Tag Archives: William Hague

‘A Fantastic Foreign Secretary’? William Hague Leaves Office

‘A Fantastic Foreign Secretary’? William Hague Leaves Office
by Ian Sinclair
Huffington Post
21 July 2014

You’ll have heard, of course, of the maxim “Don’t speak ill of the dead”. However, you are probably less familiar with the media’s recent modification to this: “Don’t speak ill of the recently departed Foreign Secretary”.

Over at the Financial Times political commentator Janan Ganesh noted William Hague, who announced he was stepping down as Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs last week, “has hardly erred” since taking over the Foreign Office in 2010. “Nobody disputes his technical competence, his facility with a brief, his easy but authoritative style of management”, explained Ganesh.

The Guardian’s Diplomatic Editor Julian Borger reported that Hague had “suffered early setbacks but emerged at the end of it as a pioneering campaigner in partnership with one of the most glamorous film stars on the planet.” Indeed, Borger devotes over half of his article’s 756 words to Hague’s work with film star Angelina Jolie on sexual violence. And the “early setbacks”? That would be the rumours of Hague having an affair with his assistant and the incident when planes broke down trying to rescue British citizens from Libya.

Perhaps most shocking of all, Zara Taylor-Jackson, UNICEF UK’s Government Relations Manager, tweeted that Hague “has been a fantastic Foreign Secretary. He’s shown remarkable leadership in his efforts to end sexual violence in conflict.”

What these three responses to Hague’s resignation reveal is that propaganda is just as much about what is left out as what is actually stated.

So all three failed to mention that Hague was a key player in the NATO attack on Libya in 2011. The West quickly overstepped the United Nations resolution, escalating the level of violence and number of dead and arguably fanning the flames of conflict into Mali. Today Libya is in a state of perpetual violent crisis, with rival militias fighting over Tripoli’s international airport in the past week.

They also failed to mention Hague’s role in pushing for war in Syria in August 2013, a course of action that would have increased the level of violence and dead, according to such anti-war liberal pinkos as two former NATO Secretary-Generals and Yacoub El Hillo, the highest ranking UN humanitarian official in Syria at the time.

They also failed to mention Hague’s involvement in the continuing US-NATO military occupation of Afghanistan. Last week the United Nations reported civilian casualties in Afghanistan had surged 24 percent in the first half of the year – their highest levels since 2009.

They also failed to mention Hague’s role in standing with Bahrain’s rulers in opposition to democracy and human rights, and how Hague continued the long-standing British policy of supporting the other Gulf autocracies of Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE, overseeing billions of dollars of arms sales to these undemocratic governments.

They also failed to mention that while Hague has been foreign secretary Britain has armed Israel and provided cast-iron support to Israel as it attacks the “prison camp” of Gaza.

And finally they also failed to mention how Hague has given his support to the murderous US ‘war on terror’ and all that entails – drones attacks on seven nations, US special forces operations across the world, extraordinary rendition and the US prisons in Bagram and Guantanamo.

All this is not to single out Hague as especially bad or evil – he is simply fulfilling his role as British Foreign Secretary. If he had thought or acted differently he would never have risen so high in the British political elite. As the historian Mark Curtis explained in his 1995 book The Ambiguities of Power: British Foreign Policy since 1945 “Rather than occasionally deviating from the promotion of peace, democracy, human rights and economic development in the Third World, British foreign policy has been systematically opposed to them, whether the Conservatives or Labour have been in power.”

However, I would argue that writing an assessment of Hague’s time as Foreign Secretary and not mentioning any of these significant global events displays an extraordinary level of internalised establishment-friendly thinking – something huge chunks of the British media seem to excel at. As Curtis said in his 2003 book Web of Deceit: Britain’s Real Role in the World, “The British liberal intelligentsia generally displays its servitude to the powers that be rather than to ordinary people, whether here or abroad.”


Yusef Sarwar got 12 years in prison. What about William Hague?

Yusef Sarwar got 12 years in prison. What about William Hague?
by Ian Sinclair
Open Democracy
16 December 2014

Has there ever been such an obvious case of government hypocrisy that has been so completely ignored by the media?

On 5 December 2014 Yusef Sarwar, a 22-year old man from Birmingham, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for travelling to Syria to fight with a jihadist group against the Syrian Government.

When she found out where her son had gone, Yusef’s mother, Majida Sarwar, contacted the police. They apparently told her they would help get her son home. According to the Observer Yusef only spent a few weeks in Syria, before returning to the UK in January 2014, where he was immediately arrested at Heathrow Airport.

Majida has been speaking out strongly against the harsh sentencing of her son, comparing his treatment to the progressive, and it would seem more effective, rehabilitation of returning jihadists to Denmark. Speaking to The Observer she noted “When the Queen’s son went to Afghanistan to fight he was patted on the back. Our sons are going out for a cause that the British government also supports, they support the rebels fighting in Syria, he is sent to jail for 12 years.”

With this one utterance Majida completely shamed our supposedly free and critical media and all the professional and often highly educated journalists and commentators who work within it. Where in the endless newspaper columns and television news reports about Syria have you seen such a bold declaration of the truth? Whether she knows it or not, by pointing to Prince Harry fighting and killing the Taliban – most of whom are poor, local men from farming families – Majida crossed a red line that most career-minded journalists steer well clear of.

Most revealing is Majida’s reference to the inconvenient fact the British Government have themselves been supporting the Syrian rebels.

In March 2013 The Guardian explained US, UK and French personnel were training Syrian rebels in Jordan. According to the report “UK intelligence teams are giving the rebels logistical and other advice in some form.” Relatively small in scale, the training programme is likely run from the joint operations room in Amman staffed by the eleven countries including the US, Saudi Arabia, France and the UK, according to the Wall Street Journal. Six months later the New York Times confirmed the UK’s support for the armed insurgency, reporting “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 New York Times explained, because “American and British intelligence and Arab Governments… do not want their support publicly known”.

Since 2012 the United Nations has recorded widespread human rights violations by the Syrian armed opposition including extrajudicial executions, torture, the indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas and the use of Improvised Explosive Devices (which, let’s not forget, if you decided to plant in Afghanistan, might have got you killed by Prince Harry in his Apache helicopter). The UK-backed Free Syrian Army has used car bombs, with numerous reports noting it has often joined forces with the Al-Nusra Front, a branch of Al-Qaeda.

To summarise, the British Government has locked up a man for going to fight with the rebels in Syria. At the same time the British Government is continuing to provide training and support to the Syrian rebels, many of whom will have been involved human rights abuses and acts we would call ‘terrorism’ if they were perpetrated in Britain. As with many political questions, US dissident Noam Chomsky hits the nail on the head in his re-telling of the story of a captured pirate brought before Alexander the Great. “How dare you molest the sea?” demands Alexander. “How dare you molest the whole world?” the pirate replies, continuing: “Because I do it with a little ship only, I am called a thief; you, doing it with a great navy, are called an emperor.” So, if Yusef got 12 years in prison, what sentence does former Foreign Secretary William Hague, who oversaw the UK’s support for the rebels and therefore contributed to the militarisation, escalation and lengthening of the conflict – exactly the kind of conditions that encourage violent jihadists to travel to Syria – deserve?

If we had a genuinely investigative and critical media, Majida would have simply been stating well known facts and arguments. Instead, as there has been vanishingly little media coverage of the UK’s role in supporting the armed insurgency in Syria, Majida’s statement is extraordinary. Journalists would be well to sit up and take notice of what truth-telling actually looks like.