ClandesTime 111 – The Manchester Bombing and the Politics of Fear
The bombing in Manchester this week was an especially horrific act of terrorism. 22 people were killed and dozens more were injured – many of whom were children or teenagers who were exiting an Ariana Grande concert. This week I examine some of the questions I have about this bombing, and outline a lot of relevant context that has so far been ignored by virtually all media coverage of the event. I explain why the default alternative view of terrorist attacks in the West – that they are in some way ‘blowback’ resulting from NATO foreign policy – is at best a misleading simplification. I round off by criticising Jeremy Corbyn’s latest speech for appearing to offer an alternative to the War on Terror while repeating the same prejudices and assumptions that underpin it.
On the morning after the Manchester bombing I woke up at about 6 a.m. for some reason and so I saw the news as soon as I checked my emails and news feeds. My initial reaction was obviously one of sadness, the nature and target of the attack was especially depressing. As soon as that feeling began to fade I started to think about the political reaction, after all this has happened in the middle of a general election campaign. Like many others, my overriding thought was that this means the Tories and Theresa May will win the election. We will come back to this at the end of the episode.
Then I started looking into the details of the bombing itself – the available witness reports, the one video of the blast that was doing the rounds in the early hours, the scenario being described by police. Instantly there were problems and questions. Within hours of the blast, anonymous US officials were briefing the press that this was a suicide bombing. 10 hours later the British police were still only saying it was a ‘suspected suicide bombing’, though that became a firm claim as the day progressed.
There is also the question of the bomb itself. Craig Murray, whose blog I follow quite closely, pointed out that the only video we have seen (so far) is from a dashboard-mounted camera in a car some distance away from the Manchester Arena. It shows a bright flash, and a second later the rumble of a large but distant explosion. The time lag between the flash of light and the sound shows that the car must have been at least half a mile away, which begs the question – how big does an explosion have to be that it can be seen and heard from such a distance? The answer: more powerful than any homemade backpack bomb in history.
Similarly, the bombing killed 22 people and injured many more. Witnesses spoke of a large flash of light, some say they were thrown 30 feet by the force of the blast, others spoke of how the whole building shook. Again, this is not consistent with a small, homemade device. It is consistent with a larger bomb or a very well made bomb composed of military-grade explosive like RDX or C4, but that doesn’t fit with the notion of a single, self-radicalised suicide bomber.
Also, why use a suicide bomber when you could just leave a bomb outside the Arena and set it off by remote or on a timer? The whole point of suicide bombers is to strike hard targets – ambassadors, military checkpoints – not soft targets like random civilians in an open public place. All these elements point to a considerably larger plot than the version we were told in the first day or two. Since then the police have raided numerous properties and arrested a bunch of people who may or may not be involved. Time will tell whether any of that is relevant.
While we are considering the technical aspects we should bear in mind that British military intelligence are experts at precisely this sort of attack – where you carry out a bombing and not only blame someone else, but make it look like they blew themselves up. This is the ultimate in false flag tactics because it doesn’t leave a living perpetrator to be prosecuted, who might testify to things the security state want to keep hidden. Dead men tell no tales.
I am specifically talking about tactics developed during the 1970s and 80s in Northern Ireland, when the Military Reaction Force or MRF worked hand in glove with violent Loyalist militants. They attacked Republicans and just random Catholics in shootings, bombings, all manner of urban violence. One of the favoured methods was the ‘own goal’ bombing like at McGurk’s Bar in 1971 where 15 people died. For years the official story was that Republicans had mishandled explosives, killing themselves and everyone else in the bar. In reality the bombing was carried out by Loyalists working with British intelligence.
Transposing the same methods onto today’s context and you get a suicide bombing. No evidence has been presented that the alleged bomber in Manchester – Salman Abedi – deliberately blew himself up. Indeed, no evidence has been presented that he was carrying the bomb, or knew he was carrying a bomb. The possibility of someone tricking him, or of him making a mistake, is not considered. It’s simply ‘he was a Muslim who died in the bombing, therefore suicide bomber’. At least with the Irish it was made to look like an accident. With Muslims the assumption is always that it was deliberate.
It may be relevant that crucial details – that it was a suicide bomber (at least officially), that his name was Salman Abedi, and the first photographs from the scene, were all leaked by American intelligence to the US media. This is where this information all first appeared. It seems the British authorities have now stopped sharing information about the bombing with the American agencies, but it highlights how intelligence leaks are a standard procedure in times like these.
LIFG and The Manchester Bombing
Though ISIS supposedly claimed responsibility via some messaging app, it quickly emerged that Abedi was the son of Libyan refugees who had moved to Manchester in the mid-1990s, and that he lived on the same street as a master bomb builder (name), of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, also known as Al Muqatila or simply LIFG. But who are LIFG?
The alternative narrative that’s now emerging highlights – quite accurately – that LIFG are one of the groups NATO sponsored in Libya during the Arab Spring to destabilise Colonel Gaddafi. The Libyan government responded to the jihadi violence with military force, and the Western news media spun this as Gaddafi killing his own people and we had to intervene. Those progressive commentators who endorse the ‘blowback’ narrative have pointed out that the inevitable result of sponsoring jihadis abroad is terrorist attacks at home. This is true, but it is a simplification. For one thing, we’ve had terrorist bombings in this country relatively consistently for the last century. That’s long before we started sponsoring militants in foreign countries.
On the other hand, military and intelligence agencies in NATO countries have been supporting, arming, funding, radicalising, equipping and using jihadis as a mercenary proxy force for 40 years. This is not something that started during the Arab Spring. This is why I am so strongly opposed to the blowback narrative or interpretation – it is based on the idea that our government failed to predict the consequences of our foreign, intelligence and security policies. That might have been true in the 80s, with the bombing at the Marine Corps barracks. It is what the CIA concluded about the 1993 WTC bombing – that ‘a substantial amount of blowback had occurred’. But since then we’ve had the ’98 embassy bombings, the USS Cole bombing, 9/11, Madrid, 7/7, and more recently Charlie Hebdo, Paris and now Manchester. At what point does ‘blowback’ become the predictable, or even intended, consequence of these policies and tactics? At what point does incompetence become criminal negligence, or even worse?
Herein lies a huge problem – many commentators don’t want to even suggest that the government is guilty of massive criminal negligence, let alone explore the idea that people within the government might be directly responsible for terrorist attacks. Craig Murray, a man who blew the whistle on the British government colluding with the torturous, repressive Uzbek regime, always discounts these ideas. He wrote, in response to commenters on his site saying that the government was behind this latest attack, that he has met people within the intelligence services and he does not believe they are capable of such a thing.
With all due respect, this a hogwash, evasive argument. Murray’s personal opinion of individuals is not a valid reason for thinking that no one within MI5 is capable of this. It isn’t even a solid argument that the people he has met wouldn’t do this. After all, the sort of psychopaths who would bomb a bunch of kids at a concert would also lie, charm and deceive everyone they met. Along similar lines Owen Jones, a darling of the liberal Left and as such an insipid cunt of a human being, rejects this idea wholesale – either in the sense of criminal negligence or criminal culpability. Same with Ron Paul, Democracy Now, and plenty of others I could mention.
This is a huge problem. When even the commentators on the fringes refuse point blank to even consider that the government might do something which it has demonstrably, provably done in the past, then what kind of space exists to have this discussion? Obviously there are individual blogs and websites and podcasts but when even the supposedly counter-establishment media just reject these notions out of hand then that doesn’t give people like me, people like us, a lot of room for manoeuvre.
This is not to say I don’t have some sympathy for Murray, Jones and so on. I know what it is like when certain people believe everything is a conspiracy, everything is a false flag. Just to take another recent example – the Westminster attack a couple of months ago doesn’t seem at all fishy to me, it likely was a religious fanatic with a deathwish killing a bunch of people and then picking a fight with armed police. I’ve seen nothing to make me think there was more to it than that. However, when it happened I got messages and emails from people telling me it was a false flag and asking why I wasn’t investigating it and so on. Even recently, I had to block someone on facebook who kept trying to divert a thread about Manchester to talk about how Israel supposedly did 9/11. They kept trying to get me to watch the Fox news piece about the Israeli spy ring and couldn’t accept it when I told them I had seen it a dozen times and didn’t buy that it was evidence of anything particularly important. For people who are fixated on false flags, particularly those who are also fixated on Israel, the notion that someone else doesn’t see things the same way is incomprehensible.
As such, I understand where this unwillingness to talk about these things comes from – as soon as you make your site an outlet where people can discuss 9/11 (for example) you get hundreds of dipshits turning up and arguing over minutiae, derailing everything and making a sensible discussion impossible. That is the 9/11 ‘truth’ movement in a nutshell – a bunch of cranks, fringe weirdos and wannabe edgy losers who have no interest in actually doing anything about 9/11 except arguing with other people on the internet. A fun sport, maybe, but politically absolutely pointless.
Nonetheless, even if we leave to one side the possibility that this was a pure false flag, that still leaves us with the notion of serious criminal negligence. After all, if you buy a tiger, train it to kill dogs and then let it loose and it kills all the dogs in the neighbourhood, that is your fault. It might also be the tiger’s fault, but this isn’t an either/or situation.
One thing I’ve seen very few people acknowledge is that the policy of sponsoring jihadis goes back decades, therefore we have no excuses for not being able to predict the by now very, very predictable results. Another dimension that pretty much no one acknowledges is that these policies have not only continued, they’ve escalated. The size of the train and equip program in Syria is much larger than the equivalent programme in Bosnia. In Bosnia there were maybe 10,000 jihadis who the Pentagon flew in to act as shock troops for the Bosnian Muslim Army. In Syria, it’s possibly ten times that number. So the idea that we are simply not learning from past mistakes is absurd, a laughable disgrace of a notion. It’s like a gambler not just losing all his money, but then borrowing more to make bigger and bigger bets, each time losing but each time borrowing more from the mafia casino so he can keep placing larger wagers. No one says his gambling losses are blowback, the unintended, unpredictable, entirely accidental consequences of a gambling addiction.
So why should it be any different for NATO?
Who are the LIFG?
The real story behind the LIFG is much more than this lameass, mealy-mouthing horseshit about blowback. The reality is that Abedi’s parents were granted asylum in the mid 1990s because they were anti-Gaddafi activists. We know that Abedi’s father was a member of LIFG, and that they were the gang that MI6 used in 1995-96 to try to kill Gaddafi. This was first revealed in David Shayler and Annie Machon’s book Spies, Lies and Whistleblowers, and confirmed to a large extent by the BBC’s Panorama team and by Stephen Dorril in his book on MI6.
In essence, an MI6 intelligence officer codenamed Tunworth was a member of LIFG, and they were paid £100,000 to try to assassinate Gaddafi by bombing his motorcade. They messed up, bombed the wrong car and in the ensuing firefight innocent civilians were killed. The LIFG then scattered, many of them fleeing to the UK. In 1996 they set up an office in London where they published their newsletter. They were government-protected terrorists.
Perhaps the most famous member of LIFG also turns up in Manchester. Anas Al Liby was Al Qaeda’s computer expert, and was trained by triple agent Ali Mohamed. It was their surveillance on targets that led to the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. Al Liby joined LIFG in the early 90s, and after the MI6-sponsored assassination plot went wrong he was one of those who fled to the UK. Even after the embassy bombings he still lived essentially freely in the UK, having been granted political asylum. In 1999 he was interviewed by the police but not charged, and in May 2000 the police raided several properties in Manchester as part of a counter-terrorism operation. Al Liby evaded capture and in his flat they found a 180-page Al Qaeda manual. As we will explore in a later episode, this manual was largely written by Ali Mohamed, based on US Special Forces and CIA training manuals. After 9/11 the US State Department designated LIFG an international terrorist group, but it wasn’t until 2005 that the British government did the same.
After the raids in Manchester Al Liby then disappears for a while, before being reported captured in early 2002, though reports have him being captured in either Egypt, Sudan or Afghanistan in either January, February or March. Exactly where he is for most of the next decade is unclear. In 2011 LIFG are one of the jihadi gangs that NATO supported as part of their successful attempt to destabilise and remove Gaddafi. Whether Al Liby was involved in that is not clear, as one CNN report in 2012 says he had returned to Libya after spending several years in prison in Iran.
Then, following the Westgate shopping centre massacre in Nairobi in 2013, US special forces launched an operation to capture Al Liby, which was successful. They extradited him to the US to face terrorism charges. Then, in January 2015, only days before his trial was due to start, Abu Anas Al Liby died in a US hospital. Again, dead men tell no tales, and Al Liby was pleading not guilty so he could have got on the stand and sung like a canary about what he really knew and who he really worked for.
This all comes full circle when the Telegraph claimed that:
‘A group of Gaddafi dissidents, who were members of the outlawed Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), lived within close proximity to Abedi in Whalley Range… Among them was Abd al-Baset Azzouz, a father-of-four from Manchester, who left Britain to run a terrorist network in Libya overseen by Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s successor as leader of al-Qaeda. Azzouz, 48, an expert bomb-maker, was accused of running an al-Qaeda network in eastern Libya. The Telegraph reported in 2014 that Azzouz had 200 to 300 militants under his control and was an expert in bomb-making.’
So we have a group of LIFG ‘dissidents’ who live in Manchester for years even after one of them helps blow up two US embassies, and years after both the US and UK governments declare the LIFG an international terrorist organisation. One of them is apparently a master bomb builder who is now running a terror gang in Libya, where we know Abedi returned from not long before the Manchester bombing. Abedi’s father is a member of a terrorist group that MI6 sponsored to try to kill Gaddafi, which is the whole reason they, and Salman Abedi, were in Manchester in the first place.
Does this sound like blowback from foreign interventions to you? Does this sound like it’s just them bombing us because we’re bombing them? Or does it sound like there’s something a lot more fucking complicated and a lot more fucking secretive and a lot more fucking criminal than these pithy, reassuring platitudes suggest?
The Politics of the Manchester Bombing
As I say, when I first heard about the bombing I thought this would win Theresa May the election. I thought that this would interrupt the campaigning, take away all the momentum Labour have built up and indeed, that this was a possible motive behind it. We saw shortly after Corbyn became leader of the Labour party how a senior currently serving general in the British military said there would be a mutiny if Corbyn became Prime Minister. And just so there’s no confusion – when a military mutinies against its government that’s called a coup d’etat. As such, the idea of senior people within the MOD deciding one bombing was better than having to stage a coup is not at all ridiculous, no matter what people might tell you.
As predicted, once the campaign restarted we’ve seen the entire dialogue shift to one about safety and security. However, I was wrong when I said Corbyn could not win if that was the dialogue. Even before the campaign got going again I’ve seen no end of Corbyn supporters talking about how Theresa May’s cuts mean there are 20,000 less police on the streets, implying that this somehow led to the Manchester bombing. In reality, MI5 had at least five chances to intercept Abedi and mysteriously failed every time. More police on the streets wouldn’t have made a damn bit of difference to that. Likewise, once the campaign restarted I’ve seen no end of memes about how Labour are going to spend more on the police, more on MI5, more on the military, more on prison wardens.
There’s also some promise to stop selling weapons to Saudi Arabia. This would be a great policy, but as per usual the underlying implication is the same racist colonialist bullshit that got us into this mess. The idea is that it’s those dirty Saudis, those brown governments, they’re the ones who sponsor jihadis. Not us clean white governments, we just make mistakes like selling weapons to the worst government in the world, one that’s run by Islamic fundamentalists. Also, you know as well as I do that if Corbyn gets elected he won’t be able to ban the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia. The Royal Family and some of the biggest most powerful most tooled-up-with-lobbyists companies in the country are intimately involved in that trade. What would likely happen is some completely watered down version where they promise a new watchdog office for arms export licenses or something on that scale.
At the time I’m recording this the latest thing is Corbyn’s speech which is basically the same old ‘they bombed us because we bombed them’ which completely maintains the binary fiction of us and them and avoids any notion of us sponsoring them, the jihadis, or of us protecting Libyan terrorists in Manchester. The conclusion being if we stopped bombing them there would be no more terrorism. Again, I’m not denying that this would be a good idea, but the same racist, colonialist ideas underpin this interpretation of what has happened.
This has caused me to completely re-evaluate who and what Corbyn is, and what the purpose of this bombing may have been. Rather than ensure Theresa May gets elected, the bombing may be more about pulling Corbyn into a dialogue that suits the security state. Because Corbyn’s populist platform is all based on spending more money on things. More money on the NHS, more on social care, more on schools. And now there’s been a bombing, more on the military, police, MI5. MI5’s budget more than doubled between 2001 and 2011, it was raised again after the Paris massacre in late 2015. We already spend billions on this and Corbyn is promising more raises for those who sponsor and protect terrorist as well as another £10 billion for ‘cybersecurity’. Rather than take the fact that when she was Home Secretary Theresa May decided to cancel a contract for updating the security on the NHS computer system, leading to a massive hack of that system only a couple of weeks ago, and shoving that fact right down that psychotic bitch’s throat, he wants to spend £10 billion on cybersecurity. And the whole notion of cybersecurity is a cruel farce because GCHQ and the NSA have hacked virtually every piece of software ever made. This being the same GCHQ who would be the major beneficiaries of that £10 billion pounds since ‘cybersecurity’ is their whole reason for existing. Except in reality, their raison d’etre is hacking and spying on everything.
And Corbyn knows this, because we all know this because of the media hype around Snowden. But he wants to spend £10 billion on cybersecurity while saying not a fucking word about what GCHQ are really up to.
I know that basically no one wants to hear this or read this but Corbyn’s speech was a masterpiece of fascistic doublespeak. Simultaneously upholding the racist colonialist fiction of the war on terror while appearing to question it. Promising to stop bombing the middle East but saying nothing about our covert and overt sponsorship and protection of jihadis and terrorists. By avoiding talking about what’s really going on, whether by accident, design or criminal negligence, he is appearing to be telling the truth when in fact it’s a carefully woven lie that protects and enhances the very agencies enacting these policies. Appearing to go against the security state, while ensuring the maintenance of its fictions and increases to its resources.
So great, MI6 can now sponsor even more jihadis and MI5 can grant asylum to even more terrorists here in the UK. Fucking genius. Now we’ll continue the bombings and the invasions, but the excuse won’t be humanitarian intervention, but national security and creating a ‘lasting peace’. Which is pretty much exactly what George Bush II said when we started this war on terror. The fascistic rhetoric of neoconservatives has been recycled by a supposedly commie peacenik, and his followers have applauded this so loudly it is deafening.
So let me break it down for you because throughout this speech Corbyn shifts effortlessly between being the commie peacenik we all know and love, and being a fascist.
Now, let me play for you a clip of all the fascist moments in the speech put together.
Honestly, there’s so much doublespeak that I think this speech was written by MI5. I think they infiltrated Corbyn’s inner circle some time ago and in the wake of the bombing they’ve given him this speech riddled with fascistic doublespeak. Just enough commie peacenik stuff to make you think he’s still the commie peacenik you know and love. But also plenty of naked fascism so you can be in no doubt about what his governments priorities will be when it comes to terrorism and security.
Before I go I do want to add one final observation – that we have now entered into the full on Donald Trump Rorschach Politics phase of Corbyn’s run for Prime Minister. People are simply ignoring the things that they don’t want to have to deal with, and pretending that Corbyn’s saying things that he isn’t really saying. The contradictions in his response to the Manchester bombing are so fundamental as to be unavoidable, and yet people are choosing to avoid them.
Not that I can blame them, given that this is our choice of public dialogue:
1) The racist fiction put out by the Tories, UKIP and their friends in the media that this was an evil strike by an evil Muslim and that’s all there is to it so we should hate immigrants and especially Muslims more than we already do.
2) The neoliberal racist fantasy that this is all because we bombed them so they bombed us so if we stop bombing them then the fact we covertly and overtly sponsor jihadis for 40 years in 20 countries will magically be resolved.
3) The fake anti-war racist fantasy that this just blowback because some of our terrorists got out of hand by accident and we didn’t spy on them enough and one of those fucking untrustworthy shifty fucking Arabs blew up some of our children.
It’s not a great public dialogue, given what’s actually going on. So I can understand why people just want to avoid the grim implication that either our terrorists got out of control and killed some people and neither Theresa May nor Jeremy Corbyn gives a good fuck, or this was actually done by our own security services, who both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn want to give more money to. It’s a truly terrible situation, so I know why people want to find some other narrative that sort of addresses these points but only in a racist way that isn’t explicitly racist so it’s acceptable to the intellectual liberal consensus. But I’m not part of the liberal consensus so I don’t feel any obligation to pay lip service to this cacophony of misleading two-faced hackery.
Now, I know a lot of my friends are made uneasy by my take-no-prisoners approach to this issue. I have supported Corbyn up until this point, but I cannot in good conscience vote for this. If you think his domestic economic policies are good enough to vote for him then by all means do. If you believe he is being honest when he says we need a peaceful foreign policy and being dishonest when he says he will do whatever it takes to make the country safe, then by all means vote for him. But I cannot. This is such a critical issue that I see no meaning in half-measures or mealy-mouthing fake interpretations of the causes of these problems. This is brutal, callous criminality on the part of our security state, whether out of apathy or cynicism towards the consequences, or out of premeditation. Either way, we face a terrible enemy, and if we’re not strong enough to at least mentally confront that then they’ve already won. We need to have courage, integrity, personal and intellectual honesty and above all a determination not to be deceived.
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