Jeremy Corbyn as Target Practice

 Two articles from Jonathan Cook:  Reaction t0 footage of British soldiers using a poster of Jeremy Corbyn as target practice; and a look back at when a sitting prime minister was a real target of the British army. 

By Jonathan Cook

It is time to stop believing these infantile narratives the political and media establishment have crafted for us. Like the one in which they tell us they care deeply about the state of British political life, that they lie awake at night worrying about the threat posed by populism to our democratic institutions.

How do they persuade us of the depth of their concern? They express their horror at the murder of an MP, Jo Cox, and their outrage at the abuse of another, Anna Soubry.

But they don’t really care whether politicians are assaulted, vilified or threatened – at least, not if it is the kind of politician who threatens their power. These political and media elites don’t seriously care about attacks on democracy, or about political violence, or about the rottenness at the core of state institutions. Their outrage is selective. It is rooted not in principle, but in self-interest.

Is that too cynical? Ponder this.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn hasn’t just faced insults shouted at him from afar, like Soubry. He was recently physically assaulted, hit on the head by a man holding an egg in his fist. But unlike Soubry, our media expressed no real concern. In fact, they could barely conceal their sniggers at his egging, an attack they presented as little more than a prank. They even hinted that Corbyn deserved it.

Shown as Kremlin Stooge

The media have been happy too to vilify Corbyn as a Kremlin stooge and a former Soviet spy. BBC news even photoshopped the Labour leader to make him look “Russian” – or “more Russian”, as the media all phrased it. Those who protested were told they were reading too much into it. They needed to lighten up and not take themselves so seriously.

Stills from ITV video on Twitter (Cathy Vogan.)

The Conservative party, including the former defence secretary Michael Fallon, has regularly portrayed Corbyn as a threat to national security, especially over concerns about the Trident nuclear missile system. Many senior members of Corbyn’s own party have echoed such smears – all amplified, of course, by the media.

Those who suggested that the government and media needed to engage with Corbyn’s well-grounded doubts about the safety of nuclear weapons, or the economics and practicalities of the Trident programme, were derided – like Corbyn – as “pacifists” and “traitors”.

Then Corbyn became the target of another sustained demonisation campaign. It was claimed that this lifelong, very public anti-racism activist – who over decades had forged strong ties to sections of the British Jewish community, despite being a steadfast critic of Israel – was, at worst, a secret anti-semite and, at best, providing succour to anti-semites as they overran the Labour party.

Was there any factual basis or evidence for these claims? No. But the British public was assured by rightwing Jews like the Board of Deputies and by “leftwing” Jewish supporters of Israel like Jonathan Freedland that evidence wasn’t necessary, that they had a sixth sense for these things.

Corbyn’s supporters were told that they should not question the wildly inflammatory and evidence-free denunciations of Corbyn and the wider Labour membership for a supposed “institutional anti-semitism” – and, with a satisfyingly circular logic, that to do so was itself proof of anti-semitism.

Too Toxic to Lead Labour

The weaponisation of anti-semitism through political spin by Corbyn’s political enemies, including the Blairite faction of the parliamentary Labour party, was and is a dangerous assault on public life, one that has very obviously degraded Britain’s political culture.

The smear was meant to override the membership’s wishes and make Corbyn too toxic to lead Labour.

It has also politicised the anti-semitism allegation, weakening it for a section of the population, and irresponsibly inflaming fears among other sections. It has deflected attention from the very real threat of a rising tide of rightwing racism, both Islamophobia and the kind of anti-semitism that relates to Jews, not Israel.

Then, there was the serving British general who was given a platform by The Sunday Times – anonymously, of course – to accuse Corbyn of being a threat to British national security. The general warned that the army’s senior command would never allow Corbyn near Number 10. They would launch a coup first.

But no one in the corporate media or the political establishment thought the interview worthy of much attention, or demanded an investigation to find out which general had threatened to overturn the democratic will of the people. The story was quickly dropped down the memory hole. Those who sought to draw attention to it were told to move on, that there was nothing to see.

And now, this week, footage has emerged showing British soldiers – apparently taking their commanders’ expressed wishes more seriously than the media – using a poster of Corbyn as target practice out in Afghanistan.

Questioning ‘Security Credentials’

Do the media and politicians really care about any of this? Are they concerned, let alone as outraged as they were at Soubry’s earlier discomfort at the verbal abuse she faced? Do they understand the seriousness of this threat to British political life, to the safety of the leader of the opposition?

The signs are still far from reassuring. Theresa May did not think it worth using prime minister’s questions to condemn the video, to send an unequivocal message that Britain’s political choices would never be decided by violence. No one else in the chamber apparently thought to raise the matter either.

Sky News even used the footage to question yet again Corbyn’s “security credentials”, as though the soldiers might thereby have grounds for treating him as a legitimate target.

May: Did not condemn video.

The clues as to where all this is leading are not hard to fathom. The white nationalist who drove into a crowd at Finsbury Park mosque in London, killing a worshipper, admitted at his trial that the real target had been Corbyn. An unexpected roadblock foiled his plans.

The fact is that no one in the political or media class cares much whether their constant trivialising of Corbyn’s political programme degrades British political life, or whether their smears could lead to political violence, or whether four years of their incitement might encourage someone to use more than an egg and a fist against Corbyn.

So let’s stop indulging the media and politicians as they cite Jo Cox’s murder and Anna Soubry’s intimidation as evidence of their democratic sensibilities and their commitment to political principle.

The truth is they are charlatans. They will use anything – from the murder of an MP to confections of anti-semitism and smears about treason – to incite against a democratic politician who threatens their domination of the political system.

It is their refusal to engage with a political argument they know they will lose, and to allow a democratic process to take place that they fear will produce the wrong result, that is setting the scene for greater polarisation and frustration, and ultimately for violence.

Army Plots Against a British Prime Minister are Not New

By Jonathan Cook
Sept. 20, 2105

There has been some debate about the significance of a warning issued this weekend through Rupert Murdoch’s Sunday Times by a British general that the army would “mutiny” and use “whatever means possible, fair or foul” should the new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn ever get near 10 Downing Street.

Here is what the general says:

Owen Jones has wondered whether this is tantamount to a threat of a coup by the military. I think it would be foolhardy indeed to read it as anything else.

None of us should be surprised either. We have been here before. In the late 1960s and early 1970s serving British generals, former generals, members of the royal family and the British security services regularly spoke in such terms to each other – and even occasionally on prime-time television.

More than that, when they believed their privileges were under serious threat, as they did during Harold Wilson’s various governments of that period, they actively plotted for “regime change”, or a military takeover.

In what became a self-serving vicious spiral, the establishment’s fears were further stoked by the stream of black propaganda being fed to the British media by MI5, Britain’s version of the FBI. It painted Wilson’s government and the trade union movement as overrun with Communists trying to bring down the UK. One can imagine a Corbyn government will receive no better treatment from the UK media than Wilson’s did.

Like Corbyn today, Wilson was seen in the 60s and 70s as a major threat to the entrenched privileges of British elites.

There is a wealth of evidence for all this, though perhaps unsurprisingly many sources, including Wikipedia, casually dismiss these accounts as “conspiracy theories” – the ultimate way to shut down scrutiny.

But the evidence was so compelling even the BBC, hardly a risk-taking broadcaster at the best of times, girded its loins back in 2006 to make a documentary called “The Plot Against Harold Wilson”. In fact, as the 90-minute film makes clear by interviewing many of those directly involved, there was not one plot but many against Wilson. You can watch it here.

It probably all seemed like old, slightly quaint history to the BBC nine years ago. Now it sounds frighteningly relevant again.

Here is a fascinating line from one plotter, Sir General Walter Walker, at about 1hr 2 mins in. Speaking in the early 1970s, he says on film:

If you plot to destroy this present system, what are you doing? You are committing a form of treason. I have taken an oath of allegiance to my Queen and I am not prepared to see that oath interfered with.

For me at least, that puts the ludicrous current debate about Corbyn refusing to sing the national anthem in an even more sinister light. It also makes me wonder how the armed forces read the recent comment from the prime minister, David Cameron, that Corbyn poses a “threat to national security”.

Wilson with Lyndon Johnson at the White House, July, 29, 1966 ( LBJ Library photo by Yoichi Okamoto)

Lord Mountbatten, the Queen’s cousin, a mentor to Prince Charles, and the chief of the defence staff at the time, became a figurehead for this group (45.30) and even approached the Queen Mother to seek her blessing for a military takeover. Walker says Mountbatten told him: “If you want help from me, will you let me know?”

David Stirling, the founder of Britain’s most elite military unit, the SAS, also confirmed to journalists that a coup against Wilson was seriously being considered (1.03). He contemplated bumping off trade union leaders to foment so much anger among workers that the military would be forced to move in to restore order.

Soon, the army, members of the royal family and the intelligence services were all considering how they might launch a military coup to stop a Communist takeover (the one that had been created in MI5’s lurid imagination). Brian Crozier, a former intelligence officer who supported a coup, says there was a “widespread attitude” in favour of it among the military (1.05)

It culminated in a show of force by the armed forces, which briefly took over Heathrow airport (1.06) without warning or coordination with Wilson’s government. Marcia Williams, Wilson’s secretary, called it a “dress rehearsal”. Wilson resigned unexpectedly soon afterwards, apparently as the pressures started to get to him.

As the BBC concludes:

The actions of Lord Mountbatten and senior military and intelligence officers undermined democracy and brought this country to the brink of a coup. Yet no one has been held accountable, there has been no proper inquiry.

Such an inquiry might have served at least as a small deterrent for those, like the general who approached The Sunday Times, who are thinking once again in terms of a coup.

Jonathan Cook is a freelance journalist based in Nazareth. He blogs at

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12 comments for “Jeremy Corbyn as Target Practice

  1. Tony
    April 9, 2019 at 09:25

    Having read several books on the subject, I am convinced that LBJ (shown above) was behind the assassination of President Kennedy:

  2. LJ
    April 5, 2019 at 20:11

    Corbyn is an English version of Bdernie Sanders but inasmuch as he holds a responsible and powerful postion in British Government, the rhetoric has to meet the road. He is no great leader. Britain ispolitically divided like the United States , Germany, France , Spain. basically all Democratic Nations. There is no real majority and the Liberal Democrats demise makes it even more unstable. but I don’t see a coup in is future under any circumstance. Given the ineptitude of May and her Tories, Corbyn will find it all but impossible to avoid becoming Prime Minister in the next election in my opinion. The Scots, SNP, will not go right so the coalition between them and Labor is stronger at this point and Brexit will improve there prospects rather than the Conservative Party. Bottom Line, IT isn’t Great Britain and more. The Great is irrelevant and redundant. Corbyn is the leader they deserve and clearly the best they have available at this time. He is a responsible, sober and practical man. That he occasionally speaks too freely and prefers the Truth to lies should not be hald against him.Good Luck Jeremy.

  3. Hide Behind
    April 4, 2019 at 18:47

    There are dark forces within every Eurocentric governing and corporate-fiancials top leadership elites, always has been and always will be.
    Power hidden, political smokescreen and gate heepers, from castles of mud brick to those air conditioned thrown roomed edifices of today in place to fool the masses who bow to figurehead appointed by the unseen.
    There are rings upon rings between the common man and those who rulebmost are unreal except in the minds binded by ioctrination from from birth, but some are real, bullets, car wrecks, false incarceration into real jail cells, the closer to the center ring the more one finds soulless individuals that will cut your throat, all not caring why you dared enter where only they were granted priveledge to reside.
    As a man of the commons I once killed men for a mere $485.oo dollars a month military pay to make millions for men far from blood and gore, but they that reside in those inner rings kill even a neighbors just next door for free those who threaten their superiors, and just follow orders for untold dollars and a chance to gain a pat on ass after kissing that Superiors ass.
    As it was once it still is for all that choose or are so f”n soulless and live that way.

  4. Ken
    April 4, 2019 at 14:04

    We´ve been long aware of the media subterfuge against Corbyn, not unlike that hurtled against other representatives of true democracy and humanist values such as Assange, Jill Stein, Sanders and now Tulsi Gabbard, but the military joining in this chorus of hate is far over the top. When are the true leftists to bring this into proper judicial perspective in Br. and the US? After all, this propaganda has reached criminal levels, certainly as an incitation to violence.
    Britain stood up magnanimously in its protestation against the Iraq war – now again the public is needed to bring this state madness to task

  5. Vivian O'Blivion
    April 4, 2019 at 07:21

    Worthwhile mentioning that Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (Tommy Robinson) is permanently surrounded in public by a phalanx of ex-squadies, complete with their Regimental insignia. The message is not subtle. The far right is publicly flexing its muscle and has full permission to do so.

  6. hans meyer
    April 3, 2019 at 21:50

    It is amazing that just things can happen in western democracies. I am just kidding, a real democracy would have citizen versed in civil education, vote should be easily accessible to all (USA!), referendums to check if government and population are on the same page done often and taken into consideration… We know that will never happen in England, Germany, the USA, france -Democracies? People like Mr Corbyn, Mélanchon – if he had been elected, will be treated like pariah. There is nothing they can do, if the people that voted for them just go home, sit and wait for results. Even so! At least, people in England know for whom the army, the ultimate defender of their democracy, will stand if civil disobedience occurs. Neoliberalism is the worst thing brough by capitalism ideology (by that I mean as a political system and not an economic model), every thing is reduce to selfish individualism and absurd consumption if unnecessary goods. Social groups are fragmented and people like Mr Assange and Ms Maning are not heard by the majority, because it is easy for the top to tag them as THE traitor or THE ennemy. The majority has to understand that the word democracy is just a facade hidding an oligarchy, what the rules of the game are and what to really expect…
    I also think that a vast majority of English people are saying no to Europe, as a way to say no to neoliberalism (the facist element is ridding along, remember the rise of the hooligans) and no to THIS Europ. Remember, Holland, france did the same thing with a referendum… Greece, I think, made the mistake to specify its desire to leage OTAN. But the response would have been identical as far as the goal is concerned, just less brutal.

    • rosemerry
      April 4, 2019 at 15:44

      I notice you say “England” and ignore the rest of the “UK”, which of course is one of the problems of so-called Brexit. Scotland and Northern Ireland voted strongly to remain in the EU.

      I find it very frightening that Jeremy Corbyn ,recognised by millions of Brits as a “real” Labour man, with real understanding of equality, fairness,jobs, peace/defence, nukes, is treated by others, including the Blairite New (really NON-)Labour MPs, as if he were a criminal. Since the 1960s the Labour Party had degraded into just another neoliberal gang, and Corbyn, keeping his old values, is denigrated and hated.
      The only way the UK can be able to help the majority of its population to avoid austerity and war (see PM May, BoJo, Gavin Williamson, Jeremy Hunt…)is to go back to real Labour principles.

  7. Jeff Harrison
    April 3, 2019 at 19:57

    Costa Rica doesn’t have this problem. After they got their country back after a 1948 coup. They abolished the military.

  8. April 3, 2019 at 17:46

    The attacks on Corbyn have been long and crazed.

    He simply infuriates certain groups.

    But I do think his worst enemy has been the various Israel lobbies in Britain. Their attacks have approached senseless hatred, always with name-calling.

    I’m convinced it’s because Corbyn is so fair-minded about Israel and Palestine. That simply is not allowed. To be fair-minded or balanced is to be deemed “anti-Semitic.”

    Actually what they’ve done over the last couple of years, supported mightily by a newspaper like the Guardian, could I think honestly be called libel and hate-crimes. It’s been that intense.

    Readers may enjoy:

    • rosemerry
      April 4, 2019 at 15:52

      The Sycophant (aka the Guardian) with “reporters” like Luke Harding and David Leigh, has sunk in quality over the years and deserves condemnation for its shameful reporting of Russia and notably the Skripal affair (no appearance or word of the rescued victims). The speeches of the War Minister (as Sergei Lavrov recently called him!) Gavin Williamson, and of FM Jeremy Hunt are reported as if they were acceptable, scaring the people into fearing and hating Russia with no evidence.

  9. mike k
    April 3, 2019 at 17:39

    Does anyone still think that England has anything to do with democracy? I should hope not.

Comments are closed.