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John Pilger: Hail to the true victors of Rupert Murdoch's Revolution

The British press celebrates the triumph of Libya’s “rebel” forces. And the British arms industry toasts its continued success in expanding its markets in the Middle East.

On 13 September, one of the world's biggest arms fairs opens in London, backed by the British government. On 8 September, the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry held a preview entitled "Middle East: a Vast Market for UK Defence and Security Companies". The host was the Royal Bank of Scotland, a major investor in cluster bombs. According to Amnesty International, 98 per cent of the victims of cluster bombs are civilians and 30 per cent children. RBS has received £20bn in public money. The blurb for the bank's arms party read: "The Middle East is one of the regions with the greatest number of opportunities for UK defence and security companies. Saudi Arabia . . . is the world's top defence importer, having spent $56bn in 2009 . . . a very worthwhile region to target."

Such are the Cameron government's priorities following the great "humanitarian" victory in Libya. As Margaret Thatcher once declared: "Rejoice!" And as the bankers and arms merchants raise their glasses, let us not forget the heroic RAF pilots who made Libya ours again by incinerating countless "pro-Gaddafi elements" in their homes and cots and clinics, and the unsung stalwarts of the British drone industry at Menwith Hill in Yorkshire who, before and after lunch, provide the information for targets so that Hellfire missiles can flatten homes and suck the air out of lungs. And cheers to QinetiQ's drone testing site at Aberporth and at UAV Engines Limited in Lichfield.

Heist of little interest

The west's humanitarian mission is not quite finished. Six months after securing a UN resolution authorising "the [protection] of civilians and civilian-populated areas under the threat of attack", Nato is raining fragmentation bombs on civilian-populated Sirte and other "Gaddafi strongholds" where, says a Channel 4 News reporter, "until they cut off the head of the snake, Libyans will not feel safe". I quote that not so much for its Orwellian quality, but as a model of journalism's role in justifying "our" bloodbaths in advance.

This is Rupert's Revolution, after all. Gone from the Murdoch press are pejorative "insurgents". The action in Libya, says the Times, is "a revolution . . . as revolutions used to be". That it is a coup by a gang of Muammar al-Gaddafi's ex-cronies and spooks in collusion with Nato is hardly news. Their self-appointed leader, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, was Gaddafi's feared justice minister. The CIA runs or bankrolls most of the rest, including America's old friends - the mujahedin Islamists who spawned al-Qaeda. They told journalists what they needed to know: that Gaddafi was about to commit "genocide", of which there was no evidence, unlike the abundant evidence of "rebel" massacres of black African workers falsely accused of being mercenaries. European bankers' secret transfer of the Central Bank of Libya from Tripoli to Benghazi in order to control the country's oil billions was an epic heist of little interest.

The entirely predictable indictment of Gaddafi before the "international court" at The Hague evokes the charade of the dying "Lockerbie bomber", Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, whose "heinous crime" has been deployed to promote the west's ambitions in Libya. In 2009, al-Megrahi was sent back to Libya not for compassionate reasons, as reported, but because his appeal would have confirmed his innocence and described how he was framed by the Thatcher government, as the late Paul Foot's landmark exposé revealed. As an antidote to the current propaganda, I urge you to read the forensic demolition of Megrahi's "guilt" and its wider meaning in Dispatches from the Dark Side: on Torture and the Death of Justice (Verso) by the distinguished human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce.

This is not to detract from Gaddafi's awful dictatorship, a "rendition" destination for MI6, we now learn. But his odium is unrelated to the rape of his country by imperial caricatures such as Nicolas Sarkozy, a Napoleonic Islamophobe whose intelligence services almost certainly set up the coup against Gaddafi. US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks disclose the west's panic over Gaddafi's refusal to hand over the greatest reserves of oil in Africa and his overtures to China and Russia.

Get it right

Propaganda relies not only on Murdoch but on apparently respectable voices inducing historical amnesia. The Observer, which has yet to apologise for its catastrophic promotion of Iraq's non-existent weapons of mass destruction, is in thrall to the "honourable intervention" of Sarkozy and Cameron and their "humanitarian and emotional" motives. Its political columnist Andrew Rawnsley completes an impressive double. As Media Lens reminds us, in 2003, Rawnsley wrote of Iraq: "The death toll has been nothing like as high as had been widely feared." A million dead Iraqis later, Rawnsley insists that, in Libya, Britain "got it right" and "the number of civilian casualties inflicted by the air strikes seems to have been mercifully light". Tell that to those with loved ones obliterated by corporate-friendly Hellfires.

Nato attacked Libya to counter and manipulate a general Arab uprising that took the rulers of the world by surprise. Unlike his neighbours, Gaddafi had come to power by denying western control of his country's natural wealth. For this, he was never forgiven, and the opportunity for his demise was seized in the usual manner. The American historian William Blum has kept the record. Since the Second World War, the United States has crushed or subverted liberation movements in 20 countries, and attempted to overthrow more than 50 governments, many of them democratic, and dropped bombs on 30 countries, and attempted to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders. Rejoice!

John Pilger, renowned investigative journalist and documentary film-maker, is one of only two to have twice won British journalism's top award; his documentaries have won academy awards in both the UK and the US. In a New Statesman survey of the 50 heroes of our time, Pilger came fourth behind Aung San Suu Kyi and Nelson Mandela. "John Pilger," wrote Harold Pinter, "unearths, with steely attention facts, the filthy truth. I salute him."

This article first appeared in the 12 September 2011 issue of the New Statesman, Cameron vs the shires

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Archbishop Welby and the hidden price of being Mister Nice Guy

Doubtless Welby’s supporters will find such a description rude to the point of impiousness – but for those of us who live in an uncloistered world, the most significant indicators of his true nature lie first in his appearance.

The most important thing about Justin Portal Welby, the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of All England, is that he’s not Rowan Williams. How we all miss Rowan Williams! The whole point of the Established Church is that its ministry is for all Britons, not just confessing Anglicans; and Dr Williams achieved this difficult task brilliantly. That he did so was, in large measure, due to his appearance: the most fanatical adherent of sharia law hearkened to his fluting emollience, because, resembling as he does a fictional wizard straight out of central casting, they assumed he was either Gandalf the Grey, or Albus Dumbledore, or possibly both.

With Dr Williams’s successor we must bear witness to a marked decline in the archiepiscopal phenotype. Far from resembling some wand-waving sorcerer, and despite all the rich caparisoning, Justin Welby still looks like exactly what he is: a superannuated Old Etonian oil executive from west London with a sideline in religiosity. His is not a bonny countenance; rather, he resembles a constipated tortoise with sunburn. Frankly, he could do with a beard – the more patriarchal the better – simply to cover up that sourpuss.

Doubtless Welby’s supporters will find such a description rude to the point of impiousness – but for those of us who live in an uncloistered world, the most significant indicators of his true nature lie first in his appearance, and second in the manner of his ordination.

Welby is one of Sandy Millar’s men. (And I say “men” advisedly.) When Welby heard the call to be ordained in the late 1980s he was initially rejected by the then bishop of Kensington, who said: “There is no place for you in the Church of England.” Prophetic words, indeed. It was Sandy Millar, one of the founders of the evangelical – indeed, charismatic – Alpha course, at Holy Trinity Brompton, in London, who came out to bat for Welby. The evangelicals must have been delighted when they got one of their own into Lambeth Palace, yet ever since he took up his crosier he’s been insidiously sticking it to them. I’m going to explain why, but first a word or two about evangelicals.

It’s disconcerting the first time it happens to you: you’re standing up in church, ready to groan your way apathetically through another fusty Victorian hymn, when instead of the moaning of a clapped-out organ, an electric guitar strikes a resounding chord and the worshipper next to you bursts into enthusiastic song. Worse is to follow: for, as she warbles, she slowly raises one arm, extends it, and begins to wave it about like a tree bough while the other arm remains rigidly at her side. Looking around you, you see that the congregation is like unto a forest: so many raised and undulant limbs are there. Yes, you have fallen among evangelicals – and if you thought ordinary Anglicans were a bit too nice then you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Purely to show open-mindedness, my wife attended an Alpha course run by one of our son’s schoolfriend’s parents, who was an evangelical minister. After a few weeks she began to seem a little – how can I put it? – spiritually pained, and when I asked her what the matter was, she said she was having something of a crisis of no faith. “It’s just that they’re so very nice,” she said, “and the God they believe in is so very nice, too. They make me feel anxious I might be upsetting Jesus by not believing in Him as well.”

Nice as he may be, Welby remains an evangelical, and evangelicals have a tricky time when it comes to homosexuality, because although not exactly fundamentalists, they nonetheless cleave strongly to the Word of the Lord, rather than chipping up to the church fête from time to time to buy a few tombola tickets. So, simply by looking into his own heart, Welby knows the situation is intractable: those homophobic Africans and redneck Americans cannot be appeased, and though he personally is opposed to gay marriage, he has said he’s “always averse to the language of exclusion when what we are called to is to love in the same way as Jesus Christ loves us”.

Welby seems to feel Jesus loves us by letting us go, because he is now making noises about a “looser relationship” between the various Anglican churches: one in which – while they all remain attached to the Church of England – the connections between them become more attenuated. Some of his evangelical chums must be swaying with anxiety rather than enthusiasm but they should rest easy; on all other important matters the archbishop is behaving in an exemplary fashion.

Not a week goes by without him making some anodyne statement or futile gesture condemning food banks (then asking people to give to them), offering refugees tokenistic accommodation in the grounds of Lambeth Palace, and generally mithering on about the scourge of poverty while giving spiritual succour to those who’re doing very nicely out of the status quo. ’Twas ever thus: our Established Church may well be for all Britons, but, in Justin Welby, we have a prelate who speaks eloquently for the . . . few.

Next week: Madness of Crowds

Will Self is an author and journalist. His books include Umbrella, Shark, The Book of Dave and The Butt. He writes the Madness of Crowds and Real Meals columns for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 08 October 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Putin vs Isis