Where Angels Fear to Tread 175

I have accepted an offer from Sky News tomorrow to discuss anti-Semitism in the UK, where I shall argue that opponents of Israeli policy are being tarred with anti-Semitism in an witch-hunt.

I do this with some trepidation, because the media hype has become so hysterical that I am certain to face accusations of anti-Semitism myself for daring to question the narrative that has gripped the corporate media and political elite. But witch-hunts succeed because not enough decent people have the courage to stand against them; I imagine Sky contacted an awful lot of people who refused to do it before they worked all the way down to me.

Nor am I expecting to get a level playing field from the Murdoch media on which to argue my point. As I doubt I shall get a chance to put my case without interruption, this is what I am going to be trying to say.

Real anti-Semitism does exist and is to be deplored without reservation. Thankfully it is much rarer in the UK than in many other European countries.

There is a deliberate ploy by Israel to brand Palestinian sympathisers and critics of the Israeli state as anti-Semitic, in order to delegitimise criticism of Israel, as the settlements programme makes any two state solution completely non-viable.

Support for Israel is a clear dividing issue between Corbynites and Blairites. The Blairites are hopeless and defeated, so are seizing on the meme that critic of Israel equals anti-semite as a means to undermine Corbyn and create a leadership crisis

They have the tool to amplify this as the corporate media, like the political “elite”, are massively more pro-Israel in their sympathies than the great bulk of the population.

I think the chances of my getting to say much of that on air are pretty limited!

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Compulsory Zionism 176

In view of the current outbreak of compulsory Zionism, I thought that I might make certain my own position is quite clear, as delivered to an audience of 250,000 people a few years ago

gazademo

UPDATE The Blairite witch-hunt of Palestinian advocates has of course accelerated since I posted this. I am quite certain that Ken Livingstone is no racist of any kind.

However the subject of any collusion between certain Zionists and Nazis had been a banned topic on this blog for years, because it is a subject of no modern relevance, and is attractive to actual anti-semites who I do not wish to have making comments. If you wish to discuss whether or not Ken Livingstone was factually correct, please do it somewhere else.

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On Revolutionary Attitude 310

evil bastards

The news that Philip Green systematically asset stripped British Home Stores of hundreds of millions of pounds, and that these were paid to his wife in Monaco so there was no tax, is simply an everyday story of the society we live in. Not only will there probably be 10,000 redundancies, a much larger number will see their company pensions disappear due to the unexplained hollowing out of the company pension fund. Meantime Green is buying a new £100 million luxury yacht.

more evil bastards

yet more evil bastards

I am willing to predict that Cameron, Blair and Clinton all find their way on to Philip Green’s new yacht. I am willing to bet that no ex-employee of BHS ever does.

Green's New Yacht Lionheart - He Already Has Two Others

Green’s New Yacht Lionheart – He Already Has Two Others

Outrage is muted because we are just so used to it. Modern capitalism makes Gordon Gekko look like a philanthropist. The bankers’ bailout used the state to effect a mass transfer of wealth from us all to the super rich on an unprecedented scale. But the entire system is skewed to facilitate, every second, the sucking of wealth into the hands of the “elite”. The finance industry is deregulated and extraordinarily lightly taxed, when other areas of activity are heavily taxed. The large majority of transactions ordinary people undertake are subjected to major sales tax – VAT within the EU – while the financial juggling of Mr Green is not taxed at any stage. State activity which involves spending is now channelled through private providers, or involves totally unnecessary layers of financial intermediaries, in order to divert yet more money from the people to the rich. Concentration of capital and deregulation of labour markets have all tipped the balance of economic power decisively away from ordinary people.

The greatest growth in history of wealth inequality in has occurred these last three decades and it is not an accidental occurrence. It is a result of these policies designed to achieve that effect. When first initiated by Reagan and Thatcher, there was no attempt to deny these policies boosted the super-rich. It was rather claimed crumbs would accrue to everyone through trickledown. Nobody believes that any more.

President Obama held a meeting with young people in London last week and sold them his big lie, that change is possible within the present system. He told them not to be “pessimistic”.

The truth is that there is very little hope for young people in the UK. They are saddled with massive tuition fee debt as they leave a commoditised education system in which University Principals are paid £300,000 a year plus. They move in to a market which does not provide nearly enough graduate level jobs for the number of graduates produced. Work they do find leaves them at the mercy of their employers with very few rights or benefits. They will normally live most of their lives in private sector rental, where each will be a small part of the astonishing 9 billion pounds per year the taxpayer gives to private landlords in housing benefit – yet another direct transfer by the state from ordinary people to the rich. Indeed, for a great many tenants, every penny they pay in tax goes in effect to their landlord in housing benefit.

The value of derivatives bets in the City of London I have seen estimated at anything from 30 to 100 times the annual GDP of the United Kingdom. Real economic activity – buying and selling actual goods and visible services – has become almost irrelevant to money and its ownership.

Obama is wrong. There is no hope within the existing system. The extent of social and economic change which is needed is as revolutionary as that undertaken by the Russian and French revolutions. That does not mean to say it needs to be as bloody. The world has changed. When children were executed for stealing handkerchiefs, executing those who had battened off the poor did not seem such a big thing. We are more civilised now and I don’t advocate killing Philip Green.

But we do need a revolutionary mindset when it comes to certainty of the justice of the cause. I upset people by my urging us to disrespect Tories, including ordinary Tories, in my last article. But I fear this is necessary. Society is so obviously broken to the disadvantage of the many, that to indulge those who, from self-interest or media brainwashing or nostalgia, support the status quo is not helpful. People have to be shocked out of their complacency and made to see the ugly truth behind the mass propaganda. Unionists, Blairites, Tories, we should stop according them all respect. It is uncomfortable of course, but otherwise nothing will change.

Voltaire put it best when her wrote “it is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere.” I would contend that the best way is to call out in public “Look at that f***ing fool! They’re wearing a chain!”.

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The Tories Are Disgusting 137

Albania Andorra Armenia Austria Azerbaijan Belgium Bosnia and Herzegovina Bulgaria Croatia Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Estonia Finland France Georgia Germany Greece Hungary Iceland Ireland Italy Latvia Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macedonia Malta Moldova Monaco Montenegro Netherlands Norway Poland Portugal Romania Russia San Marino Serbia Slovakia Slovenia Spain Sweden Switzerland Turkey Ukraine United Kingdom

Do you know what those countries have in common? It is the membership of the Council of Europe, and also the signatories of the European Convention on Human Rights, which is a Council of Europe instrument.

The Convention – which was initiated and championed by the British government – seeks to guarantee human rights to all Europeans, and is of course based on the notion that national governments cannot always be trusted not to maltreat its own citizens and thus peer review and oversight by a supranational court are desirable.

Note that Russia and Turkey are members and are prepared to be held to these standards. The only eligible countries which are not members are the Vatican and the dictatorship of Belarus.

Basic human rights are under greater attack in the UK than in any other member state. We have more communications surveillance, more video surveillance, more organised government informers under “Prevent” and more secret police per head of population than either Russia or Turkey.

It is therefore not surprising that it is in the UK that the responsible Minister – Theresa May – is today calling for the UK to leave the European Convention of Human Rights. It is indeed complete affirmation of the truth of what I have been saying about the police state the UK has become.

Tories are now prepared openly to argue that we should refuse to accept basic human rights protections which Russia and Turkey accept. To resile from the Convention would result in our being booted out of the Council of Europe and put in the same category as Belarus.

The Council of Europe remains an extremely valuable body for controlling East-West tensions – now as important a role as ever – and keeping a dialogue going, on a footing of equality, on questions of security and rights all across Europe.

The Tory party’s innate racism has been shown up recently in its attitudes to child refugees, and Cameron and Johnson comments on Sadiq Khan and Barack Obama. Theresa May is flaunting its fascistic streak.

There is a parliamentary election on in Scotland at the moment. Tories should not just be spurned and treated with disdain. They should be reviled and derided in public with open expressions of disgust, all of them, voters as well as activists.

UPDATE I should clarify that the Council of Europe is not the same as the European Union, it is a much wider body with the above membership.

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Trans-Gender, Non-Binary and Related Issues 205

Today I thought I might blog on a subject I understand nothing about. (Cries of “no change there then” echo around the internet). For the life of me, I have not been able to absorb what the controversies around transgender and non-binary actually are. I can think of no vaguely sensible reason why people ought not to be allowed to be what they wish to be. I am astonished there should be arguments about public bathrooms, and cannot understand why people cannot use whichever of these they wish to use too. There must be more to it than this, or people wouldn’t keep writing newspaper articles about it or asking POTUS. But the nature of the controversy is to me entirely mysterious.

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The New McCarthyism – The “Anti-Semitism” Hysteria Gripping the UK 469

Tony Greenstein has been suspended from the Labour Party for alleged anti-Semitism. Tony is 100% Jewish from an Orthodox family. But he is also one of the founders of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and in the current hysterical witch-hunt, being pro-Palestinian rights is sufficient indication of anti-Semitism. Just as making herbal medicine used to make you a witch.

The catalyst for the campaign is that one of the clearest dividing lines between Blairites and Corbyn supporters is Israel. Blairites are unanimously, unequivocally pro-Israel and prepared to defend even the most blatantly disproportionate Israeli attacks on Gaza, land grabs or checkpoint shootings as self-defence. Corbyn supporters unanimously have more sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians and are critical of what they view (and I agree) as the apartheid state Israel has developed.

Because of the dreadful persecution of the Jews in the 20th century, anti-Semitism is the most emotionally charged of all political accusations. As it should be. Anti-Semitism is an appalling racism, and while all racism is evil, recent history makes anti-Semitism especially charged.

The background is that the Blairites are in utter political disarray. They and the rest of the Right are struggling against popular revulsion at the massive wealth inequalities fostered by their extreme neo-liberal policies these past four decades. There are very few things they can say which gain any popular traction. So they reach for the dread accusation of anti-Semitism.

The other meme of the right which gains popular support is the massive exaggeration of the threat of “Islamist” terrorism, again fuelled by natural popular revulsion at events like Paris and Brussels. Government programmes like Prevent are designed to further inculcate Islamophobia. All these issues can then be merged as a symplistic lie that Muslims hate Jews, therefore those defending Muslims from Islamophobia are also anti-Semitic. The witch-hunt spreads further.

This is the background to David Cameron’s extraordinary parliamentary attack on Sadiq Khan. Less attention has been paid to an even more appalling parliamentary exchange yesterday as allegations of anti-semitism were thrown around with gay abandon:

– Matthew Offord: Just weeks after the co-chairman of the Oxford University Labour club stepped down, saying that a large proportion of both the OULC and the student left in Oxford “have some kind of problem with Jews”, I am sure my right hon. Friend will be incredulous to hear that students who attended the National Union of Students conference in Brighton yesterday debated boycotting Holocaust Memorial Day and then went on to elect as its president someone who described the University of Birmingham as “something of a Zionist outpost” in British higher education. May we have a Minister come to the Dispatch Box to set out measures that the Government will take to counter the rise in anti-Semitism that is being fomented on university campuses?
– Chris Grayling: That is simply unacceptable in our society. The views expressed yesterday are not acceptable. The shadow Leader of the House was absolutely right when he talked about anti-Semitism in his own party. All of us from all political parties should work to stamp it out across our society, as it is simply unacceptable.
– Bob Blackman: Further to the question by my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Dr Offord), it is ironic that the Holocaust Educational Trust was holding a reception and information session in this place at the same time as the National Union of Students was debating a motion to boycott Holocaust Memorial Day, and that speakers in favour of that were applauded for saying that Holocaust Memorial Day was not inclusive enough. Clearly, there is a great deal of work to be done on education to combat the scourge of anti-Semitism, so may we have a debate in Government time on what action we are going to take to root that out once and for all among all political parties and among all sections of society?
– Chris Grayling: My hon. Friend is right. We are seeing that happen time and again—statements about the Jewish population in this country, statements about Israel, that are unacceptable in a democratic society. Of course, there are legitimate debates to be had about the future of Israel and Palestine and the peace process, but some of the anti-Semitic views that are appearing in our society are simply unacceptable. [Interruption.] Labour Members mention Islamophobia. I have stood at the Dispatch Box time and again and condemned Islamophobia in this country, but that is not a reason for not paying attention to the issue of anti-Semitism, which is becoming more and more of a problem and must be addressed head-on now by all those in public life, including the Labour party.
– Barry Sheerman: [excerpt] After the unfortunate remarks by the Leader of the House about the Labour party being riddled with anti-Semitism, may I ask, as someone who has fought anti-Semitism in the Labour party and in this country all his life, whether we can have an early debate about that issue? That is so important on a day when the people who want to take us out of Europe have invited Marine Le Pen to come here and speak.
– Chris Grayling: On the issue of anti-Semitism and the Labour party, I would encourage Labour Members to have a debate. The shadow Leader of the House is absolutely right to have written the article he did, saying that anti-Semitism is not acceptable, but, of course, his words have to be turned into action by the Labour party.

I frankly find it very difficult to believe that anti-Semitism is rife in Oxford University, and find the prominence given to the unsubstantiated claims of one single extreme pro-Israel activist rather extraordinary. The attack on new NUS President Malia Bouattia is a truly horrible piece of witch-hunting. But it is useful in one thing; it makes the witch-hunt’s primary method, the conflation of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, absolutely explicit.

Daniel Clemens, the president of Birmingham J-Soc, said her response was “completely unsatisfactory”. “There is quite a bit of uproar among the wider campus and student community,” Clemens said. “I think that anti-Zionism and antisemitism are two and the same thing. Zionism is the belief that Jewish people should have a homeland to live in without threat of annihilation or war. This stems from a Jewish belief. So when someone attacks Zionism they’re indirectly attacking Judaism as a religion, because the two go hand in hand.”

The idea that the religious belief of entitlement to the land of the Palestinians, is such that it is racist to deny the land to those who hold that belief, is frankly crazy. But that is the entire intellectual basis of the current witch-hunt, which operates solely on conflating the anti-Zionism of Tony Greenstein with anti-Semitism. It is a constant theme in the media, led of course by the Blairite cheerleaders at the Guardian. I called out Nick Cohen on his hate speech a few weeks ago.

Andrew Gilligan in the Daily Telegraph even completely fabricated a story that DFID had withdrawn funding for the charity War on Want because it organised “anti-Semitic” conferences. I personally contacted the DFID spokesman, who said that no funding had been withdrawn at all. But more disturbing is that, again, Gilligan seeks to portray simple anti-Zionist statements as anti-Semitic. He objects to:

“At another rally – sponsored by War on Want – a speaker said that British government policy was created by “Zionist and neo-con lobbies”.”

That is a statement which I – and millions of others – would heartily endorse. But we are not anti-Semites. Unsurprisingly, Gilligan calls in precisely the same Oxford University student to back up his wild accusations.

Anti-Semitism does exist. In a membership as large as that of the Labour Party, there are bound to be a handful around, and if they can be identified they should indeed be expelled. I have seen a couple of examples quoted – people who talk of “big noses” and “jewish bankers”. Certainly such people must be shunned. In my lifetime’s experience, anti-Semitism is more prevalent on the right than the left, but fortunately does not infect a significant proportion of the population in the UK. I have yet to encounter any in Scotland.

But to conflate anti-Semitism with opposition to the apartheid state of Israel is to demean the very meaning of anti-Semitism. If they really had respect for its victims, they would not seek to do that.

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UK Killing Civilians for Oil Again in the King Salman Canal Project 136

The UK government insists on continuing the massive supply – £2.8 billion since the start of the attack – of high tech weapons for Saudi Arabia to use against civilians in Yemen, despite opposition from the EU Parliament and every major human rights group. Furthermore UK special forces are operating inside Yemen in support of the onslaught. Thousands of civilians have died as a result, including many children.

Given this is not exactly popular in the UK, and that after the law takes its tortuous course there will very probably be embarrassment for the government down the line, the prize which Cameron perceives must be great. Of course, western elite support for the appalling Saudi regime is a given, because Saudi cash pumps primarily into banking, armaments and high end property, the three areas most dear to the interests of the 1%.

Yemen of course has very little oil of its own. But where the West gets involved in conflict, it is almost always at base either about oil resources (eg Kuwait, Libya, Syria, Iraq) or oil routes (eg Afghanistan, Georgia, Balkans). It turns out that Britain’s unflinching military support of Saudi Arabian aggression in Yemen is about oil routes.

hormuzcanal

Last year the Saudis announced a plan to drive a ship canal through Saudi desert, Oman and Yemen to the Gulf of Aden, bypassing the straits of Hormuz. This would reduce ship journeys by approximately 500 miles, and limit any potential physical threat to shipping from Iran. It is worth noting that Iran has stated it will not block the strait of Hormuz, and is a signatory to the UN Law of the Sea Convention which would make that illegal. Iranian control of the strait of Hormuz has long been the nightmare of the American right.

The canal project is moving forward in the Saudi governmental system and has now formally been assigned to the Ministry of Electricity, after an internal royal family wrangle as control of the mega project will obviously bring massive opportunities for self enrichment. It is now to be associated with the construction of nuclear power plants, which it is difficult to believe are unrelated to Saudi desire for nuclear weapons. It is to be called the King Salman canal.

Oman would probably welcome the canal, but Yemen is much more problematic. There would need to be a Yemeni government not only willing to agree, but both able and willing to enforce security on the canal. And given that the eastern Yemeni regions through which it would pass are predominantly Shia, this is a major problem for the Saudis. A problem that could only be resolved by taking effective military control of Yemen.

The United Kingdom is supporting yet another war for oil. But don’t worry about it, the corporate media is full of the Queen’s birthday! Stop thinking and shout hurrah!

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The Strange Case of Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and the McCanns 281

I have a confession to make. Back in 2014 I posted that I was going to write something further on the subject of the McCanns. In the end I did not, because I was surprised by the strong emotional reaction I received, from a number of decent people, who were enraged that I might be prepared to write something not to the McCanns’ advantage. But I regret being so pusillanimous, particularly as so much discussion has been suppressed by the extremely aggressive stance taken on threats of libel action on this story.

So in the full knowledge that some decent people will be outraged, here it is.

This week there have been two more developments. The Home Office has announced that it will fund still further the police investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance, on which £10 million has already been spent. Plus the appeals court in Lisbon has overturned the libel verdict against the Portuguese detective Goncalo Amaral, who led the case and formed his own firm convictions at to what happened. The 500,000 euro libel award to the McCanns is now cancelled.

None of these sums of money would matter in the least, and practically nobody would grudge any expense, to have Madeleine McCann alive, safe and happy. There can be nothing worse for a parent than the loss of a child, whatever the circumstances. If the McCanns genuinely do not know what happened, that must be agonising beyond belief. My grandparents had a nineteen year old son, an uncle I never knew, missing in action in World War 2 and the pain never left them, even when his fate was resolved.

And yet, and yet… It is because our children are so precious to us that we treat them as such. I recall an incident on Jamie’s first birthday, which we spent in a hotel in Italy. I was in the room with Jamie. My then wife had gone out to the car. The birthday cake was delivered to reception and had to be paid for. Jamie was fast asleep. I dashed out of the hotel room, down two flights of steps to reception, literally threw the money at them and ran back up the stairs. I was away under two minutes but have never experienced such adrenalin, nor would wish to again. An overwhelming instinct had kicked in telling me I had done wrong in leaving the baby unattended, even so briefly.

I find the McCanns’ behaviour indefensible. There appears to be a disconnect in the public mind in the UK which prevents people from realising just how far the McCanns were from their children. This is a useful graphic just to see the layout, (do not worry about the other info on it).

maddie2_09_map

The McCanns could not actually see their apartment from the tapas bar due to the wall around the pool. To get back there, they had to use the gate and walk around that wall, which made it a 75 yard hike. And the apartment had double doors onto the street on the opposite side of the block from that facing the pool.

I do not see how anybody understanding this geography can consider that it was normal parenting for the McCanns to leave two one year olds and a three year old, alone in the apartment in these circumstances – for hours, and repeatedly several days running. It is something I would absolutely never dream of doing with my own children. If nothing else, had any of the children been crying and in distress – and the chances of that with three tiny children are pretty high – there was no way they could hear them.

The claimed abduction is not the only thing that could have happened. Cholic. Vomiting. Sore nappies. Coughing. Choking. Bad dreams. Overheating. All kinds of thing can distress children. So far as I can judge, it is not that I am weird in my own views, rather it is absolutely accepted in British society that you do not leave 1 year olds without care of an adult. Why are the McCanns an exception?

Which leads me on to the question of why they received such exceptional treatment from British authorities, directed straight from No. 10, to the extent that Blair and Brown eventually gave them a PR representative? I used at one stage to be Resident Clerk in the FCO, a now abolished post effectively of night duty officer. I can tell you from horrible personal experience that the FCO deals with gut-wrenching cases of lost or dead children abroad frequently. I spent one of the most terrible three hours of my life, through to a cold dawn, on the phone with a hysterical bereaved mother desperate to explore any avenue that might give a possibility that the boy who had just drowned in Brazil was misidentified as her son. On average, I am afraid such tragedies get substantially less than 1% of the public resources that were devoted to the McCanns.

I am going to come straight out with this. British diplomatic staff were under direct instruction to support the McCanns far beyond the usual and to put pressure on the Portuguese authorities over the case. I have direct information that more than one of those diplomatic staff found the McCanns less than convincing and their stories inconsistent. Embassy staff were perturbed to be ordered that British authorities were to be present at every contact between the McCanns and Portuguese police.

This again is absolutely not the norm. On a daily basis more British citizens have contact with foreign authorities than the total staff of the FCO. It would be simply impossible to give that level of support to everybody. Plus, against jingoistic presumption, a great many Brits who have contact with foreign police are actually criminals.

The British Ambassador in Portugal, John Buck, had been my direct boss in the FCO. he was Deputy Head of Southern European Department when I was Head of Cyprus Section. He and his staff were concerned by contradictions in the McCann’s story. The Embassy warned, in writing, that being perceived as too close to the McCanns might not prove wise. They demanded the instruction from London be reconfirmed. It was.

I know of people’s misgivings because I was told directly. But material was also leaked to a Belgian newspaper confirming what I have said. It was published by the Express, but like so much other material which is not supportive of the McCanns, it got taken down. Fortunately that last link preserved it. It also shows that the FCO continues to refuse Freedom of Information requests for the material on the interesting grounds that it might damage relations with Portugal.

For the avoidance of doubt, I do not believe there was a high level paedophile ring involved. I make no such argument. Nor do I claim to know what happened to Madeleine McCann. But I do believe that the McCanns were less than exemplary parents. I believe that New Labour’s No.10 saw, in typical Blair fashion, a highly photogenic tragedy which there might be popularity in appearing to work on.

And I believe there is a genuine danger that the high profile support from the top of the British government might have put some psychological pressure on the Portuguese investigators and prosecuting officers in their determinations.

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Media Pretend Not To Know About British Boots on the Ground in Libya 135

Yesterday Philip Hammond, UK foreign secretary, visited a naval base in Tripoli to be shown docking facilities for British military vessels. The authoritative Jane’s Defence Weekly published that the 150 strong amphibious Special Purpose Task Group of commandos and special forces is in the Mediterranean on the amphibious warfare vessel Mounts Bay. Obviously purely a coincidence with Hammond’s visit!

Just as in Syria and in Yemen it will not be admitted that British forces are in combat. In classic Cold War fashion, they are “military advisers and trainers.” There is a specific development which disconcerts me in Yemen, where the SAS operatives supporting the devastating Saudi bombings of the Houthi population have been seconded to MI6. There is a convention that military operations are reported to Parliament and MI6 operations are not, so the sole purpose of screening the SAS as MI6 is to deceive the UK’s own parliament.

That of course only adds to the utter immorality of British support of the appalling Saudi bombing campaign. Britain’s supplying the arms to the Saudis and lending direct military assistance amounts to complicity in war crime.

Saudi Arabia pursued the overproduction of oil initially to force out high cost US fracking producers. That objective has largely been achieved with a subtantive fall in US production. But Saudi strategists have now been struck by the potential for continued low oil prices to cause pressure for the Russian budget. This was a key factor in the Saudi decision to block any moves towards OPEC production curbs. The Saudis are now obsessed with the notion of full Sunni control over Syria, and aim to pile economic pressure on Russia to achieve this. But it is by no means clear that the level of pain which would be required to force Putin to end military support for Assad, would not also put so much strain on the Saudi budget that it would risk destabilising the Saudi regime itself.

Just what could cause western elites to acknowledge that Saudi Arabia is the largest single problem in the Middle East, and that continued support of the House of Saud is entirely counterproductive, it is difficult to envisage. The problem of course is that what is bad for the world can be very profitable for the 1%.

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Lies and the Koh I Noor Diamond 87

Quite extraordinarily, the Indian government has just claimed the Koh I Noor diamond was voluntarily gifted by the Sikh ruler Dulip Singh to the British government.

Now while I quite understand that the Indian government is seeking to avoid a confrontation with the British government over the diamond, that cannot justify the telling in court of such an outrageous lie.

My biography of Alexander Burnes will be out in August. It includes an extremely vivid account of a party hosted by the great Maharaja Ranjit Singh, at which the British officers and their Sikh hosts got uproariously drunk and played catch with the Koh I Noor. The recipient of Burnes’ letter, Major General Ramsay, was the same man who as Lord Dalhousie was to take the Koh I Noor from Dulip Singh – a child prisoner just ten years old – after the Sikhs were defeated by the British in a bloody war of conquest. To describe this as a “gift” is absolutely preposterous.

Britain annexed the Sikh Kingdom. Poor Dulip Singh was forcibly separated from his mother and exiled to Scotland, where he was held effectively a state prisoner until his death.

It is bad enough to see senior Indians kowtowing to that lazy bald bloke and his skinny wife, on the very expensive luxury holiday I am paying for, without also seeing the Indian government playing lickspittle in court.

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The Surveillance State Should Be Targeted on Cows 330

British citizens are now watched by Big Brother more closely than any other people in the world. All activity by British people on the web or on the phone is now monitored and stored. The British government employs more secret police – GCHQ, MI5, MI6 and SO15 – per head of population than Russia. Let me repeat that. The British have more secret police per head of population than Russia. British people are watched on closed circuit television more often than any other people in the world. Under the Prevent programme, “radicals” like me can only speak in universities under monitoring so intense and conditions so onerous that organisers give up, as I can personally witness.

The Prevent strategy provides for informants in every governmental institution who report any expressions of dissent. The UK has effective levels of surveillance – and a far higher volume of intelligence reports on their own citizens – than were ever achieved by the Stasi in Eastern Germany.

But of course, it is all “essential” to protect the citizens from the “threat” of Islamic terrorism, which is a fundamental threat to our existence, right?

So how big a threat is Islamic terrorism?

Since 2000, 57 people have been killed in the UK by Islamic terrorism.
Since 2000, 74 people have been killed in the UK by cattle.
So cows are actually a more potent threat to our personal society that terrorism.

Or more seriously – since 2000, 15,612 people have been murdered in the UK. Of whom only 57 were murdered by terrorists. You have in fact almost a 300 times greater chance of being murdered by someone else than by a terrorist. Indeed you have over 200 times a greater chance of being murdered by your partner, a family member or a close friend, than a terrorist.

The surveillance state has fundamentally changed society in response to a “threat” which is statistically miniscule.

It has greatly increased the power of the state, at a time when the state is both facilitating and protecting the greatest growth in wealth inequality in human history.

That is not a coincidence.

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The Telegram Criticising Bush That Got Me Sacked 73

As this blog is now read daily by tens of thousands of people who had not heard of me before, some idea of where I come from might be in order. After a diplomatic career of rapid promotion (senior civil service age 36, my first Ambassadorship in Uzbekistan age 42) my opposition to Bush/Blair’s immoral and counter-productive foreign policy got me sacked.

This telegram (diplomatic communications are called that; cable in the USA) I am with retrospect very proud to have sent. To have made at the time the observation that the Bush/Blair policy of invasion, oppression and torture would not suppress fundamentalism, but would create it, was prescient. I should say I understood very well I would be sacked. Some things are worth being sacked for.

On provenance, after being kicked out I typed this up from my handwritten draft which I had in my briefcase; hence it does not carry the identifiers it would gain when sent. I assure you it is genuine, and by now I expect it should be obtainable under a Freedom of Information request. If someone makes one I would be grateful – the date on it is the day I wrote it, it might have got sent a day or two later, so give them a range.

Confidential
Fm Tashkent
To FCO
18 March 2003
SUBJECT: US FOREIGN POLICY
SUMMARY
1. As seen from Tashkent, US policy is not much focused on democracy or freedom. It is
about oil, gas and hegemony. In Uzbekistan the US pursues those ends through supporting a
ruthless dictatorship. We must not close our eyes to uncomfortable truth.

DETAIL
2. Last year the US gave half a billion dollars in aid to Uzbekistan, about a quarter of it
military aid. Bush and Powell repeatedly hail Karimov as a friend and ally. Yet this regime
has at least seven thousand prisoners of conscience; it is a one party state without freedom of
speech, without freedom of media, without freedom of movement, without freedom of
assembly, without freedom of religion. It practices, systematically, the most hideous tortures
on thousands. Most of the population live in conditions precisely analogous with medieval
serfdom.
3. Uzbekistan’s geo-strategic position is crucial. It has half the population of the whole of
Central Asia. It alone borders all the other states in a region which is important to future
Western oil and gas supplies. It is the regional military power. That is why the US is here,
and here to stay. Contractors at the US military bases are extending the design life of the
buildings from ten to twenty five years.
4. Democracy and human rights are, despite their protestations to the contrary, in practice a
long way down the US agenda here. Aid this year will be slightly less, but there is no
intention to introduce any meaningful conditionality. Nobody can believe this level of aid –
more than US aid to all of West Africa – is related to comparative developmental need as
opposed to political support for Karimov. While the US makes token and low-level
references to human rights to appease domestic opinion, they view Karimov’s vicious regime
as a bastion against fundamentalism. He – and they – are in fact creating fundamentalism.
When the US gives this much support to a regime that tortures people to death for having a
beard or praying five times a day, is it any surprise that Muslims come to hate the West?
5. I was stunned to hear that the US had pressured the EU to withdraw a motion on Human
Rights in Uzbekistan which the EU was tabling at the UN Commission for Human Rights in
Geneva. I was most unhappy to find that we are helping the US in what I can only call this
cover-up. I am saddened when the US constantly quote fake improvements in human rights
in Uzbekistan, such as the abolition of censorship and Internet freedom, which quite simply
have not happened (I see these are quoted in the draft EBRD strategy for Uzbekistan, again I
understand at American urging).
6. From Tashkent it is difficult to agree that we and the US are activated by shared values.
Here we have a brutal US sponsored dictatorship reminiscent of Central and South American
policy under previous US Republican administrations. I watched George Bush talk today of
Iraq and “dismantling the apparatus of terror… removing the torture chambers and the rape
rooms”. Yet when it comes to the Karimov regime, systematic torture and rape appear to be
treated as peccadilloes, not to affect the relationship and to be downplayed in international
fora. Double standards? Yes.
7. I hope that once the present crisis is over we will make plain to the US, at senior level, our
serious concern over their policy in Uzbekistan.
MURRAY

For the full story, read my memoir Murder in Samarkand (Dirty Diplomacy in the US) which your local ibrary should be able to get.

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Helen Clark

I very much hope that Helen Clark becomes the new UN Secretary-General. As Prime Minister of New Zealand, she showed enormous political courage in keeping New Zealand out of the Iraq war, despite immense pressure on her from the UK, US and Australia. This pressure included the threat that New Zealand would be excluded from the intelligence sharing agreements between these powers. Given New Zealand’s history, Iraq was a big decision, and Helen Clark got it exactly right.

She similarly refused US pressure for a quiet hush-up when New Zealand caught Mossad agents forging New Zealand passports. Mossad used forged British passports in a subsequent high profile killing.

She has shown similar judgement in running the UN Development Programme, where she has won much respect for paying as much attention to the views of African nations as to the “authorities” of the IMF and World Bank.

For these reasons Clark is not the preferred candidate of the US or UK governments for the Secretary General position. But her independence does mean she is ultimately acceptable to Russia and China, whose agreement is essential as the appointment is confirmed by the Security Council. The Russians in particular feel they made a mistake in agreeing to the disappointing Ban Ki-Moon last time.

Finally may I be permitted to suggest that answer no. 5 here gives a further example of Helen Clark’s excellent political judgement?

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Two Smooth Faces of Evil

smooth faces of evil

Many of you will recognise one of the faces in this photograph, Mark Regev. He is Israel’s new Ambassador to London and of course was the Israeli government spokesman who justified the massacre of more than 600 women and children in Gaza, and the murder of peace activists aboard the Mavi Marmara.

The other face of evil is Simon McDonald, head of the UK Diplomatic Service. You probably now think I am indulging in hyperbole. But no, I am not.

Simon McDonald was the Foreign Secretary Jack Straw’s Private Secretary at the time of the implementation of the British government’s extraordinary rendition and intelligence from torture programmes. When I became the only member of the UK’s senior civil service to make formal objection to these programmes, it was Simon McDonald who managed Jack Straw’s response in continuing to use torture.

I have indisputable documentary evidence of this, plain despite redactions by the British government censors (redactions which primarily remove all references to the CIA).

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It is put to me frequently that people like McDonald, who were merely implementing a policy of torture, are not evil. That of course is the age old “only doing my job” defence. As somebody who was sacked for refusing to go along with torture, I think I have walked the walk and can describe him as evil. It is also worth noting that, while McDonald meets all new Ambassadors to London, he went far further with Regev than with anybody else. He tweeted out their photo with the message “Happy to see Mark Regev newly arrived Israeli Ambassador, an old friend from Tel Aviv ten years ago.”

Ten years ago, when they were friends in Tel Aviv, was of course the year in which Israel invaded Lebanon and Mark Regev was the chief Israeli spokesman justifying that attack, with its mass civilian casualties. Regev also defended the bombing by Israel of a United Nations observation post.

It is hardly surprising McDonald and Regev became friends at this time, as Gordon Brown’s government were doing everything possible behind the scenes to assist the Israeli invasion. As I wrote at that time

I have just watched on television sixty bodies being buried in a mass grave in Tyre, victims of Israeli bombing. At the same time I saw the odious Kim Howells, Foreign Office minister, arguing that a ceasefire would not solve the problem.

British diplomats at the UK Mission to the United Nations in New York – people I know personally – are putting massive effort into working against a ceasefire. They have the ultimate weapon that they and the US can veto any resolution at the Security Council, but are bending their backs into heading the subject off the agenda.

I hope they are proud of their succesful efforts. For every hour they prevent a ceasefire, on average two more Lebanese children are dying. Israel claims now to have killed 100 Hizbollah fighters. Even if true, that means they are killing two children to every fighter.

McDonald and Regev. Torture meets child-killing. Don’t they make a lovely couple?

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Goldman Sachs: Just 5 Billion dollar Fine Compared to 13 Billion Dollar Taxpayer Bailout

Goldman Sachs aggressively sold sub-prime packages to investors as a first class product, while at the same time laying equally aggressive bets that those packages would fail. That is not my analysis; it is one of the things they have admitted as part of the deal in the United States that means that, in return for a 5 billion dollar fine, yet again no corrupt and fraudulent bankers are going to jail.

The ultimate irony is that the 5 billion dollar fine is dwarfed by the 13 billion dollar taxpayer bailout they received after the banks’ immoral antics caused massive economic collapse. So the net result of their appalling behaviour has been that they collect not only the profit from those bets the system would collapse, but an eight billion dollar net payment from ordinary taxpayers thrown in. Which eight billion dollars has been just a contribution to the bonuses and partner remuneration which have continued to bulge in their over-stuffed pockets since 2008, uninterrupted by the crash, thanks to the generosity of poor taxpayers struggling to balance their personal budgets.

This is a description of the position of Goldman Sachs in the United States, but it sums up the entire banking crisis worldwide and its result in the punishment of entirely the wrong people, and the continued rewards enjoyed by the crooks.

Due to new media (of which this blog is one atom in a mighty sea) public awareness of what is happening is growing, as is the desire for popular resistance to the super-rich. But they are not surrendering control any time soon. Which is why the call for Clinton to release the transcripts of the extravagantly paid talks she gave to Goldman Sachs is more than a question of political openness. It goes to the heart of the rot in the system.

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All PFI Contracts Should Be Cancelled and the Assets Nationalised

The closure of 19 schools in Edinburgh because of jerry-building under the Blue and Red Tories’ Private Finance Initiative, throws a stark light on the impact of the neo-con age on ordinary people.

The Private Finance Initiative was always a scam. It was yet another way to divert money from ordinary tax-payers to the super rich. Instead of schools and hospitals being built and paid for by the taxpayer, they were built and paid for by the bankers, hedge fund managers and other “financial services” sharks, giving state guaranteed returns averaging 7% from the taxpayer, when we now have negative interest rates. It is such a massive scam that every man, woman and child in the UK owes £3,000 to PFI financiers. Like so many far right Tory ideas, its most fervent practitioners were Gordon Brown and Tony Blair.

The “advantage” to government was the accounting trick of a reduction in state capital spending. The other “advantage” was that the private sector was supposed to have more “efficient” methods, due to the profit motive. So somebody in a local authority organising the building of a school from the desire to do the best for the children of their community, was less “efficient” than a hedge fund manager doing it to make the maximum cash. The result? Jerry-building.

I do not want to spend the rest of my life paying capitalist bloodsuckers through my savings. All PFI built infrastructure should be nationalised – without compensation. In doing so the taxpayer will be reclaiming assets to the value of only 10% of the money given to UK bankers in bailouts. Clawing back 10% of the cash we gave the bankers would be a damn good thing. If it caused the odd bank to crash, that is long overdue. Ordinary people’s deposits up to £75,000 are protected anyway. Those with more have it in Panama, the Caymans or the BVI, apparently.

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The Empire Strikes Back

If you argue a case strongly on the internet you must expect to receive robust argument back. Plus the odd insult. There has been plenty of both in reaction to my posts about corporate media control of access to the data in the Panama Papers. But I believe it is fair to say that the overwhelming public feeling I have picked up through monitoring online discussion worldwide, is that the full data should be made available online in searchable form so that the public can look through it and form their own conclusions.

I wish to address in a little more depth the arguments which have been raised.

Several people have argued with my reference to “corporate media”, as the consortium includes state organisations such as the BBC. My response to that is that the BBC has become in the last few years a mouthpiece for state propaganda with no effective independence of government, and that the politicians are very much in the pocket of the corporations who fund them. The BBC therefore promotes corporate interests just as much as those outlets directly owned by corporate interests. It is simply a question of direct or indirect control.

The key point is that access to the Panama data has been restricted in accordance with a media order which is decades out of date. It ignores citizen journalism. The only online based platforms given access are the billionaire owned Huffington Post and Craigslist. Nowadays people prefer to find things for themselves.

This ostensibly sympathetic article from Richard Smith illustrates the problem rather well. It is one of trust. Do we trust the – let me use a neutral word – established media to filter the information and decide what we are permitted to see? My answer is no, I do not trust them. I know many mainstream journalists and the vast majority of them are interested in pleasing their paymasters and advancing their careers. Very few and vanishingly less are disinterested promoters of truth.

Nor do I accept that revealing a story about David Cameron’s dead father – a story which had been in the public domain for four years – or securing the resignation of the Prime Minister of Iceland, a tiny state which happens to have taken the most radical action of any against bankers, is sign of balance.

It is a sign of a pretence of balance.

But Richard Smith is entitled to his view and perhaps his naïve trust in corporate media indicates a pleasant and trusting nature. I am often called naïve myself for wanting the world to be a better place. Mr Smith evidently believes it already is.

The only thing I actively dislike in Smith’s article is the contention that I criticised the BBC for not pointing out that the British Virgin Islands were implicated in one document flashed on the screen, obscured, during the BBC Panorama. Actually there were three separate documents about separate transactions, all involving the British Virgin Islands. Those transactions were central to the entire first half of the programme, and for the BBC to hide that it was all happening in the British Virgin Islands was disgraceful.

The BBC of course do not like me and I have been banned from appearing for many years. One of the many thousand people who retweeted my original post on the Panama Papers, subsequently tweeted that he had done so by accident. This brought the magisterial rebuke from Jamie Angus, editor of the BBC Radio Today programme, that accident “is the only acceptable reason for retweeting Craig Murray.” I can understand that Mr Angus does not want people to hear opinions not sanctioned by his employers, but I would be interested to know why he feels it is not “acceptable” to read my pieces. He has since challenged me to mention that the British Virgin Islands were criticised on his radio programme. I am happy to do so, because unlike Mr Angus, I do not believe views other than my own should be suppressed.

I shall not trouble you with the large volume of simply abusive tweets I have received, co-ordinated by the usual two groups – British unionist and pro-Israel lobbyists who for some reason like to troll me. Let us just ignore them.

I should now come to the question of privacy. The Guardian newspaper, along with the BBC the main “owner” of the data in the UK, has made no bones about the fact that most of the data will not be published, and that there are “legitimate reasons” why people have offshore accounts and companies. As the Guardian’s owners operated from tax-dodging overseas accounts for years, they have to say that of course.

There has been surprisingly little discussion of this topic. I do not accept that there is any legitimate reason for owning offshore companies and offshore bank accounts, if you do not have a business genuinely located in and operating from the jurisdiction. Ordinary people do not have accounts in tax havens. The only reason people have accounts and fake companies in tax havens is to avoid tax and other legal jurisdiction. This is not morally acceptable, whether or not our rulers make sure it is legal. I therefore do not accept any privacy argument for keeping the vast bulk of the data from the public.

This argument s absolutely at the heart of the corporate media’s interest in hiding 99.9% of the information – which behind the obfuscation is precisely what they intend to do. This argument needs to be met head on.

The only subject of any interest now in the Panama Papers is whether the data will be fully released on the internet and available to everybody, and not hidden by the corporate media.

We must all campaign to release the data.

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The Wacko Right Nexus

Ted Cruz has not really registered much with the public in the UK. But anybody feeling comforted by his apparently making ground against Donald Trump is in for a shock. Cruz is on the right wing fringes even in the United States – so much so that John McCain called him a “wacko”. He is an avid climate change denier, wishes to increase US military interventions abroad, wants to criminalise abortion and supports control of the internet – he described net neutrality as “Obamacare for the internet”.

It is therefore interesting that the Chairman of Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign is one Chad Sweet, who is also a Director of the Quilliam Foundation USA, established by its British counterpart.

The Quilliam Foundation is a group led by people who claim to be former Islamic jihadists who have now reformed. It is the go-to organisation for the BBC and Murdoch’s Sky News whenever Islamic matters, and particularly terrorism, are aired on the media. It is presented, quite falsely, as a neutral and technocratic organisation.

It is in fact deeply sinister. While it has provided a lifestyle of champagne and well-cut silk suits for its “ex-jihadist” directors, it has pandered to right wing Islamophobia in every statement it has ever made. It received millions of pounds of UK government funding, not very well accounted for, and employs “ex” members of MI6. I have it from a very good security source that funding comes from the CIA, and there is certainly an open stream of funding from far right American bodies.

Quilliam were involved by the government as “experts” in drawing up the government’s Prevent strategy, which directly seeks to curtail expression of “radical” opinion in British universities and seeks to place a spy in every classroom. It has led, among scores of such incidents, to the arrest and detention of a Muslim student of security studies for reading a book on terrorism in Nottinghamshire University Library, and the police being sent to an eight year old Muslim child’s home because the teacher heard him use the word terrorism. Only last week the National Union of Teachers took a definitive stand against the Prevent strategy.

There is no doubt the air of anti-Muslim paranoia Prevent inculcates will increase resentment and alienation among young Muslims, which is the opposite of what is sensible. But the corporate media can always call up the “experts” of the Quilliam Foundation when they want the government line to be supported.

The link between Quilliam and Cruz does not surprise me in the least, but is completely contrary to the official image of Quilliam as presented by the media.

Their support for Prevent is of a piece with their contempt for freedom of speech. After I first criticised Quilliam, I received a telephone call from one of their staff attempting to get my personal financial details, including account numbers, by pretending to be making a donation. They also tried to get this blog closed down by attempting legal action against its hosts.

The nexus of far right interests, and their reach, is ever fascinating. I guess we all pray for Bernie Sanders.

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A Chink of Aussie Light

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation shamed the BBC by putting out a Four Corners documentary on the Panama leak that had real balls.

In stark contrast to the BBC, the Australians named and shamed Australia’s biggest company and Australia’s biggest foreign investor. BBC Panorama by contrast found a guy who sold one house in Islington. The Australians also, unlike the BBC who deliberately and knowing hid it, pointed out that the corruption centred on the British Virgin Islands, and even went there. All in all an excellent job.

Four Corners of course has a history of this. Their absolutely excellent documentary Sex, Lies and Julian Assange told vital truths about the concoction of the allegations against Julian Assange, which to this day have been hidden by the BBC and entire British corporate media. I implore anybody who has not yet seen it, to watch it now.

In this dreadful situation where the corporate media have monopoly access to the Mossack Fonseca database, there is going to be a little chink of light here and there, where old fashioned notions of journalistic integrity still cling to life in isolated pockets. But those chinks of light only serve to highlight the abject servitude of outlets like the BBC and Guardian to the official neo-con narrative.

It is absolutely imperative that the entire database is made available to the people, rather than the people being drip-fed by journalistic Gods who make decisions in the interests of their employers, not of the public.

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