The fascist violence in Charlottesville was in defence of prominent public statues to those who fought to uphold slavery. History should not be destroyed, and there is a place for such statues in appropriate explained context in museums. But public celebration of advocates of slavery ought to end. People always throw off the monuments of their oppressors, and so they should. The statues should be removed from their prestigious positions.
Hardly anybody remembers now that O’Connell Street in Dublin was Sackville Street. You will scour Ireland with little success for surviving statues of British Imperial rulers and commanders – there were once hundreds. I found that Burnes Road in Karachi is no more. Uzbekistan and Ukraine are no longer dotted with great statues of Lenin.
Yet I live here in a city which still has a Cumberland Street, named after a disgusting war criminal who perpetrated long term and systematic atrocities on this very people whose capital city is desecrated by his name. Cumberland was a worse racist and an infinitely greater war criminal than Robert E Lee. Yet I hear not a whisper to echo the brave roar of Charlottesville. The imposed regime which crushed Scotland, outlawed its major language and much of its culture and tried to expunge even the memory of its history and native culture, is celebrated in the heart of the nation. Hanover Street, George Street, Rose Street, Princes Street. These vicious, arrogant, Scot-hating people really did crush Scotland’s spirit, to the extent we still cringe before them now they are long dead.
It staggers me that, after we have decades of an element of home rule by alleged Scottish Nationalists and an alleged Labour Party, when even the pathetic colonial status of the devolution settlement gives the power to rename a few streets, Labour and the SNP, as the minimum gesture of self-awareness and a tiny, tiny glimmer of self-respect, have not renamed Cumberland Street after Keir Hardie.
Yes, we have always suffered from a parcel of rogues in a nation. Yet we remain a parcel of cowards as a nation. The brave left wing demonstrators of Charlottesville, supporting the removal of Robert E Lee against the violence of the fascists, put us to deep shame.
There are five days to go to the best party in Scotland. Not the Edinburgh Festival, with its Fringe of 2,000 talentless sweary comedians playing to stag and hen parties who cover the street in vomit, and its stalls selling £5.50 small slices of pizza.
No, there is a world of nice people, talented musicians, and great beers and ciders, passingly quaffable wines, fine whisky and fashionable artisan gins and tonics all served by me. It’s called Doune the Rabbit Hole and it starts on Friday.
Both weekend camping and day tickets are still available, and I now have a discount link I can give readers of this blog.
I am going to be foolishly honest here. After 7 years in which the festival has grown by 15 to 30% each year, this is the first year when we have a serious decline in sales. This genuinely puzzles us, and I think it is partly because last year the terrible weather (freakishly cold and wet even by Scottish summer standards) gave many people a bad experience. Thankfully this year’s forecast looks great. And as we are the only music festival I am aware of in Scotland which is not currently in receipt of any public funding at all (though I keep trying) we really do need to sell some more tickets.
There, that was refreshingly honest, wasn’t it?
You don’t have to take my word it is great fun, there is plenty of evidence. It is particularly designed to be family friendly without being in the least uptight.
Do join us. I believe if the money is an issue, we may still have room for more volunteers. At this stage get in touch with me direct via the contact button top right of the blog.
Imagine that today’s Scottish Independence movement fades away to nothing – and then J K Rowling and Euan McColm get to write the history that defines what the Independence movement was, and what the Independence movement stood for. Then imagine the effect of 250 years of teaching the Rowling/McColm version in schools, universities and media narrative, until everybody absolutely “knew” that the 21st Century Scottish Nationalists were homophobic, racist, sexist, vicious xenophobes.
Well that is precisely analagous to what happened to the Scottish Jacobites. Almost everything you believe you know about the Jacobites is a deliberate lie. The effect has been to make us think of the Jacobites as on the wrong side of history, doomed, anachronistic and faintly ridiculous. This has succeeded in making Scottish nationalism ashamed of its historic roots, by comparison for example with the Irish, who revere their resistance fighters. It has thus helped blind Scotland to its colonial status, in a way the Irish were never blinded. The whole effect has contributed massively to the national inferiority complex.
Ireland has a much smaller population than Scotland and a fraction of the national resources. Yet yesterday it released economic statistics that showed its economy growing at 4.5%, when income per capita already exceeds Scotland’s by 25%. The national inferiority complex that leads so many Scots to believe that Ireland can be a very successful independent country but Scotland never could, is in many ways rooted to the lies that state propaganda told us about ourselves and our history. And the Jacobites are a key part of that.
What is more, everything you are about to read here is not under serious academic dispute. This is now the accepted truth as unearthed by modern scholarship. This has been the case for a couple of decades now in History departments of our best universities – but has had zero effect on popular opinion, formed by centuries of propaganda.
Let me recommend to you Prof. Murray Pittock’s brilliant Culloden, published last year, and Maggie Craig’s Bare-Assed Banditti, which is written with less historian’s jargon. The book you really need is my next book, a biography of George Murray, but I still have two years’ more research to do before I can write it.
Here is a short list of myth-busting facts about the Scottish Jacobites.
1) Scottish Jacobites were in large majority Protestant, a mix of Episcopalian and moderate Presbyterian; they wished to wrest the state religion back from the extreme Presbyterians. They supported religious toleration – in that important sense they were much more “modern” than their opponents
2) Scottish Jacobites overwhelmingly did not, in any sense, support increased monarchical power or a rollback of constitutional government.
3) Scottish Jacobites wanted above all an Independent Scotland. The first major act of the Jacobites on taking Edinburgh was to repeal the Act of Union. Prince Charles Stuart, acting as Regent for James VIII, on 9 October 1745 did formally repeal the Act of Union. That’s something they didn’t tell you in school.
4) That is why they fought under the Saltire. This was overwhelmingly their banner at Culloden. It did not mean anything different then than it does now. When they carried their saltires at Culloden, they meant precisely the same thing that we mean when we carry them through George Square today.
5) One of the most pernicious lies is that there were more Scots on the British than the Scottish side at Culloden. This is completely untrue – by a margin of four to one. The maximum fencible potential of Scotland at this time – the number of fighting men who could conceivably be put into the field given the population and other unavoidable economic activities – was 30,000. At its greatest extent the Jacobite army contained 12,000 Scots, and there was much turnover. A clear majority of the potential armed men Scotland could put into the field, at some stage turned out for the Jacobites.
6) The large majority of the Scottish Jacobites were not Highlanders.
The idea that it was the intellectually and emotionally stifling extreme Calvinism, the legacy of John Knox and the Covenanters and the begetter of the Orange Order and the Democratic Unionist Party, the most narrow-minded doctrine in all Western European history, which was the force for “modernity” and progress, is self-evidently risible. Yet we have all been taught to believe it and it is implicitly accepted in our received historical narrative.
Similarly we are taught that the defeat of the Jacobites was essential to bring in the Scottish Enlightenment, despite the fact that at least half of the key figures in the Enlightenment were demonstrably Jacobite in their sympathies.
Of course the Jacobites were not a “national” movement in that there was a sizeable minority of Scots who opposed them – just as there was in 2014 (in 2014 a minority of Scots as opposed to Scottish residents, a different question). And the pro-British minority of 1745 was founded in sectarian bigotry, the directly traceable ancestors of the fascist thugs who stormed George Square after the referendum. Those willing to come out on the British side naturally increased in 1746 after it became plain which side was going eventually to win. Just as Parisians turned out en masse to cheer Petain when he visited during Vichy. That does not make the Vichy French the main stream of French history.
By the time we get nine generations back to Culloden, we have 1024 direct ancestors. I can be reasonably certain from family history that some of of mine lie in mass graves with the Athollmen at Culloden. My parents used to live in Incheswood, close by the battlefield, in the days before it was fenced. I have probably visited the site over the years much more than most people. I have never done so without crying for those who died fighting for the cause which is the same cause I work for. We have very few monarchists in the Independence movement, and I am most certainly not one. But that is only one of the many psychological obstacles erected to alienate us from those who died in the very last battle of the Wars of Independence.
I have no shame in embracing this part of our history. Until we get comfortable with our history, our future will remain out of reach.
I love sport, and I have been watching the World Athletics Championships. This has left me genuinely uncertain. Has BBC sports coverage always been this harshly, stridently British nationalist, and do I just notice it now as my own sensibility has changed? Or has there genuinely been a shift away from any pretence of impartiality?
Apart from analysis focusing almost entirely on the prospects of the British contender in the sport in question, we have witnessed countless field events where numerous throws and jumps of other contestants are not broadcast at all, in favour of shots of the British athlete in the event warming up, zipping their tracksuit or chatting with their coach. Other competitors’ efforts are only of interest in relation to their potential to affect the position of the British athlete, with the exception of a very few major celebrities.
It is not treated as a sporting event so much as a nationalist propaganda event. I find it repulsive to the extent that I found myself being quite pleased that “Team GB” has so far been pathetic, and each athlete the BBC hypes, proceeds immediately to fall on their arse.
I have now discovered that Eurosport, even with the English commentary, is covering the games in a much more sensible manner.
I noticed at Wimbledon what seems to be a related phenomenon. Support for the underdog appears to have disappeared. The crowd were boorish and completely one-eyed in their support for British players and for celebrities. When Gilles Muller defeated Nadal, some wonderful winning rallies by Muller at key moments were met by something short of polite applause. It was embarrassing to watch.
I do not recognise Brexit Britain as the country in which I was born and raised. The UK has become a nasty and mean-spirited place, and the sooner it is broken up the better.
Until now I have stayed out of the silly season sniping between nationalists that has set in these last few weeks. I rather hoped it would abate after Robin McAlpine’s excellent oil on troubled waters effort, but it has re-erupted with a virtue signalling, holier than thou mess by Ross Greer in today’s Sunday Herald. I am afraid, Ross, that I am one of those irredeemably straight, white, old and male people. So you can discount what I say already.
To go back to the roots of the trouble, for the sake of openness, I should state that:
a) I think Cat Boyd was wrong to vote Labour rather than SNP. I would urge everyone in Scotland to support the SNP as the only practical route to Independence. However I do share the frustration of many with the SNP’s timidity on social reform and its continued, and frankly infuriating, failure actively to campaign about the benefits of Independence. Quite a lot of Independence supporters voted Labour, including some of my own family.
b) I think Stuart Campbell is wrong to sue Kezia Dugdale for defamation. I believe in free speech and if someone brands you with an unfair insult, the answer is to argue why they are wrong, not head for the courts.
However, having said I think they are both wrong, I should state that my very considerable regard for both Cat Boyd and Stuart Campbell is entirely undiminished. Why on earth should I expect people to act in the way I think they should act? And why should I assume that my judgement on these calls is superior to theirs, as opposed to just different? If everyone acted as I want them to, the world would be weird. Indeed, if I am so clever why am I typing up this at 3am? And why on Earth would the Yes movement want everyone to behave the same way all the time?
So in short, neither Cat not Stuart acted as I would have, but I accept they are acting as they believe best. In fact the criticism of both of them has been much more of a problem than their particular actions.
You don’t have to be perfect to work for Scottish Independence. But it would be a great help if we saved our bile for the unionists.
Hugo Chavez’ revolutionary politics were founded on two very simple tenets:
1) People ought not to be starving in dreadful slums in the world’s most oil rich state
2) The CIA ought not to control Venezuela
Over the years, Chavez racked up real achievements in improving living standards for the poor and in providing health and education facilities. He was widely popular and both he and his successor, Nicolas Maduro, also racked up very genuine election victories. Maduro remains the democratically elected President.
But the dream went sour. In particular it fell foul of the tendency of centrally planned economies to fail to get the commodities people want onto shop shelves, and to the corruption that goes with centralisation. The latter was certainly not worse than the right wing corruption it replaced, but that does not diminish its existence.
Every revolution will always displace an existing elite who are by definition the best educated and most articulate section of the population, with most access to resources including media – and to CIA secret backing, which has continued throughout at an increasing rate. Chavez did not solve this problem in the way Robespierre, Stalin, Trotsky or Mao would have done. He embraced democracy, let them be – and largely left their private offshore billions, and thus their power, untouched.
Inevitably the day came when economic and administrative failings cracked the solidity of support from the poor for the revolution. The right then stepped up their opposition with a campaign led by corrupt billionaires, which the western media has failed to acknowledge has been throughout murderously violent.
The problem with revolutionary millenarianism is that its failure to achieve utopia is viewed as disaster by its proponents. Maduro ought to have accepted that it is the nature of life that political tides ebb and flow, ceded power to the opposition gains in parliament, maintained the principles of democracy, and waited for the tide to turn back his way – taking the risk that the CIA might not give him the chance. Instead he has resorted to a constitutional fix which dilutes democracy, a precedent which will delight the right who in the long term have most to fear from the populace. Given the extreme violence of the opposition, I am less inclined to view arrests as unquestionably a straightforward human rights matter, than are some pro-western alleged human rights groups. But that Maduro has stepped off the democratic path I fear is true. He has, bluntly, gone wrong, however difficult the circumstances. I condemn both the departures from human rights best practice and the attempt to use a part indirectly elected body to subvert the elected parliament.
But, even today, Venezuela is still vastly more of a democracy than Saudi Arabia, and a far greater respecter of human rights than Israel in its dreadful repression of the Palestinians. Yet support for Israel and for Saudi Arabia are keystones of the foreign policy of those who today are incessant in their demands that we on the “left” condemn Venezuela. The BBC has given massively more news coverage to human rights abuse in Venezuela this last month than in a score of much worse countries I could name – than a score put together.
Human rights abuse should be condemned everywhere. But it only hits the headlines when practised by a country which is on the wrong side of the neo-con agenda.
Doune the Rabbit Hole 2017 is fast approaching, this year from 18 to 20 August. As regular readers know, this Festival is very important to me personally in recharging my spiritual batteries. A weekend in idyllic Stirlingshire surroundings amongst kind and caring people in a kind of “pop up community”, it is a brilliant way to de-stress. The musical selection is stubbornly non-commercial and often I find myself enjoying completely unexpected things. I must say though having Steve Davis (yes, that Steve Davis) doing a DJ set this year is rather intriguing.
The music is important, but it is primarily a lifestyle festival. It has no political agenda, but it is fair to say that readers of this blog will be in company in which they feel comfortable. And of course, as always I shall be running the bars. Running a bar is perhaps what being a former Ambassador best qualifies you to do!
Mainstream media debate this summer focused on the fact that some extremely overpaid women at the BBC are not overpaid to quite the same extent as some extremely, extremely overpaid men. This is reminiscent of the fuss over the US having a male kleptocratic president, when it could have had a female kleptocratic president.
Personally I support the notion that pay should be equalised at the BBC – provided it is equalised down at the top and up at the bottom.
But the real problem of massive salaries at the BBC is one the media entirely missed. The BBC has 98bureaucrats who are each paid more than the Head of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office or the UK’s Ambassador to the European Union. What is more, this great store of ludicrously overpaid non-jobs is simply an additional resource for pillaging public funds by the right wing political class.
The British media is obsessed with Scaramucci doing the fandango, but there has been little or no adverse comment on his UK opposite number, Robbie Gibb, appointed by Theresa May as Director of Communications in No. 10. And where had Gibb previously been picking up a very large salary? The BBC, as the editor of the programmes of arch Tory, Andrew Neil. Now Gibb is on the right of the Tory Party with close personal contacts to UKIP. He had picked up his plumb job in the BBC straight from working for – the Tory Party. He was a very junior journalist very early in his career, but it was his Tory Party connections that got him the executive BBC job. His brother is a Tory minister. And now he has gone back again through the Tory/BBC revolving door to continue his career as a Tory propagandist – the entire career entirely paid for by you and me, as taxpayers and license payers.
The other candidate for the No. 10 job was another highly paid BBC Tory, Diplomatic Editor James Landale.
Over ten years ago I was invited to a BBC symposium in Cambridge where BBC bureaucrats, producers and writers were introduced to “interesting” people to spark their creative juices. I first met Armandio Iannucci there. I also met a young BBC executive named Craig Oliver. It is not with hindsight, he genuinely did strike me as an extremely unpleasant young Gordon Gekko, and for his part he could barely conceal his contempt for me as a whistleblower. When he left the BBC to join No. 10 as David Cameron’s Director of Communications, I was unsurprised. But again the question arises – how do these politicians get those BBC jobs, presumably against competition from media professionals?
Looking at both that BBC “talent list”, and that BBC top bureaucrat list, there are a number of people whose politics we really do know – from their history and statements. They range from the right wing Blairite loyalist James Purnell, through the ultra Tory James Harding, former editor of Murdoch’s Times, to “out” Tories like Sarah Sands (editor of the Today programme), Nick Robinson, Andrew Neil and James Landale. There are others like Kuenssberg who make their personal views entirely clear in their reporting.
But the truth is this. While I am certain of the politics of 13 people on the BBC highly paid talent or senior staff list, and I am pretty sure I know the politics of some twenty others, they span the political spectrum from Tony Blair to UKIP.
There genuinely is not one person on the BBC highly paid staff list whom I have any reason to believe is to the left of Blair. In a country where 4% of the British population are Scottish nationalists, there should be ten of those between those two lists too. I can’t identify a single one.
It says a lot that the most left wing senior person at the BBC is Gary Lineker.
40% of the country voted for a Labour Party well to the left of the identifiable views of any one of the BBC’s highly paid staff. The lack of socialists and Scottish nationalists on the lists is a far more important issue than the question of why a few more women do not earn over £300,000 a year.
How the BBC’s highly paid staff came to mirror precisely the BBC’s well-established version of the Overton Window is an interesting study in the interplay of cause and effect. But one thing is very plain. The kind of revolutionary change that is needed by the mass of the people requires a personnel clear-out and reform across the BBC, the judiciary and many other public institutions, that goes much deeper than changing some politicians at Westminster.
There were a number of errors (by me) in this original posting and therefore I have decided to remove it now I have seen the judgement itself. That these errors were in large part caused by erroneous mainstream media reports is a fact, but not an excuse for my being so outraged I rushed in without checking.
In fact, the judgement does accept there is a longstanding crime of waging aggressive war as part of international law, and does not (contrary to the Guardian’s report) argue at all that the international law only came into existence recently.
It argues however that international law is only captured in UK Law when this is done specifically through an Act of Parliament. Indeed the judgement goes so far as to state:
“the clear principle that it is for Parliament to make such conduct criminal under domestic law. Parliament deliberately chose not to do so.”
This surely is problematic. The judgement states that the UK, deliberately, does not follow international law in its domestic law. So the UK is an institutionalised rogue state. Its internal arrangements allow its rulers, its armed forces and other actors to commit international crimes and flout international law with no fear of domestic repercussion as a matter of conscious choice.
It would not be beyond the wit of man to draft domestic legislation making it a crime for those acting in service of the British state to breach international law; it would not be necessary to have separate legislation enacting each piece of international law individually. Separate legislation is however possible and often done – when in the FCO I was often concerned with the enactment of treaty or other international obligations into domestic law, which is generally by secondary legislation.
When Sir Michael Wood, the FCO’s chief legal adviser, told Jack Straw it would be illegal to invade Iraq, Straw replied that there was no court that could try the case. The full significance of that did not really strike me until today. It is no accident; the UK is deliberately set up to be psychopathic entity, its elite breaking international law at will, with no fear of retribution.
I just had to sit through a whole bloody tennis match to find out about the new Dr Who.
I remember watching the first transformation, from William Hartnell to Patrick Troughton, with my sister when I was 8. The transformation itself was the most technically amazing thing then seen on TV, and I remember distinctly our deciding we liked Troughton a lot more, with his cheery trews and little flute. People forget that Hartnell’s Dr Who was himself part of what was scarey about the original series, a rather more alien character than subsequent doctors.
Anyway there are probably few people alive who have watched more Dr Who than I have over 50 years. (There, that’s an unexpected confession about my private life). And I cannot see any problem at all with a female appearing doctor. It is an alien life form, for goodness sake. If it can travel through time, regenerate and always speak English despite being from Gallifrey, it can appear in different humanoid sexual roles.
What Dr Who requires is an excellent character actor, full stop. And the series has been astonishingly, if not uniformly, well served.
Here in South Eastern Turkey I have been watching a great deal of news coverage, on a satellite system showing news channels of many regional countries, of the major massacre of Sunni Muslims in Mosul which is taking place as you read this. The video of a couple of people being thrown off a cliff is something I wish I had not watched; it is on the Independent website here. Human Rights Watch have confirmed the location in Mosul. This video had become so viral on social media that some Western mainstream media felt obliged to note its existence. But I have been watching, on other national channels, TV images still more disturbing. These include images of mass shootings. Most chilling of all have been much less graphically violent pictures, of shambling columns of men –and boys – being marched off. It is fairly plain that these are residents of Mosul rather than ISIL fighters. The images reminded me forcefully of Srebrenica.
Whether the number killed in cold blood will exceed the horror of Srebrenica only time will tell. It is currently too hard, without being there, to discern the truth from the propaganda on all sides. But there is one way in which, morally, this is a much worse outrage for any British citizen than Srebrenica. The Shia troops carrying out the massacre only were able to conquer the Sunni city of Mosul because the British and Americans had not only armed and financed them, but British and American forces were actively fighting alongside them. It is not possible to shrug off the moral responsibility for the massacre we have actively launched.
In Srebrenica the cowardice and bureaucratic blinkers of a group of Dutch officers were shameful. But Mosul is the equivalent of the Dutch having fought alongside the attackers then pretended not to notice anything at all was happening.
There is also another great difference in western culpability. In the Balkan Wars the Serbs were the “enemy” of the West – NATO even bombed them – so justified mainstream media outrage was screamed at us. In Mosul, those perpetrating the massacre are on “our side”, so you will never hear much of it. The deliberate conflation of Sunni tribesmen defending their homes against their traditional enemy, with the separate forces of ISIS, aids this lie.
The greater irony is of course that in Syria the UK and US forces are operating on the opposite side of the same conflict. There the Sunni jihadists, with precisely the same ideology and the same financing as ISIL and before Mosul was cut off sometimes the same physical people, are our allies. There is no distinction of the remotest importance in beliefs, funding or operational methods between the jihadists who were controlling Mosul and those who were controlling Eastern Aleppo.
Yet, despite the glaringly obvious intellectual paucity of the position, the devastation of Mosul by western backed forces was described as a “liberation”, whereas the precisely analogous devastation of Eastern Aleppo by Syrian government forces was described as a… “devastation”.
Still more astonishing, the Western media in co-ordinated fashion played up fears of a massacre in Eastern Aleppo, whereas in fact no massacre took place. In the event, so concerned were the Syrian government (of which I do not generally approve) to refute allegations of intended massacre, they allowed many of the actual jihadists to bus out to Raqqa, where they are fighting again today.
Whereas whilst an actual massacre does take place in Mosul, the Western mainstream media has fallen almost completely silent.
The other interesting silence is from Saudi Arabia, which poses as the defender of Sunni Islam throughout the world, but actually has no interest at all in it, except as a tool for promoting the much more worldly interests of the Saudi elite. It was Saudi fury at the US effectively handing Iraq to Iranian control through its majority Shia population, that caused the USA to change policy to back the Saudi inspired and financed Sunni proxy war throughout the rest of the Arabian peninsula, and especially in Syria. The USA turned a blind eye to the Saudi military invasion of Bahrain to crush its majority Shia uprising, and actively facilitated the devastating aerial attacks on Shia civilian populations in the Yemen. The Saudis have found their grievance over Iraq to be useful leverage on the US.
For the Saudi elite, the money they pumped into ISIS in Iraq was a trifle; Mosul ISIL were pawns to be sacrificed and the Sunni civilian population of Mosul is no more important to them. By the combination of funding the spread of Wahhabi ideology and providing unlimited arms and organisational financing, the Saudis can pop up another Al Qaida, Al Nusra or ISIL more or less anywhere, any time it seems useful. Meantime they are focused on cementing their burgeoning axis of Saudi Arabia/Israel/USA to continue the violent promotion of Saudi regional ambition.
After six solid months of co-ordinated allegation from the mainstream media allied to the leadership of state security institutions, not one single scrap of solid evidence for Trump/Russia election hacking has emerged.
I do not support Donald Trump. I do support truth. There is much about Trump that I dislike intensely. Neither do I support the neo-liberal political establishment in the USA. The latter’s control of the mainstream media, and cunning manipulation of identity politics, seeks to portray the neo-liberal establishment as the heroes of decent values against Trump. Sadly, the idea that the neo-liberal establishment embodies decent values is completely untrue.
Truth disappeared so long ago in this witch-hunt that it is no longer even possible to define what the accusation is. Belief in “Russian hacking” of the US election has been elevated to a generic accusation of undefined wrongdoing, a vague malaise we are told is floating poisonously in the ether, but we are not allowed to analyse. What did the Russians actually do?
The original, base accusation is that it was the Russians who hacked the DNC and Podesta emails and passed them to Wikileaks. (I can assure you that is untrue).
The authenticity of those emails is not in question. What they revealed of cheating by the Democratic establishment in biasing the primaries against Bernie Sanders, led to the forced resignation of Debbie Wasserman Shultz as chair of the Democratic National Committee. They also led to the resignation from CNN of Donna Brazile, who had passed debate questions in advance to Clinton. Those are facts. They actually happened. Let us hold on to those facts, as we surf through lies. There was other nasty Clinton Foundation and cash for access stuff in the emails, but we do not even need to go there for the purpose of this argument.
The original “Russian hacking” allegation was that it was the Russians who nefariously obtained these damning emails and passed them to Wikileaks. The “evidence” for this was twofold. A report from private cyber security firm Crowdstrike claimed that metadata showed that the hackers had left behind clues, including the name of the founder of the Soviet security services. The second piece of evidence was that a blogger named Guccifer2 and a websitecalled DNC Leaks appeared to have access to some of the material around the same time that Wikileaks did, and that Guccifer2 could be Russian.
That is it. To this day, that is the sum total of actual “evidence” of Russian hacking. I won’t say hang on to it as a fact, because it contains no relevant fact. But at least it is some form of definable allegation of something happening, rather than “Russian hacking” being a simple article of faith like the Holy Trinity.
But there are a number of problems that prevent this being fact at all. Nobody has ever been able to refute the evidence of Bill Binney, former Technical Director of the NSA who designed its current surveillance systems. Bill has stated that the capability of the NSA is such, that if the DNC computers had been hacked, the NSA would be able to trace the actual packets of that information as those emails travelled over the internet, and give a precise time, to the second, for the hack. The NSA simply do not have the event – because there wasn’t one. I know Bill personally and am quite certain of his integrity.
As we have been repeatedly told, “17 intelligence agencies” sign up to the “Russian hacking”, yet all these king’s horses and all these king’s men have been unable to produce any evidence whatsoever of the purported “hack”. Largely because they are not in fact trying. Here is another actual fact I wish you to hang on to: The Democrats have refused the intelligence agencies access to their servers to discover what actually happened. I am going to say that again.
The Democrats have refused the intelligence agencies access to their servers to discover what actually happened.
The heads of the intelligence community have said that they regard the report from Crowdstrike – the Clinton aligned private cyber security firm – as adequate. Despite the fact that the Crowdstrike report plainly proves nothing whatsoever and is based entirely on an initial presumption there must have been a hack, as opposed to an internal download.
Not actually examining the obvious evidence has been a key tool in keeping the “Russian hacking” meme going. On 24 May the Guardian reported triumphantly, following the Washington Post, that
“Fox News falsely alleged federal authorities had found thousands of emails between Rich and Wikileaks, when in fact law enforcement officials disputed that Rich’s laptop had even been in possession of, or examined by, the FBI.”
It evidently did not occur to the Guardian as troubling, that those pretending to be investigating the murder of Seth Rich have not looked at his laptop.
There is a very plain pattern here of agencies promoting the notion of a fake “Russian crime”, while failing to take the most basic and obvious initial steps if they were really investigating its existence. I might add to that, there has been no contact with me at all by those supposedly investigating. I could tell them these were leaks not hacks. Wikileaks. The clue is in the name.
So those “17 agencies” are not really investigating but are prepared to endorse weird Crowdstrike claims, like the idea that Russia’s security services are so amateur as to leave fingerprints with the name of their founder. If the Russians fed the material to Wikileaks, why would they also set up a vainglorious persona like Guccifer2 who leaves obvious Russia pointing clues all over the place?
Of course we need to add from the Wikileaks “Vault 7” leak release, information that the CIA specifically deploys technology that leaves behind fake fingerprints of a Russian computer hacking operation.
Crowdstrike have a general anti-Russian attitude. They published a report seeking to allege that the same Russian entities which “had hacked” the DNC were involved in targeting for Russian artillery in the Ukraine. This has been utterly discredited.
Some of the more crazed “Russiagate” allegations have been quietly dropped. The mainstream media are hoping we will all forget their breathless endorsement of the reports of the charlatan Christopher Steele, a former middle ranking MI6 man with very limited contacts that he milked to sell lurid gossip to wealthy and gullible corporations. I confess I rather admire his chutzpah.
Given there is no hacking in the Russian hacking story, the charges have moved wider into a vague miasma of McCarthyite anti-Russian hysteria. Does anyone connected to Trump know any Russians? Do they have business links with Russian finance?
Of course they do. Trump is part of the worldwide oligarch class whose financial interests are woven into a vast worldwide network that enslaves pretty well the rest of us. As are the Clintons and the owners of the mainstream media who are stoking up the anti-Russian hysteria. It is all good for their armaments industry interests, in both Washington and Moscow.
Trump’s judgement is appalling. His sackings or inappropriate directions to people over this subject may damage him.
The old Watergate related wisdom is that it is not the crime that gets you, it is the cover-up. But there is a fundamental difference here. At the centre of Watergate there was an actual burglary. At the centre of Russian hacking there is a void, a hollow, and emptiness, an abyss, a yawning chasm. There is nothing there.
Those who believe that opposition to Trump justifies whipping up anti-Russian hysteria on a massive scale, on the basis of lies, are wrong. I remain positive that the movement Bernie Sanders started will bring a new dawn to America in the next few years. That depends on political campaigning by people on the ground and on social media. Leveraging falsehoods and cold war hysteria through mainstream media in an effort to somehow get Clinton back to power is not a viable alternative. It is a fantasy and even were it practical, I would not want it to succeed.
The Guardian/Observer remains the house journal of the Blairites, and while they have temporarily turned down the volume on the Corbyn hate, it is a good place to assess how the right wing forces in Labour are planning to reassert themselves. And the answer is in part that they are clutching at racism like a drowning man clutching at a straw. Andrew Rawnsley, the epitome of the Blairite journalist who exudes overpaid entitlement, quotes with endorsement Gordon Brown protégé Natascha Engel, defeated Labour ex-MP for NE Derbyshire, who states “what we need to do is reconnect with our white working class voters”.
Now ask yourself, what is the purpose of the word “white” in that sentence?
Tom Watson, in a co-ordinated interview in the same edition also much quoted by Rawnsley, does not use the word white. He employs the euphemism “traditional”. He talks of the need to “give greater reassurance to our traditional working class voters.”
But we know exactly what the Labour right mean when they talk about reassuring the “white working class” or the “traditional working class”. They mean that Labour should mimic UKIP and the Tories and pander to popular anti-immigration racism.
“Deborah Mattinson, the strategy director of Britain Thinks, was involved in her first Labour campaign in 1987. She can’t be dismissed as a Tory stooge. After conducting extensive focus groups with swing voters in six marginal seats, she reports: “There were as many who voted Labour in spite of Corbyn as did because of Corbyn.”
That chimes with the views of the many Labour MPs who are still Corbyn-sceptics. They are keeping their heads down at the moment for fear of being monstered by Momentum activists and targeted for deselection, but their secret view is that the election result was not proof of a resounding endorsement of Corbynism. “Given that no one thought Labour could possibly win, it was a massive protest vote,” says one of their number.”
Mattinson certainly can be, and ought to be, dismissed as a Tory stooge – Britain Thinks is closely connected to right wing entryist group Progress. But all of this speaks to a determination by the right to continue to argue that only right wing policies can win votes. You have to be against immigration, for Trident, for military action abroad, for privatisation, or you can’t win votes.
The truth is that Corbyn got more votes than New Labour ever did, except once in 1997 – and in 1997 Labour fought on a left wing manifesto (which Blair then betrayed). But the re-assertion of the myth of the unelectability of the left is the only weapon in the Blairite arsenal. All of which hinges on a portrayal of the “traditional working class” as Alf Garnett.
It is worth noting – and is a symptom of the Labour right’s hopeless state – that the immigrant knocking plan is at odds with the Chukka single market plan, which entails freedom of movement. It is also extremely peculiar that the sixty MPs who defied the whip to vote for the single market correlate very closely with the MPs who voted to launch bombing and destruction on Syria. You need a warped mind to reconcile those views.
Rather than being grateful for the very well paid job the Labour Party has landed them, Labour MPs remain convinced it is they who are important and they should have a key role in determining party policy. Years of determined Blairite/Progress activity has given them a firm grip on party machinery. Most of the party’s paid staff are very right wing indeed. Jeremy Corbyn, at the moment. is in a much more powerful position within the party than he was six months ago. But the right will be digging relentlessly to undermine him again, starting now. Corbyn and his supporters need now to show a ruthless streak in purging their party structure of the Blairites, asserting membership control of policy and executive power, and of course introducing compulsory deselection and reselection of MPs. Otherwise, I predict this Corbyn phenomenon will be looked back on as a brief spark of hope, soon snuffed out.
Almost ten years ago, when I was less obscure than I am now, I was at a country house party hosted by Michael Winterbottom at a rented mansion in Norfolk. Other guests included Steve Coogan, Stephen Fry, Rob Brydon – and Gillian Anderson.
It was a very wild party and as a result most people woke up very late. The first two people up and about for breakfast were Gillian Anderson and I. So we sat down together with our breakfast and chatted for quite a while before the next person appeared. She is very bright, and interested in other people and society, as I find so many good actors are.
Unfortunately the next person who appeared was my brother Stuart. Now Gillian Anderson has a very similar height, build and hair to Nadira, who was still asleep upstairs. Entering from a door right behind Gillian, and seeing her sitting opposite me chatting over breakfast, Stuart made the obvious assumption. He made two rapid strides to stand behind her, placed his hands suddenly on her chest, and shouted “Morning! Guess who?”
To her credit Gillian did not become hysterical, but this did take some calming down. The next person to appear was her husband, and I cannot say I liked him at all. He told me he owned NCP car parks and insisted on telling us how many hundreds of millions he was worth. In his terms I was a nobody, and he made that view plain. They seemed a very strange couple – she plainly did not measure people by their bank balance.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my anecdote as much as I enjoyed all that name-dropping. And I do hope it makes Ruth Davidson jealous.
See comment from Sharp Ears below. Apparently he didn’t own NCP but a wheel clamping firm. See my response also.
This is an astonishing truth. Average real wages in the UK today are worth 5% less than they were precisely a decade ago. This chart is from the Office of National Statistics.
I often see wage stagnation referenced in the media. It is only stagnation if your baseline is post bank crash. If your baseline is a decade ago, it is not stagnation but collapse. This is the worst decade for real wages since at least 1814-24, and I would argue this is worse than that. It is also worth noting that sharp recession also was triggered by a reduction in public spending, albeit from much lower levels.
One constant theme from the Labour Party in the election campaign, which gained traction, is that the last Labour government did not overspend. It was the banking crisis which crashed the economy.
Up to a point. The last Labour government did in fact overspend disastrously. But not on public services. Brown and Darling overspent on pumping incredible amounts of public money into bailing out the banks. That is what caused the initial massive inflation of public debt. The huge irony is of course that the interest on the debt is paid to – the same bankers who received the money as a bailout.
It is fashionable for right wingers to argue that the bank bailouts somehow did not really happen, or did not really cost anything. That rewriting of history is gaining much strength in mainstream media narrative. But the National Debt was 36% of GDP in 2007 (and on a downward trend) but leapt to 60% of GDP by 2009. That was the bank bailout.
The bank crash bailout triggered the austerity policies designed to repair the public finances, but which stifled economic growth. The lack of growth allied to neo-liberal deregulation of the labour market, and in particular the massive diminution in the role of unions, have caused the collapse in wages.
The government is fond of claiming that in this period the income gap between the top 10% of earners and the bottom 10% has shrunk slightly. That does appear to be true. But it is not the key figure. The gap between the top 1% of earners and the bottom 99% of earners has more than doubled during this decade. What has happened is that society has returned towards a more Victorian model. One per cent are super rich, everybody else is getting poorer and differentials are slightly shrinking.
It particularly interests me that the income disaster for ordinary people has been worse and more sustained than it was following the financial disaster of the 1930’s.
I opposed the bank bailout at the time, and I am now convinced that I was right. The bad banks should have been allowed to crash.
For the government to give people and companies their cash under the deposit guarantee scheme would have cost the public purse less than 10% of the money spent on the bank bailout.
The property bubble would have collapsed, making property realistically valued in relation to earnings and avoiding the landlord/tenant society we are becoming.
Bad bankers would have lost their jobs and a salutary lesson have been learnt the hard way on banking practices – instead we have had the opposite effect where bankers now believe they can do anything and will always be bailed out. The bailout was a massive perverse incentive.
Crashed banks would have been taken over by other better run banks that had not crashed, or new banks would have arisen. This is how economies progress.
It is possible the immediate recession would have been deeper. Top end London property, Porsche sales, cocaine and lap dancing would all have taken big hits. But there would have followed the kind of strong and sustained recovery with real growth seen in all previous historical financial crashes, instead of this lengthy crippling pain.
There are of course many other factors affecting the economy, which makes it very hard to isolate the effect of the UK banking bailout. But in the same decade Germany, France and Italy have seen growth in real wages. Mistaken continuation of the attack on public spending has of course made the situation much worse. But given the disaster for ordinary people that has ensued and been with us so very long, I think it would be very difficult for anybody to argue that life would be worse had the bank bailout not happened.
It is remarkable to me that this root cause of so many of our woes is almost never referenced n the media nowadays.
New Labour were not only responsible for much of the financial deregulation that made the great crash possible. Policies such as the Public Finance Initiative were simply devices for pouring billions of pounds in public spending straight into the pockets of the bankers. To bail out their city friends with the money of everybody else required no thought from Darling and Brown. Lord Darling has of course been having a little money poured into his personal pocket from the bankers almost ever since. There is a special circle of Hell reserved for Brown and Darling.
Peculiarly, I have never seen the question asked anywhere. But please, knock yourself out with ideas. What do you think would have happened by now if the banks had been allowed to crash?
In response to a comment, I have looked at Icelandic real wage growth in this period. Iceland let banks fail. Of course its economy has different qualities to the UK, but there may nonetheless be some interest in the comparison. In fact, exactly as I postulated above might have happened in the UK, after a sharper initial downturn, real wages in Iceland then recovered extremely healthily, giving very strong overall real wage growth for the whole period.
NB this graph is measuring something different to the above UK graph. The UK graph is measuring the level of wages in constant 2015 real terms. The Iceland grow is measuring the rate of growth in real wages.
While the two economies not being entirely comparable, this cannot prove my thesis, it certainly does support it.
This is a very interesting posting from a blog which shares my belief that it is wrong to view globalisation and neo-liberal deregulation as tied together or part of the same process. Globalisation is good. Deregulation is bad.
Whether Nicola’s speech today postpones Indyref2, and by how much, is the cause of much fevered speculation tonight across both social and mainstream media.
Ultimately, I do not think it is important provided that she genuinely meant what she said in this section of the speech, which is by far the most important section:
Over the past few months, the focus on the when and how of a referendum has, perhaps inevitably, been at the expense of setting out the many reasons why Scotland should be independent.
The fact is we are only talking of another referendum so soon after the last one because of Brexit. And it is certainly the case that independence may well be the only way to protect Scotland from the impact of Brexit.
But the case for an independent Scotland is not just about Brexit – it goes far beyond that.
Many of us believe that independence is the right and best answer to the many, complex challenges we face as a country – and also the best way to seize and fully realise our many opportunities as a country.
So the challenge for all of us who do believe that Scotland should be independent is to get on with the hard work of making and winning that case – on all of its merits – and in a way that is relevant to the changes, challenges and opportunities we face now and in the years ahead. That is what my party will do.
We won’t do it on our own – because the independence case is bigger than us too.
My party will engage openly and inclusively with, and work as part of, the wider independence movement.
And, together, we will build and win the case that governing ourselves is the best way to tackle the challenges we face as country – from building a better balanced and more sustainable economy, to growing our population, strengthening our democracy, and tackling deep seated problems of poverty and inequality.
This acknowledges a very important truth. The SNP has not campaigned for Independence since September 2014. I have never heard a senior member of the SNP attempt to argue coherently and at any length why Scotland should be independent, since the 2014 referendum campaign. The SNP has lost its focus on Independence, and become obsessed with gaining political position within the UK devolution settlement.
If Nicola really means it, the refocusing of the SNP on Independence would be the most important thing in today’s speech. But does she mean it? How is the SNP going to connect with the “Wider yes movement?” What is the mechanism by which this will operate?
Brexit is a disaster. Just two weeks ago, the EU Commission brought new rules into force ending telephone roaming charges within the EU. From now on you will pay anywhere within the EU just the price you pay for using your phone at home. Until of course the UK “takes back control” of the right for you to pay £1.50 a minute instead.
Today the EU Commission took on Google with a massive 2.4 billion Euro fine and an order to change the abusive practices by which it prioritises answers to search results to its own commercial advantage. Once the UK “takes back control”, we can be sure that will be the end of major US corporations being challenged on our behalf. You will be able in the UK to enjoy Google manipulating search results however it may wish. Those are just two of thousands of examples, and which happen to have arisen this last couple of weeks, which show how stupid Brexit is. Not to mention the petty bureaucratic attack impositions on EU residents here.
As it becomes more and more obvious how stupid Brexit is, as the UK economy heads towards a Brexit induced depression, and as Tory cuts bite harder and harder into communities, the case for Scottish Independence will become stronger, and eventually irresistible.
We have seen how very fast political sentiment changes in the modern age. Provided there is wholehearted and unequivocal Independence campaigning, the political mood will swing strongly behind Independence at some point in the next two years, and Sturgeon’s speech today leaves room to bring Indyref2 forward when that happens.
The ground may be fertile, but if you don’t sow the seed you will not reap. To win Independence all we have to do is campaign for it. Some of us have never stopped doing that, and the groundswell of support is growing across Scotland. The SNP leadership need to get on board now or they will be running to catch up.
There is no defensive purpose to an aircraft carrier. Its entire purpose is to move aircraft to a position where they can attack other countries. As soon as they are equipped with attack aircraft, these carriers will spend most of their time around the Middle East, including at the UK’s brand new naval base in the vicious despotism of Bahrain. Having spent £7 billion on these behemoths, politicians will seek to enhance their prestige and demonstrate that they control a nation which is a “major power”, by using them. The very fact of their existence will make bombing attacks such as those we saw on Syria, Libya and Iraq more likely.
Sirte, Libya, after NATO bombing
That further twist in the cycle of violence will lead to more terrorist attacks in the UK. There is no sense in which this aircraft carrier is anything to do with defending the United Kingdom. It is a device to attack foreign countries. The result is it makes us a lot less safe at home.
When they think about it, people understand that, as YouGov demonstrated during the recent election campaign. The politicians will be trying to whip up feelings of jingoism and national pride around this huge hunk of floating hubris, to stop us thinking about that.
There is no money for our schools and hospitals, but unlimited sums for the armaments industry. The United Kingdom is not just a dysfunctional state, it is a rogue state and a danger to the peace of the world.
Today the government publishes to parliament its proposals on the residence rights of EU citizens in the UK post-Brexit. The EU has already , on 12 June, tabled the offer of full continuation of current residence rights to UK citizens in the EU after Brexit. This includes the right for British expats not only to remain in the EU country of current residence, but the right to continue to move residence around the EU.
By contrast May’s offer, which was amplified by David Davis with Marr yesterday, is peculiarly restricted. From a cut off date to be announced, EU citizens resident in the UK will be able to stay here, and after five years residence will qualify for a right of settlement.
What is the purpose of this mealy mouthed formulation, as opposed to matching the EU by immediately giving EU residents living here the right of abode? In effect, for the vast majority, it will mean precisely the same thing.
EU citizens resident here will in effect be able to remain permanently if they wish. But they will lose the entitlement if they move around. So a Polish man living here who, at some point in the next few years, has to return to Poland for a few months to tend to his sick mother, will lose his right abode in the UK. A French academic at a British university who leaves on sabbatical for a year’s teaching at Harvard will lose his right of abode in the UK. A Dutch employee of Shell posted out to Malaysia for a stint will lose his right of abode in the UK. Anybody who takes too extended a holiday abroad will lose their right of abode in the UK.
What on earth is the point of this?
The very large majority of EU citizens resident here will be able to qualify, and the small percentage being disqualified by moving abroad during the qualification period are likely to include the most economically active. The numbers penalised will be too small to have any substantial immigration impact. There is no result but pointless cruelty to a few.
Support for Brexit, and a massive percentage of the Tory vote, is motivated at base by a hatred of immigrants. May panders to these racists by inflicting otherwise pointless nastiness on a statistically insignificant number of foreigners, to disguise the fact that the Tories are accepting the reality; it is an economic necessity for the UK that EU citizens contributing massively to GDP can stay. The Tories cannot stomach the hated language the EU employs of “rights” of citizens. So the government rather adopts the language of immigration regulation, and qualifying criteria, where nobody has any “right” to anything.
Finally the Tories have to face the fact that a formal international agreement on reciprocal rights of abode between the EU and the UK, is not just a matter of domestic British jurisdiction. The international agreement will require an international judicial mechanism to oversee its enforcement. The xenophobic detestation of the – heavily British influenced – European Court of Justice means that the Tories will not accept the obvious body. David Davis conceded yesterday some international arbitration mechanism would be required, and seemed to postulate a new international tribunal including British judges. Exactly like the current ECJ before the UK leaves, in fact.
So that’s the Tories for you. Pointless new international organisations, pointless immigration bureaucracy, and pointless nastiness to foreigners to keep their knuckle-dragging tendency happy.
I am saddened by the death of my old friend and mentor, and predecessor as Rector of Dundee University, Gordon Wilson. It is nigh on 40 years ago that he converted me to the cause of Scottish Independence (though not then to the SNP), much aided by Edith’s magnificent potted Arbroath smokie. To this day I have never enjoyed a food more. The last time I spoke with him he was criticising a passage from Sikunder Burnes as insufficiently precise in its expression. I think every conversation I ever had with him contained a caution of some form or another. He was very – lawyerly.
But those who knew only his public persona did not realise how much fun he was in private. A permanent twinkle in his eye, a dry wit, and the ability to find the exact word about someone to be scathingly funny without being unfair. Some of his best stories related to running the pirate Radio Free Scotland station in the 60’s, moving the equipment from tenement to tenement in Edinburgh as detection drew near, and occasionally getting tip-offs from the odd secret nationalist in the police force. Radio transmission required bulky units in those days, and the techniques developed for strapping transmitters under coats were deployed to good effect when they liberated the stone of Scone from Westminster Abbey. I have written before that if I could have one evening of my life again, it might well be the dinner in Gordon and Edith’s house in Broughty Ferry with all those involved in that escapade.
Gordon took a religious turn in late life and I was saddened to see his comparatively recent stance against gay marriage. Certainly, to me as a student he was one of the most socially liberal of an older generation I had ever met, and he treated members of the gay student community exactly as he treated anyone else, at a time (and place) when that was not something you took for granted.
His commitment to Scottish Independence was absolute, on grounds of national self-determination. He was concerned that a central belt, socialist oriented nationalism would alienate the traditional supporters of the North East, and this actuated the bitter disputes in the party while he was leader. Sadly some of the bitterness of this lingered, and combined with his latter-day socially conservative views, the result was he was not given the personal respect by members of the greatly expanded SNP which he deserved. At a party conference in Perth a couple of years ago I was really saddened to join him for a while as he cut a rather forlorn and unacknowledged figure wandering in the fringes. This was a sorry return for a lifetime completely dedicated to the cause. He stood reference for me when I applied to be a SNP parliamentary candidate, and wryly remarked to me after my rejection that if it were anyone else, he would have fretted that it was his name that had caused the veto from the leadership, but in my case he did not have to worry!
I agreed with Gordon that the 2014 referendum campaign lacked an emotional charge from the leadership to counter the powerful Gordon Brown led unionist media onslaught of the closing week, and we should be less shy of rousing what he called cultural nationalism. I still think that is the case and that it is not incompatible with civic nationalism sometimes to stir the blood about our culture and our history.
I attended Gordon’s installation as Rector of the University of Dundee and I was delighted thirty years later that he attended mine. Edith and he danced at my first wedding. I shall look to pay my respects at his funeral to a great Scotsman, who kept the passion for Independence burning at some of its most difficult moments, and who was an integral part of its first big parliamentary breakthrough.
These are the 15 countries which shamefully voted against a UN General Assembly Resolution on Thursday which proposed to seek an opinion from the International Court of Justice on Britain’s continued colonial possession of the Chagos Islands. In the most absolute example of ethnic cleansing in modern history, less than 50 years ago the UK deported by force the entire population of the Chagos Islands to make way for the US military base on Diego Garcia, and to this day refuses to allow them to return.
The Dirty 15
The above are of course arguably the five countries in the world most profoundly implicated in the usurpation and destruction of native populations
This second small group is dominated by countries with a particularly close security relationship with the United States on which they place particular reliance in relation to a perceived threat.
It must however be heartening that the US and UK could round up so very few supporters for their utterly immoral stance. It is particularly worth noting that none of the major players within the EU backed the UK.
The US and UK are also remarkably silent on the blockade of Qatar by their ally Saudi Arabia. The release of Saudi demands including the closing down of Al Jazeera TV and other media outlets including the excellent Middleeasteye.net show the Saudis’ true motives. Frankly I am shocked by the failure of the mainstream media in the West seriously to question the ludicrous Saudi claim that this attack on Qatar is over support for terrorism.
Mohammed Bin Salman was appointed by his father the King as Crown Prince in Saudi Arabia on 21 June. Bin Salman has been directing the major affairs of the state for the last three years. The ferocity of the prosecution of the war in Yemen is very much his baby. Bin Salman’s master plan, which he has driven through with much skill, is for a far more aggressive Saudi Arabia leading the conservative forces in the Middle East, above all in fierce opposition to Iran and Shia interests. To this end he has forged a conservative alliance incorporating Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt and the United States.
US and UK involvement in the war in Yemen goes beyond the enthusiastic supply of the bombs and aircraft which have killed thousands of children. Both have had special forces on the ground, and the CIA has yet again been deeply implicated in the detention, extreme torture and murder of opponents.
The Bin Salman plan is dressed up as “pro-Western” and media hacks paint him as a “reformer” because he wishes to expand a network of McDonalds in the Kingdom. But as Iran slowly does reform, and sticks meticulously to the terms of the internationally guaranteed nuclear agreement, Saudi paranoia towards its regional “rival” becomes ever more dangerous. The Iranians deserve respect for the moderation with which they reacted to the Saudi sponsored terror attack on their parliament itself. But such provocations will increase.
Saudi support for ISIL, Al Qaeda, Al Nusra and the numerous other jihadist groups will only increase as Saudi Arabia seeks to deploy them in its sectarian war against the Shia and their allies. For that reason there is no prospect of terrorist violence in Syria declining. Indeed the United States shooting down of a Syrian jet in “self-defence” was almost certainly an indication that the Syrians were at the time targeting jihadist forces reinforced by US special forces. Israeli bombing and missile sorties against Syrian regime targets in support of jihadist rebels are finally being regularly reported in mainstream media.
I do not hold up Qatar or its ruling aristocracy as a paragon of virtue. But it seeks a more pacific relationship with Iran, and has more developed economic relationships including on shared offshore fields. Qatar has also consistently shown greater interest in the plight of the Palestinians, and more scepticism towards Israel, than Bin Salman is happy with. Qatar also has problems with the brutal military dictatorship of Egypt.
Most worryingly to Saudi Arabia, these slightly more liberal attitudes are closer to the views of the “arab street”, where there is disquiet at Saudi Arabia’s obvious but officially denied relationship with Israel. Qatar also has a media which can reflect these views to a wider Arab audience. Even though, following previous Saudi threats, al Jazeera’s content has been toned down, the Saudis see the station as an intolerable direct threat.
There is public fatigue in the West with regard to the affairs of the Middle East. This is a mistake as the situation is more dangerous than ever. The UK and USA both look likely to support the Saudis and Israel in their determination for conflict with Iran. The EU and Russia – and anybody not harbouring a death wish – will be working to keep the Iranian nuclear deal together. Bin Salman has chosen his time well, with slightly crazed right wing regimes in Washington, London and Tel Aviv willing to back his adventurism. The blockade of Qatar is but a symptom of something much more dangerous.
A volume of speeches, writings and interviews from when I first turned whistleblower is now available on Amazon. Many thanks to Kirsten who conceived and carried through the idea. My contribution was the totally non-controversial title to broaden the appeal! It includes some of the very first articles on this blog, which were only read by about 1,000 people.inBin