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“Invasions”: the Desperate Need to Distract From the Brexit Shambles

In these days of the 24/7 news cycle– with virtually instantaneous spin on the part of politicians and their slick media gurus, and ever-gullible segments of social media– it’s become easy to plant stories that can soon be shown to be false flags.

One of these false flags occurred in the UK in the recent holiday season. As I mentioned in a CounterPunch article a couple of weeks ago, Gatwick, the UK’s second largest airport, located 30 miles south of London and serving 43 million passengers a year, was closed for a nearly two days during the busiest travel period of the year when multiple drone sightings were reported over its runways throughout that time.

As a result, 140,000 passengers had flights delayed, cancelled, or rerouted to other airports, and 11,000 people were stranded at the airport, which was not prepared for such an emergency, as airport eateries ran out of food.

The British army was summoned to deal with this “emergency” after a meeting of Theresa May’s cabinet.

According to The Guardian, the military deployed the Israeli-developed Drone Dome system, which can detect drones using radar. It can also jam communications between the drone and its operator, enabling authorities to take control of the drone.

Two drone enthusiasts living near Gatwick were arrested as “persons of interest”, before being freed after two days of interrogation without being charged.  In the meantime, their names were revealed by the tabloid media, with a predictable outcome (the couple are now suing the tabloids for the severe harassment they suffered as a consequence of being named).

By this time the supposed drone attacks ceased, though there was another twist to the story.

The police said it was possible that the 200 or so witness reports of drone sightings after the first ones caused panic were mistaken, though this police statement was later backtracked with the blame placed on “miscommunication”.

It turned out that no photographic or video footage exists of the invading drones!

The police also examined two damaged drones allegedly found on the airport perimeter, but later said they were “ruled out” of the investigation.

The Independent now reports that the Israeli anti-drone technology has been removed from Gatwick, and quotes the area’s chief police officer:

“He said some reports of drones in the area may have involved the police’s own craft, but added that he is “absolutely certain” a drone was flying near the airport’s runways during the three-day period of disruption”.

I wonder how many of my fellow Brits will bet against me that this worthy protector of the public gets a knighthood in the next Ukanian honours list for owning up to the fact that his own police force was flying drones over the airport during the panic-inducing “invasion”!

And who would now bet against the supposedly sighted “invading” drones being precisely the ones operated over Gatwick by the local police force?

The bungled drone investigation did not stop other airport authorities from consulting with their Gatwick equivalents. According to The Huffington Post: “Executives at several passenger hubs – including some top US airports – have called their Sussex counterparts to find out more about the incident, HuffPost UK understands”.

Presumably these other airport authorities want to learn how not to handle a drone incursion the way Gatwick did!

Ukania, in its deep funk over Brexit– with the leading Brexiteers whipping up hysteria over “invading” immigrants allowed entry under current EU rules, and using this as one of their rationales for Brexit– is now deeply susceptible to any symbolism involving “invasion”.

The fantasy of the invading drones over Gatwick did some work towards this end.

The next part of the story involves the supposed “invasion” of the UK by rubber dinghies of people on the move (mainly asylum seekers) crossing the Channel before they were intercepted by the UK Border Force.

539 people attempted to travel to the UK on small boats in 2018.

About 100 of these, most of them desperate Iranians, made the crossing in the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day– on Christmas Day itself 5 small boats carrying a mere 40 people attempted to cross the Channel.

The Home Secretary Sajid Javid cut short his £800/$1000-a-night luxury safari holiday in South Africa, and sped home to describe dramatically the small increase in the number of Channel crossings as a “major incident”.

Javid, the son of penniless Pakistani immigrants who would now be prevented from coming to the UK under new immigration rules their son supports enthusiastically, is a hugely ambitious narcissist and lover of over-blown PR gestures, who makes no bones about his desire to take over from Theresa May as prime minister.

Javid, whose job before entering politics was being a director and then managing director of the long-troubled Deutsche Bank (soon to feature in any legal proceedings against Trump), usually hastens away from reporters with a speed that might impress Usain Bolt when questioned about his time at DB (2000-2009).

Javid, just back from his curtailed South African holiday, requested the help of the navy to patrol the Channel, and announced the redeployment of two UK Border Force ships from the Mediterranean.

Javid repeatedly referred to the boat-people as “illegal” migrants, even though it is not against the law to seek asylum. The UK is a signatory to the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees, which requires signatories to give due process to all who apply for asylum.

Javid suggested, in a clear breach of the Convention on Refugees, that people picked up by UK authorities could have their asylum requests denied to “deter others from undertaking the same dangerous journey” and said: “A question has to be asked: if you are a genuine asylum seeker, why have you not sought asylum in the first safe country you arrived in?”.

Nearly 3 times more people apply for asylum in France than in the UK, and the French asylum-processing office is totally grid-locked. The logical thing for refugees to do is to leave France, cross the Channel, and hope the UK’s asylum-system will be less paralyzed and perhaps less nasty than France’s.

The ghastly Javid clearly believes it would do his prime ministerial ambitions no harm if he engaged in a bit of grandstanding designed to appease far-right and anti-immigrant sentiment at the expense of desperate refugees, rather than seek to solve any real problems.

Meanwhile, to quote The Guardian on the real crisis confronting the UK:

“More people than ever relied on food banks to get through Christmas this year, around half of them children. More than 130,000 children faced Christmas in a state of homelessness, in temporary accommodation or B&Bs completely unfit for families. Almost every day, a woman is killed or takes her own life because of domestic violence, a form of abuse that often spikes at this time of year”.

This, and not a few dozen people on wobbly boats seeking asylum in the UK in a single week, is the major crisis confronting Ukania today.

It would therefore be good for UK politics generally if the US found a way to subpoena Javid as part of any investigative or prosecutorial move against Trump.

There is certainly enough out there on Trump’s dealings with DB to pique the interest of the US authorities. These dealings began in the late 90s, but according to Bloomberg:

“Trump did little to merit Deutsche’s involvement after that until the early 2000s, when it agreed to loan him as much as $640 million for a Chicago project — the Trump International Hotel and Tower.

In recent years, Deutsche’s private banking unit has loaned Trump money — about $300 million, accordingto Bloomberg News and Trump’s government financial disclosureforms — for such projects as his Washington hotel and the Trump National Doral golf course”.

If the scoundrel Javid is in a position to answer questions about DB’s nearly $1bn loans to Trump for his hotel and resort ventures (the Ukanian scourge of boat-people was after all on the DB board of directors at that time, and managing director even), he should certainly be invited to grandstand in front of an investigative panel or two in Washington DC.

More articles by:

Kenneth Surin teaches at Duke University, North Carolina.  He lives in Blacksburg, Virginia.

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