By John C. Dyer, UK Correspondent
Nothing, you reply?
At first glance it might seem preposterous.
Chris Bryant is a Labour MP, Shadow Minister for Borders and Immigration. Bryant was last seen in vigorous attack mode, seeking Home Secretary Theresa May’s head over a little experiment gone ‘orribly wrong (at least ‘orribly visible in the fishbowl). Bryant is better known, however, for his battle with Rupert Murdoch, whose grubby fingered underlings exposed Bryant to unseemly and embarrassing (not to mention politically difficult) ridicule. Bryant recently appraised Rupert Murdoch, an unflattering comparison to Sivio Berlusconi.
Michael Gove is, on the other hand, a Conservative MP, current Coalition Education Secretary. Gove’s very name makes die hard Labour supporters awaken in the night with cold sweats. He is the bane of public educators, dedicated to the overthrow of public education through private Academies (albeit to be fair to Mr. Gove, he would see it as their fulfillment and betterment). His “reforms” are legion and legendary, opposed vigorously by Chris Bryant and Bryant’s Labour Party. So black and white is this it does not bear citation. Michael Gove is also a well known “Neo Conservative.” Gove served Murdoch as an editor at The Times. His appraisal of Murdoch now? A great man.
So what could Chris Bryant and Michael Gove possibly have in common? Outside the fact they presumably put their pants on the same way in the morning, although maybe we shouldn’t assume. The answer is, the Henry M. Jackson Society. And a little more as will unfold.
The Henry M. Jackson society is an astro turf “Think Tank” with an agenda. That isn’t greatly editorialized. It calls itself a think tank and it has an expressed agenda. I dub it “astro turf” because it looks like a pressure group, acts like a pressure group, is funded like a pressure group, and has assiduously cultivated rich and powerful people with agenda and connections, like a pressure group. But it calls itself a think tank and is organized as a charity. How benign. Rather like Atlantic Bridge, but more on that in a moment.
The Henry M. Jackson society was formulated in 2005, named after US Senator Henry M. Jackson. No, not for his public welfare agenda, but for his “hawkish” interventionist agenda. Again, not editorializing. It is well documented and the Society says so itself.
The Henry M. Jackson Society promotes trans Atlantic cooperation in the intervention into the affairs of other nations, particularly in the Middle East, allegedly to spread liberal democracy. This agenda can be seen directly in the Society’s own activities.
Not all the public figures are politicians. Take Steven Pollard. Steven Pollard is the editor of the Jewish Chronicle. He is a former President of another astro turf think tank, The Centre for a New Europe, a “free market” think tank. And a frequent critic of “Jihadist” movements.
Tory, right? Wrong. He at least was a Labour intellectual.
But Pollard does have in common with Gove a commitment to free market economics and having written a column in The Times (as well as contributing articles to The Daily Mail). Perhaps he is a bridge figure between Bryant and Gove. Pollard was one of the founding signatories of the Henry Jackson Society.
Pollard famously advocated Labour reappraise its agenda and move more to the right to retain office. He argued that The Left was “now the enemy” in the “battle to save Western Civilization.” Pollard has endorsed the argument that “liberal appeasement” is paving the way for a replacement of European civilization by Islamic extremism.
Herein we have a theme that seems to link Gove, Pollard, MacShane, and the Henry Jackson Society- the conflict between Israel and her neigbours.
Denis MacShane and Chris Bryant are also members of Labour Friends of Israel. Gove is a member of Conservative Friends of Israel. TheHenry Jackson Society has joined in a number of initiatives professing to defend Israel's statehood from its implacable foes, including with “Friends of Israel” as co-sponsors.
Together Mendoza and the Henry Jackson Society have become the voices of crusade, seeking to enlist the British public, intelligentsia and politicians in a campaign against Islamist terrorism . What drew my attention to the organization in the first place was an article by its communications director, Michael Weiss, arguing Western military intervention into Syria is inevitable.
I am neither anti Israeli nor pro Assad. The point of my article is not to argue the Henry Jackson Society, Steven Pollard, Alan Mendoza, Michael Gove, Chris Bryant are right or wrong, or even that they form a secret conspiracy.
But I have some questions.
First, has the furor over Atlantic Bridge, Adam Werrity, and Liam Fox (the former Defence Secretary) faded into oblivion because of the thing that Michael Gove and Chris Bryan have in common?
You may remember the story, but let me refresh. Liam Fox was the Secretary of Defence who lost his job because of his inadequately disclosed connections while in office to Adam Werrity and the “think tank” Atlantic Bridge, that lost its charitable status following an investigation by the regulator. ( See my earlier WV article, "Liam Fox and Atlantic Bridge Don't Lose the Important QUestion to the Excitement of the Fox Hunt.
Seemed like it might bring down the Coalition. But it didn’t. Prompted calls for tighter regulation of Think Tanks and charities. But it didn’t. Last heard from in articles dating to the end of October, 2011.
As I say, apparently consigned to history's bin can.
The Murdoch “Hackgate” almost suffered the same fate. But that story was kept alive by the Guardian, Tom Watson, and, wait for it, Chris Bryant.
It would be unnatural to expect friends to out friends. One of the great dangers of organizations like the Henry Jackson Society, the former Centre for Social Cohesion, Friends of Israel, Labour Friends of Israel Labour, Conservative Friends of Israel, Atlantic Bridge, and a whole host of other “astro turf” “grass roots movements,” “think tanks,” and “charities.” They have friends. The are not regulated. Friends do not feel the need to look with the same degree of scrutiny on their friends as they do on their foes. Friends feel the need to defend friends.
It is an important question with the drums of war beating once again with respect to Iran and Syria. As I say, I am not anti Israel much less pro Syria or Iran. Far from it. My friends worry about my neoconservative tendencies. I confess, I have to watch them. The correct policy isn’t the point, however.
The point is transparency about a decision of incredibly high stakes.
Consider the War on Terror brought to you by the intellectual predecessors of the UK’s neoconservatives. Just in terms of money, consider. Estimates vary but most place the cost of these wars to already exceed a Trillion dollars (and billions of pounds). Estimates place the cost as high as $4 Trillion.
Imagine if the embattled governments of the Eurozone, Britain, and the US had that money now with which to battle the sovereign debt crisis.
One might ask, what price WWII? Fair enough. Sometimes it is worth it and necessary.
But I don’t want to be herded into another seemingly endless war without outcome at great cost and with profound consequences to my children and grandchildren. I don’t want to again be the victim of an echo chamber effect from a cacophony of unregulated “astro turf” think tanks holding themselves out as expert. Or from the lazy complicity of media who find it easier to accept their press releases and “reports” as objective expert commentary to fill out their programming time.
This time I want the government to consider carefully the projected outcomes, plan and stick to an exit strategy, identify how they will pay for it in advance, and be sure it is Adolf Hitler we face and not some two bit petty dictator we don’t like.
I want someone to take seriously the lessons of the past. OK, the government does not have to investigate their drinking buds in the now defunct Atlantic Bridge. It would be enough for me if BBC and others, would investigate, disclose, and disclaim the credentials, biases, and associations of their “experts,” instead of happily letting these “experts” fill out their programming time with “reports,” press releases, and considered opinions.
The price of failed scrutiny is just much too high.