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British Politics

Gordon Brown sent shivers down the spines of many ordinary citizens. Yes, in reaction to Israel abusing British sovereignty by using British passports to assassinate a senior Hamas official Brown is going to set up a inquiry.

Taxpayers all over London could be heard collectively groaning as another inquiry gets added to the “Load of old Chilcot” and “Have you seen my Butler?” inquiries.

Yes, an inquiry. Brown did not think it was suitable to call the Israeli ambassador to Downing Street. After all just because many Israelis are all saying it is Mossad and the Israeli government has not denounced it does not mean it was Mossad! Obviously there are thousands of people/organisations/countries with the desire, capability and technique to assassinate a senior Hamas official with a team of operatives with European passports.

Brown has already made sure that an escape route is well established:

“The evidence has got to be assembled about what has actually happened and how it happened and why it happened, and it is necessary for us to accumulate that evidence before we can make statements.”

The reality is that clear evidence will never be obtained, it never is in these types of operations. So knowing this the Guardian reported:

Earlier, the Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, broke his government’s silence saying there was no proof that Mossad was behind the killing. However, he did not explicitly deny any Israeli involvement, saying his government had a “policy of ambiguity” on intelligence issues…Lieberman said he believed that relations with Britain would not be damaged. “I think Britain recognises that Israel is a responsible country and that our security activity is conducted according to very clear, cautious and responsible rules of the game. Therefore we have no cause for concern,” he said.

Lieberman said it: no cause for concern.

Eleven European citizens, six of them British the rest Irish, French and German passports enter Dubai and assassinate senior Hamas figure Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. Of course they were not European citizens, they were Mossad agents.

Such is the murky world of assassinations in this ravaged region that the Dubai police will no doubt not find out who did it conclusively. But all fingers point to Mossad.  Haaretz Correspondent, Yossi Melman has argued that the operation was done Mossad style:

The bits of information and the camera images suggest methods used by the Mossad that Mishka Ben-David wrote about in detail in his novel “Duet in Beirut.” Ben-David, who served as the intelligence officer for the Caesarea operations branch of the Mossad, insists that his novel is a work of fiction. However, it is obvious to all that the experience he accumulated in the Mossad over the years appears in his book.

There are those of course that will try and state the weak arguments that it was not Mossad. Like the appalying commentary by James Hider that suggests there are plenty of “red herrings”. But then changes his mind and that no it must be Mossad, Hider argues: “First of all, there was the professionalism of the 11-strong hit team, whose movements were revealed this week by the Dubai police.” (My emphasis).

Well yes, Mossad’s wonderful professionalism. They have done some pretty spectacular acts over the years. But they have also been caught red handed a few times trying to steal passports. New Zealand imposed diplomatic sanctions against Israel and suspended high-level contacts in 2004 because of two Israeli citizens trying to obtain fake New Zealand passports. Helen Clark, then Prime Minister, stated that it was a violation of New Zealand sovereignty.

Britain will not do the same. They will bury this issue, as in 1987 when a similar incident happened. In 1987 as many reports from Britain are pointing out Israel also forged British passports. The Associated Press reported at the time:

Britain said today that Israel had admitted using fake British passports, and a newspaper said the documents were intended to help agents of the Israeli secret service attack foes abroad. … a ”furious” diplomatic argument between Israel and Britain, with Israel at first refusing to apologize.

The last sentence says it all. There is no doubt a similar stage show will again be put on by the foreign office. Despite the flagrant abuse of British sovereignty and an act that only endanger British citizens, nothing will be done. Israel will not be messed with. Such confidence is illustrated by the fact that Israel would use British passports in such an audacious attack.

British officials will again view this issue  one dimensionally: through Israeli security and Israel protecting its citizens.

The “Israeli security” doctrine is again making British citizens less secure.

At the bottom of a British foreign office press release reporting that Britain is granting the Britain-Israel Research and Academic Exchange £29,000 it adds a sweet little message that Foreign Office Minister Ivan Lewis:

… welcomed Israel’s response to the Goldstone report and urged Israel to initiate an independent investigation into the allegations of abuses during the Gaza conflict.

Lewis is applauding Israel for burying a report that painstakingly details Israeli war crimes during its Gaza onslaught. The British government is formally congratulating Israel for avoiding accountability for the death of one thousand one hundred civilians. Bravo Lewis! Hurrah for Britain! Or is that Israel? And how can anybody in their right mind state that Israel itself should set up an “independent” inquiry.

Lewis has said previously when asked in parliament if the UK would be voting for the Goldstone report:

The UN General Assembly in New York considered the Goldstone report on 5 November 2009 where we made our position clear: some aspects of the report were flawed-particularly its failure to acknowledge fully Israel’s right to protect its citizens, and the inadequate attention paid to Hamas’ actions. We eventually decided to abstain on the resolution, with France and 42 others, because voting for the resolution would have meant endorsing the report and ignoring its flaws. However, the issues raised by the report were very serious, and they should be credibly and independently investigated.

On what basis Lewis makes these statements is completely unclear. To add some context according to B’Tselem 1,385 Palestinians were killed, 762 of whom did not take part in the hostilities. Nine Israeli’s were killed by Palestinian fire. The Goldestone report clearly condemned Hamas for firing rockets against Israel. As Tony Judt puts it:

To be sure, the Goldstone Report also itemizes the crimes of Hamas, notably in its campaign of rocket-firing into Israel. But the scale of human rights abuses by Israel vastly outdoes anything Hamas could hope to have achieved: Israeli civilian victims of Hamas rocket attacks numbered less than ten. The attack on Gaza by the IDF resulted in at least 1,100 Palestinian civilian deaths. The major perpetrator of human rights abuses in this conflict is without question the State of Israel, and Justice Goldstone records as much.

So why Lewis is Britain supporting an “independent inquiry”? How exactly is the Goldstone report not independent? How does the report not “acknowledge fully Israel’s right to protect its citizens” despite the fact it was written by a self confessed zionist and condemned Hamas for firing rockets into Israel? Is the ability to kill 1,100 civilians with no accountability the right to protect your citizens.

Back to Judt:

In the first place he [Goldstone] is not only Jewish but has close family links to Israel and the Zionist ideal. Secondly, Richard Goldstone has an impeccable resumé as a critic of racism, prejudice and repression — most notably as an active opponent for many years of the apartheid regime in his native South Africa. During the ’90s he served as Chief Prosecutor at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunals dealing with human rights abuses, crimes and genocide in the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda. It would be hard to fictionalize a more convincing biography for an engaged and ethically uncompromising jurist in the great tradition of Jewish political activism. Goldstone’s standing in the world will only rise as a consequence of Israel’s short-sighted attempts to discredit the man, the report and the facts. That our own government has chosen to join in this unworthy exercise should be a source of deep embarrassment and shame.

Whose interests are you serving Lewis/Brown? This goes to the heart of what is wrong with the foreign policy of Britain in the Middle East. I am deeply embarrassed and ashamed of this labour government. Spineless directionless cowards does not even come close to describing them.

Again we see a foreign policy that blindly follows and purses short-term Israeli security interests above all else. Marc Lynch describes what could happen if a more intelligent policy was approached towards the report. The legacy of Blair continues of which more will come later…

All this comes as the Goldstone report is fully buried as any sense of justice and human rights is completely eradicated as Ban Ki Bloody Useless actually applauds Israel for the probing of its actions in Gaza. Putting to sleep his own report.

DSS NEWS QEII Conference Centre in London: The proceedings began much as everyone expected with Lord Chilcot giving Blair direct questions about the legality of the war. Blair put up his usual admiral defence rebutting all of Chilcot’s accusations:

Blair: Look, you know Saddam Hussein was a nasty terrible man. He was a threat to the region. He used WMDs on own people….you know, he…. he was not a pretty straight sort of guy.

Chilcot: But the argument you made at the time Mr Blair was that Saddam’s possession of WMDs was the reason for war not only because he was evil.

Blair: Look, President Bush and I both thought that if we did not take him out now he would be just sitting there making WMDs day in and day out. We could not allow this to happen. I mean after threatening to remove Saddam for having WMDs we could not then just sit there. Now…come on lets be honest, we really gave him the impetuous to have WMDs because, you know, we are not going to go removing Dictators that could actually deploy weapons that can, well, cause mass destruction. I mean that would be stupid.

Both the panel of members of the inquiry and Blair went back and forth on the arguments for and against the war in painstaking detail. Neither side was really showing any progress. The tension of the inquiry was lapsing into boredom. Then after 45 minutes Blair appeared to undergo a sudden change:

Blair: Look mistakes were made. That is clear. I mean I really pushed George to get that second resolution to make it OK. He did’nt want to but it was I that convinced him. We really had a strong moral argument for the war. We were the good guys. … Saddam was a really really evil horrible man. He used WMDs on his own people! I had to get rid of him. His time had come. But then everyone kept on talking about the legality of the war. But we could build a democracy could you imagine a democracy!  I know people told me it was risky. But he who dares wins, right? But then we invaded and it went so wrong. I did’nt listen to those that warned me. They told me how this would be a disaster and now thousands of people have lost their lives. And it was supposed to Saddam that was the mass murderer not me! …[Blair looks up and Chilcot] Oh Chilcot what have I done. Is it possible that I was the evil one? Is it really? Am I the criminal? Forgive me! Forgive me! Iraq Britain the world forgive me and George for what we have done! Please please Lord Chilcot arrest me!

Chilcot: Come come none of that now. Seriously Mr Blair please get back in your chair. [Chilcot clears his throat] Well lucky for you Mr Blair this is not a court room just an inquiry. [Again Chilcot clears his throat] So it does not really matter…urm if [Chilcot looks at Blair who now looks as if he is about to cry]… if you are a criminal or not. Tut tut now, theres a good chap, stop crying. Come come, its OK…. Yes Mr Blair, well. Urrm I think a cup of tea for Mr Blair? Someone? Thank you. Ok now. Now come Mr Blair be a good sport. Yes yes SILENCE everyone. I think we can concluded that…. well…I think it is clear that this inquiry has learnt the way decisions were made and actions taken, we have establish as accurately and reliably as possible what happened, and also identified lessons that can be learnt. So bravo everyone. Well indeed, thank you everyone inquiry closed.

The startling scenes left everyone quite bedaffled at the inquiry. Alistar Campbell who was at the back of the gallery lost complete control when Chilcot brought proceedings to a close. He was heard shouting as he was dragged out by police. “You fucking English bastard, you fucking pussy. I knew you were’nt a real fucking Scot. But we got that evil motherfucker and I proud. You here that you fuckers I am really proud! And Blair you fucking morally grey bastard you better learn what I taught you. You have to pick sides in this world. You are with the fucking good guys or the fucking losers.”

After the hearing, Jack Straw issued a press release saying that he had been duped into the whole thing and it was not his idea to begin with anyway. Lord Goldsmith announced that the war did not after all have any sort of legal grounds and he was forced by Mr Blair to say that a war would be legal. Elizabeth Wimshurst stated that she would be running for parliament under the slogan “I told you so”.

Iraqis in Baghdad were shown pulling down statues of Blair in Baghdad square. In the US Barack Obama refused to comment. George Bush stated that this was a war between good and evil. “If Tony thinks he is evil now, well shucks this is confusing. Because when I was with him he was definitely good guy but now he says he is evil and he did evil things like Saddam? Well shame on him. And shame on Saddam. Because you know two evil guys make a good guy.”

A politician that has actually seen active combat, set up his own organisation, is a Harvard professor and likes talking to ordinary people is the image that Rory Stewart has carefully constructed (see this great profile by the Guardian as well). He likes to call himself the “walking politician”. He walked some 5,000 miles through Afghanistan, Iran, India….Brad Pitt has apparently bought the movie rights to his life and he is creating a sensation in the various magazines in the US (a profile in the National Geographic, articles in the NYRB and a profile in the or THE New Yorker). Now Stewart is bringing the show home. Standing as a Conservative MP in Bracknell and the Border.  Arise “Rory the Tory”.

Almost everyone in Britain (including myself) is gulping it down. I never thought I would want to see an Etonian educated Tory get elected or someone Craig Murray the activist and former British Ambassador has described as: “the crusading neo-Conservative Rory Stewart.”

This however, is where the crux lies for the Tories. Stewart is going to attract a lot of attention for the party and may even win votes from unlikely quarters. But he is no doubt a sword with two very sharp sides and my guess is that “Rory the Tory” may not roll so easily off the tongue for the conservative elite when they get into power.

Stewart is a big intellect there is not doubt about that. His articles on Afghanistan in the London Review of Books and more recently the New York Review of Books have been devastatingly insightful and visionary. I am gutted I cannot see his profile of T E Lawrence which from the reviews was a sensation. His critique of the current strategy in Afghanistan is masterful and his solutions refreshingly sensible sticking closely to common sense and the art of the possible:

The US and its NATO allies would be able to survive withdrawal from Afghanistan but it would be damaging to their reputations. While we cannot write a blank check to Afghans, we would like to prevent their country from falling into civil war, which would probably result in tens of thousands of deaths. It makes sense to stay, if we can maintain a realistic, affordable, and legitimate presence in Afghanistan and do some good.

As others have noticed Stewart is remarkably humble in his foreign policy outlook for one who is so ambitious.

If allowed to have any say in foreign policy issues “Rory the Tory” could drastically change the Britain does this most tricky of dark arts. Imagine a British Foreign Minister that said things like this:”… we should trust Iraqis and Afghans more; that they were much more competent than we acknowledged.”

But Foreign Minister to be William Hague will surely not appreciate the smooth talking Stewart one bit…nor for that matter will Cameron either. “Rory the Tory” will do his upmost to force himself onto the Tory stage and is already subtly showing the sort of pressure he is going to apply:

“I wanted to help change the culture of government. So I put my name forward, after the expenses scandal, when David Cameron said he was prepared to have candidates who, like me, had never been involved in politics before.”

Cameron maybe more fearful of Stewart than he is of Brown. Quotes like that must keep Cameron up at night…especially when none of Stewart’s foreign policy positions line up with the Tories at all! Not even close…the hilarious question on Newsnight when Stewart was asked straight up how he will line up his views with the party he bluntly said he did not know! For a man that likes to walk as much as he does though something tells me he knows where exactly where he is going! Revolution did I hear?

I would describe Stewart as almost a classical realist, with a sprinkle of  liberalism, E. H. Carr comes to mind. That should makes Tories shudder. Surely this is an accident waiting to happen for the Tories? A battle between Stewart and Cameron/Hauge is surely an inevitability?

At last Britain has the possibility of having a foreign policy and I for one am going to enjoy the political bloodbath that Stewart will no doubt create trying to achieve it.

P.S.

Stewart is obviously loving being the centre of attention and is already slipping into the old political paths where reality and rhetoric run alongside each other.

Rhetoric = “I applied for Penrith and the Border in part because I found it the most beautiful place in England.” (especially love the cheeky “in part”)

Reality = Penrith and the Border is one of the safest conservative seats in the country and I am almost guaranteed to get elected.