“Wag the Dog” – The Sequel Set in Syria

Over the last couple of weeks a western-backed (and armed) military junta slaughtered many hundreds of Egyptians in broad daylight live on television. The death toll, still concealed, may have been thousands.

The west confined itself to disapproving words and calls for “restraint” on “both sides” – even though the victims were unarmed.

In Syria hundreds of people have just been slaughtered in circumstances which are entirely unclear, and the west is about to launch (in our case without parliamentary approval with the prime minister acting from a beach in Cornwall) a military attack with entirely unforseen consequences on Damascus.

There is a “Wag the Dog” element about this, and indeed the war of President Clinton’s penis satirised in that masterful award-winning movie has already proved a handy diversion from Egypt before its even started.

It is entirely implausible that the Syrian regime chose the moment of the arrival of a UN chemical weapons inspection team to launch a chemical attack on an insurgency already suffering reverse after reverse on the battlefield and steadily losing international support with each new video showing them eating the hearts of slain soldiery and sawing of the heads of Christian priests with bread knives.

In the absence of conclusive evidence one would have to believe that the Assad regime was mad as well as bad to have launched such a chemical attack at a time when it is in less danger than it has been for almost a year. I do not believe that Bashar is mad.

There is ample evidence that the Syrian rag-tag-and-bobtail insurgency, dominated by the most extreme fanatic franchises of Al Qaeda, has access to chemical weapons, indeed any weapons the rag-tag-and-bobtail coalition behind them can get to them.

The US has a long history of using such weapons – and worse – and not just in SE Asia. In the destruction of Fallujah in next door Iraq they slaughtered thousands with the same kind of cocktails.

Israel regularly shares its own chemical weapons stockpile with their neighbours in Gaza. Check the pictures of phosphorous gas raining down upon the UN schools and hospitals in Operation Cast Lead if you don’t believe me.

Britain introduced chemical weapons to the middle east in the first place, dropping gas on the “uncivilised tribes” of Iraq in the 1920s and wondering in parliament “what all the fuss was about”.

Does anyone believe that the foul dictatorships of the Gulf – like Saudi Arabia – wouldn’t give the Syrian rebels some of their chemical weapons? Especially if the purpose was to draw the big powers into the war?

Does anyone believe that a Syrian rebel army whose vile atrocities abound on YouTube wouldn’t use them, for the same purpose?

So now we wait for the summer-surprise attack on yet another Arab country by the former colonial powers. Another summer, another Muslim country under murderous bombardment by the last people on the planet whose motives are trusted by anyone in the Muslim world.

Meanwhile, the money, and the weapons, keep on flowing to the Egyptian junta. The blood of some people, as always, turning out to be of far greater consequence than the blood of others…

George Galloway MP
House of Commons

Design by Gayatri

Hollywood Goes To Iran

The fact that Ben Affleck is a schmuck does not mean he cannot produce or direct fine art.

We know the former because for some time our friend, the British writer and actor John Wight (‘Dreams That Die’ – 2013), was his body double. All day, every day in Hollywood, John would guard Affleck’s mark, act like him in innumerable rehearsals, without Affleck ever having nodded him a “thanks” or any gesture of appreciation.

Maybe he was in the zone, psyched up for his own performance? Alas, Affleck could not even manage a “hello” – “good morning” to his double off set.

We know the latter because we’ve seen “Town” and now we’ve seen “Argo”. Produced by Affleck and his buddy George Clooney, starring Affleck himself, who also directs, with Alan Arkan and John Goodman as veteran movie men.

Cinematically, it is a good and exciting film largely deserving its recent – mostly American patriotic – hype and heap of awards -albeit mostly from Western institutions. Content-wise, the movie is based on a true story, though but a snippet of a much larger one, namely the quarter of a century that the US buttressed the cruelest tyrant of them all.

The Shah of Persia was installed as a puppet ruler in Tehran after Washington and London organised, paid for and ultimately directed Operation Mongoose to overthrow the democratically elected Prime Minister Mossaddegh. The PM after all nationalised ‘their’ oil that happened to lie under his country.

Under the Shah and his terrifying secret service – Savak – mass torture, rape and murder were the norm. Secular opposition to his rule was exiled and impotent. Religious opposition retired to the Bazaar and the mosque to nurse its wrath.

When Ayatollah Khomeini – whose audio cassette borne revolution had preceded him – returned from exile to a tumult of millions of supporters, there was no doubt that the Shah would have to flee. The town just was not big enough for both of them, and the Shah was running out of sheriffs. He fled to the US, riddled with cancer, rotten with money – billions of dollars in ill-gotten gains.

Khomeini and his revolution, as George Bush might put it, were then “mis-underestimated”. By compounding their crime against Iran when US president Jimmy Carter gave the ailing Shah (and his money) political asylum, decades of animosity was  guaranteed. And the anti-imperialist anti-Zionist character of the Iranian revolution was hopelessly missed by the west who imagined Khomeini would not actually change Iran out of all recognition and that somehow there could be business as usual once the dust cleared. After all, the empires had dealt with Islamist revolutionaries before (and now, cf Syria) and had found them mainly obliging.

But these were a new type of Muslims. And Iranians in revolution, were a new type of people.

This background to the story was fairly depicted (minus the powerful image of Khomeini recording his audio tapes from Paris in the run up to the revolution) in, to the liking of Gayatri, a wonderful animation sequence at the beginning of the movie.

But it is not the background which will stay in the memory of most viewers by the end of it.

In the film’s foreground, Iranians become ranting, raving, literally salivating hangmen, torturers and all-round sadists while the Americans – escapees from the US embassy siege – hiding out in red-wine splendour at the Canadian Ambassador’s residence – are blinking, perplexed, “how could they do that to us, we were only trying to help” ingenues. Innocent bureaucrats or not, the US embassy itself was a nest of spies and was the centre of the Shah’s despotism. Its staff therefore accessories before and after the fact of a criminal conspiracy against the Iranian people.

Despite one’s self being caught in a 120-minute picture perceived from merely one end of the lens, it is difficult not to wish Affleck well as Tony Mendez, the Mexican-Italian-Irish (only the latter being the ancestral and apparent commonality with Affleck himself) CIA exfiltration specialist who hatches with Arkin and Goodman a clever plot to get the six American individuals out. It leaves George wondering if the CIA knew at the time that Iran was, and is still, a world capital of movies and that pretending the escapees were Canadian film people scouting out venues in the middle of a revolution for a sci-fi film, even starring half naked female Martians, was just the sort of crazy but true wheeze Iranians might go for?

Affleck drills the fugitive diplomats into their new persona in just 48 hours and yet it seems unlikely that such a large group of North Americans can possibly be sprung. When the CIA brings the Secretary of State options, which include bicycling to the Turkish border three days away, the sci-fi movie “Argo” begins to look like the least bad option of all.

The fictionalised snippet of a true story leaves the North American countries as heroes of the 444-day crisis – in which not a single American hostage was hurt or killed – whilst leaving its severe humiliation aside, never mind the victory and 8 billion US$ unfrozen assets on the Iranian part.

The operation was classified until 1997, thus none of us ever heard of it before that and few of us since. It is a classic example of how mountainous things can look in the historical moment yet such a molehill looking back. But that molehill has been made into a terrific film and we have to thank Affleck for that. Even if he has difficulty with that word himself.

Words by Gayatri & George

Extradition of Babar Ahmad is a stain on Britain’s reputation…

To the best of my knowledge I have never met Babar Ahmad, but I know his father well. Like his local MP, Sadiq Khan now a prominent New Labour frontbench spokesman, I have always been convinced of his innocence on the charges trumped up against him in the United States. And even more convinced that if he did commit any such crimes he must be tried before a jury on them in the country the crimes were allegedly commited in. His own country, Great Britain.

It is simply bamboozling that the British state could think one of its own nationals not worth prosecuting for alleged crimes, yet be prepared to imprison him for eight long years then extradite him on the Banana Republic terms of our one sided treaty, to the US instead.

Worse than bamboozling, it is a mark of shame upon our country.

Like most of the current crimes being carried out by the Cameron gang, this one can be traced back to the Blair-New Labour years.

It was David Blunkett, Tony Blair’s then Home Secretary, who secretly, behind parliament’s back concluded an extradition treaty with the US that Vanuatu would have turned up its nose at.

In short, Washington need not show a scintilla of evidence to extradite our citizens whilst we would find it harder to climb through the eye of a needle than to succesfully extradite one of their citizens to the UK.

Babar Ahmad is certainly not the first and will not be the last victim of this treaty.

Previous victims though are not Muslims, not facing bogus “terrorism” related charges, not likely to face Guantanamo style prison arrangements, and not likely to be banged up for the rest of their naturals as enemy aliens in the infamous US prison system. Most are not black.

Not that Babar Ahmad is even accused of involvement in terrorism of course, merely that he may (he denies it and I believe him) have, that most nebulous of terms, “glorified” it via a web-site.

His long calvary has not of course been confined to eight years, untried, in sundry UK prisons. The Metropolitan Police have already had to pay him a vast sum in compensation for the horrific torture he suffered at their hands when they dragged him from his bed, his petrified wife lying beside him, and savagely beat and mistreated him, insulted his religion, resulting in injuries more often seen in torture victims abroad.

Will Babar Ahmad receive a fair trial in the United States? If you believe that, you will believe anything.

Will Britain ever expunge this this stain from its hands? To paraphrase Shakespeare “all the perfumes of Arabia will not out that damned spot”.

| George |

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