Archive for July, 2016

Terrorists: Publish Their Photos or Not?

July 29, 2016

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Christopher Lee

29July London

A terrorist slits the throat of a French priest. Newspapers and broadcasters throughout the world publish and show high definition photographs of the murderer and his partner. We know what they look like, their names, ages, something of their history and a nice quote from the knifeman’s mother who says that at heart he was a good boy.

The leading French daily Le Monde has announced (after the Nice terrorism)  that it will not give terrorists publicity and so will not publish their photographs.  The murder of Father Jaques in Normandy confirms that decision according to Le Monde.

The argument at Le Monde is that by publishing photographs the paper is in some way glorifying the terrorism. The terrorist becomes a celebrity.

By taking such a decision Le Monde’s editors have stepped aside from the code of so-called journalistic impartiality. Most societies regard the hounding, capture and even the destruction of terrorism as a role for the military, the intelligence agencies, the policy and the elected politicians.

By banning pictures – in theory starving terrorism of the oxygen of publicity – Le Monde has joined the fight against terrorism or at the very least changed editorial policy in the hope of helping to capture those who killed Father Jaques.

Le Monde’s editor Jerome Fenoglio says “We have to do this for all victims of the criminal organisation known as the ‘Islamic State’.”

The decision of an admired newspaper to publish or not sets it aside from other papers in democratic society. The Turkish government has this past week ordered the shut down three news agencies, 16 television channels, 23 radio stations, 45 daily newspapers, 15 magazines and 29 publishing houses. It is not uncommon for a government to restrict the media in a crisis.  It is very uncommon for a newspaper to impose self-censorship.  Moreover, the Le Monde decision is not a one-off.  There could be more to come because the editorial board recognise IS and other groups are not passing ideologies.

As Fenoglio puts it, “After the Nice Attack, we are publishing no more images of terrorists, perpetrator of killings and massacres, to avoid potential posthumous glorification. Other debates about our practices [as a newspaper] are ongoing.”

What about other news outlets?  Le Monde has not been followed. Le Figaro says it shall wait and see. British papers will publish everything it can other than the act of killing.  Equally, the head of the Quilliam Foundation (a think tank of radicalisation analysts) says it has been a great decision.It reduces the propaganda value of the terrorist.

So what are the practical ambitions and consequences?

It is a purpose of IS to gain publicity from an act of violence. Publicity tells a global audience that IS can do something and is willing to do something and that no one is safe from such acts.  This induces a varying stage of terror – a large part of any terrorist ambition.

Secondly, by running pictures, names and backgrounds of the perpetrators the news outlet may spread among readers further disgust about what had happened but identity of the terrorist suggests a cause rather than an anonymous event of violence.

Withdrawing names etc reduces any possibility of a neutral public understanding of why as opposed to what has happened. In a bizarre sense, no picture no name removes an imagined chance of hero worship.

Yet all this is an argument of times past.

Le Monde’s decision is taken in an internet age where all is revealed and where there are few rules of what is right and wrong to publish.  The importance of the decision of Fenoglio and his editorial board is that a great newspaper is attempting to take part in what is a state venture – the prevention and eventually the destruction of terrorism.  It is not enough to rant in a newspaper editorial. Le Monde in its honourable way is being counted. Very few in these times will have the moral debate with themselves.

 

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US Nuclear Bombs Assigned to Turkish Air Force

July 19, 2016

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Christopher Lee

20 July 2016, London

Forty American nuclear warheads have been assigned to the Turkish Air Force in the event of a nuclear conflict.

Those warheads are already in Turkey today, 20 July 2016.

There are 90 US primary thermonuclear bombs based in Turkey at Incirlik.

The weapons are part of an American nuclear deployment of approximately 200 nuclear bombs in what is called the US Enduring Stockpile retained after the end of the cold war between the West and the USSR in the late 1990s.

The bomb is called the B61.  It has a maximum yield of up to 340 kilotons according to the US Department of Defense and US Department of Energy.

The latest version is called the bunker buster and was once assumed to be a weapon that could be made available to Israel in an offensive against Iranian nuclear weapon manufacturing.

One of the B61 pilot’s targets from Europe would be the Russian wartime bunker beneath 1000 feet of granite at Kosvinsky Kamen in the northern Urals.

The reason for the B61 bombs in Turkey is part of a rarely discussed NATO plan. During a past NATO heads of government meeting it was agreed that under a scheme called Nato Nuclear Sharing Policy, 180 B61 bombs would be deployed in five countries in Europe: Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Turkey.

Ninety B61 bombs were sent to Turkey and stored at Incirlik with an agreement that in time of war that moved towards “nuclear release” 40 of the bombs would be given to the Turkish Air Force.

This single arrangement demonstrates that Turkey is a major military member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Turkey joined NATO in 1952 just three years after the Alliance was formed on 4 April 1949. It has held a senior position at the table of equals ever since.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, President John F Kennedy agreed to remove US Jupiter ballistic missiles from Turkey in return for Russia’s climb down from the event that took the world close to nuclear war that year.

Today, NATO commands do not downplay the importance of Turkey that maintains the second biggest standing army (after the US) in the Alliance – around 640,000.  Turkey keeps its 8,000-troop high readiness 3rd Armour Corps entirely assigned to NATO. The Alliance Land Command HQ is at Izmir along with major NATO training centres and some 300 Turkish officers are in NATO commands.

Turkey may be the only Muslim state in NATO and may be more Asian to some than European but the country and its leadership however described is in no way fringe NATO – anyone who floats the idea of kicking out Turkey better read the list of its membership credentials, starting with the B61

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turkey: Now the clampdown. Just what Erdogan wanted

July 16, 2016

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Christopher Lee

16 July 2016, New York. A group of Turkish soldiers attempted to take over Turkey during the past 24 hours. Close on 200 people have been killed.  Others may die of their wounds. More than 1,500 plotters have been arrested.

Doctors in Freedom from Torture were warning of something like this earlier this year. There has been every sign of military rebellion and every indication of the consequence.

Some have suggested that the coup was controlled by government to allow it to sweep the country for other plotters in order to legitimise a new harsh line on political opponents.

The glorious triumph of the President’s return certainly gives an impression that the whole affair was stage managed.  Interesting that unarmed civilian government supporters against armed troops and it was all over in hours.

The severity of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s clampdown is so predictable that some might even think the military played into his hands – or worse.

However, what few understand is the military would claim it their legislated duty to stage a take over.

The Turkish military has the constitutional right to mount a coup – in time of internal tension. It has the right to hold the balance of power until such time that internal unrest is restored.

The Turkish military has history of claiming that right.

In 1960 Adnan Menderes the Prime Minister could not control the country.  The famous “colonels” commanded by Alparslan Turkes staged a coup d’etat Menderes wanted to discard reforms that would Westernise Turkey. The colonels executed the Prime Minister on 17 September 1960 and ruled until the following year.

Ten years later, Turkey under Prime Minister Salesman Demirel was in grave economic difficulties again. A series of moves including martial law under a civilian-military Cabinet and eleven different Prime Ministers failed to restore economic dignity to Turkey nor curb the corruption of the military. Thousands died.

In 1980 the military took over again with no great success other than increased corruption on their part. In 1997, through a threat from the colonels the Islamic Welfare Party-controlled government (now President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan was a member) was shut down.

Just three years ago 300 military were accused of plotting to remove Erdogan.

Could the colonels have even guessed they would be successful? If so, they would have needed bigger support from the rest of the army. There’s another aspect of this.

Just as the Shah of Persia always feared the mysterious figure of the Grand Ayatollah exiled in Paris – and as it turned out, rightly so – President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has long feared the American self-exiled cleric, Fethullah Gulen.  The Turkish president believes Gulen encourages unrest and even rebellion.  Gulen says no.  The Iran/Persian example is too good and too recent not to be paranoid about.

Whatever the conspiracies, it is now certain that the Turkish leader will run a massive security sweep and with it will come as organisation such as Freedom from Torture @freedomfromturture) have a regime of torture and literally, political terror.  That any leader in that country with that history as outline above will fully understand and even reluctantly make happen.

It might be remembered that Turkey is a NATO member.  The practice of political and social government in that country is by and large totally unacceptable within the Alliance. Moreover, because of the regional refugee crisis many European states have suggested that Turkey’s challenge to be admitted as a member of the EU could be speeded up. Watch what happens after what appears to have been this weekend’s fiasco.

The Turkish government response would only advance the case for never allow Turkey even candidate EU membership under its present leadership and way of government.

 

 

Blair: Watch The Eyes

July 11, 2016

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Christopher Lee

11 July 2016, Westminster

If it rains, Tony Blair will be blamed. He knows that. Maybe it is the only comfort he has. When so vilified the farce becomes, as farce is supposed to come, a relief.

On Wednesday and Thursday this week (13th and 14th July) the House of Commons will debate the Chilcot Report on the circumstances of going to war in Iraq, the war in Iraq and the the aftermath in Iraq.

It took seven years for Chilcot to produce his report for public distribution.  It took MPs and most journalists no further than day one of that inquiry to announce that Blair was responsible for the biggest and damned mistake in British foreign policy since Anthony Eden’s Suez venture with France and Israel in 1956.

The Chilcot Report has given politicians, media and those honestly and beyond that privileged insider group of British society to heap blame on Blair and so miss the important factor that others were as guilty.

Intelligence directors, military commanders and politicians failed to publicly say what they knew.  Some, especially generals and Intelligence officers were physically thrilled what was going on.  One director of Intelligence beamed at the thought of an exclusive source even though the source proved a liar.

But this week, none of that matters.  Much of the faults in the system, other than the instincts of many senior military to seek out war, have been corrected. And anyway, one and a half days is no time to debate such a report.

What is left for the mostly Honourable Members of the House (there are few Gallant Members nowadays) is the chance to say the report is not entirely about Blair but of course as far as they are concerned it is.

Some would even accuse the former Prime Minister of Contempt. As many of those accusers are and were Privy Councillors and knew or could have confirmed reports of what was sour about the way to war, including the legal aspect, they too should be paraded in front of the Speaker as guilty men and women by omission if not commission.

And that should be that if it were not for an interview this same week of Tony Blair appearing on Forces Television.

It is not in the Panorama tradition of We Name The Guilty Man.  The interviewer Kate Gerbeau, is far too thoughtful for that easy journalism.  She has tried to “get behind the eyes” as that wise Fleet Street reporter Cyril Ainsley use to say.

Quietly and with remarks rather than long questions Gerbeau nudges Blair to talks in a way we did not see in his two hour Question & Answer session with the media last Wednesday 6 July. This is not cosying up to Blair.  It does not set aside the interviewer’s credo of asking why is this bastard is lying to me? Cleverly, Gerbeau asks the other questions and so the set piece answers are abandoned.

Blair’s first important political achievement was to rid Clause 4 from the doctrine of his Party (including the back of the Membership Card) that promised (threatened) nationalisation of almost everything that sowed a profit. That made Labour electable. His other achievement?  Probably to bring with the Americans and the Irish themselves some agreement to the Northern Ireland “Troubles” – the Good Friday Agreement.

Gerbeau asked him could it be that these two huge achievements could be forgotten because of Iraq. Watch the eyes. Blair hardly shrugs.  That, that is the way it is. What follows is something most do not consider in Blair.

Blair never sets out his stall.  Whatever he has achieved has been achieved.  He asks no medals.  What has soured is all that matters. Only to him? Gerbeau wonders about his family. Fathers might imagine what it must be like to look your son in the eye after a day of being accused of war crimes. Blair? Look at the eyes. It hurts. But that is between them. For Blair it is about the other families – tens of thousands of Iraqis, 179 British.

This interview is not to gather a sympathy vote for Blair. A journalist meets the most illustrious people often in the most humiliating circumstances.  The reverse is true and a follower of TB may think Blair got what was coming.  It is after all something like democracy. Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.  That is what this is.

The only people who do not get this end of inquisitorial democracy are the people Blair is talking to in this interview.  Throughout the whole Chilcot week the one group ignored were the (mainly) soldiers who are serving today. They look at Chilcot and ask what would happen to us in similar circumstances. They hear former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev saying today that NATO is being provocative.  What happens next? Chilcot has the answer on paper.  Today’s Blairs do not do theory. They say Go or Do Not Go.

Blair said Go. In this interview of chemistry and inquisitiveness, watch the eyes as Ainsley would have said.  It is quietly scary because truly, not much has changed.

French Terrorists in London? The view of moderate commentary

July 5, 2016

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Christopher Lee

5 July 2006, Westminster

A highly respected commentator and former BBC World Service editor warned a group of us that French people may not be as innocent of terrorist ambitions as appears.  He said a French passport could hide a Moroccan activist.

His view was that there are too many French in the south east of England.  He warned also that 34 million Turks could get into the south east and at least the same number from Bulgarian. As a consequence he predicted that within a decade the south east would be ruled by Islamic law.

Needless to say that this respected BBC commentator (BBC inasmuch that he regularly appears on BBC news programmes) lives in the south east of England.  He has lived in England for half a century since he arrived from the Middle East. He is a quietly spoken man, a shrewd commentator. He is uncompromising in his opinion and considers his view a warning that sadly will come true.  Indeed, he thinks it may be too late to do anything.

What he says perhaps splits the Brexit view neatly for reality. The immigration debate was not about white Europeans coming to England. It was about something far more sinister.  The English in particular in the south east are against not, in this case the French, but Muslims. Simple as that.  Islam is seen as threatening.

But recently, the verbal attacks on French, German and even Italian (everyone surely love Italians) in London and Bristol have increased. A French academy school gates scene in SW London recently was assaulted with drive-by shouts of Go Home We’re Not Europeans Now.

Staff in a London restaurant say that late home going is dangerous – at least unsettling.

But why should we be surprised? This referendum on Europe like no other national event questioning Britain’s place in continental Europe has shown a not very agreeable fact: the English (forget the others) are not very nice people.  They are small minded. They do not like foreigners – including and increasingly, Scots.

It will all die down as the political and financial situation moves on we are told.  Will it? No it will not. The BBC commentator was adamant. The south east of England is under threat. There will be rape, pillage and worse of literary images and proportions.

Would you send home the French – 2 million in England he said. No, he would not.  But he said the authorities should start weeding them out.  Perhaps we could devise yellow arm bands to tell those lovely middle class southern English which people were not English enough to sleep peacefully in their beds.

It has come to this. It will not go away.

THE UK RAPED – BY THEIR OWN LEADERS

July 3, 2016

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4 July 2016

Westminster

 

On this Westminster morning it is now clear that the United Kingdom is ruled by political crooks from the Prime Minister down.  The roll call is easy to identify and headed by three men who must now disgust the British electorate.

David Cameron had no need to call a referendum.  Only a handful of Tory backbenchers demanded it. To placate them, Cameron promised a referendum. There is no evidence that the electorate wanted a referendum and no evidence that public truly understood the implications nor what was going on.

If Cameron had understood this (or cared) he could have easily got out of the electoral promise on the grounds that having announced he was going then his successor should have called the referendum.

Alternatively, Cameron either wanted out of Europe but said the opposite for political reasons – or is a fool.  Cameron is not up to much, but not a fool.

Boris Johnson is an intellectual without parallel in this affair but switched to the Brexit camp because he saw the chance of becoming PM. He was willing to wreck his Party, get rid of Cameron and split the country he professed to love to achieve his aim. Not an honourable man but that is too much to ask of any of them.

Michael Gove has long been seen as a more than efficient minister but also as an extraordinarily scheming man with no loyalties, spiteful (ever since the days as a columnist and more obviously as a member of the BBC Radio 4 Moral Maze team where he succeeded to Professor Dr David Starkey’s image as the nastiest man in Britain. Starkey carried that crown easily because of his intellect).  Grove is simply offensive, nasty and spiteful in his three images. His position changing, stabbing of his friend Boris and disloyalty to his friend Cameron (he is a godfather of one of the Cameron children) plus the ease with which he does his wife’s political bidding sets him aside as one of the despicable figures in British politics in most living memories.

And of the United Kingdom as a peoples?

The UK is split.  The Euro vote instead of creating a way forward has settled the United Kingdom into a civil war beyond any idea of political dispute.

The Brexit campaign was mostly for the nastiest reasons: not immigration as a political exercise but keeping people out – mostly East Europeans and Muslims. The divide is not entirely political.  Friends and even families are split over the result. The country is angry.

Political but not personally it will all recover. The United Kingdom will be reunited although the friendships destroyed will never repair.

The deepest rift is the most dangerous; on whatever side people voted the actions of Cameron for setting a hare that had no need to run, Gove and Johnson displaying naked ambition and ruthless and spiteful regard for each other and the electorate (they are not interested in people without a vote) has wearied and disgusted those same people of the democratic process and the men and women they vote for.

For the moment the people of Britain find the process of democracy and worse, the people who claim the highest offices a horrid way of this island world. The British have been raped of the pleasure of admiration and pride in their identity. That is why Cameron, Gove and Johnson must never again be believed nor their like – and there are many in their like.