My piece for Spinwatch earlier this week on the Bilderberg meeting in Watford:
A remarkable collection of politicians, diplomats, industrialists, bankers, royalty and other notables assemble in Watford today for the 61st Bilderberg meeting, a discreet high-level transatlantic policy forum that has met almost annually since 1954.
In recent years Bilderberg has taken to publishing its guest list and a brief agenda, in a bid to dispel the aura of conspiracy that has traditionally surrounded the event. (The data has been uploaded to the Bilderberg 2013 Watford page at Spinwatch's Powerbase wiki, which hopefully provides a more illuminating format than the Bilderberg site).
the biggest aspect of the BAE/"Al Yamamah" story is
the offshore fund. To summarize: BAE delivered about $40 billion in
arms and services to Saudi Arabia. BAE padded the bills substantially,
up to nearly $80 billion. The pad was used, in part, to bribe Saudi
officials who helped swing the deal, including Bandar and Prince Turki
bin-Khaled, a top official of the Saudi Ministry of Defense. That part
is fully detailed in the Guardian and other British coverage of the BAE
scandal, going back three or four years. What is not covered in the
British press is the fact that Saudi Arabia paid for the arms with oil.
The oil was sold on the spot market, and this generated an estimated
(in current dollars) $160 billion in cash. I am told by former U.S.
Treasury Department officials that the funds generated from the oil
sales, after BAE got their cut, went into offshore bank accounts.
As Jamie notes at Blood and Treasure there's not a lot of evidence offered, but the allegation about the oil fund has come up before. In his book In the Public Interest, the former chairman of Astra, Gerald James, highlights a partially blacked out memo that was sent to Jeff Rooker MP, which suggested some of the funds found their way to the Conservative Party.
Tony Karon points us to a remarkable attack on Barack Obama by Edward Luttwak in the New York Times:
As the son of the Muslim father, Senator Obama was born a Muslim
under Muslim law as it is universally understood. It makes no
difference that, as Senator Obama has written, his father said he
renounced his religion. Likewise, under Muslim law based on the Koran
his mother’s Christian background is irrelevant.
Of course, as
most Americans understand it, Senator Obama is not a Muslim. He chose
to become a Christian, and indeed has written convincingly to explain
how he arrived at his choice and how important his Christian faith is
His conversion, however, was a crime in Muslim eyes; it
is “irtidad” or “ridda,” usually translated from the Arabic as
“apostasy,” but with connotations of rebellion and treason. Indeed, it
is the worst of all crimes that a Muslim can commit, worse than murder
(which the victim’s family may choose to forgive). (New York Times)
Luttwak reckons this would 'compromise the ability of governments in Muslim nations to
cooperate with the United States in the fight against terrorism.'
Pat Lang suggests that this argument doesn't pass the smell test:
Uncritical acceptance of claims by [Oleg] Gordievsky about how Litvinenko died
is particular bizarre -- given that he has made different and
incompatible claims at different times, so as a simple point of logic
some of what he has claimed has to be false. A further curious feature
of Gordievsky's accounts, however, is that much of what he has claimed
directly contradicts central elements of what has become the official
British version of Litvinenko's death. And in fact, while one would be
ill-advised to take anything Gordievsky says at face value, some of
what he has claimed fits in distinctly better with the publicly
available evidence than the official version does.
Interesting series of posts over at Sic Semper Tyrannis, about the case of Sybil Edmonds, a former FBI translator Sybil Edmonds who claims that the Bureau is sitting on evidence that corrupt US officials are part of an international network trading nuclear secrets.
There are a number of countries sponsoring espionage against the US
government. Espionage is a felonious crime in the US whether it is on
behalf of a "friendly" state or an enemy. Some people think that
unauthorized delivery of US classified information to a US national is
not espionage. They are mistaken. One could be charged with a lesser
crime, but that is at the option of the government. (Sybil Edmonds: an Unresolved Case?)
David Habbakkuk suggests that the network may have been penetrated by the US and allowed to run:
a key statement in the original Sunday Times story
is that the nuclear network Edmonds describes 'has been monitored for
many years by a joint Anglo-American intelligence effort. But rather
than shut it down, investigations by law enforcement bodies such as the
FBI and Britain's Revenue & Customs have been aborted to preserve
diplomatic relations.' In addition to this, there is the 'small team'
investigating the 'same procurement' network referred to in the third
story -- to which Valerie Plame belonged, and for which Brewster
Jennings was a front company. One quite possible explanation for the
appearance of this story in the Sunday Times is that important elements
in this 'joint Anglo-American intelligence effort', either in London,
or in Washington, or in both, decided they wanted this network shut
down, and saw the disclosures by Edmonds as a means of securing this
end. (Sybil Edmonds 2 by David Habbakkuk)
Jeremy Scahill has been doing some good work trying to pin down the US Democratic contenders on the issue of mercenaries in Iraq (hat tip:The Spy Who Billed Me):
A senior foreign policy adviser to leading Democratic
presidential candidate Barack Obama has told The Nation that if
elected Obama will not "rule out" using private security companies like
Blackwater Worldwide in Iraq. The adviser also said that Obama does not
plan to sign on to legislation that seeks to ban the use of these forces
in US war zones by January 2009, when a new President will be sworn in.
Obama's campaign says that instead he will focus on bringing
accountability to these forces while increasing funding for the State
Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security, the agency that employs
Blackwater and other private security contractors. (Hillary Clinton's
staff did not respond to repeated requests for an interview or a
statement on this issue.) (The Nation)
In the wake of Scahill's article, Hilary Clinton issued this statement:
He also draws attention to Syed Saleem Shahzad's allegations in the Asia Times, about Irish official Michael Semple. It's worth noting that the British official expelled from Afghanistan along with Semple, Mervyn Patterson, is from Northern Ireland.
This is highly suggestive given MI6's long history in Ireland of involvement in back-channel negotiations that did not always have universal support on their own side, a feature that appears to have been repeated in Afghanistan.
One interesting question is whether the Irish Government could have wittingly co-operated with such an operation. It could be interpreted as consistent with its commitment to export the peace process model.
It may also be significant that there are seven members of the Irish Defence Forces working at ISAF HQ in Kabul, four of whom are employed in the liaison and negotiations branch.
The report was ostensibly written by five former NATO generals, including Britain's Lord Inge, the chairman of Aegis Defence Services.However, a postscript adds that "to assist in the writing process, the authors were joined by Benjamin Bilski, who lectures in philosophy at the Faculty of Law of the University of Leiden in the Netherlands; and by Douglas Murray, an author and Director of the Centre for Social Cohesion in Westminster."
Col Pat Lang's blog has a very timely piece by David Habbakuk looking at the intelligence roots of the neoconservative movement. The comments thread is also worth a look.
A good example of familiar neocon approaches was the hatchet job done
on Sherman Kent, a pivotal figure in the wartime R&A branch of the
wartime OSS and in shaping the analytical side of the CIA, by Carl
Schmitt and Abram Shulsky -- the latter of whom headed the Office of
Special Plans, through which much of the bogus intelligence used to
justify the Iraq War was channelled. Their article Leo Strauss and the
World of Intelligence suggested that Kent's conception of intelligence
as research involved a naïve faith in the ability of a 'social science'
method to generate reliable predictions about the behaviour of
adversaries. (Sic Semper Tyrannis)