Assange Judge’s Husband Runs Security Firm With Ex Head of MI6 616

“Security Intelligence Consultancy” SC Strategy Ltd has only three directors. One is the husband of the judge in yesterday’s Assange ruling. One is the former Head of MI6, Sir John Scarlett, who is synonymous with crooked security operations and personally wrote the notorious dossier of lies on Iraqi WMD, thus causing the subsequent deaths of millions of people. One is Lord Carlile, who was notably close to protected Establishment paedophiles Greville Janner and Cyril Smith. Is the British Establishment not endlessly fascinating?

The corporate media has published no information about “Lady” Arbuthnot’s background and sinister links at all, despite the fact it is uniformly carrying her jibes at Assange as a major story. There can be no clearer example of the fact that it is the corporate media which, deliberately and systematically, spreads fake news, while bloggers get out the actual facts via social media.

Directors of SC Strategy Ltd from Companies House Register

To anyone to whom British corruption is not axiomatic, it appears pretty rum that the judge in the Assange case is married to a government parliamentarian and close to the security services.

“Lady” Arbuthnot’s Husband

There is some interesting background in the Mirror here. The taxpayer paid £1,200 in restaurant bills for “Lady” Arbuthnot and her husband in one long weekend jaunt to Turkey alone.

If anybody thinks the Assange case had anything to do with justice, they are very mistaken. Please read my analysis of “Lady” Arbuthnot’s judgement here.

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All Pretence is Over in Persecution of Assange 183

The “judge” who dismissed Assange’s case yesterday was “Lady Arbuthnot of Edrom”, wife to Tory peer, former Tory junior Defence Minister and government whip Lord James Arbuthnot. Not to mention Chairman of the Conservative Friends of Israel. Arbuthnot was naturally Eton educated, the son of Major Sir John Sinclair Wemyss Arbuthnot. Of course Lady Arbuthnot’s children were all sent to Eton too.

At the first hearing, I was stunned by reports of completely inappropriate comments by Lady Arbuthnot, including responding to representations about Assange’s health by the comment that medical care is available in Wandsworth prison. As the official charade is that Assange is wanted for nothing but jumping bail, for which a custodial sentence is rare, that callous attempt at gallows humour was redolent of Arbuthnot’s Tory mindset. She also remarked – and repeats it in yesterday’s judgement – that Assange has access to fresh air through the Embassy’s balcony. That is simply untrue. The “balcony” floor is 3 feet by 20 inches and gives no opportunity to exercise. Julian does not have access to it. He is confined to a small area within the Embassy, which still has to function. The balcony is off the Ambassador’s office. He has been given access to it on average about twice a year. But “Lady” Arbuthnot showed a very selective attitude to getting at the truth.

The truth is that just last week the evidence was published which inarguably proves that the questioning for sexual allegations was only ever a charade to secure Assange in custody for deportation to the US, to face charges for publishing the USA’s dirty secrets. In 2013 Sweden wished to drop the investigation and the arrest warrant, and was subject to strong persuasion from the Crown Prosecution Service to maintain the warrant. This included emails from the CPS telling the Swedes “Don’t you dare” drop the case, and most tellingly of all “Please do not think this case is being dealt with as just another extradition.” That last exposes the entire pretence in just one sentence.

It is worth noting it was not the servile UK corporate media, but the Italian journalist Stefania Maurizi and the Italian newspaper Le Repubblica which obtained these emails through dogged freedom of information requests and High Court proceedings. These revealed the quite stunning truth that the CPS had systematically destroyed most of the highly incriminating correspondence, with only accidental copies of a few emails surviving to be produced in response to the FOI request.

The CPS emails devastate the official charade, which is precisely that this is just a normal extradition case. Furthermore it is admitted at para 43 of “Lady” Arbuthnot’s judgement that the Crown Prosecution Service actively referred the Swedish authorities to Wikileaks activities in the United States as a reason not to drop the arrest warrant, a fact which the UK mainstream media has still never reported and which obviates “Lady” Arbuthnot’s trite observation that there is no evidence that Sweden would have extradited Assange to the USA.

Perhaps most stunning of all “Lady” Arbuthnot opines at para 44 that “I cannot determine from the extracts of correspondence whether the lawyer in the extradition unit acted inappropriately” in preventng the Swedes from dropping the case and referring them to Wikileaks activities vis a vis the USA. Whereas in fact:

a) It provides irrefutable proof that this was never about the frankly unbelievable Swedish sexual allegations, which were always just a pretext for getting Assange into custody over Wikileaks’ publications

b) The reason she only has “extracts” of the correspondence is that the Crown Prosecution Service, as openly admitted in the High Court, tried to destroy all this correspondence, itself an illegal act. Arbuthnot gives them the benefit of their illegality, against all legal principle.

“Lady” Arbuthnot takes it upon herself to contradict the judgement of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, every one of whose members is a much more eminent lawyer than “Lady” Arbuthnot. The UK had of course every opportunity to raise the points made by Lady Arbuthnot in its appeal to the UN, which appeal also failed. “Lady” Arbuthnot’s attempt to undermine a judgement by going back and disputing the actual facts of the case, with no opportunity to answer, is, to say the least, a creative piece of judicial process. But as with her failure to pursue the CPS’ destruction of evidence, it is just an example of her most obvious bias.

“Lady” Arbuthnot set out with one clear and evident purpose, to assist the Crown.

“Lady” Arbuthnot has perhaps performed an unwitting public service by the brazen nature of her partiality, which exposes beyond refutation the charade of legal process behind the effort to arrest Assange, in reality over the publication of USA secrets. The second half of Para 57 of the judgement sets out how, following his arrest for “jumping bail”, the American extradition request on espionage charges will be handled.

I should like to conclude that “Lady” Arbuthnot is a disgrace to the English justice system, but I fear she is rather typical of it. This intellectually corrupt, openly biased, callous Tory shill is rather a disgrace to humanity itself.

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Scared of my Own Thoughts 340

In Doha last week I watched on TV an utterly contemptible speech by Theresa May in which she grasped for ideas to shore up the increasingly eroded Establishment control of the political zeitgeist. Yet more pressure would be put on the social media companies to curtail the circulation of unauthorised truths as “fake news”. Disrespectful questioning of the political class will be a new crime of “intimidation of candidates”. The government would look for new ways to boost the unwanted and failing purveyors of the official line by some potential aid to newspapers and their paid liars.

In short I did not merely disagree with what she was saying, I found it an extraordinary example of Orwellian doublespeak in which she even referenced John Stuart Mill and her commitment to freedom of speech as she outlined plans to restrict it further. I found myself viewing this dull, plodding agent of repression as representing a political philosophy which is completely alien to me.

I had a similar epiphany the week before watching the gathering at Davos. I have often been sceptical of the philosophy and motivation of the neo-liberal elite, but I have never before looked at them and seen them as the enemy. Yet after the super wealthy were rewarded for the financial collapse of 2008, by the largest diversion of ordinary people’s money to the rich in human history, as bailouts and QE, the steady but unspectacular economic growth of the ensuing decade has resulted in no significant real wage increases for the working person across the entire developed world, while the wealth of the 1% has more than doubled. There has been a curious but matching phenomenon whereby even the “third sector” representatives at Davos – the heads of universities and charities or the senior presenters from the BBC, for example – are themselves on over £300,000 a year and completely divorced from the lifestyle of working people, due to the abandonment of their institutions to corporate philosophy.

In short, as with Theresa May, I found myself looking at the inhabitants of Davos with utter contempt, as people whose philosophy and lifestyle I detest.

Then a couple of days ago I watched an uncritical BBC report of alleged chemical weapons attacks in Syria based entirely on film provided by the White Helmets, which plainly had zero evidential value. Given that the origins and motivations of the White Helmets are today known to anyone with an internet connection, the continued retailing of this repetitive propaganda is extraordinary. I felt contempt for the BBC journalists who were retailing it. In the last 24 hours Israel has carried out large scale bombing attacks on Syria which are undeniably illegal, and for once has acknowledged them brazenly. There has been very little media reporting of this. In a two sentence report on BBC News as I type, the second sentence was that the attack followed the downing of an Israel fighter, without mentioning that plane was itself illegally attacking Syria. The Israeli statement was given verbatim and no balancing view from Syria was given.

I am not comfortable with thoughts of contempt, disgust or hatred towards anyone. I have always held the view that people are entitled to their political views, and having different views to mine in no way makes you a bad person. I have been known to suggest that anyone who has all the same views as me must be in dubious mental health. I have tried to acknowledge common ground with people where it exists – for example I have always admired David Davis’ commitment to civil liberties. It is not the case that some of my best friends are Tories, but I do have Tory friends.

I was for most of my working life a fully paid up member of the Establishment, and reasonably comfortable with that. Even bad governments do some good. I was a Liberal and fairly well on board with the prescriptions of the party in the time of Charlie Kennedy. I am, I hope, a naturally friendly person and have always considered myself gentle and kind. It is certainly true my political views are driven more by empathy with the suffering than by rigid systems of thought.

I therefore am not comfortable being so stridently opposed to everything that is happening in the UK political mainstream. I am scared by the prospect of being the extremist nutter who mutters on about a worldview entirely at odds with the accepted narrative.

Yet I look at the world with disbelief. I see an economy that gives little opportunity for secure and fulfilling lives to millions of young people. I see the obscene lifestyle of the super rich. And I perceive that, contrary to neo-liberal propaganda, that is not the natural order of things but a direct result of the operation of institutions created by government and their use to channel the flow of wealth to a tiny minority.I marvel at the continuing Ponzi scheme of the UK property market. I see Africa plundered for its commodities and deliberately kept poor.

The panic-inducing correction in the world’s stock markets this week was triggered by news that unemployment was falling rapidly in the USA. That was “bad news” for the markets because it might result in workers getting better pay. There could not be a better illustration of the madness of the system. The world is suffering from a failure of imagination. Corporate ownership structure has developed in certain ways because of social conditions prevailing in the UK and Europe from the 16th century onwards. The development consists of the overlaid accretions of accumulated accidents of history. There is nothing natural or inevitable about current stock market models. The rational alternative – worker ownership of enterprises – is, however, not on any mainstream accepted political agenda.

Jeremy Corbyn and John MacDonnell are doing their best within the awful constraints of the Labour Party they inherited, but their economic proposals are nowhere near the radical change required. In Scotland, the SNP have put in place some commendable but very modest social democratic measures to increase taxes on the wealthy. But the SNP appears to have been seized by crippling timidity on the subject of Independence. There are worrying signs that Sturgeon’s evident lack of serious intent to push for Independence, is finally damping down grassroots activism, including on social media. Meanwhile virtually the entire political class of Europe has united behind the vicious suppression of Catalonia, with peaceful campaigners facing lengthy years as political prisoners. Those events, more than any, crystallise my understanding that a “liberal” political Establishment no longer exists.

In conclusion, either I am barking mad or the world is becoming a much darker place. As the position of the vast majority of people as helots to the super wealthy is further consolidated, the manufacturing of consent by the control of information becomes ever more crucial to the elite. I have never desired to stand outside society barking unheeded warnings. You have probably gathered that the last few months I have been inclined to succumb to the fact that my own life would be more comfortable if I stopped barking. But I shall continue – please feel free to warn me when I get over-bitter.

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Thatcher – and Many Still Active Tories – Did Support Apartheid

I am delighted that Sir Patrick Wright, former head of the Diplomatic Service, has confirmed that Margaret Thatcher did support apartheid. There has been a polite media airbrushing of this aspect of Tory history. For the first two years of my life in the FCO I spent every single day trying to undermine Thatcher’s support for apartheid. As I published last year of the FCO’s new official history:

Salmon acquits Thatcher of actually supporting apartheid. I would dispute this. I was only a Second Secretary but the South Africa (Political) desk was just me, and I knew exactly what was happening. My own view was that Thatcher was a strong believer in apartheid, but reluctantly accepted that in the face of international opposition, especially from the United States, it would have to be dismantled. Her hatred of Mandela and of the ANC was absolute. It is an undeniable statement that Thatcher hated the ANC and was highly sympathetic towards the apartheid regime.

By contrast the Tory FCO junior ministers at the time, including Malcolm Rifkind and Lynda Chalker, shared the absolute disgust at apartheid that is felt by any decent human being. The Foreign Secretary, Geoffrey Howe was somewhere between these two positions, but very anxious indeed not to anger Thatcher. South Africa was an issue in which Thatcher took an extreme interest and was very, very committed. Not in a good way.

British diplomats were almost banned from speaking to any black people at all. Thatcher favoured the Bantustan or Homelands policy, so an exception was made for Gatsha Buthelezi, the Zulu chief who was regarded as anti-ANC and prepared to oppose sanctions and be satisfied with a separate Zulu “homeland” for his Inkatha movement and essentially accept apartheid exclusions. That may be unfair on him, but it was the policy of the UK government to steer in that direction. Our Consulate General in Johannesburg was permitted to talk to black trades unionists, and that was our main angle in to the black resistance movement. These contacts were made by the excellent Tony Gooch and Stuart Gregson, and before them the equally excellent Terry Curran, then my immediate boss in London. Neither Terry nor Tony were “fast-track” public school diplomats. None of those talked to black South Africans at all.

I flew off the handle when I discovered, when dealing with the accounts of the Embassy in Pretoria/Capetown (a migratory capital), that the British Ambassador, Patrick Moberly, had entertained very few black people indeed in the Residence and the vast majority of Embassy social functions were whites only. In 1985 most of the black people who got in to the British Ambassador’s residence in South Africa were the servants. I recall distinctly the astonishment in the FCO that the quiet and mild-mannered young man at the side desk had suddenly lost his rag and got excited about something that seemed to them axiomatic. Black people as guests in the Residence in Pretoria? No, Craig, I was told, we speak with black people in Johannesburg. Different culture there.

Wright’s account collaborates mine both in general and in detail, eg on being banned from any contact with the ANC. Eventually we managed, as a tentative first step and unknown to No.10, to arrange a meeting, ostensibly by accident in the margins of a conference, between myself and a brilliant young man from the newly launched trades union federation named Cyril Ramaphosa. I wonder what happened to him? 🙂 I was the recipient of his justified ire at Tory government policy.

Tories who actively supported apartheid are still very influential in the Tory party, notably the St Andrews Federation of Conservative Students originating group, including Michael Forsyth. Even David Cameron’s contacts with South Africa in this period are a very murky part of his cv. It is important the Tories are not allowed off the hook on this. The moral taint should rightly be with them for generations.

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Zionist Censorship on Facebook

Facebook has refused to carry an advert for my book of early collected works, Zionism is Bullshit. At first it refused the ad on grounds of “profanity”. I then removed the title of the book from the advert (though it might still be dimly discerned on a small photo if you squint) and resubmitted, but approval was denied again. I then appealed, and this time the ad was refused because it “denigrates the religious views of others”. The text was standard book blurb and in no way did that.

If I were to claim that I owned your property because God gave it to my ancestors thousands of years ago, I would expect you to denigrate my view. To refuse criticism of zionism is ridiculous.
Facebook has just announced that it is employing 10,000 more people to be directly engaged in censorship – ostensibly to weed out “fake news”, which evidently includes disagreement with Israel. The main role will of course be the suppression of any alternative view to the neo-liberal propaganda spewed out by the corporate and state media.

Twitter is just as bad. Like 100,000 others I have received an email from Twitter making the ludicrous accusation I am tweeting Russian propaganda. I was “ghost banned” for a while by Twitter last year. There is a huge danger here. This website gets over 75% of its traffic through Twitter and Facebook. The wonderful widening of political debate through citizen access to the new media of the internet is going to be under real threat as Twitter and Facebook are turned into neo-liberal gatekeepers. This website and those like it can simply be starved of traffic.

Twitter and Facebook are of course now vast global corporations, and are stating to behave absolutely to type – or arguably worse. I was happily surprised when Amazon accepted Zionism is Bullshit for publication on their “print on demand” service. Plainly Facebook is more restrictive here than Amazon.

The development of non-corporate social media platforms with the saturation coverage of Facebook or Twitter is a daunting task. Some kind of consumer revolt against censorship by existing customers may be a more hopeful route. But action is essential if the social media gains of the last few years are to be maintained.

I have also brought out on Amazon a new edition of Murder in Samarkand as Random House discontinued it after buying up Mainstream. I give the link picture here because for some reason it does not appear in a search for Murder in Samarkand on Amazon.

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“Locked In” in Jaipur

Nadira is currently in Jaipur as her short film Locked In is in the official selection at the Rajasthan International Film Festival. It is showing on Tuesday at 11.44am in the Inox Crystal Palm Cinema, 22 Godam Circle, Jaipur. It is exactly a year since my appearance at the Jaipur Literary Festival to talk about Sikunder Burnes and a number of people from Jaipur have followed this blog since, plus people will be out for this year’s Literary Festival which also starts tomorrow night. So I hope some people will get along and say hi to Nadira.

The trailer for Locked In has now been seen by 27,000 people, which is a remarkable achievement.

The subject of the mistreatment of asylum seekers locked into immigration detention centres, has come to increasing prominence. There was an excellent BBC documentary, and David Hare is taking up the subject of detention centre abuse as a key element in his latest super glossy BBC thriller series, Collateral.

Theresa May, having whilst Home Secretary refused entry to Yarls Wood Detention Centre to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, has now as Prime Minister denied entry to Diane Abbott, the shadow Home Secretary. The treatment of marginalised groups in modern Britain has become unconscionable, be they asylum seekers disabled benefit claimants or others. The success of the elite in promoting victim blaming through the corporate and state media, to blame such disadvantaged groups for the blighted economic prospects of ordinary workers, will be a subject of fascination to future historians. But to live through it is sickening. I am proud of Nadira for her choice of subject and approach to her first film.

I am not involved in the discussions over how the film will be released – there are several offers from sales agents – but I hope it will be released for general viewing in the near future.

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The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming!

The complete and unmitigated irrationality of the current epidemic of Russophobia does nothing to reduce its incredible virulence, as it continues to infect the entire political and media class. There is a zero chance that Russia will launch an attack on the UK, yet the entire corporate and state media is leading today with the “need” to spend billions against that most unlikely threat, as propounded by General Nutty McNutter.

Researching Sikunder Burnes gave me crucial insights into the recurrence of Russophobia as a key element of British politics for two centuries, despite the fact historians can demonstrate that at no stage in that period has Russia ever planned an attack on the UK, or seriously considered it as an option. But the current Russophobia has new elements.

We are currently in some sort of crisis of capitalism, as the concentration of wealth continues apace and the general population of western countries increasingly feel insecure, exploited and alienated. It is still very hard for voices that reject the neo-liberal establishment view to get a media platform, but Russia does provide comparatively small platforms in the West – like Russia Today and Radio Sputnik – which allow greater democratic freedom than western media in the range of views they invite to be expressed. So the ultra-wealthy, their politician servants and media lackeys view Russia as some kind of threat to the dominance of neo-liberalism .

There are a number of ironies to this, not least the very real deficiencies in Russia’s domestic democracy and media plurality, and the fact Russia has an even worse oligarchic capitalism than the West and has a 1% completely integrated with their Western counterparts. But despite these ironies, the Western 1% perceive Russia as some sort of threat to their dominance. This leads in to the intellectually risible attempts to prove that Russia somehow “fixed” Trump’s election, for which no solid evidence can ever be adduced as it did not happen; but nevertheless vast resources continue to be spent in trying.

The second cause of the extreme Russophobia is Putin’s masterly pursuit of his foreign policy objectives. He has two major objectives.

Putin’s first major objective is to bring majority Russian speaking regions of the Former Soviet Union into Russia. He has had some success with this in Georgia and Ukraine, to the embarrassment of NATO. I do not in fact support Putin in achieving this goal by military means. I have no objection to the re-arrangement of boundaries, but it should be done by democratic choice, and non ethnic Russian regions within Russia, such as in Dagestan, Chechnya and Tatarstan, should be given the same opportunity of choice to change boundaries.

But while I do not support Putin’s means, there is no doubt he has pursued them with some success, and more importantly he is shrewd enough to know when not to pursue them by military means, eg in the Baltic States. To claim that Putin’s very limited objective, to bring small Russian outlying regions within Russia, constitutes a threat to the UK or USA, is ludicrous.

Putin’s second foreign policy objective is to prevent the further destabilisation of the Middle East and to stymie the spread of jihadst Wahhabism. In this he has also been very successful, especially as regards stopping the US and Saudi backed jihadists in Syria, and in bringing Iran back into the international community. Again it is ludicrous to claim that this foreign policy success constitutes or denotes a military threat to the USA or UK. In the Middle East, I regard Putin’s policies as both lawful and helpful.

You do not have to be uncritical of Putin to understand that the Russian threat is a bogey and the current wave of Russophobia is completely unjustified.

The New Cold War is being foisted upon us whether we want it or not. But at least it is giving us a few laughs. There is an excellent example of the 100% evidence free “Russians fixed the US election and are undermining democracy” meme by Nick Cohen in yesterday’s Observer. He claims a Maltese Professor Mifsud is a Russian spy because he founded a “diplomatic academy” in London which had no money for computers and no laptops, because Mifsud once met Putin and Boris Johnson, and because of a meeting with George Papadopalous, which if it involved Russians in any way at all, Cohen does not tell us.

I really do urge you to read the Cohen piece carefully and analyse whether there is any reasonable case for branding the man a Russian spy.

Cohen’s claim that Professor Mifsud is an academic charlatan may or may not be founded, but the accusation that he is a Russian spy is an appalling example of McCarthyist witch-hunting of which Cohen and his Editor should be deeply, deeply ashamed.

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PFI – A Cautionary Tale

Here is my personal experience of the great push for the public sector to use the Private Finance Initiative.

When I was Deputy High Commissioner in Accra, the British government was paying a very large sum to rent over 80 residential properties in a city where rents are very high for quality properties. However the British government owned a lot of land there, and it was an obvious saving to build our own residential compound.

We accordingly drew up plans and got quotes, which were submitted to the FCO with details of the very substantial savings from the medium term. The response was that we had to invite private sector bids for a PFI scheme. This amounted to no more than asking the companies who had already submitted construction bids to submit pre-financing and maintenance plans. Needless to say this increased costs very substantially.

But here is the kicker – in comparing the “build it ourselves” plan with the PFI plan, we were instructed to give an 8% cost advantage to the PFI scheme – the “public sector comparator” – to allow for the extra efficiency of the private sector. No matter we were comparing real costs to real costs, somehow magically an 8% saving would accrue from using the private sector, in a manner the Treasury refused to define. I simply shelved the whole scheme in disgust, but I understand this “efficiency saving” allowance was a standard feature of the PFI scam.

The vital thing to realise about PFI is that it was not the construction companies – such as Carillion – who stood to benefit most. It was the bankers and hedge funds who financed the schemes and stood to rake in decades of high and taxpayer guaranteed interest payments. The fundamental craziness of the entire scam is that in effect the public sector was still borrowing the money, but at significantly higher interest rates than if it had been financed the normal way through Treasury bonds.

As the scheme was at heart a massive diversion of taxpayers’ money to the bankers, it should come as no surprise that Gordon Brown was the driving force behind it. My personal experience of it, which I found disgusting, was during Brown’s tenure of the Treasury. Why Brown is still treated as some sort of guru by the media, when he has caused such immense and demonstrable harm, is an example of the desperation of the media to maintain the neo-liberal “consensus”.

There is no doubt that the people are stirring and increasingly unwilling to accept the gross and fast widening wealth gap in a society entirely skewed by its legislative organisation to the interests of the small number of the ultra wealthy. In the interests of self-preservation, the corporate and state media have been forced to allow the Overton window to drift very slightly left. Nationalisation and wealth taxation are no longer entirely taboo subjects, while Theresa May feels the need to make insincere promises to initiate token measures to restrain boardroom greed. But the blighted prospects of a generation, and the increasing financial struggles of the middle classes, have not yet produced a concomitant political reaction. I have never been so struck by the irrelevance of the witterings of the Westminster classes to the life experience of ordinary people.

It remains my view that Independence for Scotland – and for Catalonia – are part of the radical shake up of the political system required to make democracy meaningful again. The recent moves by the Scottish government on welfare protection, for example to ban the involvement of private companies in health assessments, gives me some comfort in that view. But the situation calls for a politics more radical than Corbyn or the SNP have yet dared to propose. Society now needs a fundamental redistribution of wealth. Parodoxically, the fact that so much wealth now consists in notional transactions rather than physical goods, makes this an easier task than when the classic philosophers first addressed it.

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Ecuador and Assange

It is for the government of Ecuador, not the UK, to determine who is an Ecuadorian citizen. It is for the government of Ecuador, not the UK, to determine who is an Ecuadorian diplomat.

It is not in the least unusual for Julian Assange to become an Ecuadorian citizen. Having been granted political asylum, and having lived for over five years under Ecuadorian jurisdiction, naturalisation is a perfectly normal step. There are a great many refugees in this country who are now naturalised UK citizens. Julian appears suitably proud of his new citizenship, and rightly so.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office appears to be putting out a story that it has refused to accredit Assange as an Ecuadorian diplomat. As the Guardian reports:
“Earlier this week the UK’s Foreign Office revealed that Ecuador had asked for Assange, who was born in Australia, to be accredited as a diplomat. The request was dismissed.”

I have no knowledge that the Ecuadorian government ever notified Assange as a member of diplomatic staff of its mission. But it has every right to appoint Assange, now an Ecuadorian citizen, as an Ecuadorian diplomat if it so chooses. Ecuador cannot tell the UK who may or may not be a British diplomat, and the converse applies.

The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations – to which the UK and Ecuador are both party – is the governing international law and determines the obligations to respect diplomatic immunity. It is crystal clear (Article 4,1) that the need to obtain agreement in advance of the receiving state only applies to the Head of Mission – ie the Ecuadorian Ambassador. For other staff of the mission the sending state (in this case, Ecuador) “may freely appoint” the other members of the mission, (Article 7), subject to provisos in Articles 5,8,9 and 11. Plainly the only one of these which applies in the Assange case is Article 9. Julian Assange is persona non grata – unwelcome -to the UK government. That is a legitimate reply to notification, but comes following the appointment; it does not pre-empt the appointment.

Here is the key point. A member of staff below head of mission can already have entered the country before appointment, and their diplomatic immunity starts from the moment their appointment is notified, and NOT from the moment it is accepted. Article 39 (i) could not be plainer:

1.Every person entitled to privileges and immunities shall enjoy them from the moment he enters
the territory of the receiving State on proceeding to take up his post or, if already in its territory, from
the moment when his appointment is notified to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs or such other ministry
as may be agreed.

So to summarise.

There is no requirement for prior approval before arrival of staff below Ambassador, and it is just a notification regime (Article 10). If the FCO is telling the truth and Ecuador notified the UK of its appointment of Julian Assange as a member of diplomatic staff, the UK can only have refused by declaring Assange persona non grata. That does not remove his diplomatic immunity which started the moment he was notified. It continues until he has been given the chance to leave the country in “a reasonable time”. (Article 9.2, and 39.2).

The immunity of envoys has been universally regarded as essential to inter-state relations for thousands of years. The reasons why that immunity must start at notification are obvious if you think it through. The FCO bragging about refusing the alleged Ecuadorian request has been carried in virtually the entire neo-liberal media. Not one article, anywhere, has reflected anything approaching the applicable legal arguments. I am again left wondering whether mainstream media journalists are simply entirely incompetent, or deeply corrupt.

I suppose both.

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Return

I have spent only eight days in the UK in around the last five months. Driving from Heathrow to Edinburgh yesterday, we listened to BBC Radio 4 for over seven hours. In continued reports and bulletins on the Cabinet reshuffle throughout the day, the numerous people invited to comment on it were, without a single exception, Conservative Party politicians or avowedly conservative political journalists and commentators. Neither Labour nor SNP were asked for their thoughts.

Tonight I watched the BBC News at Ten. Again much on the Conservative Party. Not one mention of Labour at all, and the only mention of the SNP was an attack piece by unionist shill Sarah Smith on waiting times in the Scottish NHS over the holiday period. To top it all off was an astonishingly tendentious piece on today’s air attacks by Israel on Damascus in support of their increasingly desperate jihadist allies.

Flying in to the UK today and tuning in to the state broadcaster is like arriving in any one party state.

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A Great Day

My body and mind are still in Ankara, fully engaged with the Syrian peace talks. But my heart is in Catalonia.

A great day. The achievement is colossal – a pro-independence majority achieved despite the leadership being in jail or in exile, and on an 84% turnout. The lies being spewed out day by day by the neo-liberal media about a “silent majority” are well and truly exposed, as is the EU’s contempt for democracy.

I guess now they have to charge over million people with sedition.

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Russophobia Goes Comic

I am feeling particularly hostile to Donald Trump after his incendiary move on Jerusalem. But it remains the case that I have enough direct knowledge of events to be aware that the entire premise of the Russophobic “election-hacking” conspiracy theory is simple nonsense. I am therefore most amused that my friend Randy Credico, who stayed with Nadira and I in Edinburgh a few months ago, has now been subpoenaed by the Senate Inquiry on Russian meddling as the alleged go-between for Roger Stone and Julian Assange, on the brilliant grounds that he knows both of them.

I can tell you from certain knowledge this is absolute nonsense. While Randy is a delightful person who hides a shrewd political mind behind a deliberate crackpot façade, he is the most indiscreet person in the world. He is not anybody’s conveyor of secrets, he would tell it all impulsively on his next radio show! Where Russia fits into this mad conspiracy theory I have no idea. If I had any belief that it was the genuine intention of Senate or Special Counsel inquiries to discover the actual truth, I would be surprised they have never made any contact with me, as opposed to my fleeting houseguests. But as I am well aware the last thing they want to know is the truth, I am not surprised in the least.

On a personal note I have just emerged from a really harrowing period. I had to leave the High Court a month ago straight to Heathrow and fly out to Ghana. Here I have been battling for the last year to save Atholl Energy, a company I chair which had some US $50 million worth of debts. The reason for this was that it had built an extension to the power station it originally constructed for the Ghanaian government, and the Ghanaian government had failed to pay for the extension after Atholl pre-financed it. In line with company philosophy, Atholl had both completed and handed over the extension, despite the non-payment, as the aim is to supply power to the people of Ghana.

The massive debt of course threatened Atholl with going bust. That would mean redundancy for our staff, and potentially many scores of redundancies at local sub-contractors we had been unable to pay in full. The thought of inflicting that mass misery on families, many of whom I know, has stopped me sleeping for months.

The current government of Ghana took over in January and inherited a huge fiscal deficit due to – and there is no other way of saying it – wholesale looting by the last government on a scale which Ghana had never witnessed before. To give an example from our own sector, we install power plant using Siemens equipment at about 1.2 million dollars per MW for a turnkey plant including fuel supply and power evacuation infrastructure. The last government of Ghana were contracting large projects at three times the unit cost or more, using inferior equipment. For $150 million per project to be added corruptly was not unusual.

On top of this, despite having imposed some of the world’s highest electricity tariffs – higher than British tariffs, for example – the revenue collected was mysteriously vanishing. As a result, our $52 million owed was part of a US$2.5 billion energy sector debt the current government inherited.

In effect this has been rescheduled, by the launch of bonds to raise the money to pay off the debts. The bonds are serviced by a levy on petrol and diesel. As usual in Africa, the IMF and World Bank were extremely unhelpful, refusing to sanction a government guarantee on the bonds, which means the energy levy is now to be collected by a new corporate structure and the bond is a corporate one. This structure necessitated an increase in the bond interest rate to 19.5%, which will benefit the financial institutions who have bought them, to the detriment of the Ghanaian public. In my experience every IMF and World Bank policy intervention in Africa always, on analysis, benefits corporations to the disbenefit of the African public.

It is also a gross double standard – if the energy debt had been treated as government debt, Ghana’s “unacceptable” debt to GDP ratio would still have been substantially less that that of many developed countries, including the UK.

The government of Ghana is to be congratulated on its persistence and the brilliance of its financial engineering that enabled it to tackle a huge problem despite obstruction rather than help from the international agencies – the energy sector debt had been threatening to crash the Ghanaian Banking sector, to the benefit of the large international banks.

For our company, we had to take a haircut because the payment was made not in the cash dollars which were owed, but in a mixture of bonds and local currency. We owed banks and suppliers in dollars, so we have been structuring sales and taken the odd hit on discounting. But we have got through it, and as of yesterday have paid off all our creditors in full. There is not a single job loss caused by us, either in our company or at our suppliers and sub-contractors, and that has removed a fear which has been haunting me. I cannot express how tough this period has been – I did not receive a single penny from my major source of income for nearly four years, and as of this morning still haven’t. I am not going to be a millionaire, but I am now going to be OK.

2017 has personally been really difficult. But I can now look forward to the New Year with lightened shoulders, and pick up the rest of my life again.

I am truly sorry that for the last few months speaking invitations and book orders have gone by the wall. I have 21,253 unopened emails!! Not to mention over 5,000 donors to my legal defence fund I have not thanked yet. I promise I shall be less elusive in future.

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The End of the Affair

At the High Court today the following joint statement was agreed.

On 29 April 2016, Jake Wallis Simons and Craig Murray appeared together on Sky News to debate anti-Semitism in the United Kingdom. Following that debate, Dr Wallis Simons issued libel proceedings against Mr Murray. Dr Wallis Simons and Mr Murray have now settled these proceedings.

By this statement, Mr Murray accepts that Dr Wallis Simons is not a liar, and Dr Wallis Simons accepts that Mr Murray is not an anti-Semite. They are both pleased to have resolved this dispute amicably.

I am genuinely happy with this outcome, which would never have been remotely possible without the incredible 5,000 plus people who donated to my defence fund and enabled me to be represented by a top legal team. It continues to be my view that the libel laws are appalling – had I lost the case I was very definitely looking at a cost of £350,000 plus.

I am also very grateful to the band of readers of this blog who arrived to support me, and in the end saw very little. When invited to open the case the other side immediately asked for an adjournment to discuss a settlement. The hour of delay which followed was occupied on our side almost entirely by my agonising over whether it was morally acceptable for me to agree this statement and use the defence fund to pay my lawyers, or whether those who donated did so in the expectation I would fight the case whatever.

There were a number of supporters at hand who had donated, many of whom were personally previously unknown to me, and the opinions I could canvass were unanimously that this was a good result and a good use of their money.

Having agreed to settle in this way, I have arrived at this following decision. If anybody who donated feels they have been unduly sold out, please let me know through the contact button above and your donation will be refunded to you.

When we started the defence fund, our “realistic” projection was a total of £12,000. That we eventually raised over £100,000 is astonishing. Equally astonishing, but in a bad way, is that my own legal team’s cost almost amounts to that – I will publish full accounts in due course. After all is settled and refunds issued to those who wish, if anything is left over I propose to split it between Andy Wightman’s defence fund and Neil Clark’s case against Oliver Kamm. Again please do let me know if you object. It’s actually your money not mine.

I did not realise how this has been weighing me down, until the threat has been lifted today. I have never claimed to be entirely without fault, and I would ask you to refrain from any comment here which detracts from the amicable spirit of the joint statement. It is a time for celebration not recrimination, and please confine any rudeness to remarks about me.

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I Go to Stand My Trial

I leave Edinburgh this afternoon for London, to stand trial at the High Court for libel. To answer a question frequently asked, the reason I have accepted English jurisdiction is that the event was a Sky News broadcast, an English broadcaster. If it had been over my blog I would not have accepted jurisdiction as I do not accept the English claim to universal jurisdiction over internet content.

I do hope that this trial will help bring into further disrepute the immoral and draconian English libel laws. If I lose, the total costs and damages I would have to pay will potentially amount to some £350,000 – a ridiculously disproportionate result for the alleged civil offence. It would ruin me and blight the lives of my young family. Whether this can possibly be an appropriate reaction to something I said in response in a live debate, you might judge for yourselves by reading the court documents .

Thanks to the astonishing generosity of the readers of this blog, at least I am in a position to defend myself robustly. Over 5,000 readers of this blog have, with incredible generosity, contributed a total of £100,323 towards my defence to date. The libel laws are so oppressive because the sums of money involved are so astonishing. The entire massive English libel industry – courts, judges, barristers, solicitors – is taken together a major financial interest in itself, well represented in parliament. It is in all their collective financial interest that this system of oppression rolls on, which of course requires a good chance of people being found guilty to encourage more plaintiffs into the industry. I often feel this analysis from unconscious institutional self-interest is often neglected in favour of the equally valid and important argument that the libel laws are an essential tool of the wealthy and powerful to discourage free speech by the poor. Robert Maxwell, Alisher Usmanov and Jimmy Savile are three examples of people who kept their true nature hidden by constantly and aggressively threatening people with the disastrous consequences of an English libel suit.

Finally the trial starts on Tuesday 7 November at the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand, High Court Queen’s Bench. It will last probably two and up to three days. It is open to the public. I would very much welcome anyone with the capacity to report any of what happens on social media. I am not aware of any restrictions on this, but will try to publish them here if I learn of any.

This is probably my last blogpost until after the trial, as I must concentrate now. By the time I come back online the Tories will have appointed their next Disgraced Former Defence Secretary in Waiting.

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Blowback and the Manhattan Terror Attack

UPDATE: On 21 Jan 2010 I predicted exactly this wave of anti-Western violence from Uzbekistan, in this excellent Michael Andersen documentary for Al Jazeera:

“We are creating a timebomb of discontent in Central Asia; and because the West is seen to be backing the dictatorships, that discontent will take an anti-western turn.”

The latest Manhattan Terror Attack appears to have been conducted by an Uzbek, Sayfullo Saipov, and a worrying proportion of such attacks worldwide are being carried out by Uzbeks, including the ramming attack in Stockholm and the Istanbul airport bombing.

When I was British Ambassador in Uzbekistan I very explicitly warned that the support NATO countries were giving the appallingly repressive Uzbek regime – military, financial and political support – would cause hatred of the West among Uzbeks. I felt so strongly about this I was prepared to give up my career for it, and in Murder in Samarkand (Dirty Diplomacy in the USA) I published a 440 page account of how our policy was fundamentally wrong. It gives me no pleasure whatsoever to be vindicated in this way.

Newsweek today gets it spectacularly wrong, publishing:

The presence of radical Uzbeks around the world may seem damning, but Uzbekistan has been a U.S. partner in the war on terror. The U.S. operated an airbase in the country from 2001 to 2005, and continued to use Uzbekistan as a strategic location to bring goods and military equipment into Afghanistan even after the base closed. Former Secretary of State John Kerry visited the country in 2015.

The point they miss is that it is because of the Uzbek regime’s mutual cooperation with the USA in the War on Terror, and the use of that pretext by the dictatorship, aided and abetted by the CIA, to ramp up repression, that Uzbek terrorism is occurring.

There are two other points worth noting:

1) The rigid suppression of all religious belief, as in Uzbekistan, is equally as likely to promote radical religious extremism as the inculcation of a single religion in noxious form, as in Saudi Arabia.

2) I complain specifically in Murder in Samarkand that the successful and systematic attempts by Germany to prevent EU criticism of Uzbek regime human rights abuse, were motivated by Gerhard Schroder’s personal interest in Gazprom. I suffered some derision for this at the time, but his behaviour has now become notorious.

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The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie

Only the Tories could produce a sex dossier like this one, in tremendous High Tory prose. They talk of “impregnation” and “fornication”. This provides some backing for its authenticity.

It is difficult to understand the provenance of this “sex list” of Tory MPs. What was the standing of the junior Tory researchers who allegedly compiled it, and at whose behest? Assuming this copy is genuine, we know that at least some of it is accurate because individuals like Mark Garnier have admitted the detail of the allegation. But I publish it as a matter of intense public interest at the moment, and I publish it as evidence that this is what is alleged. This list is already extremely widely available online. I am not in any sense endorsing or promoting as true any of the specific individual allegations, which may be groundless nonsense. I understand that in some cases these allegations are strongly denied.

Except for the Liam Fox and Adam Werritty bit, we all know that is true.

What is genuinely alarming about this list is the clear picture that emerges overall that the pool of MPs’ researchers, who are often young and are in a subservient position in this context, are viewed as fair game for MPs’ sexual predation. The list of 40 Tory MPs (NB Not 36) includes 23 who are accused of inappropriate behaviour towards researchers, secretaries and others in a dependent position. This is disgusting exploitation and may be justly compared to the Weinstein affair.

But some of the other allegations do not strike me as of genuine public interest. Personal sexual preferences between consenting adults are not my business, and I detect a definite whiff of homophobia in some of these details. If somebody likes to be peed on by three men, what has that got to do with his ability or integrity as an MP? Similarly the concern about extra-marital affairs seems to come from a bygone age. If the several citings of Kwesi Kwerteng are true, the man has truly appalling taste. Women appear to be dubiously targeted for mere promiscuity.

Tories are sleazebags. Who knew?

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The Intellectual Dishonesty of the Guardian

In an instance typical of the morally abhorrent neoliberal propaganda rag that the Guardian has become, it reports that the latest respectable opinion poll puts support for Catalan Independence at 48.7% – while failing to report that the same poll puts opposition to Catalan Independence at 43.6%. By excluding the don’t knows and failing to admit it has done so, the Guardian quite deliberately leads readers to presume that the 48.7% support for Independence means there is a majority against. In fact the true figures are roughly Yes 53%, No 47%, excluding don’t knows.

I don’t know either Stephen Burgen or Jennifer Rankin, the authors of the Guardian article, but I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and imagine that there was a period in their lives when they did not intend to become disgusting, stinking, lying worms churning out misleading crap on behalf of the Establishment. But then again, I could be wrong. Maybe they just do anything for money.

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On Being a Rebel

The Francoist ultras of the Spanish government have gone the whole hog, and are charging Puigdemont and his colleagues with sedition and rebellion. And before anyone can interject with any nonsense about prosecutorial independence, let me assure you that in no country, ever, in the history of the world, has anybody been tried for sedition or rebellion without the explicit approval of the political rulers.

Puigdemont is in excellent company. Gandhi was jailed for ten years for sedition in 1922 for seeking Indian independence from Britain. He served two years in dreadful conditions in jail. As Gandhi stated in his defence speech, he certainly was guilty under the law, and proud of it. Here is an extract from Gandhi’s speech:

Affection cannot be manufactured or regulated by law. If one has no affection for a person or system, one should be free to give the fullest expression to his disaffection, so long as he does not contemplate, promote, or incite to violence. But the section under which mere promotion of disaffection is a crime. I have studied some of the cases tried under it; I know that some of the most loved of India’s patriots have been convicted under it. I consider it a privilege, therefore, to be charged under that section. I have endeavored to give in their briefest outline the reasons for my disaffection. I have no personal ill-will against any single administrator, much less can I have any disaffection towards the King’s person. But I hold it to be a virtue to be disaffected towards a Government which in its totality has done more harm to India than any previous system. India is less manly under the British rule than she ever was before. Holding such a belief, I consider it to be a sin to have affection for the system. And it has been a precious privilege for me to be able to write what I have in the various articles tendered in evidence against me.

In fact, I believe that I have rendered a service to India and England by showing in non-co-operation the way out of the unnatural state in which both are living. In my opinion, non-co-operation with evil is as much a duty as is co-operation with good. But in the past, non-co-operation has been deliberately expressed in violence to the evil-doer. I am endeavoring to show to my countrymen that violent non-co-operation only multiples evil, and that as evil can only be sustained by violence, withdrawal of support of evil requires complete abstention from violence.

Exactly as I predicted, the Spanish governments imposition of elections is a ruse that was never in good faith, with the Catalan leaders exiled (and two of them imprisoned) and the main pro-Independence parties, and the act of seeking Independence itself, banned. The continued endorsement of all this by Western states, Western politicians and corporate and state media has become so self-evidently hypocritical that the tactic is now simply to relegate Catalonia right down the news bulletins and pretend it is all over and nothing much is happening, just as they ignored the violence and fascism around Sunday’s Spanish nationalist march.

But you would have to be extremely foolish to believe this extreme state repression has killed off the Catalan cause. It will backfire spectacularly, in due course.

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