuba a “sea of happiness”, and even had a soft spot for North Korea.  
His most important economic policies were the expropriation of the type of companies that no sane government on the planet runs, the establishment of draconian price controls, irrational labor regulations, and useless foreign currency controls. Chávez was a media savvy politician who knew how to pander to hip antiestablishment ideologies, but deep down the difference between 21st century socialism and the 20th century variant was always paper-thin.


Failing to mention that the worst legacy of Chávez (the destruction of the Venezuelan economy) is tied to his faith in discredited economic ideas is doing a favor to people like Alfredo Serrano, Pablo Iglesias or Jeremy Corbyn. Chávez is not just a cautionary tale about the pitfalls of populist institution-busting, he’s a cautionary tale for re-branding of Marxism as hip, anti-establishment ideology.

Question more

The unheard.
Yet that cautionary tale is no caution if it is unheard.

Writing in May the British author Nick Cohen railed against those who had backed Chavismo and were now silent.
The show is over now. Their fantasies fulfilled, the western tourists have left a ruined country behind without a guilty glance over their shoulder. Venezuela looks as if it has been pillaged by a hostile army, though there has been no war.
Yet during the Labour leadership campaign Corbyn has faced no questioning over Venezuela, not from his opponent or from any journalist in any of his many interviews. No one has waved pictures of starving children in front of his face demanding answers.

Neither is anyone demanding answers from those trade unions who continue - even now - to support the Venezuelan regime.

Ads in current VSC Bulletin.

Some Western lefties have looked inward at their previous support for Chavismo - here Useful Stooges covers the turn-around by some Norwegians.

It is cowardly of others, like Corbyn and the rest, to not follow suit and it is appalling that they are allowed to get away with it.

Edited to add (this is from a Corbyn rally and refers to a popular BBC show sold to a semi-commercial rival.):

See also:

Thursday 8 September 2016

Defend brave imprisoned Crimean Muslims!

Left to right: Ferat Saifullyayev [with a T-shirt reading: ’Banned again’]; Rustem Vaitov [’Crimean Tatars’]; Nuri Primov [Order carried out as commisioned]; Ruslan Zeitullayev [’The show is over’] Photo: Yana Goncharova

Reblogged with permission.


By Halya Coynash

The first sentences have been passed in Russia’s mounting offensive against Crimean Muslims, with the four Crimean Tatars all sentenced to real terms of imprisonment. The trial was critical since Russia is already holding 14 Crimeans, almost all Crimean Tatars, in indefinite custody on identical charges. The sentences could have been much worse, which is the only positive thing to say since the men were convicted, without any evidence, of involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir, an organization which is legal in Ukraine.

The verdict will, of course, be appealed, however the convictions had been anticipated. The ‘trial’ was, after all, taking place in the same Rostov military court which in August 2015 sentenced Crimean political prisoners Oleg Sentsov and Oleksandr Kolchenko to huge sentences, and the prosecutor had demanded long sentences in this case also.

The men were accused of involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir, a totally peaceful pan-Islamist organization which back in 2003 Russia’s Supreme Court declared ‘terrorist’, together with 14 other organizations. No grounds were given and the ruling was effectively concealed until it was too late for the organization itself, and human rights NGOs to appeal against.

There is nothing incriminating against Hizb ut-Tahrir, but there is also no proof that the four men are in fact members. All four men deny such involvement. Almost all the prosecution’s ‘witnesses’ testified essentially in the men’s favour. Russia then resorted to the testimony of a secret witness, who could not even be cross-examined properly. There were long delays while the man was clearly being told what to say. Even then he came up with totally contradictory statements. He could not remember the place or time, for example, but did remember every incriminating word that they were supposed to have spoken.

There was also the testimony of a former Ukrainian SBU officer who betrayed his oath and now works for the FSB. There is considerable evidence that he had long been waging a personal vendetta over two of the men, who had lodged a complaint back in 2012.

These trials are always cynical, since Russia, having never explained why it considers Hizb ut-Tahrir to be terrorist when no other country does, uses secret witnesses to convict people merely of involvement in it. They were especially lawless in Crimea, and not only because the organization is legal in Ukraine. The prosecution kept on referring to events from long before Russia had invaded and annexed Crimea and also concentrated on the men’s negative attitude to Russian occupation.

Aside from highly dubious ‘testimony’, there was evidence only of a ‘kitchen chat’, on the level of what kind of world order would be desirable.

While any conviction of four recognized political prisoners is to be condemned, the sentences could have been worse. Ruslan Zeitullayev had been charged with ‘organizing’ a terrorist organization (Article 205.1 § 1 of the Russian criminal code) with the minimum sentence for this 15 years. Nuri Primov, Rustem Vaitov and Ferat Saifullayev were accused of taking part in it (Article 205.1 § 2), with this carrying a minimum 5-year sentence. The prosecutor last week asked for a 17-year sentence for Zeitullayev, and 7 or 8 years for the other three men.

The court instead changed the charges against Zeitullayev from ‘organizing’ to ‘involvement’ and sentenced him to 7 years, while the other three men received the minimum 5-year sentences. Unfortunately, no Russian judges would have the courage to acquit people of politically motivated charges, but the minimum sentences in this case are effective confirmation of the lack of any grounds for criminal prosecution at all.

The men arrived in court for the sentences defiant and unbroken. Each had a different sign on their T-shirt: “Crimean Tatars”; “Yet again banned”; “The show is over” and “The order carried out [as commissioned]”. As they entered the glass cage, each man put tape over his mouth.

All four men are from Sevastopol and three of them have been in custody since January 2015. Saifullyaev was arrested slightly later, in April 2015.

It seems likely that Russia was waiting to see what the reaction would be to these arrests. There was unfortunately next to no reaction internationally and in February 2016, a further four men were arrested and remain in custody. The armed searches and arrests have now gained pace with 14 men in all held in appalling conditions and facing the same grotesque charges. At least one of the men – Emir-Huseyn Kuku is a human rights activist, almost certainly imprisoned for his monitoring of rights abuses.

Russia has finally come up against resistance to monstrous conveyor-belt ‘trials’ and sentences which it has been carrying out, wholesale, for the last 10 years. It was typical that the indictment in this case had been copied from a 2013 prosecution in the Russian Federation. Challenged by real lawyers who genuinely represent the men’s interests, the ‘case’ was seen in all its squalor.

The Memorial Human Rights Centre has, from the outset, followed such cases in the Russian Federation. It considers all men sentenced purely on the grounds of involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir to be political prisoners. Given the scale of the repression in Russia, it is frustrating that international rights organizations have long been silent.

That silence has continued since Russia began applying this repressive practice in occupied Crimea, with the armed searches and arrests clearly aimed at intimidating and silencing Crimean Tatars and deterring any other Ukrainian Muslims. Their treatment is appalling and often openly aimed at humiliating them.

As reported, Memorial HRC recognized Primov; Saifullayev Vaitov and Zeitullayev as political prisoners. In its statement it stressed that Crimea was territory which Russia was occupying and that it was accusing the men of involvement in an organization that is legal in Ukraine.


It is vital for them to feel that they are not forgotten, but it is also critical that Russia understands that it is being followed. Letters or postcards need to be in Russian, and should not contain any discussion of the cases or politics generally. If it is a problem to write in Russian, just copy-pasting the following will be fine.

Добрый день,

Желаю Вам здоровья, мужества и терпения, надеюсь на скорое освобождение.

Мы о Вас помним.

[Hello, I wish you good health, courage and patience and hope that you will soon be released. You are not forgotten.

Address (just copy-paste the address, with the name and year of birth of the person you are writing to).

Ruslan Zeitullayev

344010, Россия, Ростов-на-Дону, ул. Максима Горького, 219 СИЗО-1.

Зейтуллаеву, Руслану Борисовичу, 1985 г.р.

Rustem Vaitov

344010, Россия, г. Ростов-на-Дону, ул. Максима Горького, 219 СИЗО-1

Ваитову Рустему Мамутовичу, 1986 г. р.

Ferat Saifullayev

344010, Россия, Ростов-на-Дону, ул. Максима Горького, 219 СИЗО-1.

Сайфуллаеву, Ферату Рефатовичу, 1983 г. р.

Nuri Primov

344010, Россия, Ростов-на-Дону, ул. Максима Горького, 219 СИЗО-1.

Примову, Нури Владимировичу

The 14 Crimean Muslims arrested so far

Ruslan Zeitullayev

Ferat Saifullayev

Rustem Vaitov

Nuri Primov

Arrested in February 2016

Emir-Huseyn Kuku

Muslim Aliev; Envir Bekirov and Vadim Siruk

April 2016 Arsen Dzhepparov and Refat Alimov

May 2016 Enver Mamutov, Rustem Abiltarov, Remzi Memetov and Zevri Abseitov

See also: