General Sir Nick Carter, the British Army’s Chief of General Staff, has been on the propaganda circuit, talking-up the ‘Russian threat’, promoting the UK’s latest imperialist ambitions, and, of course, lobbying for more public money.
The General’s script is so riddled with scare memes, hyperbolic claims and cold war sophistry, it seems barely credible that any serious observer could fail to see through it.
That, alas, isn’t how it works for our servile media and deferential political class.
Primed and briefed, the BBC duly reported Carter’s speech below their Pravda-pitched headline:
Army chief warns British forces would struggle against Russia
Without the slightest journalistic shame, the BBC’s Jonathan Beale openly approved Carter’s message:
As noted by Media Lens:
In a subsequent Twitter thread, Beale crudely dismissed objections that he had amplified Carter’s message without any critical challenge.
Not to be outdone, the establishment-serving Guardian also gave Carter top-billing:
UK warned that Russian threat requires increased defence spending
Chief of general staff, Sir Nick Carter, will say Britain needs to keep up with adversaries to avoid being exposed to unorthodox, hybrid warfare
Russia is biggest threat to UK since cold war, says head of British army
Gen Sir Nick Carter gives stark warning of ‘complex and capable security challenge’ for Nato
The default ‘defence’ line here is often, ‘we are only reporting the news’. Yet, as noted by Ian Sinclair, consider how the above Guardian headline contrasts with that of the Morning Star:
Britain’s army chief accused of alarmist hyperbole over Russian threats
Why couldn’t the Guardian say it likewise? It might also, quite reasonably, have added:
Gen Sir Nick Carter makes deeply questionable claims about ‘complex and capable security challenge’ for Nato
Deborah Haynes, senior defence correspondent at the Times, also trotted-out approving repetitions of Carter’s speech:
UK looks to keep military footprint in Germany, @ArmyCGS reveals as he spells out “clear and present danger” posed by Russia. This is not just a plea for £. It’s an explanation of modern war and threats http://bit.ly/2E1Dgt8
An avid militarist and forces-supporting voice, Haynes is also a relentless purveyor of the great fake ‘fake news‘ hysteria:
Better late than never and details still sketchy, but UK reveals plans to combat & deter fake news & other forms of information warfare deployed by states such as Russia to influence/disrupt/manipulate
There was also much party political indulgence of General Carter’s fear-laden talk. Lamentably, this included the SNP’s defence spokesperson, Stewart McDonald, who tweeted this message urging consideration of Carter’s claims and warnings:
Worth listening to this speech by General Sir Nick Carter, Chief of the General Staff. It doesn’t pull any punches and should make uncomfortable viewing for the government.
McDonald affects an anti-government motivation here. But his primary nod is to Carter’s ‘serious defence concerns’.
Ex-SNP MP, and McDonald colleague, John Nicolson also worries that:
The UK is badly underdefended – Scotland especially so. Labour and the Tories sacrifice vital defence needs for Trident shibboleth.
Is the UK really “badly underdefended – Scotland especially so”? Here, again, we see a posturing form of ‘opposition’, in this case disingenuously using Trident to argue for more militarist spending to counter ‘all those other external threats’.
In speaking for Scotland’s main independence party, one might expect from McDonald some critical reaction to General Carter and his ‘security’ agenda for the British state. Seemingly not. McDonald now appears deeply smitten by such ‘prestigious’ figures and organisations, not least Nato, the West’s leading warmongering machine, which McDonald wants to see hosted in Scotland.
McDonald’s other apparent mission is to ‘sort out’ an “MoD in chaos”. He laments ‘big-ticket’ spending on vanity projects like HMS Queen Elizabeth, at the ‘expense’ of ‘conventional forces’, and calls out MoD ministers for the ‘shambles’ over a stalled ‘defence review’, but offers no meaningful challenge to the military establishment at large. There’s no renunciation of the political-military-corporate network behind it all. There’s no argument for much wider UK disarmament. There’s nothing here on the actual murderous menace of British militarism, as currently seen in Yemen. There’s not a hostile word against Nato.
Many of those trying to steer Labour away from their party’s Blairite nightmare have been expressing deep disquiet over the imperialist-toned and pro-Israel utterances of foreign affairs spokesperson, Emily Thornberry. Serious leftists and progressives within the SNP and wider indy movement should be paying similar close attention to McDonald’s own disturbing militarist and Israel-friendly positions.
The dutiful headlining, repeated claims and approving reaction to Carter’s ‘pulls-no-punches’ speech illustrates the insidious relationships between ‘defence’ correspondents, ‘defence’ politicians and ‘defence’ chiefs.
It’s sobering to think of the respect accorded to figures like Carter who, from Iraq to Afghanistan, has led this country’s forces in illegal invasions, ruinous occupations and the mass elimination of life. Dripping in establishment honours (KCB CBE DSO ADC), it seems the more death and destruction such people deliver, the greater elevation and higher platform they receive, particularly from our liberal politicians and media.
It’s also remarkable that Carter’s host, RUSI, a military-minded ‘think tank’ founded by the Duke of Wellington and figure-headed by the Queen, can be so liberal-approved and cited by the BBC as somehow ‘neutral’. Again, we see how elite militarism flourishes through liberal deference.
The excellent historian and journalist Mark Curtis has just launched Declassified. Alongside Curtis’s regular output charting the UK’s current political-military criminality around the world, it’s a most valuable resource, chronicling Britain’s dark historic warmongering, proxy coups, human rights atrocities and other past crimes.
Rather than indulging drum-beating hawks like Carter, politicians, journalists and anyone else really concerned with understanding and challenging British militarism might find in such places much more useful information and critical direction.