Britain’s war crimes unchallenged: patsy interview. Why? Independent journalism vital

Lisa Owen
The Nation
Newshub TV3


Dear Ms Owen

Thank you for a return to your more measured interviews on The Nation with Amnesty’s Grant Bayldon on the refugee crisis in PNG. The item on Palestine was excellent — great to see NZ is helping Palestine.

However it was striking that you did not ask relevant questions in your 18 November interview about Britain’s appalling ongoing war crimes over 16 years this century. Britain, being a major ally of the US, is heavily complicit in war crimes waged in many countries that could not defend themselves from concentrated modern aerial warfare, nor the depleted uranium and phosphorous and other banned weapons used, causing appalling and/or long-lasting generational injuries. Instead of asking about all this, you actually suggested to outgoing British High Commissioner, J. Sinclair that Russia had committed human rights crimes in Crimea and Donbass, an area which has been Russian territory through centuries and which has suffered much through a violent coup orchestrated by the US in 2014. Tens of thousands of people have died in Kiev bombing operations. There’s plenty of evidence on this you should be aware of. (1–8) Your patsy comments to the UK official delighted him! The blame-Russia diversion. What a relief for him. It allows the UK and US not to have to think about what they are actually doing.

And Mr Sinclair was of course keen to support poor UK PM Teresa May’s efforts to distract attention from her difficult situation as a failing leader, when she recently jumped loudly on the great western “Blame Russia” band wagon. It’s become a game, great fun to blame Russia, apparently. Such a convenient distraction in public from having to face up to the trouble the UK and US are in both at home and abroad, due to their governing for the wealthy 1 percent and their shocking wars in devastated countries. This was certainly not balanced, informative journalism in a time when Britain, a key partner in the US-led Western alliance, has been committing grievous human rights crimes over 16 years with sustained, heavy bombing and invasions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, etc. So, why did you not question him on this clearly shocking record? Even a focus on one or two countries, perhaps the war on Yemen and Britain’s role in this would have redeemed your interview.

However, it could be that you are not encouraged or have the intellectual space to ask such pertinent questions on very obvious concerns. The issues may not even be clear to you because of your work environment. You could be subject to covert instructions at Newshub/ TV3 that you and other journalists should not ask British, or American officials (our “allies”) such pertinent questions about these catastrophic wars. It does seem that way. Perhaps it became worse in John Key’s era. It appears you are unable to properly address issues or stray from what has become no more than the purveying of typical western propaganda or cover-ups, over egregious wars that have killed millions of people and destroyed entire countries, leaving millions suffering and destitute. There is a definite, hypnotised group-think among mainstream western journalists to repeat propaganda coming from the US- UK with which our countries have historic links. This should not deter an independent journalist who should be free to question on important matters of human rights and the deaths of millions in wars. It’s a dangerous situation when journalists do not or cannot ask such questions, because it leads to misinformation and more wars, the next ones could be nuclear and terminal.

What questions could you have asked? There was plenty of scope, especially as two recent British parliamentary reports were highly critical of the shoddy intelligence (lies on weapons of mass destruction, etc) given as reasons for Britain to engage in wars on Iraq and Libya.(9–12) If just those two wars had not been perpetrated, millions of people would not have been murdered and be able to live their lives. Millions of refugees would not be living in misery in camps or trying to establish their lives in foreign countries, far away from their devastated homes and country. Because of these illegal wars, entered into on false information, Iraq and Libya are in utter chaos today and there’s no accountability in the west for the deaths, destruction and misery they caused, nor efforts to rebuild what’s been destroyed. And you didn’t ask anything.

You could also have asked about human rights aggressions in the hideous war on Yemen and how the UK and US are getting billions of dollars by providing weapons for the war. (14,15) From March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition has been bombing Yemen daily. (13) Before the war, Yemen was one of the poorest countries in the world. Saudi Arabia (not noted for good human rights record) is supported by the US and Britain in this sustained attack on Yemen. Washington and London sell to Saudi Arabia F-16 and Typhoon warplanes and the bombs they drop. The weapons include internationally banned cluster bombs, as documented by various human rights groups. (17–19) Since March 2015, Britain alone has sold $4 billion in weapons to Saudi Arabia. (18) The Obama administration sold a lucrative total of $115 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia over eight years. (16) The Americans and British also provide logistics and refueling of Saudi air operations over Yemen. (13) The Saudis would not be able to drop any bomb without American and British help. (20,21)

On top of the bombing, Yemen is blockaded by air and sea since 2015. (22) The blockade is imposed by Saudi and American warships patrolling the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. The UN says the embargo on the entire country is restricting what little aid is being sent. Even shipping ports have been bombed. It must be lifted immediately to allow entry of relief supplies to tackle a humanitarian catastrophe in which millions of people are facing famine, a UN rights expert said in April 2017.(24) The United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and international sanctions, Idriss Jazairy, says the plight of people in the country is increasingly desperate. UN figures suggest that over 21 million people , about 82% of the population, are in need of humanitarian assistance. Seven million face famine. Ten thousand are estimated to have died. In March 2017, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien said: “It’s already the largest humanitarian crisis in the world and Yemen’s people now face the spectre of famine 7 million do not know where there next meal will come from. As fighting continues and escalates, displacement increases. With health facilities destroyed and damaged in the bombing, diseases are sweeping the country.

Since April 2017, more than half a million people have been struck with cholera in an outbreak linked to lack of access to safe drinking water and proper sanitation. (25) “The human rights situation in Yemen has continued to deteriorate as a result of the conflict,” said Elobaid Elobaid, Head of the UN Human Rights Office in Yemen. “Civilian casualties have increased and human rights violations have persisted, including attacks on education and health facilities as well as recruitment of children as soldiers. There is an ongoing crackdown of freedom of expression and many violations of economic, social and cultural rights.” Information gathered by the UN Human Rights Office shows indiscriminate attacks on civilian populations with civilians seemingly directly targeted by airstrikes and shelling. The report also notes that those opposing the parties to the conflict have been subject to harassment, detention and, on occasion, tortured and killed, raising serious concerns about worsening human rights violations and abuses against civilians.

Attacks on civilians have extended recently into the waters off the west coast of Yemen, where fishing vessels and boats carrying migrants have come under fire. In one incident, a boat carrying 146 Somali migrants was fired upon by attackers on a ship and helicopter, killing 42 civilians. No party has claimed responsibility for the attack. “I have repeatedly called on the international community to take action, to set up an independent, international investigation into the allegations of very serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Yemen, said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. (23) “An international investigation would go a long way in putting on notice the parties to the conflict that the international community is watching and determined to hold to account perpetrators of violations and abuses.” (23)

Sadly the US and UK don’t want independent investigations into this war or others. (15) They don’t mind investigations, but not truly independent ones. Western insensitivity to its egregious war-mongering in the world, including Ukraine, is the real threat to global security. Instead of stopping its disastrous wars, and making reparations, the cowardly west diverts attention from their real and great culpability in war crimes by ludicrously blaming others for everything under the sun, including the conflict in Ukraine, orchestrated by the US. Without challenging this we are complicit in the deaths and war crimes and the wars will continue in increasingly dangerous ways.


Kay Weir
Editor Pacific Ecologist
The Pacific Institute of Resource Management
P.O. Box 12125,
Wellington 6144,
Aotearoa/ New Zealand
Phone +64 4 939 4553

  1. 7/2/2014 by Diana Johnstone
  2. Ukraine:US Ambassador to Moscow’s 2008 Cable “Nyet, Means Nyet: Russia’s NATO Engagement’s Red Line by Felicity Arbuthnot\ Global Research, May 09, 2014, released to wikileaks Sept 2011
  3. Merkel finds “Fuck the EU” complaint unacceptableSpiegel online 7/2/104
  4. The US /NATO Escalates War crisis with Russia in Ukraine, by Brian Becker, Press TV. The 4th Media, 11/8/2014
  5. UN, humanitarian partners launch health plan in crisis-torn eastern Ukraine, 16/8/2014
  6. Eastern Ukraine Faces Humanitarian Crisis as Kiev Steps Up Attack By Julie Hyland, Global Research 4/8/2014
  7. Kiev military op: Ukrainian army tanks, APCs, troops attack Slavyansk, RT, 24 April 2014
  8. The American Obsession with Surrounding Russia, by Paul Craig Roberts in Human Wrongs Watch, 8/7/2012
  9. British inquiry slams ex-PM Blair for catalog of failures over Iraq war 5/7/2016
  10. Damning Chilcot report on UK’s involvement in Iraq war released 7/7/2016
  11. U.K. Parliament report details how NATO’s 2011 war in Libya based on lies, Salon 17/9/2016.
  12. MPs deliver damning verdict on David Cameron’s Libya intervention, J. Elgot The Guardian 14/9/2016
  13. Britain & America help Saudi Arabia push Yemen towards total collapse Daniel Wickham, Independent 10/4/2015
  14. UK downplays Saudi crimes to continue arms sales Press TV 25/9/2016
  15. UK blocks UN enquiry into war crimes in Yemen Press TV 25/9/2016
  16. Under Obama, US Has Sold More Than $115 Billion in Weapons to Saudi Arabia, The 12/12/2016
  17. Technical Briefing Note: Cluster Munition Use in Yemen, Human Rights Watch, 14/2/2016.
  18. Court Rules U.K.’s Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia Can Proceed The Atlantic 10/7/2017
  19. House OKs Ongoing Cluster Bomb Sales to Saudi Arabia, Saying Ban Would ‘Stigmatize’ the Weapons, C. Thorbecke ABC News 17/6/2016
  20. Two Years Into Yemen War, US Ramps Up Refueling Saudi Jets 15/2/2017
  21. Exclusive: US expands intelligence sharing with Saudis in Yemen Reuters 10/4/2015
  22. Saudi-led naval blockade leaves 20m Yemenis facing humanitarian disaster, The Guardian 5/6/2015
  23. Yemen: An“entirely man-made catastrophe:” UN human rights report urges international investigation UN Human Rights Office of High Commissioner 5/9/2017
  24. Lift blockade of Yemen to stop “catastrophe” of millions facing starvation, says UN expert, UN Human Rights Office of High Commissioner, 12/4/2017
  25. Yemen: Fastest growing cholera epidemic ever recorded brings number of cases to 895,000 2/11/2017 UN Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
  26. Suffering deepens in Yemen as border shutdowns enter second week — UN agencies UN News Centre 14/11/2017
  27. UN’s $2Bln Yemen Appeal? Send the Bill to Washington, London and Riyadh By Finian Cunningham Sputnik International
  28. Why Is America Helping Yemen Collapse? Huff Post, Bonnie Kristian 06/07/2017

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