Thursday, 25 May 2017

Theresa May has serious questions to answer on Manchester and Libya

I'm sure most of us are still coming to terms with the horrific bomb attack on Monday night on a concert in Manchester attended by thousands of young people. Quite a few people i've spoken to since have been scratching their heads wondering why somebody would target an event where many of those in attendance werent even adults. Well now we have learned of the bomber's links to ISIS it seems the actions of Salman Abedi makes sense (if murdering dozens of people can ever make sense). The medieval homicides of ISIS specialise in so called 'soft targets' and in recent years weddings, funerals and youth rallies have all been ripped apart by blasts from suicide bombers operating on behalf of this most beastly organisation. Course - and as i pointed out here after the Westminster bridge attack  - we have messrs George Bush and Tony Blair to thank in large part for the emergence of ISIS.

But amid the understandable and widespread horror generated by Monday's appalling events what mustn't be overlooked is that the attack also represented a massive failure of intelligence on the part of the british security services and Theresa May's government. Theresa May might be revelling in her seeming new role as an army general, putting thousands of troops on the UK's streets at the stroke of a pen.But her government and the UK's intelligence services have serious questions to answer with regards to the awful events of monday night.

In the last 24 hours we've learned that the suicide bomber Salman Abedi was known to the intelligence services to be an ISIS supporter - he even flew an ISIS flag outside his home. And we've also learned that numerous sources within the local muslim community had passed on concerns to the authorities about Abedi's interest in hardline jihadist ideology - in one example revealed on Newsnight last night a community worker passed on information that Abedi had expressed interest in being a suicide bomber.

Now if such a person undertook a 3 week trip to a country like libya (ISIS controlled one of its major cities as recently as december) you would think this would have warranted some scruitiny by the security services and the UK home office. A known ISIS sympathiser goes to a country whch has been a hotbed of ISIS activity to visit a family which includes a brother who is a member of ISIS. All of this would have sent some alarm bells ringing in MI6 MI5 and at the home office surely? Not a bit of it. Abedi returns to the UK and is neither interviewed at the airport upon his return nor was he monitored on his return to his home in Manchester.

The fact of the matter is if Abedi had been given the scrutiny he certainly merited those people he murdered on monday night would almost certainly still be alive. Such criminal negligence on the part of the May Government and the UK's security services cannot be allowed to go unchallenged, and while it's understandable such questions wouldnt have been asked in the immediate aftermath of monday's atrocity it's vital that May is pressed on this matter in what remains of the UK's general election campaign. Remember on such matters the buck stops with her. As British PM she sees all the intelligence, she knows who's on the 'watched list' and as PM she is ultimately accountable for the actions of the security services.

Speaking of Libya something occured in a british court a couple of weeks ago that in its own way is probably as baffling as the security service's failure to monitor Abedi.Two weeks ago the prosecution of the principal suspect in the 1984 killing of WPC Yvonne Fletcher - Saleh Ibrahim Mabrouk - was dropped 'on grounds of national security'. In layman's terms what happened was the British government refused to release the evidence it held on Mabrouk so forcing the collapse of the case against him.This was an absolutely astonishing development and it reminded me of the case of the irish republican informer Denis Donaldson a decade ago. Charges against Donaldson you may remember were dropped when it was revealed he had been spying on irish republicans for the british security services for decades. You dont have to be einstein then to work out why the UK government might want to protect Mabrouk ie was it protecting an asset? It's certainly all very odd.

But what we do know for sure is that in the space of two weeks Theresa May's government has intervened to protect the chief suspect in an infamous and unsolved killing and overseen one of the most massive failures of intelligence of recent times - a failure which cost 22 lives. Let's hope she is made to answer for such deleterious actions - and her pandering to the kipper vote over brexit - on June 8th.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

The Welsh economy will be on the dinner table this Xmas

I'm not sure who exactly it was who said 'the bigger the lie the more people will believe it' - it might have been Hitler or it might have been his chief propagandist Goebbels. But whichever prominent Nazi first spoke that infamous line what it amounted to was a boast by figures associated with the far right that it was very easy to deceive the masses with very big lies. And we only have to look to two seminal political events which took place last year - Trump's victory in the US and the brexit vote in the UK - to see that this ugly boast seems to be as effective now as it was all those decades ago. Now i could probably fill up this entire post listing the lies leave campaigners told during the referendum campaign - the most prominent and obvious among them being the lie that a vote to leave the EU would mean an extra 350 million pound a week would go to the NHS.

But another significant lie occured when the likes of Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage visited Wales during the campaign and stated that if there was a vote to leave the EU then the substantial EU funds Wales receives would be replaced by funds from Westminster. However courtesy of the Tory manifesto we now know this was another blatant lie. It is now clear that if the tories win the UK general election (as alas still looks likely) then Wales will have to bid for funds alongside the rest of the UK - funds that it used to get directly from the EU. And as with any bidding process of course there can be no certainty any welsh 'bid' for these funds would even be successful.

I've written previously on this blog of Wales heavy reliance on the EU for both funds and trade, and i make no apologies for likening the vote in Wales to leave the EU to 'turkey's voting for Christmas' Certainly what isn't in any doubt is that the Welsh economy is more dependent on the single market for its well being than any other part of the UK

Now with almost a year having elapsed since the vote took place the debate around the EU - driven by a hysterical anti european right wing British media - seems to have moved on from not just leaving the EU but walking away from its single market and customs union too. So in the general election currently taking place in the UK neither of the two largest parties - conservative and labour - will keep the UK in the single market or the customs union. Yes Labour has spoken of wanting access to the single market 'on the best possible terms' but unless you retain membership of the single market and the customs union it's difficult to see what such a promise would mean in practice? EU negotiators have made clear that if the UK wants to retain its current tariff free access to the single market it will have to accept the free movement of people but Labour has already ruled this out. So the current tariff free access companies and industries enjoy with EU member states will be off the agenda.

And what all this means in practice is that we are in the middle of a UK general election in which the two parties who have any chance of winning the election have a position on the EU which is even more exteme than many in the leave campaign held during last year's referendum (remember people like the aforementioned Johnson and Farage told us during the campaign that even if the UK left the EU it could still enjoy Norway's status and be a member of the EEA).

If youre someone who cares about Wales and the health of the Welsh economy then it cannot be emphasied often enough that the UK leaving the single market will be disastrous for Wales. 200,000 jobs in Wales are reliant on the single market and two thirds of all welsh exports are to the single market area. Particularly hard hit will be agriculture, still a very important industry in wales. For example a massive 92 percent of welsh beef and lamb exports are to the EU single market. So it really is no exaggeration to describe the EU single market as a lifeline for the Welsh economy. And as much as i want to see her majesty Theresa May and the party of the British ruling class defeated on June 8th it still has to be said that we face a state of affairs that whether its Theresa May or Jezza in number 10 next month Wales is set to lose that economic lifeline that is single market.

In the long term then it seems clear that the only hope for Wales future economic prospects is to follow Scotland in leaving the very unequal 'union' that is the UK and join the European Union.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

The next cyber attack could mean Armageddon

The cyber attack which paralysed the NHS in large parts of England and Scotland (Wales was thankfully untouched) and which infected scores of organisations and governmental agencies around the world was appalling. It forced the cancellation of scores of operations and the closure of doctors surgeries, saw ambulances diverted and resulted in the theft of confidential patient information. Let's just hope no one has lost their life as a result of this cowardly and criminal action

Course it's impact on the UK NHS could have been less serious but for cuts by the tory government to the NHS's security budget, and the tories and Phillip hammond are rightly being challenged to account for this ( lets hope public awareness of such cuts impacts on the tory poll figures).

But as awful as this attack has undeniably been it's very frightening and very sobering to realise that there is real potential for cyber attackers to wreak far more terrible havoc than anything we've seen over the last couple of days, as these recent headlines randomly plucked off google illustrate.

These headlines, and the shocking events of the last few days, are a grim reminder of the serious dangers posed by both nuclear weapons and nuclear power to life on earth and why anti nuclear campaigners shouldnt let up in our efforts to rid the world of both. Put simply the growing level of sophistication and cunning shown by cyber attackers shows they have the capacity to hack into countries nuclear weapons arsenals and into the computers of nuclear power stations.

It's over 3 decades since the movie Wargames popularised the notion of nuclear missiles being launched as a result of computer hacking - the subsequent advent of the internet together with our growing reliance on it makes such a terrifying possibility more real than ever.

Monday, 8 May 2017

A defeat for racists, xenophobes (and brexiteers)

The most progressive US politician of modern times - Bernie Sanders - called it right last night when he reacted to the result of the French Presidential election by tweeting "Congratulations to the people of France who today, by an overwhelming vote, rejected racism and xenophobia".

Make no mistake if the National Front candidate Marine Le Pen had won last night her victory would have been celebrated by the hard right and racists everywhere. As despite her carefully crafted efforts in recent years to distance herself and her party from its unambiguous neo fascist past Le Pen let her mask slip during the presidential campaign on numerous occassions. Most notably wth her efforts to downplay Vichy France's role in the extermination of France's Jews, her promise to withdraw free healthcare and free education from child immigrants and to outlaw same sex marriages and her proposal to halt all immigration to france and to deport hundreds of thousands of people. Certainly the prospect of the power of the French state in the hands of someone like Le Pen is a truly appalling prospect.

And this is why the Greek socialist economist and Syriza luminary Yanis Varoufakis lost no time in taking to task those muddle headed fools on the french left who were going to abstain in the presidential run off between LePen and Macron. Like myself Varoufakis is no admirer of neoliberalism and globalisation - he saw its effects on Greece - but by the same token he rightly observes that when it comes down to a choice between a leader of an avowedly neo fascist party and a centrist like Emmanuel Macron the choice should not be too difficult for anyone holding remotely progressive views

Le Pen's defeat also represents a huge blow to the long term project of neo fascists and the hard right of destroying the EU. A few months ago british brexiteers were all over social media telling us the EU was now 'doomed' and salivating at the prospect of Geert Wilders winning in the Netherlands and Le Pen in France - two politicians whose hatred for immigrants and muslims is matched only by their hatred for the EU. Well now the long held dream of many british brexiteers - and their Alt Right fellow travellers - of the EU falling apart is in tatters.Their chief standard bearer Marine Le Pen was crushed yesterday by an opponent who is an enthusiastic supporter of the EU. And when Le Pen and Wilders German counterparts are routed in this Autumn's elections in Germany the much hyped 'death of the EU' will be seen to have been 'greatly exaggerated' (to paraphrase Mark Twain). 
When Donald Trump won the US presidential election last november (courtesy of a last minute intevention by the FBI) Marine Le Pen was exultant, gleefully tweeting 'their world is crumbling'. Well after the events in France, the Netherlands and the likely events in Germany this Autumn perhaps it is the world of the anti EU hard right which is starting to 'crumble'? (brexiteers take note).

And that such people understand the significance of the defeat they suffered in France yesterday can be seen in the vitriol the likes of Nigel Farage and Katie 'gunboat' Hopkins directed at Emmanuel Macron (and his wife) last night Given Nigel Farage's characteristically crass invocation of the second world war perhaps someone should inform the bigoted dolt that it's Marine Le Pen who is the apologist for Vichy France.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

The 51st State

I did chuckle when i saw that earlier this week Theresa May took time out from hiding from the public in a scottish forest to put out this statement It appears there are fears in tory circles that 'russian hackers' might try to interfere in the UK general election on the direction of the dastardly Vladimir Putin. In reality we should take such claims with a pinch of salt and see them for what they - part of a carefully crafted strategy to build up public hostility to Russia as part of a deliberately engineered new 'cold war'. And there may also be an element here of Theresa May getting her excuses in early so to speak ie if the result of the general election doesnt turn out as she hoped she can blame those pesky russians. And yesterday she emerged from her bunker to add EU politicians to her list of evil 'foreign powers' intent upon hijacking the general election for their own insidious ends

But the irony of statements like this from Theresa May is that there is of course one foreign power whose intelligence services have been interfering in domestic UK politics for decades (and with the full approval of successive british government ). Namely the US and its intelligence service the CIA. The journal of parapolitics - Lobster magazine - has written extensively of CIA involvement in UK domestic politics over the decades

The US even has its own intelligence gathering listening post in Yorkshire at Menwith Hill Here intelligence from across europe is picked up and passed directly to the CIA and the White House, where it is then decided if this intelligence should be passed on to their UK counterparts. Despite what the likes of  Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and other stooges of US intel tell us there is nothing remotely 'special' about this relationship, indeed it's a wholly unequal one (as take note any post brexit US/UK trade deal will certainly be). It is not for nothing that over time the UK has earned the somewhat unflattering sobriquet around the world of being the '51st State'.

Needless to say the CIA and its assets in the british state will do all they can to ensure the continuation of this 'relationship', and as we have seen down the years with the treatment metered out to the likes of Tony Benn, Ken Livingstone and George Galloway any politician who challenges the so called special relationship can expect to be the subject of a sustained campaign of character assassination at the very least, and in the cases of Tony Benn and Ken Livingstone literal assassination it would seem.

A few years back the investigative journalist Duncan Campbell wrote in the newstatesman magazine of  a plan by british intelligence operatives to assassinate Tony Benn. While it was recently revealed that Ken Livingstone was targeted for assassination on at least two occassions

Both plots to assassinate Livingstone involved using the murderous services of Ulster loyalists, and thanks to the integrity of the likes of Colin Wallace and Fred Holroyd and the excellent research of Anne Cadwallader of the Pat Finucane center we now know that loyalist groups were in large part armed and directed by british army intelligence. So we may take it as read that the british intelligence services would have at the very least been cognisant of the plots to assassinate Ken Livingstone (and may even have had a hands on role in such plots - the loyalist killer Michael Stone has certainly hinted at as much). 

And by the same token those of us who support Scottish and Welsh independence should be under no illusions that these same intelligence services will do all they can to maintain the unity of the British state and to sabotage and undermine efforts to bring about independence for Scotland and Wales. And that in this they would receive the full support of their counterparts in US intelligence, as the CIA would certainly not relish seeing the break up of its puppet British state. Particularly as there is no certainty an independent Wales or Scotland would wish to be members of Nato. Indeed i would very much hope an independent Wales and an independent Scotland would follow Ireland's lead and opt for non aligned status, and that the only time we would ever see a welsh army deployed overseas would be in a peace keeping role for the UN.