Transatlanticism


I thought I’d left political geekiness behind but that neglected facet of my character is being richly indulged by the farce that is the ongoing collapse of the Atlantic Bridge – a helpless Liam Fox perched atop it. It was always obvious that the Bridge wasn’t just a talking shop for hawks and a social club for the elites, it was an ego-trip for its founder. The details of his little enterprise are amusing…

The crisis facing the defence secretary, Liam Fox, over his links to his self-styled adviser and friend, Adam Werritty, has deepened after it emerged that Werritty ran a controversial charity from inside Fox’s office in the houses of parliament.

The Guardian has established that Werritty used Fox’s room 341 in the MPs’ block at Portcullis House as the official headquarters of a rightwing charity, the Atlantic Bridge, which works in conjunction with a major US business lobby group. The office was provided to Fox at taxpayers’ expense while he was in opposition until last year.

Was Fox never, y’know – working in it? Hrm – if he wasn’t it may not be something to lament.

It also emerged that between 2007 and 2010, Werritty earned more than £90,000 as chief executive of the Atlantic Bridge, and that the most senior civil servant in the Ministry of Defence had warned Fox about his connections to Werritty.

£90,000? Goodness, well, I’ve no complaints if Fox wants to squander the money of his donors – arch-Tory Michael Hintze, BICOM deputy Michael Lewis and the lobbyists at the American Legislative Exchange Council – but what was that generous salary for? Besides some bits and bobs of interventionist rhetoric they bunged onto their website they never published anything. Their “work” consisted of the odd speech and cocktail party. Werrity has been a glorified event planner and an idle one at that.

One way he’s earned his wage is posing as an adviser to Liam Fox. This is what begun this week’s controversy – because the man was never on the public payroll and never had his background checked. Despite this, he accompanied Fox on official visits and brokered important meetings. He’s been the fantastic one’s loyal companion for some time. In this report from the 2009 Herzliya Conference – where Fox spoke on a panel that asked “Can European-Israeli Relations be Decoupled from the Palestinian Issue?” – he’s grandly described as an “Advisor, Office of Shadow Defense Secretary”.

Me? I’m not really bothered. I’m far more troubled by Fox’s open relationship with powermongers and plutocrats than his secretive one with an obscurity. Still, in a world enthusiastic about protocol I’m sure these sloppy dealings will be more harmful to his career. In truth, I feel just a little sorry for the Minister. (Cruel, if hilarious, picture notwithstanding. From the Daily Mash.) As powerful as he is, he’d clearly hoped to be so much more. Through the Bridge he’d managed to surround himself with veritable sultans of statecraft – Rove, Ashcroft, Kissinger – and he’s ended up as just another dubious and derided little politician. C’est la vie. Or something.

Liam Fox, our ridiculous Defence Secretary, has been in the news after it was revealed that he’s been giving a friend of his access to MoD files. This pal, the Guardian reports, had run a think tank Fox has established. This, coincidentally, was dissolved last week after the Charity Commission said that, well – its activities weren’t very charitable…

A charity set up by Liam Fox, the defence secretary, has been dissolved by its trustees after criticism by the Charity Commission.

The Atlantic Bridge, which had already been suspended for promoting Conservative party policies in defiance of regulations, was founded by Fox and run by his close friend Adam Werritty.

Fox’s relationship with Werrity was drawn into question when the Guardian revealed Werritty had visited Fox at Ministry of Defence offices 14 times in the past 16 months.

Oh, that think tank.

I don’t know why I spent so much time raking through the details of a minor league think tank. (I even made a Wikipedia page for the blasted thing.) Still, while it’s in the news it’s worth revisiting. The Atlantic Bridge was set up to give British and American conservatives a chance to meet and share ideas and, in Fox’s words, create an “intellectual framework that will strengthen the special relationship”. It was, then, the sort of “social club” that sociologist William Domhoff claims provides elites with opportunities to “reach consensus” and “affirm cohesion”.

(more…)

Staying with the Iraq war (and the accompanying bullshit) Robin Shepherd, a Director at the Henry Jackson Society, proffers his view of the invasion…

…the US-led coalition removed one of the world’s most brutal dictatorships in nothing flat. If Iraqis couldn’t build a secure democracy without years of bloodshed, that was their fault. They were given the chance and they blew it.

This reminds me of the time I saved a woman from her wife-beater of a husband. I kicked that bastard out the door and still the ungrateful bint was going on about how I’d “trodden on her baby”. Well, there’s always going to be collateral damage! Oh, and then she whined about how I’d smashed the windows and let thieves sneak in and rob the place. Well, I didn’t invite them. The thankless slag even complained about how I was taking snacks from her fridge. What an ingrate! Honestly, if she couldn’t build a secure household it’s her fault.

Is this the level of “interventionist” thought? Does Shepherd really lack the brains to see it’s hard to fashion a “secure democracy” from the smoking, corpe-studded rubble of a state, let alone the soul to recognise the U.S. and U.K.’s responsibility? I don’t know. But his fondness for screwing with other people’s nations doesn’t seem to be premised on concern for those people. He’s downright contemptuous.

Peter Hitchens writes

The USA wouldn’t exist if the French (assisted by a few rebels) hadn’t beaten us and our German mercenaries at Yorktown. So it’s perfectly reasonable for Barack Obama to nuzzle up to President Sarkozy and say that America has ‘no greater friend’ than France.

But what really matters about it is this: France doesn’t suck up to Washington. France often refuses to do what Washington tells it to do. As a result, France has a perfectly good relationship with Washington. We could do the same, and would be a lot better off if we did.

Game – typically expounded as a ragamuffin cross between dating advice and evo-psych – holds that people will be turned off a relationship if partners are too dependent on them. The logic, as far as I can tell, is that they’ll assume they could be getting better elsewhere. I’m always doubtful of attempts to work out the psychology of international statesmen but if one remembers that (a) the timid hawks who front our government are pathetically clingy and (b) they don’t have much to offer them it’s not surprising if their flighty ally looks elsewhere for partners new. As a concerned associate of both parties I wouldn’t be too bothered either (though, let’s face it, the Tories are desperate enough for scraps that they’d be more than happy to be “friends” on call).

I’ve begun a wiki page for the Atlantic Bridge. What a crazy motherfucker of a Saturday this is! Feel free to dig in if you wish.

This post now appears on Liberal Conspiracy.

Liam Fox‘s opposition to defence cuts isn’t based on strategy; rather, he thinks fewer resources would hamper his efforts to erect a “credible narrative“. Might I be the first to pray that this will end up being correct?

The term “Little Englander” is wrongly thrown at jingoists, yet was first aimed at opponents of the Boer War. According to blustery supporters of the Empire those who disagreed with them were dull and parochial boors who disliked the notion of “England” venturing from its borders. One could never hurl this epithet at the Defence Secretary. His opinion of our role is so inflated that he’s a Münchhausen of world politics. He gasps that we might have to “withdraw our presence in, for example, the Indian Ocean [or the] Caribbean“. Zounds! What horrors could arise from our not militarising land and sea thousands of miles from us? Well, few actually. Sorry, Liam, but we haven’t owned the Commonwealth for decades.

As I’ve written, Fox led up a Transatlantic talking shop for businessmen and powermongers: the Atlantic Bridge. There, modern-day imperialists and old Machiavellians schmoozed before the fledgling hawk’s innervated eye. Old and new atrocities were industriously whitewashed and he was soon endearing himself to financiers, be they in Big Pharma or the arm’s trade. His statements and comrades lead one to surmise that he’s all for a bolstering of the dangerous and corrupt Anglo/U.S. bond. This and his sycophancy towards the rich and powermongering bring to mind a vision of him careering along the same audacious and destructive path his predecessors tried to forge.

In a dialogue with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Fox said that…

We are at the moment undertaking a full review of our foreign defense policy because either we are going to have to increase our resources to match our commitments or we will have to reduce our commitments to match the resources, and that’s a very important national debate which needs to take place in the United Kingdom.

Considering our state’s record, and the waste and arrogance of much of our “commitments“, I rather hope Lenin’s correct to write that “British capitalism can’t afford British imperialism any more.

As the Atlantic Bridge is thrust into a mire of legal wrangling I thought that it might be worth collecting my notes on the thing before it gets forgotten. Enjoy, anoraks all.

William Domhoff describes the Bilderberg Group as a place where elites can “reach consensus” and “affirm cohesion“. The Atlantic Bridge, though lower-key, was not dissimilar. Plutocrats and powermongers met to drink, dine and discuss their nation’s weighty role in geopolitics. It was billed as a “think tank” but doesn’t seem to have forged ideas; rather, hawkish and Atlanticist perceptions were affirmed. As it boasted so many figures from our Coalition it’s worth being inquisitive.

The Atlantic Bridge was formed in 1997 but gained charitable status in 2003. Dubbed an “education and research scheme“, it was led by Liam Fox, then the Shadow Secretary of State for Health. From the start its hawkish credentials were flaunted cheerfully: Fox proclaiming, at its launch event, that “peace without security is fear, peace without justice is tyranny, peace without freedom is slavery“. He liked this statement so much he pinned it to their website. The group’s stated mission was to form and promote politicies of Transatlanticism, while “establish[ing] a strong, well-positioned, network of those in politics, business, journalism and academe“. In a later dialogue with the Tribune Review, Fox expounded on the latter…

I think it is very important to create not only the intellectual framework that will strengthen the special relationship, but actually to create the network of individual people who can know one another. That needs to be in politics, and in the media, and in the military, and in academia. And that’s what we’re trying to do: We are trying to bring people together who have common interests and to recognize that in an ever-more globalized economy, we will all be called upon to defend those common interests.

Reaching a consensus, then. Affirming cohesion.

At first the group’s activities were influenced by Fox’s role. In May 2003 it held a conference to discuss “Scientific Research and Medical Provision” (“the Anglo-American Dynamic“, whatever that is). The agenda is unknown buts its attendees offer clues: among those who shared “common interests” with the Bridge was a host of figures from the pharmaceutical trade. Kevin Rigby of Novartis; Peter Farrow of Pfizer; Tim Morris of GlaxoSmithKline. Morris spoke in opposition to “threats to development“, which apparently included “regulation” and “militant activists“. This came on the heels of GlaxoSmithKline paying millions for deceptive promotion and was followed by a chain of scandalous mistruths in years ahead. Fox also spoke with Grace-Marie Turner of the Galen Insitute, on “[whether] the…UK health care model [was] sustainable” and “what lessons could be learnt from [America]“. As the Institute is a reknowned foe of “government-controlled medicine” I think that one can guess the answers.

The Bridge’s stock began to grow as Fox attempted to unite the British and U.S. Conservatives. Shamelessly ignoring its non-partisan status[1] he told an audience that…

In the era where spin is king it is all the more vital to hold on to the truth.

How many Americans, for example, when admiring the backing given to the US by our Prime Minister Tony Blair will be aware that he could only deliver that backing through Parliament because of the support of the Conservative opposition, such was the anti-war split within his own Labour party.

Yes, Fox seems to be implying that the Big Lie of Iraq was that it was a Labour mission, not a Conservative one.

At the same event Margaret Thatcher pecked some U.S. rump, giving the “President Bush…credit for victory. First in Afghanistan, and now in Iraq, [where] the forces of tyranny and darkness have been routed“. Ah, hindsight: the greatest judge. All this sycophancy won the Bridge friends in high places. Karl Rove gave an address and Fox met with the vile John Ashcroft. Soon, he was made Shadow Secretary for Defence, and was joined by front-bench colleagues Michael Gove, George Osbourne, Chris Grayling and William Hague. U.S. hawks like Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman climbed aboard while Amanda Bowman, a ludicrous torture defendant, was hired as Chief Executive.

The unsavoury acquaintanceships continued to be made. Rudy Giuliani had his Presidential campaign boosted on receiving an “Atlantic Bridge Award“. Frank Gaffney, an absurd and nasty U.S. neocon, addressed the group on terrorism. Financial compadres were added to its corporate ones[2] as Lehman Brothers high-ups made several appearances. Finally, the Bridge announced that Liam Fox was to award the “Margaret Thatcher Medal of Freedom” to that bloody old crook Henry Kissinger. In his talk, to an audience who’d each paid £400 to attend, he claimed that Britain and America needed to “seek to bring order” – a “world order” – to a “world of turmoil“.

The Atlantic Bridge shows that some leading Coalition figures tend towards Atlanticist interventionism. Bullish rhetoric abounded on its much be-flagged website, with demands for policies “to bring about a resurgence of U.S strength, pride and global standing“. Modern-day ideologues – Gaffney and James Hirsen – and grizzled old “statesmen” – Kissinger, Giuliani – helped affirm a consensus for Anglo-U.S. domination. The sizeable influence of business and financial power might hint at a “common interest” in this theme and more besides.

European integration wasn’t favoured by the Bridge. Its donors and officials were stridently anti-EU, while it carried articles that damned the “Franco-German Axis” and plans for “a European super-state“. This isn’t a bother for me – I’m no friend to the EU – but considering the violence, lies and secrecy that an ox-strong U.S./U.K. alliance has wrought these fellows might end up replacing one corrupt union with another. And, besides some powermongers, that’s in no one’s interests. Still, perhaps it’s futile to try and worm out policies. The whole thing, with prizes, gala dinners and a procession of shart-suited, slick-tongued and cold-hearted “statesmen” reeks of nothing more than men tripping out on power. And now, of course, they are in power.

Notes

[1] I’m not too interested in the Bridge’s partisanship but, yes, it is quite partisan. It’s staffed by Tories and solely promotes Conservatives. Thatcher lauded it as a “bulwark…against the Left“; Fox used it to boost the Right and Bowman, under her title as C.E.O., “look[ed] forward to…Cameron assum[ing] power“. It’s funded by Michael Hintze, a Conservative donor.

[2] As well as Hintze, the Bridge received donations from one Michael Lewis, who has given to both Labour and the Tories, mostly, it would seem, in the interests of Israel. He was involved in the Conservative friends of the same and is central to BICOM, the British Israel Communications and Research Centre.

[3] The banner is courtesy of the Bridge’s old website. Uproariously they’d titled it “great_leaders“.

The oil coursing through the waters off the Gulf of Mexico has wrecked the fishing grounds of poor, fragile seaside communities. Desperate fishermen, their jobs quite suddenly washed out, had no choice but to sign on with BP; slaving in the cleanup effort. Unbeknown to them, however, the muck that’s clogging up their lives may be poisoning their bodies…

Local fishermen hired to work on BP’s uncontrolled oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico are scared and confused. Fishermen here and in other small communities dotting the southern marshes and swamplands of Barataria Bay are getting sick from the working on the cleanup, yet BP is assuring them they don’t need respirators or other special protection from the crude oil, strong hydrocarbon vapors, or chemical dispersants being sprayed in massive quantities on the oil slick.

The Environmental Protection Agency has ordered BP to switch to less toxic dispersants. Too late for many workers, though…

Fishermen responders who are working BP’s giant uncontrolled slick in the Gulf are reporting bad headaches, hacking coughs, stuffy sinuses, sore throats, and other symptoms.

When the fishermen come home, they find their families hacking, snuffling, and complaining of sore throats and headaches, too.

As others have noted, such rank contempt for the wellbeing of mere labourers is queasily familiar. After 9/11, courageous first responders were told that the air was safe; now, many are ill or dead: lungs ravaged by cancers. In Iraq, burn pits spew toxins far and wide, and yet the U.S. assures its troops that “risks [are] low“. Soldiers, hacking up thick, black gloop, wheezing through diminished lungs and fighting heavy nausea, aren’t inclined to be so sure.

Ricki Ott sees parallels with the Exxon Valdez spill of twenty years ago. Then, while Exxon covered up its flabby corporate ass, many workers staggered out, debilitated by infections. “It’s going to happen all over again,” grim Pandoras prophesied. BP’s conduct goes to show that even with the breakneck charge of industry consumption, some things will never change.

A word, incidentally, for Nile Gardiner, who’s been squealing that the U.S. criticism of BP “smacks of…knee-jerk Brit-bashing“: no offence, dude, but a rowdy, pissed-up Scouser in Johannesburg is better representing our land than you – or BP – are doing in the States.

Nick Clegg is promising a – *sigh*- new kind of government“…

“There will of course be problems, there will of course be glitches, but I will always do my best to prove that new politics isn’t just possible, it is also better…”

And what’s among the first things this newfangled government’s announced? Trident – Clegg’s opposition to which he displayed as a badge of radicalism – will be snapped up after all. He’s smoothed his cuffs, straightened his tie and lost his sneer; hard to believe that only weeks ago he was feigning contempt for the “old parties“. Not so old that you couldn’t find whole new dimensions, Nicky boy?

So, what’s “new” about this government? Well, let’s take a couple of samples: Liam Fox (Defence Secretary) and William Hague (Foreign Secretary) promise fawning relationships with the US, the arms industry and the lowest of war criminals. Is that the smell of a fresh, new government? No, just rotting futures.

One of the Tories’ biggest financial backers is a publicity-shy Swiss-born banker who funds a network of obscure eurosceptic groups…

Little known outside City circles, Henry Angest has funnelled almost £7m to the Tories in loans and donations over the past nine years, according to an Observer investigation.

But he also backs lesser-known political groups that question scientific claims for climate change, campaign for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and seek to further the country’s ties with the US radical right.

The Atlantic Bridge, which received £1,000 from Flowidea in 2007, is an organisation founded by Liam Fox, the Tory defence spokesman, seeking closer links with the US, particularly on defence. The organisation has been accused of being a neoconservative front, a claim it denies. Members include George Osborne and Republican congressmen.

Many of the Tories’ Atlanticist hawks are among their fiercest critics of the European Union. As I wrote, here…

There’s plenty of overlap between the two lobbies. Patrick Minford, a long-time Thatcherite, sits on the [Atlantic] Bridge’s board, and is a firm supporter of the Better Off Out campaign, which argues that, where the EU’s concerned, we’d be…Well, you can guess the rest. That organisation’s Chairman, Roger Helmer MEP, agrees thatthe Trans-Atlantic Alliance must be sacrosanct“.

For many on the right, this isn’t merely a defence agreement, it’s a hammer to be wielded against a malleable world. Nile Gardiner, while railing againstthe rise of a European superstate“, believes that the Transatlantic Alliance mustproject power and influence across the globe“. Later in his speech to Bridge, Kissinger argued that “on its own the U.S. cannot create a new order” and, thus, “the U.S.-U.K. special relationship [is] still valid [and] essential in the emerging environment“.

This is rather sad. I’m no fan of the EU, but Tories who oppose one corrupt, expansionist alliance should hedge their bets: if their dreams are realised, they may find themselves lumbered with another.

Meanwhile, Amanda Bowman, CEO of the Bridge and Fox’s comrade, has been salivating over the prospect of a Conservative government…

Cameron is a center-right conservative with all of the best traits of former Prime Minister Tony Blair of the Labor Party…Cameron will be much more amenable to shared U.S.-U.K. foreign interests than Brown.

Americans should look forward to May 6, after which Cameron and his government will likely assume power. He will be good for America and better for the Special Relationship.

How forgetful of her not to mention that her boss is a Tory. And how foolish of a “charity” to let partisan material spread under its name. And how strange that, after working with Cameron’s mooted Defence Secretary, she’s drawn the conclusion that Davey’s “more amenable to shared U.S.-U.K. foreign interests than Brown“. This sarcasm’s hitting you like a spade, isn’t it?

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