Saturday, October 19, 2019

The only vote that counts

All sorts of nonsense has been spouted by Remainer politicians claiming that there’s been a sea-change in opinion towards a second referendum with most people now wanting to remain inside the European Union (EU). Wishful thinking and peculiarly framed opinion polls that avoided asking the question that was put to voters during the 2016 referendum have been used to justify calls for second ‘people’s vote’ or, like the Liberal Democrats, simply to ignore the first one.
But a huge new survey shows that 50 per cent want to Leave the EU, with 42 per cent wanting to Remain. With 'don't knows' removed, 54 per cent would back Leave compared with 46 per cent in support of Remain. Some 26,000 people took part in the poll, organised by ComRes and Channel Five.
This was the biggest Brexit poll since the 2016 referendum and it confirms what we’ve been saying all along. But the only real poll that counts is the one that took place in June 2016. The Labour Remainers in parliament should remember this in future.

Postal workers vote for action
Royal Mail workers voted by an overwhelming 97 per cent on a 76 per cent turnout for industrial action over the Christmas period, which is by the busiest period of the year. Their move is in defence of terms and conditions that Management seems set to undermine seriously. Their union, the CWU, says Royal Mail is reneging on an agreement reached between Royal Mail and the union. Entitled {The Four Pillars}, agreement it covered pay rises, pensions, and a move to reduce working hours from 39 to 35 per week by 2022 depending on productivity improvements.
The CWU's general secretary, Dave Ward, has now urged Royal Mail to enter “serious negotiations” with the union. If they’re realistic and genuinely want a negotiated settlement before Christmas, Royal Mail’s management should start talking now.

Making America Great Again?
The imperialist politicians who are now shedding crocodile tears over the plight of the Kurds of northern Syria have no real concern for the Kurdish people. If they did, they would have supported the Kurdish struggle in Turkish Kurdistan – where most of the Kurds live. Instead, they simply sought to use them as pawns to foster regime change in Iraq and Syria.
The fate of the Syrian Kurds now depends on the Syrian army and the Russian peace-keepers – not NATO nor the Turks that for so long abetted Washington’s efforts to bring down Assad’s popular front government in Damascus.
Donald Trump was quite right to pull the troops out of northern Syria. They shouldn’t have been there in the first place. If he really wants to ‘make America great again’ he should pull them out of Europe, the Middle East and south Korea as well!

World on Fire


by Ben Soton

World on Fire. Season one (2019) by Peter Bowker. Starring: Jonah Hauer-King, Julia Brown, Zofia Wichlacz. Produced by BBC One and Mammoth Screen.

BBC1’s latest Sunday night drama covers the age-old themes of love and war.  The war is World War II; the love themes include love across the divides of class and nationality.
The main characters are Harry Chase, played by Jonah Hauer-King, an interpreter at the British Embassy in Warsaw and Lois Bennett, a factory worker and part time singer played by Julia Brown. Both share a common opposition to fascism and are keen to support the war against Germany in 1939. This pro-war sentiment is not shared by Julia’s father, Douglas Bennett played by Sean Bean. Douglas Bennett, a committed pacifist, sees all war as inherently bad, a result of his experiences in the First World War.
The drama views the Second World War as an exception. US journalist Nancy Campbell, played by Helen Hunt, compares the German invasion of Poland in 1939 to the plight of Republican Spain. A poor comparison, Republican Spain was a democracy whilst inter-war Poland was a semi-fascist military dictatorship and a thorn in the side of the Soviet Union. Meanwhile Campbell, who makes regular broadcasts to the USA, acts as the drama’s narrator. The Second World War did, however, have an anti-fascist character, which became more pronounced after 1941 with the German invasion of the Soviet Union. The question is will Douglas Bennett’s attitude change over time?
As the drama continues, we begin to see an inter-connected web of characters that spans the obvious divides of wartime. I am reminded of the 1980s drama The Winds of War or the more recent Century Trilogy by Ken Follett. The Century Trilogy has a strong anti-communist theme; although it may be early days to make this comparison. It may, however, be disturbing to know that the drama’s inception comes at a time when the European Parliament passes a motion blaming the Second World War on the Soviet Union and effectively exonerating Nazi Germany. So far, the Soviet Union has not been mentioned in the series – which is not far off the mark considering it was neutral at this point in the conflict.
World on Fire does make good Sunday night viewing. The war scenes, which include the aerial bombing of Danzig, are well put together, which in this day and age means the CGI [computer-generated imagery] is not obviously apparent. The brutality of the Nazi invaders is shown when they refuse to follow the normal conventions of war.
My advice to viewers is to watch the drama but look out for inaccuracies and historical lies.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Murder Most Foul

By Andy Brooks

Murder in Istanbul: Jamal Khashoggi, Donald Trump & Saudi Arabia by Owen Wilson (2019). Gibson Square Books Ltd, London.
Paperback: 288pp; rrp £9.99, or £7.19 via Amazon; ISBN-10: 1783341653; ISBN-13: 978-1783341658.
Kindle: 288pp; £6.47; ASIN: B07WNSKHYM.

Last year a prominent Saudi journalist was murdered at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul by hitmen acting on orders from the Crown Prince of the oil-rich Arabian kingdom. According to the Turkish media Jamal Khashoggi was killed, chopped up in to 15 bits and packed into five suitcases for disposal and the consulate swept clean of evidence on 2nd October 2018.
The gruesome record of Jamal Khashoggi’s last moments selectively supplied by Turkish intelligence has spun around the world shedding light on the true nature of the House of Saud that Khashoggi had served for over 30 years. But it left many questions unanswered. This isn’t a whodunit. Everyone knows who did it. The mystery is why?
This book goes some way to answering them. Written by Owen Wilson, a former Financial Times journalist who has now made a name for himself as a crime writer, Murder in Istanbul, draws on Turkish and Arab sources to give a blow by blow account of the events leading up to Khashoggi’s death last year.
Jamal Khashoggi was the most unlikely dissident. He was of Turkish descent. His grand-father, like many others, went to the desert kingdom to seek his fortune as a doctor in the service of the House of Saud in the 1920s. His uncle was the flamboyant Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi. His cousin was Dodi Fayed, who died with Princess Diana in a car crash in 1997.
Jamal led a more modest life as a successful Saudi journalist who had close ties with the royal family and Saudi intelligence. He was a devout Muslim who supported the House of Saud and its long-standing alliance with US imperialism. But he fell out of favour when he publicly started to criticise foreign policies associated with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and Donald Trump, and went into voluntary exile in the USA in 2017.
There he earned the wrath of the Saudi authorities by writing articles for the Washington Post that criticised the Crown Prince and called for reforms in the feudal Arab kingdom that went far beyond the cosmetic measures of allowing women to drive or go to sports stadiums that the kingdom had taken to appease liberal opinion in the West.
That, in itself, wouldn’t warrant death, even by the sordid standards of Saudi Arabia. There must have been a much more powerful reason to silence him. Perhaps he simply knew too much about the private lives of the princes. Or, as this book suggests, he was privy to Saudi Arabia’s nuclear ambitions. His links with the Muslim Brotherhood and Qatar – both loathed and feared by the Saudis – may have also sealed his fate.
Although Khashoggi knew he was at risk entering the consulate to get documents needed for his forthcoming marriage, in some way he believed he was safe from harm. Maybe the rumours that he was a CIA asset were true. Perhaps it was just his friendship with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan. But if he believed he was protected he was clearly much mistaken.
You must judge for yourself. The author raises all these issues in an immensely readable book that goes far beyond the usual ‘true crime’ genre. It is essential reading for all students of contemporary Turkish and Arab politics, and it’s on sale at your local bookshop now.