British imperialism: the uses of war and terrorism

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This article, written by a close sympathiser of the ICC, shows that for all its political weaknesses, the British ruling class is still able to defend its imperialist interests and is as strong as ever when it comes to hypocritical justifications.

The big lies

In many ways it's useful to have a Foreign Secretary who's widely regarded as being a bumbling, incompetent fool because it tends to hide the gravity of the lies, deceit and involvement of “Perfidious Albion” in a number of wars, some of which, as in Libya, involve the direct support of al-Qaida type fundamentalists. As well as "The war on terror", there's a sort of "war alongside terror" where the latter is used for British imperialist interests. Thus the week that Boris Johnson was widely mocked across the mainstream and social media for asking for his own aeroplane, he quietly announced "the expansion of the UK's role in Yemen. The Foreign Secretary said British personnel will provide 'information, advice and assistance' to help Saudi Arabia..." (Independent, 24.5.18). That the increasingly aggressive involvement of the British military in yet another shocking and bestial war in the Middle East should arouse so little comment in the news media - as opposed to the "plane" story - shows just how subservient it is to the interests of British imperialism. Similarly, up to September 2017, the British have launched 1600 air-strikes in Syria and Iraq, often on densely populated areas; three thousand, four hundred bombs or missiles have been launched[1] and there's not been one civilian casualty - according to the Ministry of Defence. The democratic state of Great Britain and its media's perpetration of the lies of capitalism have nothing to learn from Goebbels.

At present, Britain is militarily engaged in a number of wars: Afghanistan (where, following a recent request from President Trump, Britain is considering doubling the number of troops there), Iraq, Syria and Libya (where the UN said on May 30 that fighting had reached "unprecedented levels") and has troops active in Sierra Leone, Malawi, Somalia, Rwanda and Kenya. There are probably other "engagements" that we are not aware of; in East Africa, for example, where Turkish, Iranian, Saudi, Israeli and Emirati forces are increasingly present as imperialist war "organically" spreads from the Middle East to Africa. The totalitarian nature of the British state is indicated in the deceit of government ministers who assured us that the British role in Syria was limited to its (entirely benign, it insists) air-strikes  - and then a few days later a British Special Forces soldier was killed on the ground in Manjib. Another outright lie promoted by Britain is that of the "moderate, democratic, opposition to Assad" which they back and which doesn't appear to exist. The British, through the Foreign Office, have also actively supported the Syrian "White Helmets"[2] and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (based in Coventry), with the former praised by Prime Minister May and presented as a heroic, life-saving force when in reality it's closely linked to the Foreign Office and works with the permission of the jihadists. The White Helmets, whose website calls for more western bombing in Syria, must have some sort of accommodation and modus operandi with ex-al-Qaida outfit, Jahbet al-Nusra which remains a significant jihadi force in Syria.

The Labour Party contributes to the deliberate underestimation of the role of British imperialism in Syria with its right wing calling for the "protection of civilians" through more British bombing, while on the left the "Stop the War Coalition" calls for Britain not to get involved, behind which lies its objective support for Russian and Syrian imperialism. Both obscure the real implication of British imperialism in Syria, the first by asking for what's already happening on a larger scale and the second bringing discredit to any critique of Britain's role in the war while actually underestimating it.

An example of this is the reported chemical attack on the Syrian city of Douma on April 7, which the US, France and Britain responded to with further air strikes on Syrian positions a week later. Why the Syrians would drop chlorine or sarin on Douma when the jihadists were giving up their heavy weapons and being bussed out the next day is a legitimate question. The war is increasingly irrational in Syria and this may just be another irrational act. But there are many doubts about the western narrative and some of these are expressed by reporter Robert Fisk, who, along with two Syrian friends, toured Douma with no minders and no cops after the event and found little evidence of a gas attack[3] and scepticism about this from the local population. He wanted to talk to the White Helmets but all of them had left the population and fled in Russian-controlled buses to the jihadi enclave of Idlib, where various Saudi and Qatari-backed fundamentalist military units are holed up. The "gas attack" could have been the result of a firestorm and brick dust - the rub is that the effect of brick dust from all the bombings in Iraq and Syria will probably kill many more people, in the short, medium and long-term, than all the explosions and gas attacks themselves.

Enemies of the state

On the present political problems and general historical weakening of British imperialism there are two articles in World Revolution no. 379, "Churchill and the Brexiteers: the delusions of British imperialism" and "Britain, the ruling class divided" which cover these issues in some depth. But the "deep state", the less visible part of the totalitarian state, adjusts somewhat and continues its dirty work in the generalisation of warfare and instability in what it sees as the "defence of the national interest", i.e., the defence of British imperialism, the defence of a decaying capitalism.

On top of this decay, and a result of it, sits the capitalist state and its propaganda machine. Any criticism of the British position and its involvement in the Syrian war (and others) is not tolerated and those that make any critique are labelled as "conspiracy theorists" and "pro-Assad apologists". Thus The Guardian began a campaign against the Sheffield University professor, Piers Robinson[4] and his academic colleagues, who have made meticulous analyses of the media coverage of British wars over the past decades, when they raised some pertinent questions over Syria and the circumstances around the increasingly mysterious Skirpal poisoning. The Times took up the witch-hunt and the BBC inevitably followed suit, with an interviewer asking one of the "dissidents" if it wouldn't be better if he just kept quiet given he was supporting Russia. The new Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson, wound up the issue earlier in the year with his warning that a Russian cyber attack would "kill thousands, thousands and thousands" of Britons.[5]

On "conspiracy theories" ex-left wing "firebrand" Jack Straw said this as the Labour British Foreign Secretary: "Unless we all start to believe in conspiracy theories and that the officials are lying, that I am lying, that behind this there is some kind of secret state which is in league with some dark forces in the United States ... There is simply no truth in the claims that the United Kingdom has been involved in rendition, full stop".[6] But they have, and the British government have admitted it and apologised to Abdulhakim Belhadj, who was kidnapped, rendered and tortured along with his pregnant wife at the hands of the then British ally, Libyan leader Gaddifi. We don't need conspiracy theories to understand that the British state murders and tortures, plots and schemes along with the best of them, and that it's reasonable to assume that the Belhadj case, fortuitously discovered, is the tip of the iceberg.

Blood on their hands

Just over a year ago, Manchester Arena was bombed by a terrorist, twenty-three people were killed and 139 injured, half of them children. The British security services said that the jihadi bomber, Salman Abedi, was "known" to them. He was more than "known" to them: he, his family and their Manchester-based fundamentalist cohorts of ruthless killers were "assets" of the British state, working for them and their imperialist interests in the war in Libya. In the language of the state these casualties were what are generally called "collateral damage" in foreign wars. MI6 hasn't had much luck lately with the Libyans: in 2014 several hundred Libyan mercenaries (the MoD coyly called them "cadets") being trained by the British at an army base in Cambridgeshire were sent back home after they went on a violent rampage which included the sexual assaults of women and the rape of a local man.[7] However, good use of them has been made in the past with many credible reports of the CIA and MI6 transporting Libyan fundamentalists and their heavy equipment through Turkey in order to fight Assad's army in Syria along what the CIA called "the rat-run". Seymour Hersch, the investigative journalist who fleshed out this story, also reported in 2016 that there were plans in the US to send Sarin gas from Libya in order to set up the Assad regime with the blame for an attack, athough that's not been confirmed.[8]

None of this is aimed at giving any support whatsoever to the butcher Assad or his imperialist backers, the Russians, but rather to demonstrate concretely the ruthlessness, mendacity and reality of the so-called democracy of "Great Britain". We shouldn't be at all surprised that while it pursues "The war on terror" it works hand and glove with the terrorists, even if in places one stage removed. In the recent past it has given enormous direct support to the Muslim Brotherhood and in the late seventies, MI6, the CIA and Pakistani intelligence (ISI) were responsible for setting up, financing, training and directing the Mujahedeen in order to fight the Russians in Afghanistan. In short, they effectively created al-Qaida. And the desperation of the British state to defend its interests, particularly against the working class, come what may, can be gauged by examining its role and that of its intelligence services in response to the Russian Revolution. Its actions and its backing of various butchers and reactionary elements fighting against the revolution can be read in the ICC article "The world bourgeoisie unites against the October Revolution".[9]

These elements of material and moral decay, already apparent a hundred years ago, apply even more to every state today as the capitalist system rots on its feet and drives itself towards war and destruction, and us along with it. The current problems in the bourgeoisie's political apparatus and the long-time weakening of Britain's position in the world have not reversed the tendencies towards the strengthening of the totalitarian state - on the contrary they contribute to it. The British state has had plenty of practice in making the world a hostile environment for the whole working class.

Baboon 11.6.18

[1]  Middle East Eye, October, 2017.

[2]  The US has recently stopped funding the White Helmets but Britain has increased it through the "Conflict, Stability and Security Fund" (CSSF) led by the Foreign Office. Private contractors provide the training for the White Helmets on behalf of the British government. Also see Max Blumenthal "How the White Helmets Became International Heroes While Pushing US Military Intervention And Regime Change In Syria" https://www.alternet.org/grayzone-project/how-white-helmets-became-international-heroes-while-pushing-us-military.

Also important in this respect is "The Guardian, White Helmets and silenced comments", showing how the "liberal" media can be the most rabid defenders of the state: https://www.google.com/search?q=the+guardian+white+helmets+and+silenced+comments&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-b-ab  

[3]  https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/syria-chemical-attack-gas-douma-robert-fisk-ghouta-damascus-a8307726.html

[4]  See "War, propaganda and smears, an interview with Professor Piers Robinson" (WSWS) http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2018/05/26/robi-m26.html

[5] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/01/25/crippling-russian-attack-britains-infrastructure-could-kill/.  Williamson has since excelled himself in thumping the war drums by saying that defence cuts could lead Britain going to an immediate nuclear strike option (Politics Home, May 24, 2018).

[6] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/9197844/Torture-casts-a-ghastly-shadow-over-our-countrys-reputation.html

[7] https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/nov/04/lansley-criticises-ministry-defence-serious-failure-libyan-military-training

[8] https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2016/04/28/seymour-hersh-hillary-approved-sending-libya-sarin-syrian-rebels.html

[9] http://en.internationalism.org/international-review/201805/15143/world-bourgeoisie-against-october-revolution