Sunday, February 20, 2011

From the Palestinian Authority to Adam Smith International

February 18 - 20, 2011
Trashcan of History Dept.
CounterPunch
By AFSHIN RATTANSI

The corrupt Palestinian Authority isn’t saying much these days about the momentous events in Egypt or for that matter, Bahrain (more on the Manama massacre later). Coming on the heels of the Palestine Papers which revealed that genuflection was the PA’s idea of negotiation, the PA’s police battered anyone demonstrating solidarity with those opposed to Washington’s puppet, Hosni Mubarak. As if to further emphasize the PA’s status as another Washington-ordered marionette, the Prime Minister (sic) Salam Fayyad, echoed every faltering step of the U.S. State Department, trying to have it both ways as if people from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean and beyond can’t see through them.

The Fatah-supporting website Alaahd.com expressed love for the departing dictator and dedicated a video to Egyptians “who love and respect Mubarak, the best of presidents."

There is an alarming aside in the Palestine papers. It isn’t so much the year-after-year lying to my satellite TV face over the status of Jerusalem-Al Quds by PA spokespeople – while stone-throwing kids were being mown down, as 12-year old Mohammed Al-Durra was killed. Perhaps I was naive in believing that the organization for so long held together by Arafat couldn’t be proto-Zionist. What did the Al-Aqsa Intifada mean to Saeeb Erekat? Anyway, for me the Palestine Papers reveal something altogether more parochial and domestic, here in the United Kingdom.

When I began working on the Strand in London at Al Jazeera Arabic (that first pointed the finger at Khalid Sheikh Mohammed) as a mastermind of 911, I was amused by the location of its London offices. It was gently explained to me – not without black humor – that given the U.S. penchant for bombing Jazeera bureaux and killing staff, it was actually quite sensible to triangulate geographically MI5 HQ, MI6 HQ and the Palace of Westminster. What they didn’t tell me and what I discovered when the lift didn’t work was that on the floor below was an economic think tank that is arguably more sinister than the British secret services. It blighted a generation of British people – Adam Smith International.

I’ll ignore the fact that Adam Smith International very name is a misnomer – any Nobel Laureate in Economics would hopefully balk at Smith’s great writings being reduced to neoliberal tablets of stone brought down by Madsen Pirie and Illinois Senator Edward Feulner, co-founder of the Heritage Foundation. Adam Smith International does have a history of promoting cigarettes and Shisha is popular on the Arab street but I presume this is not why the corrupt PA sought its advice on everything from spin to policy. Perhaps it was all the result of an introduction by Middle East envoy, Tony Blair. Adam Smith International point man was Andrew Kuhn and after advising Fatah, he now pronounces on Afghanistan. He and the Institute were paid via Britain’s foreign aid budget.

This is the outfit that is now advising removal of the UK budget deficit within five years – and presumably a Guy Fawkes-style anniversary on which Britons burn effigies of John Maynard Keynes. The crazy Chicago School disciples of Adam Smith International, high up on the Albert Embankment opposite MI5 urge privatization of the London Underground, Scottish water companies and the Royal Mail as well as charging for library books and selling British forests to the highest bidder

In fact, the invisible hand of Adam Smith International is everywhere in the present ConDem UK coalition government’s project. And so it continues, abroad. As the Powerbase website, a project of the inestimable Spinwatch, reveals, British aid money disappears into Adam Smith coffers – millions of pounds of British taxpayers’ money that promotes privatization in places like South Africa and India’s Andhra Pradesh state. As for the PLO Negotiations Affairs Department, it received money disbursed by Adam Smith International which told the Palestinians to fire people that were too pro-Palestinian as well as avoid asking Zionists about issues like the siege of Gaza, the removal of Israel’s Nazi-style checkpoints, the release of Palestinian prisoners or even freezing Israeli settlement expansion.

* * *

The organization's alumni, meanwhile continue to prosper. Hours after the massacre in Pearl roundabout in Bahrain, the foreign ministry tried to give a press conference to justify slaughter in the island home of the U.S. Fifth Fleet. The sheikh tries to shut up a brave woman journalist speaking about the need for blood supplies for those wounded by Bahraini security forces. In front of rolling TV cameras, the sheikh first tries to shoo her away with his hands and then leaves the room. Adam Smith alumnus, Peter Russell, now a VP at J P Morgan is due to speak at an event presided over by Sheikh Khalifa Al-Khalifa in Bahrain in a fortnight. He’ll be talking about “commanding credibility with a borderless media” and “regulatory, political and cultural factors.” (Get your tickets now, probably no refunds : It’s not only Adam Smith alumni, though. Middle East envoy, Tony Blair, may have brought them on board to advise Fatah, but just before leaving office, he also earmarked a billion dollars of UK taxpayers’ money to something called the UK National Policing Improvement Agency. That agency trained Bahraini security forces in how to cope with hostile media reaction to policy. Their website –, complete with absurd “Investors in Logo” – proudly proclaims that scarce eighteen months ago:

“It's not often that two media trainers get the opportunity to train members of a royal family, plus a judge, three lieutenant colonels and senior officials from various ministries. But such was the line-up of participants in the first-ever NPIA international media course, Media Skills and Communicating in a Crisis, that we recently ran in Bahrain.

“The NPIA team consisted of two civilian associate tutors. Both of us are experienced former journalists with expertise in interviewing for press, TV and radio, and a track-record in training senior police officers for the NPIA. The venue was a 5-star hotel with facilities and food to match (we could easily get used to this). The participants carried out a series of recorded TV interviews with playbacks and feedback, discussed how to handle the media in a crisis, and presented press conferences.

“The atmosphere was friendly and informal, and participants were fully engaged, showing a willingness to criticizye their colleagues that we don't always find on our UK police courses. In fact one of the participants, role-playing a reporter, was so 'enraged' during the press conference presented by one group, that he cried 'cover-up' and stormed out.....We also had a lot of useful support and advice from the UK police officers based in Bahrain, who will, we hope, fully recover from the embarrassment of one trainer bopping happily around a swanky Lebanese restaurant on our final night. Bring us back and next time he'll behave. Promise.”

The spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights would surely put the directors of the UK National Policing Improvement Agency in a dock in The Hague rather than another “swanky Lebanese restaurant.” As for Adam Smith International, its advice usually spells doom for its clients – it proposed the Poll Tax in Britain, which catalyzed riots that helped to bring down its heroine, Margaret Thatcher. And the future for the relatives of those gunned down by Bahraini police? Too soon to tell.

Afshin Rattansi has helped launch and develop television networks and has worked in journalism for more than two decades, at the BBC Today programme, CNN International, Bloomberg News, Al Jazeera Arabic, the Dubai Business Channel, Press TV and The Guardian. His quartet of novels, "The Dream of the Decade" is available on Amazon.com. He is CEO of Alternate Reality Productions which makes programs for global satellite TV news stations, including a soon-to-be-broadcast political comedy series. He can be reached at afshinrattansi@hotmail.com

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