Official Secrets, Lies and the Five Eyes

20 December 2019 — Off Guardian

David Macilwain

Is Putin losing his grip? Why did Russian disinformation operations fail so dramatically in the UK election? Not only did the “rabid socialist” Corbyn fail to seize power from the Russophobic cold-war warriors of Whitehall but Russia’s man in the White House is already planning to move in with them!

Sadly, of course, Russia did not intervene in the UK’s electoral “process”, that saw millions of ordinary hard-working Britons condemned to the purgatory of austerity capitalism under Boris Johnson’s Tory party.

And despite the efforts of Russia-friendly media like RT and Sputnik to expose the trickery and lies that saw the Labour party’s heartland seats turn on themselves, it’s clear that their message was never heard where it needed to be.

What should be happening now is a revolt! A young man at a BBC Question Time session expressed this nicely, with a passion and anger that should be shared by all decent people who believe in fair democracy, and certainly by all those on “the left”.

“For you to blame Jeremy Corbyn, particularly after your colleagues on the right of the party pushed him to adopt that position of a second referendum, is absolutely abhorrent”
This #bbcqt audience member criticises parts of the Labour Party for their treatment of Jeremy Corbyn.

— BBC Question Time (@bbcquestiontime) December 13, 2019

It is an anger that would be shared by millions, if they understood the truth about the way they have been deceived and manipulated by the UK Establishment, not simply over the election but over the most fundamental issues of trust and decency.

Some of the most evident deceptions that were used against Jeremy Corbyn, such as the mendacious claims of anti-semitism, have been well aired – if not successfully countered.

The failure to challenge and dismiss these claims rests almost entirely with the most influential media – the BBC and Guardian particularly – who have the greatest influence with Labour voters, even though they may not have been initially responsible for contriving this high-level smear campaign.

The producers of those media and the journalists who work for them are also primarily responsible for failing to present an opposing view that legitimised Labour’s position and demonised that of the Tories.

One issue stands out a mile in the context of anti-Semitism claims, being Israel’s continuing crimes against Palestinians, and the silence on the extraordinary and illegal moves being made by the Israeli government during the election period.

The apparent basis for accusations against Corbyn of anti-Semitism is because of his historic support for the Palestinian cause and legitimate criticism of Israel’s barbaric and criminal treatment of those living in the occupied West Bank and in Gaza. If any direct reference was made to this viewpoint, it was only in references to Corbyn’s “support for terrorists” – meaning Hamas.

But reflecting on the election campaign, the absence of any direct reference to foreign affairs, and policies on which Labour may have had significant support from many in the UK, is striking. In fact it is more than that – it is indicative. Because the sub-text – the subliminal message beneath the main issues of contention was always about foreign affairs.

No-one could seriously believe that Brexit is something the ruling elite has pursued because it respects the so-called democratic will of the British public – not least because only 30% of that public actually voted for Brexit, and did so in complete ignorance of what it might mean and because of their own long-standing prejudices.

Had the Government not had an interest in restructuring its relationship with the US and NATO, and seen political and economic gains – well illustrated by the jump in the value of Sterling following the result – then the idea of Brexit would just have quietly died away.

And in the many times when no agreement could be reached with the EU, sanity would have prevailed – as it did in Scotland. But an ominous sign, which now appears to confirm the operation of the “deep state” in this whole conspiracy – what else may we call it? – was in the project proposal to the UK Foreign office from the Institute for Statecraft’s Christopher Donnelly for the period up to April 2020.

As I wrote here, Donnelly proposed that following the UK’s success in building networks across Europe to “counter Russian influence and disinformation”

expanding this success would cement the UK’s influence in N America and in Europe post Brexit.”

This may seem less significant now than it was at the time, when there was little indication that any Brexit deal would materialise, nor agreement within and between parties on what was desirable.

That was hardly surprising, given the many unnecessary problems Brexit would create, and the widespread opposition to Brexit from many areas of the country. This is yet more evidence that forces were at work – including the IfS and right-wing think-tanks – to engineer a Brexit.

One of these operations went largely unnoticed, despite being revealed by the Guardian earlier in the year. What is interesting about this campaign, run by Johnson ally Lynton Crosby’s firm under various aliases that disguised their link and bias, is that the object was to persuade both MPs and public in targeted Labour electorates that there was a groundswell of opinion and support for a hard Brexit.

As any advertising manager can tell you, the belief that others around you support something is more persuasive than any direct rational argument.

In fact, it will move people to take a position that defies any rational argument, and goes directly against their interests. This was already tragically illustrated in reports on the BBC, interviewing residents of depressed neighbourhoods that have suddenly “turned blue”. Here were people suffering from years of austerity, complaining about poor services, public transport, employment conditions – all of which are the result of years of Tory policies and neglect.

And these people, already duped into voting for Brexit in the false belief it would make their lives better, were now looking to the Tories to cure their ills. As if!

In his recent essay on the operation of propaganda, Edward Curtin highlighted the power of movies in embedding false ideas in peoples’ minds, something also noted by Christopher Donnelly in his exposition on “hybrid warfare”.

There is, I think, now substantial evidence that both the broadcasting and suppression of particular movies played a part in pushing the UK electorate into voting against its interests. It was the coincidence of these two movies’ appearance – and disappearance, with the election period that makes the case persuasive.

The two films in question are “For Sama” and “Official Secrets”, films which broadly concern the same area of foreign affairs, but which are diametrically opposite in purpose and value. Awarded Best Documentary at the British Independent Film awards on December 3rd, For Sama helped draw attention to the otherwise ignored issue of the Syrian war in the run-up to the election in a way that strongly favoured the White Helmets-supporting Tory government.

It also enabled an airing of the same old lies about Russia “bombing hospitals”, along with all the other things people needed to be reminded that Russia did – like poisoning ex-spies and interfering in elections.

This might seem trivial were For Sama really an independent film and honest documentary. Despite much commentary to the contrary in the approved liberal media – such as the New York Review of Books, Counterpunch, or the Guardian, For Sama is nothing of the sort. Highly persuasive and mendacious propaganda in fact; Rick Sterling has the measure of it here.

On its own this might seem insignificant – given that deceptive and misleading video stories about Syria are the staple of the UK mainstream media. But it wasn’t on its own. At the same time as For Sama was being promoted and discussed, a film with huge implications and direct political significance in the election campaign was cleverly cut out of public discussion – or so it appears.

Official Secrets – the story of whistle-blower on the Iraq invasion Katherine Gun – was set for public release in the UK on October 16th, and in Australia on November 21st. While the events of 2003 are dramatized, or rather re-enacted, the film’s emotive power comes from the lead performances, giving the moving story of an exceptionally courageous woman who dared to challenge the UK deep state or GCHQ, an extra intensity.

This contrasts with the emotive power of For Sama, where an alleged documentary is cleverly woven into a dramatic story that turns the truth upside down.

In advance of its expected release, Official Secrets occasioned some mixed reviews which tended to frame it as a historic drama about the long-discredited case for war against Saddam Hussein, but they missed the point – perhaps intentionally.

Those in the firing line, who continue to pursue the same illicit goals in Iraq and are now turning on Iran, saw the film for what it was, and we might imagine had a hand in rescheduling the release of Official Secrets until long after the UK election. (It should be noted that these two articles are from the Observer, whose role in the Gun scandal was a central part of the film. What this paper has now become, like its sister Guardian, speaks volumes)

For those who have somehow forgotten, or never knew – it was the great anti-Iraq-war rally of 2003 that saw the creation of “Stop the War” in the UK, as well as the rise in public profile of Jeremy Corbyn, who remained heavily involved in the group until he became Labor leader.

And while the Tories were always keen to remind the public of Corbyn’s “anti-NATO” and anti-war position when they were selling the “threat” from Islamist terrorism or Russian missiles, they went quiet on anything that might favour Labour’s election chances.

But it seems it wasn’t just Boris and his ministers who went quiet, and were allowed to by their favoured media; potential dissenting voices were quietened, quietly. Now that the Spin-master in chief, his lackeys and his overlords are safely installed in Westminster, we may watch it and weep; Official Secrets is released on January 20th, with the DVD a month later.

Oddly enough, the film’s release in Australia was unchanged – which is why I’m able to present its case. The ongoing censorship and suppression of information by the UK state, in collaboration – lockstep – with the NSA and CIA is its stunning message. And while there is a postscript which must involve another article, the control over information and disinformation that is somehow effected through the mainstream media has just been highlighted by Australia’s treatment of news about Julian Assange.

After months ignoring and spinning the story of Assange’s torture and illegal detention that included covering a visit by Wikileaks’ Kristin Hrafnsson to the Canberra Press Club in early December, there was suddenly headline attention to the doctors’ warning on Assange’s health, from ALL the main media this Monday, as the new UK parliament opened.

It was as if this story was held behind a wall until it was safe to release, not simply as a catch-up but as the leading story on the ABC news, ahead of bushfires and volcano disasters.

We don’t have to join too many dots to see why a discussion about Wikileaks, war crimes in Iraq, and OPCW crimes in Syria was something the Tories didn’t need, even if it only happened in Australia.

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