Tag Archives: Seymour Hersh

Benghazi: the real story

Benghazi: the real story
by Ian Sinclair
Morning Star
21 March 2016

Hollywood, as lecturer Matthew Alford explains in his 2010 book Reel Power, “routinely promotes the dubious notion that the United States is a benevolent force in world affairs.”

Thus Michael Bay’s $50 million recent film 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi tells the story of the September 11 2012 attack on the US consulate in Libya, which killed the US ambassador and three of his colleagues.

As with movies such as Black Hawk Down (2001) and Lone Survivor (2013) the audience watches as a small band of brave US servicemen heroically fight back against hundreds of faceless Arabs, with no apparent motive other than a hatred of Westerners.

13 Hours is clear about the benevolent intent of the US in Libya, with the initial credits explaining the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had an annex close to the US consulate, where operatives gathered intelligence to try their best to get weapons taken off the black market.

In an extensive February 2016 investigation into the US intervention in Libya, the New York Times repeats this official narrative, explaining the US “struggled against weapons proliferation” after Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi had been overthrown and killed.

However, a number of reports show there is far more to the story than the US government, 13 Hours and the New York Times would have us believe.

In August 2013 CNN reported that dozens of CIA operatives had been on the ground in Benghazi and that “the agency is going to great lengths to make sure whatever it was doing remains a secret.”

According to one source quoted by CNN, the CIA has been involved in an unprecedented attempt to keep the spy agency’s Benghazi secrets from ever leaking out. All of which begs an obvious question: if the CIA were simply attempting to stop weapons proliferation in Libya, why would this need to be covered up?

Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh’s reporting on US actions in Libya may provide the answer. According to an article he published in the London Review of Books in April 2014, the CIA, with the assistance of Britain’s MI6, set up a “rat line” to funnel weapons and ammunition from Libya to Syria via southern Turkey. “The consulate’s only mission was to provide cover for the moving of arms,” says a former intelligence official quoted by Hersh.

Citing a classified annex to a US Senate intelligence committee report, Hersh notes the funding for the weapons transfers came from US allies Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

A formerly classified October 2012 US Defence Intelligence Agency report echoes Hersh’s discovery, noting that “during the immediate aftermath of … the downfall of the [Gadaffi] regime in October 2011 … weapons from the former Libyan military stockpiles located in Benghazi, Libya, were shipped” to Syria. Importantly, the report explains the shipments ended in early September 2012 — the date the US consulate was attacked and when Hersh also says the shipments ended.

Michael Morrell, the former deputy director of the CIA, confirmed the existence of the weapons shipments in testimony to the US House intelligence committee in November 2012. However, the part of the transcript showing Morrell’s response to a question asking whether the CIA was involved in co-ordinating the weapons transfers is redacted. “Long story short: the CIA was watching closely as our allies transferred weapons to Syrian rebels,” explained the independent journalist Marcy Wheeler, summarising Morrell’s testimony and the CIA report.

So, while many of the details are fuzzy, it seems clear the US was transferring weapons from Libya to Syria or, at the very least, was fully aware its allies were doing this and did nothing. Weapons, it should be noted, that a plethora of experts and observers — from former Nato secretary-generals to the United Nations — have warned will only escalate and deepen the war in Syria.

In addition to contradicting the Establishment-promoted image of US-British power as benevolent and positive, the real story of Benghazi fatally undermines the dominant narrative that, as BBC Today programme presenter Nick Robinson recently noted, the Obama administration has had a “deep unwillingness to get engaged in” the Syrian war. Or, as well-respected think-tanker Shadi Hamid argues, US policy in Syria has been one of “defensive minimalism.” Furthermore, the Libyan-Syrian “rat line” story also highlights another inconvenient truth: Hersh notes that “many of those in Syria who ultimately received the weapons were jihadists, some of them affiliated with al-Qaida.”

If, as the independent media icon Amy Goodman has said, “the role of journalism is to go where the silences are,” then the CIA and MI6 role in Benghazi should be the first port of call for anyone looking to shine a light on the nefarious machinations of the Western powers in the Middle East.

How the UK is helping to feed the flames of war in Syria

How the UK is helping to feed the flames of war in Syria
by Ian Sinclair
Peace News
19 April 2014

When the Coalition Government was defeated in parliament over military intervention in Syria last summer many activists probably thought that was the end of the matter. After all Prime Minister David Cameron had conceded ‘the British parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action. I get that and the Government will act accordingly.’

What many people don’t realise is the UK was interfering in the Syria war before the vote – arming and training the Syrian rebels fighting to overthrow the Assad Government. And although a US-UK military strike has been averted, the UK is continuing to support the rebels.

According to Seymour Hersh’s latest expose in the London Review of Books, from early 2012 MI6 was helping the CIA transfer weapons from Libya to the Syrian rebels. Funding for this ‘rat line’ came from Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. After the September 2012 attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi (likely targeted because of its role in these arms transfers), Hersh notes that the US – and presumably Britain – ended its involvement, although the rat line continued without them.

Quoting Jordanian security sources, in March 2013 the Guardian reported that US, UK and French personnel were training Syrian rebels in Jordan in an effort to strengthen secular elements of the Syrian opposition. According to the Guardian ‘UK intelligence teams are giving the rebels logistical and other advice in some form.’ Relatively small in size, this training programme is likely run from the joint operations room in Amman staffed by the eleven countries that form the Friends of Syria group, including the US, Saudi Arabia, France and the UK, according to the Wall Street Journal. The joint operations room coordinates the training of rebels in Jordan and the supply of money and weapons to rebel groups in southern Syria. In September 2013 the New York Times reported that ‘Saudi Arabia, quietly cooperating with American and British intelligence and other Arab governments, has modestly increased deliveries of weapons to rebels fighting in southern Syria’. This cooperation with Saudi Arabia is covert, the report explained, because ‘American and British intelligence and Arab Governments… do not want their support publicly known’.

All of these operations have been conducted outside Syria. However, in 2012 lord chief justice Lord Judge inadvertently provided evidence of British personnel working on the ground in Syria itself. Presiding over the court of appeal for SAS solider Danny Nightengale, who was sentenced to military jail for firearms offences, according to the Guardian Lord Judge told the court ‘Nightingale’s life was a “remarkable story” that had taken him on dangerous missions in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Libya.’

The UK has been helping to arm the rebels despite a wealth of expert opinion arguing such support will lead to an escalation of the conflict. In April 2013 an official UN report of the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s meeting with the Prime Minister of Qatar noted ‘the Secretary-General called for stemming the supply of arms to any side in the Syrian conflict. More arms would only mean more deaths and destruction. In May 2013 the Campaign Against Arms Trade argued ‘Arming rebel and opposition forces will have unforeseen long-term consequences for Syria and the region and will not assist in finding a non-military solution to this terrible situation.’ In the same month Julien Barnes-Dacey and Daniel Levy of the European Council on Foreign Relations warned ‘western arming of rebels is ill-advised given its… encouragement of escalation and maximalism, and the inability to guarantee in whose hands weapons will end up.’ With the Independent’s Patrick Cockburn recently noting ‘the Syrian armed opposition are, more than ever, dominated by jihadi fighters’ the likelihood of the weapons falling in to the hands of the most extreme groups has only increased. For example, in March 2014, Brown Moses, a blogger who tracks weapons use in Syria, discovered that Croatian arms the CIA had helped to send to Syrian rebels, were now being used by the al-Qaeda linked Islamic State of Iraq to target US-made Armoured Personnel Carriers used by government forces in Iraq.

Public opinion lines up with the experts on this issue. A YouGov poll taken a few days before the parliamentary vote found 58 per cent of respondents opposed ‘sending small arms such as hand guns to the anti-Assad troops’, with just 16 per cent in support. This opposition continued after the vote, with an ICM/Sunday Telegraph poll finding just 3 per cent of respondents thought the UK should be ‘arming Syrian anti-Government rebels.’

Although the evidence I present above is culled from news reports, these are infrequent and isolated stories: The UK media has manifestly failed to provide any in-depth coverage, raise questions or undertake serious investigation in to the UK’s role in escalating the Syrian war.

While it was undoubtedly a huge victory for anti-war and peace activism, peace activists should not be complacent about the Government parliamentary defeat on military intervention in Syria. The Government continues to arm and train the rebels in Syria, which many experts have warned will escalate the fighting, lengthen the conflict, lead to more deaths and empower the most extreme and violent groups. Peace activists need to step up and draw attention to the UK’s ongoing destructive role in Syria and pressure the Government to stop interfering and instead work to deescalate the conflict.