The Olympics – Welcome to the Machine

Published in The Huffington Post UK, 27 July 2012

OK, I was really so not planning on ever writing anything, whatsoever, at any point while I continue to breathe, about the London Olympics.  First of all I have absolutely zero interest in the circus that is modern competitive sport (panem et circenses), and secondly what more could I possibly add to the scandals around the security?  All the information is out there if people choose to join the dots.

But synchronicity plays its part.  Firstly, this morning I read this excellent article by former UK ambassador-turned-whistleblower, Craig Murray, about how the UK is now under martial law in the run-up to the Olympics.  Shortly afterwards I did an interview with the women’s glossy magazine, Grazia, about the security set-up around the games. I know, I know, sometimes the heavens align in a once-in-a-century configuration……

So on the back of this fortuitous alignment and while my angry-o-meter is still spiked at the “dangerous” level, I wanted to set some thoughts down.

Craig is correct – because of the Olympic Games, London has gone into full martial law lock-down.  Never before in peace-time has the capital city of the formerly Great Britain seen such a military “defensive” presence: missile launchers on local tower blocks primed to blow straying commercial airliners out of the skies over London, regardless of “collateral damage”; anti-aircraft bunkers dug in on Greenwich common; and naval destroyers moored on the Thames.

Plus, absent the promised G4S publicly-funded work-experience slaves – sorry, security staff –  the military has been drafted in.  Soldiers just home from patrolling the streets in Afghanistan in daily fear of their lives have had all leave cancelled.  Instead of the much-needed R & R, they shall be patrolling the Olympic crowds.  Does anyone else see a potential problem here?

And all this follows a decade of erosion of basic freedoms and civil liberties – all stripped away in the name of protecting the UK from the ever-growing but nebulous terrorist threat.

But I would take it a step further than Craig Murray – this is not just martial law, this is fascist martial law.

(And being conscious of any potential copyright thought-crimes, I hereby give all due credit to a very famous UK TV advert campaign which appears to use the same cadence.)

Why do I say this is one step beyond?

The Italian World War II dictator, Benito Mussolini, is famously credited with defining fascism thus: “the merger of the corporate and the state”.

And this is precisely what we are seeing on the streets of London.  Not only are Londoners subjected to an overwhelming military and police presence, the corporate commissars are also stalking the streets.

When Seb Coe and Tony Blair triumphantly announced that London had won the Olympics on 6th July 2005, one of their mantras was how London and the UK would benefit from the presence of the games.  They painted a rosy picture of local businesses booming on the back of the influx of tourists.

But the cold reality of today’s Olympics is greyer.  Commuters are being advised to work from home rather than use the overloaded transport networks; the civil service is effectively shutting down; and Zil lanes for the “great and the good” of the Olympics universe are choking already congested London streets.

Even worse, businesses across the UK, but particularly the local ones in the economically deprived environs of the Olympic Park in East London, are categorically NOT allowed to benefit from the games.  Under the terms of the contracts drawn up by the corporate mega-sponsors, London small businesses are not allowed to capitalize in any conceivable, possible, miniscule way on the presence of the games in their own city.

And these terms and conditions are enshrined in the Olympics Act 2006; any infraction of the rules carries a criminal penalty.  For more than a week, corporate police enforcers have been patrolling London looking for infractions of the Olympic trademark.  And this goes way beyond “Olympics R US” or some such.  As Nick Cohen wrote in an excellent recent article in The Spectator magazine:

“In the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act of 2006, the government granted the organisers remarkable concessions. Most glaringly, its Act is bespoke legislation that breaks the principle of equality before the law. Britain has not offered all businesses and organisations more powers to punish rivals who seek to trade on their reputation. It has given privileges to the ­Olympics alone. The government has told the courts they may wish to take particular account of anyone using two or more words from what it calls ‘List A’ — ‘Games’; ‘Two Thousand and Twelve’; ‘2012’; ‘twenty twelve’. The judges must also come down hard on a business or charity that takes a word from List A and conjoins it with one or more words from ‘List B’ — ‘Gold’; ‘Silver’; ‘Bronze’; ‘London’; ‘medals’; ‘sponsors’; ‘summer’. Common nouns are now private property.”

I heard recently that a well-established local cafe in Stratford, East London, that has for years been known as the Olympic Cafe, has been ordered to paint over its sign for the duration of the games. If I owned the cafe, I would be tempted to sue the Olympic Committee for breach of trademark.

It seems to me that this real-world trademark protectionism is an extension of the ongoing copyright wars in cyberspace – a blatant attempt to use state level power and legislation to protect the interests of the wealthy international mega-corps few.  We saw early attempts at this during the South African Football World Cup in 2010, and the Vancouver Winter Olympics the same year.

But the London Olympics take it to the next level: there is a long list of what you are not allowed to take into the stadia.  Spectators will be subjected to airport-style security theatre.  This will ensure that no liquids of more than 100ml can be carried, although empty bottles will be allowed if people want to fill them up with tap water on site.  This, of course, means that more spectators will be buying their sponsor-approved liquids in situ and at no-doubt over-inflated prices, to the benefit of one of the key Olympic sponsors.

The London games seem to be the first time that the global corporate community is demonstrating its full spectrum dominance – where the legal, police, and military resources of the state are put at the disposal of the giant, bloated, money-sucking leech that is the International Olympic Committee.

Every city that has hosted the Olympics over the last four decades has been financially bled white; many are still paying back the initial investment in the infrastructure, even if it is now decaying and useless. Greece, anybody?

But do the IOC or its regional pimps care?  Hell, no. Like all good parasites, once the original host has been drained dry, the Games move on to a new food source every four years.

What really, deeply puzzles me is why the hell are the people of London not out there protesting against this corporatist putsch?  Perhaps they fear being shot?

How can it be a crime to take a full bottle of water into a stadium when you want to watch a sport? How can it be a crime to tweet a picture?  How can it be criminal to celebrate the occasion in your local pub with Olympic flags draped around your bar, drinking a beer and eating a burger marketed cheesily as “fit for champions” or some such?

The original ideals behind the reconstitution of the modern Olympics in 1896 were a highly romanticised and distorted vision of the values of the ancient games.  But even that naive ideal has been lost in the crapulous corporatism that is the modern event.

We have even gone way beyond the Roman view of bread and circuses placating the masses.  Now we are into the hardcore realpolitik of international corporations and national governments using the games as a perfect pretext to tighten the “security” screws even more.

And so the UK is proud to present full-blown Corporate Fascism Version 2.0.

Vae victis.

Will MI6 “fix” intelligence on Iran?

By:    Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst and Annie Machon, former MI5 intelligence officer

Recent remarks by the head of MI6, Sir John Sawers, leave us wondering if the Secret Intelligence Service is preparing to “fix” intelligence on Iran, as his immediate predecessor, Sir John Scarlett, did on Iraq.

Scarlett’s pre-Iraq war role in creating “dodgy dossiers” hyping the threat of non-existent “weapons of mass destruction” is well known.  As for Sawers, the red warning light for politicization blinked brightly on July 4, as he told British senior civil servants that Iran is “two years away” from becoming a “nuclear weapons state.”  How did Sawers come up with “two years?”

Since late 2007, the benchmark for weighing Iran’s nuclear program has been the unanimous assessment by all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in late 2003 and that, as of mid-2007, had not restarted it.  Those judgments have been revalidated every year since — despite strong pressure to bow to more ominous — but evidence-light — assessments by Israel and its neo-conservative supporters.

Intelligence Can Make a Difference

The 2007 the US National Intelligence Estimate helped to thwart plans to attack Iran in 2008, the last year of the Bush/Cheney administration.  This shines through in George Bush’s own memoir, Decision Points, in which he rues the NIE’s “eye-popping declaration: ‘We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.’”

Bush continues, “But after the NIE, how could I possibly explain using the military to destroy the nuclear facilities of a country the intelligence community said had no active nuclear weapons program?” (Decision Points, p. 419)

Hands tied on the military side, US covert operations flowered, with $400 million appropriated at that same time for a major escalation of the dark-side struggle against Iran, according to military, intelligence, and congressional sources cited by Seymour Hersh in 2008.  This clandestine but all-too-real war on Iran has included attacks with computer viruses, the murders of Iranian scientists, and what the Israelis call the “unnatural” demise of senior officials like Revolutionary Guards Major General Hassan Moghaddam father of Iran’s missile program.

Moghaddam was killed in a large explosion last November, with Time magazine citing a “western intelligence source” as saying the Israel’s Mossad was behind the blast.  More threatening still to Iran are the severe economic sanctions, which are tantamount to an act of war.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and pro-Israel neo-conservatives in the U.S. and elsewhere have been pushing hard for an attack on Iran, seizing every pretext they can find.  Netanyahu was suspiciously fast off the blocks, for example, in claiming that Iran was behind the tragic terrorist bombing of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria on July 18, despite Bulgarian authorities and even the White House warning that it is too early to attribute responsibility.

Netanyahu’s instant indictment of Iran strongly suggests he is looking for excuses to up the ante.  With the Persian Gulf looking like an accident waiting to happen, stocked as it is with warships from the U.S., the U.K. and elsewhere — and with no fail-safe way of communicating with Iranian naval commanders — an escalation-generating accident or provocation is now more likely than ever.

July 23: Marking a Day of Infamy

Oddly, Sawers’s speech of July 4 came just as an important date approached — the tenth anniversary of a sad day for British intelligence on Iraq.  On July 23, 2002 at a meeting at 10 Downing Street, then-MI6 head, John Dearlove, briefed Tony Blair and other senior officials on his talks with his American counterpart, CIA Director George Tenet, in Washington three days before.

In the official minutes of that briefing (now known as the Downing Street Memo), which were leaked to the London Times and published on May 1, 2005, Dearlove explains that George Bush has decided to attack Iraq and the war was to be “justified by the conjunction of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.”  While then-Foreign Secretary Jack Straw points out that the case was “thin,” Dearlove explains matter-of-factly, “The intelligence and facts are being fixed around the policy.”

There is no sign in the minutes that anyone hiccupped — much less demurred — at making a case for war and furthering Blair’s determination to join Bush in launching the kind of “war of aggression” outlawed by the post-world war Nuremberg Tribunal and the UN treaty.

Helped by the acquiescence of their chief spies, the Blair government mainlined into the body politic un-assessed, raw intelligence and forged documents, with disastrous consequences for the world.

UK citizens were spoon-fed fake intelligence in the September Dossier (2002) and then, just six weeks before the attack on Iraq, the “Dodgy Dossier”, based largely on a 12-year old PhD thesis culled from the Internet — all presented by spy and politician alike as ominous premonitory intelligence.

So was made the case for war. All lies, resulting in hundreds of thousands dead and maimed and millions of Iraqis displaced – yet no one held to account.

Sir Richard Dearlove, who might have prevented this had he had the integrity to speak out, was allowed to retire with full honours and became the Master of a Cambridge college.  John Scarlett, who as chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee signed off the fraudulent dossiers, was rewarded with the top spy job at MI6 and a knighthood. George W. Bush gave George Tenet the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the highest civilian award.

What need have we for further proof? “So are they all, all honourable men” – reminiscent of those standing with Brutus in Shakespeare’s play, but with no Mark Anthony to expose them and stir the appropriate popular reaction.

Therein lies the problem: instead of being held accountable, these “honourable men” were, well, honoured. Their soft landings offer a noxious object lesson for ambitious bureaucrats who are ready to play fast and loose with the truth and trim their sails to the prevailing winds.

Ill-got honours offer neither deterrent nor disincentive to current and future intelligence chiefs tempted to follow suit and corrupt intelligence rather than challenge their political leaders with hard, un-“fixed” facts. Integrity? In this milieu integrity brings knowing smirks rather than honours. And it can get you kicked out of the club.

Fixing Intelligence on Iran

Are we in for another round of “fixing” — this time on Iran? We may know soon.  Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, citing the terrorist attack in Bulgaria, has already provided what amounts to a variation on Dearlove’s ten-year old theme regarding how war can be “justified by the conjunction of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.”

According to the Jerusalem Post on July 17, Netanyahu said that all countries that understand that Iran is an exporter of world terror must join Israel in “stating that fact clearly,” in order to emphasize the importance of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Appearing yesterday on Fox News Sunday and CBS’s Face the Nation, Netanyahu returned to that theme. Putting the blame for the terrorist attack in Bulgaria squarely on Iran (and Hezbollah), Netanyahu warned of the increased dangers that would accrue if Iran acquired nuclear weapons. “What would be the consequences if the most dangerous regime in the world got the world’s most dangerous weapons?”.

Will MI6 chief Sawers model his conduct on that of his predecessors who “justified” war on Iraq? Will he “fix” intelligence around U.K./U.S./Israeli policy on Iran? Parliamentary overseers should demand a briefing from Sawers forthwith, before erstwhile bulldog Britain is again dragged like a poodle into another unnecessary war.

Annie Machon is a former intelligence officer in the UK’s MI5 Security Service and Ray McGovern is a fomer U.S Army Intelligence Officer and CIA analyst.