Five Authoritarian Regimes Backed by the British Government

The political landscape of our world is complex, confusing, and nuanced. It is comprised of political systems vastly different to our own. Some capitalist, some socialist. Some democratic, some authoritarian. And within the authoritarian often exists groups fighting for liberation. Some countries are fraught with poverty and social injustice. Some have been torn apart by civil war. Some are still battling to resolve century-old disputes over land or debt.

When trying to navigate an understanding or the complexity of foreign wars and politics, we often look to our government as a moral guide. Who are the good guys, and who are the bad? Which authoritarian regimes are brutal human rights abusers, and which are strong leaders who bring “stability” to developing countries? Which group of rebels are fighting for a just cause, and which are simply terrorists?

Often, our leaders take a pious moral high ground, condemning a cherry-picked selection of brutal dictators and violent insurgents, all the while maintaining friendly and mutually beneficial relationships with despotic human rights abusers, and selling arms to ruthless and barbaric rebel groups in an effort to overthrow their enemies.

Our leaders often brush under the carpet the relationships they have fostered with tyrants and terrorists. They try to either hide or defend their support for human rights abusers and war criminals. But it doesn’t take much digging to expose these insidious connections. Here are five of the most brutal regimes and terrorists the UK government has gotten into bed with in recent years.

Augusto Pinochet, Chile
Since the 18th and 19th-century wars of independence, political instability and civil war has plagued Latin America, with many an authoritarian dictator inflicting terror on their people. Chile, nevertheless, had enjoyed a democratically elected government from the 1930s into the 1970s. However, the election of Salvador Allende and his Marxist coalition party in 1970 saw Chile transform into a fascist dictatorship that lasted nearly 20 years.

In 1973, in reaction to a programme of renationalisation which saw the copper, coal, iron and nitrate industries being placed back into public hands, a CIA-backed military coup was staged against Allende’s government by General Augusto Pinochet. Following the coup, Pinochet assumed the position of leader in Chile, and would go on to rule the nation until 1990. During his 17 year dictatorship, the Chilean people were subjected to brutal oppression. Political opposition parties were outlawed, and in the weeks following the coup thousands of people, considered by the new regime as too “left-wing”, were rounded up and taken to a make-shift concentration camp that was the National Stadium. Hundreds were murdered, and hundreds more are missing to this day.  Pinochet also established the National Intelligence Directorate (DINA), a Gestapo-like secret police organisation, whose sole purpose was to silence political dissidents by terrorising the Chilean population. Over the 17 year period, a total of 40,018 “dissidents” and their families were clandestinely captured and imprisoned in detention camps. Thousands were subjected to barbaric torture, and many ended up dead.

It wasn’t until 1998, eight years after the end of the regime under which so many Chileans suffered horrible fates, that the law caught up with Pinochet. Pinochet was in the United Kingdom seeking medical treatment when a Spanish judge issued an international warrant for his arrest, on 94 counts of torture of Spanish citizens. Pinochet was placed under house arrest by the British authorities, and a complex legal process ensued, with Pinochet’s lawyers fighting to keep him from being extradited to Spain.

Pinochet was never extradited. He never faced trial. He died before justice could be brought to him. His lawyers continued to fight the criminal charges until his death, sighting everything from immunity of ex-heads of state from prosecution, to inability to stand trial due to ill health and dementia.

But it wasn’t only his lawyers that had a role in protecting the dictator from prosecution. During his dictatorship, Pinochet found a close ally in Margaret Thatcher. They fostered a friendship based on a mutual admiration of one another’s free market economic reforms, which ultimately lead to Pinochet supporting the UK during the Falkland’s war through providing intelligence and refuge to British troops. They remained close allies throughout Pinochet’s bloody rule, and during his hour of need, Thatcher offered her support. She campaigned for his release, stating he had “brought democracy to Chile”. Perhaps in part because of pressure from Thatcher, Home Secretary Jack Straw ruled that he should not be extradited to Spain, and in 2000, Pinochet returned to Chile without facing trial for the charges made against him.

Until his death, there were many more attempts to bring Pinochet to justice, all unsuccessful, due to his lawyers’ claims that he was too unwell to be tried for his crimes. Indeed, many an opportunity was missed to prosecute this sadistic, murderous leader. Thatcher and the British government’s insidious role in this heinous injustice is indisputable; the people of Chile who suffered atrociously under his rule will never see him punished for his crimes, and culpability falls with the British government.

Suharto, IndonesiaPresident Suharto, 1993.jpg
Indonesian dictator Suharto, who ruled Indonesia for 30 years, was responsible for “one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century” in which up to a million people were killed in the space of just two years.

Suharto, a Major General, came to power following a so-called coup attempt by Indonesia’s communist party, an event which is still shrouded in controversy and secrecy. During the PKI-lead coup attempt in 1965, six majors were killed, but Suharto came out unscathed. Unorthodox opinion states that Suharto used this failed coup attempt to persuade then president Sukarno to transfer power to him. Suharto then orchestrated the bloody slaughter of up to a million people, using the failed coup attempt by the PKI to justify the killing spree – a necessary purge of the dangerous “communists”. It wasn’t only members of the PKI that were targeted – labour and civic leaders, and other so-called “sympathisers” and their families were murdered by the army and vigilante groups, which included some of Indonesia’s most infamous gangsters.

Thanks to Joshua Oppenheimer’s 2012 “The Act of Killing”, it is now widely known that the CIA were complicit in Suharto’s killing spree, as they provided him with a list of 5000 suspected communist leaders. The US and Britain, who were working tirelessly to suppress communist revolutions around the world, were largely supportive of Suharto, despite his murderous tendencies. Indeed, Senior CIA operations officer in the 1960’s, Ralph McGehee, described the takeover and subsequent bloody purge as “the model operation” for the US-backed coup that saw Pinochet rise to power and quash political opposition through similar barbaric means.

The British government also played their part in the brutal slaughter of Indonesia’s leftists. It has been reported that Britain provided Suharto with warships for the purpose of carrying troops down the Malacca Straits towards the dictator’s human targets. Britain also provided support for the Suharto regime in the form of armoured vehicles and fighter bombers during the 1975 invasion and subsequent occupation of East Timor, in which 200,000 people were killed in one of the most horrific genocides in recent history.

Suharto’s rule came to an end in 1998. Allegations of corruption and economic meltdown lead to civil unrest, with many calling for Suharto to step down as president. Having been deserted by his political allies, he was forced to resign.

Suharto, like Pinochet, was never punished for his crimes. Attempts were made to prosecute him for corruption, but he never stood trial due to ill health. He died in 2008. No efforts were ever made to prosecute him for the mass murders that were committed under his authority.

The Saudi Royal Family
Since 9/11 the United Kingdom and the United States have been fighting a “war on terror”. This war has seen our government invade and occupy Afghanistan and Iraq, and spend who knows how many billions of pounds trying to wipe out the Islamic fundamentalist organisations Al-Qaida, the Taliban, and more recently ISIS. We are constantly bombarded with rhetoric from our leaders about the threat of extremism and how it must be stamped out at all costs. Any diplomatic or peaceful solution is out of the question, because, of course, “you can’t bargain with terrorists”. This stance has resulted in the recent heavy criticism of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for his attempts to enter into discussions with the “terrorist” organisations Hamas and Hezbollah, who seek liberation from the Israeli occupation in Palestine and Lebanon.

Indeed, these groups are fearsome and barbaric, but they are as equally persistent. Our governments have been trying to eradicate them for over a decade to no avail, with thousands of civilian casualties being caught in the cross-fire, the most recent and notable case being the US bombing of a hospital in Kunduz during an airstrike targeting Taliban fighters. The policy clearly isn’t working, so attempting to find a peaceful solution seems like a logical step to make.

Not to Prime Minister David Cameron, who has accused Jeremy Corbyn of being a “Britain-hating terrorist-sympathiser”. It would seem that to him, on a moral level, Islamic fundamentalists are not people he wants to reach any sort of peaceful agreement with. An understandable sentiment, given their extreme ideology and tendency towards abusing human rights.

However, it appears that Cameron’s moral indignation does not extend to all ideological extremists, given his close relationship with the Saudi royal family. Britain, of course, has long been allies with Saudi Arabia, a country that has been governed under Islamic law by an absolute monarchy since 1932. In that time, they have become renowned for their harsh imposition of Sharia law, human rights abuses, and lack of women’s rights. Women are not permitted to drive, and they must seek a male guardian’s permission to work, vote in local elections, or even leave the house. Homosexuality, adultery and blasphemy are all punishable by public execution, with execution methods including beheading, stoning, and crucifixion. The Saudi Kingdom has been accused of sanctioning more beheadings this year than ISIS (who David Cameron has condemned as a “terrorist death cult”).

Since becoming prime minister, David Cameron has solidified his relationship with our long-standing ally.  The recent revelation of a “secret vote-trading deal” between the UK government and the Saudi royals, made to ensure both states were elected to the UN human rights council, has prompted renewed criticism of the UK’s relationship with the Saudis. This criticism has intensified due to fresh outrage at the sentencing of a 17-year-old peaceful protester to death by crucifixion, and revelations that Britain has been supplying millions of pounds worth of military equipment to the Saudi kingdom. It is believed that this equipment has been used in the attacks on Yemen and Syria, where there have been thousands of civilian casualties. Indeed, getting into bed with the Saudis, Islamic extremists with an appalling human rights records, is disturbingly ironic, deeply hypocritical, and exposes Cameron’s anti-extremist ideology as untenable rhetoric.

Muammar Gaddafi, Libya
Gaddafi came to power in 1969, following a bloodless coup on King Idris’s government. He would go on to rule Libya as a dictator for 42 years before he fell from power in 2011. On the 15th of February 2011, Gaddafi’s security forces opened fire on protesters in Benghazi, which lead to a country-wide rebellion. The British government was quick to condemn the use of violence on protesters, and Gaddafi’s military efforts to recapture Benghazi and other rebel-controlled areas.

But the British government were not always so critical of the oppressive Gaddafi regime. Despite previous poor relations, due in part to Gaddafi’s anti-western sentiment and policy, Tony Blair struck up a “new relationship” with the dictator in 2003, following Libya’s abandonment of their nuclear weapons program.

As part of the “new relationship,” the pair agreed to collaborate with one another in efforts to “counter terrorism”. During this covert cooperation, Libyan offices were allowed to work in the UK, where they intimidated Libyan refugees into acting as informants for Libyan and British intelligence agencies. Furthermore, M15 and M16 deployed their expertise to aid Gaddafi in the kidnap of Libyan dissidents and their families, who were then flown to Tripoli where they faced imprisonment and torture.

Why would Tony Blair be interested in helping this Tyrant capture political dissidents? Recovered documents suggest that MI5 and MI6 hoped to gain intelligence from those victims they helped capture. The intelligence agencies submitted more than 1,600 questions to be put to two opposition leaders who were imprisoned in Libya following their kidnap. MI5 and MI6 were most likely aware that Gaddafi’s security forces would stand a better chance of obtaining the information they wanted, given that the regime had previously been accused of torturing prisoners. Indeed, both men claim they were subjected to horrific abuse while imprisoned in Libya.

Several victims of Blair’s and Gaddafi’s intelligence gathering program have started legal proceedings against MI5, MI6, the Home Office and the Foreign Office, following the recovery of documents from Libyan government buildings that corroborate their claims of intimidation, kidnap, imprisonment and torture.

Saddam Hussain, Iraq
It may come as a surprise to see Saddam Hussein’s name on this list, given our part in the US-led invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq in 2003. Under the pretence that Saddam was developing weapons of mass destruction, the US-led coalition began the invasion with an air strike on the presidential palace on the 19th March 2003. Ground troops proceeded to take control of swathes of Iraq, and the Ba’ath government fell just three weeks later.

Though the primary purpose of the invasion, as stated by Blair and Bush, was to disarm Saddam, the coalition also made it their mission to “free the Iraqi people” from Saddam’s 24 year dictatorship. Indeed, in the name of keeping the Ba’ath party in power, Saddam committed many an atrocity against his own people. Maintaining the Ba’ath parties secular, socialist, and Arab-nationalist ideologies proved difficult for Saddam. Rival Shi’ite factions aspired to create a Shia theocracy, while the ethnic Kurdish in the north sought independence from Iraq. Such groups were violently oppressed. In response to these threats, Saddam built a “people’s army”, a paramilitary group whose responsibility was to counter attempted coups. The Department of General Intelligence worked to expose and imprison dissidents, and became notorious for its assassinations and use of torture. In 1988, he attempted to wipe out the Kurdish population in a horrific genocidal killing-spree that saw over 180,000 Kurds murdered, some by use of chemical weapons. In total, it is estimated that 250,000 Iraqis died at the hands of this ruthless tyrant.

Though the UK invaded Iraq and toppled the Ba’athist government in 2003, bringing an end to the decades of tyrannical oppression, years earlier the UK government became entangled in the Iraq-Iran war, and in the heinous crimes Saddam committed during that period.

The Islamic uprising of 1979, which saw Iran become an Islamic republic governed by Shia Muslims, brought about tensions between Iraq and Iran. Saddam perceived the new government as a threat to his Ba’ath party, who had oppressed Iraq’s Shia majority since it came to power. Believing the Iranian revolution would inspire a similar revolt in Iraq, Saddam invaded Iran in 1980. The war lasted 8 years, and over a million people were killed. Saddam was quick to employ military tactics that amounted to war crimes, readily deploying chemical weapons against Iranian civilians and even against his own people; it was during the war that the Kurdish genocide took place.

Though the British government never expressed direct support for the invasion, they continued to supply Saddam with military equipment and materials, making them complicit in the war and in Saddam’s crimes. It has even been reported that Britain supplied Saddam with chemicals used to make mustard and nerve gas, the gases that were used in the Kurdish genocide. Why Britain did this is not completely clear. Perhaps they were keen to quash Islamic fundamentalism in Iran, or perhaps they simply saw an opportunity for profit. In any case, it would seem that Britain’s complicity extended beyond turning a blind eye to the brutal oppression of the Iraqi people.

Indeed, these five cases demonstrate that the British and American governments, who claim to be the beacons of human rights, are happy to discard their morals. If it serves their self-interest, and the people suffering are in a faraway land, they are happy to get behind oppressive regimes that they would normally line up to condemn. Their pious moral high ground is a façade for their self-serving medelling.

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Capitalising on Human Suffering

Martin Shkreli, the CEO of a large pharmaceutical company that recently acquired the rights to a drug used by HIV and cancer patients, has brought the shocking callousness of unchecked capitalism into the spotlight.

Last month, Turing Pharmaceuticals bought the rights to manufacture and sell Daraprim in the United States. Daraprim is used to treat toxoplasmosis, a parasitic and life-threatening disease that affects people with compromised immune systems.

Despite being classified as an essential medicine which should be affordable to the general population by the World Health Organisation, Turning Pharmaceuticals has raised the price of Daraprim extortionately, from $13 per 75mg pill to a massive $750 per pill. Each 75mg pill costs only $1 to produce. It is a single source pharmaceutical product, which means Turing Pharmaceuticals is the only company in America that has the legal right to produce and sell this potentially life-saving drug. Patients can’t take their business elsewhere.

Let’s really put that into perspective. For each Daraprim pill sold, Turing Pharmaceuticals will make a $749 profit. Around 2,000 Americans use the drug every year, with the average treatment course lasting around three weeks, at a dosage of 75mg per day. That means Turing Pharmaceuticals stand to make a profit of $27,258,000 from Daraprim sales every year, while the average American earns just $27,000 a year, barely enough to cover the cost of a three-week course of treatment.

Though most Americans who require treatment for Toxoplasmosis will be covered by their health insurance, some won’t, and insurance companies (too motivated by profit), will be forced to raise insurance premiums and/or make their policies stricter so as to avoid paying out huge sums to people in genuine need.

While most people are shocked and disgusted by Martin Shkreli’s brutal, cold, and calculated effort to make obscene profits off the backs of other people’s misfortune, the business of capitalising from human suffering extends far beyond this story.

 Weapons

Another example of bi business profiteering from human suffering has been brought to public attention recently through a campaign by Amnesty International. Until their recent advertising campaign, few people were aware that every two years a huge defence and security equipment exhibition called the Defence Security and Equipment International is held in London Docklands. Essentially, this is a trade show where arms dealers can display the latest technology in weaponry to military representatives, some from countries renowned for human rights abuses such as Saudi Arabia. Amnesty International, who have attended the fair a number of times, have reported that illegal torture equipment and weapons such as cluster bombs, leg irons, and electric shock batons have been advertised at the event. The trade show, which hosted 1,500 exhibitions in 2013, is owned by Clarion Events, a company that organises numerous such trade shows, and reportedly turns over £200 million every year. While arms companies profit from torture and (often illegal) wars, Clarion Events profits from introducing the arms dealers to totalitarian regimes at fairs like DSEI.

War

Profiteering from war might start with arms dealers, but that is by no means where it ends.One hundred and thirty-eight billion dollars of US taxpayers’ money was spent on securing contracts with private companies during the 2003 Iraq war, for services such as security, feeding troops, and replacing infrastructure that had been destroyed during the US-led coalition invasion.

Private mercenaries played a huge role in the war in Iraq, with companies such as the infamous Blackwater reaping large monetary rewards for providing armed “security personnel”. In August 2008 alone, there were 7,121 armed “private security contractors” deployed in Iraq.

The American company Halliburton was the biggest contract winner, securing $39.5 billion from the US government in exchange for their services during the invasion and subsequent occupation. This included a $7 billion deal for rebuilding Iraq’s oil infrastructure, a contract that would have given Iraq’s economy a huge boost had it been awarded to an Iraqi company or the state, as opposed to a multi-billion dollar US corporation.

What is perhaps most disturbing about these contracts, is that they were what is known as “cost-plus”. When a company is awarded a cost-plus contract, as well as having all their expenses covered, they are guaranteed to be paid a certain amount on top, in order to ensure that they make a substantial profit. Such contracts provide little incentive for these private companies to minimise costs. In fact, the opposite is true; they provide an incentive for contractors to spend more than necessary, as every extra dollar spent means extra profit.

It seems war is a profitable business.  Foreign corporations literally made billions of dollars from the deaths of 224,000 people, 165,000 of those being Iraqi civilians.

Incarceration

War is not the only atrocity private companies are profiting from. Private prisons are proving to be another lucrative business.

The US has 5% of the world’s population, but more than 20% of the world’s prisoners. It has more prisoners than China, Russia, and Iran. Despite decreasing crime rates, the prison population has grown by 721% since the 1980’s, with over 500 per 100,000 people being incarcerated in 2010The adoption of draconian “tough-on-crime” laws by the US government in the 1980s, such as mandatory minimum sentencing for minor drug-related offences, has been a large contributing factor to the dramatic increase in incarceration rates, with the majority of inmates serving long sentences for non-violent offences.

The private prison industry has been reaping huge rewards from the mass incarceration of US citizens that began in the 1980s, when the complete management of entire prisons began to be handed over to private corporations. Corrections Corporations of America, the biggest private corrections company in the US, was the first private company to be awarded a contract that covered the complete operation of an American jail in 1984. Now CCA manages more than 65 prisons across 19 states, and in 2015, the company’s revenue was more than $1.7 billion.

The privatisation of prisons isn’t limited to the United States. In 1992, under John Major’s Conservative government, Wolds Prison was opened as the first privately managed prison in the UK. Under the government’s Private Finance Initiative, 25-year contracts were awarded to private companies for the construction and management of new prisons. Of 150 prisons in the UK, 14 are managed by three private companies, G4S, Sodexo, and Serco, and it is estimated that these companies make a 7% return on their investment. Privatisation doesn’t seem to lead to efficiency either; in 2013, the Ministry of Justice awarded only one private prison their highest performance rating, while two were awarded the lowest rating and another two the second lowest rating.

These private prison corporations are profiting from people’s suffering. Many people in prison are addicts serving sentences for drug-related crimes, and a large number of those incarcerated in the US have mental health problems and a history of being abused. In 2012, there were an estimated 356,268 people with severe mental health problems locked up in US jails.

Often such problems are only exasperated by a punitive justice system that makes criminals out of vulnerable people. Following release and supposed rehabilitation, ex-convicts struggle to find employment because of their criminal records. In the US, ex –convicts lose their right to vote and are not entitled to state benefits, housing, food stamps, or student loans. This is a recipe for re-offending. Imprisonment not only removes vulnerable people from society, it makes their reintegration following incarceration very challenging.

The rise in the business of profiting from human suffering is a reprehensible result of a society moving away from state ownership to an increasingly privatised money making machine that is the globalised economy. The hands of private businesses are reaching into the darkest corners of our world, grabbing at every possible opportunity to make a profit. But making money from disease, war, and crime is not only immoral; basic economics shows that a growing market is a profitable one. For every sick person, every war, and every crime, there is money to be made, so there is a strong motive for businesses with interests in these “industries” to want the rates of these horrors to proliferate. We will never eradicate disease, achieve world peace, or eliminate crime while corporations are making billions from humanity’s biggest crises.

The Politics of Fear and Hope

After waking up to a Conservative win in the 2015 general election, I resigned myself to the fact that politics was futile. Though only 34% of the electorate voted Conservative, the UK was faced with 5 more years of rule by an elite group of neoliberal free marketers who, despite having just approved £4.4 billion in working tax credit cuts , somehow brazenly spout “party of the working man” rhetoric. I felt hopeless. Politics was dead for me.

As you would expect after such a disheartening result, I paid little attention to the Labour leadership election. What difference would it make to me? But as the days went by and a media fervour surrounding the election began to develop, I noticed one name was cropping up considerably more than most. Jeremy Corbyn. Before I even looked into his political history and the policies he advocates, I could tell he must be on the left of the political spectrum, given the hounding he was already receiving from the right wing press. But I was expecting the usual stuff that comes from “left-wing” labour politicians – slightly higher taxes, some superfluous vanity “tax on the wealthy” (like Miliband’s mansion tax), and duplicitous anti-Tory rhetoric. So I was very surprised when I read more about Jeremy Corbyn’s policies and political history. A rebel who regularly voted with his convictions rather than the whip. A supporter of raising the highest rate of income tax, clamping down on tax avoidance, and eradicating homelessness and poverty through controlling rents, building more social housing, and introducing a real living wage. An anti-war campaigner who proposes dropping the trident nuclear program. I didn’t quite believe it – these views can be seen outside the mainstream political arena in parties such as the Greens. But coming from a possible future Labour leader? With my newly gained cynicism for British politics, I definitely didn’t think he could win the leadership election.

In stark contrast to the mainstream, centrist politics that have dominated in Britain over the past 40 years, politics that are driven purely by fear, Jeremy Corbyn’s politics are the politics of hope. The politics of hope for a better future, not only for Britain, but for the whole world.

Fear has been behind so many of the policies we have seen in our recent political history.

Tony Blair’s New Labour came out of fear – Labour abandoned their principles out of fear of losing another election to the Tories.  Tony Blair took us to war out of fear – an irrational and unjustifiable fear that Saddam Hussein had nuclear capabilities.

Year after year the government justifies spending billions on nuclear weapons out of fear – fear that if we don’t have them, someone will attack us.

David Cameron is likely to propose air strikes in Syria, pushing this agenda through by instilling in the public fear of ISIS.

Neoliberal MPs continue to refuse to do anything about tax evasion, hiding behind the narrative of trickledown economics and the fear that corporations “will take their business elsewhere”.

Right wing parties like Britain First are trying to strip us of our humanity and compassion, our natural human instinct to want to help other people, by spreading an irrational fear that hidden amongst the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing to Europe, are well trained ISIS terrorists.

UKIP have gained substantial support off the back of a narrative that has left people terrified that they will lose their job, their house, and their culture to people who were born in other countries.

So how could this politician, with his policies that are fostered out of the hope for a better world, be elected leader in a country where the people are constantly bombarded with a narrative designed to instil fear?

Still weighed down myself with the politics of fear, and with little hope left for anything progressive in the foreseeable future, I didn’t let myself believe the polls. Going against my own principles, I believed the press – there was no way Labour party members would vote for someone with socialist policies. I watched the leadership election on September 12th, 2015 with baited breath. For me, and for many people that day, who had lost all faith in British politics, something changed. Hope won over fear. I had feared that the smear campaign by the press would have been successful in preventing people from voting for Jeremy Corbyn. I feared the media tycoons had convinced everyone that socialism was evil and that free market capitalism was god. But when I saw that figure, 59%… when I saw the people celebrating in the streets and the excitement spreading amongst the young and disenchanted, I once again felt hope, and I saw it in other people too.

It has been only days since Jeremy won, and already the press and the Tories have started their campaign against him and his socialist policies. Unsurprisingly, they are using their tried and tested weapon of scaremongering. The Sun, drawing on a speech Jeremy made at the annual commemoration service for the people who were killed in the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, claim Jeremy wants to “Abolish the Army”. This is what Jeremy actually said:

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every politician around the world instead of taking pride in the size of their Armed Forces did what Costa Rica have done and abolished their Army, and took pride in the fact they don’t have an Army.”

Surely everybody thinks it would be wonderful if no country needed an army? He is talking hypothetically, and, unsurprisingly, The Sun took what he said completely out of context, in an effort to make people afraid that a Labour victory in the 2020 election would leave us completely defenceless.

The Tories, in their sinister video backed by sinister music, made the bold assertion that Jeremy Corbyn is a “threat to our national security”. The video purports to outline the “facts” about the new leader. These “facts” are based on heavily misconstrued comments he made in past speeches and interviews.

Firstly, the video claims that Jeremy Corbyn views the death of Osama Bin Laden as “a tragedy”. This is in reference to an interview he gave to Iranian Press TV channel’s “The Agenda” programme, shortly after Bin Laden’s assassination in 2011. If you watch the video, it is clear that he is referring to the failure of the US to capture Bin Laden and try him for his crimes as a tragedy (you can watch part of the interview here). He also condemns the attack on the World Trade Centre and its fall out; “The World Trade Centre was a tragedy, the attack on Afghanistan was a tragedy, the war in Iraq was a tragedy. Tens of thousands of people have died. Torture has come back on to the world stage, been canonised virtually into law by Guantanamo and Bagram.”

The Tory propaganda piece also displays footage of Jeremy Corbyn calling members of Hamas and Hezbollah “friends”. The footage is taken from a speech Jeremy Corbyn gave at a meeting about crises in the Middle East, a meeting that was also attended by members of Hezbollah, and to which members of Hamas were invited. In an interview with Channel 4 News, Jeremy Corbyn confirmed that he does not condone the actions of Hezbollah or Hamas, but that he believes they should be invited to such events, as their inclusion in the discussion is needed if a peaceful resolution is ever to be made between Israel and these two groups (you can read the interview transcript here). Surely anything we can do which helps bring peace this troubled region should be considered?

Finally, the video claims Jeremy Corbyn wants to “dismantle our armed forces”. This claim stems from a speech in which he questions the size of our armed forces in relation to the size and location of our country; isn’t this a legitimate debate, when 2% of our GDP goes towards military spending, yet the government is proposing a further £12 billion in cuts to welfare spending? It is the media induced fear of war, of Islamic fundamentalism, of Russia and China, that allows for the Tories and the right wing media to portray the concept of a pacifist leader as terrifying.

The attacks by the press and the Tories are relentless. Today, The Sun and The Daily Mail have attempted to portray him as an anti-royalist who has no respect for those who fought against fascism in the World Wars, because he didn’t sing the national anthem at the Battle of Britain memorial service. Quite ironic that, at a service where we remember the people who fought against oppression and fascism, you can be criticised for choosing to express your respect with silence, rather than pledging allegiance to an unelected monarch when you are in fact a republican. The Times claimed he rides a “Chairman Mao style bicycle” and Piers Morgan compared him to Mao, Stalin, and Hitler. If comparing a socialist leader in modern Britain to authoritarian dictators who were responsible for the deaths of millions isn’t scare mongering, then I don’t know what is.

Undoubtedly this is only the beginning of the smear campaign against the newly elected Labour leader. But his election on Saturday has shown us something – the people are fed up of the oppressive fear being forced upon them by the press, and are turning instead to hope, inspired by someone who does not accept that “the way things are” are how they should be or how they have to be. The oligarchs behind the papers, that rely on unchecked capitalism and profiteering from wars in order to keep them obscenely wealthy and powerful, seem to be the ones running scared now. They are terrified of the rise in popularity of socialist parties like SYRIZA and Podemos, and of socialist leaders like Jeremy Corbyn, because they represent a threat of change to a broken and unfair system where it is corporations that govern our world.